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Welcome to Live Free Creative, the podcast that provides inspiration and ideas for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle. I’m your host Miranda Anderson and I hope that each time you listen you feel a little bit more free to live your life exactly the way you want to live it.
Hello there friends. Welcome back to the show. I’m your host Miranda Anderson and you’re listening to Episode 79 of Live Free Creative podcast: Edible Gardening 101.
I know it’s only February, but I am in full blown garden planning mode over here. I’ve had gardening dreams in the past, but this year is going to be our first year with a true real life garden. In the past I’ve done lots of fruit trees and I’ve planted herbs in every different garden that I’ve lived in, whether it was like on a little balcony or in a little pot on our back porch.
This year, I’m planning to have raised garden beds in our yard with our chicken coop and grow things that we can eat–actual food more than just herbs–and I am over the moon excited about it.
When To Start A Garden
Did you know that February, March, this is the time to start planning for your garden?
If you are a gardener, then you’re saying yes, of course I know that. If you’re not, but you would like to be, you may be surprised to find out that these end of winter months are when people start to prepare both the garden themselves.
If you need to build some new garden boxes or if you want to make sure your soil is ready or just to plan and if you’re going to start from seed, it’s pretty soon that you need to do that. If you’re going to direct sow into your garden, it’ll be a little bit later, but you still need to have a plan.
I found myself in late March, early April last year saying, “Hmm, I would love to have a garden this year,” and I started going around to the garden shops and everyone acted like I was a little bit behind schedule; I was a little crazy.
And so I wanted to make sure that this episode went live super early in the season so if you have aspirations of being an edible gardener like I do that you can begin to plan and prepare for your edible garden 2020 now because I am such a beginner, I have invited my friend Melissa to become our garden guru.
Melissa from Lulu The Baker
Melissa is well known from her blog, Lulu The Baker. I met her years and years ago at a blogging conference and we’ve been fast friends ever since. She also is the author of a book called Scandinavian Gatherings, which is a beautiful craft and cookbook celebrating Scandinavian heritage and culture.
I will link both her book and her blog (linked above) and all of the things in the show notes, so be sure to check it out so that you can follow along with all of the incredible things that Melissa is up to.
In addition to being a blogger and an author, Melissa has a giant hobby farm in Southern Oregon where she and her family grow tons of food for themselves and to share with neighbors they have from vegetables to trailing vines to berries, to citrus trees and beyond in their huge garden that she’ll tell you a little bit more about.
I’ve had so much fun watching Melissa grow her garden and learning from her because she’s super down to earth. She’s a great experimenter and a really great educator, so as things happen she shares them in a way that makes it easy to understand how we can learn from her experiences. So she was a perfect person to call on the phone and to chat with about Edible Gardening 101 in this interview.
I basically just talk through the questions that I have about setting up my own backyard garden and try to absorb as much of Melissa’s vast understanding and knowledge as I can as she answers my questions.
As I was recording with her, I kept finding myself wanting to take notes and then remembering we were recording and being so happy that this whole episode was going to be available not only for you but for me to listen to over and over again as I begin this gardening journey because I have such a fun interview, we’re going to forgo our regular segment today and just dive right in to my interview with Melissa.
To The Interview…
Miranda: Okay. Melissa, welcome to the show.
Melissa: Thanks for having me. So excited to chat with you.
You and I go back a long time. I would love to hear a little bit about how you got started in your blog and your business, what you’re doing now and and yeah, just bring us up to speed.
All right, well a little bit of history. Um, I started my blog back in 2011. That was when my third child was born. She is 11 now. So this all ties together.
I know, I know. It’s such a blur.
Um, so back in 2008, my second baby born and my sister and I actually started an Etsy shop that has long since defunct, but it was called Max and Ellie and we made cute little handmade baby things and blankets and appliqued onesies, which is really funny because that’s so far removed from anything that I really do now.
It just became Lulu the Baker. I started a food blog separately about that same exact time. Um, so that I could participate in like online, not baking contest, but like group bakes–you know, where people get together and they all bake the same thing, like people from all over the world.
And so I’ve been doing recipes. I talk about the funny little backyard farm things that we decide to do. And a few years ago we moved out to an actual hobby farm out in the country. So that’s gone from being backyard suburban, hobby farm to a full-fledged hobby farm out in the country on some acreage. And we have chickens and we have a big garden and yeah, it’s super fun.
So when we met, you didn’t yet live on your big farm where you live now and I loved reading your blog and your recipes. And I didn’t realize that you had this really fun homesteading gene in you.
But I didn’t.
Yeah, it’s been so fun to watch as that has like grown and flourished. And I feel like, especially with the space that you have now, you just like have what feels to me, you call it a hobby farm, but it feels to me like an extensive garden. Animals. I mean the chickens, like many, many. I have a little teeny tiny coop and a little tiny herb garden and it just like, it just feels so awesome. Um, but I’m sure that it obviously it didn’t start that way.
Getting Into Gardening
So what was your first foray into gardening? How did that begin and how did you get started?
Yeah. So I have the benefit of having a spouse who is also super into gardening and farming and animals and stuff like that. So it’s wonderful. It’s also a little bit dangerous because we just like feed off of each other and nobody is putting the brakes on at all.
