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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

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    If they don't get enough sun, succulents sulk. That's why indoor succulents get leggy. The fix? Snip off a stem, strip the leaves from your houseplant, and root each leaf in soil. We spotted this clever DIY project for propagating succulents via Needles and Leaves:

    Photography via Needles and Leaves.

    Root Succulents from Leaves ; Gardenista

    Above: Leggy is good on supermodels. bare-legs look is less attractive on a houseplant. The good news is you can snip off a stem and root it directly in soil. 

    Root Succulents from Leaves ; Gardenista

    Above: Or you can snip off a leggy stem, strip the leaves, and root each leaf separately. For step-by-step instructions, see Needles and Leaves.

    Root Succulents from Leaves ; Gardenista

    Above: Place prepared leaves on top of soil in indirect sunlight and wait (a few weeks) for them to develop roots and new shoots. 

    Root Succulents from Leaves ; Gardenista

    Above: After the parent leaves dry and wither, remove them and plant seedlings in soil. For step-by-step instructions, see Needles and Leaves.

    Root Succulents from Leaves ; Gardenista

    Above: For more succulents from Needles and Leaves, see her Instagram feed @tawwni.

    Experimenting with succulents indoors? For more growing tips, see:

    Sign up for Gardenista Daily newsletter


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    Madrid-based architect Camino Alonso compares the design of her tiny prefab house to a Monopoly game piece. Meant for two inhabitants, its 88 square feet are so cleverly laid out that there's plenty of storage. Really.

    If you have a spot to put it—and if you live within driving distance of the Madrid factory—you can buy your own tiny house. Prices start at 21,900 € (or about $26,000 US).

    The secret to making a tiny space feel airy? High ceilings. With a steep roof line, the design of this prefab house departs deliberately from the cargo-container look. After we spotted this tiny house via Architizer, we had to take a look around:

    Photography via Ábaton Architects

    Portable prefab home Madrid Camino Abaton ; Gardenista

    Above: Architect Camino Alonso based her tiny prefab design on the universally recognized silhouette of the "house" piece in Monopoly. "It doesn’t belong to any certain culture, but anybody would understand it as a house," she told Architizer.

    Above: It takes one day to assemble the award-winning house (the 2014 recipient of Architizer's A+ Awards for Living Small and Single Family House). The prefab will be delivered via flatbed truck to a site six to eight weeks after an order is placed. 

    Above: The facade has gray cement boards over a timber frame, to blend harmoniously with both natural and urban surroundings. In contrast, interior panels are white-washed Spanish fir, and the frames of the large window and door are black steel. 

    Above: The pitched roof increases the ceiling height to 11.5 feet. "We studied the proportions to make sure that the sensation when you were sitting in the sitting room was a sensation of being in a house," says Alonso.  

    Above: On a side wall, a center window swings outward to open.

    Above: The house, which sleeps two, features stealth storage including built-in shelves and cabinets, and is available in a variety of floor plans that include a bath, kitchen, and bedroom. 

    Above: For more information on the home's specs, including options for solar panels and water tanks, see Ábaton.

    Would you like to live small? Some of our favorite cabins and cottages are tiny. For instance:

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    We've all heard of a New Year's detox: a cleanse or something of the like after the ingestion of too many holiday calories. But I find the idea a bit overwhelming (similar to New Year's resolutions).

    To my mind, the best way to "cleanse" my body of toxins is to treat it well. By that, I mean more fruits and vegetables, clean food free of preservatives, and more home-cooked meals. I know the thought of making a home-cooked meal can be daunting, given busy schedules and such. But what if you could make something delicious (and healthy) in 20 minutes?

    Read on for step-by-step instructions to make 20-Minute Turmeric-Miso Soup:

    Above: The soup I highlight here is a quick 20-minute meal that will nourish you for days. This soup, like many miso soups, is a great way to boost your immune system and aid in digestion. That's why I find it to be an essential part of my diet, especially after the holiday season.

    Above: Miso is a great source of vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants, not to mention it has that great umami flavor that elevates just about any ingredient it accompanies. Add to that the sweet earthiness of turmeric and its own respectable anti-inflammatory, and digestive properties.  

    Above: You can tweak this soup recipe by using different kinds of vegetables. The trick is finding vegetables that have similar cook times and are tasty together; for instance, sweet potatoes and carrots, or parsnips and celeriac.

    Above: Here, I used turnips and mushrooms; I find the subtle sweetness of the turnips a great addition to the umami earthiness of the shiitake mushrooms. Plus, the gentle bite of the turnips complements the chewiness of the shiitakes.

    Above: Incorporating buckwheat soba noodles rounds out this soup, and makes it a meal.

    Above: Turmeric-Miso Soup with Turnips, Shiitakes, and Soba Noodles. 

    20-Minute Miso-Turmeric Soup

    Makes 4 to 6 servings


    • 2 medium turnips, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 8 ounces)
    • 4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and tops slivered
    • 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated (or 1½ teaspoons dried ground turmeric)
    • 4 cups filtered water
    • 4 to 5 tablespoons mellow yellow miso paste (preferably non-GMO)
    • 1 package 100 percent buckwheat soba noodles
    • 1/3 cup green onion or scallions, finely chopped
    • A few handfuls microgreens, to serve


    Place the cubed turnips, sliced mushrooms, and turmeric in a large soup pot; cover with 4 cups filtered water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer; cook for roughly 15 to 18 minutes (until turnips are tender, but still have a bit of a bite).  Add 4 tablespoons of miso paste to a bowl, ladle 1 cup of the broth into the bowl and whisk until dissolved. Return mixture to soup pot; taste and adjust by adding more miso if need be.

    Bring roughly 3 quarts of water to boil in a large pot; add soba noodles and cook according to instructions on the package.  Drain and rinse with cold water, use your fingers to separate noodles if need be. 

    To serve, divide the noodles among soup bowls and ladle the vegetables and broth over top.  Finish with a sprinkling of sliced onions and microgreens.  

    To store, combine leftover soup and noodles in a container with a fitted lid.  To reheat, gently bring to soup to desired temperature. (If heated too fast, on too high of a flame, miso can loose some of its nutritional integrity.)   

    Are you craving soup for supper? For more recipes, see Irresistible Vegetable Soup in 30 Minutes or Less and Squash Soup with an Unexpected Twist.


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    This week, Julie and team ring in the new year, refreshed and resolved, with a focus on what makes them truly happy at home. Luxury linens are involved. And get ready to take notes—Julie has a forecast of the year's biggest trends in interior design with a few surprises in store ('80s marble makes a comeback).

    2015 design trend of pastel pink walls inside copenhagen boutique Line Klein on Gardenista

    Above: Julie has looked into her crystal ball, for the year's Top 15 Interior Trends of 2015. Shown here is Pink Ground from Farrow & Ball, her pick for wall color. Take that, Marsala.

      Studio Oink living room ; Gardenista

    Above: Christine finds a kindred spirit in Studio Oink—whose work embodies Remodelista's 10 Rules to Live By. Check out the aesthetic in Happiness at Home with a German Design Duo.

    metalfire fireplace in living room on Gardenista

    Above: Janet revisits the Wood-Burning vs. Gas Fireplace debate, and discovers a few stylish alternatives along the way, in this week's Remodeling 101

    steal this look segment on moody gray london bedroom, gardenista

    Above: In Steal This Look: A Moody Minimalist Bedroom in London, Julie shows us how a velvet pillow, a few shades of gray, and luxe linens, when combined, can transform any bedroom into a "subtly glamorous" one. 


