What Does Your Garden Grow?

by Katy on April 26, 2011 · 27 comments

It ain't pretty, but it's the only way that I can grow a small amount of lettuce for our summer salads.

I have dreams of a beautiful garden lush overflowing with fruit trees and vegetables. Unfortunately, my reality is a shade-tastic back yard, and a very small amount of front yard. However, I’m able to indulge in a bit of container gardening, with pots on my porch steps, lettuce in a wheelbarrow, a row of raspberries, and a small 4′ X 4′ plot, in which I plant beans and tomatoes.

Sadly, I’ll never have enough room in my yard for much more than a tiny bit of home grown goodies.

However, I know your garden is different, which brings me to the question, what does your garden grow? Are you the envy of your neighborhood or are you the type to just plant a few flowers? Do you have helpful advice for a pitiful city slicker such as myself? Please share your experiences, resources and thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Van April 26, 2011 at 6:29 am

I reduced my gardening due to lack of time. I have potted herbs, and I want to plant some more herbs, some bell peppers, and a tomato (determinate and indeterminate).

Are there any community gardens near you that you can take advantage of to reap a bounty?


Katy April 26, 2011 at 6:39 am

The community gardens here have years long waiting lists.



Heather April 26, 2011 at 7:01 am

Heavy, heavy sigh of woe and sighness. I am a natural at being an apartment dweller, but lusting for a garden make me ache for a yard. We do have a balcony at our new place, and hopefully I can keep the cat from eating whatever we may try to plant. But we’ll see what I can grow on the dark rainy corner of northwest Oregon. Seaweed, perhaps.


Marianne April 26, 2011 at 8:09 am

I have 7 acres and am still building my garden plot so you have more of a garden than i do katy! But my aspirations are big. I want to live off my land as much as possible this year. Ive already got forty foot tall tomato seedlings that are waiting to go in the ground. My husband bought me 10 blueberry, 10 raspberry, and 10 blackberry bushes along with strawberry plants as a birthday gift. But im also planting herbs, tomatoes, onions, squash, corn, lettuce, peas, beans, carrots, kale, broccoli, and eggplant. We’ll see what happens!


Su Mama April 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Forty foot tall tomato seedlings? Sounds carnivorous!


Angie April 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

We have a couple plots in our housing co-ops community garden so we grow: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, lettuce, greens, carrots, potatoes, squash, melons, onions, and garlic. It sounds a lot more impressive than it is because every year something seems to prevent us from giving our garden the care it really needs. For the last few years it has been my grad school workload, last year it was having our first child born a few days before our last frost date, and this year I’ve really messed up my back (still waiting on the x-rays to find out what happened). Even in bad years we manage to come out ahead financially, though – last year we made back all our money for garden rental and supplies in berries and garlic alone.


Emily April 26, 2011 at 10:04 am

I have three raised plots in the back and they produce peppers, lettuce, spinach, and herbs (wonderful lemon/lime basil!). I think they are contaminated with fungus, though, because the tomatoes have been pitiful the past few years. This year I’m going to try tomatoes in the front yard beds. I would love to convert the whole front to beds (ala Edible Estates). My kids still play in the back yard, but the south facing gently sloped front yard would be great for veggies – an would cut back on mowing!


Denise April 26, 2011 at 10:25 am

Here on the Oregon Coast it is difficult to have much of anything–but we make do with what grows well here! Peas, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, pumpkins, etc.
Peas love cooler weather and will even grow in some shade–plus they climb too, so you can trellis them up the side of your house and plant them in pots. For ideas, check out Oregon State University’s Extension service. They are online and have extension documentation on what works here. An invaluable, free resource.


Whitney April 26, 2011 at 11:21 am

I have a sunny patio and this year I am growing peas, carrots, radishes, beets, strawberries, arugula, tomatoes, jalapenos, mini pumpkins, squash, and herbs. So far all I’ve harvested is a few strawberries, some radishes, some arugula, and some aphid-infested cilantro and parsley. I have the worst luck with aphids.

For a good book on container gardening I highly recommend “The Bountiful Container” by Stuckey/McGee. It is the best, most complete guide I have found on everything edible that is possible to be grown in containers, including veggies, herbs, fruit, and edible flowers.


