How does your garden grow?

March 27, 2010

Really. I’m asking. How does your garden grow? Cause I want to grow a vegetable garden. :)

This year, I have been hit with the must-grow-our-own-food-I-may-not-ever-use-because-I-hardly-cook bug. I MUST have my own carrots. And lettuce. Pumpkins. (Ack! Can you imagine how fun it would be to grow your own pumpkins??)

I do OK with plants – we can’t have many inside because we have three cats. One of those cats eats ANYTHING green. When my sweet hubby sends me roses, we have to put them on the highest point in house, where I can barely see them or smell them – just so our vegetarian cat won’t eat them.

And if you have cats you know that just about every plant or flower is poisonous for cats. I stand in the middle of the Lowe’s indoor plant section quite often with my phone, looking up the list of poisonous plants – and it’s pretty much every plant known to man. (OK, I know. Not that many. But all of the plants I want.)

So anyhoo…I do OK outside. I’m super proud of my gorgeous azaleas and massive lilies:

DSC09892 I used to have a fifth azalea plant in the middle of that bed, but a nasty vermin, rodent, blasted booger of a thing ate the roots of it last year. So I need to find a matching species this year to replant.

I’m great with trees, bushes, etc. But for some reason I can’t keep a rose bush alive to save my life. I’m determined to master that this year – I think I’ve been planting them in the wrong spots.

So back to the food. Last summer I got this:


And it actually worked great! I cannot tell you my glee when I saw my first green tomatoes coming in. When they got red, and just needed a few more days to ripen…I went to pick them days later and every time, some blasted, nasty vermin, rodent something or other had picked them right off and ate them.
ALL of them! (The planter wasn’t hanging high enough, obviously.)

So that brings me to my questions. We are so fortunate that our backyard backs up to woods and a massive field – so we get a lot of wildlife. Wildlife that likes tomatoes. (??)

I know I need to create a bed – but do you just put up chicken wire or something similar to keep the animals out? Will animals try to eat all veggies, or just certain ones?

Also, are bugs usually a problem? And if you’ve ever grown a vegetable garden, what did you use as compost? I would love to use our grass clippings, but hubby uses chemicals on the yard occasionally, so I know that’s out. I found a compost pail you keep in your kitchen that looks like a great option to make our own:


Has anyone tried it or something similar?

Basically, if you’ve ever grown a vegetable…and actually gotten to EAT said vegetable, I’d love any advice you can offer! I’m a total newbie! Any tips? Any veggies that are easier to grow than others?

I WILL have my own tomatoes. I will!! By the way, you all rock – in advance. :) 

Have a great weekend!

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  1. I have never been successful at it, but I lived in the desert! So I am looking forward to it this year. I need to get it going though, before it warms up too much.

  2. I am going to try my hand at it this year for the first time, so I don't have any experience (yet), but I recently found this wonderful site! All the info you'll need and very simple. If you have time its worth checking out.

    Good Luck. :-)

  3. Oh and as for the animals...rabbits are cause for concern, unlike squirrels. You can put a fence up to keep them out. As for any pests (bugs), plant some marigolds around the perimeter to keep them at bay.

  4. We have grown our own veggies before. Sometimes successfully and other times not so much. The one thing I grow every year, is ALWAYS successful, very easy to grow (you just ignore it once planted), and no varmits touch it is garlic. You can plant it now for this year and then plant it again in the fall for next year. The fall planted garlic will be bigger and better and oh, so easy. Plant it just before the first frost. Mulch with straw. Forget about it over winter. Then harvest it in mid summer.

  5. Be sure to pick your veggies frequently. Usually, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce. Also, don't let the veggies/fruits get too big, the younger, smaller ones are more tender and always taste better. Also, pick your tomatoes when they start to turn from green to pink (before red) and let them ripen on a window sill inside - this helps with keeping the creatures and bugs from getting most of your tomatoes. Good luck!

  6. My boyfriend does most of the growing around here, but I help! We use alot of grounds from starbucks in the soil, which seems to help, we live in Florida, so lots of watering too. We have squirrels that like to munch on things and have tried everything! What we've found works best for us is every night we sprinkle peanuts around the plants. We buy the cheap ones in bulk - and the squirrels love them, much preferring to take the nuts than bite our tomatoes. Not sure if that would work with bigger animals, and it doesn't keep them away, just gives them something they'd rather eat. Like I said though, we tried everything (as humanely as possible), baggies of doghair, cayenne pepper spray, fences, and that's the only thing that stopped them!

  7. Oh, how I do love to garden! Stand-by favorites over here are carrots (super easy), snow peas (even easier as they don't have to be peeled), lettuces, beans, zucchini (get the bush plant if you don't want it to take over). I have moderate success at cucumbers (should be simple but I planted them in too much shade - I will change that this year), sweet peppers (they need lots of heat!), tomotoes (they grow really well on the east side of my house but not as good in the garden). Sweet corn is my nemesis and refuses to grow for me but I always keep trying. We live right up against an open grassy field but I don't have problems with rodents. Also, if you are worried about rabbits, plant a castor bean in your garden. It will keep away the rabbits (but I don't know how it is for your cat). The neighbor cat never bothers my garden. Veggie seeds are cheap, give it a try! As for compost, any non-meat, non-fat food scraps (peelings, fruit, egg-shells, coffee grinds, tea bags, etc) can be used for compost. Make a compost bin outside for it to decay or just till it in the garden early in the season. Just some of the things I do over here!

  8. Here is a link to some of my garden posts from last year...

    We just filled up the beds again to grow this year and we can't wait!

