DIY Liquid Fertilizer: The Really Stinking Easy Way to Feed a Large Garden

As shared in my book Compost Everything, this method of feeding plants allows you to stretch fertility a long, long way and re-use “waste:”

Many people have written in to say how much they appreciate this simple method for creating liquid plant fertilizer.

As Gardener Earth Guy commented on the video:

“This is the absolute best garden trick I’ve learned in a long time. My banana have gotten giant, sweet potato have rope vines, and loquats are getting giant. What doesn’t get a chop ‘n’ drop goes in the bin.”

You can throw in weeds, fruit, kitchen scraps, urine, manure … just find organic matter and throw it in. I like a wide mix. This is a pretty simple batch, only containing moringa, compost, cow manure, and urine. I did get some Epsom Salts after making the video and also threw that in. A 55-gallon drum like this can easily feed 10,000 square feet of corn for a growing season. I know — I’ve done it!

It really beats making “normal” compost and having to spread it all around.


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Prepper to Prepper: Our best gardening advice

Many, many years ago, close-knit communities would spend hours together in the course of a year sharing from their own experiences what worked and what didn’t when it came to gardening and farming. Much of that old-time, best gardening advice and wisdom has been passed down to younger generations, but unfortunately, most have been lost. […]

Simple & Effective Worm Composting (VIDEO)

While traveling in the Pacific Northwest, I met Peter Paul, who showed me the most amazing—and amazingly simple—idea for an outdoor worm composting bin. Using the help of worms to break down food matter (even meats!), Peter shows you a couple of simple methods for making great homemade compost.

Not only that, this method creates a vibrant compost tea that gave Peter 7-foot-tall tomato plants! He also sometimes trades his “worm juice” for different items … even once for iPhone (LOL).

This is a sample of the kinds of things you’ll learn when you take The Grow Network’s “Instant Master Gardener” certification class. Chock full of useful, doable information for taking your garden to the next level, “Instant Master Gardener” is available to our Honors Lab members as part of their monthly subscription. Click here to learn more!

(This article was originally published on May 19, 2015.)


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Compost Tea: An Easy Way to Stretch Your Compost

Don’t Kill Yourself Making Compost!

Long ago, I used to spend a lot of time making big piles of greens and browns—carefully mixed, watered, turned, and sifted…. And yet I never had enough compost to go around.

I’m sure you know the feeling!

I still make piles, since I like to have fine compost for sprinkling on new garden beds and making my own potting mixes; however, I no longer rely on finished compost for the majority of my fertilizing.

Instead, I’ve got a much easier system: compost tea.

Read More: “How to Make Composting Easy”

Watch Me Make Compost Tea

This is my favorite way to make free fertilizer. I use moringa leaves, manure, urine, compost, weeds, and other nitrogen-rich materials. I put them in a big barrel, top it off with water, and then let it rot on down into liquid fertilizer for my gardens. I’ll also add a cup or two of Epsom salts if I have them available for the extra magnesium and sulfur.

After a couple of weeks of sitting in the sun and rotting, you’ve got a compost tea with some serious fertilizing power. Take a look:

How to Use Compost Tea

I’ve fed big plots of corn and other crops effectively with very little trouble and very little material after discovering how well this anaerobic composting method works. It’s similar to Bokashi composting, but without having to buy Bokashi starter. Just let nature take its course, and you’ll have a rich, green garden like I do.

Warning: You don’t want to pour this stuff on your greens or on other crops you’re going to eat right away, as it is most definitely not safe for consumption!

I cover this method in my popular book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, and I’ve had people write in and share their own successful experiments with the “big stinky barrel o’ fertility” method. Give it a try. Aside from the smell, I think you’ll like it.

A Quick Update

Here’s another video I made that offers specifics about my anaerobic compost tea recipe … even more stinky goodness from my “tea pot”! Won’t you be my neighbor?

(This article was originally published July 8, 2016.)

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter


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‘7 Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free’

Last year, David the Good filmed a fun (and funny) presentation for The Grow Network’s Home Grown Food Summit on how you can keep your garden fed and maximize the nutrition in your food without spending a dime.

Well, we’re a Community of sustainability-minded DIYers who like to find ways to turn trash into garden treasure, so is it any wonder that David’s video on “7 Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free” ended up being one of the event’s most popular presentations? (Plus, you know, David is just a likeable, funny guy, so that probably helped, too. 🙂 )

Read More: “Homemade Fertilizers—15 Simple and Inexpensive Options”

Anyway, David posted this video on YouTube on February 4, aaaaaand it’s already got more than 10,000 views. Translation? You should watch it now, too! 🙂

Here it is:

As David says, “The presentation clocks in at about 45 minutes long and should be a great inspiration for your spring gardening plans.”

Amen to that!

Then, let your TGN Community know in the comments: What are some other ways you like to feed your garden for free?


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How To Keep Your Compost Pile Churning … All Winter Long

How To Keep Your Compost Pile Churning … All Winter Long

Image source; Wikipedia

It can be a struggle to maintain your compost bin or pile over the winter. Whether you’re dealing with severe cold and/or heavy snow in northerly regions, excessive moisture in the Pacific Northwest, or desert conditions in the American Southwest, your compost pile may need a little extra help during the winter months. It’s worth it, though. By the time spring rolls around, you’ll be rich in black gold.

There are two basic composting methods. With any waste material, microorganisms (aerobic bacteria) naturally work on decomposition, and you can speed that process along by doing things like maintaining the correct ratio of green to brown waste and turning the pile regularly. Vermicomposting relies on worms to eat organic matter and then cast (poop) rich soil as a byproduct. If you keep your organic waste on bare ground, your pile likely hosts both vermicomposting and composting processes.

Hot Composting

As bacteria break down waste material, they generate heat. That heat is crucial for the bacteria to keep growing, multiplying, and just generally doing their job. While most people refer to this process simply as “composting,” the more technical term is “thermophilic composting” or, more informally, “hot composting.” And “hot composting” it is: compost piles can reach internal temperatures of 150℉!

Even though compost naturally generates heat, cold weather, of course, brings the temperature of the compost pile down. That affects the ability of the bacteria to do their job, particularly on the outside edges of the pile. If the temperatures dip too far — and especially if the compost isn’t tended to — microbial activity will cease completely. If you’re willing to wait for warmer spring temps for the decomposition to resume, then that’s not a big deal. But if you would prefer to keep generating compost over the winter months, there are a few ways to help your compost’s microorganisms chug along.

If You Build It

Help your compost stay toasty by enclosing it with three walls and a roof. (Leave the south-facing side uncovered, so that it can absorb warmth from the sun.) This can be as easy or as complex as you make it. Stack cinder blocks or nail together scrap lumber for the walls. For the roof, you can just balance a loose piece of lumber on top or throw a tarp over the whole thing. Even easier: Buy a compost tumbler. Enclosing compost not only helps trap its heat, but also to moderate the effects of wind and excessive moisture.

If your region experiences extreme cold, adding insulation is a good idea. Again, this does not have to be done at great cost or effort. Surround your enclosure with straw bales, line the walls with several layers of cardboard, or pile snow, straw, or leaves around it. Don’t forget to insulate the roof, as well.

Go Bigger

The bigger your compost pile is, the more bacteria it will have, and the more heat it will generate. According to the University of Illinois Extension, compost piles that are at least one cubic yard in size will weather Midwestern American winters best.

Fuel Up

Adding new waste material regularly is crucial — but you need to be careful about what kind of material you add and its size.

Maintaining the ideal proportion of green to brown waste (a.k.a. the C:N ratio) is especially important in the winter, when we want our compost piles to work at maximum efficiency. Check this site for detailed information about the C:N ratio to shoot for depending on which brown waste you add.

If you bag leaves in the fall with the intent of adding those to your compost over the winter, bring a bag inside overnight before dumping it in, so that the cold leaves don’t bring down the temperature of the pile.

