Welcome To My 2014 Yard & Garden Adventure!

June 10th, 2014 - filed under: The Farm » Flora

wine box wall planters diy garden

So I’m gardening again. And man, it feels good.

Jeremy and I have been talking a lot lately about the concept of relaxation – about how there’s a huge difference between “checking out”, which is what we tend to do (what most people tend to do, I think) at the end of our very long and busy days, exhausted and sprawled out on the couch watching Netflix and surfing the ‘net. It serves a purpose I suppose, but it’s not truly restorative the way relaxing should be.

I didn’t realize that, though, until I started gardening again.

Until I allowed myself to spend hours in my back yard, unconstrained, my favorite podcasts flowing through my ear buds, and calmly, quietly, puttering puttering puttering from one project to another.

I lost a whole weekend like that. It was like crack, once I started I couldn’t stop. And I realized . . . relaxation! This is actually relaxing!

And now I just can’t get enough.

garden flowers

And I’m excited to share my 2014 garden with you, as the season unfolds, as we all work through our gardening adventures in our own repsective gardens in our own little parts of the world. Just like the old days!

For some reason, though, I’m feeling the need to include a disclaimer before this post.

I’ve written before about my little house – this little house that I love so much. My gawd, I love this little house! When I first moved back to Santa Barbara – one of the most expensive cities in America, oh yes it is – and began my hunt for a home *in my price range*, I was mostly looking at studios. Just a single room for Waits and I, and all our stuff, and a dog too. There were a few tiny one bedrooms. All apartments.

I never dreamed that I would find a freestanding home, with a bedroom for Waits all his own, and with a full wraparound yard. And when I found it, I had to fight for it (like a tiger, I did) and when I finally secured it, I cried (true story!). This delightful, dilapidated home that was built in the nineteen-teens, then relocated to this spot somewhere around about the nineteen-fifties, and has been sitting on this spot over since, slowly sagging and sinking under the lives of the many families who have called it “home”.

And now it’s ours.

watering cactus

But my point . . . my point. I guess my point is that, this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, yeah? That’s not what this blog is about. That’s not my life! This is . . . a landlord who looks the other way so that my rent can remain affordable. It’s chipped paint and cracked walls and stains that won’t come off. The wear and the tear of a very old, very lived-in house.

This is my crazy, cozy little cottage (the collection of cottages where I and a few of my friends live, we’ve affectionately dubbed “The Downtown Bohemian Compound” – I’m going to write a lot more about that some day), slumped but sturdy under my feet. I hope you can forgive her blemishes, because we do so love her.

And as I’m sure it goes without saying, this yard and garden is very much a work in progress!

This is what the main yard looked like on the day we moved in:

garden before

That sweet old orange tree provides us with an abundance of delicious citrus for our fresh pressed juices throughout the fall and winter months.

Not much to look at, right? Dejected grass, a dried up banana palm in a pot by the back door, a few dying sago palms planted in a rock bed along the side of the house, and hoo-boy what’s up with that border along the fence? Eek.

This is how it’s shaping up these days:

yard after

Waits inherited a little wooden playhouse which took up residence under the orange tree. He keeps his own special (THE SPIKIEST, MAMA!) cactuses in little pots out front, along with a miniature push broom to keep the spider webs away. He is the best.

The grass is still pretty dry (we’re in a drought, it can’t be helped), but along the fence I’ve replaced the ugly trim with natural rock. Growing along the fence we have a rose bush and a jasmine vine – both carefully nursed back to health by yours truly – and I added an artichoke plant. In the pots to the right there’s a happy sago palm, along with two types of stevia. I still can’t decide if I want to harvest my stevia and then dehydrate it and grind it to a powder (like my homemade green powder) for a homegrown natural sweetener, or if I’ll just keep picking off one leaf at a time to toss fresh into my smoothies. Decisions decisions . . .

A close-up:

grow stevia plants

Stevia, stevia, sago.

Back up in the “after” pic up there, you can see my 3-bin compost system at the far end of the yard, along the fence. It’s not too glamorous but it gets the job done, and after 1 whole years it’s finally churning out nutrient-rich compost to fertilize my garden on a pretty regular basis.