My husband will have this idea like, Oh, I think we should do this. And I’m like, yeah, let’s really go for it. When we lived in our little suburban house with a tiny like postage stamp backyard. We turn basically half of the backyard into raised beds.
I love raised beds.
I think if you’re doing any kind of backyard gardening, like hardcore backyard gardening and you don’t have a lot of space raised, beds are really the way to go. You can really maximize what you grow, you can get a ton out of them.
And so that’s what we did. We had five or six raised beds and then along our fence we planted corn for a couple of years. So that was fun.
Just like this long skinny strip of corn?
Yeah. And we started out with onions and radishes and tons of tomatoes and some hot peppers and we just really loved it. And so we had half of the yard and raised beds and we had a patio and then the other half had, I would only say semi dwarf maybe fruit trees.
So we just drove by it a few weeks ago. We were in that part of town and it was just funny to drive by and reminisce and see how big the fruit trees have gotten. They really take up a ton of the yard. So we did not have a lot of like running and playing room.
So when you first, when you moved into that house and you lived in your little house with your little or yard, was anything there in terms of garden or fruit trees before or you added all of that?
We added all of that. So it was a brand new house. In fact, we bought it when it was still under construction for a few months. It was a brand new neighborhood. When we moved in, the front yard was landscaped, the backyard was mud, basically. It wasn’t even fenced. So we had to put the fence up, we put some grass in, we built the raised beds. So we did all of it from scratch.
Okay. Blank slate. So how did you decide? Um, so this is where I am.
House in the city, fenced yard, basically mud because whatever grass is there is not really, it’s like weeds and then we have chickens. I have this big idea for half the yard to be raised garden beds where my chicken coop is and then the other half can be kind of play area.
And I already have planted fruit trees. I did that in Texas too. And I just love, I mean they don’t get very big in a short amount of years. It’s like a longterm project. So I have already planted fig and raspberries and blackberries and a blueberry bush. And I think I planted a peach tree too. So all of this like last fall, and I have nothing in terms of garden.
All I’ve ever done is herbs. When we lived in a small apartment, I did herbs like on my patio, like my little tiny patio railing. And then in our house in Texas, I grew Rosemary and some lavender and some basil and just like basic herbs that I would buy the actual plant, like from Trader Joe’s usually and just like stuffing in the ground instead of using it in the kitchen. And they did pretty well.
And that’s what I have right now. Like four basic herbs in one planter.
And so yeah, it’s a container and actually it’s amazing cause it’s the middle of winter and they’re still just totally growing. Like all these herbs, they’re doing really well. But it feels like a big jump from “I don’t know what I’m doing” into an actual garden.
Just The Basics
And I was just telling you before we started recording that I feel like I know and understand with my head that everything that I need to know is available for me somewhere. Like it’s on YouTube, it’s on a bunch of blog posts. There’s probably 4 million books dedicated to beginner gardening in your backyard.
But I don’t really want to do all of the sorting through all of information. I want you to give me some very basic instructions for like how to get started, what are some of the best practices for a backyard garden. And let me tell you what I’ve already done and then you can kind of help me move from here.
You’re going to be my garden guru. So what I’ve already done is winter sown seeds into milk jug containers. And just for people who didn’t see this on Instagram, if you’re listening and you’d love to see what this process looks like, you can head to my Instagram highlight about it.
I had some neighbors who told me this is what they do. Actually right after Christmas, they were like, okay, we’re starting our gardens. And I was like, what? Spring was so far away. And they said no, now is the time to plant the seeds so that you have little plants to put in the garden rather than direct sowing into the garden. And I’m like, I don’t know what you’re talking about but I will believe you.
So I cut the milk jugs in half, I put organic potting soil in there, I drilled holes in the bottoms and the tops I stuck seeds in for like a bunch of different kinds of like tomatoes. And I did lots of different plants, cucumbers, watermelon, peas, beans–not carrots because someone told me I can’t transplant them easily. And then I just duct taped them all and stuck them out on my table.
Get The Right Garden Beds In The Right Location
Hopefully in a couple of months those turned into plants. But in the meantime, I need to figure out what garden beds to use, what soil to use. If I need a watering system. So walk me through this garden guru. What do I do next?
So do you have your raised beds built?
Okay, so you need to figure out where in your yard you want them. Do you have that done?
Yep. I know where I want to put them.
In a sunny spot?
So they need full sun. And if you’ve got fruit trees that you planted that aren’t full size yet, definitely make sure you take that into consideration because they’re not necessarily casting shade yet but they will cast in the future. So to put all this time, time and energy into, you know, creating this garden space. And then you, you know, in two more years, your trees are casting this huge shadow and you can’t plant anything there or you’re only able to plant shade loving plants, which no vegetables want shade.
Food needs sun to grow.
Okay, so that’s a good thing. Make sure that where you put your raised garden beds have full sun and will have full sun for the foreseeable future.
Find Right Watering System
Yep. And then you need to figure out some kind of watering system. You don’t need to have like an in ground system–I mean our garden is massive now and we are tinkering with the watering every single year to to just get it absolutely right. For a smaller garden it’s much easier.
If you have in ground sprinklers that will hit it. Awesome. Then, you know, all your troubles are kind of over.
