My Large Garden Plot and All That Grows Within It!


Welcome to the 2016 version of my 20’x40′ garden plot!  Well, one of them anyway.

Please enjoy the horrible pictures that go along with this post.  Hopefully your attention will be diverted away from the bad photography by the scintillating writing.

Actually I’m kind of tuckered out so not on my A game.  Maybe just look at the vegetables and squint your eyes a bit and skim over the words.

Other than those few things you’re in for a GREAT post!


Weird fact #1 about my garden.  Half of it is in shade for most of the day.  This creates photos like the one you see above.  This is what’s known as a bad photo.

But it’s all I got.

I waiting and waited for an overcast day to take my photos so the lighting would be even but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen this summer.

All it is is sunshine, heat and humidity.  Every. Single. Day.

I don’t know how you Californians do it.


The potting bench I made from pallet wood  last year is holding up extremely well.  By the way when Pinterest tells you to build something from wood pallets please know that THESE PINTEREST PEOPLE HAVE NEVER ATTEMPTED TO TAKE A PART A PALLET IN THEIR LIFE.  It’s hard.  It is really, really hard to take apart a pallet and even harder to take one apart without breaking the wood.

So there.  You’ve been told.



I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, that’s a half decent photo of garlic.  But you’re wrong.  It’s a half decent photo of Elephant garlic.  Which isn’t garlic at all but a member of the leek family.  Want proof?  My actual garlic was planted in the same bed and all died from some sort of virus in the soil.  The elephant garlic however did fine.  Why?  Because it’s not garlic.




The right side of my garden From left to right, carrot bed, beet bed, pepper bed. Beyond the pepper bed, which you can’t see are 2 potato beds.

I planted ALL my potatoes in straw this year.  No soil.  At all.  Well, I plunked the potato down on some soil and then covered them with straw.  To date I see no evidence of potatoes growing in the straw.  It appears as though I’ve spent a great deal of time and land on growing air.



The left side of the garden has an empty bed because of the whole garden in the shade thing.  Nothing will grow there.  I had zucchini plants in there (you can see one in the corner) that I planted in May.  It has grown approximately 4 inches since May.  I took 2 of the sad little zucchini plants out of the shaded bed in June and put them in a sunnier bed and this is how they look.

It’s an actual plant.  With actual zucchini.  So that’s proof that most vegetables need sun to grow for those of you  still trying to grow your tomatoes in complete shade.



Most years I grow every colour of carrot imaginable because I LOVE colourful carrots on a plate.  Purple, white, yellow, red … I’ve tried them all.  Easily the most delicious is the Lunar White carrot, but you know what?  When you make carrot soup out of white carrots, add a dash of this and that and what you end up with isn’t a bowl of startling white, beautiful soup, but rather something that looks similar to cream coloured, imitation television barf.

Also when I make stew I want my carrots to be bright orange for colour and so I can distinguish them from the potatoes and parsnips.

So this year I’m growing mainly orange carrots.  Scarlet Nantes and Bolero are my carrots of choice this year with a few Purple Suns just to have on hand.  Purple Sun is a purple carrot that’s deep purple all the way through.



Even though I have a huge bed of Bulls Blood beeds I wanted more.  The bulls blood will be mainly for making pickled beets and the Kestrels will be mainly for shoving in my mouth after roasting them and adding a bit of goat’s cheese, nuts and a honey balsamic dressing on them.  Here’s the recipe for my Easy Beet Salad.  You can make it without the greens as a hot side dish too.


And yes, you absolutely can plant beets in a pot.  I have these big pots from Lee Valley all around my garden with every imaginable thing in them.

This year I’ve planted pots with:



Sweet Potatoes


Ground Cherries

Something else I can’t remember, but I’ll let you know when I go back up to the garden and check.




See?  Potatoes.  This is a BIG pot and I planted 1 seed potatoes in it.  ONE.  Here’s a lesson for you newer gardeners.

I know that your instinct is the plant MORE.  To shove as much as you can into a certain area.  Because … why wouldn’t you??  In terms of size this pot could easily accommodate 6 potato plants.  So why just one?

