Getting ready for winter

Let’s talk about winterizing. A lot of people, including myself, thought you could just let the garden go once you collected all you wanted from the garden. But I’ve realized over time that it would be like having a one way friendship with someone, it just doesn’t work.

First lets go into WHY winterizing your garden is important:

  1. By composting all your left over annual plants and vines it prevents the build up of diseases.
  2. It also gets ride of nasty bugs that would hang around in the dead plants waiting for next year’s vegetables. (Composting reaches high heat levels which kills off diseases and bugs that otherwise would live if left in the garden.)
  3. Cleaning out your annuals gives you a chance to build up your compost and get some great dirt filled with nutrients for next year’s garden.
This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

This is about half of the garden scraps we have so far. All going into our compost bin!

How to winterize your STRAWBERRIES:

This was my first year growing strawberries and it was such a fun experience. We had about 20 plants that produced all summer and are still producing a few berries today!

JUNE BEARING STRAWBERRIES: One/two weeks after they have stopped baring fruit take a pair of scissors or use a lawnmower and go over your berry plants to cut them back. This will help increase your production for the following year.

EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: I’ve heard of a few people that will cut their berries back the same way they do their June Bearing plants, but most people recommend leaving them be. But make sure you cut off all the runners and replant them or compost them.

FOR JUNE BEARING and EVER BEARING STRAWBERRIES: Before the first hard frost sets in, cover your strawberries with 4-6 inches of straw and cover with a wire mesh of sorts to keep the straw from blowing away during the season.

This haven't been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week.

These haven’t been winterized yet, but should be sometime this week. (Lows in the 30’s this week!)

How to winterize your RHUBARB, ASPARAGUS, HORSERADISH, GARLIC, and other Perennials:

Mulch, mulch, mulch and more mulch.

Rhubarb: Mulch with organic matter and well rotted manure.

Asparagus: Mulch with 4-6 inches of chopped leaves, hay or straw. Remove the mulch in the spring.

Horseradish: Mulch only if you live in particularly harsh areas. Otherwise no mulch is needed.

Garlic: Mulch with chopped leaves, grass hay or alfalfa. Avoid grain straw if you can which can host curl mite that can attack garlic.



Instead of closing up shop after clearing out all the summer plants, plant something that can grow and keep your garden alive. Kale, collards, leafy greens, garlic, rhubarb, shallots and carrots are a few great things that you can start late in late summer and harvest in the fall. Your garden can also work as a great ‘root cellar’ of sorts, to store things like carrots, potatoes, onions and cabbage. Just burry in a few inches of soil and place a marker over the spot so it can be easily found once winter sets in.

Something else to consider are cover crops! I have never done a cover crop but I really want to try one this year. I love that they keep your soil healthy and in place.

Why cover crops?

“Cover crops help to retain the soil, lessen erosion, and decrease the impact of precipitation on the garden by slowing the runoff of water. They also reduce mineral leaching and compaction, and suppress perennial and winter annual weed growth. The top growth adds organic matter when it is tilled into the garden soil. The cover crop’s root system also provides organic matter and opens passageways that help improve air and water movement in the soil.” -Cornell University

Great cover crop options:



Portia Westesen



I’ve been thinking of plants a lot lately. Although we garden we have hardly any plants in our house! We have one clover plant that sits on our fireplace, but other than that we have absolutely nothing! (Until today, we went to our local gardening store and got a little Golden Pothos.)

I’ve heard a few people over time express how they have a strong dislike for houseplant because of how dirty they are. They couldn’t be more wrong!

Why are house plants so important?

Research has shown that having house plants reduces stress levels, increases oxygen and cleans the air. So even if you hate gardening you can have a lot of the benefits gardening gives!

Top houseplants for cleaning the air:

  • Snake plants: Great for filtering out Formaldehyde and air pollutants: It’ll do great in the bathroom with low light and humid conditions.
  • Golden Pothos: Also great for filtering out Formaldehyde. Stays green even if kept in the dark!
  • Chrysanthemum: Great for filtering out Benzene.  Loves light and warmth, so put next to a window 🙂
  • Red-edged dracaena: Great for removing xylene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Grows VERY tall.
  • Weeping fig: Fickle plants, but great for removing formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.
  • English ivy: Has found to remove air born fecal matter in the air along with formaldehyde.
  • Warneck dracaena: Kills pollutants that have been related to varnishes and oils. Does not need direct sunlight.
  • Chinese evergreen: Filters out a variety of air pollutants and begins to remove more toxins as time and exposure continues.
  • Heart leaf philodendron: TOXIC to plants and kids. But GREAT at removing all kinds of VOCs. There are also great at battling formaldehyde from sources like particleboard.
  • Peace lily: On the Top of NASA’s list for removing all three of most common VOCs — formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. It can also combat toluene and xylene.
  • Aloe vera: Sun loving plant! Helps kill formaldehyde and benzene.
  • Spider Plant: battles benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
  • Rubber tree: VERY easy plant to grow, acts like an air purifier.
  • Bamboo palm: On the top of NASA’s list for clean air plants. Great at clearing out bezene and trichloroethylene.

