Great Gardens Begin in Winter

by Tiffany in Gardening

Great Gardens Begin in WInter

One of the biggest obstacles for newbie home gardeners and homesteaders is that they get gung ho about their gardening goals a little bit too late in the year. When the weather warms they see Pinterest and blogs explode with gardening adventures. Nurseries and home improvement stores are overrun and you probably see your neighbors starting on their projects and digging in the dirt. What you don’t see though is that these same people start planning their adventures long before the weather turned warm. Great gardens are actually rooted in the winter months. That is when they are dreamed up and planned for. So if you want to grow your own food and have a great spring/summer garden don’t be left behind again, start NOW!

Here are some ideas and tips to get you started…

Write It Down

Take out a pencil and paper and get to writing. Start with a list of the things you want to grow and then research how those plants grow together. Some will be complimentary and others will not be. Draw out what it is you want to create. Use real time measurements so you will know if you have enough space. Outline a plan so that you won’t be left scratching your head in spring and wondering where to start.

Mark Your Garden Deadlines on a Calendar

Use a calendar to keep up with your garden planning. Write down what you need to start indoors and when so that you can meet any planting deadlines. Different plants grow at different paces and if you want a steady supply of certain edibles you will need to stagger your planting as well. Also make a note of when you need to move seedlings outdoors, taking into account any frost dates and when you need to start garden/yard clean up so you can have everything ready. I use the The Old Farmer’s Almanac Gardening Calendar.

Have Soil Tested

It is always a good idea to know the quality of your soil and to know if you need to amend it so that growing will be more productive. If your soil is lacking you will likely have problems growing and it might even frustrate you enough to make you give up when all you needed to do was be informed and proactive. Investing in your soil is arguably one of the most important things you can do (especially if you are growing edibles) and it starts with testing. Do a search for soil testing in your state and find out where you need to send a sample and what the associated costs are.

Order Seeds and Supplies

Don’t get caught in the trap of having to buy seeds at a local home improvement store or buy seedlings because you were late to the game and didn’t start your plants indoors. In my post about modern gardening practices actually harming bees, I highlighted a study conducted by the Friends of the Earth-US and Pesticide Research Institute. It found that 54% of common garden plants purchased at top retailers like Lowes and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm or kill bees and other pollinators, with no warning to consumers. Don’t buy from these places!! Instead try heirloom seeds from places like Seed Saver Exchange, which is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations.

Other supplies include everything you need to start your seeds indoors. Don’t forget though that you can use recycled materials from home like eggshells and toilet paper rolls to grow seedlings and spend very little. Check out the post below for more information…

Green seedlings growing out of soil in egg shells

Visit Home and Garden Shows and Botanical Gardens

Why do these gardening shows often take place in winter? Because that is when master gardeners plan their gardens! Visit a local show, get inspiration, and talk to the gardeners and designers. Botanical gardens also highlight local plants that you can grow and they have people you can talk to about what will work best in your area. The best way to educate yourself about what you can grown in your own backyard is to talk to the people in your area who have been doing it for years.

Monday, January 20th, 2014



Gardening in June: Blackberries, Jalapenos, and Bell Peppers

by Tiffany in Gardening

June has been an exciting gardening month for me. It is a daily joy to go outside and see how things are growing and changing. Unless of course I go outside and see that squirrels have been eating my bell pepper plants, then I just want to go outside with a .22 and maybe have some squirrel stew for dinner. In lieu of that I have been making sure to spray them with an oil/cayenne pepper mixture and so far that seems to be working. I have already lost 4 of my 6 original bell pepper plants though. Those two are starting to grow peppers and are currently about the size of my thumbnail. Cute!

bell pepper plant

On the plus side though the blackberries are growing (their first year) and I am letting the birds eat them. Next year will be a different story. My blueberry bush is looking green and lush (also its first year) but no blueberries.


I have salad greens and herbs growing on my back deck in containers since we have very little space to work with. I find it a delightful challenge though to see how much we can grow in so little space. Each corner of our deck looks something like this…

salad bar porch pots

salad greens container garden

In our raised beds we have the aforementioned bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and pumpkin vines that are getting downright massive. We did not intentionally grow them, they just kinda happened because we used the raised beds as a compost bin during the winter and our Halloween pumpkins were in there. Once they started sprouting I didn’t have the heart to remove them, I just thinned them out and I hope we can keep them manageable and prevent them from strangling out everything that is growing around them. We shall see.

Pumpkin plants

Also growing are some jalapenos. Salsa here we come baby!


Also got the compost bin I so desperately needed AND the rain barrel. After our first big spring rain I collected over 55 gallons of rainwater. I haven’t had to use the water from the hose even once and we have had some pretty hot and dry days lately. We got it via a nifty city program. I had to take an online test about rainwater collection and benefits and then after passing I got a rain barrel at a wholesale price.

rain barrel in the garden

The compost bin was built in about 15 minutes and for about $20.

compost bin

What are you growing? What gardening adventures have you had so far?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

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Fairy Garden Tutorial with The Magic Onions

by Guest in Gardening

Hi, I’m Donni from The Magic Onions blog and I’m delighted to be sharing our Fairy Gardens with you. I have two children, Teddy who is 6 and Kitty who is 9. Both are avid Fairy Gardeners and it has become our family tradition to plant a Fairy Garden each Spring.


