Gardening for beginners….and the rest of us too!

Summer beauty! There is hope!

Stress free gardening: or think of it as how to garden and have fun too!

Gardening can bring about thoughts of pretty flowers, strolling along rows of lush greenery, scented herbs wafting about and inspiring lovely salads and soups for your family dinner table, baskets of fresh produce……..or it can bring about feelings of anxiety, stress, fear of failure, and wondering HOW do I turn this dirt and a handful of seeds into months worth of food for my family! So many of us have high hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a garden that will fill our pantry and freezer with food yet we don’t always know where to start and how to complete it. The whole process of planning the garden, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, tending the plants, and preserving the bounty is a lot to think about, especially when there is snow everywhere right now! Yet this is the best time of year to plan and prepare, dream, and then put into action your plan to not just complete the garden, rather to plan differently: Year round gardening provides a simplified plan!

A little story of our journey into year long gardening (we’re still on that journey).

We’ve grown LARGE gardens (acres in fact) and patio gardens, backyard gardens and pleasant English gardens with flowers and herbs. This journey has been invigorating, inspiring, fun filled, difficult, exhausting, and we’ve gleaned a wealth of information from others along the way. What we’ve found is that simple is good, a watering system is very helpful, amending the soil leads to less work in the long run, learning from each other and other gardeners along the way is essential, and frost or snow can happen ANY MONTH OF THE YEAR! So I started thinking along the lines of YEAR LONG GARDENING. I have 4 points that I think will help you have a lower stress gardening season.






Keep it simple: don’t try to plant everything or do everything : (there are victory gardens, companion planting, no-till, succession and so many things that “could be done” that is often too much! Think simple = success! Think year long: each season has some planning, planting, some harvesting some reaping.

The best way to decide which seeds to order and items to grow is to write out a Harvesting and Produce list for the Fall: what would you like to see on your shelf and in your freezer in the summer, fall, and winter months.

Here is an small sample checklist of what we do:

-fermented foods: garlic, cucumbers, sauerkraut, zuccinni, beets, kvass,
-tomato sauce
-salsa (canned)
-Sharon’s vegetable soup
-cucumber pickles
-zuccini pickles
-apple butter/sauce and for storage
-turnip/beet ferment

Items to pick up:
-crock for sauerkraut (then move to pickl-it containers)

Fall harvesting:

As well, container pots or raised beds on the deck or right near the house to pick fresh food from for making a quick supper is always a simplified option; herbs, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, greens, chives, and of course flowers!


This is the dream stage, the fun stage; think of the basics plus one or two fun extras. Think pretty: flowers along the edges, rows of flowers, herbs planted within the garden, a vegetable you’ve always wanted to try. It is helpful to take a basic school scribbler or binder and include lists of your harvesting goals, your planting goals, pictures of your garden plot in a simple format – not Blog worthy stuff here, even just scraps of paper, pictures from old magazines taped to lined paper and put in the binder……nothing fancy just fun picture, drawings of your own, empty seed packages, items that inspire you to order seeds, and plant them in the dirt in May!
Include a list of how to eat the various vegetables that will be harvested, for example; fermented foods, canned soups, vegetables canned, frozen fruit and veggies, dehydrated vegetables.

Here is a sample:


-carrots: steamed, raw, in soups,
-beet greens: steamed or sautéed along with garlic, in Minestrone or in green soups
-zucchini: all variety of dishes! It is great in broth and on the bbq., cubed and roasted in olive oil
-goat milk: in a glass, as chocolate milk, Lattes, cream for serving on dessert,
-onions to season all dishes
-strawberries: serve with cream or milk
-lettuce: Monastary salads from A Monestary Cookbook
-potatoes (mashed, roasted with garlic and dill, fried in duck fat)

Skillet dinners simplify our work days


Again, it is important to remember that we don’t have to do EVERYTHING and GROW EVERYTHING; simplify and grow what you are able to grow well. As time allows, then other vegetables and fruits can be added to the mix. Knowing what foods you don’t grow as easily or effeciently and who in your neighbourhood DOES grow those foods is super helpful; for years we have bought our strawberries, cabbage, carrots, garlic, and some beets from a local farmer in our area who specializes in these products. They are a wealth of information for us and provide fantastic food! I generally place my order early if I can or when I can. Farmers love it when you pre-order because it assures them that customers still like and want their products and that they have the assurance that some of what they are growing will be sold. And the benefit to you is that you have the knowledge that if that vegetable grows well that year, then you will have some for your pantry!

