Kitchen Secrets: My Best Tip For Gardening - The Kitchen Garden: Fresh Herbs and Flavorings Blog at - 226836

The Kitchen Garden: Fresh Herbs and Flavorings

Kitchen Secrets: My Best Tip for Gardening 
Mar. 11, 2011 3:56 pm 
Updated: Apr. 5, 2011 5:12 am
Spring is arriving on the 20th, so a cooks fancy turns to gardening.

Whether you have a large vegetable garden, a kitchen garden, a few containers on the patio or a couple herbs on the window sill -- there's something undeniably satisfying in growing your own fresh herbs and vegetables.

Got the secret to the tastiest tomatoes in you town?  Is it too late to amend your soil? What's a zone? What partner plants will keep the bugs away? When should I sow seeds indoors?  What's the garden buddy system?  I've got room for one big container, what should I grow?

If past results are any indication, there will be several super helpful tips for every question you have -- even for the ones you haven't thought of yet!

As always, many thanks for sharing what you've learned.

All the best
Half of my garden plot
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Green tomatoes
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First Sprouts
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Pea Blossoms
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Wall of Herbs
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French Taragon
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Garden Shed Pan 1
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Garden Shed Pan 2
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Mar. 11, 2011 4:13 pm
Snow is gone- yeah!!! Love gardening- hoping to plant my peas, broccoli, onions etc. tomorrow.
Mar. 11, 2011 4:21 pm
I start my tomatoes and peppers indoors, first on top of the fridge from warmth, then when they sprout, under a cheap fluorescent light (hung just a few inches about the trays.)
Mar. 11, 2011 4:26 pm
Always be prepared for the unexpected. The 'hot' hungarian peppers that were planted as 'mild' and got cross pollinated somehow or changed their nature from the seeds saved from the year before(really, they can do that!). Surprise plants that come up from last year. The machete I need because I planted the zucchini and squash too close to the tomatoes. The plants that die because they got too much rain. The plants that die because they got too much sun. The plants that never produced and you don't know why. The plants that produced more than you ever had before. The critters that you still can't identify in the bug book. The joy you feel when everything is in the ground growing, and it lasts until harvest time when you are so ready for time to till it all under!
Mar. 11, 2011 4:29 pm
I start a lot indoors and keep it on top of the dryer. It is under a flourescent light and it's warm! I think they like the vibration too.
Mar. 11, 2011 4:42 pm
I had a "Spring is Here" dinner where I bought a variety of potted herbs and put them a wire bottle holder on the table with a pair of scissors, so each guest could cut the garnish of their choice. I planted them out in the garden afterwards.
Mar. 11, 2011 5:07 pm
When planting tiny seeds like basil or lettuce, I use a chopstick. Put the seeds in a bowl. Stick the chopstick in the dirt t make a hole, then "poke" one seed, the moisture from the dirt will make the seed stick enough to be planted in the hole.
Mar. 11, 2011 5:13 pm
Answered by: MARTINI Mar. 11, 2011 4:35 pm Throughout the winter I use all my natural organic materials from my produce to mulch my garden
Mar. 11, 2011 5:14 pm
Shari Mar. 11, 2011 4:33 pm Wish I had a place I could plant, I have a very small backyard, which faces north (no sun except in the early am) I usually only do pots with herbs. I'd love to plant shade loving flowering plants in the backyard. Think that will be my mission this spring. Hosta's etc. Just got my Spring Hill magazine, think I will look through it to get some ideas. It's getting warm enough to start planting anytime now.
Mar. 12, 2011 4:53 am
Three tips for growing great tomatoes: plant tomato in a deep hole, as it grows add dirt to the hole and it will grow more roots; place a cover over the hole on cold nights (like a large chinese soup container) to protect against frosts; pinch out suckers (the small sprouts that grow in the crook of branches) to produce super big tomatoes
Mar. 12, 2011 5:07 am
No space? Sow some herb seeds in a pot in a sunny window. When they produce their first "true" leaves, use them for seasoning (these are trendy in NYC now "micro herbs") Keep leftover seeds in the packet in your crisper and resow. The micro herbs will have a surprisingly good punch for their diminutive size! Try basil, thyme, coriander, dill, parsley...
