Liana’s Easy Zucchini and Parmesan Soup Recipe For The Over-Abundant Garden!

Liana’s Easy Zucchini and Parmesan Soup Recipe For The Over-Abundant Garden!

If you have a glut of zucchini hanging about, turning them into a warming and nutritious soup is simple and rewarding.  

Even if you don’t have an excess supply of the popular green squash, add them to your grocery list, this soup is worth making.  


Which Zucchini Are The Best??

When picking which zucchini to add to your soup, don’t assume that a larger one is the best choice. In fact, the smaller sized ones are packed with more flavor and will provide your soup with the perfect partner to accompany the distinctive Parmesan taste.


Try and use zucchinis around 7 to 9 inches long, and the darker the skin, the better. Did you know the darker skinned zucchinis offer more nutrients than the lighter skinned varieties?


If you are tempted to grow some of your own zucchini at home, it’s easier than you might think. But be warned, some varieties can produce a huge harvest!  If you don’t have the ground space to spare, they can also be grown in large containers.


If you are looking for further zucchini recipe inspiration, this versatile ingredient also works well grated into muffins and cakes, as well as spiralized into zucchini noodles.


It’s In The Stock!

A good wholesome vegetable stock can make all the difference to the flavor of a soup. Whereas you can get some great tasting stock from the store, nothing quite beats the taste of homemade.


You know exactly what is in it and can control the salt levels. And vegetable stock is versatile too, you can include it in a variety of other cooking methods such as stews, casseroles and curries.


It also freezes well, just portion it up once it has cooled into freezer bags, or other suitable containers and store for up to 3 months.


Making vegetable stock at home is straight forward (a suggested recipe is included at the end of this post).


You can be flexible with what you add depending on what is in season, and what tastes you prefer. The more variety of ingredients you can include, the better the result.

Zucchini and Parmesan Soup

Serves:  4

Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes

Preparation Time: Less than 5 minutes


1tbsp olive oil (or oil of your choice, coconut oil works well too)

2 medium zucchinis, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

3 ½ cups 1 ½ pints vegetable stock (see recipe below)

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Sea salt and ground pepper to taste



  1.  Heat the oil in a pot. Add the chopped onions and crushed garlic. Gently saute for 5 minutes, or until soft.
  2. Add the zucchinis and saute for a further 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Once boiled reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is soft.
  4. Switch off the heat, and using a stick blender, blitz the soup until smooth, or until it reaches your desired consistency (leaving a few chunks in this soup gives it a welcome texture).  Take extra care not to let any of the hot soup splash you during the blending process.
  5. Once smooth, stir in the grated parmesan cheese and slowly mix until melted.
  6. Season with salt and pepper if required and according to personal taste.
  7. Pour into bowls and enjoy with some crusty bread and a green salad.

Homemade Vegetable Stock Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil (or oil of your choice)

2 large onions, chopped into small pieces

2 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

4 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces

2 stalks celery, sliced

Fresh herbs of your choice (thyme, parsley, rosemary all work well)

Freshly ground pepper

Salt to taste (optional)

6 cups (1.5 L) boiling water (approx)


  1. In a pot heat the oil on a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and herbs. Gently saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions start to soften.
  2. Add the water and pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Leave it uncovered and allow it to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables feel soft (the time it takes will largely depend on the size of the chopped vegetables).
  3. Strain the stock with a sieve to remove the vegetables.
  4. Use the stock straight away or allow it to cool and store it for later use. Stored in an airtight container vegetable stock will be good for 3 days in a fridge, or around 3 months in a freezer.   


Notes: Remember you can use any herbs and vegetables you have to hand for the stock. Vegetables such as fennel are also great to include, as are tomatoes, mushrooms and a variety of herbs.


About Liana: Liana blogs over at Liana’s Kitchen! You can sign up for her newsletter right here to get more great recipes!

Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get out the compost and make those raised beds, because spring is almost here.



My raised beds are ready for dirt and compost!

I’m starting my tomato and squash seedlings indoors, and even starting some crops outside (potatoes, anyone?). Now, before you think I’m jumping the gun, here’s the thing about me.


I love kale, and I’m not afraid to say it. 


