The Big Beautiful Beet

Ruby Red Beets fresh from our Garden

Beets add brilliant color to the garden. They’re all kinds of red from top to bottom. They hold their tall upright shape and color until you’re ready to pick them. You can plant them just about anywhere to add a pop of color and then eat the entire plant, leaves, stalks and beet. Now that’s beautiful!

Art in the Harvest

Beets are one of the easier veg to grow. They’re extremely low maintenance. Almost a “plant and forget” crop, needing little water once established. Harvesting them is just as easy. There’s no cutting them off branches or figuring out how to pluck just the ripe without knocking all the greens ones off at the same time (think cherry tomatoes). It’s usually just a tug on their greens to get the soil to give up the beet.

Beets are a cool weather plant that likes to be directly sown in the soil rather than transplanting from seeds started indoors. Here in Zone 5, Illinois, we can plant the seeds as early as March, or roughly three weeks before the last frost. If you really love your beets like we do, you can plant a variety of beets every couple of weeks until temperatures reach 80°F.   Beets can then be planted again in late summer or early fall. They’ll be ready to harvest in 6 to 8 weeks.

Extending my time in the garden by planting a second crop for a fall harvest shortens the winter for me. I have harvested greens and beets even after a snowfall. It’s always amazing to me to see what grows from the tiny seed planted just a couple of months ago. It never gets old.

Recipe for Herb Roasted Beets

Beets with Thyme

Now that you’ve harvested your beets there’s so many different things you can do with them. Roasting them is simple and, as with any roasted vegetable, it brings out their sweetness. We roasted our beets with herbs. Here’s the Recipe.

Ingredient List:

  • Beets
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Foil
  • Herbs on their Stems (we used Rosemary and Thyme)
  • Sea Salt


First – Preheat your oven to 375 F

Second – Wash and peel your beets. Quarter the larger beets so you can group similair sizes together in the foil packets.

Third – lightly coat the beets in the grapeseed oil. I use grapeseed oil because it doesn’t add any flavor to what you are cooking, which is what I prefer with my beets. If you want to add another layer of flavor, both Olive oil and Walnut would be perfect.

Fourth – Rinse your herbs. There is no need to dry them and no need to take them off their stems. The flavor we are going for here is a light herbal infusion.

Fifth – Put the beets and herbs in foil. Fold the foil over the beets leaving some room for air. Place them on the middle rack in your oven and roast for 20 -30 minutes. The beets are done when they are easily pierced with a fork. .

When your beets are done you can serve them warm or store them in your fridge for up to a week. We made a salad with some of the greens from the garden.

It took about two months to make this salad, but the wait was worth it.

Plentiful Pollinators


A few years ago I designed the Pollinator Garden Beds at our local community garden. The spot used to be a baseball field for a grade school. The soil was sand over compacted clay soil.  In other words, a hot mess.  My family and a few volunteers from the Master Gardener program at the University of Illinois Extension helped layout the design, amend the soil and put in perennials.  Half of the perennials were transplants from the gardens of fellow gardeners.

BEFORE . . . 

IMG_1176 (1)

There is a saying for new gardens, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.”  This is the third summer for our pollinator beds, and oh how they’ve leaped.  They have filled in so nicely that there is nearly no for mulch.

AND AFTER . . . 


There is a saying about newly planted garden beds. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they Leap. ” This is actually the third summer for our Butterfly shaped Pollinator Beds. This is their Leap Year and they did not disappoint.

Leap Year in our Pollinator Flower Garden

The perennials are all natives so they’re accustomed to our weather, if not the soil. We added mushroom compost along with peat moss at the start, which binds sandy soil and loosens clay soil for proper water retention and drainage. We gave the new plants some organic fertilizer to help them until their roots were deep enough to make the best of the funky soil. Now, two years on, the beds no longer need any help from us humans. They’re nearly care free. The weeding is minimal because the plants have filled in so well. We only cut back the perennials in the spring to make way for new growth and dead head spent blooms when we feel like. In return, they attract every type of pollinator, which is just what the veggies in our little community garden need to


Every size bee and wasp filled the Joe Pye Weed, Coneflowers and Phlox. The Monarchs were every where, flitting from flower to flower. Three White Moths danced around each other competing for space on a single flower. The plants were noisy and alive with movement not coming from the breeze. It was a very happy place.

Simple DIY Butterfly Garden Ideas

You don’t have to go large scale to create a lively, colorful Butterfly (aka Pollinator) Garden. It can be as easy as adding one of your favorite Perennials to an existing bed in your yard, such as a purple Coneflower. You can add planters with annuals that pollinators love, such as dwarf Zinnias and Sweet Alyssum. When choosing the spot and the plant, choose a space where the plants will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day and choose the sun loving plants. Planting flowers for pollinators is feeding the little buggers that will provide us with food. Bees pollinate our fruit trees and bushes, our squash and cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes, and oh so much more. Give them a few flowers, and your garden will thank you.


The Winter Garden

The leafless time of year is actually a good time to assess your garden. You can plainly see what is working for you and what is not.

