My Foray into Vegetable Gardening

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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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! Report
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. Report
We have downsided our garden in the last 2 years because of my husbands health problems, my son built me a raised garden bed last year no getting down on my knees to weed that is wonderfull! Report
Eleven years ago, when we moved into our current house, we planted a large vegetable garden in the sunny backyard. After several years of battling critters and drought, we gave up. The watering costs alone dissuaded us. I LOVE the idea of a box on a deck with a few select veggies. That's now my new dream of gardening. I am pulling for you to have a great first harvest, Jen. Report
I'm trying my hand at gardening right now, too. Because we rent our house, I had to use pots. I planted tomatoes, peas (which I had to replant recently because they got flooded and hailed on), spinach, and basil. It's certainly been a learning experience! Report
I read (and bought) Barbara Kingsolver's book, too! It definitely had an impact on me! When we moved into our home 2 years ago we tilled a rather large patch of the back yard and started a garden. It's been overwhelming trying to figure out what grows best and what doesn't, but it's been incredibly rewarding. And last year we were able to stock up on enough green beans to make it through to this summer! Not to mention all the tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini we processed for freezing, too. The deer ate our corn, though, so we didn't get any of that. Potatoes were a huge success for us- little blue peruvian ones... Yeah, it's a lot of work, but so worth it! :) Report
We grow tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in containers on our back patio. They are so much better than anything you can buy in a store! Report
My Kids pushed through my resistance and dug up a section of the yard and planted tomatoes, peppers, squash and melon. We all have had so much fun going out and seeing how things are growing - we have already picked a pepper. It has giving the kids responsibility for watering and weeding and has taught them a little bit about eating closer to home. So far success. Report
I think starting small is a great idea. A few times I have done a few tomato plants in a grow bag!

This year my housemate and I decided to use the vegetable patch. At the bottom of the garden is a raised bed meant to growing edibles in, and this year we have planted all kinds of things in it - potatoes, tomatoes, runner beans, broad beans, strawberries, onions, carrots, garlic, sweet corn and a herb garden. My housemate gave up after the initial planting so its all my responsibility now.

Everything is growing well! Its pretty amazing actually. The biggest factors are sun and water. The former you get lucky with and the latter just takes routine. I have been spending half a day on the weekend in the garden and then just picking weeds out/watering a bit inbetween. Its not too much work considering all the stuff that is there and its quite nice to be outside with my plants! Report
oh, I could have written this blog, up to the point, of course, where you actually DID it!! Husbands sometimes have a way of cutting through all the silly "thinking" we do and just DOING it, don't they? I knew they were good for something, lol!! Seriously, though, good luck! You have inspired me, but I fear it is too late this year..I saved this and will definitely take a close look at it next year!! Report
My husband fenced off a part of our yard for my tomato garden at our old house. We went a bit overboard and ended up with SO many different kinds of tomato that I had to give them away to people in buckets :) Report
This is my second year of vegetable growing and I think the most important thing I've learned is that no two years are ever the same! Also, only grow what you like to eat. That sounds obvious, but last year I got a bit carried away and grew all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff that looked cool but (to me) tasted horrible.

Once you decide what you like best, you can then research the best ways to grow it and refine all your methods etc. And yet, no two years will ever yield exactly the same results ;-)

Good luck! Report
Great looking little garden. I have had my qualms about digging in and planting a big garden too. I have done containers for years though. This year I was going to plant a big garden with my husband. We had to haul dirt in for it though as our yard is very rocky (we live in the mountains). This became too complicated and the work load started to become a real concern. I decided to go back to container gardening and even had the plants ready in the house. I was hardening them of and one night forgot to bring them in. They all were ruined. Not deterred I pressed forward and got some more plants from the nursery and planted others from seed. So far they are doing well, and I hope to have some fresh produce to show off at the end of Summer. Glad you gave it a try. Report
Gardening can get expensive. Report
Great going! This year the weather was so weird I didn't even try patio garden but I am envious of everyone who has one! (As I type this it's cold and raining in California - very bizarre - but it will be three digits within 24 hours!) Talk to your plants - they'll like it! Report
Gardening is incredibly satisfying, and the food is extra good! Report
So excited for you! This is my first year with tomatoe plants and I am attempting more herbs ( two types of basil- they keep mosquitoes away, Italian flat leaved parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill and chives). I live in a condo and only have a balcony... Your story is encouraging! Thanks for sharing! Report
I practice square foot gardening in boxes in my back yard. Love the results! Report
I loved your blog. I use to feel like you did with planting, but all you have to do is practice. My grandmother taught me to have patience and talk to your plants. They really listen. When you have faith, they thrive. Believe you can do it. P.S. I love your container. What an idea!!!! :) Report
Niiice... your window box garden is too cute...I live in an apartment, and grow edibles in window boxes also (indoors)...the one great advantage to this is that you can grow some greens/herbs all year long and not have to worry about fall/winter weather...I had fresh arugula/basil/rosemary all year was awesome...this year I realized not only do my seeds have to be organic, but also the potting soil I use... Best to you and your's great when u know exactly where your salad is coming from! Report
omg Jen ~ I have 2 of those containers. 2 years ago I grew tomatoes, then last year I planted a variety of tomatoes in the ground and used the planters for peppers ~ which some varmit ate - I had one tiny one? This year I planted marigolds in the containers and enlarged my garden. Those planters are just the neatest things!!!! Someone told me last week I should have planted purple garlic or cukes to ward off whatever ate my peppers! Report
I used to have a garden when I lived in a house, but now I am in an apartment. I went through withdrawals from roses because I used to have over 60 rose bushes. I thought: why should I put myself through this? Surely I can grow some things in pots. So I started with one rose bush in a large pot. I now have 8 rose bushes in pots, and this year, one of them put out 30 buds at the start of the season. Why should that be all I grow? Now I have 3 tomato plants and 2 different kinds of chilies. Salsa, anyone? Nothing is impossible with a will, some time and effort, and a little TLC. Report
I plant a small garden. Some in pots and some in the ground. For the most part I am a success. But my family enjoys watching everything grow. Report
Gardening is such a good way for some daily exercise.

