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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why I love keeping a veggie garden

As I was plodding in my garden the other day, I was thinking about all of the reasons that I love keeping it.

But first, all of the things that I don't love about the garden. I don't love getting dirt under my fingernails. I don't love the dirty hands-look or the feel of dirt on my skin. I don't love squishing slugs and picking cabbage worms off of the plants. I don't love bringing a head of cabbage into the kitchen, peeling back the outer leaves, only to have a dozen earwigs crawl out and totally freak me out. I don't love the feeling that I may lose the contents of my stomach, when I see this buggy, crawling exodus from my head of cabbage. I don't love the tedious jobs of gardening, like weeding, thinning, and tying up and staking plants. I don't love the disappointment when I thought I planted the second batch of beets in plenty of time, but the garden decided otherwise.

But what I do love is this:

  • I love that all of our veggies are organically grown. No pesticides, no chemical residues, nothing that could be potentially harmful to our bodies. This is a biggie for me, as both my parents died far too young, from cancer. If something isn't doing well in my garden, I know that next season I need to add more compost to the soil, not douse it with more chemicals.
  • I do love that our produce is very fresh, and hasn't lost nutrients sitting on a supermarket shelf for several days.
  • I do love that having a veggie garden encourages us to eat far more veggies than if I was buying all of our produce. I was hungry the other afternoon, and instead of reaching for something starchy, salty or sweet, I went out to garden and cut a zucchini and picked a tomato. I chopped both and tossed in a small frying pan with some oil and garlic powder. With a few slivers of Parmesan, this became my afternoon snack. With sack lunches, I'm able to pack 2 or 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, for my family. If I had to buy all of my produce, I'd probably be just putting  one piece of fruit in each lunch. Today, my daughters will be having quiche made with kale and shallots, tomato wedges and rhubarb-blackberry sauce, in their lunches -- and all of the produce came from our yard. 
  • I love that we save money, but you already knew that one, as this IS a frugal living blog.
  • I love going out to the pumpkin patch and visiting my pumpkins. I have no idea where my obsession for pumpkin comes from, but going out to count my pumpkins is a daily ritual.
  • And I am thrilled beyond words that this time of year, there is ALWAYS something to eat coming out of the garden. I sometimes think about how we could manage if our income suddenly went away. I brainstorm how we could enlarge the garden, what we could plant more of to keep us fed, and how we could make this a year-round garden. I can't control whether or not my husband stays employed. But I can control whether or not we have a veggie garden and orchard. I imagine, if need be, I could devote most of my day to getting the absolute most out of our garden, to keep us fed.

Yeah, sometimes I have to deal with creepy or disgusting things from the garden. And the work isn't all that fun. But when I think about the things that I do love about keeping my garden, I can see that the positives are outweighing the negatives, and so I keep on with the gardening.


  1. Thanks, Lili, for the wonderful reminder to appreciate ALL that we have!

    Oh, do I miss my garden on my own property but that is what I had to give up when we moved to "the city". I am going to have to think about container planting but I know so very little about that.

    I am grateful for all the goodness my parents give me. My freezer is pretty full of green beans, carrots, broccoli and cabbage all planted by my dad just for me! I was helping him dig some carrots when I saw a potato sticking out of the ground last week. All the plants had been dug up already but then I saw a second potato, then I began digging and my dad watched me and couldn't believe he missed about a dozen potatoes. I suggested that since I gleaned them, I could have them which he heartily agreed and called me Ruth and teased me the rest of the afternoon (you all know the story of Ruth from the Bible finding enough from her gleaning the fields).

    The garden is just about done except for carrots which we dig into the fall season, butternut squash isn't ready and tomatoes are green but will soon turn red.

    God is good.


    1. Hi Alice,
      God is good! And your father is such a sweetheart to keep the garden for you. You must feel blessed!

      One of these days, when I get downtown again, I'll take some photos of a container garden in the Pike Place Market. It's really cool. They've used large metal livestock feed troughs, and grow everything from beans to lettuce. Hopefully I'll get back downtown before summer is over, so I can see what all they grew this year.

      We have a couple of trough planters on our deck. They're not as large as feed troughs, but they do a great job for their size. I have basil, rosemary, lavender and egg plant in the troughs this year.

      have a great day!

