Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day Quinoa Salad

It feels like a hangover day today, the day after Christmas. We had a delicious dinner last night that was a group effort shared between my husband, my brother and myself, with dessert made by my mother.

I ate (and drank) a little too much last night and I'm feeling the effects today. My poor stomach needs a break, so I decided to make a nice clean salad for today. I make variations of this quinoa salad quite frequently but I decided to add pomegranates for a festive touch of red. I like the fresh crunchy pop it adds; I will definitely be adding them again. The parsley, a left over from last night's meal, added a splash of green in keeping with the Yule season. 

Ingredients for Boxing Day Quinoa Salad:

  • 1 large bowl of cooked quinoa (I use a mixture of red and white quinoa)
  • 1 ripe pomegrante, seeds separated 
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chick peas (I soak mine from dried, then cook them, drain and leave to cool)
  • optional: feta cheese

  • 1/2 cup of fire cider (see my recipe here) - made from apple cider vinegar, onion, garlic, hot peppers, and horseradish
  • 1/2 cup of almond oil (or any cold pressed oil of choice)


Add all ingredients into a large bowl, keeping a small handful of parsley aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients then add to bowl. Gently mix salad to incorporate dressing. Add additional parsley for garnish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

… and all through the house, all the kiddies were anxiously following Santa's journey on NORAD Tracks Santa.
My girls following Santa's route on the internet.

It's been a busy few days here, in the mad dash to the finish line of preparing for Christmas day. We don't do anything special in our family for Christmas Eve, although we do celebrate the Solstice with new pyjamas.

I've been frantically finishing homemade presents for family and neighbours. Knitting dish towels and cloths, knitted cup sweaters, lavender bath salts (from my own lavender), organic honey vanilla lip balm, and beeswax food wraps. I've finished everything from my DIY holiday gift list that I had hoped to complete.

This afternoon we finished cleaning the house, wrapping presents (we tried to put most presents into bags this year, with reusable gift tags) and setting the table for Christmas dinner. I'm tired.

The last thing on my list was to bake Santa cookies with my girls, which are almost finished. I made an executive decision to make shortbread this year because they are my favourite holiday cookies and no one in my family makes them anymore. Even if I do say so myself, they are are delicious. I decided to use organic cane sugar and maple sugar (made from organic maple syrup), which has given them a lovely hint of maple.

It's almost time to put the kids to bed, have a relaxing drink and enjoy the peace of the evening. If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a wonderful day with your family and those you love.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Litterless Lunch Dilemma

Every year for Christmas I like to give my daughters reusable lunch containers and snack bags. I have been slowly replacing the less environmentally friendly reusable lunch container options with safer ones. The stainless steel containers that I like are much more expensive than the more “disposable” plastic ones sold in the grocery stores, however, and I am tired of my daughters misplacing them. I have their names on everything, and occasionally they make their way back to my girls, or the missing containers are found in the bottom of a bag. But I am noticing the stock shrink over time and I don’t know what to do about it.

Our PVC and phthalate free lunch boxes.
The stainless steel container on the left is a two-level
bento box, and can be great as an all-in-one lunch container.

Continue reading at The Green Phone Booth >>>

Friday, 13 December 2013

DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

Every year I try to make at least a few gifts to give to people on my list for Yule. I feel good that I am giving them something made with a little bit of love that is unique. Of course, making presents requires time, which is something that many of us do not have with busy work schedules and families. Realistically, to make everything that I want I should be starting in the summer, which is a goal that never seems to be met.

This year I have made, and hopefully will make, several gifts for work friends and family. The best part is that I have most of the ingredients and materials for the gifts at home already, so I am not engaging in unnecessary consumerism to make them. Below are links to my wish list of homemade gifts.

Natural body care and food presents:
  • lip balm: I have made this lip balm for myself and my children and I store it in a small mason jar. I bought plastic tubes to pour the balm into before it cools to gift to other people. This would make a great stocking stuffer.

