A look at my late summer community garden.

A few days ago I was taking a walk around my neighbourhood in between writing scintillating blog posts and sanding my heel skin when I was stopped in my tracks by the most frightening noise I’ve ever heard outside of a 2 a.m. bar fight between 2 girls named “Britny”.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the classic horror movie scream. Shrill, loud, high pitched. Often accompanied by jiggling boobs. Well that’s the sound I heard. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do in a case like that because the sound itself is so frightening to everyone around it that you’re kind of rendered useless. Like man nipples. Or the cap for a vodka bottle.

So I stood really still and tried to pinpoint where the screaming was coming from. And it was a never-ending scream might I add. Like one of those never-ending farts your husband thinks is so funny.

The source of the screams must have been close by because people were running in my direction. Straight at me as a matter of fact. If I didn’t do something quick I was gonna be trampled by a mass of flip flop wearing, pruner wielding neighbours, some of whom I suspected wouldn’t have particularly good aim judging by their weekly blue box contents and their funny wobble-run. Best to get out of the way before there was an accidental stabbing.

I quickly turned a corner and that’s when I saw it. As I looked down to make sure I didn’t trip, I saw the horror. It was my mouth. It was open. And it was SCREAMINGGGGGG. The scream was coming from ME.

Cut to 4.2 seconds later and I was covered in a writhing blob of neighbours each performing their own version of an emergency procedure. Someone was bashing at my chest, someone else screaming at me to count their fingers and another person was behind me giving me the sort of Heimlich maneuver normally reserved for things with tusks.

And that’s the story about how I let all my neighbours know I’m upset it’s almost fall.  Guess I saw a leaf or something and went into some sort of P.T.S.D.

The horror.  Fall.

The thought occurred to me  for the first time when I went to visit my community garden last week.  It seemed like for the longest time I was just standing up there waiting for stuff to grow.  There was a lot of work and no rewards other than the quiet, the solitude, the range of birds, butterflies and the smell of freshly cut grass. And who needs that shit?  Mama needs a new potato.

So I was in for quite a shock when I made my way up there and found a tomato patch that was so overflowing it had been pretty much decimated by raccoons, potato plants that were dying and an entire crop of squash that needed to be picked.  Not to mention the carrots, cabbage, and candy.  I did not grow candy. I needed another “C” sound to get more impact from my illiteration.  Sorry ’bout that.

A lot of stuff needed to be harvested.   Which means harvest season.  Which is fall.

I had brought my camera up to take a picture of my watermelon.  I have never brought my camera up to my BIG garden before because I want it to be a place for relaxing, forgetting about work and running through imaginary conversations with Idris Elba in my head.  I’m always very witty and charming by the way.

But since I had my camera, and since the season is ending and since people have asked about it … here are a few shots of my allotment.

Prepare to enter 20’x40′ of weeds, vegetables, fun and food.





Mosey on up to the Triple A garden plot.

My ranch away from home that has no horses or cows, but does have manure.



The quinoa I started wayyy too late is small, but full of quinoa so I will be able to harvest some.  Not a lot.  But enough to make it worthwhile and fun.




Cherry Vanilla Quinoa.





This is the first year I’ve grown Thelma (Saunders) Sanders squash. I got the heirloom seeds for it from  Tree & Twig.

It is BEAUTIFUL.  They range in colour, but mine ended up being almost pure white with no blemishes or skin problems.




Until I have tasted the Thelma Sanders squash I can still safely say that the Kabocha squash is my all time favourite.

It’s a dry, sweet squash which makes it perfect for cooking.



The Delicata squash, also known as the sweet potato squash.

Which is funny, because Thelma Sanders is also known as the sweet potato squash.

Delicata squash are delicious.  Really delicious. I’ll eat these first because they won’t last as long in storage as the thicker skinned Kabocha, which I’ve had last for close to a year in storage!


My squash haul for 2014.




January King Cabbage.




My cutting bed.




Green beans.

French, Scarlett Runner, Lazy Housewife, Yardlong, Fringed.





Unripe watermelon.

Why is it picked?

Dunno.  Ask the raccoons.





One of only two watermelons I have left after the raccoons got in.

