succession planting

Succession Planting: Maximize Your Garden's Potential with Continuous Harvest

August 4, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Succession Planting: Maximize Your Garden’s Potential with Continuous Harvest

Do you want to maximize your garden’s yield, grow a wider variety of crops, and reduce wasted food? You want to try succession planting!young lettuce

Extend your growing season and grow more food with succession planting: staggered planting for extended harvest opportunities. With just a bit of extra planning and time in the soil, you’ll be cashing in on bountiful garden harvests from spring into late fall.

Let’s check out how succession works, its benefits, and some top tips for getting it started in your home garden.

What is Succession Planting?

Succession planting is the practice of planting at staggered intervals to produce harvestable crops continuously, for an extended period of time. It maximizes space by allowing you to produce more food (or flowers, herbs, whatever!) over time and can transform your garden into a non-stop buffet of ripe-and-ready veggies.

As you can imagine, succession planting does take a bit of increased planning and work as compared to one-and-done seasonal growing.

But one of the most wonderful things about planning for succession planting is how sharp your gardening skills will become as you explore the proper intervals, learn new techniques, and get to know the crops you love to grow and eat.

Some crops can be planted every two or three weeks (like lettuce), but some (like tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers) need longer intervals. 

Also consider how much of each crop you want during each period of your growing season. If you love salads with lettuce, carrots, and peas, you can stagger planting of those crops from spring through early fall to have delicious dishes for months!

Succession Planting for Beginners

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone MapIf you’re feeling overwhelmed with the potential complexity of succession planting, don’t worry — there are a variety of methods and you can start simple. Set yourself up with small goals; eventually you can work up to getting a continual harvest of a dozen kinds of crop from spring through late fall!

The timing windows for succession planting vary from a few days to a few weeks, depending on what you want to grow and where you live. Your own unique succession planting schedule will depend greatly on your Plant Hardiness Zone (aka Gardening Zone) and what you’re hoping to grow.  

Here’s a standard chart laying out recommended succession intervals for crops like lettuce, corn, peas, carrots and squash.

Intervals for planting depend not only on your climate, but also on the maturation period for your crops — since your goal is to stagger harvest-readiness throughout the season.

The various methods for succession planting depending on the results you want. For most home gardeners, the goal is to get a diverse harvest that inspires culinary creativity for many months (not necessarily to get a ton of the same crop throughout the season, which is a technique that commercial farmers often use). 

To begin, just choose a few crops that have a medium to short maturation period. It’s a great idea to use some cozy time in late winter to prepare for your spring, summer, and fall garden.

In fact, we wrote all about chores you can do in the off-season: check it out

Planning Your Succession Planting:

Here’s how to prepare for succession planting:

  • Peruse a seed catalog or month-by-month planting guide to choose which crops you want to grow.
  • Consider the growing period for the crop you want, selecting a few with varying maturity periods that can grow in different parts of the spring, summer, and early fall in your Zone.
  • Take crop rotation into account, too, which promotes biodiversity, soil health, and pest/disease prevention.
  • Start by marking the first planting date in a calendar (a Farmer’s Almanac calendar or other garden-centric calendar is ideal).
  • Then count forward and mark the date of expected harvest.
  • Do you want to plant that same crop again once it matures and is harvested? If so, mark the next planting on your calendar. (Leave a little time for clearing the plot and fertilizing!)
  • Now find the ideal planting date for your next-earliest planting.
  • Repeat!
  • Be sure to place your planting dates according to heat tolerance, sun exposure needs, and other factors that each crop requires.

Ready for more detailed planning? The University of Minnesota Extension provides even more meticulous detail about succession planting for more advanced gardeners.

Using a long-term garden journal works harmoniously with succession planting — and this blog teaches you how. That way, you can consider the location for each crop, too, depending on the sun’s movement throughout the year, changes in wind patterns, and even soil variations in your garden.

Best Crops for Succession Planting 


The best crops for your succession planting project are crops you love! And, of course, the ones that grow best in your garden.

But here are some of the most popular plants for staggered planting and continuous harvest in many zones: 

  • For spring: Radishes, lettuce, spinach, peas, leafy greens, strawberries, cabbage, beans
  • For early-to-mid summer planting: broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peppers, cucumbers
  • For late summer/early fall planting: lettuce, squash, leafy greens, cover crop (like clover, mustard, vetch, legumes, or grain)

Yes, you can succession plant tomatoes (of certain varieties)! Check out how.

Your local garden store is a great source of more information about succession planting in your region. They may even have handy charts that you can take home, indicating the best crops and intervals for your garden.

Benefits of Succession Planting

So why bother with that extra work and organization? Succession planting offers many benefits. It can:

  • Maximize space in your garden.
  • Extend the growing season, allowing fresh food harvests into the fall.
  • Reduce food waste by harvesting only what you need.
  • Help manage pests and diseases with short growing cycles.
  • Provide a valuable learning opportunity to experiment with different crops.
  • Encourage continuous growth of gardening skills and nature knowledge!

Succession planting is a rewarding technique that allows you to enjoy a bountiful garden harvest all year round. With a little planning and experimentation, you can grow a diverse array of crops, reduce waste, and optimize your garden’s yield. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, succession planting is a must-try method for any home garden enthusiast. Happy planting!

succession gardening


Homegrown Sponges: Growing Loofah in Your Garden

July 25, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Homegrown Sponges: Growing Loofah in Your Garden

Forget about neon-colored, plastic bath sponges that never biodegrade! Scrub yourself clean with an organic, all-natural, biodegradable loofah that you grew in your home garden. 

You’ve probably used real plant-based loofah, but perhaps you didn’t know they’re actually the fruit of a viney vegetable plant related to squash and melons. Homegrown loofahs make for wonderful body care accessories, household cleaning tools, and more — all completely biodegradable and renewable.

And guess what: they’re amazingly easy to grow and harvest right in your backyard.

What are Homegrown Loofahs?loofah illustration

Contrary to some ill-advised product marketing you may have seen, loofahs are not the same as sea sponges — although those sea creatures can make wonderful skin scrubbers, too.  