Finally, that awful rocky bed along the side of the house. Well, we tore it out last spring and tried to plant flowers (remember?) but they pretty much died, immediately. That soil was not supportive of life, haha.

So Waits and I took a multiphase approach to repairing it. First, we turned over all the existing dirt, just got it good and broken up.

garden helper

Then we tilled a ton of super dark, super nutrient-rich compost (courtesy of my godparents – this was before I was churning out my own) into the ground.

garden bed in progress

Finally, we covered it with a thick layer of hay, and left it to cook for all of last fall, through winter, and into early spring.

A few months back I began to sow my first round of flower seeds in little pots. And finally, when they got big enough, I transplanted them into the hay-covered bed.

This time they took! The plan is to continue to sow seeds every few weeks, and transplant them in as they’re big enough, to provide a steady and constant stream of flowers through the summer and autumn. Here’s how it’s looking so far:

garden after

Another landscaping project I’ve recently undertaken happened right around the corner, at the back of my mud room and around my potting table. It’s always been a rather haphazard mess of an area, see?

cactus garden before

But recently, after pillaging my godparents land of a few extra cacti and agaves, I spent an afternoon in garden bliss, and ended up with this:

cactus garden

Pretty cute, right? I love the upcycled wooden ride-on fire truck turned succulent planter.

A better look at the area around the corner, the entrance to my laundry room/mud room:

concord grape container potted plant

The big planter houses a concord grape vine, purchased completely on a whim by Jeremy and I during a random visit to the home improvement center. To the left is a large succulent and behind that, a baby rosemary bush. Other herbs I’m growing in pots this year include parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, mint, basil, marjoram, and savory. I’ve written lots in the past about container herb gardening, if you’re interested.

Moving along, to the far back wall of my yard, which stretches the entire length from my driveway at one end, to my outdoor dining area at the other (right outside my back door/mud room). And along that back wall, we’ve got a lot going on . . .

sunflowers along wall

Sunflowers! Which Waits helped me plant and which he loves to water – these are definitely his sun flowers. At the far end you’ll see the banana palm that came with this house, and which I’m slowly, ever so slowly, nursing back from the brink of death. Following that is a row of our second-round sun flowers, followed by 3 small wooden wine boxes holding 2 bell pepper plants apiece. Finally, the food portion of this gardening adventure! My bells are already going off, with multiple buds/babies on each plant (and that’s a first-round sunflower to the far right of the frame).

little baby bell pepper

Despite having a potting table, the outdoor dining table is where I do a lot of my garden work. This is what it looked like last month, overflowing with flower and veggies starts:

garden seedling starts

And now? Those starts are all transplanted – the most coveted of which are my tomatoes. They live in wine boxes along that back wall, behind the table, climbing their rainbow-colored cages.

wine boxes garden wall planter art

This year I’ve been blessed by the tomato gods! I’m growing the healthiest, happiest tomato plants I’ve ever tended (knock on wood!), and tomatoes are my favorite thing to grow so believe me, I’ve tended a lot! My favorite thing to grow, but also the bane of my gardening existence because I have such piss-poor luck with them. Ha!

But not this year. This year my tomato plants are glorious, and already hanging heavy with fruit. Squee!

homegrown garden tomatoes

Okay, you guys! I have so much more to share – so much more food. We haven’t even gone around to the front of the house yet! But I feel like this post is already overflowing with pics, so I’m going to have to finish up later, yeah?

For now, I want to know:

What are you growing?

How are your gardens shaping up this year? What are your plans?

I’m so excited to be sharing our adventures here again, after too many years away. So please – let’s talk dirt!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • Red Deception

    Your garden looks gorgeous. All I have is space in my man’s back yard (I still live solo in my perfect little apartment). Thus far, only a wee hair of basil and kale has sprouted. But… I am hopeful for the rest of the produce. And my sunflowers.