Mix it with some homemade butter and straight-from-the-garden garlic, and I’m set. I start growing it as soon as I possibly can.


I can even get my husband to eat it on occasion.

Getting your garden started? Want to reap a better harvest?


I’ve never been a big fan of radishes and arugula, but I’m starting them soon for the animals, with the hope it will even further reduce our grain expenditures.


I’m starting to get the winter blues, so focusing on spring is helping me beat them. And I’m increasing my self-sufficiency at the same time!


Here’s a starter guide to the crops you can grow in early spring, for both people and animals.


The most important thing I’m doing at this stage (aside from planting!) is using mulch to cover the garden. The last thing I want is late-winter scavengers to snap up the seeds I spent so much time planting!


wpid-cymera_20150210_134455.jpgArugula – Sow in the garden as soon as your soil can be worked. They’ll germinate in about 7 days, and ready to harvest in about a month.


For a continual supply, succession plant every 2 weeks until high temps will cause the arugula to bolt.


Beets – Sow seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant in well-drained, sandy soil. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as this will encourage top growth at the expense of root development.


Aerate your soil for uniform, healthy development. Keep consistently moist. Mulch to suppress weeds.


Broccoli – Sow broccoli directly in the garden 4 weeks before your last frost date. You can set out transplants 2 weeks before the last frost date when day time temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees.


Give your plants a boost 3 weeks after transplanting.


CabbageSauerkraut anyone? Direct sow in the garden immediately after your last frost date, or plant transplants in the garden 2 weeks before your last front date.


Start seeds 6 to 8 weeks indoors before your last front date. Cabbage plants require soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture.


Carrots – Plant seeds about 2 weeks before your last frost date. Carrots need deep, loose soil to form a strong, straight root. Keep the bed mulched to avoid competition from other plants.


Avoid forked roots by limiting nitrogen and keeping the bed stone-free. When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin them so there’s 1″ to 4″ gaps between them.


You can also use alternate planting to increase your harvest and cut down on thinning. I use pre-planted seeds I created over winter to cut down on thinning.


Collards – Collard transplants can be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Soil rich in organic matter will encourage tender leaves, great for microgreens.


wpid-cymera_20150210_133242.jpgKale – A favorite here! You can plant kale about 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost date. Plant in soil rich in organic matter, and cover with cold frames during hard freezes. Great for flavorful microgreens!


Kohlrabi – Put out transplants of this funky looking plant 4 weeks before your last frost date. Kohlrabi is related to the cabbage, and can be eaten in similar ways.


Mulch or use protection against severe temperatures, and the cool temps will enhance the flavor.


Lettuce – The ideal day time temps for lettuce are between 60 and 70 degrees. Lettuce is more sensitive to cold than other cool season vegetables, so be sure to cover during freezing temps.  


Fertilize with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Lettuce will grow in partial shade, and does better sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. Romaine is a favorite here (I finally steered my husband away from iceberg!)


wpid-cymera_20150210_133359.jpgOnions – Onions can be grown from sets, seeds, or transplants. This year I’m trying both sets and seeds.


Plant in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.


Peas – Direct sow in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. They will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees F.


Seedlings will survive a late snow and short periods of temperatures down to 25* F.


Potatoes – Plant potatoes when temps rise (if you want a permaculture indicator, plant your seed potatoes when grass begins to grow).


I cut my potatoes into 1” pieces with 2 to 3 eyes, you can also plant the whole potato. Soil should be loose, fertile and well drained. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.


Radishes – This year, I’m doing daikon, french  breakfast, and regular radishes. Sow radish seeds in the garden about 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area.


They are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size. Succession plant for a continual supply until temps are too high. Try one more than one variety, and see which does best in your garden.


wpid-cymera_20150210_134258.jpgSpinach – You can transplant spinach 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area, or you can sow seeds into frozen ground. They will germinate as the soil thaws.


Transplants can be set out 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Spinach prefers very fertile soil, so plant in soil enriched with compost, or fertilize when the plants are about 4 inches tall.


Swiss Chard – There’s nothing better than the gorgeous colors swiss chard brings to your garden. Direct sow seeds 2 weeks before your last frost date.


