Bonnie Plants https://bonnieplants.com Quality Vegetables & Herbs at a Retailer Near You Thu, 20 Sep 2018 19:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 113041953 How to Plant a Fall Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-plant-a-fall-garden/ Thu, 20 Sep 2018 18:26:42 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12189 Many new gardeners mourn the end of summer, thinking it also spells the end of garden-to-table meals. But homegrown goodness can stretch far beyond back-to-school time if you plant a fall garden full of vegetables.

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How to Plant a Fall Garden: harvest basket

Fall garden bounty

Many new gardeners mourn the end of summer, thinking it also spells the end of garden-to-table meals. But homegrown goodness can stretch far beyond back-to-school time if you plant a fall garden full of vegetables.

How to Plant a Fall Garden: greens in raised bed

Greens like lettuce, kale, collards, and mustard grow as well in fall as they do in spring.

Why Plant a Fall Garden?
Planting fall crops in your garden lets you continue growing fresh, healthy food at home—plus, there are so many interesting cool-weather choices to try, from crisp, leafy lettuce to alien-looking purple kohlrabi and crinkly Chinese Napa cabbage. While you might miss the sweet peppers of summer, fall veggies offer unique, healthy, flavorful ingredients for your autumn comfort-food recipes. Plus, fall gardens offer many benefits:

– Cooler temps mean you’ll have to water less often—and you’ll sweat less out in the garden, too!
– Many cool weather veggies and herbs, like lettuce, arugula, and parsley, tolerate—and even appreciate—some shade. (Check the plant tag—it will tell you how much light it needs.) So if you missed out on growing sun-loving tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, you’re in luck.
– Fall offers a respite from many garden pests, though you’ll still want to keep an eye out for interlopers like cabbage worms, which love feasting on leafy greens like collards and (of course) cabbage. If you see one (check the undersides of the leaves), pick it off and drop it in some soapy water.
– While summer’s heat makes arugula bitter and lettuce bolt, frost actually sweetens the flavor of many cool-season crops, like Brussels sprouts and kale.

What to Plant in a Fall Garden (and When to Plant It)
As with any garden, think about what you typically buy at the grocery store or farmers market, then try growing it at home. To ensure you get to harvest tender crops before a hard freeze, check your area’s expected first frost date. Once you know that, you can plan when to plant based on each plant’s “days to maturity,” which can be found on the plant tag, on this website (click on the “Vegetables” or “Herbs” tab at the top of the page), or on the Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app.

That’s just one of the many great reasons to grow Bonnie Plants®: You save valuable growing time by planting hearty vegetable and herb plants that are already well on their way to maturity. That way, you can quickly transition from your summer garden to fall crops without waiting for seedlings to mature.

Use this planting reference to figure out what to plant when:

How to Grow a Fall Garden: cabbage transplant

Leave plenty of room around this little cabbage plant so it will have space to grow a nice, big head.

10-12 weeks before first frost:
Broccoli
Brussels sproutsCabbage
Cauliflower
Carrots
Celery
Fennel
Kohlrabi
Onion
Parsley

8-10 weeks before first frost:
Arugula
Chinese cabbage
Collards
Kale
Lettuce
Mustard greens
Spinach
Swiss chard
Turnip greens

6-8 weeks before first frost:
Beets
Lettuce (if protected with a row cover)
Mache
Radishes

Fall is also a great time to plant perennial vegetables and fruits (the kinds that come back year after year) like asparagus and strawberries. While you won’t get to harvest until spring (and not until the second spring for asparagus), the cooler fall temperatures give the plants a chance to become well established. Also, planting perennial herbs like mint, thyme, oregano, sage, chives, lemon balm, lavender, and rosemary in the cooler fall weather allows the plants to develop a good root system and avoid heat stress while becoming established. (Be sure to click on the links above to find out if these plants are perennial in your zone.)

How to Plant a Fall Garden
Just like your summer garden, fall vegetables have 4 basic needs:

How to Plant a Fall Garden - arugula transplant

Use a soil knife or trowel to make planting fall plants, like this arugula, a cinch.

– The right amount of sunlight. While many fall vegetables will tolerate some shade, all vegetables still need at least some sun to grow and thrive. Before you plant, check your garden space to determine how many hours of sunlight it receives, and remember that the light will shift and shorten in the fall.
– Great soil. No matter where you’re planting, you want to make sure to provide plant roots with the very best environment for lots of vigorous growth, in the form of rich, well-draining soil. Here’s how to get it: If you’re planting a traditional in-ground garden, improve your existing soil with Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs. Growing in a raised bed? Fill it with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil. For your container garden, use Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. All three soils provide plants with a boost of nutrition to get them off to a strong start, too.
– Consistent watering. Be sure to water plants thoroughly, both when you plant and after they’re settled in the soil. A good rule of thumb is to give your green babies an inch of water per week. An inexpensive rain gauge is a great way to see how much you need to add to what Mother Nature provides.
– Plenty of good nutrition. Think about what you feel like when you’re hungry—you’re just not your best self, right? It’s the same thing with plants. In order to flourish and provide an impressive harvest, they need regular feeding with a top-shelf fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food beginning about a month after planting. Chock-full of natural ingredients like earthworm castings, kelp, and bone meal, this is an exceptionally well-rounded meal for your plants. It’s got calcium, too, for strong cell walls. Bonus: When you grow your Bonnie Plants® in Miracle-Gro® soil and feed them with Miracle-Gro® plant food, you’ll be rewarded with up to 3 times the harvest over the growing season (vs. unfed plants)! Of course, you’ll need to follow all the label directions.

One more thing: In milder climates, many vegetables planted in the fall can overwinter into spring with help from a layer of mulch or a low tunnel for protection. Check out our articles on Make a Row Cover Hoop House and How to Build a Raised Bed Cold Frame to extend your harvest.

So as the days shorten, you may need a sweater in the garden—but there’s still plenty of time to savor homegrown delicacies before winter arrives. Enjoy!

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Worm Composting 101 https://bonnieplants.com/library/worm-composting-101/ Thu, 13 Sep 2018 13:37:59 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12217 Most of us know that composting benefits both our gardens and the environment. After all, we’re turning food scraps into soil nutrients instead of clogging landfills. But what if you could produce compost that’s even more nutrient-rich to grow lush, productive plants—with minimal effort, space, and expense—and enjoy your own “pets” at the same time?

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Worm Composting: worms at work in the bin

It’s important to put red wiggler worms (not regular earthworms) in your bins because they thrive in warm, crowded spaces and are terrific at turning kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich worm castings.

Most of us know that composting benefits both our gardens and the environment. After all, we’re turning food scraps into soil nutrients instead of clogging landfills. But what if you could produce compost that’s even more nutrient-rich to grow lush, productive plants—with minimal effort, space, and expense—and enjoy your own “pets” at the same time?

Welcome to the world of worm composting!

What is Worm Composting?

Also referred to as vermicomposting or vermiculture, worm composting is just like it sounds: using worms to break down organic waste into high-quality compost. As food passes through the worm’s digestive system, it’s enriched with good bacteria and microbes. The end result (if you will) is called worm castings. True, that’s just a fancy name for worm poop, but the castings are actually odorless. Here’s why they’re so valuable: They will enrich your garden soil with loads of nutrients, can help balance the soil pH, and contain lots of water to help keep your plants hydrated.

Worm Composting: drilling holes in a bin

By drilling holes in the bottom of the bin, you allow the liquid produced by the decomposing food to drip down into the bottom container.

How to Build a Worm Composting Bin

Building a worm composting bin (or vermicomposter) offers an easy way to produce your own worm castings. Best of all, you only need a few supplies and about 10 minutes to set it up. Gather these items:

– 2 opaque storage containers*
– 1 lid for the top storage container
– Drill and ¼” drill bit
– 2 bricks, rocks, or other water-resistant objects for spacers
– Water-permeable fabric or fine-meshed screen, cut to fit the bottom of one storage container
– Shredded cardboard, shredded newspapers, a scoop of garden soil, or compost to create bedding
– Food scraps, including vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, tea bags, and/or crushed egg shells**
– Approximately 1 pound red wiggler worms (get them at feed and seed stores, fishing supply stores, or online)

* Don’t use clear containers, as worms dislike light.
** Don’t include meat, dairy, oils, onion, garlic, or more than just a bit of citrus. Worms dislike strong flavors, and meat, oils, and dairy should never be added to compost.

Before you begin, figure out where you’ll keep your worm bin. Look for an area that’s fairly dark (definitely out of direct sunlight), with temperatures between 59 and 86 degrees F. A dark corner in the basement is ideal.

Worm Composting: stacked bins

With bricks or rocks acting as spacers inside the bottom bin, the stacked bins should look like this.

Here’s how to assemble your worm composting bin:

1. Flip over one of the storage containers and drill 3 rows of evenly spaced holes along the bottom, approximately every 4 inches.
2. Drill a row of holes approximately 2 inches from the top of the same container, spaced every 4 inches. These will help provide oxygen for the worms. Set the container aside.
3. Put the bricks or rocks in the bottom of the second container to act as spacers between the containers.
4. Place the first container (the one with holes) inside the second container, so the bottom rests on the spacers.
5. Line the bottom of the top container with the water-permeable fabric or fine mesh screen.
6. Moisten the bedding materials with water, squeeze out any excess moisture, and place inside the top container.
7. Add a small amount of food to the bedding material.
8. Put the worms in with the food and bedding.
9. Place the lid on the top container.
10. Let the worms go to work!

How to Maintain a Worm Composting Bin

Check on your new production crew often, and wait until the worms process most of the food scraps before adding new treats. Also, try to match the amount of food scraps to the quantity of paper bedding. Finally, make sure the bedding remains moist, and remove the liquid that collects in the bottom bin every 2 or 3 days. Pretty simple, right?

Worm Composting Troubleshooting Tips

If your worm bin starts smelling funky, you’re most likely feeding the worms too many scraps for them to process. Be sure to wait until the food in the bin is nearly gone before you provide more scraps.
If you notice worms trying to escape through the bin holes, make sure the bottom fabric or screen is still in place.
If your bin becomes overcrowded with worms, either start a second composting system or share worms with friends. Another option? Make some money selling the extra worms!

Worm Composting: finished worm castings

This is what finished worm castings look like. Don’t worry—they don’t smell at all!

How to Harvest Worm Castings

Once the bin begins to fill with worm castings, it’s time to harvest them. Spread out cardboard or newspaper on a flat surface, in an area out of direct sunlight. Carefully remove the top bin and take off the lid. Turn the bin on its side and gently scoop the contents onto the covered surface. (If you’re squeamish, wear a pair of gloves or hire a 6-year-old to help.) Carefully separate the worms from the worm castings, setting them to the side or placing them in a bucket to keep them contained. Once you’ve removed all of the worms, you’ll be left with plenty of worm castings to feed your plants! Before heading to the garden, make sure to reposition the water-permeable fabric or screen in the bottom of the bin, add fresh, moist bedding and food, place your composting crew back in the container, and snap the cover on tight.

Now, sit back, relax, and let your pet worms work hard to improve your garden!

Article and images by Julie Thompson-Adolf

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Harvest Soups You Can Freeze https://bonnieplants.com/cooking/harvest-soups-you-can-freeze/ Tue, 28 Aug 2018 18:29:22 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=cooking&p=12207 As the days get shorter, the last thing you want to do when you come home from work is spend loads of time making dinner. We can help! Use your late-season harvest to make a pot of one of these scrumptious soups ahead of time, then freeze it.

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Freezer Meals: Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili

Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili

As the days get shorter, the last thing you want to do when you come home from work is spend loads of time making dinner. We can help! Use your late-season harvest to make a pot of one of these scrumptious soups ahead of time, then freeze it. That’s the beauty of these easy freezer meals: You can have a delicious dinner (or lunch) ready in no time, even on your busiest days. Freeze soups in the right portion sizes for you and your family, then move the amount you want from freezer to fridge the night before to thaw.

Choose your favorite harvest soup freezer meal:

– Late Summer Chicken Soup: With a sweet hint of orange and the warm touch of bourbon, this recipe brings together late summer and early fall produce for a yummy, comforting bowl to warm you right up. Canned or dry beans can be substituted for frozen, and red tomatoes (fresh or canned) can be used in place of green. Have extra summer squash on hand? Chop it up and throw it into the pot with the carrots.

– Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili: Packed full of flavor and with a touch of heat from smokey chipotle peppers, this chili is the perfect choice when a warming meal is needed. If desired, you can use 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite chili powder in place of the dry spices, and chicken, beef, or vegetable stock instead of beer. You can even make things super-easy by getting the pulled pork from your favorite local barbecue joint!

– Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup: Sweet potatoes and lime juice balance the spice from red curry paste for a delicious, creamy fall soup. When cooking this soup, be sure to simmer long enough to begin breaking down the potatoes, not just until they are fork-tender. This will lead to sweeter tasting potatoes and a more flavorful soup.

Here’s how to make these harvest soup freezer meals.

