My Foray into Vegetable Gardening

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
6/28/2011 2:00 PM   :  103 comments   :  12,996 Views

I've been saying for years that I want to start my own garden.  I love this time of year when farmer's markets open, and each week, and vendors have new things to try.  I always go and think "I'm sure it couldn't be that hard to grow my own tomatoes.  I need to do that next year."   I have co-workers who have encouraged me to try it for a long time.  But I think I was intimidated, worrying that I'd put a bunch of time and effort into something that all of the animals in my backyard would end up eating instead of me.    Or what if the things I tried to grow just didn't work at all?

Last fall I read a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It's about a family who grows or raises almost every thing they eat for an entire year (or make sure it's locally produced.)  Okay, I knew I wasn't ready for that big of a commitment, but it inspired me.  If this family could change their whole way of life, I could start a little garden for my family, right?

This was going to be the year that I really committed to starting something.  I had big ideas about how many different things I was going to plant, how much space I was going to need, and I even enlisted my dad to help me (telling him that we could split any of the harvest if we both did the work).  But as March turned into April and April became May, I started to panic.  Suddenly I was very overwhelmed (once again), with the idea of digging up my yard and spending a lot of time on something that may or may not work.  Once again, I decided to abandon the project.  That's when my husband stepped in. 

He convinced me that instead of giving up on the idea yet again, we should just scale back.  We'd try something very small this year, and then depending on how things go we can expand from there.  I found some container gardens online that we found for sale at our local garden store.  They came with step-by-step instructions for how to set up the container and plants, and the next weekend I went to our local farmers market and picked out some vegetables that I'd read were easy to start with.  I planted two tomatoes, one cucumber, six carrots and a sweet potato plant (just because that one sounded interesting.)  As of mid-June, here's what one of  my boxes looked like (the other is pictured above):


It will still be a while before I know if any of this is a success, but I already feel a sense of accomplishment for trying. 

Do you grow your own vegetables?  Any fun experiences or tips to share?  If you don't, have you ever considered trying?


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Comments

  • 103
    This is the third year for our container garding at my apartment building. We use wading pools and you can get quite a few plants in one. So far I have gotten lots of lettuce, spinach and onions soon to have peppers, tomatoes and green beens. Good luck with your garden and hope you have lots of good produce. - 7/1/2012   4:45:25 PM
  • 102
    Starting small is a great way to start. I had a very few tomato plants when my kids were little. The past couple of years I've had problems with my chickens digging everything up. So this year we planted everything in waist high planter boxes that we build out of scrap lumber. They're in the back yard so my dogs keep out the chickens, bunnies, raccoons and skunks, but high enough that my dogs don't bother them. It's working wonderfully and it's ALOT easier on the back. tonight I harvested the first zucchini, a kolarabi and some radishes to go with the spinach and lettuces I got yesterday. Can't wait for Kale and tomatoes! - 5/27/2012   8:39:15 PM
  • LRIMMER
    101
    I grow herbs in containers on the windowsill right now. I have parsley, thyme and sage so far. I'd like to try to grow some scallions & jalapenos, maybe some tomatoes. A "salsa" garden! - 8/31/2011   7:06:57 AM
  • VALHAWAII
    100
    My husband has a green thumb. We grow papayas, pomegranate, one coffee plant, rosemary, dill, three different basil, green beans, four different kinds of lettuce, apple bananas. These all seem to grow well in Hawaii. - 7/5/2011   7:30:16 PM
  • 99
    Hooray! I've picked 5 cherry tomatoes off my plants! I can't wait for the big ones to ripen! - 7/3/2011   7:41:06 PM
  • 98
    My parents always had a large vegetable garden, in which they let me plant flowers. For those with very little space the hanging tomato plants make a good crop to start with. Low maintenance, and all you need is a porch/balcony/wide window ledge. I don't have any space this year, but my parents loaned some land to the local CSA, and sometimes I get leftovers from their distribution. - 7/3/2011   2:47:36 PM
  • 97
    I have three tomato plants outside. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get tomatoes this year. I'm trying heirlooms and they are notoriously finicky.

