Recipe: Simple End-of-Summer Plum Cake

Nothing says end of summer to me more than biting into a sweet, juicy plum.

This cake, which combines summer fruitiness with warm fall spices, helps ease the transition between the seasons. If you don’t happen to have a plum tree nearby, now is the perfect time to pick up a few stone fruit like plums and peaches at your local farmers market. This cake is so easy to make and requires such simple ingredients, you’ll likely already have them in the pantry.

End-of-Summer Plum Cake

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour


  • Springform pan


  • cups flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • tsp cardamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 tbsp butter (one stick)
  • 3 plums, each cut into 8 wedges (about 1 lb). Be sure tochoose firm, not overripe plums.
  • Sprinkle of powdered sugar (optional)


  • Set oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream butter and sugar with mixer for a couple of minutes, until soft and fluffy. Stir in vanilla and eggs. Set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
  • Alternate mixing flour mixture and milk into creamed butter until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour thick batter into a greased cake pan. I like to use a springform pan so everyone can see the prettiness of the cake.
  • Place plum slices in a circular pattern on the cake until most of the batter is covered.
  • Bake in oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 min until done.
  • After cooled sprinkle powder sugar on top. (Optional)
<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Fall Gardening: How to Grow Garlic

I love garlic. I put copious amounts in everything and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried 40 Clove Garlic Chicken. And now, as the weather cools down and you bid farewell to your summer garden, it is the perfect time to start thinking about planting garlic.

When Should I Plant Garlic?

For most regions, you plant garlic in the fall for next year’s crop because garlic needs a period of cold weather (called vernalization) in order to be viable. In Chicago and places with similar climates, mid-September through mid-November is ideal for planting. It is more difficult to grown garlic in warm regions (i.e., zones 7-9), but it is certainly not impossible. (Unfortunately, garlic heads may be smaller.) Areas with mild winters may not provide the vernalization needed by many garlic varieties. However, you can cold stratify and simulate winter by putting your garlic in the fridge for about 4 weeks before planting.

Should I Plant Garlic From the Grocery Store?

I know it’s tempting to just stick garlic in the ground from the grocery store and call it a day. Don’t do it, though! If you get garlic from a good seed seller or producer, you’ll be able to pick from so many different heirloom varieties, which often have better flavor than garlic from the grocery store. Grocery store garlic may also be treated (and therefore not viable for growing) or carry disease. However, you if have a good farmers market near you, you can try picking up some specialty garlic there and planting it. I got my seed garlic this year from Seed Savers Exchange, but you can probably find some at your local garden center.

Softneck Garlic Hardneck Garlic

What Type of Garlic Should I Grow?

There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardnecks develop a hard stalk in the center of the bulb, which softnecks don’t. Most people say hardnecks, which are the type you want to be growing in the Chicago region, have bigger bulbs and more complex flavors since they come in so many different varieties; they also produce edible scapes in the spring, which you can also harvest. However, softnecks, which you are likely to find in your grocer’s produce department, can be stored for longer periods of time. Because they are less hardy, softneck garlic tends to grow better in milder climates so gardeners in more temperate zones can try growing it.

Where Should I Plant My Garlic?

Though I continually sing the praises of fabric grow bags, I don’t grow my garlic in them; I choose a sturdy wooden container. Though garlic needs winter to start producing bulbs, it gets COLD in Chicago and fabric bags just don’t protect garlic enough and you end of with no garlic. (Ask me how I know.) Garlic needs plenty of sun and space, since you want to plant a fair number of bulbs to get a good crop. Plant individual cloves, pointy side up, 2 inches apart, in well-draining compost-rich soil. Once you’ve chosen a sturdy container (a raised bed is even better) and planted your cloves, be sure to cover with at least 6 inches of mulch; I like straw.

Garlic scapes harvested earlier this year

When Should I Harvest Garlic?

