The More You Garden… The More You Grow…

A few summers ago I went a little crazy and built a bunch of 4′ by 8′ raised garden boxes in my backyard.  My goal that summer (and this is going to sound crazy) was to grow a “ton” of food.  Yes… you heard me… my goal was to grow 2,000lbs of produce right in my very own backyard… I must have been seriously bored that year 🙂 But…by the end of summer… after everything was all tallied up… I had grown 1,037 lbs of fresh organic veggies… still a massive amount of food… and all grown right in my very own backyard!  Now… before you say “Holy Crackers Mavis… You’re Nuts”… let me tell you a little something else… Guess how much money I spent on wood,seeds,top soil, potting soil, seed trays and other odds and ends that summer?  Well I’ll tell you.  I spent $308 (more than most people spend on food in a month)  which worked out to be roughly .33 cents a pound for all the food I grew.  I didn’t factor my time into the equation because I consider gardening a hobby… some people watch t.v. for fun… I find joy in gardening, clipping coupons and making my husband crazy  😉


But seriously…can you imagine buying organic heirloom tomatoes for only .33 cents a pound?  Or fresh beans or sugar snap peas?  Let me tell ya… if Albertons was selling organic tomatoes, sugar snap peas or fresh green beans for only .33cents a lb… I’d be the first one in line… no double coupon needed 🙂

Even if you’re not looking to grow 2,000lbs of veggies in your backyard this summer… maybe just a few tomato plants and some green beans here and there… You should definitely do it… Not only will it will help cut down your grocery budget immensely… you might be able to grow enough to share the fruit of your labors with a neighbor or two… and I’m not talking about tying sacks of zucchini to your neighbors door and making a run for it either 🙂 In fact even if you’ve never gardened before…  or your limited on space… there are a ton of great gardening books out there to help guide you to a successful gardening season… One of my favorite books that has helped me over the years is a wonderful little book called  Carrots Love Tomatoes. This is an excellent book about companion planting… and it’s the perfect book if you’re limited on space… it will tell you what to plant next to each other and how to maximize your garden space.

And don’t think you need a bunch of fancy containers to start your plants in either… Just do what I do… ask your neighbors to save their spring planting containers for you.  Then simply rinse them out with hot soapy water and let them dry.  Then all you’ll need to do is toss in a little potting soil and plant your seeds.  And before you know it… you’ll have a beanstalk tall enough that even Jack would want to climb…

So tell me…  will you be planting anything this year?  If so… what will you be planting?

The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food



  • chaunte

    I love gardening!!! I did my first garden last year and it was so successful that i decided to do it again. so in my living room i have 8 of those 50 count seed pod green houses full of growing plants! Good job Mavis!

  • Sara D

    Okay maybe you can help or someone knows the answer. I usually start my seeds inside but last year the lettuce didn’t work and looks like this year isn’t working either. Is it better to start these outside with seeds?

    • emilee

      I found that lettuce and spinach grow just fine from seed started outdoors. Mine have been a little slow this year. I think in boise (not sure where you are) we just havn’t had enough warmer days to get them going.

      • Sara D

        okay I think I will put the seeds in the garden then. I am Meridian so close. 🙂

        • Kristy

          I am in Idaho Falls and I think it is warmer in Meridian, but lettuce is a cool weather plant. It loves the cooler temperatures. Just plant them right into the ground and it will take off.

      • Devon

        Emilee, You should start your lettuce seeds outdoors around the end of March early April. They will grown once the sun starts shining( hopefully soon) and then stop about mid to late June because it doesnt like heat. Then replant seeds late August to Early sept for a fall crop.

    • Casey

      Most sprouts started inside need a *lot* more light than comes through a window in order to grow beyond the first spindly spurt. Grow lights and guarded time outside (no baking or freezing) have helped me this year.

