This Year’s Vegetable Garden, So Far

I have to admit I don’t do much with edible gardening. Actually, I’m far more interested in growing food for the birds than for people. Generally, I find ornamental perennials, grasses, and shrubs far more satisfying than vegetables. Also, vegetables want space in full sun, which is in limited supply. (Note: all pictures are Judy’s unless otherwise noted.)

Our vegetable and herb plot.
Our vegetable and herb plot. Jason picture.

To the extent that we do grow edibles, it’s because Judy believes firmly that you can’t have a proper home without some kind of vegetable garden. Also, we like to have fresh herbs for cooking.

And so we have an irregularly triangular plot pointing south, with a south facing trellis for tomato vines at the base. This is in the front yard, behind the bed with the crabapple tree and the Asiatic lilies, which partially blocks the view from the street.

green tomatoes

The tomatoes are pretty happy so far. I’m growing just three plants, each a different variety: Celebrity, Early Girl, and Black Cherry (an heirloom cherry tomato). Celebrity is a determinate tomato, meaning that a certain point the vines stop growing. We’ll see.

Because of the cold spring, I waited until May 22, a week after our average frost-free date, to plant the tomatoes. I might have waited longer, as the transplants sulked in the continuing cool weather.  Eventually, though, they started to thrive in the plentiful rain and gradually increasing warmth. Right now there are lots of unripe tomatoes, and I don’t think any will be ready to pick for 10-14 days.

tomatoes

Tomatoes are the only actual vegetables that we grow. The remainder of this patch is taken by herbs and a few flowers.

There’s a patch or oregano (Origanum officinalis).  In a struggle reminiscent of the Roman legions trying to keep the Germanic tribes from crossing the Rhine, I am constantly whacking the oregano back to prevent it from overrunning the garden and then the entire neighborhood, seizing all our gold and livestock. It does have flowers much loved by pollinators, though (the oregano, not the Germanic tribes).

Oregano
Oregano

There’s some sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) and some Thai basil (Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora) . These are the herbs we actually use most frequently. And there are a couple of patches of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) that we don’t use but that provide more food for beneficial insects.

Basil
Basil

 

Thyme
Thyme in flower

Then there’s the Swallowtail Buffet – Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) , Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) , and Dill (Anethum graveolens). All three are host plants for Swallowtail butterflies, but I have yet to see a single Swallowtail caterpillar. Very thoughtless of them, I say!

Parsley and Dill
Parsley and Dill in bloom

 

Self-sown fennel.
Self-sown fennel.

There are some flowers, too. Marigolds (Tagetes patula) around the tomatoes, on the theory that they repel harmful nematodes. Also, this year I planted a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) amongst the herbs. I love the bright orange flowers of this plant!

veg and tithonia
Mexican Sunflower. jason picture.

 

veg tithonia

Are you more of an edibles gardener or an ornamentals/wildlife gardener?

62 Comments on “This Year’s Vegetable Garden, So Far”

  1. I’m more ornamentals but I do have many fruit trees and small veggie garden. We are big on fruit so I have about 15 fruit trees. Harvesting the fruit is a huge chore. As far as the veggies go I tend to just plant alot of what we eat daily. Love the way your thyme is looking. You are brave to plant oregano.

  2. I´m more of an ornamental gardener. I do have a vegetable garden, and grow potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, parsley, thyme, rhubarb and peas, and then I have the greenhouse with tomatoes and cucumbers, peppers and chili. But my heart belongs to the flowers. Next year our veggie patch will be smaller.

  3. Hi Jason! I love your little herb & tomato plot! Like Christina i love growing my own for the self sufficiency and the taste, there’s nothing quite like cooking woth your own food and you do get hooked. I also love flowers and very much plant for birds, bees and butterflies. My plot looks more like a garden than a veg patch that’s for sure. I like the idea of mixing the edibles & non edibles together. I started with tomatoes & herbs too, potatoes were the next & it was on from there…

  4. Hi Jason, thanks for visiting my post after a hiatus. I can post but am absent again today, still sick. And thanks too for the concern. I love the way you respect copyright of people especially Judy’s.

    I envy people who can garden fully in their homes, as i live in the city 5th Floor, and my other plants are in our province too far away. I just had 1day there last wkend and i want to garden more. We want to grow more edibles there but our trees are already tall limiting sunshine, yet we still have a few though not as formal as most of you do. In my 5th Floor would you believe i have 2 pots of tomatoes and a lot more ornamentals in 1.5m X 1m ledge!

