Gardening is one of those things that either grows on you, or it doesn’t. For me, growing a garden has been a slow process… partly because I am an air-condition loving hermit in the summer if I can get away with it … and because I live in one of the hottest places this side of the EYE OF SAURON. There’s a Texas meme about how hot it gets here, and I think they are understating it a bit.
My desire to garden has also grown as I have grown to love organic food and love more types of foods (that happens with adulting, you know… over time, you get over those hang-ups with broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and onions… and if you don’t, well – I feel for you). Having gone through a cancer diagnosis only made this love of organic produce stronger, and honestly, was the thing that sent me over the fence I was sitting on as a small-time hobby gardener in the suburbs…. and pushed me out towards wanting to expand the garden in the COUNTRY, y’all.
You could technically stay in town (or near by) and garden a ton from just a tiny lot… I’ve seen it done in many a book, YouTube video, and Pinterest pinned blog post. However, I can’t say I’m not really thrilled about the prospect of actually having more space for multiple fruit trees and not having to worry about roots ruining my plumbing. City yards have limitations. That shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of every tiny square foot of dirt you own, though. And that’s really what it is all about: the quality of the dirt. Having a larger garden than the one I’ve toyed with over the past ten years here at this house was one of the things that I put on the PROS list for moving away from my precious favorite part of Texas… and it was HIGH on that list…. right underneath 1. Getting out of debt, 2. Honoring mom’s wishes, 3. Giving the boys a farm experience, 4. GARDEN SPACE GALORE!!!
So before I close a chapter in my suburban life … I wanted to run through memory lane and remember the past ten years of suburban gardening along with the tens of readers I still have following me since blogs were invented in 2005. To be real, the garden didn’t start until after 2007 when we moved to this house. 2008 to be exact (and I have the proof below in silly blog posts full of hopeful suburban garden dreams of the past). This year marks ten years since we broke ground, or rather, rolled up sod to make room for tiny raised beds and gravel pathways. We were such crazy dreamers… and had NO IDEA WHAT WE WERE DOING. Not that we are brilliant horticulturists now… but we have learned SO much over this past decade.
First off, our house is built in the hill country. It’s known for rugged beauty, but not known for great garden soil. Cacti and cedar trees? Sure. Twisted Oaks that magically find water through multiple layers of solid rock? Yep. Rich garden soil is not on that list. We actually TRUCKED in our garden dirt and our gravel for the paths we added. We sweat and toiled under the hot Texas sun to dig out tiny holes in rock to plant our trees. Everything growing in the back yard was placed there by yours truly and her unwitting garden helpers.
Here are a few highlights over the years:
The inspiration behind my gardening comes from Nana. My husband’s step-mom has the greenest thumb I know of. Her mother before her, also. I can remember falling in love the first time I set foot on Nana’s mom’s garden plot and saw the drifts and rows of flowering edible things. I swooned over the heaping plate of crowder peas she served at dinner that night. A love affair with plants began.
- My Post About Nana’s Back Yard from 2007 (the year we moved into our home here)
As homeschoolers, I wanted to add gardening in as an educational tool. I started a “green hour” in the barren back yard before we had anything but dying summer grass out there… and it eventually grew into our family gardening project.
- Green Hour in the Back Yard in 2007
Then I brought in the manpower to plant the real garden (my husband – who really was in to gardening before Star Wars Commander was released on iPad – I miss those days before iPads)
Then there was the first year in full swing… worth seeing just to look at how tiny those Vitex BUSHES were before they became trees. They are nearly as tall as our two story house now, and it took two truck loads of branches two weeks ago to just trim them up! These trees draw hundreds of monarchs to my yard when they migrate… and some of them stay for a month or longer. The tree below in the foreground is one of the Vitex we just trimmed, and that is 1/2 of the amount of branches we hauled to the country in the middle of the yard there! Like I said on Instagram when I shared this photo, “City Trees are much more work than country ones.” They have to be babysat a little more frequently.
I also had an obsession with wildflowers back then…
And of course, always tied in every green thing to our homeschooling…
- Nature as a Teaching Tool (this post is sadly outdated, but I’ll be updating it soon because it is one of my favorites)
Over the years as I kept gardening to the best of my capabilities for each different year. Some years I let the garden grow weeds and remain dormant because we were just too busy having babies, juggling toddlers and teens, or dealing with healing from cancer surgery… you know – you do what you can when you are able.
A few memorable posts from the garden (and some failures worth sharing so you don’t think I’m anything I’m not):
The year we tried the Alaska Fish Fertilizer as a sponsored post… man that stuff smelled AWFUL, but it did my indoor plants a solid.
Chemical Free Pest Control – that may not work… I’ve had my share if bug issues since we are almost entirely poison/synthetic free except for this year when it was either Andro or live with indoor fire ant colonies. What’s a girl to do???
The Year I Used Ironite and Got a Zillion Tomatoes, but felt like I had cheated
How Does Your Garden Grow? … which lists things I planted back in the early stages
That Watermelon we grew in December … no, really.
When the Cilantro is in Bloom (which is why my kids call me the Cilantro Gardener)
The year we accidentally planted a mulberry tree on Arbor Day (and it grew to become my favorite tree of all)
More on my beautiful, beloved mulberry tree… Happy Arbor Day!
