Gardening in the Orchard

While we wait (and wait) to get our building permit, we have kept ourselves occupied and sane with our garden/orchard.  We made raised boxes in the orchard a few years ago, when the trees were little babies.  Now, as the trees are starting to reach a more mature height and width, many of the planting boxes in my garden don’t get enough sunlight!  So, obviously, this will be the last year I garden in the orchard.

The reason we put the garden in the orchard in the first place was because we needed to water everything automatically, as we were still living 1-1/2 hours away in the valley and coming up to water every other weekend or so.  We set up an automatic watering system with zero pressure timers (hard to find) and small tubes to distribute the water.  Now that we are living here, we can water every day by hand, if needed, and the watering system has been largely dismantled

So, here is my picture heavy post of all the happenings in the garden/orchard.

First up…  Strawberries!  Lots of them.

Next I want to show you the zucchini and yellow crook neck squash.  We put them in a raised bed that we moved to outside of the shade of the larger trees in the orchard between a couple of small peach trees.

The yellow squash has gone absolutely nuts!

Can you see the celery in there?  Ray and I attended a workshop at the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa last year that taught us a lot about gardening that we didn’t know.  One thing they stressed was the need to plant in every available space – which provides living mulch, companion advantages (one of my favorite books is “Carrots Love Tomatoes”), and actually uses less water.  We also learned a bit about rotation of crops and succession planting.  So, we took our lesson to heart and planted the celery with the squash, peppers with strawberries, and squash with corn.

Speaking of peppers with strawberries:

They seem to be doing well together.  We have already picked off a few red bell peppers, before they got red, because the poor plants were barely big enough to support them yet!

And then there are the beans.  I love black turtle beans and plant them every year.  The first ones I planted were from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I have been selecting the biggest and best plants to collect seed for the next year’s crop.  This is the third year of saving my own seed.  The black turtle beans are bush beans, which works well for me because I put the kentucky wonder pole beans on the opposite side of the bed, where they can climb up the trellis without shading the black beans.

Of course, I couldn’t have a garden without some tomatoes, garlic and basil… right?  You can barely see them, but there is some spinach seedlings just reaching their first set of leaves up to the sky.  Sounds like a good salad to me!  Oh, and the nasturtium flowers are also edible, and add a colorful spicy note to a salad.  They will be blooming about the same time as I will be able to harvest a few spinach leaves. 

The potatoes are starting to bloom.  I have three of these potato towers in the garden.  If you have never seen this before, it’s a way of growing lots of potatoes in a small space in your garden.  This variety is the Yellow Finn potato.

I was very pleased that Steve made it through the winter.  Oh, you haven’t met Steve? Well, let me introduce you.

This is Steve, my stevia plant!  He is now four years old.

We had to uproot our two artichoke plants last year because the poor dears kept getting nipped on their toes by our &$@#%(& voles and/or gophers.  But, they are doing well nonetheless.  I can’t wait to be able to get them in the ground again, but since our perennial garden is going to be near the house, they will just have to wait.  Once house is built, we will be able to get our permanent perennial beds done.

And then, there is this monster.  It’s a spaghetti squash.  I try to grow something new every year to see if it is something I should keep in my garden.  Last year I tried Fava (broad) beans and Amaranth.


So, I thought I would plant two of the three sisters together – corn and squash.  Well, I should have planted the corn first, waited a few weeks, THEN planted the squash.  The poor corn can barely see the light of day because the squash is growing and GROWING! I put a tomato cage around it hoping to contain it, but obviously that’s not gonna happen. Seriously, I think I can hear it growing!  Since I like to name my plants, I think I will call this one Audrey!  Hopefully she won’t be a maneater 😉

To the left of the squash is my lemon balm.  I use that for my tea also, for a refreshing lemony taste without the lemon.  A crushed up stevia leaf and that’s all I need.  Ahhhhhhhhhh

Tucked in here and there are a few marigolds, some sweet pea and the nastirtums.  They are supposed to repel some bad bugs but bring in the good ones.  We’ll see.  Even if they don’t, they will be pretty in the garden anyway.

And the last picture?  Today’s harvest, of course!


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25 thoughts on “Gardening in the Orchard

  1. Loved reading about the companion planting. Since I have very limited space to grow food, I decided to grow those that cost me an arm & a leg to buy…berries (plus I’m really picky about the quality of them). I’m thinking of trying companion planting (or under-planting) strawberries & concord grapes. Since they fruit at different times, I’m hoping it will be successful.