I’ve since covered it with chicken wire in the hopes of preserving it until it’s ripe.

Said the stupid girl who knew she wasn’t really smarter than a raccoon.

You’ll notice the scratch marks all over it.




One of three carrot beds.  In behind are rutabagas that I planted July 1st.








The dying potato patch.

Which is fine. When the plants start to look all wilty and withered it’s time to dig the potatoes.

Potato digging day is only surpassed in excitement by dumpster diving day.





A pea I have grown has never once made it into a pot.  I eat them raw in the garden.




This is a good example of succession planting.

The red leaves to the back are beets.

The smaller green leaves directly in front of the red leaves are a second, later planting of beets.

And the feathery fronds right in front are carrots I planted a few weeks ago.  No idea if they’ll achieve maturity.

My guess is the female ones will and the male ones won’t.



The foreground is my pepper patch.  I’ve had years where my peppers grow 5 feet high.

Not so much this year.




The pepper plants are stocky but short.

They look completely void of peppers. Is that a real sentence? That doesn’t feel like a real sentence.





But underneath there are tons of peppers.

I could either pick them green and give the flowers on top of the plant a chance to produce a second crop, or leave the peppers where they are, pinch off the flowers and let the peppers turn red.  Which is what I’m going to do.





Dill.  Which I’ll be putting on my baked potato tonight.



Sweet potato crop!

3 different types.




Instead of starting onions myself which are a pain because you have to start them in like January or something ridiculous, I bought my onion sets from a hardware store. They’re supposed to all be yellow onions.

And at least 4 or 5 of the hundreds of them are. The rest are white.




Red onions as started by a fellow gardener on the other hand …. are all red.



GIANT leeks.





I’m not saying it out loud again.

If you want to know what this flower is called click here.  You’ll understand why I won’t say it when you do.





In with the Quinoa I’m also growing Amaranthus. I’m growing it for the flowers, but you can also eat the cooked Amaranthus grains.

I might give it a shot.





Dum, dum, dum, dummmmmm.





 Brussels Sprouts



Now get outta my garden.



Sorry to be rude, but I have a lot to get done today not the least of which is drafting a stack of apology note to my neighbours.

Oh, it wasn’t the screaming fit.

It was for screaming at their kids for using bad words.   5 year olds running around screaming the f word.



  1. Ella says:

    That post was F-U-N. I think Fall is okay, just don’t say the “W” word.

  2. Mindy says:

    Holy crap, that is a shit ton of food!! Awesome.

  3. Nichole says:

    So…I have been following your blog for quite awhile but have never commented. Yeah I know its stalker like but I am okay with that. Tonight I finally got to sit down to eat dinner after a very, very long day ( I have 3 kids under 6) and I will admit I was not in a very good mood. I read your blog and your witty humor and garden porn seriously made my day and I felt SO much better. I just wanted to let you know you made my evening. Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Aw. That’s great Nichole! Thanks for letting me know. There is something about a garden isn’t there? And insanity jokes of course. Welcome to commenting. Don’t be a stranger. ;) ~ karen!

  4. theresa says:

    so looking forward to your “how/what to do with the harvest so you can eat it longer than this week” post as it usually inspires me when I am next at the farmers market too.

    I got a mental picture of raccoons thumping watermelons to see if they were ripe

  5. Carole-Ann says:

    MMMMary MMMMMary quite contrary-how does your garden grow? Super Duper I’d say!
    Good for you!
    I have the smallest of small patch to grow things in and I’ve had a blast watching,waiting, picking and eating my few rewards. Cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, parsley, nasturiums,rosemary, chives and three kinds of green beans! Oh and this year I planted for the first time – Okra! And it grew! We had a small feast in a gumbo last week.
    Next year – more chard & green beans.

  6. “And who needs that shit? Mama needs a new potato.” rotflmao

    It looks great, Karen! I especially like that you are growing cutting flowers!! But it makes me wonder what you are growing in your front garden this year.

    I’m seriously considering your course, but I could be away part of that time. Will you be offering it again any time in the near future? The future that comes after this course time slot? :-D

  7. Mary says:

    I’ve driven by many a community garden plot while living in TO – yours seems quite large in comparison. Also, I think you are missing many of the community garden obligatory statutory and lawn chairs. You also appear to be missing a hammock. Sure wish I could find a community garden in Kawartha Lakes – I have so many trees I can bearly grow ferns.

