So this past weekend I spent about 3 days setting up my new backyard garden. It was a late start as we just moved into a new place, so I bought a bunch of seedlings from the garden centre. Aren’t they cute?
First I had to weed the garden and remove last years mulch. It was a total mess! There were a few plants remaining from last year, some purple potatoes, chives, and some dill so I left them. There are two trees in the garden, but I don’t really know what they are! There’s no blossoms on them, so if they are fruit trees they are not producing this year.
It took me about 8 hours to get all the seedlings broken apart and into place. I am really not a skilled gardener. All I did was estimate the space they needed and installed them in little hills so they wouldn’t get too wet in the rainy climate we live in. I figure if it’s supposed to grow it will grow. Most things grow like crazy here because of the rain in spite of the lack of constant sun and heat.
Xander was happy to spend the entire day outside with me. He supervised of course and then became exhausted and took a nap… lol
I installed a ground cover because I was NOT about spend hours every week weeding. (That is the worst part about gardening) and I already have a weak lower back from 2 car accidents, so it’s really not good for it. It was a pain to insert it around plants and plant through it, but it will also probably deter the cat from thinking the garden is a giant litter box, so this another benefit! Now he just thinks it’s a runway and traipses through it…
So now all my plants are in. I’ve got a little bamboo trellis I attempted to build for the acorn squash and English cucumbers. I don’t know that it’s really worth it to build a lot of garden trellises, it may be cheaper, but it took me hours and hours to figure out how and then to do it and it may or may not work/last. We will see how it goes!
As I didn’t want to crowd the garden I put most of my herbs and lettuces in container pots I had from last year’s patio garden and a few things like cherry tomatoes, white potatoes and a mini bell pepper plant. This also deters the cat from getting on my raw edibles like lettuces and herbs! He seems to have thought the thyme in the garden was offensive enough to sprinkle on a few times… so yeah.
As you can see I still have a little more work to do, tidying up and mowing the lawn, as well as I will plant a few more containers of leaf lettuce soon. I don’t have any romaine or butter lettuce planted yet.
We aren’t getting a CSA box this summer, so I thought I would invest in having some of our own home grown vegetables and greens. There’s also a bunch of strawberry plants and blueberry and raspberry bushes by the big tree, so hopefully we will have some of those goodies too! I figure since everything was already grown as a seedling it probably means it will grow in this climate and I am so happy our backyard gets much much more sun than our little patio did previously. (I only had a 1 foot wide strip to work with before) Also what I like is not having the fridge crammed full of herbs and greens that go bad. It’s much nicer to keep it out in the garden until it’s ready to use and then you can just pick it!
I think it’s a lot of work to plant everything perfectly and coordinate everything so eat plant has the perfect amount of sun, space and fertilizer, so really I am just winging it and we’ll see what happens. I’ll add some nutrients if it needs and hopefully things will have enough sun and space. All the sun hungry plants are in the middle where we get the most sun. (Well we don’t get a lot of sun in the Vancouver area, but for some reason it’s usually nicer after 2 pm when the clouds part.)
I hope this inspires you to grow a little something, even if you haven’t done it before. I have gardened a few times, but really it was just planting seeds, watering and harvesting, nothing else!
If you have a chance to build your own garden, a really neat idea is a “Square Foot Garden” where you plant a certain number of plants in each square foot of space in a 4×4 square foot area. This leaves you enough room to be able to access all side for any weeding or harvesting. If I didn’t already have a garden built in my backyard I’d definitely use this method as it’s much much easier than creating rows or raised beds.
For large plants like cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts etc you would plant only 1 in the centre of the square. For smaller plants like carrots you would plant up to 16 depending on what it was and how big it grows. You can find out more from http://www.squarefootgardening.org/
So what would I recommend growing in your garden if you can?
Top 10 Vegetables And Herbs To Plant In Your Garden
1. Lettuces and greens like Romaine, butter lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, arugala, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens etc. Greens can cost $1.50-$3.50 a bunch depending where you buy them from and if they are organic, plus they take up a lot of room in the fridge. If you go through a lot of greens, it’s a good idea to plant some in the summer to at least supplement your needs and reduce your food budget and prevent spoilage by picking just what you need from the garden.