Katy April 26, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Thanks! I just put this on hold at the library.



Maureen April 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm

My first attempt at a container garden; I have 3 tomato plants that I’m going to try. I’m going to place them on my front steps where it is sunniest. I just hope the dog doesn’t go after them or knock them off. And the reason why I’m doing it? Last year I paid over $4.00 for 2 tomatos that were not good at all. So for $6.00 I hope I get at least 3!


Sherry April 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm


Have you considered foraging? I bet you can find blackberries, dandelion, mustard garlic, prickly lettuce. If you’re interested you should check out Sam Thayer’s website at http://foragersharvest.com/ Who knows, you might have some of this stuff growing in your yard! BTW, Swiss Chard can handle some shade.


Katy April 26, 2011 at 9:35 pm

I’ve certainly foraged in the past for blackberries and edible chestnuts, but I need food I can count on.



Jinger April 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm

An urban container garden on my apartment porches….already have green tomatoes on the vine, flowering yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers , green peppers and string beans. Basil, parsley and thyme growing well too. This season I am treating my veggie plants like babies..water every day, keep out of the strong Texas winds, and turn the pots to face the sun.


Twyla April 26, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I’d like to say I have a super awesome garden, but I can’t. I have a nice big garden plot, but its a sucky grower for somereason. Last year my onions were no bigger than the bowl of a baby spoon. I cut down a huge lovely beautiful poplar that was growing in the middle of it last fall so maybe that will help (It was half rotten and had to come down so I am using parts of it to make myself a new bedframe – I never had a bedframe before.) My garden is full of chickweed and creeping charlie and I don’t want to use chemicals so … its not a good situation. But I do have scans of raspberries, planted some apples and sour cherries and a skinny foot wide row of strawberries along the edge of the garage. I have no advice for mini-gardens or pot gardens as I seem to not be able to even grow a dafodil in a pot and my tomato seedlings that are two months old now are … as tall as my thumb but thats it. I am a sucky grower.


Sara April 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I second “the bountiful container”….that book took me from not being able to keep houseplants alive to having an enormous container garden full of interesting varieties of tomatoes, herbs, peppers, etc on our sunny NC porch.

We just moved to OR (corvallis area) this year (and just happen to be a couple miles from the nursery owned by one of the co-authors of “the bountiful container”). I have my container garden garden going on a smaller scale with snap/snow peas, radishes, lots of leaf lettuce, swiss chard, scallions, parsley, chives, cilantro, mint, and when it gets warmer, basil. I also have three tomato plants but I think I put them in too early and the cold nights seem to have turned the leaves a funny grey-green color…thinking I might have to replace them.


Kris @ Attainable Sustainable April 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I’ve left my large and abundantly productive garden behind and now work toward a somewhat sustainable lifestyle on a quarter acre lot. Like you, much of our yard is shady. All of it is steep. We’re working toward terracing and using the space we have. We have a small plot growing right now that includes: tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, daikon, radish, beets, hot and sweet peppers, melon, squash, broccoli, and rhubarb. That sounds like a lot, but it seems really small to me!


a reader April 27, 2011 at 3:36 am

I dream of homesteading with two acres of home-grown wheat, a few cows, a dozen goats, 200 chickens, and an acre of garden plus 25 acres of forest just for the cutting of heating wood. But, truth is, we don’t have that. My annual garden is small,2doz tomatoes, 6-8 pepper plants, squash, beans, onions, and a big lettuce patch. My chickens are few, less than 50, and I keep 3 goats at a time, and about a dozen rabbits. It’s enough to keep me happy, but not take a huge amount of acreage.
If I want wheat or firewood, I buy it for the most part. I guess we all make do with what we have. I’ve grown tomatoes in pots and old tires at times. And I’ve grown lettuce in flower beds. We just make do with the situation we have. Your wheel barrel garden is great.


Kris April 27, 2011 at 7:02 am

Katy. My neighbor died 3 weeks ago :(. At the friends/family memorial service the night before the funeral, many people from all walks of life talked about our neighbor. What I find so relevant to your post on gardening is how many people stood up and talked about evenings together enjoying the fruits of his wife’s amazing garden.

Just proves that a garden doesn’t just nourish you physically, but it also nourishes the soul.


