Summer Garden 2012

I seriously debated whether or not I wanted to spend the time, effort and money to do a garden this year. In the past we’ve built raised beds, I tracked every expense to see if it’s worth it, and last year only planted half a garden. This year, even though I was a bit late in getting started, I decided to jump in all the way and plant every bit of space in our raised beds. With a little help from family and friends we got the beds ready in a weekend.

We went with a modified version of the no-dig method this year. Instead of hay, alfalfa, compost and fertilizer, I substituted organic garden soil for the compost and fertilizer. Last year we lost a lot of soil in the boxes to various digging creatures and general decomposition. The hay and alfalfa break down every year so there will always be some re-fill to be done.

Getting the beds ready. Thanks Mom, David and Kirk!

In the end, I’m pretty impressed with how fast things have come along. Since we started fairly late in the growing season, I bought mostly seedlings to give us a head start, but I also threw some seeds in the ground just to see what would come up.

We started on April 23rd, getting the beds ready for planting. This meant hauling 20+ bags of garden soil and bales of hay and alfalfa down a very steep flight of stairs. Then it all had to be layered into the beds, wetting down each layer. We also have a very bad critter problem (raccoons, possums, skunks), so this year I lined the inside of the beds (where the meet the ground) with chicken wire to prevent the little monsters from tunneling in from the outside.

Ready for planting.

The next weekend (April 29th) the fun begins with plant shopping and planting. Once everything was in place, we built temporary caging over the plants, held in place with mini bungie cords and zip-ties, to keep the critters from climbing in from the top to dig. Yes, this is a lot of extra work, but it paid off. A month later, and we’ve had no incursions.

What goes where?
Caging to keep the critters out.

Three weeks later (May 19th) and the plants are really starting to take off. At this point I have to adjust the caging over the plants so they aren’t pushing up against it. Even some of the seeds I planted are growing!

Three weeks after planting.

Last year I planted a bare root apricot and it’s really taken off. There are even a few small pieces of fruit growing!

Top left, bare root tree Jan 2011. Top right and bottom, May 2012.

Here’s where the garden is 4 weeks after the first plants went in:

Week 4 after planting. The first vegetables are starting to show.

I picked the first zucchini on May 27th (see photo at top of post).

Love this idea for using wine corks and bamboo skewers as plant tags. Wish I could remember where I first saw it…
Wine cork plant tags.

“Repurposing” an old sink and turning it into my herb garden:

Dill, basil, thyme, sage, mint.

It’s sitting on a half wine barrel into which I threw seeds for beets and green beans which the raccoons had scattered on my patio after getting into the garden basket I left out. They are now growing!

What I planted this year:

From seedlings (purchased):
9 tomatoes (brandywine, green zebra, yellow, champion, celebrity, san marzano, and others)
1 yellow squash
1 green zucchini
6 Japanese eggplant
2 Italian sweet peppers
1 golden bell pepper
6 sugar snap peas
1 small watermelon
plus, 1 zucchini (color unknown, plant is a volunteer from last year)

From seeds (packets I already had):
lemon cucumbers (they all came up so I had to give some away)
pumpkin (only 1 seed out of 20 germinated but it’s doing well)
green beans (none came up)
carrots (sprouted!)

Did you plant a garden? What’s growing?


  • Jenny

    Wow! Your garden is looking great! This year I planted way way too much: 11 tomato plants, 3 cucumber, 3 eggplant, 6 pepper, ground cherries, red okra, purple tomatillos, peas, beans, herbs, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, purple and green cauliflower, purple kohlrabi, purple bok choy, carrots, swiss chard, purple brussels sprouts, red celery, I think that is it, lettuce, beets, radish, broccoli raab, now I think that is really it.
    I don’t know what I am going to do with all of this! Good thing I have family and friends to share with!!

    • formerchef

      Jenny- That doesn’t sound like too much to me! You can always give some away and make sure you freeze and/or can stuff too. Frankly, I’ve found I never have too many tomatoes. I never have enough marinara sauce to make it through the winter.

  • Thallia

    I have no garden yet but soon I will because I am a garden lover and I want a lot of plants on it.. Anyway, I love this idea here..

  • Christie

    Wow! Your garden is really pleasing to the eye. It seems you can enjoy great weather conditions all year round. I love the idea of turning the sink into the herb garden. I gave up the planting this year, but I’ve been thinking about adopting a few summer tips for green living. Sitting in a grass armchair may feel very comfortable!

  • Laurie

    How enjoyable to see your garden! This year I was inundated with green beans. Too bad we aren’t neighbors because I would share with you. I’m also overwhelmed with tomatoes, and I just picked over twenty pounds this morning. That’s how I found your site; I was looking for a marinara sauce recipe made with fresh tomatoes. I am cooking the sauce right now based on your recipe, and I’ll post on the marinara page and let you know how it turned out.

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