My Garden, and Other Good Intentions

I love gardens. I love to read about them. I love to look at pictures of them. I love to wander about in them. I love to dream about having a big one of my own.

After reading about artists and their gardens, I thought I should show you my family’s gardens. Be prepared, the grounds are pretty extensive.

First of all, we have a balcony, with some things in pots and window boxes. Mostly we have herbs, some of which have traveled with me for over a decade, but also some flowers and some edibles like tomatoes and lettuce. Like so:


Tasty and convenient, right outside my kitchen door.

Window Box

Window box planted by 8-year-old Elizabeth

Each kid can plant a window box, if she or he wants to.

We also have a raised-bed garden in our small backyard. Efficiency is key, since the space contains both the garden and a play area for the kids and their ever-increasing herd of friends.

Swing 20151103

Sniffing Flower

Expert helper and flower-sniffer Henry

My plan for this year, based on years of research and experiments, was to grow herbs and tomatoes in the pots on the balcony where they get more sun, and to STOP trying to grow tomatoes in the garden, because our yard is too shady and it never works. My garden plan was something like this:

Garden (Planned)

And it turned out something like this:

Garden (Actual)

Tomatoes came up from seed and took over the whole thing.

Here is a picture. That fence is seven feet high.

Garden Photo

A few cucumbers did manage to sneak in, but mostly it was tomatoes.

Cucumber 20151103

Big Cucumber

Snacks on the vine

I had enough tomatoes that I did a little experiment. I let half of them grow however they wanted, and cut the other half back to the height of the tops of the tomato cages, mercilessly pinching suckers as I’d read I was supposed to do.

Tomatoes with a Haircut

Left side: not trimmed. Not even the suckers. Right side: cut back. That pile of green by the kids is what I cut off.

The overgrown ones produced way more tomatoes.

But anyway, our unintended tomato garden was a hit. The plants in pots on the balcony produced approximately three tomatoes (all of which were picked, unripe, by the children), but every time we went out back to the garden, the kids could pick and eat a whole handful of tomatoes or a cucumber, and I was satisfied with that.

And then came our very special guest.

Garden (Groundhog)

I know it was a groundhog because I surprised it one day and caught it in the act.

Actor portrayal.

Actor portrayal.

After I saw its furry little bottom disappear under the fence, I put a paving stone over the hole. The next day there was a new hole. I put a larger paving stone over that hole and put a heavy pot full of flowers on top.


The groundhog apparently thought I was welcoming her with a delicious salad and ate every last thing in the pot.

So, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

Still, it’s the most tomatoes I’ve ever grown, and I’ll take that.

As part of her agreement to appear in this post, the groundhog puppet would like you to know that she’s available for parties and educational presentations.

About rbpepper

Rebecca is an artist, writer, and photographer with degrees in Theater and Social Work, and is currently a Stay at Home Mom to her three kids. Some part of her house is always a mess, she lets her kids paint on the table and design their own costumes, and she makes excellent allergen-free cookies. She lives with her equally creative husband and children in a part of Virginia known for being "pretty close to Dulles Airport", and dreams of moving to an old farmhouse in New England.
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