5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Garden Right Now.

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

5 No-Fail Fermented Food Recipes for Beginners

fermented foods for beginners

At first glance, fermentation may seem complicated and mysterious. How do you turn fresh vegetables into delectable fermented foods without magic? Well, I’m here to reassure you that no special powers are needed to understand and master the art of fermentation.

In fact, once you’re familiar with the process and try a recipe or two you’ll be shocked at how easy and foolproof it can be. I was a newbie about 18 months ago and now I’m obsessed with all things fermentation. For proof, come over and take a look at my kitchen counter right now, which has no less than five jars of vegetables in various stages of fermentation. Yum!

Once you start looking around the internet it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of recipes out there. How do you choose? Luckily, I have a few shortcuts for you!

How to Start Fermenting Vegetables from Your Garden

fermented vegetables

Fermented foods are all the rage these days. You can find them everywhere – farmers markets, grocery stores, restaurant menus, and even on your friend’s kitchen countertop (that is if you’re friends with me!).

If you eat and drink wine, beer, sauerkraut, vinegar, or miso I have news for you — you’re already eating fermented vegetables (and fruits)!

The good news is that fermented foods are extremely healthy for you, but the bad news is some of the specialty fermented foods can be pretty pricey at the store. Luckily, even though fermentation might sound like a fancy and difficult process, it’s actually incredibly simple to make your own fermented vegetables at home. In fact, I’ve found it to be more straightforward and quicker than canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

Let’s talk about the easy process of fermentation and then learn how to make fermented vegetables at home.

Warning: These Vegetables Will Not Survive a Frost

frost hardy spinach from the garden

The two most important dates to know about your garden is when your average first and last frosts occur. (If you don’t know, you can enter your zip code here to find out.

Why is this important?

Well, there are two big categories of vegetable plants – the ones that can survive a frost in the garden (frost tolerant vegetables) and the ones that will get killed by a frost.

In spring, if you plant the vegetables that aren’t frost tolerant too early and you get a late frost, well, you might come out to your garden one morning to find a bunch of dead seedlings. (Ouch!)

As our gardens head into fall, many of our hot weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, are pumping out lots of fruit for our dinner tables. Unfortunately,these three vegetables are all in the category of not frost hardy, so if the temperatures dip to around 32 F one night, you can expect to find lots of dead plants in your garden the next morning.

If you’re like me and get tired of all of the food coming out of your garden in fall, you might be secretly wishing for an early frost. (I know, it’s terrible.)

Or, you might just be getting into the groove of eating and cooking with your hot weather vegetables. Either way, it’s important to know your frost tolerant vegetables from the ones that are as good as gone once the frost hits your garden.

Is it Possible to Live a Plastic Free Life?

woman with bag of plastic for plastic free living

In today’s modern world, plastic is everywhere. It’s in the clothes we wear, around the food products we buy from the grocery store, and it packages the items that show up in our mailbox when we order online.

Even for those of us who try to be conscious of our plastic use, it’s difficult to live a plastic-free life.

When I heard about the concept of Plastic Free July from some eco-conscious travel bloggers I follow, I was intrigued. The idea was hatched in Australia in 2011 in an attempt to challenge people to be more aware of their plastic use with the aim of encouraging changes in habit and behavior.

Participants commit to a 30-day period during the month of July during which they try to use as little plastic as possible. The campaign focuses specifically on single-use plastic like straws, water bottles, and takeout containers, but also encourages you to try to do without plastic for the entire month.

In the past few years, I’ve followed several different 30-day eating challenges (elmination diets, Whole30, Clean Diet) in order to look more closely at what I was eating and how it was affecting my body. I’ve found that focusing a limited amount of time on a very specific area of my life has been a really fun and successful way to break habits, take pauses, and form new behaviors.

I can’t help it, I love a challenge, and my husband was willing to play along, so we were in!

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.

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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