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Eating from your Garden makes for Easy Gluten-Free Living

How to Grow a Vegetable Garden

I am a big believer in one important fact when it comes to easy gluten-free living… 

If your food grows from the ground – especially in your own garden – there is no ingredient list to read, no possibilities of cross-contamination (unless you are also growing gluten-containing grains), and no hidden preservatives. There is no packaging to throw away. No destruction of nutrients from processing. And unless it is growing near glutenous grains, then you can bet your intestinal villi that it is gluten-free.

When I was thinking about a topic to share with you for the 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living event being hosted by Diane Eblin, of The Whole Gang, my first thought was how easy it is to be gluten-free if you are eating whole foods and vegetables. And what better place to get those whole foods than from than your own garden?

Easy Gluten Free Living

Did you know that often the produce bought in the grocery store is already 3 to 4 weeks old and has traveled an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate? Can you even imagine how many nutrients have been lost along that journey?

The only traveling that the vegetables you grow yourself will do is that trek from the plant, to your hand, to your mouth. How is that for nutrient dense?

Here is the kicker. You can do it yourself. Yes, YOU! You can grow your own food without having to be dependent on any one else to do it. And I mean it when I say, “You can do it.” I have absolute confidence in this fact.

Because, here is the thing…If I can grow a garden with my black thumb in the middle of the sandy Arizona desert, then you can grow one where ever you are.

I am not kidding. I spent a life-time killing plants. It was a family joke. And it was especially painful for my mother-in-law to watch. She seriously has one of the greenest thumbs around.

I have wanted to have a bountiful vegetable garden for years (I even put it on my Vision Board). But I always thought it would be too much work. That, or I figured I would just manage to kill it all.

But? I finally did it. After starting with some pots on the patio and along the side of my house, I (and when I say “I” I mean my husband) finally built an above ground garden along the perimeter of my yard. And it was actually very simple to do. And it took up hardly any space.

My garden is not huge. It is only about 2 feet deep (and about 40 feet long). In it I am currently growing: 5 different types of Tomatoes, Anaheim Peppers, Ruby Red Peppers, Sweet Candied Onions, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Strawberries, Beans, Artichokes, and a huge variety of Herbs.

And because I am NO gardening expert at all, I spent some time reading about vegetable gardening from sites like:Treehugger, and, and the Agriculture Society.

I learned about companion planting and the basics of ideal soil conditions. I found out why to plant Marigolds in your vegetable garden and even about the benefits of ladybugs in the garden.  So with fingers crossed and a little research under my belt, I dove in to my organic soil, elbow deep.

And this is what happened:

30 Days to Easy Gluten Free LivingAnd then, two months later…this:

Companion Planting

And guess what? We are now eating from the garden. Every day.  I have not purchased any salad greens for over 2 months now. I do not have to. My spinach, my arugula, and my kale have exploded.  And my tomatoes? Holy maters. They are going crazy.


Easy Gluten Free Living

Greens Gone Wild

Easy Gluten-Free Living

It does not matter where you are. Or what type of yard you have. You can have a patio. You can be in an apartment. You can be yard-less.

Because guess what? There isa garden for that (whatever your “that” may be).

You can have a Vertical Garden – to grow up for bountiful vegetable and herb crops. A Container Garden – for even the smallest patios or porches. Or even an Indoor Garden – when the outdoors is not an option.  And if you do not want to plant right into the ground, there are some amazing Cedar Raised Bed Gardens – you can pick your layout and design to fit your space.

You can truly grow herbs and vegetables wherever you have a little sunlight and access to water.

I want to be your inspiration to go out and start a vegetable garden. I never thought I would actually be successful in mine, and yet here I am, trying to eat as many greens and veggies as possible so that none go to waste.

And do you know what one of the most rewarding parts of having a garden is? It is watching my boys go out with their little gardening tools, and eating arugula straight from the garden, or dipping parsley in water and eating it straight, or running out and seeing who is going to get to pick the next strawberry when it turns red – the boys, or the loud and annoying black crow who guards them like a hawk.

Just last weekend, on Mother’s Day, my sons gave me 1500 ladybugs to release into the garden. Ladybugs are considered a garden’s best friend. Each ladybug can eat up to fifty pesky aphids a day (among other critters)! They are a natural form of pest control. In a year, you could have up to three generations of ladybugs inhabiting your garden. It is, after all, the perfect mating spot.