2. Thyme and Basil. Often these herbs cost $2.99 at the store (for organic) and can go to waste in the fridge as you only use a little bit for a recipe here and there. I much prefer having fresh herbs over dried ones as the flavour is much better in homemade things like soups and sauces. I plant a LOT of thyme and basil because these are my two most used herbs. Another favourite is dill (which is great in raw blended salads, salad dressings, or potato salad). These herbs can planted be in container or separate herb gardens.
3. Cilantro (Coriander) and Parsley. These herbs might or might not be cheap at your local grocery store, but I find that they don’t last very long in the fridge and tends to get slimy and are a pain to clean as there’s always some old and bad leaves in there. It’s nice to have a steady supply of cilantro and parsley which I love to use as garnishes (they make food photos even prettier) and on top of soups, salsas and ethnic cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese and Indian food.
4. Tomatoes. Tomatoes are not something I enjoy eating raw on their own, but they are invaluable to raw and vegan cuisine. They are essential for delicious marinara sauces, stews, blended raw salads, raw salad dressings, salad toppings and sandwiches. Home grown tomatoes are much tastier, sweeter and fresher than store bought. Especially if you let them ripen on the vine.
5. Peas or Green Beans. Peas and beans are great to grow as often the store bought ones are not very fresh and can be a little bit bitter or too hard. Fresh garden peas and beans are hard to match. They’re even delicious eating raw straight from the garden. I don’t usually cook mine as I eat through them quite quickly as healthy snacks and salad toppings but they’re something the whole family can enjoy! Kids especially love to munch on fresh picked garden goodies and it develops a good sense of healthy eating for them.
6. Beets and Turnips. Beets and turnips are great to grow in your garden because both the roots and the leaves are edible! Most people don’t eat the tops, but more and more veggie lovers are realizing the nutritional value of eating beet and turnip greens. There’s even more nutrition in them than the root, so don’t throw them away! They’re best eaten lightly steamed or sautéed as they can be a little strong tasting and tough to eat. The thick stems taste much better when lightly cooked as well. I love beets and turnips as they are both a starch and a green and make good use of garden space!
7. Onions, Green Onions and Leeks. Onions are something I go through like crazy, they are a staple to any homemade dish really whether it is raw or cooked as it adds a delicious flavour and aroma to the dish. If you plant onions and pick them early they will be green onions (also called scallions or spring onions) and these are great to use in raw salads, raw dressings, raw blended salads, salsas and garnishes. If you let them go to seed they will grow again next year so you’ll always have a steady supply of onions.
8. Cucumbers. Cucumbers are often fairly expensive at the store and a highly used item in raw and vegan salads, sandwiches and you can grow many varieties to be eaten fresh or to make pickles with. I even like to slice them on a mandolin and make little cucumber roll ups/sushi rolls with them. They are so beautiful and appealing as appetizers this way. Cucumbers grow on a vine and need a trellis or something to climb up onto so their fruits will not be laying on the grown and exposed to ground insects.
9. Zucchini. Zucchini is very easy to grow, provided you give it enough space. It’s a long and sprawling plant and one or two plants is all you need to get a ton of zucchini. Start picking them when they reach about a foot in size, and don’t let them grow too long or they become hard and woody inside. Young zucchinis are easy to use in salads, stir fries, Ratatouille and even make raw vegan spaghetti or fettuccine strands with.
10. Red potatoes or “new potatoes”. If you’re getting a late start you can always get potato seedlings at your garden centre, or plant some “seed” potatoes in early February or March for a spring harvest. These types of potatoes are called new potatoes because they are picked and sold immediately in the spring. They have paper thin skins and are best in salads or lightly steamed with seasonings. Fall potatoes have been grown longer and “cured” so their skins toughen up and they are able to be stored in a cool dark place through the winter. Potatoes can be grown fairly easily if you have a sunny place. They best way to grow is actually in a potato bag, as you will get many more potatoes as they can grow down as you roll up the bag and keep filling it with dirt and cover some of the leaves as they grow up. It gets a much higher yield this way than just planting in the garden. Check out potato bags here.
Other vegetables I’m growing this year are acorn squash, celery, kohlrabi, red bell pepper, eggplant, Brussels sprouts and carrots along with many other herbs like oregano, sage, tarragon, rosemary, sweet leaf and Thai basil.
What do you grow in your garden? What’s your favourite home grown vegetable?