Growing your own food is easy – once you know what you’re doing.  Technically you’re just pushing a tiny seed into the soil, but the more you  know about that seed, soil and the plant that sprouts out of it, the more successful your harvest will be.  Here are some of my best vegetable gardening tips.

Last month, (O.K. it was 2 months ago) we talked about how growing your own food is something you can do.  YOU.  YOU THERE.  You really can grow your own food.  NO, stop.  Stop arguing with me this instant, you really can grow your own food.  NO you don’t need a green thumb, that concept is stupid, nobody has magical plant powers anymore.  That was something that only happened in the olden days when we used chemical fertilizers.

In case you forgot, check out Part 1 of Grow Your Own Food right here. So, how’s it going? Did you try to grow your own food on the first go around?  A lot of people let me know they tackled growing pea shoots.  Here’s a little tip about that.  You can also grow pea shoots outside in your garden and harvest them all summer long.  Just plant a whole bunch of peas in a row and harvest the shoots as they grow.  Just nip them off with scissors or your fingernails.  The more you pinch them off the more they’ll grow.  Eventually they’ll get leggy and start to want to grow actual pea pods but until that time you’re picking shoots for an unbelievable tasting green for your salads.  They taste just like peas!

Are you ready to take on more? Lucky for you, I’ve got plenty more where the first batch came from.


It used to be you could only get espalier apple trees if you grafted them yourself or bought them from a high end nursery for a high end price. Now big box stores carry them.  I bought 2 espaliers from Home Depot last year and both made it through the winter perfectly and are flowering like crazy.  Not only that, but most espalier apple trees for sale now have 4-6 different varieties of apples grafted onto them.  Mine have Jonagold, MacIntosh, Gravenstein, Fuji, Royal Gala and Braeburn.

If you’re thinking of getting an espalier apple tree or are considering any fruit tree for a small property please, PLEASE read Grow a Little Fruit Tree.  It has an insane amount of information that’s easy to consume and remember about how to keep fruit trees small and why buying one that’s on dwarf stock doesn’t mean diddly squat.  A dwarf tree can still grow 20 ft high unless you know the right way to prune it.

Get the info on how to plant an espalier tree.


No yard, garden or balcony?  No problem.  You can still grow your own food.  Mung bean sprouts grow in about 4 days and don’t have that weird musky taste that some supermarket mung beans have.  You can get mung beans for planting at just about any bulk food store and sometimes grocery stores even carry dried mung beans.  In this post I show you how to make your own mung bean growing container and all the tips you need to grow, thick, long rooted mung beans.

Get the info on how to grow  Mung Bean Sprouts

Garlic Scapes are the whirly things you see starting to grow out of your garlic around the beginning of June.  They’re beautiful and ornamental and you might even want to leave them on your garlic, but don’t!  You need to pinch them off for the health of the plant andddddd so you can make the world’s best pesto with them.  Garlic Scape pesto is hands down my favourite pesto.  It has a mild garlicy flavour with a slightly brighter taste than a regular pesto.  It’s insanely delicious.

Get the info on Garlic Scapes and when to trim them

Once you pinch your scapes off, it won’t be long before your garlic is ready to dig up.  But how to know exactly when to pull it?  If you pull it too early you won’t have fully formed heads that are as big as they could be.  But if you leave it too late your garlic will dry out and the cloves will start to fall apart from the head.  This one trick is the easiest way to know exactly when to dig up your garlic.

Get the info on how and When to Dig up Garlic


If you only grow ONE vegetable in your garden chances are it’s a tomato.  Tomatoes are the most popular vegetable in the world to grow.  That’s a made up statistic but one that I feel pretty confident backing.  The only problem with tomatoes is they’re big and sprawly and tend to be a little bit bossy in the garden.  Over the years I’ve tried a few different methods to contain them with some success.  The Florida Weave is a fairly good method.  But last year I discovered the genius of the string method, the method commercial tomato growers use and I was sold.

