The Garden Has Officially Begun

After months of foreshadowing, planning, re-planning, and moments of crippling doubt, the garden is finally up and going. As I’ve bemoaned to anyone who would listen, we were only given 484sq ft of the original 800sq ft we were promised… little did I know what a blessing it can be to find yourself short-changed by circumstance!


After having to scrap my original plans and chart out something more practical than decorative for our garden plan, we also faced delays due to weather and the community garden’s regulations. So, the progress we made on the garden plot was slow since the ground had about a week to settle after a tractor had come and tilled all of the land. A few rain showers, some sun, and some time was all it took to smooth out the cultivated ground and make it solidify again into an only slightly loose mass. Also, thanks to some very haphazard measuring on the part of the folks in charge, the northern edge and northwestern corner of our plot was not so much tilled but rather a very well-established weed garden — perhaps a weed orchard would be the better term, some of these weeds had roots going back to the Carter administration.



In order to make all the beds I’d charted out, we had to do some very hefty spading, cultivating, and raking. Everyone else had fancy rototillers… we had six hands and some very manual tools. (sigh) But, before we even got into the soil itself, we erected a fence around our entire plot to protect it against people’s dogs (and we saw quite a few out while we were working), from ravenous bunnies, and against trespassers in general.


It took, essentially, two weekends to get the garden completely set-up: remaining supplies purchased; fencing erected; beds cultivated and shaped; transplants planted; and seeds sown.

We have 28 tomato plants:
10 Celebrity
8 Silvery Fir
5 Red & Yellow Brandywine — indeterminate
5 Speckled Roman — indeterminate



The Celebrity and Silvery Fir plants are all in a large bed while the Brandywine and Speckled Romans are in their own smaller beds (surrounded by basil). In case you were wondering, indeterminate means that these vines will continue to grow and produce all season long until a frost comes… so they’re going to get pretty unruly and ugly by the end. The other two varieties will grow to a certain height, produce fruit, and will pretty much wither away. Ideally, we can then clear the bed out and plant something else — maybe a cool season crop of peas.

The basil area will be fun, hopefully:
Purple Petra
Mrs. Burns Lemon
Large Leaf
Greek Yevani

We also transplanted some French Marigolds that I’d started, and made an herb bed of thyme, parsley, savory, lemon balm, and chamomile.

Along the east-facing fence, I planted a row of Borage & Summer Solstice Zinnias. I hope we get some sprouts (and flowers, of course).


The rest of the garden will be a large bed of two different varieties of Pole Beans (Scarlet Emperor & Kentucky Wonder); a large area of trellised cucumbers (Homemade Pickles); a smaller bed for Cabbage & dill; a wee bed for carrots (Royal Chantenay, Carnival, & Tonda di Parigi); a large bed for pumpkins (Jarrahdale & Sugar Pie) and Nasturtiums; a pair of small beds for cut flowers (a variety called Grandma’s Cut Flower Garden); a row along the south-facing fence of Giant Fantasy Zinnias; and a row along the north-facing fence of Autumn Beauty sunflowers.


I’m just so grateful to my partner and our friend Nicole for being willing to help me get this thing off the ground… or, rather INTO the ground. I don’t know anyone else in my life who would’ve had the patience and fortitude to go into this kind of venture with me.

We’re tired, we’re a little sunburned (I totally forgot to put on my SPF 20 until it was too late on that second day)… but we feel accomplished. I think that’s the best thing about manual labor — it provides something, for me, that sitting at a desk for 40hrs/wk typing invoices just can’t muster.


~ by Jason on May 19, 2010.

10 Responses to “The Garden Has Officially Begun”

  1. Jason, Although we have never met, I feel like I know you. I agree with you concerning church cookbooks. A lady or gentlemen NEVER contributed anything but the very best of recipes for their church cookbook. I use my mother’s, mother-in-law church cookbooks and they are very tattered and worn but the recipes are the best. Good food from those years was not meant to be low fat, low sodium or portion controlled, just enjoyed! After seeing James’ cake, I think I may give it a try. My husband is a chocolate fan, so most things I make are chocolate. May be I’ll make your cake for Memorial Day.

    Also, I am fascinated with the garden plot. It is a thing of beauty! I’m going to take a walk and check it out today. Remember next year, you can rent a tiller just up the road from the offices and save yourself and James some back breaking work. Keep the blogs coming….Joy

    • Hi, Joy… I feel the same about you! 😀 James mentions you all the time.

