Free Gardener’s Idea Book from Proven Winners

Request the FREE Gardener’s Idea Book from Proven Winners!  The 36 page booklet is full of gardening inspiration.

Sign up to get your free garden idea book here..

7 Creative Uses for Chocolate Mint

Chocolate mint is an easy to grow perennial that once you plant it, you will find yourself with an abundance of it. It smells just like the name suggests, like minty chocolate, and smells good enough to eat! If you grow chocolate mint or are considering it, take a look below at 7 uses for chocolate mint you must try! You will find that it is a practical herb to grow. Here is what you need to know!

Chocolate mint smells just like the name suggests, like minty chocolate! If you grow chocolate mint or are considering it, take a look at these creative uses for chocolate mint you must try!

1. Use it as a dessert garnish.

Chocolate mint is safe for food use as long as it has been grown without chemicals and is washed well. You can use it to top your cakes, cookies, and cupcakes as it offers some nice color and even adds to the aroma of the dessert.

2. Add it to shakes and ice cream.

Chocolate mint is a wonderful addition to your homemade shakes and ice cream. The oils in the plant can add a minty flavor and chocolate aroma that is heavenly. Be sure you only use mint that has been grown without chemicals and is rinsed well.

3. Freeze it in ice cubes.

Fancy up your beverages and add flavor at the same time when you freeze chocolate mint leaves in ice cubes. They will give the cubes some color and add flavor as they melt. This is an excellent idea to try when you’re throwing a garden party or shower. You can also add it to homemade popsicles as well.

4. Add it to your cocktails.

Chocolate mint is perfect for adding to your cocktails that require muddled mint. Mojitos taste even better when you add some fresh mint, and chocolate mint will get the job done and add a unique twist to the drink as well. Also, you can garnish any drink with a fresh chocolate mint sprig!

5. Make mint infused oil.

You can let chocolate mint leaves and stems soak in a bottle of almond or coconut oil to make your own mint infused oil. You can then use it as a massage oil (mint will cause slight tingles and warmness, be advised) or even add it to dessert recipes or a type of fruit salad.

6. Mix it in with your homemade bath products.

You can add chocolate mint to any of your homemade body scrubs, body butters, or other homemade bath products. Just muddle the mint or dry it and add it. You will not only get the benefits of mint but it will leave a wonderful scent too.

7. Dry it for crafting.

You can use dried mint leaves in your crafting as well. Try adding it to homemade candles, lotions, potpourri and more. It will add a lovely fragrance and some fresh color as well. To dry your mint just tie it into a bundle and hang it in a cool dark place until it’s dry.

Are you ready to put chocolate mint to work for you? Give these 7 ideas a try and see how useful it really is!

10 Uses for Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial herb that grows thick, bushy and abundantly.  It smells great, is super tasty, and has a variety of fun uses.  If you’re wanting to create an herb garden, lemon balm should definitely be included on your plant list.  Because it grows so abundantly, you might be searching for ideas on how to put it to use. Here are 10 uses for lemon balm that you’re sure to enjoy:

10 Uses for Lemon Balm

To Repel Mosquitoes

Lemon Balm is a great herb to have in your outdoor living spaces because it’s known for repelling those pesky mosquitoes! I currently have Lemon Balm in a planter with some colorful annuals next to our patio table. You could also try rubbing a few leaves over your arms and legs so the lemon scent is on your skin, warding off the mosquitoes.

Simple Syrup

Each summer I like to make up a batch of simple syrup so I can enjoy some delicious summery drinks. Sometimes I like to add some lemon balm leaves for an extra special treat. All you need is

  • 1 cup of packed lemon balm leaves
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  1. Bring all the ingredients to a boil for 1 minute, until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and cover.
  3. Let stand 30 minutes.
  4. Strain the leaves from the syrup.
  5. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.

I like to use the mixture in lemonade and iced tea or in club soda to make Italian sodas.

To make Tea

Dried or fresh lemon balm leaves are great for making a calming tea. Lemon balm is also known for fighting colds and flu so drinking a cup of lemon balm tea is sure to make you feel good!

Infused Honey

To make lemon balm infused honey, pack a jar half full of lemon balm leaves then fill it up with honey. Let the mixture sit for a month or so before straining. This infused honey is perfect for using in tea, desserts, and more.

For Cold Sores

Lemon balm can be an effective way to treat cold sores. You could create a lip balm by infusing a carrier oil (almond oil, jojoba oil…etc.) with some lemon balm, then combine with some beeswax to get lip balm consistency.