In fact I was so sold on this method that this year I’m going to expand its use to my cucumbers and squash plants.

Get the info on String Training Tomatoes part 1

So what do you do if you don’t have a garden for vegetables?  If you have a wall and a pot that’s all you need to grow a huge tomato plant using the string  method.  It takes up almost no space, grows especially well if you have it against a south facing wall of your home because of the extra heat it gets and you can even grow it on your driveway if you plant the tomato in a large pot.  Just shove the pot up against the house or garage wall, screw an anchor into the brick or wood like I show you here and run a string down to the tomato plant from it.

Get the info on String Training Tomatoes on a wall



If your rhubarb patch is looking a bit sickly chances are you can bring it back to life.  Most people don’t realize you’re supposed to split your rhubarb.  If your patch is giving you sad little stalks split it this fall or next spring and watch it come back to life like a teenage boy after 3 months on Accutane.

Get the info on splitting your rhubarb patch.

Next month I’m going to delve into the world of pests, but we won’t talk about those things now, because May is a time for hope in the garden.  June?  June is traditionally the time for death and despair, otherwise known as voles and flea beetles.

Happy growing.



  1. Sabina says:

    So I trotted out to my garlic patch today for a peek and spotted the formations of scapes starting! I’ve used them in cooking but never pesto, can’t wait to try your recipe Karen!

  2. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Ok..I have the wall to use for growing tomatoes but it is a cement block wall…so I would have to drill to put hooks in it for the string…so I have to buy the right bit…right?

    • Karen says:

      That’s right!!! You’ve been listening. :) You need a masonry bit. It has a little arrow on the end. :) ~ karen!

  3. Heather says:

    Do any veggies grow in partial shade? Tips? Please?

    • Renee Ryz says:

      Lettuces probably would as they like it cooler. I have actually grown banana peppers & tomatoes in partial shade, but you won’t get alot of them. The cherry type would probably work best, and remove leaves like Karen says to get as much available sun on them. You can get away with some herbs too. Good luck!

    • Heather says:

      Renee, I can’t find your reply to reply to, so I’m here to say thanks for telling me about your success with lettuces and banana peppers and cherry tomatoes. Exciting!

  4. Erin says:

    “June is traditionally the time for death and despair, otherwise known as voles and flea beetles.” LOL. Agreed. (Although I’ve already seen both this month.)
    Thanks for all the great growing tips.

    • Brita says:

      I was just going to say that I used to grow almost all my own food but I got tired of all the killing! Around here, June is the time for Japanese Beetles and Chipmunks. So far I have only killed two chippies and a field mouse. Beetle season dead ahead!

  5. Leisa says:

    Thought I posted a comment, but don’t see it so to recap…. Remember the “Participaction” commercials. I seriously think you should pitch a similar idea to the powers that be, for Growing your own Food! Because of you I started tomatoes from seed, have snow peas, peppers, lettuce, rhubarb, and herbs. Today I’m pickling my radishes. I also built two raised beds and am using the no dig method in one.

    Thanks for all the superb info. Participation salutes Karen! 🙃

    • Karen says:

      That’s a great idea Leisa. And if I had even one second left in any of my days I’d love to pitch that idea to someone, I really would! It’s a GREAT idea. :) ~ karen!

  6. Kelly says:

    I’ll definitely be reading those links! Thanks, Karen! We’ll see what survives in my garden this year…I’ll have to fence absolutely everything this year because of the deer. Forget about the apples because of bears (Oh, I miss my apple tree!) On the other hand that fence will support my tomatoes and squash etc. so I’m looking forward to trying the string method. Wish me luck!

  7. danni says:

    soooo….. down here in Massachusetts it is now legal to grow “other than food crop”…. I have a friend who has a friend who got me some seeds, (dude, how tough can it be? Dig in the sofa cushions!) this year this old lady is doing that for the novelty of it. OH! Along with luffa! So two novelties I guess!
    And food! Growing lots of munchies! :)

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, when it’s legal I’ll probably grow it just for the novelty of it as well. I don’t smoke, never have smoked, but if you can grow it I wanna try it, lol. Growing it that is. ;) ~ karen!

