Advice for new gardeners: the best seeds to plant in spring
Garden of Eatin', How-To, Seeds & Seedlings

Advice for New Gardeners: The Best Seeds to Plant in Spring

In my very first year of gardening, I did what any ambitious beginner would do in a brand-new garden: I bought a bunch of seeds that looked good, threw them in the ground, and hoped at least a few of them would come up.

Some seeds did come up, but many others either took their sweet time germinating (laying dormant for weeks until I’d forgotten about them) or never sprouted at all, becoming a free buffet for a passing bird or slug.

It took several seasons of trial and error before I mastered the tricks of seed starting, learned which varieties grew best in my climate, and figured out when to plant them for a productive harvest.

Ironically, it took much less time than that to realize that patience — a somewhat necessary trait for a gardener — was not one of my strong suits, and after a winter of minimal sun and slow-growing crops, I wanted near-instant gratification in the garden come spring. I didn’t want to wait alllll season long for my first harvest, I didn’t want to coddle seedlings or worry whether I was doing it “right.” Yet, I really loved growing my own food from seed.

In short, I just wanted it to be easy. Fun, fast, and easy.

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A sneek peek of The Backyard Fire Cookbook
Makings of a Book, Work

A Sneak Peek of The Backyard Fire Cookbook

It didn’t seem so long ago that I shared the making of the cover for my third book, The Backyard Fire Cookbook: Get Outside and Master Ember Roasting, Charcoal Grilling, Cast-Iron Cooking, and Live-Fire Feasting (which we shot last summer), but here we are, just a month away from release!

May 14, 2019, is the official release date for the book, but initial copies have already been delivered to the publisher and my own FIRST COPY arrived this week!

Will (my photographer and in-house taste tester) and I have been gleefully poring over its pages the last couple days, and I can’t wait to share a video preview with you soon.

Preorders are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository (for non-USA readers — they offer free international shipping!), Books A Million, Indigo (for Canadian readers), or your local independent bookshop.

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How deep are the roots of garden vegetables?
Garden of Eatin'

How Deep Are the Roots of Garden Vegetables?

What’s the secret to growing a healthy, vigorous plant this season?

Hint: It doesn’t start with what you see above ground.

Root depth is a topic that isn’t often considered when we think about growing in containers, building raised beds, or planning an irrigation system for our garden. But knowing how deep the roots of your plants reach is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, especially if you’re working with limited space.

We tend to visualize our plants growing up or out, but before we transplant that first seedling, we need to know how deep they’ll go beneath the surface as well.

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The no-brainer guide to starting seeds indoors
Garden of Eatin', How-To, Seeds & Seedlings

The No-Brainer Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors

Exactly as the title says — this is an easy and foolproof guide to starting seeds indoors.

Whether you have a dedicated vegetable bed in your backyard, or a cluster of containers on your patio, it all starts out the same way.

Growing seedlings indoors is ideal if you want to get a head start on the season, or if the weather is still too hot or too cold to put anything in the ground.

This simple step-by-step will take you from seed to seedling with a minimum of fuss. Just the stuff you need to know, and none that you don’t. (But if you’re the really-need-to-know type, I’ve added footnotes at the end to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.)

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How to use days to maturity on a seed packet to help you be a better gardener
Garden of Eatin', Seeds & Seedlings

How to Use Days to Maturity on a Seed Packet to Help You Be a Better Gardener

I remember the first time I bought seeds for my garden. They were tomatoes, and the packet read “75 days to maturity.”

Great! I thought. If I start them in March, I’ll be picking tomatoes by May.

So imagine my confusion when the first tomatoes weren’t ready for harvest until the end of June — and this was in a Southern California garden that received ample warmth and sunshine.

It had me looking more closely at other dates of maturity on my seed packets: 80 days for melons, 65 days for cucumbers, 90 days for sweet peppers, 100 days for winter squash. Sometimes the numbers were off by several weeks, and sometimes they were right on point (give or take a few days).

Why the discrepancies? And why did it seem like most major seed suppliers printed the “wrong” figures on their packets?

There is no simple answer to the mystery that is “days to maturity” or “days to harvest,” common terms that are used interchangeably in the gardening world.

If you’ve been puzzled by this very thing, here’s what you need to know about those numbers.

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A gourmet spice growing in the backyard
Garden of Eatin', Trees & Shrubs

Pink Peppercorns: A Gourmet Spice Growing in the Backyard

Pink peppercorns are often thought of as a gourmet spice, packaged in small, expensive jars and called for in fancy cookbooks.

But in Southern California and other parts of the country, bucketfuls of the vibrant berries litter the ground all fall and winter, sometimes considered a nuisance by the gardener who has to rake them all up.

It almost seems like a food crime to let heaps of peppercorns lay forgotten when just a few miles away, they command upwards of $10 an ounce at specialty spice shops — and here in a suburban backyard, they’re free for the taking.

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Happy New Year from Garden Betty
Random Thoughts

Happy New Year from Garden Betty

Hello, friends! It’s been a few weeks, but I have to say I really enjoyed my long holiday hiatus from blogging (and my laptop in general — I think I’ve opened it twice since Christmas).

Gemma was on break from preschool, which kind of forced me to take a break from work as well. We built a sled hill in our backyard after storms brought a few inches of snow in town. We cleaned out closets, donated boxes of clothes, and generally just tidied up for the New Year.

I cooked through the holidays, and found joy in the kitchen again after a hectic season of writing my cookbook. (Not that writing a book isn’t fun… but it’s full of pressure to meet deadlines and get things just right, when my usual mode of cooking is freestyling a meal from ingredients I already have around.)

We hosted a Friendsmas dinner party last month that was one of our most enjoyable evenings all year. To be able to get a group of much-adored friends together, a year after moving to a new town, was the best gift our family could hope for and it just made our holidays that much sweeter.

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Introducing the Garden Betty shop
Random Thoughts

Introducing the Garden Betty Shop!

By now you’re probably inundated with all kinds of gift guides for gardeners, co-workers, kids, and various people who are hard to shop for, so know that this isn’t just another gift guide.

I honestly don’t know what you should get for your significant other, or what the latest must-have item is this year. What I do know is what I like, and what has worked for me in my home, garden, and travels.

That’s why I’m launching my Shop on Garden Betty, a one-stop shopping guide for all things gardening, chicken-keeping, cooking, camping, and road-tripping. (You’ll see it as a new link above in the blog menu!)

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Home for the holidays (and a few of my favorite things)
Random Thoughts

Home for the Holidays (and a Few of My Favorite Things)

For the first time in many years, my husband and I are staying home for the holidays. With both of our families living in other states, I have to say it’s really nice not needing to worry about weather, traffic, peak travel prices, or a toddler’s sleep schedule.

We’re looking forward to hosting Friendsmas dinner in our home in a couple weeks and are even more excited to wake up in our own bed on Christmas Day.

Gemma’s at that age (just over two-and-a-half) where she’s starting to understand celebrations, family traditions, and — of course — presents, so it’s going to be especially fun to see all of her reactions on Christmas morning.

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