Late Summer Chicken Soup

Freezer Meals: Late Summer Chicken Soup

Late Summer Chicken Soup

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil, divided
1¾ pounds bone-in chicken pieces
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 large sweet onion, chopped and divided
1 navel orange, zested and halved
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 inch ginger root, sliced
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups fresh or frozen shelled peas or beans (such as green peas, black-eyed peas, or edamame)
1 cup sliced carrot
1 cup chopped green tomato
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
½ – 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Fresh thyme and red pepper flakes for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Pour in stock. Add 1 cup onion, 1 orange half, thyme, rosemary, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low and partially cover. Bring to a simmer; continue simmering for 1 hour. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Reserve chicken pieces and discard solids.
Place same stockpot over medium-low heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining chopped onion; cook until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add strained broth and peas. Partially cover and bring to a simmer; cook until beans are mostly tender, about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the type of beans used.
Meanwhile, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones.
Add chicken, carrots, orange zest, and juice of remaining orange half. Cook until carrots are tender. Stir in green tomatoes, bourbon, and salt to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Let soup cool for 30 minutes. Pour into freezer-safe containers, leaving an inch of space from the top, seal, and cool for an additional 30 minutes. Place in freezer; freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to thaw, defrost in the fridge overnight. Add to a stockpot over medium-low heat; bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with fresh thyme and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili

Freezer Meals: Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili

Pulled Pork-Chipotle Chili

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ pound pulled smoked pork
2 15-ounce cans beans (such as black, kidney, or navy)
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 12-ounce bottle brown lager (such as Modelo Negra)
1 – 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 – 2 tablespoons adobo sauce (or more depending on preferred spice level)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon molasses
3 – 4 teaspoon kosher salt
Crumbled queso fresco and fresh chopped cilantro for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 15 minutes.
Stir in cumin, garlic, paprika, and cinnamon; cook for 1 minute to toast spices. Add pork, beans, tomatoes, and beer, stirring to combine. Stir in chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, cocoa powder, and molasses. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste.
Let chili cool for 30 minutes. Pour into freezer-safe containers, seal, and cool for an additional 30 minutes. Place in freezer; freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to thaw, defrost in the fridge overnight or soak in warm water for 30 minutes. Add to a stockpot over medium-low heat; bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with queso fresco and fresh cilantro, if desired.

Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup

Freezer Meals: Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup

Red Curry Sweet Potato Soup

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 cup chopped red onion
1-2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1½ pounds chopped peeled sweet potato
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 lime, zested and halved
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
½ cup shaved red onion
¼ teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
Pickled red onion, chili oil, and fresh cilantro for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS
In a large stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining coconut oil, curry paste, garlic, and ginger; cook for 2 minutes. Add sweet potato, stock, and lime zest; bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft and begin to fall apart, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place shaved red onion and sugar in a small bowl. Juice one lime half over onions; toss to coat completely. Set aside.
Remove soup from heat. Add coconut milk, juice of remaining lime half, and salt. Using an immersion blender, or carefully transferring soup to a blender container, puree until completely smooth.
Let soup cool for 30 minutes. Pour into freezer-safe containers, seal, and cool for an additional hour. Place in freezer; freeze for up to 4 months. When ready to thaw, defrost in the fridge overnight. Add to a stockpot and gently heat over medium-low heat until soup just begins to simmer. Do not boil. If the coconut milk has separated during freezing and the soup seems watery, blend for 30 seconds. Serve immediately with pickled red onion, chili oil, and fresh cilantro, if desired.

Looking for more information on freezing your harvest? Check out our How to Freeze Your Harvest article!

Recipes and images by Sarah Ward

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3 Delicious Fall Salads https://bonnieplants.com/cooking/3-delicious-fall-salads/ Thu, 02 Aug 2018 19:34:36 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=cooking&p=12195 With the back-to-school flurry of fall, who has extra time to spend in the kitchen? These simple, tasty fall salad recipes can be whipped up in 20 minutes or less, so we won’t blame you if you want to keep them in nearly constant rotation.

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3 Delicious Fall Salads: Harvest Grain Salad

Harvest Grain Salad

With the back-to-school flurry of fall, who has extra time to spend in the kitchen? These simple, tasty fall salad recipes can be whipped up in 20 minutes or less, so we won’t blame you if you want to keep them in nearly constant rotation. Any one of this trio of fall salads can be served by itself for a light lunch, or topped with grilled fish, roasted chicken, or grilled tofu for a more substantial meal.

Choose whichever fall salad fits your mood:

– White Bean and Arugula Salad: This quick and easy salad recipe is packed with protein and nutrients. Tossed in a zippy mustard dressing, it comes together in no time with the aid of canned beans. If you’re meal planning for the week ahead, the bean mixture can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for a few days.
– Harvest Grain Salad: WIth bursts of flavor from dried cranberries and fresh oranges, a buttery crunch from pecans, and a zing of balsamic vinegar, this fall salad is fresh and filling. Tossing the shaved sprouts and kale with warm grains lightly wilts the leaves, making them tender without loosing their bite.
– Napa Cabbage and Apple Wedge Salad: We gave the classic American wedge salad a fall twist with crunchy cabbage and juicy apples. Topped with a tangy yet savory Parmesan- and herb-packed dressing, this fall salad recipe is a great way to use seasonal produce and work raw vegetables into your diet.

Here’s how to make these quick and easy fall salads.

Fall Salads: White Bean and Arugula Salad

White Bean and Arugula Salad
Yield: 2-4 servings
Total cooking time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 lemon, zested
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 15-ounce can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 shallot, thinly sliced
½ cup pitted green olives, torn in half
2 cups garlic croutons, homemade or store-bought
2 cups packed arugula leaves
Shaved Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and zest, olive oil, brown mustard, sugar, and salt. Add beans, shallot, and olives, tossing to combine. Arrange arugula leaves on individual plates or a serving platter. Sprinkle with croutons. Spoon bean mixture over arugula; top with shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Fall Salads: Harvest Grain Salad

Harvest Grain Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Total cooking time: 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 cup shaved Brussels sprouts
1 cup thinly sliced Lacinato kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups warm cooked grains (such as spelt, farro, or brown rice)
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pecans
1 large orange, segmented
¼ cup crumbled feta
Balsamic vinegar glaze (in the dressings aisle at the grocery store, or create your own by mixing 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons honey)

In a large bowl, toss shaved sprouts and kale with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add cooked grains, cranberries, and pecans; stir to combine. Gently fold in orange segments and feta. Spoon into a serving bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar glaze before serving.

Fall Salads: Napa Cabbage and Apple Wedge Salad

Napa Cabbage and Apple Wedge Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Total cooking time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS
1 small head Napa cabbage
1 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apple, thinly sliced
½ cup shaved fennel bulb
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Fennel fronds to garnish
Parmesan-Yogurt Dressing (recipe below)

INSTRUCTIONS
Cut cabbage into quarters, lengthwise, slicing through the root end each time to keep the wedge intact. Place on serving platter. In a small bowl, toss apple slices and shaved fennel with lemon juice; scatter over cabbage. Sprinkle with walnuts. Garnish with fennel fronds, if desired. Drizzle salad with Parmesan Yogurt Dressing before serving.

Parmesan-Yogurt Dressing
½ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon dried dill (or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to one week, whisking again before serving.

Recipes and photography by Sarah Ward

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Tomato Soup with Basil Pesto https://bonnieplants.com/cooking/tomato-soup-basil-pesto/ Wed, 01 Aug 2018 16:50:49 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=cooking&p=12186 There’s nothing quite like homegrown tomatoes, and fresh tomato soup, served with a thick slice of toasted bread, is one of the best ways to enjoy them. In this recipe, we roast the tomatoes first, which not only helps deepen the flavor, but also makes a thicker soup as the sugars caramelize and some of the moisture evaporates in the oven.

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Homemade Tomato Soup

Homemade Tomato Soup with Basil Pesto

Yield: About 3 quarts
Hands-on time: 45 minutes
Total cooking time: 2½ hours

There’s nothing quite like homegrown tomatoes, and fresh tomato soup, served with a thick slice of toasted bread, is one of the best ways to enjoy them. In this recipe, we roast the tomatoes first, which not only helps deepen the flavor, but also makes a thicker soup as the sugars caramelize and some of the moisture evaporates in the oven. It’s fine to use a mix of different tomato varieties for this tomato soup recipe, as long as they are of similar size so the cooking time for is the same for all. Or, divide smaller and bigger tomatoes on two separate sheets and remove the smaller ones earlier in the cooking time. This homemade tomato soup can also be easily frozen and stored for up to 6 months—just leave out the cheese when freezing, then add it when reheating.

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 lbs fresh tomatoes
10 garlic cloves
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup mascarpone cheese or Greek yogurt
Heavy cream and Basil Pesto (recipe follows), to serve
Ground black pepper and basil leaves for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325℉. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; brush paper with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Slice off stem-end of tomatoes and cut each in half crosswise. Remove seeds with a spoon, if desired. Place tomatoes cut side down on oiled parchment. Scatter garlic cloves among tomatoes. Roast for 1 to 1½ hours or until the skins are very wrinkled and the juices around the tomatoes have started to brown. Let tomatoes cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove skins and discard.

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for 10 minutes. Add skinned tomatoes, garlic, stock, pepper, ginger, and cumin. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until completely smooth. (Ingredients can instead be placed in a blender, puréed, and returned to the pot if you do not have an immersion blender.) Stir in 1 teaspoon salt; adjust to taste.

Bring soup to a simmer. Once bubbling, whisk in mascarpone until fully incorporated; remove from heat. Serve tomato soup immediately with a generous swirl of Basil Pesto and heavy cream. Garnish with pepper and basil leaves, if desired.

Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts, walnuts, or blanched almonds
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the basil and nuts are finely chopped. Adjust salt, if necessary. Pesto can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week and frozen for up 3 months.

Recipes and photography by Sarah Ward

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How to Make Compost Tea https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-make-compost-tea/ Wed, 30 May 2018 18:58:49 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12165 Composting helps create great soil, which is key to beautiful, healthy plants and huge harvests. The most effective way to deliver the benefits of compost to your plants is to whip up some compost tea.

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How to Make Compost Tea: pouring compost tea on strawberry plants

A little compost tea will help these strawberry plants produce an impressive harvest.

Compost—the rich, dark result of decomposed veggie scraps, shredded leaves, and grass clippings—is known as “black gold” among gardeners. That’s because composting improves soil in many ways, breaking up heavy clay and helping sandy soils retain water and nutrients. It also contains beneficial microscopic organisms that help make nutrients available to plants. In short, composting helps create great soil, which is key to beautiful, healthy plants and huge harvests. The most effective way to deliver the benefits of compost to your plants is to whip up some compost tea.

How to Make Compost Tea: compost in a mesh "tea bag"

This mesh fabric makes an excellent compost “tea bag.”

What Is Compost Tea?

Compost tea is a liquid created from soaking a small amount of compost in water, adding a food source to feed the hungry microorganisms, and adding air to the solution to give the microbes the conditions they need to reproduce. Once the mix is done brewing (usually in about 24 to 48 hours), you have a nutritionally rich, liquid soil supplement that encourages healthy plant growth.

A few things to note: First, the compost used in compost tea needs to be completely organic, as any fertilizers or pesticides will kill microorganisms. The compost also must be “finished”—in other words, broken down into small particles—to ensure that beneficial microorganisms are present. You’ll know it’s ready to use when it smells sweet and earthy, not sour and unpleasant. (Need a refresher on making compost? Check out our How to Create a Compost Pile article.)

Why Is Compost Tea Even Better Than Compost?

Adding compost to garden beds is terrific, but feeding plants with compost tea adds even more benefits. When high quality compost is aerated in a solution with molasses, which feeds the microorganisms, the microbial population explodes. Once all these good microbes are added to your garden, they’ll begin to devour large numbers of the bad ones, reducing the risk of disease for your plants. Plus, while compost should only be added around plant roots, compost tea can be sprayed on the foliage as well as added to the soil.

How to Make Compost Tea: aerating the tea

While you may be tempted to skip the pump, don’t. The aeration it provides is a key part of encouraging the good microbes to grow and flourish.

Recipe for Compost Tea

This compost tea recipe is relatively easy to make. It will need to sit for a day or two.

