10 February 2011

Are you growing food this year?

We're starting to think about this year's vegetable garden.  We usually do our main planting in March and although I thought we might be able to bring that forward a bit because of the rising prices of vegetables after the floods, it looks like it will be March after all.  We're both busy with other things that are important and can't be put off.  So March it is.  Still that's only a couple of weeks away.

All these photos are of our vegetables in recent years.

Along with all of us in sub-tropical and tropical climates, I guess a lot of my northern hemisphere friends will be reading seed catalogues and making lists of vegetables for this summer's crops.  We generally plant the same reliable seeds and seedlings every year because what we grow what we eat.  If you're a new gardener and you're not sure what you should be planting, you'll find the answer in your kitchen.  Grow what you like to eat and what you can team up with the food you have in your stockpile and pantry. Whatever you're buying a lot of now at the store, make sure it has a spot in your garden.  If you don't have a lot of space or are a new gardener, plant the vegetables that cost the most to buy and the ones you use the most of.  If you intend canning/preserving tomatoes or peaches or beans, whatever it is, grow enough to eat fresh and to put up in jars.

Heirloom tomatoes - Lillian's orange Heirloom and Brandywine.

If you love potatoes, plant some.  A small crop the first year, and then expand on that in following seasons.  If you have room for vines to scramble over the earth, plant some vine fruit like watermelon or rockmelon|cantaloupe, as well as pumpkin. You can store pumpkins for about six months.  All vegetables, particularly melons, are great things to trade with neighbours for a dozen eggs or a jar of honey.  Make a bit of room on the edges of your vegetable gardens for herbs and just plant those you eat or will use in some way in your home.  Don't forget to take the time to enrich your soil with manures and compost. Nothing you will do in the garden is as important as that if you are going to rely on your garden to feed you.

I have already planted up tomatoes but we'll also plant snow peas, Lazy Housewife beans, cucumbers, beetroot, turnips, celery, capsicums|peppers, chillies, ginger, radishes, Portugese cabbage and Sugarloaf cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, bok choy and Chinese cabbage (I am hoping to share some cooking with Sunny after the baby is born).  We'll put in a few lettuce and potatoes and add some chives to the already growing parsley, thyme, sage, comfrey and bay leaves.

Our backyard fruit is coming along well, we'll have another crop of lemons and oranges ready to pick soon, and a lot of passionfruit.  Blueberries are starting to come on and there are some mandarins and pawpaw|papaya this year.  I think we missed the bananas again but I might try a few strawberry plants closer to June.  It looks like it's shaping up to be a good growing year.  The tanks are full, we have compost maturing and we are ready, willing and able.  Are you planting this year?



  1. I always love to see pictures of your garden!
    Yes, I'm growing this year. I got my aquaponic system up and running last month, and it has some tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, spinach, pak choi, armenian cucumbers, and... um... something else I can't remember right now. lol
    I'll put more in as I get everything going. But that's my small start.

  2. We are!...I hope! Each year we have the very best of intentions but somehow get sidetracked. But this year I have done all the research, ordered the catalogs, and (most importantly) gotten my husband on board with helping plan and build.

  3. I am waiting ever so patiently to put in my garden. I cant even think about planting until the end of April because of the cold weather. My garden that did the best was actually planted in June though.
    I have a big window sill and hope to get a small green house put up soon to get my baby plants started.

  4. I can't wait to start growing this year. I have leased land with two other families to grow our organic produce on. We are just in the starting phase of picking out what to grow. We can't wait. I look forward to watching your garden grow and to show pictures of mine.


  5. I will attempt to grow my own veggies this year. I've never done it but I'm eager to give it a go. I figure I would start small and just with the basics: tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, peppers, maybe some garlic and potatoes.

    Wish me luck :-)


  6. Your garden and lifestyle sound so great. Lots of hard work, but great.

    we wanted to plant this year and were preparing, but it now looks like we will be moving house, so I am going to get started with a few things in large pots we can move with us.

    Once we move my husband has finally agreed we can get chooks and a few other things too. I am so excited.