My ever evolving anti-cancer diet and natural healing protocol… FEAT: Dandelions from the back yard before we had to get out the Andro
So now you’ve gone down memory lane with me, and here today are a few photos of what’s left in my garden for 2018… it’s a sad miserable site in July. I’ve got a wilted, dying huge mass of celery… Italian flat leaf parsley I’ve let go to seed… an oregano bush that I just recently trimmed that is exploding in purple blooms that the humming birds love (I cook with this often)… a bunch of sage growing close to the ground in the shade under my Vitex trees… some shriveling chocolate mint that hates the fact that we trimmed the trees and now it gets too much sun (I doubt I’ll have that for much longer)… a mulberry tree that needs trimming and is done producing fruit for the year… three tall Vitex trees that need continual trimming to keep from leaning over the garden bed… a small Thai basil plant that is struggling in the heat… a skinny poblano pepper that has no flowers or peppers yet… a real sad looking tomato that needs watering… and lots of potted things that will be traveling with me when I move (most of them being succulents and cacti – which are the only things truly happy in July and August in Texas outside).
Are you wanting to set up your own back yard garden but you’ve been kicking yourself because you don’t think you know enough to get started? All you need to know is your zone. You can get a planting list after that. Use your zipcode and look your zone up and then you can google search for what to plant in what month in your area. You can also search by city. I looked up Austin and found a great PDF printable gardening chart for the Austin Area that I printed for my own use.
We have done so much learning that we’ve been storing up for the day when we can farm on a larger scale. Eating foods from the farmer’s market and the organic produce department helps – and asking the farmers questions! Pinterest is another huge inspiration for me. I have Home and Garden boards, Outdoors boards, and I’ve been saving greenhouse ideas for the future to take my gardening to a new level when we move to the farm. We’ve even visited organic farms in our area to learn about growing things (pomegranate bushes and aquaponics systems). I’ve also been reading a ton of gardening books.
Here are a few of my favorites of late…
The Edible Garden
“Good for the pocket, good for the environment and hugely rewarding for the soul, The Edible Garden urges urbanites everywhere to chuck out the old gardening rules and create their own haven that’s as good to look at as it is to eat.”
What I love… her use of suburban space, her lists of what veggies bloom in what colors, her list of what likes to grow with other plants, the ideas to eat what you grow and forage, the fact that she does not stay “inside the box” and tells you what varieties are not worth planting of different types of vegetables.
What I don’t love… she lives over seas – boo!
Free-Range Chicken Gardens
“Many gardeners fear chickens will peck away at their landscape, and chicken lovers often shy away from gardening for the same reason. But you can keep chickens and have a beautiful garden, too! In this essential handbook, award-winning garden designer Jessi Bloom offers step-by-step instructions for creating a beautiful and functional space and maintaining a happy, healthy flock. Free-Range Chicken Gardens covers everything a gardener needs to know, from the basics of chicken keeping and getting them acclimated to the garden, to how to create the perfect chicken-friendly garden design and build innovative coops.”
What I love… the idea of chickens and gardens in harmony. Her recipes for natural fertilizers, fresh egg production, and how to navigate building coops and using “runs” to keep the chickens where you want them.
What I don’t love… that all this is a pipe dream until we can get out to the farm… so I’ve put this one on the back burner list and am not really reading the rest of it quite yet.
“Cacti and succulents are a trendy and low maintenance way to bring nature into your home, and this book is an essential user-friendly guide to the most popular 60 varieties. The book focuses on their propagation and care. As well as a section of handy tips, there will be a ready reference on dealing with common problems and pest control.”
What I love… I love almost everything about this book. I love the images, the easy “app”-like format with icons telling you easily how much sunlight and water each variety of cacti or succulent needs, and I love getting ideas from it to grow my collection as I’m able. I also love that it is cute, small, square and green. It would be a great gift book. I gifted it to myself for Christmas last year.
What I don’t love… that there’s only ONE of these books. I’d buy another book if they came out with a sequel with more types of plants! Hint Hint!
Summer is not a great time to plant anything in the Austin area. Since we are on the 8-9 zone and swing towards less rain and less good soil, July and August are not really on my garden calendar. I’ve gotten a list of seeds that I might direct sow now IF I go invest in mulch and garden-center-bought compost. Those things include Brussel Sprouts, dill, eggplant, okra, peas (southern), peppers (which I already have growing and really feel they should have already been started to grow them now), squash, tomato, corn, cucumber, beans, and leek. With a heatwave coming, I don’t know if I want to go to the effort to do much until fall….and , I hope we are already gone by then.
We are hoping the house will sell and we won’t be here to harvest, but I might just plant some seeds and see what happens anyway. It’s a double blessing to reap what you don’t sow. Gardening is my therapy, so I really don’t mind doing it for someone else.
Have you grown things in your suburban garden? Are you wanting to? I’d love to hear about your adventures and I’m welcome to tips and links that you might share. I really am just a curious newby when it comes to gardening… learning everything from scratch since my parents were not gardeners and this is all been a learning experience for us through homeschooling and nature studies. I’ve been very blessed that God has given us some successes, some humorous failures, and a passion to learn more about all the amazing edible and beautiful things that grow outdoors.
I hope you add gardening in to your homeschooling adventures. It has been something I am so glad we have done… even if I’m not the very best gardener on the planet.
Disclosure: I’m an amazon affiliate, so I get a few pennies if you click over on one of those books I mentioned and actually buy something from Amazon. I appreciate every reader and their contributions towards helping me continue to blog and homeschool and buy supplements and organic food! Thanks for reading, commenting, and clicking my links before you purchase things online. You rock.