Gardener's Supply was founded in 1983 by a handful of enthusiastic Vermont gardeners. Today, they serves millions of gardeners nationwide through their catalogs, website and retail stores. Gardener's Journal blog includes articles on Indoor Gardening, Vegetable Gardening, Flower Gardening and other such topics related to gardening.
A longtime customer and product tester for Gardener’s Supply, Carrie has transformed her struggling lawn into a thriving kitchen garden with our new CedarLast Raised Beds and Obelisk.
[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts from Carrie Bettencourt about her backyard makeover.]
To start this story I have to start at the ending — otherwise all the crazy details might not mean so much. Today I have a fabulous garden filled with beautiful cedar raised beds. Wow!
Before the makeover
The story starts with a plan to move to a house in Southern California. The yard had nice sunlight and an area of lawn but, sadly, no gardens. Maybe not a problem for most, but I would be leaving behind an established garden — a rocking urban garden!
Although I knew we’d be making the big move in June — the height of the growing season — I just kept on working my old garden like I would be there forever. I thought that at least the new owners would be all set for a summer of veggies.
In my state of denial, I did one little thing that changed everything — I ordered some planters from Gardener’s Supply, a company I had used as a resource for ages. My three little containers arrived and I filled them with plants that I planned to move with me. I was so happy with the containers, I photographed them and posted the pictures on Instagram. Lucky for me, Deborah from Gardeners Supply Company noticed my photo and contacted me. Deborah coordinates research and product testing, and we began a relationship that involved me testing more garden containers.
The Big Move
Greens, herbs and flowers thrive in Carrie’s new raised beds.
Then moving day came — cue sadness. The new place didn’t have any gardens. But I couldn’t give up on gardening, so I just kept growing things in containers for the rest of that first summer and winter. In spring I would make a decision about where and how to make my new gardens.
This delay had a silver lining, because it gave me time to get to know my new space. I moved my planters around and figured out the seasonal sun path. I won’t bore you with all the challenges and pitfalls, but they included the usual things like pests, drought, and raccoons. Without those insights I would have made different decisions about almost everything. I definitely recommend taking time to get to know a new place before digging in.
As Christmas approached the stars must have aligned, because I was starting to think that raised beds would be the right solution here. At the same time, Deborah at Gardener’s Supply was thinking that maybe I’d want to test the CedarLast raised beds they planned to introduce in February. She didn’t have to twist my arm — I jumped on it and knew just the right area for them.
I poured all my past season’s frustration and longing into the design of the new space. To plan for the new beds, I drew a grid and moved around scaled cutouts of the raised beds I’d be receiving. My goal was a layout that was lovely and functional.
I planned for:
Enough space between beds to roll a wheelbarrow,
Some areas of shade so I could grow greens during our hot summer,
Aesthetics, since this would also be living space for us.
I wasn’t looking for a huge garden with unlimited tomato varieties and such. We are urban dwellers and my aim is to have a kitchen garden full of things we like to eat — a doable goal with our limited space.
My list of planting wants included an herb garden, lots of greens and salad makings, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, okra, and artichokes. Also on that list are flowers for the pollinators — and the humans. I try to keep everything edible, even the flowers, in the spirit of a true kitchen garden. I left some unplanned space in case I came across something new or interesting to try.
Next step: ordering seeds! In the next post I’ll share my seed starting adventures.
Carrie has a passion for cooking using ingredients fresh from her garden and the abundant farmer’s markets in California. She’s learned how to garden in different spaces and climates, from east coast to west, and has loved all the joy and challenges along the way.
Check out her Instagram account and blog for inspiring photos of her beautiful kitchen garden, as well as delicious recipes and gardening tips.
Collect your recyclables for the month of February, then post a photo on social media with #FuturisticFebruary. You will be in shock when you realize how much waste you accumulate in just one month!
Last year I went to Nicaragua for an entire month to learn Spanish and teach English. During my time there, I was inspired by fellow eco-tourists to minimize my waste by refusing, reducing and reusing. Nicaragua, like many developing countries, does not have a proper waste disposal system. The country burns all of its waste, including recyclables and plastic.
