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!

Best 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.

10 healthy veggie side dishes straight from the fall garden

fall vegetable harvest for cooking

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 holiday 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.

Healthy veggie 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.

Immediately Improve Your Garden By Mulching in the Fall

hands mulching a spinach bed in fall

When the cooler weather of fall arrives most of us dig out our chunky sweaters, queue up our gloves by the front door, and search for our missing stocking cap which hasn’t been seen since last year.

Why do we automatically do these tasks? Because it’s time to cover up for winter.

You wouldn’t go outside barely dressed – say in shorts and flip flops – on a windy, frozen winter day. You’ll choose to protect yourself from the harsh weather instead.

Well, guess what? You need to do the exact same thing for your garden soil.

As your garden heads into its dormant season, you need to cover it up for winter with a little fall mulching.

Here’s why and how and everything else you need to know!

Prepare Your Vegetable Garden for Winter: 6 Tasks for Your To Do List

fall vegetable garden

When the calendar flips over to the fall season many gardeners immediately hang up their gardening gloves for the year and don’t bother preparing their vegetable gardens for winter.

This is a mistake!

If you take some time in fall to prepare your vegetable garden for winter, you’ll reap the rewards the next spring with fewer weeds to battle, more healthy soil, and even some vegetables already growing early in the season.

Plus, fall is one of the most pleasant times of the year to be out in your yard basking in the cool, bright sunshine and the slower pace of life. (And as a bonus: no mosquitoes!!!)

Don’t quit the garden just yet — here’s what you should be doing to prepare your vegetable garden for winter.

Frost cloth: The best way to keep your harvests going in fall

Row Cover in Vegetable Garden

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Does this sound like a familiar fall scene? You scrambling around your garden in the dark with a flashlight on a chilly night, trying to harvest all the vegetables you want to save before the first hard frost descends on your garden. You’re ready for it to be over, but you do want to savor those last few tomatoes.

Or maybe this? Waking up one fall morning and feeling surprised by a frosty garden filled with dead plants. You’re disappointed you had no idea it was going to get so cold the previous night. You wish you had known so you could have harvested the last of those delicious sweet peppers and basil.

For some gardeners, the first fall frosts are a relief, and for others, it feels like a disappointment when the season finally comes to a close.

If you’re one of the gardeners from the second category and would love to continue harvesting from your garden well beyond your first frost (that’s me!), I’m excited to share a magic solution with you – frost cloth!

Just because the weather starts to turn cold doesn’t mean you can’t continue to harvest from your garden every day. In fact, I think the fall and early winter months in the garden are some of the nicest and most productive of the year.

With some simple frost protection over your plants you can save some of the crops that succumb to light frosts and keep them alive for some more harvests.

Here’s how!

Introducing unique t-shirts for passionate gardeners

garden t-shirt on woman

You’re going to look really good in these gardening t-shirts!

How do I know? Well, I recently visited my family and gifted them all their new gardening t-shirts. They promptly put them on and we all walked to the park together to hang out on a beautiful summer day.

We kept joking that we were a family reunion of people who love gardening. Even though half the group doesn’t even have a vegetable garden.

They spanned the age ranges of 6 – 71 and every one of them looked as cute as can be in their shirts. See the below photo for proof.

family with gardening shirts

Here’s what my sister-in-law texted me later in the week,

“My new t-shirt is very flattering. It’s my new favorite! I totally want to buy another color ASAP.”

I’m thrilled to announce that you no longer have to be a member of my family to get one of these new t-shirts!

They’re officially available in my Etsy shop.

There are two different t-shirt choices (fitted and looser fit), three screenprint colors (black, white and full color) and lots of t-shirt colors to choose from!

What are you waiting for?! Go check them out here.

Shirts for Garden Lovers

I don’t really have a budget for professional models, and I’m not sure I’d want them anyway. It’s way more fun to take photos of family and friends wearing the shirts.

You know, real people with different ages and body types!

woman in gardening shirt

This is my mom, isn’t she the cutest?

She’s wearing the second design that will be released next month, but it’s the same brand of t-shirt that’s for sale right now.