Loofah “sponges” are actually dried gourds; they’re the fruit of the luffa, a tropical plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family (along with pumpkins, cucumbers, melons, and other hard-shelled gourds). Luffa vines produce delicate, crinkly yellow flowers much like other squashes and drooping oblong fruit that have been used for culinary and domestic purposes for thousands of years.

Luffa and loofah can be considered interchangeable spellings for the same plant and gourd, but for purposes of this blog, we’ll use “luffa” to refer to the plant and “loofah” to refer to the fruit of that plant.

Luffa plants and their fruit have been grown, eaten, and used for thousands of years — as a culinary ingredient, medicine, cleaning tool, and even engine filters!

Growing luffa plants is fun and simple, if you pick the right location and set-up. Here’s how.

How to Grow Loofahs at Home

Growing loofahs at home is a fun and rewarding experience, provided you follow some essential guidelines. Here’s what we’ll cover in this blog:

  • There are two species of luffa and a number of different varieties; all will produce a fluffy sponge when dried.
  • Luffa seeds need warm temperatures to germinate. 
  • Luffa plants need full sun and a long, warm growing season to mature (5-6 months)
  • You’ll want to allow the gourd to mature and then dry on the vine in order to use it as a bath tool.
  • Luffa plants grow long vines (sometimes up to 30 feet) like pumpkins.

Choosing Your Luffa Seeds

There are two species of plant that produce the familiar scrubby sponge-like object that you can use in the bath: Luffa aegyptiaca (aka ridged luffa or Chinese okra) and Luffa acutangular a.k.a. Luffa cylindrica (aka smooth luffa). You might find either in a seed catalog or garden store, or you may just see the seeds listed as “luffa seeds.” 

“Ridged luffa” produce (you guessed it) more angular gourds with long ridges, while a “smooth loofa” plant will grow a rounder gourd with less prominent ridges. As far as growing and using them goes, the two species are pretty much the same.  Grab whatever seeds you can find and let’s get planting.

Planting & Growing Luffa in Your GardenLoofah hanging from a trellis

Luffa plants need full sun and well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. They require a long, warm season to ripen and dry on the vine. Luffas are climbing plants, so you’ll have the most success if you provide your luffa with a trellis or fence to grow on, or plenty of ground space to spread out.

Need some trellis inspo? We’ve got you covered!

Before you plant, whether in-ground or in a container, give your soil a measured supplement of organic plant food. A granular fertilizer with a balance of nutrients from organic ingredients will help your luffa establish strong roots and produce healthy fruit.

Check out our Container Gardening 101 guide for all the info you need to start a flourishing container garden inside or outdoors.

Luffas need a consistent temperature of  77-80°F to germinate, so it’s common to start them indoors — unless you live in a sunny climate with endless summer 😎 in which case you can start the seeds outdoors after the last frost of the year. But remember that, if you want to use the loofah gourd as a bath sponge, it needs to mature on the vine for 5-6 warm months.

Expect germination in about 20 days. Transplant them outdoors only when the risk of frost has passed. 

Keep their soil moist by watering regularly and give them a boost of organic fertilizer every two or three weeks (we recommend True Organic Liquid All-Purpose Plant Food).

Harvesting & Peeling Your LoofahDry luffa can also be used for bathing

The time has come to reap the rewards of your loofah gardening efforts. To get the scrubby sponge-like object for bathtime, allow the luffa gourds to mature on the vine until they turn yellow or tan. The skin of the gourd may even turn dark brown and begin to crack.

Carefully snip the mature loofahs off the vine and peel the skin to reveal the fibrous, spongy insides. Peeling the loofah can be a little tricky. If you’re struggling, try these tips:

  • Starting peeling from any existing cracks in the skin
  • If there are no cracks, gently squeeze the loofah until the skin cracks
  • Soak the loofah in water for a few minutes to loosen the skin
  • Remove the seeds (just give your loofah a shake), which you can dry and save to plant more luffa plants next year.
  • Wash the peeled “sponge” with water and a little bit of natural soap to remove any sap or extra skin. Then lay your peeled, washed loofah in the sun to dry (turning occasionally).

Explore More Awesome Uses and Benefits of Luffa Plants edible loofah flower

Luffa plants offer more than just bath sponges. Explore other exciting uses and benefits:

  • Edible blossoms: Use the edible blossoms. Just like squash blossoms, the luffa’s lovely yellow flowers are edible and yummy! Carefully pick them off the vine and rinse gently. They make for a beautiful addition to salads or a tasty deep-fried treat.
  • Kid-Friendly Art Projects: Cut the dry gourd into slices and shapes for kid-friendly art projects. Try them as stamps, brushes, and stacking blocks! 
  • Delicious Vegetables: Eat the vegetables! Young loofahs have a texture a lot like zucchini and are common in some Asian and African cuisine. They don’t need to be peeled and are tasty in stir fry

Discover the Joy of Growing Your Own Loofahs: Start Cultivating Today

Growing loofahs in your garden is a rewarding experience that brings forth a wealth of eco-friendly and versatile benefits. Follow our simple guidelines to nurture these fantastic plants and enjoy a bountiful harvest of organic, biodegradable loofah sponges for all your body care and cleaning needs.


blog loofah sponge

trellis gardening

Stylish, Space-saving Vertical Gardening at Home

June 23, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Stylish, Space-saving Vertical Gardening at Home

The benefits of vertical gardening are plenty. Not only does growing vertically increase yields, many plants are healthier in a vertical set-up, too. With stems and leaves off the ground, leaf surfaces get more sun and the air circulation around your plants will be optimized, meaning your plants grow robustly and will be less susceptible to disease.

trellis gardening

The best part of growing upwards? You can stand up while gardening! Goodbye, achy knees.

Vertical gardening continues to gain popularity as more and more people live in cities and apartments, and want to garden in smaller spaces. And if you have an outdoor space, a trellis or living wall can be a gorgeous addition. 

Let’s check out some popular and creative vertical gardening techniques and tips on how to grow your own sky-high garden.

Trellis gardening

Probably the most common and definitely the simplest, lowest-effort vertical growing technique is trellis gardening. Trellising is an awesome option for people with a small yard or garden beds who want to grow big, bodacious plants in a tight spot. It’s also an incredibly versatile technique.

Trellis gardening means training plants that are rooted in soil (or a container on the ground) to grow on a support structure, which is usually staked into the soil near the base of the plant.