  • Samantha

    I will be planting a straw bale garden this year. We live in the desert, sand everywhere, so it would be way too much work that I don’t enjoy to get the ground ready. This way, I will get to enjoy the veggies and flowers without all the blood, sweat and (most likely) tears. ;0)

  • jadell

    we have peas, onions and radishes popping out of the ground!! the carrots, and potatoes are hibernating in the ground as we speak. and soon, we will plant the rest of our garden. I can’t wait for peas and new potatoes, corn on the cob, fried squash and fresh picked tomatoes sprinkled with salt! YUMM!!!

  • Rachel

    I think you must be one extraordinarily energetic person…and I am jealous.

  • Shelly :)

    Being a fellow Seattle-ite 🙂 what did you find grew the best in our wet, not very warm weather? Also, were there certain things you started from seeds before planting them outside? I tried planting sunflower seeds last year and corn the year before but nothing ever came up. I don’t know if I got a bad packet or if I didn’t start them right.

    Thanks Mavis!! 🙂

    • Shari

      I am also in Western Washington. We grew sugar snap peas last year for the first time and they did awesome! We’re doing them again this year.

    • mavis

      Last year my tomato plants did not produce well… I blame it on the weather… it was a pretty luke warm summer…but the summer before? Now that year was a bumper crop. I think the only things I haven’t been able to grow have been pepper… I just don’t think it gets warm enough here in Seattle… I think you should try sunflower seeds again… I’ve always had great luck with those. My favorite is the Mammoth variety… they can get over 10 feet tall.

  • lilia

    Mavis, i look forward to all of your posts! I am so inspired by this one…i am heading out to buy some soil and seeds.

  • Michellecoupongirl

    Hi Mavis,

    I will be planting tomatoes, sugar snap peas, zucchini, peppers and watermelon this year. Hopefully soon. And I noticed in one of your pictures that you have a chicken. I started my own backyard flock this year. In fact, the girls are moving into their “big girl” house this weekend. I am looking forward to being more self sustaining. Thanks for all of your blogs. I really enjoy reading them.


  • summer kaurin

    I’ve been wanting to start a garden but feel intimidated…this might be just the post I need to start one!

    • Kristy

      Start small. I have found when I help people start gardening that they want to plant tons of stuff and then the weeds and such come and they lose interest or get overwhelmed. Just start with a few square feet and then you will find out what works in your soil and climate. Next year you will be ready for more.

    • mt_coupon

      I highly recommend the book “Square Foot gardening by Mel Bartholomew” to anyone who is wanting to start a garden or any established gardenener who want to keep their garden in control or just read up a bit. You can probably check it out at your local library. 🙂

      Now me – I LOVE to garden but don’t seem to have enough time for it anymore. I keep rhubarb and raspberry bushes that are LOW maintenance and very abundant. My kind of thing! I get gallons of raspberries every summer and have so much rhubarb that it makes lots of jams, jellies, pies, etc to last us all winter long!

      • Christina

        I second the recommendation for the book ” Square Foot Gardening”. It is a wealth of information, especially helpful for keeping any garden low maintainence.

      • Devon

        I have a question on your rhubard. I am in my second year of the plant and just cut the “flowers” off, when do I cut the stock for harvest? And when I do this will they continue to grow until warm weather for re-harvesting? Thanks.

  • Sara D

    oh I am trying a blueberry bush in a pot this year.

  • Jaime

    Thanks for sharing!!! Sometimes I feel like I am the only one out there my age who likes to garden!! I have peas coming up (got the seeds for free), Swiss Chard (this is great for a beginner, lasts all summer long and can saute/stir fry or eat fresh adn just a couple of rows can provide a lot, pick it and more will grow back), spinach, leeks, and carrots and will be putting in beets too. Soon I will plant tomatoes, peppers, and not sure if I have room for potatoes. I am really looking forward to cutting back the grocery bill even more. We plant a garden at our church and that is where I get my green beans, squash (you have to try pat-a-pan- super good taste!!!) cushaw (a type of squash), zucchini, etc. I really like the squash because you can keep many varieties over the winter in your garage. I really got into canning this last summer, so I plan to do tons this year. There is nothing like your own canned green beans. We like to plant two different kinds, the yellow, and the green and can them together, they are really pretty.