In desserts or fruit salads

Add a few tablespoons of chopped lemon balm leaves to fruit salads to impart some lemony flavor without making it too sour.  You could also try mixing some chopped leaves with yogurt to use as topping for fruit salads or for creating parfaits. It’s even yummy in fruit crisps and pies.

Make a Sleepy Time Syrup

Put about 3/4 cup lemon balm leaves into a small pot and add just enough water to cover the leaves. Simmer, covered partially, until the liquid is reduced in half. Strain out the leaves. While still quite warm, measure out about 1/2 cup of the concentrated tea and stir 1/4 cup of honey into it. You can add more honey to taste, if you’s like. Store in the refrigerator for about a week. Dose by the spoonful at night to help calm and relax everyone from children to adults. (Keep in mind that honey should not be given to infants under one year old.)

Use in bath water

How about a nice lemony scented bath? You’ll feel relaxed and refreshed! You could either sprinkle some leaves right in the tub or you could put some in a cloth bag and hang it from the tap. (and let the water run through it while you fill it up.)

Use in iced tea

Another drink I like to make in the summer is Sun Tea. Along with the tea bags, sometimes I like to add some lemon balm or even mint for that matter.

Use to make infused water

It’s crucial to drink a lot of water, but let’s face it, plain water can be boring! Jazz it up by placing some lemon balm leaves and some fruit to your water to make it more exciting to drink.

For those of you that grow lemon balm, what are your favorite ways to use it?

10 Things You Should Grow in Your Garden This Year

As spring rolls in, the garden can go in with it! This year, start your garden off right by planning for success. Some plants are a must for a productive garden that you will love as you feed your family from your own hard work.

10 Things You Should Grow in Your Garden This Year

Here are 10 things you should grow in your garden this year:

Lemon Grass.

Lemon Grass should be at the top of your list for your garden this year. This ornamental plant can be grown nearly anywhere in a pot. It keeps bugs away, bringing you comfort. It can also be used to season and add flavor to foods.

Tomatoes.

This versatile plant can be used for so many dishes and even as a snack. Tomatoes are packed with vitamins and are easy to grow. I especially like growing cherry tomatoes in containers.

Bell peppers.

With more vitamin C than an orange and plenty of flavor, bell peppers are a great addition to your garden and freeze well for later.

Bush beans.

Bush beans can be grown under plants that grow tall. Beans put nitrogen into the soil making them perfect companion plants to Carrots, Beets, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Kale, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Strawberries and Swiss Chard.

Pumpkin.

Pumpkins makes a great ground covering plant that can shade the roots and stems or taller plants helping them thrive in the summer heat while providing you with great food in the fall harvest.

Basil.

This herb repels bugs and other pests helping to protect your garden while providing you with a tasty food for your table. Basil also makes a great edible edging plant for flower beds helping maximize space.

Strawberries.

You will find in most areas the selection of fruit you can grow is limited. Strawberries are a great fruit that will grow nearly anywhere making it the perfect addition to your garden. They keep coming back better year after year and make a great potted plant.

Spinach.

If you’re looking for a green filler plant for your garden, spinach is just the plant for you. Spinach is high in vitamins and minerals, grows well in shaded areas with just a few hours of sun per day, and has nearly limitless ways to use in the kitchen.

Oregano.

Oregano is a classically Italian herb packed with medicinal qualities as well as a potent flavoring for your favorite dishes from pasta to pizza. This plant also makes a good filler plant that provides great food for your family.

Radishes.

When it comes to quick growing veggies that can help feed your family in less time, Radishes are a great way to go.

Looking for more gardening inspiration? Check out my 9 must-have gardening books.

7 Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

7 Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Frugal Ways to Attract Butterflies- Take a look at these 7 frugal ways to attract butterflies to your garden so you can enjoy them and the benefits they bring all season long.
Attracting butterflies to your garden is not only ideal because of their beauty, but because they can help pollinate your flowers and plants as well! Butterflies are an excellent asset to your garden, which is why attracting them should be on your to do list. Attracting butterflies doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult; in fact, you can get them to come flocking for just pennies! Take a look below at 7 frugal ways to attract butterflies to your garden so you can enjoy them and the benefits they bring all season long.

1. Place out “sweet spots.”

Give butterflies sweet spots to feed on when you place out shallow lids with sugar water in them. The lids of Pringles cans or butter containers are perfect for this task. Then, watch the butterflies come and take a sip.

