Apr 08

The Incredible Edible Yard

by Hannah Holt »

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favorite books growing up. I loved cheering for Charlie as he came out ahead of the obnoxious Varuca Salt (et al). But most of all, I wanted to float down that chocolate river.


Unfortunately, I grew up and realized a chocolate river would lead to all kinds of trouble: ants, carpet cleaning nightmares, a happy but untimely death…

In lieu of the chocolate river, I’ve opted for the highly snackible yard. Wherever possible, I plant edible bushes and flowers. It’s more healthful than my childhood dream but still delicious. Here’s how it came about.

Last year we moved to a house with almost zero landscaping:

astro turf yard

That green you see is astro-turf. Pretty sweet. Right?

Okay. No.

I live in a temperate rain forest for crying out loud. I knew we could do better.


I started with flowers because they are relatively easy and beautiful. I chose…

cone flower

  • cone flowers
  • lavender
  • sage
  • parsley
  • day lilies (Warning: many types of lilies are poisonous. Always research plants thoroughly before eating. FYI, day lilies taste like cucumbers and make a colorful addition to salads.)


  • apple
  • fig

(Note: many fruiting trees and bushes require more than one variety to produce fruit. However, some are self-fertile.)


  • blueberry
  • rosemary
  • honeyberry

Honeyberry is a new bush for us. They are ripening now and should be ready by June. Fingers crossed that we don’t hate them.


  • raspberries
  • kiwi

We haven’t planted the kiwis yet because it involves building a rather large trellis system. Last year our huge project was this rock wall:

Wall beginnings

Building it made us very tired. One big thing at a time–kiwis are my wish list for next year.

Ground Cover

creeping thyme

  • creeping thyme
  • strawberries

We also have a wood chip and grass play areas for the kids, and a vegetable garden plot. Not every section of our yard was completely guided by the plant-to-eat philosophy. However, it’s possible to make landscaping choices that are decorative and delectable.

All this on one-tenth of an acre.



(This picture is from last summer before most of the perennials had grown in. I’ll try to update later this year with the second year’s growth.)

Mar 15

Spring and Southwest Style Stuffed Peppers

by Hannah Holt »


Next Wednesday may be the first day of spring, but I can already feel the turn of the season in the air. The trees on our street are budding. It had me in the mood to write something springy.


When prayers of birds sound in the air,
and crocuses play double-dare —
a splash of purple through the ice —
the loosened stream says, “Ah, that’s nice.”
When bees and beetles start to sing,
wake up, Bear! It’s time for spring.

 crocuses in ice

Speaking of alarms, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner the other night when a bell went off in my head. At the time I was staring at four red bell peppers, trying to figure out how to conjure them into dinner. Stuffed peppers seemed like the obvious choice, but I’ve never been a fan of meat and rice slathered in pasta sauce. Then I thought, why not substitute the meat for beans and corn and change the pasta sauce into taco seasoning. Suddenly stuffed peppers sounded delicious.

They were good. And besides the yum factor, I also liked it because the kids could easily help with the preparation.

Vegetarian Southwest Style Stuffed Peppers

southwest stuffed peppers


  • four large red bell peppers
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 15oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup salsa (you choose your spice level)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 Tbl lime juice
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin

1. Preheat the oven to 375º F.

2. Remove the stems and membranes from the peppers and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them face size up in an ungreased 9×13 inch glass dish or casserole pan, like so…


3. Set one cup of cheese off to the side. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a big bowl. (Go ahead and let the kids just dump them all in and stir!)


Note: I didn’t think the mix needed any salt or pepper, but now would be a good time to check that this is seasoned to taste.

4. Fill the peppers with the stuffing and top with the remaining cheese.


5. Cover the peppers tightly with foil (or the casserole dish lid) and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

6. Once the peppers are tender, uncover the peppers and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese on top is nice and bubbly.

southwest stuffed peppers1

Bell peppers really make for an excellent taco. Yum!


Feb 28

Egg Carton Seed Starters

by Hannah Holt »


Is it spring yet?

This time of year always makes me antsy for spring. It’s not time to start hoeing in the garden, but it might be time to start those tomato, pepper, and/or basil plants. Here’s a quick guide to starting plants indoors.

What you need to know about starting plants indoors:

  1. Only cold sensitive plants and slow growers* need to be started indoors. One year I tried starting cucumbers indoors and oh my! They grew out of their containers before I even turned around… Quick growers and hearty plants don’t need to be started indoors.
  2. You’ll need to know when the last frost is expected for your area. Start plants indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Here in Denver, the last frost is usually around Memorial Day. Even then, we always seem to get a wicked late spring hail storm storm, which is why I love Walls of Water.
  3. Are you thinking about going on vacation? Seedlings need to stay medium moist. If you’re planning on leaving them unattended for more than a few days, they’ll probably die.
  4. You’ll need a warm (at least 65° F) and well lit area for your seedlings.
  5. Before moving indoor plants to the garden (or a larger pot) outside, you need to harden them. Soft indoor plants will die without hardening. Hardening helps plants adjust to the elements gradually.

What you’ll need for the seed starters

  • an egg carton, with the lid removed
  • potting soil
  • seeds

Step 1: Thoroughly mix water into your potting soil. The soil needs to be damp before you start planting.

Step 2: Scoop the damp soil into the egg carton until it is nice and level. Then using a finger, poke a small indent into the top of your soil (1/4 an inch or whatever your seed packet recommends).

Step 3: Place 3-4 seeds in each hole and cover them lightly with soil. Then place in a sunny spot and watch them grow.

Step 4: When they are an inch high or so, thin them to one plant per egg holder. When they are 2-4 inches high you’ll want to transplant them to a bigger pot or to the garden. See my link above about hardening before moving the plants outside.

Because it’s only freeeeezing February right now, I transplanted my little seedlings into large plastic cups. Here’s how…

Transplanting 1: When transplanting into a larger container, you’ll need to select one with good drainage. Using a steak knife, I punched a hole in the bottom of my plastic cups. (If you are container gardening [not just seed starting], soil composition and drainage gets a little more complicated.)

Transplanting 2: Then I filled my cups with damp soil and created a holding space for the seedlings.

Transplanting 3: I broke the seedlings out of their egg carton holders and patted them into their new homes. Look how happy they are!

Now I just need spring to arrive!

*The plants in this post are tomatoes. I usually start peppers, herbs, and tomatoes indoors.