    We actually bought something very similar to this:

    to add to our beds this year as last year we just didn't have enough room. I started all our peppers from seed in a plastic green house seed starter thing I found at the grocery store. I also started lemon cucumbers and watermelons in there and they are already sprouting!

    We got enough zucchini last year to feed the entire neighborhood, it grows great! Still have about 12 cups in my freezer. I could go on and on and on. We love having a garden but as a military family we rarely get to do so because we move so much and we have been blessed to get to do it two years in a row!

    Sorry to ramble it is late...

  9. Sarah,
    I planted a big garden the first year in our new home. Our property also backs up to a wooded area. I had those same demon-critters each all my veggies. They would just nibble on my tomatoes and squash, but wouldn't eat them all. However, they tore down and ate every single kernel off of my corn stalks! Freaked me out. They even nibbled on my pumpkins. I haven't had a garden since. :) I want to do one this year, so I hope one of your readers has some good advice! I will be listening...

  10. We have a small kitchen garden ~ herbs, strawberries, snow peas. We use Cedar Grove compost, it is wonderful. You don't need much space to make this work. Our tomatoes, artichokes and pumpkins grow beautifully tucked into our landscape against
    our garage. The sun warms the garage wall and really helps with growth. Make sure you use a support for the tomatoes. We use oblisks. They work and look great! Good Luck, Monica

  11. My husband is pretty into gardening. Look for the book called "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. It makes it quite doable for most of us.

    We make our own compost (I have a ceramic compost pot like the one you show from Cost Plus World Market). And if you do it right, it doesn't stink!

    I was going to do a post about it last year, since getting our boxes in, and everything started was a big family project, but never got around to it. Since it is warm here, we already have lots of things growing this year.

    Anyway, good luck, and let me know if you need my husband to answer any questions. (He gets really excited about stuff like compost...seriously!)

  12. I'm right there with ya as far as CRAVING a veggie garden (or any garden for that matter). It's our first summer in this house (and married) so nothing fancy this year, but I do A TON of planning/dreaming.

    On to a more productive comment ... I hear rabbits LOVE clover and would eat that over veggies, so plant some by your garden. (Other suggestions I've heard are: double rows of onions -- they hate it; sprinkle large animal urine around your garden - yuck; fence it.)

  13. We have a huge garden, about 90 feet by 15 feet, that runs the length of the yard. We're in suburbia, but deer have been a huge problem for us. More about that below!

    Personally I would start small with one or two raised beds, but also with an eye to the future in case you decide to put in more beds. Or deer become an issue. Focus on a few crops that your family will eat and maybe something that you've always wanted to try. Tomatoes are great, but take some work with the pruning and staking. Peppers are easy as are lettuce, carrots, bush beans, and spinach. Cucumbers either need space on the ground or some type of support. Pumpkins need lots and lots of room. Zucchini need a fair amount of room, and daily picking. Expect to pick or check on the garden daily.

    About the deer. In our yard they seem to prefer plum tomatoes over the others, but they will try the others. They don't care about stepping on plants. I tried double fencing which worked, but took too much time when we cut the grass. The best solution so far was to get deer fencing, available at Home Depot, and run that along the two sides of our garden not protected by a hedge. Yes, the deer could still jump over, but with all the food around, they just went elsewhere. The scent stuff never worked. Deer are too smart.

    We do have rabbits, but they haven't been the nuisance that deer have been. Sorry for the long first post!

  14. Critters are tough to keep out. It seems like a 9 lb. critter can get through a 1 inch hole if something is to their liking. I wish you good luck on that. As for easy to grow cucumbers and squash almost grown themselves as long as they get some water. i have red clay soil here and still the plants get huge and I always have a great yeild.
    Love your brick color and your window boxes..


  15. Here in Utah my hubby grows a HUGE garden in our backyard. Usually he does about 4-5 tomato plants and 3-4 cherry tomoato ones. Also, green pepper, and jalepeno. Its pretty dry and hot here,so plenty of water is needed and all those usually do pretty well. Our zucchini and cucumbers do amazingly well too, almost so much that we cant keep up with them! Last two years we have done pumpkins too and since there isnt TONS of room with all the other stuff he plants, we only get about 20. But that is perfect for us and my brother and his kids. They come over and pick pumpkins every year. SO fun! Corn has never been a success for us as the earwigs are pretty bad here and they eat it all! Snowpeas, well we tried those and I dont know if we planted them too late or what, but they didnt do well for me. Hubby lines the garden with newspaper and then covers it over with grass clippings. It keeps the weeds down and acts as composte.

  16. Oh and we also tried watermelon and cantelope one year. It didnt work. Dont know what that was all about, must have been too hot. :-(

  17. If you have "wildlife" around looking to make a buffet out of your garden, make sure you get some "fake" snakes and an owl. When my husband did this, I thought he was crazy but it keeps the wildlife away. Make sure you periodically move the owl and snake so they don't get wise to you!!

  18. Last year my husband built me an 8X15 enclosed garden. We got a load of manure in May and planted in June. We bought some tomato plants and pepper plants and then started from seed lettuce, onion, okra, and beans. Our tomato and pepper yield was CRAZY thanks to starting them from plants. Highly recommend that! We enclosed the garden with chicken wire and never had any problems. Hope this helps... and when you have the fresh veggies, you do cook with them (or eat them raw). It's worth it! Here's the only picture I have of it:
    Good Luck!!

  19. We use the square foot garden technique, it's so easy & you can grow a lot of food in a small space.

    Good luck~There's nothing like watching your food grow! Well, except for eating it. :)

  20. It's not just 4 legged crittersb but birds will eat your tomatoes & strawberries too! We tried growing those on our deck but the birds got them 1st every.single.time. So I just helped myself to my dad's homegrown tomatoes!