Because vegetables are smarter than you think.  Potatoes in particular know, they sense how much space is around them and that dictates how many and how big they’ll produce.  If a plant is rammed in with 6 other plants it senses that and only produces enough potatoes it thinks it needs to fill out the space around it. Which isn’t very much. So it’ll put out some small potatoes.

On the other hand, one potato plant in a big pot (O.K. I probably could have planted two but this was an experiment) and the potato senses it has all KINDS of room and puts out BIG potatoes.

Don’t believe potatoes or other vegetables can sense things?

Then explain how a seed knows to grow roots downwards and leaves upwards when covered under 2 inches of soil in complete darkness.




Another experiment this year was to cage in my sweet potatoes.  It was a HUGE pain but the end game is having a bunch of sweet potatoes that don’t have vole bites all over them.


Last year I convinced everyone up at the community garden to grow sweet potatoes and we all had the same problem.  VOLES.  MICE.  TINY LITTLE ANNOYING THINGS that we discovered had eaten half our sweet potato crop when we dug them up.

So this year I volunteered to experiment with my crop using hardware cloth screwed over the plants.  The plants grow through the hardware cloth and the voles cannot under any circumstances get through the hardware cloth to the sweet potatoes.

If they figure out they can tunnel underneath the raised beds I’m screwed.



I had GREAT luck with melons this year because it was so hot for SO long.  Just hot, hot, hot like I mentioned before.  Hot and dry.  It’s like gardening in Africa.

If you follow me on Instagram you know all about my summer adventure “Karen versus the stupid raccoon” It’s a cantaloupe eating competition and as of today the raccoon is in the lead.

But not anymore.  I’ll be showing you the raccoon proofing of my melon beds in an upcoming post.

I’ve also harvested the most delicious Honeydew melon in the history of the world.  And so did a raccoon.


I’m really bad when it comes to watering.  I’m REALLY lucky that our community garden has water, I just don’t do it enough.  Which is why my onion bed looks like the dead front lawn of a haunted house.



Even my Kelsae onions which are well known to grow the the size of a St. Bernard’s head are still small.


So sad.  Luckily they haven’t stopped growing so I still have a shot at bringing them up to size.  You know an onions is done-for in terms of growing when it flops over at the neck.  If the greens are still standing straight up you still have a shot at them getting bigger.

So I’m promising myself and my big headed onions that I’ll water my garden once or twice a week with about 3″ of water.  Why 3″?  Because the hotter and dryer it is the more water the garden needs.  You may think you’re watering enough because it’s what you’ve always watered, but if your area is  hotter and dryer than normal this year your stuff needs more than normal water amounts.



That’s the bucket of rocks I’m growing.  They’re doing well.


Again, because of the incredibly hot weather all of my peppers are doing GREAT. I’ve never seen so many peppers on my pepper plants.  Red peppers, green peppers, banana peppers, jalapeño peppers.  It’s a never ending menagerie of peppers.



Once every two weeks or so I make a batch of my 38 calorie Jalapeno poppers and stick them in the freezer to keep me popping all winter long.




The luffah vine.



Yup.  That thing you use for scrubbing your back.  Nope.  Doesn’t grow in the sea.  It grows on a vine like a cucumber or squash.  My season isn’t *quite* long enough to ever get me fully developed luffahs but here’s hoping because of the weather this is the year.


Since it’s August and the vine is just starting to flower I’m a bit concerned.


Redbor kale!  The kale that was so in demand I had to ask for it behind the counter at the seed store like I was asking for a big glass of methadone.


It’s really pretty but kind of false advertising if you ask me. I was expecting the entire plant and all the leaves to be red, but it’s only some read streaking and the top leaves.




Just a few potatoes I dug up from vines that were dying.  Those aren’t the ones I planted in straw by the way they’re ones that volunteered their services this spring after I missed digging them up last fall.


The biggest and best improvement I made to my garden this year was definitely putting in a hand washing station.


I hate dirty hands.  They feel gross.  Bleh.  So  I put a splitter on my hose, ran a small length of hose up to the top rail of my fence, attached a bendable spout, threw a bar of soap in an old knee high and laid out a hand towel.

Hand washing station done.