  8. Jess says:

    Our peppers were the same, really small plants for most of the summer, they have gotten taller recently though. It’s been a weird year for gardening here.

  9. Feral Turtle says:

    Your green thumb must be huge! Awesome garden Karen! BTW…I love sweet potato squash and am definitely growing it next year. I can never find the seeds locally so I am just going to order them!

  10. Caroline says:

    Thanks for the garden tour! I am awed by how crazy talented you are! I am surprised that you don’t love fall – being a foodie and all – nothing better than cooking yummy soups and stews and roasts and being all cozy in your house! Yay Fall!

  11. Maria says:

    Beautiful veggie garden and photo’s. Gate? Not so much. I refuse to believe it’s a Karen gate. Yep Refuse.

    • Denise Leavens says:

      At first glance of today’s post feed I thought Karen was featuring The French Revolution. At a glance – glance, mind you, the gate to the community garden looked like a guillotine! After reading and enjoying every bit of this community garden post, I then saw the comment referring to this particular gate in disparaging terms. Maria, this gate must be French colonial. It’s not a look I go for myself, but Karen’s garden community must like it.

      • Maria says:

        No, no, no. It was in no way meant to be disparaging. For that impression I truly apologize. It’s just that in my eyes, it just didn’t have the creative, hands-on mark of a Karen original (after seeing the gate to her back yard). Perhaps I will refrain from commenting ::sigh::. Again, I apologize.

        • Denise Leavens says:

          Maria, it is MY turn to apologize. Unfortunate choice of words in using the big word “disparaging.” My failed attempt at being witty was meant to say that I think the gate is something Karen has no control over, as it is a community gate. Truly, I had no intention of dissing your comment. I should know better than to let the Queen of Wit (Karen, of course!) go to my head and try my hand before I’ve been fully schooled. Waiting for Karen’s tutorial on How To Be Witty. Again, sorry. No hard feelings???

        • Maria says:

          No hard feelings from the git go :)

    • Karen says:

      Holy hell, lol. O.K. everybody calm down. 1) I didn’t take offence to anything. :) 2) That *is* my gate and I built the fence and gate out of stuff I found up at the garden in about half a day. 3) I like my gate! 4) I ran out of time this year but will be cutting a big cleaver into the centre of the gate. Phew. As you were. ~ karen!

      • Maria says:

        1) that’s a good thing. 2) I knew the gate was to your garden area (from found stuff? Should have figured :) 3) I like it too, even better now that it’s from found stuff! It works (except for racoons)? 4) Maybe the cleaver will work to scare away the racoons :).

        Ok, going back to as I was :)

  12. Patti says:

    I’m in awe! It’s incredible that from those tiny little seeds come all this food! Do you have a food bank or soup kitchen you can donate the excess to? I’m sure someone there’d take the brussel sprouts.

  13. Sally says:

    I hear Idris is a big fan of brussel sprouts.

  14. Wisconsingal says:

    Karen, do you use a cleaver to cut the squash, or just a huge carving knife?

  15. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I grew 3 kinds of tomatoes in big flower pots and they did really great..will do the same next year..also grew leaf lettuce in big pot..next year I will try peppers and maybe something else..I loved seeing your garden..Thanks for sharing..now if you could share some of those Delicata squash I would be oh so happy..Sorry about laughing at the cat throwing up on your head but..it is kinda amusing..to me that is..and those damn racoons will eat anything they can get their little paws on..I planted a big pot full of Dahila bulbs one day and the next morning the bulbs were all missing..they climbed up into the pot, dug them all up and ate them..Maybe I should beat them over the head with my COCKSCOMB..HAHAHA HAHAHA..my cat vomited on my head..HAHAHA..yeah..I’m having a good day here..

  16. Annio says:

    This your official warning: Charm shmarm. IDRIS IS MINE. Keep your imaginary up mitts off.

    Great garden by the way.

  17. Safetydog says:

    I would love to blame raccoons for the damage to my tomatoes, but I have seen my own beloved dogs sneak dainty bites out of the ripest tomatoes on the vine. Curse them!

