Non-Consumer Photo Essay — Front Porch Gardening

by Katy on June 19, 2013 · 33 comments

Although I love the idea of a growing my own food, my deeply shady backyard and lack of sun have kept my garden just that — an idea.

However, my front porch area get lots of afternoon sun, which means that I am able to grow a few pot of edibles to redeem my name in Portland, a city known for our eco-friendly choices.

The recent purchase of a lovely thrifted flowerpot prompted me to buy an envelope of cilantro seeds. Kristen from The Frugal Girl has written about how easy it is to grow your own cilantro from seed, and I wanted in on the action.


See how the tiny seedlings are starting to show their cilantro leaf shapes? I’m not sure why only half of the seeds grew, but I did plant a few more to ensure a nice healthy crop. (I probably overwatered.)

Baby cilantro

This flowerpot will hopefully grow sweet potato vines. A couple of my sweet potatoes were starting to sprout, so I cut those bits off and planted them here. I won’t actually be eating them, but sweet potato vines are so pretty when planted, with their rich red leaves.

I like that I’m taking what others might see as food waste, and turning it into my own test garden.

Sweet potato vines

For decorative gardening I prefer to spend zero dollars and zero cents, which is why I am HUGE fan of hens and chicks, which self propagate are impossible to kill and need no watering. How do I get them for free? Umm . . . a neighbor has a wall crusted with them and there is almost always an escapee chick that is sitting on the sidewalk, often already stepped on. I bring the poor guy home, stick it in a pot and it will always come back to life.


I do cheat nature by growing lettuce in a soil filled wheel barrow. This year my neighbor gave me a few seedings, which I planted and then promptly forgot about.

Like my lettuce tree?

Lettuce tree

Fear not, food waste haters, I picked those leaves off and we ate them in a lovely summer salad last night.

And yes, that is a thicket of raspberries growing from a gardening space that is approximately four inches wide and runs along my neighbor’s garage.


Are you challenged when it comes to your gardening opportunities, or are you blessed with sunny acreage? Please share your gardening prowess in the comments section below.


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

SA June 19, 2013 at 9:27 am

I have a large garden and am quite lazy about it, but it all looks great this year (despite too much rain and a very cool start). Tomatoes are my main crop. We have as much sun as a farm because we cut down loads of trees–that’s really my only secret to success.


Karen June 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

We can’t do anything. We have a natural landscape and we have deer, turkey, raccoons, you name it. Even the “deer resistant” flowers, aren’t really. I’ve put things in pots on the front steps only to find that they’ve been eaten. My kids just planted a bunch of seeds in those pots that are starting to sprout. I guess the deer and raccoons are just waiting until they grow a little bigger 🙂


Katy June 19, 2013 at 9:37 am

Luckily deer are beautiful to look at.



mairsydoats June 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm

LOL “Natural Landscape” is exactly what I’ll be calling our scrub-covered-hillside-chock-full-of-wildlife from now on. Every time I have to pony up and BUY basil, cilantro, or mint, I try to remember how much I LOVE listening to the owls call to each other, and watching the deer forage.


Kristen June 19, 2013 at 9:38 am

I actually have posted about growing basil…that is SO easy and since basil is pretty expensive at the grocery store, it’s a lovely sensible plant to grow.

I’ve had trouble with my cilantro plants going to seed, so if you end up figuring out how to avoid that, let me in on the secret!

Jealous of your raspberries!


Katy June 19, 2013 at 10:38 am

Ha, no wonder I couldn’t find your piece on growing cilantro!




daisy June 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Try cutting all the cilantro off about an inch above the soil. It should regrow new leaves.


Lisa June 19, 2013 at 9:42 am

We have about ten tomato plants in our backyard. They were transplanted volunteers that came up in our compost bin. We left two potato plants in the bin and are letting them grow there. The garlic patch needed thinning. Now besides whats growing we have two mesh bags full. Each bag originally held 8 lbs. of oranges. In the front yard our peach tree (planted last year) has grown to over 7 ft. Maybe there will be peaches next year! Thornless blackberries line the fence along the south side of our front yard…loaded with green berries. And of course I can’t forget my husband’s favorite…asparagus. It’s planted in the front flower bed and has kept him stocked for the last few years. Oh yeah, the herb garden is in the back too.


Maureen June 19, 2013 at 10:33 am

Hubby wanted tomato plants, so we bought 2 seedlings at the farmer’s market. Only we didn’t have pots big enough for them and he certainly did not want to pay $10. for a large flower pot. So he went to the Dollar Store to see if there were any pots there and there weren’t any. But they had plastic buckets for $1.00 So he bought 2 of those, drilled some holes in the bottom and filed the bottom with some rocks. Then he went out back and dug up some composted leaves and grass and mixed it with dirt and we now are the proud owners of 2 tomato plants with 6 baby tomatoes on them. Can’t wait till they get a little bigger to eat.


Katy June 19, 2013 at 10:41 am

I usually plant tomatoes, so I need to get a move on!