  • Meredith

    What a lovely little farm you have! So jealous of your orange tree, it looks like perfection. This year I tried my hand at Brussels sprouts, and I have to admit, out of all the yumminess in my garden, they are my most favorite, shining stars (it’s almost like having a second pet!). It really is amazing growing your own food. And watching your kids eat that food is an indescribable joy!

  • Sarah Sylvester

    I wish I could move to california! You are living my dream, haha. I’m getting sick of New England winters. Luckily it is spring here but I have not done any gardening this year due to lack of time/$. In the next couple weeks I do plan on gutting out all the weeds and generally greenery around my house and replacing with tomato plants, sunflowers, and other various flowers. I have never had much luck with anything else. I even killed a cilantro plants. Man I need to quit my job. Oi vey.

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    Lady, I LOVE IT! So glad you’re sharing your gardening adventures again. ❤ I’m excited to see the evolution of your outside living space, and of course for inspiration!

    So in my house, we say we’re ‘decompressing’ when we’re just letting our brains check out after a long day. (Hello, Walking Dead) But gardening? Anyone who knows me more than ten minutes figures out that the most relaxing thing for me is to completely lose myself in my gardens (or the kitchen).

    So, you know what I’m growing since I’m doing my own series of garden tours. Round two is supposed to go up by the end of the week . . .

  • Sarah C.

    That all looks great! I am so jealous of the orange tree! I’ve got a lovely raised bed that my hubs built for me but I’m not doing much more than lettuce in it this year because of time constraints. But it’s awesome to pick and eat my own lettuce each day for my giant lunch salad!

    What I’d love to hear more about is that composting system. I have a pile (that’s the way my parents did it when I was growing up, so I refused to pay the big $$ to buy one of those compost tumblers; problem is that we lived basically in the woods, so the pile got moisture and all that good stuff and worked fine), but I live in a city house in the high desert, so my compost pile is nothing more a dried-up conglomeration of kitchen waste and weeds. Your system looks like rubbermaid bins – much cheaper! – and I’m interested in how it works and what the three-bin system seems to be.

  • http://howtofeedawookie.blogspot.com/ WookieWifey

    Ooooh, new thing, now I’m going to grow stevia, lol!

    For the record, I ADORE, fucking ADORE that house. I have such a soft spot for old houses. I love houses that feel lived in and have good energy.

  • Ellie

    I have some tomato starts that i bought at the farmers market that are doing great even though i forget to water them (luckily its been raining a bit here!). the library i work at has a seed library going, where you “check out” heirloom seeds, and if anything grows, at the end of the season you bring some back to help with the next year. and its free! my basil and chives and doing good, the other things i planted not so much but oh well.

  • Merle Lynne Ludwig

    What an incredible transformation!!! I have a bit of a green thumb and I like to do potted plants- hibiscus are my favorite! My step son has been tending onions and tomatoes in the back yard. We also have some reno in mind but money is tight so we are doing a little at a time…. happy gardening!

  • http://thegreenpenn.blogspot.com LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    I just LOVE what you’re doing with your little homestead. The boxes mounted on the side of the house are a neat touch. We’ve got a lovely little garden area along the side of our home that’s divided into four sections. One is totally full of greens… spinach, green & purple kale, chard, romaine, beets. The rest are a hodgepodge of snap peas, tomates, peppers, cucumbers, squash, okra, and purple tomatillos (which I’m growing for the first time from heirloom seeds. I can’t wait to see how they do!). I’m still planning to plant two varieties of heirloom corn and watermelon starts in the corner of my yard. Plus, I’m got a garden table in which to plant my six strawberry plants this week. I’ve been so busy that it’s taken longer than I planned to get everything going, but luckily, the summers here in TN will last into October.
    I can’t wait to see the next update. When I discovered your blog and went back through the archives, I found the gardening posts to be so inspirational. I enjoy seeing what other people do with limited space, since I have a small yard, myself. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  • http://windycityvegan.wordpress.com/ Monika {windycityvegan}

    Lindsey, I’m in North Carolina, and our summers last so long that I never start my melons/cucumbers/squash seeds until now. We usually have produce coming in until the first frost! It makes the heat worth it. :)

  • Bianca

    How cute! Love the wine box shelves. You’re so making me want to make my yard look cute! I hate gardening, but I do a little every year because I have a landscaped area in my front yard that requires it. We planted peppers, a cherry tomato plant, and a lemon cucumber plant. So far, the peppers aren’t doing well at all! But the tomatoes and cuke plant have taken off. And I’m growing herbs as well. But I LOVE what you’ve done with your yard!!!

