My edible garden

Earlier this week, I told The Boy that we would spend some time in the garden on Saturday. My poor garden bed has been sadly neglected, and with our temporary house guests, I thought it might be good to have some flowers outside for them to visit once they leave their chrysalises.

I went to Lowe’s shortly after breakfast to get the plants I wanted to grow. I’ve had some success in starting seedlings on my kitchen windowsill in the past, but this has been a pretty crazy few months and I honestly haven’t made the time or had the inclination to plant seed this year. And I really wanted to place hardier plants into my garden bed this year, so I picked out a few different plants: tomato, cucumber, red pepper, jalapeno, green beans, romaine lettuce, basil, cilantro, watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries.

The haul from Lowe's, as it was in my car.

I had seen the blueberry plants in the past but was always a bit scared to try my hand at growing them. This year, though, I decided to take a chance and get one of the plants, and after reading the accompanying tag, grabbed another plant of a different varietal so that the two could cross-pollinate and produce fruit. The fruit, after all, is the whole point of growing blueberry plants, anyway, right?

I have a good-sized garden bed that Cute Husband built for me as my Christmas present last year. It’s four feet by eight feet, and last year it was home to a runaway basil plant, a hardy jalapeno plant, and The Boy’s wildflowers, which seemed to take over most of the garden bed. This year, I repurposed a little wooden crate-like box that came with some Clementine oranges and set The Boy up with his very own garden bed to grow his wildflowers.

As soon as I got back from Lowe’s, The Boy and I set to work on preparing the garden bed. This involved uprooting the giant basil bush and discovering its roots stretched throughout the garden. No wonder it was so big! I tried to rearrange a pumpkin plant that sprouted from some seeds Cute Husband tossed into the garden bed as compost last Halloween, but The Boy got overzealous and yanked the plant out of the ground, breaking its roots. I’ve placed it in water in hopes that some roots might grow back and I can salvage the plant (it’s flowering and tiny fruit that promise to be pumpkins are already growing), but only time will tell. At any rate, The Boy felt really bad about uprooting it, so I promised him that we would plant another pumpkin another day, and that helped cheer him a bit.

Now, I knew full well that my garden bed alone wouldn’t hold all the plants that I bought. Luckily for me, I had lots of containers in mind when I purchased them. The blueberries each went into their own pots and are at the edge of the patio, carefully positioned so that they will get full sun and be exposed to whatever rainfall we get. The strawberries are in little galvanized metal troughs, and I’ve place those on the edge of the coffee table on the patio, a little bit further under the roof of the covered patio, but still able to receive full sunlight and a good amount of rain. And the romaine lettuce, which needs only partial sunlight, especially during our hot Florida summers, is in a large pot by the sliding glass doors. It will still receive a few hours of sunlight, but I’ll need to make sure I remember to water it every other day or so.

The blueberries in their containers at the end of the patio. (The strawberries hadn't made it into their little troughs yet.)

The new basil that I bought got its very own pot that I placed between my patio chairs. I decided to keep it in a pot since last year’s plant went a little crazy, and I’m hoping this will keep it in check.

My new basil plant. Hopefully, it won't grow out of control.

As for the other plants…

The 2012 Spring/Summer garden bed. (That's the dying pumpkin in the far left corner.)

The tomato and cucumber are on the half of the garden that I’m calling my “Gazpacho Garden”. Separating them is a little trellis onto which I will tie the stalks as they get taller. In the two corners of the garden bed are the pepper plants. (See why it’s my Gazpacho Garden? All I’m missing is the garlic and the red onion.)

My Gazpacho Garden.

On either side of a broken cinder block that marks the center of the garden bed (and also acts as my stepping stone) is watermelon to the back and cilantro in the front. I know; they’re not related. But the cilantro (should it thrive) would go very well with my tomatoes and peppers in a pico de gallo. Again, all I’m missing is the onion and garlic.

And last, four green bean plants surround another small trellis on the other half of the garden. Cute Husband says I will ultimately have a giant green bean bush with the current setup, but as long as they produce green beans, I really don’t care what they look like. There is also a little carrot plant that I transplanted several months ago in a little corner. It’s still green and growing very slowly, but there aren’t any carrots attached to the greens yet. I’m still hopeful, though.

The green beans (with the watermelon on the right and the pumpkin withering on the left).

Once I finished with the garden bed, I set to work clearing the patio of, well, stuff that little creatures like to use as hiding places. I (carefully) shook out the plant covers that we used during the sporadic three or four freezes we had this winter and put them into a large zip-top bag so that I could store them in the house again, and I removed all the extra containers that I once used before I had patio furniture or a garden bed. I recycled what I could and tossed the rest. Yes, I’m sure someone else would have been able to make great use of them, but I just wanted them out of my yard, spider eggs and all.

After everything was planted and I’d finished putting everything away, I felt really accomplished, similar to how I’ve felt after a run. It took a lot longer than a run, though, but I think the payoff will be pretty awesome.

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10 thoughts on “My edible garden

    • Oh, you can totally grow container gardens! I spoke to a horticulturalist a few years ago, and he told me that you can grow anything in pots, even a tree (provided the pot is large enough). One of my favorite gardening books is called Bountiful Container. It’s got lots of great information about growing in containers. If you have a patio or a deck, you can totally do it!

      • The super huge windows ought to be sufficient; just think of that space as part of a greenhouse! Enjoy and have fun!

  1. I love the idea of setting up a crate for a kid to have their very own garden box. What a fantastic inspiration! I’ll have to remember that for the future.
    I also think using pots is a great idea because then you can move things around and change your garden year to year. I do want some garden boxes, though, and I’d like to get them for this season. How did you and your husband figure out what size was good for you?

    • My mother-in-law is an avid gardener, and Cute Husband’s great-grandmother owned a farm, so he already knew a thing or three about garden beds. Me, I’m a City Mouse, so I just told him I wanted a garden bed and he picked out a spot for it, laid it out (on paper first), then set to building it when I said that, yes, it’s what I wanted. I think larger than 4’x8′ would be too large. In fact, I started doubting the large size last year, then came up with the idea of tossing that broken cinder block into the center of it this year. Now I have a place to step (and it’s only watermelon in the back; that will take a couple of months before its ready to harvest).

      I like container gardening, but I don’t like that I have critters that like living in my containers. As I said, I’m a City Mouse, so things like jumping spiders and Black Racer snakes aren’t among my favorite things to see when I go outside. But for things like my basil, which I’d like to keep under control this year, and my romaine lettuce that needs to stay mostly shaded, I think container gardening is a nice addendum to the garden bed.

      As for repurposing a little crate so The Boy could have a garden of his own… If you saw how his wildflowers took over the garden bed last year, you’d understand why he needs his own space. This was a good way to reuse what we already had and still let him tend a garden. (And it didn’t require nearly as much dirt – or space – as another garden bed would.)

    • Gardening is lots of fun, and it can be very addictive (but so rewarding)! My mother used to grow roses, and we had lots of citrus trees in our backyard when I was a kid. I didn’t have much interest in gardening until I became an adult, though.

      There are tons of books on the subject, of course, but my favorite thing to do is look at other local gardens to get an idea of what grows in my climate. There’s a woman in my neighborhood who keeps an extensive log about what she grows in her garden, and Epcot (and the Disney Parks in general) has an amazing array of plants on display. (Right now the Flower and Garden Festival is happening at Epcot, and if you’re ever able to make it out to Orlando for one of these, there are some fantastic seminars dedicated to backyard and container gardening.)

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