Ingredients:
· 5 gallon bucket (make sure it’s clean, but don’t use bleach, which will kill microbes)
· Finished compost, about a gallon
· Shovel
· Water-permeable bag, like an old pillowcase or fine mesh bag
· Twine
· Organic, unsulfured molasses, approximately 1 cup
· De-chlorinated water (either rain water, well water, or tap water that’s been standing for 24 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate)
· Aquarium pump and tubing (available from any pet supply store or Amazon.com for about $10)
· Electrical outlet
· Watering can or pump sprayer

Directions:
1. Remove any worms or insects from the compost.
2. Place the compost into the water-permeable bag, using a piece of twine to tie the bag closed. Consider this your oversized “tea” bag.
3. Fill the bucket with de-chlorinated water, leaving an inch or two of space at the top.
4. Add unsulfured molasses to the bucket, stirring well.
5. Put the bucket near an outdoor electrical outlet. Place the aquarium tubing in the bucket, and plug in the pump. This will aerate the compost tea, providing the oxygen the microorganisms need to reproduce.
6. “Brew” the tea by letting the pump run for 24 to 48 hours. Don’t over-brew or allow the tea to stand unaerated, as it can become toxic without an oxygen supply.
7. When the tea is done brewing, unplug the pump, remove the tubing, and take out the bag of compost. (You can add the solid compost matter from the bag to a garden bed.)
8. Pour the tea into a watering can or pump sprayer and apply both around the base of your plants and directly to the leaves.

If you don’t have your own compost pile, you can buy bagged organic compost, such as Nature’s Care® Really Good Compost™, to brew your tea. You can even find pre-packaged compost tea bags. You’ll still need to use a pump to add oxygen to the brewing water, though.

Now that you’re a compost tea expert, keep up the good work. Every couple of weeks, brew another “pot” of compost tea to encourage your garden to continue to produce a big, beautiful harvest!

Article and images by Julie Thompson-Adolf

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What Are the Different Types of Tomatoes? https://bonnieplants.com/library/what-are-the-different-types-of-tomatoes/ Tue, 08 May 2018 13:28:00 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12148 TomAYto, tomAHto…just as there are different pronunciations, there is also a wide variety of tomato types, with a range of colors, sizes, flavors, uses—the list goes on. So how do you know which variety will be best for your garden and your plate? Here are some things to consider.

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Different Types of Tomatoes: mixed varieties of tomatoes on wooden tray

With so many different tomatoes to choose from, why pick just one? Grow a bunch!

TomAYto, tomAHto…just as there are different pronunciations, there is also a wide variety of tomato types, with a range of colors, sizes, flavors, uses—the list goes on. So how do you know which variety will be best for your garden and your plate? Here are some things to consider.

Different Types of Tomatoes: Better Bush in container

Stocky, bushy, and reaching a maximum height of only 3 to 5 feet, Better Bush is perfect for growing in pots.

Tomato Plant Sizes

Do you have a large garden or a small patio? Your answer to that question can help you decide which type of tomato to grow. Tomato varieties are labeled as either indeterminate or determinate, but don’t let those terms scare you:

Indeterminate tomato plants grow continuously until killed by frost or disease, producing fruit through the entire growing season. Most (though not all) indeterminate varieties grow quite tall—some reaching as much as 8 or 10 feet—so they need a lot of room and support. Chocolate Sprinkles, Mr. Stripey, and Bonnie Original are all examples of indeterminate tomato plants.

Determinate tomato plants tend to be shorter—they reach a certain height and then stop growing. This makes them a wonderful choice for smaller spaces like side yards, balconies, and decks. Determinate tomato plants also produce the majority of their fruit within a shorter period of time, which is perfect if you plan to preserve the harvest. Some examples include Better Bush, Celebrity, and Roma.

You may also see the term “dwarf” or “compact” on the plant tag. These plants, such as Sweet ‘n Neat, rarely top more than 2 or 3 feet, and can be determinate or indeterminate. They grow beautifully in containers, and some, like the cascading Tumbling Tom, are just right for hanging baskets.

Different Types of Tomatoes: Sun Gold growing on bamboo tomato tower

This bamboo trellis tower is an excellent way to support this Sun Gold tomato plant, a hybrid.

Hybrid vs. Heirloom

Once you figure out the size of tomato plant that’s appropriate for your garden, it’s time to think about whether you’d like to grow hybrid or heirloom plants—or a mix of both.

Hybrid tomato plants are, simply, plants that have been crossbred to take advantage of the best traits of each parent plant. These traits might include greater disease resistance, shorter growth habit, or higher yield. Plant breeders may do the cross-pollination to create a certain kind of hybrid, or a hybrid can occur naturally, thanks to bees and other pollinators. It’s important to note that hybrid is NOT the same as GMO. Some of Bonnie’s most popular hybrids include Sun Gold, Better Boy, and Juliet.

Heirloom tomato plants are varieties that are open-pollinated (meaning they rely on insect pollination) and at least 50 years old. Many, like Cherokee Purple, Arkansas Traveler, and Pink Brandywine, offer a rich history passed down through cultures or families.

Different Types of Tomatoes: harvesting Tami G Grape tomatoes

Just the right size for snacking, these Tami G Grape tomatoes may not even make it back to the house!

Tomato Uses

When choosing tomato varieties, it’s also important to consider how you plan to use the fruit. Do you prefer eating tomatoes in salads? Are you planning to cook vats of your grandma’s secret tomato sauce recipe? Or maybe you like to use tomatoes in lots of ways—snacking on them fresh, grilling them on kebabs, slicing them to star in the perfect tomato sandwich.

Salad/snacking tomatoes are bite-sized cherry or grape tomatoes like Sweet Million, Sun Sugar, and Tami G Grape. These make perfect additions to salads, kebabs, or frittatas. Or just eat them straight from the vine!

Slicing tomatoes are medium to extra large, round, juicy tomatoes, where a slice fits perfectly on a sandwich. These include humongous beefsteak tomatoes like Red Beefsteak or German Johnson, as well as more moderately-sized ones like Rutgers and Early Girl.

Sauce/paste tomatoes are meaty and dense, making them ideal for sauces and pastes. Popular varieties include Roma, San Marzano, and Heinz Super Roma.

Different Types of Tomatoes: closeup of Cherokee Purple on the vine

Cherokee Purple is as tasty as it is beautiful, having won taste tests all over the country.

Tomato Colors and Flavors

Tomato varieties come in a glorious rainbow of colors. Generally, the color will give you a hint about the tomato’s flavor, though your growing conditions can have a big effect as well.

Pink tomatoes, like Arkansas Traveler and Pink Girl, have “classic” or “old-fashioned” tomato taste with a nice flavor balance of acid and sugar.

Red tomatoes, like Bonnie Centennial and Super Fantastic, boast robust, slightly more acidic flavors that many people find reminiscent of their grandparents’ tomatoes.

Black or purple tomatoes, like Black Cherry and Cherokee Purple, have flavors that are often described as “earthy,” “complex,” or even “smoky.”

Orange or yellow tomatoes, like Golden Jubilee and Lemon Boy, tend to have bright, mild flavors.

Size can also have an effect on flavor. Cherry tomatoes, for example, taste sweeter than larger tomatoes thanks to higher concentrations of sugar. For more on this topic, check out our The Basics of Tomato Flavor article.

So go ahead and mix and match! No matter what tomato varieties you select—heirloom, indeterminate, hybrid, purple, dwarf, cherry, orange, beefsteak—you’ll enjoy a delicious summer filled with tasty tomatoes from Bonnie Plants®. (Still have questions about which tomato variety is right for you? Check out our handy Tomato Chooser.)

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Square Foot Gardening https://bonnieplants.com/library/square-foot-gardening/ Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:23:41 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12138 Square foot gardening is exactly what the name says: dividing a growing area into 1-foot x 1-foot sections. In a true square foot garden, an actual grid is placed on the growing area to divide up the space. What you grow in each section depends on the mature size of the crop.

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Square Foot Gardening: vegetables and flowers in raised bed with square foot grid

A square foot garden

When we imagine growing food, we often think of neat rows, planted in straight lines, occupying lots of land. But in 1975, backyard gardening enthusiast Mel Bartholomew was looking for a more space-efficient way to grow food. He applied his engineering background to develop a new gardening method called “square foot gardening,” which he turned into a best-selling book and popular television show. Today, more than 2 million gardeners use the square foot gardening method. But is it right for you? Let’s take a look.

What Is Square Foot Gardening?

Square foot gardening is exactly what the name says: dividing a growing area into 1-foot x 1-foot sections. In a true square foot garden, an actual grid is placed on the growing area to divide up the space. What you grow in each section depends on the mature size of the crop. Some sections will house 16 small plants, like radishes, or only 1 plant, like a cabbage. Check out these examples:

Square Foot Gardening: Bonnie Plants® strawberry, ready to be planted

Using a border of Bonnie Plants® strawberries along the perimeter of your square foot garden allows room for the plants to spill over the side.

Plant 1 per square foot:
Broccoli
Cabbage
Pepper
Tomato
Eggplant
Melon (trellised)
Winter squash (trellised)

Plant 2 per square foot:
Cucumbers (vining, trellised)
Summer squash (trellised)

Plant 4 per square foot:
Leaf lettuce
Swiss chard
Marigolds
Strawberries
Bulb onions
Basil

Plant 9 per square foot:
Bush beans
Peas
Spinach
Beets

Plant 16 per square foot:
Carrots
Radishes
Green onions

Square Foot Gardening: close-up of planted squares

Traditionally, square foot gardening calls for one type of crop per square, with the number of plants based on their mature size.

The same universal gardening principles still apply to square foot gardening. You need a site with plenty of sun, easy access to water, and good soil (Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil is an excellent choice, as it provides an ideal environment for plant roots). Square foot gardening also works best in a raised bed that’s no more than 4 feet wide (so you can reach the middle easily), though it can be whatever length you like.

Now, let’s look at the pros and cons of square foot gardening.

Benefits of Square Foot Gardening

For new gardeners, square foot gardening offers a simple vegetable garden layout that makes it easy to calculate exactly how many plants you need. It’s also a handy solution for gardeners with limited room to grow, since the intensive planting style lets you plant more plants in less space. A square foot garden is also relatively low maintenance, since it leaves little room for weeds.

Drawbacks of Square Foot Gardening

Some crops, like large, indeterminate tomatoes, need more space than a single square foot—otherwise they’ll start stealing nutrients and water from other plants. Plus, plants can deplete moisture and nutrients quickly in a square foot garden due to the intensive planting technique. Feeding your plants regularly with Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food will help provide the nutrition they’ll need in order to produce a big harvest. Also, be sure to water whenever the top inch of soil is dry.

It’s worth noting, too, that traditional square foot gardens are only 6 inches deep, which is too shallow for many plants. Vegetables need plenty of space to stretch their roots and absorb nutrients from the soil. If you choose to try this method, make your beds at least 12 inches deep to allow lots of room for the roots.

Square Foot Gardening: partially planted raised bed

Instead of strictly following square foot gardening guidelines, you can use the spacing recommendations as a springboard and mix things up, planting similarly sized crops together for a more interesting, prettier raised bed garden.

How to Tweak Your Square Foot Garden for Success

So, how can you benefit from the helpful aspects of square foot gardening while modifying the approach to fit your needs? Try one of these ideas:
Mix and match. Choose multiple plant types from the same category to give you more flexibility over what to grow in the space you have. For example, instead of planting a square with 4 lettuces, plant 2 lettuce plants and 2 marigolds, which not only attract pollinators but also add a pretty accent to the garden. Or, since you can fit 4 strawberry or 4 basil plants in one square foot, combine 2 of each of the plants in each of the outermost squares to create a lovely edible border around the inside perimeter of the bed.
Think small. Rather than planting a large tomato plant that would require more nutrients and water than are available in a single square foot, choose a smaller dwarf or bush variety, like Better Bush, that can flourish in less space.
Grow up. Adding a trellis to your square foot garden is a perfect way to increase available growing space and vines off the ground. Do this for peas, pole beans, cucumbers, melons, and squash. The easiest way is to attach the trellis to the back of the bed and use the back row of squares for the plants to be trellised.

So, no matter whether you appreciate a highly-organized planting plan for your raised bed or prefer a tad more creative approach, a little tweaking to the square foot gardening approach, plus some extra attention when it comes to watering and feeding, can lead to an impressive harvest. Enjoy your planning and planting!

Article and images by Julie Thompson-Adolf

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v1 https://bonnieplants.com/geotr_cpt/home/ Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:45:33 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=geotr_cpt&p=12135 The post v1 appeared first on Bonnie Plants.

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Small Garden Ideas https://bonnieplants.com/library/small-garden-ideas/ Thu, 05 Apr 2018 21:16:14 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12121 You don’t need acres of land or even a huge garden to grow your own healthy, delicious food. If you’re the proud owner (or renter) of a sunny balcony, fire escape, patio, postage-stamp lawn, flat sturdy roof, or front porch, you have plenty of room to grow veggies and herbs—and we’ve got a bunch of small garden ideas to help you out.

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Small Garden Ideas: tomatoes and basil in pot on deck

Using a large railing planter for the tomato plant and a tall, slender pot for the basil prevents this garden from taking up valuable deck space.

Do you dream of a garden filled with edibles but live in an apartment? Love the idea of fresh herbs and veggies to create culinary delights but think your patio is too small? Well, good news! You don’t need acres of land or even a huge garden to grow your own healthy, delicious food. If you’re the proud owner (or renter) of a sunny balcony, fire escape, patio, postage-stamp lawn, flat sturdy roof, or front porch, you have plenty of room to grow veggies and herbs—and we’ve got a bunch of small garden ideas to help you out.