    - 7/3/2011   2:04:11 PM
  • 96
    I have a small garden with some herbs, 6 tomato plants, beets and brussel sprouts. I am inspired by the comments made here and am anxious to try some new veggies. In the past I planted kale and love it fresh from the garden. Where I live (city), they have passed a law that we can have a chicken coop in our backyards but no roosters. Don't know the # of chickens allowed but would love to try. Since I recently found this out from a friend who has chickens, a rooster is not needed to produce non fertile eggs. Amazing that I reached my age not knowing this. - 7/2/2011   1:22:16 PM
  • 95
    I have my own garden too. I have there different kind of tomatoes, peas, chili, banana peppers, onion and cucumber. It's great to grow your own veggies. It has its own taste, more delicious. - 7/2/2011   7:11:39 AM
  • FLTIGRIS
    94
    I think it's awesome you took the initiative. I'm been reluctant for years to start, however, I started this year as well. I need to be more dedicated. My jalapenos are growing, as is my basil, oregeno and rosemary. I plan to venture into tomatoes, strawberries and a few others. Thanks for sharing your story, it's inspiring. :-) - 7/1/2011   9:05:36 PM
  • 93
    I'm sure someone else has posted it here, but you really should check out Square Foot Gardening. It is much less intimidating than trying to digg up the yard and all that. It gives you step by step instructions that are totally easy to follow. Congrats on the container garden. I have my herbs in containers. Herbs are great to grow because you can start harvesting them in a matter of weeks rather than months like most vegetables. My food has been so tasty with all the fresh herbs! Good luck and keep at it! - 7/1/2011   2:22:04 PM
  • 92
    I love gardening. Even though not everthing had grown the way I hoped, I learned alot. The garden veggies I have (lettuces, cucumbers & tomatoes) are so much tastier than the store bought ones!!! Congratulations & enjoy!! - 7/1/2011   11:09:18 AM
  • 91
    I have been vertical gardening for years....mostly patio. Now I have a yard! Raised bed gardens and I bent Goat Fence to make arches between the boxes. I now have more vertical gardens. I do winter squash, pumpkins and peas vertical. I just use panty hose to make hammocks for the veggies to grow with support. Check out my gardens on my spark page! - 7/1/2011   10:52:59 AM
  • SECRETMUSIC
    90
    For those who feel it is too late to start a raised-bed or container garden this year, please look up some information on Fall gardening. Many crops do very well planted in July or August; some even do better than in Spring. I have been a Square Foot Gardener for more than 25 years with raised beds and a few containers. - 7/1/2011   8:42:12 AM
  • 89
    I love gardening, but found it was hard to do when the kids left home and I went back to working full-time. Plus, we no longer needed such a big garden. Now I grow almost all my veggies in garden boxes, much like the one shown in your picture. In fact, I know have 14 of them planted! It makes the work so much easier and when done right you can grow really high quality food. It's important to me to know where my food comes from. When you grow your own food, you know, and there's nothing better than a garden-to-table meal in the summertime. I hope you have a lot of success with your container garden! - 7/1/2011   7:55:50 AM
  • 88
    My daughter really wanted to plant fruit and veggies this year, and though I do not like to garden, I agreed to get her started. We put in two strawberry plants, one raspberry plant, three pepper plants (one each of green, red, and yellow), two tomato plants (we planted them in a Topsy Turvy - when the plants grow upside down), six Romaine lettuce plants, and eight cucumber plants (I love cucumbers!). So far, the plants are growing well. My biggest concern is that the animals will come and eat the results, but honestly I think that should be part of the learning process. Some plants we started from seeds, and some we bought seedlings. We've had fun with it, and we're looking forward to harvest time! - 6/30/2011   12:41:00 PM
  • VAS707
    87
    We had 4 small raised beds (that did not do too well last year) and I had been reading about straw bale gardening and got my husband interested. he bought 10 bales and the next thing I knew he had 11 more. It is doing beautiful and we have had squash and zucchini and the tomatoes are getting ripe and this evening I will pick green beans, sugar snap peas and cucumbers. You can do just one bale or more. Easy to work and weeding is nothing. Love it and love the fruit of our small amount of labor. - 6/30/2011   9:46:54 AM
  • NIFTYKEEN
    86
    I'm attempting a container garden for the first time this year. I messed up on my beans, but my tomatoes are looking awesome! Planning on starting an herb garden when I get back from vacation. - 6/30/2011   9:45:07 AM
  • 85
    Trying vegetable gardening again this year, although it is such a hassle to deter the rabbits in my suburban neighborhood. They even chewed through plastic fencing! I thought the small holes would prevent the baby bunnies from squeezing through. Didn't even consider they would chew through! Beet tops all gone. : ( Got some metal fencing now. Next battle - weeds. Newspaper layers with mulch on top seems to be working. Hoping for the best. - 6/30/2011   9:40:04 AM
  • 84
    My garden got way out of control last year since it got so hot so early -- sorta like this year! Not uncommon here in NC. So I gotit all cleaned up and mulched my paths with newspaper and cardboard covered by heavy-duty landscape cloth and finally some pine nuggets. So it looks pretty good now. For the first time in several years, I'm attempting zucchini, which always gets destroyed by squash vine borers. This year I'm being more vigilant and using a non-toxic spray and hoping for the best -- or at least a small crop! Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, green beans (my first attempt at pole beans), cabbage and the kale that just won't stop growing pretty well complete the roster, as well as a few herbs. Good luck in your endeavor! Let us know how it all turns out. - 6/30/2011   6:08:51 AM
  • 83
    I plant a small garden every year. I find that I get as much out of it as most people do a larger one. Because it is small I can keep it clean of all weeds. This allows me to plant my plants closer together. Being able to work it more gives me a higher yield. - 6/30/2011   1:55:45 AM
  • 82
    I live in central Alberta, Canada, in Zone 4, so gradening is short-lived, but I love it. I spend all winter planning next year's garden, then prep as soon as I can. I organize when things need to be started indoors or planted outside, then make notes as to what worked or didn't. This year, I'm growing zucchini, cucumbers, bell peppers and tomatoes in large pots, potatoes and dill and strawberries in my traditional garden, peas and beans along fences, then I set up two raised beds in my front yard for the rest of my veggies and some flowers. I'm growing carrots, swiss chard, butter lettuce, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, and beets, this year, following the principles of Square Foot Gardens. I also planted a few flowers, all grown from seed. I'm proud of myself for buying seeds and starting most indoors, this year. The only plants I bought were a couple of blueberry plants. - 6/30/2011   12:16:01 AM
  • 1GNPARKER
    81
    There is nothing better than being able to go out the door and pick fresh veggies for dinner.