The  hoop house is a little bit shorter than the last time you saw it because the week after I built it we had a huge storm and huffed and puffed.  Yup.  It blew that little hoop house away.  Not quite away but it definitely tore the insect barrier to shreds.  I shortened the hoops so it isn’t as high and I leave one flap of the fabric open so any wind can blow right through it.



It’s the happy home to anything cabbage moths like.  Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, and …


Swiss Chard.


It’s a cozy little house.   You could probably live in it. In fact if you aren’t living in a hoop house, pooping in the soil for compost and chewing your vegetables down to the stalk without any cutlery, you aren’t really a homesteader. Are you?



Attention everyone in Zone 6!  You still have time to grow things.  Just barely, but you do.  A week ago I planted peas and beans which will be covering this structure by the end of September hopefully.



I got my romaine lettuce in a week ago too.


Plus some beets.


Along with some radishes, that will be ready once these that I planted on June 25th are done growing.  That my little gardeners is succession planting.


radish radish-in-jar




And since woman cannot live on vegetables alone …



Have a great day and thank you for suffering through this, the world’s longest, most poorly written, horribly photographed post on this year’s community garden.


  1. Darla says:

    Your garden looks great!!
    Envious of your beans. All mine burned to a crisp. Even with automatic watering.
    This was our first year to plant potatoes. The ones that had the best “eyes” on them did great, but the ones that had tiny eyes didn’t do so well. It was a waste of a row in the garden. Oh well, it is all an experiment at this point.

  2. UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

    What the heck do you need with onions the size of a St. Bernard’s head?

    Thank you for saying a virus got in your ground.
    I had a little chat with my tomatoes last night. Septoria is apparently not an empty threat in my area.

  3. Tanya says:

    I may be growing air instead of potatoes, too, as I’m attempting them in a rain barrel this year. We’ll see how that works out. Ground cherries and pumpkin are growing like gangbusters in the shade, and I’ll be moving my lettuce to the shade next spring. Tomatoes — I meant to prune and kept putting it off. Now there’s a tomato jungle. My zucchini leaves are monsters, which had me worried for a while, but the plants are producing well now. All my beans are trying to climb this year. Never had that happen with bush beans before. Peppers are not producing well, but peas and herbs are.
    Do you know what makes those tiny holes in the radish leaves? Mine are holey, too, which is a shame because radish leaves are yummy.

    • Karen says:

      Those are flea beetles Tanya. There really isn’t anything you can do about them other than putting the radishes under some sort of row cover. You’ll still get the holes, just not as many. ~ karen!

  4. Donna says:

    Karen! Get up before dawn and shoot at first light. You have about an hour of beautiful light at .. let’s see.. 6:16 am. Tripod…bring your tripod.. and get a scrim for close ups once the sun is too high.

  5. Jen Topp says:

    Thanks, Karen, you have completely depressed me. My garden looks awful this year and it’s my own damn fault because it’s too f$%@ing hot to go out there much. Getting that fall garden planted for when it’s civilized!!

  6. Jan in Waterdown says:

    Speaking of peppers, someone told me once that red peppers are just green ones that have been left on the plant to ripen some more. Is that true or did they lie to me? I decided you are the best person to ask and would speak the truth.

    • Karen says:

      They’re telling the truth Jan. :) ~ karen!

      • Elaine says:

        I never knew that!!! The stuff I learn on this fabulous and so interesting blog. I’m still in a Monarch-butterfly haze and worrying about them in their flight to Mexico!

        I’m in a condo now but admiring your abundant garden is making me wistful!

  7. Barb says:

    A wonderful garden porn post!! Makes me want to go out and get going on that succession planting I have been putting off, as I am too tired from all the chicken coop building I have been doing. I did an experiment and planted my potatoes shallowly and covered them with hay. Lots of hay. Hay beats straw because it isn’t fluffy and it makes it nice and dark. I have lots of potatoes. I also installed drip irrigation tape from Wm Dam Seeds and this year it was worth the effort- I just turn on the tap and let it rip for a few hours under the deep hay mulch that keeps the weeds down very nicely thank you, and my garden is huge. But I still can’t grow carrots. Or much in the way of peppers. And my chickens were snacking on my cherry tomatoes. They are now giving me the chicken eye from behind the firmly closed gate of their run.

