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.






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. Scott says:

    Pallets aren’t hard to disassemble. You just need the right tool for the job. I use a sawzall with a demolition blade. I just cut through the nails in between the boards.

    Reading through your post about garden gates next. I just build a arch for the garden and I’m probably going to build it with pallets and paint some kind of design on the front of it.

  2. Rosiland Ball says:

    I thought the photos were great! Chill! Have a beer!

  3. TONI says:


  4. Barbie says:

    I enjoyed looking through your garden! Makes me miss all the veggies we usually grow. Only did tomatoes, green beans, carrots, cucumbers and also yellow and zucchini squash. The lettuce was bitter or I would say lettuce…lol
    Your pictures were fine too! And you’re fun to read! :)

    I always wanted to plant my potatoes in straw like that….I have a book I got like 30yrs ago that showed me how to do it when I lived in New England. It was a bit different than what I see here but it looked like SUCH a great idea…I will have to send the piece to you via e-mail if you’d like. They say that your potatoes will grow nice and smooth with no notches or gouges from rocks and dirt and you can just simply fish your hand down into the straw and feel which one is big enough to pick without pulling out the entire plant. I kind of liked that idea. Now that I see that it didn’t work….I don’t feel so bad about never doing it! Good for you for trying tho!
    VOLES! Our mortal enemy! We had to get a couple outside cats to do the job….I do realize your garden is away from your house but maybe you could get a cat to hang out in your garden if you feed it a little bit inside the garden….in fact you may attract some feral cats too…only a positive :) We haven’t see voles for 2 yrs now because of our kitties!

  5. Stephbo says:

    I was thinking your shaded area which won’t grow veggies would be great for growing flowery plants like hydrangeas.

  6. Brooke says:

    I’d love to see instructions for building a potting bench from pallets.

  7. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    Fantastic garden!!
    You are too fussy…the photos are just fine…and the writing is too!! Relax!

  8. Jo says:

    Could you please show your raccoon proofing sooner than later? I just lost all my Beats to the darn things. Frustrated!

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Great job once again Karen…I think fresh fruit and veggies are beautiful!

  10. anne rutherford says:

    I’ve had a great laugh this morning-I live in Australia-and I have enjoyed the comments.I don’t read many as it can take a long time when one goes through so many blogs.I would like to suggest that Robert not be so picky re typos as I have even seen some professional people make typing errors and I do it sometimes too.You have a great sense for the ridiculous and I loved reading your blog for the first time today.Needless to say I shall keep it up.regards,Anne.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Anne! I have a LOT of readers in Australia. I think they’re drawn to my Canadianness. ;) British roots and all. ~ karen!

  11. Tanya says:

    Well I loved the post. Especially since I locked my keys in the car at Costco and am waiting an hour for my hubby to come rescue me. Thank you for the entertainment.

  12. Lara says:


    At what point do you freeze your jalapeño poppers? And how do you reheat them?

    I discovered and have made your poppers a couple of times this summer to rave reviews. Sure would love to have some on hand in the freezer!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lara. I make the poppers in advance raw (fill with cream cheese, tabasco, wrap with raw bacon) and freeze them like that. When I want some, I pull a few out of the bag, let them thaw and cook. :) ~ karen!

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