  2. Okay, almost this whole post feels like it could have come straight from my head, Lili. :) I love just going out and looking around the garden. Ours isn't huge. I mentioned before we are on approximately a 1/6th of an acre city lot, but with two largish dogs and five active kids I can't use the whole thing up in garden (much as I'd love to). We have tweaked over the years and I now have 2.5 foot wide garden beds along the back and righthand fence. As well as a small L-shaped bed just put in (my anniversary gift from hubby) on the lefthand side of the fence to use that formerly wasted space before the chicken coop and run begin. Then we have some raised beds out in the yard which we are slowly moving over to only the right side of the yard to allow one big rectangular patch in which the boys can practice soccer or whatever. The above ground pool takes up the rest of the righthand side (a $150 clearance purchase at end of season last year, so worth it).

    Anyway, I'm working at putting in fall crops right now...need to do more today. Thanks so much for this post; I really enjoyed reading it.

    1. I attempted to send you a video link showing my garden on fb. It doesn't show the left side as I was waiting for my city license for chickens at that point and didn't want them on fb till I had it. :) We have six pullets and 2 ducks over there now.

    2. I couldn't access the video, Cat. I'll try again later.
      It sounds like you are making the most of your space, fitting gardens in where you can, but still leaving as much available ground space for family activities (that's important, too).

      Do you do much vertical gardening? I've seen small winter squash (like acorn squash) grown vertically at a nearby garden area. They grew the acorn squash up and over a double archway (2 simple arches set about 3 feet apart), using chicken wire in between the simple arches. I grow our cucumbers on poles, instead of scrambling on the ground, to save space. There are probably other plants to grow vertically, as well.

      Another question -- have you thought of using shade cloth in summer, to extend your growing season a few weeks longer into the heat? I would guess that heat would be a big obstacle in summer. I've seen how this hot summer has affected some of our plants.

      I imagine you'd feel the same way, if there was a financial catastrophe, I'd be more willing to sacrifice more of our yard space to a garden. It's something we've talked about, here. But for now, we can afford to have some parts of the yard just for leisure.

      Just curious, when do the pullets become layers? And do your ducks lay eggs too? how do you keep them from leaving?

    3. Sorry about that. I meant to go back in and change the privacy setting on the video after I sent the link, but forgot. It is done now so should work.

      We did do more with vertical gardening this year as you will see. I still would like to do more. I have seen a neat arch made with wire to grow beans and make a cool tunnel (for the kids to play in) as well as conserving space.

      I have thought about using shade cloth, but that's about as far as I've gotten. Need to work through the logistics of supporting it.

      I would definitely be willing to sacrifice more space in a more desperate situation. We are actually in the discussion phase of making our front yard more of a "cottage garden" look with some edibles in it as well.

      The pullets start laying at about 20 weeks of age, give or take a few weeks depending on breed, season, etc... Our ducks are still quite young but should be laying in a few more weeks, well one of them. We think we have a male and female. We have our chicken run covered so no one flies off. In the past, when free-ranging was allowed, we clipped wings to keep the chickens in the yard. This is our first go-round with ducks, though.

    4. Cat, that archway with the acorn squash, that I saw, was right up against a play area. t was a tunnel like structure to walk through, and because the squash were supported on the outside of the chicken wire, humans didn't disrupt it's growing or developing. I used to grow pole beans on an arch leading onto the patio in our backyard. They did well. Then the shrubs that I planted into that strip filled in, so the pole beans had to be moved into the garden. But it would work. In fact, you could use an arch like that as a transition between the "play" area and the garden area.

      The fun is in the planning, isn't it?!

    5. Cat, just for fun, in case you didn't see this post, here's the layout of my veggie garden:

    6. No, I hadn't seen it. Probably it was before I found your blog. Wow, that is beautiful! I love the brick walkways, too.

      I don't know if you read the blog One Hundred Dollars a Month, but she does a reader send-in thing and showcases other people's gardens and pantries. I love seeing the many and varied ideas. That's where I had seen the arch, on a garden sent in from Heather.

    7. It's a work in progress. We completed one more leg of the brick area, last summer (since this photo was taken), and would like to finish up all of the brickwork this year. But that requires me to sit crouched over for extended time periods, getting it all level -- very hard on my back.

