28 Weeks

Welcome to the Nursery

No, not THAT one. That one's still an unspeakable pile of horror and disorganization and missing crib screws. I meant this one:


Goddamn hippies.


When we first moved from the city to the 'burbs we were pretty much incapable of keeping anything green alive (except for one hand-me-down decade-old jade plant), and in fact saw the tiny yard we have here as a plus: LESS FOLIAGE TO MURDER. 

We moved in. The jade plant promptly caught some disease and died. But we bought some herbs and stuck 'em in a planter out back. And then a tomato plant. Then peppers and zucchini and cauliflower and strawberries and onions and kale and butternut squash and beets and parsnips and leeks and homemade baby food and now it's a big production involving self-watering containers and concrete wire supports and composting and newspaper seedling pots and big ugly greenhouse light in our kitchen and I'm pouting because I don't have a deep enough pot to grow sweet potatoes in.


YET, anyway. 


We have no immediate plans to move, though every time a single-family house goes up for sale in our neighborhood Jason and I play a game of imaginary landscaping and discuss just how big of a garden we could have, and what the light and soil situation is probably like, and oooh, look at that porch! We could enclose that and have a greenhouse! We could do containers AND a real-live soil-patch grown-up garden! Maybe I would keep some chickens! PLUS, THINK OF ALL THE SWEET POTATOES. 

The mortgage calculations always kill the daydreaming. It's okay though. I still think last year's garden was pretty good for a couple of formerly death-thumbed city noobs...

IMG_3050 IMG_3061

IMG_7550 IMG_7573

...especially since it all started out small enough to fit on our kitchen counters.


P.S. If you're curious and also a dirty hippie lamesauce, I wrote a little about container gardening and composting over at AlphaMom, along with recommended books and such that helped us get started and not kill the majority of everything we planted.

P.P.S. And while I'm self-pimping and all, here's a Top Chef recap. It's about food! Super relevant to everything I've been saying today, shut up.


Jen O.

Currently the only living thing I haven't killed completely is my two kids and one barely-surviving potted tree that I brought in for the winter and looks HORRIFIC. It's only a matter of time.


I'm also a dirty hippie lamesauce. This will be my first year growing from seed (last 2 were nursery-bought) and I'm freakin' JAZZED. Garden plots are great but so. much. work - I can't imagine how I'll pull weeds AND take care of a baby next summer.

Also with you on the compost, except I think I screwed up my carbon ratios by throwing in some sand into my tumbler. I'm sort of afraid to go check on it once the snow melts.

FreeRange Pamela

We've got seedlings, too. When we moved to the sticks, I really wanted to have a BIG garden. The realities of our terrible soil (aka rock) have made it difficult to start without raised bed -- and they are both a lot of work and very expensive. Anyway, we're making progress. Slowly.


You can grow sweet potatoes in stacks of tires. I am too lazy to google it for you, sorry.

If the idea of heavy metals in tires skeeves you out, you can also build a wooden contraption, which I am not too lazy to google for you:




I haven't started my seeds OMG! Somehow keep forgetting. Plus, here in Colorado, it gets iffy to start too soon when we often get a late May snow. I hate having leggy tomatoes that I have to shuffle out for the day, in for the night, for too long. But hubby built me a grow box to start in this year, so no greenhouse lights in my living room making the neighbors extremely suspicious about what we are up to... hehehe


Can you tell your readers how you got those containers to attach to your fence? Because that's awesome and I want to do it!


I am totally still a death-thumbed city noob, but I have aspirations of being a dirty hippie lamesauce. We keep talking about growing something (herbs?) on our balcony...

Kelly J

Have y'all thought about Square Foot Gardening? It might be a way to make the most of the space you have while maximizing what you're able to produce (and you could do sweet potatoes!). I can't recommend this book highly enough - http://search.barnesandnoble.com/All-New-Square-Foot-Gardening/Mel-Bartholomew/e/9781591862024/?itm=1&USRI=square+foot+gardening

Heather R

I am slowly becoming a dirty hippie. I'm planning on starting a (small) vegetable garden for the very first time this summer! I'll check out your links.


Stephanie - Jason just picked those up at our local gardening place. I think they are basically just cheap plastic windowbox-type planters that came with mounting brackets. The planters just sit on the brackets so you can move them inside or rotate them if you have to. Very cool, but unfortunately I don't know any brand/online-purchasing info for them!

