Monday, September 1, 2008

Nemesis: Garden

My mother was one of those people who found relaxation in her vegetable garden. She was also one of those mothers who 'enforced character growth via work load'. Was your mother one of these? The ones who thought that fingernails full of dirt was a sign of your diligence and persistence?

Well, to be fair, I'm not all that diligent sometimes, and my persistence might be slightly lacking. But I hated the garden. I think in my younger years it had more to do with the work and the dirt than anything else. But then I hit puberty and I got allergies. I know - weird. My body hormones changed and I became allergic to a bunch of stuff - all sorts of grassy, weedy things (when they touch me), and raw carrots and apples.

So whenever I was forced into the garden my hands, arms, and whatever part of me touched the dirt/greenery got prickly and red, and itched like nobody's business.

Okay, right now I'm thinking of ending the post, since common sense is kicking in suddenly.

Matt and I have been thinking about doing a small garden this year. We have two little (2'x2') plots already set aside of gardening at this house. I wouldn't want to dig up anything else, there's barely any yard as it is, and it's a rental property.

So here's the question. What vegetables (not flowers please) are easy to plant, care for, and not kill? What would be easy enough that for a first-time-gardener isn't going to stress me out, but will actually be of use to me in my kitchen? Matt likes the idea of potatoes, but I have a feeling we'll need more room than we're willing to sacrifice. And FYI, my mom's leaving in 3 weeks for an 8-10 week trip, so she'll miss planting time anyways.


  1. Kudos to you for wanting to try this adventure! I'm in the same boat as you regarding little space and having a rental. I had a 1'x3' plot in my landlord's garden in our shared backyard, and our concrete walkway with some containers to use. I got the containers at a thrift store, so only spent a few bucks on those. Our gardening budget was non-existent, so I went as cheaply as possible.

    This year I was a first time gardener, and had no clue what to do. All I had was an adopted grandma to call for advice. Aside from the usual watering, I bought two types of fertilizer - Miracle Grow that gets added to water and used once a week or so, and a special one that you sprinkle on the soil one time for veggies that dissolves over a period of three months.

    My successes....
    1. English Peas from seed, planted directly in the ground and allowed to climb up a contraption made of wood and string (like a fence). After hating peas most of my life, I fell in love with these and even learned to eat them raw right out of the pod.

    2. Pole beans from seed, planted directly in the ground and allowed to climb up dowel rods wound with rough twine for the plants to catch on

    3. Herbs from starter plants, especially parsley and chives, done in containers with potting soil. My basil actually did well enough to make big batches of pesto for the freezer, but just know that everyone says it's hard to grow. I think God just has mercy on me and lets mine succeed, because I really have a non-green thumb.

    4. Cherry tomatoes and hot peppers from starter plants, planted in huge containers and kept under a clear plastic wrapped lean-to (we get too much rain to put these directly in the ground unshielded, but you could probably do it in your area). Cherry tomatoes do need to be staked and you do have to learn to prune away the "suckers" - these baby shoots that grow between the main trunk of the plant and the branches. I learned the hard way that you don't just prune once. Both tomatoes and peppers like sunshine and warmth.

    5. Spinach, beets, and arugula from seed, planted in containers. These all worked, but my spinach bolted during the second planting (went from leaves to flowers in a matter of a day) because of a short heat wave and having too shallow of a container.

    I have a friend who's successfully done carrots, zucchini, and lettuce with her kids. She did that in a tiny plot too, though the zucchini has climbed outside and spread a bit on her lawn.

    Good luck! Have fun trying what works for you.

    ~ Sara in British Columbia

  2. Tomatoes - usually grape - work well in containers. (well here in Missouri . . . not sure about NZ =] )

  3. Hey guys!
    Silverbeet is great and easy to care for. Radishes are easy to grow, rocket mixed lettuce for salads, carrots... etc. Plant the radishes and carrots together - you actually have to mix thye seeds up - the radishes will be ready first - but the carrots will take longer.

  4. I don't know your climate well. I'm a midwestern girl transplanted to the pacific northwest last year... so in my head I'm still a midwestern "gardener."

    Tomatoes - grow straight up (in a cheap cage or tied on with old nylon stockings to sturdy sticks). Need water and lots of sunlight - and you get multiple fruit on one plant.

    Herbs - whatever you use in your cooking. They don't take a lot of room, and if you don't want to use up your valuable square plots, you can plant them in planters and move them around wherever you have room.

    Cucumbers - personally, I don't like them. But like tomatoes, you get a ton of them to one plant, and they're pretty hard to kill.

    Peppers - my husband won't touch them, so I haven't tried, but I hear they're pretty easy, and again, many to one plant.