    It doesn't look pretty here in the mason jar,
    but as you can see my daughters use the
    lip balm frequently.
  • beeswax wraps: I have been coveting these beeswax food wraps for some time, and although I love that it is a local company for me, I have not made the leap because of the stiff price. I haven't made these yet but plan on doing so before the big day. Wish me luck!

  • infused sugar: This looks like a nice quick homemade present to make as a hostess gift

  • vanilla extract: Sadly I did not start my extract in time to gift this to family as I had originally intended, although there is still time to make it, with a caveat that it should not be used until it has had enough time to set. 

Homemade knitted presents:
  • cup cozy: I love these cup cozies and I am giving them to several friends on my gift list (and maybe an extra one for myself). These knit up quickly; I can make several in an evening.
    Throw in a reusable cup and a gift card
    to make a quick, useful present.
  • dish cloth: Who doesn't need another dish cloth in the kitchen to clean up spills and wash counters? I am running a knitting club at my school and I am teaching my students to make basic garter stitch cloths as possible gifts for family. They can be as simple or as fancy as is desired, depending on the stitches used and pattern followed. Paired with a bar of natural castile soap, this would also be a nice quick hostess gift to have on hand for holiday party invitations. 

  • easy tree ornament: These little tree ornaments are so easy to knit up (I can make one in about 30 minutes) and with a little added bling I think they will look eye catching hanging on the tree. I have made over a dozen now instead of cards for work colleagues. 
  • more challenging tree ornament: With time running out I think I am going to have to add this tree ornament to my list of things to make for next year, but I definitely want to try them. So cute!

What are you making this holiday season?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Skin Deep: An App Review

I regularly visit the Environmental Working Group’s website Skin Deep to research the safety of the personal care products I may purchase. I particularly like their safety reviews of sunscreen products. Like many people, I am so frustrated with having to research the ingredients of everything I buy, which is why I have tried to eliminate the commercial products I buy as I gradually learn how to make my own with safe ingredients.

There are still some products that I buy, and some that I buy when my homemade items run out, and I appreciate Skin Deep when I need to research which product has the safest ingredients. I have found it inconvenient, however, when trying to access the website on my smart phone while out shopping. I am wholly reliant upon and addicted to my smart phone, and I am a stereotypical mom using her smart phone for shopping lists and organizing her kids social calendar. When I discovered that Skin Deep has a free mobile app, I was naturally excited and looking forward to trying it out.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fire Cider Flu Fighter

I don't normally get a flu shot, so I look for ways to naturally boost my immunity to get through cold and 'flu season. I try to get as much natural vitamin D by spending time outside, but as the days grow shorter (and colder and wetter) this is difficult, so I must remember to supplement with some vitamin D. Many people swear by vitamin C and a vitamin B complex as a stress reducer as well.

However, I am becoming more reluctant to take supplements for a couple of reasons. Often the additional vitamins we take are not absorbed by our bodies and are flushed quickly out of our system. I don't want to waste money on expensive, good quality supplements only to pee them out. Also, I would rather obtain nutrients through natural sources, and vitamins are often made with synthetic ingredients (or even GMO ingredients).

I am trying fish oil for myself and my girls to see if this helps. I found a delicious organic pina colada flavoured version at a local health food store that my girls really enjoy. No really, they love it. It's expensive, but I think it is worth it to get those good omega-3 oils.

I am also trying fire cider, a recipe I found on Pinterest, also known as master tonic. Basically it is fermented garlic, ginger, onions, horseradish and hot peppers fermented in apple cider vinegar. Fire cider indeed! It takes about a month to ferment in a cool, dark location before it can be used. Once the ingredients are removed from the cider it can be kept in the refrigerator almost indefinitely, supposedly.

So far I love my fire cider. I'm not a scientist so I can't test the antiviral, antibacterial and anifungal claims, but I'm going to give it a shot. Besides, in my opinion it is delicious. Not only am I trying to remember to take a tablespoon of it daily, but I also use it as infused vinegar in salad dressings and any place I might want to use apple cider vinegar.

