3 Common Garden Planning Mistakes (and how to avoid them)


Originally from Grow Veg

When planning a vegetable garden it’s easy to ignore problems that can occur when plants are in the ground. In this video we look at 3 common mistakes gardeners make when planning their gardens and give simple solutions.

Making sure your plants are spaced correctly, using companion planting to defend against pests and sowing in batches every few weeks so you have backup options are all important. This video shows how to use the Garden Planner to insure that your crops have the best chance of producing a great harvest.

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Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)

Originally from The Skinny Gourmet

Image from The Skinny Gourmet

So you’re thinking of herb gardening, or maybe you tried it last year and it was an utter disaster? Have no fear. There are a few simple mistakes that many herb newbies make (and I know, because I made most of ’em myself). Master these simple and practical tips for herb gardening and you’ll be using your own fresh herbs like Mario Batali in no time.

Fresh herbs are one of the greatest ways to increase the taste of your food healthfully. I often toss whatever leafy herbs are hand liberally into a salad to add unexpected variations in flavor (basil, oregano and dill are all great choices). Fresh herbs can add punch to sauces or create intensely flavorful crusts for roasted meats. While fresh herbs are now regularly available at grocery stores year round, growing your own herbs is a great way to build mastery over your food. Growing herbs at home can be easy whether you live in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city.

Let it be known that I have the blackest of thumbs. I routinely kill houseplants and whether from too much love or too much neglect I never really know. Moreover, I live in a condo in Chicago, so I only have pots on my back fire escape as my city “garden.” In fact, I’ll argue that it is my black thumb that gives me the bona fides to give beginner gardeners tips, because I have figured out how to grow herbs and am painfully aware of every lesson I learned along the way.

It surprises me how often I bump into friends who are flummoxed about some aspect of herb gardening. And strangely, I feel there are few practical guides to growing herbs on the internet for someone just starting out. Most of the advice is geared towards high end gardeners who can make sense of soil PH and whatnot. When I was starting out, what I really needed was some sort of herb gardening for dummies. So here is my quick and practical advice for growing herbs for beginners.  Continue reading “Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)”

The Most Common Cooking Mistakes

Learn how to avoid these common mistakes for success every time.

Story by Ann Taylor Pittman, Tim Cebula, and Cooking Light Staff

You can learn from your mistakes, but it may result in ugly cakes, calorie overloads, and even singed arm hair (ouch!).  Learn from our cooking, nutrition, grilling, and baking mistakes instead! Every cook, being human, errs, bungles, botches, and screws up in the kitchen once in a while. If you have not “caramelized” fruit in salt rather than sugar, you have not suffered the most embarrassing mistake made by one of our editors. We did not have to look much farther than our staff―and their encounters with readers, friends, and relatives―to compile a list of common, avoidable culinary boo-boos.

The creative cook can often cook her way out of a kitchen error, but the smart cook aims to prevent such creativity from being necessary. Here are over 50 ways to be smarter every time.

1. You don’t taste as you go.

Photo: Oxmoor House

Result: The flavors or textures of an otherwise excellent dish are out of balance or unappealing.

For most cooks, tasting is automatic, but when it’s not, the price can be high. Recipes don’t always call for the “right” amount of seasoning, cooking times are estimates, and results vary depending on your ingredients, your stove, altitude…and a million other factors. Your palate is the control factor.

Think that experienced cooks don’t forget this most basic rule? Cooking Light Associate Food Editor Tim Cebula was sous chef in a notable restaurant when he served up “caramelized” pineapple that somehow refused to brown. Turns out Tim had coated the fruit in salt, not sugar. “That’s why it wouldn’t caramelize.”

2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.

Photo: Oxmoor House

Result: Flavors are dull, entire steps or ingredients get left out.

Even the best-written recipes may not include all the headline information at the top. A wise cook approaches each recipe with a critical eye and reads the recipe well before it’s time to cook. Follow the pros’ habit of gathering your mise en place―that is, having all the ingredients gathered, prepped, and ready to go before you turn on the heat.

“Trust me,” says former Cooking Light Test Kitchen tester Mary Drennen Ankar, “you don’t want to be an hour away from dinner guests arriving when you get to the part of the recipe that says to marinate the brisket overnight or simmer for two hours.”

3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.

Photo: Romulo Yanes & Randy Mayor

Result: You wreck the underlying chemistry of the dish.

Substitutions are a particular temptation, and challenge, with healthy cooking. At Cooking Light it’s our job to substitute lower-fat ingredients―to change the cooking chemistry a bit while capturing the soul of a dish. When it comes to baking, this is as much science as art.

“I’ll get calls from readers about cakes turning out too dense or too gummy,” says Test Kitchen Director Vanessa Pruett. “After a little interrogation, I’ll get to the truth―that the reader used ALL applesauce instead of a mix of applesauce and oil or butter or went with sugar substitute in place of sugar.” Best practice: Follow the recipe, period.

Continue reading “The Most Common Cooking Mistakes”