    Carrots are yummy and easy, but you only get one per plant - so you lose a lot of land in such a minimal space. Same with potatoes.

    Lettuce? What do you guys like to eat?

  5. You go girl......

    So we live in a condo so no yard for us but I have learned that if space is an issue and you would like to grow potatoes take a cardboard box and place it over the planter and fill it with dirt and plant your potatoes in layers while filling up the box. then when you are done wrap the box up in saran/plastic wrap leaving the top open and you can grow lots of potatoes in a small space

  6. We did cherry tomatoes and zuchini as kids. I'm thinking if we did them successfully (tomatoes in large pots) as 8 & 10 year olds, you should have zero problems. I kill everything that comes in my house normally but I made basil and chives last me over a year in the house in pots, so those are pretty easy too. We did carrots in the ground as kids one year and they worked fine, I can't remember why my mom stopped after a year though. Oh, and watermelon, they take some space, but are really easy to grow!

  7. We have done a garden for the past two years and were pretty new to it. I have found that zucchini and tomatoes as well as basil parsley and peppers are also easy.
    My girls are almost 4 and almost 2 and I think it has been such great way to teach them that food does not just appear in the grocery store and also a way to get them to try some new foods. If they grow it and pick it they may eat it.

    Rachel in PA (changed my name on posting so my last name would no longer be on my blogposts)
    PS The zucchini makes my arms terribly red and itchy when I pick it so now I just make my DH pick it.;)

    Here are two of my blog posts about my garden this summer:

  8. I've gardened with the kids for the last several years (except this year - we were moving/settling in and it didn't happen) Anyway - we've had the most success with:

    - tomatoes - they LOVE the grape & cherry tomatoes and will eat them right off the plant (just remember to cage or stake them)

    - bell peppers - these are great because you can just cut them up and freeze them to use the rest of the year

    - cuccumbers and squash - we'd get lots - sometimes the vine would tend to wander - but it's fairly easy to move

  9. You know me - I HATE GARDENING - But love picking and eating our own veges, so from one gardening hater to another!!! heres what we do:
    Tomatoes are a definate. Cherry tomatoes are great. The kids love picking them straight from the vine ( oh and me too!).
    Brocolli is excellent. It also helps knowing that once you pick of the first head, don't be like me and think that is it for the plant and pull it out!!! Each time you pick a head of brocolli off another grows. Our plants grew for about six months, and they taste YUMMY.
    Corgettes/zucchini are excellent. You probably only need to grow one plant because once again, when you pick one more grow and they take up lots of space.
    The things I haven't had success with are:
    Cucumber, watermelon and peppers. Maybe Tauranga soil will be better than ours. As you know ours is just sand.
    Ooooh try corn too - YUM.
    The fancy lettuces are good too, but because of our soil they tasted really bitter.
    Gotta have lots of parsley too.
    Happy planting. Actually the thing I dislike the most is weeding - BLAH.
    Have fun.

  10. Fun stuff! I've always been lucky with tomatoes and cucumbers...the cucs are very small, but OH so delish!!!

    I gave you an award on my blog deserve it. :o)

  11. I will add my two cents...I am not a gardener either.My mom has a green thumb...not me...
    I wuold check out various plant websites on line and check what CAN and CANNOT grow in your specific climate..

    That website...Burpee has alot of stuff you can look through online and find that info...different climates and locations obviously make growing certain things harder...
    Good Luck...hope that helps:)

  12. I wish I had some good advice. Here it is Sept in CT and we now have a watermelon growing. I do NOT know how it happened. I dumped soil in to the containers that did not grow with a girl scout project. We now have a teeny tiny watermelon growing. We actually have 3 plants of it growing. VERY Small and only one super small watermelon. My pumpkins are growing flowers but I guess the flowers are not getting pollenated?? I dont know. No pumpkins on the plants and they are spreading out. Tomatoes are pretty hardy and easy. I dont know about pruning them like someone else had mentioned. I had a bazillion bush beans plants but... I dont know what we did wrong with those either. I think I need some better soil or something. We got single beans on single plants. NO CLUE! Cucumbers did well when we gardened at my moms. I think my girls watered our seeds WAY Too much because we didnt do well. I am thinking of starting some herbs inside for the winter. UGH I HATE WINTER....
    I am no gardener .... so, I wish I had some better advice! GOOD LUCK! Document with pics! We could use the nice gardening pics when we are in the dead of winter!

  13. Peas would be great - you can put two post with chicken wire in between and the peas will climb up it. That wouldn't take up much space really because you could put it on a side or end of your plot. Cherry tomatoes would be awesome, herbs, beans, spinach and/or lettuce, cucumbers...