The flavour isn't as strong as I was expecting (based upon the smell) and I can even get two of my three daughters, and my husband, to take a tablespoon of the fire cider each day. The idea is to take it daily as a preventative measure, and more frequently if you begin to feel under the weather, so I'm hoping to convince my youngest to drink it, too. Wish me luck!


  • 1-2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large section of ginger, skin removed and diced
  • 1 large section of horseradish root, skin removed and diced
  • several hot peppers (only had 3 from my garden, wished I'd had more), seeds removed and diced
  •  raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • unpasteurized honey


  • Prepare all the ingredients, dicing into small pieces.
  • Add ingredients to a large glass jar (I recycled the jar from my coconut oil).
  • Add the apple cider vinegar to the glass jar.
  • Place in a cool, dark location for two to four weeks.
  • Strain out all the ingredients from the apple cider vinegar.
  • add honey to taste (I added about 2 tablespoons to mine)
  • Return the apple cider vinegar to the glass jar and store in the refrigerator until needed. 

Next step is trying to make my own apple cider vinegar!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Shroom Love

One of the things I love about autumn is going mushroom hunting. Not for ingesting, I'd like to clarify. While I love the idea of foraging for edible wild food, and I know that I could use resource guides to help me find edible wild mushrooms, I am too chicken to do so.

I love the seasonal quality of finding mushrooms on my walks and how they spring up out of nowhere when the the weather turns wetter and colder. I have regular places to check for them, and when I find them it always gives me a little thrill to take their photo.

Here are my favourite photos from this season. These photos can also be found on my Instagram account, crustyroll35.

My absolutely favourite mushroom photo, however, can be found here at my {this moment} post. I expect to see smurfs dancing around it.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Late Fall Garden

This year I expanded my fall garden to include more greens that we enjoyed in the summer (mustard, kale, chard), as well as some new ones to try growing (gai lan and pak choy). I also did some carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnip. The last item into my garden was garlic. My fall garden is somewhat limited because it is in a north facing backyard with very little direct sunlight.

The broccoli, cauliflower and gai lan are not faring very well. Maybe when the warm weather returns in the spring the broccoli and cauliflower will give me a nice early harvest. Fingers crossed. I hope whatever ate my gai lan enjoyed it.

Although I am not going out into the backyard frequently enough, I am pleased with how things are going. The kale and chard from the summer are still going strong and we use these whenever we remember to go out before dark. With the early evening in the northern hemisphere in November, I had to go out with a flashlight this past week to get some greens for my pasta sauce.

I planted red mustard in the early fall and it is doing well. I am pleasantly surprised to see that the green mustard that I let go to seed in the summer reseeded on it's own as well. 

The Brussels sprouts are filling out and getting big and round. I harvested some for our Thanksgiving dinner in October but made sure to leave the stalks growing so I can harvest the rest for our Christmas evening dinner with the family. It always makes me proud to have homegrown food for such a special family dinner.

My turnips and pak choy are the surprise hits of the fall garden this year! I shouldn't be amazed, yet I am delighted at the difference fresh pak choy tastes compared to the store bought variety. It tastes perfect sautéed in some oil, garlic and ginger. And oh the turnips! I realize that they aren't to everyone's taste, but they have so much flavour when served garden to table. I was raised with them either boiled or steamed, then mashed with cooked carrots, but I want to try roasting them, as an Instagram friend suggested.

Next year I want to remember to add cabbage to my fall garden.

I regularly post in-process photos of my garden and its results on Pinterest, as crustyroll35.

Friday, 15 November 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  

"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

I Would Do Anything For Love, But I Won't Do That

Everyone has their line in the sand, the one thing that goes too far. For some people it is too much to ask them to compost their food waste. For others it is too much to ask them to use a menstrual cup.

I believe I have found my line in the sand. For all that I love the environment and would do anything to protect it, I won’t use “family cloth” instead of toilet paper.  From the lyrics of the Meatloaf song, I would do anything to be more eco, but I won’t do that.