  18. Marion says:

    What a beautiful garden! And, to be honest, I’m glad fall is approaching. I’m looking forward to your Halloween decorating posts! Happy harvesting, it looks like you’ll be stocked pretty well for winter.

  19. Wisconsingal says:

    Ok, so. I refuse to believe that the F time of year is here in any way. And denial is not the worst state to be in. Also, I love fresh tomatoes and squash and green beans and just about everything from a garden. I don’t even mind planting and weeding and picking. But I hate all the washing and cutting. Any tips you can give in future posts about cutting delicious but rude things with thick skins, like squash, will be welcome. So, can we agree – no more of the F word.

    • Karen says:

      Well right off the top of my head I can tell you that I never peel squash, lol. Whether I’m making soup, puree, or diced squash I almost always cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it. ~ karen!

  20. Nancy says:

    My mother grew boatloads of Celosia cristata which last nearly forever after picking them. Then you get another boatload of tiny black seeds to repeat the whole process. And here’s a link if you want to try the other ones http://offalgood.com/2007/09/delicious-cocks-combs/, which you could, and you wouldn’t have to go far to find some. ;)

    Lovely garden!

  21. Danni says:

    The first hint of leaves turning sends me into a mental tailspin. I know that scream well…. will echo in my head till the first spring perennials sprout through the snow.
    My garden was meh… battled groundhogs and squirrels (?!!) but have some watermelons ripening, pickles on the shelf, beans and tomato sauce in the freezer. FYI, (I’m sure you already know…) peppers blister and roast perfectly on the floor of the cob oven.
    I too am still waiting for the report of the found seeds, the ones you tripped across just laying in the road after you came back from vacation….

    • Karen says:

      Hi Danni – The Thailand seeds grew really well but none of them have flowered! :( There’s still time for the fringed beans so I have my fingers crossed! ~ karen

  22. Joanne says:

    Can’t believe, after all the work that went into your front vegetable garden, that you have an ADDITIONAL garden that also yields a TON of edible stuff. I am so jealous. Everything looks wonderful – even the weeds look under control.

    Do you ever have the need to purchase vegetables, or do your gardens supply everything you need?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanne – In the summer I pretty much supply all the vegetables I need. When my lettuce starts to bolt, I need to buy lettuces but that’s about it. And yesterday I had to buy 2 bell peppers because my pepper plants got maggots. :( ~ karen!

  23. Marti says:

    Am I the only person who snorted Diet Coke through their nose at the carrots comment? The female ones will mature; the male ones will take longer? HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAH!!

    Off to the gym. Let me know when the tutorial on your abs is posted.

  24. Jake says:

    I didn’t know there were HIM and HER carrots, thanks for the info Karen.

  25. Meghan says:

    Gorgeous!! Your garden has done so well. I need to move further south just for an increase in production. My garden has completely and utterly floundered this year. The CORN didn’t even get to making ears – just tassels that happened to late in the season. Peppers quit the second they hit the soil. Brussel sprouts, which everyone says like cool weather also froze in time and have done absolutely nothing but stay the same size! Even my lovely and delicious delicate squash – it didn’t even sprout!!!!! Ugh, I’m so whiny about this year. Boo hoo, woe is me!

  26. Ev Wilcox says:

    BRUSSELS SPROUTS???? I alway wonder who is a pod person and who isn’t! You can’t be our Karen. Is it too late? Is she really just a bunch of deflated gush? Nice veggies, btw. Whomever you are!

  27. Mary Werner says:

    I’ve never seen red blossoms on green beans – really pretty. I’m in Florida so maybe that is why. HOW did you manage to have so few holes in the brussels sprout leaves???? I also have a fantastic recipe for them that is loved by even those that don’t really like them and requested at pot luck dinners. Will send. Next, I’m in complete envy of your beautiful dill. It is fantastic dried in a F— arrangement, but most of all used in dill pickles. What I miss most in having a garden is making dill pickles and seeing those gorgeous bottles all lined up on the shelf. Finally, I found the secret to your beautiful garden and produce – magic coming from the gold flips you are wearing in the garden. Obviously you weren’t working in them so they must be magic!