It’s also a good idea to shred waste before dumping it in. Waste that’s roughly two inches in size will break down more quickly, keeping heat levels consistently high.

Not too Wet, Not too Dry

Ideally, compost should be just lightly moist. If it’s too wet, the bacteria can’t get the oxygen they need to survive. But if it’s too dry, the bacteria can’t do their job, either.

If you live in an area that experiences heavy moisture in the winter, plan your compost enclosure accordingly: a South-facing opening so that the sun can warm and dry the waste; and a roof or other covering to keep moisture out. If your compost pile unexpectedly gets too wet, stirring it up with a pitchfork should help dry things out. Additionally, adding more brown waste will help soak up excess moisture.

If you live in a desert area, keep your compost uncovered. Make a crater (or craters) in the top, to catch all the moisture you can. If worst comes to worst, you can always break out the hose.


As might be expected, vermicomposting can be problematic during cold winter months. That said, a simple workaround is to keep your vermicompost bin indoors. If the thought of a bin full of worms under your kitchen sink grosses you out (and I’ll admit I’m in that camp), the bin can be kept in an insulated garage or outbuilding, or elsewhere in your house, such as the basement or laundry room.

Depending on your location, it may be possible to keep your vermicompost box outdoors during the winter. Keep in mind that the worms will die if they get either too cold or too hot. You’ll need to experiment to find a balance of insulating the bin enough to keep it warm, but not so much that the insulation along with the heat from the hot compost process plus any heat from the sun fries your worms.

Do you keep your compost pile active all winter long? If so, share your tips and trick in the comment section below.

Worm Composting 101: Why Every Gardener Should Do It

Every seasoned gardener knows that worms are essential to healthy soil, and an increasing number of gardeners are using that scientific fact to their benefit.

By setting up a worm composting system, gardeners can produce super-rich fertilizer, get rid of food waste, and have extra worms, too!

Today’s guest on Off The Grid Radio is Joanne Olszewski, a vermicomposting enthusiast and the co-author of the book Worms Eat My Garbage (Storey), which was originally written by the late Mary Appelhof.

Joanne tells us:

  • How to set up a worm composting system.
  • What types of worms to use.
  • Which foods are a no-no for vermicomposting.
  • How to separate the worms from the compost.
  • Why it’s the perfect indoor winter gardening activity.

We learned a lot from Joanne, and we think you will, too!


Your Questions, Answered!

Okay, so I’m not going to lie—I had a blast a couple of nights ago at TGN’s Ask Me Anything! podcast. This is the first time we’ve used this format (think homesteading meets Car Talk), and it really went well.

David the Good and I answered questions on no-till gardening solutions for heavy clay soils, what to look for in a permaculture design course, how to deal with underground hornets’ nests, what exactly you should and shouldn’t add to your compost pile (are all those rules really necessary?!) … the list goes on and on!

Being able to connect with David and me like this every month is a perk of our Honors Lab subscription, but there were so many good questions (and … dare I say it … so many good answers!!! 😉 ) that I thought you might enjoy reading the transcript!

Read the Ask Me Anything! Podcast Transcript Here

(Oh, and if you want to join the Honors Lab and get it on the fun next month, you can subscribe here. It’s just $9.95 a month … and you get so, so much more than just an invitation to each month’s Ask Me Anything! podcast!)


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The Laws of Nature: A Touchstone for Gardening

As a rule, when we grow plants, we follow some known practices. The practices may be based on our own experience, on the wisdom of our parents and grandparents, or on scientific research. Whatever the source, it is useful to examine the practices through the lens of the Laws of Nature, sometimes referred to as ecological principles.

The Laws of Nature are broad and substantive statements for how nature functions.

So the question becomes, “Are our plant-growing practices in harmony with or in conflict with the Laws of Nature?”

What other criteria would we use for how we treat our lands, the soils, and all ecosystems, if not the Laws of Nature?

I think of this as a pyramid, with practices on the top, undergirded by Laws of Nature criteria. Then, the practices and Laws are undergirded by our personal land-use ethics.

9 Laws of Nature

Below, I’ve listed nine Laws of Nature.

This list is not fully inclusive; some may seem to be more pertinent than others; and someone else may choose to describe them in a different manner. Nevertheless, they are all statements that hold true, with rare exceptions.

In my garden, if a practice violates a Law of Nature, I look for a substitute practice that is in harmony with the Law.

This broad topic has deep implications and is worthy of further study. The more we understand and apply these Laws, the more we can grow healthier crops, become healthier ourselves, and more fully appreciate the magnificence of nature.

Calvin Bey - Harmony Gardens

#1: Everything in Nature Is Connected

It’s like a huge spider web. Every spot on the web is connected to the whole web. All the factors effecting growth and development—from the minerals in the air to the plant’s physiological processes to the soil microbes to hundreds of additional factors—are all part of the whole.

The implications of this concept are significant.

For example, apply too much nitrogen and the plants get a pretty green color, but at the same time produce an excessive amount of simple carbohydrates, which are ideal foods for the ever-present aphids.

Chemicals and other toxins that reduce soil microorganisms have impacts on soil mineralization and soil digestion processes, which all affect quality and quantity of production. For example, if your soil has a shortage of available calcium, a tomato plant is not likely to set fruit.

Laws of Nature - Mile-High Corn - Calvin Bey

#2: Plants Are Designed to be Healthy

Like humans and other living organisms, plants have an immune system that makes them resistant to insects and diseases that are native to their environment. Plants become weak and sick when they become stressed because of environmental factors, inadequate nutrition, and/or exposure to toxins.

Chemical pesticides and fertilizers create plant and soil conditions that are not conducive to the desirable bacteria and fungi in the soil. The soil microbiome is part of the plant’s defense mechanism.

#3: Insects and Disease Are the Appropriate Response to the Existing Conditions

Insect problems and disease are the result of plant weakness, not the cause of plant weakness. When we improve the conditions, we improve plant resistance. Diseases are nature’s demolition crew and insects are nature’s garbage collectors. Both are appropriate when plants are stressed. Unhealthy plants actually send signals to the insects so they can perform their meaningful designed role.

#4: Mineral Nutrition Supports Plant Immunity

When plant growth is supported with proper mineral nutrition, plants will create higher-order compounds—for example, plant secondary metabolites like essential oils. This and other enzyme developments can lead to optimum levels of health and immunity.

The thousands of enzymes needed in metabolic processes each require a mineral “enzyme cofactor” to function. Without the mineral cofactors, enzyme pathways collapse and plants accumulate soluble compounds in plant sap, leading to pest infestations as plant health begins to fall apart.

#5: Microbial Metabolites Are More Efficient Than Simple Ions as a Source of Nutrition

The ultimate level of plant nutrition and immunity exists when plants can absorb the majority of their nutritional requirements as microbial metabolites. In this model, the soil microbial community serves as the plant’s digestive system. A complex community of soil microorganisms digest and break down organic residues and plant root exudates. In this digestive process, minerals are extracted from the soil mineral matrix and released in a bioavailable form that plants absorb and utilize very efficiently.

Laws of Nature - Strawberry Harvest - Calvin Bey

#6: When Fruit Quality Improves, Yields Increase

When management emphasis is placed on plant nutrition to improve quality, the immunity of the crop increases, creating higher yields, longer produce shelf-life, improved flavor, and reduced dependence on pesticides.

This fundamentally different approach to plant nutrition can lead to yield increases ranging from 10–30 percent. Yield increases come in not only bushels per acre, but also in higher test weights, increased protein production, and increased nutrition per acre.

#7: Healthy Plants Create Healthy Soil—an Investment in Their Own Future

It is commonly understood that healthy soils create healthy plants. The reverse is also true.

Healthy plants create healthy soils.

Healthy plants with high levels of energy can, at times, send as much as 70 percent of their total photosynthates (manifested as sugars, amino acids, and other compounds) into the roots, and then out through the roots and into the soil. Those root exudates are the fuel that feed the soil microbial community and lead to the rapid formation of organic matter.