Mar. 12, 2011 6:16 am
by best gardening tip was passed down by grandmother - find out what grows well in your area and focus your garden on those plants, if you want to try something that is reccomended for a different zone use the container garden method - this way you can control the soil, move the container etc. here in sw ga the only way i can get asparagus to grow is in a pot!
Mar. 12, 2011 6:16 am
Buy two plants of your favorite herbs for cutting. Keep one in the kitchen and one out in the sun. Change around every week. I love chives this way... shred and sprinkle the blossoms on salads for real zing!
Leah Marie 
Mar. 12, 2011 6:20 am
Here's a tip I learned from my husband: A big garden is not only about growing food, it is a lifestyle choice and massive commitment of time and resources. Before you decide on one variety of tomato over the other decide if you have that hour every day and if that is how you want to use it. I'm great at going through seed catalogs and all that fun part but when it comes down to it the only reason we can have a successful garden is because he maintains it really well. He enjoys the process of puttering around with it every day and doesn't see it as a chore to weed, water and bug check.
Mar. 12, 2011 6:36 am
I fuss with mine everyday.. pure joy!
Mar. 12, 2011 6:37 am
Planting seeds that need to be nicked and soaked? Forget the sandpaper, use toenail clippers to easily snip a bit off.
Mar. 12, 2011 8:00 am
A good tip for new gardeners..Have your soil tested by a local college. It only costs about $6.00 or so. They will let you know what sort of fertilizer to add to your soil for optimum growing, or if it is not good at all. It will save alot of time and effort.
Mar. 12, 2011 8:22 am
When you purchase a mum plant in spring or early summer, plant, but then every bud you see on it, pinch off UNTIL the 4th of July. After that, stop pinching the buds and let them set on. You will have gorgeous mums in the fall. If you don't pinch off the buds, they will flower way too soon and the flowers will be small and die off quickly. If you have perennial mums that come up every year, do the same thing and keep them pinched until July 4.
Mar. 12, 2011 8:24 am
Petunias ~ we all have them and they get super "leggy" by about August and look kind of sad and tired. Around July 4th, cut them back. It seems crazy, and I found it difficult to cut them back because it seemed crazy,,,, but they get bushier and bloom much better. If it bothers you to cut them all back, cut a few back and see what it does. That is what I did, and then the next year it was easier because I knew what the results would be!!
Mar. 12, 2011 1:35 pm
Plant a few fast growing plants like radishes and lettuce if you want to interest children in gardening... they may lose interest well before that first tomato in July!
Mar. 12, 2011 6:36 pm
I'm getting so excited for Spring to arrive. We've already got tomatoes, onions and Jalepeno pepper seeds planted. Walla's went out in their beds about 6 weeks ago. I think all us gardeners are getting antsy to get out there and get our hands dirty. Marvel, I love that you've got a garden diagram.
Mar. 12, 2011 7:39 pm
Candice, I don't know how, but I seemto forget what I planted where by mid July every year! :)
Mar. 12, 2011 10:32 pm
We made 2x4 "square foot gardens" for our kids. Each child has their own garden. We put nails in the side and strung string across to make 8 equal squares. Then we went to the garden center. They each get to pick out 8 plants or types of seeds. They water it each morning. It is amazing how much they can grow in such a little space. It has been a great experience for them. You can google square foot gardens for more information.
Mar. 13, 2011 5:03 am
Jello, Glad you mentioned "small space" gardening. If you've artistic children have them draw "plans" of the plantings before they start. Thanks
Mar. 13, 2011 5:05 am
If you have tiny seeds you want to quickly plant in a row, dig your row, fill a large bowl with potting soil, fold in the seeds (you know how to do that :D). This will help produce a more random distribution of the seeds.
Mar. 13, 2011 6:39 am
If you have problems with varmits eating your herbs, plant some in hanging flower baskets. Bi-gardening!! (sorry, Charlie!)
Mar. 13, 2011 3:08 pm
@Anissa, Testing is important and if you have to amend your soil, it's best to do it as early as possible.