  28. Mel says:

    Wow! Beautiful garden and harvest! I too get a tad unruly when I hear the F word.
    I would love to know how many hours you spend daily, weekly, monthly tending to your gardens. I have perennial gardens that I’ve grown and tended over the years that takes care of itself now mainly and a small veggie garden but I’m always thinking of expanding the veggies and wonder with a one year old and another on the way whether I should bother until they are older due to the time commitment. I would love an estimate on the time involved.
    As always I really love reading your blog :)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Mel – This major garden, (the 20′ x 40′) one takes a long time in the spring to prepare and plant. A few full days at least. Then tending to it isn’t too bad. An hour or so 3 nights a week. ~ karen!

  29. Sally says:

    So beautiful and soooo funny!

  30. Danni says:

    Dammit. I’m not ready for the F-word! It’s not time no, no, NO. And then right after its even worse the W-word :(

  31. Patti says:

    Hi What a wonderful walk thru your garden this morning…
    Brussell Sprouts …Pull the branches off the plant where the sprout are growing, then the plants energy will go to the sprouts and not the leaves. Start from the bottom and work up to the top.

  32. Erin says:

    Beautiful! I hope you’ll write when you harvest the quinoa! Something tells me hacking off the plant and throwing it into a pot won’t yield the desired result…

  33. Tigersmom says:

    Crap! I meant “Britny”

  34. Tigersmom says:

    One of your best today. The humour, the teaching us new words (illiteration) and the pics and the garden inspiration. All of it great. “Two girls named Brtiny…” hehehehehehehe

  35. Su says:

    HATE the ‘F’ word too… ok to be honest I don’t hate Fall it’s the ‘W’ word that follows I cannot abide and detest….
    Love the cutting garden… I turned my little veggie patch into one this year cause it didn’t really get enough sun for the veggies to do well…..the prettiness of it makes me smile every time I look at it…
    I moved the tomato plants to an area on a hill that runs down to a channel we live on that runs to the river… sounds pretty right? well you think the raccoon are a trip to deal with?? try muskrats…. BASTARDS ate my tomato plants and carried off the stalks, stems AND maters with them to feed their young ens… and they (the plants) were a thing of beauty… 5′ tall full of fruit and blossoms…..my heart is broken.. I can barely look at a garden now without feeling the loss…. yours is rocking tho!

  36. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    I remember SOMEONE “smuggling” seeds back from Thailand. As I recall, it was for some long, prickly looking, green vegetable. Were they planted or confiscated?????

  37. Jody says:

    Carrots, cabbage and COCKSCOMB. A new and different illiteration.

  38. Sally A says:

    Beautiful harvest!! I love all the different squashes!

    I am the same way with the f word. My husband is in Texas and I’m in Wisconsin and last night on the phone my end of the conversation was lamenting over the fact that it was almost completely dark at 7:30pm. Rumor has it that this winter is going to be even more brutal than last year. Yippee.

  39. Louise says:

    BTW, loved the use of “illiteration” in the 10 paragraph. I thought, “Oh dear, Karen means “alliteration” but she’s made a mistake.” Just for kicks, I checked to see if this was some weird Canadian spelling, and I found this:
    Definition of illiteration :.
    1. (n.) Any scattering of similiar sounds in sentences which are nonsensical, hence making them seem illiterate.
    Origins: From illiterate. Somewhat related to the word alliteration.
    http://www.unwords.com/unword/illiteration.html Looks like a great site!
    You are just so damn witty! (Really!) :-O

  40. Dagmar says:

    I’m a little confused now. Is this a community garden that the neighborhood tends to and gets to enjoy? Or is this your personal extra garden that you have created beyond the limits of your own home? Either way, it reminds me of my childhood, and I can almost smell how fresh all the produce is. Yum! And as for your temporary loss for c words: corn, cilantro, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, cotton candy radishes, or even chives would have done. But since you had a mini-stroke with that F word and all, you are entitled to some brain malfunction.

