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.

5 unique ideas to make your garden more beautiful

unique vegetable garden ideas

The first few years of establishing a vegetable garden are focused on learning the ins and outs of growing vegetables.

You’re figuring out when to plant each vegetable, which of the thousands of varieties of tomatoes you like best, and how to tell the difference between weeds and newly sprouted vegetables.

Mastering the details of gardening keeps you busy for those first few years.

But once you settle into the practice of growing your own food, it’s time to delve into the art of it.

I firmly believe that vegetable gardens don’t have to be strictly utilitarian. You don’t need to relegate it to the back corner of your yard. You can actually elevate it to be the centerpiece of your landscape.

At my house, my vegetable garden explodes from my front yard each season in a riot of color, texture, and life. My neighbors stop by often to tell me I have the most beautiful garden in the neighborhood.

Your vegetable garden doesn’t have to be simply a place to grow food to feed your body. With a little extra effort, you can intentionally design a garden that also grows plenty of beauty to feed your soul.

In this article, I’ll share five unique vegetable garden ideas you can employ to elevate your garden from ordinary to amazing.

The beginner’s guide to 15 easy vegetables to grow this year

which vegetable should beginners grow

If you’re just getting started out with gardening, you don’t want to mess around with vegetables that are known as “high maintenance”.

These are vegetables that need very specific conditions, climate, or soil in order to produce a harvest. Even as an advanced gardener, there are some vegetables I don’t grow anymore because they’re just too difficult in my particular garden in zone 5.

Cauliflower, watermelon, and canteloupe would be a few of the vegetables on this list.

There is a range of climates and gardens out there, which means we will all have varying experiences growing different vegetables. But, many experienced gardeners will agree that there are some things that are easier to grow than others for most skill levels.

If you’re a beginner, you want to try to focus on growing some of these vegetables, herbs, and flowers so you’re rewarded with success during your first few seasons. Your objective should be quick wins, fewer frustrations, and an overall positive experience that encourages you to keep going and learning.

Growing your own food is not easy. There are a lot of things to learn. But, like any new skill, the learning comes in stages as you familiarize yourself with growing food and build upon your experience season by season.

I’ve been a garden educator for 17 years and I’m still learning new things about gardening every season. That’s one of the aspects I love about it – the depth and mastery involved.

So, if you’re just starting out with a new garden this season, I’m sharing the top fifteen vegetables I always recommend for people who are just starting to explore the wonders of growing their own food.

I encourage you to incorporate some of these vegetables into your garden plan this year!

Grow great carrots this year with these helpful tips

planting garden carrots

Carrots!! They’re so fun and satisfying to grow. (Look how joyful I am in the photo above!)

When I ran a youth farm carrots were one of the crops the kids most loved to harvest. And, even as an adult, there’s something magical about digging in the soil and pulling out a golden yellow or earthy purple carrot.

In our house, they’re one of the vegetables we’re able to grow and eat all year round. So, I devote a lot of space to growing as many as possible throughout the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Unfortunately, carrots are also one of the vegetables gardeners tend to struggle with because they can be a little tricky.

In this article, I’m going to share my best tips for how to grow carrots in your garden this season so we can get you on the path to successful carrot growing, and more importantly – eating!

The ultimate guide to the best vegetables to plant in spring

when to plant spring vegetables

The spring gardening season is the most highly anticipated of the year! By the end of the winter, we find ourselves constantly checking the weather to see if spring planting time has arrived.

But, what vegetables to plant in spring can be confusing for many gardeners.

And that’s totally understandable because there are actually different phases to the spring gardening season where the list of vegetables to plant are different depending on where you live and what your season is like.

In this article, you’ll learn about these two planting phases of the spring season, the complete list of vegetables you can plant in your garden in spring, and how to figure out exactly when to plant each of these vegetables.

How to easily and quickly prep your garden beds for planting

how to prep beds for spring planting

Mid to late spring in the vegetable garden is one of the most exciting times! The day we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives –  we dig out our gardening tools and sink our hands into the soil. Ahhhh!

What a joy to be experiencing the re-birth of the gardening season for another year.

Although spring is a wonderfully fun time, it’s also a very busy time for gardeners.  We have a lot of tasks on our to-do lists and everything feels like it needs to be done right now.

At the top of that list is prepping our spring garden beds for planting. Spring is when the majority of planting happens in our vegetable gardens and our garden soil needs to be ready for the many seeds and plants waiting to be tucked into the garden.

In my experience, most gardeners think prepping spring garden beds for planting requires many hours of time-consuming and often physically exhausting labor.

Luckily, I’m here with the good news – you can keep it simple. 

In this post I’ll show you how to set up your garden for easy spring garden prep so when the sunny and warm weather arrives, you’ll be able to walk out to your garden and start planting your seeds and plants, no backbreaking work required.

How to Know When to Sow a Seed or a Plant in Your Garden

which vegetables to direct seed

It’s amazing that a tiny seed will swell and sprout and eventually grow into an earthy orange carrot, a towering tomato plant, or a sprawling cucumber vine. We can’t have a garden without seeds and plants; they’re what make our gardens literally spring to life.

