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Garden Basket

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since I last gave you guys a garden update. A lot has changed since March out in our growing space, so let me give you a little rundown of what’s up.

When we left off last time, I told you we had just planted all of our spring crops. Most of them are doing wonderfully, and we’ve been harvesting asparagus, spinach, kale, lettuce, green onions, kohlrabi, and broccoli for a few weeks now. I never get sick of harvesting my own food. In my opinion, there are few things cooler than being able to walk out to your back yard and pick lunch. We’re particularly loving asparagus right now. We’ll have to stop harvesting soon to let it grow stalks and store energy for next season, but it’s been a wonderful few weeks!

Asparagus

Our cabbage are growing nicely, as are our kohlrabi and broccoli. Cauliflower is a finicky veggie and isn’t doing much but producing beautiful, dark, green leaves (too much nitrogen?), but we’re not too worried about it. We’ll get another shot to do cauliflower again in the Fall.

Cabbage Bed

Most of our Spring crops are producing so well that I think our first charity donation of the season will be happening sooner rather than later. Yay! I’m so excited to start dropping off food at our county’s food bank. They are always so appreciative.

Broccoli

There are a few plants that have struggled, and it’s got us rethinking our three-season approach to the garden. For a few years now, we’ve been trying to fit three seasons of crops (Spring, Summer, and Fall) into what really amounts to 2 1/2 growing seasons’ worth of time. Our spring weather doesn’t last very long here—it basically goes from winter to summer overnight—so it can be hard to grow a lot of the cool weather crops in Spring. It works okay for crops that grow quickly (radishes and greens, mostly), but isn’t so ideal for varieties that take a little longer to get going. Take beets, for example. By the time beets have germinated and started to grow, our weather is already soaring into the upper 80s—not ideal conditions for root veggie growing.

Beets and Carrots

We’ve always had awesome luck growing cool weather crops in the fall here—our fall seems to last forever—so I think we’re going to shift our focus to growing most of those varieties in the later season. Next spring, we’ll probably just focus on growing the crops that can grow quickly in our short spring season. And hey, that gives us a little more time to focus on getting the garden ready for summer crops!

Spinach, Lettuce and Peas

Last update, I told you how we were planning on using biodegradable paper mulch to prevent weeds in our rows, and it’s been a struggle, to say the least. Keeping the paper mulch from blowing around and tearing during our strong thunderstorms has been tricky. And where it has stayed down, we’ve had issues with our voracious earthworms eating right through the paper, and weeds popping up in those spots. That all being said, where the paper has stayed down (and the earthworms haven’t eaten too much of it), it has worked like a charm. I am loving the reduced weeding! I don’t think the issues we are having are issues with the paper itself; I think it’s all user error. We’re already getting better at working with it, and it’s staying down no problem in recent rows we’ve planted.

Paper Rows

We also didn’t think the paper thing through so well, because while it is easy to plant in when you have seedlings, it doesn’t work so well with direct sow crops like corn, cucumbers, and squash. We have whole rows that don’t have the paper mulch down because it would be silly to cut 400 holes in it to plant each corn seed, you know? Our hope is that we can keep on top of the weeds in these rows until the plants are big enough to be mulched in other ways (wet newspaper and straw, probably).

We’ve been very, very happy with our decision to put heavy duty landscape fabric in each of the aisles between our rows. So happy, in fact, that we actually ordered another roll to go along the perimeter of the garden. It’s holding up amazingly well, and weeds aren’t even thinking about popping up in the aisles.

Me Gardening

On the bug front, we’ve picked off our first few cabbage worms from the cabbages just the other day. Cabbage worms have been a huge issue for us in the past here, but we didn’t see many of the moths earlier this Spring, so we’re hoping they aren’t out in large numbers this year. We can’t wait to get the chickens out in the garden to help fight nasty bugs!