After my month spent in Nicaragua, I was able to fit all of my recyclables in a small plastic bag and bring them on the plane home with me to dispose of them properly. I made this happen by simply thinking twice about buying a granola bar with a wrapper, refusing to use a plastic bag, refusing plastic straws, and not using paper towels when unnecessary. As an environmentalist and holistic-health enthusiast, it clicked for me that I couldn’t call my lifestyle sustainable while still using plastic regularly.
When I returned from Nicaragua I created a campaign called #FuturisticFebruary. The campaign challenge includes asking people to save all the recyclable materials they use during the month of February and post a photograph of their collections on social media February 28 with the #FuturisticFebruary hashtag. After posting, of course, recycle all those aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other items. I encourage everyone and anyone to participate in Futuristic February in order to help heal the planet. The idea is to raise awareness of pollution and over-consumption.
After my travels, I was motivated to implement a change in my lifestyle considering I was living in a hostel that was starting to deteriorate due to rising sea levels. It made me extremely upset to think about how much we consume as Americans and do not recognize the detrimental effects it has on the environment and surrounding countries. The small islands in Nicaragua experience climate change firsthand and their land is being destroyed by erosion and increasing sea levels. If we do not change our ways, our future will be similar!
All of my fruit and veggie peels go straight into my worm composter. Always!
The best way to reduce your waste is simply to buy products that are reusable. Things like bamboo toothbrushes, mesh grocery bags, reusable bottles, glass straws, and compostable dish brushes are all great options. I have a Gardener’s Supply Worm Farm Composter that I use daily! I eat a plant-based diet and all of my fruit and veggie peels go straight into my composter for my red wigglers to enjoy. I use the finished compost in my Gardener’s Supply GrowEase Seed Starter when I start seeds during the winter!
There is much to learn! Every day I discover new ways to live in a more sustainable way. For example, I carry a reusable bowl and mug so I’m prepared when I’m ordering an acai bowl or heading to a coffee shop, in case they don’t provide reusable options.
My best advice is to keep a dedicated “sustainability bag” with you at all times. Mine includes mesh grocery bags, reusable mugs and bowls, a metal to-go tin, glass straws, reusable water bottles, and bamboo utensils. My guilty pleasure is eating acai bowls a couple times a week so I always leave a reusable bowl and bamboo spoon in my car!
Another good minimal-waste shopping option is to put food from a store’s bulk bins straight into reusable bags. This eliminates the need for plastic bags — and buying in bulk is much cheaper, too! What’s better than reducing your carbon footprint while saving money in the process?
My goal is to have as little impact on the planet as possible, while bettering myself and the environment. Going “minimal waste” isn’t easy, especially at first because you have to break loose of old habits. It truly is a journey, but it’s completely necessary in order to heal the planet. Every effort to make the planet a cleaner place counts!
I am Carly Bergman, a student finishing up my degree in Integrated Studies with a focus on sustainability and eco-spirituality. I grew up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago where I had the opportunity to work at a lovely juice bar, Pure Juice Cafe. I credit this 5-year job with helping me find my passion for health, sustainability, spirituality, and environmentalism. I now live in Fort Myers, Florida, where I work with the vegan protein bar company, Planet Protein, as well as work with Florida Edible Landscaping, a company that emphasizes permaculture and organic horticulture.
I personally invite you to participate in Futuristic February or minimal-waste living to simply be mindful of reducing waste and living more sustainably. I will be adding new posts about zero-waste living as well as plant-based living to my Instagram page, @Carly_Bergman.
Gardener’s Supply’s self-watering planters will be featured at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival, where garden experts will compete to create original container plantings during a daily Container Wars competition. The festival takes place in Seattle on Feb. 7-11.
One of the most productive times of the year for a gardener is the winter — when we’re planning and dreaming of what we’ll do in the dirt this year. What to plant where? And when?
Of course, some of us are also making travel plans for the spring and summer. Maybe a jaunt to the beach. But as gardeners, a weekend away can spell disaster for our beloved tomatoes and flowers. And that’s where that garden planning can really come in handy. Because using a self-watering planter can make the difference between a robust plant and, well, you know.
I first started using self-watering containers a couple years ago, not really knowing that the containers wouldn’t actually water my plants per se. I quickly learned that they do extend the amount of time between waterings, thanks to a clever water reservoir. They also provide consistent moisture to plant roots, eliminating over- and under-watering. It’s a little bit like a secret weapon, protecting against gardening goofs.
