5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

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

Why you should be fertilizing your organic garden

healthy vegetable garden soil

When you’re out and about working in your garden, do any of these questions enter your mind?

How can I grow more healthy vegetable plants?

Should I fertilize my garden before I plant?

How often should I fertilize my garden and what should I use?

There’s a lot of confusion in the vegetable gardening world about fertilizing. It’s one of the most common questions other gardeners ask me when I’m traveling around speaking and teaching each season.

Most gardeners are wondering what they should be doing, if anything, and if the actions they already are taking to build their soil fertility are the right ones.

I’m guessing you’re probably unclear about this topic, too. (Don’t worry, so was I, until a few years ago.)

In this post, we’re going to clear up any questions and doubts you have about fertilizing your garden and learn about which products you should be using to build healthy soil and grow lots of delicious and nutritious produce in your garden.

How to Grow More Food with a Custom Planting Schedule

In Wisconsin where I live and garden, my average last frost is around the second week in May. It’s very common for me to hear other gardeners say, “I just go out and plant my whole garden in May.”

Boom! Done. Don’t have to plant anything after that. Just need to sit back and wait for the harvests to start rolling in.

This is not the way I recommend you approach your garden – planting everything at once. If you do, you’re going to grow a lot less food than you could with a better plan.

This way of planting is representative of two big mistakes a lot of gardeners make.

Mistake #1 is waiting too long to plant seeds and plants in spring.

There are many cool season vegetables that can be planted before your average last frost date. They can withstand the light frosts of the early weeks of the growing season, and in fact, these vegetables often thrive in the cooler temperatures.

If you’ve ever had trouble with your arugula, cilantro, spinach, or lettuce bolting within a few weeks of planting them in your garden, it may be because you’re planting too late.

Mistakes #2 is not continuing to plant throughout the season. A technique that’s commonly called succession planting.

In my garden, I usually start planting in my cold frames and low tunnels in early March, continue planting outside in my uncovered garden in mid-April and don’t stop until the beginning of September. That’s about six months of planting both seeds and plants.

This continual planting, or succession planting, will ensure you have a steady harvest of delicious vegetables for as many weeks of the season as possible. I start harvesting in March (from last year’s overwintered spinach) and continue filling my harvest baskets and bowls throughout the spring, summer, and fall, all the way up until the beginning of December. That’s 10 months of harvests!

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Especially if you create a planting schedule for yourself that easily leads you through what to do each week of the spring and early summer.

How to get the most out of the time you put into your garden

colorful harvest from an organic vegetable garden

Do you feel like you’re getting a lot back for every minute you spend working in your vegetable garden? I’m not just talking about the food you harvest. I’m referring to the knowledge you gain, the skills you build, the joy you experience, and the beauty you cultivate.

Organic vegetable gardening is a lot of work. It’s joyful work for sure, but it still takes up precious life energy and time in our hectic lives.

And my experience from working with thousands of gardeners over the years is that most gardeners, whether they’re new to gardening or have had their hands in the soil for forty years, have plenty of room for improvement in at least a few areas.

Are you motivated to plant and harvest your vegetables on time, not falling behind and missing opportunities throughout the season?

Are you delving more deeply into the craft of gardening, building your skills, and becoming a better gardener each year?

Does your garden produce an abundant harvest of healthy and nutritious produce that’s a pleasure to cook with and will help sustain you and your family?

Are you shaking things up by experimenting and trying new things?

Do you feel inspired and joyful when you’re in your garden? Are you having fun?

Is your garden bursting with color and beauty? Do you walk by your garden and love how it looks?

If you answered no (or a lukewarm yes) to any of these questions, join the crowd! Most of us are missing elements from our gardening experience that if present, would allow us to revel in our favorite pastime in a whole different way.

Gardening isn’t a one-dimensional experience that’s only focused on the amount of food you grow. While the vegetables we harvest are a big part of the pleasure of growing our own food, our gardens can also feed us on a much deeper level if we let them.

A full and vibrant organic vegetable gardening experience allows us to tap into our creativity, express our personalities, and hone our craft one season at a time so that gardening eventually becomes a part of our life that we can’t imagine living without.

If you’re looking for ways to deepen the joy and satisfaction you get from the time you invest in your garden, here are five ideas to get you started on the journey.

15 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 color purple 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!

Joy is What Happens When Your Garden Feeds Your Body and Soul

flowers from the garden and the importance of gardening in our lives

When the seed catalogs start arriving in the mailbox it’s tempting to jump into garden planning head first and start ordering your seeds for the season. This is definitely one of the most fun parts of winter for us gardeners!

But, what if I told you there was a critical first step that should come before you start cracking open those seed catalogs?

A step that goes deeper and wider into the importance of gardening in our life than simply placing a seed order.

This year, before you start thinking specifically about your particular garden and what you want to grow, I want you to zoom out and think about the bigger picture.

garden harvest and the important role our gardens play

When you immerse yourself in gardening it becomes more than a hobby . . . it becomes a lifestyle. It starts with trying to grow food and eventually ends up adding color to your entire life—the way you think about food, how you cook dinner for your family, the way you look at the world.

Gardening is our connection to the natural world, to beauty and creativity, and to ourselves. Our vegetable gardens have the potential to feed us on a soul-deep level. They can serve as the anchoring center point of a life full of rich, satisfying joys – often grown with our own two hands.

So, let’s think big about the importance of gardening in our lives!

World Travels: Fascinating Eating Adventures in Thailand

thai food dish at restaurant

Burmese tea leaf salad in southern Thailand.

“What are you looking forward to most on your trip to Thailand?”

This was a common question from friends and family in the weeks leading up to our five-week trip.

Every single time I enthusiastically replied, “Eating Thai food!”

Friends who’ve traveled to Thailand were smitten with the delicious dishes they ate while visiting the country. Everything I had read before our vacation agreed – Thais are passionate about food, eating is a huge part of the culture, and the breadth and depth of the different kinds of dishes and ingredients is amazing.

After we arrived in Chiang Mai (a large city in the northern part of Thailand) on our first morning and checked into our Airbnb we made a beeline to one of the restaurants on my list – a well-known vegetarian place in the center of the city.

Our first meal did not disappoint! We devoured the local specialty of Khao Soi (noodles in a coconut curry soup base), a fried rice noodle dish, fresh fruit smoothie, and Thai iced tea.

eating food in thailand

Mark with our first meal in Thailand.

Thus began five weeks of exploring street food vendors, back alley food stalls, hole in the wall restaurants, day and night markets, and more.

We basically ate our way through Thailand, and let me tell you, the food is amazing! For five weeks straight we ate Thai (and Lao) food for lunch, dinner, and snacks (except for one night when we ate pizza at our Italian-owned Airbnb) and never, ever got tired of it.

At the end of the trip, we declared that we could continue eating Thai food every day for the foreseeable future.

Every single thing I read about Thai people being passionate about food seemed to be true as we waded through the somewhat confusing, but always fascinating, food culture of this delicious country.

I had found my people.

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. 

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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