You can hand water it. That’s not a big deal if you just have a backyard hose. The only problem with hand watering is when you go on vacation, you have to hire somebody to come water your garden for you because in the summer heat, when you’re off enjoying the coast or you know, heading to the mountains or whatever, your poor plants are going to die. And it’s so sad to come home from a vacation to find like a dead garden.
So hand watering is totally fine. You just have to take care of it like you would with a pet when you’re out of town. You have to make sure it gets the water that it needs.
I don’t have an in ground sprinkler, but I was thinking about the hose drip system on a timer. Someone told me that I can like set up a hose drip, pull it over to the thing, put a timer on it so that it just waters everyday from the hose whether in there or not.
Yep. That is a great idea. In a nice small backyard garden, I think that that’s a perfect solution. And you just kind of zigzag the hose back and forth. Just it’s more efficient. It wastes less water. Most plants don’t need like their leaves watered. They just need the water. And a lot of them prefer not to have the fruiting part or the leaves watered like that. That kind of contributes to some rot.
So I could probably figure out my raised garden beds and then put a soaker hose in them with the soil just on top of the soil?
Okay. And so then it doesn’t have to spray, right? Just when you’re transplanting or when you’re direct sowing the things that need that.
Yeah, you just zigzag your hose back and forth–and maybe stake it so it’s not wiggling around too much and disturbing your little baby.
Okay. So question, quick question about raised beds. There are so many. First, I don’t know that I want to build them. I’m trying to decide, but I might just buy some kit ones. I’ve seen the wooden ones and I’ve seen the metal, like farm rings. Are they all kind of the same as just my own design and price point decision or what do you think? Is there a better or worse raised bed?
Um, I’m sure there are. I’ve seen the metal, like fire rings and they look awesome.
They’re like beautiful.
Yeah. Those are like 40 bucks at a farm store. I’m not sure how long those last but wood also doesn’t last forever. You can certainly get wood that does a good job of holding up outside, but it won’t last forever. So eventually–10 years down the road, you’ll just have to replace pieces as they start to fall apart.
Use The Right Soil
Yeah. Okay. Okay. So let’s fast forward. I set up my raise garden beds and I have my watering system. Is there a particular type of soil I should use?
If you have a like a landscaping place near you, you can take like a pickup truck go and they’ll just load it for you in the back of your truck and then you drive home. So if you have a place like that, they usually have three or four different types of soil that you can get and they usually have premium garden soil.
I think that’s always a safe bet and I haven’t found too much difference in like the type of soil. Definitely pH is a little bit different for everything. But as far as the type of soil goes, I think if you have a really good healthy, loose soil that’s beneficial to everything.
Like carrots can’t grow in like clay. So if your soil is really like a thick sludgy clay soil, which we definitely have here, just not in our raised beds, we made sure we filled those with like top notch organic garden soil.
With a raised bed–this just goes to show how basic my understanding is–I assume that I just fill the whole raised bed with new soil and I’m not using anything from our backyard. I think our backyard ground is pretty dense as well. It’s like hard clay, so I just stick the beds up and then just fill them with new soil and then all of the soil that the plants are in is great.
Should be, yeah. And I’ve seen people put filler in the bottom, like grass clippings or a bunch of dead leaves, you know, stuff like that, which basically is just compost. So you can certainly do that if you have that. And then before you plant everything, really make sure you work the soil good to kind of work everything in. But yeah, if you just get a really high quality garden soil, you could even just go to, you know, like a a hardware or a gardening store and buy bags of soil depending on how much you need.
Yeah, I would just get the good stuff. It really, I think it makes a difference. I think that’s a great example of you get what you pay for and if you buy like cheap stuff, it’s not going to have the nutrients that it needs.
Right. How deep for the average, I mean I’m sure they’re all a little bit different, but how deep does the actual layer of soil need to be within the bed for the average edible garlic, basic edible garden. 12 inches?
I would think 12 inches is probably plenty. I mean, if you’re growing like carrots or potatoes, um, if you’re growing carrots, you’re not going to get carrots that are longer than 12 inches. I mean you can grow carrots that are longer than that, but like you and your backyard are not going to probably.
Unless I have like super carrot growing powers, which we don’t, we don’t know yet. We might discover that.
And I would say, um, I know we, this is a little bit jumping ahead, but I would definitely do carrots. I think carrots are like fantastic. I think in the garden they are so much fun to grow. They don’t take a lot of work. But yes, you do have to have good soil, nice loose soil. For the carrots, you can’t transfer them.
Yeah, I heard that not to do that. So we’re just going to say that as a blanket rule. Don’t transplant carrots. Put the seeds directly into your garden.
Yes. And really look on the back of the seed packet. They’re fun to look at and they are the packaging for the seeds, but they really do have a lot of good information that you really do need to pay attention to. Like, will this thing grow where I live?
We try every year to grow watermelon. And there are places in Oregon where you can successfully grow watermelons. Like there’s this little town Northeast of us called Hermiston that grows delicious watermelons. They’re like the watermelon capital of Oregon. We in our area cannot grow them. Like they just can’t ripen. We’ve tried so many times, they just don’t have enough heat for enough of the summer to ripen. And so pay attention to what can actually successfully grow in your area.
Yeah. So this is called zone, right? This is like growing zone and you have to just Google it if you don’t know. And I Googled it and it was still a little unsure.