You should have seen the laugh my husband and I had to supress as my boys were giggling hysterically at the ladybugs that were on top of each other “fighting” (as they called it). I was actually thinking it would have been a perfect time for a little lesson on the “Birds and Bees” as we were sitting out in the garden watching those ladybugs “fight”.

But? I thought I would save that one for my husband to tackle. Perhaps on Father’s Day. 😉

Ladybugs Good for Vegetable Garden

Now…Go roll up your sleeves, get some dirt under those nails, and have a go at an easy and completely rewarding way to eat gluten-free!

And for more tips on Easy Gluten Free Living, you can check out yesterdays post from Ellen, the Gluten-Free Diva sharing Gluten Free Travel Tips. And tomorrow, you can learn all about Gluten-Free Food Rules from Melissa, of Gluten Free For Good.

Food Allergy Coaching with the Allergy Free Food Coach

Kim Maes - Allergy Free Food CoachKim Maes, CNC, AADP, known as the Allergy Free Food Coach, is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and Certified in the Practical Application of Food Allergy Guidelines.. She is also the creator of the Cook It Allergy Free iPhone and iPad Apps and the Cook It Allergy Free website, where she shares her passion for teaching others how easy and delicious it can be to eat whole, pure allergy-friendly meals that the entire family will enjoy.



  1. On May 12, 2011 glutenfreeforgood said

    “Greens gone wild.” I love that!

    Well, considering it was snowing here in Golden, CO yesterday, checking out all your gorgeous photos made me smile. This is such a good post and it’s so important to know that no matter where you live (colder than AZ or in an apartment in the middle of a city), you can grow something. There are even flourishing rooftop gardens in the middle of NYC. Having said that, I’ve opted to have someone else do the dirty work for me. =) I use to plant a big garden, but now I’m letting my farmer friends grow my organic veggies. I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) years ago and, to be honest, I love having the garden gifts delivered to me in my weekly share box. I do grow one or two tomatoes in pots and a bunch of herbs though. I love having fresh basil or rosemary at my fingertips!

    As you mention, getting kids into gardening is so important, even if it is just to watch the lady bugs “fight.”

    Way to go, Kim! I’m impressed.
    Peace, love and greens gone wild!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks Melissa! I love getting out there with the kids. Arizona is not exactly the ideal climate for a lot of things, but the things that do grow here do really well! 😉
      And it is so fun to just go and have things at your fingertips whenever you want.

  2. On May 12, 2011 Shirley @ gfe said

    Okay, this post made me experience a ton of emotions … I swear I’m such a sap some days, but I went from joy and awe at your photos of your amazing plants to crying when I read about your boys giving you ladybugs for Mother’s Day and then laughing about them, uh, fighting! What an awesome post, Kim! Mr. GFE and I should have visited you after your garden was producing. I am tickled that we got to see it just after construction though. It’s a great example of how a non-traditional garden can be a force of nature–pun intended. Even though we live in the woods, I’m now tempted to get a hanging tomato plant for our small area of sunshine or something. I think I am too late to sign up this year for the closest CSA as Melissa suggested. So I’m going to the farmer’s market every time I can at least. Our farmer’s market requires that all products sold must be grown within our county, so it’s a great place to shop. In closing, I love your message … eat local and fresh, preferably out of your very own back yard!


    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Shirley, I LOVE that you are a sap and that the boys giving me ladybugs made you cry. It was really one of the sweetest Mother’s Day gifts I have gotten. You would have died laughing if you could have seen the boys with their puzzled looks and then hysterical laughter as there were watching those ladybugs after we released them.
      And you totally should get a hanging tomato plant. I cannot believe how yummy and sweet my little Sweet 100’s are. They are seriously like eating grapes.
      And I still love the Farmer’s Market. It is so fun to see all of the different things that everyone is growing!

  3. On May 12, 2011 Ricki said

    I have such garden envy after reading this post! Okay, you’ve inspired me to go out and get more pots and plant more than just a pot of jalapenos this year (it’s true what they say, though–bugs don’t eat jalapenos. Too spicy). Your garden is beautiful. Thanks so much for the tips! Can’t wait to give it a try (except I’m quite confident there will be no ladybug gifts allowed). 😉

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      LOL! Who knew, Ricki, that there would be such a thing as garden envy. I know you will be successful! I cannot wait to hear if your Kale works out! It is a good thing I do not have your home address, otherwise you would just possibly have a little “ladybug surprise” on your doorstep! 😉