Mar. 13, 2011 7:56 pm
We've a tradition. Plant a tree for every child that is born and take pictures... they won't believe how it outgrows them!! :D
Mar. 13, 2011 8:59 pm
For fresh bean sprouts, soak mung beans in water overnight and then place in a microwave steamer in a dark cupboard. Rinse every day until you have sprouts for cooking.
Mar. 13, 2011 9:24 pm
Once again, an awesome idea. Tips are very much appreciated. Thank you for organizing!
Mar. 14, 2011 5:45 am
This is a great resource for those of us with inhospitable ground and those of you that need ideas of how to use your bounty.
Mar. 14, 2011 8:22 am
Find local homeless shelters or soup kitchens in your area. Most have volunteers who will pick up any extra produce you can spare. I "grow a row" especially for the one in my town.
Mar. 14, 2011 3:22 pm
Answered by: Marvel's Kitchen If you use dirt from your yard for seedlings, it needs to be sterilized first (baked in the oven at 200 degrees for 30 minutes).
Mar. 14, 2011 4:00 pm
Smoke and Heat Mar. 14, 2011 3:30 pm Glopsey, what that is called is "dampening off" which is fungus growing because your soil remains too wet for too long. I used to have this problem but I changed to a high quality organic soil and I never ever cover my seedling trays with a lid. You can mix hydrogen peroxide with water and lightly spray around them and that will take care of the problem for now.
Mar. 14, 2011 4:02 pm
Susiekew My husband and I went to a restaurant a while ago and in the dish I ate were popcorn sprouts. They were really delicious and different, same texture as bean sprouts, but with so much more flavour.
Mar. 15, 2011 6:14 am
2 tips from me...I grow my lettuce in hanging baskets so those d@mn slugs dont eat them,and add dried eggshells to your tomato holes.I dont know exactly what it does but my MIL and GmaIL always did it so now I do Spring is around the corner YEAH.
Mar. 15, 2011 7:16 am
I want to start my gardening. But I'm not slogging in the rain. I wish it would stop raining. My raised veggie beds are completely taken over by winter weeds and last years old growth. I want tomatoes and beets and french peas and peppers...gee I wish the rain would stop. Maybe next week. I guess I could start my seeds indoors right now...thank you for the gardening inspiration, getting me tinking about it, I'm ready to grow now!!!
Mar. 15, 2011 7:57 am
Jeeziebell, so did my Mom and Grandmom... msntnkrbll, indoors is working for me :)
Mar. 15, 2011 11:40 am
"Farmer" Dad taught me to plant tomatoes: make a row with cultivator or hoe, rather deep. LAY the tomato plants in the row, tipping the leafy part up, cover the stem and pat dirt around the bent up leafy part, leaving a water-catching dirt "basin" ring around each plant, or along row edges. This is much easier than digging a deep hole, avoids precious water run-off, and the plants will outgrow other methods of planting. Tomato plants root all along the stem wherever they come in contact with soil, and are very tough plants. Thanks for another good blog, Marvel.
Mar. 15, 2011 11:42 am
Mulch between rows and around plants with straw, shredded paper, black plastic, or whatever to avoid weeding, and save soil moisture. I didn't water my big veg. garden at all last year.
Mar. 15, 2011 11:44 am
Warm up soil for earlier planting by laying down black plastic for a few days before planting.
Mar. 15, 2011 12:40 pm
If you have a smaller space look for tomato varieties that are "determinate" or bush. But don't pinch back suckers or you'll reduce the yield.
Mar. 16, 2011 5:04 am
i LOVE LOVE LOVE the "grow a row" for charity idea! will definetely add that to my garden plan
Mar. 16, 2011 5:05 am
I have garlic & onions up as of yesterday :o)
Mar. 16, 2011 1:53 pm
I strongly encourage organic gardening techniques including compost. Do the research on it. Then graduate to spraying with lactic acid making microbes like the rest of the world does to avoid pesticides and fungicides. Eat well and with confidence.
Mar. 16, 2011 2:34 pm
If you don't have the space to "grow a row" in your garden, check with the local garden club and schools which often have gardens where the produce goes to the homeless and "adopt a plot", that is, you'll weed, water, weed the plot and the food is donated. I suggested this to our community garden and have my own adopted plot! :)
Mar. 16, 2011 8:18 pm
I just got my seeds package from JL HUdson, they have tons of unusual herbs - kitchen & medicine as well as many varieties of almost any veggie...I ordered Romano beans - my favorite - now, to plant them all out...they also tell you how to start the seed - nicking, soaking,using acid to break the shell etc...
