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Our Family Allotment

Flower & Vegetable Garden 7-15-08

Flower & Vegetable Garden 7-15-08


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!


We moved from a house on 1/2 acre, with a garden that was nearing 2,000 ft2, to a small one-bedroom apartment with a fire escape garden. I have put myself on the waiting list for a neighborhood garden allotment (they’re called p-patches here). But the waiting list for most plots is upwards of 2 years. Sigh.

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)


Squash Patch

Squash Patch

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!


From Below

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 – Right Side


Deck - Middle

Deck – Middle


Deck - Left Side

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!!


Mom Reading Square Foot Gardening

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!


Are You Growing Your Own Food?

If you’re not growing your own food, I encourage you to start – The Growing Challenge is about to start up again as we enter into the next growing season. Won’t you join us?


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!!)

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29 comments to Our Family Allotment

  • Looks like the format has changed. I haven’t gotten updates! But anyway. I got my 1st meme and have to tag 7 … Thanks a bunch

    I will be back to browse around this evening!

  • Wow! What a beautiful garden, and creative use of available space. When I read garden books and magazines, I realize that the PNW is garden heaven!
    I’ve thought of inviting my son and daughter-in-law to garden with me, since they live about three blocks away in an apartment, but my husband still likes a lot of lawn, so I haven’t been able to negotiate that. His reasons for lawn are: it’s the place where you can read in a lounge chair, and when we have family over we can play croquet. Me, I could live without grass, but I’m not ready to have a battle about it. So the kids will have to be satisfied with containers on their patio.

  • Meg

    I love that you guys are able to keep a garden at your mom’s house. That is a great solution for until you get your community garden plot (and even after that–judging by your mom’s new reading material, I bet she’ll keep at it after you’ve got your own plot!).

  • MEg expressed my sentiments exactly! I like the potatoes in the half barrel- I had a friend that used to do that. I am going to build a potato condo ala the shiba guyz next year. Your garden looks beautiful

  • JOYCE, Interesting that you’ve read that. From my perspective, it is more difficult to grow warm-weather things here than it was in Northern California. But it’s probably much easier than in Illinois, with your cold winters!

    My father also is very tied to the grass in the front yard. My mom and I have a plan to work on the front yard slowly, in small increments. We’re only planting very ornamental things in the front yard: greens and scarlet runner beans. And we haven’t yet taken the place of any grass, though I think we may do that eventually.

    Is it possible for you to start by just utilizing a small patch of the lawn area that is closest to the house? It would be at the edge, so may not interfere with croquet…? I will say that gardening with my mom has definitely been a great bonding experience – I hope you have that opportunity! (Good luck!) And until then, croquet it is!

    MEG, Yes – my mom is planning on building some permanent raised vegetable beds this fall. And we’ve already planted an awful lot of perennials! So even after I move to a community plot, mom’s garden will grow on…

    ROB, Thanks! We planted the potatoes before I saw the Shibaguyz’ potato condo – but I think this is the general concept. We planted them with just a bit of dirt over them, and have been covering them since. I like the idea that you can remove the slats one by one using the Shibaguz’ concept, though! Their garden is awesome – amazing what they’ve done with their space.

  • How wonderful! Growing your own food is exciting and rewarding. Doing it with family makes it doubly so. Besides, your mom must be in seventh heaven having you home and over gardening. Everything looks beautiful!!

  • Looking good! I’ve been growing potatoes in a trash can. I’m sooo curious about how many I’m going to get.

    I’m thinking it’s a really late season for us in the Pacific Northwest, about a month behind. Tomatoes are just starting to set fruit, no squash or cukes without a greenhouse. There are three beans that I could eat. The sweet potatoes I’ve been growing for the Growing Challenge aren’t doing much. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll have something other than peas, lettuce, garlic, potatoes and raspberries by the end of summer.

  • LOVE LOVE LOVE all the containers! A garden after our own hearts! LOL

    Our garden is over run with food right now. We have little green tomatoes everywhere, the beans are just starting to develop little green wonders, the potatoes are blooming and we even have teeny tiny cucumbers coming on. Oh… and the zucchini are blooming. Oh yeah… and the peppers are finally putting out some little gems.

    All in all, a good looking crop so far!

  • Melinda, this post and the one about your grandfather are truly so lovely. Just recently my mother was shelling peas (that she had bought) from their pods. She came across one that had sprouted in the pod so, with a torch in her hand, she went outside and planted it in a pot of soil she hag prepared for something else. That was several weeks ago and the pea is now nearly a foot high. She has never before been that keen to grow food…now she loves her pea! She rang me up and told me about it because she couldn’t wait a few days until I visited again…..