    Above: Izabella goes on a house call to the home of children's wear designer Stephanie Ross, and lingers awhile in A Grand but Understated Flat in Paris

    For more ideas to refresh your home, see all of Remodelista's issue one: A New Start

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    Cold where you are? We're on the sofa with a cup of tea and the Internet to entertain us. Here's what we're reading:

    Houseplants deck patio orange chairs ; Gardenista

    • Above: São Paulo, Brazil: "A mini respite in the urban landscape". Photograph by Fran Parente. 
    • Here are a few things you can do to help avian neighbors in winter. 
    • Best plant catalog (in case you're planning for spring).

    14 Ways to Roast Winter Veggies via Food52 | Gardenista

    • Above: Winter vegetables, 14 ways. Photograph by James Ransom. 
    • Olive oil-based body balm is a lifesaver in frigid temps. 

    Siu Siu Lab, Greenhouse, by Divooe Zein Architects | Gardenista

    • Above: A greenhouse near Taipei, Taiwan doubles as a meditation space and art gallery. Photograph courtesy of Dezeen. 
    • Not your average treehouse
    magnolias in bloom SF Botanical Garden ; Gardenista

    Instagram and Pinterest Pick of the Week

    Gardenista Instagram Pick of the Week: @erinbauer

    • Above: We're following a florist and garden designer (@erinbauer) in Buffalo, New York. 
    • Another floral designer to follow? Take a look at Amy Merrick's Gardens and Spaces board on Pinterest. 

    For more from the week on Gardenista, see our A New Start issue and don't forget to see Remodelista's first week of 2015

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    In the midst of the hustle and bustle of LA's Echo Park neighborhood, jeweler Kathleen Whitaker has created an oasis of calm seclusion. Step into her 14,000-square-foot garde,n and all is peaceful. “The piece of land was a huge selling point for us,” she says. “Living in Southern California is all about bringing the outdoors in—whether it’s the lush surroundings or the beautiful LA light.” 

    Photographs by Nancy Neil

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Blue Gate | Gardenista

    Above: From her living room, Whitaker can see her guests coming up the walk from the gate, which has been painted Benjamin Moore Olympus Green

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: With a view of the entrance gate in the distance, Whitaker takes advantage of the microclimates within her garden and creates a shaded seating area under the cover of oak, pepper, and toyon trees. "The canopy of the oak tree lets in a bit of dappled light, making this area comfortable for every hour of the day, including evening cocktails," she says. 

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker and her cinematographer husband set out the small patio area with existing flagstone pavers and filled it in with pea gravel. A small potted ficus tree introduces another layer and scale of planting.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Garden Seating Area | Gardenista

    Above: The outdoor furniture set is a mix of Ikea chairs (discontinued) and a rattan love seat found on Craigslist, both sprayed with a custom color of saffron yellow, which Whitaker had mixed in her local paint store. She recovered the cushions that came with the love seat in a navy and white poplin cotton. "We picked up the coffee table at a local antiques store," Whitaker says. "It is super weathered and a perfect counter balance to the buttoned-up, traditional New England-style rattan seating."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Shrubs | Gardenista

    Above: The property's hillside faces north and receives indirect light, which is easy on the plants—including a mix of ground covers, succulents, jade, and a large toyon. Before laying sod, the couple installed an in-ground sprinkler system. "Yes, grass is hard to keep alive in LA," Whitaker says. "This is a small patch, which we water conservatively at night."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Wood Deck with Wood Benches | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker places drought-tolerant succulents on the sun deck behind the house, which is unshaded.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Stepped Planting Wall | Gardenista

    Above: A stepped terrace is planted with a mix of coleus, heuchera, xanadu philodendron, asparagus fern, star jasmine, and variegated vinca.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Stepped Planting Wall | Gardenista

    Above: "With the stepped terrace, we started over and ripped out the existing overgrown mash-up of many plants," Whitaker says."Our new plantings bloom beautifully in this climate and will continue to fill in."

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Rope Hammock | Gardenista

    Above: A Cotton Hammock from LL Bean made from natural fibers fits seamlessly into the Southern California landscape; $119.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Indoor Plant | Gardenista

    Above: Whitaker brings her garden inside with a cutting from her split leaf philodendron, which has been put into a vase by ceramicist Bari Ziperstein

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Potted Plants on Porch | Gardenista

    Above: Potted plants on the front porch straddle the interior and exterior worlds effortlessly. After struggling in the ground, a Norfolk pine is much happier in its basket weave terra cotta planter from local nursery Echo Garden. A rubber plant sits in a ceramic planter by local artist and designer Kelly Lamb, whose house we also visited in House Call: High on a Hill in Los Angeles.

    Garden Visit with Los Angeles Jeweler Kathleen Whitaker in Echo Park, Front Porch | Gardenista

    Above: As inviting as the garden is, Whitaker's welcoming porch tempts you to tour her house in A Minimal Jewelry Designer Goes Maximal

    Kathleen Whitaker, Echo Park Garden, Sketch | Remodelista

    Above: Whitaker's sketches out the points of interest in her garden.

    Yearning for the tropics but limited to your less than agreeable winter weather?

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    To eat what you grow, first you have to grow it. This week we'll tour chefs' own kitchen gardens and offer practical tips for designing yours. Plus, we have a sneak peak at Ikea's best new spring products for gardeners who cook:

    Above: Tour A Cook's Garden in Upstate New York. Photograph by Laura Silverman for Gardenista.


    Ina Garten Hamptons kitchen garden barn ; Gardenista

    Above: Barefoot contessa Ina Garten, author of the new cookbook Make It Ahead, grows the ingredients in her East Hampton kitchen garden. We poke around the beets and the barn in this week's Garden Visit.

    Ikea 2015 kitchen collection Ristatorp kitchen trolley utility cart ; Gardenista

    Above: We take a first look at Ikea's new spring collection for gardeners who cook (coming to stores in February). While we're waiting for the countertop trolley to hit stores, we're browsing our Ikea Favorite Products.



    Above: Stepladder planter, anyone? It's also the perfect nightstand, side table, kitchen herb garden, and Pinterest bait. We round up our favorites in this week's 10 Easy Pieces


    Trend Alert: Grow microgreens in 2015 ; Gardenista

    Above: Yes, you can grow salad indoors. Microgreens have chia pet charm plus superfood nutrients. Cheryl gets tips for growing them from Minifarm Box owner Conor Fitzpatrick in this week's Expert Advice.


    Garden Visit: At Home With Mollie Katzen in Berkeley

    Above: Wondering how to design a raised bed garden? No matter how big or small your space, Janet has suggestions for you in this week's Hardscaping 101.


    waxed cotton garden bag everyday needs ; Gardenista

    Above: We're obsessed with our new waxed canvas tote (good for harvesting greens). Read about it in this week's Garden Accessories post.

    Ready for a kitchen makeover? This week, Julie and the Remodelista editors reveal their favorite design details in Kitchen Secrets

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    It makes perfect sense that Barefoot Contessa cookbook author Ina Garten hired the granddaughter of a garden club flower judge to design a sprawling, blowsy kitchen garden for her home in East Hampton.

    Garden designer Edwina von Gal, best known for restoring to-the-manor-born charm to the Grey Gardens estate formerly owned by Big Edie and Little Edie Beale (the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis), has an innate understanding of how to create the garden equivalent of Garten's luxe version of comfort food. The great-niece of Diana Vreeland and the great-granddaughter of a railroad magnate, von Gal grew up experimenting in both garden and kitchen. The first recipe she learned to cook was, fittingly, hollandaise sauce.