2. Try sponges.

Cut up sponges into cubes and soak them in sugar water. You can then place the sponges out in your garden and wait for butterflies to find then. They will love perching on the soft sponges and drinking the sweet water.

3. Give them watering stations.

You can do both of the suggestions above using plain water instead of sugar water so the butterflies have a place to get a cold drink. They get thirsty just like we do, and will flock to spots where water is available for them.

4. Plant ground cover.

Plant some low laying plants and ground cover that butterflies can find shade in. They will appreciate a retreat from the sun and enjoy a shady place to lounge in.

5. Plant butterfly friendly blooms.

Butterflies love Rose of Sharon, Butterfly Bush, and many other flowering bush varieties. Add some of these plants to your flower beds and landscaping and the butterflies will return year after year.

6. Forget the pesticides.

If you use pesticides in your yard, they will scare and/or kill butterflies off. Instead, avoid using chemicals in your yard and by all means avoid pesticides. Try natural pesticide options instead such as lady bug releasing or a simple spray of Dawn dish soap and water.

7. Let them eat fruit.

Butterflies love fruit rinds and peels. Place these items in shallow dishes and place them out for butterflies so they always have a snack on hand!

See how simple it can be to bring beautiful butterflies flocking to your yard? Give these tips a try and in no time you will be enjoying beautiful butterflies in your garden, even on the tightest of budgets!

My Garden Plans for 2015

This year I’m trying something different for my garden. Normally I grow my veggies in containers, but this year I’m transforming my flower bed! I’m so excited!

I have an assortment of perennials in the flower bed, but I moved them all over to one side to make room for veggies.  Because it’s still not a big space for growing, I really only want to grow carrots (my daughter loves them raw!). I thought I’d try beets because I love them roasted on salads. Kale because we like to make kale chips.

garden diagram 2015

So the picture shows where I’ll be planting stuff. I might add peas in the back so they can climb the fence.

I will have some containers.  I’ll have my herbs (Basil, tarragon, chocolate mint and strawberry mint), tomatoes and lettuce in containers. They grow well that way.  I’m also trying out these Smart Pots for the tomatoes.  They seem really great!

herbs

My mom will have her big garden again this year so I’ll be sure to trade some weeding time for cucumbers, zucchini, blackberries, potatoes, onions and what ever else she grows. 🙂

What will your garden look like this year?  

7 Garden Remedies That Will Save You Money

7 Garden Remedies That Will Save You Money

Garden Remedies That Will Save You Money

Tending to your garden’s needs can be expensive, which is why it’s important that you know about the homemade remedies that gardeners have been using for years. Take a look below at 7 garden remedies that will save you money, time, and will get you the best looking garden on the block. These garden remedies are not only easy and frugal, but you will also love that they are chemical free. Here is how you can get started:

1. Make your own slug trap.

Are slugs becoming a problem? Stop them in their tracks by placing a shallow dish in your garden and filling it up with beer. Any beer will do, and you only need a few tablespoons. The slugs will become attracted to the liquid, crawl in, and meet their demise. No more slugs!

2. Say goodbye to bunnies.

Are bunnies coming in to nibble on your plants? No problem. Just add a few marigolds to your border. Marigolds and their scent are said to keep bunnies from hopping in and enjoying an all you can eat buffet.

3. Banish bugs for good.

Fill a spray bottle up with warm water and a few drops of Dawn dish soap. Shake it up well and spray it liberally on plants where bugs such as aphids are present. It is a natural way to kill the bugs and enjoy a pest free garden.

4. Keep squirrels from digging.

Squirrels love digging up bulbs and plants. Keep this from happening by placing hair clippings along the base of the plants. Squirrels hate the texture and it will stop them in their tracks.

5. Save your egg shells.

Egg shells are calcium rich and perfect for enriching the soil. Save your egg shells, crush them up, and stir them directly into your garden soil. Your soil and plants will love the natural boost.

6. Try some coffee grounds.

Coffee grounds can also enrich your soil and give your plants a boost. Save your coffee grounds and stir them into your soil, your compost, or just add them around the base of your plants. The grounds will enrich the soil better than any chemical alternative could.

7. Keep birds at bay.

If birds want to come and nibble on your plants, lay a light netting over the top. Most home and garden shops carry these nettings and they are so easy to use. Plus, since they are so light they are very visible either, yet they are just enough to prevent birds from pecking.

Enjoy a beautiful garden for less and with less chemicals when you give these 7 garden remedies a try!