Use pre-made seed tapes, or thin to 6-inches apart when seedlings are 3-inches tall. Water regularly and mulch to protect.


Tatsoi – Extremely cold hardy, tatsoi can withstand temperatures down to -15 degrees F. Tatsoi likes rich soil and plenty of moisture all through the growing season, so mulching is best.


It’s a very pretty ornamental, so consider growing it in your landscape. Space the initial planting very densely, then harvest entire plants for baby greens, but leave the final survivors to grow to maturity at about 12″ spacing.



Turnips – Plant 2 weeks before the last frost date. Any well-drained soil will do.


Consistent moisture is key for healthy root development. Although it is not necessary, the greens will be the most tender if you plant in a fertile soil.


Wheat – We’re going to try wheat for the first time this spring. Be sure to use a spring variety (winter wheat won’t produce without some hard freezes) so check that label.


Plant when the ground can be worked and after your last frost date. It’s best to use a seed drill, but if you can’t, you can broadcast the seeds and rake them into the ground, making sure to cover with hay or mulch to keep critters away.


I’d like to hear from you!

Which of these cold weather crops will you plant? Leave a comment below!

What To Do In Your Garden In March Zones 3-10! [Planting Guide]

What To Do In Your Garden In March Zones 3-10! [Planting Guide]

March is one of the best times to start getting your hands dirty in the garden, and I’ve created these “to do” lists by USDA planting zone to get you in the garden and enjoying spring!


The weather in your area is likely starting to warm up a bit, and now is a wonderful time to get your seedlings prepared to grow.


Click here for the exact seeds we use on our homestead!


When starting your garden, the very first step is to garden based on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone that you reside in.


With this information, you can easily determine which plants will thrive in your area, and which ones may require some additional work to keep healthy (such as a greenhouse or cold frames).


The activities in this article will focus primarily on zones 3-10, as these zones cover approximately 99% of US gardeners.


Your glorious organic garden awaits!


Zone 3

Even though it’s probably still a bit chilly in your area, there’s lots you can do. Start planting your onion, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprout seeds under lights. (For a detailed article about how to do that, click here).


If you’re planning to grow flowers (we are!) now is the time to plant stored bulbs in pots and get them under lights.  


Outside, you can prune overgrown shrubs (but avoid shrubs that flower in spring – otherwise you might not get any flowers at all).


Zone 4

Now is the time to start all of the veggies listed above PLUS your pepper, and eggplant seeds indoors under lights.


If you’ve had any fruit trees effected by fire blight (a bacterial infection in fruit trees) now is the time to prune them back to prevent further spread of the disease.


Make cuts 1 foot below the diseased area, and make sure to disinfect your pruning shears between cuts with a 10% bleach solution to prevent further spread of the disease.


Zone 5

If you plan to include marigolds in your garden this year to prevent pests, now is the time to start them indoors under lights.


You can also start your tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds indoors under lights. As your tomato seedlings grow, you’ll need to transplant them into larger pots. Make sure to bury the stems deep when you transplant so they develop a good root structure!


If they’re tall enough at the end of March, you can transplant them outside, making sure to bury the step deep again, keeping 1-2 inches of plant above the soil line. Before transplanting put some compost in the hole to promote growth.  


At this time, you can begin planting potatoes, peas, lettuce, radishes, and carrots in your vegetable garden outside, making sure to use cold frames to protect against any unexpected frosts..

Trim back dead or damaged branches from trees, shrubs, and roses.


Zone 6

So long as the weather is mild, you can start planting your roses, trees, and shrubs.


March is a good time to plant your tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds indoors under lights. If you’ve already started broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, they can be moved outdoors to a protected area, or under a cold frame.  For a detailed article about how to do that, click here.


Plant your potatoes as soon as the garden soil is workable or in containers in a protected area.


Zone 7

In more milder areas, you can plant your hardy vegetables around mid-month.  Carrots, beets, kohlrabi, radishes, leaf lettuces, and turnips all love cooler weather, and will grow well as long as they’re properly watered.


Around this time, you can also plant Swiss chard (we like the rainbow variety packs). Late spring, tender stalks will be ready to harvest and the plants will keep producing all summer – and your rabbits & goats will thank you! (I don’t personally like Swiss chard, but they do!)


