3 New to Me Gardening Books

3 New to Me Gardening Books at www.vicki-arnold.com

It is not a secret that I love my library. I added another reason to my list when I walked in the other day and found it had written a post for me! Well, not really, but sort of. You see, I am still recovering from the 12 Days of Christmas in July giveaway series, which wrapped up yesterday. Some of the giveaways are still open, don’t miss those.

So, I am taking a break from the Building the Ultimate Lego Library this week. Those take a while to put together and I just don’t have it in me this week.

What the heck does this have to do with my library? Or the title of this post, for that matter? Well, when I walked in there were three new (to me) gardening books sitting on the display and I haven’t done a gardening post in a really long time.

Let’s review. My brain = mush + library books = post! Not everyone is built for this blogging business…I’ll let you know if I am when I figure it out. ๐Ÿ˜›

Without further ado…BOOKS!

Oh, poo. A little more ado, I must remind you of my use of affiliate links on this blog to appease the powers that be. Reminded? Good.

NOW without further ado…BOOKS!

The Speedy Vegetable Garde - a new (to me) gardening book

The Speedy Vegetable Garden by Mark Diacono and Lia Leendertz

The Gourmet Garden - a new (to me) gardening book

The Gourmet Garden by Virginia Hayes

Gardening for the Birds - a new (to me) gardening book

Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard by George Adams

I am most excited about the last one. We have a bird feeder that we love to watch the birds flock to, but I would love to have landscaping that brings them (and bees, too) in naturally.

Which one interests you most?

My Seed Savers Exchange Garden Seed Order

My 2013 Seed Savers Exchange Garden Seed Order

I thought you might be interested in my seed order from Seed Savers Exchange. We had a bunch of seeds already, but we were missing a few crucial ones, like tomatoes and peppers. You can’t have a garden without those! Well, WE can’t have a garden without those. I guess we could, but that doesn’t seem worth the effort…

I’ll stop rambling now and give you the dirt on our Seed Savers Exchange order.

Did you catch that? “Dirt on our seed order.” I’m so punny. Ha ha. Ahem, pulling myself together here. Seed order. Details.

  1. Black Beauty zucchini
  2. Waltham butternut squash
  3. Beam’s Yellow Pear tomato
  4. German pink tomato
  5. Hillbilly Potato leaf tomato
  6. King of the North pepper
  7. Tequila Sunrise pepper
  8. Orange Bell pepper
  9. Red Iceberg lettuce
  10. Green Oakleaf lettuce
  11. Cherokee Trail bean
  12. Kentucky Wonder bush
  13. Bull’s Blood beet
  14. St. Valery carrot
  15. Cumin
  16. Dill bouquet
  17. Green Husk tomatillo
  18. Zebrune shallot
  19. Long Island brussel sprouts

We have grown numbers 1, 2, 16, 17, and 19 before. Numbers 2-14 are new varieties of things we have grown before. And numbers 15 and 18 are completely new for us. Gardening season is in full swing around here and I couldn’t be more excited!

Are you trying anything new this year?


6 Gardening Books I Own Plus 3 More I Want to Own {and Why}

6 Gardening Books I Own plus 3 More I Want to Own

There are many, many gardening books out there. I am kind of a bibliophile (book junkie). I love collecting books, especially gardening, homeschooling, parenting, marriage, and, and, and…you get the point. Today I want to share the gardening books on my bookshelf. And remember, I am an Amazon affiliate so these are affiliate links.

1. Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening by Sal Gilbertie

What I love about this book: It walks you through the whole process, from planning to planting to tending. This is the book that sold me on trying raised beds, for which I am grateful. This book includes plans that are very helpful for visualizing how much space you need to feed yourself (and/or a family).

2. The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan

What I love about this book: The book covers a wide range of topics from succession planting, grains, veggies, fruits, animals, and even canning and cooking. The statistics on how much you can grow in X amount of space are incredible. The book is a good overview to help any beginner. I would recommend it as a jumping off point if you want something more visual than #1 (there are more pictures).

3. Herbs in the Kitchen by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger

What I love about this book: I was given this book for my birthday last year. I love that each herb has its own in depth section on growing and using it. There are also recipes for each herb, which I find tremendously helpful since I seem to forget why I grew something when it comes time to harvest it.