    Von Gal started designing fanciful gardens in the Hamptons 30 years ago, where she delighted in undercutting the fussy formality of the summer crowd's vernacular with native plants and drifts of wildflowers. In Ina Garten's original quarter-acre kitchen garden in East Hampton, the clipped parterres were a backdrop to edibles and ornamentals encouraged to go wild. (No longer a garden designer, von Gal in 2013 founded the Long Island-based Perfect Earth Project, which promotes toxin-free gardens.)

    Eight years ago, Garten purchased an adjoining property in East Hampton, on which she built a "cook's barn" (designed by architect Frank Greenwald) where she tapes her Food Network show, a dining terrace, and a walled garden. Let's take a look around:


    Ina Garten kitchen garden East Hampton ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Oprah.

    For years, Garten wrote yearly notes offering to buy a neighbor's property. Finally, he said yes.

      Ina Garten Hamptons kitchen garden barn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Wall Street Journal.

    On the adjoining property, Garten built a barn and a walled kitchen garden (take that, deer) where edibles and ornamentals keep company companionably.

    Ina Garten Hamptons kitchen garden barn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Wall Street Journal.

    An exuberant climbing rose serves as a backdrop in the kitchen garden.

    Ina Garten Hamptons kitchen garden barn ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Wall Street Journal.

    Garten grows chard, cherry tomatoes, olives, herbs, and fennel. One thing she does not grow is cilantro: she hates the taste.

    Ina Garten Barefoot contessa swiss chard East Hampton garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Wall Street Journal.

    Swiss chard ready to be harvested.

    Ina Garten East Hampton barn garden ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via House Beautiful.

    A shady spot with a view of the garden. Garten's garden has several seating areas because, she says, a garden isn't meant to be seen from the house. It's meant to be lived in.

    Ina Garten East Hampton garden outdoor dining ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Frank Greenwald Architect.

    Garten says she is not a big proponent of eating outdoors because "nature competes with dinner." She prefers cocktail hour on the terrace and dinner indoors.

    Ina Garten East Hampton garden lavender hydrangeas ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Clara Persis

    Hydrangeas (L) and drifts of lavender (R). "I live to walk outside with clippers and cut whatever's there," says Garten, who owns six pairs of Felco pruners.

    For more of our favorite cooks' gardens, see:

    Sign up for Gardenista Daily newsletter  


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    We got a sneak peek at Ikea's best new kitchen tools for gardeners who cook, and we like what we see. Ikea's in-house German designer Wiebke Braasch mixed woods and metal for a clean Scandinavian look. Says Braasch: "I’ve always been influenced by and attracted to the Swedish culture and design process, and sometimes I think it's an advantage that I can see their style with fresh eyes. It's almost helpful being from Germany—as an 'outsider' I can see the whole picture."

    Braasch's Risatorp collection—which includes a three-tier rolling trolley and a birch-handled basket—and a Rimforsa collection of mix-and-match wall storage components will arrive in U.S. Ikea stores by mid-February. 

      Ikea 2015 kitchen collection rimforsa shelf plant holder ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of bamboo and glass, mix-and-match wall components from the Rimforsa collection allow you to customize wall storage (and keep a pot of herbs handy for cooking). Among the options: a bamboo knife holder ($17.99); a holder with a two piece set of glass storage jars ($29.99); a 4-bottle set of spice jars ($16.99), and shelves designed to hold a laptop, cookbook, or herb pots.

    Shop our favorite Ikea products.

    Ikea 2015 kitchen collection Ristatorp kitchen trolley utility cart ; Gardenista

    Above: Kitchen trolley: a three-tier white Risatorp utility cart is made of powder coated steel and has birch castors; $59.99.

    Ikea 2015 kitchen collection Ristatorp kitchen trolley utility cart wheels castors; Gardenista

    Above: Wooden hubcaps.

    Ikea 2015 kitchen collection Ristatorp wire basket; Gardenista

    Above: With an open mesh construction ideal for storing root vegetables, Risatorp wire baskets have birch handles; $12.99 apiece.

    Ikea 2015 kitchen collection Ristatorp wire basket; Gardenista

    Above: Risatorp baskets are available in white or green.

    For more Ikea inspiration, see:

    More Stories from Gardenista

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    Put down that cup of tea, throw on a coat (and scarf), and head outdoors to take a good look at your house from the street. In the weak winter light, do you see room for improvement? Here are 11 foolproof ways to add winter curb appeal:

    Give Trees a Haircut

    Curb Appeal winter prune trees; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Meg Nicol via Flickr.

    1. Prune trees so their silhouettes frame the house instead of blocking it.

    The best time to prune most trees is when they're dormant; it's easier to see the structure and shape of a tree when it doesn't have leaves.

    When pruning, remove diseased or damaged branches first. Then prune for shape: remove low-hanging branches that obstruct views or hang over walkways or block access to driveways. Thin the crown to allow light and air circulation. For tips, see DIY: Pruning Trees in Winter and Expert Advice from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

    Fix the Gate

    Snow and garden gate latch ; gardenista

    Above: Photograph by George Hodan.

    2. Replace a broken gate latch. You know the one: it doesn't catch properly (hasn't for years, maybe) and it annoys you every time because the gate doesn't close unless you fiddle with the latch. Winter is the perfect time to take care of this problem because there's not much else in the garden to distract you from the task.

    10 Easy Pieces: Gate Latches ; Gardenista

    Above: For our favorite gate latches, see 10 Easy Pieces: Gate Latches.

    Feed the Birds

    curb appeal feed the birds winter ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Heidi in the Garden.

    3. Plant a bird garden. There are plenty of birds around in the winter, and their bright plumage looks like jewelry against the snow. To lure them to your house, Plant a Winter Berry Garden with shrubs such as burning bush, snowberry, and bayberry.

    DIY Grapefruit Birdfeeder ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    4. Get a birdfeeder. If you don't have space to plant a bird garden, you can still lure a few flashy feathered friends. Make an easy DIY: Grapefruit Birdfeeder with a hollowed-out half.

    10 Easy Pieces: Bird Feeders | Gardenista

    Above: For more ideas, see 10 Easy Pieces: Birdfeeders.

    Replace Ugly House Numbers

    Curb Appeal snowy curb appeal winter facade ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Bo Wayne via Flickr.

    5. Replace house numbers. Is there an ugly font above your door? Chances are it's more noticeable—and annoying—during winter months when you're not distracted by other colors and textures in the garden. It's an easy fix; for ideas, see our House Numbers archives for Modern House Numbers and Enamel House Numbers and Parisian Gilded House Numbers.

    Heath ceramics tile house numbers ; Gardenista

    Above: For more ideas, see 10 Easy Pieces: Tile House Numbers.

    Plant Snow Flowers

    hellebores bloom snow winter for curb appeal ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Mariaemb.

    7. Plant hellebores in the garden. Sturdy early-blooming perennials, hellebores (also known as Lenten roses) thrive in snow. Plant a few clumps at the edge of the path for winter color. For our favorite pink, white, purple, and black varieties, see 5 Favorites: Hardworking Hellebores That Stand Up to Snow.

    Stop Tracking Mud 

    iron boot scraper ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via .

    8. Get a boot scraper. As Janet pointed out recently, "Sometimes doormats just aren't enough to tackle the mud that garden boots love to collect." See 5 Favorites: Iron Boot Scrapers.

    Let There Be Light

    outdoor holiday string lights ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Vibeke Design.

