Adventures in Healthier Eating with 2 Kids and a Picky Husband

Lessons Learned from my Ugly Garden!

Posted by 9 years ago 21 Comments

Look at it, just look at it. What a disaster but it’s my disaster and I love it!

Roni's messy garden

Here’s the story… When I moved into my house about 6 years ago I decided I would TRY to grow a few plants in containers on the deck. I, by no means, have a green thumb. Actually the opposite is true. In the past I think I’ve killed every houseplant I ever attempted to grow.

I didn’t care, I really wanted to take my hand at some home grown vegetables. I just thought it would be really neat to grow some of my own fresh food.

So I invested in 5 large plastic pots for the deck and a few bags of soil. I bought some seedlings from a local farm stand and I was shocked the first year when I plucked tomatoes and zucchini from my own deck garden.

Over the next few years I continued to container garden. Not really knowing what I was doing I’d experimented each year with different vegetables and different techniques. Sometimes I’d buy seedlings sometimes seeds. I learned that large plants in containers need a lot of water and you can nurse a dry plant back to health. I also learned that with a little attention and care it really wasn’t that hard.

This year I decided to take the leap and carve out a corner of my yard for a mini garden. It was a lot of work but I tilled the soil by hand, fenced it off with a little border and planted all different seedlings to see what would actually grow in my Maryland clay.

To my surprise everything grew and grew fast! Before I knew it the plants were so big I couldn’t get into the garden anymore. My melons vined outside of the garden and under the deck. My tomato plants grew so large I couldn’t tie them to the stakes anymore and my Zucchini plants literally took over the garden with their enormous leaves.

I’m sure if I knew what I was doing I’d have a more fruitful (and better looking) garden but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Look at the fruits of my labor from just today!

Fruits of my labor

Even if this is all I get out of this year (which it’s not I’ve been plucking zucchini and cherry tomatoes for weeks) it was well worth it and here’s why….

  1. Planting and showing the toddler that you can grow a garden has been priceless. His little face lights up with excitement every time he discovers a new fruit to pick.
  2. Growing our own veggies also gives me more of a chance to teach him how important a good diet is. He routinely pops cherry tomatoes and green beans in while picking, he’s wiling to take bites out of zucchinis and he even HAD to try to a hot pepper after I continually warning that it would be hot! For him eating fresh whole foods is second nature and I’m reinforcing that!
  3. Organic is such a buzzword lately but really, growing your produce is the ultimate organic, healthy option out there. Nothing is more fresh and nutritious then something you plucked from your own plants.
  4. It keeps me busy. There have been many a Sunday where I just want to veg in front of the TV, then I remember I have a garden! I end up out there (with the toddler) picking weeds and watering. It’s a great outlet that really gives you a reason to get off your butt!
  5. I’ve gained the confidence to continue to garden and I know that even though my garden isn’t perfect it doesn’t matter. I’ll still get something. Even if it’s only a tomato or two. Who cares! It’s fun and productive! :~)

So I hope me showing you my disaster of garden inspires those of you who are afraid to take the leap of growing your own vegetables to give it a try. For all the green thumb readers out there, I’m open ears to any gardening advice you’d like to give!

Ryan with veggies

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There are 21 comments so far. Join in on the conversation.


    August 16, 2008

    Yaaay! I'm so happy you a) have a garden, b) eat -- as a family -- the food from it, and c) got so many beautiful veggies from it! Local food is a cause that's dear to my heart, so I fully support you. I don't know if you've read it (and I doubt you have the time lol) but Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is all about her and her family's decision to move to a farm and, for one year, eat only what they could produce or procure locally. Fascinating stuff. :) Toddler's adorable, as always!


    August 16, 2008

    This year was the first year I planted a "real" garden and I loved it! Now I'm trying to figure out what and when to plant for the "cool" weather. I know you live on the other side of the country, so we'll have different planting times...but I was wondering if you will be planting anything for the fall/winter months?


    August 16, 2008

    This year I have my second *successful* garden. Still... I managed to kill my zucchini plant after it had only produced 2 zucchini... ~sigh~ Still learning! :)

    Tom Aarons

    August 16, 2008

    What beautiful veggies. That's really inspirational!


    August 16, 2008

    Thanks guys! Michelle - That's a good question! I never thought about planting in the winter months. I'll have to do some research!