  7. A friend might bring me a rhubarb plant start this spring. So I'm excited about that. That'll be the very first thing I've ever tried to grow :) she recommended a terra cotta planter for it, too!!! So I'll have to see how that goes, before I attempt anything else. Oh, I love the pictures of your garden....so green :) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  8. I am planting this year, after losing my summer crop with too much rain before we got to eat much of it, Im excited to be starting again - hopefully with a little more luck on my side this time around!

  9. I think I'll be starting a few things under my grow lights indoors this week. I am planning to make a bit more outdoor space for myself by raising beds on a large concrete driveway we don't use, so I'll have to get some things started indoors for that. We're still eating our last year's produce from the freezer and our dehydrated herbs. I get better and better at planting "what we'll eat", but also trying to expand what we eat.

  10. Yes, although nothing as beautiful or ambitious as yours. You're such an inspiration. Thank you!

  11. Long time lurker here, with a question....
    If you have time or have one made up, I would be very curious to see a map of your garden. We're doing some restructuring this year(letting the chickens free range in the garden=sad veggies), so I'm trying to gather ideas about how to make everything work together. From your pictures, it looks like you're working with a similarly sized lot, so I'm interested in how you fit everything together.

  12. it may seem frivolous but don't forget some flowers just for fun and color. they pay their way by drawing in extra bees and other pollinators and some like marigolds keep pests away. sunflowers are always appreciated by the chickens too.

  13. Meryl, anything for a fellow Airedale person. I have no map but I do have some photos Hanno took from the roof. I'll find them and post today or tomorrow.

  14. Your garden is beautiful, Rhonda. My husband and I are working on our garden. Last year was our first year growing vegetables. This year we are tripling our growing area, so much work has gone into making growing beds.

    Last weekend, I planted my first set of seeds in trays (lettuce, collards, swiss chard) and today the first ones popped up! I'm very excited. There's something so magical about growing food from seeds. :)

  15. I am planting again. I have started preparing the garden beds getting ready for the next crop of yummy food. My blueberry plant does not have any berries on it. Not too sure why. Maybe next season.

  16. I have been studying the 3 sisters method of corn, beans and squash, all of which we eat. I would also like to try my hand at potatoes and water melon. There will also be the old standbys of tomatoes and sweet peppers. This will be the first year of a real veggie garden here where I currently live and I am excited to get it started. I will also be growing loofah along with a friend to hopefully make soaps with as well. A busy summer is ahead.

  17. Hi any ideas on how to plant vegiges when you live in a apartment with a balcony as a renter , perhaps you may consider a future post on this. thanks

  18. We're doing something bold this spring: plowing up our grass in the front yard and planting a veggie garden. Not sure how much produce we can expect from what used to be lawn, but it's a start.
    We'd so much rather weed and hoe, than mow...there's something to show for it, afterward.

  19. We have grown a garden for many years. Every year we learn a few new tricks. This year we will be putting in some berry bushes, apple trees, and some asparagus plants. Our food apply here in the USA is becoming costly and unsafe.. We will continue to learn and grow more of our own food each year. Thanks for your photos. You have a lovely garden and are a inspiration to many..

  20. I placed my seed order yesterday (she says with a big grin). Can't wait to get back into the garden. Lots of old favourites to be planted and we'll give sweet potatoes a try this year.

  21. Since we haven't jack-hammered the concrete from where the garden will be eventually; I'm going to just be starting herbs and a few vegetables in the front yard. Even so, I'm a little behind the ball planning-wise. This is my first year with a yard/garden of my own and I'm going about it a little differently than you mentioned. Rather than focusing on the things that we can easily buy at the farmer's market, I'm planting the things that we can't easily buy like herbs, and a variety of salad greens.

  22. Rhonda, your garden is always inspirational!

    Here in our UK garden, the broad beans are coming up, as is the garlic and rhubarb. Herbs are also starting to come to life after a long hard winter. Tomatoes and chiles were planted in the heated propagator yesterday. Next to get the early potatoes and chit them for planting. Still have to clear out the last of the leeks and turn over that bed, but the rest have been composted and dug for a while now.

    Can't wait for spring to make its arrival!

