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How Gardening Benefits Kids: Barrio Botany

August 30, 2022

Living Well


What makes gardening with kids so special? Ask Christina Abuelo, and the answer is clear. “There’s something magical for kids about being in the garden,” she says. 


“Garden-based education can be transformational, particularly for students who are affected by trauma or have learning challenges.”

Volunteer Christina Abuelo is the founder and full-time manager of Barrio Botany, an initiative that builds gardens and garden-based education programs at high-poverty urban schools in San Diego.

“Usually, when a kid is disruptive in class, they’re taken to the principal for discipline. Now we see principals bringing kids out to their school garden to get regulated.”

True Organic is honored to be a donation sponsor of Barrio Botany! We’re so inspired by Christina’s work and wanted to share the story of this life-changing enterprise. So we sat down with Christina to get her take on gardening with kids — why it’s so impactful, how she made it happen, and what she’s seen over the years.



Building The Garden

When she moved to San Diego, Christina was searching for a bilingual program for her oldest child to attend. She discovered that she had missed the deadline for enrollment at most schools.

“The only bilingual school I could get my son into was in a very high-poverty neighborhood. But I met with the principal and he sold me on the educational program, so I signed up my kids to go to this school.”

When her son was in first grade, she asked if she could put a garden in the school’s yard.

“I didn’t have a very developed idea of what that would be like,” she laughs, recalling how complex building a garden at an urban school was — without funding or outside support.

Christina started with two garden beds in a litter-strewn part of campus. “The full build-out took 10 years,” she recalls. “My husband would come in on the weekends and assemble raised beds and we had tons of sweat equity from parents and students.” They added about two beds per year. Twelve years later, the School Garden is made up of 14 raised beds, three composting stations, a tool shed, a produce sink, and pollinator habitats.

One year, the urban agriculture class for a nearby high school lost their community garden space, so six more raised beds were delivered by crane, joining the motley collection of existing planting areas.

Over the last three years, Christina has worked to upgrade and install gardens at seven more schools, with assistance from nonprofit partners and community volunteers. Educators from three garden education organizations now provide garden-based education classes and after-school programs.

Although the challenges have been immense, Christina radiates joy when speaking about Barrio Botany.

Her advice for people inspired to build school gardens? Be ready for anything. And be patient. It’s worth it.


“This is my superpower! I can get kids to eat vegetables!”

Christina recalls first watching kids pick broccoli, an “advanced” vegetable, straight from the garden, rinse it off, and eat it. She was amazed!

“As a mom, watching kids eat a plate of cooked kale, I thought, ‘This is my superpower! I can get kids to eat vegetables!’”

She thinks the empowerment aspect helps bring down the barriers between kids and fresh veggies and fruit.

“There’s something about being the one in charge,” she says. “Harvesting something and cooking vegetables themselves makes the kids more excited about trying new flavors.”

She recalls how excited the kids get about eating vegetables when their voices and preferences are respected — like during a “taste test” activity in which the students got to dip their garden-grown veggies (cucumber, carrots, and lettuce) in hummus and rate their favorite tastes.

“It’s about voice and choice. Being able to express what they like is really important.”




Gardens help kids become environmental stewards while learning academic skills.

“Kids really respond to the garden on multiple levels: connecting with nature is a big one.”

Christina sees the kids learning to protect nature because they are developing an appreciation for plants, insects, and wild animals.

“Connecting with nature — finding a roly-poly, seeing the Monarch butterflies at the butterfly bush — seeing all these creatures helps them understand nature and ecosystems. When they grow up, hopefully they’ll be good environmental stewards.”

At the elementary school, the students learn horticultural skills like soil testing, plant identification, weeding, mulching, composting, vermiculture, and cultivation, plus art and cooking/tasting activities.

Students of the garden also learn math skills like calculating volume and square footage — which any gardener knows is involved in all the tasks of building, nourishing, and maintaining a garden!

“There are so many ways gardening-based education can support academic learning,” says Christina. She emphasizes that kids learn better when things are hands-on and experiential.

It’s proven: Studies show that students involved with school gardens generally take pleasure in learning and show positive attitudes towards education (Canaris, 1995; Dirks & Orvis, 2005).

“If you’re only learning about a concept like square footage on a piece of paper, it’s so much harder to conceptualize,” she says. “That physical act — using the measuring tape, recording data on a clipboard, and calculating the square footage — really helps the lessons click and stick.”

She simply asked her children’s principal, “Who’s studying square footage right now?” Turned out: Fourth Graders! So she asked the fourth-grade teacher if they’d like to be learning with the garden, and the class got to measuring and calculating.

“Garden education is so much easier for teaching a lot of academic concepts because the garden brings these concepts to life,” Christina says.


Gardening builds joy and resilience – in kids and grown-ups.

Beyond academic learning, the students gain more important life skills in the garden, like social-emotional learning.

A 2005 study of third, fourth and fifth graders showed that students who participated in a garden program showed increased self-understanding, interpersonal skills, and cooperative skills when compared to their non-gardening peers (Robinson & Zajicek, 2005).

It’s not bad for the emotional health of the teachers and other grown-ups, either. “I’m working 50 or 60 hours a week, but it’s hitting all the dopamine receptors in my brain. I love it.”

And remember: Christina Abuelo is a full-time volunteer!

She can’t emphasize enough how beneficial the garden is for the mental and emotional health of the kids. While she’s been working with school kids in gardens for over a decade, the impact of having a school garden was especially evident as students returned to school after COVID-19 closures.

“These kids were particularly affected by COVID; all the stressors were much more potent for them.”

Students at the schools Christina works with are affected by numerous challenges like food insecurity, poverty, homelessness, unsafe or crowded living environments, limited (or no) access to the outdoors, and other challenges — and so both kids and teachers needed more support, even before the pandemic.

And numerous studies show that these and other adverse childhood experiences negatively impact adult health and increase rates of early mortality — unless kids are given resilience building-opportunities.

“We started seeing that the kids and principals understood that the garden was a sanctuary.”

She describes students on the autism spectrum who run to the garden when they are having a hard time. They know the garden is a place of solace where they can manage their emotions.