    9. Leave your holiday lights up until February. Twinkly white lights will welcome you home—an excellent consolation prize for a lack of daylight.

    Wear Winter White

    DIY Ice Snow Lanterns ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Willowday.

    10. Add seasonal decor. Take advantage of winter weather: put ice lanterns on the front steps or flank the front door with potted pine evergreens. For ideas, see DIY: Winter Ice Lanterns.

    Shine Bright Like a Diamond

    secret ingredient to wash windows add curb appeal ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Erin Boyle.

    11. Wash the windows. All that winter grit and grime is making it harder for weak sunlight to get indoors. For an all-natural window cleaner, see The Secret Ingredient for Streak-Free Windows.

    For more winter design ideas, see:

    Sign up for Gardenista Daily newsletter

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    Bring the garden indoors until the outdoors comes to its senses and warms up. Here are 10 of our favorite stepladder plant stands for houseplants (including a few collapsible models):

    Freestanding Shelves:


    Above: A foldable tabletop stepladder designed by Klaus Aalto has three shelves. And many different uses: bedside table, kitchen herb garden, and entryway console. Photograph via Kekkila

    tabletop stepladder plant stand shelves ; Gardenista

    Above: Designer Aalto's Pot Step plant stepladder is made of beech and has three removable waterproof metal shelves; 179 € from Finnish Design Shop.

    Ikea Hjalmaren Ladder shelf for plants; Gardenista

    Above: Ikea's six-shelf Hjälmaren Ladder Shelf, 74.34 inches tall, is made of fiberboard with metal hardware fittings; $79.99. 

    For more about Ikea's ladder shelf, see A Stepladder for Plants.

      Stepladder plant shelves Scandinavian design; Gardenista

    Above: From Danish designer Francis Cayouette, a wooden One Step Up Shelf has an ash wood frame and five white metal shelves; $690 from Finnish Design Shop.

    white stepladder plant shelf Scandinavian ; Gardenista

    Above: From Esschert Design, a three-tier White Floral Trap is made of wood and collapses for storage;  49.95€ from Tuinieren.

    3 tier stepladder plant stand ; Gardenista

    Above: An industrial style metal Tiered Ladder Shelf with three wooden shelves measures 33.25 inches high by 25.25 inches wide and 14 inches deep and  is $98 from Urban Outfitters.

    Leaning Ladder Shelves:

    raw oak wooden stepladder plant stand shelves ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of raw oak, a Talbot Wooden Ladder Shelf has six tiers of graduated widths and is £155 from Cox & Cox.

    stepladder planter shelves ; Gardenista

    Above: A six-shelf spruce Aldsworths Shelf Ladder measures 178 centimeters (nearly 6 feet) tall. Shelves fold flat for shipping; £155 from Garden Trading.

    Leaning bookcase plant stand ; Gardenista

    Above: Made of solid mahogany, a Sloane Leaning Bookcase has five shelves and is 76 inches high; on sale for $99 from Crate & Barrel.

    white leaning plant shelf stepladder ; Gardenista

    Above: At 75.25 inches tall, a five-tier Leaning Shelf is made of solid rubberwood and is $118.99 from Wayfair.

    Teak leaning plant stand stepladder ; Gardenista

    Above: A teak Leaning Plant Stand has four folding shelves and is $229.95 from Signature Hardware.

    For more of our favorites, see:

    See More Houseplants posts ; Gardenista

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    Launch a stealth attack on winter by sprouting seeds indoors (to get a start on your spring edible garden). It's simpler than you may think. 

    Photographs by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Keep It Simple: Fluffy soil, plenty of sunlight and water, and room to grow. That's all a seed needs to persuade it to germinate. Plant seeds in small individual pots, seed flats, or newspaper pots.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 1: Find a sunny windowsill indoors; seeds will sprout faster in a warm (70 degrees) spot.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Need to Know: Some seeds take longer to sprout than others, so don't despair if you see no action for a couple of weeks. (My cilantro seeds sprouted in ten days, but my foxglove seeds didn't germinate for three weeks.)

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 2: Fill small seed pots with a 1-inch layer of charcoal (to aid drainage) and then a layer of potting soil (from 2 to 3 inches deep). Don't pack it down too tightly because baby roots will have a harder time in heavy soil.

    gardening 101 sprout a seed l Gardenista

    Step 3: Plant from three to five seeds in each pot, making sure they don't touch. Push the seeds into the soil gently and barely cover them with dirt.

    Step 4: Water the seed pots daily, to keep them moist. But don't flood them. The  soil should look dark and moist, but you should never let water pool on the surface.

    gardening 101 DIY newspaper seedling pots l Gardenista

    Step 5: The first two leaves to sprout will look undifferentiated. A few days later, a third leaf—a true leaf—will appear, displaying characteristics of the plant. At this point, you can thin seedlings, removing all but one from each pot.

    Step 6: You can transplant seedlings to larger pots after their true leaves appear. Or you can transplant them into the garden next spring after the last frost date; if you started your seeds in biodegradable newspaper pots, you can plant the pots directly in the garden.

    Are you a novice gardener? See more of our Gardening 101 posts, including How to Water an Air Plant and How to Plant a Bulb.

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    Table Mountain’s rocky northern face rears above the neat vegetable beds and cobbled paths of a young urban farm that lies on a rare flat among the steep streets of the well-to-do Cape Town suburb of Oranjezicht (which reclines on the mountain’s hottest flank). For decades an unused lawn bowling green languished here, accumulating trash and radiating neglect. Then serendipity, and some very hard work (an ancient recipe for success), intervened. In November 2012, ground was broken, and a new organic farm—the Oranjezicht City Farm—came to life.

    Photography by Marie Viljoen for Gardenista except where noted.


    Above: The city farm is on a rare flat in Oranjezicht.

    Did the ley lines said to intersect beneath Table Mountain contribute to the genesis of a creative team of local residents to bring agricultural vitality to the heart of Cape Town? There is Mario Graziani, an organic farmer who was irked to see land suited to food production lie wasted in the city. He wanted a farm. There was Sheryl Ozinsky, a founding member of the local neighborhood watch which had begun to maintain the overgrown site (Ozinsky is the former head of Cape Town Tourism and is widely credited with putting Cape Town on the international tourist map during her six year tenure, in the run-up to the World Cup in 2010.) She wanted a safe community.  And there was Kurt Ackermann, local business strategist and Ohio native who described the overgrown site as “an eyesore.” 

    They met, and things got hopping.


    Above: South Africa is known for its beauty, its diversity, and its high crime rate. Not always in that order. After being attacked in her home 10 years ago, Ozinsky started the neighborhood watch. Of her motivation to develop a public farm on the abandoned bowling green, she says, “I realized that in order to make our neighborhood safer, we had to use our public spaces.”

    In a country whose affluent homes are characterized by compound-like enclosures (my mother’s is an exception), she says, “We want to tear down the high walls of our suburbs and create spaces where neighbors can meet and mingle… Once people feel safer, then you can start working on initiatives that result in more joy than pure safety, like urban agriculture, on neglected public sites.” 


    Above: The land has come full circle: In the mid-17th century this pocket of green was part of the Oranjezicht Homestead (the timeline on the city farm's website traces this history), the largest farm in the Upper Table Valley. The formal walkways, crossed at right angles by smaller paths, are edged with hedges. While the layout pays tribute to old Dutch designs at the Cape, many of the plants are uniquely South African.


    Above: Salvia in bloom.

