How To Grow A Surprise Vegetable Garden

Pay attention, this might get complicated.

Let’s start with some basics.

I care just a little bit about the environment (and animals).

After all…to know me is to understand why I am Vegan (most of the time).

I do what I can.  When I can.

I recycle.

I undercycle.

I upcycle.

I downcycle.

I overcycle.

I even stalk Freecycle.  Every morning.

To know me is to understand the triangle on packaging.  And perhaps more importantly, what it means when there is NO triangle on the packaging.

That being said.  I also *love* gardening.  I don’t think I need to use metaphors here.  If you keep reading my blog you’ll know how much I love gardening the way you know when you’ve gotta pee.  It’ll be that familiar.

I also avoid pesticides and fertilizers the way a Snowman avoids a hot summer day.

Given my (somewhat) Mother Earth style, and my urge to satisfy my inner kumbaya, I decided to start a compost.  That was years ago.  When I was finally ready to pull the trigger and buy a composter, we decided to move so my grand plan for gardener’s gold was put off another 2 years.

As soon as we got settled at the new place, I went out and got a composter.  The Earth Machine, to be exact.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - Earth Machine

Things were going great.

I was satisfying my crunchy side.

Saving Mother Earth from exploding one bread crumb and compostable plate at a time.

***Side note:  I just have to say how proud I am of my family.  We had 40+ people over for dinner, and this was the entire amount of trash that went to the Landfill!

Signs For Food Waste, Recycle, And Landfill

So things were going along just fine.  I was dumping food waste.

And with millions of years of weeds on this former cow pasture turned dream garden, I had plenty of weeds.  This is less than one week’s worth.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - One Week Of Weeds

Then something bad happened.

Really bad.

We were invaded by gnats.

Literally hundreds of thousands of gnats.

They were everywhere.  Especially in the kitchen. (!!!)

This was an average day once the invasion happened.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - Invasion Of The Gnats

We lived like this for at least a couple of months.  Hoping things would change and the gnat situation would naturally take care of itself.

It didn’t.

Out of complete desperation, I went to the garden one day with a shovel and the focus of a fighter pilot, and shoveled  my entire stock of gardener’s gold into the “Yard Waste” can for the city to pick up.  The Earth Machine was completely FULL.

I was really sad and disappointed, but I didn’t have much time to think about that cuz I was focused on not swallowing or breathing in gnats.

To walk into the vortex of a swarm of gnats.  To become one with one million gnats.

It was one of the nastier jobs I’ve done in my lifetime.

After shoveling gnats and rotten food into the Yard Waste bin, the cleanup involved a fly swatter, a large wet towel (to trap hundreds at a time in the kitchen), and the garden hose (to drown the ones too slow to fly away).

A few gnat-free weeks went by.  Then I noticed a little sprout in the place where The Earth Machine once stood.

Then there was a couple more leaf sprouts.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - The Little Sprouts

I had pulled enough weeds to know these leaf sprouts were different so I left them there.  Curious to see what would happen next.

What happened next is that the sprouts got bigger and bigger.

Surprise Vegetable Garden Is Growing!

I was not 100% sure what I was growing.  Then my brother came out to visit.  He’s a hard core vegetable gardener type.  He’s got an electric fence around his garden.  That makes him hard core.

He took one look at my garden and said, “you’ve got cucumbers and tomatoes.”

Take a closer look at those leaves.

Every. Single. Leaf. Is. A. Cucumber.

And sure enough, about 2 weeks after he left, cucumbers became recognizable.  All over the place!

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - Baby Cucumber

Now guess how many cucumbers I eat per year.  The cucumber I put in the compost last year was the *only* cucumber I bought all year.

Now it’s lookin’ like I might have at least 50-75 cucumbers.  I’m factoring in that a lot of them won’t make it.

Here’s what my Surprise Vegetable Garden looked like this evening.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden

Everybody I know who grows tomatoes spends the entire season worryin’ over them, so I’m guessing I will be lucky if I manage to get one tomato before I screw that up.

A Surprise Vegetable Garden - Tomatoes

But the cucumbers are growing faster than weeds!

Pickles, anyone?

As for next year, I think I officially caught the vegetable gardening bug.

Stay tuned for that next year!

I might even wire up an electric fence.  It sounds pretty easy.


  1. Laura says:

    LOVE this story. So funny. Hope you at least get some tomatoes. Those are some determined seeds!

    • Denise says:

      I truly admire the plants that came from the compost. They really are determined, as you said.

      I just checked out your etsy store. I heart the Dahlia/Robin’s Egg Blue pillow. I first saw that fabric at a store near my home and it was love at first sight!

      All of your pillows look great! I love the fabric choices of them all. So fresh and hip!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Jan says:

    Can’t wait to try some of those cukes if they come my way! Love em cold, sliced with a dash of salt. Or even better, cut in uneven trapazoidal chunks, throw in a couple of cloves of smashed garlic, salt, sesame oil. Really good chinesy pickles!

  3. Brie says:

    I found your blog through the house of hepworth’s link party and I just keep reading and reading back into your posts! Your stories are hilarious, thanks so much for all the fun tips and ideas! Folding a fitted sheet…that will probably change my life. Hope your garden worked out! I’m your newest follower!

    Brie from

  4. CGB says:

    Stake them maters or they will break them stalks. Still searching for a good way to continue to read your blog. I missed this one till I was searching back through your recent post to make sure I had not missed any. Go with solar fence charger for the environment and ease of installation. Later Gater

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