Gardener’s Supply’s self-watering containers are in the spotlight in Seattle this week as ten top gardening experts face off in a live-action event called Container Wars at the 2018 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. The festival takes place February 7-11, and the Container Wars event will be held each day from 11:30 to 12:30. Interested in designing your own creative containers? Check out our Container Gardening article for detailed how-to information.
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It’s the season of gifting and giving! As gardeners, we like to reflect our love of natural things in the gifts we share. But what about the gift wrap? There’s no doubt that beautiful wrapping can add mystery and excitement to a gift, and you can make thoughtful choices that are kind to the earth. Here are some ideas to make your gifts a feast for the eye without feeding the landfill.
1. Get Krafty.
Use easy-to-recycle paper, such as plain brown kraft paper, and dress it up with your own designs. Decorate the surface with rubber stamping, drawings, or collage. Kraft paper pairs naturally with garden twine, woven ribbons, and seasonal greens. Take a walk through the stationery store and you’ll find brown kraft printable labels and gift tags, too.
2. Use natural accents.
Decorate your gifts with botanicals. Fresh or dried flowers, greens, and herbs are traditional and on trend! Craft fresh cedar into a tiny, circular wreath to adorn a simply wrapped box. Twigs, berries, balsam, and pine cones evoke the beauty of nature in winter. Cinnamon or peppermint sticks, discs of dried citrus, sprigs of rosemary or sage make perfect accents for gifts from your garden and kitchen.
3. Think outside of the box.
Repurpose part of your gift to contain it. Wrap an assortment of kitchen gadgets in a pretty tea towel. A garden hod or decorative flower pot makes a nice gift basket for garden essentials. Fill a colorful storage basket with a warming wrap, essential oils, herbal tea, and a good book. Tie it all together with rich, woven ribbons that can be used over and over again.
4. Rock the paper and scissors.
The beautiful paper from the sweater you received last year can become the wrapping for the gloves you’ll give this year. Carefully chosen paper can enjoy a long life. Scraps too small for a gift can be collaged onto gift tags for a surprising pop of color. Repurpose other papers such as pages from old books, newspaper, sheet music, wallpaper, and maps. Cut snowflakes out of white paper. Reuse images from old calendars. With some patience, a hole-punch, and a glue stick, create a miniature pointillist masterpiece!
Now, it’s your turn! How will you green up your giftwrapping?
From now through December 24th, snap and share a photo that showcases YOUR green giftwrapping talents on Instagram for a chance to win a $200 Gardener’s Supply gift card. Two runners up will each receive a $50 gift card.
All entries must be tagged @gardeners and include the hashtags #gardenersgiftwrap and #entry.
Note: By entering the contest, you confirm that you have legal rights to the image(s) entered and give permission to Gardener’s Supply Company to use image(s) submitted in future content on the company’s website, social media channels, catalog, and email campaigns. Must be 18 or older to win. Prize ships to US address. Contest ends at midnight EST on December 24, 2017.
Ready, set, wrap!
See something that catches your eye? Find the collection of products featured in this post right here.
A sod cutter removed the grass for the new potager-style garden
2017 will go down as a roller coaster of a growing season. I am embarrassed to say I wore snow boots in the garden on June 3rd this year because it was just under 40 degrees. May, June, and July were rough on our favorite heat-loving crops like tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
Of course those were basically all the vegetables (fruits?) I planted. I love my local farm’s CSA, and it keeps my family flush in all the greens and roots we can eat. This year, though, I wanted to can enough tomatoes to get us through the winter. Many local Vermont growers bemoaned the chilly, rainy weather we had, and I heard similar rumblings countrywide from those I follow on Instagram.
*Finally a ripe tomato* or *At last an eggplant flower*
The new, extra-long bed on the left gets the most sun, perfect for the pepper starts. Also planted: tomato and eggplant starts!
I saw all this happening in the virtual world, but I was so focused on the task at hand, I hardly noticed. I undertook a huge hardscaping garden project this spring…summer…and fall. My partner was so over mowing the grass in between our raised beds (his gardening job), and I wanted more garden space. I came up with the most over-zealous way to solve that problem. Gravel. Lots of it. Numerous sketches later, I starting digging plants up and pulling beds apart in April.