The cool thing about hardnecks is that you get two harvest from them: scapes and bulbs. In June, your garlic will start to sprout green-onion like stalks in the center. They are delicious (try this Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe)! Even if you don’t like the flavor, though, you need to harvest the scapes so your garlic puts all of its energy into growing bigger bulbs. Once you’ve harvested the scapes, it’ll be about a month before you can harvest the bulbs.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

It’s Time to Start Planning Your Fall Garden

This is the most bittersweet time of year for gardeners—just as you’re harvesting the fruits of your hard labor, the leaves in your garden are starting to yellow indicating that fall is near. It’s the best of times, and the worst of times.

However, even as you begin to clear out spent vines, never fear: Some crops thrive in the waning days of summer and the cooler autumn, so now is the time to start planning your fall garden.

This past weekend, I began mapping out what my fall/winter crops will be and where they’ll live in the garden. The following is the list of plants that made the cut.

Waltham Broccoli

This is a new one for me. I tried to grow broccoli without much success the first year I gardened, so I’ve avoided it until now. I figured I’ve learned a ton by now, though, and decided to give it another shot. This variety is particularly cold-hardy, so it is especially suited to growing in the fall. Check out this story on how to grow broccoli successfully this fall.

When to plant: Transplant seedlings at the end of August or in early September. Broccoli tends to bolt in temperatures above 80 degrees, so make sure you avoid planting it during a heat wave.

Sunlight requirements: Though broccoli doesn’t like it hot, it really likes it sunny so give your plant at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Pusa Gulabi Radish

I love the spicy bite of radishes, but they’re a bit too pungent for my daughter, Molly, though she like the flavor. That’s why I’m growing Pusa Gulabi this year, as they are, apparently, on the milder side. An Indian winter radish, Pusa Gulabi is a brilliant pink color and was specifically bred with high amounts of carotenoids, anthocyanins, and vitamin C to make it extra nutritious.

When to plant: Thought it is a winter radish (radish generally grows best in 50- to 65-degree temperatures), this variety can tolerate summer temperatures so feel free to plant seeds right away. Succession planting every 7-10 days will ensure a continual crop of radishes this fall.

Sunlight requirements: Radishes require at least 6 hours of full sun per day, but they are tolerant of some shade.

Sugar Snap Peas

Another favorite in my household are sweet and crunchy sugar snap peas. Though most people associate them with spring, I’m going to try growing them in the fall this year.

When to plant: These take 100 days to mature, so it’s a good idea to get seeds in the ground by mid-August. Even though this is a cool-weather crop, the seeds need a bit of warmth to germinate so planting them in the last days of summer should give them an initial boost.

Sunlight requirements: Peas require full sun, but if it’s still hot out they can also thrive in partial shade.

Cour Di Bue Cabbage

I chose this variety because it is tender and fairly compact, so it should be do well in containers. An Italian heirloom variety, it ends up being about 3 to 4 lbs.

When to plant: For fall harvest, it’s best to plant cabbage midsummer. This variety, however, is a short-season crop so I recently direct sowed seeds outside. Keeping my fingers crossed. Otherwise, transplanting a cabbage seedling now is a good idea.

Sunlight requirements: Cabbage needs at least six hours of full sun each day.

Purple Dragon Carrots

Carrots are sweeter in cold weather, so why not grow them for fall? This variety supposedly appeals to picky kids and adults, so with a son who is a finicky eater, I’ll take all the help I can get! The carrots are also a striking reddish-purple color, which will certainly jazz up the salads and veggie trays.

When to plant: Carrots can take up to 21 days to germinate so put them in the ground now! To encourage them to sprout, make sure you keep the seeds moist at all times. Once they have sprouted, you have to thin them out to ensure they have run underground to grow.

Sunlight requirements: Full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Rocky Top Lettuce Mix

If you’re going to put in the time and effort to grow lettuce, it might as well be a variety you can’t find in stores. This blend has several different, brightly colored varieties.

When to plant: Lettuce hates hot weather, so end of August and early September is the perfect time to plant it.

Sunlight requirements: Lettuce can tolerate partial shade.

Japanese Giant Red Mustard Greens

These with its strong, almost garlic-like mustard flavor is my favorite variety of mustard greens. I LOVE it. Seriously. They are easy to germinate and easy to grow and taste best in cool weather.

