Vegetable Gardening

New Ideas in Straw Bale Gardening

I can’t think of a single gardener who wouldn’t want to plant a vegetable garden that could grow anywhere–without soil—and never needed weeding.

Straw Bale GardensWhen something sounds too good to be true, in most cases it means watch out for all the pitfalls. Gardeners are used to hearing claims for plants, products and tools that sound perfect, but end up being a big disappointment.

But Joel Karsten’s new book may be an exception. “Straw Bale Gardens” (Cool Springs Press, 2013) promises to be The breakthrough method for growing vegetables anywhere, earlier and with no weeding.

He practically guarantees gardeners can get big yields and grow 100 percent organic anywhere. As proof, he suggests planting in straw bales on balconies or driveways. No soil required.

“You plant your garden directly in bales of straw. Add some water, fertilizer and sunshine (not necessarily in that order) and your garden will explode with beautiful wholesome produce. No tilling, no cultivating, no weeding,” he writes in the Introduction.

Great Gobs of Gardening Books for 2013

New gardening books are published every year, but this crop is especially fruitful.

Baker Creek Vegan CookbookIf you need inspiration to help you add more vegetables to your family’s menu, look no farther than this new cookbook from the folks at the Baker Creek Seed Company. The cookbook, written by Jere and Emilee Gettle with Adeena Sussman, is a natural follow up to the Gettle’s first book called “The Heirloom Life Gardener.” If you didn’t grow up enjoying Grandma Nellie’s Garden Soup, don’t fret. Her recipe for homemade vegetable soup is included in the new collection of more than 125 recipes in “The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook” (2012, Hyperion).

Vertical Vegetable Gardening book1“Vertical Vegetable Gardening” is a Living Free Guide (2012, Alpha Books) that adds to the body of creative ideas for using every square inch of gardening space. Chris McLaughlin has gleaned ideas from gardeners across the country for the best ways to grow vegetables vertically.This user-friendly how-to guide is organized into four parts that make it easy to find information. While beginning gardeners may want to delve into The Basics: Soil and Seed, experienced gardeners might turn right to Vegetables and Fruit that Enjoy Growing Up.

New Items for Gardening from Territorial Seed

The new gardening catalog from Territorial Seed Company is about twice the size of other seed catalogs.

I’ve written about Territorial Seed Company in the past and have placed orders with them. But the company’s garden seed, plants and supply catalog for spring 2013 is something special.

This catalog is huge and features 240 new gardening products for 2013.

Territorial Seed, located in Cottage Grove, Ore., was the first mail order catalog to offer the Mighty ‘Mato grafted tomatoes after trialing them in its gardens.

Gardeners responded to the superhero status of the Mighty ‘Mato and Territorial Seed sold out most varieties last season. The double variety (‘Sungold’ and ‘Sweet Million’) was especially popular with gardeners who wanted to grow two flavorful cherry tomatoes on one plant.

Grafted vegetables are included in the 2013 catalog including grafted peppers. One eggplant variety, ‘Rosa Bianca’ is also in the catalog.

All the grafted vegetables are grafted by hand.

Jung Seeds & Plants Gardening Catalog

Jung Seeds & Plants, based in Randolph, Wis., is a is a family-owned business that has offered gardeners quality products since 1907.

The annual Jung Seeds & Plants home gardening catalog is one I always look forward to reading.

This catalog features, vegetables and flowers, seeds and bulbs, fruit and all kinds of gardening supplies. It is loaded with great gardening gear from cover to cover.

It’s also entertaining to read all of the descriptions. I’d love to meet whoever wrote the description for the ‘Super Freak Hybrid’ pumpkins or the ‘Red Warty Thing’ winter squash.

Every page is loaded with clever narratives about the company’s vast amount of offerings.

Family owned and operated for 106 years, Jung’s searches for the kinds of seeds and plants that gardeners like to grow.

There are plenty of old favorites, Jung Exclusives, Jung Top Picks and new introductions, too.

New Line of Organics from Renee’s Garden

Renee’s Garden is introducing a new range of organic seed for the 2013 gardening season.

Renee’s Garden, a long-time supporter of the Safe Seed Pledge developed by the Council for Responsible Genetics, has gone a step farther.

This year Renee’s has added a complete range of USDA Certified Organic vegetable and herb seeds.