    AM of the bread

  23. Oh your garden looks lovely- so full and lush!
    Here in Canada snow is up to my waist, so it's nice to see pictures of gardens and green things. Is that Yellow Swiss Chard tucked in there?
    Gardening in general is my thing in life, my passion. Flowers, veggies, herbs, fruit- I love them all. When we first started it I just fell in love with it.
    Last year my MIL gave us a blackberry bush- so exciting! It must be nice to be able to grow oranges and lemons, not to mention papayas.
    This year the garden is going to be huge, with a few varieties of each plant, because saving heirloom seeds is so important. This month I'm starting Chrysanthemums, Ezpazote, Lavender, Gardenias, Evening Primrose, Black Hollyhocks, Double Hollyhocks, and Jacobs Ladder.
    Looking forward to those roof photos and more updates as you plant things. Do you have any different recipes for pak choi and swiss chard? I'm not sure how to use them beyond saute/boiled.
    The Girl in the Pink Dress

  24. Yes, planning mine too. Now the extension's finished at the back of my house, I know what I have to work with, and decide what can go where. Most of the grass will go, with just a windy path up to the chook pen. it's exciting.

    You mentioned comfrey Rhonda...do you grow it from seed, and if yes, where do you get it?

  25. Nanette, please email me at rhondahetzel@gmail.com

    Girl in the pink dress, your garden sounds lovely. I love flowers in the garden, they encourage so many beneficial insects and add beauty to the house when I pop some in a vase. My recipe for swiss chard/spinach pie is here, it's delicious:
    If you get an Asian cookbook - Korean, Japanese or Chinese, you can add pak choi to most of their recipes where they calls for greens. Baby pak choi and swiss chard are both suitable in salads too.

    Happy gardening everyone!

  26. I LOVE your garden!!!!!
    I am counting down the days till I can play in warm dirt and eat sun warmed tomatoes!
    I am planning on increasing my garden this year.

  27. I can't wait for it to cool down a bit so I can get some more seedlings planted.
    One of the things I really love about compost is all the little surprises you get. I have lost count of the number of tomato and melons that have sprouted once I have added it to the garden.
    Your garden looks absolutely amazing and inspirational. Thanks for sharing.

  28. I have been topping up the well rotted manure on our raised beds today. I`m really looking forward to planting the seeds soon, in the greenhouse to start with as we can have frost well into April.

    Sadly, we have tomato blight here and even resistant varieties seem to fall victim. A pity as we love home grown tomatoes.

  29. Planning on it - got some good compost last year, so the ground should be ready for some butterleaf lettuce, red asain carrots, sweet pumpkins (I love squash all year!), and potatoes. Last year I grew some potatoes which I harvested too soon - practice makes perfect :)

  30. I've already bought some seeds. Spinach is difficult to buy around here and sometimes you just can't replace it with silver beet, my DM has a great recipe for pickled beets, and we eat beans, peas and spring onions all the time as well as the basic culinary herbs to replace what has died off or disappeared - parsley, chives, sweet basil, mint.
    Still need to fence the plot before planting to keep the garden hen free or we won't have any produce to harvest!

  31. what a great garden!
    is your garden organic? how do you manage to keep the pests out of it?
    i love to grow my own food, but have struggled to find any really good organic "pesticides"... i've netted it to keep out the birds, but the caterpillars/slugs/snails/beetles/etc are driving me crazy!

  32. Wow..I love this garden. We aren't growing a garden..we're growing teenagers..sigh..But one day..I hope we can do this again. In the meanwhiles..I'll just enjoy yours and by produce from my neighbors. :o)


  33. Anonymous, can you give me a name to call you if you want an answer? :- )

    Our garden is organic and we don't use much in the way of pesticides. We find the bugs, especially the caterpillars, tend to pick out the weakest plant and eat that. So we sacrifice some plants to save the others. We also pick off slugs, caterpillars, grasshoppers and snails and give them to the chook early morning and late afternoon is the best time to do that. We also grow flowers that attract the beneficial insects - then they take care of the bad bugs. I think that keeping your plants healthy in the first place is the key to good organic gardening so that means compost, manure and organic matter in the soil and frequent waterings of seaweed tea.

