Welcome To My 2016 Garden Adventure!

June 28th, 2016 - filed under: The Farm » Flora


Lemon blossoms.

Anyone who’s followed my blog for more than a little while knows that I love my gardening season. LOVE. Nothing else in my life gives me quite the same feeling: anchors and elevates me all at the same time. Gardening is my soul food.

Back in Portland I grew green feasts in my raised beds every year; I relished the yard work and fancied myself an “Urban Gardener Extraordinaire!” Then after the move to Santa Barbara, I continued my green ambitions, growing all my precious plants in clay pots and wooden wine boxes, along with various other creative upcycled containers. In Portland I kept a Meyer Lemon tree in my living room, because the citrus wouldn’t withstand the Pacific Northwest winter, but I just couldn’t bear to live without it. And in Santa Barbara I began a love affair with tropical exotics like passion fruit and dragon fruit. It’s all been a grand adventure and now, moving into this brand new house right on the eve of Gardening Season 2016, it’s been nothing but PURE PLEASURE just diving on in to this next great fertile landscape.

Another blank canvas for me to lay my green garden paint upon. And already, it’s taking on such a beautiful shape!


Yeah, okay so it was a rough start. Lots of potential to be sure, but the yard that I inherited was pretty dang neglected, and I spent the first few weeks and months just cleaning, weeding, mulching, and salvaging what few plants I could (there was a mighty aphid infestation — that towering brassica you see in the foreground sadly couldn’t be saved — and powdery mildew covered much of the foliage throughout the front yard). It’s been a lot of work, but ultimately I was able to prepare a lovely new space, and I even uncovered a few real treasures!

Here’s some progress pics of how my urban homestead has been coming along so far this year . . .


I started with the side yard, a simple strip of dirt all along the length of the house. But I saw the possibility it contained, and set about preparing the bed for planting. I’m so excited to finally be in a place where I can grow vegetables directly in the ground – sort of a first for me!


My favorite border trio: corn, sunflowers, and sugar snap peas. The snap peas use the corn and the sunnies as a trellis. ♥

Babies. I order all my seeds from Baker Creek.


Tomatoes and calendula, out of their starter pots and into the ground, with the corn-sunflower-snap peas visible in the background.

This year I’m growing a few varieties of tomatoes, and of course a few of each of my other favorite veggies. But, I still receive a local organic farm box each week, year round, so I often feel like I have enough fruits and veggies to keep us fed on the daily. Which is awesome, because it really frees me up! I can grow the stuff that I really love, like exotic fruits (passion and goji and pinapple, for example) and the stuff I like to have in abundance for preserving (tomatoes, strawberries, basil, etc), and the stuff I can’t get locally (like vegan protein – I grow a lot of beans for drying!). Plus this year I’m growing lots of flowers for cutting (fresh flowers around the house are just so joyful, don’t you think?), and I’m also really focused on herbs, both culinary and medicinal (like calendula, chamomile, echinacea, bee balm, mint, etc).


With a nice layer of straw for mulching.

Mint, dandelion, and rosemary. These were for a project I’ll be sharing soon!

I’m growing basil all over the yard, but this particular beast sprang back after overwintering — unbeknownst to me — ignored for months during and after our move. Resilient little guy! It’s already giving me lovely summer pesto. ♥

Little helpers


This is one of those treasures I was talking about! This is epazote, an herb that hails from Mexico and Central America, and that’s considered semi-native in southern California. It’s a wonderful culinary herb (cook it with beans to reduce gas!) and it’s also brewed medicinally as tea. One day I heard a quiet rapping on my door, and opened it to find a teeny tiny old Mexican woman who didn’t speak a word of English (not at all uncommon in my neighborhood). She was pointing at the giant epazote in my front yard, and pantomiming plucking, and it was pretty obvious she was asking if she could pick some. Of course I nodded, and she was so stoked!

When I first moved in here the epazote was huge, but completely covered in fungus which had shriveled the leaves and turned them black. It’s been such a pleasure to carefully prune this precious plant, and treat the infection, and slowly nurse it back to health. It’s so happy now!


Strawberries! Of course I had to plant a whole little strawberry patch for Waits, all along the front of the house. 3 dwarf varieties and 3 of the standard-sized ones. He picks a few every day when he comes home from summer camp. In the same little bed I’m growing marigolds and blue boys, plus lots of basil, a bee balm, and a lemon balm. Plus I’ve got some leeks and shallots ready to transplant. All of these plants (strawberries, basil, leeks/shallots) are considered “companions”, and the flowers are great for attracting beneficial insects and other pollinators.


I had a bunch of cilantro volunteers, which was fun. They were early to bolt but that’s fine — I look forward to harvesting the coriander for my spice rack.


Another most incredible discovery that came with the house — this is native American sacred tobacco. It’s different from the European tobacco they use in cigarettes, and it’s considered to be one of the four sacred medicines by local indigenous peoples. I’ve been reading about how to properly use sacred tobacco, or Semah, because it’s important to me to respect the spirit of this plant. Honestly, I feel honored to be able to tend it in my garden — it feels like a gift. Semah is a powerful plant, full of magick and medicine, and I intend to do right by it.


And that, my friends, is just about that . . . for now. Actually, my garden already looks completely different than it did in these pictures (taken a few weeks ago), and I’ll be updating again soon. But for now, YOU tell ME — what are you growing?? I want to see pics! Please leave a comment down below and if you can, post a link to your blog or a picture of your awesome 2016 garden, so that we can all share in your joy!

As gardeners, we all know the bliss of feeling our hands buried in cool soil; of plucking sun-warmed vegetables from the vine; of carefully tending our seedlings and watching them flourish. So please, share your bliss! We’re all dying to see it!