Trellises are typically made out of wood, metal, or even recycled material, and come in all varieties of shapes and sizes. Trellises can be tall or small, arched or straight, many-sided (pyramids and obelisks are popular trellis shapes) or simple. A trellis can be made simply from two upcycle wooden dowels and a stretch of chicken wire fencing. Just sure to build or select a trellis that is strong enough to support the weight of the plant.

Plus, trellises are simply gorgeous! They can help you create a curtained colorscape of blooming flowers or a tidy way to grow your magic beans up to the stars. In fact, many plants (both flowers and foliage plants) need to be trellised or “caged”, like tomatoes of all kinds, beans and peas, some types of cucumber, and grapes, of course.

Looking for more ways to help bees and butterflies? A trellis is a great spot for some pollinator plants

As far as flowers go, a colorful trellis archway of drooping bougainvillea, roses, or wisteria is a classic garden dream. Trellises can also provide shade and privacy, making them a great addition to patios, decks, or balconies.

Tower Gardening

woman tower gardeningTower gardening is a vertical gardening technique that’s great for growing harvest crops, especially vegetables, in small spaces. You can even keep a tower garden indoors! Just be sure it’s getting enough sunlight and good air circulation.

Tower gardening is a great option for those with limited space, as it allows you to grow a large number of plants in a small area. It involves growing plants in a tower or other vertical structure, typically with multiple tiers, each with a separate planting area. 

Check out our container gardening guide for tons of tips to get you started growing in a small space.

The difference between trellis growing and tower growing is that your towered plants will be planted in sections of soil that is not in the ground. For example, a popular homemade tower garden technique is to stack a few all-purpose buckets atop one another, cut some holes in the sides and bottom, and fill the central structure with soil (don’t forget the plant food!). Then, a small plant with a small-ish root system like lettuce or strawberries is planted in the holes. Clever and space-saving! But as you can imagine, this technique takes a bit of effort, time, and handiwork.

There are as many ways to build a creative tower garden as there are clouds in the sky; they can be purchased pre-made or made at home using new or recycled materials.

No matter what tower garden container or materials you use, be sure to provide secure support for your structure! Soil, plants, and water get heavy.

Living Walls

Vertical green wall garden made from recycled waste plastics on behalf of climate adaptation

Not so different from tower gardens are living walls, also called green walls (in fact, lots of people might call living walls a type of tower garden).  

Living walls are just what they sound like! Similar to tower gardens, living walls are planters themselves: they’ve got plants growing right out of them! But unlike tower gardens, they tend to be bigger and are best used for decorative purposes. A living wall can add a beautiful, stylish touch to any indoor or outdoor space.

Sometimes you’ll hear living walls referred to simply by the plant or types of plants growing on them (for example, a succulent wall is a popular wedding or event decor piece). Living walls aren’t the best for growing harvest crops, since they provide almost no support for root systems and plants will grow entirely sideways out of a living wall.

Living walls can be one of the most creative vertical gardening techniques; they’re often made from materials like felt, foam, or wood, with lots of holes or pockets for plants. Like toward gardens, these are best for light-weight plants with shallow root systems.

They typically require a special watering system to ensure that the plants receive adequate water and nutrients, so they are also the most labor intensive kind of vertical gardening. A liquid plant food will be the easiest application option for a living wall or tower garden.

Grow for the stars!

Vertical gardening is an awesome way to maximize your growing space and add a decorative touch to your home or garden. Whether you have limited space or just want to try something new, vertical gardening is a fun and innovative way to grow plants. 

Trellis gardening, tower gardening, and living walls are just a few ideas to get your started. When it comes to vertical gardening, the sky’s the limit. 

vertical gardening tips

container gardening 101

Container Gardening 101: Starting A Potted Garden in Any Space

March 30, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Container Gardening 101: Starting A Potted Garden in Any Space

So you want to grow a luscious garden but you don’t have quite enough outdoor space…or any outdoor space at all? 😮 

Don’t fret! Growing a garden in containers is a wonderful, fun, effective way to grow plants of all kinds. Container gardening is a great way for beginner gardeners to start learning how to grow plants on a small scale with minimal commitment. 

Spring is a fantastic time to start a container garden indoors or outdoors — so prep your back patio, shared apartment complex outdoor space, even your front steps or windowsill.

Choose your container

There are a huge variety of containers you can use to grow plants, all with different characteristics and aesthetics. It can be intimidating to choose your growing containers, so start by looking at these variables:

  • What plants you’re growing 
  • Your desired aesthetics
  • How much space you have
  • How much time and effort you want to devote to creating containers
  • Your budget
  • Your climate

planter potsContainer Size

It’s a good idea to maximize the size and depth of your container to allow roots more space to 

grow. A 5-gallon container is perfect for tomatoes, peppers, big flowers (like dahlias and bougainvillea) and other fruiting veggies, while something smaller will be a happy home for smaller plants that don’t have large root systems.

Use more shallow pots or boxes for plants that don’t need a ton of root space like herbs, grasses, lettuce, and other greens.

If you’re growing on a balcony, be careful with heavy, big containers — you don’t want to damage the foundation of your balcony! Small containers can be more versatile and quick-drying, so are great for small balconies and window boxes.

Container Material

Container materials also have their own characteristics: weight, drainage, sensitivity to weather, and cost. Larger containers tend to need less frequent watering, but are heavy and hard to move. Small containers are convenient for rearranging, but will dry out more quickly and need more frequent watering.