“One kid was particularly dysregulated,” she recalls. “I found him in the garden and said, ‘We’re not having garden class right now,’ and asked him to go back to his classroom.

“He screamed, “NO!” so I asked, “Why not?

“He said, ‘Because I’m angry!’ So I gave him a watering can, and we just started watering.”

Christina sees how the most challenging societal problems impact our youngest community members — and she knows that society-wide, we just can’t solve all these problems all at once. But communities can help get kids in gardens, connect with nature and nourishing foods, and become more resilient.

“What we’re doing here is building resilience,” Christina Abuelo says.

To find out more about Barrio Botany, get involved, and get inspiration for starting your own garden for kids (whether in school or at home), visit the Barrio Botany website or check out Barrio Botany on Instagram.


Canaris, I. 1995. Growing foods for growing minds: Integrating gardening and nutrition education into the total curriculum.

Children’s Environments 12(2): 134-142.

Dirks, A. E., & Orvis, K. 2005. An evaluation of the junior master gardener program in third grade classrooms.

HortTechnology 15(3): 443-447.

Robinson, C. W., & Zajicek, J. M. 2005. Growing minds: The effect of a one-year school garden program on six constructs of life skills of elementary school children.

HortTechnology 15(3): 453-457.

Merrick MT, Ford DC, Ports KA, et al. 2019. Vital Signs: Estimated Proportion of Adult Health Problems Attributable to Adverse Childhood Experiences and Implications for Prevention — 25 States, 2015–2017.

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019; 68:999-1005. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6844e1.htm?s_cid=mm6844e1_w




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3 Easy Recipes for Your Summer Tomato Harvest

August 25, 2022

Living Well

3 Easy Recipes for Your Summer Tomato Harvest

In so many parts of the country, ripe tomatoes are hanging on vines waiting to be made into salads, sauces, and snacks.  Tomatoes are nutrient-packed treats that boost our body’s health just as much as they delight our taste buds. They’re one of the only ways we get a dietary source of lycopene, an antioxidant that is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, healthy skin, and anti-inflammation.

Tomatoes provide us with so many important dietary needs:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin K
  • Beta carotene

These colorful delights are so versatile, but sometimes we forget that there are more ways to eat them than just in salads and on burgers (although those are brilliant ways to enjoy a tomato!).Do you have an abundant tomato harvest in your backyard garden? Let’s get slicing!

Check out True Organic Tomato & Vegetable Food. It’s one of our most popular plant foods!


Stuffed Caprese Tomatoes

Inspired by Delish

Elevate your tomato salad with this creatively designed “compact-salad.” Sometimes called Hasselback Caprese Salad, this stylish dish is perfect for parties and barbeques — and impressing your friends.

What you need:

  • Dense, medium-sized tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil & Balsamic reduction
  • Salt and pepper to taste



How to make it:

  • Pick the largest, densest tomatoes you can find.
  • Slice vertically about two-thirds of the way through, so that the tomato still holds together.
  • Slice fresh mozzarella into thin slices and insert into tomatoes.
  • Add fresh basil…preferably from the garden!
  • Dress with a drizzle of balsamic reduction, a sprinkle of salt, and fresh-ground pepper.
  • Dig in! This one can be messy 😉



Baked Stuffed Tomatoes

Stuffed veggies are an ideal summer dinner dish for all occasions: dinner parties, busy families, or date night. Tomatoes can be trickier to stuff than peppers, because of their soft texture, but the ooey-gooey deliciousness is worth it! Just be sure to give your dinner guests plenty of napkins.

The best part? No measuring needed! Just gather these ingredients, plus any additional goodies you’d like to add, and build your own tomato creation.

What you need:

– Big tomatoes!

– Bread crumbs

– Fresh oregon & basil (dried works, too!)

– Cheese that melts nicely (provolone, mozzarella, or parmesan is perfect)

– Any other stuffing that sounds good to your taste buds!

How to make it:

– Slice tomatoes in half horizontally.

– Scoop out tomato seeds and pulp.

– Stuff tomatoes with breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs, etc.

– Place on a non-greased baking sheet a few inches apart.

– Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes; tomatoes should be soft and shriveled but still holding their shape.

– Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!



Tomato sauce in a wooden plate. On a black background. High quality photo

Homemade Ketchup

Inspired by NatureFresh

Who doesn’t love ketchup? Store-bought ketchup is certainly yummy, but making your own ketchup will forever change your standards for everybody’s favorite condiment — and may inspire you to become your own home sous chef.

Store-bought ketchup typically contains lots of sugar, preservatives, and other additions, distracting from that “true” tomato taste. Make your own ketchup from scratch and you’ll never go back to store-bought.


What you need:

  • 4-5 medium tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika…or other spices like oregano, rosemary, etc.: get creative!

 How to make it:

– Place tomatoes and ½ cup of water into a pot.

– Cook over medium high heat.

– As tomatoes start to soften, add remaining ingredients.

– Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are mushy and skin is falling off.

– Remove from heat and place in blender

– Puree until smooth.

– Place blender in refrigerator for a few minutes. Be careful, the blender is hot!

– Pour puree through a fine strainer to remove seeds and skin.

– Return to medium heat for 5-7 minutes, simmer to desired consistency.

– Pour into a heat-safe container.

– Cool before serving!




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Food Safety for Safer Edible Gardening

June 6, 2022

Living Well

Food Safety Standards for Safer Edible Gardening


You care about food safety testing for the fresh produce you buy at the supermarket. You want to make sure the food you bring home for your family table is free of pathogens and other potentially harmful ingredients.

Food safety might not be something that crosses the mind of most home gardeners, but let’s put it into perspective.

All food products are tested to make sure they are pathogen-free. That way, consumers trust that the romaine lettuce bought from the market and the chicken fingers your kiddos love are safe. Restaurants, food manufacturers and processors are all expected to have food safety measures in place for the same reasons.

Shouldn’t all the same standards apply to products that come into contact with our food? That’s our philosophy at True Organic.





17 Years of Industry Standards

When it comes to food safety standards, the agricultural industry has more regulation than the retail consumer industry. And because we’ve been providing fertilizer to the nations’ biggest organic farms for 17 years, our food safety protocol is backed by decades of expertise.