I have had one for over 10 years now
I started small like most
tomatoes,peppers,herbs and salads. Its the best for my family.
I love to garden. And I am successful as long as my water is automated. But here in Texas you have to be so diligent about watering. And I just can't keep up if we aren't able to put it on a timer and not really think about it.

This year I put in beans, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and 36 tomato plants. It was great to have 3 of those items in our dinner the other night. I can't wait until time to put the fall garden in...almost time!! Report
Wow, you are in for a lot of fun! I have tried for a few years to grow a vegetable garden and have had the most success with a garden right beside my door. Successful because I see it all the time, and it is so convenient to dash out to get herbs and salad greens, even though it isn't the sunniest spot in our yard, and therefore there are limits to what will successfully grow. But I never buy herbs or salad greens unless I have a big dinner or lunch party on. I make the most of the space by using a method called square foot gardening (google it and you will get lots of ideas). Although I confess my garden is not so tidy, it is as productive as a little space can be. And so easy and so much fun! Enjoy your garden and keep going until you have it working for you. Report
We started small like you, back when we were in school and lived in an apartment, but we now have a lovely spread that we add compost to every year (in the form of grass clippings and fall leaves), and last week I harvested 123 POUNDS of tomatoes from our 2 dozen plants! (it's a long story, read my blog) One of my children tells people that he grew up as slave labor on a tomato plantation... and that he doesn't even LIKE tomatoes! Report
I just harvested my carrots last night; small, but tasty. Think I need a little sand in the soil. I have a compost bin, which I made from a small trash can. This is my first year to do my own compost; so at 6-7 vegetables/fruits a day, it is filling rapidly. My tomato plants, an heirloom and a yellow cherry, are going wild next to the air conditioning unit. My lettuces finally couldn't take the heat. I live in AZ. Will plant again in October. Container gardens are wonderful; just read an article in Sunset Magazine about setting up a watering system; looks like you have it in yours. Report
Jen, I'm in the same boat! This is my first year attempting veggie gardening, we'll see how it goes. I've had excellent luck with lettuces and have had lots of fresh baby green salads, and I've also been gathering strawberries! Report
I grow my own fresh herbs- makes me feel like a foody! Report
I've been saying that I wanted to start growing vegetables also. I was thinking about trying to grow them downstairs with the heat lamp things, so I can grow all year. I'm gonna do some research about now, since you reminded me. :-) Report
My son has had great success with those earth potsl Report
I started with two tomato plants a few years ago. I now have tons of vegetables plants in various stages of bloom. There are some that I just can't grow (like cucumbers, sigh). But it has been both a lot of fun, and a good workout! Report
Congratulations on your started! That is an accomplishment. Report
I grew vegetables at my old house. I would have to do a container garden at my current house. Right now, it is too hot and dry to do a garden. I can barely keep my bushes alive! Report
I'm trying to do a little more this year fun I planted carrots one year and my friends replaced what wasn't happening with baby carrots sticking up...( I believe they had more fun doing it then i did losing the battle of growing my carrots)...the next year I planted strawberries and I was so excited to see even a few on there the first year...i am now in my third year with them and there is an abundance of them I cannot wait.

I am doing some topsy turvey hangers for tomatoes, peppers and herbs again...i was successful last year. *If you don't have a topsy turvy hanger somebody suggested to me that you could use one of the left over soil bags you may use and poke holes through it....sounds like a super idea....