So you can type in your zip code. And it will tell you exactly what zone you’re in. And they always have one of those like topographic maps with the lines. You have to just kind of find where you are.
To an extent, some everything grows everywhere. You know, like you can grow carrots anywhere. Watermelon will probably grow most places, but not, not well and not like to ripeness.
What Plants To Begin With
Okay, good. So we’ve got our beds, we’ve got our water, we’ve got our soil. Now tell me some of your favorite very beginner plants? And then we’ll talk a little bit about winter sowing.
Let’s say you’re only going to do one or two raised beds. And so we don’t have a ton of space, but we want to get the most bang for our buck. Things that will actually grow, that will actually survive as long as we’re assuming that we have sun and water and good soil. And so if we take care of those three things, which are the very most likely to succeed.
Okay. Before we’ve talked about that you really have to consider what you and your family are going to eat. Um, so for example, I think radishes are super duper fun to grow. They’re basically as close to instant gratification as you can get in gardening because you can plant a radish seed and in one month you will have a radish that you can eat and that is way faster than anything else.
But really consider how many radishes your family can actually eat. Like, I mean you’ve seen my garden, we have these four by four foot boxes, so each box and we’ve got like 60 of them. So each box is 16 square feet. And even if we plant one box full of radishes that is 16 square feet of radishes, that is like, we can’t even eat that many.
I do it every spring because I’m like, Oh radishes, I love radishes. But I don’t love radishes that much. I can’t eat 16 square feet of radishes. And my kids are like totally not interested at all. So just be mindful of that when you’re planting things and they’re fun to grow and they come in like really pretty colors and they’re so cute and little and they’re just, I mean, they grow early so they’re one of the first things that are ready in the spring. I just always overdo it.
And we’ll put them in salads and we’ll put them on toast, avocado toast of radishes. And…
You know what? You know why I’m laughing? I’m laughing so hard because I love radishes. I love them. And I’m so happy now to hear that they grow well. I don’t think my family likes them really at all. I don’t even think I have radish seeds yet. I have like 20 different varieties of things that I’m planning on growing and I don’t even have radishes yet so I’m going to get some because I love them.
Oh for sure. Really cute ones. I’m trying to think of what the variety is. I think there’s one, it’s the really common one. I think it’s called cherry bell, cherry bell, radishes or something like that. Those are just like the standard cute little red ones that you find at the grocery store. But then they also have these ones that come in like, Oh there’s French breakfast radishes. That’s another one. Those are longer like long and skinny and they’re like half red and half white or half pink and half white. Those are really cute.
They’re fun to grow things with like different color varieties. That’s always super for sure.
So I’m guessing that because radishes grow so quickly that those are direct. So you don’t want to transfer, you want to plant those directly in it.
Yes. You cannot transfer. I’ve tried it. We planted radish seeds and little like paper cups cause I thought like Oh cute, this’ll be so fun. And we can watch them grow. And they don’t work.
Oh, okay. So radishes are fun. Just don’t plant too many.
I like cherry tomatoes. You get so much bang for your buck with cherry tomatoes. And really we tend to think of cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes and the little pear tomatoes as like just for salads. But they’re great and everything. You can use them to make pasta sauce, you can use them for all kinds of things. So yeah, just use them the way you would use any kind of tomato. You can use them in salsa. You can just like anytime you make it a tomato you use tomatoes.
So if you only have room for one kind of tomato, I feel like you will not regret cherry tomatoes. And they’re so cute. You can just pick them and pop them in your mouth.
We talked about carrots.
We have always had a lot of fun growing onions. Green onions are super fun and they’re always called green bunching onions. And you can buy onion seeds and do them yourself. You can also, at a lot of gardening centers, find onion starts. So it’ll be like a rubber banded section of starter onions, I mean they just look like weird kind of thick sprouts and they’re just like little tiny baby onions.
So there are a lot of different ways to do onions. And they’re really fun to do. They’re a great storage crop. I’m assuming most people with a backyard garden are not trying to grow enough stuff to like store food for their family for the winter.
But onions are really fun to do. I love it. Like we plant onions and then I feel really proud of myself because I don’t have to buy onions at the store for like nine months out of the year. Like they grow quickly, they last all summer, they last well into the fall until it really starts to get like, you know, frosty and they’re just fun to grow.
Okay. So here’s a, here’s the beginner question about onions. Onions are the bulb, right? So how do you know when an onion bulb is done. By the top? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the top of, I mean I’ve seen the top of a green onion, but I’ve never seen the top of an onion itself. How would I know that the bulb is ready?
So I am really happy that you asked that question because I know the answer.
Okay. So, um, yes, the bulbs are under the ground. And the tops, if you can imagine like what green onions or scallion tops look like. Onion tops look just like that. Only much bigger. So same exact look, just bigger. And they will start, they will literally flop over on the ground. They’re getting plenty of water. They’re not dying. They don’t like shrivel up. They just literally flop over. Like they bend at the neck and they go horizontal and that’s when your onions are ready.
They’re like, show’s over. I’m done. And you’re like, great. That’s perfect.
We have, so if you have an onion that goes to flower, I’m trying to think what you should do. Maybe just snip the flower off. When it flowers it’ll stop putting into the root at all. I mean for things that grow from a flower, definitely don’t snap or cut blossoms off. But for carrots and for onions, they don’t need that flower. So you can cut the flower off cause you want the root. The fruit isn’t coming from the flower like with tomatoes or raspberries or something. The fruits coming from the bulb.