There are so many materials to choose from when it comes to small-space container gardening! Here are the most common options and some things to keep in mind when container gardening in each:

  • Fabric: Super-lightweight, drainable, and breathable, fabric “pots” are a good choice for small plants, hanging gardens, and container garden situations that may need frequent rearranging.They’re easy to wash and reuse season after season. They are expectedly a bit flimsy, so don’t use fabric for very tall, stemmy plants or anything with heavy fruits.
  • Plastic: Inexpensive and light-weight, plastic is a go-to for many container gardeners. It’s also super easy to add drainage holes to plastic containers. But if you want something more aesthetically pleasing, plastic might not be for you.
  • Terracotta: Heavier than plastic but almost as inexpensive, terracotta/clay is the next step up when it comes to aesthetics. Terracotta is fragile and absorbent, so be careful with this material if you live in a very windy area or a place that gets freeze-thaw cycles, as terracotta may crack in Zones with widely changing temperature and humidity.
  • Wood: Be sure to use a durable, non-treated wood when planting in wood containers. Cedar or pine work well.
  • Concrete: Concrete is ideal for container gardens that are semi-permanent, as it is extremely heavy! Concrete’s durability and heaviness makes it wonderful for any type of weather, places with high winds, and long-lasting perennials, flowering plants and vines that you want to last for years to come. Perfect for front porch and stoop adornment.
  • Plant-based, biodegradable “plastic”: The newest innovation in container gardening and houseplant growing is plant-based pots that can even be biodegradable! They can be more expensive than other materials. They often come in a lovely rainbow of colors and you can find them at most garden stores and even some homegoods stores nowadays. 

Choose your location

potted herbs

Just as with a standard garden bed, consider sunlight exposure, water accessibility, and protection from weather and pests when deciding where to put your containers.

While you may have limited choice when it comes to where your containers are placed, you should maximize sunlight. But one of the great things about container gardening is mobility and variability. 

If you don’t have a lot of light in your container garden area, pick plants that need less sunlight like lettuce, arugula, and other salad greens; chives and other herbs (except basil, which needs full sun), brassicas like broccoli and kale; ferns, fuschia, and other decorative flowers and foliage that don’t need full sun (just 4 hours per day can suit these plants). 

If you do have a place for containers in full sun (at least 6 hours per day of direct sunlight), you’ll be able to grow basil, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and even okra and eggplant in pots!

Ensure good watering and drainage

Place your containers somewhere easy to water, either with a hose or with your watering can. Container-housed plants tend to need more frequent watering than in-ground plants because their limited soil can’t store as much moisture over time.

Remember that you need drainage holes for each and every type of plant! Don’t forego this important step. If you are using a material like wood, metal, plastic, or fabric, creating drainage holes that suit your crops’ needs is easy with a power drill or even kitchen scissors (with fabric). For clay, concrete, or more sturdy containers, be sure there are pre-existing drainage holes before you make a purchase.

Overwatering container plants (including houseplants) is a common fatal flaw. Check out our exclusive interview with rare plant grower and spa owner Elana Gainer to get some expert tips on how to care for container plants, especially indoor green friends.

Planting Into Containers

potting a plantJust like in an in-ground garden, your container garden needs healthy, rich soil with good drainage and the right combination of nutrients for plants.

When you’re ready to plant your container garden, be sure to:

  • Use new potting mix (not soil from the ground, which will be too heavy for a container).
  • Mix in an organic granular fertilizer like our Organic All Purpose Plant Food or something more specific to your chosen crops.
  • Fill the container about halfway or two thirds full with potting mix, depending on the depth of your plant’s existing roots and stems — then gently place your plant in the container.
  • Fill in the space around your newly potted plant and eliminate air pockets by pressing gently around the whole container with your hands
  • And water in — you may need to “top off” soil in a few days after the potting mix settles.

Fertilize Your Container Plants

container garden fertilizer


Now for the best part, in our opinion: feeding your container garden with food-safe organic fertilizers!

When you first fill your containers, whether at the beginning of each season or upon planting or repotting, mix in a granular fertilizer. Our True Organic Raised Bed Food is an ideal boost for starting container gardens, formulated specifically to give above-ground plants the nutrition they need. 

For abundant fruiting and flowering, try our ethically sourced Organic Seabird Guano — or explore our whole line of granular organic plant foods to see how True Organic can help you grow a beautiful, bountiful container garden.

During the active growing and fruiting seasons, applying a liquid is an easy, container-friendly choice. That’s why we designed our organic liquid plant foods for you! Adding some organic liquid plant food during your plants growing or fruiting seasons is quick and safe. 

Our liquid organic plant foods (like Liquid All Purpose Plant Food or Tomato & Vegetable Food — both perfect for successful container gardening) are designed to be applied biweekly throughout active seasons for healthy, more fruitful gardens of all sizes.

Before you know it, you’ll be picking juicy tomatoes, admiring bright flowers, and harvesting fragrant herbs right from your patio or front steps. You’ll be surprised just how many varieties of flowers, veggies, herbs, and decorative plants can thrive in containers.

container gardening


6 Tips for a Perfect Pollinator Garden

March 8, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Pollinators are ecosystem heroes. 🦋

Bees, butterflies, moths, bats, birds, and even wasps have ensured that plants can reproduce long before humans started cultivating plants. Without them, the world as we know it would be impossible — all the food we grow, plant resources we use, and plant-expelled oxygen we breathe is dependent on pollinators.

Creating a pollinator paradise is simple, but there are a few important things to know before you get started. All the resources you need are at your fingertips online or at your local garden store…and we’ll start you off with some basic knowledge!

Here are six tips for growing a stunning pollinator garden this year, including a few easy-to-grow pollinator-friendly plants to try.


1. Choose native plants

Selecting plants that are native to your region will increase the benefits of your garden to pollinators and to the entire ecosystem. 

“Native plants share a long evolutionary history with their pollinators,” writes Constance Schmotzer of Penn State University’s Agricultural Extension.

Not only are native plants easier to maintain (because they evolved to thrive in your climate!), but they are also experts at attracting your local pollinators. Plus, they tend to be more hardy and can flourish without harsh fertilizers and pesticides, thanks to the adaptations they’ve gained through millennia of growing in your climate, soil type, and in relationship with other local native plants and wildlife. 

Do your research (online and at a local nursery) to find out what kinds of native pollinator-friendly flowers (and the grasses and other types of plants that support a healthy ecosystem) are good to grow in your soil and Plant Hardiness Zone. Contacting your local Master Gardeners or the closest agricultural university extension is also a great way to get more detailed info on native plants for your garden.

2. Prioritize biodiversity

You want to focus on biodiversity in any garden you’re growing, that’s for sure. It’s especially important when cultivating a pollinator garden.

Biodiversity (cultivating a wide variety of crops) is key for a pollinator paradise — and key for the health of our whole planet. 

Some pollinators can get nectar and pollen from a wide variety of flowers, but others have specialized needs and some have special needs when it comes to gathering their food. A successful pollinator garden has something for everyone.

