Day 13 of the January Money Diet – Plan a Garden

Plan your garden during the January Money Diet

My sister and I talked right after Christmas, and agreed that there is something about the arrival of January that immediately makes us start thinking about seeds and plants and gardens.

Do you love to daydream about planting a garden in the spring? Now is the perfect time to begin making plans and sketching out ideas for your ideal plot.

In the Day #4 post  (“Figure Out What to Eat“), I enjoyed reading comments from a number of you who grow your own food and preserve it so you can enjoy it all year. We do this on a small scale, freezing things like tomatoes and cherries and pesto, but I’d like to get more serious about growing more fresh fruits and veggies this year.

Strategies for Every Space

If you live in an apartment, you might be able to choose plants that thrive in your climate and can be grown in containers. My friend Jerry grows cherry tomatoes year ’round from a pot in a sunny window in his downtown Denver apartment.

Do you have access to a roof or balcony? The Kitchn posted an informative article on rooftop gardening.

If you have a small yard or garden plot, you may enjoy the “Square Foot Gardening” method to maximize your yield from a small space.

If you have a typical yard, you might be inspired by the Urban Homestead website. This family grows 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre!

If you don’t have a yard but long to really dig in the dirt, you might check out the community gardens in your area. The American Community Gardening Association has a nifty interactive map to help you find one near you.

Time to Daydream

It’s always fun to peruse the new seed catalogs and online offerings each year to see what new varieties have been introduced. These are some of my favorite seed companies:

The site has a wealth of information about growing your own food — including tips for how to sell what you grow as an extra revenue source. You may also want to check out the Happy Simple Gardening Pinterest board, where I collect photos and ideas for growing good food and flowers (with a minimum amount of labor, naturally).

How About You?

Would you like to start planning your garden? Check out some gardening sites, sketch out ideas, and make a list of the seed varieties you want to plant this year. If you don’t have a garden, daydream about what you’d like to grow someday. Leave a comment on this page if you participate in this challenge.

We’d especially love to hear about any edible varieties you’ve grown successfully in the past. If you have favorite gardening sites and sources, we’d love to hear about those, too.

Happy daydreaming,

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Photo:   Elspeth Briscoe

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Close-Up View of the Garden

Snow peas blooming


In late April, I posted about planting peas.

Planting Peas


I was worried that I hadn’t gotten them in the ground early enough. A couple weeks later, we had a huge spring snowstorm on Mother’s Day weekend. This week we’ve had temperatures in the 80s and 90s. The peas are hanging in there, though, thanks to regular watering… Peas blooming in the garden


…and a dense planting arrangement around a willow trellis. Peas on a willow trellis


Despite the heat, the peas are forming. Growing snow peas in the garden


I love the way my camera helps me focus on small details. It’s amazing to see the baby pea pod emerge from the blossom.

Baby snow pea pod emerging

We should be able to start picking a few peas later this week, a thought that brings me no end of joy.

How about you? What do you have coming up? I’d love to hear how your garden is growing in this lovely month of June.


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About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Remarkable Rose from a Sweet Grandma


Grandma C. had 17 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Sylvia Crosslen became my step-grandmother when her son Howard married my mom Betty, some forty years ago. If you are fortunate enough to have a special relative through marriage, then you’ll understand when I say that it didn’t take long for me to not even think about the “step” part and just call her Grandma.



Sylvia and Orville Crosslen on their wedding day in 1933

Born in 1908, Sylvia traveled to Colorado on a covered wagon from Paris, Texas when she was eight years old and married Orville when she was 25. Grandma and Grandpa raised seven kids in a simple cabin in the Black Forest of Colorado Springs; my Pop was the youngest, and only boy. We’ve heard many stories about the family’s challenges and Grandma didn’t have luxuries, but she grew a fragrant, old-fashioned pink rose in her garden. In her later years–before she moved to the apartment–she gave a slip of the rose to my Mom and Pop, who carefully carried it back to Denver and planted it in their garden. When their rose became established, they in turn gave my sister and me a slip, and we each planted the roses in our gardens, too.


old fashioned rose

The tiny stalks take a while to get established, but soon they grow into a wild cascade of canes and leaves. Once a year, for just a week or so in June, the plant blooms with the most fragrant, extravagant pink roses you’ve ever seen.


Old fashioned rose

The roses are impossibly fat and packed with pink petals, and you can smell their sweet aroma across the yard in the morning.


Old fashioned rose bush

The blossoms last only for a day or two, and then they litter the grass with pink petals.


old fashioned roses fading

Grandma Sylvia “Jean” Crosslen passed in 2001 at the age of 93, but I’m thinking of her this week because her rose is blooming once again and putting on its extravagant show in the garden. I am grateful to have the offshoot of her rose bush here with me to remind me of her gentle spirit.


