Summer Gardening + Seed Giveaway

March 16, 2010(updated on October 3, 2018)


For the last eight years, I’ve lived in a two-bedroom apartment on the 20th floor of an apartment in the middle of Center City Philadelphia. I realize that some might see this as an enviable position, and really, I do recognize the many perks to my home (the block and a half commute to work is a particular joy).


Nonetheless, I itch for outdoor space. For a deck on which to drink coffee in the summer and to feel the gentle heft of early morning sun, while still in my pajamas. For the ability to use the outdoors as extra refrigerator space in the winter. And for a little patch of dirt in which to grow my own tomatoes, cucumbers and climbing pole beans.


Last summer, I chatted my way into a plot in a community garden (truly, I was at a happy hour and, over specialty cocktails, managed to mention to the the very right person how I yearned for growing space). It was about a mile and a half from my apartment and yet, it was heaven to have a bit of dirt to call my own. You see, I come from people who habitually plant edible things and so existing in a state of no backyard vegetable garden has been an unfamiliar and awkward position for me, even after all those years without.


Happily, I’ll be returning to my twin bed-sized plot again this year and I couldn’t more delighted (even the profusion of mosquitoes can’t keep me away). This year I’m going to keep it simple, just tomatoes, kale and a number of herbs (last year, those damned vine borers destroyed my promising zucchini and cucumber plants. I can’t deal with that kind of disappointment again, so I’m skipping those plants for ones I know can survive the space).


I realize that lots of you have started to plan your gardens (and your canning) and may have already placed your seed orders for the year. For those of you who haven’t, I’ve got a giveaway for you. I’ve have one set of Survival Seeds* from Hometown Seeds to send off to a lucky gardener. These are non-hybrid seeds, which means that you can save the seeds from your harvest and plant them again next season. They come packaged in a sealed mylar bag and are designed to keep for years (so even if you can’t use them this year, you can pop them into a cool, dark place and plant them next spring).

For a chance to win these seeds, leave a comment sharing a memory of a garden. I’ll select a random winner on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.

*For the record, I want to say that I do not preserve food or garden out of fear or a sense of impending doom. I know that there are lots of people out there who are motivated to acquire these skills because they believe some sort of global cataclysmic is imminent. Not me. I believe in hope and the ability of love to to triumph over fear and hate. I grown food because I appreciate the sense of renewal that it offers. And I preserve because it brings me joy (sun-ripened tomatoes in January!).

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234 thoughts on "Summer Gardening + Seed Giveaway"

  • My mother constructed a green house in rural Colorado desert we lived in when I was a child. Wooden pallets covered the floor and the light seeped in through the cracking plastic. My sister and I picked our daily lunch salad- bright &spicy radishes, cherry &plum tomatoes, tiny rows of lettuce, tender sprigs of spinach. It was a fantasy habitat. Only recently have I been offered a small plot of land to garden in San Francisco, to follow my mother’s green thumb.

  • I’ve had that same experience with vine borers. HATE THEM! We have a very small garden here in Houston. I grew up with a family garden. We grew a lot of our food each summer in a huge garden. Both sets of grandparents were gardeners, too. There’s just something very satisfying about growing some of your own food.

  • I would love these seeds. My first gardening experience was on a 3rd story rooftop / fire escape. I had 32 pots and they took up one whole trip in the UHaul when we moved. Now I have a garden in my yard and this year I’m trying 3 season growing and square foot gardening.

  • My favorite memories are just from the last two years–my toddler pulling off all the green cherry tomatoes, taking one bite, then flinging them aside all over the yard. Then later eating the ripe ones, saying, “Mmm, mmm… that’s delicious!”

  • the terrifyingly hairy black spiders that hid among the berries on the incredible overgrown raspberry bush that had taken over the entire south side of my urban denver childhood home. also, the hundreds of johnny-jump-ups i ate as a child after learning on pbs that pansies were edible. i should mention that these tiny specimens grew in the strip of (heavily polluted) grass that grew in the driveway. perhaps it was the daily doses of exhaust that made them so sweet?

