Backyard Vegetable Garden at April 14 2021 Rochester NY Planting Onions

Garden at April 14, 2021

First post of my second season growing in my suburban backyard in Rochester NY – Zone 6b. I moved from a farm in Zone 5a in April of 2020 and immediately put in a few garden beds and transplanted some berry bushes and herbs from the farm. I’m just sharing to show you how pretty simple it is to grow vegetables in a suburban backyard. I will be updating regularly throughout the growing season with videos on YouTube and slightly more detailed blog posts like this. You can follow me on YouTube here and sign up for my newsletter below.

Video of Backyard Vegetable Garden at April 14. 2021

What’s up in the garden

We have a house and yard on 0.4 acres in suburban Rochester, New York. It is in Zone 6b because it is relatively near the Lake Ontario. We have heavy heavy clay soil but very few rocks.

Started Indoors

I start my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants indoors. Even back in Zone 5a I didn’t find starting anything else (like squashes, etc.) made any difference to production later in the summer. I often will start perennial herbs and flowers as well just because it’s cheaper to buy seeds. Long ago, I invested in a stand that holds my plant trays and lights. The lights are adjustable so I can put them right above the plants. I very gradually move them up as the plants grow. This keeps them from being leggy. I don’t think results you might get from starting plants in the window on just sunshine is worth it. My lights are on before the sun comes up and after the sun goes down.

The nice part of starting your plants inside, and what makes getting that light set up worth it, is that you can pick what you want to grow. I pay attention to how my plants do each year, what they are susceptible to and then look for seeds for plants that might do better in my garden. For example, my cucumbers last year got something (I didn’t do a whole lot of research as I had enough pickles already) and petered out late summer. This year I chose cucumber varieties that are labelled as highly disease resistant. I grow a carrot variety that makes short very fat carrots and therefore grows great in heavy clay.

Plus it’s fun to look at the plant catalogs in winter 🙂


When we moved in April 2020 we took down an inground pool and put up a wooden fence. The fence is both to deter wild animals and to retain domestic animals.

We have not seen any deer in our neighborhood, but the rabbit population is abundant. We had some rabbit damage to the garden in its first year – mostly chard and herbs during the summer and some nibbling of the blueberries over the winter. Consequently, we have blocked the wider gaps under the fence with both dirt and chicken wire and walk the perimeter regularly to look for activity. This spring we had a trouble spot where a particularly industrious rabbit kept digging out the rocks we placed over his chosen route. But eventually he gave up. There is so much abundance in the neighborhood that as long as we keep up we don’t think we will have further issues.

It is important to consider vegetable predators when you start your garden. A rabbit can take out a whole row of bean seedlings in one night. Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not there. When you encounter damage in your garden, make sure you take time to correctly identify what is causing it so you can most efficiently protect your garden. There will be blog posts on this in the future 🙂

Garden Beds

We used a sod cutter to remove the sod and planted directly in the dirt. I do not believe raised beds are necessary in as people think. As you can see in the video, with my heavy clay soil and a record setting rain much of my garden has puddles. This happened in my farm garden as well. My plants still did just fine.

Fruit Trees

We planted seven fruit trees this spring: a Liberty and an Enterprise apple, a Keiffer pear, an Alfred apricot, a Reliance peach, a NY9 plum and a Jublieum tart cherry. We purchased them from Schlabach’s Nursery in Medina, NY, an Amish nursery owned by family members of friends. Although they do not have a web presence, they have very good reviews. You have to order a catalog and order by mail, but it is worth it. Since we are close and know the family, we actually went and visited this winter and got a tour of their back room. It looks like a clean and well run company, but I’m not a orchardist so?

One of the Schlabachs wrote what I have found to be the absolute clearest book on fruit pruning and growing I have ever read. I am looking forward to using it as we grow these fruit trees. The fruit trees we had on the farm never did particularly well, likely in part to all the confusing information I found in all the other fruit growing books I have on my shelf. I am hoping my track record improves.

Berry Plants

We have some Patriot blueberries, Joan J raspberries, black currants and rhubarb that I brought along from the farm. This spring we beefed up the blueberry row with a Sweetheart, a Darrow and a BlueRay from Stark Brothers. I also added a Red Lake Currant from Stark as well. We have more Joan J raspberries and thornless blackberries coming from Nourse Farms. Nourse is in Massachusetts, while Stark is in Georgia. My gut tells me to buy plants from places that have similar climates to me, but I don’t know if there is any science to that. Nurseries all sell the same varieties of plants, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Blueberry plants are known for not liking their roots to be disturbed. The Patriot blueberries have been through a lot. The plants were eaten to the ground by mice their first winter at the farm, but came back. In 2020 they were yanked from the ground in April stuck in pots for a month and then moved to their new location. They seem to have survived. Plants are often hardier than we give them credit for.


The garlic is the same garlic I grew for 10 years at the farm, it’s Music garlic from Fedco. Although garlic is supposed to be planted in the fall, when we knew we were moving I planted some in pots in my root cellar at the farm. When we arrived at our new house I planted both the started garlic and a few cloves in my new garden. They still produced. Not enormous cloves as usual, but enough to get started up again in our new location as you can see in the video. Again, plants are often hardier than we give them credit for.


Peas germinate and grow best at lower temperatures that most other garden veggies. This is why everyone starts them so early. They are not bothered by the spring frosts, but when the hotter summer weather comes around they will stop producing. So the goal is to get them to produce before the hot weather kicks in.

My peas in this video are just coming up despite being in the ground over a month. This is because we had a dry spell after I planted them and I’m not fan of watering. I did check on the peas during the dry spell. I just stuck my finger down in the soil to make sure that it was still moist down deep and also checked to see if it look as if the peas were sending out roots, which they were. So while nothing was happening on top, the peas were busy putting roots way down in the soil looking for water. This will make them more drought tolerant later.

I grow Super Sugar Snap every year. I keep trying different shelling peas. This year I am growing PLS560 from Territorial Seed. I buy almost all my seed from Territorial Seed.


Since it was time to plant the onions I demonstrated this in the video. Planting onion plants is nothing more than sticking them in the ground. Truly. You can plant onion plants in the spring as soon as you can get them into the ground. They should be spaced six inches apart according the experts. You can see from the video that I planted mine a little closer than that. I will mulch my onions and garlic with grass clippings as soon as we get to mowing the lawn.

As you can see in the video the onion plants come in a wide range of sizes. I assume that the bigger ones get bigger than the smaller ones, but I actually sorted and planted my white onions by size this year and we can find out later this summer!

I got my onion plants this year and last year from Dixondale Farms. In the past I concentrated on making sure I grew some good storage onions, but the yellows that I got in this Dixondale Long Day Sampler stored pretty well last year just in my kitchen. If you want to start onions from seed you need to plant them 10-12 weeks before the time you would set the plants outside in your garden. I am doing research into whether I could just plant seeds in the garden in the fall and if it sounds possible I will likely try next year.


That’s all I covered in the video. I was excited that my chard overwintered here in Zone 6b, but since it got attacked early by the rabbit I haven’t got to eat any yet.

I have no idea yet what is helpful to put in these blog posts so they are written on the fly. Please just feel encouraged to try growing veggies in your own backyard. So if you have any questions, or things you would like to see or read about in the future, please let me know by email – Contact Me button is below. I will happily research any questions you may have that I can’t answer myself.

Keep it simple!

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