This process, called carbon induction, is the fastest and most efficient way to sequester carbon and build soil organic matter.

It is an advantage to the plants to invest in soil building. Root exudates rapidly build humic substances. Humic compounds last in the soils for many years. In the end, the entire process ends up rapidly building soil health. It’s another win-win for nature.

#8: Genetic Variability in Plants Serves as a Buffering System

Plant variability allows for selective fitting of plant genetics to specific qualitative differences in the environment. It’s like an insurance plan, with the goal of increased probability of improved plant survival and growth. There are positive synergistic effects, above and below ground, that result from creating diversity through the mixing of species.

#9: Weeds Are a Barometer of Soil Health

We know that different crops have different soil, mineral, and soil biology requirements. So, too, with weeds. When compared to healthy domesticated crops, weeds are usually pioneering (first to enter) species that thrive in soils with imbalanced microbial and nutritional profiles. As soil health improves, crops will improve and weeds will lose their vigor. The weeds are no longer needed to correct the soil imbalances.

Laws of Nature - Harvest Basket - Calvin Bey

Take-Home Lessons

To sum up how nature functions in nine Laws certainly does not do justice to the topic nor does it show the magnificence of nature. Still, despite the inadequacies, the nine Laws are sufficient to provide guidance as to which gardening practices fit the Laws of Nature model.

The following list of gardening practices, which I use in my natural/organic garden in Northwest Arkansas, respect the Laws of Nature. Furthermore, the practices fit my personal land-ethics values.

I do these things to eat healthy food, to teach others, and especially for the children and future generations.

I hope you will consider joining in the transformation.

  1. Use no or at least minimum tillage. Never use a roto-tiller. Besides destroying the natural soil structure, roto-tillers will seriously damage the beneficial fungi in all kinds of soil situations.
  2. Keep the soil covered with a vegetable crop, cover crop, or some type of organic mulch at all times. This practice will promote soil microbial life.
  3. Keep something growing on the beds for as long as possible throughout the year. Where you can, grow crops specifically for deep-root penetration and/or high carbon production.
  4. Wherever possible, encourage diversity of species. Use companion planting where you can.
  5. Use organic fertilizers, compost (sparingly), bio-pesticides (if needed), filtered or structured water, foliar fertilizer sprays, natural biologicals for organic matter decomposition, and natural amendments (like paramagnetic rock) for plant fortification.
  6. Among all things, “communicate” with your garden through positive intentions. Remember: “Thoughts become actions. Choose the good ones.”

Thanks to John Kempf of Advancing Eco-Agriculture (www.advancingecoag) for some of the ideas included in this article.

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Why You Should Add Clay to Your Compost Pile

My friend Steve Solomon (who is the #1 gardening author you should read) recommends you add clay to your compost pile, especially if you have sandy soils.

I’ve seen applications of compost disappear in a couple of months in hot, sandy soil. It just doesn’t stick. Unless you put a little clay in it.

Putting Clay in Your Compost Pile

Since I pretty much do everything Steve Solomon tells me to do, I started putting clay in compost piles some time back … but now I’m really getting serious. You can see me adding clay to the compost layers in this video:

I really didn’t need to add that much, but heygo big or go home!

An article at The Food Garden Group in Tasmania reports good results from adding clay to a compost pile:

The heaps made with clay, so long as they contain a reasonable amount of coarse material to enable some air movement, do not need to be turned. The ingredients all get to soak and mix in a thick clay soup before stacking (putting a pile of food and drinks in every pantry) and the heaps seem to stay moist for a very long time. I recently opened up a heap I hadn’t touched for three months and it was still moist and generating warmth. A reasonable compost can be made by simply wetting the materials with clay slurry as the heap is built, but remember that only the material which decomposes in association with clay particles is going to become durable humus/clay complex. A heap built this way will probably need to be turned and rewatered, too. Think of the difference between a dish that’s been marinated compared to one that’s only been sprinkled with a dressing.

Clay is made up of very fine particles, so the combined surface area of all the particles in a peanut-sized clod might be equal to a tennis court or three Clive Palmer skins or some such mind boggling factoid. No wonder, then, that it can hold so much water. Also these particles carry a negative charge, so each one is capable of forming bonds with positively charged particles (ions) like many of the essential plant nutrients. They gradually fill up with waste, sticking fast and firm to walls, floors, and ceilings as the food in the pantries is consumed.

The resultant compost is packed with nutrients that are more or less available depending on how complex the chemical bonding with the clay is. What we have here is humus in close association with clay, a long-lasting, water-retentive material in which plant roots and soil organisms can find all the nutrition they are looking for. A material which will keep carbon not only locked up, but also doing a great job for years to come.”

Putting Clay in Your Compost Pile Is Good for Sandy Soils

In sandy soils, organic matter burns up a lot quicker than it does in clay soils. Clay hangs on to the good stuff for longer, binding with organic material and increasing its persistence.

If you make compost in an area where clay is not part of the soil, it’s easy to put clay in compost via bentonite.

Just sprinkle it in as you layer materialsyou really don’t need as much clay as I dumped in my pile.

According to Infogalactic:

“The application of clay technology by farmers in northeast Thailand, using bentonite clay, has dramatically reversed soil degradation and resulted in greater economic returns, with higher yields and higher output prices. Studies carried out by The International Water Management Institute and partners in 2002–2003 focused on the application of locally sourced bentonite clays to degraded soils in the region. These applications were carried out in structured field trials. Applying bentonite clays effectively improved yields of forage sorghum grown under rain-fed conditions.

Bentonite application also influenced the prices that farmers received for their crops. Production costs are higher, but due to more production and the quality of the food, clay farmers could afford to invest and grow more and better food, compared to nonclay-using farmers.”

Fortunately, bentonite is what cheap, non-scented cat litter is made from. If you can’t find powdered clay in sacks locally, just rob your kitty instead!

Make that compost stick around!


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Banana Trees: Tips for Planting and Growing (Even During a Cold Snap!)

Living in Florida, there are lots of tropical plants around, among them fruit trees. Our new property is on the border of Zone 8 and 9, so it is still possible to grow tropical fruits as well as some heat-tolerant stone fruits such as nectarines and peaches. We planted several different types of food-producing trees on our property in expectation of having a house there and enjoying the bounty.

Banana Tree Missteps

One of the first fruit trees we acquired for free was a banana tree. I planted it among some large palms in an area that I knew would get lots of water.

I gave it kitchen scraps from making salads and other plant-based foods, and it thrived.

I made the mistake of giving it some cooked bone scraps, and it promptly died.

My second gifted banana tree was planted on property that is still undeveloped land. We had other tropical plants growing there such as avocado, mango, and guava, and I created a barrier around the garden area with old logs and branches piled up on three sides. I thought this would be sufficient to keep it from getting too cold during the winter, but again, I was wrong, and this banana tree also bit the dust.

Read More: “The Top 10 Tropical Staple Crops”

That was almost a year ago.

When the hurricanes whipped through Florida in September, a friend of mine who had a yard full of mature banana trees lost most of them. So, while Mother Nature sometimes conspires against us, at least I am not the only one who has had problems keeping banana trees around

Another neighbor who lives about a block away had a stand of banana trees along his fence and these managed to survive the hurricanes, although the fence was completely ripped up. When I noticed that he was replacing his fence and taking out some of the banana trees, I stopped my car to ask what they were planning to do with them.

Read More: Build a Community in 9 Easy Steps

I was told that the trees were going to be discarded, so I offered to take them away with the help of my husband and his truck. About an hour later, we took the truck over and filled the back with banana trees!

Planting Rescued Trees in Winter

Knowing that winter is upon us and can drop the temperature at any time, we headed up to our property with the banana trees, a load of abandoned bamboo, several gallons of graywater, a few weeks of kitchen scraps (all plant matter), and some shovels. Along the way, we picked up a few bales of straw and potting soil—some with fertilizer, some without.