A good garden plan considers your view for every season. Sure, you want a bright beautiful Spring and Summer garden just like everyone else, but you also want your garden to provide a view that will distract you from the grey skies in the middle of the Winter too. This is why you need to think about what trees, bushes and perennials will give you a lovely view no matter the season.

These photos are of the same five Cornus Alba (Dogwood) bushes through the stages of each Season, beginning from top – Mid-Winter, next is early, mid and late Fall, Spring, and last are photos from Mid-Summer. This bush grows up to 10 feet tall, has white spring blooms, blooms again at least once more in Summer, turns glorious rust in Fall and has crimson branches in the Winter. I have trimmed them to make them look like small trees, otherwise they would have dominated our small yard.  They are plentiful in our area, so also very affordable.

Decades ago people planted basic evergreen bushes for winter color and being plentiful, they were probably pretty affordable. Everyone had them. Pretty much everyone’s yards all looked the same and everyone spent their weekends trimming them too. They were high maintenance and they were boring.  Fast forward to the 21st century and we have a lot more to choose from our local nurseries. You can even order bare root plants delivered right to your front door from nurseries that grown their own stock.

This is a Hydrangea bush. It’s awesome in the winter. Who knew so many different shades of brown could be in one flower, and that it would look beautiful? Here is a photo of the same plant in fall and summer.

Take a few minutes to look at the view from inside your home. These cold winter months maybe you’re nestled inside on your couch, but that doesn’t mean the view doesn’t have to be interesting.

This is the view of a Viburnum from inside, in the dead of  Winter.

IMG_0949This the same Viburnum in the Spring. The view is beautiful from insider as well as outside.

You can take the time now when things are a little slower paced to do a visual inventory of your garden view, from inside and out. Take a few notes. Where would the placement of just one bush add color and texture your garden view?

It also helps to have a garden buddy who looks good in every season, and doesn’t mind the heat or the cold.

If it’s Winter in your neck of the woods, I hope you’re warm and cozy. If it’s not Winter by you, I hope it’s not too hot and you’re out enjoying your garden.

It’s Better than Chicken Noodle Soup


Hello Everyone – Well we caught it. All but one of us got the nasty flu that has crept into every state in our union. My husband John was the only one to get a flu shot and the only one who hasn’t caught the flu.

After 2 weeks of soup, juice, Propolis, Mucinex and Nyquil, I thought my guys deserved some TLC in the form of chocolate. I made an assortment of chocolate candies using their favorite add-ons.

This is a very simple, easy recipe for a semi-sweet chocolate candies. If you’re a baker, you probably already have some of the ingredients, if not all. There is no milk, butter, or granulated sugar added.  So, they’re almost guilt free. 🙂

 First – Choose your chocolate

Because you’re not adding any butter, milk or extra sugar, choose really good quality chocolate, as pure as you can find.  You can soften the bitterness of the really dark chocolate by adding semi-sweet chocolate chips until you get the flavor that suits you.



Second  – Choose your add-ins.

The sweetness of these add-ins pair perfectly with the bite of the dark chocolate.
Hazelnuts, Pecans and Walnuts work best with the sweeter chocolate. 
The coconut on the left is sweetened and the one on the right is unsweetened.

For my husband, I added chopped Andes Candies and candy cane. He does not like dark chocolate very much, but he does love mint.

Third – Melt your Chocolate and prep your add-ins.

Melt your chocolate in a microwave proof bowl for just one minute.  You don’t want your chocolate melted all the way because if you cook it too long you will ruin it, and it is easy to quickly burn your chocolate.  It will finish melting as you stir it.   I found that the dark chocolate melts faster than the semi-sweet.

To prep your add-ins, simply chop your dried fruit and nuts, or any other candy bits you’re adding, like the candy canes. I toasted my walnuts and hazelnuts, because it brings out their natural oil intensifying their flavor. Toast them in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Let them cool before adding them. 

Fourth – Mix, Scoop and Freeze.

Let your bowl of gorgeous liquid chocolate that you have slaved over cool before adding your goodies, or some of the goodies will melt, like the Andes Candies.  Your chocolate will be runny, of course, so you want to add enough goodies to your chocolate to make it somewhat lumpy, so you can scoop it on your spoon and put it on your tray without it running all over. Put the candies on a cookie sheet or tray that you’ve lined with parchment paper. Once it’s full, put it in your fridge or freezer. Yesterday it was cold enough to put the trays outside.


Here’s what I made –  – –

– – – the darkest of the chocolates with toasted hazelnuts and dried cherries

– – –  the 85% dark chocolate with chopped crystallized ginger.

– – – the semi-sweet with the special dark chips and the Andes Candies and crushed candy canes

– – – the 70% dark chocolate with toasted walnuts

– – – the 70% dark chocolate with semi=sweet chips and unsweetened coconut

– – – the special dark chips with Reese’s peanut butter chips for the boys – because they’re absolutely nuts (pun intended) for peanut butter and chocolate.

Something for everyone!!!