  4. On May 12, 2011 Sarena said

    This is an amazingly inspirational post! It is so true! I can’t wait to grow things this year. I know my husband has gotten into eating more fruits and vegetables since his diagnoses of celiac. I love the ladybugs! That was such a sweet gift. I hope they keep the pesky critters away!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Aww, thanks so much, Sarena. I hope your garden turns out wonderfully this year! You might want some of those ladybugs!! 😉

  5. On May 12, 2011 Alta said

    Kim! I am soooo in love with the garden around the perimeter of your yard. It looks so cool that way. I need one just like that! (Of course, I bet it wouldn’t work nearly as easily with a wooden picket fence as it does with your concrete wall)
    My gardening skills are slowly improving. This is my third year, and I expanded beyond just the 4X4 raised bed to also include lots of large containers. I planted my kale too late, and probably the beets too, but everything else is coming along!
    This is a great article. I love that you’ve found your gardening skills – and it’s SUCH a wonderful way to get fresh, inexpensive, delicious produce. SO worth it.
    Also excited about your ladybugs. How very cool.

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much, Alta!! When we decided we were going to move the garden from the side of the house, where I had everything in pots and taking up a ton of room, Kurt had a good idea to just make it longer and more narrow so that it would not take away from the kids play area in the grass. It actually ended up working out pretty well (at least for now). And the only reason that he built it in stone is because he was in the middle of building his own little outdoor kitchen/grilling area in that same stone and i think he did my area in it to feel less guilty about what he was doing. LOL Plus, at least it matched his spot. 😉
      You guys probably can grow some different things in TX than we can here in the summer. Your humidity probably helps. Our summer garden is a little less productive, but there are some fun things we can grow (just takes a LOT of water). LOL

  6. On May 12, 2011 Alisa Fleming said

    Your garden is beautiful Kim! Unbelievable that it is in the southwest.

    You are right. We definitely need to do some container gardening here. We don’t have any land we can plant on, but we do have a big deck and a good growing climate. I may not get to it this spring, since we have just landed, but will start planning!

    My husband is definitely into it, he already has an avocado tree growing. He plants leftover seeds from food a lot (he’s a nut himself!), who knew this works with those big avocado pits!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Alisa, it is amazing that you really can grow a garden anywhere…even in the dry dry hot hot southwest!
      There are some totally COOL containers that you can get nowadays for some great deck gardening! And I love that your hubby is growing an avocado tree!! I love that idea!

  7. Beautiful garden Kim! Do you have any idea how *jealous* I am that you get to plant in FEBRUARY!! Can I please move into your boys’ treehouse?

    Mike and I are trying hard to grow a successful garden this year, we are learning that we have exceptionally sandy soil in New Mexico! Did you add “fresh” dirt to your garden? I think that is what we need to do, otherwise it may take 20 years to amend our sand with enough peat and compost to grow a beautiful garden like yours (thankfully, my FIL is a master gardener so we go eat all his goodies, LOL!)

    Isn’t it amazing what kids will eat when they get to pick it themselves? My boys love fresh picked green beans, they eat them like popcorn!


    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Heidi, our soil here is SO sandy too. Since our garden is above ground, we actually ended up bringing in our own dirt to start, and now we are composting to add to it. You are so lucky to have your Father in law. I think Kurt is just waiting patiently for the day that the garden will actually be saving us $$. LOL
      And you are so right. I cannot believe what I can get the kiddos to eat when they actually get to grow it and pick it!


  8. On May 12, 2011 The Teenie Foodie said

    What a great post, it’s really inspiring. I think its great to grow your own food because then you grow with your love and you know exactly what goes on it. I would grow some if I could but I have no garden! Those tomatoes do look good tho…

    Teenie Foodie

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much, Teenie Foodie!! I so agree that you know your food is grown with love when you grow it yourself! 😉

  9. On May 12, 2011 Megan said

    Your garden is beautiful! I love eating fresh veggies from the garden, and I’m lucky that my kale and parsley seem to make it through the winter and sprout up again in the spring without any help from me. Now you’ve reminded me that I need to get out and plant some more seeds. Believe it or not, there is still frost where i live! Thank you Kim!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much, Megan!! It is so hard to believe that other parts of the country are still getting frost or snow right now. The weather patterns have been so weird this year. But how cool that your kale and parsley still make it through without much help! Have fun going out and planting more seeds!!

  10. On May 12, 2011 Carol, Simply...Glut said

    We had a fantastic garden in California but when we moved to Florida we (and by we I mean MY husband) planted a garden, spent $400.00 and got 2 little tomatoes! They were our $200.00 tomatoes 🙂 But you have inspired me to try again! Thanks.

