our gardens

knoxville garden summer reboot

This past weekend was all work and no play as Ryan and I conquered our incredibly desolate Knoxville garden. The bed was weeded and planted with it’s summer cops while we were visiting Knoxville towards the end of April. When we were returned in May, sweet potatoes, raspberries, and tomatoes were planted and the garden was given a little TLC. Things were looking good, but when we got there Saturday afternoon (two weeks later), things looked dehydrated and distressed. The city’s dry spell was giving our “away garden” a beating.

We always tend to the garden when we are in town, but to spend all day in the dirt like we do at home is a rarity. This particular visit to K-town was planned solely for the garden, and we couldn’t have been more happy with the time we put in to it.

In a 24 hour hour period, things went from drab…


to fab.


We spent the first hour weeding. Those guys have a way of getting away from you if you’re not regularly weeding. It’s all part of the June garden chores. Once the tedious task of weeding was out of the way, we moved on to mulching.


The compost created at Ryan’s folks is mostly made of yard clippings and is minimally maintained, so it turns slow. Though it is not the richest compost, it is still very beneficial to our growing garden. It will continue breaking down slowly feeding our soil and plants.

We loaded each wheelbarrow many times and started working the compost around the plants. Conveniently, we were able to undo one corner of our bamboo fence and wheel the compost in that way. Lifting the wheelbarrow over the fence repeatedly just didn’t sound like a good time.


With the bed fully mulched, we started winding down by planting more sweet potato slips we had leftover from what has been given away and what was planted in our home garden in Atlanta (we still have more slips growing on our seed rack). With that, I was set to water everything in, and Ryan was off to clean up the compost pile.

We were just about call it a day when Ryan went running by me telling off a bee that had just stung him. He unknowingly dug into what we believe was a yellow jackets nest while adding yard clippings to the compost pile. After checking for stingers that might have been left in his skin, Ryan packed loose slightly moistened tobacco on the stings. This boyscout trick reduces swelling and pain. I, of course, just wanted to go straight for the comfrey salve. We seriously don’t go away without it. That stuff is a lifesaver. Together, the two remedies had Ryan mostly pain-free with no redness and minimal swelling.

It was a slightly dramatic way to end the night in the garden, but we were up early Sunday morning to go back at it. The garden needed to be watered again and there were plants that we wanted to collect before getting back home to work the gardens there.

We did a little maintenance work in the rain garden in front of Ryan’s folks house and collected at least eight bags of grasses and a select few other plants Ryan’s mom was willing to part with. The new plants are on a long list of transplants that need homes this week.

Even though our Knoxville garden had us mostly concerned, there were wonderful signs of thriving life throughout the bed. I attribute its ability to make it through difficult times to it being a hugelkultur garden bed. Flowers were blooming, and plants like catnip, oregano, and rhubarb were full and going strong.


There is a lot going on in our home away from home garden bed. Here’s a list of what is currently growing:

  • Popcorn
  • Black Beans
  • Rhubarb
  • Catnip
  • Lupine
  • Oregano
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Comfrey
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries


We were definitely snacking on ripe berries before doing one more task between us and hitting the road home- gather bamboo. The car was once again packed with crates of records and plants, but there was a little space saved for a bundle of bamboo.


Thanks to Ryan’s uncle Ric, we were able to restock our bamboo supply assuring we have enough to complete our trellis projects and wattle fences. Ric and his wife, Pam spent several years living in Japan, so you could say it’s just one of the ways they keep part of that culture with them. We were about to get in the car when they shared another Japanese treat with us, beautifully wrapped pickled eggplant. A friend sends them these pickled goods once a year. They were divine. We loved them so much Pam and Ric sent us home with a little bag of our own. In true fashion, now we want to make our own.

It was a whirlwind trip, but our minds are again at peace over the Knoxville garden. We can’t wait to see how things have grown in a month. Fingers crossed all will be well.

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