How To Be The Worst Gardener Ever and Still Grow Food {Veggie Garden Update}

Oh the hope I was filled with when I dreamt up and planned a vegetable garden. I was sure that by midsummer, I would have a lush garden full of edible abundance.

Instead I have some of this going on. 


Awful, isn’t it? I am a lot less discouraged than I probably should be. These plants still produce food even in their sad state, and it’s only the tomato plants that are really suffering. To me, that spells some small measure of success for my first year while doing everything wrong.

I wouldn’t suggest growing a garden that looks like this and expect it to be wildly successful, but it is a wonderful example of what can happen even while struggling to learn the skill.

[This post is a long one with the 3 week hiatus between updates. Grab a snack and take a few minutes to learn how it may be possible to grow your own even when you think you can’t!]

The poor, sad, crippled plant on the left, pictured above, is one of two Red Robin dwarf tomato plants that we bought not knowing what they were. They are dinky, produce all of their fruit at once (determinate vs indeterminate that produce fruits throughout the season), and then are done for the year.

These teeny tomato plants have been on a downhill slide since in my care. Somehow, they still produced quite a few tomatoes and the fruit continues to ripen on the stems. We harvested about 15 tomatoes to date and the rest of the fruits will be ready to grace our table in the next couple of days. That’s much earlier than most people in our area!

All 5 of my tomato plants are fruiting, but I will be hacking off – gently and strategically – the weak areas of my 2 Romas and Santa and planting them this week according to the instructions from Love Apple Farms.

For those of you who have been following my adventures for awhile, I swear I will have the soil prepared and everything planted by this weekend. I am finally fed up with my procrastination!

Tomatoes are often the first food people try to grow. I think there are better options, especially for people who are grow-challenged. Yes they taste lovely, but they are prone to too many issues when you are a brown or black thumb gardener. If you are gardening organically, it’s even harder. What a way to begin and end a promising growing career! Start with the easy stuff instead.


[That’s one of my cucumbers!!!]

I cannot believe how impervious the cucumbers are to my abuse. They are magnificent and almost grow before your eyes. Hubby said we must have gnomes that replace the plants each night with larger ones.

If you have the room, grow one of these. Challenged for room? Hit up Google or Pinterest and take a look at the amazing things people do with vertical gardening. This article has a beautiful example.

I promised to share my trellis efforts with my Facebook readers, so I’ll add that one in too. Have you joined us on Facebook yet?

Lady Farmer’s Garden has a lovely woven pea trellis I found on Pinterest and thought would be the perfect solution to tame the cucumbers taking over the garden real estate. They overpowered the bamboo stakes and were again crawling through the dirt and grabbing on to whatever was nearby.

I love the idea that this trellis can be composted at the end of the season instead of having spent vines that need to be scrubbed or burnt off. If I had to do that, I promise you they would still be there the following spring.

Okay now before you get a good look at mine, go take a look at hers…I’ll wait for you.

Done? Good. Here’s my attempt.

It’s okay. You can laugh. It looked better in my head.

Again, the cucumbers don’t care about my shortcomings. They’ll climb my trellis as well as one more pleasing to the eye.

The strange Michigan weather has also made my lone little red bell pepper plant happy. I think. Is it the right size? I should probably know that.

There is some type of bug mowing the leaves down that is making it less happy. You can see that the leaves are not faring so well in the picture. I’m going to find a good herbal concoction to make and spray on the leaves of all my plants to discourage the beasties. Still, the plant is growing food!

If you have a hot spot that gets a ton of sun, TRY PEPPERS! There are so many varieties to choose from that one is almost guaranteed to please some palates in your home.

The ultimate goal here is food.

Put aside your perfectionist ways and start experimenting. Try some herbs. Get some potted mint to make fresh tea with. Grow some thyme or sage to throw artistically on a roast chicken and impress your friends. Or jump right in and get some veggie seedlings! Just be sure to water whatever you choose to grow well as I recently learned.

You have nothing to lose.