“We consider ourselves part of the food chain —so whatever a food manufacturer is doing, we are doing something equivalent,” says Mike Menes, True Organic’s VP of Food Safety and Technology.




Why Food Safety?

Much of the food you grow in your home garden is eaten raw, so whatever comes into contact with the edible part of the plant ends up in your salad.

If you’re eating what you’ve grown in your garden, the fertilizer you’re using comes into contact with your food. Which means that pathogens that can be transferred by untreated or improperly treated inputs including plant and animal byproducts, so rinsing or washing those items you pick in the kitchen sink just doesn’t cut it.

Every one of True Organic products is ISO 22000 food safety certified for safer edible gardening. What does that mean for you? Let’s take a look at some important parts of our wide-ranging food safety program.

Believe it or not, there are no regulatory standards regarding food safety and pathogen testing in the retail consumer fertilizer industry! But at True Organic, food safety has been part of our mission and our methods from the very beginning.


Understanding ISO 22000 & Bureau Veritas

Bureau Veritas is the third-party certification partner that audits every part of our manufacturing methods — from facility practices to packaging. Founded in 1828, Bureau Veritas is a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification services.

Read more about Bureau Veritas and their globally renowned standards.

ISO 22000 is the food safety management system that True Organic uses. ISO 22000 sets out the requirements for what an organization needs to do to demonstrate its ability to control food safety hazards in order to ensure that the product is safe. Currently, there are no food safety manufacturing standards for organic fertilizers and True Organic opted to follow a food standard that could be applied to our process. We chose to pursue ISO 22000 because of their reputation, applicability, and the international relevance.

Read more about the ISO 22000 standards here.


True Organic’s Industry-leading Practices

We have established some very unique practices to ensure that our methods go beyond the minimum standards and bring you the safest and highest-quality plant foods on the market.


A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is another type of management system that we have in place. Unique to industry and facility, a HACCP plan is a crucial part of addressing safety through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards. This plan includes every step of our process, from raw material procurement, storage, and handling, to manufacturing, distribution, and even consumer use.


Process Separation & “Kill Step”

Just like you are sure to wash your hands, knives, and cutting board after handling raw meat, we ensure that the handling of raw materials is separated from every other step of the manufacturing process.

The “kill step” is a food safety term for putting materials through high heat to “cook” off any pathogens. This is a crucial part of the process that can be compared to washing a cutting board and cooking the meat in your kitchen.

The fact is that many animal byproducts are time-tested fertilizing agents. Ingredients like guano, manure, blood, and bone have been used as powerful agricultural fertilizers for centuries. (Seabird Guano is a prime example. Learn more about our Seabird Guano and how we ethically and safely harvest it.)


Start-to-Finish Oversight

From start to finish, we are in control of the product that makes its way to your garden. We like to think of it as “source to soil” transparency. This continuity and ownership gives us visibility into and control of every single step of the process, which is not the case when a company uses dispersed third-party partners to source, manufacture, or package their product. We know exactly what goes into True Organic plant foods and exactly what’s in each package.

Company Commitment

“This commitment has 100% backing from the top down,” says our food safety expert, Mike Menes. “It’s aligned with the vision and direction of True Organic and [our founder] Jake Evans.

In fact, Mike came to True Organic from a long-time career in food safety testing. He’s expertly transferred that knowledge to our organic fertilizer manufacturing to ensure that our safety standards are top-of-the-line.

We think our most powerful tool to guarantee food safety for our customers and their families is our team’s commitment to quality and safety. We hope to lead the way in our industry toward a culture of food safety, so you have one less thing to worry about when it comes to choosing how to nourish your garden.



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4 Awesome Apps to Grow Your Best Garden Ever

May 16, 2022

Living Well

4 Awesome Apps to Grow Your Best Garden Ever‍

Are you a data-loving gardener ready to take your outdoor habitat to the next level? Plan, plant, care for, and harvest your best garden ever with these unique apps created with you in mind.

Even the most skilled gardeners know that growing plants is both an art and a science — but perhaps more of a science! Routine, patience, observation, innovation, and good tracking systems are key parts of keeping a flourishing garden.

Whether you’re growing vines or veggies, flowers or grasses, a digital gardening tool can help you bring it all together. Here are our favorites!



Garden Journal by Territorial Seed Company

This app is jam-packed with tools for an epic garden, including one of the most extensive garden journal trackers we’ve ever seen. Track what you’ve planted, when to water, when to prune, pest appearance, weather, and more, and add photos.

One of our favorite parts of the Garden Journal app is the robust and easy-to-access expert advice. The pest prevention and treatment library is mind-boggling in its volume and eco-friendly tips (explore it on their website, too!). Plus, you’ll have access to weather forecasts and growing advice for almost 200 veggies, herbs, and fruits. It’s a gardener’s dream! Garden Journal is free, but you can upgrade to get email reminders and access its garden layout tool.

Learn more and download.




Gardening Companion by Gardening Know How

Think of the GKH Gardening Companion app as your personal garden assistant.

With a wealth of gardening information at your fingertips, Gardening Companion provides easy access to a huge swath of articles, tips, photos, and videos. You can even tag your favorites and organize by theme to curate your own personalized garden reading list.

Track your garden’s progress with the built-in garden journal and reminder alerts for planting, watering, fertilizing, and more.

For social butterflies and online networkers, Gardening Companion will be a favorite. This app also links in a fun social component: save and share your gardening content through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Learn more and download.



Garden Plan Pro

Dream, create, and grow your garden with Garden Plan Pro.

This powerful app is the top of the line when it comes to planning and understanding your garden. All types of gardening enthusiasts will love the in-depth information on planting advice, layout and drawing tools, and crop rotation alerts.

Information from over 6,500 weather stations in 20 countries help recommend planting and harvest date recommendations, adapted to your climate.

Garden Plan Pro is completely suitable for novice gardeners, but gardeners who are ready to expand their horizons and zoom in with extra precision will love this app!

Learn more and download. 




