5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

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Beautiful photos of creative and colorful vegetable gardens

colorful home vegetable garden photo

My front yard vegetable garden is a riot of color in the summer.

In the darkest months of the year when we can’t be out in our own vegetable gardens, the next best thing is looking at pictures of other peoples’ vegetable gardens.

One of the gifts of the offseason is the space and time to dream, imagine, and make plans for all the ways we’d like to create more beautiful and colorful gardens next season.

Checking out inspiring books from our local library, taking an afternoon to browse the gardening section of a bookstore, or just spending time on the internet reading gardening blogs and looking at gorgeous photos are all great ways to get the creative juices flowing.

Planning, seed ordering and starting, and late winter and early spring garden prep are all practical and important ways to prepare for the upcoming season. But, daydreaming and visioning are also critical “tasks” we should make sure to carve out time for during wintertime.

I spent an evening by the fire recently with my laptop searching for stunning photos of vegetable gardens. I’d love to share some of my favorites with you and what ideas and plans they sparked for me.

10 healthy veggie side dishes straight from the fall garden

carrots from the garden for a simple and healthy vegetable side dish

At our house, the festive fall and early winter season is all about refocusing our efforts on cooking, inviting friends and neighbors over for brunches and dinners to reconnect after a hectic summer, and hosting holiday meals or crafting dishes to bring to the houses of other hosts.

The uptick in social events revolving around food, combined with the many different vegetables available during the fall harvest season, make cooking a real joy at this time of year. Sometimes the most difficult part is deciding which of the many vegetables crammed in your fridge you want to use in a recipe.

This is also the time of year when sugar, junk food, and other holiday treats appear at every turn. That’s why it’s important to double down on eating your vegetables, so you don’t feel guilty when you do indulge in a few gingerbread cookies or a coworker’s famous chocolate beet cupcakes.

Side dishes are the perfect opportunity to let the tasty and colorful vegetables of fall and early winter take center stage. And the more vegetables in a side dish, the more healthy it is in my book. (We recently counted eight different vegetables in one dinner at our table!)

The following healthy veggie side dishes have been gathered from some of my favorite food and garden bloggers.

Here’s a quick way to store your beet harvest for winter

winter beets harvested from garden about to be cooked

No matter how much you love beets (there’s a phrase I would never have written 15 years ago…) if you’ve grown a bumper crop this fall, you might find yourself wondering, “What am I going to do with all of these?”

You might start thinking that you have to spend an afternoon in your kitchen canning a big batch of pickled beets. Or you may wonder which of your neighbors is secretly a beet lover and would be delighted to receive a surprise bag of beets on their front steps this weekend.

But, what if I told you there’s really no such thing as too many beets? Would you believe me?

This is only true if you know how to store beets easily and quickly for use in savory recipes all winter long. I’ve harvested beets from my garden in late fall and was still using them fresh the next April and May. That’s over 6 months of storage!

Let me share my method with you, so you’ll never have to say, “I grew too many beets.” again.

Colorful and Unusual Bulbs to Plant in Autumn

Happy Upstar tulip unique spring bulbs to plant in autumn

If you live in a northern climate like mine, you probably feel color starved by the time spring rolls around each year. After months of looking out your window and seeing endless variations gray, white, and brown, you might start to think you’ve forgotten what other colors look like.

That’s why the first spring bulbs can be such a joyous shock to the system. The day I walk out my front door and yelp in delight over the cheerful blooms of the early crocus is one of my favorite times of the whole year.

The return of color to the landscape is the beginning of the return of our favorite hobby. But, sometimes spring arrives a little bit more slowly than we might like.

That’s why, over the years, I’ve found that my spring planted bulbs offer just the dose of early season interest and excitement to distract me from my impatience about spring’s slow advance.

And one important lesson I’ve learned – there’s no such thing as too many spring bulbs. 

How to Use Flowers for a More Colorful Vegetable Garden

flowers for the vegetable garden

Vegetable gardens are ugly. This is a commonly held belief by a lot of people. Or, at least, vegetable gardens aren’t as pretty as perennial gardens. They should be hidden in your backyard and you should save your front yard for growing trees, shrubs, and flowers.

One of my missions is to bust this misconception! You can have a vegetable garden that produces a lot of food and is beautiful to look at. In fact, you can even feature your vegetable garden as a focal point of your entire landscape. I do!

My house sits on a very visible corner of my neighborhood and my vegetable garden wraps around the front and side of my house. Every single person who walks, bikes, or drives by my house instantly knows that a vegetable gardener lives here.

And, my garden shows that growing vegetables can be gorgeous and tasty.

What’s my secret?

How to preserve food even if you have no time

time-saving food preserving tips for garden harvests

Our garden harvests start to roll in right around the time when everything else needs to be done – escaping our stressful lives for our long-awaited summer vacation, shopping for back to school clothes for the kids, and hosting our sister’s fun and rowdy family for their annual visit.

No wonder it’s hard to make food preserving a priority.

Combine this with the common misconception that the only way to preserve food is by canning (who has time for that?!) and you end up with a depressing pile of rotting vegetables staring you in the face every time you open the fridge door.

What if I told you there were plenty of time-saving tricks for preserving your summer harvest that had nothing to do with long canning sessions in a hot kitchen sweating your little gardener buns off?