  • Lynn

    Yay!!! I love how you have made the space your own and brought beauty and use to it :)

    The soil is not good in my backyard due to the roots of a large black walnut tree, so I have a small container garden on our front porch. I have a a Husky Red Tomato, Basil, Parsley, Green Pepper, Chives, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme :)

  • http://www.claudiapoirier.com/ Claudia

    I feel like this year so much is happening in our backyard. I have pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, apple tree, sunflowers, sweet peas and lots of lettuce bubbling up. I also, finally, got a second-hand tumbling compost bin and this has made me really, really excited :)

  • Veronica

    Your garden is beautiful. Straight up.

  • Anon

    um, I relate to your love of your “super shabby amazing rental cottage” so much!!! we too rent an amazingly affordable, poorly maintained, built-in-1918 little house in an awesomely convenient area (downtown in a small city) where there are very few single family homes. we put up with the lack of maintenance because IT’S SO PERFECT. definitely a unicorn of houses, due to the location, plus the fact that we have a backyard with a privacy fence, front AND BACK porches, washer/dryer hookups, ceiling fans… oh AND IT’S PINK. haha.

    so yes, while I sometimes worry that coworkers may judge me if they find out where I live, and I thought when my parents came to visit last year they would be concerned (the whole neighborhood is kinda shabby looking, complete with super sketchy corner store, abandoned houses across the street, and lots of transient folks), they actually loved it! and we love it too!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    That’s awesome that you can get your garden on at his house though! And yay for sunflowers, they are SO fun to grow. I’m doing tons of basil this year too, hoping to freeze a bunch of pesto for winter. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Meredeth! That poor orange tree is actually in desperate need of a trimming! On the never-ending to-do list . . . ;-)

    Oh man, I’ve never grown my own Brussels but I’ve always wanted to! Maybe I;ll try that this fall. With the way Jeremy and I go through them, it sure would make sense for us to be growing our own.

  • http://thegreenpenn.blogspot.com LIndsey at TheGreenPenn

    Oh, I love NC! Most of my mother’s family is there, and I spent many springs enjoying the azaleas during our family reunions. We would drive from KY, then later TN, through the mountains, and I’d dream about living there. Our summers last about as long, so hopefully I’ll get me stuff planted this weekend, and have some juicy watermelons in about 90 days.

  • Deirdre

    All this life-rick greenery makes me very happy.

  • GlutenFreeHappyTummy

    what a beautiful backyard!

  • Emily

    What awesome pictures! Right now we are growing sunflowers, tomatoes, kale, chard, sage, rosemary…and I’m sure a few more things. My husband is the one with the green thumb but I love being a part of it! He grows a bunch inside and transplants. Love fresh produce!

  • Kathi Vegana

    Wow, what a truly beautiful garden with so much character!
    And I can totally relate to the idea of gardening as relaxation. I always feel much more centered and relaxed, yet energized after gardening.
    Here’s what we’re growing (hope I’ll manage to translate everything correctly ;-) ) :
    Different kinds of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, tree-spinach, porcini-thyme, Chinese mallow, Pizza-oregano, radishes, lemon-thyme, Vietnamese cilantro, strawberry-spinach, regular spinach, cinnamon-basil, different kinds of lettuce, leek, celeriac, nasturtium, gooseberry, basil, onion, garlic, lemon verbena, curry weed, shiso, burnet, lamb’s quarters, pineapple, golden samphire, red basil, oregano, chives, peppermint, chocolate-mint, Greek mountain-mint, Köllner-mint, rosemary, pepper-thyme, an olive tree, French sorrel, kiwi trees, raspberries, carrots, tarragon, purple kohlrabi, garden cress, bloody dock, sweet woodruff, different kinds of strawberries, wild strawberries, arugula, redcurrants, zucchini, red orache, majoram, fennel, dille, rainbow chards, common sorrel, parsley, melissa, beans, lovage.
    Plus a few things I couldn’t translate, plus a few things where I’m not sure what they are. ;-)
    All of that in different sorts of containers on two balconies.
    I love how our fresh herbs make everything taste so much better! And that my son loves gardening as well. It’s just one of the best things one can do with children in my opinion to let them grow their own food. It always makes me so happy when Enio walks around on the balcony (or also through the woods when we’re collecting wild herbs) and he proudly names all the plants and picks fresh leaves from them that go straight in his mouth. <3