  21. I did a garden last year for the first time. I kept it small, just three beds for tomatos, peppers, onions, cucumbers, basil, green beans. Some worked better than others. My favorite was drying out the peppers and making red pepper flakes. It was so easy. We have a lot of rabbits so we just put green chicken wire around it. Kept them out! Good luck.

  22. I am a newbie too. The last couple of years I have just put some vegetable plants in pots on my deck because I couldn't commit to a place in the yard to dig out a vegetable garden. I've tried pepper plants and even cucumber that way. I just got some bamboo stakes to hold them up. They did ok but I'm sure they would do better if they had more room to spread out. I plan to try some lettuce in a pot this year. If you are doing lettuce, I'll tell you my neighbor planted a lettuce called grands rapids or something like that and it was awesome. He would let us pick some whenever we wanted and it would even stay fresh for a whole week and it was very tasty in salads. I wish I had some more advice for you. I'm definitely going to read these comments to get some advice for my veggie planting this year. Good luck!

  23. Good compost will make a huge difference. I bought 3 tiny tomato plants from Wal-Mart last year. T and his dad dug a big bed on the side of the house and put down a bunch of compost from my in-law's house. Those tomatoes must have quadrupled in size. I had a serious bumper crop going on. The were the size of small trees, and all I did was water them. Period. I really do attribute it to the compost. :)

  24. Hi Sarah- Pumpkins are my favortie thing to grow. They take up alot of room, but are so worth it come the fall when you can cut them from the vines and do clever things with them besides making pies and jack-o-lanterns. My husband- he does all of the veggie garden work always tills the soil with new soil, compost. We love the Miracle Grow for Veggies. It is a bit more expensive but worth it to get the soil right, especially for the first time. We have a net fence that is staked every few feet to keep out the rabbits, ground hogs, etc. I would also work out a good system for watering, since you will need to do it daily. Most important- Put sheets of weed guard down first. Then put holes in that to plant your plants. It will save you the step of constnatly having to get the weeds out. They sell it by the roll. Best of luck. Will be looking forward to seeing your bounty.
    My best- Diane

  25. Hubby wants a garden but my green thumbs are brown. He said he wants to plant some tomatoes on our back deck in pots, as for me, I don't want it to draw critters up there. I'm a pansy.

    The Blue Ridge Gal

  26. I am so jealous that you can already plant..we just had snow last weekend. I love the front of your house. I LOVE MICHIGAN! HA! I really do just can't stand the long winters!! Shanda

  27. I did do this two years in a row about 10 years ago. Did vegetable beds and the vegetables did good. The only problem was there were so many of them! We couldn't eat them fast enough and I gave away what I could. It took a lot of time {for me anyway} so after the second year I stopped. My Dad has done a vegetable garden for as long as I can remember. He put half hoops over his beds and used a netting {that looks like bird netting} that covers the bed.

  28. I live on a farm, so I do not compost; all our scraps go out in the manure spreader. However; I do put all my organic scraps in a container to take out. My MIL always called it the chicken dish and keeps hers under the sink. I found that was a little inconvenient and left open attracts fruit flies. My solution: when I got new food canisters, I took one of the largest OLD ones and put a plastic container inside that has a cover. I used a container from potato salad that you get in bulk (nice and tall and holds a lot of stuff). Now my scrap container is not only handy on the counter, but looks good too.

  29. Also, could you tell me what you planted in your window boxes? I always have a hard time finding something that stays looking nice all season.

  30. We had a garden at our old house the year before we moved (it was fabulous!), and then last year I finally got around to putting one in at our new house. I built two raised beds for it and planted tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, herbs, cucumbers - the basics. With it being a new garden, I had soil delivered that was specifically for gardens. Good stuff! The garden did well for the most part, but our area was hit by a tomato blight, and a lot of plants (not just mine) that had been thriving, died! But, from what I read, that didn't have to do with my gardening abilities, but was more related to this "disease" that affected a lot of plants.

    As for fencing, we did have problems with rabbits at our old house and put up some fencing to keep them out. You don't have to go fancy necessarily, just functional to keep them out.

    All things considered, it's not too difficult to grow veggies, and it's SO rewarding!


  31. I keep a ziploc bag under my kitchen sink to hold veggie scraps, egg shells, coffe grounds, and tea bags. When it's full we dump the contents into the compost pile in the back yard. I try to garden organically in raised beds. I use netting over the plants to keep critters out. Good luck with your gardening. It's really a learn as you go process.

  32. I have a compost buchet similar to the one you have, it works great. We then take it out to our compost tumbler. We have been gardening for years. My husband does not do raised beds because we have a tractor tiller and you can't get it into a raised bed. I recommend them for people who are starting small though. They are easy to manage. You could bury the fencing a bit to deter reabbits from digging under the fence. That seem to work for our neighbors. Our garden is so big the critters can eat some and it doesn't matter. We have 12-15 tomato plants, beans, squash, zuchini, cucmbers, peas, beans, pumpkins, potaotes, corn, broccoli, and peppers. I Am sure I am leaving something out. :) I can of freeze everything I can for winter. Gardening also engourages little ones to eat more veggies. You little guy is the perfect age to really start enjoying the process!

    Peas, and beand are also easy to grow!

  33. We have a large garden spot with 18 raised beds and a drip watering system that makes gardening SO easy! We LOVE our fresh food, and freeze/can as well. We have deer and racoons who can be so creative at eating the fruits of our labors. I don't mind sharing, but sometimes they are just too greedy! We also didn't want a fortress of fences between us and our beautiful garden. We have a fence made up of metal posts and two strands of a electric fence. Easy to get in and our for us, not ugly to look at. The second wonderful thing we discovered was a sprinkler that is motion activated. Those sweet deer approach our garden and get BLAST with a stream of water. We plant acorn squash amongst our corn to keep the racoon away - they don't like to walk in the squash foliage. I could go on forever on the fun we've had with veggies and critters and trying to get some food for us too!