Create a garden full of unique varieties so pollinators have lots of different options. Choose plants with pollen-rich blooms in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. 

Make sure there is food for the caterpillars too! Baby pollinators (larvae) need to eat the leaves of native trees, shrubs, and perennials, and many caterpillars can only eat one or two specific kinds of “host” plant. This host plant is also where the butterflies or moths will lay their eggs to hatch into new pollinators

So check out what kind of host plants your local pollinator larvae need to eat and make sure those are in your garden, too. 

3. Go organic

Harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides cause more harm than good for pollinators. But we probably didn’t need to tell you that. 😉 

Our brand new Annuals & Perennials Food will be perfect for your pollinator garden.

Limit hybrids and heavily genetically altered plants, too. These may have lost their ability to produce nectar and pollen (especially if they have been hybridized for special blooms or extra color). 

4. Stagger your blooms

The longer you have blooming flowers, the longer pollinators can enjoy their harvest in your garden! Pollinators will be emerging, building their colonies, and laying eggs at different times of year and need food throughout.

Look for plants with a diverse timeline of blooming periods. Try for early spring bloomers and some flowers that will last to late fall. 

5. Location matters


Plant you pollinator-friendly plants in drifts of color. Clump several plants of the same type together to give pollinators a bright, attractive swath of colorful, fragrant blooms!

6. Try these easy-to-grow pollinators plantssunflower

  • Yarrow: This lovely yellow wildflower is a signature of pollinator gardens from Zones 3 to 10.
  • Milkweed: This Zone 9-10 plant is the sole food of monarch butterfly larvae and feeds many other types of pollinator.
  • Sunflower: You can’t go wrong with sunflowers. You can find a variety for just about every zone that blooms late into fall.
  • Goldenrod: These gorgeous, brightly colored blooms are vital for monarchs, too, in Zones 4-8.

pollinator garden tips

winter seed sowing

Winter Sowing: How to Start Seeds Outdoors

January 14, 2023

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Do you like to start your garden with seeds? It’s a super gratifying way to grow plants!seedling

You might have experience with direct sowing (planting seed right into the garden bed where they’ll remain), but starting seedlings outdoors through the winter is a nature-approved method that will become your new favorite garden trick.

It’s called winter sowing and it’s way easier than you think!

Benefits of Winter Sowing

Quick and low-maintenance 

Winter sowing is a nearly “set it and forget it” method that gives you hardy, ready-to-plant crops for your spring garden. Preparing the containers is incredibly simple and family-friendly — a great project for kids.

Once you prep and plant your seeds, you’ll leave them outside for months to activate their ability to germinate (a process referred to as scarring or stratifying), watch them sprout into seedlings and harden off all by themselves right in upcycled, reusable containers. 

Low-cost and sustainable

Winter sowing is low-cost, simple, and space-efficient. The only materials you need are cleaned plastic containers like milk jugs, scissors, and permanent markers. Oh, and seeds and soil, of course. 

It’s a great way to save money on your gardening hobby: seeds are way less expensive (sometimes they’re even free if you use a seed exchange or library). Plus, you’ll have control of the whole process, ensuring that your plants are organic, hardy, and ready to go in the ground.

Find a seed library or exchange near you with the Seed Librarian’s locator map or the Seed Savers Exchange search feature — or do a quick internet search. If you can’t find anything online, visit your local nursery to consult a gardening expert about seed exchanges in your neighborhood. Or start saving your own seeds!

Can’t find an organic seed exchange in your hometown? Start one! Get some pointers from our friends at Phoenix Seed Swap, a small grass-roots seed saving and sharing project in Arizona. 

Creates hardy, healthy seedlings

The hardening off process that indoor-grown seedlings need prior to being planted in the ground can be tricky, time-consuming, and stressful. 

Seedlings started outside don’t need to be hardened off before planting in the garden — the process of winter sowing does that naturally.

As they germinate and grow outside in natural weather conditions (protected in their containers from getting washed away by rain or dug up by hungry animals), they’re getting used to natural weather conditions and being nourished by natural light. All of that acclimates them to a life outside! They’ll be hardier, stronger, and ready to be happily transplanted into the garden come spring.

No fancy equipment needed

And no greenhouse required, either!  Winter sowing is ideal for those with limited indoor space for seed starting. No special lighting or equipment is required for germination.


Winter Sowing Basicswinter sowing

How does winter sowing work?

Winter sowing means planting seeds and tending seedlings in outdoor containers before spring. This process mimics the natural process of seed germination. 

Most seeds are dormant and need something to trigger their “wake-up call” before they can germinate. (Thank you, winter!) 

Winter sowing does not mean directly sowing your seeds in the ground. They’d be quite unlikely to make it to spring in that case. 

What do I need?

  • Containers: Gallon milk jugs are the most popular, but other plastic containers with lids work, too.
  • Space: You don’t need much! A corner of your yard will do.
  • Seeds
  • Potting soil

What crops should I sow?

You’ll be surprised at how many varieties are ideal for winter sowing. Many flowering plants, herbs, and edible crops can be sown outside in winter.

So how can you be sure a seed is good for winter sowing? 

Start by looking for seeds that are considered “hardy” in your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone.

If you’re using store-bought or online-ordered seeds from a packet, the information on that packet is all you need. You can also get a ton of helpful info from any seed catalog. Even if you aren’t ordering your seeds from a catalog, you can get a free catalog mailed to you from almost any seed company. We recommend going organic! 

Look for terms like: reseeding, self-sowing, hardy, withstands frost, sow outdoors in early spring, stratification, and scarification. That means the seed is good for outdoor winter sowing.

When should I sow my seeds?

It depends greatly on the conditions in your area, which you can learn about by identifying your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone (sometimes referred to as Garden Zone). Check it out here.

Generally, your best bet to winter sow perennials and hardy annuals will be December through March (later in that range if you live in a colder climate). These seeds need to chill out in cold temperatures and moist conditions for a while in order to germinate in spring. 