Okay. Good advice.
And it’ll keep putting energy into the root, which is the part that you want.
This is good information. Okay. Some of the things that I see people like overflowing with, which leads me to believe that these are successful things are zucchini, cucumber, all different types of squash. And those are kind of the big ones. And then herbs like basil and stuff like that. Are those all things that also grow really well?
Yeah, for sure. Um, I think zucchini and summer squash are terrific. They’re super productive and I think they have a lot of different uses, different ways that you can prepare them and eat them. Like I love just sauteed zucchini. You can roast it briefly in the oven. You can grill it, you can stuff it, you can use it in lasagna in place of half the noodles.
Oh yeah. With like zoodles now people are eating zucchini as straight up pasta and I mean zucchini bread and zucchini cake. And like you can stuff zucchini in like brownies, you know, and they just make it super like moist and dense.
Yeah, with zucchini I feel like once it starts to set fruit, I’m not kidding, you have to go check on it every single day because you’ll be like, Oh, it’s been a week. And then somehow you have like 20 of those huge zucchinis that are like the size of a baseball bat and they just come out of nowhere.
And I always used to think like people would show up at church with this huge box of zucchini. Like please take one. I don’t know how they got this thing. And I used to think, how did you let your zucchini get that big? But now that we’re growing zucchini, it just happens and they hide under those giant leaves.
So you just have to go like pick up every leaf, look under, make sure you don’t have any like huge zucchini hiding under there.
That sounds like a great, like hide and seek for the kids during the summer.
Like check on the zucchini, you get a nickel if you find one, you know, tell my kids. Maybe this is just me being like a helicopter mom. But please don’t pick anything until you’ve checked with me.
They’ll come in with like, look, I picked all of these tomatoes and they’re like all green, you know, or I picked all these strawberries and one half is beautiful and red and the other half is like white and they’re not ready at all. So like please check with me before you pick anything.
I love it. Okay. I already know that’s going to happen because Plum comes to me with handfuls of dandelions or daffodils. She comes to me with handfuls of daffodils from around the neighborhood, how many daffodils growing in our yard. And I’m like, shoot, I feel like I need to go around with like little peace offerings to all of my neighbors because she just is, she’s so excited, you know? And I’m like, okay, well you can look at them. We don’t want to be pick them all. So yeah, we’ll have to like have some lessons about like looking and checking check when things are ready.
Okay. So as far as like, this is again, very basic. Like how do I know? So is it one single zucchini seed that turns into a plant that creates that many zucchini or is it like multiple zucchini seeds? Because I think that I planted maybe like a dozen zucchini seeds in my winter sowing thing. But they’re also teeny, so how many should I plant if I only have two garden beds, let’s say of two raised beds. How many actual zucchini little plants do I need? Like two?
Yeah, no, I would say like two or three is probably plenty.
So each zucchini plant, we will send out all of these vines. And each vine will produce several flowers. So each plant, each seed can produce, you know, a dozen. Okay. So I mean the problem is not how many they produce. Like if you love zucchini and you’re like, Oh, well we’ll eat zucchini every single day, all summer. Then yeah, girl, as much as you want.
They do take up a lot of space, like zucchini grow horizontally. They’re not climbers. So they just take up a lot of space. They have really big leaves and the vines are long and then the fruit gets really big. And so really you just have to take into consideration how much of your space do you want to donate to zucchini.
Right. And that’s a good tip just for generally like think about your garden beds in terms of space per variety, right. And how much, and so then you have to maybe have a basic understanding of space. But, so for example, could I plant my two or three zucchini plants on one edge and encourage them to grow over the edge because their roots will be in the garden bed, but will it ruin them for the vines to go out over, like onto the gravel?
Now you could try that. Gentle encouragement of the zucchini. Yes. If they had like grass underneath, I would say maybe you don’t want that just because if the grass is getting watered all the time, then the fruit is constantly wet or it’ll have like the bottom side will be pale. Kind of squishy, like it’ll never fully, you know, ripe in or harden. But no, I mean you could give that a try and see if that works.
Okay. Yeah, this is all a big experiment.
Okay. Any other, any other basic favorites for edible garden? Yeah. Things, things that we can’t miss.
I had a note to talk about peas and I asked my husband about this. He said, “Why don’t you like peas?” And I laughed and I said, I love fresh garden peas. Like to me there is no like frozen peas don’t taste as good as peas, fresh from the garden, like not even close. Um, and canned peas we won’t even talk about, cause they’re like a different, they’re like a different breed of thing altogether.
My problem with peas is that they take so much work to go from the garden into your mouth. Like you have to pick the pods and then you have to shell them. And then each pea pod has like, if you’re lucky, each pea pod has like five or six good sized peas. And you’re like, Oh, that sounds like a lot. That’s not a lot. Like, that’s not even like a fork full of peas.
And so you’ll go pick all these peas and you’ll show all these peas and it will take you just forever. And then you’ll be like, that whole garden produced enough for like one dinner, like for all of us to have half a cup of peas. So I love peas, they just are a lot of work. They are the kind of the opposite of cherry tomatoes, like not a lot of bang for your buck.
