Garden Tour: Willi and Jon’s urban homestead

The Basics

Names of gardeners: Willi and Jon Galloway
URL: www.digginfood.com
Location: Seattle, Washington (USA)
Size: Not big enough! About 200 square feet.
Orientation: South
Zone: 8b
Years gardened: Installed in April 2008.

The Details
Style: Geometric raised beds.
Inspiration: The garden my mom kept when I was growing up. She grew an astonishing amount of food and I loved to hang out with her while she gardened.
Favourite element(s): Our pole bean fence. We stapled panels of concrete reinforcing wire to our cedar fence to expand our growing space. It worked great! We grew beans and butternut squash on it this year and next year we want to try sugar snap peas followed by cucumbers. Also, we built a little hoop house and planted peppers and basil in it. I nicknamed it the Pepper Palace and it totally rocked. We got our biggest ever harvests of peppers and basil, even though our summer was historically cold and crappy. I’m going to build an even bigger one next year and try eggplant and okra.
Favourite plant(s): My favorite plants are always changing! But this year I really loved ‘Erbette’ Swiss chard. The stems are super tender and the leaves have a succulent texture and almost spinach-like flavor. I planted it from seed in May and am still harvesting weekly. Superb!
Biggest challenge: Keeping our big 85-pound Labrador retriever and flock of four hens from digging everything up. We lost beets, two crops of carrots, and a row of bean seedlings to our pesky critters. Jon built a fence mid-season, but the chickens somehow manage to squeeze their fat little bodies through the four-inch wide wire squares and the dog jumps over it! We’re re-evaluating our options for next year.
Biggest save: Recycling the cedar boards from a section of fence we removed. We used the boards to build our raised beds. Lumber is expensive and this really helped keep down costs.
Biggest splurge: Renting a sod cutter. Digging out grass by hand is a major pain. We bit the bullet and spent 85 bucks renting the sod cutter and removed all of the grass in just a matter of hours. The amount of time we saved (and instant gratification) was definitely worth the cash.
Advice for others: Try growing a bit of your own food. It is enormously gratifying (and tasty!). Start with baby greens and radishes. They are ready to eat in under a month and grow well in pots, which means even apartment-dwellers can join in on the fun. Also, if you don’t have space to garden at home, look into joining a community garden. We’ve gardened at two different community gardens in Seattle and it was awesome. We met tons of nice people and soaked up a lot of great, localized gardening advice along the way.

Heavy Petal says: I’m so excited to be able to share Willi and Jon’s garden with you today. Willi is the brains behind DigginFood, a fabulous site that focuses on cooking with food fresh from the garden. She’s also the West Coast Editor of Organic Gardening magazine, the garden expert on eHow, a Master Gardener – the list goes on. Let’s just say she knows a thing or two about growing food!

The garden you see at top looked like this just this past spring. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? Think about it: this rather pitiful patch of grass now supports an incredible variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Oh, and chickens, too.

Here are the newly-finished raised beds, ready for greatness.

The raised beds were constructed out of cedar recycled from an unneeded section of fence. This one contains a butternut squash growing on a sturdy teepee.

Romaine lettuce grows in the shade of pepper plants to prevent them from bolting in the summer heat.

Willi with an armload of ‘Satsuki Midori’ cucumbers. According to Willi they are, “the best cucumbers. Ever.”

I’m amazed at how much Willi and Jon have managed to grow in their little backyard. So inspiring!

You really must check out the rest of the photos. It’s truly fresh food porn. :)

Thank you Willi and Jon for sharing your garden with us.

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