First, though, we should note that most crops require 6-8 hours of full sun for strong plants and ample harvests. However, even a semi-shady spot can produce food. Greens like kale, lettuce, Swiss chard and some herbs, like mint, parsley, and thyme, can do just fine with as little as 3 hours of sun per day. (Check the free Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app to determine how much sun your plants need.)

Also, if you want instant success, check out our Bonnie Plants pre-planted containers filled with your favorite veggies and herbs, perfect for small spaces.

Ready to get growing? Check out these small garden ideas:

Small Garden Ideas: lettuces growing in strawberry pot

With their multiple openings, strawberry pots allow you to grow a variety of lettuces in a single container.

Contain it.
From large pots to hanging baskets to window boxes, containers offer many unique ways to grow edibles. Be creative! Think about replacing your typical hanging baskets of geraniums with baskets of strawberry plants on your front porch, or use window boxes to grow herbs. Tiered containers, raised planters, repurposed food-safe wooden crates, or even gutters attached to a fence can all work beautifully, too. Just make sure they have holes in the bottom, allowing them to drain well so that roots don’t rot. For best results, fill pots with a high quality potting soil like Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix.

Remember: containers need to be watered frequently, especially in summer’s heat. Make sure you have nearby access to water, whether it’s a kitchen faucet and watering can for the balcony or a hose and watering wand for the patio. It’s also a good ideas to place pots in a protected (but still sunny!) space if you can, as strong winds can topple containers. (Get more great container gardening tips right here.)

Small Garden Ideas: cucumber trellis in raised bed

This raised bed boasts a tent trellis made of cattle panels, which allows cucumbers to grow tall without sprawling over the edges.

Raise it up.
Place a small, attractive raised bed on your patio for easy growing or convert a fire pit into an edible garden, making an attractive small backyard feature. Either way, fill them with organic Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil to give your plants a healthy start.

Grow up.
One of the best ways to maximize your small garden area is use vertical space. Trellises or walls provide great support for climbing plants like pole beans, cucumbers, peas, and even small melons (with supports for the fruit). Vertical gardening adds another benefit to your space, too: green screens that provide privacy from your neighbors. Plus, combining pretty flowering vines on a trellis with climbing vegetables gives you both a delicious harvest and a beautiful accent for your small space garden.

Small Garden Ideas_edible landscaping along side of house

A narrow, sunny strip along the side of the house is an excellent place for a colorful edible landscape garden. This one is filled with cabbages and flowers.

Double the payoff.
Try edible landscaping, which allows you to get two benefits from a single space: plantings that not only supply your kitchen with fresh food, but also look amazing. For example, choose a large container to create a beautiful edible arrangement with a tomato plant as the tall center focal point, strawberries to spill over the edge, and basil to fill in the rest. Another idea is to place a small container of herbs on each step leading to your front door, set out of the way of foot traffic. Or, create a vibrant living wall on your fence, tucking plants into fabric grow pockets or adding brackets that support containers.

No matter how you end up styling your small garden, keep your plants supplied with all the nutrition they need by feeding them with a continuous-release fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food.

When you really look at your available space, you’ll probably find all sorts of small garden ideas.
Maybe one day you’ll grow an acre of food, but for now, enjoy the pleasures and produce from your small space garden!

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Freeze and Dry: Easy Ways to Put Aside Your Harvest https://bonnieplants.com/app/freeze-and-dry-easy-ways-to-put-aside-your-harvest/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 22:00:13 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12116 Freeze and Dry: Easy Ways to Put Aside Your Harvest It’s all too easy to get complacent as the summer harvests come thick and fast. Sometimes it’s even an effort to keep up – another zucchini anyone?! But it is a wise gardener who puts aside some of this seasonal bounty to dip into during... Read more »

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Freeze and Dry: Easy Ways to Put Aside Your Harvest

It’s all too easy to get complacent as the summer harvests come thick and fast. Sometimes it’s even an effort to keep up – another zucchini anyone?!

But it is a wise gardener who puts aside some of this seasonal bounty to dip into during the leaner winter months. Preserving as much of the summer crop as possible was once essential for survival. Now it’s just a joy to have a little something put aside to bring out a ray of summer sunshine on a chilly winter day.

Freezing and drying are easy ways to preserve food. Most vegetables, fruits, and herbs can be stored in this way.

Easy freezy

Freezing is by far the quickest and simplest way to put aside your harvest. Only the firm, blemish-free fruits, and veggies should be frozen. Freeze as soon as possible after picking.

Portion control. Freeze in portion-sized quantities then you can defrost the exact amount for a particular recipe.

Blanch then chill. Most vegetables need blanching before freezing so they don’t turn soggy when defrosted. Plunge small batches of produce into a pan of rapidly boiling water. Quickly return the water to a rolling boil. Boil for about a third of the full cooking time. Now transfer to ice-cold water (use ice cubes) to immediately stop the cooking process.

Icy reception. Gently pat dry between clean dishcloths then pack into airtight containers – freezer bags or clip-shut plastic containers work well. Add a label to show what’s inside and the date of freezing.

Freeze these. The following are very easy to freeze. After blanching: carrot, beans, peas, and spinach. Whole, no blanching required: berries and currants. In a sauce: tomato. Chopped up into ice cubes: leafy herbs, such as basil and cilantro.

All dried out

Drying is the oldest method of preserving food. It doesn’t require any special equipment, though a dehydrator will speed the process up and is a good investment if you hope to dry often.

Slice thinly. The first task is to wash your produce before slicing it thinly. Thinner slices dry quicker than thicker slices, saving both time and energy.

How to dry. Arrange the prepared slices onto baking trays. Place these into an oven set to its very lowest temperature setting. Leave to dry over a number of hours, checking occasionally. Dehydrators are more efficient and you can process multiple trays at a time.

Pack away. Once the pieces have shrunk in size and are crisp-dry pack them away into sterile, airtight containers. Store somewhere cool and dry.

Drying herbs. Gather bunches of herbs into small, loose bunches. Hang upside down in a warm, dry and well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight. In warm weather your herbs should have dried within three days. Store the leaves whole in airtight jars. They will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool, dry place.

Dry these. Tomato, pepper, whole shelled beans, zucchini, apple and fruit purees (as fruit leathers).

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A Checklist for Healthy, Happy Veggies https://bonnieplants.com/app/a-checklist-for-healthy-happy-veggies/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:53:23 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12112 A Checklist for Healthy, Happy Veggies Healthy vegetables are better placed to shake off potential attacks from pests and diseases. Follow our checklist for happier, stronger plants. ✓ Start with the soil Good soil doesn’t happen in one season, it’s the result of sustained love. Add compost to your soil every spring or fall and... Read more »

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A Checklist for Healthy, Happy Veggies

Healthy vegetables are better placed to shake off potential attacks from pests and diseases. Follow our checklist for happier, stronger plants.

✓ Start with the soil

Good soil doesn’t happen in one season, it’s the result of sustained love. Add compost to your soil every spring or fall and it will gradually improve with each passing year. You will notice the difference in your veggies.

✓ Leave enough space

Cramming plants together in the expectation of getting more to harvest simply doesn’t work. Follow growing instructions and give plants the space they need. Well-spaced vegetables mean good airflow and fewer problems with pests and diseases. It also ensures each plant has enough resources to draw on.

✓ Right plant, right place

The plant will only thrive if they’re grown in the right conditions. There’s little point growing peppers in the shade or lettuce in the direct sunshine of a hot summer. Follow the planting advice given on the Bonnie website or Homegrown app and plan accordingly.

✓ Water when needed

Most vegetables need additional watering, especially in summer. Aim for around one inch of water per week, remembering that plants may need considerably more than this in very hot weather or a dry climate.

✓ Keep them fed

Vegetables benefit from feeding during the course of the growing season. Use a high-quality plant food such as Nature’s Care Organic & Natural Vegetable, Fruit & Flower Food, following label directions. Specific plant foods are also available for fruiting veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.

✓ Maintain cleanliness

Don’t give lurking pests and diseases a chance. Keep your growing areas clean. Remove old plants once they’re done. Compost what you can but don’t add infected plants to your compost – this could store up problems for next year. Look about your garden for areas that could be hiding pests such as slugs. Old boards, for example, provide the perfect refuge so get rid of them.

✓ Learn from mistakes

No one is a perfect gardener. Take each setback as a valuable lesson. Keep track of what happens using the Notes section of the Homegrown app. Learn from your mistakes and understand what went wrong. Next time you’ll be forewarned and primed for success!

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How to Grow Herbs https://bonnieplants.com/app/how-to-grow-herbs/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:47:40 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12109 How to Grow Herbs For sheer versatility and growing satisfaction, it’s hard to surpass herbs. Indulge in their rich aromas, fresh flavors and good looks. Herbs are very undemanding, giving plenty of pickings to liven up mealtimes with minimal fuss. Here’s our advice on where to grow herbs and how to look after them. Where... Read more »

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How to Grow Herbs

For sheer versatility and growing satisfaction, it’s hard to surpass herbs. Indulge in their rich aromas, fresh flavors and good looks. Herbs are very undemanding, giving plenty of pickings to liven up mealtimes with minimal fuss. Here’s our advice on where to grow herbs and how to look after them.

Where to grow

Grow your herbs wherever you have space: within your veggie garden, on their own as a traditional herb garden, in containers, raised beds or even among the flowers. Many herbs are every bit as pretty as ornamental plants, with flowers that attract a range of beneficial bugs such as bees and plant-pest predators.

Herbs can be classified into two broad types: soft, fleshy-leaved herbs such as parsley and cilantro, and more aromatic, woody herbs like rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Fleshy herbs grow quickly to produce masses of leaves for regular clipping. Many of these herbs happily grow in partial shade. In hot climates, shadier areas of the garden will keep the likes of mint and lemon balm cooler so the foliage is less likely to wilt.

Many aromatic herbs originate from warmer regions like the Mediterranean. These herbs like to sunbathe! Give them somewhere that’s in full sun, which will intensify the fragrance and flavor of these easy-to-grow favorites.

Planting herbs

Most herbs prefer soil that retains moisture but is also free draining. Woody herbs especially need free-draining conditions and hate it when their roots sit in wet, cold soil.

Dig organic matter like compost into the garden soil before planting. This improves the soil’s fertility and structure – with a knock-on effect on the health of your plants.

Herbs that prefer the same conditions should be planted together. Choosing a range of varieties means there’s more to pick, so don’t be shy – be adventurous! Just try not to overcrowd herbs; they may be small now but will quickly fill out.

Make cutting your herbs as easy as possible. Grow a few herbs in containers located close to the kitchen for convenience. If they are readily accessible like this, you’ll be more inclined to use them.

How to care for herbs

All herbs – even the sun lovers – need watering to encourage fresh growth for harvesting. In the height of summer, you may need to water container herbs every day. Fleshy herbs can be placed onto saucers into which you can pour water for the potting soil to soak up. Avoid cold, wet potting soil in winter by lifting containers up onto pot feet so any excess water can easily drain away.

Pick herbs regularly to encourage new shoots. Frequent clipping also delays the moment plants flower and leaf production slows. Pick herbs destined for freezing or drying early in the day. Herbs to enjoy fresh should be picked as close to using them as possible.

Fleshy herbs like mint can be cut back once they have flowered to stimulate new foliage. Woody herbs are best trimmed lightly after flowering to stop them turning too dry and woody.

Most importantly of all, enjoy your herbs. Experiment with them in the kitchen. Let them brighten up your world with their character and charm.

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When and How to Water https://bonnieplants.com/app/when-and-how-to-water/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:42:40 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12105 When and How to Water Every plant needs water. Getting the amount right is essential for steady, strong growth, which will ultimately reward you with bigger harvests and brighter blooms. Most plants need about an inch of water per week during the growing season. In dry climates, this doubles to two inches and in hot... Read more »

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When and How to Water

Every plant needs water. Getting the amount right is essential for steady, strong growth, which will ultimately reward you with bigger harvests and brighter blooms.

Most plants need about an inch of water per week during the growing season. In dry climates, this doubles to two inches and in hot weather vegetables are likely to need even more.

The best guide is your senses. Dig down into the soil a couple of inches and touch it – if it’s dry then it is time to water. Pay particular attention to fruiting veggies such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash, which will quickly wilt in warm weather if their needs aren’t met.

Uneven watering leads to conditions such as blossom end rot or cracked fruits. Maintain consistent soil moisture and you’ll sail through the summer.

Get it right

Most vegetables need watering two to three times a week in summer. Watering is one area it really doesn’t pay to cut corners. Aim to have the water seep deep down into the soil so the roots follow. Plants with deep roots are more resilient in dry conditions.

Hand watering is a great way to inspect plants as you move thru them. Set the nozzle to a ‘shower’ setting to mimic rain. If the ground is hard you will need to return to the same area repeatedly to make sure enough water soaks in.