  • Carey

    Didn’t you write about deterring ants with peppermint oil recently? Did it work and did you use straight up essential oil?

  • q

    Ever think about doing a tiny raised bed next to the play house for your son to plant things in?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah, I imagine those winters are pretty gnarly. I couldn’t do it – it’s most of why I left Portland! But glad you’re getting a good spring there. Can’t go wrong with sunflowers and tomatoes. =)

    Cilantro is actually pretty finicky, mine bolts almost immediately. Oi vey indeed.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Totally get the decompressing v relaxing thing. I do too much decompressing and not enough relaxing! Soooo glad it’s garden season again. =)

    And I’m LOVING your garden tours. More more more!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I haven’t done soft-leaf lettuce since I lived in Portland, and I miss it! I really, really enjoyed growing my own salad.

    My compost system *is* just rubbermaid bins! So easy – you just put all the food scraps in the far left bin (I add hay in layers of hay for “browns” as well) and when its 1/2 or 3/4 full, you move everything to the bin to the right. The process of moving it turns it over and mixes it.

    You keep adding food scraps to the bin at the far left. When it’s 1/2-3/4 full once again, you do the same thing. Move the stuff that’s in the middle bin to the right (and int he process, turn it once again) and then move the fresh food scraps to the middle.

    So basically, you just keep moving the contents to the right. The whole process takes many months (depending on how fast you add scraps) for the stuff int he first bin to make it’s way to the third. By the time you get to the fourth round, the stuff coming out of the third/last bin is done composting and ready to use!

    Did I explain that okay? Does that even make sense? Haha, maybe I should do a post about this!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Stevia is so fun, you gotta try it!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    That seed library sounds so precious, what an awesome idea. Wish we had something like that around here!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh I’ve never done hibiscus! Do you just grow them for the pretty flowers, or do you make tea?

  • RockMyVeganSocks

    Beautiful! I can see how much you’ve put into it and it’s beautiful =)

  • Sarah C.

    It does make sense – and actually seems like something even I could do! (Somehow, when I read up on composting my head started swimming with all the proportions and green v brown additions, etc!). But a whole post on this would certainly not be amiss! Thanks!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I’ll put it on the list! For sure, I think a lot of people would appreciate a post on m compost system. Thanks!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Wow Lindsay it sounds like you’ve got a ton going on! I just went over and stalked your bog and WOW – looks amazing. You should leave a link next time, I’m sure other people would love to watch your garden grow this summer. =)

    I love your raised strawberry bed with the ledge around it. So adorable, did you build that yourself?

    Looking forward to watching your garden unfold! Tennessee is such a different climate, it’s cool seeing what people do all over the country. Cheers!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Is it hot there yet? I’d think the peppers would do great where you are!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    How do you use the sage?? I always want to grow it but never ever cook with it, so it always seems a waste of space. Do you cook with it?

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Veronica!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh that sounds awesome, love all the berries!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! On Instagram. I use straight up peppermint oil (like for cooking/baking) but you can use straight essential oil as well. I put it on a cotton ball or rag and wipe a thick line around the door/window/wherever they’re getting in. it WORKS! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    We totally did that last weekend. ♥

    Of course, it was more SPIKEY cactuses, haha.

  • Lynn

    This is my first year growing sage myself, and I’m hoping that will inspire me to cook with it more. I’ve dropped sage leaves into stews, and I infused a pasta sauce with them once, but that’s about it. I also was thinking about drying the leaves and making sage smudges.

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