Backyard Farm Update

That’s my office on most warm days. I’m a lucky woman. The view? Me & Scarlet’s Backyard Farm. After the joy of last year’s experimentation, we went at it with gusto this spring. Here is the hill 6 weeks ago (after we scoped out the situation, tilled, and planted seeds, which I posted about here: Backyard Farm Year 2):

And here it is today:


Yay! Here’s what we’ve been discovering (and eating!) in this year’s backyard farm. I’ve got pics, tips, and questions for you (advice, please) after the jump…

Cauliflower shot up all of a sudden

But where is the veggie? I keep poking around for it, no sign yet…

I planted two tomato plants. I can’t remember what variety this is, but it’s some sort of regular old delicious tomato. It’s threatening to kill its cage:

The other is Romas… there are so many…

getting so close… i can almost taste them…

But about six other tomato plants sprung up from the ground!

They must be lurkers from last year’s delicious cherry tomato haul, and they are already bearing little green pearls of goodness.

I better cage them soon!

We planted lots of corn a week apart, so it would be fresh at different times.

I think it’s the most exciting to Scarlet because it grows so fast.

The zucchini has already provided endless delicious breads and meals

And I’m about to pick our first crookneck squash. What’s the best way to prepare it?

A sea of butternut squash has taken over one corner of the yard, though no fruit yet.

And the first tiny cucumbers have made their appearance

This year I am trying to train them to grow up the railing and hang from my treehouse. Yes, I do most of my work up there on warm days, thanks to the hubbie extending our internet service to work outside!

When these guys first started popping up, I could not for the life of me remember what I had planted so I asked y’all on facebook to mixed response, most of which said “weed.”


Bell peppers!

I planted all different colors and varieties, and there are about 10-12 growing now, so I can’t wait to see what sort of pepper bounty we recieve. Isn’t the flower they make so very perfect?

And a sea of scallions. This is my favorite thing to have in the garden – so easy to grow and so versatile, you’ll use them almost every day and they can sit there waiting for you to pick them without going bad. And they’ll continue to grow all year (at least in Southern California).

The peas are starting to pop up from their seeds (do i need to stake peas?), a friend gave me these seeds and I think they are my favorite present ever!

Our strawberries have been giving up a good amount of fruit, but Scarlet picks and eats them immediately so we haven’t had any shortcake to speak of.

Eggplant. Waiting patiently.

The artichoke has been the most exciting for me. I planted it last year as a tiny sprout (see a pic here) and not much happened. Then a few weeks ago it just popped. First I saw this:

Then two weeks later the thing is almost 10 feet tall and artichokes are poking up everywhere!

So far we have just been steaming them for 30 minutes with a clove of garlic, slice of lemon, and a bay leaf in the water, then dipping the leaves and heart in melted butter. I’ve been meaning to do more exciting things with them, but once you’ve had an actual fresh artichoke eaten that way, you just want more, more, more and anything else seems like overkill.

On the other side of the yard, by the door to my office (seen here),

we planted a lettuce and herb garden.

You’ll notice a few sunflowers. For most of the year we had Scarlet’s birdfeeder hung here – cut to spring and sunflowers are everywhere! I pick most of them out to make room for my edibles, but how can you not let a few of these grace your yard?


Some of my favorites from this bursting section are sage,



lots of mesclun greens (everyone should plant these, you can toss the seeds between your other plants have mixed green salads in a couple weeks),

basil, cilantro, parsley,

arugula (on pizza, in pasta, with eggs, we’ve been eating it non stop and i can’t get enough of the peppery goodness. Which is good, because there are about 15 plants growing willy nilly all over the place.),


and a patch of butter lettuce. there are actually butter lettuces growing in random spots all over the garden, because I found scarlet out there randomly tossing seeds around. At the time i was (in my head) all stressed about the disorganization of my garden, but now it’s a daily reminder of the charming magic of children.

I am sad that I could not get better pictures of our pole beans on the vine, because I think they are the single best thing you can plant if you have children. Here’s our first haul:

Picked by Miss S herself.

They are growing on the bamboo u-hoops up the white wall. Scarlet selected the seed packet that featured purple pole beans (of course) and they are just stunning. They are so easy for children to pick and give up lots of beans, and there is something about their size and shape that children just adore. And they get to come out a pick a big bunch, and then THEY EAT THEM AFTER, which is a win-win.

The other thing I do not have a great image of is the sugar pumpkins. Scarlet insisted we plant pumpkins, who was I to say no? But they take over. We planted them from seed six weeks ago, and they are now about 12 feet long. I put a bamboo trellis against the wall and I’m trying to train them, but they own about 15 square feet of the garden already. The big bright orange-yellow flowers are a delight, I can’t wait to eat & carve them.

We planted some bulbs this year and now we have shallots (how do I know when to pick them?)

And a row of garlic (also, how do I know when to pick them?)

We have been blessed this year. So far (knock on wood) no pest problems, no irrigation issues, no plants acting funny. Just gardening bliss! My only frustration is this bastard:

MINT! I pulled out FOUR SQUARE YARDS of mint before planting this year and every other day a new sprout pokes up its head. When I was pulling up the mint, i tossed the scraps into an old planter (for easy clean up) with no soil in it, then I set it aside and never watered it or looked at it again. Guess what’s in it now? An enormous mint plant. When it comes to mint take my advice.

So that’s what’s up in our neck of the woods. What’s happening in your gardens? I could chat with you about our plantings all summer long…



Rachel T

Oh wow. How jealous am I of your fabulous weather, sitting over here in grey Britain with our unpredictable summers and unpredictable vegetable crop? I planted lettuces this year – just a few – and they have all been eaten by snails. All but one, which is nibbled but unbowed,sitting in a little pot on our garden table!