Okay. So better to let the farms and the big professionals grow the peas and so we can buy a whole bag of them or like go to the farmer’s market and get like a whole bunch of them.
That’s, that’s just my opinion. And some people would probably say no, you have to grow peas. And they are pretty easy to grow and they look really charming because they’re climbers and you know, you can put them on a teepee that you make out of like the bamboo sticks.
They’re so cute. You just have to realize that you are not going to get that many servings of peas out of the garden. So that’s the only, that’s my only problem with peas.
So what about snap peas and green beans?
I love snap peas and green beans.
Okay. So this is so great. I feel like I keep wanting to take notes and I’m like, Oh good, we’re recording this. I don’t have to take notes. Okay. I can listen. Well the full transcript is always available on the blog after this, like the day the show goes live, so that’d be great. And I’ll pull some of these notes out actually and turn it into a printable PDF, like a beginner, an Edible Garden 101 and I’ll send it to you first so that people can make sure that I got it all right.
Winter Sowing v. Spring Direct Sowing
Let’s talk now about the difference between winter sowing and spring direct sowing. Have you done winter sowing? How did it go for you? Or that’s not something you’ve really done?
No, we have in the past and we usually just do the, you can get those Jiffy pellets. It’s like a soil disc and you water them, they absorb the water and they kind of pop up. Like they don’t get bigger, they just get taller. And each one has a hole in the center. They’re kind of wrapped in biodegradable mesh kind of thing. So it holds together and then it has a hole in the middle and you can just pop your seed in. So we’ve done that before with some success.
We always mean to do that and we’ll like buy all of the stuff and we’ll buy all of our seeds and then we forget. And so if you forget or if you don’t have the space to do that, um, or you just don’t want to bother with doing that, you can just buy starts at your local nursery. Home Depot always has them.
So I go get some of those. When do I plant them?
If you’re getting actual plants…so it’ll be a little bit different depending on your zone. Usually on the back of the seed packet, it’ll tell you when you can direct and when you should start it indoors for transplanting. So if you’re not planting the seed but you’re just gonna buy a little plant and transplant it, it should have a tag on there that tells you. And it’s usually after all danger of frost.
For us, we have things that we plant at the end of March and we have things that we planted at the beginning of June. And every time we try to like kind of, you know, vary that a little bit or like get a head start, like, Oh, it’s a warm May, we’re just going to go ahead. And we usually regret it because there will be a cold snap or it just won’t be warm enough.
So it really depends on the soil temperature where you live. So you just have to read the tag and know your area and what the weather is and when can you plant outdoors and these plants will be okay. And that it’s not gonna get cold, it’s not gonna get frosty.
So can I assume that when Home Depot has plants outside for me to buy, can I assume that it’s safe to plant them, or will they carry them before it safe to plant them in my area? Because if they do, I always assume that if they’re carrying this plant that it can grow in my area. Like why would you be carrying this plant that will die where I live?
Yeah. You can’t assume. For spring vegetables, like spring spinach, like cabbages, which are cold weather, anything cold weather: as soon as it warms up a little bit and you can transplant, I would say probably March.
And then for summer things like corn, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, all of those you really need to wait until may or June.
Things might be different, you know, if you live in Florida. And you can just grow stuff all year. Or you know, Southern California. But I would say may and June for summer transplanting is a good rule of thumb.
And so I guess I’m just going to wait and see with my little seeds that are like sitting in their little milk jugs on my back patio. I have no idea when they’re going to sprout and if they will. And when they do, I mean it will be really fun to keep people updated because I have no idea.
I looked in the other day just like, “Hmm, is there any sign of life?” And like, no, no, there’s not that. I just did it like two weeks ago and it’s still February. So I don’t know that they’re supposed to be. I think the idea, if I understand it behind winter sowing, is that the seed itself…I mean before humans lived, the seeds were not tended to, right? They would fall to the ground and the seed would remain dormant until the soil warmed up and the last freeze happened.
And then like the seed itself contains everything. I mean, first of all, it’s bonkers that a seed contains all of the information and potential necessary to turn into a dozen zucchini. Like that’s crazy. But beyond that, the idea is that when you put these things outside that the seeds will sense the changes in temperature and that they’ll emerge when it’s safe for them to emerge.
So that’s the hope. But we’ll just have to find out. I just got more milk jugs from a neighbor, so I’m like, okay, I’m going to do some more, but I might be doing all the wrong things now that we’ve talked. I definitely did peas, and maybe I don’t want to do peas.
Oh no. Peas are delicious and I don’t want to discourage anybody from doing peas. I just find like I will go pick what feels like so many peas and then I’ll sit there and I’ll shell all the peas. And when you get all those pieces shelled, it’s like such a tiny amount and it’s so, it’s just kind of like I said, it’s really the opposite of like growing radishes or cherry tomatoes where you’re like, I did no work and I have this amazing food to eat. And peas, it’s like I have done so much work and we each get one spoonful and that’s it. You know?
Yeah. I think for beginners like me, it probably is not a bad thing to go for the low hanging, simple, easy like bang for your buck. It’s probably better to do something that you feel pretty confident is going to succeed fairly easily and fairly quickly because that motivation is so important to continue.
I think the other thing that I’m gathering is that I might’ve planted way more seeds in my little winter sowing then I will need. I don’t have beds yet, so I could see, but like each of my little milk containers is what like, you know, eight inches around, but I think I put like nine to a dozen seeds in each of those.