When to plant: These can take anywhere from 10 to 20 days to germinate, but I’ve never had them take longer than 10 days. Succession plant every 10 days for a continual harvest. They don’t really like hot weather, so take that into consideration when planting.

Sunlight requirements: Full sun but tolerates partial shade.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Recipe: Tzatziki Sauce

I have had a remarkably productive crop of cucumbers this year. Which is just fine because we love cucumbers in my house. In fact, one of my family’s favorite sauces is tzatziki sauce, which is made with yogurt and cucumbers. Though you’ll most often find this Greek sauce on the menu next to gyros and falafels, it is amazingly good on lots of things. Put a dollop on your soup or smear it on your sandwich if you require a tangy sauce with a crunch. Try it!

Tzatziki Sauce

Prep Time 30 minutes


  • 1 Cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Lemon, about 2 tbsp of juice
  • 1 tsp Champagne vinegar
  • 1.5 cups Plain Greek Yogurt, Fage preferred
  • 3 tbsp Dill and mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 Small Garlic clove
  • Salt, to taste


  • Deseed and finely chop one cucumber. Most recipes will tell you to grate it seeds and all, but I find I don’t have to salt the cucumbers and strain the water off if I just deseed it. I also like the crunch of larger pieces of cucumber. Chop herbs and smash or finely chop garlic.
  • Put yogurt into bowl. It is also important to use Fage Greek yogurt because it is thick and has already been strained – this way, you won’t have to do it. If you don’t have Greek yogurt, you can strain regular yogurt to a Greek yogurt consistency. First, line a sieve with a coffee filter and then set over a bowl. Spoon in 3 cups of yogurt to yield 1 ½ cups ofGreek-style yogurt, refrigerate and let drain for two hours.
  • Add, chopped cucumbers, herbs and garlic to yogurt.Stir and then add lemon and then vinegar. Slowly stir in olive oil and add salt to taste.
<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

5 Tips for Growing Broccoli in Containers and Raised Beds

When I first started gardening, the crop that I was most excited about growing was broccoli.

I decided on a springtime planting in one of my raised beds. Though I nurtured that plant obsessively –I got a pretty stalk with lots of green – a head never sprouted. It was a most frustrating experience.

But after much more practice in the garden coupled with a ton of research, I’ve decided to give broccoli another try. Here are some of the things that I will do to make sure I get a bumper crop of broccoli this year. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Choose your growing season wisely.

Opting for growing broccoli in the spring of Chicago was probably a mistake. An inconsistent season weather-wise, growing spring crops in Chicago – where it can snow even in April – is a difficult proposition. About the only thing I can ever grow successfully in the spring is greens. Anyway, back to broccoli. This year, I decided to try growing broccoli in the fall. Since broccoli can take 50-60 days from transplant to harvest, starting plants in August gives them a long enough runway to give them a good growing season in the waning days of summer so they can mature in cooler fall days. (Broccoli that matures during cool weather tastes sweeter than at any other time.) Also, broccoli can withstand temperature down to 20 degrees, so you can still be potentially harvesting it in December – depending on Chicago’s erratic weather, that is.

Plant it at the right time.

To figure out when to plant broccoli is easy-peasy. If you are direct sowing in your garden, plant seeds 85 to 100 days before the average first fall frost in your area. According to the Farmers Almanac, the first frost date in Chicago is Oct. 29 – hence the perfect time to plant seeds is in early August. So, get those seeds in the ground right now. If you decide to transplant a seedling rather than direct sowing, plant it 10 days to the “days to maturity” for the variety you’re growing and then count backwards from your expected first fall frost date. For Waltham, the variety of broccoli I’m growing, it takes 50-60 days to maturity from transplant. So, the ideal time to plant a Waltham transplant would be late August to early September.

Choose the right size container – and space properly in your raised bed.