4. Putting Food By by Janet Greene, Ruth Hertzberg, and Beatrice Vaughan

What I love about this book: The recipes. This books is a GREAT resource for canning your harvest. Also covers curing, drying, root cellaring, and pickling.

5. How to Store Your Garden Produce: The Key to Self-Sufficiency by Piers Warren

What I love about this book: It is compact and has some photos. It is a quick reference that I pull out when I just need to know how I can preserve something. (Mine has a different cover, it seems to have been updated since I bought my copy in 2011)

6. The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color by Lee Schneller

What I love about this book: This book taught me to look at gardening as a continuous cycle. I long to be a flower gardener, but I seem to be able to only focus on one form of gardening at the moment and flowers won’t feed our family sadly. I’m hoping that as our kids get older and I have more hands available, we can have a pretty flower garden, too. I just love this book, it is one that I originally checked out from my library and then just HAD to buy it.

So those are the books currently on my bookshelves. Let’s get to a few that I would like to add…soon…

Now, if I were to list all the gardening books that I would love to add to our bookshelves, we would be here all day. So I decided to just share my top three in the post and add an Amazon widget with a collection of great gardening books that I would also eventually love to get my hands on.

1. Herb Gardening from the Ground Up by Sal Gilbertie

Why: I have yet to get herb gardening down and this is something I would really, really, really like to conquer soon. Personally, growing our own herbs could potentially save us as much money as growing food. We use them a lot.

2. Vertical Vegetables and Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces by Rhonda Massingham Hart

Why: We only have so much ground space to work with. I would love to utilize our one acre to the best of our abilities, so up we go!

3. Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich

Why: We spend so much on fruit (and we don’t even buy organic, gasp!), it would be nice to grow some of that ourselves. We are trying, we have a peach, cherry, and an apple tree (3 of the 6 trees we planted made it). I also like buying blueberry bushes. We have yet to have one grow leaves. Ahem.

So there you go! Do you have a favorite gardening book? Please share it in the comments below.

A Guide to Your First Garden, Plus the Ultimate Gardening Link-Up

Mom Tested Home Link up: All Things Garden!

In spite of the cover of snow outside my window, spring is here! Which means gardening season is on its way. Today I am going to give you a round up of gardening posts here at the blog and THEN there will be a link-up at the bottom of the page for other bloggers to link up their gardening tips. I will also be linking up some NEW gardening posts, so you don’t want to miss the link-up at the bottom!

{Psst, click on the photos to go to the posts.}

First up, we have an introduction into planning your first garden:


Next thing you need to know is where to buy your garden seeds. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered:

Where to buy your heirloom garden seeds

“But I don’t know what to plant,” you say? Here are eight meals you can grow most or all of the ingredients of:


You’re getting excited, aren’t you? Here are a few quick tips to keep your enthusiasm going and helping you towards a successful garden:

5 Quick Tips for a Successful First Garden

I told you not to go crazy and try all sorts of new things in the first post, so I came up with a list of uncommon (read: probably new to you) varieties of the common garden plants I told you to stick with:

Plant these! Uncommon varieties of common garden plants

So there you have it, all the gardening tips on the blog…so far. Gardening will be a topic that sticks around here for a while. Be sure to watch Facebook and Twitter for new posts. Better yet, sign up to get each post in your email so you are sure not to miss a thing! The sign up is on the sidebar {Look for “Get Posts via Email!” at the top.}

Now for the fun part! I have teamed up with Dollie @ Teachers of Great Things, Becky @ For This Season, and Jamie @ Walking in High Cotton to bring you a new monthly, themed link up called Mom Tested, Family Approved – Home Link Up! This month’s topic is gardening (um, hello?), next month’s is all things Thrifty! If you would like to participate (please, please do!), check out Dollie’s page for all the info.

For this month’s garden theme, submit your best garden posts in the Linky below (up to three). You can write a brand new post or share one from your archives. The only requirement is that you link to this post to help spread the word about the link up. The linky will be open for two weeks, so you have time! Just get your post in by April 8, 2013.