Containers are easier to water. Simply fill them up to the rim then leave to drain. Remember, the roots in a pot are restricted, so these plants are completely dependent on you. In the hottest weather you may need to water thoroughly every day.

Aim water at the base of plants, as close to the ground as possible. This way more water will reach the roots. It also minimizes wet leaves, a favored entry point for disease. Using a sprinkler? Don’t worry, just water early enough in the morning so that leaves can dry off as quickly as possible as the day warms up.

Lock in moisture

Moist soil is a precious asset. Lock in all of that valuable moisture with mulch – material laid over the soil surface to slow evaporation and give weeds a tough time.

Organic mulches such as straw or finely ground bark are best. These natural materials eventually decompose to improve both the fertility and moisture-holding capacity of your soil.

Lay mulches two to three inches thick after watering. Mulches also help to shade the soil, keeping it cool in hot weather and stopping the sun from baking it hard.

Critical stages

While consistent soil moisture is certainly important, there are specific stages of growth when vegetables will be at their most sensitive to water availability.

VEGETABLE

CRUCIAL STAGE

Beans and peas

Flowering until harvest

Cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes

Flowering until harvest

Melons

Flowering until a few days before harvest

Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower

Heading

Lettuce, spinach

All stages

Onions

Bulb enlargement

Sweet potatoes

Potato enlargement

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How to Grow an Abundant Veggie Garden https://bonnieplants.com/app/how-to-grow-an-abundant-veggie-garden/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:37:49 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12102 How to Grow an Abundant Veggie Garden You’ve planted your vegetable garden and its started to grow. Congratulations! You are now one step closer to truly delicious garden grown-food! Now all you need to do is show your plants a little care and your garden will be every bit as successful as you had hoped.... Read more »

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How to Grow an Abundant Veggie Garden

You’ve planted your vegetable garden and its started to grow. Congratulations! You are now one step closer to truly delicious garden grown-food!

Now all you need to do is show your plants a little care and your garden will be every bit as successful as you had hoped. Here are a few tips for an abundant garden with plenty to pick.

Feed your soil. It’s not the plants you feed, it's the soil. Soil that is in good condition promotes healthier, stronger growth and plants with fewer problems. Feed garden soil with organic materials such as compost or well-rotted manure.

Lay down mulch. While plants are actively growing you can lay organic materials around them as mulch. Wait until the soil has warmed up then lay mulch at least 2 inches thick. As well as feeding the soil, mulches reduce weed growth, slow the loss of soil moisture through evaporation and keep roots cooler in hot weather.

Remove weeds. Weeds compete with vegetables for space, water and nutrients. Keep on top of weeds and try to pull them out as soon as they appear. Weeding is especially important when vegetables are still young. Weeding little and often is the best way.

Protect from heat. Extreme heat quickly wilts thirsty plants. As well as watering to keep plants quenched, consider setting up shade cloth in summer, particularly for cool-season veggies like lettuce.

Maintain hygiene. Remove dead plants and diseased growth from your garden to keep your remaining vegetables safe. In most cases only the diseased part of the plant need be removed. Disinfect pruners after cutting any diseased growth – you don’t want to inadvertently spread disease.

Support climbers. Climbing or sprawling vegetables such as beans and cucumbers need appropriate supports. Think tepees, trellising and A-frames. Taller or top-heavy veggies such as eggplant perform better when they are tied to a sturdy stake, or use tomato cages for a simple solution.

Harvest regularly. Pick, pluck or pull your tasty vegetables as soon as they are ripe and ready. Some plants need frequent picking to encourage more to follow. At the peak of the season beans, tomatoes and zucchini will need picking almost daily to keep them in their productive phase of growth, but who minds harvesting their own wholesome food every day?

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Start a Tasty Container Garden https://bonnieplants.com/app/start-a-tasty-container-garden/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:30:22 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12097 Start a Tasty Container Garden Thinking of growing some vegetables and herbs in containers? Well, there’s every reason to do so! Whether the space or time you have to grow is limited, or you simply want an easier start to your homegrown hobby, pots of produce make good sense. Being able to step outside to... Read more »

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Start a Tasty Container Garden

Thinking of growing some vegetables and herbs in containers? Well, there’s every reason to do so! Whether the space or time you have to grow is limited, or you simply want an easier start to your homegrown hobby, pots of produce make good sense.

Being able to step outside to pick fresh herbs or perhaps a tomato or two is the last word in delicious convenience. Furthermore, by growing herbs and veggies in pots, you can tailor the environment they are growing in to exactly match their requirements - offering, for example, the ideal potting soil or exposure to sun.

Pots are easy to look after because you can deliver what’s needed more efficiently, meaning better use of water and fertilizer. Plants grown out of the ground won’t suffer from soil-borne pests and diseases either, so you can often expect a trouble-free ride to harvest.

Size matters

Almost any vegetable or herb will grow in a container – you just need to make sure that the pot size suits what you want to grow in it. As a general rule, bigger pots require less maintenance. If a pot is too small it will dry out quicker, creating a stressful environment for your plants. However, too big and you’ll be spending more than you need to on potting soil.

Smaller plants, like many herbs, lettuces and strawberries will be happy in pots starting at just 10-inches diameter. Larger plants such as broccoli, bush tomatoes or cabbages will need pot diameters of up to 18 inches, while for the biggest vegetables, like artichoke or summer squash, only a minimum pot diameter of 24-inches will do. Most veggies prefer deeper pots, though shallow rooters such as lettuce will be happy in a pot that is, say, six-inches deep.

In the mix

Healthy plants need a good potting mix (or potting soil) to encourage a healthy root system. The ideal potting mix holds onto moisture while giving a just-so balance of air, nutrition and support for the roots.

As container vegetables and herbs will be getting all of their nutritional requirements from the potting mix they are grown in, it pays to buy the highest quality potting mix you can. A natural, absorbent mix such as Nature’s Care Organic and Natural Potting Mix will keep plants fed for at least a month after planting, ensuring a seamless transition into their new home.

Store your potting soil in a dry place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate to extremes. Keep opened bags sealed or place them into a clean plastic tub or garbage can to keep the potting mix clean.

Tender loving care

It isn’t difficult to keep container plants happy. All that’s needed is a little attention and your plants won’t just survive, they’ll thrive. Here are some simple tips to make the task easier – and your plants happier.

Thirsty work: Regularly check the potting mix of container grown veggies and herbs for moisture. If the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. Pay particular attention in hot, sunny or windy weather, when plants dry out quicker.

Save water: Cluster pots together or set up a drip irrigation system to save time on watering. Adding a layer of organic mulch such as straw or soil conditioner will help to conserve moisture by slowing evaporation. Mulch will also shade the soil, keeping roots cooler in hot summers.

Feeding time: Once the fertilizer within the potting soil is exhausted it’s time to begin feeding your plants. Choose a fertilizer suitable for what you are growing. For example, fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers will need a potassium-rich feed to encourage fruit production. Always follow the label instructions so you apply the right amount of feed.

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What Plants Need to Thrive https://bonnieplants.com/app/what-plants-need-to-thrive/ Wed, 04 Apr 2018 21:16:17 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=12089 What Plants Need to Thrive Growing your own food is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. It’s good for your body – and soul – and you won’t find fresher produce. For the best chance of a delicious harvest you’ll want to give your vegetables and herbs the growing conditions they prefer.... Read more »

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What Plants Need to Thrive

Growing your own food is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do. It’s good for your body – and soul – and you won’t find fresher produce. For the best chance of a delicious harvest you’ll want to give your vegetables and herbs the growing conditions they prefer. Don’t worry – there are no mysteries or closely guarded secrets to success, just a little tender loving care!

What plants need to thrive

Plants need three things to thrive: sunshine, good soil and access to enough water. Exact requirements vary with each plant, so it’s important to check the growing information for details.

The good news is that Bonnie plant varieties sold locally to you will be perfectly suited to your area. All you need to do is keep plants watered and fed. Follow the instructions on the accompanying label and your plants will respond with luscious growth and tasty pickings.

Container-grown plants need a good potting mix that holds onto moisture while providing plants with nutrients and an anchor for their roots. Container plants have a more limited root system and tend to dry out quicker, so they will need watering more often. On the flip side growing in containers avoids potential soil problems and you can tailor conditions to perfectly suit the plant.

Plant for success
The options for growing veggies and herbs are many and varied. Where you grow will depend on your specific circumstances. But no matter how much space you have there’s always something you can grow. Everyone can enjoy the incredible satisfaction of growing their own!

Way to grow: In the ground or in containers? The choice is yours! Start small and work your way up. Growing in one or two containers is a great way to begin, while a 12x24-foot planting area will offer steady harvests for a family of four.

Ground control: Everything begins with your soil. Prepare the ground for your veggies by clearing the area of weeds then loosening it to a depth of at least eight inches. Now mix in lots of compost or soil conditioner with a fork or tiller. Don’t forget to rake the ground level before planting.

Plant like a pro: Bonnie’s biodegradable pots avoid unnecessary root disturbance and prevent yet more plastic trash. Simply soak the pots before planting, remove the label and pot bottom then bury the pot right up to the rim before thoroughly watering in. And that’s it! Pots naturally break down to add more organic matter to the soil.

Pick your perfect plants
Choosing what to grow is both exciting and sometimes a little confusing. Seek inspiration with Homegrown by Bonnie chooser guides. Tomatoes and peppers present a particularly bewildering array of tasty choices. So let’s help you on your search for the perfect pepper or top tomato. See what catches your attention and will work in your garden, then start dreaming of all those tasty pickings!

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Organic Gardening for Beginners https://bonnieplants.com/library/organic-gardening-for-beginners/ Mon, 02 Apr 2018 19:39:27 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12073 Growing an organic garden is easier than you might think. Just follow the tips we’ve put together in this “organic gardening for beginners” guide and you'll soon be on your way to a delicious harvest.

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Organic Gardening for Beginners: raised bed vegetable garden

Because you have complete control over the soil inside, a raised bed is an excellent home for your first organic garden.

Is there anything tastier than a sun-warmed tomato you can eat fresh off the vine while standing in the garden? One of the biggest perks of organic gardening is that you know what is—and isn’t—in your food. Plus, growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers organically means your garden becomes a wonderful haven for birds, bees, and butterflies.

Growing an organic garden is easier than you might think. Just follow the tips we’ve put together in this “organic gardening for beginners” guide and you’ll soon be on your way to a delicious harvest.

Organic Gardening for Beginners: tomato plant in pot

Even a gravel driveway can be a workable location for an organic garden if you grow in containers.

1. Select your site. Choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Most fruiting plants, like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and melons, need full sun to produce well. However, don’t despair if your garden is a bit shady. Leafy greens like lettuce, kale, and many herbs can tolerate partial sun (think 3 hours per day or more). Stay away from large trees and roots (which can steal nutrients and water from your vegetables). Be sure you have easy access to a water source, too.

If you don’t have a large yard, no worries—container gardening to the rescue! If you’re growing in pots, place them in protected areas in case of strong wind so they won’t topple over. Consider putting your organic container garden somewhere that’s convenient to the kitchen, too. An herb garden right outside the kitchen door, for example, makes dinner prep a breeze. Just make sure you use the right size pot for whatever you’re planting in your organic garden.

2. Use great soil. Excellent soil filled with nutrients is one major key to a successful organic garden. Rich, well-draining soil encourages your plants to produce strong root systems. If this is your first time organic gardening, start a compost pile now to help enrich the soil—but remember, it takes a while for compost to break down to use in your garden. In the meantime, create ideal soil by mixing 3 inches of Nature’s Care® Organic Garden Soil with Water Conserve® in with the top 6 inches of existing garden soil to give your plants a great start. If you’re growing in a raised bed, fill it with Nature’s Care® Organic Raised Bed Soil.

For a container garden, use potting mix designed for containers. It’s lighter and drains better than garden soil, allowing water and nutrients to easily reach the plant’s roots. Nature’s Care® Organic and Natural Potting Mix does just that, plus it helps protect against over- and under-watering. Make sure your pots have drainage holes, too, because few vegetables or herbs like having “wet feet.”

3. Pick the perfect plants. Selecting plants native to your region or bred specifically for your climate helps create a healthy, low maintenance organic garden, which is especially important if you’re new to organic gardening. All of the Bonnie Organics varieties you’ll find at your local garden shop or home improvement store have been chosen because they grow well in your area. (They’re also certified as USDA Organic.) For example, you may see short-season tomatoes perfect for colder northern climates, or tomatoes that withstand high temperatures and humidity for southern regions. Don’t dismiss disease-resistant hybrid plants, either, as they can also create less work and greater harvests in the garden. Plus, plant a variety of flowers and flowering herbs to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects that will help keep pests away and your plants happy. (Find out where to buy Bonnie Organics in your area.)

Organic Gardening for Beginners: watering a young pepper plant

As this organic pepper plant grows and becomes loaded with fruit, it may need to be staked for support.