  • We dug a trench about two or three feet deep and a bit more than a foot wide, then added the kitchen scraps (to provide moisture and heat from decomposition) and the potting soil.
  • Next, we added the banana trees, placing them close together the way they normally grow.
  • After that, we put the excavated dirt back in to hold up and secure the trees, and installed four-foot lengths of bamboo vertically around the hole and fairly close together.
  • You may be wondering what the straw is for…. Insulation! We packed the inside of the bamboo enclosure with straw about three feet high, and then watered the enclosure with the graywater we brought.

Since that weekend, we have had some fiercely cold weather in Florida—two inches of snow in the Panhandle!

What about the banana trees?

They are still holding up, but even in the worst-case scenario where the tops are frozen, the bottoms should still be okay. We will trim them down at the end of February to give new growth a chance.

Once we get our ducks, the duck pond will go in nearby to feed the banana trees and the other tropical plants that will appreciate the fertilizer-rich soup that the ducks will produce. A chance meeting with a person in our area who will be moving this year brought us a free liner for the duck pond and loads of other materials that we can use to improve our homestead.

Banana trees, bamboo, pond liners, and more all came our way through a little communication!


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Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe)

When I think winter, I think of lush, green garden beds. I know that might come as a surprise to some of you, but my garden is full of copious swaths of varied and vibrant delicious, nutritious, winter edibles. And by far, mustard greens are the most prolific.

Most of the growing guides say mustard can tolerate light frost, but in my experience, it can take a whole lot more cold than that description suggests.

Now, I do have a few tricks I use to keep mustard happy over the long winter. And I’ll share those with you shortly.

First, though, let’s talk about why you really ought to think about growing mustard in your fall, winter, and early spring garden. 

The Goods on Mustard

Ridiculously Nutritious

100 grams or 27 calories worth of raw, chopped mustard greens contains more than your daily requirements of Vitamins K, C, and A.1)

That makes it a powerhouse for building and maintaining strong bones; a great source for flu and cell damage prevention; and a promoter of strong teeth, healthy mucous membranes, and good eyesight.2) Those same 27 calories also give you 11% of your daily dose of calcium, 18% of copper, 21% of manganese, and 20% of iron.

Regular use of mustard greens in your diet may also prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, and high cholesterol, while offering protection from cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and colon and prostate cancers.


A lot of people find mustard too peppery or bitter. However, that is often because the mustard they have tried is grown in spring or later and never receives the sweetening effect of a few light frosts.

Winter mustard still has a bite, but it is much more palatable than the warm-weather stuff. And besides, an appreciation for a bit of bitter is easy to cultivate.

Cook your mustard greens in bacon grease and apple cider vinegar with dried fruit or a spoon of honey to turn them into a decadent treat.

Then listen to your body and see how that green goodness makes you feel. After a couple times of doing that, you might find yourself munching on raw leaves before those greens even make it out of your garden.

Easy to Grow

You can have sprouts in days, baby greens in just a couple weeks, mature plants to cut from in 45–50 days, and your own seeds to save and replant in 90 days.

They are vulnerable to certain pests and diseases, but these can be almost completely avoided by growing mustard during cold-weather months.

Mustard can grow in almost any soil type, withstand drought conditions almost as well as wheat, and self-seed to produce a continuous crop with almost no work on your part.

Help Control Pests and Diseases in Your Soil

When chopped and incorporated into your soil just prior to flowering, mustard greens act as a biofumigant. They suppress pests and diseases through the release of inhibitory chemicals created when water and soil enzymes break down the glucosinolates in the greens.3)

(For more details on mustard as a biofumigant, check out this publication.)  

When Allowed to Flower, Make Great Winter Forage for Pollinators Like Honey Bees

Until I discovered the wonders of growing mustard, I had a shortage of bee food for our coldest winter months.

Now, by starting mustard in waves about every two weeks, cutting greens until my new plants come in, and then allowing my old plants to flower, I have another pollen source for those brave foragers that venture out on sunny, slightly warm days.

Oh, and did I mention that mustard can also be grown for seeds to make…

Recipe: Homemade Mustard

Here’s a basic ratio recipe that you can adapt to use for whatever flavor profiles you like. Personally, I use an herbed vinegar infused with sage, thyme, and rosemary as my base and I sub in whey for water. But this is your personal mustard mix, so go crazy!

Mustard Ingredients

Easy Homemade Mustard Recipe

2 parts mustard seeds, finely ground (use a coffee grinder to make into powder)
2 parts mustard seeds, whole (for “L’ancienne” style)
1 part your favorite vinegar
2 parts water (or other liquid—beer, cider, etc.)
Salt and pepper
Whatever other stuff you want to add—tarragon, sage, thyme, rosemary, honey, etc. 

Mix ingredients in jar. You can put this in the fridge to meld for a couple days. Or better yet, if you like to ferment stuff, use live vinegar (i.e., with the mother) and go ahead and leave it on the counter with a coffee filter or cloth over the top of the jar, secured with a rubber band, for 3–4 days. 

If the mix is too thick after a couple of days, add a bit of water, or other liquid, until you get the right consistency. If you don’t love the whole-grain texture, then run it through the food processor or start with 4 parts ground mustard seed instead. If you accidentally make it too thin, add more ground mustard seed. Mustard is pretty hard to mess up, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

A Few Cautions About Mustard

Now there are also a couple of things to be aware of before you make mustard part of your garden and your diet. 

It’s a Cole Crop

If you are using rotational planting as a method for limiting pests and pathogens and managing nutrients in your soil, then even when you use mustard as a biofumigant cover crop, you should still count it as a cole crop in your four-year (or longer) rotation plan just as you would cabbage and cauliflower.

Health Concerns

Be cautious about eating mustard if you are taking blood thinners, need to restrict oxalic acid, or have a thyroid condition.

Those high levels of Vitamin K can be an issue for people taking drugs like warfarin.4)

Mustard contains oxalic acid, which can lead to oxalate urinary tract stones in prone individuals.

Components of mustard greens may be contraindicated in people with thyroid conditions.

Nutrient Overload?

You can have too much of a good thing. If 27 calories of mustard greens contain all that goodness we covered above, eating lots of mustard greens, such as by juicing them, might result in nutrient overload.

Most dietary recommendations for mustard greens include eating a couple of cups a week, on a daily or every-other-day basis. 

Concerns With Reheating

Reheating mustard greens should probably be avoided. Vegetables contain nitrates. Nitrates may convert to nitrites if you cook, cool, and then reheat your vegetables.5)

Since mustard greens are great raw or cold, and are easy to cook, skip the reheating to eliminate potential health risks. 

I love and eat mustard regularly, but I do so in moderation and I don’t have any special health considerations that would make it problematic for me.

Since I can’t possibly be considered qualified to make decisions or recommendations for you, as in all things, I trust that you won’t blindly follow mine or anyone else’s advice on what you put in your body (or even in your garden, for that matter).

So with the pros, cons, and necessary legal advisement that I am not telling you want to do behind us, if mustard is right for you, then I encourage you to get growing using the info and ideas below. 

Growing Mustard Greens 

Soil Preparation

Mustard is pretty forgiving of poor soil quality. However, if you want faster growing times and really tasty mustard, then plant mustard in loamy garden soil with a pH of about 6.5-6.8.

If you don’t have that, don’t fret—just incorporate a few inches of good compost into whatever soil you have, add a handful of granite or other stone dust, and water deeply a few days before you transplant or seed. Note: This will not give you the best garden soil ever, but since mustard is much less picky than other cole crops, it will get you started.

Seed Starting

Mustard can germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40°F. That means that, depending on your climate, some of you may even be able to start some in your garden now.

Keep in mind that things grow slower when days are short, so you may have to wait a while for seeds to sprout and plants to mature.

For those who live in marginal climates, you can try to start seeds under cloches or cold frames.