Uncommon Varieties of Common Garden Plants {Healthy Habits Tuesday}

Plant these! Uncommon varieties of common garden plants

Last week I gave you five quick tips for making your first garden a success. Yesterday in the Facebook hop, I asked how many of you were planning a garden for this year. I was so encouraged by the answers. Today I want to show you one of the coolest things about growing heirloom and/or open-pollinated garden plants: variety.

Today’s selection is coming from Seed Savers Exchange. Seed Savers and other organizations like it, are doing their best to preserve the genetic biodiversity of our food system in a world that values things like shelf-life, uniformity, and how well a vegetable travels. Read why we NEED these organizations and biodiversity here.

Little sidenote: If you think the answer to impending food scarcity issues is genetically-modified seeds (GMOs), please read Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe by Maria Rodale. Her family has been involved with these issues since long before they were trendy.

Here is where I apologize for not having photos of these uncommon varieties. If you click on the title link, it will take you to Seed Savers website where you can see a photo. They really are worth the extra work of a click.

Common garden plant: Cucumber
Uncommon variety: Little Potato Cucumber

This is a cucumber that looks like a potato. Seriously, click the link if you don’t believe me. Actually click the link even if you do believe me. Cucumbers make great, quick healthy snacks in the summer.

Common garden plant: Tomato
Uncommon Variety: Green zebra

These ripen to a golden yellow with green stripes. We’ve grown these tomatoes multiple years. They have great flavor, and the plants produced pretty heavily for us. They are also quite beautiful.

Common garden plant: Green Beans
Uncommon Variety: Purple Pod Pole Bean

Technically these would then be purple beans, but hey. A word of warning, purple foods typically cook out to be green. If you know of a way to prevent that, I am all ears. Well, you know what I mean.

Common garden plant: Corn
Uncommon Variety: Two Inch Strawberry Popcorn

Speaking of all ears…ahem. If you want to try something new, try growing your own popcorn. You can not grow different varieties of corn within the same garden because of how easily it will cross-pollinate, so if you want sweet corn, ignore this suggestion. I want to give this a try this year because we already have the seed and I think I know how to handle corn better this year. We’ll see.

Common garden plant: Sweet/Bell Peppers
Uncommon Variety: Tequila Sunrise

These sweet peppers are long and have a deep golden yellow color.

So there you have it, five uncommon varieties of plants you may have already been planning to put in your garden. This is one area where I will encourage you to try something new, even if you are planning your first garden.

Are you excited to grow a garden this year? Tell me in the comments below!

My linky co-hosts: Teachers of Good Things, For This Season, and A Classic Housewife in a Modern World. We love social media and you just might find your post tweeted, pinned, or shared. So please link up!

Quick Tips for a Successful First Garden {Healthy Habits Tuesday}

5 Quick Tips for a Successful First GardenWe’ve been talking about planting your first garden here for a few weeks. Today I want to share a few tips to help you plan for a successful first garden. These are things that we’ve learned from our years of gardening and will be doing again ourselves this year.

1. Plant in raised beds. Planting in raised beds gives you better water drainage. Starting with new soil also gives you a head start over keeping grass out of your garden. Grass in a garden is really, really annoying. Even if you can only afford to put one raised bed in your large garden, do it. You can always add more later. We hope to add more to the 15 beds we currently have.

2. Use mulch. Put down newspaper and a heavy layer of grass clippings on top of it around your plants. We didn’t have to weed our pepper beds AT ALL last year because of this.

3. Stay on top of the weeding. If you don’t use mulch or you don’t have enough, stay on top of your weeding. Weeds literally choke the life out of your garden plants. They take nutrients from the soil, crowd the space for poor air circulation, and create shade problems which prevent your plants from getting enough sun. It is much easier to spend a few minutes each day pulling weeds, than it is to do it once a week. Plan this time into your daily habit or you will forget.

4. Try a cool weather garden. If you can work your soil now (meaning it isn’t sopping wet), try planting lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, bok choi, broccoli, or cauliflower. You may want to get seedlings from your local greenhouse for the broccoli and cauliflower, but the rest you can sow as seeds directly in your garden. These will be done before you need to plant your warm weather plants in May.

5. Keep a garden journal. Use whatever you want, but keep one from the beginning. In your journal keep these notes: what you grew (including varieties and where you bought them), what the overall weather picture is (was it a hot, dry summer or a mild, wet one?), what you liked about what you planted, pest problems you encountered, ideas for improving next year, tools that you need to purchase, and anything else directly-related to your garden.

