Starting Our New Garden




There’s a reason I’m not a “lifestyle blogger”. I just like to show things the way they really are and sometimes it ain’t too purty.

We had a 3 day summer weather streak here in Upstate NY recently and I took the opportunity to get the “new” garden space revamped.

To summarize my garden situation here…
We don’t have a car, so we used the driveway for container gardening. I named it Grey Gardens ,and several times since we’ve lived here , I’ve given up only to decide to give it one more try.  The driveway is  the space where I have my bookshelf herb garden . Container gardening kinda sucks when you’re gardening for a large family. Also…neighborhood townie deer have not been helpful. Oh,neither have jerks who hang around the neighborhood. We’ve actually caught people peeing in the plants. Nearly everyday, I need to clean cigarette butts and people’s takeout garbage & coffee cups out of my containers. People aren’t always respectful of urban gardens. And yes, people have stolen plants and in one case, someone took a whole planter that had chamomile planted in it. I bet they thought that vintage galvanized watering can was worth money or something but dude….it had a broken spout and dented all to hell. They’d be lucky to get $5 for it.


At the end of the driveway is this dirt space which has been damned near impossible to garden in. On the edge of this space is a 50 foot drop into the woods and creek. It’s almost completely shade, so plants have to love shade. But worst of all, because it’s sort of a damp space, the slugs are unmanageable. Every single slug & snail control method out there, natural and otherwise, I have tried them all. There are so many that it’s just a constant battle. So, slugs,deer…and woodchucks. Shade.

Now, because of my posts here about why poor people might not be able to garden (see here, here, and here …) , people have gotten the impression that I’m anti-gardening. I’m in no way anti-gardening. I’m just realistic about the obstacles that keep people from gardening . Helping people recognize this is the first step in creating solutions so that low income people and communities can develop food sovereignty.

I have about 30 years of gardening experience under my belt and haven’t had what I’d say was a truly successful garden in the 8 years I’ve lived in this house we’re living in now. I just really want to be honest about how hard it is sometimes.
One of my favorite books is Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens In Wartime. These are gardens beyond the well known victory gardens. Japanese-Americans gardening while in internment camps during WW2. Seeds started in teacups in the Warsaw Ghetto. Soldiers growing lettuce in the trenches.  Impossible gardens that shouldn’t thrive at all. And realistically, sometimes they didn’t but as Audrey Hepburn said once, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  This was the point more than anything. The entire ghetto wasn’t going to be fed with salvaged seeds planted in rubble and broken dishes but the idea that there was a future to see that plant come to fruition. It gives hope when things are looking pretty shitty.

Yeah, wartime gardens ain’t even close to my fairly safe existence in small town America, even while being poor. I just relate to the idea of gardens representing a brighter future. It’s what keeps me trying despite how pointless it seem sometimes.

I started building this space up last fall with the  lasagna gardening method. The soil was horrible. The people who lived here before used the woodstove to burn everything. I don’t even know what. I mean, some of it looked like twisted metal burned? I have no idea. But then they dumped all of it out back, so the soil quality was the pits. I used cardboard,dead leaves, compost, hay,and  newspapers to build my layers. I still need to throw some more good soil/compost mix on top.



The space in the front here is where I had the cucumber trellis I made from crib parts last year.

You can’t see it that well, but at the left in the back is what used to be a sofa. There was no takers when  offered the couch for free on freecycle or craigslist, so I stripped all the material and stuffing off of it. It’s sitting in the one sunny space in the backyard, so I plan on planting melons in it. It’s a ready made garden planter. The back of the couch still have the metal springs and I think will be a nice sturdy trellis for the melons to grow up.

We’re borrowing a hav-a-hart trap to catch that snotty woodchuck I had issues with last year.

Still working on a plan to deal with deer. I can’t afford to put a deer proof fence up along the back and so far, they don’t seem fazed by anything we’ve already tried.













The length of the space in back.


This is where the neighbors dropped their old rain gutters when they replaced them. DSC_0755I think this means they’re ours? I will double check of course but I plan on using them to make rain gutter planters for my greens. This will help keep them from being devoured by slugs. I just need to figure out where to mount them. The privacy fence is pretty rickety and I don’t think it will hold anything too heavy. My husband is afraid to use the side of the house because we feel like the house is held together with the new coat of paint that was put on 2 years ago.

Just kidding but not really.

So, this is the new space I have to contend with this year, along with our Grey Gardens. I plan on growing beans, greens, chard,beets, carrots,peas,cabbage,broccoli, and some herbs in that space. And the melons in the one sunny spot. The cukes also did fine where they were last year,so I’ll probably do that again.


I plan on bringing you updates through the season on how the garden is doing. It’ll be a bit before we can plant here. The day I took these pictures it was a rare 80 in April. The day after, it snowed. It’s usually mid-may before I can start to think about putting things in the ground here.

My cost so far: $15 for seeds
I am a big time seed saver but I misplaced my seed stash (long story) and bought some . Also, the bad thing about not having a good growing season besides not getting the food is that obviously, if the plant doesn’t make it, there’s no seeds at the end of the season, so I did have to buy some seeds to replace what I couldn’t save.























11 thoughts on “Starting Our New Garden

  1. I know a suburban gardener with a low fenced in garden (~ 31/2 feet tall) who successfully fended off deer grazing by covering everything with garden mesh.

    1. We probably will try to fence in along the back. Hopefully we’ll get lucky and pick up fencing on one of the local share boards.But the deer walk down the sidewalks of main street and come through the driveway,too. o.O

  2. Good Luck! It sounds like you have your work cut out for you. I do container gardening and it was a learning experience the first year. We have had success in keeping little critters out using chicken wire and burying cinder blocks around the area.

    I just wanted to add a few places to find free seeds online:

    I went online at one of the seed swap groups suggested in the second link above and all I had to do was send a SASE and rec’d. free tomato seeds. Not a whole lot, but I was happy with the results.

  3. Are you familiar with the method called Keyhole Gardens? You can raise a surprising amount of stuff in a small area. And it works well with what you are already trying. Check them out on Facebook or Google it.

  4. KGs are usually supplied with water through a drip system, and provide an easy way to do composting, too.

    1. I see. So, it’s like lasagna gardening in the way the beds are built but w/ the center to water & feed….
      I wonder if there’s ever issues keeping animals out of the compost part? We can’t keep raccoon out of our compost. Deer try to eat from it,too.

  5. Hi Jupiter,
    I’ve been reading your blog for ages, and really love it, but I just wanted to say how much your gardening posts resonate with me.

    I grew up out in the country, and we grew most of our own fruit and veg. Even when we didn’t have much food in the pantry, there was always something to eat for a kid willing to climb a fruit tree!

    I’ve been living in the suburbs all my adult life, though, and gardening can be a heck of a lot harder here with no money. For instance I remember my mum pushing a wheelbarrow down the road to muck out a neighbour’s stables to get free horse manure for the garden. I have to buy manure at the hardware store, and it amazes me how much it costs!

    Your story about the previous tenants burning rubbish in the backyard also seemed very familiar. We rented a real dump a couple of years ago where the previous tenants had a rubbish pile in the back yard where they threw everything, despite the fact that there is a regular free rubbish collection service in our city. You really wonder what some people are thinking!

    Currently I have three garden beds (put in with some money from my grandmother), and I am picking caterpillars off my kale each morning because I can’t afford bug spray. Enforced organic gardening at 9 months pregnant is no fun 🙂

    So anyway, I just wanted to say that I really get your stance on gardening. Yes, it’s great. But no, it is not easy or cheap, even if you are an experienced gardener.

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