It’s not too late! Planting garlic in spring

garlic cloves for spring planting

In an ideal world, you planted your garlic in the fall. But, we and our gardens don’t always exist in a reality where we accomplish everything on our garden to-do lists. Luckily, if you forgot to plant last fall, moved to a new house in winter, or just discovered that you want to grow garlic, planting garlic in spring is an option. 

Garlic is definitely an ingredient I use in my kitchen almost every day, and having your own freshly grown garlic is amazing if you like to cook.  

Garlic is a versatile herb that can be used in many different dishes. It has a strong flavor that can be used to add flavor to sauces, soups, and stews. Garlic can also be used as a seasoning for meat, poultry, and fish. In addition, garlic has many health benefits and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

And growing garlic is incredibly easy, particularly for gardeners in cold climates. 

When planting your spring garden, garlic is a great addition to your planting schedule. Ready to get started growing garlic? Grab your garden gloves and read on!

17 Purple Vegetables You Need to Grow in Your Garden

purple eggplant to grow in garden

One of the big benefits of growing your own food is the ability to plant vegetables you wouldn’t find while walking down the produce aisle of your local grocery store.

You can buy orange carrots, green beans, and red tomatoes anywhere.

But, in your garden, you can leave those boring choices behind and choose to grow yellow carrots, purple beans, and orange tomatoes instead.

Growing interesting and unique varieties will infuse a sense of fun and adventure into your gardening season.

Neighbors will stop by and ask about the unusual things you have growing behind your fence, little kids visiting your garden will be pleased to pick colorful produce, and cooking with these beautiful varieties will make the chore of dinner prep something you look forward to rather than dread.

If you’re looking to add a little spice to your garden this year, the planting more purple vegetables is a great place to start. There are lots of options for growing this intense color, and it’s the perfect visual complement to all of the green tones in the garden.

Pick and choose your favorites from this list of purple vegetables and add them to your garden plan!

Tips For Shopping For the Best Seed Starting Mix

gardener holding seed starting mix

This is the story of when I learned the importance of a quality seed starting mix.

I used to purchase premium potting soil from my local garden store and mix in some worm castings or compost to create seed starting soil at home.

The seedlings started off well, but after six weeks or so they would begin to turn yellow. I knew this meant they had used up most of the nutrients from the soil in which they were growing.

Sometimes I would nurse them along if they were going into the ground in the near future, but in the case of tomatoes and peppers, which get planted late in the season in Wisconsin, I would end up re-potting them (upwards of 70 plants!) into new seed starting soil.

This added a lot of work to my already busy spring gardening schedule.

Then, several years ago I was teaching a seed starting workshop with a friend who creates his own seed starting mix for his plants. He brought some of this homemade seed starter to class for our students to try out at home.

As we were packing up after the workshop, he gave me the leftover seed starter.  I excitedly took it home and used it to start my seeds that year.

gardener planting kale in soil mix after seed starting

Fast forward to a few weeks later…I was amazed at how healthy my plants were compared to previous years when I used my bootstrap potting mix concoction.

This was the best seed starting mix I had ever used! There was no yellowing or signs of stress after six weeks – the seedlings remained a deep green color until it was time to transplant them into the garden.

I was so impressed that I vowed to change my seed starting mix the following winter.

But…I’m a minimalist when it comes to gardening and I don’t like things to be too complicated. Buying all of the separate ingredients that were in his recipe and storing them in my basement for many years seemed like a lot of work.

So, I set out to understand the components of the best seed starting mixes and find a more simple solution for making soil for my seedlings.

In this post, we’ll explore how to choose the best seed starting mix to ensure your plants are healthy and happy from the time they germinate until the day they get tucked into the ground.

Unique Garden Gifts For Passionate Gardeners

unique garden gifts

The easiest people to have on your gift-buying list are those who have a clear obsession passion. You know who I’m talking about, those friends and relatives who are totally in love with a particular hobby, theme, or pastime.

Zealous coffee drinkers, fervent cat people, adventurous world travelers, and… (my personal favorite) impassioned gardeners. You know what they care deeply about in this world, and you love them dearly for it. 

