Every year, when the spring weather starts to peek through, we plant our vegetables and hope for the best!
Many readers have asked to see our garden, but I’ll admit we are a little self-conscious about sharing. Like any home gardener, we’re at the whim of the weather and the small creatures that pass through our yard—despite our best efforts to secure our fences!
That said, this year the stakes were high!!! Being cooped up at home meant that we felt like we had no choice but to really make the garden bloom (pun intended!) and that we had more time than ever to tend to our humble crops.
So we decided to take advantage of this year’s lucky windfall and show you all around.
A Humble Garden of Raised Beds
To city dwellers, our garden may look big. But for readers who live out in more open spaces, it’s really just a handful of flower beds and a summertime hobby!
However, having even a small amount of space for a vegetable garden can easily yield plenty of produce for a family during the growing season—and then some. I also try to incorporate not only produce, but also perennials in the flowerbeds and flower pots.
Large or small, gardening is a summer pastime we’ve really come to enjoy and cherish over the years!
Our Ongoing Battle with Our Resident Groundhog
Of course, planting a vegetable garden can also be costly and frustrating. We enjoy the process of preparing the garden, watching the seedlings grow, and the joyful moments of harvesting, but like anything else, the road to success can be trying. In fact, Bill’s attentiveness to the garden can sometimes become a little obsessive…
Mainly, I am talking about our many battles with garden predators. Bill has been chasing after a very smart groundhog for a few seasons now.
The kidney-shaped flower bed we mainly used to plant herbs and zucchini? The low fenced, brick-paved garden that Bill and I built together? They are now like tightly guarded no-trespass zones.
Tall metal posts and metal wire nettings have been set up to keep the deer, the rabbits, and our resident groundhog away.
This groundhog has been living under our tool shed for many years now. We’ve tried luring him into a trap with broccoli and peanut butter, in the hopes that we’d be able to drive him to a faraway park to set him free. We’ve even gotten Barley to chase him off a few times when we see him approaching our beds.
But years later, he is just getting more daring on a steady flow of zucchini. He is even brave enough to wander the garden during the day now!
Last year, he dug a tunnel under the garden and ate all our bean and zucchini plants. This year, Bill loaded the perimeter of the garden with boulder size stones to discourage this garden sabotage. Hopefully he gets the hint!
A Tour of Our Produce
We’ve had some promising results this year. All of our work definitely paid off, and we’re harvesting a steady stream of produce almost daily! Let me show you what we’ve got so far.
Our earliest harvest was kale, which showed up in countless meals at our house.
We had so much that I made Chinese preserved greens. After the kale was done, we just rotated the same beds for peas and amaranth greens.
We’re also waiting for the last push of zucchini and yellow squash before removing them to make way for spinach, just in time for the colder weather coming our way.
We have quite the collection of herbs, including mint…(we’ve been making Vietnamese noodle salads).
Italian Basil…(try our basil berry cake!)
Two kinds of Thai basil/holy basil…(we love making Thai basil chicken, Thai basil beef, and Thai basil pork belly).
Plus parsley, sage, thyme, oregano…
Our cucumbers are growing off the deck, which we’ve been using to make Chinese cucumber salad and traditional Moo Shu Pork.
Recently, our Japanese eggplants have really been flourishing, perfect for Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, Chinese Stuffed Eggplant, or a summery dish of Steamed Eggplant, Hunan Style.
I also go out and pick our green beans every few days. I gave a bunch to Sarah and Justin a week ago, and Justin made my Green Beans with Olive Vegetable. Another favorite is my Green Beans with Pork.
Another top performer is our pepper plants! We have plenty of jalapenos, long hot green peppers, shishito peppers (Blistered Shishito Peppers with Sea Salt is one of Bill’s favorites), and mild yellow banana peppers for stir-fries! We’ve been making a lot of my tofu sheet stir-fry with pork and peppers.
Now that it’s late summer, the tomatoes are really beginning to shine. Our cherry and grape tomatoes are ripening, and beefsteak tomatoes are growing in. We can’t wait to cook more late summer tomato pastas like Slow-Roasted Tomato Pasta and Tuna Tomato Pasta.
These vine ripe summer tomatoes from the garden are just perfect for our beef with tomato stir fry over a nice plate of white rice!
By now you might have spotted our scallions. Like everyone stuck at home, we took advantage of our scallion trimmings to grow new plants, and I highly recommend this trick if you have a place outside to plant them. Scallions show up in countless recipes, so we love having them always around.
Growing scallions from seeds is next to impossible, I’ve found, as they never get past a delicate grassy state. Simply cut the store bought scallions 1 inch above the roots, then plant it in a pot or in your garden. It’s the easiest and quickest method for growing scallions. You can see our robust lineup of scallions here. No more growing scallions from seeds for me!
We also have Chinese garlic chives growing in our beds by our driveway. These are so easy to grow, and grow like grass! Just trim them down to the dirt, and they’ll grow right back. I’ve been making our Garlic Chives and Tofu Recipe practically every week.
In addition to those, we are trying winter melons! As you can see, the winter melon plant had humble beginnings, climbing up the side of our garden.
Since then, it has made itself at home and is overflowing into both sides of the garden, happily climbing the metal fence.
It’s getting tangled with the beans and is starting to block off sun to the rest of the garden, but so far, we have seven or eight winter melons on the vine! The biggest one is the size of a honeydew! This is a special variety of round winter melon, that looks a bit different from the variety you can buy in stores. Our favorite winter melon recipe? This tasty winter melon soup with meatballs.
We’re also patiently waiting for our bitter melons to mature, so we can make one of our family favorites, Beef with Bitter Melon.
Lastly, we are so happy with our two experimental okra plants. I remember seeing them in Austin along the sidewalks as ornamental flowers. The okra plant grows upright, with attractive leaves and extremely pretty flowers. The flowers last about a day or two, and then the okra follows.
An okra plant can produce many okra, but pretty much just a couple at a time. That said, our minds have been made up. We’re planting a whole bunch of okra next year for the ornamental flowers and to harvest enough for one stir-fry a week throughout the whole growing season.
We weren’t without a few duds this year, of course. We picked up these red cabbage seedlings at a local farm who was giving them away for free! We planted them hoping for the best, but alas, they never really came to fruition.
Another dud was our purple cauliflower. It never got past the size in the photo below.
Ah well. There’s always next year!
I hope you enjoyed this tour of our garden. Tell us about your experience growing and harvesting vegetables at home in the comments!