But, not every vegetable is planted the same way. Some vegetables are commonly planted by seeds and to grow others you’ll need to have a plant instead of a seed.

When you’re planning your garden and ordering and gathering supplies for the season, one of the most important things to know is whether you need seeds or plants for each vegetable you want to grow.

In this article, you’ll learn which vegetables require direct seeding and which vegetables are transplanted. At the end, you’ll have a completed shopping list and know exactly what you need for the upcoming season.

How to make easy raised beds for your vegetable garden

raised garden for vegetables

After almost 20 years of growing my own food and designing gardens, I passionately believe that growing vegetables in raised garden beds is the best route for most gardeners.

In this style of gardening, you work to establish permanent beds and paths in your garden. This is in contrast to the flat or farm style of gardening, in which you till up a large square or rectangle in your yard and start planting.

When you design your garden to include raised garden beds and established paths, you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Let’s explore the pros and cons a bit more.

Reflections and Inspiration for Taking a Sabbatical Year

photo from a hike while taking a year off

Gorgeous view from a hike in Chile.

When you decide to take a chance and go on a big life adventure, it can be scary to veer off the safe route you’ve been traveling.  For the last several months since we declared our intention to take a sabbatical year, I’ve been experiencing the whole range of human emotions – anxiety, excitement, nervousness, anticipation, impatience, elation, doubt, fear, and confidence. It’s been a wild ride and we haven’t even left yet!

One thing that’s helped me navigate this confusing time is to seek out the voices, stories, and experiences of other people who have taken the leap and gone before me on their own adventures. Listening to their interviews, reading their memoirs, and exploring their blogs has helped me feel less alone during this transition time of life and has encouraged me to carve out time to cultivate excitement and anticipation for our upcoming year of travel.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of taking your own sabbatical or just love to hear about people who have adventurous spirits, I’m highlighting some of the resources I’ve been using to help me in preparing for my own journey.

In the second part of this post, I’ll share some of my own personal reflections on what it feels like to prepare for our sabbatical year.

15 Incredibly Useful Garden Tools You Need Right Now

gardener using best tools to harvest peppers

Simple and elegant garden solutions.

This phrase is featured on one of my workshop slides when I teach classes to passionate gardeners all around the US. It helps me introduce the philosophy behind The Creative Vegetable Gardener and how I personally approach gardening.

I’m a minimalist with most things in my life, and especially with gardening. I always try the easiest thing first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try the next easiest thing.

I always strive to keep things simple in the garden.

I don’t like complicated systems or impractical garden supplies. In fact, I don’t think there are many things you actually “need” to start growing your own food.

When I was hired to start a vegetable garden installation business for a non-profit 10 years ago I went to the home improvement store with a short list of tools and supplies to purchase.

As a garden educator, I’ve been sent many different tools and supplies to try out over the years. A few of them have become indispensable, but many of them have been given away.

This past fall we cleaned out our garage and a lot of items got put on the curb. I trimmed the fat and streamlined things so I’m only keeping what I use on a daily or weekly basis.

In this post, I thought I’d share what I think are the best garden tools every gardener should have in her shed or garage. None of these companies are sponsoring this post. I’m sharing these tools because they’re what I personally use in my own garden.

My Top Recommended Books of the Year

good books to read from library

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

Some of my fondest memories from growing up revolve around books. My mom has always loved to read and we started making weekly trips to the library when I was very young. In fact, we not only went to our local library in Northeast Philadelphia, but we also traveled to nearby neighborhoods to visit their libraries.

I can still close my eyes and conjure up the details of at least four different library buildings that were in our rotation.

My mom always had a stack of books in the dining room she was working her way through, and she read out loud to us every night. We had a big old wooden barrel in the living room that was filled with kids books and we could pick out anything we wanted for my mom to read to us. We were always surrounded by books!

As I got older I developed my own relationship with books and reading. I have a very vivid memory of standing in front of the library stacks in the young adult section of the library and thinking to myself in despair, “I’ve already read all of these books.” (Which wasn’t really true!)

When I was particularly engrossed in a book during middle and high school I would set myself up in a cozy chair in our front room and read in the almost dark house until way past the time everyone else went to bed. I’ve always had trouble putting down a good book!

If you walked into my living room today you might immediately notice my coffee table. It’s currently covered in stacks of books. A few of them are my own, but the majority of the books I read come from my neighborhood library. I make a visit there at least once or twice a week to pick up my holds. Luckily, it’s within a five-minute stroll from my house.

The fact that I can walk into a public building and check out any book I want, for free, never ceases to amaze me. What a gift it is to live in this ridiculously rich country of ours.

All of this means I read a lot of books! It’s the way I relax and unwind, seek inspiration and new ideas, visit other worlds, and learn about the innumerable ways people exist in this world.

As we head into winter, the season of more reading hours (yay!), I thought I’d share some of my top recommended books that have passed through my hands this past year in the hopes of introducing you to something you might want to put on your reading list!

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