Category Archives: Garden Advice

DIY Gifts for Gardeners and Foodies

This has been a challenging year for everyone. For many, the holidays will be extra difficult this year due to increased financial restraints. If you love to give gifts, I’ve put together a few simple, DIY gift ideas that the gardeners, foodies, and many other folks in your life may enjoy.

Soup Mixes

Homemade soup mixes in mason jars with an attached recipe are a great DIY option. If you had a garden this year, adding some homegrown herbs, dry beans, or even dehydrated veggies is a nice touch.


Seeds are extra special when they come with a story. If you’ve saved seed this fall, consider packing some up as holiday gifts. Other gardeners or those who want to start gardening will genuinely appreciate your gift.

Pickling Mix

If you know someone who gardens and preserves a lot of food, consider making them a pickling spice mix. Fill a jar with the spices for your favorite pickles and tie on a recipe card.

Herbal Infused Vinegar

Herbal infused vinegar is so simple to make and absolutely delicious. It’s perfect for someone in your life who loves to cook. It is an excellent base for marinades and salad dressings. You can learn how to make your own herbal infused vinegar here.

Herbal Teas

If you started a medicinal herb garden this year, custom tea blends are a great way to say I love you! Just mix your favorite dried herbs. If you need inspiration, check out our wellness tea recipe. This gift would be great combined with a mug and tea strainer.

Herbal Tinctures

Tinctures are a great way to get the benefits of medicinal herbs in just a drop. Earlier this fall, I wrote about making a goldenrod tincture, but that recipe works with other herbs as well. Some other herbs to tincture include echinacea, lavender, St. John’s wort, mint, and lemon balm.

Spice Mixes

What cook wouldn’t love custom spice mixes? Create your own combinations using homegrown garlic, onions, herbs, salt, and other spices. Package your mixtures in jelly jars. They make excellent, sustainable stocking stuffers!

Braided Garlic or Onions

There’s something incredibly beautiful about braids of onions or garlic hanging in your kitchen. If you have extra, you can offer the favorite foodie in your life a beautiful gift that will also add flavor to many meals.

Dehydrated/Camp Meals

If you dehydrated some of your produce this summer, you can use it to create lightweight camp meal mixes for the backpacker or outdoors person in your life.

Homemade Canned Goods

Jam and jellies are an excellent gift paired with a loaf of homemade bread. Other items like canned or pickled vegetables are great when given with a handwritten recipe card. You can dress up the jars with swatches of pretty fabric and twine.

Your Time

While it may look different during a pandemic, you can still offer your time to other gardeners. Safe social distancing is easier to accomplish in an outdoor garden setting. Help in the garden is always appreciated! Consider giving some homemade coupons for help with garden chores in the coming summer.


8 Common New Gardener Mistakes

Gardening isn’t all about having a green thumb. In fact, a lot of gardening is more about the effort you put in. However, it certainly does get a bit easier with experience. If you’re new to gardening avoid these mistakes for a better 2021 growing season.

Not giving plants enough space.

It can be tempting to jam as many different plants into your garden as possible. After all, there are tons of incredible varieties to choose from! However, your garden will be much more productive if you provide your plants with adequate spacing and thin as needed. Thinning is especially important with root crops, many will not bulb up if they’re crowded.

Proper spacing also allows plants to get the nutrients and light they need to thrive. Plus, it’s key to providing maximum air circulation around plants which can help prevent fungal diseases in crops like tomatoes.

Failing to provide seedlings with optimum conditions.

Starting seeds is one of the great joys of gardening. Long before it’s spring outside you get to see the start of your crops popping up in little containers or trays inside. While starting seeds indoors isn’t difficult there are a few simple mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

The first is not providing supplemental light. It’s almost guaranteed that your seedlings won’t get enough light indoors just from a window and will grow tall and leggy. Supplemental light in the form of a simple garage or shop light can really help with this.

Two other common problems are not using proper potting soil and over or under-watering. Potting soil drains better than regular garden soil. It’s easy to over or under water when dealing with plants in such small containers. You want the soil to be damp but not soggy. 

For more common seed starting mistakes check out our full article on this subject, 8 Common Mistakes When Starting Seeds.