Mar. 16, 2011 11:39 pm
I can't read your garden plan, any way to blow it up?
Mar. 17, 2011 10:48 am
Any tips on how to keep squirrels from eating tomatoes? Last year, I lost every one just as they were beginning to ripen.
Mar. 17, 2011 12:53 pm
I had a request a few weeks ago about keeping critters out of the garden, here were some of the responses: from sassyoldlady Feb. 22, 2011 10:39 am Hubby plants marigolds around our garden every year to keep critters out. They still get in there, sometimes the marigolds get so big, it keeps me out! Hot pepper spray or garlic pepper spray would probably be the best bet. Garlic & Pepper Spray. Protect your garden plants from cabbageworms, caterpillars, hornworms, aphids, flea beetles and other chewing/sucking insects by routinely using a natural spray that you can make at home. The spray must be applied regularly, especially after a rainfall. Brew up a batch as follows: 6 cloves of garlic .1 Tbsp dried hot pepper .1 minced onion .tsp pure soap (not detergent) .1 gallon hot water. Blend & let sit for 1 - 2 days. Strain & use as spray. Ground cayenne or red hot pepper can also be sprinkled on the leaves of plants (apply when leaves are slightly damp) to repel chewing insects or added to the planting hole with bone meal or fertilizer to keep squirrels, chipmunks, dogs and other mammals away from your gardens. Be sure to reapply after rain.
Mar. 17, 2011 12:54 pm
...and this from Deb C Feb. 22, 2011 9:56 am There are two methods I use to keep the woodchucks from my garden. One is to sprinkle dried blood around the plant. That works for a while until they get used to it. I also spray with a hot pepper mixture. You will need to do this after each rain. Hope this works for you as well
Mar. 17, 2011 12:56 pm
..and the last three* sassyoldlady Feb. 22, 2011 10:40 am The soap reference in there, I would just use liquid dishsoap. Keep in spray bottle. sassyoldlady Feb. 22, 2011 10:41 am You could also try sprinkling cayenne around the plants, but the spray is also good for all those other buggies. Skuba Feb. 22, 2011 11:01 am A brand name for the dried blood is Plantskydd (yes that is how it is spelled) we sell it at our office and it is some good stuff. Our customers are always raving. It makes the little critters think that there has been predator activity in the area and keeps them out. Does nothing to deter cats and dogs though they will lick it off the plant if it is still wet so keep them inside until it is dry.
Mar. 17, 2011 2:51 pm
I learned veggie gardening from Dad. While I wouldn't recommend his way of planting potatoes (with a ruler, so they're exactly 12" apart--ugh, I hated planting potatoes), I CAN recommend this: With "mound" plants (like cucumbers, squash, zucchini, melons, pumpkin, etc.), sink a self-waterer in the middle of the mound and plant the seeds around it. When I was a kid, Dad used large metal coffee cans with holes punched along the sides at the bottom. Now he uses inverted plastic 2-liter bottles with the cap ON, the bottom cut off, and holes punched around the bottle about 2-3 inches away from the cap. Sink the coffee can or bottle into the mound so that the top of the can (the open end) or bottom of the bottle (the end you cut off) is level with the top of the mound. The idea is that when you water the plants, you fill the can or bottle with water (NOT water the dirt around the mound), and the water slowly comes out down in the mound, where the roots are. One of my jobs as a kid was to water the cucumbers and squash by filling the coffee cans and letting them drain out 3x each.
Mar. 18, 2011 5:46 am
MARVEL'S KITCHEN.....I'm a FL girl and look forward to your posts.It keeps me on my toes. I love the helpful hints. Thanks for what you do
Mar. 18, 2011 12:06 pm
if you have a problem with cutworms-worms that eat just below the surface. Love to cut off cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc. When transplanting to the garden, add broken egg shells to the soil around the root. The calcium in the egg shell will benefit the plant and the cutworms will not snip the plant
Mar. 18, 2011 1:46 pm
Although we have ground hogs and plenty of deer and bunnies I do not have a problem with them getting into my garden. I plant it RIGHT up against my house (southern exposure)I guess they are not bold enough to venture that close or they are intimidated by the smell of our two dogs...?