Of course, because the cabbage worms aren’t around as much, there had to be something snacking on our cabbage, and this year, for the first time, we’re seeing red cabbage beetles. They are beautiful! And thankfully, they aren’t doing too much damage to the brassicas right now. Our general philosophy with gardening is to plant enough for both us and nature to enjoy, so we often choose to let bugs just run their course. These beetles didn’t show up until after our brassicas were large enough to handle a few nibbles, so we’re just keeping a close eye on them, and letting them enjoy a snack for now. We personally believe that organic gardening goes beyond just using organic products in the garden, it’s a way of looking at the whole ecosystem of the garden—and to us, that means letting some bugs eat our cabbage sometimes. There is enough to go around (most of the time)!

Cabbage

In the next few weeks, our spring harvesting will start to wrap up, and our focus will turn entirely on the massive summer garden we’re currently in the process of planting. Our goal usually is to get the entire garden in the ground by the first weekend of May, but with the yard sale, we just got a bit behind. It’s not a huge deal though – like I mentioned above, we have a long growing season (we’ll be harvesting well into October and November), so planting a few weeks late won’t ruin everything.

And we are getting close to having everything planted! Over the winter, my Dad mentioned he’d like to chip in and help us with our goals to donate 500 pounds of food to our local food pantry, and we’ve been taking him up on his offer over the past few weeks. He’s been spending mornings out in the garden helping us plant everything from tomatoes to chamomile to squash and corn. It’s been so helpful to have an extra set of hands to plant (or to wrangle the JuneBug).

Family Gardening

Of our 30 beds, we only have about a half dozen left to get planted. And the ones that are left are hot weather crops like okra and melons, so they could stand to wait a touch longer before going in the ground. Right now, those beds are tucked under some black plastic to warm up the soil and nix weeds, but our hope to have everything in the ground by the end of the week.

Our potatoes went in a few weeks back, and they are taking off like gangbusters. We did three rows in the traditional trenches, and they are rocking it.

Potatoes

We had some extra seed potatoes, and an extra empty spot in the garden, so we’re also trying out some potato towers. I’ve heard mixed reviews of potato towers, but figured we didn’t have anything to lose by trying them out. We’ll see!

Potato Towers

Have I mentioned the scale of our summer garden? I mean, I know I’ve told you size-wise how large our garden is (80′ x 60′), but I’m talking actual plant numbers. It’s a little insane. We’ve got 72 tomato plants in the ground of 22 different varieties. Nearly 300 onions are in the ground (a handful of fresh eating, but mostly storage onions). We’re growing eight different kinds of winter squash (spaghetti, acorn, delicata, two kinds of pie pumpkins, three kinds of butternut squash). I’m so excited about the variety we’re growing!

Tomatoes

If you think this all sounds like overkill (72 tomato plants? c’mon, now.), it definitely is. But keep in mind that we’re trying to grow enough for fresh eating, preserving, donating, and, like I mentioned above, a little bit of a buffer to “donate” to the bugs and critters that allow us to grow and live on their land. Remind me of this when I have to spend an entire day in 90° heat picking 400 bushels of roma tomatoes, k?

Speaking of tomatoes, we’re trying out red plastic mulch on one of our tomato beds this year. It’s supposed to reflect a certain wavelength of sunlight that makes for bigger yields. We’ll see! It looks a bit odd out there in the garden!

Tomato

Most of the tomatoes we planted were our starts, but we also picked up a handful of “cheater” tomatoes from a local vocational school’s plant sale. We just couldn’t resist the possibility of having tomatoes soon! For $2 a plant, it’d be worth it if we could just get one or two tomatoes a few weeks early. They are so big and full of fruit already, that Craig had to stake them (with a sleeping Juniper on his back).

Craig Garden

Cheater Tomato

Our garlic bed is doing really well, and we’re starting to see some of the leaves die back, which is a good sign—it means it’s almost ready! I’d say we probably have another month or so before we’ll be pulling up all of our garlic, curing it, and then storing it for eating all year long.