Numbers one and two will give you a head start to a good garden this year. Number three will help you maintain it (along with keeping an eye on your garden’s water needs). Number four helps you take advantage of that enthusiasm you have right now (so does starting your own seeds). Finally, number five helps your future gardens be even more successful.

Gardening is a great healthy habit. You get exercise, fresh air and sunshine, and healthy, real food.

What healthy habits are you working on? Tell me in the comments below.

8 Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden

8 Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blog

When my garden starts producing, it is a giddy moment for me. I love to can jams, butters, pickles, and sauces, but often draw a blank with what to do with my other fresh veggie produce. One of the ways I’m hoping to combat food waste is by compiling a list of recipes that use what I grow. This is a work in progress, obviously, but I’m hoping my new garden notebook will help me remember why I planted something in the first place.

I think this is such a good idea that I’m going to be sharing more on this as we go. You can look for gardening posts here on Mondays. I have a lot I want to cover over the year, so be sure to add me to your reader or follow me on Twitter and Facebook. We have already talked about planning your first garden and where to buy your seeds. Now, I’m hoping that these recipes get your gardening ideas flowing as far as what seeds to buy.

We will be starting with eight basic recipes with the majority of ingredients being those you can grow. I won’t be giving you exact recipes at this point because there is a large variety for each one I mention. This post is meant to get you thinking about what you can plant that you will eat.



This is your basic garden recipe. Green, leafy veggies are some of the easiest to grow and they can be started pretty early in the garden season. Salads are the perfect way to start adding more fresh produce to your diet.

Salad ingredients you can grow:

  • romaine lettuce
  • spinach
  • kale
  • swiss chard
  • arugula
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • sunflowers
  • herbs for making your own salad dressings
  • celery
  • carrots

Advanced steps: plant a nut or fruit tree, grape vines for raisins, cranberry bushes for craisins, raising chickens for hard-boiled eggs and chicken, raise dairy goats to make feta

Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogSalsa

This is makes a super yummy, fresh, and easy snack, side dish, or condiment. From fruity to spicy, you can find a salsa recipe for you.

Salsa ingredients you can grow:

  • tomatoes
  • jalapeno peppers
  • onions
  • garlic
  • cilantro
  • parsley
  • black beans
  • corn

Advanced steps: grow fruit like peaches (or mangoes and pineapple, if you are lucky enough to live in a region that this is possible), grow corn to make your own tortilla chips

Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogSpaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce can be used on spaghetti or for the sauce on your homemade pizza. Making your own homemade pizza is rather easy and very frugal, especially if you make your own sauce and grow your own toppings.

Spaghetti sauce ingredients you can grow:

  • tomatoes
  • basil
  • onions
  • carrots
  • garlic
  • oregano
  • mushrooms

Advanced steps: raising dairy goats to make your own mozzarella, grow wheat to make your own pasta

Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogPizza

You all know pizza is not really a vegetable, right? So you can’t actually grow pizza. However you CAN grow your own toppings and sauce (see above). This makes for a super frugal dinner.

Pizza ingredients you can grow:

  • mushrooms
  • bell peppers
  • onions
  • jalapeno peppers
  • tomatoes
  • shallots
  • spinach
  • broccoli

Advanced steps: grow your own olives, make your own pepperoni or sausage, raise meat chickens

Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogVegetable Soup

Vegetable soup can be rather hearty if you know what your are doing. Root veggies work very well in soups and are relatively easy to grow. They are also what gives your vegetable soup that hearty feeling without meat.

Vegetable soup ingredients you can grow:

  • tomatoes (for tomato juice and diced tomatoes)
  • green beans
  • corn
  • carrots
  • celery
  • turnips
  • rutabaga
  • potatoes
  • peas
  • mushrooms

Advanced steps: raise chickens to make bone broth (or make your own vegetable broth)

8 Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogFajitas

Fajitas can be more than peppers, onion, and meat. Try making some veggie fajitas, it is frugal and just as yummy. You can grow toppings for them (like salsa), too.