This one is for the citizen scientist gardeners!

iNaturalist was developed in partnership by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society to help everyday plant lovers like you connect, learn, and grow.

iNaturalist features a place to record your observations of plants, insects, and more — then crowdsources with expert and other citizen scientists to help identify and understand your environment. Become a part of a worldwide community of nature-lovers and gardening enthusiasts while you learn about your own backyard.

Why are we including a naturalist app in our list of great garden apps?

Because being a successful gardener means relating to the whole ecosystem around you, including plants, pollinators, microorganisms, and animals. When you can quickly identify the bug that’s devouring your kale, it’s a lot easier to figure out a pest solution.

Learn more and download.




How To Store Your Garden Crops

How To Store Your Garden Crops Without Canning

March 30, 2022

Living Well

How To Store Your Garden Crops Without Canning

If you’ve ever asked a friend, “What should I do with all these tomatoes?” while harvesting your summer garden, you’ve probably heard a resounding: “Can ‘em!”

But what if you don’t have the equipment, expertise, time, or counter space to make 20 cans of tomato sauce that sit in your pantry all year?

Great news: It’s absolutely possible to store your garden crops without the hassle of canning. In fact, there is a whole menu of options besides traditional canning that you can utilize to preserve fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even flowers.

Let’s get one thing straight: we’re not anti-canning! It’s true that canning is a time-tested, high-volume, economical saving method, and it’s a fun annual activity for those who have the time. But it can also be expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. Just to begin canning, you need a whole swath of equipment and a heck of a lot of kitchen counter space.

We’re here to help with alternatives to canning that will keep your garden harvest ready-to-use in any season.

Get ready for tomato sauce in Fall, the spice of peppers in the cold of Winter, and recipe ingredients at your fingertips year-round!

We’ll go over the best vegetables for winter storage, easy ways to store crops long-term and short-term, and fun ways to preserve your harvest for winter for delicious meals even when your garden isn’t growing.


‍How To Preserve Your Harvest



Don’t turn a cold shoulder to freezing your fresh garden produce! When done right, freezing preserves flavor and nutrients, and can majorly up your cooking game.


While many people chop and cook down tomatoes for canning, you can freeze them whole! When you need tomatoes for a sauce, curry, or casserole recipe, you simply place them in a bowl of warm water and peel the skin off before adding them in. Another option is to freeze the tomatoes with the skin and then make sauce with them in the year when you have more time and aren’t overwhelmed by the garden’s bounty.

If you have a bit more time to invest during harvest, cut tomatoes into chunks to store. Yes, you can even cook your favorite tomato sauce for freezing.

Cooked Onions

Unprocessed onions don’t freeze well in their entirety (that’s why they’re best stored in a root cellar…keep reading!), but prepping a versatile onion recipe for freezing is a great idea for your year-round cooking.

One of our frozen-for-later favorites is caramelized onions — they freeze wonderfully and thaw easily, making any meal a gourmet event.

Check out Food Network’s quick and easy step-by-step guide on how to caramelize onions.

Crushed, Chopped, or Roasted Garlic

Just like onion, you probably don’t want to freeze garlic whole and unprocessed. (They’ll be a bit mushy and hard to chop when thawed.) But it’s a fantastic freezer-kept harvest item with just a little prep.

You’ve probably seen frozen cubes or crushed or minced garlic at the supermarket. It’s incredibly easy to create your own! Or roast a few heads, mash them up, and store in small airtight containers or an ice cube tray.


Cut herbs finely, add some oil, and store them in small containers or ice cube trays. Like minced, frozen garlic, all you have to do is pop out an “herb cube” and toss it in a sauté or soup — et voila! Instant herb flavor at any time of the year.


Prepping and freezing a stockpile of this flavor base is a home chef’s top trick! Mirepoix is that delectable combo of (traditionally) carrots, celery, and onions that make the very best soups, stews, casseroles, etcetera etcetera!

Chop and dice your desired ingredients, sauté (in butter, the French traditionalists would recommend), slow the mixture to cool, and freeze in small containers. When you’re ready to cook with your frozen mirepoix, simply place a container or two in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.

Tips For Freezing Your Harvest

Aside from power outages, freezer burn is one of the only risks to using freezing as your preservation method. It occurs most commonly on foods with a high water content…so most of your veggies and fruits are easy targets. While it’s not a food safety concern, it sure does mess with the flavor and texture of food.

Freezer burn happens when moisture from the food rises to the surface, leading the food to become dehydrated and forming ice crystals and discoloration on the food.

Here are some tips for freezing your crops like a pro:

  • Cool food first. Putting hot items right into the freezer will cause an excess of moisture to collect inside containers, risking freezer burn.
  • Turn down the temp. Keeping the freezer quite cold can help preserve the flavor and texture of your produce.
  • Store in airtight containers. Less airflow = less chance of freezer burn.
  • Don’t freeze forever. Most foods should only be frozen for up to 6 months. After that, they’ll begin to decrease in quality.
  • Keep the freezer shut! The more often you open the freezer door, the more airflow can mess with your frozen foods, bringing moisture and temperature flux. That’s why, if you freeze a lot of your garden harvest (and have the space in a garage or basement), it may be worth investing in a chest freezer.

Dehydration or Drying

Although similar, dehydration and drying should be considered slightly different techniques.

Dehydration refers to the use of a food dehydrator or oven set to a low temperature to preserve food. Drying, on the other hand, means simple hanging (or in some cases, laying out on paper towels) crops to expel their moisture on their own time.

You should turn to the dehydrator for any foods that take more than 5-7 days to dry out naturally. If crops are still moist after a week of hang-drying, they can start to get moldy and rot.


Drying Herbs, Spices, and Flowers

Your best bets for drying are plants with little moisture content to them already, like herbs and flowers. Simply tie small bundles of cut herbs branches or flower stems together and hang them somewhere with good ventilation and a bit of sunlight. Avoid anywhere humid, which will create mold.

When herbs are dry, crush them up with your hands and fill reusable jars. You’re ready for a spicy year ahead!

Conjure a Southwestern atmosphere by stringing lines of chili peppers in your drying area. Be sure to keep these away from pets and kids.