    Have fun! How about a pumpkin or watermelon for Oceana??


  14. Oh, I saw on a blog I read that a woman did strawberry plants in buckets... I thought that was genius!

    -Once again, Andrea aka: The Talker

  15. Peas, green beans, tomatoes

  16. I'm echoing almost everyone with tomatoes. Super easy and you gets lots from one plant. The funny thing is I never actually end up using them in any of my meals I just eat them straight off the plant. Good luck gardening.

  17. Susie,
    Seems you have lots of help in this area. :) I too, have done the potatos in a garbage can. It yeilds "lots" of potatos. If kept in a cool area afterwards you can have them for quite a while. Follow the same directions as with the box and it will work great.

    Also, carrots and radishes. They do grow well together. Beans and tomatos can both be grown in pots with a trellis to grow up on. Just remember to leave small holes in the planter bottom for drainage.

    Peppers and lettuce, cabbage, peas and herbs are all wonderful beginners. The herbs can go in a window sill box and they can be right in the kitchen if you have a little sun coming in.

    It's alot of trial and error. If it works remember it, :) if it doesn't.... FORGET it next time.

    Happy gardening.

    Sonja - fl

  18. I would do herbs. They are pretty easy to grow. Some types of herbs will make your garden smell wonderful, and with liking to cook they will be all sorts of use to you. It's actually pretty easy to start them from seeds too, but pretty cheap to buy start plants as well.
    You would have to do a little research as some herbs like to spread and take over gardens pretty fast, generally those are the types that are best in their own pot.

  19. Tomatoes are easy I think...I never see my parents take care of theirs and boom there they are. Rhubarb is easy, but I think it's a tree...

    FYI my mom used to make us get out of the pool for 10 minutes and weed. It was awful. We weren't allowed in the pool for a WHOLE 10 minutes! AND she'd make my friends do it to. Blech.

  20. I haven't seen anyone else mention it, so I wanted to chime in---CORN! It's sooooooooooo easy. Seriously, bury about 5 corn kernels & you'll grow yourself a corn plant! Sincerely, it's the easiest veggie to grow. So easy that our squirrel feeder (which includes dry corn) has about 10 little corn plants growing under it right now simply because the squirrels knock part of the food out. We haven't buried it or weeded under the feeder or anything. It just falls there & sprouts! Easy peezy!

  21. ditto Margo - plus yummy beans (dwarf beans are good if you don't want them climbing up),capsicums (being a bit further from the beach, perhaps we have less sand in the soil, cos ours did well), and tomatoes are good too (and if you do prune off the side shoots, you can plant them in the ground and they should take root - we usually have more success from these than the original plant!)
    Then there is always parsley from Playcentre :)

  22. I really love your new blog!!!!

  23. Oh wonderful! Just as our gardening season is going down the drain here you've just started out there. Fun!!!

    I highly recommend planting herbs - mint, rosemary, chives, basil, and thyme are the easiest and most useful for me. Once you start cooking with fresh herbs you'll never go back to the bottle!

    Tomatoes are a must in my garden. They're not the easiest because you'll need cages and they're cold-sensitive, but you'll never have a tomato as good as one from your garden. Store tomatoes are NOTHING like the real deal. If you grow cherry tomatoes you don't have to practice so much patience waiting for them to get big and red. Hee hee.

    Sugar snap peas are easy to grow and super fun to eat right off the vine. Plant them along a fence or something they can climb on to save yourself the trouble of building something.

    Green beans are also easy and if you get the bush variety you don't have to bother with finding a way to support them. If you plant them early enough and the seasons cooperate, you can sometimes get two crops out of one plant (late spring and early fall). Sweet!

    Zucchini squash are also easy, but they are HUGE plants and take up a lot of room.

    Chard and arugula are fun greens to grow and are simple. Just sprinkle out some seeds. Done!

    Don't bother with corn. It takes up tons of room, you have to plant it in a block to get good pollination, you only get MAYBE if you're lucky 2 ears per stalk, and you can get nearly the same quality at the super market.

    Have a blast!!!!

  24. Oh yeah, and I really can't stand growing vegetables that grow underground...yanno...potatoes, carrots, beets and stuff. I just cannot stand doing all that work and no knowing if there's even anything going on down there! Haha.

  25. This is my first time leaving a comment. I've read your blog for MONTHS now, but never responded.

    I don't know if you like to make mint tea, or anything with mint in it, but mint is VERY easy to care for and it comes back every year. It also smells VERY good just having it planted in your yard. You just have to make sure it stays watered.

  26. mint is delicious, but it spreads.
    best grown in a pot to keep it in bounds.:)