  8. Tina Settimi says:

    Love your garden and thanks for the inspiration, now I’m going to try some late season planting to!

  9. Monique says:

    First of all what an amazing door..Love it..
    It really has been an incredibly sunny summer.
    Our grass hurts when I walk on it..and it’s so brown in many areas..
    There are so many joys to gardening and disappointments too.
    The birds ate my I went picking themin a commercial place..
    My romaine was earwig infested..huge beautiful Romaine..crawling with them and of course holes in the outer leaves..they attcak so much.
    Thank goodness my garlic was safe..but our friends garlic in Ontario had the same virus as yours:(
    And they got me started on growing it..I felt bad for them and you..
    My watermelon radishes many leaves so few tomatoes good..the herbs fantastic..peas not a multitude..

    You are so right,,about shooting w/ sun and shade..I have never had a photo I love :)
    Thanks for sharing everything..

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Monique! And yes. Gardening is a crap shoot. :) The other gardeners in the community garden have banded together and are giving me garlic for planting next year and eating. :)~ karen!

  10. I don’t know where you find the time. Couldn’t you grow lettuce or other veggies that like it cool in the shade area?

    • Karen says:

      I’ve tried lettuce and there isn’t enough sun even for lettuce there. :/ I’m trying once again though, lol. That’s the plot that the newly sprouted Romaine is in. ~ karen!

  11. Used to hate beets – but LOVE them now! Will try the beet salad recipe tonight – with fresh Ontario corn, of course! I am in awe of your garden as well… Do you have to keep an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of succession, harvesting times etc.? Also – PLEASE show us your cutting garden! Love the bright, hot colours of the zinnias!

  12. Lindy says:

    At last! I have been yearning for a glimpse of the plot for ages. You are doing so well with so many crops. Dead jealous of your peppers. Sublime. And if we didn’t have enemies in the real world; we’d have to make em in the virtual one. So raccoons for you, mole rats for me. They are just reminders that you need to build proper protection for next time. I tried the potatoes and straw one year too. And learned that I won’t be doing it again. Isn’t gardening ace for reminding yourself there is always next year?

    • Karen says:

      It’s also a great reminder for “the Internet is a big, fat liar”, lol. I researched and RESEARCHED this method. I mean, I read university studies and notes from professional potato growers and on and on! Uch. ~ karen!

      • Lindy says:

        And did they mention that watering might be a fun thing to do to get the little buggers into growth? That, or all the research was based on crops in Ireland or the west of England where it rains and rains. We of the ‘summers’ just don’t stand a chance.

  13. Mary Michelle says:

    Loved this post because it tells it like it is. Can’ t wait to try your beet salad recipe.

  14. Grammy says:

    Here in hot hot hot Sacramento, California, we grow bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons every year. It’s all the other things that are tricky if you don’t have the time and energy to time them perfectly and water diligently, and even if you do, a few blistering hot days can make most everything else bolt or die. There are people who manage more, but they tend to not have a life outside of the garden. I do have great luck with potatoes if I get them in early enough, but I’ve always failed at growing them in straw, so I don’t even try it any more. I generally get a good crop of chard, but it’s done way before the middle of summer.

    Your garden is beautiful, and the variety of things you grow leaves me envious. Now please explain your hand washing set-up to Robert so he doesn’t think he’s had a stroke.

  15. Alice says:

    Your community is so great! All that space available to garden! That’s about the size of my community garden’s entire space that is shared by 15 or so people. Sigh…..

    • Karen says:

      This is a rare garden Alice. This particular garden has been around and used by vegetable growers for 35 years or so. There is another community garden in town and the plots are all just 8×4′ beds. One per person. I’m very lucky. ~ karen!

  16. Rene Walkin says:

    I LOVE your garden-it’s amazing! I don’t know how you find the time given all the other stuff you do.

  17. Paula says:

    My squash is flowering now, too and I am in zone 5a!

    • Paula says:

      I forgot to ask my question…
      What do you find is the best method of preserving green beans? Is there a particular method that retains their crunch?

      • Karen says:

        Nope, lol. They pretty much always turn to mush for me. ~ karen!

      • Audrey says:

        Pickled beans are the answer — great in a Caesar! Or Blood Mary for our American friends who have limited exposure to clamato juice.