I'm with Rachel… I was so happy and excited about my tomatoes (I have a communal garden) and then this morning I look out the window and the baby foxes that live in the garden had been digging in my tomato planter! I have put the dirt back in hoping that they will be ok… I think I need to get a table to put them on to keep nosy foxes kits out! Also all my sunflower sprouts were eaten as soon as they reached about a foot high 🙁


My favorite way to cook crookneck squash is REALLY simple. Slice about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Saute in plenty of butter and olive oil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt while it cooks. Serve over rice or couscous, pouring the extra butter/olive oil from the pan over it. Top with freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley or chives. Soooooo tasty when the squash is really fresh. . .

The Queen

Those purple beans are beautiful! I love that picture of the sunflower too. I planted shallots last year and they were my favorite! I had huge masses of cloves under the plants. As big as my hand! Anyways, I think you start to pick them when the plant starts to die? I can't exactly remember. Or maybe I just dug one up to check and was shocked at the results beneath. Delicious!


wow I wish we had nice enough weather to have a growing garden! It is still quite chilly here (high of 15 degrees Celsius today). I am hoping to do some planting in the next few weeks. We won't have a proper garden this year (landscaping) but I want to put some things in planters and have near the front entrance. Do you think watermelon or cantaloupe would grow well in that kind of a situation?


Did I miss it or did you not plant dill to use in the massively awesome spicy pickle recipe you gave us last year? I think about these pickles daily! Well I am 8 months pregnant ;)I can't wait to make them again!!


We JUST planted our garden – well, okay, we just bought stuff to plant – we're a bit behind but thank god for California! I am, however, green with envy over your seemingly easy-peasy garden. How much time do you spend tending it?

Also – re your cauliflower, I have no idea if there is any truth to this or not, but, last year we planted broccoli and it shot up, skipped making a broccoli head and flowered. The other day I learned a new word for gardening – "bolt" – as in, "careful, this plant can bolt in warm, sustained temps." I had an image of the plant skedaddling away, but no, it means to grow crazy big and skip the good part. More or less. Maybe your cauliflower bolted?


WOW! I just joined a CSA for the first time this year and am so excited with all my veggies… I can't even imagine doing it all myself!! You rock!!


Super jealous of your garden! We live on the top floor of an apartment building. Though our apartment is big and beautiful…I don't have a backyard like you. Every summer we do potted plants all over the deck. Tomatoes, herbs etc etc. You have inspired me to try a bit more veggies though! Excited for that. With squash I love to coat it in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven. Otherwise I make risotto..You can make it with squash, asparagus, zucchini, or really anything. I make a huge batch and then freeze it for the next time mommy is too tired to make dinner.

Lil Mama Stuart

I don't have a green thumb, nor a yard ha. But this was beautiful to see things go from dirt to a wonderful bounty straight to your tummy! And with S being so into it!


How lovely! I am super jealous!
Although, all your veggies made me excitedwe are only a few weeks away from garden corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and more!


Beautiful garden! I'm looking forward to leaving Florida so that we can grow a non-container garden. Alas, our soil is pretty much beachy.

Cauliflower – looks fine, NOT bolted, just be patient. Meanwhile, you could try eating some of those beautiful leaves. The cook up similar to kale and taste yummy. I LOVE broccoli leaves, too. Cutting leaves may encourage flowering, actually. The "veg" are actually the flower buds, so they show up pretty late in the growth cycle.

Scallions and garlic: Aliums like these and onions usually brown at the tips of the leaves and then start to wilt over when they are ready to harvest. That is when they bulbs will start to form husks. They take a very long time to mature. You can pick either green, though, and enjoy in "baby" form. Green garlic tastes like garlic all the way up the stem and leaf, just milder.

OH, and stake your peas. The tendrils will quickly attach to just about anything.

Vanessa at Rescued Goods

This looks so gorgeous!!! I am so envious. Here in Maine we are much much farther behind you in terms of gardens. I am so envious of the artichokes! I planted one this year, but I think our growing season will be too short-we'll find out! Looks like you have great advice on peas and garlic-Have fun!

Rising Designs

My Polish grandmother used to cook crookneck squash deliciously-it's still a comfort food for me. She chopped it finely and simmered it with orzo pasta in just enough milk to cover(I guess) until tender. Then she added a little butter and salt and pepper to taste. Let me know if it's a hit with your family.

Nap Mom


Who really needs that much mint? YOU do!

Make mint-infused simple syrup. It is THE secret ingredient for easy and delicious mojitos. You can also use it to sweeten iced tea. It stores in the refrigerator for a month or so.

It takes about 1/2 a cup of packed fresh mint leaves to make about 9 ounces of syrup. Do you know how many mint leaves it takes to pack into 1/2 cup. ALOT!


Mint is a meany! Spreading everywhere. Garlic should be harvested when a majority of it's leaves start to brown. You don't want them to completely brown or it might be hard to find them. Then you want to cure them in a warm, dry dark place for a week- you can also cook with them fresh but you want to cure them to store them longer- same with onions but pick when a little greener.
We have a huge garden at my parents house and our landlord at the farm we rent gave us half of his big gardens (2 of them). I love getting out there with my hoe and weeding and sweating in the dirt. Such a good feeling and great workout. If only I could have one all year I would be in shape!
We typically plant our corn every 2 weeks and it give us a nice crop throughout the year. And I planted a large patch in the garden at our house to freeze for winter. I am interested in seeing how much corn you get. Typically you want to plant more at 1 time because it is wind pollinated sometimes if you place smaller patches it doesn't get 100% pollinated (so you ears might not be fully developed) but still yummy.


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