With my partner’s help, I had a beautiful new manure-amended bed to plant starts in right after Memorial Day (our marker for surefire frost-free days in Vermont). I continued to toil away on the rest of the garden and, eventually, tomatoes ripened, eggplants fruited and peppers changed colors.
The garden was magical in August.
Around October 1st, my 80+ year-old native Vermont neighbor started cutting back her herbaceous perennials. I asked her why. She said she’s always started cleaning up her garden on October 1st.
“It looks like a frost might come next weekend,” she said.
The frost didn’t come. Not until November 8th. Surely a record?! I was grateful for the extra time in this weird growing season, but I had more peppers than we could ever survive to eat. Why had I bought two 6-packs of jalapeño starts? Anaheims maybe, but jalapeños? (Sidenote: anaheims are delicious.)
Don’t get me wrong, jalapeños are a crucial ingredient of many quick, easy, and tasty recipes. But I needed a recipe that would devour my glut of jalapeños. There’s no way to eat that many jalapeños…unless you pickle them!
Fresh Pickled and Canned Jalapeños Recipe
The capsaicin somehow gets tamed by vinegar
Heating the Brine
Dill seed and/or garlic cloves (optional)
This is a project that can easily be accomplished in the dark evenings after daylight savings time. But really time is irrelevant when it comes to preserving the harvest. I worked hard to grow this; it is not going to waste!
Packed the picked peppers for pickling
Sterilize six jars…that will be enough, right?
Pick your straggler peppers by headlamp because the frost is already settling on the low-lying strawberry patch.
Sterilize twelve more jars…hopefully that will be enough.
Fill your canning pot halfway with water and turn up the heat.
Put on disposable nitrile gloves. Capsaicin is the chemical compound in hot peppers that gives it a skin-burning sensation. It is not messing around and neither should you!
Slice jalapeños into hundreds of slices.
Heat pickling brine. I used a 4:4:1 ratio of water, white vinegar, and granulated sugar. I also enjoy non-recipe recipes.
Pack hot jars with sliced jalapeños. If you have a tendency to rub your eyes, and you like your eyesight, you should probably still have those gloves on.
Sprinkle canning salt in each jar for crisp pickled jalapeños. Or not. Here’s also where you can add additional spices to different jars.
Using a funnel, pour hot pickling brine into jars.
Add jar rings, finger tight.
For quart jars, water-bath can for at least 10 minutes at a rolling boil, I did it for 14 minutes for safety, and because I didn’t set a timer most of the time.
Label jars before you go to bed, even though you’re tired.
My mom loves pickled jalapeños, and I’m bringing a couple jars to NJ for Thanksgiving dinner. I think they’ll go great on a leftover turkey, cheddar and cranberry sauce sandwich.
Kelsey in her garden
Kelsey Adams is a Gardener’s Supply Company customer with a postage stamp plot in Winooski, VT. She thrives on starting too many projects, which she documents on instagram @westlane___.
Gardeners love to share. Submit a photo of the bounty you shared with someone in your community for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate to Gardener’s Supply, as well as a $100 cash donation to your local non-profit food pantry.
Note: By entering this contest, you confirm that you have legal rights to the image and give permission to Gardener’s Supply Company to share your photo in the gallery below, on gardeners.com, on social media, and in our catalog. Must be 18 or older to win. Prize ships to US address. Contest runs August 15th – October 15th, 2017.
How to Enter
Post a public photo to Instagram, including the hashtag #GrowToGive in the caption (so we can discover it), or simply upload the photo below!
I am often asked the question, “Which tomatoes can I grow in containers?” The exciting answer: “Any ones that you crave!” This doesn’t mean that you can take any tomato variety in any size of container in any location. Success with containers takes a bit of gardening savvy, particularly in understanding the differences with traditional in-ground gardens.
Here are the key considerations for growing great tomatoes in containers.
The container: Anything goes! Just make sure it has a drainage hole. Self-watering styles will reduce the frequency of watering. Keep in mind that terra cotta pots, which are porous, require more frequent watering. The container size is directly related to….