4. Water wisely. Too much water can be just as bad for your plants as not enough, so always check the soil before watering. Stick your finger one inch down into the soil. If the soil feels moist, leave it alone, but if it’s dry, it’s time to water. Be sure to water the soil surrounding the base of the plants so the roots absorb the moisture. Not only is watering the leaves wasteful, but it can also create an environment that invites disease. Drip irrigation, a highly targeted watering method, is a good choice for organic gardens.

5. Feed your plants. At planting and every week or two afterward, give your plants a boost of energy with Nature’s Care® Natural All-Purpose Water Soluble Plant Food. Plants need extra nutrients to produce bountiful harvests, particularly big, hungry plants like tomatoes and peppers. Make sure to read the directions on the package so you’ll add just the right amount of plant food.

6. Maintain with mulch. A thick layer of organic mulch not only helps control weeds by blocking the sun they need to grow, but also helps retain moisture in the soil so you may need to water less. Mulch also creates the look of a a tidy, pretty garden. While pine straw and wheat straw are popular mulch choices, untreated grass clippings, chopped leaves, and even aged wood shavings are also good options. Mulch eventually breaks down and adds nutrients to the soil, too—and you know your plants will love that!

7. Rotate crops. One of the best ways to protect your organic garden is to use a time-tested method called “crop rotation,” which simply means moving plant types to different locations each year. Here’s why it’s important: When members of the same crop family (such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, all members of the nightshade family) are always planted in the same place year after year, pests and diseases that attack that particular kind of plant can build up and overwinter in the soil. Then they’re ready to attack the next time that plant is planted. By mixing up your garden plan and moving plants to different beds or areas in the garden, you’ll avoid pests and diseases that may lurk in the soil.

8. Clean up debris. Good hygiene is just as important for the garden as it is for the gardener. Remove diseased leaves and plants (don’t add them to the compost pile), regularly check leaves and stems for pests, and dispose of garden litter (think overripe fruit, broken branches, fallen leaves). Make sure to clean tools often, wiping with disinfecting cloths if you’ve used them on plants that might be diseased. If pests or disease strike anyway, treat ailing plants with Nature’s Care® 3-in-1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control, making sure to follow the directions on the label.

9. Enjoy your harvest. Now comes the fun part. If you’re uncertain when to harvest your crops, check out our Harvest Guide for Summer Vegetables, Harvest Guide for Cool Weather Vegetables, and Summer Herb Harvesting Tips. Eating—and sharing—your delicious, garden-fresh meals will make you happy that you became an organic gardener.

Want more information on organic gardening? Check out our Organic & Sustainable section. Happy (organic) growing!

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How to Start an Herb Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-grow-an-herb-garden/ Fri, 16 Mar 2018 19:34:52 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=12035 There are so many great reasons to start an herb garden that will provide fresh herbs for everything from creating delicious dinners to brewing your own cups of tea. Plus, most herbs grow easily in a variety of conditions, making them ideal for new gardeners.

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How to Start an Herb Garden: herbs in ceramic container on deck

Putting an herb garden on your deck, right near the kitchen door, is a genius way to ensure you always have access to fresh herbs!

There are so many great reasons to start an herb garden that will provide fresh herbs for everything from creating delicious dinners to brewing your own cups of tea. Plus, most herbs grow easily in a variety of conditions, making them ideal for new gardeners.

Looking to start your own herb garden? Follow the steps below to get growing.

Select your space. Whether you live in a subdivision with a large backyard or an apartment with a balcony, herbs grow well just about anywhere that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. Don’t despair if the only spots you have to grow are a bit shady, though. Some herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, and mint, do just fine with 3 or 4 hours of sunlight. Check the plant tag for light requirements, or look that information up on the Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app. You’ll also want to have a water source nearby.

If possible, select a site near the kitchen so you can quickly snip a handful of oregano while making pasta sauce, or pluck a few basil leaves for bruschetta. Also, place your herb garden where you’ll see it. Not only will that will inspire you to add interesting flavors to your meals, but you’ll also be more likely notice when your plants need watering or if pests invade.

Choose your growing style.
If your yard offers rich, well-draining soil in a sunny space free from competing trees and shrubs, planting an herb garden in the ground should work beautifully. However, if your soil is less than ideal, a raised bed garden is an excellent alternative. Fill it with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, which is just the right texture and weight for that kind of growing space.

If your available growing space is small, though, consider growing in pots instead. From wooden window boxes filled with trailing thyme to pretty ceramic pots full of parsley, containers offer many options. Follow these guidelines to choose the right size and style of container, and make sure it has holes for drainage. Fill pots with Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix, which helps protect against over- and under-watering.

How to Start an Herb Garden: container herb garden

When including mint in a container herb garden, put it in its own pot first to help curb its wandering ways.

Pick your plants.
Make a list of the flavors you enjoy, as well as what you’d like to do with your herbs. If cooking is your hobby, add herbs that make up classic culinary collections, like Herbes de Provence (rosemary, marjoram, thyme, oregano, and savory). Love butterflies? Add dill to your herb garden, as it serves as a host plant for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Of course, your fur babies will adore you for growing catnip and pet grass. Once you’ve made your list, head to your local Bonnie Plants® retailer or order plants online here.

Plant your herb garden.
Now it’s time to plant your herbs! Look at the plant tag or check the Homegrown app to learn how much space to leave between each plant for best growth and good airflow. Dig a hole, then plant the herb to the same depth as it was in its original container. Fill in around the plant, gently pat down the soil, then water well. A word of caution: With any member of the mint family (including lemon balm), you’ll want to plant it in its own container to keep it from spreading and taking over the garden. If you’re growing in a raised bed or in the ground, simply nestle the container into the soil.

Pamper your plants.
Check daily to see if they need watering, especially during the summertime or if you’re growing in containers, which tend to dry out more quickly than in-ground herb gardens or raised beds. Water thoroughly if the top inch of soil is dry. Then, to keep herbs growing strong throughout the season, be sure to feed them with every week or two with a liquid plant food such as Miracle-Gro® LiquaFeed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Plant Food.

How to Start an Herb Garden: snipping a basil bloom

As soon as you see basil blooms starting to form, snip or pinch them off right away.

Harvest frequently.
Herbs respond well to harvesting, and will actually grow thicker and bushier with frequent snipping. For best results, harvest in the morning using a pair of garden shears or kitchen scissors. Never remove more than one-third of the plant, so that it can recuperate and continue growing throughout the season. Also, know that herbs taste best before flowering. By pinching back basil as soon as you see blooms beginning to form, for instance, you’ll extend the herb’s harvest life.

Congratulations—you’ve filled your garden with flavor and fragrance! For more great tips on growing, harvesting, and cooking with herbs, check out our Herbs section.

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How to Make a Lasagna Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/make-lasagna-garden/ Tue, 06 Mar 2018 14:44:49 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11970 Have you ever started digging a new garden bed, excited about the vegetables and herbs you’ll grow, only to hit rocks and roots with your shovel? Or maybe you planned to build a raised bed garden but never got around to buying the wood. Or perhaps you’ve been gardening in containers and you’re itching for a little more space. Whatever your situation, the answer may just be a lasagna garden.

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Make a Lasagna Garden: keyhole raised bed lasagna garden

You can create your lasagna garden as a stand-alone bed or as the filling for an existing raised bed (like the keyhole garden you see here).

Have you ever started digging a new garden bed, excited about the vegetables and herbs you’ll grow, only to hit rocks and roots with your shovel? Or maybe you planned to build a raised bed garden but never got around to buying the wood. Or perhaps you’ve been gardening in containers and you’re itching for a little more space. Whatever your situation, the answer may just be a lasagna garden.

Lasagna gardening provides an easy, time-saving way to install a garden anywhere, without having to remove sod or till soil. There’s no need for heavy equipment or tools, and you won’t have any problems with roots or rocks. You simply create the garden with materials you probably already have on hand, then plant your crops the very same day.

Make a Lasagna Garden: cardboard layer

Here’s an excellent use for all those old boxes you have laying around: Use them as your first lasagna garden layer.

What Is a Lasagna Garden?
Taking its name from the many layers used to create a favorite Italian meal, lasagna gardening is a layering method that produces a nutrient-rich garden bed you can use immediately. Patricia Lanza, author of Rodale’s Lasagna Gardening, invented the concept after watching her widowed grandmother struggle with the backbreaking chores of plowing, weeding, and growing the family’s extensive vegetable garden. She realized there must be an easier way — and she was right.

How to Create Your Lasagna Garden
Organic materials make up the lasagna garden layers, and most of the ingredients can be found at home. Newspaper, cardboard, shredded leaves, straw, compost, untreated grass clippings, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, and aged animal waste (like chicken, rabbit, guinea pig, and cow manures) all work well. Ask neighbors to save their leaves and grass clippings for your garden if you think you might run short of supplies.

When deciding where to place your lasagna garden, look for a relatively flat area that:
– Gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight;
– Drains well;
– Is near a water source;
– Is protected from strong winds that could damage plants.

Once you’ve determined your site, mark an outline for your lasagna garden bed using stakes and string or flour sprinkled on the ground. The garden should be no more than 4 feet wide, so that you can easily reach the center of the bed.

Make a Lasagna Garden: compost and grass layer

Don’t hesitate to use a mixture of ingredients in the nitrogen-rich layer, such as untreated grass clippings and compost.

Now it’s time to add the “ingredients” to make your lasagna garden.
– First, add a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard within your garden bed outline, making sure the material overlaps, and soak it with a hose. This base layer will smother any grass and weeds under the bed.
– Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of well-shredded leaves to cover the newspaper or cardboard. In her book, Lanza recommends using peat moss at this stage to add carbon to the bed, but shredded leaves also work quite well, are a renewable resource, and don’t cost a penny.
– Top that with a 4- to 8-inch layer of nitrogen-rich organic material like grass clippings, compost, kitchen scraps, or aged animal manures (only from herbivores like cows and chickens).
– Add another layer of shredded leaves, then another layer of organic material, and continue alternating in that way until your lasagna garden bed is 18 to 24 inches high.

And just like that, your new lasagna garden is ready to plant! There’s no need to wait for the layers in the lasagna garden to decompose. Simply make a hole through the layers for each plant. Your garden will be well-fed thanks to the rich organic materials, plus you may need to water less than you would with other garden types because the bed will retain moisture well.

Of course, as with any garden, you’ll want to water it regularly, keep a lookout for pest or disease issues, and remove any weeds that sprout up on the way to harvest time. Meanwhile, keep collecting organic material so you’ll have plenty of ingredients to add to your lasagna garden bed next year.

Article and images by Julie Thompson-Adolf

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3 Easy Ways to Build a Raised Bed Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/3-easy-ways-build-raised-bed-garden/ Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:55:05 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11964 Perhaps you’re a new gardener, growing veggies and herbs for the first time. Maybe you’ve grown your own food for years, but your in-ground soil isn’t great, or you just need a bit more growing space. Whatever the reason, here’s one option worth considering: a raised garden bed. Here are three simple ways to build one.

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3 Easy Ways to Build a Raised Bed: wooden bed

A raised bed doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to produce loads of delicious veggies and herbs.

Perhaps you’re a new gardener, growing veggies and herbs for the first time. Maybe you’ve grown your own food for years, but your in-ground soil isn’t great, or you just need a bit more growing space. Whatever the reason, here’s one option worth considering: a raised garden bed.

But what, exactly, is a “raised bed”? Well, it’s just what the name suggests: an above-the-ground garden filled with soil. Because elevated soil warms earlier in the spring, you get a longer growing season, and because you get to control what kind of soil goes in the bed, you can provide the perfect environment for your plants’ roots.

Intrigued? We’ve got three easy ways to build a raised bed garden. First, though, let’s talk about size.

Deciding the Size of Your Raised Bed Garden

There’s no pre-determined size for raised bed gardens. You can create a small, 4’ x 4’ bed to grow a few vegetables and herbs, several much longer beds to grow food for your whole family, or anything in between. The only “rule” when building a raised bed is to keep the width at four feet or less, so you can easily reach into the center of the bed to plant, weed, or harvest without having to step on the soil. Also, to encourage strong root development, raised bed gardens should be at least 8 to 12 inches deep (more is better if you’re planting deep-rooted plants like tomatoes).

3 Simple Raised Bed Gardens

From simple, sustainable structures to elegant, expensive options, raised garden beds run the gamut of styles, sizes, and prices. You can even skip all the construction and buy a kit. But if you’re up for a little DIY, here are three affordable, easy-to-install options to build a raised bed so you can get growing quickly.

The Most Popular Raised Bed: Wood Frame
There’s a reason most raised beds you see are made of wood: They’re durable, easy to assemble, and fairly inexpensive. To make one for yourself, start with high quality hardwood, like cedar, redwood, or oak, so your raised bed frame will last for years.

To build a 4’ x 4’ wooden raised bed, cut two 8’ x 2” x 12” boards in half lengthwise—some home improvement stores will do this for you if you ask—and attach them at the corners with screws to form a square frame. (For best results, use 3½“ deck screws and pre-drill the holes.) Place it in a sunny spot, leveling the ground if needed, and put down a few layers of newspaper or cardboard on the bottom of the bed before adding soil to smother grass or weeds. Fill the bed with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil, made with organic ingredients and just the right weight and texture for raised bed growing. Add your Bonnie Plants®!