What is family cloth you ask? In the quest to reduce single use disposable items, many people are using small pieces of cloth, like a small face cloth, instead of toilet paper.  The idea is that the cloths can be kept near the toilet, like toilet paper, and placed in a sealed container when soiled or wet. Then they are washed in the washing machine and reused again and again. A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of blog posts on this subject, the pros and cons and how to use them. One of my favourite companies, Luna Pads, sells them and promotes their use

In theory I am down with this idea. After all, I used cloth diapers with all three of my daughters and I use cloth feminine pads. I think nothing of washing them. Why would I throw away diapers and pads when I don’t throw away my underwear?

In my mind, however, using reuseable “toilet paper” just seems different. Without getting too detailed, I think it is the soiled part, rather than wet part, that has me squeamish. It’s just a bit of toilet paper, no big deal, right?

Actually it is a big deal. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Peace Poppy Problem

This post may get me into hot soup, and I am not the sort of person who thrives on conflict and controversy. I feel very strongly about this, however, so here I go...

A year ago I posted a tutorial for making reusable poppies for Remembrance Day.

Click to read it. 

My intent was to show how to make a poppy that can be worn year after year instead of the plastic flocked poppies distributed by veterans. As a teacher I get upset with all the discarded poppies I find around the school grounds and on the gym floor after the Remembrance Day ceremony.

Apparently people took issue with the fact that I wasn't supporting veterans by doing so. I am confused about how this could be the case, however, as I still donate at my school to the veterans' poppy fund even though I do not take a new poppy each year.

I also made and wear a white peace poppy for Remembrance Day, for many reasons outlined in my original post. This year the Canadian Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has made headlines saying that the white peace poppies are offensive to veterans and an attempt to "politicize Remembrance Day."

I find this very interesting, considering that I find traditional Remembrance Day ceremonies are already politicized. People speak of our soldiers who died for our freedom and our way of life. The poppy as a symbol dates back to the First World War and harkens back to the poppies growing between the crosses of the war dead in Flanders, Belgium, when a generation of young men died for very convoluted political reasons. Fast forward to World War Two, of course no one would argue that we would want to turn back the clock and let Hitler continue his mad march across Europe committing genocide, but what of all soldiers and innocent civilians on all sides who died? We only remember and give thanks for our soldiers? All wars are political and the decisions that lead up to war are political in their very nature. We must be careful when we speak of "just" wars, as if some are good and some are bad.

On Remembrance Day I think about the fallen soldiers, most of them young men like my grandfather (who served in the RAF in WWII) who volunteered because they believed the political justifications for going to war that the governments put forth at the time. I think about their faith and determination to do what they believed to be right at the time, and I weep for their suffering and loss. I remember all the wars that I have learned about and remember the horrific mistakes and acts that were committed in the name of a "just" war and hope that we have learned from history.

My grandfather, like many veterans who cannot speak of what they did and witnessed during wartime, never openly spoke of what he experienced during the war. He did talk of his angst about terror he caused innocent people in the cities he bombed nightly in Germany, which made him question everything he was doing.

However, it seems that all we as a society have learned is that we will not let terrorists and tyrannical leaders, as determined by us, have their way. So along with my red poppy of Remembrance, I wear a peace poppy in the hope that we have learned from the past and that we will work toward a better, more peaceful future. This may be terribly naive, as the political systems of the past have not changed and wars will continue to be fought in the name of freedom when really they are protecting a privileged elite's hold on money and power.

If soldiers made great sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we enjoy today, is not one of my freedoms to exercise my freedom of speech to promote peace by wearing a peace poppy? It is people's right to be offended by my points of view just as much as it is my right to express myself. I just fail to see how my peace poppy, in conjunction with my red poppy, can offend someone?

For a more intelligent and well argued discussion of the reasons to wear a peace poppy, please read this article.
Remembrance Day banner made by my class.