Failing that, starting under grow lights and growing out until plants have a few true leaves, then transplanting and protecting under cloches or row covers can also work. If it is just too cold where you live to grow winter mustard, then consider using mustard seed for microgreens to tide you over until you can grow some in the garden. 

Read More: “Grow Microgreens and Sprouts Indoors All Winter Long”

You can start your seeds in planting, potting, or straight-up ground soil. As far as I can tell, mustard doesn’t care as long as your seed-starting medium is disease free, loose enough for young roots to grow in, and kept moist.

Young Plant Care

If you are growing mustard in cold conditions, juvenile plants may need some additional protection during extended cold or frost periods. Cold frames, cloches, or row covers can all help protect plants until they develop strong roots and even after if you live in extra cold areas. 

Though mustard is drought resistant, for the best results in winter, you really want to water regularly until the plants are at least 6 inches tall.

I water the root zone of the plant until the soil is moist to about 3 inches down—which, conveniently, is about the length of my pointer finger.

I check the soil moisture every other day by sticking my pointer finger into my soil near my plants to make sure it’s still moist.

I can’t tell you exactly how much or how often to water because it really depends on your soil type and weather conditions. But by using the 3-inch rule, you are giving young mustard roots a good start.

Mature Plant Care

For best flavor and frost resistance, continue to water mature plants. Water at the root rather than the leaves for best cold resistance. Harvest leaves regularly and cut off any flower shoots that form until you are ready to let your plant flower and seed.


You can cut baby greens for use in salads with a pair of scissors. Be careful not to disturb the roots. You can also cut mature greens to chop up and eat raw, sauté, or steam. In addition, flowers can be tossed into salads.

Dry your seed heads in a paper bag, then shake the bag until the seeds fall out of the pods. Sift or use a fan to blow off the chaff. 

Varieties of Mustard

There are quite a few varieties of mustard available. Versions like Mizuna and Tatsoi tend to be a little higher maintenance than the Southern Giant, Green Wave, Florida Broadleaf, or Old Fashioned. There are also different seed colors—yellow mustard (called white mustard in Europe) is the most common variety used for seed and cover crops and is mildest in taste. Black or brown mustards are a bit tangier. 

Unconventional Growing Tips for Adventure Gardeners

Mustard is one of those plants that readily self-seeds if you let it. So, in addition to planting mustard intentionally, I also scatter seeds directly in my garden after they dry on the plant. Then I just let nature take its course—as in, don’t water or fertilize to force germination. Literally just let them lie until they eventually get buried in soil and are triggered by the right conditions to grow on their own. 

Some seeds will inevitably germinate in summer, and since I know they will perform poorly in my hot, humid conditions and be eaten by harlequin bugs or host the dreaded cabbage moth, I pinch those plants out and give them to the chickens or toss them into my salads.

I only allow the plants that germinate in fall or winter to continue growing. If I don’t like their initial location, I’ll transplant them to a bed of my choosing while the plants are still young.

Then, the plants that do well all winter long get to flower and seed. Those plants, rather than my intentionally planted mustard plants, become my seed stock for next year.

By doing this, I have created mustard plants that are adapted specifically for my growing conditions here and are more cold hardy than my initial seed stock.

I also use a cheap season extension trick to get the most from my plants until I let them seed:

  • I take a dark-colored 5-gallon bucket with a 1-inch hole drilled in the bottom and fill it with uncomposted materials like chicken manure, straw, late-season grass clippings, and kitchen scraps.
  • I put the filled bucket in the center of my mustard bed.
  • The mustard grows around the bucket and, as the materials in the bucket compost, they heat up and warm the plants.
  • Also, when it rains, the rain water trickles through the hole in the bottom of the bucket and makes a kind of compost tea that feeds the plants.
  • The dark-colored bucket also draws heat from the sun and cuts down on frost on the plants.
  • If stuff composts too fast, I just add more goodies to keep it composting all winter long. 

Mustard Bed with Bucket

The photo above shows a mustard bed planted in September 2016, that was still growing like mad in February 2017 when I turned over the rest of my garden for spring planting. (You can see my blue season-extending compost bucket in the picture, too.)

It was growing so well, that I harvested from that bed until May when I finally let it seed. That’s 9 months of prolific mustard greens during some of the most difficult growing months. While I can’t swear you’ll have the same results, if you are an experimental gardener like me, I hope you’ll give it a try!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on mustard and if you have any tricks or tips to share with all us winter-green growers. You can use the comments section below to share your experience and ideas. Thanks!


References   [ + ]

1, 5.

The post Mustard Greens: What You Need to Know Before You Grow (With Recipe) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Planting a Living Fence (VIDEO)

After a wandering bull ate my pigeon peas I realized I needed a fence — quickly.

Problem: I rent my property and really don’t want to spend money on new infrastructure.

Solution: Plant a living fence!

So I did, and I filmed the process so you can see what I did:

Isn’t that the greatest song ever to be used on YouTube?


Okay, that’s fine. I understand. It really is terrible, isn’t it?

Back to the post.

I’m not a living fence expert by any means. Back when I was young I did help my dad and Grandpa plant multiple fences by taking long aralia cuttings and jamming them into the ground. I have also planted living barriers of blackberries, silverthorn and pyracantha, but they were more hedges than the interwoven sticks I’m now experimenting with. Yet I’m learning and testing now — and as you probably know, I’m rather insane when it comes to experimentation.

Since there were a lot of questions on this living fence/instant hedge, I posted a follow-up video answering some of them:

Species Options for Planting a Living Fence

For subtropical climates with little to no frosty weather, you could build a living fence with Gliricidia sepium, moringa, some aralia species, purple mombin, or even governor plum.

Farther north you can do this with willow branches — especially in wet areas.

Living fence made of willows


Living fences could also potentially be planted from the branches of species of mulberry, though I’ve had 0% success rooting mulberry by sticking branches in the ground.

If you don’t have any trees with branches that can be rammed in the ground to root, just plant almost any kind of tree seedlings in V shapes at 45-degree angles and tie them together at crossing points.

Dwarf apples, anyone?

There are a lot of possibilities for building a living fence. Interweaving the trees causes them to graft together over time and make an almost impenetrable barrier — even more so if you use a hard and thorny tree like osage orange!

As recounted over at Mother Earth News, “Easily propagated from seeds, cuttings, or sprouts from the roots, Osage orange is tolerant of a wide range of soils, resistant to drought, long-lived, and affected little by insects or disease. Planted at a spacing of 1 foot, in four years it makes a fence that is ‘horse-high, bull-strong, and hog-tight.’”

Osage orange is also one of the best woods for tool handles and bows. Bonus!

From the same article:

“Other thorny species that could be used to make living fences are pyracanthas, jujube, hollies, black locust (also fixes nitrogen), honey locust (which has high-protein seeds and pods for livestock and people), prickly ash, and rugosa rose (which has vitamin C-rich fruits, or ‘hips’).”

Other Side Benefits of Living Fences

Beyond just keeping out wandering livestock and nosy neighbors, living fences have some serious advantages.

Let’s run through a few.

1. A Living Fence is Free

Unless you buy seedlings to plant, you can start a living fence for free. In my case, all I had to do was cut some Gliricidia branches and plant them. As for potted trees or shrubs, you can start your own. I always keep a little plant nursery going with a lot of bits and pieces in it. Maybe a multi-species living fence would work? Imagine that! Bougainvillea, noni trees, purple mombin, alternating with nitrogen fixers… crazy! A 2-D food forest!

Oh man. I need to try that.

But the point is: free. Free is good.

2. A Living Fence Produces for You

A wire or wood fence is just a barrier, but a living fence is more than that. It’s a living, productive line of trees.

The top can be cut and fed to livestock or used as a green layer in compost. You can also let it grow taller and make the trimmings into plant stakes. Or charcoal/biochar.

Not bad, eh?

3. A Living Fence Supports Other Species

If your living fence is a nitrogen-fixing species, it will feed the plants alongside it.

A living fence can also serve as a trellis for yams and other species as well as a home for birds, beneficial insects, and lizards.