  • First tries have been a little disappointing, but I’m determined. The tomatoes are taking their time, no flowers or fruit yet, because I’m still getting the hang of helping my plants deal with my surroundings…I live in an apartment with an open porch and an east-west exposure, so leaving things on the porch means they get scorched and drowned in the summer afternoons here in Florida. So I keep them on the front landing, where they don’t get enough direct light or access to pollenators…it’s a work in progress, to be sure. My herbs have been stubborn for the most part, but it’s my first time starting them from seed, so I’m taking this roadblock in stride and reseeding them this weekend for a 2nd try. The non-edible stuff grows like gangbusters naturally…just transplanted a jade and gifted most of my aloe to my mom, transplanting what was left to containers. May put those suckers on the porch, because they can take the heat…

  • What a great garden you and your mom got going! I love the picture of your mom.

    I stopped reporting on my growing challenge last season because of many factors but I was wanting to get back on track with it again. So perhaps I will since we’re gearing up to get winter things started. Now is the time.

  • That is WONDERFUL!!!

    It looks amazing.

    We’re growing our garden and the best thing growing right now is the winter squash, it’s taking off like crazy. I’ve never grown winter squash before and I believe it’s a new favorite.(:

  • GB, Indeed – my mom is excited to be gardening together! We’re both very proud of the garden!

    DEB G, I’m curious about the potatoes too! Interesting that you think the whole region is late… I suppose that’s true at the Farmer’s Markets, too – they’re all complaining about it. No squash yet – so strange!

    SHIBAGUYZ, I can’t WAIT to see your garden again – I think it’s been over a month since I’ve seen it!! Our potatoes aren’t blooming yet, but I would imagine they’ll start soon. Anyone know if they have to bloom to produce potatoes?

    KATE, Thank you! What a wonderful story about your mother – wow!

    MELANIE, I’m glad you’re sticking to it – sometimes it takes a while to figure out all the plant’s quirks and how they deal with the weather. And sounds like you will be learning how to hand-pollinate, along with me!

    FYI, we had 110 degree hot sun in Geyserville, and the tomatoes did fine out there… but it wasn’t as humid, so that may be the problem, eh?

    But, just to throw out another idea… what if you put some things on the porch, covered with some shade cloth? The shade cloth would protect from some rain and sun… just a thought! I ordered mine through the mail at Bountiful Gardens (couldn’t find the right stuff locally).

    ANGELINA, Now is the time! I have been debating whether to continue The Growing Challenge, or to create a new challenge for growing winter food…. either way, I’ll definitely be encouraging winter growing up here in the northern hemisphere!

    MICHELLE, Thank you! I love winter squash. It has a mind of its own, and will vine around wherever it finds room. But it isn’t sooo prolific like summer squash, so it’s more manageable. Plus those squash will store all winter – we ate them through March!!

  • CHRISTINA, Sorry – for some reason your comment was marked as spam! Anyway, welcome to the new blog! Thanks so much for thinking of me, and please do come back!

  • I’m so bored with winter, and getting jealous of all these comments about tomatoes. My broad beans are growing well, but only one has flowered so far. Most of the other things have been eaten by creatures. Sigh. I need some more space, and some sun!

  • Regarding potatoes, I’m not sure if the potatoes have to bloom to produce potatoes. What I do know is that starting to bloom is the cue that they are forming baby potatoes and it’s time to start “stealing” them.

  • What an awesome display of teamwork.. determined gardeners just love to share the excitement.

    Although my Mum loves gardening she has never really been a food gardener.

    Imagine my surprise when she started asking me questions about when she should be planting out her seed sewn lettuce. We agreed that maybe the 200 seedlings that had germinated in the seedling flat were probably a little two densely planted and should be thinned out and then she had the conflict of what to do with all the ones left because her garden is part of a business so the pretty ornamental feel needs to be maintained. Decision was made that the extra would go to friends and some family members they were visiting reasonably soon after.

    I can see the day when she will be planting out a lot more food. For the moment I am just stoked that she is playing with the idea…and getting some nice fresh lettuce.

    Kind Regards

  • Love your container garden! I’m on the far eastside and temps are still in the high 40′s most nights. Seems like almost everything is about a month late this year, so you probably didn’t miss much by starting late. I’ve got peas, broadbeans, leafy greens, and radish, but beans, cukes, and summer squash haven’t even started blossoming yet. One or two tomatoes and some peppers in the greenhouse.