I love how my school does the Remembrance Day ceremony. It is respectful of veterans who served in any war, respectful of the sacrifices that they made that they believed to be best at the time, while at the same time asking people to think about a better world with peace for all, regardless of where one lives. Students read poems and sing songs about peace, be it on the playground, at home or in the community. My favourite part is the parade of nations when our students represent their birth countries to show the diversity of our community, while at the same time showing how we are all the same. 

This year, as with previous years, I wear both my red poppy, in remembrance of the sacrifices the soldiers made, and my white poppy, in remembrance of all innocent lives ripped apart due to the forces of war. I also think about the environmental destruction of war.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Winter Squash Soup

I realized recently that I have not posted anything on this blog for three weeks because of so much going on with my kids, my job and my family. I thought autumn was a time to slow down in preparation for the long winter months ahead?

My spirit may come alive with summer, but I think autumn is my favourite season. The smell of the crisp air on an autumn morning should be bottled up to enjoy all year long. I never tire of the changing colours of the leaves that make the walk to school with my girls an adventure. Around each corner is a new sight that I feel compelled to capture with my camera and post on Instagram. We have had an unseasonably dry fall and this has been a bonus for outside time, but in some ways I miss the typical Raincover that can feel like a hug from an old friend. That's not to say that we haven't had some epic rainfalls recently that have temporarily flooded streets. The extended period of foggy days in October were wonderful while they lasted, with the eerie fog horns bellowing on the Fraser River.

With the change of seasons I have been delighted to get out my knitting needles and try some new projects. I call myself an advanced beginner who is still getting used to all the possibilities of knitting in the round. The couch blankets have also made their return to the tv room, along with my favourite pair of slippers.

Even though life with three busy daughters, a job and volunteering has taken over my time recently, I have tried to find the time to continue to make as many of our meals from scratch as I can. On this eco journey that I am traveling I try to make as many homemade meals as possible to avoid needless packaging and additives. Of course this can be a challenge when life gets out of control with commitments, as it has recently.

One of my favourite fall foods is soup. Prior to marriage and kids I made huge pots of soup all the time, freezing them into single serve portions, making an easy quick meal for a single person living alone. My husband enjoys soup but not in the same way I do, and my children are definitely not open to some of the more adventuresome soups I enjoy making. I love making soup because it is so easy.

Winter squash soup is a must as far as I am concerned, and I have made it with pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash. This time I made it with kabocha squash, which is a Japanese "pumpkin." We had roasted kabocha squash for one of our Thanksgiving dishes and I enjoyed it so much I bought another. It has a lovely soft orange colour that I think makes for a pretty bowl of soup.

one winter squash (your choice of kabocha, acorn, butternut, pumpkin), roasted
one medium cooking onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, chopped finely
one inch section of ginger (approx), chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste
one to two tablespoons of butter (can substitute with olive oil or coconut oil)
a handful of corriander seeds, toasted and ground
one to two cups of whole milk or cream (add to achieve desired creaminess and thickness)
fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

To soften the squash, which ever variety is used, I roast it at 400 degrees F (200 C) in the oven for approximately thirty minutes until it is to the desired softness (I like browned bits on mine). Sometimes I roast it in wedges with the outside left on.

A must in any soup, or any meal as far as I am concerned, are onions and garlic. For winter squash soup I like to add ginger for a delicious zestiness,  sauté everything with butter for richness. If you are afraid of butter I urge you to do some reading about the benefits of butter. I have also used coconut oil but for this soup I wanted the flavour of butter. I suppose olive oil could be substituted but in my humble opinion fall and winter soups should be made with butter.

I like to make my own soup stock because of the rich flavour and overall health and eco benefits. If I use my own stock I do not need to add salt or pepper as it has already been seasoned to my preferences. In a rush, however, I use organic stock from the store. Pour the stock in with the browned onion mixture and add the roasted squash. At this point I would add salt or pepper to taste.

