Expanding my garden: Adding tomatoes, peppers, squash and more

First, I want to apologize for my lack of posts lately. My family has been incredibly busy and had an ongoing medical issue. We’ve also been working on a few exciting, but time-consuming, projects: major organizing and downsizing, setting up my new job with VIPKid and, of course, expanding my garden.

My husband is a teacher and is off work for the summer, so we’ve been able to do a few family activities with our toddler, which has been wonderful. He just took a summer job as a lifeguard (something he’s done for years), so he’ll stay busy and make a little extra cash, too. It’s been fun, but busy!

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Expanding my garden

One of the big projects we’ve been working on is expanding my modest garden. We moved to a rental house last year (previously, we were in an apartment and had a large container garden) and have been slowly adding plants. I finally got around to cleaning out our three garden beds and have been adding plants everywhere I can.

Purple eggplant flower blooms on an eggplant.
After what seems like forever, two of my three eggplants finally have flowers. Hopefully we have a good harvest!

The main problem I’ve been running into is a lack of sunlight. Our house has a large yard with a lot of sun, but it’s almost a field. I don’t have a tiller and the ground is HARD. With all of the crabgrass, it would take a long time for me to prepare the ground. With everything we have going on, I just haven’t been able to do it.

Instead, I’ve been expanding my garden by taking advantage of the existing little garden beds and have also used several garden planters. The beds are all in part-shade, so they haven’t been the best for sun-loving plants like tomatoes.

Two Sundays ago, I cleared a strip along our garage wall and planted several tomato and cucumber plants there. There was an old, broken screen door in one of the garden beds, so I moved it to the garage wall and put it on its side. I’m hoping the cucumbers will use it as a trellis. I planted them and the tomatoes in holes in cardboard boxes from Aldi to try and keep the weeds out.

What we’re growing

I mostly had young tomato seedlings I started from seed, but I also planted a much more developed Roma tomato plant in the ground near them. I got it at Lowe’s on sale a few days ago. Nearby, another store-bought Roma is in a large planter, and a few feet away I have a bean plant in a matching planter. I think it’s Dragon Tongue bean, but unfortunately I didn’t label it. I started it from seed.

I planted habaneros I started from seed along a little shed, but with the temperatures in the high 90s, they just didn’t survive. It’s been dry lately, and I can’t keep up with all of my plants’ watering needs. I planted other peppers and beans, all ones I started from seed, by a separate shed. I’ve had mixed results, with some dying, some wilted and others thriving. A nearly mature red bell pepper plant is in a large planter in the yard.

I have a mix of store-bought flowers and mint, some bulbs that haven’t come up yet, and a tiny basil plant I started from seed in an established bed near the garage. I also have lilies and irises in a separate bed, and lilies, lemonbalm, dianthus, and other plants in different containers.

Closed lily buds, just before blooming.
I had almost no patience waiting for these lilies to finally open.

My largest bed has three eggplants, cilantro and squash I just planted yesterday, all store-bought. It also has several Brunswick cabbages, a mix of carrots, kale, and a thriving cucumber plant, all ones I started from seed.

Problems

Most of the plants have done well, but I’ve had a problem with cabbage worms. I haven’t had a chance to put up any kind of cover, so a few days ago I finally bought some┬ádiatomaceous earth and sprinkled it on the plants. I’m hoping that’ll help them.

We also have some very fat bunnies that love to hang out in my yard suspiciously close to a handful of chewed-up plants. My daughter loves seeing the rabbits out there (and okay, I do, too) but I’m going to have to put a fence up if I want to save my plants.

The heat has been the biggest problem, though. At least with the worms and rabbits they only affect certain plants or areas. The heat has gotten to nearly all of my plants and makes it difficult to put many hours into watering, weeding, etc. My toddler tends to nap right at the hottest part of the day, so as much as I’d love to just do all of the work at a cooler time of day, I feel like I have to do it over her nap since it’s hard to work sometimes when she’s running around getting into everything.

Victories

After weeks of waiting, I was excited to finally have my first lilies bloom last Friday! My eggplants and cucumbers also finally grew flowers that same day. I also have a few flowers and two beautiful green tomatoes growing on the two store-bought Roma plants.

Bright orange lily blooming in a wooden planter.
I’m so excited that my lilies are finally blooming!

And today I found a baby zucchini! The plant has had several flowers on it and I’ve been waiting impatiently for them to fruit.

I’ve been bringing in a small harvest already for weeks– a bit of kale, oregano, mint, rosemary and lemonbalm. I haven’t been measuring it, but finally weighed my most recent tiny harvest a couple of days ago. I brought in 9 grams of fresh lemonbalm and 1 gram of fresh oregano over the weekend! I’m excited to start harvesting more over the summer. Part of it is from expanding my garden (the mint is relatively new) and some is just time, waiting as they’ve grown this year.

Expenses

So far, I’ve definitely spent more than I’ve saved. Most of my pots were ones I already had. We also already owned my watering can, many seeds, some plants I moved from our old house, and my little gardening tools. But we’ve had to buy more seeds and bulbs, two or three bags of gardening soil, a large shovel, a pack of plant tags and several plants (two Roma tomatoes, one red bell pepper and a couple of flowers). My water bill will also be higher than usual since it’s been dry. I buy a lot of items on clearance, which helps, but it’s still an investment. I’m hoping to see the numbers go more in my favor by the end of the summer, but my plants are really struggling with the dry heat.

That said, I have TONS of plans to keep expanding my garden, so I’ll definitely add more plants. It will also take more time to see the cost-per-use of my plant tags, shovel, etc. go down. So while I’ve spent more than I wanted to, we are starting to get some mini harvests in that will hopefully increase over the summer even as we keep expanding my garden.

Have you gotten to bring in a harvest yet? What are you anticipating most from your garden?

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