One of the biggest mistakes novice container gardeners make is either choosing a too-small container or planting crops too closely together in their raised bed. For just one broccoli plant, you’ll need a 3- to 5-gallon container that is at least 12 inches deep; I’m growing two plants per each 10-gallon fabric container. (I like fabric containers with handles because they allow me to chase the light in the garden and move plant around with ease.) In a raised bed, plant each sprout 15-18 inches apart.

Pick the right soil, water consistently and plant in full sun.

Broccoli needs loose, well-draining soil to grow properly, so choose soil wisely. The plants prefer slightly acidic soil, rich in organic nutrients so add compost to the planting hole, as well as a good layer on top. Make sure when you’re planting to tamp down the dirt in the pot or in the bed because brassicas like compacted soil. However, broccoli is prone to root-rot so it’s really important to water consistently to help avoid root rot – you want to make sure the soil is always damp, but you don’t want to overwater as broccoli don’t like wet feet. And last but not least, broccoli plants need a LOT of sun – at least six hours a day. The tricky thing about broccoli is that though it requires full sun, the plant will also start to bolt at temperatures above 80 degrees. This is where having your plants in fabric containers with handles come in handy – you can move the naturally cooler containers around to either sunnier or less-hot spots in your garden.

Fertilize and manage pests consistently.

Broccoli is a heavy feeder so it’s vital that you fertilize them at planting with a well-rounded fertilizer (I like Espoma Garden Tone) and a couple of times during the seasons after that. Broccoli also attracts pests like cabbage loopers. You can control them with BT or Bacillus thuringiensis, which is a soil-born bacterium that kills caterpillars like that cabbage loopers that love to munch on your broccoli but won’t harm beneficial insects.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

10 Ways to Use Up Those Summer Herbs

If you’re like me, you have more herbs than you know what to do with in your garden. Beyond drying and freezing, I have to find creative ways to make sure I’m not letting all that herby goodness go to waste. There are so many things you can do with herbs and the following is a list of some of the things I’ve been doing with my herbs this summer.

Stir up Pesto

One of the tried-and-true standbys for using up an abundance of basil is to make delicious pesto. A spicy sauce made with basil, garlic, Parmesan-Reggiano, pine nuts and olive oil (I also add a Fresno pepper for bite), you can use pesto on everything from pasta to sandwiches or even as a marinade – and, bonus, it freezes really well, too. (Freezing it in ice trays and then storing the cubes in a storage bag is the way to go.) Here is a simple, basic pesto recipe that should take you no more than 15 minutes. The sauce is traditionally made using a mortar and pestle, which is how I like to do it, but feel free to use a food processor.

Basic Basil Pesto

Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian


  • Mortar and Pestle or Food Processor


  • 2 cups Basil
  • 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Pine Nuts
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste


  • Put basil into food processor or mortar andpestle to process.
  • After processed, add garlic, pine nuts, andcheese.
  • Slowly drizzle in olive oil as sauce isprocessing. Add salt to taste.
Keyword Basil, Pesto

Arrange a Bouquet

One of my favorite ways to use herbs is to make herbal bouquets. Many herbs produce lovely flowers so it’s a great way to bring both the beauty and luscious scents from the garden inside. This is one that I made last week with my daughter, Molly. We used dill, Thai basil, Mexican mint, lavender and calendula.

Concoct an Herbal Oil Infusion

To take advantage of the beneficial properties of specific herbs, consider making an herbal oil infusion. Some oil infusions (comfrey, for example) may be good for scrapes and burns others for beauty serums and creams (lavender, for example). Make your own herbal oil infusion at home with the following recipe.

Recipe: How to Make a Long Herbal Oil Infusion

  1. Fill a one-pint jar with a tight-fitting lid about halfway to two-thirds with dried herb of choice. Cover leaves with preferred carrier oil, such as olive, avocado, coconut, or grapeseed.
  2. To make a long oil infusion, leave for six weeks and shake the jar a couple of times a day. After six weeks, strain the oil through cheesecloth.
  3. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E to help preserve the oil. You can also add a few drops of essential oils like rosemary, lavender, or chamomile to make your oil even more beneficial.