    The generous hedges of useful indigenous plants—buchu (Agathosma spp); sage (Salvia africana-caerulea); spekboom (Portulacaria afra); pelargonium (Pelargonium spp), and wild rosemary (Eriocephalus africanus) are just a few—establish native southern African herbs on an equal footing with their well-known kitchen garden cousins. This union of local and exotic plants, traditional and modern horticultural and culinary practices, honors the old South Africa and the new, and combines them in botanical harmony.


    Above: Edible spekboom.

    Indigenous plants are coming into their own in South Africa as foragers and chefs transform their naturally curious appetites into good things to eat. Local cook Loubie Rusch uses spekboom, a succulent with tart, juicy leaves, in salads and relishes, and she sells her potent lemon-buchu cordial under her Making KOS label at the popular bi-weekly OZCF Farmers Market.

    Vanessa Marx by Claire Gunn at Oranjezicht City Farm ; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Claire Gunn.

    Hundreds of years ago the original farm helped supply passing tall ships with fresh produce. Now it contributes to 21st century plates created by local chefs. Vanessa Marx, the head chef at Dear Me, an “all day brasserie” in the city which emphasizes the use of locally grown food, visits the city farm twice a week to collect the best vegetables she can find.


    Above: Pansies are a popular edible flower planted as a crop, making a riot of color as long as cool Cape evenings last. 


    Above: Plants are protected from birds and squirrels under hooped nets. “The Egyptian geese are a big problem,” says farmer Graziani.

    Growing crops is a high-maintenance endeavor, and the market generates income to employ three full-time micro-farmers. “Five percent of the produce at the market day is from OZCF,” says Ozinsky. “The balance is from small organic farmers we work with in Philippi, Stellenbosch, Mannenberg [communities on the Cape Flats].” Profits are plowed back into the farm. The rest of the labor, be it intellectual or manual, is all voluntary. Workers are always welcome.


    Above: Of all the fruit and vegetables grown organically at the farm, Ozinsky, who uses OZCF produce at home “all the time,” names heirloom tomatoes as a personal favorite. She describes them as “life-changing in their juicy, almost buttery texture.” Anyone who has grown tomatoes knows what she means. In Cape Town, they are just coming into season. Tomato sandwich? Torture for the frigid North.


    Above: On the first Wednesday of every month between 5 pm and 7 pm, Pick Your Own is a beguiling way of connecting with visitors. Stellenbosch University student Demi-Sue Meyer recently filled her basket there. She said, “At first my friends and I were a bit hesitant to take food without paying, because we have never been given the opportunity to harvest from a community garden like this, but after speaking to the farmer that day we spent almost an hour … hunting for the most amazing things.” She posted her dinner on Instagram. (While donations are welcome, they are not obligatory.)


    Above: Teepees among the lettuces.

    Graziani is so concerned that visitors pick their fill that, he says, “I tend to take very little from the farm as it feels odd to harvest for myself. Some chard, a few onions and salad greens if available.” 


    Above: Challenges remain, as they do in every garden (where it’s all about life and death). Thirteen natural springs run through the property, but “we are in a process with the local authority trying to access the water for irrigation,” says Ozinsky. For now a concrete rill directs the potential leiwater. 


    Above: The market has moved for now to Leeuwenhof,  the official residence of the premier of the Western Cape, lower down the slopes, after Heritage Western Cape (a government body whose purview is historic sites) objected to aspects of its infrastructure. Re-zoning issues loom. And potatoes planted in car tires were not a success: “With time one learns that certain crops or simply different varieties don't do well in certain areas...sometimes it works simply by moving a variety a few metres away,” wrote Graziani in an email. 


    Above: But “change begins in our communities …,” reads the OZCF’s mission statement, and it is clear that the community has rallied around this fledgling farm, which has changed a suburb and the way people think about local land use and food. The farm’s Facebook and Twitter feeds buzz with news.  Visitors post on Tumblr and Instagram.  From the garden and from the classes held here they take away a new awareness of how they eat, and what is possible.

    Of her first foray here Meyer ended by saying, “The experience made me feel hopeful of growing my own food at home one day. Harvesting my own organic vegetables and fruit put a massive smile on my face.”

    And that is what a farm should do.

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    In the middle of winter, microgreens are a sign of life when you're desperate for something green. Elegant as garnishes, full of delicate flavors and zesty notes, a windowsill crop of microgreens tastes of spring. (See where microgreens rank in Michelle's 10 Ten Garden Design Trends of 2015.) And for the gardener who loves to cook? Mini sprouts go from seed to salad bowl in less than 14 days.

    Microgreens are one of the easiest plants to grow, but catching a glimpse of my waterlogged begonia, I called an expert anyway. Conor Fitzpatrick owns Minifarm Box, an LA-based company that sells starter kits. The latest is a Microgreens Crate, designed to house (and hide) the not-so-cute plastic nursery trays often used for growing micros. A passionate gardener, Fitzpatrick calls green thumbs "nothing more than a little knowledge applied to nature."  With his tips and step-by-step instructions, yes, you can snip your own salad in two weeks'  time. 

    harvesting microgreens on windowsill on gardenista

    Photograph by Plant Chicago.

    1. Find a sunny windowsill. A southern exposure, where light pours in, "gives you more robust crops, with better flavor, color, and longer shelf life." If you live in Southern California, as Fitzpatrick does, grow them outdoors.

    2. Don't forget drainage. Select a tray at least 1.5 inches deep, with drain holes. 

    3. Use a seed starting mix. A fluffy, lightweight soil, like EB Stone's Seed Starter Mix, will help tiny sprouts grow. Fill a tray with 1 inch of seed starting mix and fully wet the soil so that it is moist (not dripping) from the surface to the bottom.

    microgreens and sprouts on gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Suzie's Farm.

    4. Think beyond lettuce. "I really like sunflower microgreens, but there’s lots of interesting stuff out there, including radish, micro basil, bok choi, red amaranth, arugula, broccoli, and mustard greens," says Fitzpatrick.

    5. Scatter seeds about one-eighth to a quarter inch apart. "It’s not an exact science, so don’t worry if you find yourself over-seeding. I find more is better than less," says Fitzpatrick. Cover the seeds evenly with another half-inch layer of seedling mix and wet that down also.   

    6. Skip fertilizer. Microgreens are actually cotyledon leaves, meaning they're the first ones to sprout after germination. They need only sun and water to grow. Depending on the seeds, you will see sprouting shoots in three to five days. 

    7. Mist, and don't overwater. Heavy watering may crush seedlings or cause mold to grow in the soil. 

    how to grow your own microgreens on gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Plant Chicago.

    8. Harvest. Most microgreens will be ready for harvest in 10 to 14 days. Cut them with scissors in clusters just above the soil line. Rinse in cold water and eat.

    9. Repeat. After you harvest, microgreens do not grow back. For a continuous supply, you can reuse the soil by turning it over. Sprinkle seeds, and cover with another layer of soil. The roots from the previous crop will have created a mat that will eventually compost itself, says Fitzpatrick, "so it's all very self-sustaining."

    microgreen crate from minifarm box

    Above: Ideal for bringing the outdoors in, and vice versa, the Cedar Microgreens Crate comes with handles and is available for purchase at Fitzgerald's company Minifarm Box for $49. 