For less hardy plants like veggies and other tender annuals, March and April are good times for winter sowing. Those seeds don’t need a cold period before germination. winter sowing

Step-by-Step Winter Sowing

Prepare containers

  • Clean: Wash a milk jug or other translucent plastic container with soap and rinse well.
  • For milk jugs: With a serrated knife or box cutter, just below the handle, cut almost all the way around the jug. Leave about 2 inches as a hinge, so the top part of the jug can open easily. (Skip this step for plastic takeout containers, but save the lid.) You can toss out the milk jug lid.
  • Make drainage holes in the bottom of the container. If you’re using a container with a lid, poke a few holes in the lid, too.

Prepare soil

  • Fill container with at least 4 inches of organic potting mix. Avoid garden soil which may contain pathogens and weed seeds.
  • Lightly water soil and allow it to drain.
  • You don’t need to add plant food until the seed germinates and sprouts. Once you have a few leaves, you can use True Organic Preplant Food.

Sow and seal

  • Follow the directions on the seed package to sow your seeds.
  • If using milk jugs, seal the container around the “seam” with light-colored outdoor-style tape (remember, you want lots of sunlight to get in, so don’t use something like black tape, which will block out light.). Leave the top of the milk jug off so water can enter.
  • If using a lidded container, place the lid back on, double-checking that water can get into the holes in the lid.

“Set and forget” 

  • Label your containers with type of seed and sowing date.
  • Choose a secure location outside that gets lots of sun all day and gets some rain or snow. Do not place your containers under an awning — they need moisture!
  • Leave them alone! Revisit them when your seedlings start germinating in spring.

A few things to watch out for:

Early spring or a warm spell

If seeds get a burst of warm weather, they could germinate too soon, leaving baby seedlings vulnerable to returning cold weather.

Lack of sun

Be sure the location you choose has good sun all day, especially as Winter days are still short. 

Wind and other extreme weather

If a wind storm is coming, move your containers into the garage overnight or place them in a heavy crate until the conditions pass.


Although your seeds are protected by their containers, animals like mice, birds, and squirrels can be relentless (and quite clever) when it comes to getting some winter nosh. It’s worth checking on your containers every so often to make sure animals aren’t fussing with them or chewing/clawing at them — and moving them to a more secure location, if so.

winter sowing

- True Organic -

True Organic Cool Weather Gardening Checklist

October 25, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Cool Weather Gardening Checklist

It might feel like Summer is hardly over, but it’s time to get busy with Fall garden tasks! Tomatoes are waning, and so is daylight — but there’s still plenty to do in the garden during the cooler months. It’s time to clear out those annuals, replenish your garden’s soil, and make things tidy. Working on your garden in early Fall will set you up for great success in Spring!


Know your Plant Hardiness Zone

Your own cold-weather gardening tasks, Fall crops, and what you’re harvesting in Fall will depend on your Plant Hardiness Zone — a standard set by the USDA to codify what types of plants do best in certain climates based on average climate temperatures.

Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find your Zone.


Get in gear before the first freeze

You’ll want to get going before the first freeze in your area so the ground is soft enough to work with. As soon as the air starts to chill and several weeks before the first frost approaches, it’s time to retire that Summer garden and prepare for Winter.

Here are some go-to things you can do this season to get a head start on the most abundant Spring garden.


Time to pull up the annuals

Remove spent plants from your garden, making sure to remove the roots, too. You can throw them in the commercial compost bin or toss healthy (pest- and disease-free) plants in your backyard compost.

Got summer bulbs? While most bulbs are perennial, warm-weather bulbs won’t make it through a cold winter. (This depends on your gardening zone.) Remove those tender bulbs from the soil and set them in storage for next year.


Tidy up, weed, and turn soil

Rake your garden to clean up leaves and sticks. Put them in the compost bin or dispose. (But save good roasting sticks for bonfire s’mores!)

Fall is a great time to get very thorough with weeding. It’s tedious but will prepare you with pristine soil in the Spring.

It’s essential to turn soil in Fall if you want to have a healthy growing medium in Spring! Use a shovel to turn that well-worn soil, aerating and breaking up clumps.


Add twice-yearly soil supplements

And while you’re turning that soil, go ahead and add your choice of powerful single-ingredient organic fertilizers!

Biannual plant foods and soil supplements help replenish soil after those big growing seasons when soil can be left lacking in nutrients. Fall is the ideal time to feed soil with an organic fertilizer because nutrients will feed the soil all Winter.


What organic fertilizer should you choose this fall?

Plant cover crop

Nourish your garden’s soil with a cover crop! Cover crops will add organic matter and nutrients to soil and prevent erosion. Try a cover crop like rye or clover — it’s best to use annuals, not perennials, so you don’t get unwanted “volunteers” popping up in your Spring garden.


Enjoy the season of abundance!

Last-of-the-summer harvests and new fall crops can be some of the most delightful harvests: big squashes, full-bloom flowers, apples of all varieties, and perhaps even some final plump tomatoes (depending on your region).

Savor the Fall sun rays as you pick your last veggies, fruits, and flowers. There will be plenty more where that came from next year!



- True Organic -

True Organic Hot Weather Gardening Tips

July 28, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks

Hot Weather Gardening Tips

Summer is blazing again, and heat waves are sweeping through every corner of the country. Is your garden ready to weather the summer heat?


Wise Watering

Did you know that the average American household uses about 300 gallons of water per day, and 30-60% of that water goes to outdoor uses? That’s about 8 billion gallons per day across the United States used for outdoor activities, like watering the garden.

Especially in the Western U.S., summer (and sometimes even years-long) drought conditions are now a seasonal part of life. With local water-use guidelines, too, it’s a good idea to learn the best ways to keep your garden hydrated as efficiently as possible.

  • Water your plants early in the morning or the evening, when the temperature isn’t too high.
  • Water at the roots! Water right at the base of a plant, close to the soil, so that the soil soaks up and retains as much water as possible.
  • Avoid watering on foliage. If water droplets sit on plants’ leaves as the hot sun beats down, the sun’s rays can get magnified and burn foliage.
  • If you have a small garden or plants in various locations, water by hand. This will reduce water waste and get the water closer to roots.
  • If you use sprinklers, try a system that waters close to the ground (rather than spraying high in the air) to minimize water waste and in-air evaporation.
  • Or replace your sprinklers with a drip irrigation system! This works especially well in raised bed gardens.

