Vegetable Gardening Season has Arrived!

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember that I got the gardening “itch” way back in March and as a result I planted spinach and beans in my tiny vegetable garden on St. Patrick’s Day.  The spinach (a veggie that actually likes to grow in cold weather) has done great and I have been able to use it in several recipes including my Trader Joe’s style Eggplant Parmesan and my Herbed Spinach and Feta Pizza (coming soon!).  The beans were less thrilled about being planted in the winter and have taken their sweet old time coming up, but now that May has arrived they have suddenly taken off and are starting to look like real bean plants.

It’s amazing what can grow in 10 days! Garden on April 15th (left) and April 25th (right).  You can see the spinach in the front and the beans in the back.

Matt and I enjoy listening to Mike McGrath’s organic gardening show “You Bet Your Garden” on NPR (the archived podcasts are great entertainment for long car rides) and we’re trying to take some of Mike’s advice to improve our garden this year.  According to Mike, a good “yard waste compost” (a mixture of shredded fall leaves and nitrogen-rich green matter that has had time to break down to a soil-like consistency) makes the best mulch and also provides great nutrition and disease control in the garden.  We’ve been religiously composting our kitchen scraps all winter and now that it’s getting warmer out we’re hoping to start seeing some fresh compost in our spin bin composter soon!

Potted cherry tomato plant that has been “mulched” with partially composted shredded leaves to retain moisture.

I have several plants around the patio in containers, including two cherry tomatoes from my neighbor, a planter with chives, marjoram, marigolds, and a day lily, a combo of sweet and chocolate mint, and a serrano pepper plant.  I’ve been really impressed with the brightly colored orange, red, and yellow marigolds so far — they’ve been blooming continuously for a few weeks and have a lovely fragrance.  Apparently they repel insects so they’ll come in handy when our summer mosquitoes arrive!

Chives, Day Lily, Marjoram, and Marigolds on the patio

Now, back to those beans…  When I planted them in March I imagined having fully matured bean plants by now so I planted them across the entire back half of my garden.  Since the bean plants are clearly not ready to sprout beans anytime soon and I want to plant my basil in that same exact spot, I decided to transplant the strongest beans to my new strawberry patch.  Apparently beans and strawberries are “companion plants” so I figure that they will enjoy cohabitating the same small strip of my ever-expanding garden.

The transplanted bean plants are now scattered throughout my new strawberry patch.

Perhaps the most exciting additions to our garden this year are our two upside-down tomato plants.  I know that the whole upside-down growing gimmic is a bit of a fad and I’ve read lots of criticism about it on the internet, but after having a giant tomato plant take over my garden last year with its long, snarled branches and watching its tomatoes sit on the ground and get eaten by bugs, I decided that hanging plants sound pretty promising!

Hanging tomato plants with thyme and parsley.

Rather than purchasing the tupsy-turvy type of hanging tomato bags, we selected two large galvanized buckets from Home Depot and Matt drilled holes in the bottoms for the tomato plants to feed through.  When it came time to actually plant the tomatoes, we lowered the buckets to below eye level and Matt held each plant at the proper height (burying the stem up to the first true leaves) while I carefully added soil-less potting mix.  We topped off each bucket with herbs (thyme and parsley) and then covered the surface with partially composted leaves from our compost bin.  I’ll be interested to see how these plants do over the next few months!

Close up of the bottom of one of our hanging tomato plants: We threaded pieces of an old t-shirt around the base of each plant to hold the dirt in and drilled holes around the perimeter of the buckets for drainage.

Overall, I think I spent about 12 hours working in the garden last weekend and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of vegetable gardening season all winter and I am so excited that it’s finally time to start planting!  What are you planting in your garden this Spring?

Mint plants on April 15th (left) and May 5th (right).

Related posts:
Gardening Update – One Month Later 4.17.12
Gardening… On St. Patrick’s Day! 3.17.12

Gardening… on Saint Patrick’s Day!

Last year I planted a little vegetable garden in a square-ish plot next to our back patio. I didn’t really know what I was doing at that time (not that I know that much more now, but I’d like to think that I have learned a little bit from last year’s garden..) but I still managed to harvest a healthy crop of basil, jalapeño peppers, mint, rosemary, and heirloom tomatoes. This year I am expanding the garden slightly and I hope to add thyme, parsley, bell peppers, and maybe even container strawberries to the mix.

A blurry photo of last year's garden

As I’ve mentioned before, we have had gorgeous weather in PA the last few weeks. Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day and it was 70 degrees outside!! This is unheard of and the mild temperatures are really making me want to get moving on my garden. I know that it’s too early to plan my “warm weather” veggies like tomato and basil, so I checked online to see what kind of plants could withstand a potential early-Spring frost. It turns out there are all sorts of veggies that love to be planted at this time of year including lettuce, spinach, arugula, peas, and beans. (There’s even a tradition of planting peas on St. Patty’s Day, perfect!)

We headed over to our local Home Depot and I found packets of beans and spinach seeds that boasted a mere 41-50 days to maturity. I figure that this timing should work out well so that I can harvest the spinach and pull out the bean plants just in time to plant my normal veggies at the end of April.


Back at our house, I removed the layer of shredded leaves that has been covering my garden since last fall and I turned/loosened up the soil with a shovel and a hoe. I mixed in about half a 40 lb. bag of “garden vegetable soil” and leveled the bed with my hands. I carefully planted my bean seeds (it is “bean seeds” or just ‘”beans” ? The “seeds” are just beans, after all) in the back half of the garden and then I planted my spinach seeds in four little row in the front half. I left the section of the garden next to our new trellises empty because I hope to plant moonflower and morning glory (two sun-loving, flowering vines) there very soon.

After my seeds were safely in the ground, I inserted my newly painted bright green fencing around the garden. This fence should hopefully keep Bailey out of my garden — she usually assumes that any freshly loosened soil has been created just for her digging pleasure. I learned this the hard way last year when she completely dug up my newly planted tomato and basil plants about an hour after I finished planting them! Although Bailey can easily step over my little green picket fence, it will hopefully make it less convenient for her to dig there. (After nearly 24 hours the fence is still standing and Bailey hasn’t touched the dirt yet!!)


I’m very excited to officially start gardening this year. I really had fun with my garden last summer (the constant supply of fresh basil was awesome!) and Matt and I worked hard in the Fall planting bulbs and composting fruits and veggies in a “spin bin.” (The compost isn’t really yet but it should be fully “cooked” in time for my late April veggie planting!) Below are a few photos of our plants as of today — can’t wait to see what they look like in the coming weeks!!

Garlic "Ramps" enjoying the afternoon sun

A pair of pale yellow Crocuses blooming in the back yard

We planted 150+ daffodil bulbs last Fall. The first one is blooming today!

Our beautiful pink weeping cherry tree is budding!

Crocus in the front yard