Dehydrating Food Crops

Investing in a food dehydrator can be a major upgrade to your garden-to-table! A vast number of food crops can be dehydrated successfully, from apples and berries (toss those sweet snacks on cereal) to onions, chives, and hot peppers (spice up your meals!).\

Cellar Storage

Although your home probably doesn’t have a traditional root cellar, it certainly has somewhere cool, dry, and dark. Perhaps a corner of the basement or garage, or even a low shelf in your kitchen cupboard — we’ll call all of these “cellar storage” for simplicity’s sake.

Creating and utilizing a cellar-type storage system is a must for winter veggie storage — and some fruits, too. Be sure to choose a place that doesn’t see much sun and doesn’t gather moisture, both of which encourage ripening and/or rotting.

You’ll want to store your crops in well-ventilated areas and containers like wooden crates (they’re called apple crates for a reason!) or burlap sacks. Cardboard boxes work fine but cut some holes in the sides to help with airflow. Cardboard also retains moisture quite efficiently, so check on your storage area periodically for any soggy cardboard and switch out boxes.

Harvest fruits like apples and pears can be stored for a shorter period of time in root cellars than long-lasting winter favorites like beets, certain varieties of winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), potatoes, onions, and so many other root vegetables. Onions, garlic, and potatoes can last in a well-kept root cellar for up to 8 months!

Some plants don’t store well together because of the gasses they emit or their moisture content, so store each crop separately — apples with apples, potatoes with potatoes, and so one. This, along with ventilation, will help prevent rotting.



Pickled Marinated Fermented vegetables on shelves in cellar

Best Vegetables For Winter Storage (And A Few Fruits, Too)

To set you on your way, we’ll leave you with a quick-and-dirty list of our favorite crops to store for winter (and spring!) cooking. Happy preserving!

Best crops for freezing:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cooked onion
  • Garlic
  • Herbs in oil
  • Spinach, kale, and other greens (cooked or uncooked, should only be frozen for 1-2 months)

Best crops for cellar storage:

  • Apples
  • Pears (for a month or so)
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Turnips
  • Winter squash

Best crops for dehydrating:

  • Anything with high moisture content
  • Stone fruits
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Herbs
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Get creative!


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7 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas For Every Gardener

December 21, 2021

Living Well


7 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas For Every Gardener

They say it’s easiest to buy gifts for someone who has a hobby — and a gardening hobby may just be one of the most gift-able pastimes out there.

Holiday gifting season is upon us, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. Much like your gardening chores, gift-giving can be delightful when it’s infused with love, personality, and some time in the soil.

Gifting for gardeners is extra enjoyable because you know your gift is supporting habitat and soil regeneration…and potentially feeding you next harvest season!


For The Plot-Tender: Seeds

You can’t go wrong supplying your favorite gardeners with seeds for next year’s garden. What do they love to grow? What kind of flower might look lovely in their yard? What’s their favorite salad ingredient? Gifting seeds can become an immensely personal gift if you spend some time reflecting on your giftee’s dream garden.

Ordering organic seeds from an online catalog is the best choice for most people — unless you are shopping locally, in which case, a trip to your local garden store will be a fun gift-buying endeavor.

It’s incredibly important that seeds are always kept dry, out of direct sunlight, and in a cool place. Thus, mailing seeds yourself can be tricky.

It’s best to let the seed company do their expert shipping to be sure the seeds are preserved well. Or simply go with the gift of a seed store gift card and let your giftee choose their own seeds!


For The Homesteader: Folding Wheelbarrow

This recent invention is a truly brilliant garden up-level! Usually with a polyester-based fabric, a folding wheelbarrow reminds us of a cross between a hammock and a regular wheelbarrow. These light-weight tools save space, are easy to operate, and are incredibly cute!

For The Landscaper: Hose Storage

How many people really have an attractive hose storage system that brightens their garden? Let’s face it: most of us are making due with an old tire or the dull hose-hanger that came with our home.

Spice up your loved one’s home and garden with a high-quality hose house, ceramic hose bowl,  or a shiny metal hose holder.



For The Heavy Harvester: Food Dehydrator

All those tomatoes! Endless berries! Plentiful peppers! What’s a better gift to a gardener than the gift of their harvest all year-round?

A food dehydrator is an unexpected gift for the gardeners whose vines, bushes, shrubs, and fruit trees overflow with abundant fruit and veggies. Accompanied by a food-drying recipe book, this could revolutionize your gardener’s home kitchen!

For The Chef: Canning Supplies

Much like a food dehydrator, the gift of canning equipment is another great gift for the gardener who grows bountiful crops. Canning can be a time-consuming, detail-oriented operation, so this gift is best for gardeners you’re close with — and ones you know will appreciate a new hobby.

Before you purchase a gift like this, you should do a little under-the-radar investigating to find out what kind of crops your gardener grows in abundance. Acidic and non-acidic foods are canned with different methods, either by water bath canning or pressure canning. The water bath method is the choice for acidic foods like tomatoes, salsa, fruits or pie fillings, jam, sauerkraut, and pickles. Pressure canning is used for low-acidity foods like meat, stock, carrots, and other high-pH veggies like potatoes, corn, green beans, soups, and peas.

Not sure which type of canning will fit best in your loved one’s life? Some mason jars, lids and rings, and a gift certificate for a local farm and feed store will always do the trick, too!


For The Wildlife Lover: Water Dish or Bird Bath

A “bird bath” in an urban habitat is so much more: it supports pollinators, other urban wildlife, and, yes, birds. Pollinators like butterflies and bees need drinkable water, too.

Water-holding dishes for gardens come in all shapes and designs nowadays — look around online and in your favorite local garden supply stores for standing, hanging, and low-to-the-ground water dishes.

Be sure that it’s made from sustainable materials (hopefully not a lot of plastics), is non-toxic (glass is great!), and suits your gardener’s needs. Does their yard or landscape have a tree that could house a hanging birdbath? What are their space restrictions? Might there be pets and kids running around that would make any glass or ceramic objects a hazard?

Not only does installing a bird bath nurture the ecosystem at large, it also makes landscaping a joyful place to sit and enjoy nature as bees buzz and birds play around the garden’s new centerpiece.


