Ashlie Behm


Planning Our First Garden

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your very own backyard garden? Or do you already have one started? 

Gardening is another passion of mine outside of maternity, newborn, and family photography, of course!

When my husband and I were searching for our first house, we had two things on our wish list:

  1. A kitchen with a lot of counter space
  2. Enough room and sunlight for a backyard garden.

I’m so grateful that the house we found exceeded our expectations in both categories. 

We moved into our house in the spring of 2018. We were focused on planning our wedding that coming fall so we decided to let the yard go that first season. Instead, we took time to think about what we wanted our garden to look like and how to bring it to life. 


Sitting down together one weekend out at the coast, our first annual ‘Family Working Vacation,’ we discussed the specifics. My husband brought measurements of our yard. We decided to start with five planter boxes the first year. This also left us room for planting along our fences. 

Then, we decided on what we wanted to grow. First, we thought about the vegetables we buy at the store the most: 

  • beets 
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • onions
  • peppers
  • spinach
  • squash
  • tomatoes

After that we discussed other favorite vegetables that would be amazing to grow if we have the space: 

  • blueberries
  • bok choy
  • corn
  • green beans
  • pickling cucumbers 
  • radishes 
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries

We also wanted access to the fresh herbs we use regularly, so rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano were added to the list. Since these are perennials we had to be thoughtful about where to put them. But we also wanted some annual herbs — ones we will have to plant year after year —like parsley, cilantro, dill and basil. 

Finally, we knew we would want to plant wildflowers to attract pollinators to help the garden flourish. We couldn’t decide on what kinds, so we stuck to the assorted seed packets of native wildflowers found at The Portland Nursery — one of our favorite places to go for our gardening supplies. 

Planting – May

Prior to planting anything, I consulted my copy of “The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide” produced by Seattle Tilthe. This guide is my gardening journey sidekick! I love the simple and easy to follow month-by-month planning guide. It truly makes starting your own garden less daunting.

The first year of our home garden, I didn’t have the time or space to plant everything from seed. But I knew exactly where I wanted to get our starts from! Right down the street from us is the Portland State University Learning Gardens Laboratory. Every year they have a plant sale around the last week in April and the first week in May. It was convenient and I wanted to support them because they are providing K-12, university students and community members hands-on place-based education in sustainable gardening, healthy nutrition, and permaculture.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have everything I needed so I went to The Portland Nursery for what remained on my list and to get all of the plants I knew I could start from seed. Such as: beets, radishes, spinach, lettuce, corn, beans. They have an amazing selection of organic seeds to choose from — much better than anywhere else I’ve found in town. 

Once I had my starts, I arranged them in the beds taking into consideration how much sun each box got throughout the day. Three of our five boxes get full sun all day which is great for tomatoes, peppers, and squash. But two of our planting boxes get mostly full sun all day but catch a little shade towards the end of the day. So, I knew it would be okay for my lettuce and my root vegetables to be in those boxes since they would be okay with a couple of hours of less sun than some of the ‘sunnier’ plants. 

Additionally, I created an area for our more permanent garden residents: 

  • blueberries
  • oregano
  • rhubarb
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • strawberries
  • thyme

All of these plants we planted along our fence line where we had created some additional growing space bordering the perimeter of our garden area. 

Another area of our fence line was destined to be our wildflower space. I sprinkled seeds throughout to encourage pollinators like butterflies and bees to come visit our garden.

Next week I’ll share our last year’s results! But for now, I hope you enjoy a few before photos.

Leave A Comment

  1. Julie says:

    So fun I love what you did with your planter boxes. Uncle Steve would so have wanted to help. He was like Grandma. I was not passed those jeans lol ?? So happy for you. Can’t wait to see more.

  2. […] week, I shared how we planned and planted our first backyard garden. This week I want to share the results and a few reflections in time for this year’s […]

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