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Start Home Composting this Spring

sponsoredSpringtime gardening can be a tedious waiting game, as the earth has not yet fully recovered from a winter thaw. With plants not yet ready to begin their growth before the prime of summer, you can often feel at a loose end in your garden. A valuable way to spend your time in the spring period, however, is gathering materials to produce your own compost.

Image by Joi Ito - licence

Image by Joi Ito

Home composting is not only good for the environment, making use of household waste to prevent unnecessary landfill and incineration, but can also save you quite a lot of money on store-bought compost — the price of which mysteriously peaks in the summertime, when everyone is looking to use it! Here are a few simple tips on how you can start producing your own compost this spring — starting the process months in advance of summer will allow you to enrichen your plants with natural, resourceful compost when you really need it.

How does composting work?

Composting is nature’s way of establishing a full life cycle for plants. A plant lives its life before dying, decomposing, and enriching the earth with nutrients to promote further plant growth. If you localise this decomposition process to a compost heap, you can stockpile the compost to use as and when you need it, on all different types of plants. Your compost solution consists of decomposed organic matter, with the all-important plant-enrichening nutrients retained.

What do I use to make compost?

More local councils are starting to charge for the privilege of removing your garden waste. This is taxing on gardeners, as you can already spend quite a lot of money on improving your garden before worrying about waste disposal costs. Not only will home composting save you money on buying compost, but also on garden waste removal charges.

Compost 2

Rotten fruits and vegetables are great for composting, as are decomposing plant matter and grass cuttings. You can also use old newspapers and shredded paper, as well as tea bags and coffee grounds. However, never use garden waste consisting of diseased plants or flowers, as this will contaminate your compost. A huge list of compostable items can be found on the Recycle Now website.

How do I make compost?

Composting can be as simple as gathering all your materials into a pile and waiting for them to decompose, but this is a very inefficient and wasteful method, as the elements will often wash away or reduce the size of your compost heap. The most efficient way to produce compost is by using a compost tumbler.

Compost 3

Composters from Mantis can produce lovely, earthy compost in as little as 14 days. And as they have turning handles on them, the drum can be spun easily — this distributes the heat generated by composting and speeds the process up. A mere compost heap or static drum is not afforded this assistance, which can lead to poor compost.

Dispersing the compost among your plants can be trickier than you think, as some plants respond better to compost being laid below the surface of the soil, whereas other like it on the surface, for example. A helpful guide to laying compost is available at WikiHow the guide also explains when to tell your compost is ready, which is very handy.

Hopefully with this starter’s guide to home composting, you will feel motivated to begin preparing your garden for the summer by producing your own compost — saving both money and the planet in the process.

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Grow Your Community Via Social Media

… Over a year ago, Laila of Sow and So (who I also consider a close friend even though we’ve only met face-to-face once) asked me to write a guest post on globe-spanning friendships fostered through social media. Months after the request was made, I sent a draft and she asked that I include a bit on how those friendships expand the community of heirloom gardeners. This is that revised post.

IMG_1107The other day I wrote a post asking heirloom gardeners where they got their seeds? To begin what I hoped would be an informative and geographically-vast conversation, I shared my five sources: one mail order company, one mail order non-profit, a website, a local store, and my neighborhood garden club).

I shared the post with multiple Facebook and Google+ groups I belong to. Within hours, six people I consider part of my heirloom gardening community replied with answers they were glad to share with others. Their answers also provided me with five heirloom seed vendors I needed to check out as well as verification that my current supplies come from awesome sources.

I think my broadcast question/post/webpage of Where do you get your heirloom seeds? provides a good context for what makes for a purposeful non-geographically-based community and what makes for friendships even when those friends may never ever meet face-to-face.

Social Media

Sure, many of us have Facebook “friends” that should probably just disappear and others we see via social media just seem to litter up the internet with vitriol or cat videos. But there is some great —change-making— value created via social media.

When I am not a blogger/heirloom gardener  I am an advocate for social and economic justice causes. I know real change when I see it. I also know a lot about empty promises and precarious relationships. Both exist everywhere in the “real world” and on every social media platform.

The platform matters some to making friends and building community. But what matters most is the real work individuals put into forming and maintaining relationships and then building community.