For Everyone: Organic Fertilizer

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that True Organic Plant Foods make incredible gifts for every type of plant-lover, from houseplant parents to raised bed farmers.

We recommend our All Purpose Plant Food for everyone (our Liquid All Purpose Plant Food is great for indoor gardeners) and our unique Liquid Bloom Boost for the flower lovers and fruit and veg growers in your family.

Happy gifting!






- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

The Perfect Holiday Dinner From Your Organic Garden

December 21, 2021

Living Well

The Perfect Holiday Dinner From Your Organic Garden

Whatever you’re celebrating this season, here’s our guide to a holiday table created right from your organic garden.

The joys of cooking from your own garden are endless. Is it the fresh flavor that you love most about garden-to-table meals? The ease of grabbing ingredients right outside your back door? Nutrient-packed organic food for your family and friends? Getting creative in the kitchen with what you have in your weekly harvest?

We’ll go first: All of the above!


Sauteéd Greens

Leafy greens are a Fall and Winter favorite and may be able to grow throughout the cold season, depending on your climate. Any mixture of greens works for a simple but succulent, sauteéd green dish — always a favorite side dish at any holiday meal.

Try a mix of greens, such as spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, chard, or kale. Every variety of greens works well, and the different colors and textures of leaves can add a pleasing visual aesthetic to your holiday table.

Cooking Tips for Sauteéd Greens:

The best part about making sauteéd greens is that they’re hard to mess up! Especially when picked fresh from your own garden and full of flavor. Maybe you prepped your greens this Fall with seabird guano for an extra lush harvest!

It’s easy to overcook sauteéd greens, so be sure to cook this dish when you’re ready to pay full attention to the stovetop for a few minutes.

The other big difference between mediocre sauteéd greens and fantastic sauteéd greens is seasoning. You don’t need to do anything fancy to get great flavor in this dish, but you do need to do something to those leafy greens.

The best flavors enhancers for sauteéd greens:

  • Garlic (chopped or powder)
  • Coarse salt (not too much!)
  • Lemon
  • Shallot
  • Slivered almonds
  • Sherry vinegar

Follow this Easy Sauteéd Mixed Greens recipe from The Spruce Eats for a quick and simple preparation.



Roasted Root Vegetables

The versatility of roasted veggies makes it another easy dish for the holiday cook — and the tastiness makes it a go-to favorite for everyone at the table.

Not only are root veggies going to add an incredible rainbow of color and flavor to your holiday feast, but they’ll also provide a huge boost of nutrition to the meal. Some people are hesitant about the prep and cooking time for roasted vegetables, but we guarantee it’s worth it.

Preparing root vegetables, such as beets and potatoes, can take a good dose of elbow grease to peel and cut, . Which can be followed by a seemingly long time to roast these pieces into tasty morsels. However, they can be chopped and prepared ahead of time, and they won’t suffer from being reheated briefly in the oven before serving if timing is a concern.

One of the best things about any roasted veggie dish is how simple it is to combine whatever root vegetables you have on hand. Beets, carrots, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes make a tip-top roasting combo.

Ready to roast?

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  • Peel beets and carrots, and remove any scars or eyes from potatoes
  • Chop into 2-inch cubes
  • Peel, chop, and add a few garlic cloves (to taste)
  • In a big bowl, toss in a light coating of olive oil
  • Add sea salt and ground black pepper
  • Spread evenly on baking sheet
  • Cook for 45-60 minutes or until tender
  • Toss some sage and rosemary leaves on the pan about 10 minutes before cooking is complete for extra zest and crunch

For more flavors, try parsnips, sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes), golden beets, and red onions. And try adding just one of the following: a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, a dusting of paprika, or a drizzle of truffle oil right out of the oven.



Winter Squash

There’s such a wide variety of Fall and Winter squashes, each with its own unique character, flavor, and color. Their unique beauty makes them delightful for holiday celebration menus, and their versatility fits into any meal.

We’re partial to delicata squash for holiday meals because it’s quick-cooking and doesn’t need to be skinned. Delicata is also a bit more flavorful than the super-popular butternut and tends to be more tender than its tougher cousin, the acorn squash.

The oblong delicata squash is also the perfect boat-shaped bowl for your favorite stuffing — making it the meal’s star entreé.

Try out this mouth-watering Sausage-Stuffed Delicata Squash Recipe from Southern Living (you can use pork sausage, as suggested, or a turkey or plant-based sausage if preferred).



Don’t Forget The Centerpiece

Displaying cut flowers from your own garden can make the holiday table atmosphere more special to you and those gathered there.

Gardening in a climate that’s too cold for fresh flowers in Winter? Try snipping sprigs of holly or other cold-loving shrubs, evergreen branches, or decorative ornamental grasses like yellow Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans).

Pine cones from around the yard make gorgeous table decorations, as do any squashes or gourds that you didn’t use for the meal. If these options aren’t available to you, try creating a new holiday tradition by bringing some lush indoor potted plants to the table.

Get creative — your table is your masterpiece! The winter holidays are a time to cherish hearth, home, and health. Taking a few moments to decorate, share gratitude, and appreciate the comforts of home and garden are what this season is all about.

Dig in!




- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

The Best Fall Harvest Recipe Ideas

October 29, 2021

Living Well

Fall Harvest Recipe Ideas

While Summer can seem like the ultimate harvest season, a delicious and health-boosting bounty awaits the patient Fall gardener. Ready for some inspiration for cooking from your Fall garden harvest?

If you’re like us, the most exciting part of tending a Fall garden is chowing down on the delicious seasonal meals made from nutrient-packed home-grown food. As temperatures and leaves start to drop, cool-weather crops reach their full potential.

Fall Harvest Crops

Remember: Crops will grow slower as days get shorter and plants get less sunlight. Although it may take those colder-weather vegetables a bit longer to mature, their bounty is well worth the wait.


While most of us are used to eating apples all year-round, their natural harvest time in the Northern Hemisphere is later summer and into Fall. Depending on your region (hello, Pacific Northwest!), September through November may be prime apple picking time—and prime apple pie time.


A classic Fall crop, beets are more versatile than you might think (if you’re new to growing and cooking them). Keep reading for a delicious oven-roasted recipe to introduce your whole family to this immune-boosting root veggie.