Garlic

Oh, and I wanted to mention the garden tools we’re using this year! My friends at OXO sent me a few garden tools to try out, and they are literally the best hand tools I’ve ever used. When the box of tools showed up, I didn’t even bring it inside. I ripped it open and then went to work using them immediately! I am murder on trowels, but the OXO trowel is so strong and amazing—I think it’ll last me years. Even my Dad couldn’t stop commenting on how great the OXO trowel was while we were planting tomatoes! And the pruners are the best pruners we’ve ever used. I am in love!

Pruning Hibiscus
Container Garden

I think that brings you up to speed on where we currently are. Once the garden is planted, our focus turns entirely on garden maintenance—keeping up with the pruning, weeding, and mowing. We still have a few grass aisles in the garden, and unfortunately, we have to keep those well-mowed and trimmed to avoid getting weed seeds in our bed. One of our big garden projects for this winter is killing those grass aisles and putting in gravel in the garden (I’m SO excited to not have to mow in the garden anymore).

Food Harvest Tally

Before I end this post, I thought I’d give you an update on our food tally. For some silly reason, I originally had these garden update posts separate from the food tally posts. But I’ve decided to combine them! It just makes sense to do all the garden updating all in one place. Plus, that way, I don’t have to include as much information in the food tally—you’ve already heard all the garden updates! I’ll think I’ll just stick to periodically updating you with the total amount of food harvested and total donated. Expect a serious increase in these numbers in the next garden update!

The Totals:

Total Harvested in 2015

12lb 15oz

Total Donated in 2015

Nothing yet!

How’s your garden growing?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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19 Responses
  1. Erin

    I absolutely love your garden posts, such a great thing to aspire to. I am curious how much over the course of a growing season you are out money wise and how that measure against your yield? I know gardening is a labor of love and I love your philosophy but I didn’t know if you ever did updates of this kind.

    1. Cassie

      We’ve never tallied it up, because, like you said, it’s a labor of love. It’s definitely more about doing something we enjoy than saving money. That being said, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say we are still saving money. Organic produce ain’t cheap! 🙂

      1. Erin

        I agree about the organic produce! We try to catch sales while we can/when we can.

        The only reason I asked about the financial feesiblity/output is because you do so many things that people think they can just go out and do but aren’t realistic for someone just start or who have big asperations but not a big budget. I agree you do it for lots of well rounded reasons where fiancially it isn’t feesible for others. I really do love you take on this so I hope this doesn’t come off as critical because that isnt’ how I mean it. Just so people know this isn’t realistic for someone with no gardening expertise or a fair amount of funding and a WHOLE LOTTA KNOWLEDGE!

      2. Cassie

        No worries, I totally get what you are saying. 🙂

        It’s also important to remember that Craig and I have been gardening for almost a decade now (and, even more than that if you include the years each of us logged in the garden with our parents growing up). We started with three large pots (one with tomatoes, one with cucumbers and one with eggplant) on an apartment patio in the city, and our garden has been growing every since. We’ve been working, growing, and funding our garden for years and years! It wasn’t an overnight thing—and maybe I don’t convey that often enough. Most people have a vacation savings fund, we don’t. We have a savings account named “Garden” and money gets funneled into it all year long. It’s our passion, and that’s where our money goes. I totally get that isn’t realistic, or even desirable, for most people. My grandfather always said that you can tell what is important to people by where they spend their money—and gardening is important to us.

        I definitely don’t want people to think that this kind of scale is realistic for novice gardeners—it certainly isn’t. That’s why I try to make sure to include posts that resonate with more “normal” gardeners, too (like the salsa container garden how-to I just posted). But I do think it’s valuable to show our big scale garden to folks, too. My philosophy has always been that people can take what they need from my blog and leave behind what they don’t, and if someone can take something we’re doing on a big scale and apply it to their urban container garden? I’m super happy!

        I hope it doesn’t come across that I think everyone should be gardening on this scale, I definitely don’t. This isn’t right for most people, but it is very, very right for us.