That’s probably way more plants than I need. But the seeds are so tiny, I was like, I’m not just going to put one seed in there. I mean if all goes well and I really am the green thumb that I believe in my head that I have the potential to be, then I might just have to like be giving away alot of vegetables.
Yeah. So not last summer but the summer before, we were a little bit lazy with our garden cleanup and so instead of like taking the vines out and getting rid of all the old fruit, they just kind of rotted where they were because I didn’t have to buy tomatillo starts last year because I have like a hundred tomatillo starts growing in my garden.
Seeds from the fruit?
Yes, exactly. Like you said, without humans, they do this on their own. And so I actually put a little message out on Instagram and I said, Hey, local friends, you know, I’ve got very healthy tomatillo starts and tomato starts. I had to say it’s anyone’s guess what variety you will be getting. I have no idea. These could be cherry. I have no clue what these are. But yeah, little surprise, little lottery.
So I just told people, Hey, if you’re local, let me know when you want to come by and I’ll dig these up and you know, put ’em in a little plastic pot for you or bring your own or whatever. Um, so yeah, it’s nice to be able to share.
I love it. Okay, that’s so great. Okay. So, um, let’s say everything’s in the garden and then what do I do? Then you just water and sun and weed?
Yeah, water and sun. So if you’ve got really healthy soil then it should be good to go. You shouldn’t have to do too much.
Okay. So much good information.
Fresh Garden Recipes
Now I want to hear because your specialty is, I mean, you’re obviously an incredible gardener and farmer, but your specialty is cooking and baking. So tell me just a couple of your favorite recipes that you use using the food that you’ve grown in your garden.
And you don’t have to tell me the full recipe because we’ll just link to them on your blog. Um, but just tell me a couple of your favorites, things that you like. You get so excited when you’re planting or when you’re working in the garden because you know that these things are going to turn into this meal or this dish.
Okay. So one of my very, very favorite things that uses like it’s all from the garden is ratatouille. And this is a ratatouille recipe that we got from our friends, Dave and Marcel. And you take potatoes and onions and tomatoes and zucchini or an any kind of yellow summer squash, like patty pans, crooked necks, all of those will work.
So you slice everything thinly. You have to boil the potatoes first and then you just layer like potatoes, onions, salt and pepper. You can use Italian seasoning or you could use like herbs de Provence if you wanted to. And then tomatoes and zucchini and then you drizzle butter over it, like melted butter and then whatever kind of cheese you want. And then you can repeat the layers if you kind of thinly enough.
And did I say you have to pre-boil the potatoes cause that’s really important. Otherwise they’ll be crunchy. And then you just cover that and you bake it until everything’s tender. It is so good. Like I get so excited for everything to be right at the same time in the summer. Potatoes, onions, tomatoes and zucchini so that I can make Ratatouille. I just love it. I think it’s so good.
And it can be, it’s great if you’re like doing meatless Monday, it’s a great entree. Like when we make it, it’s not a side dish. I don’t make it with chicken or with beef. I make it with like salad and bread or muffins or something. And that’s the whole meal.
It sounds like those flavors, the combination of like adding the tomato and the zucchini to potatoes and endings, which I think of is as winter food, but the brightness of the garden, tomatoes and zucchini sounds so good and hearty like good. Oh yeah. That sounds awesome.
Okay, what else? Give me one or two.
Okay, so another great one is something called skillet cake. And we got this recipe when my husband and I were newlyweds and I was expecting our oldest and he had an internship with Indian health services, um, up in Bellingham, Washington. And we did not, I mean, we were like poor newlyweds and I was a school teacher and he was in grad school, so it’s not like we had any money.
And so instead of staying somewhere, we lived with the family of his like mentor, which was like, I mean, it was so awkward. Like they had kids, we were sleeping on a futon. I was like very pregnant. So I still wonder like why they do that. But one day I tagged along with the wife and her kids while they were picking blackberries. So we picked all these fresh blackberries just like on the side of the road. She knew all the good spots.
And then she made this stuff called skillet cake. And you just take a cast iron skillet and you melt butter in it. And then you mix up the batter just by hand. You don’t need a mixer or anything. And then you pour the melted butter from the skillet into the batter and then dump it back in the skillet. And then you just cover the whole top with fresh berries.
And you can do blackberries, you can do raspberries, you can do blueberries. We’ve done peach slices before. I’ve done plums. Or you could do strawberries, although we’ve never tried that. So we’ve tried all kinds of fruit, like whatever is in season and then you just bake it in the oven and it is so good.
It’s great for breakfast. It’s great for dessert. You can top it with ice cream or whipped cream or powdered sugar or all of those things. I mean it’s just, it’s like a blank slate. It’s so yummy. A blank canvas for all of the other drizzles and stuff you want to put on top.
Yeah, sounds so good. I love it. So good. Okay. That’s amazing. Thank you.
The Ratatouille is definitely, and the skillet cake, I think there’s a couple of different variations on there. I think a Blackberry and a plum or maybe a peach. I don’t remember.
