Think You're Alone In Your Gardening Efforts? Think Again.

by Katy on March 19, 2009 · 19 comments

vegetable_gardenIn the ideal world, I would have a huge backyard garden full to brimming with organic heirloom vegetables. Alas, The enormous maple tree that dominates the yard and provides deliciously sweet shade also prohibits growing any sun loving veggies. And believe me when I say that I have tried my very hardest to plant a vegetable garden in that **&%#* yard. 

Luckily, I do have a four foot square patch in the front that gets full sun. I plant it within an inch of its life with tomatoes, beans, radishes and pumpkins. I also have utilized a soil filled wheelbarrow to plant a summer’s worth of lettuce. (I was also given some raspberry plants last summer that I somehow found a spot for.)

Although I do have a 4 X 10 foot backyard patch that is marginally sunny, it’s over where our diesel fuel leaking oil tank is located. I did plant a crop of oysters mushroom in the fall which I’ve been told will eat up the oil and make it safe for planting. Umm . . . next year. (And no, we won’t be eating the mushrooms.)

But now Michelle Obama is in on the act, planting an organic vegetable garden in a patch of the White House lawn. Not only will her family be part of the planting, weeding and harvesting of the garden, but she’s even involving a local elementary school on the action. Her attentions on healthy eating and locally grown produce can only be a plus for our nation.

I’d like to see Michelle Obama try and grow any veggies in my backyard though. Really, I would.

Are you planting a vegetable garden this year? If so, is it bigger than in years past? Please share your gardening ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Shymom March 19, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Our small lot has 4 redwood trees, a Monterey pine, a holly tree, a fig, two lemon trees, a small bay tree and two over grown privet trees. We don’t get a lot of sun so my space is limited. Last year I planted 2 4X6 beds and this year I am adding another one. I also have some large containers that I am going to plant herbs in. I am going to double the amount of tomatoes planted and I am going to ditch things that don’t seem to do well here, like bell peppers. I also have several large patches of nasturtium. I like to use the flowers in salads. Makes me feel fancy 😎


growingsage March 19, 2009 at 9:45 pm

This is our first year with a garden! We have corn, cucumbers, sunflowers, lettuce, onions, eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, watermelon, bell peppers, basil, mint, dill, chives, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. We have all of our fingers crossed that the Arizona sun is kind…


Pennie March 19, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Yep, have expended the garden area this spring by about another 10 ‘ x 10’ (Feel extra lucky to have large sunny patch to do my digging).

Intend on concentrating more on hardy basics like green beans, corn, tomatoes, onions–things that I can put up easily and use all winter. In the past I’ve played around with new, exotic and heirloom plants for the novelty of it, but these are serious times that require (at least for now) a return to the basics.

This new extension gives me a total of about 250 sq feet. My seed order went out earlier this week!


marianne March 20, 2009 at 3:43 am

oh my dear katy, how you have won me over with this post. i grew up going out to my grandmothers garden on sundays to pick vegetables for our sunday dinner. and i waited 20 years to finally have a yard of my own. (even when i was renting i made space in buckets and what ever i could to grow stuff). for my birthday last year, my husband fenced off a 700 sq foot garden from the dogs so i can grow to my hearts content. we tried tilling but there are too many tree roots from trees that used to live on the site. so i lasagna garden-layers of compost and other materials to create an organic yummy place for my veggie plants to thrive. two sites to inspire everyone are www. They have preplanned garden beds for different gardens that are 3×6 that you can print out or put your own veggies in to create your garden. the other site is This group of people have a 1/5 acre lot in pasedena california that they turned into their own organic paradise. They produce annually 6,000 POUNDS OR 3 TONS of organic food on 1/10 an acre. their story is inspiring.


Kristin @ klingtocash March 20, 2009 at 6:30 am

I’m trying a garden this year. We have a really shady back year but I think I’m going to try to grow some tomatoes on the side of the house. I also want an herb garden this year. I love having fresh herbs.

Do you have any suggestions for us? I have no idea where to start.


Jeanne March 20, 2009 at 7:33 am

I’m a writer and editor, and write a LOT about gardening (and health and raw foods). I invite folks to visit my blog: You’ll find links to my gardening articles there.