    My parents always had a garden although the first one was very small. But then we also had a large cherry tree. Every house after that had a larger garden.

    When my husband and I moved into our first house we started a garden. He loved it since their family had never had one. By the third year he had heads of cabbage that were huge.

    Now we have three sections of garden that hold tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, potatoes, horseradish, lettuce, beans and cucumbers. I even have a tomato plant growing in a Topsy-Turvy planter(these are great for patios or decks). Although sometimes it's a lot of work, especially with weeding, it is so worth it to grow your own food. Chicken wire around the garden is a great animal deterrent lol.

    We also have raspberries, three apple trees, one pear, one peach, one nectarine and one plum tree. Hopefully they won't all come at one time lol. - 6/29/2011   11:47:56 PM
  • DJCBECK
    80
    Yes, indeed a garden 100x75 and then some raised gardens too! We start in Feb every year and try something new~ 2011 asparagus . Fruits of our labor.. corn sweet/field, tomatoes, bell & hot pepper, okra, carrots, green beans, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin, Chinese & black beauty eggplants, peanuts, English peas,broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, onions, strawberry patch, blackberries patch, pineapple, red/white potatoes and herbs~parsley,oregano, thyme, rosemary. dill, basil.
    Our neighbors offer their apples, pears, peaches, plums, pecans and walnuts to enjoy
    My tips would be 1) Gardening can/make it fun and be therapeutic enjoy the experience of the miracle for all things we take for granted which we can easliy purchase instead of growing 2)save seeds (keep in frig) from everything and use them to plant for next year 3) plant what you eat and a bit more if you can sell/share it.
    4)Canning jars label when gifting~you may get them back, reusable .
    5) Stop and listen to nature~ Enjoy life we only have one make it the best!
    God Bless, Peace, Darlene
    - 6/29/2011   11:18:44 PM
  • 79
    We have a huge garden. 89 tomato plants this year alone- of all kinds of varieties and colors. Many different kinds of bell and hot peppers, again all colors including chocolate and purple. Asparagus, kale, collards, beets, corn, okra, potatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, lettuces, turnips, pumpkins, watermelons, butternut, zucchini, spaghetti, butter cup, yellow, pattypan, golden zucchini and acorn squash. Also, apple, pear and plum trees and blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and grapes. We freeze and can a lot and give to all our family and friends. I LOVE gardening. Your containers look lovely. I hope they work out and you are encouraged to try a little more next year :-) - 6/29/2011   11:13:26 PM
  • 78
    I have a vegetable garden at home. A raised bed. I grow things, but never get any food out of it. The plants struggle to survive. But I also help with a community garden at church and it yields abundant food. The plants flourish. Maybe it was the composted horse manure at the church garden. - 6/29/2011   11:01:47 PM
  • 77
    I grow tomatoes every year. I swear by Wall-o-waters to keep them warm as we live at 6900 feet. I just planted asparagus this year but now I have to wait 3 years to harvest. I never planted it before because we always moved every 2 or 3 years. I also grow strawberries! Yum! Nothing tastes as good as a truly ripe strawberry. They are very easy to grow and make great ground cover if you just want something to keep the weeds down. I have tried broccoli and it is easy to grow but it tends to get nasty worms that gross me out so....I just buy it. Good luck with your containers. They look great! - 6/29/2011   10:21:00 PM
  • 76
    This article was great. I wish you would go into more details. Like you I have dreamt of growing my own stuff but feel overwhelmed by it all & not sure where to begin. I am curious what kindof planters you have there? Thanks for sharing this! - 6/29/2011   10:20:22 PM
  • RISSA204
    75