One of the easiest time-saving techniques is freezing vegetables instead of canning them. With canning, it makes sense to wait until you have a large amount of one vegetable, but with freezing, you can work with whatever quantity of vegetables or fruits you have on hand that day. And often, you can prep veggies for freezing in as little as 10 minutes.

Why mess with canning when you can easily freeze so much of summer’s bounty?

Why Growing a Fall Garden is So Easy

vegetable harvest from growing a fall garden

Let’s commiserate about the frustrations of summer gardening for a minute. Sneaky insects attack us and our gardens, droughts and hail storms conspire to spoil our hard work, and the weeds loom so tall that the neighbor kid mysteriously disappeared in them a few days ago.

Gardening in summer is difficult.

And that’s exactly why gardening in fall is such a welcome breath of fresh air. Because it’s so easy compared to the trials and tribulations of the summer garden.

But first, don’t think for even one minute that you’re the only gardener struggling with these frustrating issues during the height of the gardening season. In fact, let me show you two depressing photos that pretty much sum up my summer garden so far.

(Don’t be fooled by all of the pretty photos of my garden on this blog – things go wrong in my garden all of the time!)

pepper disease with tips for growing a fall garden

This first one is what 30 of my 45 peppers plants looked like a week ago. They were shedding leaves like crazy and hardly had any fruit on them. After frantically doing some research online I discovered they most likely had bacterial speck, and the advice offered was to get rid of them immediately.

A few nights later I pleaded with my husband to come out to the garden with me and assist in ripping out all of the pepper plants in two garden beds and throwing them into our trash bin. Ouch, it hurts just writing that.

bean trellis with tips for growing a fall garden

pole bean damage and tips for growing a fall garden

These second two photos are of Japanese beetles devouring the pretty pole bean trellis I built this spring. Everywhere I look there are copulating beetles covering the vines. It’s like a crazy garden sex party. But, don’t worry, just below the trellis is a bucket full of water where I cast them to their deaths. (Sorry to be so frank, but it’s true.)

Summer is the season we anxiously wait for as gardeners, but it’s often filled with disappointment and heartache. (See pepper story above.)

So, it’s no wonder that at the end of the summer, we feel exhausted. We start to feel like it’s time to pack the gardening gloves away and call it a season.

But, if you quit now, you’re going to miss out on one of the best, and underutilized, seasons in the garden – the fall season. It just might be my favorite time in the garden. Why? Well, it’s way easier to grow a fall garden than a summer one.

Imagine putting in way less effort for big harvests that carry you through to Thanksgiving, and maybe even until Christmas.

If you’ve never experienced the joys gardening in this season, here are the reasons why you should consider growing a fall garden this year.

Healthy Camping Meals for Veggie Lovers

eating oatmeal by the fire healthy camping meals

When it’s time to go grocery shopping for a camping trip, my husband, Mark, is the one in charge because, as he puts it, “I’m the best at buying lots of snacks!” And it’s true, I’m not known for my junk food shopping abilities. I’m more of a healthy camping meals kind of gal.

And while I do like to indulge in things like potato chips (Black Pepper Kettle Chips – yum!!) and beer while sitting around the campfire, it’s also important to me to try to balance that out with some healthy camping meals.

Plus, camping season coincides perfectly with the gardening season, which means if you’re a gardener then you likely had to go out to harvest a bunch of veggies before you left on your trip. Why not bring them with you and incorporate them into your fireside meals instead of leaving them home to languish in the fridge?

I thought I’d share a breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a recent camping trip that highlights garden fresh fruits and veggies to keep you healthy while traveling, and still leaves plenty of room for indulging in your favorite vacation junk food between meals!

Gorgeous Summer Blooming Perennials

summer blooming perennials in the garden

Are you a vegetable gardener, a perennial gardener, or both? Did pursuing one lead to an interest in the other?

I often teach and travel with the Creative Vegetable Gardener, and it’s interesting to meet gardeners from all over the country and discover whether they grow just flowers, just vegetables, or flowers and vegetables. Each type of gardening has its own tricks and techniques, and what you learn in one doesn’t necessarily translate into the other.

But, if you grow perennials and vegetables, like I do, it can be fun to try to bring those two gardens together as much as possible in your landscape. One way I’ve done this is to create a perennial garden located between my front yard vegetable garden and the street.

This has multiple benefits: my vegetable garden can borrow some of the color from the perennial border during times of the year when it’s not terribly interesting (early spring), the perennial flowers draw scores of beneficial insects and pollinators into the front yard, which benefits my vegetables, and the perennial border puts a pretty face on the front of my property and serves as a buffer between my food and the street.

Ways to Prevent Tomato Disease in Your Garden

cherry tomatoes in a bowl

Tomatoes might be the one vegetable (or fruit!) that most of us gardeners grow each season. Juice from a ripe tomato dripping down our chins is a celebration of summer!

This love for tomatoes can make it especially frustrating when they’re struck by disease. Unfortunately, in many locations there’s a long list of diseases that attack, and often kill, our beloved plants.

Most of the diseases are fungal in nature and are often hard for the untrained eye to tell apart. The good news is there are some things you can do in your garden to decrease the negative impact these diseases have on your summer harvests.

I like to call them “best practices” because this list should become part of your regular gardening routine every year. If you love your tomatoes, incorporate as many of these as possible to protect and support your plants in fighting off disease.

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

Discover these very common mistakes and start receiving my best advice for free!
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