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      I hope those tomatoes were like the best tomatoes you ever tasted, Carol! I totally think you should try again. For some reason, I think that if you tried them again you would have some bountiful crops – you just seem like you would be successful this time around! Must be all of that good energy you put out!

  11. On May 12, 2011 AndreAnna said

    I am jealous of your garden too! Next year, I hope to have a better one once we settle in this house more. Right now, I have 7 tomato plans and 5 herbs planted. After this weekend, I want to get some more peppers and herbs. The soil here sucks too so I am using pots and all organic seedlings and soil. I am definitely jealous you can plant in February. It was still snowing here in MAY.

    Nothing is even close to ripe yet. LOL

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      AndreAnna, 7 tomato plants still sounds pretty impressive! Peppers do really well in the warmer summer weather. I have so many Anaheim peppers growing, I wish you all lived closer so I could share them. When soil is sucky, it really does help to mix your own. We had to do that just because ours is so sandy. And now we are just adding compost to it.
      And holy moly. I cannot believe that it is still snowing there. We are in some weird weather warp these days.

  12. On May 12, 2011 patsy said

    i live in central fl. on the west coast side my husband is a gardner and has beautiful gardens but he says we cannot grow spinach here during the summer when it is hot had beautiful fall and winter spinach was wondering why we canot but where u live u can have it. is it because of the heat here?

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      HI Patsy! Our spinach season will probably be coming to an end here soon too as it heats up. Summer crops here are different than the fall, winter, and spring ones since it gets soo hot, but we can still grow some fun things. I think that by the end of this week or next we will probably be done with our spinach since by next week it should be getting pretty warm. But for the last few months we have had a ton of greens.

  13. On May 12, 2011 Debi said

    Great post, Kim! I’m pretty good at growing dirt. Although, last year I grew some pretty green stalks in a container garden that never produced fruit or veggies. I really need to try again, but I have to figure out where everything would go since my patio has become my little hang out spot with little room left for plants.

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      LOL! Debi, you crack me up! Dirt was my specialty too! However, this year I wanted to prove all of my doubting family wrong. Teehee! There are some really cool containers that can adjust to whatever space you have. My girlfriend found the coolest cedar containers and she is now growing an awesome little garden in them!

  14. On May 13, 2011 Jeanette said

    What an inspiring post Kim – it makes me want to get back out and try gardening again. I used Earth Boxes a couple of years ago and grew tomatoes and peppers mostly, but the chipmunks kept getting the best of me! You are so right, you can’t go wrong with fresh fruits and vegetables from your garden to ensure “clean” food that is not cross contaminated or sprayed with pesticides!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks Jeanette! You have chipmunks…we have annoying black crows. We did have to cover our tomatoes and strawberries in bird netting to stop them from getting the ripe ones. I hope you try your hand at gardening again. There must be some way to stop those pesky chipmunks!

  15. On May 13, 2011 InTolerantChef said

    Great job with the veggies, I have a big garden and love it soo much!

    • On May 13, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks, Intolerant Chef! How cool that you have a big garden!! It is so much fun. I agree!

  16. On May 13, 2011 Katie Chalmers said

    It’s fun to read about everyone’s different growing seasons. In Buffalo, NY, we’re just starting to get our gardens ready. Most people plant around Memorial Day and get a harvest late summer. I’ve been working up our garden the past few days and made a new garden just for raspberries yesterday as a friend called me up with extra plants she was getting rid of. Going to try strawberries this year, sometimes we have luck with carrots and also tomatoes, although the past few years a local blight has ruined our plants. Anyhow, it’s fun to look forward to our little harvests and to get inspiration to try planting new things. The kids love it too!

    • On May 19, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Katie, our summer gardens are definitely different than our fall, winter, spring gardens because it is so so hot here during summer. I have heard of so many people having blight ruin their tomatoes lately. Good luck with the strawberries and raspberries! Have fun with your garden!! Hope you have some bountiful crops! 😉

  17. On May 14, 2011 Maggie said

    Kim you’ve totally inspired me, thank you so much! You make it sound easy, and I think it is. You just have to commit to it, right? I really want to grow kale and the rest of my greens. We can eat kale through the winter here (in snowy Canada) because it’s so hardy and I would love that! I usually do tomatoes and peppers but I think it’s time to branch out. Eating naturally gluten-free foods is so much better for all of us. xo

    • On May 19, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hey Maggie! I think that gardening can definitely be easy if you just commit to it. There is some work involved, but I think that that is half the fun…especially with having the kiddos involved!