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    See more of our favorite ways to start seeds indoors:

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    I would like more Self-Blanching Snowball Cauliflower in my diet. And fewer bland, mass-produced vegetables. This is why I grow my own. For 135 varieties of rare heirloom seeds—yes, Half Dwarf Brussels Sprouts are available—I turn to Jardin Seed Co.:

    James Lizardi, who founded Pasadena-based Jardin Seed Co. four years ago, believes gardeners should have a library. A seed library. Filled with rare volumes. Among the 135 different varieties of U.S.-grown vegetable and herb seeds he sells are unusual varieties such as Cherokee Trail of Tears Pole Beans, Sharlyn Melon ("fantastic, unbelievable, juicy flavor," says Lizardi), and Crimson Forest Bunching Onion.

    These vegetables have not been genetically modified. They have not been pollinated by artificial means. And you cannot buy them in your chain supermarket. If you want to taste them, you will have to grow them.

    Photography by Michelle Slatalla.

    Jardin heirloom seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: "All are heirloom seeds, which means they have been passed on for generation to generation for their traits—they have exceptional flavor, or they're very hardy—and unlike hybrids, they will reproduce exactly like their parents," says Lizardi.

    Lizardi sells Boxed Seed Collections ($29.95 each), each of which has at least 12 packages of different varieties. Think of the 10 different seed collections as volumes in a library.

    Jardin heirloom seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: In the Chef's Garden Collection, which I bought last month, there are packets of seeds with names like Imperial Star Artichoke, Red Express Cabbage, Sweet Marketmore Cucumber, and Rouge d'Hiver Lettuce (Shown).

    Jardin heirloom seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: Lizardi also sells memberships in a Seed-of-the-Month Club (prices range from $60 to $99, depending on whether you get a six- or a nine-month subscription). If you are a member, he will mail you seeds appropriate to your growing zone.

    Jardin heirloom seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: Lizardi's personal favorites? "I love black tomatoes," he says. "And purple tomatoes." Jardin Seed Co. sells an Heirloom Tomatoes Collection ($29.95) that includes a packet of Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, which are in danger of extinction. 

    "Unbelievably delicious," says Lizardi, "if you like tomatoes."

    If I like tomatoes? Please.

    Jardin Seeds heirloom non GMO vegetable herb seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: Each boxed collection comes with an exhaustive Growing Guide, with suggestions for when and how to plant each variety as well as historical facts.

    It might interest you to learn that the Self-Blanching Snowball Cauliflower, a variety developed in the 1700s in Germany, "has self-wrapping leaves which shield the snow white curds from sun." If this does not interest you, then stop reading before you learn that cauliflowers are a venerable, ancient food "mentioned in the first cookbook written in early Roman times, De Re Coquinaria, (On the Subject of Cooking), fourth or fifth century A.D."

    Jardin heirloom seeds ; Gardenista

    Above: The Italian Arugula seeds I bought should be sown outdoors one month before the last frost date ("Arugula grows quickly, so we recommending sowing rather than transplanting," the Growing Guide advises). I will be planting them in my Northern California garden this weekend. But not near my strawberries because "pole beans and strawberries are all said to negatively affect the growth and flavor of arugula."

    Planning to grow a vegetable garden this year? For more inspiration, see:

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    There may be people who have done more to revolutionize cooking in America than Mollie Katzen, but I don't know any. I was thinking about this the other day, as I drove across the bridge to visit her at home in the Berkeley hills. She's primarily responsible for introducing vegetarianism to America—not as a religion or a fad diet or a health movement, but because vegetables taste good. That was a radical idea in the 1970s, when The Moosewood Cookbook arrived on the scene while most of us were still eating canned asparagus (yes, it's as bad as it sounds) and "frozen cut vegetable medley" and things called niblets that came in bags. It's no wonder that her friendly line drawings and handwritten recipes for tabouli, mushroom strudel, and cranapple walnut cake made Moosewood one of the ten best-selling cookbooks of all time. She's written ten more since—including, by the way, the one that invented kale chips.

    Moosewood was my first cookbook, of course. I bought it when I was a newly married first-time homeowner wondering what to do with that thing called a stove that came with the house. The sesame-peanut noodles in a later Katzen cookbook (Still Life WIth Menu) remain to this day my go-to choice for a buffet party, and her new The Heart of the Platewhich I was headed to her house to talk about—is full of genius ideas for how to eat from the winter garden. So it would be fair to say that as I drove up the steep driveway to her house, I was feeling a little intimidated.

    Until she opened the door, a slight woman wearing the uniform of Northern California (quilted vest, black yoga pants, pretty scarf), and asked, "Do you want to see my garden?" 

    Photographs by John Merkl for Gardenista.

    Mollie Katzen's edible garden in Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: Mollie Katzen in her arugula patch.

    She is smaller than I expected ("people always say that," she says) and far slimmer than anyone who loves food so much deserves to be, and friendly in a happy-to-meet-you way, despite having been confronted about four zillion times by strangers who immediately blurt, "Moosewood was my first cookbook." Which I did.

    She nodded politely, as if she'd never heard that one before, and said, "My editor Phil Wood, who founded Ten Speed Press, used to say when people asked him to identify the appeal of Moosewood, that 'there was a layer of formality completely missing from the book.' "

    That same layer of formality is completely missing from Katzen, as well.

    "Here, taste this," she said, offering me an arugula flower.

    It was a little peppery.

    "Delicious on salad," she said.

    Garden Visit: At Home With Mollie Katzen in Berkeley

    Above: Mollie Katzen's raised beds; she dug down 10 inches and laid a layer of mesh to keep out gophers. She improves the soil regularly with steer manure and compost.

    Walking around her garden, she was full of suggestions for ways to eat seasonal crops in winter—even if you don't happen to live in a climate like Berkeley where kale, lettuce, artichokes, parsley, citrus, and rosemary thrive in January.

     "When in doubt, there's always apples—dice or slice them into a salad," she said.

    Garden Visit: At Home With Mollie Katzen in Berkeley

    Above: Lettuces in January; welcome to Northern California.

    "I eat pretty much the same thing every night," she said, "a huge amount of a vegetable cooked with a second vegetable, and a little bit of carbs. I call it the food flip. Instead of having pasta with vegetables, I have vegetables with a little bit of pasta."

    This sounds like an entirely reasonable way to eat if you have a big winter garden. But what if you don't?

    "What if you're stopping off at a grocery store on your way home from work?" I asked.

    "The secret is to have a larder stocked with essential ingredients, and then all you have to do is buy one vegetable on the way home, and you can make dinner," she said.

    Larder essentials (she ticked them off):

    • Onions
    • Olive oil
    • Chile flakes
    • Flavored vinegars ("Collect them," she suggested.)
    • Citrus (Lemons, limes, or oranges)
    • Garlic
    • Lentils

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley

    Above: A 5-foot-high wire mesh deer fence makes this lettuce possible.

    A delicious way to eat winter vegetables: "Slaws," said Katzen. "Grate a root vegetable like kohlrabi and an apple together and it's delicious."

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley  

    Above: Katzen points out a patch of parsley hiding under an artichoke plant. 

    Root vegetables and winter fruits that taste good grated into slaws (by themselves or in combinations with each other): 

    • Cabbage
    • Carrots
    • Yellow or pink beets ("Red beets are too staining," she said.)
    • Pears
    • Apples
    • Broccoli and cauliflower stems

    "Toss the slaw with olive oil and lemon juice; it's very refreshing," she said.

    Mollie Katzen edible garden Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: Katzen allows the kale in her garden to flower and self sow in new patches.

    Chop up kale, blanch it, and add it to lentils for a winter main dish. "The best cooks I know do as little to lentils as possible," she said. "Just use really good ingredients—good olive oil, sea salt, and kale."