Krystal June 19, 2013 at 10:59 am

I have grown potatoes this way. Our previous owners left some old garbage cans, so I drilled holes, planted potatoes, added dirt as we went along, giving more space for more potatoes until we had dirt mounds of potatoes at the top.

I also started tomatoes from seed this year (yikes)! I went to goodwill for some plant pots and came away with about 8 for $12, not horrible. I started seeds in paper eggshell containers, but saved plastic containers from our other start purchases this year–will use for next year.


Krystal June 19, 2013 at 10:51 am

I’m about as blessed as can be. Yes, our Seattle summer starts late, but the rain makes up for it in water bill savings!

We have a larger-ish corner on the south-east portion of our back yard, we have 2 3’x5′ planter boxes, and 1 5’x5′ and will be adding another 5’x5′. We also have a 6’x3′ planter box on the north side of our back yard. Everything gets plenty of sun. We have blueberry bushes on the south side of our house as well. And we still have a lawn runway for our dog to play fetch 🙂 I bought my house mostly in part for my awesome yard. My dog is forever thankful.

What I did with our afternoon sun porch this summer was take scrap wood from the shed and the left over lumber from our planter boxes (all untreated!), and built a small herb box for the front porch. I It’s about a 1.5’x1.5′ and has cilantro, parsley and basil, all from seed. Our cilantro is doing the best. I also planted thyme and spearmint in small pots on our front porch, and have a pot of flowers as well, to attract lovely pollinators. We also have chives and lavender in our yard (there when we moved in) and we have added sage. We had to rip out our rosemary but will be adding a new plant somewhere next year (have plenty of dried to get us through.

Last but not least, our beautiful cherry tree! Unfortunately it does attract the neighborhood raccoons.

My gardening skills have developed with time. We had a garden as a child, and I’m from a background of orchardists and farmers–it’s definitely in my blood. Quality seeds are not hard to come by, and not too expensive. And also, a cheap mistake to make is in your garden. Doesn’t involve in major household changes, and it’s easy to recover from your mistakes. For us, its’ definitely worth the time and effort to save the money growing our own veggies, especially herbs! One of those silly organic clamshell containers of herbs is around $5, and you never are able to use it all (food waste-ick!) Growing our own quality herbs has saved us drastically on our grocery bill, not to mention the ability to have year-round salad!


Odette June 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

When we moved into our rental house in October, I thought having several mango trees was really cool. Now we have mangos out the yang-yang and can’t eat them fast enough. I’m giving them away!


Loretta June 20, 2013 at 12:27 am

Ohhh, make mango chutney, it’s so delicious, and uses up quite a few mangoes at a time. You can also freeze them whole, or make mango lassis, mmmmm, mangoes.


dusty June 20, 2013 at 2:24 am

a friend of ours has mango trees and gave us a bunch of them. I found a recipe on food network (Giada) for sliced mango and avocado salad. look it up on food network, everyone will love it. (especially with a glass of wine)


daisy June 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I have a decent sized garden now and start everything from seed. Next year has an ever growing potential for being a big big change for me as we are hoping to move back to Washington from Colorado… and we may end up in an apartment. The mental games involved is crazy making but I at least already have ideas for making any patio or walkway we may have gardeny with my pots and if need be shallow storage containers. I’m planning on selling/donating a bunch of other relatively easily replaced household things in order to keep a hold of the larger prettier pots I’ve managed to get my hands on this last year.


Dianna June 19, 2013 at 12:41 pm

We have a pretty large yard, but to save time and sanity (I hate weeding), we have raised garden beds. We started with 4 – 4 x 8 beds and add what we can each year. We now have 8- 4 x 8’s and 3 – 2 x 8 beds. We have 11 tomato plants, peppers of all colors, zucchini, squash, corn, green beans, strawberries, lettuce carrots, blackberries and blueberries.
Hubby planted watermelons along our dog fence. I hope they produce since melons are rather expensive this year ($7).
I’m jealous of your rasberries. I should plant some next year.


SarahN June 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Sadly my 2m2 balcony gets about an hour of sunshine a day, so I’ve killed all I’ve been given (as housewarming gifts). I’m actually an OK gardener but the location is killing me for now. I had a great vegie patch at my parents a few years ago.


Rebecca June 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Try rhubarb it grows as well as hens and chicks


Trish June 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I have a lovely big plot of land for my garden – and the worst soil in the midwest. Finally after years of creating raised beds with manure it is pretty productive. I hope to sell produce at my gym to pay for my membership. There’s something about growing and selling produce that I find really satisfying. And I am also hoping to sell cukes by the bushel for pickling, thru the local paper, if everything goes ok. I can probably get $20/bushel. Cucumber seed is cheap and they are really easy to grow. I usually make about 60 quarts of pickles, using a very old recipe that is sort of a modified Polish dill – the modification being adding dried hot peppers to the jars. They are wonderful! they make great Christmas gifts.

but wow is all this a lot of work! oh, well I can rest when it snows.


