The sun is out and gardening season is here! This is my favorite time to give attention to garden projects—Lolli always takes fresh basil and herbs to friends as hostess gifts, and we always prefer fresh over store bought. Not only is gardening a fun and educational activity to share with the kids, but I always finding it rewarding as well. The repetitive nature of cultivating plants is almost meditative. Can we talk about how strangely satisfying it is to de-weed a flowerbed? While I may not have Lolli’s knack for maintaining a bountiful herb garden, I enjoyed trying new things and learning as I go.
Not all of us are born with a green thumb. It can take time to find your own gardening instincts. That’s why I think it’s great to start small for your first garden project. I also remind myself that it is okay if some of the plants don’t make it to harvest. There are so many elements of a gardening season that are out of one’s control—weather, curious critters, a busy week, or a week I forget to water… okay, so there are still some things in my control. But, the point is to have fun with it. I use more garden pots at the moment, which allow me to focus on some manageable herb projects. However, I think this season my family may upgrade to experimenting with produce at our nearby farm! Should we go for tomatoes or cucumbers for our first attempt? Maybe one day we will advance to full plots!
When it comes to tending to plants, sun and water get all the attention. But MAMA ALWAYS SAIDTM the secret is in the soil. Use the right potting soil combination for whatever you’re planting—usually the salespeople at a garden shop or local Home Depot will know how to direct you. Composting is another amazing way to enrich your garden while also working sustainable practices into daily life. There are so many great compost bin options that convert biodegradable food scraps from daily meals into amazing compost material. Top off your homemade compost with some mulch, and you have the recipe for a great gardening foundation!
Layout and Planning
There are so many methods to thoughtfully organize a garden. I suggest starting with window and planter boxes for herb gardens, as they can be placed closer to your kitchen for easy accessibility and manageable care year-round. However, if you are ready to start implementing a more complex garden system in your home or countryside residence, there are many plant bed options (both ground-level and raised) that can fit the needs of your space. Always remember to rotate the position of your crops year to year. This helps avoid pest and disease build-up that can occur in the soil. I love the practice of the yearly plant rotation; each year brings a bloom slightly different than the last. It’s also good to consider which flower varieties bloom at different times so you always have some “color” no matter the season!
Produce vs. Flowers
While Lolli wins with her herb garden, I put more focus on the flower beds in my yard and planters. However, I think one of the best parts of gardening as a hobby is the journey to finding what plants speak to you. There is tons of creativity in gardening, both in how one arranges their plots and landscaping, to what they do with their produce one their done, such as stunning floral arrangements or inventive recipes (see below). If perennials or squash or rosemary are not for you, there are always other things to try. There are also plenty of expects advocating for gardens to pair both produce and flowers for positive symbiotic growth. Biodiversity wins!
One of the greatest perks of gardening is the beauty it brings to my backyard. If you love interior design as much as I do, I highly suggest taking your passions outdoors. The ability to put your creative touch on your outdoor space is so rewarding and a truly fun process. My favorite way to elevate a garden is with a show-stopping arbor. However, there are many ways you can bring a sense of style to your plots and pots. Ballard Designs carries “to-die-for” garden and patio décor that helps keep me incentivized to spend time gardening or enjoying the outdoors.
The greatest part of gardening? The meals we get to make from homegrown herbs and produce! You can truly taste the difference when using fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Everything tastes more flavorful, and I can feel confident I am feeding myself and my kids healthy ingredients. I gathered some of my go-to recipes for garden-fueled cuisine. They are so easy to make and taste So. Good.
One of the easiest (and tastiest) ways to bring your herb garden into your kitchen is with homemade herb butter. This is a great recipe to get the kids involved with as well. The simplicity of folding the fresh herbs into butter is so accessible for kitchen helpers of all ages. My family loves The Country Cook’s Garlic Herb Butter recipe, as it uses all the herbs we grow at home. Not to mention, it is addictively delicious. We use it to make garlic bread, add flavor to veggies or potatoes, dollop it on steak and seafood dishes, and more. I also freeze my excess herbs in olive oil for future recipes. Herb-infused butter and olive oil adds depth to any meal!
You may have tried the egg bites from Starbucks that are a popular on-the-go meal, but you can easily make these at home: Green Healthy Cooking’s Herb Egg Muffins. When Lolli drops off a bundle of herbs from her garden, I know a batch of these breakfast stables are around the corner. They are a great healthy option, and pack so much flavor because of the basil, chives, parsley… basically every herb you can love. And a little bit of cheese of course. If you are tired of plain scrambled eggs, I highly suggest giving these a try. The kids may just love them, too!
Those who say salads are boring have not tried Ahead of Thyme’s Asian Chopped Salad. This recipe is full of complimentary textures and flavors, like crunchy vegies, tender tofu, and a savory sesame dressing that you will want to put on everything. I love how so many of the ingredients can be pulled from even a novice vegetable garden. Never again will I complain about restaurant salads being better than homemade. This recipe is the pinnacle of salad satisfaction.
I love Pasta Primavera year-round, but it’s honestly the best during spring and summer months. There is something about this dish that is the perfect compliment to long sunny days of endless activity. Two Peas & Their Pod has a Pasta Primavera recipe that never fails to impress—whether for a family dinner or a party spread. I like to make it for summer potluck dinner parties with friends. It pairs well with wine and good stories around the patio table. When my friends ask what the secret is to Primavera perfection, I can say confidently it is the garden-fresh veggies.
If you have ever had a fruit tree or bush, you know about the obsession to find new sweet treats to make with its blooms. Smoothies, jams, pastries… the list goes on. My favorite recipes for fruit produce are cobblers and crisps—I know, so Southern! They are the perfect spring and summer dessert, and are so simple to make. This year I discovered My Delicious Blog’s Blueberry & Basil Crisp recipe, and it blew me away. I had never thought to use basil in my desserts, yet the mojito staple was also the perfect addition to my crumble fixation. The aromatic basil elevates the tart blueberries in a way that makes this classic southern dessert feel elegant. Of course that elegance was undermined by the scoops of vanilla ice-cream on top. No regrets. I plan on stealing quite a few bushels from Lolli’s herb garden this season. Hot Crisp Summer, here we come.