    Kitchen Visit: Eating from Mollie Katzen's Garden in Berkeley

    Above: An artichoke plant (L) and parsley flourish in the garden.

    "The artichokes sneak up on you," she said. "For a long time there aren't any, and then one day you look, and there's an artichoke."

    Mollie Katzen edible winter garden kale Berkeley ; Gardenista

    Above: A kale tree of sorts; a 5-foot-high stalk ("it's a year old, at least," she said) continues to sprout new leaves at the top.

    In Katzen's Vegetable Heaven, published in the mid 1990s, she included a recipe for baking kale chips. "In those days, it was green curly kale, because that was all we had," she said. "But any kale will work."

    Mollie Katzen edible raised bed garden in Berkeley l Gardenista

    Above: Tools of the trade in the garden.

    Katzen, a voracious tweeter and follower of food bloggers, has a few favorites, including:

    • Leela Punyaratabandhu of She Simmers ("delicious Thai food")
    • Gabi Moskowitz of Broke Ass Gourmet ("incredible, economical recipes")
    • Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks ("where she's taking vegetarian cooking is very exciting")
    • Alana Chernila of Eating from the Ground Up ("I love the new approach of her book The Homemade Pantry")

    Mollie Katzen Berkeley kitchen smoky brussels sprouts The Heart of the Plate ; Gardenista

    Above: In the kitchen, she keeps a bowl nearby to collect scraps for compost.

    Although a lover of vegetables, Katzen is not a vegetarian. "I think my love of vegetable recipes comes from growing up in a kosher home; you were trained 'you don't eat meat outside your mother's home because you don't know where it came from,' " she said. "Once a week my mother would make a dinner that was dairy—no meat—and those were my favorite meals. I loved the diffuse spotlight, the smorgasbord where no one dish was the main event."

    Mollie Katzen prepares smoky brussels sprouts heart of the plate ; Gardenista

    Above: Katzen cooks on a six-burner Viking stovetop.

    Some tricks to make cooking dinner easier (and more fun):

    • If you are going to blanch kale, no need to wash it first.
    • If it feels like it takes too long to quarter the Brussels sprouts, halve them instead.
    • If something isn't getting as brown and crispy as you expected, add a pat of butter to the skillet.
    • If you are going to seed a pomegranate, do it under water in a bowl "so you don't end up with the kitchen looking like a crime scene."

    Mollie Katzen cookbook The Heart of the Plate Crudite Chips ; Gardenista

    Above: In Katzen's latest book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation ($23.48 from Amazon), she includes a recipe for making Crudité Chips: Use a mandoline to thinly slice radishes and raw rutabagas into thin slices. Refrigerate them in a bowl of water for an hour. "They curl up and get ridiculously crisp," she said. "Delicious."

    For more of Katzen's winter garden recipes, see Smoky Brussels Sprouts and Onion. For another of our favorite chef's gardens, see Cook's Garden: At Home with Laura Silverman in Upstate New York.

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    N.B.: This is an update of a post published on January 13, 2014.


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    Don't let bad soil stop you from planting an edible garden. The solution? Raised garden beds. An effective and easy solution for less-than-ideal soil conditions, increase yield and reduce the work. It's no wonder raised garden beds are the kitchen gardener's secret weapon.

    Are raised beds the right solution for your edible garden? Read on for everything you need to know:

    Art Luna Kitchen Garden, Gardenista  

    Above: Not to be confused with garden planters or containers, raised garden beds have no bottoms. They are four-sided frames to hold above-ground mounds of soil in place. Open to the ground underneath, raised beds offer excellent drainage and don't prevent plant roots from stretching out underneath. Photograph via Pam Rownak.

    What are the benefits of raised garden beds?

    • Instant soil improvement. Faced with clay-ridden soil, or other less than-ideal conditions? Rather than spending many seasons trying to amend the soil, you can create a near-perfect growing environment instantly with raised beds. Place the bed right on top of the ground and fill the frame with a nutrient-rich soil blend. With loose and accessible soil, it is easy to maintain good growing conditions.
    • Higher yields. Many gardeners say raised garden beds produce up to two times as much as ground beds. Why? Plants grow better in loose, rich soil in which roots penetrate easily. Good aeration and drainage are additional benefits. Raised beds prevent soil compaction and keep nutrient-rich soil amendments in place, concentrated on the plants they are meant to feed. This also enables dense planting, giving rise to more plants in a smaller area than in ground beds.
    • Longer growing season. When soil is above ground it stays warmer and better drained. Add a cold frame and extend the growing season even more (see Hardscaping 101: Cold Frames).  

    Daylesford Organics Kitchen Garden Willow Raised Beds, Gardenista  

    Above: Raised garden beds in the kitchen gardens of Daylesford Organic have sides of woven willow. See Garden Must-Have: Woven Willow Fences and Trellises for more inspiration.

    • Space efficiency. A great choice for the urban farmer, most raised beds are from 3 to 4 feet wide, good for small spaces and a size that enables you to reach plants without stepping in. Also, because the gardener works from adjacent paths, all the space in the bed can be devoted to planting.
    • Plant protection. You plants are safe from the threat of wayward feet of people and pets.
    • Pest barrier. Raised beds offer a strong defense against plant-eating pests such as slugs and snails. Tall sides thwart non-burrowing critters, and barriers—such as hardware cloth—can be placed underneath to keep burrowing, root-eating pests at bay. 
    • Fewer weeds. In densely planted beds, weeds have little room to grow. It is also common to place weed barrier fabric under a bed. And, if weeds do sneak into the raised bed neighborhood, the loose soil makes it easy to remove them. 
    • Accessibility.  Gardening above ground minimizes bending and, potentially, gardener's backaches. The bed's sides can be designed so you can sit on them while maintaining and harvesting crops.
    • Aesthetics. An added architectural element, raised beds add an appealing geometry to a garden. They can be used to create symmetry, boundaries, and focal points. 

    Sheila Narusawa Wellfleet Garden Raised Bed, Gardenista

    Above: At her Cape Cod home, architect Sheila Bonnell designed a raised garden bed in an outdoor nook conveniently located near the kitchen. The walls are made with stones left over from the construction of indoor fireplaces. For more, see Architect Visit: A Kitchen Garden on Cape Cod. Photograph by Matthew Williams

    Is there an ideal size for a raised garden bed?

    Several factors dictate size, including soil conditions, space limitations, and considerations of physical comfort.

    Length and Width. When figuring the dimensions of the raised bed frame, first consider a garden's space constraints (don't forget to leave room to walk around the bed). Second, assess your reach. It is vital to be able to reach the center of the bed from either side to avoid stepping on the bed, which compresses the soil. For most people, this means limiting the width to about 4 feet. If your bed is only accessible from one side, limit the width to a maximum of 3 feet. Length is limited only by the size of your garden and by building materials.

    Height. Most raised beds range from 6 to 12 inches, with some as high as 36 inches. In general, the worse the underlying soil, the deeper you will want a bed to maximize the amount of good soil available to plants. And, more depth means more room for roots to grow. Deeper beds hold more soil and, thus, more moisture, reducing watering needs. Remember that the taller the sides, the more pressure the weight of the soil places on them. You may need to compensate with thicker wood or cross supports to prevent the wood from bowing.  

    Art Luna Raised Garden Bed, Gardenista

    Above: Santa Monica-based landscape designer Art Luna considers the raised garden bed to be the essential ingredient of any kitchen garden. Luna's beds are often 24 inches high, offering several benefits (in addition to giving plants room to grow). The design is attractive, and practical because it's a comfortable height for a gardener who wants to sit on the edge of the bed while weeding. Photograph via Pam Rownak.