The chillier season is squash’s time to shine! There are so many varieties of squash to choose from—and if you’ve prepared your garden for a happy, bountiful Fall, there should be plenty of room for these viney plants to flourish.

Leafy Greens

Kale and other hardy greens love the cold. Before frosts, arugula and spinach will thrive, too. These are top-notch immunity foods, so go wild with greens in the kitchen.

Be careful, though—most greens (and many other crops) are sensitive to frost and freezes, despite their hardier-than-average nature. Especially with more tender greens, consider covering rows with a lightweight protective layer when temperatures start to drop below freezing at night.

Brussels Sprouts

Some climates yield Brussels sprouts in warmer late-summer months, but these sturdy stalks do love the cold.

Brussels sprouts are another misunderstood and much shunned veggie, just like beets—but we’ve included a delicious, easy, family-friendly recipe below to introduce them into your Fall menu.

Hardy Herbs

Fall and Winter are the feature seasons for shrubby perennial herbs. Don’t forget the flavor just because Summer is done!

As bright Summer annuals like basil and dill go to seed and are pulled up, shift to “warmer” flavored herbs that can enhance soups, stews, and roasted root veggies. Our favorites are thyme, rosemary, and oregano.


What’s On The Menu?

Let’s get to the recipes!

Roasted Veggies

Roasting is a historically cold weather staple for many reasons, least of all the warmth that the oven provides to your home as those delightful dishes are cooking.

It’s fun and easy to get creative with a roasted vegetables dish by adding fruits, herbs, and nuts—you almost can’t go wrong! Try rosemary, apples, sliced almonds, or even some pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top after taking the dish out of the oven.

This recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash from The Spruce Eats adds even more flavor and texture by adding pecans and cranberries.
Some folks are reluctant to put beets on the family table, since they can be tricky to cook to perfection and have such a unique flavor. Try a simple and lovely dish like Pure Wow’s Oven Roasted Beets and Potatoes to bring beets to your table.
For a more complex flavor, try this dreamy Roasted Beets with Quinoa and Pears dish.


Don’t discount salads just because summer is over! So many of the crops above can be tossed together for incredible seasonal salads.

This delectable Fall Salad recipe from Better Home and Gardens uses pears, pecans, and maple dressing to weave Autumn flavors together. Feel free to substitute the salad greens for anything you have growing in the garden, like arugula or kale.

Soups & Stews

And now for the champion of all Fall and Winter dishes: soup! Soup and stew can seem boring and bland, but when you harness the many possibilities of flavor, texture, and ingredients, soup might become your favorite meal.

A beautiful blended soup is the way to go for picky veggie eaters, and can be easily made in batches and frozen for later. Our mouths are watering just thinking about this Kale and Broccoli Soup from Food Network.

For a heartier version of chicken soup, take inspiration from this Easy Fall Chicken and Vegetable Soup and add your garden’s flavors.

Immune-Boosting Bounty

Embracing seasonal eating not only connects you and your family to nature’s rhythms, it can also help boost your immune system for cold and flu season.
Many Fall vegetables and fruits are packed with immunity-supportive vitamins and antioxidants your body needs to defend against illness and keep you cozy in cool weather.

Did you know that healthier, more microbially rich soil actually boosts the nutritional value of the food that grows in it? That’s just one of the reasons why we’re so passionate about soil health and regeneration here at TRUE. Healthy soil is essential for a healthy planet, and humans rely on it, too.

- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

How Soil Can Save The Planet

September 2, 2021

Living Well

Beautiful and tasty!

Soil isn’t just dirt. 

‍Here at True Organic, we’re obsessed with soil. And it’s not just because healthy soil is the backbone of the farms and food that sustain us. Healthy soil is also one of the keys to sustaining and restoring our planet and atmosphere.

Replenishing our soil plays a vital role in sequestering carbon, improving water retention, and enhancing soil fertility. It’s a mission that sits at the heart of our company.
Let’s take a closer look at the role soil plays in carbon sequestration.


Soil + Carbon = Happy Plants

Dirt is considered simply mineral matter, like sand and bits of rock. (It’s not alive.)

Soil contains some of that mineral matter, plus a lot of organic (living) matter. Bacteria, fungi, earthworms, and all sorts of other living organisms live and thrive in soil.

Plants need to take in carbon to sustain their own energy, and soil needs carbon as well. More specifically, all those microbes that live in soil need carbon!

It’s a symbiotic relationship: the happier those soil microorganisms are, the happier plants can be. As happy plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O), bacteria and fungi in soil feast on carbon and other macronutrients for their own livelihood, too.

Let’s Talk About CO2

Carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas (“greenhouse” means that it lingers in Earth’s atmosphere and soaks up infrared radiation, trapping heat). While carbon dioxide is and always has been a naturally produced part of life existing on our lush planet, some types of human activity increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Right now, there is a lot more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there should be for sustained, thriving life on Earth as it’s meant to be.

Other gases, too, like methane and ozone, have become too plentiful in Earth’s atmosphere. This imbalance of greenhouse gases is harmful to our planet and for us humans.

But it’s particularly that CO2 that we most urgently need to take care of. That’s why carbon sequestration is so important, and why agriculture has such a big role to play.

It’s why we started True Organic.

What Is Carbon Sequestration?

It seems like magic: drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in the ground, where it’s actually an essential part of life. But it’s real! And nature actually does it all on its own.

The process of capturing carbon from the atmosphere and placing it into soil is a natural part of plants’ photosynthesis process. It’s happening all the time, all around us. Grass does it, trees do it, even the curly kale and tomato vines in your garden do it.

Biologic carbon sequestration refers to atmospheric carbon getting taken in by plants and deposited back into soil (and sometimes aquatic and geological environments).

To understand how that works, let’s take a stroll through the garden.


Thinking back to Earth Sciences and Biology classes at school, photosynthesis is the way plants sustain themselves. It’s how they get nutrients and nourish their cells. With the help of sunlight and minerals from the soil, plants have the ability to break down CO2 and H2O to create their own ”food”.

