The Ghost of Gardens Past

Confession time: What you are about to see is not my current garden. If I were to show you my "yard" right now (and yes, the quotation marks are appropriate in this case), you would see a strip of grass at a 45-degree angle on the hill leading up to our front door.

And even that is maintained by the town home association.


So when Lisa announced her intentions to hold a Garden Party, I lamented that I was a year too late to play. Being the very picture of graciousness, she told me I could join the party even with old material.

I think she also told me to bring a housewarming gift of cinnamon rolls and to please keep my husband at home, but I could be wrong. (Did anyone else have that on their invitation?)

Confession number two: Five years ago, I hadn't grown so much as a dandelion in my yard. Corey is the gardener in this family, and he's dang good at it. At our last house in San Diego, he took a month off work to landscape our backyard. A MONTH! And when he was done, it was a slice of paradise -- Gerber daisies, scads of hibiscus bushes, bougainvillea, a Meyer lemon tree, yucca, impatiens, daisies, agapanthus.

Too bad it was reduced to ashes a few months later.

(Hold on. I think that would preach!)

Anyway. When we moved back to the Midwest five years ago and suddenly had yard the size of our old neighborhood (a little more than 1.5 acres), I got an itch to develop my green thumb. Specifically, I wanted to try vegetable gardening.

So Corey, who loves to spend time outdoors, bought a industrial-strength tiller and got to work. We were stunned at what he plowed up. It was some of the richest, darkest soil I've ever seen -- loam, the black gold of the gardening world.

What I'm saying is -- that soil made me look good. Because that year, I threw about 20 different vegetables in the garden, did nothing else but weed, and everything grew like gangbusters.

That was all it took for me to get the gardening bug. Each year, I inched out of my shell a little further, planting more exotic vegetables, trying new varieties. And each year, I was thrilled with the results.

Here's the garden fully planted in 2005. It's early June in this picture.

And here's the garden just six weeks later.

We may have a short growing season here in Minnesota, but we make up for it with long hours of summer sunlight. (Today, for example, the sun rose at 5:27 AM. The sunset is at 9:01 PM, and the sky will hold a blush of light until 10:00. Which makes it slightly difficult to get children to bed, but that's a separate post.)

In case you're interested, I think I've got carrots, sugar snap peas, green and wax beans, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash in there.

I also planted a hedge of morning glories on the northern fence each year. Because they are the Brangelina of the flower world -- gorgeous and, um, quite prolific.

And here's the garden in early September.

By this point, I was plotting ways to get rid of the tomatoes and zucchinis that were multiplying like mutant bunnies in my yard. Thankfully, I had many friends who welcomed organic, homegrown vegetables.

(Side story, but after that first year, I suddenly understood all the jokes about zucchinis. If you turn your back on a zucchini plant for even one minute, it's all over. They will take over your garden, like zombies taking over New York. Here's Natalie "playing" with one of our monster zucchini that first year. And there's another one on the counter! It's like a horror movie! Watch out, Natalie!)

Of course, it wasn't all overgrown, zombie produce. I usually grew at least two varieties of tomatoes, which made for some gorgeous insalata caprese. (The basil is also from our garden.)

And gosh darn it if vegetable gardening didn't make it easy to eat a rainbow everyday.


Now I miss my garden. I'm growing two tomato plants and a few herbs in pots on my deck. But it isn't the same.

Part 2 of this story would be the landscaping that Corey did around the foundation of our lakeside home. It involved two weeks outside in 90-degree heat, more than 200 plants and trees, almost 1000 bags of mulch and lots and lots of sweat.

But maybe I'll save that chapter for next year. (There will be a next year, right Lisa?)

Instead, I'll leave you with the view from my garden of yore. God's glory was always right in front of me, whether it was in the form of a perfectly red and juicy tomato or a sunset that was glory defined.

And that's why I love gardening.


  1. Lovely, green and thriving garden you had...praying that you have one again that is such a blessing to your gardening loving heart!