Transplant onions, shallots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, white potatoes and asparagus crowns to the garden. You can also place your herbs out, such as rosemary, chives, and thyme, making sure to bring them indoors if in pots or cover them if the weather suddenly turns too chilly.

Zone 8

Don’t hesitate in getting your cool-season crops into the garden as soon as possible – if you end up waiting too long, it will quickly become too hot for them. That being said, the nights can still end up getting rather chilly, so make sure to have row covers or windbreaks on hand.


You will also want to start planting the last of spinach, turnips, mustard, beets, carrots, and broccoli early in March for an earlier harvest than the other zones. Nothing is worse than planting these vegetables only to have them turn bitter!


By mid-month, you can start planting corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers, and cucumbers.


Zone 9

Like zone 8, zone 9 is also quite a warm one. Get started with cabbage, broccoli, spinach, radishes, Asian greens, lettuce, and parsley as soon as possible.


Once the threat of a late freeze has passed, move your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants outside under a cover or in a cold frame. Prune away frost-damaged areas on citrus, and feed your roses with an organic blend of cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, and composted manure.


Zone 10

For this very warm region, how is the time to start okra, sweet potatoes, mustard, collards, cucumbers, and melons. Side dress new plants and trees with compost.


I’d like to hear from you!

Which zone do you live in? What will you start to grow this March?

6 Companion Planting Mistakes to Avoid

6 Companion Planting Mistakes to Avoid

Are you ready for spring? I can’t hear you. Are you ready for spring?!


I know I am. To beat these chilly blues, I’ve been planning my garden. Right now I’m deciding what to plant where. Last year, I made a few companion planting mistakes I’ll be sure to avoid this year.


We’ve built our raised beds, and I’ll be doing more square foot gardening this year.


(This article is an excerpt from my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening. In that book, you’ll find an encyclopedia of how to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce, and more. You can buy it on Amazon or off this website to save 20% and get the digital version free.

Buy now right here to save 20% and get the digital version FREE!)


If you’re new to square foot gardening, then here’s my beginner’s guide to square foot gardening – it’s super easy to implement, but you have to make sure you get the companion planting right.


If your spacing is poor or your vegetable plants don’t “get along well,” then you’ll probably not have the harvest you’re expecting.


I think a salsa garden and an all-tomato garden are definitely on the list!


This year, my garden will be awesome. 


I’ve picked out a place for the radishes, near the house where the soil is loose but rich with the compost from plants of yesteryear. (I’m not the biggest fan of radishes, but they’re about as instant gratification as gardening gets, and this year I want to try to pickle them!)


The kale will line the walkway that leads to our front door, since kale, which doesn’t grow too tall, makes an attractive border, adding texture to our front lawn.


The cabbage will go in the front of the house, where I’ve been composting manure, and where they will be easily accessed.


It’s also far away from my radishes, since radishes and cabbage don’t grow well together. That was companion planting mistake #1 last fall. I planted my cabbages near my radishes, and neither did too great!



In fact, just like some foods just don’t like each other, some veggies don’t make good companion plants. Using a companion planting chart when planning your garden can help prevent costly mistakes.


As you plan your spring garden, use this easy companion planting guide to avoid 6 common companion planting mistakes:

Companion Planting No-Nos


Now, you do need to pay attention to zones (you can find out your USDA zone right here


Your season also will dictate what you’ll plant. Here’s guides for each month of the growing season:

January    February    March    April    May    June     July    August    September


Itching to start gardening RIGHT NOW?

Here’s 12 crops you can start in cold frames – including lettuce, spinach, radishes and more!


You can also learn how to heat your green house right here.


What will you plant in your garden this spring? Will you try companion planting? How will you avoid these 6 common companion planting mistakes?

square foot gardening plant spacing


How To Heat A Greenhouse In Winter

How To Heat A Greenhouse In Winter

Wondering how to keep a greenhouse warm in winter without investing in electric or fuel-supplied heating systems?

Yes, it can be done. And without adding any more costs to your household budget. I mean, who needs another bill right? Right.

Now, you might be wondering why bother keeping your greenhouse warm during the frostier months anyway – why not just enjoy the season? Well, this girl likes her greens.

