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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!
My mom has done an amazing job of keeping up the garden we planted. It has been a long time since I gave you a tour! I encourage you to look back at the initial garden tour for a comparison between then and now…
Side Garden: tomatoes, currants, peppers, grapes, echinacea and other flowers, and sweet potatoes vining from the deck
Main Backyard Garden: Deep within – apple tree, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, peppers, artichokes, flowers
Sea of Potatoes – several types
Squash: white pattypan, tromboncino, and acorn
Sea of Garbanzos (Aren’t they beautiful?)
Close-up of a garbanzo bean
Sweetpotato Vines (Anyone know how to harvest them?)
And in case you’re curious, here is a sample daily harvest…
Late August Daily Harvest: Lemon cucumbers, tromboncino squash, green zebra tomatoes, cherry tomatoes (white, orange, and black), san marzano and japanese black trifele tomatoes, white pattypan squash, broccoli di chico, collards, rainbow chard, green pepper, purple podded beans, and pasilla peppers.
This weekend my mom and I spent a good deal of time working on the “Family Allotment“, so I believe it’s high time for a garden tour. I should say beforehand, though, that our garden is quite a bit behind most of yours for a couple of reasons: 1. The weather in the northwest has been atrocious this spring, and we are only now warm enough to plant a lot of crops out, and 2. Even if we could have planted earlier, my parents had to do some major work in the backyard over the last 6 months to keep their house from (very slowly) falling down a hill – so the backyard was unplantable until very recently. Those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them!
The gigantic pile driver digging 18 feet down into the ground,
to stabilize the house and yard
As a part of the backyard transformation, my mother had some old cedars cut down. In general, I am not a fan of cutting trees, but these trees were not only ugly, they were also damaging the house and making the soil so acidic and shaded that very little else would grow. Can you believe that not one of us took a “before” picture? Here is the closest I can find:
June 2008: If you click to enlarge the picture,
you can see 1 of the 4 cedars in the background (to the left),
as well as the large crack in the concrete from the backyard slowly falling down the hill!
In place of the cedars, we planted a fruit garden: 10 blueberry bushes, which will get about 10 feet tall each, plus tayberries, raspberries, salmonberries, grapes, lots of strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers. So exciting!!
Newly planted blueberries in the evening sun
Side garden – tayberries, blueberries, bamboo, grapes, tomatoes, and peppers
Side of house – salmonberries, raspberries, strawberries
We also spent a long time in the main back garden:
Squash hills: acorn, tromboncino, and patty pan;
with little cauliflowers, peppers, tomatoes, and blackberries on the left.
Left to right: potatoes, flowers, tomatoes, peppers;
with rhubarb and flowers in the background
Tomatoes on the left, 3 beds of potatoes on the right
Looking back the other way: broccoli and peppers on the right,
potatoes and apple tree on the left
Far end of the garden: herb pots in front, 2 dwarf apple trees,
garbanzo beans (one is already large, a volunteer from last year), potatoes in back
Looks like I was getting a bit exhausted by the time I took the pictures – they aren’t particularly good, but hopefully you get a sense of the garden.
We’ve also been spending time on the front yard and the community garden p-patch. The front yard will soon be full of herbs in addition to my mother’s ornamentals, and next time I’ll give you a quick tour of our p-patch plot! I hope your garden is growing well.
Two years ago, I designed my large 2,000 square foot garden space using Microsoft Excel. It worked out ok, as I know the program pretty darn well with all the strategic planning, grant writing, and budgeting I’ve done over the years. Anyway, my plan looked like this (click on the images to make them larger):
Last year, we moved during the late Spring, so I didn’t bother to plan the garden much – my mom and I did some in-the-moment planning, and that was about it.
This year, I did it a little differently. As one of the perks of blogging, I often receive offers of free “green” stuff – which I usually turn down because I don’t need more stuff and I don’t like reviewing products. It’s not what this blog is about. But I have made a couple of exceptions lately. This one was a free annual pass to GrowVeg.com, an online Garden Planning software.
Here’s our new garden plan, using the GrowVeg software (click on the images to make them larger):
I must say, it was easier, and more fun than Excel! Basically, it’s a simple tool, where you can drag and drop each item into your plan. As you drag and drop, the crop takes up a given amount of space. You can see in the Back Yard Plan, they’ve given me more space for winter squash and less for cucumbers, for example. That feature is more or less accurate. For some things I thought it was more accurate than others.
Unfortunately, there is currently a fairly limited selection of mostly fruits and vegetables, with just a few herbs and no specific flowers nor ornamentals. For a backyard gardener, that becomes a bit limiting, though they do have 3 sizes of “Misc” plants – you can see quite a few in our Front Yard Plan. My guess is that the software makers will add more items as they go.
A great feature, though, is this: you type in your zip code, and it creates a planting chart based on your hardiness zone.
The next step for GrowVeg would certainly be to allow one to edit the variety of each species, but this is a good start! If you’re interested in trying it out, GrowVeg.com is running a 30-day free trial right now.
The Front Yard
First off, did you notice that we are expanding our edible garden into the front yard???!!!!! Most of you know, but some of you may not: Matt and I live in an apartment, in an area where there are waiting lists of up to 3 years for community garden plots. So, I’m gardening with my mother at her place a couple of miles away. Last year, we grew only in the backyard and on the upper deck in pots. But this year, it was my mom’s idea to tear up some grass!!!!And replace a few of her old ornamentals with fruits and veggies!!!!!