Blend Chimichurri

I like to think of Chimichurri as a kind pesto … just made with parsley. An Argentinian sauce used as a marinade or as a table condiment, it is usually eaten with steak. But for those eschewing meat, you can also eat it with veggies or cheese. Here is a basic recipe.

Basic Chimichurri

Prep Time 15 minutes


  • 1 Cup Parsley
  • Few Sprigs of Oregano
  • 1 Small Shallot
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Small Fresno Pepper or Red Jalapeno
  • 1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil


  • Put parsley and oregano into food processor or mortar and pestle to process.
  • After processed, add garlic, shallot and pepper and process. Add vinegar.
  • Slowly drizzle in olive oil as sauce is processing. Add salt to taste.

Whip up Compound Butter

Compound butter is a great way to get the flavor of all the different kinds of herb you grew in the summer year-round. Easily frozen, there are a ton of different combinations. Here is a good simple recipe:

  • Get good butter. I like using European butters because they have more butterfat, hence making your compound butter extra creamy and delicious.
  • Soften butter to room temperature until it is easily stir-able—this will probably take a few hours.
  • Gather the herb of your choice. You can use either dried or fresh herbs, but if you’re using fresh, make sure the herbs have had several hours to air dry after rinsing before mixing them into the butter. You don’t want to mix water into the butter.
  • Chop finely and mix into butter. You can also add garlic, lemon peel, or even ginger. Experiment with flavors you like!
  • To store in the freezer, scoop the herb butter onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment paper. Shape it into a log by rolling it in the paper and wrap tightly on each end. I also put them in freezer bags to help prevent freezer burn.

Brew Herbal Infused Water

I love adding herbs to water to get all the beneficial nutrients. You can add just a bit to a cool drink and sip immediately for a delicious summer refresher, or steep herbs like tea for longer periods to wring out even more nutrients. To get even more of the medicinal benefits, some folks make what’s called a long herbal infusion. Check out the following recipe courtesy clinical herbalist Kathleen Raven Wildwood, founder of the Verona, Wisc.-based Wildwood Institute.

  1. Take one ounce of chosen dried herb.
  2. Place in a canning jar. Use a one-quart jar for leaves (such as basil), or hardy flowers (such as red clover), one-pint jar for roots, barks, or berries (such as rose hips).
  3. Cover completely with boiling water, stir with chopstick or knife and add more water until full.
  4. Place lid on and let sit four-to-eight hours for leaves or hardy flowers, eight hours for roots.
  5. When done brewing, strain and refrigerate. Infusion will keep for 48 hours in the refrigerator. Infusions may be reheated. (Do not boil, preferably. It is still OK to drink if it is boiled, but nutrients may be lost.) Infusions may be iced, sweetened, and milk may be added. Some do well with salt or tamari, such as nettle.

Infuse Vodka

Nothing could be better to use (or easier to make) for summer cocktails than infused vodka. For basil vodka, which is the perfect base for summery, refreshing drinks, grab a large bunch of fresh basil, stick the leaves in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, fill with plain vodka, seal the lid and sit the jar in a cool, dark place for up to three days. Taste it every day to get it to the flavor you prefer. After three days, strain out the basil leaves and pour yourself a cocktail! You can do with this with any herb you’d like.

Stir up Simple Syrup

Speaking of Happy Hour, you can get some of that same herbally goodness in your cocktails with herbal simple syrup. Here is a great base recipe.

Herbal Simple Syrup

Prep Time 26 minutes


  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/4 to 1 Cup Fresh Herbs


  • Combine water, sugar, and herbs in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir continually until sugar dissolves and then simmer for1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and let syrup steep with herbs, about half an hour. Note the amounts of herbs will depend on the strength of the herbs themselves. You may, for example, need 1/4 cup of lavender but 1 cup of basil to get the strength of flavor you desire.
  • Cool and pour syrup into container through a mesh strainer to remove herbs. Store in the fridge for up to one month.

Shake Up Some Herbal Salt

Herbal salt is the easiest thing ever to make. For real. Just stick a spring of rosemary (or whatever) into your salt cellar and call it a day. You’ll have fragrant salt to add as a finisher to your dishes at the table.