…the varieties of tomato. Indeterminate (tall growing) varieties need a container volume of 10 gallons. Dwarf and determinate tomato varieties, such as bush tomatoes, will do fine in 5-gallon containers. The larger the fruit size, the more sun required for adequate fruit. Cherry tomatoes are the least fussy and will produce fruit in as little as two to three hours of direct sun. The largest heirlooms, such as Mortgage Lifter, will disappoint unless they receive six to eight or more hours of sunlight.
Providing support for the plant: Short cages can be inserted into containers. Tall plants can tip, so think carefully about how to keep the plants upright when the plants mature.
In-ground vs. in-container
Planting in the ground
Planting in containers
Plant in the soil that you have
Control the quality of the soil you use
Weeds get out of control quickly
Weeds are a minor problem
Plants get the water and food they need from the soil
Frequent watering and feeding is required
Accommodate any type of support you have
Supports must be designed to work with the container you use
Eggplant and pepper growing together, June 7.
I am giving the Gardener’s Revolution Classic Tomato Garden Kit a thorough test, and am delighted with the product so far. One of the planters contains two dwarf tomatoes, one has two determinate tomatoes, and one has an eggplant and a bell pepper.
The planter features a clever self-watering design and the kit comes with planter, growing medium, fertilizer and a sturdy support for the plants. In only 35 days from transplant, my first eggplant is just a few weeks from harvest, and the tomatoes are setting fruit.
If you haven’t planted your garden yet, you might find yourself gazing at your neighbors’ thriving gardens with envy—and at your own barren patches with regret.
“It’s not too late,” I tell customers who call our contact center. “Life always welcomes you back.”
Yes, life. The determined, leafy green stuff your smiling soil dreams of. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been busy with the kids’ graduations, working late on summer evenings, or with your own indecision over what to plant. Your garden wants you back.
And besides, it’s only June. Here are some veggies you can still plant and harvest, even if your season’s gotten off to a late start.
Finally, here’s the most common question customers ask me: “Is it too late to plant tomatoes?”
Not yet. If you live in the north it’s finally warm enough to plant tomatoes outside. You can definitely start with seedlings from the garden center. And depending on your frost date, you might even be able to start from seed. Pruden’s Purple Tomato grows from organic, heirloom seeds and is an indeterminate ready to harvest in about 72 days. Check your frost date to see if you have enough time. Peacevine Cherry Tomatoes can have you harvesting in 78.
So go ahead and put these little seeds in the ground. Don’t worry about how much growing season you have left. Even when you feel like it’s too late, life always welcomes you back.
Chionodoxa (kion-o-DOX-ah), also known as glory-of-the-snow, are among the first to bloom.
If you’re a raised bed gardener, chances are your beds are empty for a large portion of the year: from the end of harvest through the winter.
What if you could squeeze in another crop? Consider fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs.
At the front of our building, we have a set of raised beds and planters, which are filled with pollinator-friendly annuals all summer. By the end of October, frost kills the annuals and we empty the beds for winter. Sometimes, we cover crop with winter rye.
At planting time, Use more bulbs than would seem necessary. You’ll be glad you did.
Hardware cloth comes in rolls. Make sure you have a heavy-duty snips that can cut the wire to fit your beds.
Keep critters out
Last fall, I planted a few dozen bulbs in the beds and planters. I was worried about rodents, so I covered the soil surface with a layer of metal “hardware cloth” to keep the bulbs safe. In the planters, I used pieces of Cat Scat Mat. It’s easy to cut to fit with a pair of scissors. To keep the beds and planters neat, I covered the mats and hardware cloth with a 2-inch layer of potting soil, enriched with a few scoops of compost.
Spring is here and the bulbs are blooming on schedule, with no evidence of rodent damage. The mats and hardware cloth don’t hinder the emerging bulbs—the emerging stems grow through the gaps.
After the bulbs are done blooming
Once the bulbs have finished their display, I’ll pull them out and compost the lot. To some, it might seem a bit wasteful, but I treat them as annuals. Because my beds are small (3×3), I chose bulbs to fit the scale: crocus, miniature irises, chionodoxa and miniature daffodils. Of course, I couldn’t resist a few big, glorious tulips, which I got from Longfield Gardens. Next fall, I’ll plant something different.