    I would LOVE to get some of your recipes for the Siesta Fiesta cookbook! You make one beautiful dish!

    with love,

  2. That's enough to make me eat a vegetable that isn't deep fried in batter! I'm just up the road from your SoCal house, lived here all my life except for 13 months in my husbands home state-Ohio. We lived on five acres of former farm land and boy did I think I was a good gardener until I came back to North San Diego County, home of clay. Oh well, I do have both a Chick Fil A and an In n Out. May your tomato pots overfloweth. You're always a great read!

  3. Wow, what beautiful country you live in. The vegetables are fabulous! They make me hungry just looking at them:) My folks had a huge garden all the years I was growing up. I love the smell and taste of fresh veggies. Thanks for sharing!

  4. YUM! There is nothing better than homegrown veggies. My family will eat things they would never have touched, if I call it "homegrown". Of course our garden is too pathetic to publish (about 8 tomato plants). In fact I have found that it pays to have friends that are gardeners.

    Thanks for your prayers for my friends. Also, I wanted to let you know I am adding you to my blogroll so I can come back more often!

    Enjoy your weekend,

  5. That is one JUMBO zucchini - I make those bad boys into chocolate cake.

  6. Show me a man buying zucchini at the grocercy store and I will show you a man with NO friends.
    LOVE your garden.
    I do love the long days but you are right about kids going to bed. Grrr.
    We used to live so far North that people golfed till 11:00PM and by the 4:00AM feeding (had a newborn) it was light again.

  7. That really is a monster zucchini!!! And I LOVE those morning glories!

  8. That is the biggest vegetable I've ever seen.

    And that Brangelina comment made me laugh out loud.

    I hope that you are able to plant another monster garden soon!!!

  9. I have a black thumb, but I SO hope my container veggies will grow! Your garden looks just heavenly...

    I'd have no trouble eating my veggies if I could grow some that looked like that!

  10. Aren't homegrown veggies the best? Growing up, my parents had 4 kids (a 5th one came later) and we had 2 acres to garden...those were the days.

  11. Oh my word that's a gorgeous place! The combo of green and lake is heaven!! Your garden is inspiring me--we haven't put ours in yet, and I keep wondering if it's too late. But I guess late is better than never?

    Great post :)

  12. GORGEOUS! I love the view of your old garden...

  13. Oh my goodness- what a nice one. And that zucchini! Oh, how I love zucchini bread and zucchini muffins and zucchini cookies!


  14. Oh, that yard and garden and view.....breathtaking. I would LOVE to have that beautiful soil here - we have incredibly sandy soil that is so hot and dry.

    And now I am hungry for zucchini bread.

  15. The Garden of Eden comes to mind..:)) I hope you and Cory didn't go running around nekked in the yard - that might have caused a stir. :)

    Seriously, your place was gorgeous. I have no doubt that God has gone ahead of you to prepare another for your family. When it happens, you'll know it was only Him. In the meantime, I know you are making a wonderful home for your family exactly where you are.

    Love you my friend!


  16. ahhhhh... that's all I can say about your garden, your yard, your view... God's glory is amazing.

    I LOVE your land. We dream of having an acre. But we also love our urban city lot, so there's confusion in our hearts. :)

  17. "Because they are the Brangelina of the flower world -- gorgeous and, um, quite prolific."

    Sentences like that, as well as the deeper ones about God, are the reasons you are usually one of the first blogs I read from my Bloglines.

  18. Wow. I am sorely horticulturally challenged. And we have clay soil. Homegrown tomatoes - yum.

    "Only two things that money can't buy - that's true love and homegrown tomatoes!" And you had them both.

    At least you still have the most important one!

  19. My husband would DIE for a garden that size. Ours is a woosy little plot, barely big enough to hold a few different veggies.

    And those dishes look tasty!

  20. You must really miss that garden and open space! I wish I could grow my own veggies! Yum!

  21. As for the zuchinni: Wow! This from one with zero gardening skills coupled with zero desire for gardening skills...

  22. That caprese looks RIDICULOUS. My wife loves that, so we eat it all the time in the summer. Yours looks delicious.

  23. Awesome garden! I can see why you miss it, although you're rockin' your pots.

    I had a bad experience with a tomato worm once and thus, no garden here. Tell me to get over it! I could have a garden... and it was just a stinkin' worm! (Although a huge, ugly, horned worm. *shudder*)