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This post is part of Fat Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays


18 thoughts on “How To Be The Worst Gardener Ever and Still Grow Food {Veggie Garden Update}”

  • yup, your pepper plant is just about the right size. You can try sprinkling epsom salts on the leaves of the plant that the bugs are eating. If you have Japanese Beetles (they are coppery colored & you’d find them in the soil during the day) there is nothing “natural” you can do to be rid of them. You have to dig out every last one and squish them. Or use a product like Sevin, which I would NOT suggest you use on veg.
    Oh, and why, yes, I did have a little chuckle at your trellis efforts. You’ll get into a grove with that sort of thing over time. I use chicken wire as my trellises (? how on earth do you make “trellis” plural?). You might find that your chosen sticks (4 footers, yes?) are too short. Cukes usually need a good 6′ to climb.
    Keep up the good work!!!!!

    • Thank you gardening guru! I’m glad you were just as amused by my trellis as I am. I giggled whenever I caught sight of it out the window today.

      I will try an Epsom salt slurry tomorrow on the pepper leaves to see if it helps. Stinkin’ bugs.

      The cucumber stakes are 6′, so I should be in good shape. I was thinking I needed 10′-15′ since they are climbing like crazy, but my father-in-law gave me enough stakes to make a second trellis on the box next to it. That way I can train them to climb horizontally when they run out of room.

      I hope to have all in place by the weekend to start the fall seeds!! On the list is finishing the soil mix, making organic fertilizer (thanks to Jami at The Oregon Cottage), and brewing up some compost tea…if I can finagle some extra helping hands. I see some family in my future…

      • oo—If you want to try easy organic fertilizer, buy yourself something called Fish Emulsion. It’s basically ground up fish parts that are bottled up. You use about 1-2 T per gallon or 2 of water. The plants LOVE IT and it’s kinda hard to overdo it with the FE. It stinks, though, like really, really, really, bad-but it works.


  • I am a newbie gardener and I decided to grow cucumbers this year! My trellis looks very much like yours! People always want to come and see my cucumbers and I try and distract them because it is a jumbled mess of twine, vines and sticks but the important thing is, I have cucumbers and boy do I have cucumbers. I still have 2 more plantings that haven’t started to flower yet. I am hoping all of my friends like cucumbers, and pickles and relish and…..

    • Kirstin, I’m so excited that I’m not the only one with a trellis like that! 😉 Mine has almost been completely covered in the last couple of days by the cucumbers (already!!), so I’m feeling pretty good about it. You’re right, the important part is that we have FOOD. For anything you can’t share, keep it. You’ll be happy to have your own produce to eat while you’re waiting for your new ones to grow next summer. I can’t wait to have a full garden next year!

  • I’m a MI gardener too and this year’s weather sure has stunk. This is my fourth year with a garden, over 130 sq. ft. of organic and heirlooms plants. And my yields stink every year with the exception of most herbs and my Empress bush green beans.
    For the Japanese beetle issue, I knock them off my plants into a bucket of water with soap in it and you can spread Milky Spore on your lawn twice in a year (fall and spring I think) and it’s supposed to last for 10 or so years. It’s a little pricey though.

    • Thanks for the tips Alicia! I am no so fond of squishing bugs, so the bucket of soapy water sounds like a MUCH better alternative.

      The weather has been pretty crazy. I tried to start my garden last year, but the cool weather and rain kept me from getting it off the ground. Being that it’s your fourth year, maybe you should look into some of the super helpful suggestions that I’ve received: soil test for ph level, “water” with fish emulsion & compost tea, add peat moss and compost for heavy clay soil (don’t overdo your peat moss like I did!), and companion planting. I am still working these into my plan, but I hope it helps my garden immensely next year. I want to look back on this year and laugh and laugh about how bad I was at the beginning!

  • I love this! You sound so much like me. I am container gardening in my 1 BR apartment patio. It’s been….interesting! But regardless of how *late* everything is least it’s still growing! My peppers are just now flowering and my tomatoes have just gotten done flowering and are growing lovely little fruits! My cucumber looks half dead….but is somehow flowering and producing little cukes! My herbs are super happy and I think my container carrots are great too. I won’t tell you what has died in my garden (1 huge tomato that never produced, etc) …but it’s all about practice right!?

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