Our first-year backyard garden in our new home in Houston is doing pretty well this spring! We planted in mid-March, and now 2 months later we are over-run with delicious cherry tomatoes. We’ve had many jalapeños, I just found our first few green beans, and our herbs: basil, cilantro, rosemary, and mint are all doing very well. 

Our first green bean

Delicious jalapeños

Some of the other veggies we’ve planted have not fared to well so far. The green onions, beets, spinach and sugar snap peas are not looking like they are going to make it. The cucumbers, zucchini, and watermelons are still questionable as to whether or not they will actually produce anything. 

Starting the garden has been a fun learning experience and I hope it will only make our garden stronger next year. I’m still learning what to plant, how to plant it, and when. Especially since this is our first garden in Houston where it is much hotter and more humid than previous places we lived. 

Our newly planted garden in March

Our garden now, 2 months later

I was inspired to start my own garden because growing up in New Mexico, my parents had an amazing backyard garden. My dad built 4 large, rectangular raised-bed gardens in a large sunny area in our side yard. We grew so much: tomatoes, corn, zucchini, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe, spaghetti squash, eggplant, accidental watermelons (from spitting the seeds, lol!), and more! Plus we had apple trees, peach trees and a walnut tree, all of which produced lots of edible fruit. 

I remember our summer meals being based around what was ripe in the garden. As a kid I didn’t know how lucky I was to get to eat this fresh home-grown produce everyday! 

The peaches were my favorite. Our peach trees produced huge, juicy, sweet peaches. I remember juice dripping down my arm while eating them. We made peach pies and also donated many to friends because we were over-run with peaches.  

Another favorite back-yard garden memory of mine is finding our surprise watermelon plant. My sister, brother and I loved to have watermelon seed spitting contests in the backyard. We would line up and all try to spit our watermelon seeds as far as we could. We never bothered to pick the seeds up out of the wood chips after we spit them. One day we were playing around our pool deck and found a huge watermelon growing under the deck. None of us knew it was there! We all figured it had grown from a seed from one of our seed spitting contests. The watermelon had grown huge, so we picked it and to this day I still remember it being the best watermelon I ever ate!

One of the worst part about all the fruit trees was picking up the rotten apples that fell before we could pick them. We had about 4 apple trees and they sure did produce a lot of rotten apples. I remember spending hours and hours of my young life picking up rotten apples (and they really start to smell).

The walnuts were pretty cool. They grow inside a pod. You have to pull back the pod to get to the shelled walnut. My parents would roast the walnuts (still inside the shell) in the oven. Then we would use nut crackers to break off the shells and eat the walnuts. I still love walnuts and every time I eat them I think of my childhood home. 

As a kid I didn’t always love all the vegetables my parents grew in the garden. My parents grew spaghetti squash and often used it instead of pasta in our dinners. At the time I hated it. Now, I see recipes just like what my mom used to make all over Pintrest for low carb, or gluten-free “pasta” meals using spaghetti squash, and I’ve started to like them. Now I think that my parents were ahead of the trends. 😉

I also wasn’t a fan of eggplant (and I still don’t like it to this day). We grew a lot of eggplant so my mom often cooked with it. I remember plugging my nose while I ate it, hoping it would help me not taste it, lol.

Even for all the food I didn’t like – there was so much I loved. I loved how my mom served the fresh cantaloupe as our appetizer every night. We each had a large slice of cantaloupe instead of a salad before our main meal.

I loved searching for the largest reddest strawberry and picking it and eating it right there in the garden before someone else got it. I loved the fun of pulling out the carrots from the ground, hoping it would be a big one (usually they were pretty small). 

Since I grew up with a backyard garden, after I got married and my husband and I bought a place of our own, I wanted to plant a garden right away. We started off very small. At my first house in Farmington, NM, we planted a potted garden on our back porch with just basil and cherry tomatoes. It did really well and we loved it, and it was all we could handle at the time. 

After our ex-pat stint in Australia, and we moved to Dallas, Texas we decided to dabble in potted gardens again. We had about 5 very large pots that we planted with cherry tomatoes, jalapeño, basil, rosemary, and mint. Everything grew pretty well, considering we were amateurs using pots! I learned a lot of new recipes using mint and rosemary because I had so much of it!

Now that we’re in Houston we’ve moved from a potted garden to 2 raised-bed garden beds. I’m still learning how to plant in the large raised-bed garden – like trying to figure out which vegetables work well together and how to space them. If the garden does well I’m considering adding in another raised-bed or two next season, so we can grow even more variety of fruits and vegetables. 

My kids love to help in our backyard garden

I’ve decided to start sharing my gardening experiences here on the blog as a way for me to learn more about gardening and to inspire others to garden too. I’m also going to share recipes I’ve tried from other blogs or created myself that use the fresh ingredients from our garden. 

I’m passionate about healthy eating, including organic and sustainable food, and living a healthy lifestyle including reducing my carbon and waste footprint on the planet. I hope you enjoy my posts in this new feature, and don’t worry, I’m still going to continue on with my established post categories of STEM for Kids, Women in Engineering Interview Series, and working mom/engineer work/life balance focused posts. 

 

Do you have a backyard garden? Are you interested in learning more about gardening through my posts on the blog? Would you like to see recipes using healthy, fresh ingredients on my blog? Please let me know your feedback as I work on starting this new section of the blog. 🙂 

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