Grow a Pizza Garden

Gardening doesn’t have to mean growing all your vegetables or getting your family to eat insane amounts of zucchini and kohlrabi. This winter, try planning a pizza garden! You can grow the ingredients you need to make a delicious homemade pizza for you and your family. Pizza gardens are also a great way to get kids started in the garden and show them how food can go from seed to plate. 

Preparing a Bed for Your Pizza Garden

You don’t need a huge bed for a pizza garden; you can even grow one in containers which I’ll discuss further below. A single paste tomato plant can yield 6 to 20 pounds of fruit!

Select an area that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. Depending on the toppings you decide to grow, your tomato will probably be the biggest plant, and it should have about 24 inches of space between it and other plants for the best production.

Loosen the soil with a tiller or garden fork. Add a couple of inches of finished compost to the soil. 

Container Gardening

Even if you don’t have an actual garden space, you can grow a pizza garden in containers. For large plants like tomatoes and peppers, look for large pots or upcycle containers like totes or 5-gallon buckets. 

You can grow herbs like basil and oregano in smaller containers, about 1 gallon in size, especially if you keep up with harvesting. Property harvesting basil by pinching off leaves just above two sets of new leaves will encourage a bushier, fuller plant rather than a tall one. 

To fill your containers, select potting soil. Don’t use ordinary garden soil. Garden soil will compact over time in containers and won’t provide adequate drainage. You can also mix quality, finished compost with your potting soil.

Doe Hill Golden Sweet Bell Peppers (Pizza Garden)Selecting Plants for Your Pizza Garden

What you choose for your pizza garden is up to you, but here are some great choices that are easy to grow and taste great on a pizza!

Paste Tomatoes

Paste tomatoes are dense and have drier flesh and fewer seeds than slicing tomatoes, making them better suited to making sauces and pastes. They also tend to be some of the hardiest, most disease-resistant tomatoes and adapt well to containers. 

Don’t think of paste tomatoes as dull, though! There are many fun varieties, from the classic red Amish Paste to the orange Illini Golden Paste, or mahogany Black Plums. 

If it’s what you already have, you can use slicing tomatoes to make a sauce. You’ll need to cook them down more to thicken your sauce.


Basil is a pretty easy-to-grow herb but does best in rich, well-drained soil. There are many types of basil, including some fun purple varieties! Start your basil indoors or direct seed it after all danger of frost has passed.

Basil is also an excellent companion plant for tomatoes! Anecdotally, basil is believed to improve the flavor of tomatoes growing near it. Its potent oils and aromas are also believed to help repel pests like hornworms and whiteflies. 


Oregano is the classic pizza herb! It’s perennial in zones 5 through 10, so you’ll only need to get it started once. Start your oregano indoors and transplant it out after the danger of frost has passed. 


Several bell peppers like Carolina Wonder, Bull Nose, and California Wonder make excellent additions to the pizza garden. Try a smaller pepper plant like Doe Hill Golden Bell Peppers if growing in containers. These cute little peppers are sweet and delicious despite their small size!

Sweet banana peppers are a fun choice. Any abundance can be pickled, canned, and used for future pizzas or other recipes.


Onions are also popular additions to pizza and sauce. They’re also great in the garden because they help deter pests. You can add bunching onions, bulb onions, or perennial onions to your pizza garden.

Start bulb onions indoors well in advance. Here in zone 7a, we start them indoors in January. You need to start perennial onions in the fall. 


Like perennial onions, you’ll need to plan well in advance to have garlic in a pizza garden. It does best when it is fall-planted.


Greens are another popular pizza topping, but they can be trickier to incorporate into your pizza garden. Many greens like spinach thrive in the cool weather of early spring and fall but will bolt in the summer heat when your peppers, tomatoes, and herbs are flourishing.

If you want greens for your pizza, try to select varieties that are late to bolt and tolerate warmer weather. Alternatively, you can also employ shade cloth to help keep them cooler. 