  34. This is what I plan to do this year:

    I seem to recall she has step by step instructions -- I can't seem to locate them. Don't forget herbs for your patio! Keep us updated on your progress -- we learn so much from you!

  35. I just planted a vegetable garden!
    Check out how I did it.

  36. Hi, Sarah. YES I did grow a veggie garden 2 summers ago. And it is AWESOME to grow your own pumpkins!! We had a BUNCH mini pumpkins and enough large pumpkins for each of the kids. It was a proud moment to display those puppies... in august... we planted them too early!!! So, thats my only point of advice! don't plant everything at once!

    Nope. I have more advice: Tomatoes, green peppers, and jalepenos = salsa from your own garden that is to die for.

    Also: my mom raves about her "new square foot gardening." Get the book. Pretty square gardens.

    Have fun!

  37. We have a wonderful vegetable garden--I love working in it with my preschool-age children. They learn so much by helping. I suggest starting with a few small raised beds--one for carrots and lettuce, one for larger things like pumpkins :), and another for tomatoes, peppers, etc. We read the book, "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholemew when we first started. We learned a lot and it was great when we first started out. It is a simple read and a great start!

    And it was probably birds taking your tomatoes. They got tons of ours until we put a bird netting over them.

  38. After reading the comments, Im back! Squirrels. Took my beautiful corn husk by husk. I didn't get one! Next time I plant a garden: the motion activated water sprayer!

    HINT: your first time gardening you won't save any $ if u compare to cost of just buying store-bought veggies. Don't let that deter u!

    Yum + experience + pride = worth it

  39. My father was a master gardener. Not literally but he could grow anything, anywhere! He was into composting long before it was the green thing to do! You are probably losing your tomatoes to birds. Get some bird netting. I have grown a lot in pots, or large tubs. I'd say start out small, grow herbs, you can't kill rosemary! Get bush variety for tomatoes and such. And look out for horn worms! Ginormous fat green worms that will eat your tomato plant practically overnight. It will remind you of Alice in Wonderland and you'll be wondering where his pipe is! You have to pull them off!

  40. Oh, for compost...There is a bag of stuff called Black Gold. That's what my father used when he wasn't getting poop from the horse stables. It has to be old poo, so he would buy that!

  41. We have to do our garden raised because of the rabits in our neighborhood. But we also have to put deer netting around all the plants (especially the tomatoes) because of the birds. We did have SOME bug issues but not many at all. I wanted to stay completely pesticide free, and we did! And we had many many yummy veggies to eat! We didn't do the deer netting until last year though, and it helped tremendously! We thought simply raising our garden would help. Birds didn'teven cross my mind until I caught them! Those suckers looooove a ripe tomato!!! :)


    Hey TDC!

    The above link provides instructions for building a raised garden boxes...this type of garden is earier to maintain, looks neater, and can be repurposed as flower/planting beds if the veggies end-up not being your fave hobby in future seasons.

    Veggie gardens are fun--I just wish we had better luck with ours. If you opt to plant snow peas--or any small vegetable on a vine--buy some sort of trellis & (oh my Lord...I cannot think of what anything is called with my pregnant brain) uhhh...use TWIST TIES (there, that's the word) to grow & organize the vines up the trellis--otherwise, you'll end up with a big tangles mess! That's all I got--have fun with it Sara Appleseed! lol

    Erin D.


    check out this post to see if it helps with composting

  44. Someone else already posted this, but I would encourage you to use coffee grounds and eggshells for your compost. I found it works best for tomatoes and roses.

    If you plant tomatoes and/or peppers, I suggest buying the plants -- not starting from seeds. And be careful where you place your tomatoes, because they will explode and take sunlight from other plants.

    I'd also be careful with zucchini, cucumbers, and pumpkins. Our zucchini and cucumbers took over our garden last year and actually strangled several of our plants.

    Good luck!

  45. I know other people have said this but pick your tomatoes early. Once they have a hint of red on them they will ripen on the counter just fine. My husband even worked at a tomato breeding station as an undergraduate and is super picky about tomato quality. You can be sure if he says it is ok it is.

    I read Animal Vegetable Miracle a few years ago and am gearing up to plant TONS of tomatoes and preserve them for the year. We just ran out of the salsa I made last year and the store bought stuff is crummy in comparison. I can't wait for Summer!

  46. A Vegetable garden is so much fun, and it can be a lot of fun for the kids as well. We have a fairly large section for a vegetable garden in our backyard. We grow tomato, artichoke (my favorite) swiss chard, carrots, lettuce, strawberry and there is still room for more.

    We use a temporary fence that is about 5 feet tall to keep animals out. We also live near a forest, but our biggest problem has been our own pets. Our dog will run through the garden and destroy it. The racoon's out here love anything sweet, and they were more interested in the pears last year.

    We have never really had a problem with bugs, and we dont use any bug killers either. Moths like broccoli and I believe that was our only issue.

    Like anything, just try it out, and you will learn each year what works and what doesn't. Good luck, I cant wait to see what you decide on.

  47. Hi Sara, oh I so agree with the gal who mentioned square foot gardening. If you are new to gardening it is absolutely the way to go!! You will not be overwhelmed and yet you will have tons of produce. Weeding, watering etc are so easy. We have 6 4x4 beds and I have so much produce. I grow pumpkins and vines on trellisis, again a square foot method. Plus there are tons of tips on dealing with pests in the book. I am really tall 6 foot ...and my little bitty garden does so well that my hubby can't find me in the garden:). It cracks me up. Hope that helps. Thanks for your awesome site.

