Make This Bright and Fresh Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe

Simple Garlic Scape Pesto

If you’re not sure what to do with all of the scapes from your garlic crop, this post will teach you how to make my favorite garlic scape pesto for use in delicious meals during the cold winter months.

One of the fun things that naturally happens once you start preserving food from your garden is you get in the habit of daydreaming about all of the delicious ways you’re going to eat the item throughout the year.

This week when I was making my annual batch of garlic scape pesto I flashed to our annual winter ski trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We rent a cabin that has no electricity or running water, and we have to load all of our supplies onto sleds and ski them into the cabin.

The weekend is one of my favorite of the winter season. We spend a few days cross-country skiing on beautiful trails, taking turns cooking for each other on the woodstove, and eating great food and drinking good beer by candlelight.

Tradition calls for everyone to bring food for lunch to share with each other.

There’s usually a big spread on the table for a few hours in the afternoon so skiers can arrive on their own schedules and dig in.

We eat my husband’s famous homemade hummus, cured local meats and cheeses, fermented goods, sliced vegetables, fresh greens, salty chips, and various spreads and pestos.

It’s a sandwich-making feast for famished skiers!

Garlic Scape Pesto

We always bring a jar or two of our garlic scape pesto to sit amongst the other homemade sauces and spreads (it’s a food preserving kind of group).

And while I’m tucking into a delicious sandwich in a snowy cabin many miles and months away from my garden’s garlic season, I’ll gaze out the window and think of the sunny and warm day in June when I made that pesto in my kitchen.

Food preserving is about more than just using up your excess harvest. It’s about creating your own yearly traditions of preserving what you grow so you can use those ingredients in delicious meals all winter long.

If you’re a garlic grower like me (220 heads every year!), you might be swimming in garlic scapes each season around early summer. Making garlic scape pesto is hands down my favorite way to use up piles of scapes from my garden.

Here’s the simple recipe I use every year.

Secrets of Summer Planting in June and July

garden harvest in a basket

Once in awhile I see a post from a gardener on social media in which they share how they’ve “finished” planting their vegetable garden. This is often in late May or early June.
Many gardeners approach planting this way. They plant their whole gardens within the span of a week or two and that’s it for the season. Late spring planting is their only focus, not summer or fall planting.
In my garden in zone 5 (WI), I start planting in my cold frames in March and into the uncovered garden in April and don’t stop planting seeds and seedlings until September. The only time I’m “finished” is when I temporarily run out of room, or it gets too late into the season to plant.
This method of repeated planting means I’ll get more food from my garden in a very steady supply throughout the season. In fact, even in the frigid North where I live I harvest from my garden 10 months of the year.
One of the techniques I use to grow more food is succession planting.  Succession planting means planting the same vegetable several times throughout the season for a continued harvest.
Why would you want to use succession planting?  Two reasons.
Spread out the harvest. 
You’ve probably had the experience of planting a big row of beets or an entire bed of bush beans and they’re all ready to harvest at the same time. Which means you have to deal with all of those vegetables – either using them or giving them away to friends and family – or take the risk of them rotting in your fridge. Succession planting is a great way to spread out that harvest so you have more manageable amounts to eat and cook with.
Maximize space.
Your garden space and do double (or even triple!) duty by growing more than one vegetable in the same amount of space in the same season. This isn’t doable with every vegetable, but there are lots that pair well together because they don’t take all season to grow.
I find it easiest to break up my succession planting into spring, summer and fall plantings. In this article we’re going to cover what to plant in June and July. At the end I’ll share some resources to help you extend your succession planting into the spring and fall as well.
A note about zone: This summer planting advice is most applicable to gardeners in colder areas, US zones 3-7. If you live in a very hot climate your summer planting calendar will likely be much different.

No Till Garden: Build Healthy Soil + Get Better Results

woman with large organic garden harvest
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I get the temptation to till. There’s something in all of us gardeners that leaps with joy when we see a freshly turned bed. That rich, dark, blank canvas beckons us to come on over and work our vegetable magic.

We imagine ourselves gently planting a seedling in the fluffy soil with no straining or digging necessary.

But, garden fantasies aside, tilling the garden every year is a terrible idea in practice. Not only are you destroying the soil structure and bringing weed seeds up to the surface – you’re also creating more work for yourself.

I’m going to save you from this horrible fate by sharing why you should establish a no till garden and exactly how to do it.

Truth: I’ve gardened for 20 years and have never tilled my garden. And it’s one of the most amazing and productive gardens I’ve ever seen.

Learn About the Best Frost Protection for Plants in Spring

kale under row cover in gardenWhen we’re planting in our gardens in spring, what we should be doing for frost protection for plants is always top of mind. Especially if we look at the 10 day forecast and the temperatures dip a little too low for comfort. That’s a common spring occurrence where I live in chilly Wisconsin. 

Row cover is my number one choice for frost protection every spring in my garden.