I gardened in suburban Long Island since I was a kid. My first garden was about the size of yours. We dug up the entire back yard for raised vegetable beds and grew tons of them in a 4 x 10 area or so. Next, I moved to Huntington, Long Island, and had dense shade, so most of my vegetables were grown in pots on the deck. I still grew an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and even midget cantaloupes in pots!

I have since moved to a 17 acre organic tree farm in Virginia. We are completing a fenced, raised bed garden that we hope will produce approximately 75% of our vegetable needs and during the summer months, most of our fruit. We also put in orchard trees (apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and cherries) but they are years away from bearing. We hope to freeze or can most of our excess produce, as well as barter it for fresh eggs from the neighbors.

Gardening is FANTASTIC! Go green!


Kori March 20, 2009 at 7:49 am

Our home sits on a 2/3 acre plot, and most of it gets great sun. We currently have 12 4×4 raised beds on the right side of our backyard. We currently have planted: tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, poblano peppers, eggplant, beans, onions, leeks, tomatillos, cucumber and melon. When the time comes for putting in the fall/winter garden, we’re probably going to add another three (maybe more) raised beds. We have the room and the sunshine, so why not? 🙂

The left side of our backyard is incrementally being turned into sort of an orchard, where we currently have 2 peach trees and a fig in a container that’s ready to go in, several grape vines that are pretty prolific when they fruit, plus a Meyer lemon tree in a gigantic planter my hubby built (out of reclaimed cedar). We also plan to put in pomegranates, plums and pears, but didn’t quite get to it this year.

I also have a fabulous herb bed under our breakfast nook bay window that (luckily) gets just the right blend of sun and shade that I can put just about anything in there and it does really, really well.

For us, it’s all about quality and living as sustainably as possible. I feel really, really blessed that we’re able to live where we do and have so much space to work with!


Daphne March 20, 2009 at 7:54 am

Lucky us. . .our large sunny back yard was sorely neglected when we moved in 5 years ago. We spent the first 3 years just mowing, cleaning up and making it into a more inviting spot. Last year, I picked up a small compost bin, tucked it in an out of the way corner, and started dropping lawn clippings, leaves, and veggie scraps into it. I asked my hubby to till up a 4 x 8 rectangle, and my girls and I selected a few plants from a nearby garden center. I loved having home grown tomatoes, basil and parsley in my own back yard, counted my failed experiments with broccoli and zucchini as learning opportunities, and started dreaming bigger for this year. I was stunned to see that my parsley survived a brutal Kansas winter. . .sweet! The rectangle has expanded a foot on each side, and we’ve been adding compost matter to it all year. Last week, my kids started seeds indoors for tomatoes, spinach and some flowers. We expect to grow tomatoes, green beans, spinach, corn, zucchini, basil and parsley this year. I’m already dreaming of expanding the garden again for next year. More room to grow more food to eat, and less grass to mow. All in all, a good thing!


Becky March 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

We are planting a garden for the 1st time this year-we are all excited about learning from our successes and our failures. Our biggest challenge will be deer! We live in a city setting by a creek which brings the wild life that we love to look at but understand we will be battling for garden security. 🙂 Any suggestions on how to deal with them?


Kristen@The Frugal Girl March 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

My mom gardens, so we mostly mooch off of her garden, but the kids and I plant tomatoes and basil, both of which are easy to grow.


Lirv March 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I’m really expanding my vegetable garden this year. Even when we had almost no backyard, I always tried to grow tomatoes in pots on the deck (with limited success!) Now we have a good sized yard, although rimmed with trees. I’m thinking of putting the vegetable garden right smack in the middle of the backyard. I’ve been a bit nervous about plotting it out, and done some research on line and found much help at I would advise Kristin to check it out, since she was asking for help. They even have an herb garden package that she might like. I think I might plant a few herbs, but will concentrate on the tomatoes, beans and peppers. I might even try lettuce and spinach! ZipHarvest made it look really easy, so I’m going to try that this year! I’ve had it with trying to get advice at the big depot place nearby!!