  • This will be our second year in our community garden too – it has been so much fun, so education, and so delicious!!! I am so happy to have found your blog. Maybe this year we’ll have vegetables to can!! Best of luck with your garden this year.

  • Wow 206 entries! Since I just won something I’m sure I’m not eligible but I just wanted to say that I love the fact that you have a community garden plot! I hope you’ll share pictures of your gardening process with us as well.

    By the way, if you do want to give yourself a “sense of doom” anxiety over food and disaster you should read Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It series. It’s an excellent YA series and it thoroughly freaked me out.

  • My parents would grow tomatoes in a “greenhouse” on our flat roof. Made of plastic sheeting, with a corrugated plastic roof and aluminum crossbars, it would always be in a sad state after windstorms, but our “little house” as we called it would (and still does!) produce a bounty of cherry tomatoes and a few larger varieties – whatever our short growing season could manage. And in the spring and fall, when the pots were empty, I’d have sleepovers out there with my friends.
    I had the interesting experience of trying to explain what a fresh off the vine tomato smells like to a friend not long ago – try it! It’s a very distinct smell, but it’s tough.

  • When I was still living at home during college, a friend of mine helped me plan and execute a vegetable garden in my parents’ yard. Without telling me, he added a few surprise heirloom seeds in a couple places, and the vibrant blossoms gave a daily reminder of what a good friend I have. To this day I haven’t been able to duplicate the productive ability and beauty of that first garden.

  • I grew up in an urban tangle, and the closest I came to growing food-things was the orange tree in my Grandmother’s back yard. Gardens were for flowers, really. Not that I hate flowers, but eating things that I had a chance to take care of and invest in…has changed the way I eat. We tore the grass out of half the backyard last year; more room for kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and (hopefully) blackberries.

  • I have a few fond memories of helping my mom in her garden when I was a kid. But I have MANY happy memories of the zucchini bread and muffins we ate all summer long because of the monster zucchini she grew!

  • I have been hopeful that my winter turnips will fill out more than they have, so I have not started planting my summer garden yet. I have a 2ft x8ft box in front of my apartment. I am hoping to add another 2x2ft box this year.

  • Thank you for entering me in your giveaway. I can’t really say that I have any gardening memories as I am pretty new to it and didn’t grow up in a family that gardened. But I do have a pup that loves to ‘pick’ snow peas and cherry tomatoes 🙂 And she LOVES zucchini 🙂

    Have a wonderful day!

  • The year before lasts garden-we went through 15 tomato plants that were killed off by some mysterious bug or fungus-could never decide what it was, last years garden our tomatos got blight and we were only able to harvest a few good ones but this year is the year, we are so going to have bushels and bushels of tomatos! I can feel it!

  • My best garden memory is eating carrots right out of the ground while harvesting them in my grandparents half-city-block-sized garden when I was a kid. They were the best carrots on earth. I grew some carrots of my own last summer. They were almost as good, but not quite. I guess it’s the carefree-ness of being a child that gave them that extra sweetness.

  • When I was a young mother I lived in a small cracker box of a home in Michigan. Our neighbor to the north was a couple of retirees who planted a large garden in the empty lot between us. I had small children and before I knew it Lyal (my 85 year old neighbor) became best of friends with my four and a half year old son, Shawn. They did everything together. I, soon was receiving phone calls from Mary, Lyal’s wife warning me that the big kid was coming over to play. Soon there would be a knock at the door and it would be Lyal. Shawn and Lyal were soon inseparable. Being a young mother on a tight budget, Lyal asked if I wanted to share the garden that first spring. I was overjoyed! I had never grown anything in my life but I knew I would love it.
    We got out there in the spring as soon as we could work the dirt. Lyal, Shawn, my toddler Kyle and I turned the soil over and readied the garden for planting.

