Introducing . . . My Garden

Right now, our yard is the ideal candidate for Yard Crashers. There's a huge area of it covered with gravel where a swing set used to be and a smaller area filled with sand where a shed used to be. And because the house was built with the garage behind it (no longer functional but not unusual for houses in West Roxbury), there's a lot of cracked, broken asphalt where it doesn't belong -- mainly where I'd like to put in a patio. There's also an oversize rundown deck that I would love to knock down and rebuild on a smaller scale. It's going to be at least another year (if not longer) before we can afford to make some real changes to the yard, but we are making the most of it in the meantime and making small changes to slowly improve it.

Our friends helped us tackle washing the fence, and it looks a million times better now. Jeff and I have done a lot of weeding and edging and have really cleaned up the gravel area, enough that we could potentially put pavers down and call it a patio temporarily. And I decided to just bite the bullet and plant some vegetables in an old raised bed that sits between the gravel and sand pits.

My friend had just planted her own garden, so she helped me find plants and prepare the soil. I weeded the bed and mixed compost soil into the dirt that was already there. (And as Jeff and I weeded the rest of the yard, I transported every earthworm we found to the garden to help with composting.)

Garden plot

I picked out Italian frying pepper, plum tomato, thyme, and Thai basil plants at Volante Farms, and then I found pattypan squash, zucchini, and cucumber plants at Allandale Farm. A small basil plant from the Roslindale Village Main Street Farmers' Market completed the patch.

Early stages of a garden

Early stages of a garden

Early stages of a garden

Early stages of a garden

After getting all the plants in, my friend and I put chicken wire around the garden to protect it. A few days later, I realized I should get some stakes for the tomato plants, in case they decided to grow. I set up the stakes, and when the plants got a little bigger, I used some plant velcro to secure them.

Raised bed garden with chicken wire

The tomatoes and peppers came in six packs, so I probably definitely overplanted the small space and know that I need a lot more room for a garden next year (my ultimate plan is raised beds along the perimeter of the yard). The plants start off so small, and I honestly didn't think they'd grow very much...but they did. Just three weeks later, this is what they turned into.

Growing tomato plants

And as I looked closer, I was shocked to find that my plants were actually growing vegetables!

Plum tomato

Little peppers

We went to the Cape a couple weekends ago, and before we left I wanted to ensure that my baby vegetables wouldn't get plucked by any passing birds or curious squirrels so I bought some bird block, which is basically bird-safe netting, to throw over the garden. When we got back from the Cape, I found a full-size zucchini ready for picking, as well as more tiny tomatoes and peppers and a tiny cucumber. I picked the zucchini the next night and cooked it up that same night. It was amazing thinking about how I grew that zucchini in my garden as I was enjoying my dinner.

Last weekend I upgraded my tomato stakes to 6-foot-tall ones (those tomato plants just keep growing), and I moved the shorter tomato stakes over to support my pepper plants. Unfortunately I'm dealing with a few cucumber beetles (who knew such a thing existed?) trying to attack my cucumber plants, so I bought a spray recommended to me at Allandale Farm and I'm trying to get them to stay away. It may be a lost cause at this point, unfortunately. And I found one tomato with blossom end rot and had to toss it. Weeding and pruning are becoming almost daily chores, along with making sure my plants have enough water. Gardening is definitely not easy, but I think it will be worth it.

Raised bed garden with chicken wire and bird block

I know I'm not doing everything right and I'm teaching myself as I go, but I'm glad I jumped in and decided to plant a garden this year. I think I'll manage alright this year, and I'll be better prepared for next year. And even though the rest of the yard isn't perfect, I now have something that makes me happy every time I look out there.

Do you have a garden? What's your best piece of gardening advice?