Chef Ryan

Cajun Chef Ryan

Feeling & sharing a world of cooking ~ more than your average Cajun


Cultivating Your Life!

May 12th, 2011 · 21 Comments

“I’m your biggest fan; I’ll follow you until you love me!” – Lady Gaga

Okay…I know what you are thinking…what does this lyric, a line from the pop song Paparazzi have to do with this blog post?

Obsession, Passion, Excitement

How many ways can you say it?

Off The Grid

What does it mean?

A. A salad in your front yard!
B. Fresh organic best tasting vegetables beyond imagination!
C. Saving money on your grocery budget!
D. Controlling exactly what feeds your family!
E. From front yard to table!
F. Cooking and eating exotic vegetables at a reasonable cost!
G. All of the above!

WARNING: Get yourself a cup of coffee or a nice hot tea and scones with Devonshire cream. This is going to be a rather long post!

I could break it up into several smaller posts, and take advantage of getting more clicks, page views, Stumbles, Facebook views, etc, etc…but that is not my real intent with the CCR blog anymore.  If I can influence just one more person in the world, then I feel my online efforts are worthy!

Set the Wayback Machine to Date: April 18, 2010

Standing outside sporting an old baseball cap, safety sunglasses protecting my eyes, my old Corona beach turned gardening shirt, workout shorts, gardening gloves and cross-training hiking boots on, I stare at the front yard, the green lawn, and consider how all of these tiny blades of grass need so much attention, water, fertilizer, food, mowing, trimming, but in the end, yield no real rewards. I cannot eat the grass, what does it really do for me?

The south facing front yard gets most of the sunlight during the day, over six hours of “soleil” in the shaded areas, and up to eight and ten hours in some areas, enough for just about any vegetable to thrive.

With metal can in hand and tilted over, the cap off and tank empty, filled up the tiller with some 87 octane, set the choke to full and pulled the cord starting up the two-stroke engine. Reset the tine level to lowest setting, ambled the tiller to the marked location and began mixing up the sod and soil until the ten foot by ten foot grassy area was transformed into a new garden plot. This was in the spring of 2010.

Breaking new ground! Ryan sweating and tilling!
Breaking new ground! Ryan sweating and tilling!
Front yard plot tilled
Measuring out the raised bed locations on the new tilled plot.

The new front yard garden in 2010 doubled our growing capacity from the container gardens of previous years growing three varieties of heirloom tomatoes with twelve plants on average. In 2010 our expanded garden included eight tomato plants, two yellow squash, two zucchini, two arugula, one cucumber, two Japanese eggplant, two Anaheim pepper plants, and two green bell pepper plants. Last year we harvested over fifty pounds of cucumbers from the one plant, at least 100 pounds of tomatoes from four Super Sweet 100 and four Roma plants, two heads of lettuce, at least 20 pounds of eggplant, and possibly 10 pounds of peppers.

Front Yard Garden June 2010
Front Yard Garden June 2010

Fast forward to late winter 2011…

During the cold winter months of January and February of this year, I started cracking open and reading several gardening books in my library, and online in preparation for the expansion in 2011. Using the seed starting chart  from Organic Gardening online, I devised my plan!

Grow your own seed starting trays
Grow your own seed starting trays

Date: February 13, 2011

Started seeds indoors in soil blocks using recycled milk containers and a seed starting tray used from previous years, all set on a riser below a south facing window.

  • Beets
  • Swish Chard
  • Peas
  • Hot Pepper Mix
  • Artichokes
  • Green Bell Pepper
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Leeks
  • Simpson Lettuce (Two varieties)
  • Carrots

Germination times vary, but within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the blocks. And after a month all of the seedling’s were taking on great form.

Within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the block
Within seven to ten days sprouts started to appear in several of the block
One month later seedings are maturing
One month later seeding’s are maturing

Date: March 13, 2011

One month after starting seeds indoors the seedlings are grabbing the available light.

Also added other seed starts and transplants including:

  • Beefsteak tomato
  • Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
  • Roma Tomato
  • Green Onions
  • Spearmint

Finally found and learned a great new technique for making homemade newspaper pots for starting seeds, and is an improvement from the soil blocks when it comes time to transplant the seedlings to larger pots.

Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots and recycled 16-oz plastic drinking cups, allowing roots to expand and plants to continue growing indoors with limited sun exposure for hardening off before going outdoors full time.

Lessons learned from the first set of transplants are to fit eight of the soil filled newspaper pots into each milk carton tray in lieu of making soil blocks. The seedlings are harder to transplant from soil block to larger individual pots.

Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots
Transplanted seedling starters into larger pots.

In case you are not keeping up, we are not just doubling our garden size this year; it is more like a fifteen fold increase in our square footage and total growing capacity when adding in the new back yard project (more on that later). This might explain why you don’t see me online the Internet as much the past few months.

Did I also mention that other benefits of gardening include the great exercise you get from humping loads of dirt and mulch with shovel and wheel barrow?

Six yards blended soil and eight yards mulch
Six yards blended soil and eight yards mulch.

Notice the steam coming off the top of the mulch, this stuff is alive! Six yards of blended garden soil mix, and eight yards of triple blended mulch.  We got a second load of the triple blended mulch, six yards in the repeat delivery to extend paths around the yards.

The front yard garden today!

Front yard expanded raised beds
Front yard expanded raised beds

Transformed the original four-inch raised beds to eight inches using 8”x2”x10’ dimensional lumber utilizing a simple plan from the book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible.

Planted 5 artichokes, 22 hot pepper mix, 6 patty pan squash and 7 eggplants so far in the two raised beds, and there is still room for several other plants on the side of the eggplants.

