Growing Food

Using Twigs as Plant Cages

Twig Plant CagesIt only took one trip to the beautiful landscapes of England (many years ago), for me to stop using plastic stakes in my garden to hold up plants. That trip opened my eyes to the idea of letting plant supports add to the garden instead of taking away from it.

In Britain, it seemed like everyone used twig cuttings (long thin branches) to support everything from sweet peas to beans and morning glories.

Their garden supports had so much charm! I immediately started doing the same thing in my own garden.

This weekend, I noticed that the tomatillos in my front garden were looking a little leggy and sprawling. I decided they needed a tripod cage and I had some freshly pruned apple branches that could do the trick…

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127 of you commented on the Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook Giveaway and listed some great edible favorites, cooking tips and more! Thank you so much for all the great information. I found it so interesting, I decided to do a summary post below so you can get the highlights in a quick and easy way.

Heirloom Tomatoes

But First!  The Winners..

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Free Edible Garden Cookbook Giveaway!

I love Sunset Magazine not only for the great garden articles, but for the delicious and reliable recipes. I have been ripping out and saving recipes from their pages for many years and I have never had a dud in the bunch.

So imagine how excited I was to learn that they have compiled a cookbook filled with recipes utilizing what we grow in our gardens! The Sunset Edible Garden Cookbook – This is what I need!

And I am giving away FIVE copies of this book.

Edible Garden Cookbook

A few months ago, I had the privilege of visiting Sunset Magazine Headquarters for a media day. We toured the grounds (beautiful) and test kitchen (huge) AND we got to sample a few recipes from this cookbook. All I can say is YUM and Double YUM! My favorite so far is the Chocolate Zucchini Rum Cake which is moist, delicious and you can’t even tell there is zucchini in there.

Here’s the skinny on the book.

Each vegetable and fruit has its own section with a little overview of growing and harvesting tips. There is also a chapter on herbs, an overview on canning and planting a vegetable garden. The recipes?  Simple,  delicious and creative. You will find Browned Butter & Hazelnut Mashed Potatoes, Swiss Chard & Sausage Frittata, Pumpkin Gingersnap Ice Cream and Melon-Berry Aqua Fresca and so much more!

Here is a sample recipe (reprinted with permission) using that cool watermelon radish I keep seeing in the seed catalogs. Have you seen these?  They are very easy to grow. And when they are sliced, they really do look like watermelons!

Watermelon Radish SaladWatermelon-Radish Salad

Serves 6 —  Time: at least 15 minutes

Also known as red-heart or rose-heart radish, the sweet watermelon radish is an Asian variety. You might even find it sold as red daikon. It is an absolute stunner when cut in half, and that’s the prettiest way to serve it, thinly sliced across to see its gorgeous interior.


watermelon radishes

1/3 cup season rice vinegar

1 tsp. black sesame seeds (optional)

1) Peel radishes. Slice crosswise as thinly as possible. Mix with vinegar.

2) Cover and chill at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you like and serve.

Free Edible Garden Cookbook

How YOU can win a FREE Cookbook!

Sorry. Contest closed. Winners were announced HERE with a summary of your tips and recipes. Thanks to everyone for participating!

Sunset has offered to ship cookbooks to FIVE of my lucky readers! All you have to do is comment below listing your favorite garden edible. If you grow a special vegetable variety that you think is the cat’s meow, please tell us!  For example, one of my very favorite zucchinis is called “Gadzukes”. (It has ribbed stripes and when you slice it, it makes a star.) So what is your “Must Have” veggie in the garden? And if you don’t have a favorite, what are wanting to try this year? Tell us below in the comments.

Please Note: One comment per person please and you must be a continental US resident to win. You have until midnight June 6th to enter. Then, I will randomly pick 5 comments and Sunset will ship out the books.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was not paid to review this cookbook. I received a free review copy and the offer to give away five cookbooks to my readers. The opinions here are my own.


The Next Generation of Farmers

This past year, one of the most rewarding episodes I wrote/produced for Growing A Greener World (on PBS) was the one on “Young Farmers”. It was all about who will be growing our food in the future.

The farmers and JennyJackson Farm in GA

As you probably know, the average age of the American farmer is 60 and most farming is done conventionally with the use of chemicals and industrialized methods. But there is a new generation of farmers emerging and they are young, passionate about the envirnment and willing to work hard to grow food sustainably and distribute it locally.

There were so many wonderful people making a difference, it was difficult for me to narrow down where we should film or who we should feature for that episode. But we ended up filming in the Atlanta area and showcased some really wonderful people who I am proud to have growing food for us. (Shown above are the farmers at Jenny Jack Sun Farm in Pine Mountain GA. Don’t you just love the t-shirt?)

Remember that we vote with our dollars. If we buy locally, organically grown produce, we support our local farmers – many of whom are just starting out with sustainable farms. Take a look at this episode (Link Below) and know that with our support and dollars these people can make a difference in the way our country eats.

To watch the full episode go to: Episode 213 – Young Farmers


Find What’s Fresh

SeasonalFruit I found a neat new tool at the Epicurious site:  search by state and month, and find what’s fresh in your area!

The tool keeps track of peak-season fruits and veggies for you, and even suggests recipes based on those foods.

Clever! I sure could have used this all summer.


My Garden Will Be On TV This Weekend!

Lights! Camera! Cue the songbirds! Cue the Squash! Aaaaand ACTION!

GGW_Theresa3 Yes, it is true. Two months ago, we filmed for FIVE straight days in my backyard for our Public Television series Growing A Greener World. As the Associate Producer of the show, it was my job to coordinate the 5 day shoot, including finding the guests, pre-interview them, acquiring permits, permissions and lining up all the locations.