  34. Wow, your garden is such an inspiration! I too live in a sub-tropical region and I'm just starting on my journey towards being an amazing gardener. I'm in my thirties now, I'm hoping by the time I'm eighty my tomatoes will flourish and I won't be scared to squash bugs with bare fingers!
    I'm starting small this year with just one bed. Last year was experimental and time-poor with the birth of our baby, but still one of the highlights of the year was when my husband shouted from the backyard "Oh my GOD! It's a carrot!"
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  35. Hi Rhonda Jean-

    As always, I enjoy your blog. Especially peeking in to see what's happening on the other end of the world. Here in Pennsylvania, I'm in the dreaming of spring stage, planning my vegetables and reading seed catalogs. Tonight it will be near 0 degrees F.

    I've got an heirloom flower & herb garden around my vegetable garden and I've decided to grow fewer of those and more veggies in that space. Since that area isn't fenced, I must grow things that the critters won't eat. Namely the biggest critter of them all, our yellow lab. Fresh green beans are her most favorite thing in life and she'll take a ripe tomato off the vine if you don't watch her.

    I've decided to not grow zucchini this year, but buy what I need at the farmer's down the road. Adding some broccoli, more beans and more onions (and I must make sure to get them in the ground soon enough so they get their little onion snow.) I'm still deciding and that's the most fun of all!

    Enjoy your lush surrounds, I sure am.

  36. down to earth mother, I'm in my mid 60s and I still don't squash bugs with my bare fingers. Ugh. I am really pleased to see younger people grow vegetables, it's such an enriching pastime, in so many ways. Small children love gardening too so it might be something you pass on to your children. My son Shane is an excellent organic gardener (and fine dining chef). He learned by following me around the garden when he was a little boy. If you have time, would you email me please?

  37. i sure am! your garden photos got me really excited!=)

  38. Is pplanting out seeds this week..but have to locust proof the garedn beds before anything can go in this year

  39. Yes we are! It's been a funny old summer hasn't it. I've just planted my peas despite it only being Feb. Your blog is great very encouraging for me!!

  40. The problem is I have a black thumb. I have plenty of yard, but I don't even know if it's safe to grow stuff in, or how the heck to start without spending a ton of money. And it doesn't help that I am clueless and plants hate me. *sigh* Nice idea though.

    ~ V.

  41. This year we definitely are. I have sat down already and written a plan for the first 6 months including what needs to be planted in trays and what can go straight in the soil. We have made 4 no dig beds already and I'm currently looking through my favourite seed catalogue for some exciting new crops to try out. :)

  42. your garden pictures are very lovely.you are such an inspiration to grow foods.

  43. Down on the south coast of NSW, we'll be planting winter veg soon -brassicas, winter lettuces like red radicchio, celeriac and fennel. We will also put our garlic in in April. Our main growing period is spring/summer. We pick veg until about July. August and Sep are a bit of a "Hungry gap" - most stuff just doesn't grow.

  44. I'm new to your blog. Your garden is sensational and I find myself in full coveting mode! I'm renting so my little pots of herbs and bay tree will do for now but I am hoping to expand to tomatoes and capsicums. You have really inspired me. BIG thank you! xx Fi

  45. I SO love to see pictures of your garden. It is such an inspiration. I will be planting this year. Expanding on my earlier try-outs. I can't wait for the weather turn so that I can start. I'm hoping for a great garden year.

  46. Lovely to see photos of your garden Rhonda! How inspiring!

    Yes, I will be planting a garden here this year - now my writing is all finished I plan to do lots of exciting things out there. We've only got a small space, but have had lots of food in previous years without much effort, so I can't wait to see what's possible with a bit more time!

    Looking forward to seeing how yours progresses too xx

  47. I'm thinking about it. I live in a flat with a cement outdoor area, so I'm trying to plan a few things to grow in the one window that gets good natural light. I eat a lot of salad, but since i live alone I end up wasting half of what I buy because I simply can't eat it fast enough. Does anyone have any suggestions for containers and varieties of salad greens I could do in my window?

  48. My garden is fairly small. In the past several years here in Central Florida we have had record breaking heat, record breaking drought, and record breaking cold, all following each other. So, the gardening has not gone as well as years prior. I found several produce vendors (small, locally owned) that sell produce much less expensively than I can grow it, so I only grow those things I can't get inexpensively, or at all. That is something to keep in mind if frugality as well as sustainability are your goal.