Some of new line include heirlooms like ‘Chioggia’ beets, ‘Royalty Purple Pod’ bush beans, ‘Jade Green’ container lettuce, ‘Marvel Stripe’ bicolor tomato and much more. The complete line is featured in the online catalog.

As with all of the vegetable, herb and flower seeds offered by Renee’s Garden, the organics were selected after testing them in her own trial gardens. Detailed instructions for planting and growing are included on every packet.

Years ago when I first heard about Renee’s Garden, I had an image of a gifted gardener named Renee starting a specialty seed business selling based on the plants grown in her own garden.

New Gardening Seeds and Things for 2013

If it’s January, it’s time for the new seed catalogs to come rolling in.

Once the rush of holiday shopping is over and the retail catalogs slow to a trickle, it’s time for the seed catalogs to take over.

As a gardener, it has to be one of my favorite times of the year because each catalog holds the promise of warm spring days and bountiful summer harvests.

So many seeds, sow little time.

There are hundreds of new annuals, perennials, fruits and vegetables just waiting to be be purchased and planted.

I’ve taken a look at what’s in store for the 2013 gardening season and I’m amazed at what I’ve seen. There are more interesting choices for gardeners than ever before:

New sunflowers that will knock your socks off.
Sweet corn for container growing.
Gorgeous pink-and-rose colored petunias with 3″ blooms.
Personal sized melons.
Two-pound tomatoes bred for making sauce.
Cantaloupe-colored echinacea.
Broccoli that looks like long stalks of asparagus.
Grafted tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

How to Make Vegetable Stock

Here’s a quick way to turn kitchen discards into a flavorful vegetable stock.

The holiday season starts in earnest with Thanksgiving next week and I know that I’ll be peeling potatoes, chopping celery, dicing onions and clipping herbs.

Instead of throwing away the potato peels or composting the celery ends, I plan to work some kitchen magic by turning discards into stock.

I’ve been recycling my holiday kitchen waste ever since I read a recipe for making potato peel broth years ago.

The light brown broth is so flavorful you won’t believe it came from vegetable bits that are usually tossed away.

Here’s how you can reuse vegetable kitchen scraps, too:


Well-washed vegetable peels, whole vegetables and fresh herbs.
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns or fresh-ground pepper
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
Kosher salt to taste (optional)


  • Wash vegetables before you peel, scrape, chop, etc.

2012 Growing and Giving Gardening Report

The results are in for our 2012 Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign in the Denver metro area.

When I stood in the pouring rain at Harvard Gulch Park handing out garden starter kits on May 19, I didn’t know what kind of gardening year 2012 would be.

After a couple of good spring rains, gardeners were challenged with hot, dry weather and I didn’t have high expectations for our Plant a Row effort.

I’m happy to report our hardy gardeners weren’t at all deterred by difficult gardening conditions.

We ended the season with a total 4,890 pounds of produce donated to 16 different service agencies.

That’s over 2.4 TONS of food to help feed the hungry in our community.

Special recognition goes to Saint John’s Cathedral. Volunteers there collected 1667 pounds for Metro CareRing.

How to Grow Great Garlic in your Garden

Please join us for an online Garlic Planting Party sponsored by Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply! Simply post your favorite way to use garlic and you’ll be entered to win a prize package that includes 1 pound of Purple Italian organic garlic seed.

Join the Garlic Celebration

The folks at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden have partnered with 8 garden bloggers for a one-of-a-kind online Garlic Planting Party to celebrate Allium sativum.

It’s easy to join the party. All you have to do is post a comment on this blog and on as many other participating blogs as you like. The party starts on October 10 and ends October 17.

Each blog will offer a different kind of organic garlic seed from Peaceful Valley/Grow, experts in growing garlic. I chose the organic Purple Italian because it’s a classic garlic that’s perfect for all kinds of Mediterranean recipes.

Green Tomatoes Ripe for Recipes

The sad fact of gardening in Colorado is that the season is too short for all the green tomatoes to ripen before the first freeze hits.

The forecast for overnight lows in the 30s sent me scrambling yesterday to harvest all the tomatoes and peppers still growing in the garden.

I knew I had quite a bit of fruit left on the plants, but it wasn’t until I started filling up baskets, colanders and buckets did I realize how many beautiful green tomatoes were waiting on the vine.

Some plants still had bright yellow blossoms and would continue on for months, if I lived in a tropical climate.

Now, what to do with all these green gems?

Generations of creative cooks have made the most of this late-season harvest of green tomatoes by preparing them and preserving them.

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