    • Karen says:

      It’s an extra garden of my own that I house elsewhere. It’s a bit of land that various gardeners have plots in. :) ~ karen

  41. Louise says:

    My God, no wonder you are thin – you’re on the go every moment! You take care of your 100 yr. old house, you build a beautiful back yard oasis (plus a pizza oven!), you build an incredible chicken coop and take care of your flock, you have a beautiful front yard vegetable garden, you do all sorts of crafts and build all sorts of wonders, and now I find out you didn’t have enough to do at home, SO YOU HAD TO ADD AN OFF-SITE GARDEN SO YOU HAD MORE STUFF TO SHOW FOR YOUR HARD WORK!!! And you take great photos, keep up with a stupendous blog and keep us all amused! Really, it’s a wonder I don’t HATE you! (but i’m just toooo tired to . . . )

    • Louise says:

      Really, do you ever sit down and make a list of what you’ve accomplished in the last few years and gloat? I think you should submit the list to the Guiness Book of World Records.

    • Tracey says:

      That what I was thinking too Louise!
      Karen….you are amazing!!
      Seriously, do you ever get tired? I’m always tired….I just wish I could do 1/10th of what you do in a day.
      I think we are around the same age….maybe you are blessed with good genes, or maybe it’s all the really healthy food you grow and eat. There are so many things I want to do but by 3pm I need a nap. You still inspire me to try more.

      • Karen says:

        That’s what I’m here for. Seriously. You can do it. And I’m sure you’re just as busy as I am, just doing different things. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      You know Louise, I’d hate me, so feel free. If it makes you feel better my cat vomited on my head in the middle of the night last night. So all is not as perfect as it seems, lol. ~ karen!

  42. Grammy says:

    Beautiful harvest. The only thing that thrived in mine this year was tomatoes. I’m so tired of making soup and sauce and paste and eating them raw — and that’s just nuts because I love them. But lots of tomatoes. Peppers, except for the Fresno Chiles were puny and very little production, and peppers are usually the thing I have the most of every year. Everything else was just scraggly and sad, with small yields. Severe drought and excessive heat are no good.

    You don’t love Brussels sprouts, therefore it is illegal for you to grow them. Hand them over. Throw in a couple of your gorgeous squash and we’ll forget this happened.

  43. caryl hodgdon says:

    Queen Midas-even your neglected? garden has turned to gold.

  44. Madhu Ramakrishnan says:

    awesome. seeing & reading saturates the mind with verdant green smell of the garden and vegetables. u have such a rich garden, new things to pluck everyday..

  45. Laura says:

    Man, raccoons are buttholes

  46. Linda Penrose says:

    I’m jealous. Your garden is a thing of beauty. This is year two of my veggie garden. Last year was good but this year the crabgrass invaded. All my time is spent battling it. Any advice for next year? Someone suggested digging in corn gluten in the spring but when googled, it doesn’t seem all that easy. Very expensive and success depends upon PERFECT timing for application–sounds like a bit of a crapshoot.

    • Karen says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for you Linda. But someone else on here is likely to. With weeds or invasive grasses all I do is dig them up and keep digging them up. (I don’t pull … I actually use a shovel and dig) Good luck! ~ karen

  47. victoria says:

    O.M.*&#^*.G……That is a lot of food! :)

  48. Amber says:

    brussel sprouts???
    you’re not Karen, who are you? I have a wonderful recipe for brussel sprouts cooked with maple syrup and bacon, let me flood your inbox!

  49. Cred says:

    Love it! I can’t believe you grow so much food. Curious about how you find managing an off-site garden. It didn’t look overgrown in weeds. Do you mulch, visit often, pay a shirtless man to tend it for you? What’s the secret? I found a huge difference in my garden this year because it’s just outside my patio door- I tend to it daily. At our previous house, the garden was at the back of our lots and it suffered neglect.
    I am envious- what a beautiful harvest!

    • Karen says:

      Oh brother! It’s FULL of weeds, lol. But thanks for not seeing them. I do a really big weed every month or so but because it’s a small garden in a large garden weeds and pests are rampant. It’s hard to keep on top of it. I mulch with straw in between the beds and that helps a lot for the paths. I grow a lot of crops I can store for the winter, that way I don’t let a lot of food that I’ve grown go to waste. A post on how to cure and store common garden vegetables coming up in a couple of weeks!
      ~ karen

  50. Auntiepatch says:

    Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing your garden with us today.

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