  18. Lynn says:

    Loved you pictures Karen an your humor was as always spot on . You keep us all so caught up in your stories we hang on every word. When you are busy it just shows us that we are all human even our favorite chicken lady. Enjoy your garden an your chicken smile an remember we all need to stop an smell your lovely flowers from time to time ???.

  19. MrsChris SA says:

    Ah, I cannot wait for September to get my garden going again – I have big plans for my garden this year…………………………………

    Yours looks amazing!!!

  20. Pam'a says:

    I can barely lift my head, I’m so weary after all of your gardening. But I did manage to go look at your beet salad recipe again, and have a question: You list beet greens in the ingredient list, but not in the instructions. Do I 1) mix them with the lettuce, 2) pat myself on the back for finding your secret test to see if I paid attention, or 3) toss them in the rotter for another salad?

    And oh– Do you hate gardening gloves more than dirty hands? I’m a fan of the Atlas ones with rubber on the palm side. You can pick up a dime with those suckers on, they’re cheap, and I think Lee Valley has them.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Pam’a! I wear gardening gloves for some tasks in the garden like if I’m shovelling an I don’t want to get blisters. I use for the most part, thin medical gloves for gardening. But in the heat of this kind of summer my hands shrivel up like prunes after about a minute in them, lol. Also, they rip fairly easily so they always end up with a hole in them where stupid dirt infiltrates. You use the beet greens in the salad. Just like lettuce. Also, like I say you don’t even need to bother with the lettuce if you don’t want and just serve it as a side dish. ~ karen!

  21. Meg says:

    All your garden posts make me yearn for more than a 9’x9′ balcony. Now I want to know more about your cutting garden! !

  22. Lynn says:

    I’ve had really good luck growing potatoes in tires…stack two – fill with dirt and plant. As the plant grows, add another tire and more soil, and on and on. One year I had 8-10 tires stacked high. Gave up last year though because it was so miserably hot with no rain all summer. Might try again this year. ‘Cause it is sort of cool growing your own potatoes. Not cheaper by any means – just cooler. PS – I didn’t think that was a poorly written or photographed post.

    • nanabobana says:

      It’s interesting that you had luck with that method because we had NO luck trying the square-foot-bed-add-a-board method. We have huge rainbarrels so we had plenty of water and as the green grew we added another board and filled it with more dirt, expecting to get potatoes on all levels, just as the internet said we would. The greens were all dead a week ago, so we opend the now 3 foot high bed and found NO potatoes except down at the bottm where our sets were. I made one pot of mashed potatoes and we were done. Relly disappointed.

  23. robert says:

    Also, who doesn’t hate dirty hands or feet the second after they are out of whatever is making them dirty?

    • Beth King says:

      I love dirt. When I’m gardening (playing in the dirt) I’ll rub mud on my bare arms to keep the mosquitoes and flies from biting. I pick long lovely worms out and move them to a safe space, too.

  24. robert says:

    Ohhh! Your rocks are growing beautifully, is there anything you can’t grow? Also I think I saw a typo in your hand washing station, house? Shouldn’t be hose? Am I wrong?

    • Karen says:

      No. House. It’s a hand washing station with house. Duh. You don’t think I’m fancy enough to have a hand washing house? ~ karen!

      • robert says:

        I totally don’t understand half of that sentence then. A splitter for what? Which house? Your actual house? What’s a knee high? In a single paragraph you just destroyed the little confidence I had on me understanding the English language. I’m a total dummy now thanks to you

      • Karen says:

        LOL. It’s a hose. ~ karen!

  25. Leslie says:

    Garden is looking great! What is the total area (sq foot of beds) that you grow in? So abundant.
    I tried potatoes in a straw tower last year – no luck either.
    Thanks for sharing. Love your gardening tales.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Leslie. It’s about 500 square feet of total beds in this one plot. That’s not including what I have growing in huge pots around the garden. My other plot at the same community garden is the same size but isn’t fully planted this year. I have around 60 sq. feet of strawberries, 60 sq. feet of asparagus, 60 sq. feet of flowers, 10 square feet of squash and around 36 square feet or more of sweet corn. :) Plus there’s the home garden, lol. Yikes. ~ karen!

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