  5. I like to see edibles mixed in with flowers, which is what I also do with my herbs. I dabble in vegetables, with limited success. But this year I have a large container crammed with tomatoes and they look almost as good as yours! Wild strawberries are the only fruit we have, and they provide great ground cover too.

  6. I do both. I have a small veggie garden, with a lot of green and yellow stringbeans, seven tomatoes (three varieties), lettuce, spinach, and sweet basil (I make and freeze pesto sauce every fall.) As you know, I’m growing cucumbers up on a deck–the blessed woodchuck seems not to have re-visited yet. Also growing jalapeno peppers up there in large pots–I want to make jelly with them. Just this spring I moved some of the perennial herbs (oregano, sage, thyme, and tarragon) outside of the garden fence, so there is more room for other veggies inside the fence. I don’t bother growing the various squashes–they take up too much space and I can buy them for a dime a dozen at farm markets all summer. I plant zinnias and sunflowers amongst the vegetables, and they are great butterfly attractors.

    I have several tomatoes that look like yours–I wonder which of us will get a ripe one first!

  7. I love that it’s in your front yard. I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a veggie bed in my front yard (tucked away behind something as yet to be determined) but wasn’t sure if it would look weird. Your post is inspiring me to really consider the front yard as veggie central next year (I have a community garden plot for my vegetables but want more).

  8. Looks like a great little space. Would you recommend submerging a large clay pot to constrain the oregano like mint? Can’t stand invasive plants especially when you’re limited on space. You didn’t mention your tomato varieties. I’m growing exclusively ‘Celebrity’. With limited space, it’s certainly been the most prolific for me.

  9. My heart is in my native plants (especially perennials) and all the animals they support, but we have a vegetable garden, too. I’ve started growing a few flowers in there to help draw in the pollinators, but we primarily grow the cool weather crops (broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, spinach, onions) and tomatoes.

  10. Jason – I’m with you on the ornamentals/feed wildlife side. I do keep some herbs, but I buy my veggies from a farmer friend! That said – if I had room, I would probably grow some fruit and veggies too. Good to learn about the swallow tail host plants. I currently have two out of three, and now I’ll be sure to nurture those especially. 🙂

      • The way my farmer friend does it is ingenious. None of the typical CSA huge boxes of veggies you don’t have time (or enough family members) to consume in a week. Instead, she sends out an email each week, stating what she has available, and how much it costs. You just order what/how much you want by Tuesday night. If you are gone, or aren’t planning to cook, you just skip that week. She delivers to each buyer on Wed/Thursdays. We love her for making it so manageable!

  11. I used to grow more vegetables but someone kept planting trees and bamboo in my yard and now there is very little sunny space left. Still grow a few herbs like fennel and rosemary and sometimes have a few pots of basil and a few tomatoes. This year, not even basil and tomatoes. Maybe next year, with inspiration from The Beautiful Edible Garden that we got in our gift bags, I’ll try more veggies out in my parking strips!

  12. I’m mostly a veggie gardener with flowers, shrubs and other pretty things carefully tucked in to a) attract beneficial insects and pollinators and b) keep the neighbors from realizing that my yard is a giant fruit orchard and veggie garden. My attempts at greater food self-sufficiency often carry the price of being stigmatized in the neighborhood. Here very few people deviate from the standard lawn and foundation shrubs model, so I have to be sneaky…

  13. Hi Jason, I’m sure others have pointed this out, but tomatoes are technically a fruit, so you might not be growing any vegetables at all – and so what? Ornamentals are far less stress since it’s not so bad if they get a little disease or get nibbled on.

  14. Like you, I grow herbs for cooking, but am more concerned about growing food for the birds than for me. (Well, I’m also growing food for the woodchucks and the deer, but that’s not intentional.) I sympathize about your fickle butterflies. This year, I left lots of self-sown milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) for the monarch butterflies, but I haven’t seen a single monarch butterfly or any butterfly caterpillars. Instead, I seem to have created a 5-star resort for something called the Milkweed Tussock moth; I have hundreds of those caterpillars. I hope the birds enjoy them!

  15. While I have some flowering wonders, I do tend to focus on adding and growing those things that are food and/or Medicine. But, there’s so much cross-over, ya know? Between beautiful blooms and food for me and the wildlife. Nature’s generous like that!

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