Our Fairy Gardens have been wonderful for my children in so many ways. They delight in the creativity and imagination that goes into planting their fairy gardens. They spend hours playing in them through the Spring and Summer months and into the Autumn too. They are out in the warm sun and breathing in the fresh air. They are working with soil and moss and stones. They are learning about gardening and noticing how the plants in their gardens change over time. They are taking on responsibility as they water and weed their magical spaces. They are learning so much, though if you asked them, they would say they were only ‘playing’.

This year, Teddy wanted to make his own ‘little’ Fairy Garden. We set off to The Goodwill in search of the perfect container. He soon spotted a little basket and we bought it for 99c.


This is how Teddy made his Fairy Garden:

Step 1 : Preparing the Container

Just about any container will do for your Fairy Garden. As moss loves to be watered often, it’s important that the container has holes in the bottom so that it will drain well. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, you can make them by using a battery drill or a hammer and a nail. Teddy had fun using my drill to make holes in the bottom of his basket.


Step 2 : Soil

He filled his container with good potting soil, leaving the soil an inch or two from the top of the basket.


Step 2 : Plants

Many garden shops sell moss in large 1 foot flats. Teddy chose a sweet mini pansy to add to his garden too. We measured the diameter of the basket and used a sharp knife to cut just the right amount of moss to insert into the container. We cut a small hole in the moss for the pansy and planted it too.


Step 3 : Accessories

There are many online Fairy Garden Shops that sell the cutest Fairy Garden furniture. Teddy has a tiny metal chair and he added a sweet cocktail umbrella to give his fairies some shade.


Voila… you have the cutest little garden that is sure to attract the fairies in your neighborhood.

I hope Teddy and I have inspired you to make your own Fairy Garden. If we have, I hope you join us on my blog, The Magic Onions to add your sweet creation into our annual Fairy Garden Contest.

Also, for lots more Fairy Garden inspiration, visit my Fairy Garden Page.

Here are some of the Fairy Gardens we have made over the years…

Blessings and magic,


Donni Webber : I am mom of two sunbursts of joy, wife, crafter, knitter, gardener, photographer and traveler. Come and join us on our Waldorf inspired blog, The Magic Onions, where the wonder of childhood and the magic of nature collide to make each moment a precious gift. 

Friday, April 19th, 2013



Are You Taking Care of Your Flowers?

by Tiffany in Gardening

Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

bleeding hearts spring flowers

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

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10 Steps to Planting Organic Veggies in Newspaper Pots

by Guest in Eating Local, Gardening

Guest post by Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, founder & editor of Odyssey Outdoors.

newspaper pots

If you want to know where your food comes from, there’s no better way than to grow it yourself! That’s just what we did with a group of families last weekend in the outdoor family group we formed about a year ago.  We followed these 10 easy steps.

1.     Gather supplies.

We started with newspaper, some beautiful organic seeds that would grow in early spring in our area, organic potting soil, popsicle sticks and markers for labeling, and shoeboxes for transporting the seedling bundles back home.

The beauty of using newspaper is that we didn’t need to buy pots, and the newspaper can be planted directly in the ground and will quickly biodegrade.

seed packets

2.     Discuss with kids where our food comes from.

First we talked about how our food is grown. How do we know how many chemicals were used? We explained to the kids that the best way to know is to talk to people at the grocery store, form relationships with farmers and best of all, grow it yourself!

3.     Demonstrate how to create the origami newspaper pot.

Before beginning, a couple of the adults watched this video.  Note that the woman in the video is in Germany and she uses a different size newspaper than in the U.S. In the U.S. you will need to trim about 2 inches from the long side of your newspaper before folding.

Here one of our group moms demonstrates how to make the origami newspaper pot.

group seed planting

4.     Work in adult/child pairs if possible.

Research shows that it’s an asset for kids to have non-parent adults who they can trust in their lives. In our outdoor group we often work in non-parent adult/child pairs to build community long term.

coloring sticks for garden

5.      Color popsicle sticks to label each seed pot. 

We used a background color similar to the vegetable, and then spelled the name of the veggie on top.

6.      Fill the origami newspaper pots with organic potting soil. 

filling pots

7.      Label each pot with the popsicle stick labels.

8.      Put the seed bundles in a shoebox for easy transport and watering.

9.      Time to plant the seeds!

Make sure to use organic seeds that grow well in your area.


planting seeds with children

10.   Your seedlings are ready to grow!

Bring home the seedlings and water them just enough so that the soil stays damp, but the newspaper doesn’t fall apart.  Wait until sprouts appear and then bring them outside during the day, in a shady spot for a few days.  Then gradually move them into the sunshine.  Then, they’re ready to go in the ground!  Tips on planting them in the garden can be found here.

And that’s how we start growing, and soon eating, our super-local, organic food!

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013