  48. I'm trying Square Foot Gardening for the first time this year, and I'm excited! The kids are involved in the planning, and this weekend we're building our boxes. They have some simple solutions for varmints--covers made of chickenwire, etc. so I think you should check it out!

  49. I have the composting pail from the now defunct Smith & Hawken and it works great. I line it with a BioBag composting bag and gather all my veggie/fruit scraps. When it's full I take them out to the composter. It saves me a few trips.

  50. I have a huge battle with the earwigs every year who LOVE my climbing purple bean seedlings, but other than that, I don't have too much trouble with critters. Oh wait, there's the grandaddy groundhog that I've been trying to catch in my hav-a-hart trap! If you have any horse farms or stables in the area, try to get some aged horse manure (straw, not wood shavings). It's like fertilizer gold! Heirloom tomatoes are my absolute favorite thing to grow. Tomatoes from the store taste like cardboard in comparison.

  51. I started square foot gardening last year and it is awesome!! It uses less space than a traditional row garden so it will be easier for you to cover with chicken wire to protect from animals.

    Check out this website for free info:
    Emily, the site owner, will tell you when to plant in your area (based on last frost date). She also helps you set up a garden bed for the first time.

    I have never composted but I have always wanted to. I guess I don't mind buying it for now and I'll give it a try in the years to come.

  52. Pick up a copy at the library or buy one of Square Foot Gardening, known as one of the best books out there. Also, I am going through other herbal books to learn about what plants to put near others that will ward off (naturally) pests and such. I know that marigolds deter many things, I think even deer. I have only done potted salsa gardening the past two years, but this year we are taking the step. We will be doing a square foot garden, with the chicken wire lid to keep mostly my dog away from the vegetation. I also plan to raise it so it won't be easy access as well. I did also learn that for certain things, like my roses and dahlia's were eaten by beetles last year that were easily deterred by traps but I didn't get the traps out and new bags out early enough. Little things you learn as you try more and more. Good luck! This year I am doing more than salsa, thinking a few stalks of corn, cucumbers, even possibly loofah!
    Good luck!

  53. Around here we use tiger poop from the zoo. It stinks but it repels. Other than that I don't know. Good luck though!

  54. I got my first pumpkins by accident. We composted (dumped in a random spot in the garden :) the insides of our jack o lantern, and the next spring I had 17 volunteer pumpkin plants and they all produced new jack o lanterns!
    I now compost with an under the sink pail. It's nothing fancy, just an old bucket, with a lid, like cheap ice cream comes in, and i put any fresh food scraps in it. Nothing cooked, strictly plant materials, no meat or fats. And no egg shells. Don't want to attract any more varmints.
    I have a compost bin outside that I dump the food scraps in and let it all rot. I also put the shredded paper in there and mix it all up. I don't do it "right" but it feeds my soil. You can find instructions for doing it right online or in gardening books.
    Square foot gardening is an awesome book.
    My biggest advice is to start small and don't try to do too much at once. Gardening is a lot of work and time. Pace yourself and plant stuff you'll really enjoy.

  55. I'm the same way about probably not using all of the veggies but wanting to start a garden this year! I figure if it works out, the neighbors would appreciate some veggies if I don't eat them all :)

    I composted all winter in a trash can using this method:

    It worked well! (except was frozen for about a month, but still worked out in the end!)

    I've also been 'documenting' my garden attempt here on Flickr:

    Glad you're getting the urge, too!

  56. If you grow broccoli, it can look great and still be loaded with bugs. So when you pick it, soak it in salt water awhile. You will be amazed at what comes out of it. I do that with what I grow.

  57. Last year I decided to put in a vegetable garden. I live in the desert in So. Cal so I chose to build three raised beds (did it all by myself - hubby was very proud of me) out by my swimming pool.

    I did line the open holes with chicken wire because I have a gopher problem and they tunnel from under the cement wall from the field in the back of the yard. I mixed in top soil, soil conditioner and regular potting soil into the existing soil. Needless to say, that made a great starter for the vegetables.
    I did plant (and eat, even frozen some) eggplant, zuchini, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and yellow squash.
    The only thing I didn't do was put in a drip system. I wanted to water by hand so I could keep on eye on things. However, it turned out to be way too much work. So this weekend the drip system is going into the beds and I'll start planting seeds and plants in April.
    I do have to drape plastic chicken type wire over the beds (connected to posts) so birds can't "drop in" for a bite to eat.
    Good luck on the veggie garden. My kids loved having fresh vegetables. I'll have to post a link for you on Facebook of a picture with my cat sitting next to a morning of veggie pickings.

  58. My husband and I are trying to start a garden too. Friends have had success with the square foot gardening system We are trying to create our own version. Have fun!

  59. We live in the midwest and I have had many vegetable gardens. Since our last move to a newly constructed home, we have built a raised bed garden. It is so nice to have and is great because you don't have to dig into the bad topsoil that the builders left here. Very easy to manage and not big enough to overwhelm you. I have also had fun doing the "Square Foot" gardening. Last year my garden looked like a living quilt and I had so much fun with it. I would like to build another raised bed this year as it has been so successful and easy. Also, you can pretty much buy bagged organic dirt to add to it. Enjoy!