The Uber-Durable Raised Bed: Concrete Block
For an even easier and less expensive raised garden bed, consider using concrete (or cinder) blocks. With each block costing only about $1, concrete block raised beds provide a budget-friendly—but long lasting—option.

To create a 4’ x 4’ concrete block raised bed, choose a flat, sunny site. Create a square using three 16” cinder blocks per side (open sides facing up); if you want a taller bed, add a second layer. Lay cardboard or newspaper on the ground inside to smother grass and prevent weeds from growing. Or, if desired, create a liner inside the bed with landscape fabric. Then fill the bed with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil and your favorite Bonnie Plants.

3 Easy Ways to Build a Raised Bed: straw bale raised bed

By the time the end of the growing season approaches, the straw bales will have already begun to decompose. Once you’re done harvesting, add them to the compost pile or use them as mulch.

The Super-Speedy Raised Bed: Straw Bale
When you use straw bales to create the walls of your raised bed garden, it will be done in very short order! They’re also quite inexpensive, and a great choice if you’re testing a new location for your vegetable garden and aren’t ready to commit to something long-term.

To assemble an approximately 3’ x 6’ straw bale raised bed, find a level spot that gets a lot of sun and create a rectangle by laying two bales end to end for the long sides, then a single bale for each short side. Lay cardboard or newspaper inside the space to smother grass and stymie weeds, then fill your new bed with Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil and plant it with Bonnie veggies and herbs.

Figure Out How Much Raised Bed Soil You Need

Remember math class? To find the volume of your new raised bed, multiple length x width x height. The answer will equal the number of cubic feet of soil you need to fill the bed. So, for example, if you’ve created a 4’ x 4’ x 1’ bed, you’ll need 16 cubic feet.

Don’t Forget to Feed

For best results and a big harvest, be sure to give your plants regular feedings with a continuous-release plant food designed especially for veggies and herbs, such as Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food. After all, your garden needs a steady source of nutrients, just like you do.

Now sit back and enjoy your new raised bed garden. Who knows? Maybe you’ll create one of each type to see what works best for you. That’s the beauty of raised beds: You can experiment and add more beds as your passion for gardening—and harvesting—grows right along with your plants.

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3x the Harvest https://bonnieplants.com/3x-the-harvest/ Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:14:54 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=11842 A Great Harvest Starts with Bonnie Plants® For a hundred years, every Bonnie plant has started at a greenhouse with a mission to put fresh, homegrown veggies and herbs on every table in America. Now, you can get up to 3x the Bonnie® harvest when you plant in Miracle-Gro® soil and feed with Miracle-Gro® Plant... Read more »

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Use Miracle-Gro Soil and Plant Food with your Bonnie Plants for Up to 3x the Harvest

A Great Harvest Starts with Bonnie Plants®

For a hundred years, every Bonnie plant has started at a greenhouse with a mission to put fresh, homegrown veggies and herbs on every table in America. Now, you can get up to 3x the Bonnie® harvest when you plant in Miracle-Gro® soil and feed with Miracle-Gro® Plant Food throughout the season.

Use Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Potting Mix

Miracle-Gro® All Purpose Potting Mix

Use Miracle-Gro®  Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food for a great harvest.

Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food

Choose Bonnie Plants for a successful harvest.

Bonnie Plants®. 100 Years of Heart

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How to Plant a Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-plant-a-garden/ Wed, 14 Feb 2018 22:11:22 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11833 There are many reasons to plant a garden. Maybe you love cooking with fresh produce. Perhaps you’ve resolved to eat healthier. Or maybe you’re looking for an activity to engage kids in outdoor fun. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to take the plunge. But where do you begin?

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How to Plant a Garden: child planting in raised bed

What better way to teach kids about where veggies come from than to get them involved with the garden you’re creating?

How to Plant a Garden: tomato plant in pot

Don’t feel like you have to plant a lot. Even a single tomato plant in a big pot equals a garden!

There are many reasons to plant a garden. Maybe you love cooking with fresh produce. Perhaps you’ve resolved to eat healthier. Or maybe you’re looking for an activity to engage kids in outdoor fun. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to take the plunge. But where do you begin? As a new gardener, learning how to plant a garden may seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. We’ve broken the project down into 7 easy steps to get you started.

1. Start small.
One of the biggest mistakes a new gardener can make is to be overly ambitious when starting a garden. Set realistic goals for your first year — think one bed or a collection of containers. Give yourself a chance to learn how to keep your plants healthy and productive, then enjoy the harvest. There’s always next year to expand!

2. Select your site.
Most vegetables need lots of sun to produce well, so look for a space that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. (If your site offers only limited light, you’ll simply need to grow herbs or veggies like lettuce or kale that thrive in part-shade.) Next, see if there’s a way to locate the garden near the entrance to your house so you’ll be more likely to notice if it needs water or pests invade. Finally, make sure there’s a water source nearby so it will be easy to give your plants the inch or more of water per week that most gardens require. Installing a rain gauge in the garden helps you know when you need to give Mother Nature a hand in hydrating.

How to Plant a Garden: glazed pots with tomatoes on deck

Plant up beautiful glazed pots on a sunny deck for a garden that’s decorative as well as delicious.

3. Choose your garden type.
How will your garden grow — in the ground, in raised beds, in containers, or a combination of styles? Here’s what to consider when deciding:
– If your selected site offers rich, well-draining soil free from trees and shrubs (which will compete for nutrients and water), planting an in-ground vegetable garden may be the way to go. You can improve the soil, too, by adding Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs, which contains lots of nutrients for your plants and will help protect against under- and over-watering.
– In less perfect soil conditions, raised beds offer a good solution for planting a garden, as you can control the components in the soil. A mix of compost, vermiculite, and garden soil works for filling raised beds, or make it easy by filling each bed with pre-mixed, nutrient-rich Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
– Don’t have much room to grow? Containers are the best solution, as they can be placed anywhere you have sun (think decks, balconies, driveways). Just remember to add drainage holes if they aren’t there already, and choose a container that’s big enough for the plants you want to grow. No need to get fancy here if you don’t want to, either — 5-gallon buckets with holes poked through the bottom make excellent planters! Whatever containers you choose, fill them with premium quality potting soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix, as garden soil is too heavy.

4. Make a list.
Now that you know where you’re going to plant, it’s time to decide what you’re going to plant. Make a list of the veggies and herbs you love to eat. Perhaps you adore peas but are emotionally traumatized by childhood memories of unadorned broccoli. Add peas to your list, but leave broccoli off. If your family loves cucumbers but you’re the only tomato eater, add extra cucumbers to the list—but include a tomato plant or two for yourself. Love making your own tabbouleh? Parsley should definitely be on your list.

How to Plant a Garden: young plants in raised bed

It may look like these parsley and Swiss chard plants could be planted more closely together, but they’ll fill out as they grow. Give ’em space!

5. Plan your planting.
Those little plants are going to get bigger, so it’s important to give them enough space. If you crowd them, they’ll end up competing with one another for moisture and nutrients, plus be more susceptible to disease due to lack of air circulation — not to mention that pests hide more easily in tight spaces. Check plant tags to learn how much space they need, or download the free Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app for spacing info, sunlight requirements, planting advice, and more. Then, sketch out where you plan to put your plants.

6. Get your plants.
Consult our Dealer Locator to find the store nearest you that sells Bonnie Plants, then grab your list and head on over there. Or, if you’d prefer to have your plants come to you, order them online and they’ll be delivered right to your door.

7. Plant ‘em!
Now comes the most fun part. Dig a hole in the soil, place the plant in the hole at the appropriate depth (check the plant tag), fill in soil around the plant, then gently pat it down. Note that you’ll want to plant tomatoes deep, burying ⅔ of the plant so additional roots can grow along the stem. Water well and be sure to feed your plants regularly with a good fertilizer like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food, which is filled with micronutrients and extra calcium to help plants grow strong. (Don’t forget to follow the directions on the label.)

Congratulations, you’ve planted a vegetable garden! Now, check out our How to Grow section to learn the best way to tend your plants, and get ready enjoy your first homegrown harvest.

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Edible Landscaping https://bonnieplants.com/edible-landscaping/ Fri, 09 Feb 2018 18:27:33 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?page_id=11780 Who says you have to choose between having a gorgeous outdoor space and growing your own food? There are many, many ways to turn your yard into an edible landscape, filled with plants that look as good as they taste. No matter what size space you have (even if your “yard” equals a balcony), we’ve... Read more »

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Edible Landscaping with Bonnie Plants

Who says you have to choose between having a gorgeous outdoor space and growing your own food? There are many, many ways to turn your yard into an edible landscape, filled with plants that look as good as they taste. No matter what size space you have (even if your “yard” equals a balcony), we’ve got lots of fresh ideas to help you integrate vegetables and herbs into your landscape design.

And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to design your growing space. If the end result is pleasing to you, that’s all that matters. Let the tips in the articles below serve as guidelines that will give you the confidence to get started on your very own edible landscape.

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How to Lay Out a Vegetable Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/lay-vegetable-garden/ Wed, 31 Jan 2018 18:11:23 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11735 Is there anything more satisfying and delicious than growing your own food? From the first tender tips of asparagus in spring to the tasty tang of summer’s homegrown tomatoes, a garden filled with beautiful, productive plants provides a terrific sense of accomplishment—and fabulous, fresh meals.

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Lay Out a Vegetable Garden: 3 raised beds in backyard

Use the space available in your yard to help you determine the shape(s) of your beds.

Is there anything more satisfying and delicious than growing your own food? From the first tender tips of asparagus in spring to the tasty tang of summer’s homegrown tomatoes, a garden filled with beautiful, productive plants provides a terrific sense of accomplishment—and fabulous, fresh meals.

In order to grow such an amazing harvest, though, it’s important to figure out the best vegetable garden layout for your space and the plants you want to grow. Here’s how to do it.

Lay Out Vegetable Garden: watering bean plants

Make sure your hose can reach your garden beds.

1. Select Your Site

To begin, take stock of your potential growing space. Consider these elements:
· Where do you get the most sun? Many vegetables require 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. Note that the south, east, and west sides of your home will get more sun than the north.
· Is there a spot near the house? If you lay out your vegetable garden near an entrance way, you’ll pass it often. That way, it’s more likely that you’ll notice when watering is needed or pests invade
· Is there already a lot of vegetation around? If there is a large number of shrubs or trees, they will compete with your garden not only for nutrients and moisture in the soil, but also for sunlight. Be sure to steer clear of walnut trees, which produce a toxin that’s harmful to vegetable plants.
· How far away is the water? Make certain that the space you select for your vegetable garden layout provides easy access to a water source. Do that and you won’t have to schlep a hose or heavy watering can all over the yard.
· How much space do you need? While having a huge garden may sound like a great idea, it can also be overwhelming if you’re a new gardener. It’s better to start small, with a few raised beds or containers, then add to your vegetable garden plan each year.

2. List What You Love
Are you a culinary master, hoping to grow a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes for fabulous meals? Do you adore Brussels sprouts but despise collards? Before you purchase any plants, create a list of the vegetables you love, then allocate space in your vegetable garden layout to grow them. Be sure to include space-saving trellises to support vining veggies like cucumbers and peas, and if perennial plants like asparagus and strawberries top your favorite foods list, consider creating a permanent plot for them to grow.

Lay Out Vegetable Garden: man pushing wheelbarrow

Big or small, every garden needs room to get a wheelbarrow through.

3. Lay Out Your Garden on Paper
Although it may give you an unwelcome flashback to geometry class, graph paper really is your friend when creating a vegetable garden layout. By putting your garden on paper before you lift a shovel, you’ll save time—and avoid potential mistakes.

First, take a photo of your garden area and measure its approximate size. Using a ratio of 1 foot = 1 box on the graph paper, sketch the beds and containers you plan to use, leaving enough space between them to push a wheelbarrow. Limit the width of each vegetable bed to 3 to 4 feet, so that you’ll be able to reach across the bed to plant, weed, or harvest without stepping onto the soil and compacting it.

4. Add Your Plants
Now, add the names of the plants you want to grow to the vegetable garden planner, making sure to leave enough space in between each one. (To find out how much space each plant requires, look for your favorite varieties here or find the info on our free app, Homegrown with Bonnie Plants.) Crowded plants have to compete for nutrients, sunlight, and water, so they’re not able to grow as big and strong as they otherwise would.

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

Also, if this isn’t your first garden, think about where you planted your veggies last year, then be sure to rotate them to different beds for the coming season to help prevent diseases and avoid plant-hungry pests that overwinter in the soil. (Learn more about crop rotation right here.)

To give yourself the best chance for a big harvest, mix Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs into your beds, use Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix in your containers, and feed your plants regularly with Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food so you know they’re getting all the nutrition they need. (Be sure to follow label directions.)