Katy April 27, 2011 at 7:06 am


Thank you for sharing that.



Natalie April 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

We expand our garden a little bit each year and generally have mixed results. Our biggest success has been our raspberry bushes. They spread like weeds (and we allow them to) and produce delicious berries. The kids love being able to eat them off the bush and I love some in my cereal. I think this might be the year I set aside enough to make freezer jam, but we’ll see. I would have to hide them from the kids and I don’t know if I want to do that. 🙂


Audrey April 27, 2011 at 10:01 am

I currently have 3 raised beds where I grow all kinds of veggies: tomatoes (Sungold ~ my favorite, Cherokee Purple, Roma & Better Boy), pickling cucumbers, zucchini, sweet basil, red-skinned potatoes, red cabbage, mesclun mix, Red Sails lettuce, and spinach (oh, and cantaloupes). I also have a separate herb garden with chives, rosemary, oregano, chamomile, lavender and Bees Balm. I gain info from all sources ~ I took an organic gardening class at the local community college, have lots of gardening books (mostly gifts), use online resources and library books. Also, I collect info from magazines when I find it. ** I find herbs to be a great starting point. They’re fairly easy and have a lot of uses. ** Also, making and using your own compost creates some AMAZING soil. I’m constantly amazed at how much attention my garden gets. It’s truly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I love our garden!!!


Danielle@sixtasteschef.com/blog April 27, 2011 at 10:42 am

I have the opposite problem here in Southern California. It’s so hot and sunny in the middle of the summer that I have to put my tomatoes in pots so I can drag them into the shade during the hottest part of the day!


Kathryn April 27, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I actually love your bright green wheelbarrow–what a cool garden feature!
DH and I have always grown flowers, but this year we’re trying out our first veggie garden. We’re really excited about it and, most of all, hope it will produce enough that we can give plenty away.
I swear by books and guides tailored to my state. I live in TN, so I don’t know of specific titles for OR; however, I know the website gardenguides.com has guides by state. My garden has always done MUCH better when I’ve used advice about plants, soil, climate, etc. that was tailored to my region.
That being said, I think Carleen Madigan’s The Backyard Homestead is a great book on growing/raising your own food. Even if your lot is as small as 1/4 acre, she shows how you can grow fruit, veggies, grains, and even raise livestock (assuming your city allows it).


Karen @ Abundance on a Dime April 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I have a small city lot too (entire lot is 33 x 100 ft). We’re lucky that the back yard has southern exposure, but there’s still a fair amount of shade due to surrounding houses and trees. So far I’ve managed to grow arugula, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and jalapeno – surprisingly to me, the jalapenos are one of the most robust growers in my Southern Ontario garden!), green beans, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and an assortment of herbs (mint, parsley, chives, basil, oregano). Mint will grow just about anywhere and is great for making fresh mint tea (an after-dinner staple at our house during the growing season, usually consumed while relaxing on the front porch 🙂 ) We’ve been plotting the addition of some fruit trees to our property, and hope to start with a cherry tree this year in the front yard (I still need to do more research on this). Another good book for city growers is Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Sonia Day. I just put a hold on The Bountiful Container at my library 🙂


Amy April 28, 2011 at 6:03 am

I too adore the wheelbarrow garden idea. I’m tryign to start some container plants for my deck – and have decided to scour the thrift stores for containers, versus going and purchasing new. Believe me, if I found such a cool item as a wheelbarrow to garden it, I’d plant quite proudly! Good for you for being so beautifully creative and environmentally friendly.


James Bruce May 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

We just bought our own house, complete with garden – so we decided to have a go at growing something.. we’ve ended up with:

– 12 courgette plants
– 40 tomato plants (+ more trailing varieties waiting to be planted out)
– ~ 10 climbing/french/dwarf beans
– 20 cabbages
– 3 full potato grow-sacks
– a row of red onions and spring onions

And thats just the stuff we’ve planted out. There’s a ton more in the greenhouse for when I have some more time!

The soil is terrible though – having to dig up masses of it as it’s just so compacted, and predominantly clay. Mixing in a lot of costly manure and organic material is the only solution unfortunately.

anyway, this year is our experimental year. I promise to not grow so damn much next year, and actually plan the plot rather than fit all in there randomly.


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