Here’s my take on building relationships and community:

  • You need to genuinely give. Genuinely give helpful advice. And give heartfelt thanks when you receive it back.
  • Ask questions you really want answers to. Use the answers to create meaningful conversations. Report back on the answers that resonated with you, those that didn’t, and those that need some more explanation. (Laila’s always asking me to clarify some fleeting thought I have about how to “build the heirloom movement.” I really appreciate that about her.)
  • Don’t be jealous. In other words, as you build relationships with people you trust, connect them to other people you trust. (Laila was “introduced” to me via another blogging friend, Mia, of Modern Mia Gardening.
    The three of us often chat on each others’ Facebook feeds. We are always “liking” each others posts (i.e. Facebook and blog).

Now, here’s where it gets really fun. The friendship Laila and I first formed by commenting on each others’ blogs, turned into a Facebook friendship, and then periodic emails back and forth to share what was going on in our lives and with our families.

In Real Life

IMG_0717I was even lucky enough to meet Laila face-to-face when a trip to visit other friends in Luxembourg had me less than an hour’s drive from her and her husband Rogier’s budding garden/farm in Belgium. The couple welcomed me in the home they share with two rescue pups, Leia and Luke, for an afternoon of great conversation about growing healthy food, the future of our planet, and what they are doing to live their lives according to their values.

I hope to visit face-to-face with Laila and Rogier many more times in the future. I’m also pretty excited to run into Mia someday.

But I can’t stop with Laila and Mia, or their blogs and Facebook feeds. I have friendships and community built over at Instagram too. I love the beautiful garden, veggie, flower, and animal photos my friends via that awesome photo platform share. When I started, I just thought it would be about seeing and saving pretty pictures. But friendships formed there as well.

The comment sections are often lacking, but when someone decides to really write something about your photo on Instagram, they mean it. If you reply back, often other friends start chiming in. Before you know it, that “picture is actually worth more than a thousand words.”

Around The World

I need to give special shout outs to Isolde, also from Belgium; Richard, from the UK; Joanna, from Canada; Anne, from Norway; Helena, from Sweden; Prabhul, from India; Heppoko, from Japan; Juan, from Spain; and so many from across the United States. I also have to note that the Instagram photos from those south of the equator help me live through the bitter winters of Minnesota. Thanks to friends in Australia and New Zealand.

(Side note:  I am still learning how to build friendships and community via Google+ and YouTube. I know it can happen; I just haven’t optimized the platforms yet. That said, I need to make special mention of Audra Russell of Fat Earth Backyard Farm. She is a pro at Google+ and wonderful to watch on YouTube. She is also quickly becoming one of my best friends.)

Sharing Struggles

IMG_0346In fact, it here is where I can really say a lot about the positive community building value of social media… especially Instagram. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I am very open about this for a variety of reasons. And my social media feeds are among the places I share.

It is in this regard that I have to say social media is a treasure. If I post about my struggle, I immediately receive supportive comments from friends everywhere… and I do mean everywhere. Again, the comments are not from folks who’ve ever met me.

But they really care about me.

And they often share how something I wrote or a picture I shared — my garden, my imaginary friends, or in posts and photos about my depression/anxiety — inspired them.

What a pick me up! What a community! A community that is there for one another.

Michael DahlIf I am not gardening or writing about it, I am likely engaged in social justice advocacy (my other vocation), practicing yoga, or consuming some mental bubble gum on TV or some internet platform.
Michael writes profusely on his blog “Dissident Potato“, and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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All I want for Christmas is…..a veg plot!

Some people think that to be a successful vegetable gardener you need a big garden, but this is simply not true. Even if you have just one square metre of space you can grow a worthwhile crop. Have you considered the balcony? Or the steps outside the back door? Or even the roof of your shed? I’m going to demonstrate here how easily you can set up your first-ever vegetable plot in a very small space and at very small expense. If you know someone who is an aspiring gardener, but needs convincing, here is an ideal Christmas gift for them!


For the purposes of this exercise I’m going to assume that you have no “real“ garden space, such as a raised bed, or a border or a lawn which you could dig up, so the first thing you would need is a set of containers. Let’s assume that you have only about one square metre of space. You probably therefore need about four to six decent-sized containers. Get a few big ones, not lots of small ones. If you can afford it, buy good-quality ones like these from Stewarts:

Good quality planter

If you are short of cash you could use cheap ones from your local “Poundshop” or you could even improvise. Lots of shops and restaurants are happy to give away used containers like this one, which was formerly used to hold “Chinese marinade” at my local butcher’s shop. Don’t be shy: go and ask for them!