Artichoke and Hot Pepper Mix plants
Artichoke and Hot Pepper Mix plants

Doubling the Front Yard Growing Area The best is yet to come…

Removing the shrubs March 2011
Removing the shrubs March 2011

I called my tree service professional Roberto the owner of Yukon Tree Service and asked if he could remove my shrubs from the front area of our yard and he said for $200 it could happen. So we lined it up and on Tuesday, March 15 he and the crew came out with the Bobcat and forty-five minutes later we had a new plot in the front yard. This area measures 10”x20”, and creates three separate growing areas, more than doubling the raised bed space from last year’s beds.

Shrubs are all gone
Shrubs are all gone

All the shrubs are removed and an empty bed remains. Like the artists empty canvas, this newly emptied plot of previously unproductive landscaping will be transformed into a beautiful work of edible art.

Here is how the new front area looks today!

Now that is one transformation!
Now that is one transformation!
Carrots and Simpson Green Leaf Lettuce
Carrots and Simpson Green Leaf Lettuce
Leeks and Beets in front and Swiss Chard in the back
Leeks and Beets in front and Swiss Chard in the back

The Marigolds not only add beauty, but they keep the bugs away from all the nice vegetables in training.

We have already harvested several heads of lettuce and fresh peas for amazing salads.

Stayed tuned as I fill you in on our back yard garden projects! They include a 40’x20’ wildflower garden plot with a fire pit in the center, two peach trees, two fig trees, and more raised vegetable beds with tomatoes, corn, okra, Kentucky Blue Beans, Arugula, Wild mix lettuce, sunflowers, cucumbers, and more.

Bon appétit!
©2011 CCR

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Tags: Sustainability

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BestOodles // May 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Great info on utilize your front yard into vegetable garden!

  • 2 Cook in a Bar // May 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Awesome job! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • 3 East Village Eats // May 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Makes me wish that I had a yard! For now I have to make do with the windowsills in my NYC apartment!!! Rosemary, Basil, Thyme & Chives!

  • 4 Greg // May 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Well done, Ryan. With the price of tomatoes skyrocketing and the quality of them plummeting, I think home gardening is going to become very big again, soon.

  • 5 Ryan Boudreaux // May 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Jason,
    Hey, window sills are a start for sure!

    It is amazing what you can grow if you have a south facing window. Try expanding to larger containers about a gallon in size and try out some small bush type cheery tomatoes!

    Bon appétit!

  • 6 Ryan Boudreaux // May 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm


    You are so right!

    I have noticed a gradual decline in the quality of fresh produce in recent years, all while the prices continue to increase. Most store bought produce with the exception of places such as Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s is grown en mass for the ability to ship easily, and has nothing to do anymore with nutrition, flavor, or quality. These kinds of produce are grown for their color, appearance, and thick skin that can stand up to thousands of miles in cartons, trucks, ships, and planes.

    Bon appétit!

  • 7 Gera@Sweets Foods Blog // May 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Trying fresh is a must but you did an extra awesome job! Next is to sale them in the market 🙂

    All the best,


  • 8 redkathy // May 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Hi Ryan, Perfect reasoning behind creating a beautifully edible front yard. Your house and gardens are exquisite!

    Have a great week.


  • 9 torviewtoronto // May 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    beautifully thought out i lik the to sections wih the decorative stones in the middle
    we like marigold in the garden too
    thank you for sharing keep us posted with colourful produce

  • 10 Peggy // May 13, 2011 at 6:56 am

    This makes me think you’ve been gardening for years! With only about a year or so, you seem like a pro! The garden is quite impressive!

  • 11 Ryan Boudreaux // May 13, 2011 at 7:53 am

    You have a great point, and selling produce at the local farmers market just may be an option for the future.

    Thank you so much!

    And marigolds have such great fragrance and when grown with organic methods the flowers are also edible.

    I have actually been gardening off and on since the mid-1980’s, this post highlights the recent years of expansion beyond the odd container or window sill garden.

  • 12 FreeSpiritEater // May 14, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Wow! I learned so much reading your blog, thank you so much for sharing. What a beautiful garden you have. I’m so glad I found your site through foodbuzz =]

  • 13 Sommer@ASpicyPerspective // May 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Brilliant! I’m so impressed to started with seeds in February!

  • 14 Emily @Cleanliness // May 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    This looks fabulous! I am starting my own little veggie garden! I’m anxious to eat from it!

  • 15 Alicia Ghio // May 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Amazing! I can only hope my newbie garden adventures can grow into something like yours.

  • 16 Ryan Boudreaux // May 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Alicia,

    Really appreciate the kind words!

    Patience and tending to the garden like you would a newborn baby is all it takes. I treat all my plants with the same care, time, attention, and patience as when we raised our son up.

    Bon appétit!

  • 17 Megan'sCookin' // May 18, 2011 at 10:22 am

    What a great garden and I have to say also, what a great porch! 🙂

  • 18 Ryan Boudreaux // May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Hi Megan,

    So glad you like the porch too! We spend many a relaxing hour sitting, talking about our next garden exploits, enjoying the view, and taking in a few naps here and there in our hammock chairs.

    Bon appétit!

  • 19 Delishhh // May 21, 2011 at 2:19 am

    WOW – impressive. Love vegetable gardening, your seedlings look much better than mine.

  • 20 OC2Seattle // Jun 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    So impressive! I can’t even keep basil alive (although I blame it on the racoons).

  • 21 Lori Lynn // Jun 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Fantastic CCR!
    Love seeing the transformation.
    Please show more when (if) you have time!