  60. I live in the Indy area, and we grow our own veggies. My hubby built me "the pioneer woman"'s raised garden beds for Mothers Day a few years ago. I put whirlygigs out around the beds and the deer and coons and birds hate them and leave my veggies alone.
    I also compost in a cotainer I got from Costco a few years ago. We love it. I wish I had the little container you have. I just use a bowl and take it out back when it gets full(every day).

  61. we get the deck or garage is the only option to protect precious produce. Also with the compost, I would highly recommend keeping it outside (even when it's so cute in that little container on your window sill)...It gets REALLY stinky

  62. My tip for growing big, beautiful, and tasty vegetables is Kellogg's Amend. Till it into the existing soil of where you are going to plant it increases moisture, improves nutrient retention and fertility. Also, marigolds are a good bug critter deterrent, not to mention they look pretty surrounding your garden. You can also use chicken wire as some extra protection.

  63. I grew AWESOME tomatoes in my Earth Box garden last summer. We have a bunny problem, so putting them in the ground wasn't an option. The Earthbox allowed me to have a garden on my deck. Check out my posts:
    Here's to better luck this year! I can't wait!

  64. This will be our 3rd year having a "salad garden" and we've been very lucky, especially since we live in the Northwest and don't get a ton of sun. I can't rave enough about building raised beds and keeping it all contained. Also we only use compost that we buy -- no weeds at all the past 2 years. The raised beds we built were 3'x 8' (not too big) and very managable. Check out this site:
    His concept totally works and keeps weeds at bay and utilizes every square foot of your garden.

    On tomatoes -- I don't think you can go wrong with Sweet 100 cherries. They grow really well, better than the bigger varieties. Also zucchini -- I really don't think you can kill zucchini!! It's so easy and pumpkins too, that your little guy would love. Just make a separate plot for them as they take over!!
    Good luck!!

  65. I simply must have that composter....can you point me in the right direction?

    I'm going to try the square foot gardening this year. I've also been successful with container tomatoes but only if they are drip watered...I'm not good at the watering part. I grew them on the deck outside our bedroom to keep them away from the bunnies and rodents.


  66. I grow a huge garden every year to supplement our food. I grow about 40-60%. I use chicken wire or the wild life eats everything. I also companion plant. It's a great way to grow organically and use plants to benefit each other.

  67. I confess, I did not read through all of the comments so....I really recommend Square Foot Gardening. The easiest way to garden veggies is with raised beds. You can find a lot of info on the web without having to buy the book but the book is an easy read, even though it reads a bit like an infomercial. The kitchen composter you have a pic of is just to hold your scraps until you put them into your compost pile. It isn't really for composting. You could get by with a large tupperware. If you only have a small amount of scraps then you may want to check into a worm bin.

    A healthy garden will not have pest issues.

    From the look of your gorgeous azalas you soil is acidic and you will have zero luck growing roses unless you amend the soil.

    Oh and one other newbie tip use starts. Skip the seeds this year and you will be successful. Good luck. ps. Love your blog and am getting a ton of inspiration.

  68. Look to see what type of soil the plants you want to grow need. For example, my dad is an excellent gardener and he knows his blueberry plants like pine needles and coffee grounds mixed in their soil. He also fertilizes his other plants with his house hold compost (he uses a similar container as you posted then empties it into a container outside). Good luck!

  69. You are a brave woman. I don't even bother attempting a garden. Good luck to you!
    As for your indoor plants, I have a post ( about IKEA fake plants and how much I love them. They look real and are cheap. Maybe you could try some of those?!

    Just a thought.

    Lovin' your blog, as always.

  70. Lots of great ideas here. I have heard sprinkling cayenne pepper on your garden keeps out critters especially bunnies. I have that exact compost bin you showed and love it. This is our first year to have it, we have a big bin in the yard that we dump that in. I have grown pumpkins before, usually start in July and I will have pumpkins in October. I've also grown broccoli, it was so cool! Onions are very east and keep for a long time. Good luck it is fun and the kids love it! Don't forget to try strawberries they love those too!

  71. I'm no good with plants, but sharon is. she has a bunch of veggies growing in their backyard. you could ask her.

  72. Howdy! I planted a garden last summer in raised planter beds. If your soil is rocky, like mine, a raised bed is great. We built ours out of cedar and filled it 1/2 with top soil and 1/2 with compost we bought from the nursery just down the road. I planted one of the beds as a salsa garden...tomatoes, cubanelle peppers, onions and cilantro...all those were super easy to grow. The other garden bed had radishes, carrots, beans, cucumbers, green peppers and lettuce. All the things I mentioned were super easy to grow. I do suggest you buy tomato & pepper plants instead of seeds..just much easier. I grew everything else from seeds. Hope you have a great time with your garden! :)

  73. I've only ever had a container garden- plants grown in pots. It actually works pretty well, you just have to remember to space your plants out- don't try to cram 3 tomato plants into one pot because it won't work. Water often, fertilize as necessary (unless you'd like to go all organic of course). I've put bird netting over my plants before to keep pesky critters out- and fencing off your garden area is always a great idea, because if you grow it, they will come!!
    You can definitely supplement with compost, but you'll have to buy compost to start since it takes a few months for your kitchen scraps to turn into usable compost. We compost and just use a bucket in the kitchen and then dump the scraps into a little fenced off area in our yard. Just remember to turn the compost- I turn it every time I add some new scraps. Gardening is great, yummy, and doesn't require TOO much work! Good luck :)

  74. We have two vermin in our backyard - pugs. ;) So, we did fence around our garden. Hubby put wooden posts around it and then wrapped chicken wire. It looks nice.

    And, please plant pumpkins. You will not regret it. We had one plant last year and I had 20 or so beautiful, perfect little pumpkins. Check out our gardening posts here.