    I think it's awesome you're starting your first garden!! I've always been able to have beautiful flowers every summer but this year ventured out to grow my own veggies too! so far it's been successful. But little did I know to start earlier than the end of March - looks like we'll be eating our crops in the fall. I started tomatoes, zucchini, squash, green peppers, jalepeno, peas, green onions, lettuce, and a bunch of herbs. I would LOVE tips about harvesting it when they start coming in! I've had about 20 pea pods but after harvesting them, they started looking a little dead...don't know if I did it?! also any tips about ants and all the bugs eating the leaves - I don't want to use any chemicals on food we want to eat. I have heard using bowls of beer help kill off insects?? - 6/29/2011   9:58:51 PM
  • 74
    I started a container garden this year on our back porch. I have been talking about starting a garden for so long and putting it off for just as long. I'm happy I started, everything is growing nicely; now hopefully I get some nice veggies and fruits. Good luck, and have fun with it. - 6/29/2011   9:56:20 PM
  • 73
    Has anyone mentioned "bale gardening"? Your plants are all grown in bales of wheat straw and you don't even have to bend to the ground to care for them. Weeds don't appear, bugs are nonexistent, tomatoes don't even get dirty on ground. We have local man who raises huge bale gardens. Must water them daily, though. We did it on smaller scale and it was great!!! - 6/29/2011   9:55:15 PM
  • 72
    hi, my name is Tiffany, I am 29, my husband and I have been together for 8 years and we started growing our own garden about 6 years ago, I have learned a lot and I still learn something new every year. I do a lot of canning so I have a good sized garden (wish it were bigger) but maybe one year. I always have tomatoes (31 plants this year) green beans, squash, cucumbers (reg and pickling), peppers (all kinds), broccoli, cabbage, onions, eggplants, and much more. Each year we try to grow something different that we haven't ever grown plus what we always grow. I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything. There is something wonderful about growing your own garden. I love to hear everyone's tips and advise about the different things they try and do. If anyone ever wants any help just let me know and I will be happy to give to you. Happy Gardening!!! 8-) - 6/29/2011   9:28:36 PM
  • 71
    I love gardening - it's my therapy! This year is a little smaller than normal due to the yucky wet weather here in the northeast that prevented us from getting some of the plots ready. We're growing tomatoes (regular, cherry and grape tomatoes), bell peppers, cucumbers, lots of broccoli, acorn squash, butternut squash, and zucchini. - 6/29/2011   9:26:16 PM
  • 70
    I have a garden this year. everything growing good, cant wait to get fresh tomatos and squash in the fall. although it must look wonderful as I have a bunny that made a nest in my radishes. guess I wont pick those ones. baby bunnies cute and so tiny. - 6/29/2011   9:20:11 PM
  • BLPAGAIN
    69
    Oh the timing is just right on this article! I just started a little tiny garden for my grandson - he told me I needed a vegetable garden and that it should grow carrots. At the beginning of the month we planted radishes, tomatoes, carrots and lettuce - it's doing beautifully and I'm so excited about all of it. I can't wait to make a salad! He's very excited and once a week my son brings him and his baby brother over to water the plants, they're really enjoying watching the plants grow! I'm going to pick up that book - can always use more inspiration! - 6/29/2011   5:07:33 PM
  • 68
    I have vegetable, herb, and berry gardens. They're each small, but I love watching the plants grow and change from spring to fall. This year the weather has been cooler than normal and my vegetables and herbs are growing slowly. It took 3 months for a pea plant to grow 18 inches and 2 months for the red lettuce to be around 3 inches tall. I'm hoping that it'll start warming up now that summer is officially here and that I'll be able to get a decent harvest this year.