Kelly J - We bought that book! Just haven't gotten our act together enough to build the raised beds we'd need since our existing soil is crap. It's definitely a plan for one of these seasons, though.

Chris in Chicago

I can't see the greenery through Ezra's eyelashes. They are soooo long and thick! Boys always get the best ones!


Can I just say--WORM BIN. Worm bin, worm bin, worm bin. It will elevate your compost to a whole new level. And seriously, I'm in NoVa and will DRIVE to your house or meet you someplace with a pound of worms to get you started. I am a vermicomposting evangelist, and probably just as annoying about it as any evangelist. But Amy, if you take the worms into your heart THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.


Great pictures, great ideas. Thanks for posting! (Googling container gardens in another tab RIGHT NOW!)


Like Chris, I am distracted by that boy's eyelashes. Oh, my!


Ok, I read from the alphamom that herb garden is where to start, but any specific herbs for the unconfident?


I have a third comment to be made about Ezra's eyelashes because, wow!

Pinkie Bling



After 12 years in downtown DC, we just moved to surburbia. DEEP suburbia. And I was all "Whatever, LAWN, I am going to keep going to Whole Foods; I may have a garage now but I'll NEVER CHANGE WHO I AM"

And then I was at Home Depot and I saw the nursey section. And I was all "wait, basil? And ... ooh, green beans? AND OMG, PEPPERS FOR REAL?"

And now I'm thinking. And considering.

But I'm still not going to fucking Walmart.

Suzy Q

Mah poor heart 'bout near exploded from the cuteness of that last photo.

Also, YAY for Noah getting his gold belt! (yeah, I know I'm late on that one)


Wah! We don't get enough afternoon sunlight in our little garden area to grow any vegetables. I dream of the day when I can have a proper garden! For now, I'll just be content with my little pots of herbs and the farmer's market.


Hi, I'm Devany. I love you. Seriously. You are my all time biggest blog crush and I will stop gushing now because I'm also a lurker (cause I read on my phone) and that's creepy.

Annnnnnnnnyway, now that I know you container garden? I love you even more! My dad built me a salad table that he's delivering Saturday and I'm being way more ambitious with variety this year.

Please, please write more about your gardening? Thanks.


Are animals a problem for your produce growing? Damn squirrels or who knows what have decimated my plants the last two times I've tried urban gardening. If so, what do you do to keep them away? Thanks!


Cool! We have the same thing going on minus the gro-light. (What are you REALLY growing?) AND we have chickens and they are the BEST. THING. Get them! I'm sure your neighbors won't mind the poo and the noise and the, uh, poo some more. There's lots of poo.


sigh. I should have started tomatoes by now but I killed my geranium this winter and feel that it's sort of sick to even attempt tomatoes when I can so easily kill a freaking huge supposedly murderer-proof geranium.


Get a potato bag from gardeners supply co. Fill with dirt and grow your sweet potatoes.


Hey, next year if mortgage calculations get you down, you do look like you have enough room to do a small raised bed garden. We're doing a workshop on this at my place of work. It's the community service office of a private liberal arts college, but it's baptist, so we don't call ourselves hippies in public. We're baptist lamesauce.

Anyway, here's some info so you can grow your sweet potatoes.http://organicgardening.about.com/od/startinganorganicgarden/a/raisedbed.htm


Hey, next year if mortgage calculations get you down, you do look like you have enough room to do a small raised bed garden. We're doing a workshop on this at my place of work. It's the community service office of a private liberal arts college, but it's baptist, so we don't call ourselves hippies in public. We're baptist lamesauce.

Anyway, here's some info so you can grow your sweet potatoes.http://organicgardening.about.com/od/startinganorganicgarden/a/raisedbed.htm


Have you ever tried potatoes in a bag? But I really want a potato tower: http://freshdirt.sunset.com/2010/03/the-great-potatotower-trial.html


Would this work for sweet potatoes? http://lifehacker.com/#!5202849/grow-100-lbs-of-potatoes-in-4-square-feet

I just scanned up through the other comments and see you already have lots of sweet potato suggestions. You can do it, you filthy hippie!

Last year we built a 17x24 foot greenhouse and I honestly don't know how we ever grew food before. Keep in mind that the growing season in Maine is WAY shorter than yours! Our tomatoes were awesome. I put up about 60 quarts of sauce and many quarts of salsa and had more tomatoes to eat fresh than I could handle. Right now the greenhouse is full of spinach a lettuce. I can' wait for the snow to melt so I can get back in the garden!

karinya @ Unlikely Origins

It's awful, isn't it? (I mean, it's wonderful and healthy and tasty and all that crap, but the way you get addicted? Dangerous!)