    August 17, 2008

    thats some pretty impressive fruits o'labor! love, Mrs. Black Thumb


    August 17, 2008

    Roni, you are such an inspiration. :) Everytime my friends complain about trying to lose weight or saving money via home cooking, I tell them to go to your site. You made ME fall in love with cooking for other people! But this post lifted my optimism! I've been entertaining the notion of trying to grow my own veggies but I, too, have killed every houseplant I've ever had. I want to grow them for precisely the same reasons you love it. What are some tips for the total amateur? Could you perhaps make a post about it sometime in the near future?


    August 17, 2008

    Congratulations on the garden and veggies. I wish that I had the chance to plant a garden. We live in a three story apartment building (in Germany) and we have very little grass outside our building. On day though...we will have a house and yard of our own.


    August 17, 2008

    What size containers did you use that first year? I really want to do some containers next summer but have no idea where to start... I had tomato plants and bell pepper plants in hand one day at Home Depot and The Spousal Unit told me we'd go back for them. Hasn't happened yet and it's August... He just doesn't want to deal with it... lol

    Virginia Claus

    August 17, 2008

    So exciting! I just started a blog about living locally and I've been posting recipes etc... I can't wait to do my garden next year. You may want to look into "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew. He takes alot of the "grunt work" out of gardening and shows you how to lay out a raised bed garden. Love your blog and recipes! Virginia


    August 17, 2008

    When I lived with my parents, my dad and I always had a garden. There is nothing better than corn straight from the garden. Squash is easy to grow. One tip I have is to plant marigolds near your garden. They naturally repel bugs, are pretty, and really compliment the coloring of tomatoes. Thanks for showing us a picture of your garden. Your tomatoes look beautiful! I'll probably start my garden next year. We've been trying to get our yard under control, and I am flower crazy, so we've been focusing on flowers.


    August 18, 2008

    Roni, Your garden rules! I need to get a garden started next year. No more excuses.


    August 19, 2008

    I'd love to have a garden of my own ... but living in Flagstaff, AZ, the ground is too rocky for that. Besides, I don't have a green thumb, either. I tried to grow a tomato plant one summer, in a pot on the deck, and it died without bearing any fruit. :P (I think it got too cold at night for the poor thing.) My parents had one when I was growing up, and I loved the tomatoes and zucchini ... and corn and green beans.


    August 19, 2008

    Is it organic ? Do you use compost? Ryan will learn so much from this :)


    August 20, 2008

    Thanks everyone! I'm loving the garden! Bev - Yup - totally organic. It's just top soil and seedlings. :~)


    August 21, 2008

    Hi Roni, Your vegetables are beautiful! I am growing a garden for the first time this year too and it is a lot of fun. Unfortunately I got a late start so I don't have anything ready to eat yet. After seeing your pictures I am going to try for cherry tomatoes next year.


    August 22, 2008

    Your garden looks beautiful--just like a garden should. I call them organized chaos because once those plants start growing, they spread everywhere. When we lived in apartments, I always had a vegetable garden in contaners. Now we have a home and we have fruit trees, grapes, and vegetables and I am in heaven even when the harvests are smaller in drought years. You're teaching your toddler such a great lesson and he will carry it with him throughout his life.


    August 27, 2008

    Valerie - I'm SO sorry I missed your question! The pots are big, you can kind of see them in this picture...

    Gardening Advice | Winter Gardening | Indoor Gardening

    September 30, 2008

    Congratulations on a very beautiful garden. It looks awesome. I'm glad you spent time out in the garden instead of the TV, especially with your toddler. Good job!


    July 19, 2009

    Gardening is great. We moved my mother to live in town with us 3 years ago and one of the best parts is her overflowing garden. With gooseberries, currants, salad, herbs, raspberries ripe right now. It is the reason I can cook, because when you need to find something to do with a ton of veggies, you're forced to be creative. One note on the home garden though..which I thought of when seeing your picture. I read a great article in the boston globe several yeara ago about toxins in urban soils. Heavy metals stay in soil forever. Lead is the most common as paint from old houses gets in the soil. So, plant that garden, but get your soil checked for contamination first or move it away from your house.

    Amelia Sprout

    June 6, 2010

    I lived in Maryland for two years and grew the most enormous basil plants you have ever seen there. I think there is something about the humidity. I hope this year's goes well. We went all vertical for our garden when we finally got one in. I did 4x4 square containers on the the yard, so I knew exactly what the soil was like. Last year, 7 foot tall tomatoes.