Old fashioned rose

We sure do miss you, Grandma.

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally

Get rid of ants naturally

My friends, tell me if you agree with this statement:

“The depth of one’s dedication to organic gardening can be tested when one discovers a writhing mass of ants on the patio.”

The ants have set up homes in a number of areas in and around our yard, including a couple of ant mansions smack-dab in the middle of the lawn. Since I’m trying to be a good citizen and not use chemicals, I began researching natural ways to get rid of ants. I found four methods that called for ingredients I had on hand, and tried all but one:

1. The first treatment I tried was cayenne powder, which I sprinkled lavishly around the ant hills. The spicy red pepper seemed to deter the ants for a day or two, but after one rain storm they were back and frisky as ever. Was it my imagination, or did they seem to be salsa dancing as they returned?

2. Next, I sprinkled a thick line of salt around the ant hills on the pavement. (I was afraid to try this method on the grass-dwelling ants.) This just didn’t do a thing for my ants, except perhaps to raise their blood pressure levels a wee bit.

3. One site suggested pouring boiling water on the ants. I bet this works, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I never said I wasn’t a wuss.

4. Finally, I read that sprinkling coffee grounds around would motivate ants to leave. This sounded like the least plausible treatment, but to my surprise the coffee grounds seemed to work and I’m not sure why.

If I were an ant, of the four choices presented here I would request the coffee ground punishment myself. Perhaps the ants are pretending to be cooperative while secretly training me to bring them caffeine.  Next, I’m imagining an ant setting up a phony blog that suggests Heath bar bits and Chardonnay as effective ant killers.

[UPDATE – Readers have suggested ground cinnamon, cinnamon oil and cornmeal as natural ant deterrents.]

How about you?

Have you ever dealt with ants in an organic way? Have you found a treatment that works to add to this list? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

Hugs and happy summer,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Pea shoots in the garden


Our garden is getting a slow but promising start this year. Here in Colorado we had snow on Mother’s Day weekend, a big wet spring storm that bent trees here but didn’t break branches.

Spring Snowstorm in Colorado


“We need the moisture” is what we Coloradans always say when this happens in May, and that moisture really did jump-start the peas we planted the weekend before.

Garden peas


The leeks are about the diameter of a pencil right now. Just ignore those dandelions.

Growing leeks in the garden


Hoping that the snow is over (dare I even say those words), we planted heirloom Amish Pie pumpkin seeds in the sunniest raised bed. I’ve never grown this type of pumpkin before, but I was won over by the charming seed packet.

heirloom pumpkin seeds


We harvested a little spring spinach last week, too.

Fresh spinach from the garden


A pretty viola that Mom gave us seems very happy in a partially shaded area of the front garden. Last year a gardening expert I interviewed suggested pine needles for mulch, and since we have an ample supply I’ve been using them quite a bit with good success.

Viola plant


Still to get in the ground:  tomato plants, basil seeds, bell and jalapeno pepper plants, and several BrazelBerries blueberry bushes I’m excited to try this year.

How about you? What have you planted, and what’s popping up in your yard? May your gardens grow exceedingly well this season.

Hugs and happy digging,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. From the archives, you might enjoy 11 Frugal Gardening Ideas and 11 Easy-To-Grow Seeds You Can Direct Sow.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Planting Peas and Hoping for the Best

Planting Peas

I planted peas last week, so the 2015 summer garden is officially underway.

I probably should have gotten them in the ground earlier, but we had heavy, wet snow last weekend and I was ensconced inside with a good book and hot tea.

With our changing weather patterns it’s hard to know exactly when to sow seeds and how our plants will respond to temperature extremes, but we do our best and keep trying.

Gardening always has been, at its heart, an act of faith.


How to plant peas


These are organic Oregon Sugar Pod snow pea seeds. They soaked in filtered water inside for 24 hours before planting, so they were nice and plump. I planted half of the packet, and will save the other half for a fall crop. The seeds are planted about an inch apart — twice as dense as the recommended 2-inch separation. When the plants emerge I’ll thin them and we’ll enjoy the tender pea shoots on pasta.

Close up of peas before planting


To give the vines something to climb on, I planted them around a cone-shaped support woven of willow:

Willow support for peas


How about you? Have you started planting your summer garden yet? What do you hope to grow this year? I’d love to hear about your plans.

Hugs and happy digging,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Nepal-childP.S. My heart is heavy this morning, mourning for the people of Nepal. So far away, all I know to do is offer the two things that can help — prayers and support. Organizations like Mercy Corps and American Red Cross are on the ground right now providing assistance, and we are grateful.

Photo: Mercy Corps


About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of nine books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.