So add a little green friend to your home and clean the air around you!

Portia Westesen

Turn your scraps into garden gold!

Let’s talk about compost. I LOVE compost.

Compost is like natures way of recycling. It’s good for everyone, so why not do it?! Composting feeds hundreds of thousands of organisms in the soil. Not only does it help improve your garden it improves the soil structure and makes it easier for plants to grow! The more variety you put in your compost the more diverse your organisms will be WHICH means more benefits for your compost and in turn for your garden.

When I say composting is easy, I really mean it.

Take all those used and smelly waste from your kitchen, garden or yard and, instead of just tossing it in the garbage, toss it into compost box. Don’t know what to use to hold your compost? Just use a large plastic tub, trashcan, or make your own out of wood! Nothin’ special.

Here is a list of things that can be composted: (this list is probably only the beginning, but it’ll give you a good start)

  • fruit and vegetables, skins and all.
  • eggshells (crushed)
  • farm animal manures
  • flowers
  • grass clippings (in THIN layers)
  • hay
  • leaves
  • oats and oat straw, and most other hulls, straws, moss.
  • peat moss
  • potato skins and vines
  • shells (from sea creatures, make sure they are ground and buried deep in the pile)
  • tea leaves
  • weeds

Two of the biggest elements in composting is carbon and nitrogen. You generally want 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible by Edward C. Smith has a great article on composting, his trick to remembering what the difference is between the two is “30 parts brown (for carbon) and 1 part green (for the nitrogen).”

Composting BROWNS:

  • Straw-oats, barley, wheat and rye. (generally, most people prefer this type for composting)
  • Hay
  • Cornstalks and vines from pea and beans
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Wood Shavings and Sawdust
  • Pine Needles

Composting GREENS:

  • Any plant (fruit, vegetables, flowers) material as long as it’s not diseased
  • Grass clippings
  • Seaweed
  • Weeds (make sure there’s no poisons on it!)
  • Bird feathers
  • Manures
  • Alfafa hay

What NOT to compost

  • Meat and Dairy, mainly because they attract animals.
  • Diseased plants and the roots of the cabbage plants
  • Weeds that have gone to seed
  • Ashes
  • Manure from animals other than herbivores. Like cats and dogs.
  • Plants that have herbicides on them

This is my 2nd year really composting and I’m really enjoying all I’ve learned from it so far! Good luck and don’t be afraid to ask questions or google more about it! Composting is so easy and so beneficial for your garden!

Portia Westesen

Pico de Gallo

We are at the peak of gardening season and we can’t pick the tomatoes fast enough! If you are unable to eat 20 lb of tomatoes every week, don’t let them just go bad! There are so many things you can do with all your uneaten tomatoes: Tomato sauce, tomato paste, Pico de Gallo (my favorite) and also just cans of chopped up tomatoes to use later.

I don’t really have a formal recipe for Pico de Gallo but the key to good Pico is simplicity and to have a equal ratio of tomatoes to onions. Don’t forget to use your tastebuds to determine how much of the other ingredients you want.

Portia’s non-recipe Pico de Gallo recipe

5 or so large tomatoes

1-1 1/2 large onions

2-4 limes depending on preference

1/2 – 3/4 of a cilantro bunch (depending on preference)

1) Slice tomatoes open and remove the seeds plus the tops and bottoms.

2) Chop the tomatoes and onions up to the size you prefer (I like them small).

3) Pick cilantro leaves. Make sure no stems get into the Pico. (This can be a daunting task. If you can, get your husband, wife, friend,  or child to do it!)

4) Finely chop cilantro.

5) Stir all together and add the juice of the limes one at a time so you don’t overdue the lime. Stir together, taste, and adjust.

6) EAT! (We really love Juanita’s gluten free tortilla chips. (SO AMAZING and way better than the other tortilla chips).

photo (16)


Portia Westesen