    Love your blogs! It’s like getting a letter from a friend!

    • Thank you Anne – you are so kind! I just adore strawberries and they happen to be on the list of the 12 worst fruits/vegetables in terms of pesticides! Just knowing that is a great reason to grow your own. I love concord grapes and hope to be able to grow some for myself soon. Growing the strawberries under the grapes sounds like a great idea to me! Let me know how it works, because I just might copy-cat you.

    • So far, so good! I’m not sure if it was the double dose of my home-made kelp fertilizer and compost, the great rains we have had this past spring, companion planting the right way, or just plain luck. One way or another, my garden is going nuts! I love it. Thank you for stopping by, Debbie!

  2. Hi Vickie, your garden looks amazing! I’m especially jealous of the strawberries 🙂
    We have an old copy of Carrots love Tomatoes and it’s great. Sometimes I forget to check it before planting things but I always like to revisit it for ideas.

    • Hello, Jon – so good to hear from you again! I have to be honest and say that sometimes too much information can be overwhelming… for me, at least. Between companion planting, rotating crops, different plant requirements and the latest recommendations for growing certain veggies, I sometimes have to throw caution to the wind. Heaven forbid that I grow broccoli in the same bed where a tomato plant previously resided. Or that I don’t rotate enough so the squash never resides in the same bed two years in a row! But, I agree, those strawberries are amazing!

  3. I love your garden. It’s so pretty! And I’m totally jealous that you get to garden this year. However, I know you’re jealous that we were able to actually start on our house, so I guess it all evens out. 😃

    • Hahaha – you are so right! Karma. Anyway, you know how much I would rather be building a house right now, even though I love gardening. Besides, YOU have chickens! Ah… so jealous… I want chickens!

    • Thank you, Lisa! Actually, my thumb used to be brown, but I have done so much reading and research, it’s slowly turning green! 😉 And I thank You for having such a great party for grandmas!

    • Yes, living in California, we have a fairly long growing season. Not as long as someone, say, in Texas, mind you. Our average last frost date is in the middle of April, and I get the plants in the garden at about that time, planning to mulch and/or cover in case a late frost comes along. Last year it snowed a few days after I planted and, let me tell you, I was scrambling! Let’s hope for lots of squash and tomatoes this year, for both of us!

    • I wish you did too! Then we could share pictures. Honestly, though, it’s been a long time coming. We had planned, saved and searched for our land for years and years. Now, it’s your turn!

    • Awwwwwwwww… thanks, Nikki! But there’s always next year. I saw on your blog, however, that you do have some nice looking herbs! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Your garden looks so much more full than mine…and I get full sun. I can’t believe you think it is being hampered by the orchard. I’d love to see it in full sun!! Thanks for sharing on the #WasteLessWednesday Blog hop!

    • Well… I didn’t show you the beds in the very middle of the orchard. I’m reserving them to start some broccoli and brussels sprouts in a few weeks. It should be warm enough to germinate the seeds, but the afternoon shade should be helpful. We’ll see. But I will certainly take the compliment! Thanks

    • Good morning, Lydia! Perhaps you could post some recipes using squash – maybe with a Mediterranean flare! You always have the best recipes and I appreciate every one. Have a great week.

  5. Your homestead is beautiful! I don’t know how often you get a question like this, but my husband and I are super interested in homesteading. We have an 11 month old daughter and we plan to start June 2018. Do you ever allow anyone to come tour your homestead? We’ve been following some blogs on Tumblr but we really feel like we’d benefit more from seeing one in person. If that would be a possibility, please email me. We are also here in Northern California currently living in sutter county 🙂 thanks for sharing!

    • Hello fellow Northern Californian! Thank you so much for the compliment. Yes, I will be happy to e-mail you so you can come up to see our place in a month or so, once we are (hopefully) building our home. That way you imagine the final product more easily. Also, right now the mosquitos are crazy, and I wouldn’t want your little one exposed. Seriously, they are big enough to carry a toddler away. 😉 We’ll talk soon.

      • Oh, God bless you! That would be perfect! And thanks so much for considering our little one 😉 LOL we’d definitely like to keep her! I look forward to hearing from you!