My July Community Garden Seen from a Different Perspective.

Even if you don’t like vegetable gardening, you might like this new perspective on my community garden.

Overhead drone view of Karen Bertelsen's community garden.

Yup. It’s true. After debating about it for a couple of years I finally bought a really tall ladder.  Just kidding. I bought a supertall selfie stick.  Just kidding. I bought a drone.  That’s it. No more “just kiddings”, I really did buy a drone.

I’m basically exactly like Amazon.  

After being jealous of other gardeners’ drone shots I bought one myself. I do mean actually jealous – like the kind where you could stab someone’s eyes out with the closest knitting needle and not even the drone owner’s eyes, just whoever happens to have the misfortune of being near you.   More on the drone and all the eyeballs I saved by doing so, in an upcoming post.

Drip irrigation system positioned along the sides of the garden beds with chain-link fence in background.

But for now, back on firm ground, welcome to my mid July 2019 Community Garden.  There have been some early successes, failures and wtf’s.

Sweet potatoes growing in pots beside string-trained plants with composter in background.

I got a little overzealous with my cruciferous plantings this year ( as one does ) and by the time I’d planted all my kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, Brussels sprouts and more – I realized I didn’t have anywhere left to plant my sweet potatoes.  

So into these very large, very useful pots from Lee Valley they went. The pots are black which is perfect for sweet potatoes because they like the heat. I just covered up the soil with some thermal plastic and held it down with one of my most important garden tools – big, dirty rocks.

Big, dirty rocks are perfect for a) holding black thermal plastic down b) holding floating row cover down and c) playfully hurling at people in that carefree, fun, summertime way.

Staked zucchini plants showing signs of powdery mildew. Drip irrigation hoses on ground.

Powdery mildew has set in on the zucchini plants before a pickable zucchini has even arrived.  Zucchini can withstand a fair amount of powdery mildew before they finally croak luckily.

Also, note that I stake my zucchini plants and don’t let them sprawl all over.  Staking keeps them tidy, helps limit the powdery mildew and allows the zucchini to grow straight down. 

How to Stake Zucchini

You can read my full, in depth tutorial on how to stake zucchini here.

But in a nutshell:

  1. Stick a stake in the ground.
  2. As your zucchini grows, tie the stem to the stake.
  3. Continue tying the stem to the stake as the zucchini grows.
  4. Remove all the leaves below the lowest growing zucchini.  Just cut the leaves off right at the stem where it isn’t hollow anymore.
  5. Eat the first 25 zucchinis then start dropping them into open car windows.


Leek plants ready to be dug up and replanted in the garden.

My leeks are just about to the point where I’ll dig them up and replant them like I showed you here.

White poppies blooming in one of the flower beds in Karen Bertelsen's community garden.

The two flower beds I planted are just starting to show some action. Poppies are still going strong and I’m beginning to question my overall ability to make day to day choices in my life. Because if I’ve gone this long without growing poppies who knows what else I’ve been doing completely wrong.

Cut Bridal Silk poppies featuring white blooms with deep purple centers (some blooms open, some closed) in a jar with water sitting on a wooden table.

This is a variety called Bridal Silk from William Dam Seeds which I grew from seed indoors.  You aren’t supposed to start poppies indoors for the most part. They go into shock when you plant them out.  But I’ve never EVER had luck direct seeding poppies so this year I started them all indoors and they all did fine once I planted them outside.  They were a tiny bit shocked for a while but they got over it.

Like me when I see the price of celery, but really need to buy celery.


Karen Bertelsen's wheat field growing in her community garden.

What you’re looking at here is my wheat field. I will soon harvest my own wheat, thrash it, remove the chaff and grind it into flour that I will turn into exactly 4 buns.  If this works for me I’ll eat Laura Ingall’s bonnet.


String-trained tomato plants growing in Karen Bertelsen's community garden.

String training. You know it’s the only way to grow tomatoes and beans and cucumbers, right?


String-trained plants growing in Karen Bertelsen's community garden.

If you haven’t heard me blabber on and on about how great the string method is (especially if you like a tidy, in control garden) read this post. 

I even string trained Idris Elba once.


Overhead drone view of Karen Bertelsen working in the raised beds of her community garden.

I would like for you to take a look at the beds on the right.  Then count up two.  See those rocks?  This represents the 4th great use for big rocks in a garden.

There lies my cemetery of chick peas. Not a single one even broke the soil. Bless their hearts.

Drip irrigation system placed along beds with hinged-hoop house in background and garden fork in the foreground.

The drip irrigation system I installed in 2017 is still going strong as are all of the hinged hoop houses

Tam jalapeño plants, perfect for jalapeno poppers because of their less intense heat.

The Tam Jalapeños that almost weren’t.   I didn’t have an easy time starting these seeds that were probably about a decade past their germination prime.  

But I kept at it because they’re a less hot version of Jalapeño pepper which I need for making my 38 calorie Jalapeño Poppers.  Hot peppers are a crapshoot no matter what.  Their heat is partly due to their variety but also weather and water. So unless you’re growing them in a controlled environment of some sort you won’t know exactly how much heat the pepper is going to have. 