Invent an Herbal Hair Rinse

There is nothing my locs like more than a good herbal rinse. I usually collect a few from my garden and let it sit in a jar with hot water for a few hours. Sometimes I add a hibiscus teabag and I always add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Try this recipe. Grab handful of:

  • Lavender (moisturizes dry scalp, fights hair loss, increase circulation to scalp)
  • Chamomile (fights dandruff and dry scalp, restores shines, reduces hair loss)
  • Rosemary (prevents premature graying, stops hair loss, boosts shine, decreases dandruff)
  • Calendula (thickens hair, reduces dandruff, improves scalp condition, conditions)
  • Basil (increases scalp circulation, stimulates hair follicles for new hair growth)

Put herbs in large mason jar. Pour hot water over herbs and then add 3-4 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar. Let sit for a few hours.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Support These Black-Owned Seed Companies

One way to show love for the Black community during these times is to support Black-owned businesses. The following is a list of Black-owned seed sellers that I will try to keep updated. Happy shopping!

Black-Owned Seed Sellers

If you would like to be added to the list, or know of a Black-owned seed company not on the list, let me know!

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Introduce These Deadly Predators to Your Garden to Fight Pests Naturally

Imagine, after waking up and having that first cup of coffee in your dewy garden that’s lit by morning sunshine, you decide to take a peek at the tomato plants you’ve been lovingly nurturing these past couple of months. And you’re met with this sight, straight from a horror scene:

Tomato Hornworm

These insects may be a part of the great circle of life, but there’s no reason for you to put up with them in your garden. One of the best ways to control pests organically is through the use of beneficial predatory insects. You can either attract them to your garden naturally or head down to your local nursery to purchase them.

So before doing this:

Angela Bassett Burning It All Down

Check out these six predators to add to your garden today.

Beneficial Nematodes

Beneficial Neamatodes

Tiny, microscopic “worms” referred to as beneficial nematodes have become a popular form of pest control, as they feed on more than 200 pests from up to 100 insect families. Nematodes grow beneficial bacteria inside their guts that when released inside an insect kills it within 24 to 48 hours. It’s important to pick the right type of nematode for your garden because each specific type targets a different pest.

Kills: Flea larvae, grubs, slugs, snails, and root weevils.


Ladybug on Flower

There are as cute as can be, but they are deadly to annoying garden pests. A single ladybug may consume as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. They are also an inexpensive remedy—I got a bag of 500 for $5 at my local nursery.

Kills: Aphids, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape root worm, Colorado potato beetle larvae, spider mites, whiteflies and mealybugs.


Green Lacewing on leaf

I also picked up a fairly inexpensive package of lacewings at the same time I got ladybugs. Since the larvae are the actual predators, you usually buy them in egg form; since adults fly away, they need to be reapplied every couple of weeks.

Kills: Aphids, insect and moth eggs, mealybugs, scale, spider mites, thrips, and other soft-bodied insects.

Praying Mantis

Praying mantis killing prey

The Praying Mantis is the most fearsome of all garden predators as it can hunt and kill insects and small mammals (including, unfortunately, some beneficial garden insects and birds) three times its size. It is the only insect that can rotate its head a full 180-degrees, which helps them seek out their prey from all angles. I was so proud when I found a praying mantis in my garden last year because they are attracted to thriving gardens with good ecosystems.

Kills: As youngsters, they feed on aphids and mosquitoes. Adult praying mantis prey on larger bugs, such as moths and grasshoppers.

Assassin Bugs

Assassin Bug on leaf

There are thousands of varieties of assassin bugs, and all are voracious predators of irritating garden pests. Some varieties include Milkweed Assassin Bug, Spined Assassin Bug and Predatory Stink Bugs. They kill by poking their sharp mandibles into the pest’s body and injecting a toxin that immobilizes it and dissolves its innards.

Kills: Aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars and thrips.

Parasitic Wasps

Tomato hornworm with wasp eggs

If you thought that previous image of a tomato hornworm was scary, check this out. This tomato hornworm is on its way to a gruesome death because a parasitic wasp laid her eggs in his body.

