Our Backyard Vegetable Garden

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My first vegetable garden was grown out of necessity.  Tom and I had just moved 350 miles from our So Cal hometown to UC Santa Cruz’s family housing.  We were broke.  Flat broke.  Eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches broke.  Typical starving students.  After a few months of chicken drumsticks, PB&Js and bananas I decided I had to do something about our eating situation.  Looking out my kitchen window that Spring I found my answer.  It had been staring me in the face since I moved there!  The community garden.  It was right next to my apartment and I had spotted several other young families planting plots of their own.  I headed to the office and signed up for a 3×6 foot plot.  That year I grew mediocre tomatoes, amazing lettuce, carrots and radishes and enough squash to feed a dozen people for the summer.  I learned how to create a meal based on what veggies I harvested rather than what meat was cheapest at the store.  As a result we are far healthier and more conscious of our food choices.  I have grown some sort of vegetable every year since.  Last year was the first year I kept track of our harvest and to my amazement we grew 90 lbs of vegetables, most of which were organic heirloom tomatoes!  I didn’t enter the produce section of the store for more than 6 months.  This season I want to top that.

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To start Tom and I built raised beds.  The big one took an hour to build.  The small one I built by myself in 30 minutes.  I used extra 2x4s that were piled up in the garage from a long abandoned project.  We didn’t use a building plan, but I was very inspired by these beds.  You could use any scrap wood lying around as long as it’s not chemically treated.  Cedar is best, but not necessarily the cheapest way to go.  I was going for free, which is why I used wood from my garage.  But if you can find some cedar or other wood planks for free or cheap on Craigslist you’re in business.  If not, your savings on veggies for the season will cover the cost of building your beds.

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Wandering through my favorite nursery is so much fun!  I need to keep the price low so I only go there for tomato transplants and only when they have their Spring Plant Sale.  Everything else is started from seed.  There was so much to choose from.  Giant tomatoes are popular this year and I was shocked to see beautiful San Marzano transplants lined up along one wall.  I snatched two of them as if they were hidden nuggets of gold.  They were such a rare & lucky find.  The little one and I spend a good part of that sunny afternoon planning, drawing and planting.

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2011 Spring/Summer Garden List

  • San Marzano Tomatoes (sauce tomatoes)
  • German Orange Strawberry Tomato (big one)
  • Sweet Baby Girl Tomato (baby tomato)
  • Crnkovic Yugoslavian Tomato (monsters)
  • Coustralee Tomato (another monster)
  • Asian Lettuce Blend
  • Farmer’s Market Lettuce Blend
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Watermelon Radishes
  • Correnta Spinach
  • Basil
  • Bush Slicer Cucumber
  • Red Potatoes
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Melting Sugar (Snow) Peas
  • Blue Lake Pole Beans & Tendergreen Improved Bush Beans
  • Rainbow Sherbet Icebox Watermelon + Sugar Baby Watermelon
  • Black Beauty Squash


There is a new page where I will be totaling up the harvest for this season.  Yesterday was my first harvest of a couple radishes and peas.  The radishes were crisp and flavorful.  Not too much bite.  Perfect for my munchkin.  The peas were tasted like Spring, green and full of life.  I tried the radishes with butter, but couldn’t get over the whole slab of fat on my vegetable thing.  I garden to eat healthier.  Somehow layering a smear of butter on each slice of radish runs against that.  Instead I sliced and tossed them with baby greens and added the peas for today’s lunch.  My first garden grown meal of the year.

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