      I occasionally pop into OHDM. I'll check it out again soon. Thanks for the reminder to do so!

  3. What I love about our garden is that it's my husband's "baby" and he does all the icky work. He has had to make the fence around it so tall to keep out critters that my short legs can't scale it, so he does the tending and the picking. I clean lettuce and snap beans, etc.

    I sometimes have extreme scenarios in my mind, too, about how we would survive in the event of some big scary event--we could grow an awful lot of food on our property if we had to!

    1. Hi Kris,
      That's awesome! I've said this before -- you are one lucky lady! But then again, I think he's one lucky guy to snag you! :-)

      We haven't gotten to the point of putting up a fence yet. Something got into my pumpkins the other day and started nibbling at one. I may need a fence there in future years.

      We sometimes talk about what kind of foods you'd need in survival mode, like mature beans, potatoes, corn -- the calorie dense veggies, as well as the regular garden veggies. I do think we could grow a lot, here, too, if we had to.

  4. Ha! Apocalyptic Fantasizers R Us!!! I too have toyed with this idea... although the horrible reality is that without a really good fence, most of the produce would probably be stolen by droves of hungry bad guys! Have I seen too many post - apocalyptic movies? :-)

    Anyhow, I have mostly given up on greens because of the creepy insect thing... but I'm considering trying spinach in a cold frame this winter.

    And how can you not like playing in the dirt? That's half the fun! :-) Seriously, though, you should get a good fingernail brush, it takes care of the dirt issue in no time flat!

    1. Hi Cat,
      I'll get to work on that solar-powered, electric fence right away! The "hungry bad guys" in our area are of the fur-bearing variety. Although . . . could be a source of meat, should the world's economy fail!!

      No, I think mostly I ruminate over how we would manage should my husband be out of work, or should retirement prove to be much, much more expensive than planned.

      As for buggy issues in the garden -- certain times of the year are better for having fewer bugs in the greens. I love early spring kale, in part for this reason. I plant it out in late summer, then it comes back in spring -- but without the bugs. And it's gone before any bug populations increase for the summer. So, your spinach under a cold frame might help you avoid buggy problems.

  5. We've got our bean patties, kang kong and chinese spinach (so easy to grow and freeze), so I feel perfectly apocalypse proof. This morning I checked on my dad and he had taken out two bean patties from his freezer for lunch. This made me so very happy. It's one thing when I serve it to him and quite another when he chooses it among the many other frozen entrees (pork squash, pancit noodles, azuki rice, japanese stew minced pork/shiitake/konbu, kabocha squash, fried rice).

    There is a certain white mealy bug that likes to infest our kang kong. I googled it to see if there was a way to control it. I only read one other person blog about these bugs. So every day I visit the pots and squish those bugs with my fingers. They don't move very quickly, so I can keep the population under control just by manually picking them out. They always like to bunch in twos at least, so it becomes a game of how many pairs will I find today. I know what you mean about having this obsession.


    1. Hi YHF,
      How wonderful that your dad likes the bean patties so much he is choosing them! That makes what you need to do to fix meals for him so much easier. And you can add things like veggies to them, too, and know that he's getting a fair bit of nutrition when he chooses them.

  6. Hi Lili,
    Nothing tastes better than home grown non chemically treated produce.
    This time of year is so wonderful. We have a homeowners association so can't have an actual garden but we have a flower bed hubby tore all the shrubs out of so I can grow a few things. It is not a lot but it feels good to at least grow a few things. I also go to the local farmers market on Saturdays which is pricey but the produce is so much better than the store bought. The other day I was fortunate to find a couple people selling excess produce from their gardens along the road so I was able to get a lot of things at very reasonable prices.
    I think it is great that you are able to get grow so much from your own garden for your family. Do you get enough extra that you could maybe consider selling some of the excess?

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      It sounds like you are making the most of the space that you have, while still keeping your property looking acceptable to the HOA.Sometimes you have to work within limitations, like those.

      For now, we do eat everything that we grow, with no leftovers. In the future, once the kids have their own places, there could be surplus. But then again, I may find that they like to "shop" mom's garden, at that time.


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