There are plenty of good reasons to plant a living fence and plenty of species that work almost no matter where you live.

My Gliricidia living fence is now dense and strong after growing through the summer. In another year it will be so strong that passing through it will be impossible.

Sorry bull, no more pigeon pea lunches for you!


*Willow living fence image via Rhian on Flickr. CC license.


The post Planting a Living Fence (VIDEO) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Gift Ideas: TGN’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

As the holiday season approaches, we thought it would be fun to poll our TGN team members about what gifts they’re hoping to receive or planning to give (or buy for themselves! 😉 ) this season.

As you know, all of us here at The Grow Network share our Community’s values and produce at least some of our food and medicine—more and more as we experiment, learn, and “grow” in gardening and homesteading wisdom! And since it’s not always easy to know what to buy for those special people in your life, we thought we’d share our own lists of gift ideas in hopes of making your holiday shopping a little simpler!


Gifts Under $25



Merin Says: I’m currently using locking carabiners to secure the hasps on my chicken coop’s nest boxes, but they take extra time to open and I’m concerned they’ll freeze up when they get wet in winter. I’ve been looking for a quicker, better solution, and I think these are it. Raccoons have a hard time with these; they don’t lock, which means less trouble opening them when everything is frozen; and they’re brightly colored so I don’t lose them when one inevitably falls into my heavily mulched garden (which is right next to the chicken coop). In addition to the two orange carabiners, you get two black ones in this pack, which is fine by me. (Because when is it NOT awesome to have a couple of extra, super-strong carabiners handy?)

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $9.95)



Ruth Says: Gardening is a huge part of my life, and I find that wearing T-shirts about it is a great way to meet other people who share that passion. Plus, as much hard work as we do on our property, I seem to go through T-shirts faster than people with less … interesting … lives. I constantly seem to be tearing holes in my shirts or getting paint or grease on them. I can always use another T!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $16.99)



Ruth Says: I already own EarlyGrow’s Large-Domed Propagator, and I use it to start all of my seeds indoors. I need a second propagator because my garden is just too big! I use the high-dome version for taller plants like tomatoes and peppers, and I’ll use this medium-dome propagator for lettuce and herbs. I like that EarlyGrow’s propagators have little vents on the top that allow oxygen in and help prevent molding of the soil. And they’re reusable!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $16.99)



Merin Says: I generally don’t wash my chickens’ eggs, so I keep them in cartons on the kitchen counter. When I use eggs, I pull from the front of the top carton and move all the other eggs forward one by one so that I can remember which are freshest and use those first. Honestly, it’s a pain. Enter the egg skelter. I debated between this one and a version that holds two dozen eggs, but I get enough eggs every day (and my family of five eats enough eggs every week!) to justify the larger version.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $17.99)



Merin Says: These people are geniuses. How many times have I gone out to the coop, grabbed some eggs, thought about another thing I should really get done while I’m out there, and had to make a special trip to the house to store the eggs before I can work on something else? This thing would totally solve that problem. It’s denim, so it would work for men and women. And if you’re sending your young kids or grandkids out to collect eggs, smaller versions of egg-collecting aprons (like this adorable one for $19.00) are available to help them get the eggs back to the house in one piece.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $19.99)


Marjory Says: A bit pricey at $20 each, but irrigation and hoses are a big part of my life. I have destroyed all of the plastic stuff in short order. These are super-long-lasting, well-built valves that I can depend on to work properly. The big handle has lots of leverage to open and close for when my hands are wet or covered with soil. You can send me a half dozen for Christmas. 😉

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $20.98)

Gifts Under $50



Anthony Says: The Hori-Hori is my all-time favorite gardening tool. Pretty much anything you need to do in the garden, this Japanese soil knife will help make easier.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $26.95)



Jimerson Says: Winter is coming, and I can’t have enough warm (or at least not frozen) water for the chickens and bunnies!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $39.99)



Jimerson Says: I’d love a good case for storing and drying herbs that also looks nice!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $39.99)



Merin Says: We live at altitude, and we have short-haired dogs who need a little help staying warm outside when it’s super cold. These coats are warm, waterproof, and reflective. Plus, they’re super tough, which is a huge plus for durability if you hike with your dogs. WeatherBeeta has a reputation for quality, so these coats should last a while.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $44.95)


Ruth Says: I already have a very well-loved one of these, and it’s time for another one! This is a fantastic garden seat. I like that I don’t have to kneel in the garden. I’m able to sit on the stool and keep my back straight when planting seeds or transplanting seedlings. It’s also quite nice that it rocks, as I’m able to easily reach to the side or behind me to grab whatever I need. And it’s an ab workout! 🙂

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $49.88)


Jimerson Says: I’ve found that, around the homestead, cheap hoses don’t last. All the dragging around and such . . . it’s industrial strength or nothing!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $49.98)

Gifts Under $80



Marjory Says: In keeping with the saying that “cotton kills” (or basically that cotton is a terrible cold-weather clothing), I am almost never warm in jeans. But flannel-lined jeans . . . now that is something else. Stretch jeans are a sign that civilization really does have some merit. And you can’t go wrong with Carhartt’s toughness.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $54.99)


Ruth Says: Every year, I try to invest in sturdy, reusable tools for the garden. I’ve had my eye on this hand tool set for a while now. I love that the handles are orange, which makes the tools hard to lose when you set them down for a second in the garden. And how neat is it that they come in their own case to help keep them organized?

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $56.98)



Jimerson Says: I tried a homemade, DIY worm farm and, well, it turned out to be a mess. This worm farm is well-reviewed; small and odorless enough to be kept indoors; and it has a cool spigot feature on the bottom tray so you can easily drain off the “worm tea.”

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $68.95)



Merin Says: This thing is a beast. I bought one for my husband last Christmas, and everyone is totally amazed by how bright it is. We live in the country, so there are no street lights and it’s really dark here at night. If we need to go grab firewood, or I need to check on the chickens after dark, we can just put this thing on, see enormously well, and still have our hands free. All that to say, I’d like one of my own!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $79.95)

Gifts Over $100



Ruth Says: Okay, full disclosure here: I already have one of these. But I love it so much, I want another one! One of the many things I make in my Instant Pot is yogurt, and it’s an hours-long process. It would be so nice to be able to pull out a second Instant Pot so I could keep pressure cooking while the yogurt ferments!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $129.95)



Ruth Says: The water where we live isn’t great, and whole house filtration can get expensive fast. This seems like a great, affordable way to have lots of purified water on hand—without having to constantly refill my water-filter pitcher.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $138.90)



Marjory Says: This pressure canner is solid enough for a lifetime. And since it doesn’t use a gasket, I’m expecting to pass mine down to the kids and grandkids.

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $273.43)


Jimerson Says: Pardon the pun, but Goodland Bee Supply’s Complete Beekeeper Starter Kit is pretty much the bee’s knees. It’s got every high-quality item a beginning beekeeper needs to get started, including two complete honey supers, a highly rated extractor, and a well-stocked tool kit. I mostly want one to give bees a good home . . .  but also for that delicious honey!

Buy on Amazon (Price at Publication: $445.99)


(Please note that the listed prices were valid at the time of publication, but … you know how that goes!)

The post Gift Ideas: TGN’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide appeared first on The Grow Network.

Reusing Food Waste: The Perks, Tips, and Tricks

You’ve been eating healthfully and sustainably as an apartment homesteader, and it’s been kind to your budget. But when most of the waste you produce is in the form of food scraps, you need to be reusing food waste rather than disposing of those food bits.

The first way that comes to mind for most people is to turn food waste into compost for your garden. Small-space composting can be an easy and cost-effective way to use your food waste.

But beyond composting, did you know you can both regrow plants from your scraps (buy once, grow forever) and eat those scraps in crafty recipes?

Check out my favorite tips and recipes below—along with a list of even more clever ways to put your food waste to good use.

Composting in Your Apartment

Everyone can compost, even in the small space of the apartment homestead.