  75. Good luck with that:) I have a green thumb with outdoor plants but I have never tried to grow vegetables. My dad can grow anything and when I say anything, I mean it. He can take something and put it right in the ground and it will grow. He always has a garden. I wish I could do it but it is much more than a hobby. It is a lot of work. I can't wait to see what you do though.

  76. not sure if you saw this, HGTV featured your blog

  77. Yea for you!! Fun fun fun!! I am going to try the liquid fence this year-- last year we had some deer problems.

    your front flower bed is just gorgeous!! Instead of finding that center species to match the other azaleas-- you could put something different in there since it is in the center-- dwarf blue spruce or alberta spruce or maybe a tree rose?

    Best wishes on your gardening!!

    Jennifer Kerr

  78. Electric fence. Our backyard also backs up to a farm & mountains. So we used to have big problems with things eating our garden. Last year we put chicken wire around it, and wired it to an electric surge thing (you can get them at HD) and have had no problems since with the animals.

    For the bugs, certain bugs are attracted to certain plants. I have a book that has suggestions on what time a plants to plant next to each other. Some plants can actually make other plants grow better, but some make other plants die if planted next to each other. Marigolds are really good by most plants, especially tomatoes. They repel the right bugs, and attract the right bugs for them.

    Good luck! having a garden is so much fun!

  79. If bugs are a problem, pick tomatoes when they are still a little green. Let them ripen in a brown paper bag on your counter.

  80. Try this:

    We bought one for my elderly MIL as a Christmas. It's an easy way to get a little garden started.

  81. PLant the Marigolds around the bed. I am a newbie, too. We just bought our home and now have a big enough garden, but both my husband and I grew up with a big garden, but there is one place that is a fountain of knowledge for us!
    Good Luck!
    You will have to take into account that you don't live in Utah, BUt they know their stuff!

  82. I'm excited to read that you want to have a vegetable garden! My husband, 3 kids, and I love our garden and ours is 1/2 acre large. We live on 5 acres so we have plenty of space. We lived in Northern Iowa so our produce might be different than yours, just giving you our location. We grow the following:

    pumpkins---EASY to grow and maintain
    musk melon
    honeydew melon
    brussel sprouts--my fave

    every type of pepper you can think of
    pole green beans
    snap peas
    butternut squash
    acorn squash
    asparagus--takes 3 years to see a decent crop but totally worth it
    tomatoes--you MUST try heirloom tomatoes and you will be so happy! :)

    It's totally overwhelming during our planting season but it's so great when you get to harvest! I look forward to seeing pictures of your garden. Bugs--go to a local garden store and ask for easy remedies depending upon your area.

    Good luck!

  83. There are many nice looking compost pails available now, but you can't beat an big old plastic coffee container. I've used them for several years as my compost holder and they're the best. Hands down, my old plastic Folgers containers have never failed me (although I'm sure the Maxwell House containers do just fine, too). The containers hold quite a bit, have such a snug-fitting lid that I've never had problems with odors, and they're free (well, after you buy the coffee, that is). The only drawback is that they're not the most attractive container. You could either keep it under the sink or maybe use some spray paint for plastic to spruce up the outside of the container. If the inside gets gunky, just run it through the dishwasher to clean. If it gets too old, then you can recycle it. If you don't drink coffee, ask a friend who does to save the containers for you.

  84. Ooh! I hope you don't mind that I'll be reading everyone's replies to this post. I also like to plant veggies and am always on the lookout for tips. I've heard of the marigold tip. :) Have a wonderful Sunday.

  85. I didn't read all the comments so if I duplicate something I apologize.

    Since you are pretty handy with power tools, I would suggest looking into square foot gardening. It has become really popular in my area. You build a box fill it with dirt and build a grid system in the box. With the grid it makes it easy to keep track of what and where you planted. Good luck.

  86. I was exactly where you were last year...and for the most part it was really successful. We built raised beds and planted a variety of veggies. I have great things about square foot gardening, but the book that saved me was "Vegetable gardening in (state)". I picked it up in a local Borders and it told me when to plant, harvest and how to do things specific for my area. It was a life saver. I am actually posting a garden summary from last year Monday on my blog if you are interested. You should go for it, you definitely have a knack for landscaping!

  87. I have been doing raised bed sq ft gardening for over 20yrs and wouldn't do it any other way. I have "issues" with a certain Mr Fatbutt ie groundhog

    I have been using a frame made out of pvc pipe and netting We are revamping it this yr to a sq frame that will also be a water system. Here is what it looked like abt 3 yrs ago

    Gd luck with garden it can be sooo much fun!

  88. Here are some tips. I haven't read all the comments, so some might be duplicated.

    If you are going for a larger garden keep the vinning plants seperate from the others. They will choke out the tomatoes, peppers, etc. Planting Marigolds around the base of the plants will help with bug control. If you want less hassle with weeds. Till your garden in strips (planting each vegetable/fruit in that strip) and allow the grass to grow between. I've left a space the width of my lawnmower between each strip and it made it super easy to mow and keep the weeds at bay. When watering don't spray the plants (that will also attract bugs). I recently started using drip hoses so that it waters the base of the plant and it waters all of it in one shot. When planting tomatoes, peppers, anything small. Plant them in raised beds. This will help prevent them from drowning out if it rains a lot or in my case occasionally forgetting to turn of the water. ;)

    Best of luck and have fun!