    For more of Art's kitchen garden tips, see Ask the Expert: How to Create a Beautiful Edible Garden

    What is the best material for raised beds? 

    Raised beds are traditionally made using naturally rot-resistant cedar. But, honestly you can build the bed wall with almost any material that will contain the soil, including stone, woven willow, and concrete. For vegetable and herb gardens it is important to avoid using pressure-treated lumber, which can leach heavy metals into the soil. Untreated, naturally rot-resistant lumber is the gold standard of building materials.

    Stained Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista  

    Above: We admire stained and painted raised beds in gardens, such as Victoria Skoglund's black raised beds. Be sure to use eco-friendly stains and paints that are safe to use on edible beds (for more detail see our 5 Favorite Eco Friendly Stains). Photograph courtesy of Victoria Skoglund.

    Kathleen Ferguson Concrete Raised Garden Bed, Gardenista

    Above: Concrete used as raised garden bed walls in a kitchen garden by Kathleen Ferguson Landscapes.

    Can I make my own raised garden beds?

    A raised garden bed is an easy DIY project. Essentially you build a bottomless box. Google "DIY raised garden bed" and you can choose from among dozens of projects. A few of our favorites include: Martha Stewart's How to Build a Raised Garden Bed, and Organic Gardening's Five Raised Beds with instructions for using a variety of frame materials from wattle to concrete to logs.

    Courtney Klein Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista  

    Above: DIY raised bed. Before getting started, you will need a level, sunny site. Soil preparation is vital. See the tips below. Photograph by Jamie Beck.

    Are pre-made raised garden beds available? 

    Farmer D Raised Garden Bed Kit, Gardenista

    For the hammer-averse, plenty of pre-made kits are available including the Farmer D Organics Rectangular Raised Garden Bed Kit made of FSC-certified red cedar. It measures 3 by 6 feet and is $199.95 at Williams Sonoma. Two smaller-sized square kits are also available. For more options, see 5 Favorites: Raised Beds for the Garden.

    Raised Garden Bed Tips: 

    • To prevent compaction, don't step or lean on the soil in your raised bed.
    • The best plants to grow in raised beds are those with shallow roots: vegetables, herbs, annual and perennial flowers, berry bushes, and even small shrubs.

    Raised Garden Beds withTrellis, Gardenista

    Above: Edge your beds with copper tape. It repels slugs and creates a finished, tailored look. See The Ultimate Kitchen Garden for more tips. Photograph via Art Luna Garden

    • To calculate how much soil you will need for your bed, consider that a 10-inch-deep, 3-by-6-foot bed needs 15 cubic feet of soil. 
    • Revitalize your soil regularly with compost and soil amendments to preserve vitality. Crops will take up all the nutrients during a season or two. Planting cover crops and green manures when the bed is not in use also helps keep the soil fertile.
    • Plant with close spacing over the entire surface. This creates a leafy canopy to shade the bed, moderating soil temperature and conserving moisture. It minimizes space for weeds to grow. 

    Terraced Raised Garden Beds, Gardenista

    Above: Vertical supports in raised garden beds provide more growing space. 

    • Choose a site for your raised beds with maximum sun exposure. If you have a choice, try orienting the long side facing south to ensure that the plants in the bed get equal amounts of sunlight.
    • In larger gardens, when using multiple raised beds, pay attention to spacing. If you use a wheelbarrow, be sure to make the paths between beds wide enough. Same goes for lawn mowers. 
    • Consider spreading gravel, crushed shells, or wood chips over the paths between your raised garden beds and you won't track in dirt and mud after working or harvesting your beds. 

    Explore our full collection of Kitchen Garden Features to whet your appetite. 

    If you're designing a raised bed garden, for more inspiration see:

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    Small spaces demand clever solutions. If you have a tiny garden plot, stacked raised beds will make the most of your square footage. Here's a clever design solution for making the most of a tight corner in the garden:

      Stacked tiered raised garden beds; Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Pinterest. (Can you help us track down the original source?)

    If you stack raised garden beds, you can grow different sorts of plants on each tier. Reserve the top tier for vines and climbers that like to spill over the side. Or put scented plants at nose level.

    Tiered stacked raised beds ; Gardenista

    Above: A compact square Tiered Raised Bed with four compartments for plants measures 3 feet by 3 feet; £137 from Littlewoods. For US gardeners, a Tiered Cedar Raised Bed with three levels measures 4 by 4 feet square and is $99 from Amazon.

    Designing a spring garden? For more inspiration, see:

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    Dark colors create glamorous garden backdrops (as illustrated by our recent posts on black fences, concrete steps, and raised flower beds). The latest proof is a tiny studio on the outskirts of Amsterdam, clad in 2,000 shingles stained black.

    Located in a backyard in Bussum, 18 miles from Amsterdam, the studio recalls historic barns and sheds of the Dutch countryside. And yet, in its geometry, glass windows, and cantilevered roof, it is undeniably modern. And clever. Amsterdam-based architect Serge Schoemaker put every inch to use, with the modern shed serving as office, accommodation for overnight guests, and bicycle storage. Read on to see the floorplan for the 323-square-foot shed.

    Photography via Serge Schoemaker.

    black shingled facade of garden office by serge shoemaker architects via gardenista

    Above: Two thousand black-stained cedar shingles envelop the building and extend to the roof, to provide a quiet and dramatic backdrop for the backyard's lawn and trees. A black Series 7 Chair from Arne Jacobsen ($627 from Design Within Reach) punctuates an all-birch interior, mirroring the exterior palette.  

    Above: The 2,000 shingles were cut, sanded, and stained by hand.

    facade of dutch garden studio by serge schoemaker architects via gardenista

    Above: Faced with the design challenge of a narrow and long garden, the architects devised an elongated trapezoid footprint, and rotated the structure, so the longest side is at the edge of the lot.  
    birch interior of garden shed turned office on gardenista

    Above: A desk overlooks a stretch of lawn that leads to the main house. The interiors furnishings include a built-in bench (which doubles as a cot), a floating desk, and concealed storage, roomy enough for four bikes. 

    window and black shingles of garden office by serge shoemaker architects via gardenista

    Above: The smooth glass and irregular surface of the structure's shingles make an interesting study of contrasts.
    back entrance of garden studio by serge shoemaker via gardenista

    Above: A view of a second entrance, in back, with full-height windows. Meticulous measurements were required to install the full-length glass panes, which do not meet at a perpendicular angle.

    blueprint of garden studio interior by serge shoemaker architects via gardenista

    Above: A blueprint of the interior shows bicycle storage and office space.

    blueprint of main house and garden studio via gardenista

    Above: The lot, from a bird's perspective, shows the garden studio in relationship to the main house.  

    Want instant glamor in the garden? Black is the answer:

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    Waxed cotton. Are there any two nicer words in the English language? From New Zealand-based Everyday Needs, here's a gardener's bucket bag destined to become a classic:

    waxed cotton garden bag everyday needs ; Gardenista

    Above: A waxed cotton Gardening Bag has a webbed handle and pockets to hold tools or a spool of twine. A collaboration between Everyday Needs and New Zealand-based design house Deadly Ponies, the bag is $95 NZD (about $74 USD).

    waxed cotton garden bag everyday needs ; Gardenista

    Above: The gardening bag is about 10 inches in diameter and comes in two colors, green and plum (shown).

    Obsessed with waxed canvas (hello, Julie)? For more of our favorite canvas bags, see:

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