Some Vegetable Gardening Books to Consider

Must Have Gardening Books

Here is a list of all the books related to vegetable gardening that I’d love to get my hands on!  I happen to think they’re must-have for my gardening library at home 🙂

guide to Canadian vegetable gardeningThis book by veteran Canadian garden writer Doug Green is full of information that will educate Canadian gardeners in all aspects of planning, installing, planting, and caring for their new garden. Gardeners will learn how to ensure their garden is eco-friendly and how to save money by storing, canning, or freezing the bounty of the garden.  With hundreds of full colour pictures, Guide to Canadian Vegetable Gardening is sure to be the standard for Canadian gardeners for years to come.

 

square foot gardeningWhen he created the “square foot gardening” method, Mel Bartholomew, a retired engineer and efficiency expert, found the solution to the frustrations of most gardeners. His revolutionary system is simple: it’s an ingenious planting method based on using square foot blocks of garden space instead of rows. Gardeners build up, not down, so there’s no digging and no tilling after the first year. And the method requires less thinning, less weeding, and less watering.

 

year round vegetable gardenerThe first frost used to be the end of the vegetable gardening season — but not anymore! In The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, Nova Scotia–based gardener and writer Niki Jabbour shares her secrets for growing food during every month of the year. Her season-defying techniques, developed in her own home garden where short summers and low levels of winter sunlight create the ultimate challenge, are doable, affordable, and rewarding for gardeners in any location where frost has traditionally ended the growing season.

 

vegetable gardener's bibleThe invaluable resource for home food gardeners! Ed Smith’s W-O-R-D system has helped countless gardeners grow an abundance of vegetables and herbs. And those tomatoes and zucchini and basil and cucumbers have nourished countless families, neighbors, and friends with delicious, fresh produce. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is essential reading for locavores in every corner of North America! Everything you loved about the first edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is still here: friendly, accessible language; full-color photography; comprehensive vegetable specific information in the A-to-Z section; ahead-of-its-time commitment to organic methods; and much more.

organic gardeningRodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening has been the go-to resource for gardeners for more than 50 years—and the best tool novices can buy to start applying organic methods to their fruit and vegetable crops, herbs, trees and shrubs, perennials, annuals, and lawns. This thoroughly revised and updated version highlights new organic pest controls, new fertilizer products, improved gardening techniques, the latest organic soil practices, and new trends in garden design.

 

verticle vegetable gardeningVertical vegetable gardening isn’t intuitive. Although some vegetables, such as tomatoes and pole beans, have been grown vertically for a very long time, it is only recently that gardeners who are short on space have looked to vertical methods and structures for growing vegetables that traditionally have been thought to require a lot of horizontal space. Vertical Vegetable Gardening provides information on growing all types of leafy, root, and other vegetables vertically, saving space, protecting from insects, and making harvesting easier. Now people living in urban areas can grow produce that used to require sizable plots of land. Also included are ideas and plans for vertical structures.

grow great grubYour patio, balcony, rooftop, front stoop, boulevard, windowsill, planter box, or fire escape is a potential fresh food garden waiting to happen. In Grow Great Grub, Gayla Trail, the founder of the leading online gardening community (YouGrowGirl.com), shows you how to grow your own delicious, affordable, organic edibles virtually anywhere.  Whether you’re looking to eat on a budget or simply experience the pleasure of picking tonight’s meal from right outside your door, this is the must-have book for small-space gardeners—no backyard required.

 

sugar snaps and strawberries

Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Imagine savoring fresh-picked strawberries on a weekend morning, plucking plump figs from your mini-orchard to quarter and serve at a farm-to-table meal with friends, or harvesting and sautéing the edible stalks of garlic bulbs. If the size of your space is bringing you back to reality, here’s the best part: you don’t need a big backyard to grow your own food. In fact, you don’t need a yard at all.

 

lasagna gardening

Now – with Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces – you can create the garden of your dreams, no matter how limited your growing space is. Pat Lanza’s proven lasagna gardening method produces amazing results in pots and small plots. Even in beds just 4 inches wide, you can grow bountiful, beautiful gardens with no digging, no weeding– no kidding!

 

Do you have any favourite gardening books to recommend?

Looking for more Gardening ideas?  Check them out here.

How to Start a Neighborhood Garden

How to Start a Neighborhood Garden

How to Start a Neighborhood Garden- If you're longing for a garden but are limited on yard space, a neighborhood garden may be a perfect solution for you!