  • Kristy

    Just waiting for the wind to stop blowing here in IF and then I will be out in my new garden patch. Gardening is my therapy during the summer. My sister and I spend the fall canning our fingerprints off. Our families have named canning season . . . “The Can-Am Games”. Nothing better than home canned salsa, tomato soup, pizza sauce, enchilada sauce, spaghetti sauce, bean, carrots, soup base etc. I love knowing exactly what is my food and that I grew most of it.

  • Liesl A

    Hi all,

    I am also planting a garden this year. I read the books Square Foot Gardening and Backyard Homestead and got very inspired. I have built one 4 by 8 bed so far with reclaimed wood. So far we have had leaf lettuce salad from our garden several times already. I am loving it. I planted starts of the leaf lettuce, spinach and broccoli. They are all doing very well. I also planted seeds of those things too so I could have some sooner and later. I just got my strawberries in my strawberry pot this week too. I also have chickens and rabbits and use their droppings for my compost that I put in my garden.

  • Lori

    Love the post (of course!!) And I started some “hardy veggies” outside already and have several starters in my kitchen. I’m in SLC, Utah BTW. Love, love, love gardening! Love that book too!

  • Shuree

    Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is a great resource!

  • Carri Ames

    Gardening is a huge passion of mine, but I do not like using pesticides. I have gone through many of the companion planting guides and found that what works best for me living on the Idaho/Oregon border is this set of veggie groups:

    1. corn, beans and cucumbers (oregano to fight beetles)
    2. onions, carrots, broccoli, and cabbage
    3. peach trees and garlic
    4. Squash, pumpkins, radishes and marigold
    5. tomatoes and basil

    I plant marigold in just various places as they deter so many bad bugs! And I found that corn, tomatoes and potatoes do not compliment each other well when planted closely together.

    • mavis

      I don’t use pesticides either… I think companion really helps cut down on the pests… well… except strawberry eating chipmunks… 🙂

  • Sarah Bearah

    I am trying gardening for the first time this year. I am really excited. We just have a small space so I need to find some of those books and websites to tell me how to maximize my space. My little twins love playing out in the dirt with me.

  • Sarah Arnold

    Berries! Strawberries, Blackberries, and Raspberries in red and yellow. I never buy jam. I also never buy salsa. Tomatoes, onions, peppers and tomatillos.

  • Laura

    I LOVE gardening and each year I plant one I learn new things. I think some of the best parts of gardening are being more self sufficient and knowing where my family’s food comes from! My favorite things to plant are things that you plant, let grow, dig up in the fall, store in your garage, and eat all winter long! So easy! This includes potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, and most other root vegetables. I discovered that if you pack carrots in a box of sand (lined with a trash bag) they will last for many, many months – I am still using my carrots from last years garden!! Imagine never having to buy carrots from the store ever again! Oh, and the flavor of home grown food can’t be duplicated in the grocery store. We recently ran out of the green beans that I had canned last summer so I opened a can that I had bought at the store – lets just say they tasted like watery mush in comparison to the full bodied flavor of homegrown. For me, gardening is totally worth it in so many ways!!

  • Gina R.

    We started a garden about 3 weeks ago. It has 3 kinds of lettuce, 2 kinds of tomatoes , sugar snap peas, carrots, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant and watermelon.

  • Lena

    We have doubled our garden plans for this year. We were disappointed last year with the weather so we cut back on the HOT weather plants and added more cool weather guys. Trying peas for the first time this year along with some beets. The rest are the usual. I too LOVE growing carrots. Last year we just put cleaned carrots in the bottom of our garage fridge (where it was cool but not icy cold) and they kept until January. We ran out! Bought the BIG pack of seeds this year!
    Good luck to all you fellow gardeners!

