Tag Archives: garden

Fill Your Pantry Without Emptying Your Wallet

A greenhouse doesn’t have to be big or expensive to produce great fruits and vegetable year round!


Save money by growing your own organics simply and easily with these frugal greenhouse plans.   The taste (and nutrition) of home grown food is much better than what you’ll find at the grocery store and your cost is almost free. This hoop house green house is going to be 11 feet wide and 15 feet long, and will be about seven and a half feet tall in the center. You could make one of these as long or as short as you want, but using this design the width needs to be between 10-12 feet.

Get the full plans for free along with the simple building instructions HERE

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Gardening saves money over the high cost of produce in stores and you can even use kitchen scraps to get you started!  Things like the root end of carrots, romaine lettuce and celery can be used to start new plants.  The seeds from just a few tomatoes and peppers can keep your family in salsa and pasta sauce for a long time!  Composting your kitchen waste will not only reduce your trash output but will become fertilizer for your garden!

2014-04-15 16.28.35
Here are our tomato plants, all started from the seeds of the tomatoes we ate!

Check out my post on Quick & Easy Composting to get you started now so you’ll be ready to get started with the spring thaw!  Also know what else you can compost so you can get the most out of your composting from day one with this article.

With the added benefit of a greenhouse, your plants are safe from the elements and you’re safe from things like bunnies that want to eat your tomatoes and removing weeds!  Growing your own allows you to make it all organic and pesticide free at a minute fraction of grocery store prices!

Home gardening also allows you to stock up… make your own jellies & jams, chutneys, salsas, pasta sauces and more!  Fill your pantry without emptying your wallet.

Summer Mojito Salad

There are certain tastes that just say summer, and to me watermelon and cucumber head the list. Enjoy the fruits of your garden labor with light, delicious favorite.

Summer Mojito Salad


  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups seedless cucumber, cubed
  • 3 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 2 limes, juiced and zested
  • 1 1/2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground sea salt, just a pinch
  • Fresh ground black pepper, just a pinch

lime zest


A word about zest. If you’ve never “zested” a fruit (removed the dark colored outer layer of the fruit) you’re in for a treat. You may be familiar with the taste of lime and lime juice, but the flavor and aroma of lime zest is unlike the rest of the fruit. You’ll want to zest and juice with the fruit at room temperature so it releases the most juice and oils.

First, pick your tool.. microplane (pictured above), a fine grater or a zesting tool. A zesting tool is more designed to make long decorative pieces for garnish and will take a bit of work to get all the zest off. Be cautious when using a grater. If you look closely, the blades on a grater look like little scoops and that’s exactly what they are. It’s a great tool for grating potatoes or cheese, but when it comes to zesting, you only want the very outer layer of skin where the essential oils are. The thick white layer underneath is known as the pith, and it can be very bitter and will drastically change the flavor of your dish. For that reason I prefer a microplane. A microplane is very similar to a grater, but rather than rounded scooped edges they are flat so they only shave off the outer part. If you do use a grater, just be mindful not to apply too much pressure to the fruit so as not to grate the pith as well. Zest your lime into a small bowl, be sure clean the excess zest off your grater or microplane and add this to the bowl.

Before you go any further, stop. I want you to take a moment to smell your hands (I know, it sounds weird) but do it anyway. Then pick up a little zest and breathe in deep. What you’re smelling is the essential oils in the lime. It is one of the most amazing scents. Fresh, clean, revitalizing and yet it has this earthy quality. It’s good for fevers, infection, insect bites, arthritis, bronchitis and so much more… okay, back on task.

To get the most juice from your fruit, press your palm down on the fruit to get some resistance but not crush the fruit and roll it around a bit on the countertop. This will help to break the membranes that section the fruit on the inside, along with warming the fruit up. Then cut your lime from end to end, first in half, then into quarters and squeeze the fruit in the bowl with your zest.

Mince the mint leaves. The easiest way to do this is to bunch, then roll them a little to hold them together before cutting. Again, I want you to take the time to stop and smell. I love the smell of fresh mint. My Aunt used to grow it on her farm and I can’t think of mint without thinking of that… then comes lamb. LOL Anyway, mint is great for the respiratory system, colds, flu, fever, fatigue, headache.

You thought this dish was healthy just because of the fresh fruit and veggies, you didn’t realize that “medicine” could be so tasty did you? Because of the lime and mint, this is a great summer dish if you feel one of those summer colds coming on. Sneaky, huh?

Add the mint, salt, pepper and olive oil to the lime. Give it a quick stir (and a whiff for good measure) and set to the side to allow the flavors to blend.

Next, cut your watermelon and cucumber. Toss with the dressing and refrigerate for about an hour before serving.

I guarantee this will be a new summer favorite!


I can put THAT in my compost pile!


Composting is a win-win. Not only do you get to feed your garden all the nutrients it needs but you’re recycling your garbage. Every piece of garbage that goes into the pile instead of the dumpster saves valuable landfill space and adds much needed nutrients to your soil.

Once you get a good pile going, you’ll start running into the same question over and over again, “Is this compostable?” More frequently than you might think, the answer might be yes. Pretty much anything organic (organic here meaning derived from a natural source, not just stuff from Whole Foods) can go in the compost pile.  If you’ve not replaced your paper products with fabric, good news!  You can compost them and still help the environment.

 Mother Earth News

Start with the most obvious

1. Tea Bags and Coffee grounds, including the filters

2. Fireplace ashes, good news for those of us with wood burners

3. Dead houseplants (I can only grow mold & mildew, so I’m good at this one)

4. Stale Bread and other grain products.  (even if it’s a little moldy, that’s fine).

6. Eggshells

7. Used paper towels, napkins, non-coated paper plates and cups (no plastic or Styrofoam)

8. Paper grocery bags, ripped in pieces

9. Dirt from the bottom of your shoes and boots, or swept off the floor or the wood box (I save my wood box sweepings for fire starters).

10. Droppings from any of your vegetarian critters: chickens or other birds, rabbits, hamsters, horses, sheep, cows, etc. (No dogs or cats though).

11. Paper towel and toilet paper rolls.

12. Miscellaneous cardboard, so long as it’s not waxed and has been ripped into pieces (good job for a bored kid): paper plates, pizza boxes, egg cartons, cereal boxes, you name it!

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… more unique

13. Dryer Lint

14. Polish-free nail clippings (from you or your pets)

15. Hair, fur and feathers (great for when you brush the dog and fill a shopping bag or the tumble weeds if you have hard wood floors)

16. Cotton, Wool and Silk clothing or house linens that you’re not using anymore, if it’s too ratty to donate to charity, it’s perfect for the compost pile

17. Rope and twine made from natural fibers like hemp, cotton, jute, etc. (I use mine for wood bundles so it’s burnable)

18. Wine Corks (or a wine box… broken down with the plastic bladder removed)

19. Pencil shavings and eraser rubbings

20. Cotton Balls & Q-tips (with the cardboard stick, not plastic)

21. Toothpicks and bamboo skewers

22. Old pet food: dry dog kibble, dry cat food, fish food, catnip

23. Shredded documents (just make sure not to shred the envelopes with plastic windows still in them, also if your shredder has a credit card shredder make sure these aren’t hitting the pile as well.)

24. Old loofahs (but not plastic poufs)

25. Expired dairy products (yes, you have to still get them out of the plastic container)

26. Old Halloween candy (no wrappers please)

27. Produce that has sat too long (onions, tomatoes and lettuce come first to mind.  Before you chuck the bananas, put the fruit in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for banana bread or smoothies, and just put the peel in the pile.)

28. Used matches and old stale tobacco (no cigarette butts or papers.)

29. Holiday Decorations (jack-o-lanterns, crepe paper streamers, wrapping paper, latex balloons, Christmas Wreaths, Valentine’s Day bouquets, etc – no mylar balloons or anything shiny.  Keep this in mind when buying them.)


Wait, Really? 

30. Beer and wine (I don’t know anyone who has this leftover personally)

31. Condoms made from latex or sheepskin

32. Cotton and Cardboard feminine products

33. The contents of your vacuum canister (if it has paper bags, just throw the whole bag in)

34. White glue (check the ingredients to make sure it’s not toxic, most school glues are just fine)

35. Masking tape

As you might expect, some items will require you to turn your pile right away (used feminine hygiene products and old dairy top the list) not only from the gross factor but you don’t want to attract critters that will tear the pile apart.  Consider having a second trashcan in your house and use it for compost worthy items.  Also let the rest of the family know what’s compostable and what’s not so you’re not retrieving and moving things.


Quick and Easy Composting


Composting is a simple process. It involves dumping your vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds and egg shells along with grass clippings and twigs and leaves. After six months to three years, you have a rich, crumbly dark brown substance that will give your plants all sorts of nutrition. But often times we don’t have the time (or patience!) to wait that long. Now there’s an easy way to make compost in 30 days or less.

How to get compost – FAST

Setting up your own composter

Of course you could go out and buy yourself a compost tumbler for $100-$200 or more. It will certainly get the job done, but there’s a plan that’s easy and a whole lot cheaper that you can do yourself.

First you’ll need to obtain four pallets. You can usually get them free from grocery stores or home improvement stores. You might have to pay a few dollars, but it’ll be worth it. Be sure the pallets you get are clean, without any grease or any substances on them that could leach into your compost.

Once you have four pallets, use one for the base and three around the sides and back in a U shape. Bind them together with wire, rope or zip ties. Don’t do anything permanent – you’ll be removing them later. If the base has large gaps, you might want to add a few boards to make a “floor.” Be sure to leave some space between, like ½ inch or so, for air circulation.

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Materials to be composted

Once you have your bin set up you can begin adding the composting material. You want a ratio of about 1 part “green” material to 2 parts “brown” material.

The green material can be:

  • fresh grass clippings,
  • manure,
  • leaves,
  • fresh hay,
  • or household kitchen waste, such as vegetable peelings.

(Don’t worry about weed seeds – once the internal temperature of the compost hits 155° for three days, weed seeds will be killed.)

For the brown material you can use:

  • straw,
  • dead leaves,
  • twigs or yard weeds that have been wintered over.

Now, here’s the part that will speed things up. Everything you put into your compost bin should be no larger than 1-2 inches in size. And all household kitchen waste should be put in a blender. This will speed things up considerably since it will not take time for it to break down naturally.

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Filling the compost bin

Premix the brown and green material together. Then set up a 3 inch layer on the bottom of the bin. Add a few sticks so there will be air circulation. Then add another 6 inches of material, then more sticks. Keep doing this until your pile reaches the top of the bin. If you don’t have enough material, go at least 3 feet high.

After you get your brown and green material in the bin in layers with the sticks, wet it down well. It should not be saturated, but similar to a damp sponge. You can also add a few handfuls of lime, but I’ve never had to. You don’t need to add a “compost starter,” but you can add some aged compost or garden soil. This will provide some beneficial bacteria and fungi to get it started.

If you use this method, you won’t need to turn your compost at all. Alternatively, you can omit the sticks between the layers and turn the pile occasionally. This will provide the necessary aeration. The pile will get very hot, 140° to 160°. If you don’t provide aeration, it could get hotter than 160°, which will kill the good bacteria. Essentially, you’ll need to start over. Temperatures of 155° will kill most plant diseases as well, but it won’t kill heat resistant diseases like tobacco mosaic virus. And it won’t be hot enough to kill pathogens found in meat products.

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Other tips for creating great compost

On that thought, here are a few things you shouldn’t compost. Meat and bones are no-no’s. Glass, plastic, fatty substances, metal, rubber, pet waste and anything that may contain chemicals such as clippings from herbicide-sprayed lawns.

Some things I never thought of but that can be composted are junk mail (with any plastic windows removed), cardboard and cereal boxes. Most cardboard manufacturers are using soy-based inks and natural adhesives, but you might want to check before you use them. Newspaper is also great. All of it in our area is recycled paper and soy-based ink. Again, you might want to check with the printer. Cut, shred or tear junk mail and newspapers into small pieces to get them going faster too.

55 Gallon Water Barrel

Another thing you can do to speed things up is add some worms. Red wigglers are about the best to use, but common garden worms and night crawlers will work just as well. These little creatures multiply quickly, regenerate if damaged, make fast work out of scraps and aerate the compost too. And when you’re done, you can use them for fishing bait!

Composting is an old time-honored tradition of slowly making nutrients for your soil out of waste materials. But it can be quick, too!



Garden Small, Harvest Large

Following my mantra of “work smart not hard”, not only is this a great way to garden in a limited space, it’s a way to garden efficiently.   Less ground cover means less tilling, weeding, etc

Grow 100 lbs. Of Potatoes In 4 Square Feet: {How To}

Source: TipNut

Quite the clever gardening tip here folks! Today’s feature includes tips from three different sources for growing potatoes vertically (in layers) instead of spread out in rows across your garden. If you have limited garden space or want to try some nifty gardening magic, this could be a great option for you.

Seattle Times

First, there’s this article from The Seattle Times: It’s Not Idaho, But You Still Can Grow Potatoes:

The potatoes are planted inside the box, the first row of boards is installed and the dirt or mulch can now be added to cover the seed potatoes. As the plant grows, more boards and dirt will be added.

You plant in one bottom layer, boarding up the sides of each layer and adding dirt as you go higher (you wait until the plants have grown a bit before adding a new layer). While new potatoes are growing in the top layers, remove the boards from the first layer at the bottom to carefully dig out any that are ready for harvesting. Fill the dirt back in and board up the box again. You move up the layers and harvest as they are ready. I imagine the new potatoes in the first couple bottom layers would be somewhat awkward to get at but as you move higher–not so bad.

I traced the information provided in the article to Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, they also advise you can skip the box and try growing them in a barrel or wire cage instead.

In another article on The Seattle Times (found here), I came across a blog post fromSinfonian’s Square Foot Garden that details his attempt using this box method, he added this tip for a better yield (Update: link removed since page is no longer online) :

Greg from Irish-Eyes Garden City Seeds let me know that Yukon Golds, and all early varieties set fruit once and do not do well in towers. You only get potatoes in the bottom 6 inches, which is what I got. Late season alternatives to yukon gold are Yellow Fin and Binjte.

Bonus! For a handy project sheet, The Seattle Times has a nice image file detailing the steps (click to view the original):

Image File

Mother Earth News


Love Your Garden Veggie Casserole

A great summer dish that only takes minutes to assemble; then can be made the day before and refrigerated.  Perfect for a weeknight supper paired with something from the crock pot or the grill to make dinner a breeze!

Burpee Gardening


  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 or 2 zucchini, sliced*
  • 1 or 2 yellow summer squash, sliced*
  • 1 large baking potato, sliced **
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato
  • 1 tsp dried or 1 tbsp fresh minced thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1-1/2 tsp fresh minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp dried or 1-1/2 tsp fresh minced basil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, Asiago or Romano cheese (amount varied by taste preference, omit for Paleo)
* When picking out your zucchini and squash, try to find “wide” ones.  Remember that you’re going to be slicing and stacking this with the other vegetables so you want to try to have them as evenly sized as possible.  If necessary, use the wider parts for this dish, and slice and freeze the narrower parts to have on hand for other dishes or your homemade marinara sauce.
** For Paleo, substitute sweet potato.  To prep, either slice thinner than other vegetables to accommodate different cooking temp, or microwave for 2 minutes to par cook before slicing.

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STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

STEP 2: Thinly slice the rest of the vegetables. Slice them to the same thickness, for presentation and even cooking.  I prefer to use a mandolin for this, but you can use a food processor or simply slice by hand as well.

STEP 3: On a cutting board or clean counter space, layout the slices of potato, then top with onion, zucchini, squash and tomato.
STEP 4: Spray the inside of an 8″×8″ square baking dish, 9″ round baking dish or two loaf pans with olive oil. I prefer to use an oil sprayer rather than non-stick spray.  No hidden chemicals, or propellant and no cans to throw away.  You can also put some oil on a paper towel and wipe out the pan with it (save it start the grill or add to the compost pile).
STEP 5:  Place the thinly sliced vegetable “stacks” in the baking dish vertically. Crumble the minced garlic over the stacks and drizzle lightly (or spray) with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and basil.
STEP 6: Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, be very careful with the steam, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
STEP 7: Serve to your very impressed family and friends, then sit and enjoy your restaurant quality meal with one dish clean up!  🙂

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