We gardeners can be a little intense about our gardens. As soon as the garden season is over we’re already curled up in our cozy reading chairs salivating over the seed catalogs and counting down the days until spring.

That’s why gardeners are one of the easiest groups of people to buy gifts for! We love anything and everything that reminds us of our favorite pastime – vegetables, flowers, nature, insects, chickens, bees, butterflies. 

Recently, I looked around my house at all of the amazing garden-themed items I’ve bought myself over the years and realized that many of them would make unique garden gifts for other gardeners as well.

So, if you have a dear friend in your life who’d adore an unusual garden gift, here are my absolute favorites.

Soil Testing for Home Gardeners: What You Need to Know

woman with raised beds garden

Most gardeners know that the quality of their garden soil is important, but aren’t sure how to evaluate the condition of what’s in their yard. Often I’m asked, “Should I get some kind of soil test?

The health of your soil is is one of the main factors that affects the success of your garden each season. 

When your soil contains all of the nutrients the plants need they’ll grow larger and be more productive, the fruit and vegetables they produce will be a higher quality, and the plants can better resist disease and pest pressure.

Also, when we eat vegetables our bodies absorb the nutrients we need from the food. If your soil is lacking nutrients then your food will as well.

So, basically, if you don’t have healthy soil, all of your other efforts will be wasted. You simply cannot have a well-performing garden with unhealthy soil.

In this article you’ll learn all about soil, what plants need to grow, options for NPK tests, when and how to send away for a soil test, and what to do with the results.

Ultimate Guide to Compost for Your Vegetable Garden

composting vegetables

When I visit peoples’ gardens for in person consultations some of the most common questions I get revolve around soil health. Most gardeners are aware that soil is an important factor in growing a garden, but aren’t sure what they should be doing to help build healthy soil. Often I get asked, “What about compost for the vegetable garden? Should I be using it?

The answer isn’t a straight yes or no. I do think if you have a yard it’s a good idea to start composting food and garden waste so you can use it on your vegetable garden. But, compost alone won’t solve all of the problems in your garden or create amazingly nutrient-rich soil by itself.

In this guide I’m breaking down (ha ha!) the composting process and sharing everything you need to know to do it simply and successfully.

Quick & Healthy Replacement for Canned Beans in the Kitchen

cooking chickpeas in a pressure cooker

How to cook chickpeas in a pressure cooker, and freeze them, so you have the convenience of canned beans.

In our house we primarily cook vegan and vegetarian recipes with the occasional chicken or fish added in for variety. I was a vegetarian for over 20 years, so I’m very versed in cooking tasty, meatless meals.

And most vegetable-focused cooking calls for the use of a lot of beans! Chickpeas are my favorite, and I think the most versatile, bean out there, so that’s what we use the most often.

I like to buy my beans dry from the bulk section of the food co-op, not in cans. I think they taste a lot better, I don’t have to worry about potentially harmful chemicals from the cans, and I create less waste.

But, the drawback of using dry beans is that you need to plan ahead in order to have them ready for a recipe. They need to be soaked for 8 hours for stovetop cooking and they take a look time to cook once they’re on the stove.

So, I can see why a lot of people opt for canned beans – you can just pop open the can and use them right away.

But, over the years I’ve devised an easy method that allows me cook beans quickly and have plenty left over to use as an alternative to canned beans.

If you’re a bean lover who would prefer to cook your own beans quickly and easily, this post is for you! Let’s dive in.

Easily Freezing Swiss Chard: No-Cook Method

peppermint stick swiss chard

If you’re a chard lover you’ll definitely want to put “freezing swiss chard” on your fall to do list!  

There’s no doubt about it, chard is one of the most colorful vegetables you’ll grow in your garden. It comes in a rainbow of hues that aren’t found in many other vegetables – reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and even the stripes of the Peppermint Stick variety.

And because chard is incredibly easy to grow, you many find yourself with more than you can possibly eat fresh. After you drop off a few bundles to favorite neighbors and friends, it’s time to start turning your attention to preserving some for the deep dark winter.

If you’ve already perused my article on how to quickly freeze kale, the method for freezing swiss chard will be very familiar.