    My MIL uses similar boxes to what you bought and they work really well for small spaces. Like another commenter, I would also suggest the Square Foot Gardening method to help you plant the most in your boxes. It's great to determining how many plants really can fit in a box or bed. - 6/29/2011   4:44:13 PM
  • 67
    First time in many years I have gorown vegetables...doing tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapenos...they are good for canning and making salsa! - 6/29/2011   4:14:36 PM
  • RUNESHADOW
    66
    I'd like to try a container garden by my apartment but never had the funds to get started, and the only place to put containers doesn't get sun until late in the day. I'm a very urban person; grew up in a family that grew our own veggies for the most part (got the rest at a farmers market nearby), and never cared for the process. Just too much dirt and hard work for a one-acre plot. I love living in the city; just wish I could grow a few tomato plants. - 6/29/2011   3:58:41 PM
  • 65
    Congratulations on you new garden! If you are successful and decide to ge bigger next year you might want to consider "Square Foot Gardening" in raised beds. It's an attractive, intensive way to grow a lot in a small space with no digging and very little weeding ever required. - 6/29/2011   3:50:16 PM
  • 64
    My garden looks great this year...tomatoes (4 varieties) are all setting fruit, lots of baby squash (2 kinds) that are ready to pick, chives, parsley, basel, oregano, yellow & red peppers, and cucumbers. Only wish I had more room (my 8x6 foot plot) to plant other stuff. Usually my tomatoes don't do so good, too cool and bad soil prep I think, but this year the vines look strong and healthy. I grew up on a farm and we always had fresh vegetables. - 6/29/2011   3:34:49 PM
  • SBATES63
    63
    I have a "salad" garden this year that DH built for me. It's a 12' x 2.5' box garden and I must say things are growing like gangbusters with the rain and patchy sun we have been having. After just 3 weeks I had lettuces with my lunch today. Yummy! - 6/29/2011   3:13:27 PM
  • 62
    Gardening is in by blood. My Grandfather was a truck farmer, my Dad always grew a huge garden, my brother is a landscaper. I can't help but love gardening. And I am thrilled that my DS (20) is beginning to show an interest in planting things!
    Martha - 6/29/2011   1:06:16 PM
  • AMY9LSANDERS
    61
    I love your little garden! I have a little vegetable garden in my flower beds around my house. We have lived here for 7 years and I had yet to put flowers in the beds. This year I decided to plant a veggie garden in it and it is growing fabulous! (squash, tomatoes, jalepenos, bell peppers, herbs) :) - 6/29/2011   12:33:56 PM
  • 60
    You have to be an eternal optimist to be a gardener, but it's worth it just to see the plants growing. There's so much trial and error and no real shortcuts. You also learn patience because you can't make things grow any faster. Even when I only get one tomato off of the plants, it's still so empowering to grow it yourself. - 6/29/2011   12:04:10 PM
  • 59
    This year, I did the same. I got 4 long "window box" planters and planted some sugar snap peas, sweet peas, strawberries, green beans, tomatoes and green peppers. The squirrels got a hold of my sweet peas and some of my green beans before they sprouted, but the rest is going strong! My strawberries FINALLY started coming up this week (a little late isn't it??), and my sugar snap pea plants have already produced some MONSTER pods! I ate probably 8 pods last night. They were yummo. I also got my very first green bean off my plants last night. There was only one, but it was absolutely delicious! My tomatoes are blooming and my peppers are coming up nicely. My sugar snap peas got too much water with our deluge of rain recently, so they're suffering a bit, but I'm hoping I can bring them back. Very excited about my little garden!! - 6/29/2011   11:56:02 AM
  • 58
    I think you may have just motivated me to try this myself. Maybe not for this year but for next year! - 6/29/2011   11:48:13 AM
  • 57
    My youngest's preschool sold "Grow Ums" seeds as a fund raiser this year. Last year we bought seeds at Walmart and all we ended up with was a box of dirt. So I was skeptical this year, but we tried. Not everything grew, but I have tomato and cucumber plants that are doing well. - 6/29/2011   11:28:00 AM
  • 56
    OMG!! I just started 2 container gardens like the ones you have. I live in a condo with a patio. I like that my container are on wheels so I can move them around to keep them in the sun. I started with tomatoes and summer squash. If they turn out well, I can expand next year! - 6/29/2011   11:23:13 AM
  • SUPERSASSY1
    55
    This year for Mother's Day my husband and kids made and planted :) a "Square Foot Garden" very similar idea. It is a 4x4 plot with nice fresh nutrient rich soil. It has been so much fun for all of us to watch it grow. So far my favorite "Square Foot" has been the herbs - so yummy on salads to have fresh grown herbs just footsteps away! - 6/29/2011   11:11:19 AM
  • 54
    I try to buy as much product locally as possible. A person can really tell the difference in the quality of produce. My parents planted a garden this year, and I try to snitch as much as possible as I can when I visit them. I just have an herb garden for my apartment. - 6/29/2011   10:14:44 AM

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