Kills: More than 200 types of pests, including cabbage loopers, caterpillars, cutworms and tomato hornworms.

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Black Farms Matter: 8 Black-Owned Urban Farms to Support

It has never been a better time to support Black farmers.

As the chorus of “Black Lives Matter” rang out across the United States in the past few months, Americans have become more likely to seek out Black-owned business. Citing “a surge in online searches for Black-owned businesses,” even Google has hopped on the bandwagon. The search giant now lets Black business owners list themselves as such, making it much easier for customers to find and support them.

But how many Black farmers are there left to support?

Right now, according to the USDA’s latest figures, Black farmers comprise less than 2% of all farmers in the United States. In a 2019 analysis, the Center for American Progress released a report detailing how the devastating effect of discrimination by the USDA itself led to black farmers losing 80% of their land from 1910 to 2007. “The impact of structural racism—or systematic discrimination by private and public institutions—over the course of U.S. history on the wealth of black families is staggering,” the report said.

However, despite those dire figures, Black-owned farms are growing, according to the USDA. Even as the overall number of farmers are shrinking, the number of Black farmers is on the rise. Despite the odds against them, Black farmers are reclaiming the earth and using it to heal racial traumas for whole communities and to foster a closer relationship to the land. Here are eight to support today.

Grow Greater Englewood
Chicago, IL

Established in 2014, Grow Greater Englewood promotes community wealth-building through sustainable agriculture. Cooperative farming is a central aspect of GGE’s community organizing, which seeks to turn struggling neighborhood Englewood into a “food oasis,” and play an active role in the “real food revolution that can generate equity, prosperity and wealth for local residents.”

Root Life
New Haven, CT

Praxis, the owner of Root Life, has been urban farming in New Haven for eight years, working as a fulltime farmer and environmental educator for Common Ground High School and volunteering with local agricultural organizations such as New Haven Farms, The New Haven Land Trust, The Yale Sustainable Food Project and The Yale Botanical Gardens. In addition to working for and volunteering for local agricultural organizations, Praxis also helps to establish local community gardens and facilitate after-school garden club programs.

Chi City Foods
Chicago, IL

Founded in 2018 by Xavier Maatra, Chi City Foods is driven by the passion to provide poor and marginalized groups in Chicago with access to fresh produce and training opportunities in urban agriculture. The current incubator farm is located in Altgeld Gardens, one of the most isolated housing developments in Chicago. This community is in a food desert with only one convenience store located within two miles. As the farm grows, its priority will be to train and hire people directly from the neighborhood, especially youth.

Mother’s Finest Family Urban Farms
Winston Salem, NC

Through the leadership of Mother/ Certified Beekeeper and Master Gardener Samantha “Foxx” Winship, Mother’s Finest Family Urban Farms promotes innovative farming practices, product development and operations. In addition to growing all kinds of produce, the farm cultivates bees, chickens, worms and mushrooms. They have even trained their children to handle basic farm operations, beekeeping, vermiculture, poultry care and growing food!

Your Bountiful Harvest
Chicago, IL

Your Bountiful Harvest is a sustainable urban farm and garden consultation service that provides environmental and hands-on farm education classes on-site in your backyard, community garden, farmers markets and/or classroom. Non-GMO, organic and heirloom seedlings are also available for purchase during the Spring (mid-late May) and Fall (Mid-September).

Farms to Grow
Oakland, CA

Farms to Grow lists three missions: 1) To promote the sustainability and legacy of Black farmers as well as sprout the next generation of small farmers; 2) To document and disseminate farm history to advance the public’s understanding of the important roles of Black farmers; and 3) To improve the access to urban food markets including schools, restaurants, and individual consumers for Black and other underserved farmers.