    I think of those days so long ago every March when we have our first few warm spring days. I learned so much about gardening that summer working along side my 85 year old neighbor. It was a special time that I cherish today in my memories. It has been years since I have lived in a location that enables me to really have a “garden”. I plant some tomato plants, sometimes beans, peas, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. And 5 gallon buckets on the deck work but it is nothing like that 1/2 acre garden. I will have a garden again one day especially when I retire! Some day I will pass those lessons down to another new young mom too. There is nothing better that taking a shovel out to the garden and digging up that first hill of fresh early Chicago red potatoes and serving them for dinner a little while later. I never knew what a fresh potato really tasted like. Peas and green beans usually did not make it out of the garden. I would find my toddler hiding behind the pea vines eating pea pods. I am sure that Lyal has planted a wonderful garden in heaven. I also learned to can and freeze the bountiful harvest that year. Thanks for the wonderful memories, Lyal! Happy Gardening to all!

  • When we were little, my mom grew tomatoes. My little sister would eat the green tomatoes off the vice. She’d come in to the house with green tomato juice and seeds smeared all over her face, and when Mom asked her if she’d been eating the tomatoes, she would deny it up and down.

  • I remember helping my Parents cultivate their farms back home in Kenya. I did everthing from plant beans, sell carrots and wash coffee beans. These seeds would be an awesome addition to the garden I have been wanting for years!

  • I have higher hopes for this year’s garden attempt. We have a section on the south side of the house that is designated ‘garden’. We have a drip irrigation system for that area, but the last couple of years haven’t been as good. The local garden society will have their plant sale the first of May so we until then to get the area prepped. This year we’ll try rototilling to see if that helps things. Tomatoes are for sure, everything else is up in the air.

  • I just ordered some seeds for herbs that I’ve never attempted before–epazote, marjoram and sorrel. These are herbs that are frequently called for in my cooking projects, but are difficult to find. I figured I would therefore have a little pot of each ready at my disposal.
    It’s gotten me thinking about gardens of years past. All of them have been on porches, so I’ve always dealt with limited space. Some experiments were successful, some not so much. Zucchini? That got a little out of hand both times it was attempted. Tomatoes? Depends on the year. Poppies and snapdragons don’t seem to like me, but I always get along with basil. One year parsley lasted stright through the winter, and this year my chives are coming back. We decided against morning glories this year and will instead try 4’oclocks. We’ll see how it all goes.

  • I would love to win some seeds for a garden. We’ll be moving from the incredible house where we’ve been living in Saint Cloud, France. Last year the apple tree in the yard produced so many apples, after I gave away as much as my friends would take, I canned apple butter.
    Since we’ll leave behind the bounty of this yard – cherries, grapes, currants, raspberries, figs, olives, along with many varieties of flowers – it would be so nice to be able to plant a garden in a new place as yet unknown! Thanks for your inspirational blog and your generous give away!

  • After last summer when my garden washed away three times, I’ll be sticking to container planting this year- I’m renting and can’t put in a permanent garden…Hope you have a great harvest with your plot!

  • I have not ordered my seeds yet and would love a shot at winning this collection. Thank you! (nice blog, I just happened upon it!)

  • When I was little I was allowed to buy one box of sugary cereal a year, for my birthday. I always chose Lucky Charms, and a couple times I tried to plant some of the marshmallows out in the garden with my dad’s peas, lettuces, and raspberries. Alas, no luck! Good thing we had other delicious produce to get us through the summer.

  • Three and a half years ago, my husband and I moved from a condominium to our very own house in Montgomery County PA and planted a garden our very first spring. We’ve made it a bit bigger and better every year and are in love with being able to go out into our very own back yard and pick the ingredients for that night’s dinner! I haven’t learned to can yet – have been freezing instead – but that’s my goal this summer. We have a second kitchen in an outbuilding that I plan to turn into my very own canning kitchen and I can’t wait!