Danish cucumber plants growing.

I don’t know this cucumber by any name other than a Danish cucumber.  It’s HUGE and white inside and is used to make traditional Danish pickles called Asier.  I’ll need about one cucumber (kind of a gourd really) to make approximately 9,874,306 jars of pickles. So if you need a cucumber that could feed the entire crowd at Coachella, let me know. 

Bolero carrot plants growing in rows.

No joke. I am STILL eating these carrots from last summer’s harvest. I just stick them in a box of peat moss and put them in my mudroom.  Other varieties get mushy after a few months (purple carrots get mushy the fastest) but these last FOREVER.

Young luffa plants growing against chicken wire.

It’s not huge, but I’m trying to think only good thoughts for my Luffa plants. I have 5 or so growing along the back wall of my garden. Just in front of them I’ve stuck shallots.


Beige canvas director's chairs sitting on mulch path in vegetable garden.

This wall of chicken wire is where the luffas will be growing and hanging off of (hopefully). Those are my garden chairs that I never sit on.

Overhead drone shot of Karen Bertelsen's community garden. Also shows neighbour's plot to the left.

And if you think my plot is neat check out the plot to the left of me.  Mine is the double wide in the centre. The plot to the left of me is owned by a landscape designer and it’s like a park. I mean it is meticulous. People literally stop and gasp when they walk past it.  

Brassica plants showing signs of Swede Midge damage growing in garden.

Swede Midge damage

Here’s a possible wtf.  I don’t know if you’re familiar with Swede midge but they’re assholes. The Swede midge is a tiny flying insect that lays eggs in the growing point of brassicas. They then hatch and the larvae eat the growing tip which mutates your plant entirely. The growing tip dies off and your plant just doesn’t grow or if it does it looks like a horror show.  They overwinter in soil so even covering up your crops like I did with netting might not guarantee a clean crop. What I don’t understand is usually the entire crop is ruined.  For me half of my black kale has distorted, browning growing tips.

I don’t care all that much because kale – gross. But still, I do eat it in salad and like it that way.  Or completely covered in peanut sauce. 

Long overhead shot of Karen Bertelsen's community garden next to lush conservation area.

There you have it. Another perspective of my therapists office. Soon the garlic will be harvested and winter wheat planted in its place. Give it 2 or 3 more weeks of growing and all that brown will be full of green.

As will my belly.

Have a good weekend!


  1. Jacquie Gariano says:

    Loved the great view of your garden. What a wonderful lot you have. My daughter got her’s in but it has dwindled as her work load increased a great deal. Nothing is really producing yet and this week and next the weather will be in the 100’s Sacramento area) I’m pulling lots of weeds very early in the AM. Hoping something starts to grow soon. LOL

    • Twyla says:

      I’m in the Sacramento area, too. I just joined a Community Garden, have no idea what I’m doing but I love it.

  2. Robin says:

    I grew TAM Jalapenos last winter in an Aerogarden…. plenty of light, plenty of water and consistent temperature and nutrients. I harvested enough to pickle. They were a hit, everybody loved them, but left with gaping holes in the back of their heads and smoke coming out of their ears. I’ve been afraid to try them again to see if they’ve mellowed. I hope yours are gentler.

  3. Nora Lee says:

    Boy, this makes me want a big garden plot to grow vegetables. I don’t know why this post does when so many others have only stirred a mild interest. You make it seem so doable! Thanks. I love your sense of humour. I don’t like kale either unless finely shredded in a salad and drenched in a good salad dressing.

  4. Jen says:

    Looks like you’ll have a good chair harvest this year; they look mighty healthy.
    I envy your garden. Our nearby community gardens are basically 4’x4′ plots, if you’re lucky. And the setup of our yard wouldn’t work for anything other than big garden boxes, which ain’t in the budget just yet. So I confuse the neighbors with a huge rhubarb patch and have a CSA share. Someday I’ll have a garden again. :)

  5. Bonnie Gutierrez says:

    A drone! Darn, I had this mental vision of you hanging from a crane, harnessed to a zip line by a carabiner to get that shot!
    I cannot wait to get a vegetable garden next year in the new (old) place. Your garden is super!

  6. Veronica says:

    Hi Karen

    Heard that powdery mildew hates water – so water all the bad parts — it can’t hurt . It helped my potted plants.

  7. Idaho Girl says:

    I planted that same beautiful poppy last year, and had my 1st blooms this year. Now that the pods have turned hard and brown I’ve harvested them so I can grow more next year. Any secrets you can share about germinating those seeds indoors, or was old fashioned stubbornness the key?

  8. Mary W says:

    Your garden is Eyeball Poking wonderful! Yes, I’m jealous but not enough to work out in this horrific fat heat. I say Florida fat heat since it feels heavy. Humidity way above 90 along with the temp. BUT, I can enjoy your gardening from my cool easy chair. Loved the new perspective. I really like your two unsatupon chairs, also. Look hand made. Cool!

  9. Patricia says:

    My favorite post of yours yet. Thanks for sharing and letting us live vicariously through you. Can smell the soil and the green. Hear the birds. I have all of four tomato vines this year but 54 rose bushes. You will definitely eat better than us ….