You can use a five-gallon bucket with a lid—easily attained at any hardware store—or a regular plastic garbage bin with a lid.

Don’t let the “lack of space” excuse keep you from composting your food waste to help feed your future garden. There are cheap and easy compost containers that will fit under your kitchen sink or in a closet, or that you can make decorative to help inspire other apartment homesteaders to start their own sustainability journey.

If you’re worried about the usual culprits (bugs, using it quickly enough, and the obvious lack of space) that make composting in your apartment homestead difficult, check out this blog on The Grow Network: 5 Cheap and Easy Solutions For Small-Space Composting.

Regrow From Scraps

If composting isn’t your thing just yet, why not start a whole garden of vegetables and fruit from your organic produce scraps?

From herbs and onions to leafy greens and lemon trees, you can regrow the produce you eat regularly with results that are both amazing for your homesteading prowess and kind to your homestead budget.


One of my favorite herbs to regrow is basil. I love fresh basil. I add it to Italian dishes or infuse water with it and fresh lemon slices.

You can regrow basil by simply stripping the leaves, leaving only a small stem. Place the basil in a jar of water with the stem submerged, and set it in a sunny but cool area in your apartment homestead. Change the water every other day and plant in a four-inch pot when the stems grow to approximately two inches in length.


Another easy plant to regrow is peppers. Simply save the seeds from a pepper you love and replant in a pot. Place the pot in a sunny area, and you’ll enjoy peppers (and hopefully fresh salsa!) again and again.


You can also save your tomato seeds. Rinse them and allow to dry, then plant them in a soil-filled pot. If you have a garden box, transfer your tomato plants there once the sprouts are a few inches tall. Otherwise, keep them potted and enjoy fresh tomatoes from your patio garden.

Here are some other things you can regrow from food scraps in your apartment homestead:

  • Avocado
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot Greens
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic Sprouts
  • Ginger
  • Green Onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Lemongrass
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Fennel

Reusing Food Waste in the Kitchen: Recipes Using ‘Throwaway’ Scraps

There are so many ways to eat the kitchen scraps you would normally throw away! Just rethink “scraps” into more food! Check out these recipes for a few ideas.


Use your celery tops, onion skins, carrot peels, and other veggies to make vegetable broth. Add all vegetables to a large pot, add enough water to completely cover everything, bring to a boil, and let simmer for six to eight hours. Strain and store broth in the fridge.

Almond Flour

Do you make your own almond milk? Grind up the leftover almonds and toast/dry in your oven to make almond flour. Use almond flour to make grain-free muffins, breads, or other baked goods.

One of my favorite recipes using almond flour is Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls—they’re also gluten free (which means you can kick the nasty pesticide-heavy wheat out of your diet and still enjoy your sweets):

Almond Flour Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups almond flour
4 Tbsp. ground flax seed
1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. sea salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 Tbsp. honey (in dough); 1/4 cup honey (in filling)
1 tsp. cinnamon (in dough); 2 Tbsp. cinnamon (in filling)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix together almond flour, ground flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix in eggs and coconut milk. Then, mix in applesauce, 1 Tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Form dough into a ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Lay a piece of wax paper down on the counter and grease with olive oil. Place the dough onto the wax paper, and roll out the dough into a thin circle.

Drizzle honey over the dough and shake the rest of the cinnamon over the top.

Cut dough into 2-inch strips. Using your knife (the dough will be sticky), roll each strip up and place in a baking pan.

Bake for around 25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown.

Potato Skins

You can turn potato skins you’d normally throw away into a salty snack you’ll crave.

Potato Skin Chips

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Toss leftover potato peels with olive oil and the seasonings you like.

Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15–20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Sprinkle with cheese and scallions or green onions.

Apple Peels

If you make your own apple sauce, you probably have apple peels for days. The following recipe offers a perfect way to use them up:

Apple Honey Tea

The peels from 6 apples
3–4 cups water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Place apple peels in a sauce pan, cover with water, and add lemon juice and cinnamon. Boil for 10–15 minutes. When the liquid has become apple-colored, strain out the apple peels, add honey, and serve.

Kale Stems

Kale stems can be too tough to eat raw.

Dry the stems and grind them into Super Green Kale Powder to add to shakes or salads.

Get Clever With Your Food Scraps

Not into the food scrap recipes? Here are a bunch of other ways to use your food scraps. Get creative!

  • Infuse liquor with citrus peels for a yummy adult beverage.
  • Sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal by running eggshells through it.
  • Add crushed eggshells to your garden soil to give it a calcium boost.
  • Run citrus peels through the garbage disposal to get rid of nasty odors.
  • Use carrot peels to make carrot oil—an awesome addition to your natural, chemical-free beauty routine.
  • Add citrus peels to white vinegar to use in cleaning. Infuse the vinegar with the citrus peels by letting them sit together for two weeks before straining the peels and transferring the citrusy vinegar to a spray bottle.
  • Make citrus air fresheners.
  • Use banana peels to shine your shoes.
  • Use spent coffee grounds in your garden as pest repellent, fertilizer, or an ingredient in compost.
  • You can also use your coffee grounds to help absorb food odors in the fridge. Put old grounds in a container and place it in the fridge to get rid of musty food smells.
  • Coffee grounds can even be used to exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin!

Whichever ways you choose to use rather than toss your food “waste,” remember that the choice to go that extra step is a leaping bound on your journey toward personal sustainability in your apartment homestead.

(And when you’re ready to take another step and really say “goodbye” to unsustainable living, you’ll want to check out the next post in the Apartment Homesteader series, on growing your own medicine—or being your own Apartment Apothecary! Stay tuned!)



The post Reusing Food Waste: The Perks, Tips, and Tricks appeared first on The Grow Network.

Build Your Compost Pile Right On Your Garden Beds!

If you’ve read my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting or watched my presentations during multiple Home Grown Food Summit events, you know that I recommend building compost piles right where you plan to garden in the future.

Go ahead — build ’em right on your garden beds!

After following my advice, long-time reader W. R. sent me a composting field report:

“It is good to see you all are having fun in the tropics. I watch your videos weekly.

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of active gardening, but I wanted to give you a little update in photos.

I have two to 4’x 8′ raised beds next to each other that were left fallow since last fall. They were both recently cleared of weeds and grass, and here you can see the difference between them:


The left one is a native soil I started adding kitchen scraps to, but not for very long. It also was more exposed to the sun. The right one was a compost pile I threw kitchen scraps and coffee grounds in.

This bed had more growing in it, and the soil was more protected by the sun. The right one looks more like good soil, eh?”

This is a great illustration of what in-bed composting accomplishes. It just makes sense to build compost piles on top of garden beds.

Why Compost on a Garden Bed?

Less Materials Handling

When you compost directly on top of a garden bed, you don’t have to worry about moving as many materials.

You throw your kitchen scraps, leaves, rabbit manure, etc., right onto a bed. Don’t worry about it getting hot — it will rot down over time.

If you want it to compost hot and fast, build up a compost pile higher over the bed like I do in this video:

But really, nature will handle it.

Throw everything down on a garden bed and then some months later when you’re ready to plant, fork off the rougher stuff onto the next closest bed and get planting.

More Good Stuff Stays Where You Want It

Second, all the good leachates that would normally run into ground beneath a compost bin are instead transferred right into the ground where you will be growing.

If you’re ever moved a compost pile and seen the right worm-filled soil beneath it, you know what I mean. If you’re not planting that area, it’s a waste!

W. R. has also been composting meat and bones like a good extreme composter should:


As bones break down in the soil, they will feed your garden long-term. Yes, I know you’re “not supposed to compost meat” and all that. Heck with those rules — if you throw those materials away, you’re throwing away nutrition for your garden. There are plenty of ways to compost meat safely, though that’s fodder for another article.

For now, I just urge you to quit working so hard and start composting right where it will make the biggest difference.

