Our Backyard Vegetable Garden

tomato transplantsfirst tomato 2011potatoes

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.

radishes - first harvestgarlic_greensGarden_2weeks

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.

tomatotagbasilasian blend lettuce 4weeks

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.

nasturtiumMintthymeSaffron Crocus

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.

Spiderwebs_Gardenclimbing_ivypurple flowers

Author: Melissa

I live in the high desert outside of Los Angeles in southern California with my 14-year-old daughter and my 6 yr old son. I love to help people, which is why I am a teacher! I find so much joy in helping others create a life they love. This little blog is about food. Growing it, cooking it and eating it! I hope it inspires you to try something new and stretch yourself!

7 thoughts

    1. Hi Brian, If you want it enough, one day you will have it! I am growing this stuff in a small amount of space. I started with tomatoes & herbs in big pots on my deck in college as well as the little community garden plot. Then my next place was only potted veggies because I had no yard to speak of & I was living in the desert where everything dies fast. Now I have a little more space, but not much & only the patch you see in my post gets any decent sunlight. Everything else is in deep shade for most of the day. In the winter half of my garden will be in shade. Its only in the sun during Spring/Summer. Gotta work with what you got 🙂

  1. Hi , What beautiful photos. I too in Spain have been vegetable gardening for the past 6 years, but this year, we have put much more effort in. I’m pleased to say this is paying off. My daily treat is to take 5 a peruse our patch. I’ll keep a track on how you do. New for us this year are Fennel, celery and french beans 🙂

  2. I can’t wait until summer when I will finally have my first proper garden. I looked at slad ingredients today at the supermarket and nearly choked t the cost for one bowl of salad – and the lettuce looked nasty anyway. I want raised beds just as cute as yours.

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