  49. Hello from Michigan,USA. We start planting early seeds like peas in March. We have a nice bed of Asparagus,one of strawberrys and one of rhubarb. Last year we planted blueberry and raspberrys so we won't get too many for a couple more years. Last Oct. we put in our garlic bulbs which won't be ready until lats summer.
    We also grow 3 types of tomatoes, 6 kinds of lettuce, onions, carrots, eggplant,rudabaga,kale,spinich, peppers,both mild and hot. There are more things we will probably put in but just haven't thought about it yet.
    Because it is too cold to have anything grow from the middle of Oct. to June first (except peas and the like) I can, freeze and dehydrate enough to get us through the winter.
    Right now we have about 11/2 feet of snow and it has been below freezing for over a month, so I think that the peas will go in a little late this year.
    I love your web site, and read it almost every day-great job!
    Susan, from the snowy north.

  50. your gardens are gorgeous!

    We are only going to grow some container tomatoes (in re-purposed pickle buckets that I scored from work).

    However! We live in the heart of farm country here in West Michigan, so we make many trips to local farms to pick up our fresh produce!

    many blessings to you!


  51. Last year's garden was a flop due to weather, work schedules, etc. so we intend to grow a huge garden. I really miss the home canned/frozen veg from the garden! We will plant tomatoes, bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, green beans, zuchinni, snap peas, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and tons of herbs. Oh, I can't wait for spring!

  52. There is snow outside my window but I'm hoping for a warm spring with a good gardening summer to follow. Last year was a difficult one for gardeners as it was way hotter than normal and the usual old stand by vegetables didn't produce. So YES I'm planting and lots of tomatoes and beans to can for winter!

  53. Hi Rhonda,

    I am glad to have found your lovely blog awhile back. I posted a few times in the forum, but this is my first time posting a comment here.

    We have been renting and not able to plant a garden, but we are in the process of buying a house that has a greenhouse. I'm excited to try my hand at greenhouse gardening. I've only ever had a traditional garden under the direct sun, so if any of you can pass along tips for me on greenhouse gardening, I would appreciate it. I like the aspect of the greenhouse keeping animals out of your garden.

    Anyhow, my husband and I are really looking forward to having a garden again, and planting some fruit trees and some blueberry bushes at our new home. Your garden looks so lush and healthy!


  54. We have been planning for the allotment. We have checked through the seeds we have and made a list of what we will need for this year; the seed potatoes have been bought. The majority of the plot has been dug over and manured for a while now - the frosts should have helped to break the soil down further. We started with terrible clay soil on the majority of it, but have improved it with organic matter and have had some fabulous crops from it. I can't wait for warmer weather and longer days.

  55. thanks for your answer re:organic pesticides! sorry my name is ginny. i have done a lot of those things (except i don't have chooks... perhaps they help?), but still getting entire crops of things wiped out by pests :(
    the caterpillars took out all my big healthy bokchoy plants (which i planted because the slugs/snails don't like them so much) in just 2 days which was pretty sad... i tried one of the organic garlic/chilli sprays i found online... but it didn't work either... they are now getting into my sweet salad greens... and i'm picking them off, but think i'm fighting a losing battle... perhaps it's the area i live in... perfect climate for pests!

  56. Ginny, I have read recently that the best organic pesticide is to improve your soil so your plants can fight off pests themselves. I haven't tried it but it is worth an attempt.

  57. Yes! It's still winter here in Utah, but we're getting ansy. My husband has started broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beets, arugula, collards & spinach seeds and they are currently under grow lights inside. We will plant those out mid March. We will be starting summer stuff mid-march to plant out mid May.

  58. ginny, it sounds pretty drastic. Try Dipel, I'm not sure what it would be called in your part of the world but it's Bacillus thuringiensis - an organic bacterial spray that kills the caterpillars of most moths and bugs. Read about it here:

    We use it here occasionally if we have a big problem like you have. You'll have to spray both sides of all leaves - the caterpillars have to ingest it. And reapply after rain - it washes off.

