Back Home on the Range

Now that we’re back home and settled in from our trip up to Dad’s, it’s time to take advantage of this Southern California weather. We’ve long recovered from our winter’s snows (snicker), and now we need to get our garden ready for it’s summer’s bounty. Inspired by the tastiness of our last winter’s carrots & beets, and the horticultural passions of Master Sommelier Michael Jordan (he grows 150 varieties of heirloom tomatoes) , we’ve decided to get extra serious about the propagation of our herbs and veggies. We’ve always grown tons of herbs every year, with gardening plots designated just for their abundance, but we usually are limited to those spaces.

Recycled whiskey barrels are our new seeding planters!

For this season, in order to facilitate this passion, we crafted a nursery in our side yard. With the help of some old and huge recycled whiskey barrels, we can now have more growing space filled with good soil and drainage for our seedlings. Now let the growing begin! Quite a few seedlings from the previous year’s herbs are popping up, so into the nursery they go before the snails attack. We added a few new varieties of basil, as well as two types of Japanese shiso (green & red varieties) that we haven’t had before. Of course there are many varieties of heirloom tomatoes growing. Tons of Viet herbs (for our own use and to share), Italian basil, cinnamon basil, cilantro, Italian parsley, 3 different mints, 4 different thymes, 3 different eggplants, swiss chard, bell peppers, lemon cucumber, radicchio, devil peppers, strawberries etc, etc, etc… There is a lot started and we are excited. Every morning we keep checking to see how our “babies” are doing.

For us, beyond just the beauty of the plants and the satisfaction of nurturing them, growing all of this edible vegetation is a way of exploring. Exploring different cultures and the tastes that distinguish them. What are some of the vegetables and herbs that make you think of your home cooking and gardening?

Garden Update: Remember our “baby” carrots? Well, they’ve all grown up to be handsome “teenager” carrots. Although some look a little strange, they’re still good looking and tasty!

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Jesse

    Those barrels look like they came straight out of a story book… your garden is just magical! And those carrots are SO cute and fat!

  2. tbc

    You have such a lovely garden. Those baby carrots are adorable! 🙂

  3. Andrea

    We finally are getting warm temperatures to start putting plants outdoors. Finished prepping the flower beds last weekend and will finish the raised beds for the veggies and herbs this weekend or next weekend. We put in 8 blueberry and raspberry bushes this year, and hopefully two of them will give us some little sweet blueberries this summer. Love your whiskey barrels!

  4. Marvin

    Wow, awesome use of those whiskey barrels! Where’d you guys get them from? You guys aren’t running a moonshining outfit are you? 😉

  5. Rosie

    You have such a stunning garden And wonderful weather to grow veggies, fruit etc… My hubby and I have things growing in the greenhouse ready to plant outdoors when the frosts and snow stop!

    Rosie x

  6. bee and jai

    you have some amazing stuff there. it makes me wish we were in So Cal. we had snow this afternoon. last week, it killed our tomato plants. it’s not safe to plant tomatoes here until june. 🙁

  7. Mike

    Wow, it looks like the garden is really taking off! Mine is smaller than I’d like (not quite a home-owner at the moment, so I don’t want to go crazy in the yard…), so I imagine my veggies this year will all be around the size of your first round of carrots. 😉 I tend to just get a lot of herbs going and then hope for the best with a random assortment of fruits and vegetables–looks like cayenne peppers and blueberries will be racing to the finish line soon.

  8. Julie

    Wow! I’m so jealous of your garden guys. Looks great and they have such a happy start in the whiskey barrels. My little, tiny apartment and serious lack of a green thumb equals no garden. 🙁

  9. Mango Power Girl

    Those carrots are the cutest 😀 Your herbs are looking amazing!! 3 types of eggplants?? I am coming now! I would love to grow every single kind of herb possible…I have some in pots, and we got snow yesterday 😮 so it’s freaking me out a bit!

  10. Zenchef

    I love those old whiskey barrels for gardening. Great idea.
    I have access to a garden with homegrown herbs and vegetables in the summertime too. I agree nothing can’t beat that.

  11. grace

    it’s official: i’m moving to southern california. (as if that alone would enable to have such a spectacular garden…) 🙂

  12. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I have a good size herb garden, and we’re just getting the first of the early perennials — chives, thyme, sorrel. I put in tons of flat-leaf parsley and basil every year (several varieties — my newest favorite is lime basil). When I’ve tried tomatoes, the rabbits and deer have gotten to them long before I did. This house is my first with open space, a sunny exposure, and a compost pile to nourish it!