-Karinya @ Unlikely Origins



You have just changed my life, what with your imparting hope for my short-growing-season, unreasonably-shady, tragically-gravelly yard. Also, my monies, of which I do not have enough for bajillions of those little pots at the garden shop. But newspaper and google, I have. Mmm, can't wait for this weekend!


I just want Ezra's eyelashes.

I see this is not an original thought--but it's really all I had to say after reading this post. I'm not even sure how he can see anything through those things.


We are also in a townhouse and have been container gardening for a few years (once I moved in!). We really only have the deck portion to grow our veggies because we realized we tend to neglect what we plant down below (yes, lazy lazy lazy).

One thing I learned after the years of the space dominance of cucumbers and zucchini, is that I don't grow things that are space hogs and are crazy cheap at the farmer's market.

This years crops: 4 different lettuces


Grr - iPhone post interruptus!!

This years crops: 4 different lettuces, my trusty blueberry bush (yep, in a pot for 4 years now), snow peas, Roma tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, basil , thyme, Rosemary, catnip, oregano, strawberries, ghost peppers, 3 kinds of habaneros, jumbo jalapeños, cayenne peppers, poblanos, cherry peppers, grape tomatoes...yes space is tight on our deck!


Hi. My name is Sarah and I'm a seed junkie. Every time I go to the store I come home with more seeds. We've already run out of space twice and I'm to the stage of planning two rounds of peas as well as multiple, multiple rounds of carrots, radishes, and (for the first time ever) beets! I go the most ga-ga for crazy kinds of tomatoes - we've got 20 started so far. We put TONS up last season and are currently swimming in pint/quart jars. And don't get me started on the beans (we ate them religiously all winter, and gave bags away left and right, and have five big bags left now. Gah.). Kudos on the growlight and newspaper pots - I've thought about going that route but we have an excellent discounter here in OH that is great for finding 12-packs of jiffy pots at about 2/$1 or something ridiculously cheap like that. I, too, was so geeked to put my growlight together and get my cute little plants started. Now if this nice weather would just STICK, dangit, I could start turning over the garden, put up our fencing and electric wire around the outside, spread our compost, and plant some PEAS! Yay for dirty hippie lamesauce :)


I love starting my own seeds, its such a awesome feeling knowing you're eating something you started from a seed, and its a great way to get the kids involved! (not to mention cheaper) One warning on 'big' gardening, WEEDS. I live in Iowa (here you're not a hippie for veggie gardening, you're just normal :) ) which is wonderful for all things gardening, but weeds are a constant battle. Last year I got smart and bought landscape cloth in 4 ft wide tubes, cut them in half (use a handsaw, learned the hard way after hubby's power saw MELTED the ends of the rolls together), then put it down in the garden before I planted (For rows I left 6-8 inches between the cloth rows,for hills I covered the whole area then cut holes for the plants). We have a big yard, so I used grass clippings (and wood shavings from my husbands workshop) for mulch. Saved me a ton of effort weeding, and since I was due with my first baby in August last year I needed all the help I could get! Not to mention you can go out in garden when the ground is muddy without a huge mess! (You can just mulch and not do groundcloth underneath, but with the amount of weeds I'm fighting, it was practiacaly required.)


If you want to grow potatos easily (though you'd probably need at least a small raised bed), use the straw method. No digging! You set the seed potatos on the groud, then cover with 6-8 inches of straw/hay/other grassy mulch material. The plants grow up through the mulch, and to harvest the potatos you just pick up the straw, they're just sitting right there! Just make sure you have plenty of mulch material and add to it through the growing season, sunlight will make the tubers green and unedible. You can also check on how they're growing (and pluck some early ones) without disturbing the plants or the potatos. if they're still small, no harvest lost. I avoided growing potatos for years because the standard way is a lot of work, this was so simple!


I just want to say good for you for being able to care for additional living things as a pregnant mother of two! You are amazing.


You've got to lower that grow light to just a few inches above the heads of your seedlings. otherwise, they're likely not getting the full benefit of your full spectrum!


I cannot tell you how much it bothers me that your triangular tomato cages are upside down. (Also, it bothers me that it bothers me. Neurotic much?)

The comments to this entry are closed.