What about tomatoes? Tomato growers are eager to understand just how much water is needed (vs. too much) for tomatoes in the summer. While the answer is subjective, most tomatoes need 1-2 inches of water every week, whether from rainfall or hand-watering. On very hot days, it’s not a bad idea to water tomatoes in the morning and the evening.

Read much more about watering tomatoes from our R&D Agronomist, Margaret McCoy, PhD!


Keep Plants Cool

Covering soil or providing plants with some shade is a great way to protect plants during hot, sunny days. Not only does shade help prevent soil and roots from drying out too severely, it also protects foliage from burns.

You can use mulch, shade cloth, shade from trees, or even your patio shade to protect plants.

  • Mulching around your plants helps keep soil cool and prevents overly quick evaporation. For the most cost-effective mulch, use straw or compost to cover soil just a few inches around your plant’s stems.
  • Use a shade cloth over delicate plants like lettuces and other leafy veggies, fruit trees, berries, and perennials. Leave some room for air circulation so your plants aren’t smothered! You can find shade cloth at any hardware or garden stores in various shade percentages.
  • Move container plants and hanging baskets to shadier spots during heat waves.
  • Watch out, particularly for your hanging containers — their soil dries out faster than any other container. Move hanging plants to a shaded patio on the hottest days, if possible.


Covering young capsicum plants with straw mulch to protect from drying out quickly ant to control weed in the garden. Using mulch for weed control, water retention, to keep roots warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Go Easy on Your Plants

When temperatures exceed 80-85ºF, your plants are working hard just to keep themselves alive.

Avoid any activity that might stress them even more. You’ll want to wait until the heat has passed before you:

  • Prune
  • Transplant
  • Fertilize

Yep, feeding your plants when they’re stressed from heat is a no-go! It seems like a helpful move to give your plants a nutrient boost when they are stressed, but they can’t handle the supplemental nutrients when they are under duress.

And of course, don’t plant anything new until the weather is more temperate. Seedlings won’t stand the heat.


Choose Your Plants Wisely

Drought-resistant and native are easier for you to care for and can help save water. For example, if you live in a low-rainfall area, avoid trying to grow plants that need a ton of moisture. Populating your garden with as many native, low-water plants as you can also helps support naturally healthy ecosystems and soil.

Choose some drought-resistant perennials for your garden like:

  • Yarrow
  • Sunflower
  • Lavender
  • Goldenrod
  • Thyme
  • Yucca

Look into what types of native, low-water plants are right for your Climate Zone by seeking out advice from your local Land-Grant educational institution or horticulture extension of a local university. You can also visit your friendly local nursery for on-the-spot advice. (And while you’re there, why not grab a bag or bottle of organic plant food?)


Build Healthy Soil

How can we plan for future heat waves, knowing they will continue to be summer (and maybe even early fall) occurrences? In the long run, it’s essential to rebuild healthy soil, restore native biodiversity, and nourish full local ecosystems.

When it comes down to it, the healthier your garden’s soil, the healthier your plants will be. That means they’ll be more resilient against extreme weather and more likely to withstand heat waves.

  • Feed your garden with organic plant food to boost natural microbial health and organic matter.
  • Weed frequently — weeds use nutrients and water that your garden plants need!
  • Plant native varietals.
  • Garden for biodiversity.



- True Organic -

Easy Plant Propagation Tips for Beginners

June 3, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Easy Plant Propagation Tips for Beginners

Want some new plants without buying any? Propagation is a delightful part of being a plant parent and can fill your house (and your friends’ houses) with endlessly multiplying plants.

If you’ve grown succulents from cut leaves, helped a pothos sprout new roots in water, or divided the roots of a too-crowded potted plant, then you’re already experienced in plant propagation.


Basics of Plant Propagation

So what exactly is plant propagation? A simple way of putting it: Propagating is the process of making more plants without seeds. The scientific explanation: Propagation is asexual plant reproduction.

In real-world terms, plant propagation means you’re getting more new plants just from one single plant parent. Yes, plant propagation is cloning!

For the most success, follow a few basic tips when multiplying your plants:

  • Propagate during a plant’s typical growing season (typically spring and summer).
  • Always use clean, sterilized tools for cutting and separating.
  • Gather all your equipment before you start.
  • Avoid exposing bare roots and fresh cuttings for too long; get your new plants in soil or water immediately!
  • Care for your newly propagated plants carefully and with kind attention. They’re brand new babies!


Plant Propagation Methods

There are a wide variety of methods for plant propagation. Which process you’ll use is up to the kind of plant you’re working with and what equipment you have available. Let’s go over the most common techniques to help you get the best results every time.


Root Division

Division is the process of separating one plant into two or more at the roots. It takes patience, attentiveness, and dexterity, so it’s best to choose this method once you already have a bit of experience with plant propagation, repotting, and caring for new plants.

Lay out all the equipment you need beforehand. You don’t want your plant’s exposed roots drying out while you find your container, soil, and tools!

Start by gently removing the parent from its pot and placing it on a clean surface or towel. If the root ball is very densely packed, delicately shake or “tickle” the roots to help them get a bit looser.

Examine the root mass for places that are healthy and can be separated relatively easily. You may need to cut the plant’s roots to separate them. If you do, be sure you use a very sharp, very clean tool. Be gentle! Make sure that the roots stay intact.

It’s important to replant the divided plants as soon as possible in new potting soil.



Best plants for root division:

  • Pilea peperomioides
  • Many types of ferns
  • ZZ plant
  • Snake plant


Green leaves with water in transparent plastic jar on white shelf isolated on white wall background with copy space.

Stem Cuttings

Propagating a new plant from a cutting is probably the most popular method of multiplying houseplants. And it’s pretty simple if you follow a few rules:

  • Take cuttings from healthy stems and plants only!
  • Don’t cut from stems when they’re flowering.
  • Cut below leaf nodes.
  • Cut with a very sharp, clean tool.

To get the best cutting, first clean (and perhaps sharpen) your cutting tool. Garden shears, knives, or kitchen scissors work best.

Find a new leaf node, the bumpy joint along a stem. Locate a healthy, sturdy stem with rich color and happy, springy leaves.

Try to find a node that is at least 3 inches away from the top leaf. Cut just below the node (closer to the plant’s roots). Your new plant’s roots will start to grow from this node.