Tomato Transplants (Pizza Garden)Pizza Garden Planting & Care Tips

Carefully read seed packets and growing guides for your chosen varieties. Start plants inside or direct seed at the appropriate times for the variety and your zone.

When transplanting, properly harden off transplants and plant on an overcast day. Plant the peppers and herbs at the same level as they were in their pots. You can plant tomatoes deeper, up to the bottom of the first branches, and the stem will grow additional roots.

Use stakes or cages for the tomatoes and peppers. Tomatoes will do best when properly trellised and pruned. Peppers may also need some support, particularly larger varieties. 

Water consistently. All of your plants will produce best if they receive adequate moisture. This is especially important for container plantings and raised beds, as these tend to dry out more quickly.

Next season, get the whole family involved in the garden by planning and growing a pizza garden! You can grow all the produce you need, like paste tomatoes, oregano, basil, peppers, and onions, to make a delicious homegrown pie! Pizza gardens are a fun, easy, and enjoyable way to teach children about food production and cooking.

Gardener Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! The seed catalogs are coming out soon, and the holidays are just around the corner. We know that many heirloom gardeners strive to give meaningful, practical, and waste-free gifts, so we’ve created a gardener gift guide. Here are some of our favorite ideas, whether you’re shopping for seed savers, homesteaders, new gardeners, or even just nature lovers. 

Mother Earth News Magazine Subscription 

There’s something wonderful about flipping through the pages of a magazine in today’s digital world, and Mother Earth News is one of our favorites! SESE’s own Ira Wallace has been a contributor, and we typically attend and always enjoy Mother Earth News Fairs. 

It’s full of information on gardening, sustainable living, homesteading, livestock, cooking, natural health, and more. You can purchase six issues of Mother Earth News for someone on their website.

Hand using CobraHead ‘Steel Fingernail’ Weeder and CultivatorCobraHead’ Steel Fingernail’ Weeder and Cultivator 

No matter how long you’ve been gardening, dealing with weeds is still challenging. Give the gardener in your life a helping hand with the CobraHead’ Steel Fingernail.‘ 

Ira Wallace reviewed this tool herself:

I don’t usually get excited about small tools, but the CobraHead got me excited about weeding. Made in the USA of knife-quality steel, it’s simply the best all-around small tool I’ve come across. National Garden Club testers were really impressed with the tool and all it can do. It cuts through all types of soils. The weeds it can’t cut, it lifts. The self-sharpening blade can be used in all directions. The comfortable handle is made from recycled plastic. The CobraHead has a full one-year warranty against manufacturer defects. If defective, return it within the year together with your receipt, and we’ll send you another or refund your money.

Wild Garden Perennial Insectary Mix

This mix is the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for those looking to make their yard and garden a little more eco-friendly. The Wild Garden Perennial Insectary Mix provides the backbones of a spring-through-fall oasis for your resident beneficial insects. 

A complement of self-sowing annuals, biennials, and perennials provides food, shelter, and pollen. Includes fennel, Korean mint, garden sorrel, mustard, chervil, parsley, chicory, cress, turnip, calendula, amaranth, and orach. The leaves are also edible by humans. 

Virginia Biological Farming Annual Conference BannerEvent Tickets

Education is a significant gift idea. Be on the look for gardening workshops, conferences, and summits in your area or those you think would be a good fit for your loved one. 

SESE will be attending several upcoming events, including the 2023 Virginia Biological Farming Conference, The Tennessee Local Food Summit, and the Texas Mother Earth News Fair.

Garden Planner

Especially when you’ve got big gardens, they can be hard to keep track of! Give your loved one a bit of help with our Garden Planner. This online tool helps manage your garden throughout the season and from year to year.

It’s easy to draw out your vegetable beds, add plants and move them around to get the perfect layout and a personalized planting calendar for your location. You can even order our seeds directly from the planner!

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land

“This is the most inspiring book I have read in years.” ~ Ira Wallace

Leah Penniman’s book, ‘Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land,’ is a rich and culturally relevant how-to manual for black and brown farmers. It’s filled with uplifting stories of black contributions to agriculture and the ongoing work at Soul Fire Farm to build an anti-racist and just food system. 