While the soup is simmering I toast coriander seeds harvested from my summer garden, then grind them with a mortar and pestle to release the aromatic flavours. With the ginger, garlic, onions and corriander added to the soup the kitchem smells amazing at this point.

I let this simmer on a medium low heat until it is starting to bubble, then I use a hand held blender and pulse the soup until it is smooth and creamy in appearance. The soup can be eaten at this point but I like to add some milk or cream to add to the smooth texture of the soup. I like to pulse with the hand held blender once more.

Before enjoying, I like to add some fresh cilantro from my fall garden to go with the coriander seeds.

Friday, 18 October 2013

(this moment)

{this moment} - Inspired by Amanda Soule at SouleMama.  
"A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments."

This week my moment will include words. I went to the Jack Johnson concert at the gorgeous Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver and it was so fabulous. I love Jack's laid back music and the values and lifestyle he promotes. He cares deeply about the environment and there were various local environmental groups promoting their causes at his concert; he matches the donations that these groups receive. His concert lived up to all my expectations. My favourite part was during the encore when he experimented with going completely unplugged, no mics or amps. The audience was absolutely silent in order to hear him. Then he invited his band and the opening act, Bahamas, on stage, and along with the audience singing along, it was magical.

Feminism Versus An Eco DIY Lifestyle

I am passionate about gardening, the environment, my family, and making things with my own two hands. Now that I have gotten off my lurking behind and fully embraced social media with a Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest account, and a personal blog, I feel like I have found my tribe. I used to be more quiet about my crunchy leanings, but now I feel more confident to embrace what makes me happy.

After seeing author Emily Matchar interviewed on television talking about her book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracingthe New Domesticity, I was intrigued enough to buy the book. She spoke about the rising trend of people, with women leading the charge, who are moving toward a more sustainable, eco-minded, DIY lifestyle, and she cites the thousands of blogs about modern homesteading, slow food, natural parenting, knitting, sewing and overall eco DIY lifestyles. Sounded good to me!

The subjects of her case studies are primarily American white, middle class, educated women who have left lucrative jobs because of the economic downturn, disillusionment with the corporate world, or to start a family. This is the first area of her book with which I have problems. This is hardly a wide cross-section of society and it is not representative of all people who are moving toward the "natural" DIY lifestyle.

She goes on to state that women who are growing their own food, raising backyard chickens, practicing extended breastfeeding, and making their gluten free food and personal care products from scratch are not only doing a disservice to the women's movement but are also taking away from the fight for more socially conscious programs and leaving the economically disadvantaged behind. In fact, she feels that these more educated and liberal women may have more in common with their conservative counterparts than they realize. These are very bold ideas that got my blood boiling almost immediately.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Gratitude List for Thanksgiving

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and in keeping with my one little word for 2013, I would like to share all the things I am grateful for this year.

  • I am grateful for the health of my loved ones. This has been a very hard year for my mother, who has had one major health crisis and now is working through another one. We have also had cancer in our family two times over the past several years, and I have worried about my own children's health at one time or another. It is very clear to me that good health should never be taken for granted.

  • I am grateful for the Canadian health care system, especially after needing it for the well being of my loved ones. It may not be perfect but it is there for us when we need it. I am also grateful for all the people who work in the health care system and make the best of it even when it is underfunded.

  • I am grateful to be a mother. There was a time when I thought I couldn't be one, so I am thankful to be a mother to my three beautiful daughters, who bring me joy, and keep me on my toes when I need it. 

  • I am grateful for my husband who knows me so well, puts up with my crap when I dish it out, and supports me when I get a bee in my bonnet or a crazy idea in my head.

  • I am grateful for my backyard garden. It has provided me with fresh, organic food right outside my door and hours of enjoyment in the sunshine.

  • I am grateful for where I live, in my community and in my country. I feel safe, peaceful and happy here.

  • I am grateful for the delicious, organic meal we had this weekend. It was a group effort and we pulled it off well. 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Garlic Planting Time

A sure sign of fall is planting bulbs in the garden. I have a bunch of daffodils and tulips I need to get into containers, and some new bulbs that I bought from my daughter's preschool fundraiser that I am excited to try. My big bulb project, however, is planting my garlic.