Cheap plastic pot


Then you need some “growing medium” – preferably compost. I don’t recommend using garden soil, because it is heavy and gets compacted too easily. General-purpose commercial compost is OK. You don’t need anything very fancy. Again, shop around for a good price. Garden Centres are often not the best place to buy compost (although they sometimes offer attractive bulk-buy deals). A small nursery that makes its own compost is the best place to go, but if you don’t have one nearby, you can probably get what you need from a supermarket or discount store. The amount you need of course depends on the size of the containers you plan to use, but one 75-litre bag will probably be enough.



Then you need some seeds. Yes, you could buy seedlings or plug-plants from a Garden Centre, or via mail order, but this can be an expensive option. A packet of seeds will give you dozens or even hundreds of plants, for the price of about 6 plug-plants. Good vegetables to grow in containers include Radishes, Carrots, Beetroot, Lettuce, Tomatoes and miniature Cucumbers.


Make sure you choose suitable varieties though. Some Tomato plants for instance (the ones described as “indeterminate”) grow to about 8 feet tall, whereas the “Bush” or “determinate” types are much smaller. My favourite is “Maskotka”.

Tomato seeds

Similarly, some Carrots grow to be enormous, but ones like “Parmex” or this “Paris Market 5 – Atlas” type produce small round roots eminently well-suited for growing in containers.

Carrot seeds


Herbs are also a good choice – especially Basil, Chives, and Thyme, but I wouldn’t recommend Coriander for a beginner: it tends to bolt very readily, which could be discouraging for a beginner! Those 3 items – container, compost, seeds – are your essentials, but it you want to add a bit extra I suggest these: a small watering-can with a fine rose and a small trowel, or perhaps a “Widger” like this:


The Widger is simply a small (15cm) piece of stainless steel which can be used for lifting small seedlings and for general “cultivation” – in other words scratching the surface of your growing medium to aerate it and remove weeds etc. I use mine a lot and wouldn’t be without it these days. They are widely available (e.g. on Amazon) and cost about £1.50 or £2.00). Of course, you could probably manage just as well with an old table-knife…


So, a kit like this will be will enable you to set up shop and start growing veg. Of course, if the kit is genuinely to be a Christmas present, you will have to dissuade the recipient from sowing their seeds too early. You will have to convince them that it makes sense to wait until the weather warms up and the days get longer – which may be difficult if they are fired-up with enthusiasm! (P.S. My Birthday is in March, which is a really good time for receiving gardening-related presents.) 🙂

Veg growing in containers

Mark WillisA long-time gardener specialising in edible plants, Mark lives in Hampshire, UK, about 30 miles south of London. He maintains a small but very productive garden, the life of which is constantly described on his blog Marksvegplot. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
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Can You Build Your Own Pond? Of Course You Can!

If you want a pond in your garden you have 2 choices: Pay someone to install one for you or dig it yourself! For a beginner, the second option might be scary, but it’s not as hard as you might imagine, so let’s get stuck in shall we?

A healthy garden pond makes a wonderful focal point

for your garden and attracts lots of wildlife!

A Healthy Pond Is A Happy Pond

It is possible to make a pond that keeps itself healthy. The right combination of aquatic life and plant life will keep the water cycling and keep algae at bay. But it’s not easy to get right, so installing a pond pump is a good idea. A pump simply pumps water and oxygen into the water to keep it aerated.

Lilly pond

Another important consideration is position. So before you dig your pond out, figure out where to put it. Too much direct sunlight may kill the plant life and make the liner brittle, but putting it under a tree may mean you are forever fishing out leaves.

How To Choose A Pond Pump

We already decided we need a pond pump. So what type should we go for? There are lots of options and it can be confusing. Here are some rules of thumb though:

• If you want to keep fish, get a pump with a filter

• Ensure your pump is powerful enough for your pond

Once you have your plan (more on that later) you can calculate the approximate capacity of the pond and select a pump accordingly. Also keep in mind the height of the pump if you have a shallow pond.

