I should know better, but it happens every year: I start too many seeds, feel uncertain about whether or not I planted enough, then realize I’m growing more than my family can possibly eat. And I don’t think I’m alone in this!
My eyes are much bigger than my stomach — and my garden — at the start of every season, and I inevitably end up with hundreds of seedlings that I scramble to find room for in any patch of bare soil.
Or sometimes, on the flip side, I don’t plant nearly enough of my favorite fruits and vegetables.
When we think of ground covers, we often think of things like grasses, sedums, and other fast-spreading, low-growing plants that cover or creep along the earth. Essentially, they function as living mulches to reduce weeds and retain moisture by blocking sunlight.
But in a vegetable garden, where I’m trying to maximize production of my land in a way that’s beneficial to the ecosystem as well, I sometimes feel like a layer of mulch — even if it’s organic mulch like compost or straw — is a wasted opportunity to do something more.
There’s no denying the importance of mulch: In addition to smothering weeds and conserving water, it reduces soil erosion and helps curb the spread of disease in a garden (by preventing soil from splashing back up onto the leaves). It also keeps the garden neat and tidy, and most organic mulches eventually break down and add nutrients back into the soil.
But is there a better way to mulch in a vegetable garden so you can fully utilize every square inch of growing space?
Yes! Try edible ground covers.
If you asked most people what color egg yolks are, they would likely answer yellow. Yolks have always been associated with the color yellow, which is unfortunate because backyard chicken keepers know better. Backyard chicken keepers know that yolks can and should be a bright, bold orange, and those bright, bold orange yolks are a sign of happy, healthy hens.
In an unscientific home experiment, I compared my pasture-foraging, insect-pecking, soil-scratching, whole grain-feeding chickens’ yolks to the yolks of both their “free-ranging” and factory-farmed counterparts.
The results were clearly visible: Yolks from my homegrown eggs were not only darker, but also fuller and thicker. Even the eggshells were denser and harder to crack.
But what’s the big deal about orange yolks?
No matter how many times I’ve seen it, the magic of germination still awes me as if it was the first time. I still don’t understand how bushels of juicy tomatoes will come from a single seed smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser, or how specks of basil seeds will turn into a forest of woody, fragrant herbs that grow over 3 feet tall.
It’s amazing what happens inside a seed before and after it sprouts, and being witness to such a process — something you can only experience by growing from seed — is truly one of the wonders of life. The anatomy of a seed and seedling is something every gardener should know, and learning the science behind it will help you become a better gardener!
You can start seeds in almost anything these days… peat pots, seed trays, toilet paper rolls, newspaper rolls, paper towels, or even that good old-fashioned thing called the ground.
But have you tried starting seeds in eggshells? It almost seems like an urban myth, with rumors that it’s possible, but little proof of people who have actually done it successfully.
Well, I can say with absolute certainty that it works, it’s ridiculously easy, and yes, it’s even practical.
If you like to give your seeds a head start on the season by sprouting them on a sunny windowsill, you may be wondering right about now: why are they so spindly and stretching toward the sun? This isn’t a catwalk, ladies!
Until I started making my own pasta, I always thought homemade pasta required a special pasta maker, a lot of space to hang up curtains of noodles, and a lot of time to devote in the kitchen. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Homemade pasta can be had with the most basic of kitchen implements: a smooth surface, a rolling pin, a sharp knife, and a half-hour of hands-on time. Small appliances can shave off a few minutes if you have a mixer to knead the dough or a machine to roll it out, but once you get the hang of homemade pasta, your hands can be just as quick.
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.)
Spring has sprung, although it doesn’t really feel like it here when the forecast is calling for more snow this week. But there’s something about the official start of spring that makes me want to throw open the doors and windows and freshen up the whole house.
Part of my spring cleaning ritual (that I actually do once every few months, but especially at the end of a long, dry winter) is to give all my houseplants a cool, cleansing shower. I put several plants — even my banana tree — under the shower for a few minutes, rinsing the tops and undersides of the leaves and drenching the soil until water flows freely out the bottom of the pots.
This thorough washing not only nourishes and hydrates your plants more than their usual drink, but has other benefits too.