    • Nicole says:

      I’m growing it for the first time this year as well. We’re going to grow 3 plants in a 4’x10′ raised bed and hope for the best. I’m not doing it for the novelty of it, though. :)

      AND I’ve also tried loofah sponges because of Karen’s earlier post. I planted 9 seeds in pots that decompose in the garden, all 9 came up (as in threw themselves out of the dirt – um soil) and are happily growing in the garden. I think the cattle panel that I’m using for a trellis is too short, though. I’ll worry about that after I get the multitude of other things taken care of.

      Also, I’m trying the string method for the tomatoes. I’ve just gotten 24 tomato plants (18 different varieties) transplanted into the garden and, if I can get past my pruning phobia, they will soon be growing up the strings currently flapping around them.

      Yes, Virginia, you CAN grow your own food. After all, if we didn’t, what would the $%&@# squash bugs eat???

  8. Leisa says:

    You’re such an inspiration. My garden grows every year because of your blog. I started tomatos from seed (which survived) and today I’m pickling my radishes. I have snow peas, rhubarb, peppers, and lettuce for the bunnies. Next year I’ll try a loofah. You should be Canada’s Ambassador of Gardening!!!

  9. Chris White says:

    We have oodles of land for gardens but I am scaling back this year to a raised bed and some potted veggies on the back step. Oodles of land also includes oodles of hungry critters and I just can’t fence them all out. I’ve never gardened in a small space so it could be an interesting experience! Keep the tips coming!

  10. Ev Wilcox says:

    Dear Karen, Know how you feel about Brussels sprouts? That’s me, in regard to rhubarb…shudder. Glad you and your other blog pals enjoy them, but…shudder. Your gardening tips are wonderful-thanks for sharing!

    • Karen says:

      You don’t like RHUBARB??!! Well. I’m not sure how to continue this relationship anymore. ;) ~ karen!

  11. Tina says:

    So, I reread the one about splitting your rhubarb and you said something about making rhubarb crisps…but I don’t see the recipe! Can you please share? A friend gave me TWENTY FIVE pounds of rhubarb (clean weight). Some I froze, some I stewed and froze, I made a couple of batches of bread but I have more and I’d love to make crisps!

  12. Paula says:

    I have used the tomato string method for 3 years and I won’t use any other method ever again. As long as you stay ahead of the pruning, it is a fantastic way to grow tomatoes in a small space. Thanks for the info on when garlic is ready. I waited until the plant was all dried out last year and lo and behold, the bulbs all opened and fell apart…very disappointing.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Where you are a community garden could be 20 x 20 (ish). Where I am, a community garden space – if you are able to get one – is 6 x8. I have a space that is 5 x 3 and on it I grow tomatoes, beans, radish, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, beets, Swiss chard. Not a lot of each but enough to make it interesting. I love my garden and we use all that we grow.

    • Karen says:

      Most community gardens around here are also the size you describe, not the 20 x 20 plots I’m lucky enough to have. I just happen to garden in my area’s BEST and oldest community gardens. :) ~ karen!

  14. Jennifer says:

    I am so jealous of the tomato plant in this post. Living in Calgary, many things are difficult to grow and tomatos are one I’ve almost given up on. I’m down to planting just cherry tomatoes now. Sigh…

    • Paula says:

      Try an heirloom named ‘Stupice’, they are ready very quickly and they are delicious.

      • Erin says:

        I second the Stupice. Very early and tolerant to cooler temps (for a tomato.) Look to other Russian varieties as well. There is hope.

  15. Alisa Kester says:

    I LOVE that book, Grow a Little Fruit Tree! I now have around 25 little trees in my backyard. This year, I’m getting peaches ripening for the first time. I also enjoy espaliers…It’s easy and fun to make your own from one year old whips.

  16. Mindy says:

    Am I the first comment!? Clearly that’s all I care about at this moment.

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