      I think the most defining element of recipes and food from the “olden days” is that it all centered on REAL FOOD — something that disappeared with the advent of industrial food, instant food, processed foods, etc. A slice of real food goes a long way, nutritionally, and it should!

      Thanks for the kind words about my latest efforts. The garden is already coming under attack by the forces of insect evil… more on that later.

  2. Wow! It looks amazing! I hope I can come out one weekend and give you a little help weeding…even if it is all the way out in ELgin. 🙂

  3. Oh Jason, so much to say but I don’t want to hijack your blog right from the start. 🙂 I’m SO proud of you!!! What a beautiful garden and all put together in just two short weekends!!? I need to hire you guys! I absolutely love the layout of your paths/beds…they are utilitarian but not the predictable straight design. You must have spent a great deal of time drawing it out on paper and then laying it out with the flags. And all the varities of veggies you listed are excellent choices. Did you start many from seed or did you have to buy most then? I also am pleased to read about all the cut flowers. Can’t wait to see some bouquets! And that bean seed picture…. it makes me happy.

    • Thanks so much, Jennie, for reading.

      I’m mostly pleased with the layout, so far, but I wonder how I’ll feel about it once the plants start really filling in. Some of the paths could stand to be about a foot WIDER… but when I was drawing out the plan, I was keenly aware that every inch of walking space meant significantly less GROWING space. So, I’ll have to tread carefully.

      Yes, I definitely got out the graphing paper and drew everything out. I chuckle at my hubris, now, when I remember that I originally tackled the garden with a protractor… as if there’s ANY such thing as a straight line and a RIGHT ANGLE in such an enterprise. By the end of it, we were just eye-balling it (intense sun can do that to a person).

      I hope that I do have some flowers to show for our efforts… though any bouquets will have to be James’ creation. He’s the one who’s cut out for that stuff… I can grow them and that’s about it. I just stand back and say, “mmm… purty.”

  4. HI Jason and James…………Whew what a beautiful garden!! It should produce abountiful load of goodies…your design is unique and very space conscious. I just cannot imagine all the work you did on this. Am I correct in assuming that you took a piece of ground sodded with grass and transformed it into this wonderful garden plot?
    And without a tiller? Now thats brave!!!!and courageous!
    You must keep us posted on the progress of this beautiful garden.
    I found out something today……if you buy a bundle of green onions, and when you cut off the root part, leave about a 1/4″ and plant in a row or flower box and lightly cover with’ll have delicious onions in no time. See even at 53 I can still learn alot. I love your pics…keep up the good work.
    Church cookbooks are my favorite too. I have a collection of over 2,000 cookbooks, that I started at age 9.I love the personal ones like churches put out, or groups where women strive to dig out their best recipes. I also go for the pretty pictures in the ones who self teach you to do say bread dough, or chinese pastry and ect….LOVE them. One look at me and you know I eat EVERYTHING that I make, good or not!!!
    Your cake looks yummy…that fact about flour in the icing is true. I make an old family recipe of the red velvet cake, and the icing has flour in it and is cooked on the stove top before adding the final ingredients. Its scrumptuous.!!!!
    Will check back for more info now that I have you in my tool bar.

    • If we can keep our garden defended from the long litany of pests that are already besieging it, hopefully we’ll have lots of produce to can, freeze, and eat.

      MOST of our plot was tilled for us, though it’d had about a week and a half to “un-till” itself before we got into it. We had to remove grass and weeds from about 20% of the space, though, because of the overall layout spilling over onto the edge of what was tilled by a big tractor. Sheepishly, I found out, yesterday, that a friend of ours owns a rototiller and we could’ve used it because she lives just a couple miles from the garden plot. Augh!

      Gosh! I’m having trouble imagining where one could STORE that many cookbooks! Gee whiz! I’ve learned most of what I know of cooking from cookbooks and experience in using them.

  5. Wow the garden really has come a long way.
    It is beautiful in pictures but in person you can really see the hard work and love that went into it.
    And ya’lls poor car! You need a truck or to come up with a better plan LOL. I hope you have as many veggies as you want.
    Just have fun and don’t work too hard or work James too hard.

  6. Love seeing you on the web! We always enjoy the adventures in the kitchen and reading about the life and times of Jason Todd! Much love from Louisiana!

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