Kailey June 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I failed at gardening this season but I did sign up for a CSA so I hope that evens everything out.
But I wanted to share a home gardening tip I read today regarding starting your seeds inside AND repurposing waste. If you don’t have enough paper egg cartons you can use toilet paper rolls! You just cut them in half and can plant the whole roll when you’re ready to move everything outside.
I’ll definitely be doing this next year.


patti June 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

We have a “lasagna garden” (Google it) where we have planted squash, zucchini, green beans, green peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. We also have blueberry bushes and some field peas planted. We have taken up all our shrubbery and use the space beside the house where there is sun or on our deck or driveway (containers). I just blanched and froze zucchini, squash, and green beans tonight! We have tons of tomatoes on the plants but they are all green.


Mindy June 19, 2013 at 5:17 pm

I’m gardening obsessed and yes, I spend money on plants. BUT, it’s the only thing I ever buy for myself and it’s only once a year, so I figure it could be worse.
We’re eating homegrown snap peas and lettuce with our dinner tonight, which I’m pretty excited about.
If anyone’s interested, you can pop by and check out my obsessiveness at
If you have a gardening blog, I’m always on the lookout for new ones. Especially in Portland. So leave me a link on my blog or send me an email. 🙂


Trish June 19, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I live in sunny central FL, and my daughter and I live in a rented duplex. We have been enjoying fresh tomatoes for a few months now, from 2 large pots sitting next to the tiny concrete front slab. The rain gives water, and the sun ripens. My sister gave us some bamboo sticks and I used these to tie the tomatoes up, since I cannot afford cages. Used old nylons for ties. These 2 plants are still producing, so we keep enjoying!


Chris June 19, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Strawberries are already coming in here in Portland. Caught last year’s runners in additional planters for twice the crop this year!


jennifer June 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Your herbs and veggies are lookin’ good! I have a small garden, it gets just enough sunshine, but not as much as I’d like…enough though to grow tomatoes, herbs, carrots, corn, fennel, flowers, cucumbers and leeks. This year having a challenging time with all the rain and up and down temperatures – and slugs and snails – due to the rain! I start everything from seed myself and do my best to save seeds year to year – you can do that too! Save seeds from each crop, store them in a cool dry place and voila’ money already saved for next year! Maybe try planting one tomato plant next year – they too like containers – and the savings will be worth it! (: Happy Gardening!


Loretta June 20, 2013 at 12:34 am

We’ve moved from the Melbourne suburbs (tiny courtyard garden) to a 3/4 acre block near the coast in SW Victoria, Aus. The soil is volcanic and extremely fertile (according to the locals “if you sit on it you’ll get pregnant”!) Today I planted 6 bare-rooted fruit trees (apricot, peach, pear, 2 apples and a cherry) and 3 kalamato olive trees. We’ve also got coriander (cilantro), basil, chives, leeks, garlic, spring onion, rosemary, a blueberry bush, a very stick-like fig tree, and last summer we had tons of cherry tomatoes and a couple of heirloom varieties (so tasty!), zucchini, cucumbers and lettuce. I can’t claim any of this as my own work: my husband grew everything tenderly from seed (initially in egg cartons). I’m the ideas person and tell him what to do 🙂 The only failure has been corn so far: planted in the wrong spot, and probably not enough sun or water.


Katy June 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

Wow, you are going to be swimming in wonderful fruit!



Amanda S June 20, 2013 at 3:47 am

I have two small 4×4 raised garden beds in my backyard. There are some things (like flowers) I just can’t grow because we get full sun all day long, and the plants get fried during the summer. One of the garden beds has a bunch of (free) cherry tomatoes from the compost I put in a couple years ago (we make our own compost, and my stepdad had given us tons of his own cherry tomatoes, so all the seeds sprouted). I also did kale in the new garden patch we put in this year, and it has been SO easy! I have tons and tons of fresh tasty kale that grew from seed.


Martha June 20, 2013 at 8:47 am

We have a good size garden. We have squash, tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, cucumbers, green beans and corn. I also started a little fruit grove. Last fall I planted 3 blueberry bushes. I need to pick off the berries for the next two years (per a blueberry farmer friend) to help establish the root system. I also planted a peach tree but lost most of the peaches due to an early dry spell. Next year. THis spring I planted 3 raspberry bushes that are starting to leaf our nicely. To think I can all of this too. I am tired already and we haven’t even started. But I looove it!!!!


emmer June 20, 2013 at 9:04 am

sarah, you may be able to grow salad greens, including lettuce and spinach as well as alpine-type strawberries and mushrooms.


John June 24, 2013 at 8:21 am

If the cilantro goes to seed, save the seeds! First, you can replant them but also cilantro seeds are also known in the US as CORIANDER! A great spice itself.


Talyn September 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm

thanks this really inspired me to grow a little crop on my porch even though i’m a kid


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