Raised beds: we like to plant herbs purchased from nearby greenhouses


But what can you plant in the Fall months as well as January, February? Sprouts such as broccoli sprouts grow really well but micro greens such as peas and sunflowers are even more exciting because it seems like we have summer vegetables in the winter, French green lentil sprouts are super easy to sprout and taste like spring peas – so amazing in nutrients. Also, continuously fermenting vegetables during those months such as making saurkraut of course! However there are many more vegetables that can be fermented such as dilled carrots, ginger beets and turnips, red onions, and swiss chard for a good dose of Magnesium. Growing buckwheat greens provides for a burst of winter lettuce chock full of Vitamin C and Zinc.

Canning, drying and dehydrating, can all be done any month of the year; such as canning broth and soups, making jams from frozen berries or cold storage apples, drying late season vegetables such as potatoes and carrots and beets and onions, as well as rendering fat into hot sterilized jars for cold storage.

Snow on our garden in Mid-spring

Plan to keep old sheets or blankets and store them in a box marked “garden” and use for early or late frosts. Remember, it can FREEZE OR SNOW ANY MONTH!

November -January is a good time to collect your own seeds from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and squash or review the seeds you have left from previous orders and begin ordering seeds for your garden.

In February – March: if you are able and have the time, plant some starter plants in your home: not lots, just enough: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, Swiss chard, to put out on the deck or yard once the days are warm enough (April-May). Alternatively, hire a local student to grow some for you or purchase from a friend, neighbour, or small nearby Greenhouse.

In March: plant potatoes inside in a large pot, bucket, or even a potato bag and then place on your deck or near the house in April for early potatoes.

In April: potatoes in April, lettuce, greens, peas in late April or early May.

n April-May, begin planting outdoors any cold hearty plants such as peas, lettuce, radish and others that your gardening book suggest (I always have to look them up).
Don’t have your own small greenhouse to grown cold sensitive plants in? Here is an inexpensive makeshift greenhouse idea that can be used anywhere, even on a deck: use clear plastic recycling bags to cover plants to protect them from light frost, wind. cold rains.
In July-August, try to plant Swiss chard and lettuce and keep them in the garden as long as possible, the makeshift greenhouse is great for this; Swiss Chard will last until heavy snow. It taste better this way and you have greens for longer. I find this so much simpler than freezing greens which can be very tedious and time consuming for what you get! Supplies: gather various items throughout the year to simplify and make your gardening experience as stress free as possible, items for your gardening and harvesting such as seeds (swap with friends, purchase ahead even now, keep yours as able). frost coverings (old blankets and sheets are great for this), canning jars and lids when they are on sale, bulk boxes of plastic bags for freezing fruit and vegetables, gardening books from thrift stores and give-away stores.





10 thoughts on “Gardening for beginners….and the rest of us too!”

  1. So proud of you Cindy! All of your hard work, your beautiful family and your lovely home! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Much appreciated Kate! So glad you enjoyed the post; while looking at my harvesting pictures I came across some canning green bean photos and naturally thought of you teaching me how to do some canning! Such treasured memories!

  2. Hi Cindy, I haven’t posted anything yet to your website, but have been enjoying it, and am proud of you, you are doing a great job. Very interesting. I have a question for you, as you know I have been gardening for a number of years but I never have any luck growing or keeping onions, do you have any suggestions. Love Mum

    1. Hi Mum, Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness! I’ve learned so much about the art of homemaking from you! Growing up one of my favourite summer activities was picking and shelling peas together with you! My onions don’t grow very well either, however my strawberry farmer grows onions and I’ve purchased from him the last few years. I’ll ask him and his wife how they manage to grow their onions so nicely and get back to you as I’d love to know for myself as well. They harden the onions off in their shop at a cool temperature with a light fan blowing over the onions for circulation. When we’ve picked up our onions from them we usually have to finish off the hardening process so this year I put them upstairs in our loft with a fan for air circulation. Once hardened off, we store our onions in a black vegetable crate or a burlap bag in our cold room and they keep fairly nicely there. Maybe we can both have success this year!

        1. Hi Mum, I’ve chatted with my farmer here who grows onions and she said that adding Epsom Salts when we plant the onions will prevent onion maggots; I’ve found maggots prevent the onion from growing well. The salts can be added any time after they’ve been planted too. Also, once the onions are growing nicely, cutting around the onion in the soil with a paring knife will keep the soil soft and allow the onion to grow larger: sometimes the soil can become compacted (especially in clay or hard soil) and prevent growth. They do remove the green tops for drying the onion; the tops are gone when we pick up our nicely prepared, hardened off onions. Hope this helps! Love Cindy

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