Under our feet when we’re taking a stroll on green grass, above our heads when we’re hiking through a canopy of trees—all those plants are happily taking in carbon dioxide through their leaves, soaking up sun and water, and turning that into fuel to stay alive.

So what happens to carbon after plants absorb it in the form of CO2?

First, it’s broken down into its elemental parts—carbon and oxygen. The oxygen is released back into the atmosphere. Which is great news for all of the lifeforms that need to breathe oxygen to live! (We’re lookin’ at you…and ourselves…and all other animals.)

Carbon sequestration refers to the process that puts that carbon back into the soil, where it’s stored.

Agriculture Can Make a Difference

Ready for a dose of hope?

Farming and gardening have massively powerful potential to remove excess carbon from the atmosphere and put it back in the ground.

It requires thoughtful, soil-friendly techniques that help plants thrive in an organic environment while rebuilding soil’s natural potential.

Sustainable, regenerative, organic farming methods encourage and enhance carbon sequestration, and those types of farming practices are booming. Reforestation, too, has been shown to be incredibly effective for carbon sequestration.

What’s more, those organic methods increase yield over time, produce super healthy harvests, and support biodiversity.


Carbon Sequestration In Your Home Garden

While nature does carbon sequestration all on its own, we can help it along. The more plants we tend (including farms, forests, grasslands, native plant sanctuaries, and gardens), the more carbon your plants will eat.

Yes, you can even help capture carbon and nurture soil at home. You don’t need a huge farm or forest to join the movement to rebuild soil to its carbon-capturing, plant-supporting true nature.

Look more into the wonders of regenerative farming and home gardening in our National Soil Health Day blog. 

It’s Our TRUE Mission

True Organic was founded with all of this in mind. We set forth on a mission to revitalize soil’s massive potential to support thriving life in all its forms.

We began by providing organic, soil-rebuilding fertilizers to large-scale agricultural enterprises. The big picture is important; we help some of the biggest growers in the country operate with soil health at the forefront.

But change happens on the individual level, too, and we believe it’s vital to support home gardeners make a difference.

Our mission now is to help everyone, from big farmers to community garden tenders, learn about what soil and plants need to thrive—and help you do that every day.

- True Organic - TrueOrganic.com

Our Favorite Upcycled Gardening Ideas

July 30, 2021

Living Well

Upcycled Gardening Ideas

Your garden is a place to express your creativity and enjoy your outdoor space. It’s also your way of caring for the Earth—nourishing plants, restoring soil, and sustaining your own kitchen table.

How about adding even more of your unique style and giving the environment an extra helping hand by creating your garden landscape with upcycled materials?

Creative wood herb planter made of wooden pallets pallet hanging on the grey fence in a backyard. Garden work. Vegetable life. Pallet painted in black as interesting idea for plants. Rosemary Basil.

What Is Upcycling?

Sure, garden and homegoods stores sell plenty of lovely outdoor decor that will give your garden or yard a special sparkle. But combining store-bought items with some upcycled, crafty projects to decorate your garden is the perfect way to meld functionality with creativity.

Upcycling means that you’re taking something old or discarded and giving it new life again. It is often considered the artist’s way of recycling! Think of it as reusing with flair.

But, of course, you can follow whatever rules and definitions you want when you’re finding upcycling projects for your garden! Let your creativity shine as you save previously used items from landfills and beautify your backyard oasis.

For some basic tips on designing an amazing garden space, check out our blog all about Edible Landscapes!

Let’s look at some materials to use for your upcycled garden projects.

Wooden Pallets

Sturdy wooden pallets, the kind that packaged goods are shipped and delivered on, are a garden upcyclers dream item. They’re versatile and abundant.

You can find them for free at almost any lumber or feed store, usually tossed out back near the refuse containers. If you’re not seeing any at the stores (be sure to ask!), look at local neighborhood listings and “free” pages online and on social media.

Pallets can be made into compost pile corrals, chicken coops, fences, and even the structure for a hanging garden.

Pallets can have sharp edges, nails, and industrial staples in them, so be careful and remove those before you start working on upcycling a pallet.

Metal Cans

Empty, clean metal cans (dog food, soup, cranberry sauce!) are adorable as planters.

Be sure to very thoroughly clean and dry cans so that absolutely no food is left inside! Remove labels by soaking cans in warm, soapy water—the labels should slide right off.

The fun thing about using metal cans in the garden is how light and portable they are. Try hanging a row along a fence or from a patio, arbor, or pergola. Poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Get fancy with paint and coverings!


Old tires that are painted in assorted colors and used for a flower planter.

Using old tires in your garden landscaping is such an amazing favor to planet earth—not just saving you a trip to a refuse facility, but saving a huge item from ending up in a landfill.

A really important note about using tires in your garden: be absolutely sure that the tire is incredibly clean before putting any soil or plants in there! You can imagine all the buildup from the road that sticks onto and into tires, and that stuff is a big no-no for soil and plant health. Ick! Only clean tires should be used in the garden or for any objects humans are going to touch, sit on, or swing from.

After cleaning, you may want to paint, finish, wrap, or decorate your tire planter to spiff it up and give it a more natural feel.




Reclaimed Wood & Furniture

Ready to get really crafty? All sorts of reclaimed wood pieces, furniture, and fixtures can be refreshed as useful, cute (maybe a little quirky) garden decor.

We love pursuing yard sales, second-hand furniture shops, and building reclamation centers to look for anything and everything that could be fun and functional in an outdoor space.

What kind of reclaimed items should you look for?

  • Wine barrels
  • Dresser drawers
  • Travel trunks
  • Benches
  • Wooden crates

Even reclaimed wood from home builds or remodels can be used in your garden for walls, pathways, even making your own raised beds.

Before taking it home, check wood for sharp things (like nails and staples), mold or water damage, and cracks. Choose sturdy hardwood that hasn’t been painted—or, sand paint down before using for planting.

Go Wild!‍

Once you let your imagination loose, it may feel like anything can become an upcycled decoration or planter for your garden. Silverware, mirrors, bottles, and even old bathtubs can make their way into a gorgeous, creative outdoor wonderland.

We can’t wait to see what you create. Share your upcycling ideas with us by tagging us on instagram at @true_organic_.