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2020 Garden Tour

Hello – I hope you’re doing great today! The weather here in Vermont is absolutely beautiful, so I thought it would be a good time to give you a little garden tour.2020 Garden Tour - Random Plants - Food Life Design

I love checking out other people’s gardens, don’t you?!

It’s so much fun to see all the different things that people grow. And the way they grow them.

Plus, I love to see all the neat little garden decorations, too!

Looking at other gardens gives me lots of inspiration (and aggravation!) for my own.

I want to do ALL.THE.THINGS.

Of course, that’s impossible. Right?

Maybe, but I’m sure going to try!

I want my garden to be spectacular. And I work really hard each summer to make sure that it is.

Yes, it’s A LOT of work!

And there are times when I absolutely hate myself for adding more…making it bigger…or even doing it at all.

There are days when I want to quit…times when I want to just mow it all over and return it to grass.

But, then, there are cold, January days when I pull out a jar of homemade pickles from the pantry, made from my own garden grown cucumbers…

Special days, like when I make my daughters’ traditional birthday dinners of Homemade Lasagna and Spaghetti & Spicy Meat Sauce, both made with crushed tomatoes that I canned myself the previous summer.

Or when I pack up the family gift boxes at Christmas…filled with canned goods that I grew and preserved from my very own garden…

These are the days that make all the work worth it…

These are the moments when I thank God for the earth, the perseverance to continue learning to garden (even when I’m failing) and for my Gram, who taught me the importance of preserving my own food.

So, now that you know my deepest, darkest gardening secrets…wanna go on a garden tour with me?


Awesome! But first…

2020 Garden Tour - Large Bed Side View - Food Life Design

The Back Story

You should know that I used to be a terrible gardener.

Not that I’m a master gardener now, but…

My friends and family used to joke that I had a black thumb and that plants came to my house to die.

Remember the commercial? Yeah, that was me…

Nonetheless, that didn’t stop me from trying.

Each spring, I’d plant a bunch of seeds…kill them and move onto buying started plants from the nursery.

After killing those, too, I’d give up and just buy bulk fruits and vegetables from local farms to preserve instead.

When we moved to Vermont back in 2016, there were a few leftover flower beds surrounding our new house and some beautiful old hedges and shrubs, but no formal garden.

VT House in 2016

A terrible, blurry image – but, as you can see, the front yard was a blank canvas back in 2016!

And honestly, it wasn’t a big deal that there wasn’t a garden.

As much as I dreamed of having one, I wasn’t very good at it and I’d pretty much given up on trying.

However, a lot changed that year…

2020 Garden Tour - Cucumbers and Tomatoes - Food Life Design

The Enlightening

I lost my cousin that fall. At just 40 years old, he died of cancer and left behind a young daughter and a huge grieving family.

We grew up together and were best friends for all of our lives, so it was a really hard hit.

Worse yet, in the spring of the following year, just 6 months later, my beloved Gram passed away unexpectedly and my heart broke…

I really didn’t think I’d make it through that and I needed something…anything…to keep my mind off the losses.

And so began the garden…

It started out small.

Cleaning out the flower beds that were left behind by the previous owners…

Trimming the bushes and hedges…

Anything to get outside the house and outside my mind…

Then one day, while cleaning up the overgrowth around the back door steps, I discovered a stone walkway under the moss. 

It was like finding the gate to the Secret Garden in the movie!

One of my all time favorite movies…

And all I could think about was what this garden must have looked like back in the early 1960s when my house was first built.

It must have been beautiful!

I imagined stone walkways surrounding the house…

Flower beds everywhere…

A colorful hedge along the edge of the road…

Vegetable gardens throughout the front yard…

I was instantly hooked and determined to recreate what I imagined.

And of course, it all had to be made from natural materials!

2020 Garden Tour - Large Bed Front View - Food Life Design

Laying the Foundation

In the beginning, I started out sketching design ideas, searching the internet for tips, perusing Pinterest to check out other people’s gardens and taking virtual garden tours.

I might’ve even slowed down a bit as I drove past other peoples gardens along the road.

Garden stalker!

Basically, packing my brain full of ideas…too many ideas.

Eventually, the husband got on board with the idea (or got sick of me begging) and even got out his handy, dandy little skid steer to help me with some of the more intricate projects.

We tore up all the sod from the front yard…

Tearing up the sod

Tearing up the sod – 2018

and built wooden garden boxes and stone walkways in it’s place…

Stone Walkways and Wood Garden Beds

Stone Walkways and Wood Garden Beds – 2018

As you can see in the background of the picture above, we planted a whole bunch of hosta and forsythia along the edge of the bank that year, too.

It makes a sort of living fence and as it grows it becomes more and more beautiful!

2020 Garden Tour - Hosta and Forsythia - Food Life Design

Spring 2020 – I wish I’d thought to take this picture when the forsythia was in bloom, but I didn’t. Just imagine it full of tiny yellow flowers!

I worked tirelessly from dawn to dusk…day in and day out for months!

Tearing up sod…

Moving stones…

Creating walkways…

Building new garden beds…


Re-planting (after killing everything)…


And growing…

Both me and the garden…

By the end of the 2018 summer, my garden had produced enough for me to can tons of pickles, tomatoes and jams.

And my heart had healed just enough to thank my Gram for each and every canning lesson through the years.

It was a hard season to say the least. Both physically and mentally.

But, I learned so much that summer…

About myself…

The earth…

And life.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

— Alfred Austin

2020 Garden Tour - Raspberry Patch - Food Life Design

2020 Garden Tour

Fast forward to 2020 and I’ve continued building onto my little garden each year.