In the Front Yard Plan above, you’ll see that we’re building a new fruit and herb garden in the upper left corner. And we’re infiltrating the ornamental beds. Very exciting!
The Back Yard
There was quite a lot of construction happening all fall and winter at my mom’s. Subsequently, many of our herbs, flowers and other perennials were destroyed. My mom also hired a man to come dig out a couple of old rhododendrons, and, well… he misunderstood her and leveled the entire backyard! A few things are coming back, but most are gone for good. Somewhat a blessing in disguise, of course, because now we have almost a blank slate.
Our New Plant List
Artichoke, TBD (start from local nursery)
Bean, Purple Pod Pole
Runner Bean, Sunset
Runner Bean, Scarlet
Broccoli, Di Ciccio
Brussels Sprouts, Long Island
Swiss Chard, Five Color Silverbeet
Flower, Black Velvet Nasturtium
Flower, Ladybird Nasturtium
Flower, Empress of India Nasturtium
Herb, Purple Dark Opal Basil
Herb, Genovese Basil
Herb, Greek Basil
Herb, Mammoth Dill
Herb, Rosemary Prostrate
Herb, Rosemary Roman Beauty
Herb, Bay Laurel
Herb, Lavender Grosso
Herb, Tarragon French
Lettuce, Mesclun Mix
Melon, Noir des Carmes
Pepper, Alma Paprika
Pepper, Chervena Chushka
Pepper, Joe Parker
Pepper, Little Bells
Pepper, Pepperoncini Greek
Pepper, Sweet Chocolate
Potato, Organic Yukon Gold
Potato, Red, Yellow & Blue Mix
Potato, Mountain Rose
Potato, French Fingerling
Potato, La Ratte Fingerling
Rhubarb, Victoria Cherry
Squash, Table Gold Acorn
Squash, Wood’s Prolific
Sweet Potato, Carolina Ruby
Tomatillo, Purple di Milpa
Tomato, Alaska Fancy Cherry
Tomato, Amish Paste
Tomato, Aunt Ruby’s Green Pole
Tomato, Silvery Fir Tree Bush
Tomato, Chocolate Cherry Tomato
Tomato, Japanese Black Trifele
Tomato, Roma Paste
Tomato, Sun Gold Cherry
And knowing us, there will probably be a few more fun things we squeeze in!
Allright, y’all – had a few glitches so it’s not Thursday as promised, but I’m hoping you’ll forgive me. And also go easy on me? Normally I have a whole crew working with me, but this film was directed, produced, filmed (except for the shot where I handed the camera to my mom – go mom!), audio recorded, and edited by yours truly. We made this film yesterday.
When Matt and I moved to Seattle, we knew we wanted to live in a dense urban area of the city – one that was highly walkable and that was central to public transportation, friends and family (who live on opposite sides of town). We found such a place in Capitol Hill, just a couple blocks outside of downtown. And, despite my telling myself a year ago that I would never, ever live in an apartment again, here we are!
I was complaining about this to my mother two months ago, and she said, “well, garden here!” “Really?” I asked. “Yeah, sure, why not!” she said, with a faint bit of excitement in her voice. I was surprised. And happy. And boy howdy, I took her up on her offer!
Container Garden – One Half
(Note: clicking on any of these photos will enlarge them for more detail)
So for the past two months, my mom and I have been combining her beautiful ornamental and herb garden with the fruits, vegetables, and herbs I brought from our garden in Geyserville. We’ve amended the soil, we moved a lot of things around and got rid of a couple ornamentals my mom didn’t really like. We picked and chose from our way to many tomato and pepper seedlings, we planted all of the potatoes (yikes!), we seeded the squash seeds Tina sent us (thanks, Tina!), transplanted the garlic, grapes, huckleberries, passionfruit, currants, raspberries, and fig. And then we planted a whole lot more – including, I’m proud to say, several bean seeds I saved from last year!
Wine barrel filled with potatoes – one of four!!
Soybeans – Left 1/2 is from saved seed, Right 1/2 is from purchased seed
(If anything, I think the saved seed grew slightly faster and more robust)
Several types of winter squash, graciously sent to us from Tina,
some summer squash, and garbanzo beans in the bottom left corner.
(Click the picture to enlarge it – aren’t the garbanzos cool looking?)
The plot is pretty small, so we expanded a bit, to the deck on the second floor. On the left side of the photo below, you can see the hose we ran up the side of the house. It’s a temporary solution, but not bad!
Since my mother is planning to build some raised beds next year, we didn’t want to buy expensive pots for just one year. So at my mother’s suggestion, we bought pots made from recycled pulp.
Deck – Right Side
Deck – Middle
Deck – Left Side
Because the deck gets the most sunlight, we put peppers and tomatoes up there, with some wildflowers to draw the bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
One more photo I wanted to share with you – I think some of you will appreciate this. The other day I took the bus to go do some gardening work, and I walked up to the sight below: Mom reading Square Foot Gardening. Yes, I’m a proud daughter!!
At long last, you’ve finally seen our garden. It had a late start because we moved here late and we had a lot of soil amending and such to do. But we’re hoping we’ll still have a decent harvest, just a bit late in the summer. Wish us luck!
And for all you veteran growers, how is your garden growing? I’m sure most of your gardens are much further along than ours – what are you harvesting? (Until our garden starts producing, I’m looking for some vicarious growing here – help me out!!)