But what made this particular shoot a bit more stressful was the fact that my garden was being featured (on 3 of the episodes we were filming). So I had to do my AP job while also getting myself AND the garden ready for filming.

Whew! I still get tired thinking about it.

GGWFilming1151 The filming itself went well. The crew was supposed to arrive Monday afternoon and stop by to get an overview of my garden. Imagine my surprise when I opened the door at 11 AM only to find our Director and Lighting Director on my front porch with all of their equipment!

Apparently Joe Lamp’l (our Ex. Producer) had emailed them in mid-flight and told them to start shooting when they arrived! Funny thing about that…HE FORGOT TO TELL ME! It was a miracle I was even home!

So, I was a bit thrown off as I was running out the door to get food and wine (a very important element in a 5 day shoot). But I let the guys in to start filming 24 hours early. Oh MY!

Lucky for me, I have some very talented and reliable friends who not only picked up my kids from school, but also got the crew some much needed coffee while I escaped to run errands.

Meanwhile, I started texting Joe on the airplane (his flight was not set to land until 2:30 PM) and most of those texts and emails began with the words “I am going to kill you…and it will be a slow, painful death“. When Joe landed, he texted me that he was afraid to get off the plane. (As well he should be!)

But in the end, it was wonderful to have the guys here a day early as that gave them almost an entire day to film B-roll of my garden that we can use in many of our episodes.

The episode about me and my garden is called “Living Homegrown Fresh” (sound familiar?) and will be airing THIS weekend on Public Television. It is all about growing your own food, eating locally, and how I do urban homesteading in the middle of the city.



I was listening to the play back of what we just shot.


The team doing the “close” in front of my garden writer shed.

(Yes, this is where I write for the show)


Our host/producer Joe Lamp’l filming in my front yard.

We filmed at a farmer’s market to discuss eating LOCAL!

You need to check your local listings to see when it is airing in your neck of the woods. OR WATCH IT ON THE SHOW’S WEBSITE! We will be airing the episode (in its entirety and in high definition) on the Growing A Greener World website starting this Sunday morning, August 22.


Have You Ever Done This?

Lettuce1Today I noticed two forlorn looking six packs of lettuce sitting in my garden. I bought them months ago with the intention of filling in some empty spots in my front yard. (I use edibles all throughout my landscape.) But alas, I totally forgot about them…probably because I always grow my lettuce from seed. I never buy it in six-packs.

Do you do this? Forget about plants until they either die or root right through the pot?

I catch myself doing this sometimes. I buy on impulse, set the plants where they will get some water and forget about them. I find them later, rooted through the pot, struggling to survive. Ugh!

This lettuce will not go to waste. It is well established in its little corner of the garden, so I am just going to harvest it from six pack — tacky as that may be.


An Attack on School Gardens

The Attack:

KidsgardeningX Sunday, I got all fired up about a post on GardenRant on school gardens. Apparently, a journalist had written a scathing article in Atlantic magazine spouting that educational gardens are a waste of money, are taking time away from core lessons in the classrooms and are forcing children to grow up to be poor farm laborers.

The woman who wrote this article believes that when teaching at-risk kids, you "should strip away every program and resource that is not essential to the mission of schooling."

She also believes that if these kids want veggies, we only need to keep their grocery stores well stocked. She states:

"This seems to me a more sensible approach to getting produce to children than asking the unfortunate tykes to spend precious school hours growing it themselves."

Obviously she doesn't "get it" when it comes to educational gardens and has no intention of investigating enough to understand. She does not understand the way the brain makes connections with real life experiences allowing for better cataloging and retrieval of that information.  She obviously has not studied or even read about Multiple Intelligences and how not every child can learn by drills. And she does not have a real grasp of what it means to be poor.

The Truth:

Most of the people I spoke to were unable to read the entire article. They said it was too hard to stomach the inaccuracies and leaps of logic. I agree with the assessment, but I did read it to the end. I found it very amusing that someone with such a high opinion of themselves, could [click to continue…]


Recycle AND Create a Window Farm

Two NYC artists, Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray created a vertical window garden out of recycled water bottles. All the plants are grown hydroponically and it demonstrates how to get the most from a small city space.

Check it out…


Growing Your Own Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake_log  Some of you may recall this conversation I had with my husband recently…

Husband: “What is this moldy baggie in the refrigerator? Can I throw it away?”

Me: “NO!!!! That is my bag of Shiitake mushroom plug spawn.”

Husband: “Huh?”

Me: “It is a bag of wood sticks that are inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores.”

Husband: “Umm…what?”

Me: “I am going to pound them into a log, let them colonize the wood and sprout my own Shiitake mushrooms. I am keeping them in the refrigerator until I have the log ready. Plus, letting them sit a bit helps the spores multiply before I embed them into the log.”


Me: “Why are you looking at me that way?”

Husband: “I’m just waiting for the alien life form to sprout from your body…Who are you and what have you done with my wife?”


Well, I wanted to update you on the mushroom growing project. I managed to plant those plugs!


I bought the plugs from Fungi Perfecti in the state of Washington. You can order plugs for Shiitake, Tree oyster and others. They also have counter top mushroom kits, books and other cool information.

To grow the Shiitake mushrooms in a log, you first need a hardwood log (with some exceptions). Oak, eucalyptus, and elm are good candidates. I used mostly oak. The logs need to be from live trees and must be cut 2 weeks to 6 months before using.

First, you drill two-inch deep holes (with a 5/16th inch drill bit) that are no more than four-inches apart.

Then, you hammer in the wooden plugs with a rubber mallet.


After plugging, the logs should be placed so that they are off the ground. They need steady moisture and low light. Then…you wait.

It takes 6-12 months for the mushrooms to colonize the wood. I’m waiting now and will keep you posted…See? No alien life forms involved!

Top photo credit.