  2. Sara

    Love these posts! I tried to grow cucs and corn once and that didn’t go well at all. So disappointing. Living in Colorado Springs at the time it seemed we didn’t get hot enough temps, long enough, and due to the lack of rainfall, we were spending a fortune just to water the garden that would dry up mid-day even though we watered morning and evening. Ever thought about a video tour of the garden? I know I’d love to see one! 🙂

  3. Kel

    Wow, I have major garden envy! It’s beautiful. What climate zone do you live in? We live in a city, but have converted most of our lawn into planter boxes. We now have six 4×6 boxes and two garden beds. It’s definitely a learning process, but so incredibly rewarding. Do you have any tips for storing garlic? We put ours in paper bags last year, but they turned a little hard/orange.

    1. Cassie

      We’re in zone 6a. 🙂

      We’re still struggling with garlic storage. Garlic needs to be stored cold (just a few degrees above freezing) and we don’t really have a spot for it. We’ve been storing it in our basement in an open crate, and it lasts until early Spring—but I want to figure out a way to get it to last all the way until our next harvest!

  4. This is too cool. And I totally think that you are doing things that ANYONE could do. You plant it, you read about it, you tend it, you eat it. Sure not everyone wants or needs it on that scale but there’so much less mystery in gardening than I think people assume. Skip flowers and plant food if you are short on space! I hope this is encouragement for all!

  5. I’m envious of your garden. We live in the city with a relatively small yard. We’re adding two more bed this year though. We still have a couple more weeks before we can plant the seedlings outside. We got snow on Sunday!

  6. Keep these posts coming!

    Our greens are doing great, but our peas and sunflowers were eaten by rabbits. Grr. Planting the rest of our tomatoes this weekend (they were started by a more industrious friend, but next winter I intend to start my own – I wouldn’t mind a starter post when the time is right!).

    I’m finally trying cabbages again this year after they were all eaten by cabbage worms a couple of years ago. I was so naive when I saw those “pretty, white butterflies”.

    1. Cassie

      Hahaha! The first year we planted cabbage, we did the exact same thing! “Yay! Summer is here, look at all the pretty little white butterflies flying around our garden!” Three weeks later=total decimation.

  7. Lea Goossen

    I love your garden! My husband and I usually grow a lot here in Colorado, but we are putting the house on the market….so, I’m living vicariously through yours!!! I do not think you give the impression others should do what you do, I get the impression you are sharing what you love!
    What a priceless pic of you, your daughter, and your dad in the garden too!

  8. Such an amazing garden! I dream of having a big yard one day and living in a warmer climate. One day…

    I share an update on our garden the last day of each month on my blog. Basicially right now though here on the Canadian Praires my plants are just starting to come up. My strawberries are growing faster than normal though!

  9. I love reading your gardening updates, they always inspire me to go out to the garden and do a little more. I’m in the UK so I’m fascinated with the types of crops you plants and the differences in weather the USA has. My garden for veggies is no where on the scale of yours but I normally manage a pretty productive patch over the growing season although I’m a way off being able to produce enough for the year. It’s a dream of mine and something to work towards. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog and genuinely love your ethos.

  10. Michelle T

    You guys are my heroes. I hope one day to own a home and be able to rip out all the grass and grow food! For now we are doing tomatoes, beets, melons, lima beans, and herbs. In tiny batches.

    Are those potato towers the ones you keep filling with straw as they get bigger? I’m totally trying that this year. I heart potatoes. We have two kids and buying organic produce for all of us is very expensive.

    Thank you for doing this. I’m sure it takes up a lot of you time, but we appreciate it! Maybe you could include a gardening tip every once and while? Like you knew that the garlic wilting was a good sign… I would have panicked. Thanks, Cassie!

  11. Thanks for the post!

    This weekend will be my first attempt at any sort of gardening… ever. We’re putting together a quick 4 x 8 raised bed but still have a ton of research to do with regards to what to plant in it, spacing, irrigation, and all that fun stuff.

    If I manage to get anything to grow in it I’ll be happy (and a bit surprised).

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I'm a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. Come along as I explore good food, holistic wellness, natural homekeeping, gardening, and all the other things that bring me joy!

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