About 10 years ago I worked on an organic CSA farm and the farmer in charge exclaimed one day, “I don’t think I could run my farm in the spring without row cover.” During spring, every time we planted any seeds or plants, we immediately covered them in row cover.

Inevitably the row cover would be too short on some rows, so several plants wouldn’t get covered.  In the weeks following, the difference between the plants that were under the row cover vs. those left out in the elements was remarkable! 

The plants under the row cover were always bigger and more healthy looking, and the plants stuck outside were usually smaller and had more damage from frosts, insects, harsh weather and wind.  This was all the convincing I needed to start using it in my own garden.

Now I say the same thing as my farmer friend, “I can’t imagine my spring garden without row cover!”

Frost protection for plants is this is the main reason I use it it in my garden in spring, but there are also many other benefits. Today I’m going to walk you through how to use it for frost protection, share the various additional reasons you might want to use row cover in spring, where to buy it, the other supplies you’ll need, and exactly when and how to use it.

If you’re looking for more information about using row cover in the fall,  you can head on over to this article.

Let’s get started! 


How to Prevent Cilantro From Bolting and Tips For Successful Growing

gardener holding cilantro harvest

“Help, my cilantro always bolts! Why can’t I grow it well in my garden?” That’s a common plea I hear from gardeners everywhere in the spring and summer. And no wonder, cilantro bolting is a very common occurrence in those seasons, and it can be very frustrating.

In this article I’m going to share my best tips for prolonging your cilantro harvest for as many months as possible.

First, let’s get clear on what “bolting” means.

What is bolting?

Have you ever noticed that right around the beginning of summer your cilantro crop starts to send up some taller stalks in the middle of the plant? This tells you that the plant is getting ready to flower and set seed. This process is called bolting, or going to seed. 

It’s a natural occurrence that signals the end of the plant’s life cycle. It abandons leaf production and starts producing flowers and seeds so it can spread itself around and live for another generation. 

So, in the case of cilantro, it shifts its focus from pumping out more cilantro leaves for us to harvest for taco night and starts sending energy to the flowering process instead.

Essential Guide to Growing Sweet Peppers

woman holding basket of sweeet peppers

Growing sweet peppers and then harvesting large amounts of bright red, orange and yellow fruit each summer makes me feel rich like no other vegetable can.  It’s one of the things I get most excited about in the summer garden.

But difficulty growing sweet peppers is one of the most common issues I hear from gardeners each year. A lot of people find it very challenging to do successfully.

In this article, you’re going to learn the secrets to growing amazing sweet peppers, even if you live in a cold climate like I do (WI, zone 5). And we’ll be focusing on how to grow ripe sweet peppers, not green peppers. Here’s why…

Green peppers are the tasteless cousins of the red pepper. In fact, I don’t waste my time with them. If possible, I wait for every single one of my peppers to turn red, yellow or orange before I harvest it. 

In the book Ripe, the author, Cheryl Sternman Rule, perfectly expresses my opinion of the difference between red and green peppers:

“If a green pepper rang my doorbell, I might look through the peep hole and then pretend I’m not home, easing back from the door so it doesn’t see my shadow. But, a red bell pepper? That’s a different situation…

If a red pepper came to the door? I’d let it in, pull out a chair, and invite it to stay. Then I’d tackle it from behind and eat it. 

You ring my bell, you take your chances.” 

The difference in flavor between an unripe green pepper and a colorful ripe pepper is incredible. Eating a green pepper is like munching on a tasteless, fibrous piece of cardboard.

But a ripe pepper! It’s all I can do not to eat every one I pick right out of the garden. Juicy, tender, and sweet with an acidic undertone – there’s nothing like a red pepper fresh from the garden.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the whole process of growing sweet peppers. And, when you’re reaping the harvest and hauling bowls full of red peppers to your kitchen, you can consult the easiest ways to preserve them at the end of the guide. I even share some of my favorite pepper recipes.

Let’s dive into sharpening our pepper growing skills!

How to choose the best grow lights for seed starting

seed starting onion seeds

Confused and overwhelmed by all of the options for grow lights for seed starting? Yeah, me too! I’ve bee nursing along my old fluorescent light set up for the last few years and decided it was time to upgrade when one of my ballasts gave up the ghost this year.

The grow light landscape has changed dramatically over the last 15 years when I first set up my system. And many more options and companies means it’s become difficult to navigate the options and decide which set up is right for you.

So, I dove in for you, spent time researching, wrote this article, and even purchased some of the options I share in this below.

Let’s get started.

High yield vegetables: The way to get bigger harvests!

garden harvest of vegetables

Do you wish you got more food from your garden? I don’t blame you.

Gardening is joyful work, but it’s work nevertheless.

It’s nice to feel that the hours and sweat you’re pouring into your garden are being rewarded with large, colorful and delicious harvests.

Getting more food from your garden is an attainable goal for sure. You just need to understand some of the different characteristics of the vegetables you grow, such as – which vegetables are high yield crops?

A few years ago my sister called me from Philadelphia, where she was learning how to garden, and asked me, “When you plant one onion how many onions do you get?”