You can either root your new cutting in water or directly in soil! If you place the cutting directly into soil, plant it in a very small hole that’s snug for the stem. We like to use a pencil or crochet hook!

Best plants for growing from stem cuttings:

  • Pothos
  • Tradescantia
  • Umbrella plant
  • Philodendron


Leaf Cuttings

There are a few plants, including most succulents and cacti, where plant propagation can happen just from a leaf.

This process is tricky, and success rates can be lower than other methods, so don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out on your first try (or second, third, and so on…).

Just like cutting from a stem, locate a leaf that is very healthy, sturdy, and “springy.” If you’re working with succulents, leaves may simply fall off — you can propagate those!

Cut the leaf off the stem and let the leaf dry out for 2-3 days, just enough so to slightly scab over. This will prevent the leaf from soaking up too much water and rotting.

Place the leaf into fresh potting soil, with at least one-third of the leaf in the soil. Gently press your fingers all around the inserted leaf to firmly ground it in the soil.

Best plants for growing from leaf cuttings:

  • Aloe vera
  • Jade plant
  • Most types of cacti
  • Most types of succulents



Spider plant on a wooden shelf


Also called pups or offsets, pups are itty bitty baby plants that naturally sprout from the mother plant. Pups are “ready-to-go” miniature plants that naturally form at the ends of branches or vines.

Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is likely the most commonly pup-growing plant. Have you seen the tiny, spiky orbs dangling from a big spider plant? Those are its pups!

Plant propagation from a pup is similar to growing from a cutting. Below the soil, remove the pup’s connecting roots from the mother plant with a sharp, clean blade and plant it in nutrient-rich potting soil.

Just like stem cuttings, you can root plantlets in soil or in water. All of the other rules for propagating apply: clean your tools, plant in rich soil, and choose healthy plants and pups only.

Best plants for growing from pups:

  • Spider plant
  • Bromeliad
  • Tillandsia (air plants)
  • Aloe



Caring for New Baby Plants

Now you’ve got some new pants to care for!

Remember: Plant propagation is major surgery. Give your plant lots of love and attention: place it in bright light, away from cold drafts, and make sure to water it immediately. Soil should be kept moist but not damp. Be mindful not to overwater your new plant because that waterlogs the roots and doesn’t allow them to breathe fully.

If you’re rooting new plants in water, give them fresh water every couple of weeks to avoid unwanted bacterial or fungal growth. After roots are a few inches long, you may want to pot the fledgling plant in soil. But you don’t have to — some hardy houseplants can grow in water indefinitely (and now you’re cultivating with an aquaponics operation!).

The post-plant propagation period can be a slow-growth time for your new plants, so be patient. You may not see new growth or super-springy stems right away.

Pro tip: Give your new green babies a small dose of our Liquid All-Purpose Plant Food during their first or second water after planting in soil to help them stay healthy.

The best part of plant propagation? Gifting your newly rooted plants! They make perfect housewarming presents or work-from-home officemates.

Happy growing!



- True Organic -

Garden Journaling: Your Key Spring Planning Tool

March 31, 2022

Gardening Tips & Tricks


Garden Journaling: Your Key Spring Planning Tool

A garden journal is just what it sounds like: a record of information about your garden. These might be lessons you’ve gleaned from past seasons, a layout of your crops, a record of your plant food applications and waterings, or any combination of tidbits that you want to remember.

Thinking about creating a record-keeping system for your gardening season but don’t know where to start? You’ve come to the right place!


Create Your Own Garden Journal

If you find it stressful to start from a blank page, you can find numerous templates for your garden journal online.

Search for your favorite free printable garden journal template here, or find a prepared journal in a local garden store, bookstore, or online.

There are a plethora of garden-tracking apps for your smartphone and online templates, too. But just like we like to get our hands in the soil, we prefer the feel of a pen and paper.

If you’re motivated to start a garden journal from scratch, all you need is a simple notebook to get started! Make sure the pages are big enough to record what you need and that your notebook is sturdy enough to withstand lots of use — and some outdoor time.

Some gardeners prefer a three-ring binder with loose-leaf paper, which allows you to keep growing your journal as long as you want — and allows you to add other elements like printed pages, seed packets, and more.

What you choose to create is up to you. One thing’s for sure: your garden journal can become a place that brings you joy and inspiration, just like your garden.



What Should I Record In My Garden Journal?

Keep in mind that your garden journal is as unique as your garden. What you choose to record is up to you, and might change over time.

There are a few must-haves for garden journal info:

  • Garden layout
  • Planting/sowing dates and techniques
  • Fertilizing schedules and results
  • Watering schedules
  • Plant health
  • Pest problems
  • Rainfall
  • Other weather changes
  • Harvest yield
  • Successful or unsuccessful plants and varieties

If you’re ready to look at more advanced garden information you might add:

  • Bloom and harvest info and dates
  • Pruning and deadheading timelines
  • Netting, staking, and other garden infrastructure
  • Crop rotations
  • First dates (first and last)
  • Sun exposure
  • Favorite (and not-so-favorite) products
  • Expenses
  • Soil health info (Check out our guide to soil testing for a deep look at what it can tell you about your garden.)


Make your garden journal a creative space by adding:

  • Photos
  • Sketches
  • Seed packets and tags
  • Inspirational clippings from magazines to envision your dream garden!



Why Keep A Garden Journal?

Of course, there is an obvious answer: to keep a record of what worked and what needs adaptation to grow the most vibrant, prolific garden you can get. As with any hobby, habit, or practice, keeping track of our experiments and experience in the garden helps us keep improving. It makes us more efficient as we learn to see patterns, making changes with each new season.

Plus, there’s something about tracking your daily life with the plants, soil, water, and sun that just feels good.

What do you most want to get out of your garden journal?

Are you looking to increase your harvest? Improve soil health? Simply learn about your property, climate, and plants? Start there to figure out what you want to record and how to lay out your journal.

You might already know that routine improves your life — perhaps you have a bedtime routine that helps soothe your nervous system and lets you really feel like your day is winding down or, conversely, a morning routine that kicks you into gear.

Keeping a garden journal can be just like that: a daily or weekly routine that gets us in touch with changing seasons, our connection to the land, and the reciprocal relationship between humans and soil.