  59. Five years ago, we moved 1,000 miles north after living our whole life within a 50 mile radius. We are still learning/trying to figure out the best methods for gardening here. The season is so much shorter and the deer are ravenous!

    Add on top of that the phenomena of "good intentions" and you have our garden situation.

    I am determined this year to just go for it. I will be implementing the easiest methods I have heard of. One is lasagna gardening where you layer your composts of different types and just poke a hole through and plant. Another is using large plastic leaf bags to plant potatoes. I don't like the plastic factor but I'm willing to do it for just this year to get started. The idea is, after your taters get started, you add more soil/compost (just like hilling-up). When it is time to harvest, you just slit the bags and get your taters.
    We can't grow outside until late May so I am hoping to begin starts in April.

    We're planning to have:
    green onion
    dry onions
    green beans

  60. thanks so much for the tip about dipel... i will go and look for some!

  61. What a beautiful garden! I really want to grow our own this year but your post has made me realise that I need to get a move on! So much to do to make it a reality.

  62. We just ordered our seeds for this spring and summer and I'm itching to get started on the new garden. We first need to figure out something to do with the chickens. They'll be in the side yard with the garden - so we need to keep them out of that. I can't handle another summer of chicken poo on my patio and chairs. :) Is that a light brahma I see in your photo. We have one and she's our best layer.

  63. And a buff orpington and black australorp? Those are the three chickens we have. Funny that they would be in that picture.

  64. Your vegie garden is amazing Rhonda! Great inspiration for us all. On my mind today is the cycle of life that as a teacher I've watched children grow into adults and then have their own children. What prompted these thoughts was attending the annual Leaders' Induction ceremony at the school where I've worked for the last 7 years...

  65. Voted for you and Path to Freedom. I know I have followed PTF for quite a while, but finally discovered you in just the past two years. Love your blog. Your very deserving of this award!

    Blessings from the middle of the U.S.

  66. Yes, we're planting! I planted broccoli seedlings about 3 weeks ago and cabbages about 2 weeks ago. They're here in the living area under grow lights just getting a bit bigger and will go outside in late February to early March. We'll be starting some tomatoes and other warm weather crop seedlings soon.

  67. I'm dreaming of growing my garden. Thanks for the inspiration!

  68. I love your garden Rhonda. It looks so lush and abundant.
    I was going to ask you if you grow straight from seeds into the garden bed - but I saw your little seedlings photo, so I'm assuming you raise them first in compost or potting mix?

    This is the year I will grow my own food, as much as I can on our very small block. I have started with herbs and leafy greens - it's just a small beginning, but feels so good to be able to add my own freshly picked herbs to a meal (which i did last night!.
    Our climate is so very similar to yours, so I will be reading with interest when you plant certain vegetables to get some tips.

  69. Your garden is always an inspiration... so much neater than ours! We ordered seeds early this year, & intend to start ours any day. We've not had the best of luck in the past, getting spindly plants, but this is the first spring I'm working totally for myself, so I will be here most days to take plants outside during the day. I'm hoping the natural light will make for stronger plants than the grow lights. I look forward to seeing how your garden grows!

  70. Yes, I have now planted and am still planting...it's so good to be out in the garden again ready for a new season...Your gardens are amazing...this is exactly how I hope mine will look oneday, filled with the food We Love to eat! I'm still trying to work out where exctly to put everything in my little garden. Your Blog is such a useful tool Rhonda, I find myself starting to look at your blog these days instead of googling the things I need to know. Actually I think I may go right now and join in on your Forum! I am really looking forward to your book. Good luck, I'll let you get back to it... Karen :)GBJ {I have also just noticed my Blog on your sidebar, Thank you, I feel extremely honoured}

  71. Yes! I am growing food!!! Our garden is quite small, it's a suburban garden, and I just love it!!!


    I am soooo proud!!!

  72. Yes,yes,yes we are growing some food again this year. Just planted out 100 leeks, 40 beetroot, some, cauliflower,brocolli,brussel sprouts and red cabbage.We still have tomatoes,zuchini,snow peas ,basil and a few potatoes and rhubarb left from summer. Loads of lemons on one tree and a few very small figs on another.
    Margaret in Tas


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