  • I’m trying to think of just one memory, but it’s sort of an impressionistic blur of taking compost to the pile with Grandpa, translplanting seedlings with my mom, choosing plants at a nursery with my grandmother — basic sharing/learning/growing in the dirt on a sunny day with people I love. More recently, I’ve been trying to take advantage of every tiny patch of dirt at my little house, and my gardening-deprived husband is loving every minute of it — he adores weeding! and ohmygod, you sould hear him say good morning to the peas & tomatoes!

  • This is our first year seriously planning our garden, and I’d love to be able to harvest seeds from our own plants. It’s just a beautiful little life-cycle occurring in your own backyard!

    My mom always maintained a garden, and I never understood why. It always seemed like sooo much time and work (and dirt!) for a couple flowers that die a season later.

    Then we planted cucumbers and I got it.

    What started off as a couple tiny seeds turned into a huge prickly creeping plant with curly tentacles that outgrew its plot and nearly consumed our patio. We watched it grow and doubted its potential to yield anything useful – certainly not the “real” produce we found in the grocery store! My sister and I finally faced this awesome beast when we got to pick one lucky cucumber for our dinner salad.

    We’d gingerly lift the spikey leaves until we spotted the perfect green gourd-like cucumber (bigger was better so we compared on our hands how big “ours” was). Regardless of whose cuke won, it was always delicious!

    A few years later we added green peppers to our garden which our dog happily picked for us. 🙂 He’s still an odd (old) dog.

    Love your blog!

  • We’ve had a few small, raised beds for a number of years now. One of my favorite memories is of my daughter, about 14 or 15 months old, toddling around the beds with a full watering can, barely able to hold it, flooding all the plants with a deluge of water. And then later that summer, having her harvest some radishes when the sprinklers turned on and gave her first experience of summer running the sprinklers. Her little shocked face was priceless.

  • I remember sitting in my grandma’s garden, breathing in the dill and then eating as much as I could. Dill is still one of my favorite herbs, and I can’t get enough of the smell. Of course, after the dill I would move on to the raspberry patch, chase out all the quails, and then demolish every last juicy berry.

  • I am an eager but slothful gardener. The first year I had a vegetable garden at this house, after the yard had been fallow for years, it went berserk. This is NOT due to any gardening prowess on my part, just luck. By the end of the season my boyfriend had to hold me upside down by the ankles to hang into it and harvest gigantic pink banana squashes. The cucumbers that grew up the corn stalks were slightly easier, but the corn got taller than that in the fields here in Wisconsin.

  • When I was growing up in Atlanta, GA, my dad had a vegetable garden in our back yard. (Or, well, he did until we moved when I was 12 or so…our new back yard was small and shady.) Curiously, the only thing I can remember him growing is tomatoes. I’m pretty sure there were other things, maybe beans, and peppers? But to this day, the distinctive green smell of a tomato plant just brings me right back to that little garden by the back yard fence.

  • About 6 months ago, my long time boyfriend and I stayed at the Standford Inn in Mendocino. They grow all their own fruits and veggies that are used for their restaurant. We spent hours everyday either gazing at them from our window, or walking through them. It was that trip that really made us realize how remarkable nature is.

  • Growing up my family had a large garden. One of my favorite things though was growing pumpkins. The pumpkin fairy used to come and our names would grow into the pumpkins. As a kid, I thought this was the coolest thing. The secret: my dad carved our names into the pumpkins as they grew and it would scar them.

  • WOW, that’s a lot of comments! Not sure if I’ve missed the mark… I have memories of my nephew eating a slug, and my son, naked in the dirt with a popsicle that wound up covered in mud. My best garden memory is relatively dull; bent over weeding and digging with my mom and sister, and of course the feeling of plucking dinner from the garden. I’m going to a big seed exchange tomorrow and am so excited about it – I’d love to be on the receiving end of some!