Not succession planting.

Succession planting is a method of spacing out your plantings so that you’re harvesting crops over a longer period of time rather than all at once. An example of this is adding a few rows of sweet corn every two weeks so it ripens after different times. 

Pam Dawling wrote an excellent article on succession planting for the SESE blog, Summer Succession Crop Planting: Avoid Gluts and Shortages.

Not having proper tools.

While gardening with almost nothing is certainly possible it isn’t always the most fun or efficient. Having the proper equipment can make a huge difference in your gardening experience.

One great tool is a stirrup hoe. You slide them back and forth across the soil to cut small weeds off below the surface. They can really help you keep up with the weeds. Proper watering tools like a hose and sprinkler or drip system can also make a huge difference in the amount of time you have to spend caring for your garden. Consider investing in a few quality tools to make the most of your timeand effort.

Not testing your soil.

While you may have success just rototilling any free spot in your backyard and adding some seeds, you’re much more likely to get a good harvest if you invest in your soil a bit. Step one is to test your soil. They sell or home test kits or most extension agencies offer affordable soil tests.

From there you make the choices on soil amendments and then consider taking steps like mulching, going no-till, and planting cover crops.

Learn more about what your soil test results mean with our post, Understanding Soil Tests.

Planting too much.

A well-cared for tiny garden can actually be more productive than a large neglected one. Starting with a small plot and focusing only on a few crops is key to a great harvest.

A small garden will allow you to give tasks like weeding, harvesting, and watering the time they require. It may also cost you less in terms of soil amendments, seeds, and tools. Start small your first year and slowly add on.

Not fencing your garden.

Any gardener in the Southeast will probably tell you all about the time a deer ate a perfect row of prized vegetables. Even if you think your yard is free from woodchucks, rabbits, and deer odds are they will find your garden. Having a good fence in place before planting can help you avoid some serious gardener heartbreak.

Not keeping some form of a garden journal.

No, you don’t have to write a diary about how your garden is progressing but you should aim to keep some basic notes. Do a quick sketch of your garden layout so you can easily rotate your crops the following year. Jot down which varieties your family loved and which suffered disease or pest issues. Take note of planting dates so you know when to plant another succession. A few notes can save you time and stress in the long run.

Keeping these 8 things in mind can help you have a more enjoyable and successful gardening experience.

Preparing Perennials for Winter

Who doesn’t love perennials? They’re generally easy to care for and offer a harvest or beauty year after year. Make sure your perennials thrive next season with these simple fall tips.


Any damaged, diseases, or pest ridden plant material should be cut back in the fall. Some of of these materials are fine to toss in an active compost pile. A hot compost pile should kill plant diseases. However, some pest ridden plants like asparagus fronds that were infested with asparagus beetles should be burned.

Check out our winter compost pile tips.

That being said you may want to leave some dead plant material in the garden. Some beneficial insects actually overwinter in dead plant stalks. Seed heads like echinacea and sunflower are also great winter food sources for song birds.


Unfortunately, weeding isn’t just a summer chore. Perennials thrive when kept weed free so if you live somewhere without snow cover you may need to weed a bit during the fall and winter.

Weeds can be tossed into an active compost pile. A good hot pile will break down weed seeds so that you’re not adding them back to your soil.


If you live in the Deep South where winters are warm you may also need to water perennials during the fall and winter depending on the year’s rainfall.


Like we covered in our last post, perennials benefit from being mulched in the fall. Mulch provides a temperature buffer and can help prevent the soil from heaving during periods of freezing and thawing. It also adds organic material to the soil as it decomposes. You can use a variety of natural mulches including straw, leaves, hay, shredded paper, pine needles, or wood chips or shavings.

Mulch around the base of fruit trees and shrubs to help protect the roots. Most smaller perennials can be mulched over entirely you just may need to pull it back some after the danger of frost has passed in the spring.

Provide Extra Protection

If you have any perennials that are only marginally tolerant of your hardiness zone you can move them into a cold-frame for winter. Alternatively, you can try covering them with row cover or even just a thick layer of mulch. Sometimes just a little extra protection can allow you to grow plants that wouldn’t normally thrive in your climate.