Lirv March 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm

what does “your comment is awaiting moderation” mean?


thenonconsumeradvocate March 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm


I moderate your comment the first time you add something to the comments. This is so the comments section doesn’t fill up with offers of online gambling and the sexy-sex.

Once you have had a comment approved, others should go through automatically.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Elinor March 20, 2009 at 5:39 pm


I only have a window garden, but I’m working with my mom to help her create an even larger garden this year. We are also going to learn to can our food. She has lost a good deal in wages and wanted to find a way to eat on even less money this year. She also is starting her garden from 20¢ packs of seeds. She is going to restart the compost bin I started for her a few years ago. This time we are getting a long drill bit to ‘turn’ the compost. It will be much easier. Except for a rain barrel, there’s not much more she can do to be better at the garden this year.


maclynx March 21, 2009 at 12:16 am

Summer has just finished in Australia, I didn’t have to buy any tomatoes all season and only started buying lettuces recently after several 47 degree celcius days took out the crop. Zucchinis are only just starting to bear and I finally have some capsicums on my bush. No eggplants as yet. Beans have done really well.
At the moment I am planning my autum and winter crops. My little garden has saved us heaps over summer, even with watering restrictions that mean I can only water twice per week for 2 hours. Also had a good crop of locats, peaches and apricots, but the 47 degree days destroyed my mandarin, lemon and lime crops


Viki March 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm

We have a raised garden bed (about 3’x6′) in which we’ve always grown a few types of tomatoes, radishes, jalepenos, and my son grew carrots (turned out short and stubby, but good) and corn! We got to ears off of that plant! This year, not sure what we’ll do because hubby can’t have acidic foods anymore and everything he grew is on his “no” list. The weather here has been wacky (IL), so we haven’t done anything with it. I’d like to have another raised bed in our yard somewhere, but we haven’t agreed on it yet. Not sure where to put it. We have plenty of sun, but we put up a pool in May and we have some trees (small) to work around. In this economy though, we’ll definitely have to do something! You can’t afford not to! Has anyone ever grown cataloupe and had success? What have you all grown in big pots and it did well? Thanks!


mindfulmama March 21, 2009 at 3:04 pm

We also have a somewhat shady backyard. It’s hard to be angry with the trees that also shade us in summer, but COME ON! I would love to be able to grow something other than ratty weeds. We do have a new deck this year that is up among the treetops where the sun does shine, so we are hoping to invest in some container gardening this year. It’s a bit more work with all the watering, and planning, but the eats will be worth it!


Jen March 24, 2009 at 10:38 am

I live in Kansas and have terrible soil and a very shady backyard. I have tried multiple times to grow veggies without success. Even the stuff in pots I placed on our porch were eaten by rabbits! My flower beds survive on their own but have grass growing in them. I thought I got it all out, but I guess not. This will be our third year getting produce from a CSA. I love the organic produce that is delivered to me, not having to deal with gardening in my yard, and supporting a local grower. Although I did start a compost pile last fall and am considering another project, in the front yard this time…


David May 26, 2009 at 10:14 am

Nice article–I admire your tenacity to grow veggies in less than ideal circumstances, and your success, too. Here’s my two cents:

I am blessed enough to live in a beautiful and fertile place–Oregon’s Rogue Valley. I am further blessed with a 30’x50′ patch of sunny dirt in the back yard, fenced off and with very rich, dark, fluffy soil. A handful of apple trees, a cherry tree, and a multi-bin compost system (constructed from straw bales, which also serve as mulch for the garden) complete my food growing scheme. I am able to grow year round–during last years’ mild winter, I grew green leaf lettuce, kale, arugula, cilantro, garlic, and carrots with just a thin layer of straw for protection (also, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, chives). The cilantro is now four feet tall and bolting, getting ready to reseed itself again and provide a harvest of delicious coriander seed. A month ago I planted green and red leaf lettuce and swiss chard. I’ve just planted heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, bell and hot peppers, squash, zucchini, tomatillos, bush beans, and corn. I even got some snap peas as volunteers this year. It has been a lot of work–tilling the whole plot with a shovel, watering by hand at 7:30 each morning, nurturing and fertilizing perhaps two hundred individual plants–but growing a big, beautiful vegetable garden remains one of the greatest joys in life.


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