Fresh Life Organic
Houston, TX

Fresh Life Organic was launched in 2016 to provide agriculture assistance to urban and rural areas and was created as a response to a community need for fresh local veggies. Over the last few years, the farm has expanded and produced multiple farms and gardens from Houston to now around the world. The farm specializes in Aquaponics/ Hydroponics, row crop farming, operations, risk management, and marketing agriculture products and is best known for its sustainable agriculture planning designing, building, and maintaining of farms, gardens, and greenhouses.

Footprint Farms
Jackson, MS

Cindy Ayers Elliott founded this 68-acre farm with a focus on agritourism for community development in Jackson, MS. Growing and array of fruits and vegetables, raising meat goats, chickens, cattle, and horses, she believes that “planting seeds in the earth will grow fresh vegetables, however, planting a seed in the minds of young people will create a new universe of scholars.”

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.

Lean on These 10 Essential Tools to Help You Find Success in Your Garden

When I first started gardening, I bought one of those ubiquitous garden sets with the standard five tools in a pouch; I had no idea of the inadequacy of my purchase. Over the years, I’ve learned which tools are important and which ones are just a big waste of money. The following is a list of my favorite gardening tools that go beyond just hand spades.

Vivosun Grow Bags

Vivosun Grow Bags

I’m a big fan of using grow bags in my garden. Besides being better for a plant’s root system, they allow me to move my crops to different part of the garden with ease. Buy now

Fiskars Garden Snips

Fiskars Multipurpose Garden Snips

This tiny, multipurpose pruner is my all-time favorite garden tool. This tool, which is a pruner on one side and a serrated knife on the other, is small enough to wield confidently in my small hands. I use it for harvesting, pruning, cutting wire and rope, and more. It’s the best tool, ever, and I highly recommend it. I also really like the Fiskars Micro-Tip Pruner. Buy now

Felco Pruner for small hands

Felco Pruner F-6 -Small Hands

Many garden tools are a little too big for my hands. That’s why I like this pruner; it’s designed for small hands. When you need pruners for a bigger job than the Fiskars Snips can handle, try this quality pruner. Buy now

Nitrile gardening gloves

Nitrile Gardening Gloves

I really hate those fancy leather garden gloves—it’s hard to move your fingers around freely and they are difficult to wash. I understand needing heavy-duty work gloves like that if you’re a farmer, but they’re a little much for backyard/balcony gardeners. I really like the lightweight nitrile gloves, which are less constricting and more easily washable. You can usually find them at any big box store or Buy now.

Marathon Yard Rover Wheelbarrow

Marathon Yard Rover

If you’re a backyard gardener with more space than a balcony, a wheelbarrow will be vital. I waited years before getting a one and I wish I hadn’t. Buy now

TomCare Gardening Chair

Gardening Chair

I might have a house with a backyard, but it’s still in the city, which means it’s not that big. I have to maximize my space and don’t have room for big things like potting benches. That’s where my gardening chair comes in. It saves my back from a lot of bending and, often, I sit right in the middle of the backyard to pot my plants. Buy now

Long, wood-handle rake hand Craftsman cultivator

Craftsman Rake Hand Cultivator

This is one of my most-used garden tools; I use it more than a spade! Use the long rake for raised beds and the short handheld tool for your containers. Buy now

Cobrahead Mini Weeder

Cobrahead Mini Weeder

This tool makes short work of weeds—even those prickly thistles with deep taproots. This is the mini version of the tool, which, IMO, is ideal for container gardeners. Buy now

hundreds of wicker baskets

Wicker Baskets

Head down to your local secondhand shop and load up on inexpensive wicker baskets. They come in handy when you are harvesting your crops. If you don’t have a thrift store nearby, try one of these.

Black Zip Ties

Zip Ties

Zip ties may be good for is organizing cords and wires, but they have multiple uses in the garden. From securing your vining plants on a trellis or pole to using them to help construct your own trellis or tomato cage, zip ties are indispensable in the garden. Buy now

<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Tequia Burt</span>
Tequia Burt

Tequia Burt is a Chicago-based editor, writer, content creator, and brand storyteller with 20 years of experience. In addition to being the Editor in Chief of Backyard Chicago Garden, she is the Founder-CEO of Content[ed.], which provides custom content and strategy to businesses.