♥ ♥ ♥

  • Rebecca Carnes

    This totally inspires me to keep growing and planting! Love that you’re planting directly into the ground as well….
    Our garden last was overcome by aphids and ants!!! Sooo many!!! So Ive been trying to research more natural pest deterrents and next spring we will give it another go. BUT we did plant some sunflowers that are now blooming, Phoenyx is so proud:) And we made a huge space in our backyard for wildflowers, I thought it’d be fun to grow a pollinator garden….. until last night we found a queen bumble bee IN our house!!!!! ;( She was massive! I don’t know who screamed more, me or Phoenyx lol. Luckily I was able to catch & release her, without too many tears ha!

  • Brianna

    I follow you on instagram and I post pics of my garden there. (I’m not vegan, so be forewarned), but I’ve been reading your blog for a long time. I’m thiscoffeeisgood on Instagram. Cheers!

  • http://threadtension.wordpress.com/ Elle

    Loooove! We have a community garden bed this year for the first time ever and we have really filled up that 8×4 puppy! (We used to do exclusively container gardening and I love the freedom and ease of a raised bed.) Tomatoes galore (my boyf would plant only tomatoes if we could), and a few new-to-us things…pole beans, golden snap peas, bok choy, watermelon, and tomatillos specifically. I’m pleasantly surprised by lots of the new stuff…the peas and beans are climbing the trellis like champs, the bok choy got HUGE, and the tomatillo honestly looks like it might take over the world. Weirdly, things that did really well for me last year (chard and kale) are doing really meh this year. Lettuce, of course, is always prolific, so at least we have that!

    I don’t blog my garden (my blog is for my sewing projects) but I have a few instagram photos here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BE1I3a-MCZV/?taken-by=elle_bryan

  • Veronica

    After multiple failed attempts at container gardening on our old apartment’s fire escape, we’ve finally moved to a new place where my plants won’t get fried or bludgeoned by birds. I’m growing lavender (it smells heavenly every time I walk by), basil, cilantro, dill, mint, and forget-me-nots, because I got the seeds as a gift. We don’t have the space for growing fruits and veggies yet. Someday. Do you have any recommended resources (blogs, books, or podcasts) for a novice container-gardener?

  • http://www.one-sonic-bite.com/ Jennifer

    I could take a picture of my garden but you would just see a bunch of half eaten plants XD There is a bunny, chipmunks, and squirrels that love to nibble on our growing plants. We had our cilantros get gobbled up by aphids T__T and our lettuce stepped on when we had our new fridge delivered.

    BUT I have got some cool plants from my boss (I have to ask for the names again) one of which I have a feeling is closely related to tomatoes. I also started to grow a hops vine, which just started it’s climbing stage and hopefully won’t be eaten by the local animals anymore so it can actually produce some flowers.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh man! That’s a bummer, I totally have a gopher (or a few) that’s already gotten a few of my plants. So sad! Definitely a downside of growing in-ground.

    It’s always an adventure, right? Between the bugs and the disease and the vermin and the weather and the appliance delivery — gardening is all about troubleshooting and adaptation. That’s why I love it! =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh yay, congratulations on the move and on the new garden! You can grow lots of veggies in containers too, like tomatoes and strawberries and cucumbers if you have room for them to trellis. I wish I had a good resource but I can’t think of one specific to container gardening off the top of my head (besides my own archives here — I wrote a few posts about container gardening way back in 2010-2100, somewhere in there).

    The herbs are such a great place to start though. Awesome payoff for very little space. Congrats!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    What an awesome community garden! It looks very much in the center of a city, which I love. I always want to grow tomatillo but never do, not since my very first grown-up garden in college waaaaay back in the day. I used to grow tomatillos and roast them to make a homemade enchilada verde sauce. Damn, yeah I should totally do that again . . .

    Love the pics, thank you for sharing!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I will follow you, thanks Brianna!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes, always keep growing and planting! Sorry you had to deal with so many pests. It’s a sad reality and part of the bargain. Hopefully you can find a good natural repellant. I’ve never had too much of an issue with aphids so don’t have any suggestions, but I feel like it’s going to be a problem at this new house so I’ll let you know if I find anything.

    Also, AWESOME to the wildflowers! Love that! Don’t let the bee dissuade you, that would be so rad!!

  • Rebecca Carnes

    Oh yes, I’m still excited to create a home for some bees and butterflies…just so long as they stay outside :)

  • ellie

    Since I will be moving abroad in 2 months, I didn’t want to plant too much, but my mom and I bought heirloom starters at a local farmer’s market. So far I have had 9 or so cherry tomatoes and a jalapeno that went straight into some homemade salsa :)

  • Melissa

    I finally had space to plant tomatoes, peppers and squash this year but despite tilling, I haven’t had much luck. People tell me to spray Miracle grow on everything but I don’t want to. Any pointers?

  • http://sweetteascience.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    Oh man! This post totally made me want to grow more flowers! I’m totally digging my garden this year. Currently cooking zucchini bread to deal with the two infant sized zucchs pictures below. Love seeing your garden updates! I’m on IG @rachelwigglo with a lot more garden pics.

  • http://sweetteascience.blogspot.com/ Rachel


  • Anne241

    Whereabouts are you Melissa? Sun is really important for all three, but especially the tomatoes and peppers.
    Soil quality is also crucial: if it currently isn’t great you could just add fertiliser, or you could use permaculture methods to improve it – much better for the soil in the end, but it will take a few years to really start getting great harvests if poor soil is the issue.
    Check out the Smiling Gardener on youtube for lots of great permaculture gardening advice.
    Good luck!