Two Quick No-Dig Ways to Make a Flower Bed

woman harvesting from a flower bed

 

Learn how to make a flower bed in a way that saves you time, energy, and the headache of ripping up and getting rid of grass.

We purchased our second house from an elderly woman who hadn’t done much maintenance in the years leading up to the sale. But, it was in the exact neighborhood where we wanted to live, the lot had enough sun for a large vegetable garden, and the price was darn good!

As soon as we finished addressing some of the immediate house to-do’s – new roof, asbestos flooring and water damaged paneling removed from the basement, wood floors installed in the living room – we set to work on the yard.

When moved into our house you couldn’t see the front of it from the street – overgrown trees and shrubs obscured it from view. There also wasn’t much landscaping around the actual house, just a few lonely plants in a sea of grass.

Since it was early June when we moved in, our first order of business was building the vegetable garden. I wrote a long post sharing all the details and plenty of photos of how we created easy raised garden beds.

In front of the vegetable garden, between it and the street, we created a quick and dirty flower garden bed at the same time we were building rest. (More about that below.)

That was phase one of our garden plan. Phase two didn’t occur until fall since we were busy getting unpacked and settled. I definitely wanted a perennial garden along the south side of the house because it got plenty of sun and was in a highly visible area.

I knew from experience that it’s easier to prepare a planting area the season before you plan on buying trees, shrubs and flowers, so that’s exactly what I set out to do that fall.

The second area I wanted to plant was filled with grass, and because I’m not a big fan of stripping away grass with a machine or my own muscles and shovel, I opted for the easy way out.

In this article I’ll share how to make a flower bed with two easy, no-dig ways that will save you a lot of sweat and tears.  

Freeze garden fresh raspberries in a few simple steps

harvested raspberries from garden

Learn several easy options for how to freeze raspberries fresh from the garden or farmers market to use in favorite recipes all year long.

If you’re berry lover you know that fresh raspberries from the grocery store (especially organic) can be very expensive. And even frozen raspberries aren’t cheap. Luckily, it’s incredibly simple to freeze raspberries for use in lots of favorite recipes throughout the year.

I eat a lot of smoothies and raspberries are one of my favorite ingredients. I was buying big bags of them from my local food co-op, but it was bothering me that all of the raspberries I was eating were from very faraway places, not where I live in Wisconsin. And, the plastic bags they came in generated a lot of trash that went straight to the landfill.

I eventually set the goal of trying to grow and pick all of the raspberries I would need for an entire year. No small feat! I planted two rows in my yard and also visited some u-pick farms. 

If you’re ready to freeze raspberries you’ve either grown, picked or bought, the process is simple and there are several options depending on how you want to use the berries later. Let’s get started!

Best ways to preserve the summer basil harvest

basil harvest from garden

The best options for how to preserve basil from the summer garden so when the season’s over you’ll still have plenty to use in the kitchen.

Basil is one of the most popular herbs grown by gardeners everywhere. Even people without yards can be found tucking basil into pots on their patios and porches. And what’s not to love about it?

The aroma of basil is the smell of summertime and this beloved herb pairs exceptionally well with other summer vegetables – think caprese salads, pesto pasta with fresh vegetables, and happy hour drinks with muddled basil.  

Basil plants are so prolific that it’s easy to grow more than you can use fresh in your favorite recipes. Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to preserve fresh basil from the garden so when the season’s over and your basil has succumbed to the first frost of fall you’ll still have plenty of basil to use during the off season.

Simple ways to successfully preserve garden fresh cilantro

cilantro growing in garden

If you’ve grown a bumper crop in your garden here are some favorite recipes and tips for how to preserve cilantro so it tastes great and is easy to use in delicious dishes all season long.

One of the joys of planting your own herbs is that it’s easy to grow more than you can possibly eat fresh. Especially since most recipes only call for a pinch of fresh herbs to finish the dish. That definitely won’t help you utilize the garden bed bursting full of culinary herbs out in your yard!

Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to use up large amounts of herbs that result in tasty meals and even a freezer full of fresh sauces and pesto that can make cooking in the off season super easy and incredibly delicious.

 

 

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