In fact, it’s not so little anymore!

Over the last two years, my garden has spread from just the front yard to the side yard across the driveway last year.

And this year, I started filling the backyard, too!

I can’t seem to help myself…I just keep building more and more gardens.

These long Vermont winters are spent dreaming of spring…

And when spring finally arrives, you’ll find me outside in the mist, begging for warmer weather, while I dig through the freshly melted earth.

I’m obsessed! And I love every minute of it.

Hi, I’m Vanessa and I am a gardening addict.

So, now that you know my garden story…are you ready to head out on our garden tour?


Be sure to put on your walking shoes, because there is A LOT to see on this garden tour!

The Front Garden

2020 Garden Tour - Baby Cucumbers - Food Life Design

Baby Cucumbers

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Amish Paste Tomatoes

2020 Garden Tour - Tomatoes 1 - Food Life Design

Brandywine and Heirloom Tomatoes with Marigold and Oregano

2020 Garden Tour - Strawberries and Chives - Food Life Design

Strawberries and Chives – This is the third year the strawberries have lived here in this bed. We turned them over and mulched this year, but they aren’t coming back as full as they were. Maybe next year?

2020 Garden Tour - Potatoes - Food Life Design

A little volunteer potato that is hanging out in the pepper bed! And a tiny calendula peeking through the mulch.

2020 Garden Tour - Peppers - Food Life Design

Jalapenos…believe it or not, they DO grow in Vermont!

2020 Garden Tour - Mint and Thyme - Food Life Design

Lemon Balm, Mint and Thyme

2020 Garden Tour - Lettuce - Food Life Design

Lettuce and Dill (and weeds…so many weeds!)

2020 Garden Tour - Carrots and Leeks - Food Life Design

Carrots and Leeks (and more weeds…lots of weeds!)

The Side Garden

2020 Garden Tour - The Side Garden - Food Life Design

The Whole Side Garden – Someday, I hope to terrace this little bank and put steps in where my ramp is now. Someday…

2020 Garden Tour - Tomatoes 3 - Food Life Design

More Tomatoes! My goal is to can 100 quarts of tomatoes this year!

2020 Garden Tour - Pole Beans - Food Life Design

Pole Beans – These got off to a late start because I killed the ones I started inside. It still happens sometimes… But, if they do end up producing, I’ll be freezing them for the winter.

2020 Garden Tour - Cucumbers - Food Life Design

More Cucumbers – Like tomatoes, I hope to can 100 (or more!) pints of pickles this year.

2020 Garden Tour - Corn - Food Life Design

Corn – I’ve never had much success with corn, but I’m trying this whole square foot technique this year. So far, so good!

2020 Garden Tour - Potato Box - Food Life Design

Potato Box – I built this out of an old pallet that my husband had laying around. And it’s DEEP! The problem: I didn’t consider HOW I’ll get the potatoes out when it’s time to harvest! But, by the looks of the growth, I’ll have lots and lots of potatoes to freeze!

2020 Garden Tour - Cherry Tomatoes - Food Life Design

Cherry Tomatoes – Sweet, sugary and pick-able straight off the vine! My youngest daughter LOVES cherry tomatoes, so I had to make sure she had some readily available.

2020 Garden Tour - Brussels Sprouts - Food Life Design

Brussels Sprouts – Probably my favorite vegetable. This is the first year I’ve ever had success with them, but so far they have some tiny little baby Brussels sprouts beginning and they’re growing strong! Keep your fingers crossed – I’d love to make some Candied Brussels Sprouts straight from my own garden!

2020 Garden Tour - Red Cabbage - Food Life Design

Red Cabbage – I’ve never even tried to grow this before, but it’s doing great, so far! I hope to can pickled red cabbage with it!!

The Backyard Garden

2020 Garden Tour - Raspberry Patch 2 - Food Life Design

Raspberry Patch – So far, this is really the only thing I’ve gotten planted in the backyard. But there is a lot in the works, so stay tuned for another garden tour in the future!

Chickens in the Garden

And now, for the grand finale…

We got chickens!! I’m super excited about this part!

10 beautiful ladies!

I’ve been begging the husband for YEARS for chickens, but he never thought it was a “good time”.

Now that the cost of meat and groceries has skyrocketed…he changed his mind.

Oh, how the tides have turned!

We decided to get heritage, dual-purpose chickens so that we had the option of keeping them for eggs or putting them in the freezer if we decided chicken keeping wasn’t for us.

But, so far, I’m loving having these ladies! They are so much fun!

The dogs on the other hand…

Well, let’s just say that Adelyn is scared to death of them and keeps her distance as much as possible.

Abby? Oh, she’s in love (or hungry?). From the day we got the chickens on, she’s been by their sides as much as possible. Whenever she’s outside, she’s laying down in front of the cage watching them…

It’s adorable and concerning…

I’m not sure if she wants to play with them or eat them.

So, despite the fact that the ladies would like to take a garden tour of their own…they’re caged birds for now.

But, we did give them a big, giant space, filled with grass and wildflowers, to run around and lots of fun structures to play on.

They’re loving life!

And we’re loving having them.

2020 Garden Tour - Curious Girl - Food Life Design

Say hello to Curious Girl!

2020 Garden Tour - Nugget - Food Life Design

And her friend Nugget!

The rest of the ladies weren’t interested in having a photo shoot that day, so you’ll have to settle for the group shot…

2020 Garden Tour - All the Chickens - Food Life Design

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little garden tour! It’s truly my favorite place to be on Earth.

While there are many, many things I want to do in my garden, it’s fun to take it slow…

watch it grow…

And enjoy…

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Have a Spectacular Day!