  18. On May 15, 2011 Gigi said

    Hi, Kim! Lovely post!!! We’re avid organic gardeners and try to grow enough to eat during the season (whatever season that may be) and enough to preserve for later, either by canning, freezing, or drying. Each year brings a few new experiments, and of course, lessons learned about what works best, and sometimes in what doesn’t work at all. 🙂

    It’s adorable reading about your boys working in the dirt with you and having such fun! My two girls, 18 & 10, join in as well. Now, I have to say, my younger daughter is more into the getting dirty part than Miss 18 is! 🙂 But they both enjoy plucking strawberries from the patch and gobbling them up! Our plants are outrageous producers this year – 3rd year plants…best year to date!

    Thanks for sharing the post. I even got hubs to read it, as he’s a horticulturist.


    • On May 19, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Gigi, thank you so much for sharing about your gardening experiences too! How cool that this year your plants are doing so amazing!! What are you growing right now? And so cool that your hubby is a horticulturist! Thanks for sharing the post with him! 😉

  19. On May 19, 2011 Bev said

    Hi there! I love this post! I too have been growing veg in my garden, I also use companion gardening method. If you want a fab book on this method read Alys Fowlers The Edible Garden.

    I am in Belgium so growing some of the lovely things you are is not so easy for me without a greenhouse, chillis and peppers for examply but I too have been benefiting from lots of salad leaves, cabbages, cauliflowers etc etc I also have planted out blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and just yesterday rhubarb! I am so thrilled when something grows well and yep I have lots of marigolds to ward off the nasty insects too!

    Beautiful pictures! 🙂

    • On May 19, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Bev! Thanks so much for sharing that book with me. I am going to go order it on Amazon right now. And it is so fascinating to me to hear about all of the different growing seasons in all of the different climates around the world! Good luck with the berries, black currants, and rhubarb! 😉

      • On May 19, 2011 Bev said

        thanks! Hope you love the book Alys Fowler is fab! 🙂

  20. On May 19, 2011 Christine said

    I really want some kind of garden, but I am terrible at growing plants. (It probably doesn’t help that the growing season around here is so short as well!) Well, maybe I’m not completely terrible as I can grow rhubarb in the pot on my front porch. Thanks for sharing the links about the different kinds of gardens – I don’t really have much space, so the vertical and container garden articles are definitely something I’m going to look into!

    • On May 19, 2011 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Christine, I was terrible at growing plants too! 😉 I bet you would have a lot of fun with one of the vertical or container type gardens! I think our Arizona growing season is pretty opposite of the rest of the country since in the summer we are really limited to what we can grow because of the heat.

  21. On May 28, 2011 Ali@NourishingMeals said

    This is a great post Kim! It must be nice to have all of that Arizona sun and heat. Wow, just look at those tomatoes! We have not even planted tomatoes or peppers here yet. Our onions have barely grown it has been so cold and wet here. And the slugs are overtaking our green garden. We are going to solve that problem this weekend though.

    Happy Gardening! -A 🙂

    • On May 31, 2011 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks Ali! We start planting tomatoes and peppers usually right around Feb 15th. They usually say that is the magic date here that we will not be getting any more frosts. I have so many tomatoes and peppers right now that my boys are getting a little tired of them. But come summer, we scale back a bit since it gets so hot, and we really do not grow quite as many things! Have fun getting rid of those slugs! We had some caterpillar problems that we have been taking care of. The boys love going out and looking for them every morning. Sending some of this sunshine your way! 😉 xo

  22. On May 31, 2011 Kim said

    Thank You!!! Thank you…for inspiring me to branch out and really make me feel like “I can do it too!” I started last year with containers on the side of the house with a few peppers in the flower beds but did not really have a whole lot of luck. Here in Indiana our soil is awful….lots of clay! After reading your story my husband has promised me that he will build me a above ground garden bed. Yayyyy!!! We just purchased a new home and can’t wait to start reading up on getting my soil ready and the companion planting you”ve mentioned.

    • On May 31, 2011 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Kim! Yay! I am so excited that you are inspired! Congratulations on your new home! I hope you report back and let us all know how your garden design and growing goes! We have HORRIBLE soil here too. We made our own too so that we could control it better. The sandiness and clay of our in-ground soil makes for difficult growing. Looking forward to hearing about our progress!! Happy growing! 😉

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