Solar powered pumps will save energy and make installation easier but may not be suitable if you plan to have fish since they don’t work so well at night.

Coming Up With A Plan

How you design your pond will depend on what you want it to be. Some people like big water features, but personally I like to attract lots of wild life. Sketch out your pond however you want and don’t start digging until you have settled on a design. Here are some ideas:

• Include shallow areas where animals can drink safely

• Include deep areas for fish and for plants to get established

• Include some stones or a ramp in case hedgehogs fall in

The more complicated you make your designs, the more features you can add and the more variety your pond will likely be able to sustain. But if you are unsure, or don’t have much space, there is nothing wrong with creating a very simple pond.

Pond plan

Get Digging

Once you have your plan you can start digging out the pond. The simplest way to do this is to dig the biggest layer first to a uniform depth (the depth of the shallowest shelf) and then mark out the next layer and dig to the next depth.

Before digging, peel away the turf carefully and save it for later!

Let’s Talk About Pond Liners

The pond liner is what holds the water in the pond. It is a simple sheet of plastic to separate water from soil, but don’t let that fool you, there are options to be considered:

Moulded Liners Or Sheets?

A regular pond liner is just a sheet of PVC, but you can get more robust pre-moulded ones. These are much heavier duty and will generally last longer, but they cost a lot more and limit you to certain shapes. If your budget allows they may be worth the investment though.

If you go with a sheet, there are different materials to consider. My advice is to go with a rubber sheet rather than PVC as PVC can get brittle as it ages. A rubber liner will last longer. It is also worth investing the extra in a UV stabilised liner to protect against sunlight.

How To Install The Liner

• Fish out stones and anything sharp

• Cover soil with a layer of fine sand

• Insert the liner and push into the corners

• Use slabs or stones to secure the liner

Filling It Up

The last step is to fill your pond with water. If you went with a sheet liner, be aware that as the pond fills the liner will tighten, so pull up the sides if necessary and once it is full trim off the sides leaving a border of a few inches.

Pond plants

Finishing It Off

Finally, you can use some of the turf you saved from earlier to place around the border. Eventually this will grow back in and re-enforce the edge of your pond.

If you want to add some plants to your pond you should wait for a couple of weeks first for the water to settle – of course if you are planning to start your build in early spring then getting your timing right will mean that you will be adding those plants at just the right time.

 Callitriche verna

When choosing plants you should consider things like the local climate, how deep your pond is and how much work you want to put in. For example:

Zebrinus is a pretty grass that can provide cover for small insects, but it can take over your pond so you will have to divide it every year to keep it healthy and in check.

Cyperus involucratus grows well in shallow water and is a hardy plant that shouldn’t take too much maintenance. Plant it in 2 inches of water and watch it emerge in late May.

Callitriche verna is an oxygenating plant, it is also a nice cover for tadpoles, so ideal if you want to encourage frogs into the pond. But in a hot climate it may not fare as well.

This guest post was written by Ricky Peterson. Ricky works at and when he’s not at work he loves to spend time in the garden or out and about.
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6 Best Vegetables To Grow

Every year

When it comes to choosing which veg to grow, every gardener has his or her own preferences. There is no such thing as a “standard”. Take me, for instance: I like to try some new seeds or plants every year, just for a change. I enjoy the challenge of raising something different. But there are a few things that I grow practically EVERY year. There are some vegetables that have consistently done well for me, in my garden. Of course they might not perform so well in a different place… But if a novice gardener were to ask me for advice on what to grow, these are the ones I would recommend.

1. Runner Beans

This is a plant that is hard to get wrong. Even if you neglect it very badly, it will still give you a crop of some sort (even if it’s not a great crop). Since you grow it up tall poles or canes it has a small “footprint” – in other words, it uses vertical space, not surface area. If you have limited space (and choose the right variety, such as “Hestia”), it can even be grown in a large pot. I think they key to success with Runner Beans is giving them plenty of moisture. And of course an occasional good soaking that reaches down to their roots is much better than a more frequent sprinkle. Planting the beans in well-prepared soil that contains plenty of moisture-retentive organic matter will also help. Frequent picking of the pods when ready is vital too. If you leave them to mature, the plant will stop producing new pods.

Runner Beans

I strongly recommend the variety “Scarlet Empire”, an improved descendant of the old “Scarlet Emperor”. It is a very strong and prolific plant that produces long straight, succulent and tasty beans over a long cropping period (Late July to mid October). Other favourites are “Red Rum” and “Aintree”.

2. Climbing French Bean “Cobra”

I don’t recommend all French Beans, just this one. Over the years I have tried many varieties of climbing bean, and many of them have performed poorly, but once I discovered “Cobra” I have never looked back! This is an exceptional bean. It produces huge long pods (about 8 inches long) that never seem to go tough or stringy, and it usually keeps on going until the first frosts of the Autumn. French Beans are not very cold-tolerant, so they need to be sown quite late in the year, and prefer a very sunny site. French Beans are not as vigorous or as tall-growing as Runners, so I usually train them up 6-foot canes, whereas I give my Runners 8-foot ones.

3. Beetroot

Beetroot is a favourite of mine, though I am very conservative when it comes to eating it: 9 times out of 10 we eat it plain boiled, served cold as a salad ingredient, simply because we love the strong earthy flavour of it, which can be appreciated best this way. There are lots of different varieties you can grow, for instance the yellow types (such as “Burpee’s Golden”), or the white one with pink rings in it (such as “Chioggia”), but I prefer the “old-fashioned” red ones. Actually there are loads of new, improved varieties being developed all the time, but I think it is hard to beat “Boltardy”. As its name suggests, it is bolt-resistant – in other words it does not run to seed prematurely as many other varieties are prone to do. Bolting is usually associated with inappropriate weather conditions – too hot, too cold, too dry, etc – and also with sowing too early, before the soil has properly warmed up.


We don’t eat huge quantities of Beetroot so I usually sow all mine at once, and pick it at various stages of development starting with the “baby beet” size. Conventionally though, Beetroot is sown in small batches every few weeks. I have found that “Boltardy” remains in good condition very well, and seldom goes woody even when it is very mature. As an added bonus beetroot leaves are also nice to eat, as long as you pick them when they are very small.

4. Salad potatoes

If I had an allotment or a big garden I’m sure I would grow Maincrop potatoes, but I haven’t, so I grow small quantities of “new” potatoes in pots and various other containers. The yield is never huge, but this is outweighed by the fact that home-grown potatoes are just so NICE! It is really satisfying to eat potatoes straight from the soil, harvested minutes before they are cooked. And it’s always exciting to see how many tubers there will be when you up-end a pot. (My granddaughters love helping with this). There are dozens of different varieties to choose from, but I usually go for the ones marketed as “Salad potatoes”, which generally have a firmer texture, and I go for First Early or Second Early ones, which have a shorter growing time and mature earlier than Maincrop types. I often buy a mixed pack with a few tubers of several varieties, just to hedge my bets in case one variety doesn’t do so well. One of my favourites is “Charlotte”, which is very reliable and has pleasant taste and texture. I also used to like “Mimi”, which produced very small pink-skinned tubers, but I haven’t been able to buy any for a couple of years.

Salad Potatoes

5. Lettuce

Lettuce, in many variants, is a more-or-less constant feature of my plot. We use a lot of it, though usually only in small quantities each time. I like to use lettuce on the “cut-and-come-again” principle, which means you pick individual leaves rather than cutting the whole plant. It is really convenient to be able to pick just a few leaves whenever you want some, rather than having to plan ahead and buy a whole one, much of which may be wasted. Good varieties for this are the Green Salad Bowl and Red Salad Bowl. Somehow lettuce seems more appealing if you have more than one colour! Lettuce is quite quick growing when the weather is right, so it is definitely one which responds well to successional sowing in small batches. You don’t want a glut of lettuce because there is no viable way of preserving it for later use.


Another good way to grow lettuce is as “Baby Leaves”, which are sown thickly and harvested before they get big – usually by cutting the leaves off with scissors. If you cut wisely, you can often get two or three crops from the same plants. I like to make my own Baby Leaf Salad mixes, using up the leftover odds and ends from several packets.

6. Tomatoes

My garden would just not be complete without tomatoes. They can be fiddly to grow if you want to do it “properly”, but even with little attention except watering you can get a pretty decent crop. Watering is definitely key, and it’s not worth growing tomatoes if you won’t be able to guarantee giving them enough water. I usually grow several different varieties of tomato, simply because I can’t decide which ones I like best, but actually this is probably the best strategy to use in any case, since if one variety doesn’t do so well another often will. To be honest, there is a lot of luck involved too. If you are lucky enough to escape the crippling disease Blight you will probably get a good crop (like I did this year, my best year ever for tomatoes), but if Blight does strike, there is not much you can do. Fortunately, one of my favourite tomato varieties is “Ferline”, which has a lot more blight-resistance than most, but it is still definitely not immune. It produces very large bright red fruits with excellent flavour and texture. I grow “Ferline” as a cordon, in other words I train it upright against a cane and pinch out the side-shoots. On the other hand, I am also very fond of “Maskotka”, which is a low-growing straggly bush variety which has red fruits about the size of a small apricot. This is a firm favourite with the grand-children, who love being able to pick and eat the fruits straight from the plant.

Ferline Tomatoes

I haven’t included Purple Sprouting Broccoli in my list, even though it is definitely one of my favourites, because it takes up a lot of space and needs a long growing period, so it’s probably not a good one for a novice. In all honesty, my list of favourite or recommended vegetables could go on a lot longer, but I think I ought to end by saying this: grow the vegetables that you and/or your family like to eat. There is no point in spending time, effort and money on something that no-one likes, even if it looks impressive!

Mark WillisA long-time gardener specialising in edible plants, Mark lives in Hampshire, UK, about 30 miles south of London. He maintains a small but very productive garden, the life of which is constantly described on his blog Marksvegplot. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.
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Addicted to Chillis, Guest Blogger Mark Comes Clean


Whilst a lot of young men would not want to admit that they were fond of gardening, they would certainly not hesitate to admit to growing chillis. Chilli-growing has recently developed into a very popular cult – and a very male-dominated, macho one at that! At approaching 60, I definitely don’t fit that stereotype, but I do love growing chillis.


Many people presume that to grow chillis you need lots of expertise and lots of special kit – and definitely a greenhouse. I don’t subscribe to that view. I don’t have a greenhouse, and I don’t claim any special expertise, but starting from scratch I have learned a lot over the years by the “trial and error” method. These days I have little trouble producing some respectable chillis. I think the key to success is dedication and persistence.


Continue reading Addicted to Chillis, Guest Blogger Mark Comes Clean

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Recipe; Gazpacho Andaluz

Summer gluts of tomato mean two things around here – cold Andalusian gazpacho and pots full of thick tomato jam. Today I am making the first of these for our supper. This is very much a Iaia version rather than a faithful reproduction of the traditional soup – I would love to hear your own recipes, especially if you are reading from down south!


We like to drink our gazpacho from glasses and so add some ice-cold water to get the consistency just right. If, on the other hand, you eat yours from a bowl, it’s usual to add a handful of finely chopped pepper, onion, tomato and/or croutons.

The recipe here gives you about a litre of soup.

What you need:

1½ kg ripe plum tomatoes
a chunk of cucumber
a small green or red pepper
half an onion
a clove or two of garlic
olive oil
your favourite vinegar
a pinch of salt
water (optional)

GazpachoWhat you do:

Peel the tomatoes using whichever method you prefer – I use a sharp knife and do away with the whole boiling water palaver. Chop into chunks along with all the other ingredients and toss into a blender. (Note: we also peel the cucumber to save sensitive tummies from indigestion).

Once all the veg is in the blender, pour in a happy glug of olive oil, a generous splash of vinegar and a perfect pinch of salt (all of which you can tweak to taste as you blend), and press the “on” button.  Add water if it seems too thick, more salt if it seems too bland and more oil or vinegar if you think you need either – this is not rocket science.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Easy? Delicious!

Gazpacho finished

Serve with: croutons, bits of chopped ingredients, a summer table full of nibbles…


Lisa-jane RobertsLisa-jane Roberts born and bred in Australia now lives in rural Valencia (Spain) with her family. Her blog is full with delicious family recipes which she cooks on a regular basis together with her mother-in-law. Go to; A year in the kitchen with iaia for more mouthwatering recipes.

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Guest post Raiye; Bouncing back from Gardening Failure


Weeks ago, when I started my seeds, I wrote about my fears of failure. Sadly, those fears have been realized. Almost every single seedling is dead. What remains are a few sugar snap peas, some spinach that’s looking kind of not so good, and a few very stunted looking kale seedlings. Let’s also not forget the curious case of the chive seeds that migrated from the pot in which I planted them clear over to the other side of my yard where they took root amongst the grass, giving me crazy smells every time I mow the lawn.


Having gone into this gardening season mentally prepared for at least some failure, I’m not quite as devastated as I could be. There are things that I could have done better, however, for the most part, these deaths were cause by some terrific rains that swept through the North American midwest a few weeks ago. We were fortunate to not have sustained any flooding damage, many in the surrounding areas lost everything. We did enjoy making lemonade from the lemons by boating in the retention pond in the park behind our home.

Guestpost Raiye Gardening Failure 1 Guestpost Raiye Gardening Failure 2

Buying plants

I fear it might be too late to start some of the seedlings over again, particularly for tomatoes and peppers. I’m not giving up, though. I will need to revert, at least for some things, to buying plants. All is not lost on my quest for more wholesome, organic and non-GMO, though. I have found a source in my home town who will be selling organic, locally grown seedlings tomorrow. I’ve perused their offerings in the past and know I’ll find some amazing heirloom varieties that will be delicious.

photo(1)This is a post by Guest Blogger Raiye Rosado Cichon. Although she is a moderately experienced gardener, she is also mother to five and an IT business development professional – time is limited. She’ll be documenting her progress and sharing time-saving tips. Check out her blog; Raiyesnewnormal



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Guest Blogger Raiye; 3 Steps to Gardening Success

New Project

Starting a project is sometimes a scary thing for me. I am a perennial beginner of projects. I have a laundry list of things I’ve thought were amazing ideas, things I have spent considerable time, effort and money on, only to walk away from those projects. Sometimes it’s because the scope has gone out of whack and the job seems too big. Sometimes it’s simply because I’ve failed at the task. Other times, I decide that it no longer meets the needs of me and my family. I’ve become almost afraid to begin anything new, already asking myself “are you going to finish it this time or what?”


Planning this new garden has not been exempt from my project fear and self loathing. I had pep-talked myself, encouraging me to keep the scope of the garden simple, to start slowly and to build this up over several years. And then I sat down with the kids to see what kinds of vegetables they wanted to grow. I took their suggestions for nearly an hour, discussing all manner of fruit and vegetable, which ones would be tasty, what might thrive in our yard. Where I had intended to have maybe 10 different vegetables, some strawberries and a cook’s herb garden, I ended up with over 3 dozen fruits and vegetables plus herbs. And a greenhouse.

And then I got scared.

3 steps

Scared of failing. Scared of falling off. Scared of losing interest. Scared of just about every darn thing. Stupid, really, to get scared of gardening. Cultivating food has been going on for thousands of years. Millions of people were successful at it even before Al Gore invented the interwebs and Pinterest for us to share the tribal knowledge. Although there is a manure-ton of arcane knowledge and best practices around vegetable gardening, growing food is really pretty basic, only three steps.

Step 1: Plant seed in soil.

Step 2: Add water and sunlight.

Step 3: Collect Profits.

Surely, I can do those three things, right?  I mean, NOT doing those three things GUARANTEES I will fail. But doing those three things gives me about a gazillion percent better chance of success than not doing any of those three things. So I jumped in.

Continue reading Guest Blogger Raiye; 3 Steps to Gardening Success

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Building a garden at Shangri La House

This is a post by Guest Blogger Raiye Rosado Cichon.

Raised beds

I had to lose a lot of my previous life in order to find this place I am in now. One of the more painful things to me was losing the home at which I had created a raised bed garden. I was so very proud of the fact that I had salvaged the wood from someone’s trash pile, hauling it to the house in a tiny car stacked to the roof. It was lovely. I have missed it and really, I have missed gardening.

Planning a Garden for Shangri La House

Forever home

It wasn’t really possible for me to garden until now. I know it is possible to garden in rental properties but really, I just didn’t want to expend the time investment until I was somewhere to stay. This past summer, we found our forever home, bought it and we are now settled into our future.  It’s a lovely home, with plenty of space for our large family and a large backyard that abuts to a beautiful park with a playground, ball field and .4 mile track.  It is truly our Shangri La.
Continue reading Building a garden at Shangri La House