Fajita ingredients you can grow:

  • onions
  • bell peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • black beans
  • corn
  • mushrooms
  • lettuce
  • garlic
  • orgeno

Advanced steps: raising dairy goats to make sour cream and cheese, making your own tortilla shells

8 Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogBaked Potatoes

We grew potatoes successfully for the first time last year, I’m hooked. It was a lot of fun. My kids enjoyed digging the potatoes, too. Sour cream, cheese, and bacon may be too advanced for you or simply unrealistic because of space, but you there are more ways to dress a baked potato.

Baked potato ingredients you can grow:

  • potatoes
  • broccoli
  • chives
  • corn
  • garlic
  • mushrooms

Advanced steps: raise your own meat or dairy goats for cheese, sour cream, sausage

8 Recipes You Can Grow in Your Garden from @vicki_arnold blogOmelets

Garden produce isn’t just for lunch and dinner. You can use your harvest to make omelets, frittatas, or simply dress up your scrambled eggs.

Omelet ingredients you can grow:

  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • bell peppers
  • yellow squash

Advanced steps: raise chickens for eggs, make your own cheese, raise your own bacon or sausage

There you have it, eight “recipes” you can grow in your garden. You’ll notice there is a decent amount of overlap with these recipes and their ingredients. Now, take a look at what you eat and make a list of the ingredients that you can grow. The more food you grow, the more money you can save.

Tell me, what vegetable do you eat most regularly?

Next week, I’m going to show you some of my favorite seed findings.

Where to Buy Your Garden Seeds

Where to buy your heirloom garden seeds

To get the most bang for your gardening buck, start with seeds. Why? A pack of seeds costs approximately $3 for anywhere from 25-100 seeds, while transplants run about $3 for 4 plants. You do that math. Well, there are a few more factors to figure in to your total seed starting costs, but seeds still come out ahead (I’ll show you below).

To start your garden seeds, you need soil and something to put it in. The most common thing to use are trays just like you buy your transplants in from a greenhouse. You can buy the trays at just about any home and garden store, or you can order them online. If you’d like to buy them in bulk and save more money, I’ve used FarmTek before with no complaints.

You will want a tray and a sheet of inserts for each tray. The inserts vary in size, but I would recommend using a bigger cell for good root formation. This means you want a lower total plant number (48 vs 72) insert.

For soil, I do not recommend the soil-less stuff that is everywhere. Unless you want to worry about fertilizing your plants. I never do, so I had stinky results using the stuff. Last year, we tried Natural Beginnings Seed-Starting Mix from Garden’s Alive. I will be using this from now on. In all the years we have started seeds, our seedlings have never been as big and healthy as they were last year. (By the way, this is not an ad, I just love this stuff and know you will, too)

This soil is more pricey than the standard soil-less stuff, but it is so worth it. One bag did 5 trays. When I added up the cost of the soil, seeds, and trays, it figured out to about $7-$9 per tray depending on the seeds. Remember each tray held around 48 plants, which gave me a per plant cost of 15 to 19 CENTS.

If you grow open-pollinated varieties and save your seeds, you can reduce or even eliminate this cost factor in following years. Save your trays and inserts for a few years, and all you have is the cost of soil. Do you see why I recommend heirloom seeds?

Once you have your supplies, the process is easy. Fill your inserts with soil, plant your seeds, and keep the trays moist and in the sunlight. That’s it. I should mention that some seeds germinate best out of direct sunlight, your seed packets will tell you this. They will also tell you when you need to start the seeds, generally 4-8 weeks before you intend to plant them outside.

I highly recommend open-pollinated heirloom seeds. These can be hard to come by, as most stores do not carry a wide selection of these. I’ve compiled a list of sources to share with you. If you know of a source that is not mentioned here, please share it with us in the comment section!

Places I’ve ordered from and can personally recommend:

Places I’ve not ordered from, but others recommend:

Happy gardening! Next week we will talk about recipes you can grow (or mostly grow).

I will be linking this post up with the Better Mom Monday link-up at The Better Mom, Living Green Tuesdays at Like a Mustard Seed, Encourage One Another at Deep Roots at Home, Wellness Wednesday at Intoxicated on Life, Proverbs 31 Thursdays at Raising Mighty Arrows, and Hearts at Home at Upside Down Homeschooling –> Be sure to check out these link-ups for more great posts!