Gardening,  Recipes

Coronavirus Victory Garden 2020

Garden after three weeks
Garden after three weeks of working on it.

Like much of the world, here in Los Angeles, we’re now into week 5 of our “stay at home” orders. And like many people, I’ve been returning to domestic pursuits like baking and gardening, especially since I am not currently working. While I haven’t jumped on the sourdough starter craze, I have been #isolationbaking; bread, brownies, lemon cake, chocolate chip tahini cookies, and this week a coffee cake made with soured milk.

I’ve also revived my long fallow vegetable garden. In fact, it’s been over 5 years since I’ve posted about gardening and at least 3 since I’ve planted any vegetables. I thought it was time to do a new post here, for record-keeping, and hopefully to share with others in this time of #coronagardening and #pandemicplanting. Considering that we are all fighting a war against this virus, it’s not unreasonable to call this a “Victory Garden”. Plus, who knows what will happen with supply chains and food availability in the months to come?

I started working in the garden on March 29th, after removing 2-foot tall weeds from the raised beds and cutting back the weeds on the ground (yeah, no, that’s not a lawn). We live on a hillside lot in Los Angeles, and our vegetable garden is located down a very steep set of steps. Everything that goes down there has to be carried down by hand.

Garden at the beginning, March 29, 2020
Garden at the beginning, March 29, 2020

The first thing I did was cut back a massively overgrown rosemary bush, seen in the center of the photo. It had become woody, dead inside and was flowering. I also trimmed back our ancient Meyer Lemon tree which sits on the level below the rosemary. The birds and the bees were very happy!

Birds and bees
Birds and bees
Clockwise from top left; rosemary bush, lemon tree, uncovered mosaic stone markers, all the rosemary cut OFF the bush.

Next, I started working on clearing the pathways around the garden beds. Underneath all those weeds were pathways made up of pea gravel. I started with a four-foot section and have tried to do that amount almost every day. It was tedious, backbreaking work, but worth it!

Garden pathways
Garden pathways, week 1.


Garden pathways
Garden pathways, week 1


Garden pathways
Garden pathways, week 1.

In the second week, it was time to start thinking about plants. In the past, I would have gone to one of the big box garden centers to buy plants, but I really wanted to avoid stores at this time, plus I was hearing that they were out of almost everything since so many people were gardening. I even tried to buy seeds online, but there really wasn’t much available.

Fortunately, our local community garden was holding its annual plant sale, adapted to this time of social distancing. Instead of being able to wander the garden and pick out plants at will, we were able to place our order online, pay, and pick up a few days later with the plants placed in the trunk. I was happy to have that as an option!

Plants for garden
Plants for the garden, April 4th, 2020

Above, five different tomatoes, a lemon cucumber, and a basil plant. Below, the plants in the dirt and then covered with chicken wire for protection from digging critters.

Plants in the garden
Plants in the garden
Plants covered with chicken wire.
Plants covered with chicken wire to protect them from critters.

Shortly thereafter, I got really lucky! A true “gardening angel”, a good friend, sent us a ton of seeds! He’s a professional, and this is just what he had “on hand”! I was thrilled and felt like a kid in a candy store.


The day they arrived was the first day of almost a full week of rain here in southern California, so I decided to try my hand at starting seeds inside. I planted inside paper egg cartons, an old Costco pie pan with lid (makes a great “greenhouse”) and a plastic egg carton.

Starting seeds inside.
Starting seeds inside on 4/07/2020

In the photo above, I’ve planted seeds for basil, cilantro, parsley, and various lettuces. I also planted a pink tomato, a green tomato, some eggplant, and two different bell peppers. Below are seeds started for green zucchini, yellow squash, bush beans, pole beans, and two different cucumbers.

Starting seeds inside.
Starting seeds inside on 4/09/2020.

I continued to work on clearing the weeds from the gravel pathways whenever we had sunshine.

More cleared pathways
More cleared pathways, 4/15/2020

With all the seeds I’d planted I decided to create a new garden bed near the rosemary bush. This was a lot of physical work, but I had nothing but time. Those bricks had to be brought from our front yard to the back yard and down the steps, two by two. It was a workout! All the dirt was turned over by hand. Along the narrow area, my plan is to put something that needs space or can grow down over the edge of the wall behind it. Maybe squash or cucumbers?

New garden bed
New garden bed

After creating the new bed, I thought I’d plant a few more seeds; spinach, kale, Nantes carrots, red carrots, and gold and red beets. It may be too late in the season for these vegetables but I thought I’d give it a try anyway.

More seeds planted
More seeds planted

As for the other seeds, some are starting to sprout already! Below, look at the pole beans and the cucumbers after only 8 days!

Sprouting seeds
Sprouting seeds on 4/17, planted on 4/9/2020.

Finally, below is a before and after; week 1 on top, week 3 on the bottom. Working in the yard and getting my hands in the dirt has helped keep me sane during this time. I can’t wait to see how everything grows!

Leave a comment and let me know, are you planting anything this year? How is it going? Are you doing more than you normally would because you have the time?

Garden before and after.
Garden before and after.


    • Linda M Tibolla

      April 22nd, 2023. I’m jealous since we’ve destroyed our veg. Garden because we’re selling 20 acres and our house and barndominium in Shelby, Texas. I miss gardening, (vegetable), even though my old body threatens to crash and burn after working in my flower garden. The joy of watching things grow and then getting to cook and eat them is incredibly satisfying.
      Thanks for the trip down your
      memory lane!

  • Andrea Kathmann

    Your garden looks fantastic!! I like the new addition for the extra vegetables. Starting your seeds inside due to the rain was a brilliant idea.

  • Cherie Cabral

    You have inspired me! Since our growing season here in Massachusetts is much shorter than yours, I think I’m right on time. I can’t wait to get started next week. Thanks so much for sharing your answer to quarantine stir crazy.

  • r.a.

    I just found your site via a link to the sour milk coffee cake recipe (which looks wonderful, wish I could eat sweets more often). I always love to find gardening ideas. Your plots look great, they should be used every year! I also live in California and garden year round, I like winter gardening better than summer and my winter garden is mainly lettuce, lots of different varieties. I was surprised to read that you just planted lettuce as it is a cool weather crop. As soon as it starts to warm up it starts to go to seed. I will be pulling the last of my lettuce plants the first of next week when our summer garden goes in the ground. I have tried to grow lettuce in the summer without success, it just does not like heat and loves the cold. Good luck with that I will be looking to see if you have success with it.

    • formerchef

      Thanks for commenting! Yes, I didn’t realize when I planted the lettuce seeds that it would likely be too late in the season. Oh well. I put some seeds in the ground too and I’m seeing some little sprouts now, so we’ll see what I get. I’ll be posting a garden update soon (lots of changes!) so please check back or subscribe for updates.

  • Jamie

    Your garden is huge! I have a small greenhouse that I’ve started mine in and we are about to build some raised beds. We have red clay here which only grows weeds. I’m so looking forward to it and I hope it turns out half as good as yours!

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