  13. Julie

    I garden at a community garden and I will be working on my garden plot this weekend. I grow the usual suspects — tomatoes, zucchini (for the flowers!), peppers, and herbs. I’d love to grow Viet herbs because I never find them at stores or the farmers’ market here. Any suggestions about which ones to grow and how to use them?

  14. Happy Cook

    I am a really bad gardner.
    Everything dies in my place. Even the plants i get as present for indise home.
    I have no green fingers.

  15. Cakelaw

    Welcome home! What a great idea to plant in the whiskey tubs – they are environmentally friendly and look great in the garden. Your teenager carrots look great – just think of all the fab salads, soups and other dishes you can make with these.

  16. Christine

    Look at that strawberry! I must pluck it and gobble it up 🙂 I’m also admiring those whiskey barrels – love them! I’d love to make a rain barrel from a old liquor barrel, but they’re kind of pricey.

    I have to grow my own Vietnamese herbs around here. This year, it’s going to be rau ram (Vietnamese coriander/mint), Thai Basil and Sorrel — I love adding sorrel (we call it la chua, although it’s not the correct name) to goi cuon – they add a delicious, citrus zing to the rolls.

    As for those beautiful lotus – I’m so impressed! *bowing down* to ya!

  17. pixie

    We only have a few herbs growing- no garden. I desperately want one more so than ever since starting my food blog! Well, least I’m fortunate to get the best quality fruits and vegies from the farm shop.

  18. Wandering Chopsticks

    When do we get to see the full garden tour? 🙂
    I was digging up some roses from my old garden last weekend and encountered tons of snails. Ugh! I like escargot and all but finding them in my garden is another matter.

  19. evil chef mom

    My house gets absolutely zero sun, so I am really jealous. I would have to rip out a 80 year old magnolia and a old pine tree to get some sun in our back yard. They are both healthy so there is no reason to chop them down. So, I’m going to garden vicariously through your blog. I hope that’s okay.

    Cherry tomatoes just picked and warm from the sun are home to me.

  20. manggy

    There’s not much soil to go around here 🙁
    I should get my hands on some herbs, though. It would save me a ton and I wouldn’t have to throw away the wilted excess 🙂

  21. Lisa

    Planting season won’t begin for at least another month here. There are small signs of spring popping up in the yard though. My chives are back and they are bigger than ever. I grow lots and lots of basil. I think it’s the herb I use the most in cooking. In my veggie garden there will be eggplant, broccoli, squashes, lettuces, zucchini, 2 kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, along with all the herbs. I like to go to the nurseries and farms and discover something new to plant each year so there is always a mystery crop!

  22. gaga in the kitchen

    wow, what an inspirational garden!

    as for me, my cilantro are doing well, but alas, what i thought were basil and tomato sprouts were just weeds, haha. the jury is still out on my chives and mint, though it’s not looking good…

    you should share your gardening secrets with us so that i have a better chance at succeeding next year!

  23. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Oh the critters that come to the party.
    I’m just doing the herbs this year.
    I go a little nutty with the basil and have 6 flavors doing very well. Even found a pineapple basil again this year.
    The whiskey barrels are wonderful. We need to get new ones.
    All yours are looking beautiful!!

  24. Sandie (Inn Cuisine)

    Our garden has sadly shrunk to what we can grow in containers (city life and all,) but commonly includes tomatoes and herbs (oregano, basil, mint, etc.)

    In the “good old days” (and I use that term loosely,) we grew a huge garden with sweet corn, green beans, green onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, radishes, strawberries and sometimes even pumpkins. While it was a lot of work, that’s what makes me think of home cooking and gardening.

    (P.S. Love the last photo-of the strawberry… I’d frame it and put it in my kitchen if I could!)

  25. RecipeGirl

    We planted our veggie garden in late February and it has been eaten down to the dirt by some unknown creature (it was fully protected from bunnies, but we think the mice and lizards got into it.) SAD!!! Our strawberries and tomatoes are the only ones left that are doing fabulous. I’m a little worried that the birds will discover our already red strawberries but I’m keeping a close eye. Good luck with yours!!

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