    • mavis

      I like to plant beets both in the spring and again towards the end of August… That way I can serve roasted beets at Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Christina

    Nothing brings people together like a garden. When I was a girl my mother had an acre, yes an acre!, of garden and it was nothing to can 250 to 300 quarts of home grown veggies. I couldn’t wait to have my own home so that I could garden. I started out with a small patch about 10×20 fifteen years ago. Since then I have revised and added. I now only do raised beds and have added a bit each year. This year we were blessed with the ability to really add some more beds and I now have 40% more garden space for a total of 573 square ft. of veggies.

    I love to share with neighbors and I always give to the senior center. I do this instead of the food bank because I love to see their grateful smiles and the wimsy in their eyes as they rememeber their own gardens from younger days. I have also gotten great tips from those seniors – thanks Bill and Ella and Bob.

    A great starting place for info is the Ag Extension office in your area. They have lots of information about what crops for your area, when, diseases and insects.

  • TeriJ

    I have black thumbs so my husband grows things and I prepare and preserve them. We enlarged our garden at the end of last year so it is now 25’ X 30’. We are trying a new planting method with the corn, beans and squash called “Three Sisters” where you grow those all together. Google it if you want more info. We will also have(cue large list)…Peas(both large type and the type that goes in stir fry), cherry tomatos, large tomatos, pie pumpkins, watermelon, cantelope, red potatos, white potatos, green peppers, onions, green onions, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, turnips, radishes, corn, green beans, wax beans, a couple kinds of squash that keep well, cucumbers, dill, cauliflower, broccoli and I’m not sure if I am missing anything. Oh yes and we have an apple tree. I think it is granny smith but it was here when we moved in so I’m not sure. The berries are already in the ground and some have been for a couple of years. We also got a plum tree from Costco that has 4 types of plums on it. That will take a few years to get fruit though. This year I am learning to can from a friend from church who has been canning for most of her life. I am going to give her money towards her electric bill as she has a larger kitchen but is retired and on a tight budget. I also blanch and freeze a lot. I am SOOOO ready for warm weather! Nothing tastes better than produce from your own garden!

  • Nicole H.

    I love to garden too. This year I saved up all the plastic yogurt and pudding cups we got with double coupons for FAB deals and planted my seedlings in them. I set them in the planting trays I reuse every year. For seedlings I bought a metal shelf at on sale for about $56 bux and hung 2 shop lights for each shelf. The shop lights cost under 10 bux each and for bulbs we got the GE full spectrum daylights on sale for 6 bux each, all at Lowes in Nampa. It’s a little investment but you can use them for years to come. Other than a hose and tools the only thing we spend money on each year is seeds, a couple seedlings and some compost/manure each year. I moved to Idaho from Seattle area and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to grow anything here because I was used to the deep brown mulchy rich soil of the Pacific Northwest. But everything grows like weeds for me here. I grow everything including herbs. The only thing that I have struggled with is Corn because the coil is so alkaline and I don’t want to mess with adding to the soil. Local corn is sold very reasonably in season here so I’ll just buy that.

    For anyone who thinks they just can’t garden or it’s too overwhelming my only advice is to stick some seeds in the ground and give them a regular drink. You’d be surprised at how easy it is.

    Oh, and if you do want to try organically grown starter plants locally and are around Nampa, ID…I always get mine from Beth at Canyon Bounty Farm on Orchard. Her prices are reasonable and she is just an awesomely nice person. Her web site is and this Saturday is the first sale of the year. Happy gardening!

  • Maya

    This is so awesome! I am slightly jealous because it’s been my dream to grow vegetables and herbs in my own garden, but alas we live in an apartment :(. Someday though… :).

  • Michele

    Does anyone have a good book recommendation to teach a newbie canning?

    I am super excited to can marinara sauce this year. I have a simple recipe and it would be EXCELLENT with garden tomatoes. I will use it in so many recipes throughout the year…pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, in my meatloaf, over ravioli. YUM!

Leave a Reply

Want to see your picture by your comment? Get your custom avatar by registering for free at Gravatar.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *