• Add your Green Material – this can include kitchen scraps (eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit & vegetable peelings, fruit cores, etc.) and scraps from the yard (weeds, leaves, grass clippings, manure, sawdust, etc.) These scraps are high in nitrogen.
  • Add your Brown Material – this can include sawdust, branches, twigs, straw, shredded paper, etc. These materials are high in carbon. There should be a 50/50 disbursement between the green and brown materials (nitrogen and carbon).
  • Water your Compost – Add water to your compost regularly so it remains damp. Do not add too much water as the contents of the pile will drown. The compost pile should stay consistently damp, but not soaking wet. The compost pile should be hot in the middle.
  • Turn your Compost Pile – Stir/Shuffle your compost every 1-2 weeks to provide oxygen to the pile. Continue to mix the green and brown materials together. Move the outer layer toward the center to expose the decomposing materials.
  • What NOT to Compost: Meat & Fish; Diseased, Invasive Weeds; Charcoal Ash; Dog/Cat Waste; Dairy, Fats, Oils


Poison Ivy can be tricky to identify and avoid, but there are attributes that differentiate the plant from others. Poison ivy has compound leaves and each leaf is composed of three leaflets. Each leaflet is 2 to 9 inches long and 1 to 5 inches wide. The stem of the middle leaflet is much longer than the stalks of the two side leaflets.

In some cases, the stem on the side leaflets can be too small to spot or see. The stems of the two side leaflets are always directly opposite of each other. The juncture where the leaflet joins at the stem is often reddish. Poison ivy teeth edges appear more pointy than other plants such as poison oak.

The surface of the leaflets can be glossy or dull. Along the main stem/vine, the sets of three leaflets are never directly opposite each other – they have an alternate arrangement. Most of the leaves are green and about two feet high. Poison ivy often grows in mass, and frequently takes over its surrounding area as the dominant plant. 

Poison ivy leaves in the spring appear as a shiny green and turn into a dull green during the summer months. The leafs then turn to yellow or scarlet in the autumn.


  • The best soil temperature for carrots is between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Till your soil to a depth of 10 inches – remove all rocks, stones and hardened soil clumps.
  • Add compost and sandy topsoil if your soil is not loose as the carrots will grow deep into the ground.
  • Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and 3 inches apart in a row (rows are best when 1 foot apart from another). Try to sow the seeds as evenly as possible to avoid the seeds growing together.
  • Water lightly but frequently – the soil should be consistently moist to avoid a hard crust on the top layer. Consider covering the top layer of soil with fine sand or sifted compost to prevent a hard crust from forming – carrots require damp soil and the extra sand/compost helps hold moisture.
  • The carrots should begin to emerge 15-25 days after planting!
  • Our Favorite Recipe – Grilled Carrots


  • Prepare Garden Beds – Early Spring is a great time to loosen soil, add soil nutrients and remove all debris. Loosen all compacted soil.
  • Weed/Pest Removal – Remove all weeds by their roots to eliminate the chance of them re-sprouting. Turn over the top 6 inches of soil to reveal any pests that have wintered in your garden beds. Caterpillars and cutworms are two common pests to keep an eye out for – they will attack your seedling plants early into the spring season.
  • Prune Old Plants – Old shrubs, bushes and trees should be pruned enough to see the branch structures well.
  • Conduct a soil test and/or pH test to determine what needs to be added to your soil. Plants/Vegetables have varied and specific needs.
  • Fertilize/Compost – Based on the results of your pH/soil test, add the necessary fertilizer or compost to your soil. For example, tomatoes need a bit more calcium than other plants and vegetables. Fertilize/Compost a few weeks before planting to give the nutrients time to reach surrounding soil.
  • BONUS – Bare soil brings weeds. One of the best ways to cut down on the time it takes to weed and prepare your garden for spring is to keep your garden bed(s) consistently mulched. Mulch helps minimize the amount of weeds in your garden.


  • Cucumbers thrive in temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit and in drained soil with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.8.
  • Cucumbers do best when sown directly into the ground. Space the cucumbers 36-60 inches apart and plant in an area with ample sunlight. Sow seeds 1 inch deep.
  • Provide the cucumbers with 1-2 inches of water each week.
  • Choose a planting site with adequate drainage and warm, fertile soil. Cucumbers thrive in ample sun.
  • Grow cucumbers vertically on a trellis. This opens up space in your garden and makes maintenance/harvesting much easier.
  • Our Favorite Recipe – Crispy Cucumber and Chickpea Salad


  • Lettuce is grown best during the spring and fall in most regions. Ideal soil temperatures are between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme heat or prolonged heat will make lettuce “bolt” – move from flower then seed as oppose to growing new leaves. The existing leaves will also become coarse, bitter and tough if exposed to intense heat.

  • The seeds should be planted in an area that gets plenty of sun and in soil with pH levels between 6.0 and 7.0.

  • Spring lettuce seeds should be planted in the ground 3 weeks before your last spring frost date. Fall lettuce seeds should be planted 4 to 8 weeks before the first frost date.
  • Remove all stones and large chunks of dirt from the soil – lettuce seeds are small so stones and dirt may inhibit germination.
  • Plant seeds 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch deep. Do not plant seeds too deep as the lettuce seeds need sufficient light to sprout.
  • The spacing of the seeds depends on the type of lettuce:
    • Loose-leaf lettuce: 4 inches apart
    • Romaine/Butterhead lettuce: 8 inches apart
    • Crisphead lettuce: 16 inches apart
  • The seedling rows should be 12-15 inches apart.
  • Water frequently – at least 2-3 times per week. The lettuce should be watered whenever the top inch of soil becomes dry.
  • Because lettuce has a shallow root system, we suggest surrounding the lettuce with mulch. Mulch will prevent the top inches of the soil from drying out quickly.
  • Most lettuce will fully mature in less than 60 days, and most can be harvested at any stage. Pluck individual leaves off the plant or remove a full head of lettuce when the plant is fully matured.


  • Mulching is a great way to minimize weeds. Mulch deprives weeds of sunlight while keeping soil moist and cool for your plants. Replenish your mulch as needed – the mulch should be about 2 inches deep (mulch deeper than this can deprive your soil of oxygen).
  • When you cannot fully uproot weeds at the base of their roots, cut off the heads of the weeds. Chopping off the heads of the weeds minimizes reseeding and the spreading of weed seeds. This method will provide you a few weeks before weed seeds can spread and grow again.
  • Deprive the weeds of water as best as possible. One way to do this is utilizing drip or soaker hoses beneath your mulch – this will efficiently water your plants while depriving the weeds of the water they need.
  • Leave as little room in your garden as possible for weeds to grow. This can be tricky as you do not want to overcrowd your garden and deprive your plants of the water, sunlight and nutrients they need. But, planting densely can help in fighting weeds and not providing them with the light and nutrients they need to grow.
  • Resist tilling and digging up the top two inches of soil as best as possible. Most weed seeds need sunlight to germinate and can only receive such light in the top two inches of soil. When digging up and tilling your soil, you may be pushing weed seeds to the top two inches of the soil, allowing them to receive the light they need, germinate and spread. Therefore, once you till your soil, plant in the designated area right away and cover it with mulch.
  • Using the right tools is essential. It is important to remove the weeds at their roots, and the correct tool is necessary to uproot the full weed and prevent it from growing back.


  • Tomatoes require ample sun – choose a location to plant the tomatoes that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.
  • Ideally, the tomatoes should be grown in soil with a pH level between 5.8 to 7. The soil should be fertile and drain well. Add compost for best results.
  • Tomatoes grow best in temperatures ranging from 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove each plant’s lowest leaves and place the root ball deep enough into the soil so only the top layers of leaves are above-ground. It is recommended to bury two-thirds of the stem when planting.
  • Plant smaller tomatoes 24 inches apart and larger tomatoes 36 to 48 inches apart. Use stakes or cages around the larger tomato plants – this will allow the tomatoes to grow vertically, prevent rot and plant diseases, and keep the tomatoes off the ground.
  • Water the tomato plants directly at their roots.
  • Surround the base of the tomato plants with 3-4 inches of mulch to prevent weeds and diseases, and to maintain soil moisture.
  • As the plant grows, prune/remove any off-shoot leaves/branches/stems that grow between the main stem and branch that is holding the tomato. This will allow the plant to direct more energy to the tomato.
  • Water the tomato plant regularly – aim for 1 inch of water per week.


Poison Oak can be painful and irritating, and identifying this shrub can be tricky. Poison oak is mostly found in dry, sunny locations and does not thrive in areas with heavy shade. It is a low-growing shrub that can reach almost 3 feet tall, usually as a vine or shrub.

One poison oak leaf consists of three leaflets – the stem attached to the main terminal leaflet is longer than the stems attached to the other two. Poison oak leaflets are typically a duller green than poison ivy leaflets. The leaflets also have hairs on both sides (unlike poison ivy). The toxic resin found in all parts of poison oak is urushiol.

The main identifier of poison oak is its lobed leaves, which make it look like an oak leaf. The middle leaflet is lobed (or toothed) similarly on both margins, and the two other leaflets are usually lobed irregularly. Poison oak begins in the spring appearing red. The leaflets then turn green, and finally transition to varying shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall before dropping to the ground. Poison oak often grows in clusters, and some have white or tan berries attached to their stems.

In general, it is best to adhere to the old saying – “leaves of three, let it be!”


  • The first step to deterring animals and critters away from your garden is to identify what kind of animal is invading your space. From deer to moles to squirrels, there are identifiers that can help you identify the type of animal. Check for tunnels or mounds of dirt to help identify the creature.
  • Make note of which plant/vegetable is being impacted. For example, critters like chipmunks and squirrels are drawn to vegetables and you will see be able to see their nibble marks. Insects and birds create more structural damage.
  • Try organic taste and/or odor repellent. Taste repellent contains capsaicin and will require the animal to take a bite out of the designated vegetable. Odor repellent is sulfur-based and smells like rotten eggs. Reapply repellent every 5 to 7 days; it is best to reapply after rain. Using several different products or applying two at a time will yield the best results. Ensuring the formula of your repellent(s) is organic will prevent damage to your plants and soil.
  • Using raised beds or pots can limit animal interference depending on the animal size. The taller the pot or bed, the more protection your vegetables will have. Another option is draping bird netting over your plants (using poles to keep it in place and keep the netting tight) – this will deter birds from flying into your plants and damaging them. If the mesh of the netting is small enough, it will also deter certain insects from reaching your plants.
  • Adding certain plants/herbs like garlic and/or oregano to your garden can deter small animals and deer as well.  Critters do not like the pungent smell and taste,  and will shy away from eating them.
  • Lastly, it is best to be realistic! While there are many tips and hacks to prevent animals and insects from damaging your plants and vegetables, animal interference is to be expected in most gardens. Animals and insects will inevitably find their way into your garden and this is okay! It is their natural habitat. Adding safe precautions will go a long way!


  • Clean Up – Prevent disease and pests from spreading throughout your garden over the winter by clearing and removing dead/overgrown weeds, plants and debris. This will give your garden a fresh start when spring arrives.
  • Tim and Prune – Trim back and prune dead branches from shrubs, trees and bushes. This will reinforce healthy growth and prevent damage during winters storms.
  • Mulch – Spread a layer of organic mulch around your plants and garden to deter weeds, regulate soil temperature and retain moisture throughout the winter months. Straw, leaves and/or compost are great options.
  • Divide and Transplant – the Autumn season is a great time to transplant perennials (i.e. irises, hostas, peonies) to give them time to establish roots before winter. Divide the overcrowded perennials to give them space and room for their roots to take hold.
  • Prepare Bulbs – If you plan to plant spring-blooming bulbs (i.e. tulips, daffodils), fall is the time to do so. Plant the bulbs before the ground freezes to allow them to establish their roots.
  • Shelter Container Plants – if you have potted plants, protect them. Wrap the pots with insulated materials to avoid freezing or move them to a covered, sheltered location. Extremely sensitive plants should be brought inside.
  • Prepare Your Lawn – Promote healthy grass growth for next season by aerating and seeding your lawn. Rake and remove debris and leaves off your lawn to prevent disease and mold.
  • Fertilize – Use a balanced fertilizer in your garden to give plants a boost. This will help them store nutrients throughout the winter months and give them a strong start in the spring.
  • Plant Fall Flowers – Certain plants thrive and bloom in the fall, including pansies, mums and asters. These plants provide nectar for late-season pollinating and add color to the garden.


  • Kale grows best when planted 3 – 5 weeks before the last frost. Fall/Autumn is one of the best times to grow kale as long as the weather does not drop into the teens. The leaves are sweeter when grown in cooler weather. Kale is resilient, making it one of the easiest of the brassica family to grow.
  • Kale can also be planted in the spring before the intense heat of the summer months as kale grows best in cooler temperatures. Seeds will germinate at soil temperatures as long as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Kale is grown best in well-drained, fertile soil with pH levels between 6.5 and 6.8.
  • Plant kale 18 to 24 inches apart in an area that receives ample sun to allow proper air circulation. Use compost, fertilizer, and/or other rich, organic matter when planting your kale. When using compost, apply 1 – 2 inches of compost per 100 square of garden area.
  • Plant kale seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep in your soil.
  • Water your kale with 1 to 2 inches of water per week. The soil should remain consistently moist.
  • Utilize mulch to deter weeds, retain moisture and keep the kale cool. Mulch will help expedite the kale growth process.
  • Kale is best harvested starting with the outermost, lowermost leaves once they get to a rich color and large enough to eat. Kale is ready to harvest when the leaves are the approximate size of your hand.
  • Avoid snipping and picking the terminal bud to ensure future kale plant productivity. Regular harvesting encourages new growth and can extend the harvesting period. Remove yellow and/or damaged leaves to promote overall kale health.


  • Choose the right time to transplant. One of the worst things you can do to seedlings is abruptly moving them from indoors to outdoors. Gradually introduce seedlings to the outdoors over a span of a few days – placing them outside for 2-3 hours each day. This process is called “hardening off”.
  • Choose the proper time to transplant. The best time to transplant is during the plant’s dormant season – most species would yield the best results in the spring or fall. Avoid transplanting in extreme heat or cold – a mild, cloudy day is best to avoid excessive sun.
  • Dig a hole larger than the root ball of the plant to ensure it has plenty of room to grow. Ensure the new plant site has great soil conditions, adequate sunlight (and shade depending on the species) and proper drainage. Before transplanting, water the plant thoroughly a day or two in advance. Moist soil makes it easier to remove the plant and reduces transplant shock.
  • Be very gentle with the plant’s roots and handle with care when transplanting. Try to preserve as much of the root system as possible by digging around the root ball. When moving the plant, handle it by the root ball – not the stem/trunk.
  • The plant should be placed in the new hole at the same depth as its previous location. Fill the hole with soil and press gently around the roots to firm up the soil and remove air pockets. If the roots are too clustered at the bottom of the hole, loosen and separate them thoroughly.
  • Water the plant after transplanting thoroughly to assist in settling the soil and providing the roots with enough moisture. Water regularly during the first two weeks to help the plant acclimate. If the plant is wilting or its leaves are turning yellow over the first few weeks, change your watering frequency or provide more shade.