SESE Gift Certificates

Stuck on what to buy your favorite gardener? Grab a SESE gift certificate, and we’ll mail it to whoever your choose. They can use it to buy their favorites from the SESE catalog. 

DIY Seed Collection

If you’re a seed saver yourself, seeds make an excellent gift! You can give a loved one a few of your favorite heirlooms or maybe seeds for a themed garden like a pizza garden. You can also shop for seeds to supplement your own and make a personal collection.

Guides to Growing in the Southeast

SESE’s Ira Wallace has expanded her original Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast into Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina guides. Grab one for the southern gardener in your life!

Herbalism Courses

Many of the folks that follow SESE also share a passion for herbalism. While reading articles and books is excellent, an herbalism course can help someone get more hands-on experience with feedback. Many places now offer reputable courses. Some great schools include:

See a longer list of options and other resources at Mountain Rose Herbs.

This season isn’t all about shopping and gifts, but we hope to offer ideas and options that are both meaningful and sustainable. Try one of these gift ideas, or get some inspiration from this list to create your own, and give someone in your life a waste-free gift that will make them a better gardener, seed saver, or homesteader. 

10 Easy Flowers to Grow From Seed

While some folks are glad for some time off, November can be a sad time of year for many gardeners. In much of the US, all but the most cold-hardy plants have been hit by frost. Even in warmer areas, gardeners are now dealing with dwindling daylight. Thankfully the 2023 catalogs will be shipping out soon, and we can all start dreaming and planning for spring! Flowers seeds are one of my favorite things to peruse in winter and are the most affordable way to create a large flower garden come spring. Here are some of the easiest flowers to grow from seed, even for beginner gardeners.

Bachelor’s Buttons

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • 65 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms Mid-Summer – Fall
Polka Dot Bachelor's Buttons (flowers from seed)
Polka Dot Bachelor’s Buttons

A favorite for cut flowers and dried arrangements, bachelor’s button varieties may have blue, red, rose, lavender, or maroon-black blooms. They’re great for attracting butterflies. It’s believed that they may have earned their name during the Victorian era when it was common to place flowers through the buttonholes of men’s suit coats. 

Bachelor’s buttons can be direct sown in mid-spring when the soil temperatures reach about 60°F. Alternatively, they can be sown indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost and transplanted out. 


  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • 85 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms Mid-Summer
Calendula Resina (flowers from seed)
Resina Calendula 

Beautiful and medicinal, you can use calendula flowers in bouquets, for food coloring, cake decorations, natural dye, saffron substitute, or salves and balms to calm mild skin irritations. Herbalists prize the strain Resina Calendula for its high resin content. 

Direct sow calendula or start it indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost. Seeds need darkness and germinate best around 55-65°F. Calendula often fades in the late summer heat but can be succession planted for fall harvests. 


  • Annual
  • Full Sun – Partial Shade
  • 45-68 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms All Summer
Sensation Mix Cosmos (flowers from seed)
Sensation Mix Cosmos

Cosmos will bloom all summer long, especially if you keep up with deadheading. You can find cosmos in various colors, including shades of orange, yellow, pink, purple, red, and white. They’re excellent for bouquets, and the seed heads attract birds. They self-seed readily. 

Cosmos prefer full sun but tolerate partial shade, poor soils, and drought once established. Cosmos may be direct sown after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has reached 70°F. For extra early blooms, they can also be started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost. 

Four O’Clocks

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • Blooms June to Fall
Don Pedros Mixed Colors Four O'Clocks (flowers from seed)
Don Pedros Mixed Colors Four O’Clocks

These neat flowers open around four in the afternoon and are pollinated by sphinx and hawk moths! They can be grown in the garden or pots. Marvel of Peru Four O’Clocks make excellent cut flowers and Don Pedros Mixed Four O’Clocks offer beautifully variegated flowers, primarily in shades of magenta or yellow.