This year my new addition is some raised square/rectangle boxes made from boards i had left over in the barn....they are looking good. ....but still empty keeps you busy this garden stuff but it is lots of fun and rewarding....i have read comments above/below now and thinking of some of some of the success plants people had i may be too late for some this year but will plan better next! Happy Gardening everyone! Report
I have been growing my own veggies and herbs for 4 years now. I always have success with tomatoes--and am a bit worried this year because we had some bad weather with hail and I thought some of the first ones I planted might not survive so bought a couple more in case and now it looks like all of them will be fine! Looks like I'll be freezing lots and giving some away. Looking forward to my zucchini, peppers, green beans, cucumbers, carrots and broccoli as well as my herbs (I have basil which is doing great, Italian parsley, thyme, oregano, chives and sage). So rewarding and tastes sooo much better than supermarket stuff. Report
This year I'm trying to grow some herbs so I can make tasty dishes without adding additional salt. I wish I had more room to try veggies! Report
THEMOM11 new to the site so hope im doing this right.goodluck with the veg.great encouragement for all.ive just started growing veg myself here in the uk.all the best. Report
I have a fairly extensive garden and grow a variety of veggies, but the garden I have came with the house and it's only our 3rd growing season using it. I learn a lot each year and I try something new each year: choosing new things to grow, placing them in different locations, using a new method to grow them. This year I'm experimenting with raised beds and I'm fairly happy with their performance. I've used large pots, but I'm really happy with the large wooden boxes that I built. I have summer squash and zuccinni spilling over the sides already. Love! Report
Congrats for starting your vegetables! A great inspiration to me is a Bill Mollison, he developed principles of gardening called Permiculture. There is a very inspiring and practical instructions on building a balcony veggie patch that can support a couple year round. We grow everything. We built x 4 planter boxes (one at a time) on the front lawn over 3 years. We do food swaps- it's very rewarding. Report
Very nice! I can't wait to hear how everything goes with your crops. I'm sad to say that I have a really cool patio garden set, but haven't had time to plant anything in it this year. Soooooo late this year. Report
Maybe I will try to start with containers. I have a backyard but the task seems a little daunting. Thanks for the inspiration. Report
I grew up having a family garden every year. When I married, my husband and I continued gardening and as the children arrived (4 boys) over the years our garden kept expanding. We now have scaled back quite a bit as it's just the two of us again. We have 8 roma tomato plants, 8 sweet pepper plants, 8 cayenne pepper plants, green pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, butternut squash, zucchini squash, spaghetti squash, rhubarb, and parsley. I plan to do some canning this year. Report
I've had a vegetable garden for three years now. We grow tomatoes, summer squash, peas, beans, and leeks. I tried to grow carrots, but the slugs got to them. For the last two years I've had enough squash (from one squash plant) to share with my WW meeting and to take to the local food bank. Last year I donated 25 pounds of squash to the food bank.
We had such a late spring this year that we're not going to grow tomatoes, but I've got a pepper plant growing in its place. Salsa anyone? Report
I grow a lot of salad leaves...much cheaper than the ones in the shops and then add edible flowers for added colour (also from the garden) Report
I started a lil vegetable garden in pots on my deck this year. 2 Tomato plants, 4 pepper plants, and parsley. I just bought another small pot because I want to plant some mint. The other day I was at a restaurant and I always order water and they put two mint leaves in the water and I loved how it tasted. Happy gardening! Report
This is my first year trying to plant a garden. I have tried container plants of tomatoes and green peppers before without much success - a few tomatoes here and there and one pepper. I haven't produced a big crop, but I have beautiful plants with lots of flowers. More flowers than vegetables, but it has been extremely hot. The plants are also healthy, so I am not being discouraged by not getting many vegetables. I planted cucumbers, strawberries (only 1 plant survived out of 5), tomatoes (from plants & seeds), 1 watermelon plant (2 growing) canteloupe (lots of vines & flowers - 4 so far), squash - nothing, cauliflour nothing, lettuce - nothing, green & red peppers - 2 so far, green beans - a few - not enough to cook but the grandchildren eat them raw, cilantro - was bountiful, but died off. I am so excited because I am afraid of all the little bugs and critters. Report
Great tip about dishsoap; also, planting marigolds around your veggies & other flowers has a three-fold purpose: it keeps many bugs away, smells great, and provides you with cutting flowers for your house. Also, bugs & beasts hate hot peppers, so plant those, or put some cayenne powder in your soapy spray! Report
I had the same idea, however, I had an old baby pool in my garage from my nephew that I watched occasionlly. I punched holes in the bottom and started with a few plants. They are flourishing, no fruit yet, but the plants are thriving. I have a notoriously bad brown thumb. I kill plastic plants. So it took a while for me. We shall see where it ends up. But it looks good thus far!!!! Report
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