  • KATE, Ah, soon enough it will be in the reverse – and isn’t it great that we can all bring one another vicarious pleasure? ; )

    DEB G, THANK YOU for answering that!! Awesome – so now I know when to get excited!

    BELINDA, Awesome! That’s wonderful – everyone starts somewhere. Right now the only thing in the front yard of my mom’s place are beautiful scarlet runners. I’m thinking that next year we’ll have a few more pretty things, and then… some day… we may plant tomatoes or squash or some such fully food plant!!

    MOLLY, Thanks! I had no idea it was so cold at night – you’re only a few miles away! I seem to be hearing this a lot: that it’s a late season. Well, then we’re all in the same boat – here’s hoping it gets a little warmer than it was for the past two days – sheesh! Glad you found your way here – it’s nice to meet another local blogger.

  • Your garden looks lovely! We are harvesting carrots, kale, chard, the last of the sprouting brocolli, the last of the cool weather greens and strawberries and cherries! The scarlet runners are showing lots of blossoms and a few tiny beans, tomatoes are behind but catching up, the pumpkins are going crazy!

    I love that you are gardening with your Mom, how cool is that! My Grandpa had enormous gardens!

  • That garden of both of yours is so impressive. It looks totally different than your last one, but appears to be using every speck of space possible. How fun to also get to visit with your Mom regularly!

  • HIPPY GOODWIFE, Thanks! And thanks for letting me know what your garden is up to – I’m totally jealous of the cherries – someday I’d love to have a couple of cherry trees! My grandfather is an amazing gardener, too!

    CHILE, Hey thanks – definitely using up all the space at both my apartment and my mom’s yard… until you look at the front yard, which still has a lot of grass…. someday!

  • [...] see updates from Green Bean, Kate, Melanie, and Angelina on my own recent garden updates here and [...]

  • I live in the Portland area on a 1/3 acre semi shaded lot. When I lived in the Columbia Gorge I had a 3000 sf garden and it was glorious! There is so much sun there…and I had chickens, rabbits, ducks & horses all contributing their poo to the garden. Here at my new place…I am dealing with very rocky, unloved, clay soil. I found a local stable that delivers 20 yards of composted horse poo/ sawdust for 100$. We’re still using it up…but I am getting more for fall ;).

    This year we have 7 tomato plants, about 100 or so volunteer potatoes from the crop I thought had failed last year, 8 zucchini plants (oops), 8 lemon cucumber plants, a bunch of volunteer winter squash/pumpkin/acorn squash <–who knows! As well as one artichoke, one Cayenne pepper, and tons of herbs and swiss chard.

    My parents live about halfway between me and the Oregon coast (45 mins away) and they have 22 acres of farmland, but they have kept about 3 for themselves. They have a ton of apple trees, pear trees, walnuts, filberts, plums, cherry trees, blackberries, strawberries etc. I’m working out a plan with them to put all the long growing garden items out there (some potatoes, winter squash, artichokes, etc etc), as well as a few chickens and maybe after we fence their orchards some weaner pigs next spring that we could *sniffs* butcher for next winter.
    Home grown pork is fabulous and my poor dad cannot keep the grass and blackberries at bay in his orchard so it would be a win win I think…except for little piggies…but…we won’t talk about that.

    Anyways, I’m glad to have found this blog – it is really inspiring and kind of feels like chatting with a girlfriend about things that you are interested in. I don’t have any earthy girlfriends so this is even better for me!! :)


  • HEATHER, Thank you for your comment! 8 zucchini plants (oops) is right! ; ) We had 2 last year, and it was more than enough! LOL. Both your garden and your parents’ sound fabulous. I hope someday to have lots of fruit trees, chickens, ducks… sigh. I think it’s an amazing thing to garden with family members. It brings you closer together, you learn from one another, and you all become healthier and happier.

    I love, love, love what you said in the last paragraph – it makes me feel great, and I’m glad you feel that way! I’m glad you found your way here.

  • [...] we’re off the the University District Farmer’s Market and to visit our “family allotment” at my mother’s place. It’s under a bit of construction (more to come about [...]

  • [...] Grow food in a community garden, a friend’s garden, your parent’s garden [...]

  • [...] 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, [...]

  • [...] I did say it was going to be a hat… where’s a hat when you need it? They’re all over at the allotment! [...]

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