If you’re longing for a garden but are limited on yard space, a neighborhood garden may be a perfect solution for you! A neighborhood garden is especially a good idea if your neighbors are also sharing these problems and frustrations and wishing for a garden of their own. If you are unsure about how to start a neighborhood garden, take a look at the helpful tips below. You see how simple it can be to plant and maintain a neighborhood garden and reap a harvest that everyone can enjoy.

Step 1: Have a planning session.

Gather all of the neighbors together who wish to participate. It’s ideal to have anywhere from 5-15 neighbors involved. Meet together and discuss a few important details such as where the garden will be and what plants will be going into it. Decide the size of the garden and if it will be a container, raised bed, or in ground garden. Listen to everyone’s ideas and pick a location that is central to the neighborhood. A neighbor may wish to donate space or you can opt for raised beds or container gardens along some shared land.

Once you know what you want to plant, you can create a budget for your garden. When it comes time to purchase the plants, have each participant pitch in a designated amount. Choose together what this amount will be so you can pick an amount that works for everyone. Once money is collected, choose a captain (or two) to take on the task of purchasing plants and supplies.

Step 2: Assign jobs.

Invite everyone to share their talents when taking care of the garden. Assign jobs to each participant so everyone has a part with the care of the garden and earns their share. Jobs will include weeding, feeding and fertilizing, watering, and of course harvesting. Someone should be checking on the garden daily, so create a chart for participants to sign up for days/tasks.

Step 3: Have a planting party.

Once you have your land picked out and your jobs in place, it’s time to have a planting party! Gather on a sunny day and start tilling the land, planting your produce, and setting up any necessary fencing or pest control. This can be a fun day for all involved as you work together to get your garden looking great.

Step 4: Practice maintaining the garden.

Make sure you keep up your end of the bargain by tending to the garden as needed and as designated. Stay in contact with the other gardeners so any issues in the garden can be discussed.

When your garden is ready to be harvested, head on down and start picking! Allow all participants to take part in harvesting and share what is collected. This is a great way to enjoy all of your hard work!

Growing a neighborhood garden takes a little work, but the end result is worth it. Give these tips a try and see how rewarding it can be to grow your own!

How to Start a Neighborhood Garden- If you're longing for a garden but are limited on yard space, a neighborhood garden may be a perfect solution for you!

How to Start Seeds Indoors

How to Start Seeds Indoors

How to Start Seeds Indoors

You might be itching to get your garden going, but chances are the sowing season is still a few weeks away. Well no worries, you can start your seeds indoors several weeks before the final frost of the season! By starting your seeds indoors, you can get a jump on the growing season while saving some money in the process. Here is what you need to know to start seeds indoors.

First, let’s take a look at what you will need:

  • Seed starters (you can use store bought, yogurt cups, egg carton cups, egg shells, K-cups…etc.)
  • Potting soil
  • Seeds
  • Spray bottle
  • Cookie sheets or a tray of some sort
  • Wood craft sticks
  • Marker
  • Clear Plastic Wrap

Did you know that you can find all of these items at your local dollar store? You sure can! As you can see, starting seeds indoors is quite budget friendly.

A good rule of thumb for when to start your seeds is 4 weeks before the last frost of the season. This will vary depending where you live, so consult The Farmer’s Almanac to find out when the perfect planting time is for you.

Directions:

  1. Begin by placing the seed starter cups on the cookie sheet or tray. This way, the surface under the cups is protected and you can easily move them if you need to.
  2. Poke a hole in the bottom of your seed starter cups. This will ensure that the plant drains properly.
  3. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way full with nutrient rich potting soil.
  4. Add a seed to the cup according to package directions. Consult the package to see how far down you need to make the hole and how many seeds can be put in each hole.
  5. Replace the soil to cover the hole and mist the area with your spray bottle. Misting is easier and cleaner than a watering can, plus it will keep you from over watering.
  6. Use the wood craft sticks and marker to make plant markers for the seedlings so you know what they are once they start growing.
  7. Pull a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the seed starters. This will allow light in but will help the plants retain heat. NOTE: You will need to remove the plastic wrap every few days to mist the soil to keep it moist. Just be sure to return the plastic when you are done.
  8. Place your seed starters in a window where they will get at least 6 hours of sun per day. If you don’t have an area where this is possible, a sun lamp will work.
  9. As soon as you see sprouting, remove the plastic wrap. Continue to water every few days and keep the soil moist at all times.

In just a few weeks, your seeds will be seedlings and they will be ready to get transplanted outside. Be sure the threat of frost has passed and you follow package directions when transplanting.

See how simple starting seeds indoors can be? Give these tips a try and get a jump on the growing season now!