Mar. 18, 2011 8:14 pm
One thing I learned is.. when planting Garlic, break up the bulb to plant versus planting the whole embarrassing. I had a lot of success planting onions and shallots in rather sandy, acidic soil. I did the upside down tomato plastic containers only to have them shear the plant off when there was a windy day. This year I am going to grow Lemon cucumbers, shallots, onions and Yukon potatoes. I have a 6 foot fence surrounding the garden to keep out the deer, nothing else really worked to keep out hungry critters. I also plant sunflowers to add a colorful end of the growing season celebration to my garden. The birdies sure like it ! Have fun with your garden !!
Mar. 26, 2011 4:37 am
Answered by: Baking Nana Mar. 25, 2011 7:42 pm Cilantro needs bright light - but not direct in the summer time - do not over water it....just moist - not soggy.
Mar. 30, 2011 2:41 pm
I don't have much of a green thumb, but my mom sure does. I'll get my supply of fresh tomatoes, squash, corn, peppers, eggplant, etc. from her grown right across the road from my house. One tip I can pass along that I've learned from her is to plant marigolds around your tomato plants. The smell of the marigold keeps bugs away! Plus, they look so pretty!
Apr. 5, 2011 4:37 am
Godizilla, Lucky you! The couple in the plot next to mine planted tons of them and my tomatoes didn't have any bugs.
Apr. 5, 2011 4:45 am
Apr. 4, 2011 2:55 pm Tomatoes - hundreds of opinions :) I have a plot in a community garden with over 100 gardeners each has her/his own gadget, technique, tastiest variety. I start mine indoors, but have to pot up once or twice before May. Plant tomatoes deep, they'll grow roots on the stem. Stake them early so you don't damage roots. Tomatoes have lateral and vertical (tap) roots. Tromping too close around them will damage the feeder roots which are only an inch or two under the soil. Don't pinch back "bush" varieties. Pinch off suckers (little sprouts growing out of the main stem) on indeterminate varities (beefsteak).
Apr. 5, 2011 5:10 am
Karen Scully ? Apr. 4, 2011 7:17 am I'm not an expert gardener but I can tell you about Oregano - I bought a small pot of it 4 years ago. It has taken over! It grows into the lawn, the flower bed, and everywhere! Good thing I love Oregano. Try to contain it if you plant it. Oregano - it goes to seed and it roots from the stems. So, if you plant it and it goes into bloom...pick off the blooms. The stems get tall and fall over. Then they start rooting where they fall over. It is very invasive. You could try to plant it with a plastic barrier around it, but you still have to keep an eye on it.
Apr. 5, 2011 5:11 am
[Skully as well] ? Apr. 4, 2011 7:19 am Lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots are all cool season veggies and go into the ground as! Tomatoes, peppers, squash are summer veggies and cannot be planted outside until after the final frost. They are the ones that can be started indoors so you'll have a head start! Hope that helps some. Herbs....better to wait till May. Especially tender herbs or very small plants. Peas, onions and potatoes can go in now too!
Apr. 5, 2011 5:11 am
pam ? Apr. 4, 2011 7:27 am Strawberries do not produce the first year. I plant my radishes and carrots in the same row together. Carrots take a long time and by the time radishes are ready the carrots are ready to sprout, it saves garden space.
Apr. 5, 2011 5:12 am
Dixie'sMom ? Apr. 4, 2011 7:41 am I usually plant my garden (seeds or transplants) about a week after the last frost date. If it is too cold your seed will just sit dormant and possibly rot, so you are no further ahead anyway. Lettuce, radish, carrots, beans, peas, beets,cucumber, etc can all go in the garden as seed. Tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries should be put in as transplants after your last frost date. If in doubt ask your local nursery, they can be a wealth of information.
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Marvel's Kitchen

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Marvel is my mother's name and her kitchen is where I started learning to cook. It should also be Gramma's kitchen, Auntie Jean's, Auntie Phil's, etc. Still learning from friends, family and you all. Many thanks and all the best!
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