My garden is my happy place and I love spending my leisure time in the backyard. I find gardening so relaxing and therapeutic. It allows me to enjoy the beautiful outdoors while also connecting with awe-inspiring Mother Nature. In the early mornings and weekends, you’ll find me in my gardening talking to my plants while trimming and plucking away weeds and debris. Every few minutes, you’ll see energetic hummingbirds buzzing by, singing and drinking homemade nectar from the 3 feeders hanging throughout the yard. It truly is a magical place.
This summer I have a lot of planned travel, taking me away from home for weeks at a time. Even with a busy schedule, I didn’t want to forgo gardening. This year I selected a handful of easy-to-maintain and colorful plants to grow so my backyard is still verdant and inviting with minimal care. Nothing is sadder than seeing wilted foliage and plants upon returning home from a long trip.
In an earlier post, My Gardening Adventures – Summer 2018, I shared my very simple approach to gardening. It makes the activity a whole lot of fun and very manageable. The plants and herbs I’ve selected are easy to grow, don’t require a lot of dirt space and inexpensive to get started. Some of the plants are fast growers and you can actually see some of them get taller overnight. Pretty awesome!
Gardening Adventures: Flowers
I love colorful flowers and Nasturiums are at the top of my list. Nasturiums are one of the easiest plants to grow from seeds. Did you know that Nasturium flowers and leaves are edible? They have a peppery kick and are delicious in salads and fresh spring rolls and add beautiful pops of color. Also use the flowers to decorate rustic cakes like Orange Chiffon with Edible Flowers.
Three different varieties, Red Mahogany, Fiesta Blend, and Dwarf Jewel, grow in my garden. The seeds sprout and flourish quickly. Plant them in the ground or in planter boxes and pots.
Sunflowers make me happy when I look at them. The vibrant yellow flower looks like a face and the petals often look like hair. They always bring a smile to my face. I heard they were easy to grow but I had no idea! They are really easy to sprout from seeds and grow like weeds. I brought two seed varieties, Two Queens ($3.99) and Snacker (4.99), both purchased from Sprouts. I sprouted the seeds in early April and two of the plants are over 6 feet tall now. They grow to up to 8 feet tall.
Gardening Adventures: Herbs
A garden is not complete without some essential herbs. In my garden box are Sawtooth Herb and Thai Basil. Both herbs are essential for a classic dish we enjoy often in my house Pho Bo / Beef Noodle Soup.
Sawtooth herb is a rather interesting herb with jagged and prickly leaves. If you don’t know what it is, it looks like a weed and nothing you should eat. 🙂
This little plant was a gift from my Mom. She shipped it to me from Pennsylvania. Sawtooth herb can be difficult to grow especially when it’s younger and hasn’t taken root. I didn’t think it was going to make it through this last winter with all the heavy rain (very unusual for Southern California) but somehow the plant thrived.
Thai Basil is a staple herb in my garden. I love the licorice-like aroma and the pretty purple flowers. Not only is the herb delicious but it looks gorgeous displayed in a simple glass vase.
Need a refresher on Vietnamese herbs and which dishes they are used in? Check out this post: A Quick Guide to Vietnamese Herbs
Lemongrass is another wonderful and easy to grow herb. I sprouted the plants from lemongrass I bought at the grocery store. The process is really straightforward and if you’d like for me to share a post on how to do this, drop me a comment and let me know.
The lemongrass leaves are tall and grassy. The plant grows and multiples quickly. When planting the stalks, leave plenty of room for expansion.
Lemongrass is wonderfully fragrant herb and very popular in many Vietnamese and Thai dishes. Below are some of my favorites.
Lemongrass Tofu and Rice Noodles
(Bun Dau Hu Xao)
Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops
(Suon Nuong Xa)
Elephant Ear (Bạc Hà) is a robust plant with broad leaves shaped like (you guessed it) an elephant’s ears. Depending on the variety, the plant can grow to 9 feet tall. My plant isn’t quite that tall but is growing quickly.
The edible part of the plant is the stalk. The stalks are moderately fibrous and spongy and used in soups like Sour Soup with Fish (Canh Chua Ca) where they add deliciously fresh and crunchy texture.
Elephant Ear plant may be a bit tougher to find. I purchased a starter plant from my local Vietnamese grocery store for $6.
Gardening Adventures: Citrus and Fruit
Thanks to Anh who shared she has a dwarf lime tree growing in an old wine barrel in her backyard, I was inspired to give it a try as I adore the aroma of fresh limes. The plant I purchased is a Kieffer Semi-Dwarf Lime, $25 from Lowe’s. Below a picture of lime tree, freshly potted in March.
Just a few months later, the tree has thicker foliage and fruit now. I also planted Nasturiums to add vibrant color.
The limes grow in clusters and the tree has about six or so limes now. I haven’t picked any limes yet as they’re not quite big enough. I think another 2 weeks and they’ll be ready. The lime tree smells so fragrant and often, I just put my nose next to the leaves and buds and inhale the lovely sweet citrus aroma. The young leaves are edible. Just julienne them and add to soups, stir-fries and curries. Delish!
This strawberry plant is the cutiest! The berries are small, about the size of one’s thumb. I bought the starter plant from Lowe’s and within 2 weeks got little berries. I posted a pic to Facebook earlier and a reader shared a great tip which I will pass along here. Carol said to spread straw around the plant to help absorb the moisture on the ground. This technique prevents the strawberries from getting damp and moldy. What an awesome tip, right? Thanks Carol! 🙂
What’s Growing in Your Garden?
Do you love to garden? I’d love to hear what you’re growing in your garden and any tips and tricks you have. Please share in the Comments box below, to my Facebook page or just zip me an email. I love hearing from you! Perhaps I can put the shared tips and tricks together into another post.
Also, if you’d like more information on anything I am growing, just let me know. I can write a more detailed post if you’re interested. Happy Gardening!
Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen
Hi Trang! New reader here from Southern Cali. Just wanted to let you know I’ve saved a few of your recipes and can’t wait to try them. I look forward to seeing more recipes from you!