5. Learn from Your Successes (and Failures)
Use your vegetable garden planner or Homegrown with Bonnie Plants app to make notes for next year’s garden. What tomato provided the tastiest BLT? What kind of plant proved most challenging to grow? Were there any drawbacks to the space you chose? Even a good vegetable garden layout can get better. Celebrate your delicious garden successes, then go ahead and tweak your layout to grow even more veggies next year.

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Your Gorgeous Front Yard Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/front-yard-garden/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 18:14:39 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11672 Yes, you can plant vegetables and herbs in the front yard! Just keep in mind that while some neighborhoods may celebrate your efforts, others will frown. If your community has strict HOA policies, review them first, then check out these beautiful ways to work edibles into the front yard

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Front Yard Garden: Swiss chard marigold border

Image source: iStock.com/AKodisinghe

Yes, you can plant vegetables and herbs in the front yard! Just keep in mind that while some neighborhoods may celebrate your efforts, others will frown. If your community has strict HOA policies, review them first, then check out these beautiful ways to create a front yard garden.

Front Yard Garden: artichokes

Artichokes grown in a container by a front window add visual interest both inside and out. Image source: iStock.com/Mark Wahlborg

1. Flank the front door. Add containers brimming with goodness by a sunny entrance. Replace spent plants immediately for non-stop harvest and beauty.

2. Hedge your bets. Camouflage veggies behind rows of tidy boxwoods. You may be surprised how textural the leaves will look, peeking above the tidy hedge.

3. Rise to the occasion. Train cherry tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, beans, and even pumpkins on wooden trellis towers painted to match the trim on your home.

4. Dress a window. Plant window boxes with seasonal herbs and pair with annuals for a punch of color.

5. Make the switch. Mass-plant lettuce, cabbages, kale, herbs, peppers, and more in place of annuals like pansies, snapdragons, or lantana.

6. Become a perennial favorite. Add rosemary and lavender to the border. Shapely and evergreen, they can be clipped, hedged, or allowed to billow.

Front Yard Garden: flowering thyme on stone wall

Flowering thyme softens the look of a stone wall and fills the air with fragrance as you brush past. Image source: iStock.com/maljalen

7. Walk this way. Plant low-growing beauties like thyme, oregano, and strawberries between stones or to the sides of a path.

8. Greet the mailman. Pair no-fail herbs like parsley with pansies, mint with marigolds, and basil with zinnias for spring-to-fall interest. Spice things up with peppers and lantana.

9. Fill a void. Disguise bold zucchini squash between a sweep of shrubs along the drive. As long as there’s sun, three to four plants will discreetly produce enough to share with neighbors.

10. Know when to say when. The minute a plant starts to flag or production is nearing the end, say goodbye by ripping it out. Also, don’t hesitate to trim or cut over-vigorous plants back by half – especially in summer. Stay on top of garden tasks, and your neighbors (and the HOA) will have little to complain about.

To help your front yard garden grow big and beautiful, growing plants in rich, well-draining soil is key. When planting in-ground, improve the soil by mixing in Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs with the top few inches of your existing soil. If raised beds are more your style, choose a lighter weight soil that drains beautifully, such as Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil. Containers require the lightest, fluffiest planting mix, so use Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. For a harvest that will catch your neighbors’ eyes, you’ll also want to give your plants consistent nutrition by feeding them with a continuous-release plant food like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food. Treat your plants to this bit of TLC and they’ll reward you with a gorgeous front yard!

Article written by Rebecca Reed

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Your Beautiful Backyard Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/backyard-garden/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:32:49 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11667 A great vegetable garden can be the focal point of a backyard. Tucked back in a far corner, it becomes a destination. Because the backyard is usually more private than the front, maintenance can be more relaxed.

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Backyard Garden: attractive garden beds surrounded by fence

Image source: iStock/cip

A great vegetable garden can be the focal point of a backyard. Tucked back in a far corner, it becomes a destination. Because the backyard is usually more private than the front, maintenance can be more relaxed. And don’t forget the side yard. If yours is sunny, it may be just the right spot for starting a garden.

Whichever spot you choose, be sure to plant your garden in rich, well-draining soil for best results. To improve your in-ground garden soil, mix in Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs with the top layer of your existing soil. For raised beds, Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil is a great choice because it’s just the right weight and texture for raised bed growing. Also, feed your plants regularly with a continuous-release plant food like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food to boost your harvest and keep it coming throughout the growing season.

Here’s how to make your backyard garden beautiful.

Backyard Garden: matching raised beds with path

Matching raised bed designs and neatly mulched paths help frame the garden space. Image source: iStock.com/Elenathewise

1. Edge with your collection. Keep beds tidy by holding back soil with half-buried wine bottles, vintage pots or dishes, slate roof tiles, or seashells.

2. Repeat a good thing. Create rhythm in the garden by planting in a series of over-sized pots or trellises placed in the center of the beds.

3. Take the high and low road. Turn a steep slope into a productive paradise by terracing with raised beds. Add paths between for easy access.

4. Make a splash by the pool. Cluster pots in various heights near the corners of a pool or water feature. Mix a combo of herbs, vegetables, and flowers for show.

5. Do fence me in. Create a garden within a garden by surrounding part of yours with a fence that complements your home’s architecture. A potting shed at one end is both practical and pretty, and becomes a focal point.

6. Reclaim and re-use. Turn cattle troughs, galvanized tubs, or oversized pails into container gardens or raised beds. Make sure they have several drainage holes for water to escape.

Backyard Garden: stone bed plus pots

Let your backyard garden reflect your personality, with a mixture of materials, textures, and colors. Image source: iStock.com/terra24

7. Hoe a long row. Planting in the ground like Grandma and Grandpa did is hip again. The twist: Mulch paths to keep shoes clean. Or, consider leaving an aisle of barefoot-friendly grass between the rows. Mow and edge regularly to keep in top form.

8. Embrace formality. Create the perfect postage-stamp parcel for herbs and vegetables. Edge it in brick or stone, and finish with a classic armillary, urn, or statue in the center of the space.

9. Divide and conquer. Don’t feel like all of your edibles have to be in one place. Put herbs in pots on the deck (near the kitchen), train tomatoes along a fence, and give summer squash the room it needs in a big bed.

10. Mulch when all else fails. If company’s coming and the garden’s past prime, pull everything out and mulch. Then pour a glass of wine and relax while you and your guests brainstorm about what you should plant next!

Article written by Rebecca Reed

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Edible Landscaping Basics https://bonnieplants.com/library/edible-landscaping-basics/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:04:01 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11661 Who doesn’t love getting a two-for-one? That’s one of the benefits of growing edible plants: Many vegetables and herbs do as much for your landscape as they do for your dinner table. Steal these expert tips to create your own edible landscape, no matter where you live.

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Edible Landscaping Basics: garden with paths

Image source: iStock.com/BasieB

Edible Landscaping Basics: cabbage in balcony box

These cabbages add delicious decoration to a balcony box. Image source: iStock.com/danishkan

Who doesn’t love getting a two-for-one? That’s one of the benefits of growing edible plants: Many vegetables and herbs do as much for your landscape as they do for your dinner table. Steal these expert tips to create your own edible landscape, no matter where you live.

1. Even apartment dwellers without a balcony can grow herbs, lettuces, and more in a window box on a sunny sill.

2. Grow edibles in containers of all shapes and sizes, even if space is not limited. Mix textures and heights for a pleasing combo, and feed them with Miracle-Gro® LiquaFeed® Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Plant Food to keep the colorful bounty coming.

3. Container gardening is not just for beginners. It often becomes the method of choice for busy families or seasoned gardeners looking to make every inch of their landscape productive and beautiful. For best results, be sure to fill pots with premium potting mix, such as Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix.

4. If you have a yard, you can grow directly in the ground or opt for raised beds. Bed layout and how the garden relates to the landscape are features that take the design to the next level.

Edible Landscaping Basics: rosemary on deck

Well-tended rosemary bushes in pots are a vibrant, aromatic accent to any deck or patio. Image source: iStock.com/adrianam13

5. Let vegetables and herbs take the place of ornamentals. Think of using eye-catching plants like Lacinato kale, purple basil, or curled parsley where sweeps of annual color would normally be planted.

7. Use low-growing herbs like thyme as a ground cover.

8. Try rosemary, lavender, or germander as a clipped hedge to add structure to the landscape.

9. Introduce stately vegetables and herbs to the perennial border to serve as a backdrop for other plants. Try okra, artichokes, lemongrass, and fennel.

10. In fall, fill voids in the landscape with cabbage, kale, or collards. Plant in large groups, as you would annuals or perennials. When weather warms, replant with basil, eggplants, or peppers.

Article written by By Rebecca Reed

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10 Tips for a Screened Garden https://bonnieplants.com/library/10-tips-screened-garden/ Tue, 23 Jan 2018 22:27:45 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11656 Placing your vegetable garden behind a privacy fence gives you the freedom to experiment and not worry about maintenance 24/7. It also provides the separation you need to create a garden destination.

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Screened Garden: rock wall and wood fence

Image source: iStock.com/fotolinchen

Placing your vegetable garden behind a privacy fence gives you the freedom to experiment and not worry about maintenance 24/7. It also provides the separation you need to create a garden destination. Here are 10 tips to help set your creativity free when designing your screened garden.

Screened Garden: wooden compost bin

A handsome, well-built compost bin is one you won’t have to hide away. Image source: iStock.com/annalovisa

1. Worship the sun. Make sure there is enough light. Walls and fences can cast shadows that shade plants.

2. Provide easy access. Gates should be four feet wide (so wheelbarrows can fit through) and paths should be at least two feet wide.

3. Decorate the screen. Hang art on the structure that separates the garden from the rest of your property.

4. Create your own compost. Save room for bins or tumblers that make composting easy. (Don’t like the look? No need to locate these right next to the garden.)

5. Pave with good intentions. Your garden path can add real polish. Choose angular gravel that will lock in place so it moves less underfoot. Brick pavers are lovely, but can be pricey. Economical mulch should be packed to stay put.

6. Build with quality materials. Heed this advice regardless of where you place your garden. Choose lumber that weathers well, such as cedar, cypress, treated pine, or redwood.

Screened Garden: tool wall

Consider painting your tool wall a vibrant, eye-catching color. Image source: iStock.com/Tigercat_LPG

7. Have water nearby. If you don’t have a spigot handy, add one, or purchase a contractor-grade hose (with hose-end shutoff valve) to run out to the garden.

8. Don’t hide your tools. Well-displayed on a wall or rack, they add ambience and create a vibe that’s all your own.

9. Hook ‘em high. A gardener can never have too many hooks. Use them to hang tools, gloves, and hoses, and or for drying herbs.

10. Keep a journal. Make note of weather, planting dates, rainfall, and crop placement. You may even be tempted to wax poetically about your favorite bean or melon … go right ahead!

Bonus tip: Give your plants a strong start by planting them in premium quality soil (try Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil in raised beds or Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix in containers) and feed them throughout the season with a continuous-release plant food like Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® Tomato, Fruit & Vegetable Plant Food. You’ll be rewarded with big, beautiful plants and a copious harvest!

Article written by Rebecca Reed

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Choosing a Garden Bed Shape https://bonnieplants.com/library/choosing-garden-bed-shape/ Tue, 16 Jan 2018 22:33:56 +0000 https://bonnieplants.com/?post_type=library&p=11648 In addition to figuring out just where in your yard your garden should go, you'll want to consider the shapes of the planting beds. You can either prep the soil and plant directly in the ground, or construct a raised bed from wood, stone, metal, brick, or even straw bales.

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Garden Bed Shape: woman gardening in rectangular raised bed

Image source: iStock.com/cip

In addition to figuring out just where in your yard your garden should go, you’ll want to consider the shapes of the planting beds. You can either prep the soil and plant directly in the ground, or construct a raised bed from wood, stone, metal, brick, or even straw bales. You can also try grouping large containers or self-watering planters to suit your needs.

Garden Bed Shape: irregularly shaped raised beds

Combine different garden bed shapes to fit the size and shape of your own unique yard. Image source: iStock.com/cunfek

1. Rectangle: Great for both formal and informal spaces, this shape lends itself to neatly organized paths and beds, but is not good for a sloping site.

2. L-shaped: Either formal or informal, a bed in this shape divides the garden into distinct areas. It’s also adaptable to many lot shapes and sizes.

3. Triangle: An informal shape by itself, the triangle can become formal when used in a series. Ideal for making use of a corner, and good for a sloped lot.

4. Round: The circle is a formal shape. Divided by a cross axis path and punctuated with a sculpture or urn, the center of a round garden instantly becomes a focal point. Ideal for herbs, lettuces, or uniform, patterned plantings, a circular garden works best on a flat site.

5. Irregular: A garden with an irregular shape creates an informal appearance. Where beds are deep, paths should echo the shape. If used as a border, consider planting with a mixture of perennials and edibles. Excellent for a sloped lot.

Article written by Rebecca Reed

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