This is my second year planting garlic so I am still a newbie who has much to learn, and I hope to apply what I learned from my experience over the past year for next year's garlic.

Last fall I planted five rows of hardneck garlic in one of my raised beds, with about 5 bulbs in each. I added some of my own compost to the bed, but no other fertilizer. A few weeks after planting, when I was cleaning up my yard and raking leaves I added some dried leaves to the pile for mulch (to protect the bed from frosting, to keep weeds down, and to retain moisture because raised beds drain easily).

I was both pleased with and disappointed by my garlic this summer.

As the garlic began sprouting above the soil in the spring I noticed that many of the plants were being smothered by the leaves, which I had not mulched into small enough pieces. By the time I took all the leaves off the bed it was too late for some. Others that sprouted did not thrive, and I have to wonder if I didn't do enough to prepare the soil in the fall. Garlic is a heavy feeder and I planted them in a bed where I previously grew summer squash, which are also heavy feeders. I was worried that I wouldn't have any useable garlic at all!

I planted garlic from two different sources - West Coast Seeds and The Sharing Farm. Initially I thought the garlic from The Sharing Farm was doing better (was thriving more), but in the end the garlic from West Coast Seeds had a higher success rate when I harvested them. I was thrilled with the garlic scapes that I harvested in late June / early July, and for I while I was thinking hat this was all I was going to get out of my garlic. I made scape pesto and sautéed the scapes in stir fries as I would with garlic cloves. So fresh and summery!

In the end I pulled about fifteen bulbs out of the ground, but after drying only about eight or nine were edible. I could have saved all my precious garlic bulbs for myself, but what fun would that be? I shared with garlic loving family members and they all reported that the garlic was pungent and delicious.

So this year I did things slightly differently.

I didn't have any of my own compost ready so I bought organic manure and added it to the beds. Turning the soil and taking out all the left over plants and weeds was a back breaking job because I had some volunteer grape tomatoes in my squash this summer. There were so many little green and rotting tomatoes that I had to pick out because I don't want my bed to be overrun by them next year, as much as I want to encourage tomatoes in my garden.

Next I dug five troughs lenth-wise in my bed, rather than 5 width-wise as I decided to increase the amount planted. Then I added a commercial organic fertilizer liberally to the troughs before adding the cloves.

Before planting, I separated all the bulbs into individual cloves, selecting only the healthiest and largest cloves from each.

Into each trough I planted about a dozen cloves, making sure to plant the cloves the correct way with the pointed end up and the rooting end down. Two thirds of my garlic bed is hard neck garlic again because I love the bonus of scapes before the bulbs are ready. The remaining third is some soft neck varieties because I want to experiment with braiding the garlic.

After covering each of the troughs, I covered the entire bed with glacial rock dust just to be sure that I'm adding back essential minerals to the soil.

The last step was to mulch the garlic bed. This time I decided to use good old fashioned straw, just like all the books and websites recommend. The straw will not smother the seedlings but it will retain moisture. I bought some at our local pumpkin patch and I am using the remainder of the bale as part of our Autumn / Hallowe'en display in the front yard.

To summarize the steps I followed this year:

  • prepare the soil by removing weeds, plants and adding in compost and fertilizer
  • dig troughs or holes approximately a few inches deep
  • separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves
  • add additional fertilizer to each hole
  • plant the cloves root end down and pointed end up
  • cover holes
  • add any additional fertilizer or glacial rock dust 
  • cover garlic bed with mulch, preferably straw, although leaves could work if they are mulched into small enough pieces. 
  • cross fingers and wait patiently for next spring to see the results

I have recently learned about people planting their garlic on the full moon for increased production! Too late to try that this year - already something to add to the list for next year's garlic planting.


Disclosure: I did not receive compensation for any of the products shown in this post. I purchased them myself and included them because I like them.