  89. I live in wonderfully HOT Phoenix. I love to garden. So, if even I can grow things in Phoenix, anyone can grow things anywhere! I'm trying the square foot gardening this year myself! Great choice to go with (i'm hoping). I've heard that bunnies can't get to plants in raised planters. If you add extensions on raised beds then you can put fences around your gardens pretty easily. This should keep out most animals, even birds if you cage the top as well. I'm hoping this year to grow enough to can (in jars, not cans because I'm worried about tins leeching into my food) for the whole Winter as well. I shred and freeze my squashes and add this to all of my cooking! I wont give any other specifics as I think desert gardening would differ drastically from anywhere else! ;) Good luck!
    Rebecca of the R&W Gals

  90. I love to garden and have tried many different methods. Right now I am doing a form of square foot gardening and forming my beds with the lasagna gardening method. We live "in the woods" and have had issues with deer, but our dogs seem to be a good deterrent now. For the smaller pests,small fencing should work. I have begun a series on my blog about getting my garden started. If you have a minute please drop by. My first post is on making your own seedling starter cups.
    Gardening can be a great stress reliever...Enjoy!

  91. Hi there! Welcome to the wide world of gardening! I'm a Landscape Designer and post tips and ideas on my blog (along with other lifestyle and activities things...) so feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions. *Amy

  92. I didnt read all the posts but is great! The Pioneer Woman just did a blog about their collapsible tomato fencing. I live in Phoenix and I think Im going to try a small garden this year. Use to have a great one back in St. Louis. Desert is so much different. Have fun!

  93. I used raised beds, 6 foot by 4 foot by about 2 1/2 foot off the ground. They are great- less back breaking and less weeding. I would guess your culprit tomato eaters were skunks and/or racoons. I live in Idaho, out in the country, so I know about vegetable stealing varmits. I plant my tomatoes in cages so when ripe tomatoes start coming on I get several yards of tulle (very fine mesh, almost illusion) and put it over the cages and attach it to them with clothes pins. Water and air are able to get to the plants but bugs, deer, racoons, porcupines, skunks, no! Plus, it is still easy to remove to harvest your precious crop. I have never had a problem with those varmits and my other vegetables. This also works great on my strawberry patch to deter birds and mice!

  94. I live in Montana and our ground is mostly rock and very little dirt. I do raised beds, I have 32 squares that are 5ft x 5ft. Last year I grew corn, asparagus, onions, beans, lettuce, pumpkins, okra, tomatoes... Drip system is awesome if you can afford it. Try to grow what you know you will eat. To stay on top of our garden, my 4 kids and I pull weeds everyday. This year we were given old carpet and I am going to lay strips down in between beds to try to deter the weeds. That way we just have to really worry about the weeds growing with the vegis. Fertilizing your garden in fall after you are done gardening will help prepare your soil for the following year. Luckily we have quite a few friends that are cattle ranchers and we can get a trailer load or so of manure to fertilize. Good luck with your gardening!

  95. Be careful if you plant pumpkins. I planted the seeds from the little packet (maybe 7 or 8 seeds) and wound up with more than 30 pumpkins trying to take over the entire garden. It was pretty funny, but pumpkins have been banished to a far away corner of the yard this year :)

  96. Wow, you have a lot of comments here but I'll share anyway. I live in Florida so your climate will be a bit different. We have problems with pumpkins becuase when they get to wet they can be prone to mold. Tomatoes are always a staple but they tend to stunt out when temps are over 85 degrees. Peppers always did well for us and I had some luck with Cucumbers but they like to have a bit a shelter is seems. What did best for us was Loofah and Sunflowers and they were both gorgeous. If you have a lattice or fence the loofah will go crazy on it and it has beautiful bright yellow flowers. Last year I was pregnant on bedrest and the whole garden died except for the Okra and Eggplant. No water. No fertilizer. No weeding. Those plants just would NOT die. I will definately be planting those again this year.
    We have a 2ft. tall chickenwire fence around the garden and a 6in. deep border to keep the rabbits out. No deer in our area, but I hear Society Garlic keeps them at bay. This year I will be planting marigolds around the outside of the garden to help with some pests. A friend of mine reccommends spraying the tomatoes with water and a very small amount of Dawn mixed in it to keep these nasty little bugs that like to eat the leaves and kill my plants at bay.
    We compost too. I've kinda developed my own method for that. I do 3 phases for my compost. I start on the counter (you can use a containter like the one you show or I just use a bowl and keep a kitchen towel over it, just be sure to dump outside often or it will smell). Outside I have what I call the "slop bucket". I keep it covered under a larger upsidedown rubbermaid container. I dump the bowl from inside into it, add handful of soil to it with every dump and keep it very wet. When the bucket gets full I dig a hole in my large pile of compost I have in a compost bin and bury it. The grossness of the slop bucket seems to speed things up a bit. I used to throw it staight into the bin but it would take forever.
    Ok, I think my comment has gotten nearly as long as your post. Sorry. One last thing. I LOVE this website though it is geared more toward zones 8-10.

  97. I compost EVERYTHING (hopefully I will have a blog up in the very near furture on composting kitchen/food waste) from coffee ground to lettuce ends (no meat)... The only down side to composing kitchen waste is that it takes time to break down so you would have to create a pile outside or get a drum (they have them at Lowes and they are kinda expensive) where you can let the compost break down into the good stuff... also a tip from learning the hard way the smaller the waste the faster it breakes down I still have orange peels that were way too big! I use a compost bucket similar to the one in you post and we got it from Plow and Hearth... they also sell the filters that go in the top (very necessary). I can honestly say we leave the bucket sit on our counter and I never smell it (but it does have to be taken out once or twice a week)!

  98. "Barb, I just plant whatever I want and use Havahart's deer off. It repels by using bad, irritating tastes and a nasty smell. Other brands only target one sense. I can’t smell it though once it dries.
    Here's the repellent I use:"

  99. So how does your veggie garden grow?! ☺


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