Four O’Clocks do best when direct sown in late spring after the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures are about 70°F. They do well in average, well-draining, moist soil, and full sun. They may self-seed.


  • Annual
  • Full Sun – Partial Shade
  • 55-93 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms All Summer
Crackerjack Mix African Marigold (flowers from seed)
Crackerjack Mix African Marigold

The name “marigold” is said to have been derived from “Mary’s gold” in reference to the golden color of many of these blooms and the Virgin Mary. Today, we often appreciate marigolds both for their beauty and their usefulness. Marigolds make excellent companion plants helping to deter nematodes and to attract beneficial insects such as lacewings, parasitic wasps, and ladybugs.

Marigolds prefer full sun but may tolerate some afternoon shade, especially in the hottest parts of the country. Marigolds may be direct sown after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has reached 70°F. Start them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost for extra early blooms.

Morning Glories

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • 65 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms from Early Summer to Fall
Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory (flowers from seed)
Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory

Did you know that the humble morning glory helped inspire Seed Savers Exchange and the whole heirloom movement? Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory, a family heirloom from Diane Ott Whealy, was one of the first varieties to become part of SSE. These easy-to-grow vining flowers add beauty to the garden on trellises or can be grown in containers to spruce up porches. 

Morning glories thrive in full sun. They self-seed readily. Before planting, soak seeds for two days, changing the water every 12 hours. Then, direct sow after all danger of frost has passed, and the soil has reached 70°F or sow indoors about six weeks before your last frost date.

Old Fashion Vining Petunias

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • Blooms Early Summer to Fall
Old Fashioned Vining Petunia (flowers from seed)
Old Fashioned Vining Petunia

Sweet fragrance, soft colors, and a self-sowing nature gives Old Fashioned Vining Petunia a sure spot on this list. Our first regular staff member, Grandma Jean, recalls this heirloom petunia from her grandmother’s garden. Old Fashioned Vining dates back to the early 1900s, well before Grandma Jean was born.

Sow in flats or pots indoors in March or April and transplant out after the last frost. Ever-blooming and much hardier than modern varieties, this old favorite blooms into the fall when other annuals have faded and gone. 


  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • 55-65 Days to Bloom
Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy (flowers from seed)
Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy

The stunning, easily recognizable, papery blooms are an excellent addition to any garden and can be found in various colors. Some varieties also produce delicious seeds for baking and seed pods that look stunning in dried arrangements. 

Direct seed poppies in the fall or as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Sow approximately 1/4” deep; the seeds require darkness to germinate. Thin plants when the first true leaves appear.


  • Annual
  • Full Sun 
  • 53-71 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms July-August
Mammoth Sunflower (flowers from seed)
Mammoth Sunflower

Giant, cheerful blooms are great for wildlife and fun for kids and adults alike. Some varieties offer excellent seed production, while others, like Velvet Queen, are well-suited for cut flower arrangements. Some archaeologists believe Native Americans may have cultivated sunflowers as early as 3000 BC.

Direct sow seeds after the danger of frost has passed. Taller varieties may require staking. Ideally, it would help if you planted them in a spot protected from heavy winds. 


  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • 60-70 Days to Bloom
  • Blooms All Summer
Red Beauty Zinnias
Red Beauty Zinnias

Excellent for cut flowers or just adding tons of long-lasting color to your flower beds, zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. Zinnias also offer a surprising variety with spiky petals like Cactus-Flowered or the double flowers of Red Beauty and a wide range of colors.

Direct sow after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has reached 70°F, or sow indoors 3 to 4 weeks before your last frost for extra early blooms. Sow several successions for a steady supply of cut flowers and keep up with deadheading. 

Starting flowers from seed is the most affordable way to add color and beauty to your garden. These ten flowers are easy for beginner gardeners to start from seed and maintain. Add a few of these to your 2023 list for stunning beds, borders, and bouquets!

Saving the Past for the Future