Yeah, we’ll link them all up in the show notes. And maybe if you come up with in the meantime, like surfing through your archives, if there’s another couple favorite recipes that you want to add, we’ll just add a little like mini list of Lulu the Baker’s favorite garden recipes right here:
Lulu The Baker’s Favorite Garden Recipes
Lulu’s Recommended Books:
Okay, so I feel like we’ve gotten some good tips and now is the time for people to start thinking about this because you have to be ready like in March, April, May to be able to actually plant and actually begin.
So like figuring out where in your yard you want to do this, what type of raised beds you want to find, how you’re going to make sure that these things get watered. If you want to try winter sowing from seeds, you can start some of that right now. If you want to just plan out and kind of start doing a little bit of research.
I also told Melissa that, if she has any favorite like basic basic books or blogs that she has used as resources for her gardening journey, find those links below as well so that we can all just like do this together because I think it’s so valuable and I’ve always grown a little something, whether it was like herbs or just something, but I’ve been looking forward to it for years and I feel like my dreams are going to come true when I have like an actual garden to like have food come out of my backyard. I’m super excited about it.
It really is so fulfilling to eat something that you grew like. It’s just like there’s just a special like pride that you take in it. Like I can’t believe like I grew this to like nourish myself. It’s a lot of work, but it’s just really fun.
Oh, but so good. I feel like we need more of that though. Like the connection like I mean self care and yeah, even having our kids like having our kids understand that food doesn’t show up in the grocery store. Like just like that’s not where it begins. Having them be a part of actually growing something and seeing that it takes some work and it takes some attention and that it’s also so fun.
Especially, I didn’t grow up in a gardening family at all, which is why I’m such a greeny to all of this. But when I have bought produce at the farmer’s market that has been grown locally or you know, is fresh versus from the grocery store, even if it’s like great organic whole foods or whatever, the difference in taste is real. Like something that’s like straight out of a garden is just so different. And I’m so excited to experience it. Like on my very own terms. In my own little yard.
So thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom with me today. And maybe we’ll do a follow-up episode in the spring so that you can continue helping me out.
We can talk about summer stuff because there are some things that like pumpkins…I mean pumpkins… we think of them in the Fall but you don’t get it in the Fall unless you plant it in the Summer. So yeah.
Yes, follow up. We’ll circle back with my garden guru. Thank you so much.
And how can people find you if they want to follow along with what you’re doing in your life and on your farm? Where should they look you up?
So my website is luluthebaker.com and then all my social media is Lulu the Baker. So I’m on Instagram, on Facebook. I’m still on Twitter so you can find me on Twitter, on Pinterest. It’s all Lulu the Baker.
So great. Thank you so much. I appreciate all of your, all of your encouragement and knowledge and I can’t wait to get started.
And you can message me if you have questions.
I will. Don’t worry. I will.
Okay. Thank you so much.
If you weren’t ready to plant a garden, don’t you feel ready now there’s something so nice about just chatting with an insider, someone who has some experience and has some understanding to just give me a projection. So now I can actually visualize this idea of where in my yard I want to put my raised beds.
I actually have already hopped onto Facebook Marketplace to reclaim some garden beds that have been used in the city or to find someone locally who’s making them out of reclaimed lumber, which I have connected with someone. So we’ll see if I can get that ball rolling.
I’m ready to fill them up with soil and to plant some of these beginner plants that are gonna pop right up like radishes and carrots and zucchini. I can’t wait to get a dozen zucchini from one little zucchini plant.
The whole thing just feels like magic to me and I hope that if you have been looking forward to planting a garden this year that some of the basic information that Melissa shared with us in this episode will give you the confidence that you need to just get started.
Do it with me if this is something that you’ve wanted to do. Do it with me. I’m going to be sharing all about my own gardening adventures on Instagram in my Instagram story and so feel free to follow along there as well and I will be sharing little updates in my life lately segment on the podcast throughout the Spring and Summer so that you can hear the updates on what’s growing in our backyard.
This podcast is really a place for me to share ideas and inspiration for you to live a more creative, adventurous and intentional lifestyle and I feel like planting a garden covers all of those bases.
It’s creative. It is definitely adventurous and it leads to a more intentional lifestyle as you plan and prepare and then also have some new skills and the ability to grow things that your family can eat. It just feels so, so cool.
I’m definitely going to do an update with Melissa at some point in the late spring, so if you have any specific gardening questions, I’d love for you to just share them with me in the comment section of today’s show notes livefreecreative.co/podcast and make sure that you head over there to Episode 79 to grab a free printable Edible Garden 101 (coming soon) tips and resources from this episode.
Thank you so much for tuning into the show. If you haven’t yet, make sure you hop over to iTunes and leave a five-star review with a little comment about your favorite things about Live Free Creative. That’s one of the very best ways for people who are unfamiliar with the show to get a feel for what it’s all about.
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Lastly, I just need to quickly remind you that doors are open right now for registration for the spring session of Live Free From Clutter. This is my five week intentional living course where you do a five week guided shopping pause along with equal lessons and webinars, help you feel more intentional, more grounded, and put yourself on a path to a more intentional everyday life.
If it feels like you’ve been needing a little boost of energy, a little bit of direction, and a little help making a few more intentional choices in your life, I would love to help you on your journey head to the show notes and have a link directly to where you can learn more and register for live free from clutter for the spring session.
That’s all for now. Have a wonderful week and I will chat with you next week. Same time, same place. Bye.