She’s wearing a women’s fitted shirt in Berry with white print. I love the color she picked out.

Find it here.

women's gardening tee

And my sister! A natural model, I’d say. I only wish I took photos of her in more shirts this day. She makes them look so good!

She’s also wearing the fitted women’s shirt, but with black print.

Find it here.

Man in gardening shirt

This handsome devil is my husband, Mark. He’s been an incredibly good sport in being my male model and taking photos of me in the women’s shirts.

He’s wearing the Grey unisex/men’s shirt with black print.

Find it here.

gardening t-shirt gift

This is me in my happy place – my front yard garden. I’m wearing the fitted women’s shirt in True Royal with a full color print.

Find it here.

man in gardening tee

The Story Behind the Shirts

I’ve been gardening for 20 years and have always struggled to find gardening t-shirts I like. I’ve always played with the idea of creating my own designs.

I’ve even kept a spreadsheet of ideas for phrases and images.

So, this year I decided to partner with women artists and designers to bring to life my ideas for gardening t-shirts I would wear myself!

These are unique designs you can’t get anywhere else. Growing food is my passion and I created these shirts for other people who love gardening just as much as I do.

This has been a fun project that combines many of my interests – art, design, small and women-owned businesses, and gardening.

I know we gardeners are very passionate about our beloved pastime and aren’t afraid to show our love of growing our own food to the world!

We came up with four different designs and I’ll be releasing one a month for the rest of the year. Stay tuned!

For now, grab one (or more!) for yourself and a gardening friend.

Check out all of the shirts, colors and designs here.

How and when to plant your garlic for a spectacular harvest

woman holding garlic in garden how to plant

Fall garlic planting is a symbolic act in my opinion. You’re declaring to Mother Nature that you’re coming back next year and are already planning for the harvest.

The cyclical nature of the gardening season is beautifully represented in your garlic crop’s progression throughout the year – planting in fall, hibernating in winter, sprouting in spring, and the harvest in summer.

In my northern garden in Wisconsin there aren’t too many things that can survive the harsh winters here, so garlic is a super vegetable in my book!

Planting garlic is one task that should definitely be on every cold climate gardener’s to-do list in fall. I’ve already covered the reasons why you should be planting garlic, so I’m going to assume my persuasive powers have succeeded and you’re ready to start planting.

In this post and accompanying video, I’ll show you step-by-step how and when to plant garlic in your garden this season.

Easily grow great basil this year with these simple tips

how to grow basil in your garden

There are lots of great reasons to include herbs in your vegetable garden – they’re forgiving plants to grow for gardeners of all levels, harvesting your own homegrown herbs will help you save money at the grocery store, and adding fresh herbs to a dish can really elevate your cooking to a whole new tasty level.

And if you regularly purchase basil from the grocery store then growing basil in your home garden is a no-brainer!

Basil is easy to grow, smells amazing (like summer I always proclaim!), keeps producing leaves and stems for many months once it gets going in early summer, and comes in many unique varieties.

In this article, I’m sharing the best tips for growing basil, my favorite varieties, and techniques for keeping the plant healthy and producing big harvests.

Using flowers to create a stunning vegetable garden

vegetable and flower garden ideas

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, flowers, and grass.

Do you know what I say to that? BORING!

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. Instead of something to be embarrassed about, my vegetable garden is front and center in my landscape. In fact, in my yard, trees, shrubs and grass take a backseat to the riotous color and aliveness of my vegetable garden.

I’ll proudly admit right here, my vegetable garden is a gorgeous sight to behold.

What’s my secret?

I plant lots and lots of flowers in and around my vegetable garden.

This is one of the most simple things you can do to elevate your garden from a place where you just grow food to a garden that draws in and wows visitors and passersby on the street.

Tucking flowers throughout your garden will add colorful pops of beauty to draw the eye into and through the space, attract tons of beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and impress your neighbors because they’ve never seen a vegetable garden looking so good!

One of my missions is to bust the misconception that vegetable gardens aren’t attractive.

I stongly believe that 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 just like I do.

In this article, I’m sharing my favorite vegetable and flower garden ideas to help you create a thrilling space that brings you vibrant color all season long.

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