Ok, you caught me. I DO like greens, but I’m not a superfan. I like them…but more like sprouts on a sammich. NOT full blown salads. Unless they’re Southwestern salads. Then, bring on the arugula. ANYWAY, I like to keep growing over the winter because, well, I like to grow vegetables. Like any normal, sane person.

The other reason to keep a greenhouse warm in winter is because if you ARE growing anything, you’ll want to provide a healthier living environment for your vegetables, prevent cold spots, and reduce the risk of fungal diseases.

I have more readers growing crops in the winter, and naturally, a common question is how to heat a greenhouse in winter for free (which mean you can grow a wider variety of vegetables, too).

Wondering how to heat a greenhouse in winter? Here's 4 easy but genius ideas to heat a greenhouse without electricity! You can even heat a greenhouse with compost!

Understand the Basics of How to Keep a Greenhouse Warm in Winter

Before we delve into our ideas, let’s first establish some basics. In this season where temperatures can go unpredictably low, you can only do so much. In other words, don’t try to grow oranges in sub-zero weather. You won’t be successful, right?

So, let’s talk about some basics to help you run your greenhouse in winter.

  • Choose the right crops to grow for the season. Go for low-lying greens like kale, spinach, and mustard greens that can stand below-freezing temperatures
  • Invest in a good quality thermometer like this one that can read max and min temperatures throughout the day.
  • Only heat the areas necessary. Grouping plants together will help you save energy and cost.
  • Install proper ventilation to prevent the spread of fungal diseases and maintain a healthy growing greenhouse.

Here are 3 more effective strategies in controlling the temperature inside your structure without having to waste fuel or energy.

Store Thermal Energy Using Thermal Mass

Thermal mass heaters are the bee’s knees, and easy to incorporate into your greenhouse. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, thermal mass, sometimes called a heat sink, absorbs and stores solar heat energy.

This involves putting materials around your greenhouse that absorb heat from the sunlight during the day. These heat sinks are then capable of slowly releasing thermal energy at night time when the mercury drops like crazy.

Here are some effective methods to collect thermal mass:

Idea 1: Build a cobbled pathway across the floor of your greenhouse using dark gravel or small stones (you can reach out to a local nursery or a dealer that sells rocks for driveways).  These rocks naturally absorb heat – and the release of this heat keeps your plants warmer during the dark, cold hours of winter.

Idea 2: Since water has higher heat capacity than land or soil, try putting water or rain barrels around the interior of your greenhouse. Place dark barrels at a Southern-facing location, where they can easily absorb sunlight in the day. Make sure they’re also near tender plants that need more warmth at night

Idea 3: Use cinder blocks or earthenware ceramic pots to further absorb solar heat. They can be used to support planters on table-tops and benches, and they can release their heat around the plants (this is also a good idea to keep your chicken flock’s water from freezing over the winter).

Note: Painting these materials dark (i.e. black) helps absorb more thermal mass and one additional tip on how to keep a greenhouse warm in winter.

square foot gardening plant spacing

Build an Indoor Compost Pile

This is a genius idea that’s also one of the most sustainable techniques to keep your greenhouse warm this winter.  (Psst…it’s also cost-effective since you can build it nearly for free AND you won’t have to use power or fuel to heat your greenhouse. This is what we call Win-Win-Win.)

As the material in your pile composts, bacteria that break down organic material generate a considerable amount of heat to the environment. We cover compost piles in depth in Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Farming. Save 10% with coupon code GREENHOUSE right here.)


Insulation is another option to keep a greenhouse warm in the winter.  So what do I mean by insulate?

Well, you can insulate the entire greenhouse using plastic sheeting, OR you can add row covers (yes, row covers over crops inside your greenhouse) for added protection.

Plastic helps absorb more heat without keeping the sunlight away from your crops. Combined with the other ideas in this article, you have quite a few ways to keep a greenhouse warm in winter.

There are many other natural techniques for keeping your greenhouse thermally controlled throughout the year. In the most challenging seasons, let these suggestions guide you on how to heat a greenhouse in winter for free. You don’t have to do everything. You just need to find the right combination that will work best for your set-up.

square foot gardening plant spacing