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Patricia. I used to have roses. TONS of big old bushes and climbers and I miss them. But one by one they succumbed to the weather or black spot. I replanted an heirloom rose last year (Hansa) that I used to have but it’s the only one I have now. :( ~ karen!

  10. Karin says:

    How long did it take you to photoshop out all the weeds? Because damn, girl.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, no Photoshopping magic on the weeds but I will admit to doing some extra weeding the day before I shot the photos. It is astonishing how fast they grow! ~ k!

  11. DaveR says:

    I laughed at the comment about tossing zucchini in open windows because I did exactly that one year. Back in the pre-condo days when we had a house on the lake with a huge yard, and I had good knees and the ability to bend at the waist, I was bitten by the garden bug. Just a regular garden bug, not a tick. Ecch.
    I can’t remember if I planted six or eight zucchini plants, so it was either six or eight times what I really should have planted. We ate zucchini like our lives depended on it, and we barely made a dent. I took a few bags of them to a vegetarian friend of mine in Toronto and he looked at me like I brought him the plague. He said he wouldn’t be able to eat all that in months, so we went for a walk and I was tossing zucchini into several parked cars’ open windows.
    If anyone here is from Toronto and discovered mystery zucchini in your car about 20 years ago, you’re welcome.

  12. Eileen says:

    Beautiful shots with the drone and what a gorgeous community garden. I was in one once and grew the greatest weeds ever…along with most of my neighbors.

  13. Carswell says:

    Love the aerial shots. It is really nice to be able to put everything in perspective.

    I’d love to see aerial shots of your house because I have never been able to figure out how your back space – the patio and the chicken coop – relate to your house and the rest of your yard.

  14. Jen says:

    Lovely! And I feel for you withe kale. My entire bed of brassicas has been destroyed by some cabbage asshole moths because I bought all the materials to build a hoop house but didn’t *actually* do it.

    A request: please ask your community garden neighbors if you can do a photo spread of their gardens! I would love to see what everyone else is growing and how.

  15. Eileen says:

    Please, if you’re going to be tossing zukes in car windows, will you toss some in mine? I’m the only person on the planet who cannot grow the bleeping things. One year I had 24 plants and suddenly every house on my street had a for sale sign in front. My harvest from those 24 plants? Exactly 4 zucchini.

  16. danni says:

    You and I both know that luffa is a sneaky one, sits there doing nothing and pretending to be manageable, but turn your back on it for one day and… BOOM!!
    Well, at least while it strangles out any plants nearby and topples fences under their weight it puts on a fabulous flower display.

  17. Ashley says:

    I’m amazed and thoroughly jealous at the size of your community garden! The entirety of the community garden in my neighborhood is the size of your plot, and my plots are in the very back…under some trees. It’s not ideal. Until the day comes when I move to a house in the country, or coerce someone into letting me turn a better plot of land into a community garden, I will live vicariously through you.

  18. ”playfully hurling (rocks) at people in that carefree, fun, summertime way” – may I borrow this to make t-shirts? Or name a girl band (possibly a Japanese girl thrasher band)? It’s so diminutive and violent

  19. Sabina says:

    Karen, I made an amateur mistake last fall and used straw that was full of weed seeds to mulch my garlic. It’s been a bitch but I’ve managed to clear out the bed twice. What do I do after I harvest to save this bed? It’s a 4×8 raised bed and I’d like to follow up the garlic with another crop of something. I’m the same growing zone as you. Any advice?

  20. Bev out West says:

    The drone perspective is cool!

    Do you rotate winter wheat with the garlic?

  21. judy says:

    I would love to have a drone,we live in Brandermill the first PUD in the States situated around a reservoir and the geese,ducks and birds also fall foliage are no longer available-had to sell the pontoon boat and can’t walk around the house much less the 15 miles of walking/bicycle trails.
    My concern is the neighbors,can one fly it high enough not to be annoying? I guess the regs for Canada might be different from us in the states. Anyhoo-fascinating!

  22. Markus says:

    A glimpse of the Gardner would even make that much more beautiful !

  23. suzanne says:

    Beautiful! Future tutes on how to operate the drone please. I had a weird experience
    with the (assuming) the neighbors kids flying over out 10 acer property. Hope it’s the kids anyway…anything else would be creepy.

  24. Anne says:

    Oh, I wish I lived closer as I have a LOT of questions! I am getting older (79) and debate every year about how much garden. Then I go to get tomato plants and go crazy. This year I’ve only 5 and one’s in a very big pot and doing great. The others are in the ground and managing to survive. Your garden is beautiful and so interesting. I tried sweet potatoes a couple of years ago just because I love saying Beauregard. They weren’t madly successful and I won’t do it again. I planted poppies once in a pkg of mixed bee/bird seed and I’ve had them ever since. And my garden is slowly being taken over by my dahlias. The rest gets put in wherever. Anyway, I think your neighbour must have been a gardener in a walled garden in Britain in a former life. That is too much.

  25. CGrogan says:

    Forget the garden!!! I want the chairs!

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