Wow! This one question from a newbie gardener completely re-framed how I look at my garden. (My sister’s always good like that!)

woman harvesting onions

I had never quite thought about each vegetable in this way. When you start to examine the garden in this light there are clearly things that are more “worth it” to grow than others.

When you plant a tomato you obviously get a lot of bang for your buck. You plant one seedling, wait three months, and then get to harvest pounds and pounds of tomatoes. That’s a pretty good investment for a $3 seedling.

Definitely a high-yield crop.

On the other hand, when you plant a cabbage seedling you wait 70 days and then harvest one cabbage. That’s it, no more, it’s over. If you want to get anything more out of that space you’ll have to rip out the remaining cabbage carcass and plant something else.

Not really a high-yield crop.

Hmmm, which one sounds like a better investment to you?

Well, from an objective standpoint, we’d both probably agree that a tomato plant will definitely provide you with more food per plant.

But, there are other factors besides just yield.

Whether you think tomatoes are a better choice than cabbage might depend on how much you love cabbage and hate tomatoes. Maybe you eat sauerkraut every day for lunch so you can’t wait to fill your garden with rows and rows of cabbage.

The answer to the question, “Is it worth it to grow?” all depends on your unique perspective.

That’s why it’s important to know a bit more about the harvest categories of vegetable, including which vegetables are high yield and which are low yield, so you can make a strategic decision based on YOUR cooking, grocery shopping and eating habits and what the people in your house like to eat.

Here’s what you need to know!

So Many Choices! How to Decide What to Grow in a Garden

woman in garden what to grow

What exactly to grow in a garden is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a gardener. And it can be a daunting one.

There are SO many options and they all look enticing.

But, most of us don’t have the garden space, time or energy to grow everything listed in the seed catalog. 

So, how do you decide what to grow in a garden?

In my gardening classes I try to convince encourage my students to think strategically about their gardens before placing their seed orders. Instead of running out to the nursery on the first nice day of spring and throwing plants and seeds into your cart willy-nilly (I’ve been there!), I encourage you to be more deliberate in your choices this year.

This will definitely lead you to getting better results in your garden. Which makes gardening feel more worth it and way more fun!

In this article I’m sharing two different worksheets from inside my Smart Start Garden Planner to walk you through the process of creating a personalized and strategic list of vegetables to grow this year.

How to choose the best varieties to grow in your garden

vegetable varieties for the garden

There are thousands of vegetable varieties out there in the gardening world. That makes it easy to get overwhelmed when you sit down to try to decide which of them to grow in your garden.

I’m an experienced gardener with over 20 years of experience and even I start to feel stressed out when I spend too much time flipping through seed catalogues.

Every variety description makes it sound like it’s the best ever…

Superior color and flavor!
Very impressive!
A standout!
Beautiful and flavorful!
The ultimate variety!

The photos are pretty, the descriptions are tempting, and the choices can number into the hundreds for vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.

It’s confusing out there in seed ordering land.

How to set inspiring garden goals for this season

woman in vegetable garden

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As gardeners, we’re all dreamers, right?

We take a miniscule seed from a colorful packet and gently place it in the soil. And in that seed is the dream of what’s to come—a bright yellow carrot, a huge tomato plant, or a sprawling squash vine.

Anything is possible in a life filled with a garden!

There’s no other time that feels more ripe with possibility than the beginning of a new year. Often, we find ourselves setting goals and intentions in various areas of our life.

But, often we forget to include our gardens in this planning and dreaming process. So, I’m here to remind you – don’t forget to carve out some time to set your garden goals, too!

In this article, I’m going to walk you through three steps for setting some meaningful and personal intentions for the upcoming gardening season.

Step #1 focuses on reflecting on the previous season before moving on to step #2, which is creating your vision for how you want your garden to fit into your life this year, and then we wrap it up with step #3, which is bringing your vision into focus. 

Let’s get started!

The best gardening books to inspire a new perspective this season

If gardening is a big part of your life in spring, summer, and fall, the arrival of winter gifts you with a lot more free time in your schedule. What’s a gardener to do?

Read voraciously!

Or, at least, that’s what this gardener does.

Winter is the opportunity for us to step back from our gardens and try on some new perspectives. And the best gardening books help us do just that. Every garden writer has a different approach to the craft and their books invite you into their world for a bit.

We gardeners are visual people! That’s where a gorgeous coffee table book is the perfect choice. One that’s packed with plenty of eye candy will inspire you to dream about new designs and ideas for your garden.

And you can balance those out with the practical, educational books so you can delve more deeply into the new skills you want to develop next season.

As for me, my favorite winter activity is sitting in front of my woodstove with my feet up close to the fire and a book in my hands. There’s no better way to spend a dark and frigid evening in Wisconsin in my opinion.

Since winter is the season of reading, I thought I’d share all-time favorite organic gardening books. Request them from your neighborhood library, make a trip to your local bookstore, or order them online without leaving your home.

Then curl up in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket. The woodstove is optional!

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