Wherever you compost, good fungi and bacteria populations explode, worms arrive and till the soil, plus you don’t have to move your compost all over the place.

Though I do still have a bin, I also keep a compost pile going on one of my garden beds at any given time. It works.

The post Build Your Compost Pile Right On Your Garden Beds! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Improve Soil Fertility With Autumn’s Gift

Mother Nature’s Approach

Imagine a deep, remote forest. Wildlife is abundant. Birds are singing. Mushrooms are growing on trees, and the forest floor is covered with fallen leaves of every color. You bend over and scoop up a handful of leaves to find incredible soil fertility in the form of dark, moist, healthy earth.

Mother Nature is truly amazing—when left alone, that is.

Plant life here has thrived for hundreds of thousands of years. Everything is recycled. There is no such thing as “waste” in nature. Fallen leaves get broken down and decomposed, which then creates the nutrient-rich and healthy soil that growing plants crave.

Now, enter humans. Look at how technologically advanced and stoic we are! Surely, we are smarter than primitive nature, right?

The Human Approach

Modern agriculture has made it possible for us to grow lots of beautiful-looking food in rows on farms. We have created machines that allow us to grow food more efficiently—so efficiently, in fact, that our grocery stores incorporate a 75 percent pricing upcharge to offset the huge amount of fruits and vegetables they will end up throwing out.

We have developed agricultural technology and run with it …

… Unfortunately, though, it appears that we didn’t first tie our shoes!

If you look at farm fields that have been worked for decades, you’ll see dry, cracked dirt. That hardly looks like the healthy, nutrient-dense soil we find in the forests that Mother Nature takes care of.

You may be saying to yourself: “And why is this a problem? You just told me that we have made food production efficient and bountiful. What gives?”

Well, you see, farmers have gotten themselves into quite the conundrum over the last couple of decades. It’s not their fault, really, as they are just following recent tradition.

The reason we are still able to grow food despite unhealthy soil is because the food has been grown artificially.

Farmers spray their crops with synthetic fertilizers that directly feed the plant, not the soil. And since the farmer fails to feed the soil, the ONLY way he can continue to grow crops is by spraying more and more synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on the crops.

(Incidentally, the advent of genetically modified crops makes it easier for farmers to use pesticides and herbicides that kill everything but the prized crop, leaving it to flourish. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing. But while these GMO plants might be immune to the poisons that are sprayed on them, we certainly are not!)

At this point, many people often ask: “Does that mean Miracle-Gro in my garden is bad?”

Miracle-Gro is simply a supplemental fertilizer (not a pesticide or herbicide) that feeds plants synthetically but does nothing for soil fertility. Think of it like this: Miracle Grow is to plants what vitamins are to humans. They serve as a good supplement to our diet, but should never be the main source of nutrition.

The Soil is Alive!

Just as the ocean is teeming with life under the surface, so, too, is the soil!

Healthy soil comprises a complex network of symbiotic micro-organisms and insects that help break down decomposing plant material and turn it into bioavailable nutrients that growing plants can absorb.

As you might imagine, abundant soil fertility creates healthy, nutrient-dense plants.

So, when we think about growing vibrant plants, we really ought to think first about growing and regenerating the soil.

The Two Phases of Healthy Soil

Each year, soil goes through two distinct phases:

  • Energy Absorption: This occurs in the fall and winter seasons
  • Energy Release: This occurs in the spring and summer seasons

In fall and winter, properly fed soil replenishes its energy reserves for the next growing season. In the spring and summer, it releasing energy into plants so that they can grow.

Three Rules for Soil Fertility

Now that we understand why soil fertility is so important, let’s talk about how to restore and replenish it.

As I mentioned above, healthy soil is teeming with life. Comprising millions of beneficial bacteria, microbes, insects, and fungi, it is an underground ecosystem that thrives when we follow three simple rules:

  • Tilling Is Killing: When we think about modern agriculture, we often visualize the process of tilling the soil. However, farmers are known to severely over-till the soil, which disrupts the living network of underground organisms. It is the equivalent of taking a fleet of bulldozers through the forest. If you must till, a shallow till of two to three inches is actually optimum. Otherwise, consider a no-till garden.
  • No Bare Soil: Soil likes to be covered up. You can use hay, wood chips, or shredded dry leaves to blanket the top of the soil. This prevents it from drying out. Also, as the material breaks down, it provides food for the soil (such as occurs in our remote forest example).
  • Amend the Soil: Each growing season, plants absorb energy and nutrients from the soil. The best time to replenish the soil is in the fall after harvesting your crops. Simply add compost on top of the soil, and then blanket the top of the soil again. Luckily for us, we can accomplish this last step using a material that’s free, abundant, and right outside our back door!

Don’t Bag Those Leaves!

Fallen leaves are one of nature’s gracious gifts to us.

Over the winter, they help insulate your plant beds and provide shelter for invertebrates such as insects, worms, and roly poly bugs (which, incidentally, are crustaceans!).

Fallen leaves are the building blocks of soil. As they break down via the help of invertebrates and soil fungi, they help create incredibly rich soil fertility. This allows for a cascade of biological processes, including nutrient cycling.

Leaf litter also fosters an environment that encourages the development of mycorrhizal fungi. You won’t see the vast majority of these miracle workers, as they often are too small to be visible to the naked eye. But don’t take them for granted. Soil fungi form symbiotic relationships with virtually every plant on Earth by exchanging nutrients and making them more bioavailable. (That is a whole other amazing topic for discussion.)

It’s basically everything you saw in the movie Avatar. Plants can communicate and pass food to each other via a connected underground fungal network. This network connects plants of all shapes and sizes to one another so they can cooperate as enormous interconnected systems.

But without the decaying matter that leaves provide, none of these intricate processes can happen.

Thank goodness for fall and its multicolored bounty—and for neighbors who are graciously raking, bagging, and giving away this precious resource!

Take advantage of their kindness and use these leaves in your garden. In short order, your plants will be thriving in the same dark, moist, healthy soil that exists deep in the heart of the forest.

The post Improve Soil Fertility With Autumn’s Gift appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Value of Leaves

The Value of Leaves We are in the early days of fall and the gold is falling from the sky. All your life you hear people tell you that money doesn’t grow on trees. All this time they have been lying to your face. If you buy organic compost or any other soil amendment you …

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Composting Leaves – How To Make Great Compost From Leaves This Fall

Composting leaves – the quick and easy way to make homemade “black gold” this fall! Fall is here, and leaves that provided shade all summer are now making their way to the earth’s floor. For some, it’s a beautiful display

The post Composting Leaves – How To Make Great Compost From Leaves This Fall appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Never buy grain for your chickens again!

When I picture raising chickens, it’s always free range (of course!), I see a farmer walking through a flock of hungry chooks tossing handfuls of grain onto the ground for feed. It seems that Karl Hammer has figured out how to raise chickens, over 600, without having to purchase even one bag of grain. Watching this video, it’s amazing to see all of these chickens roaming free, scrambling over and digging up tall mounds of compost. Karl is a compost king, he has various (and huge) compost piles set in strategic places to funnel and capture the leachate that drains through and from each pile into the next. This is designed so that none of the nutrients are lost and they don’t end up polluting their potable water source nor the neighboring properties.

These compost piles consist of many different sources of material, from cow and donkey manures, waste food from various restaurants from town and the other things you would find in a compost pile. They are HOT, meaning they are active, in fact, Karl is producing his first batch of black garlic in one of the heated piles. I had never heard of black garlic, but it’s something I am very interested in now, you can learn more about it here.

I started watching this video thinking I was only going to learn about chickens and compost, but Karl has much more up his sleeve than that. He raises and uses American Mammoth Donkeys (Jackstock), seems they were very important in history, in the USA and in other countries, one of his jacks ancestry goes back to an animal that was given to President Washington by the King of Spain, another gift came from the Isle of Malta.  (LINK) These animals not only provide valuable manure, they are working animals, pulling equipment and being guards for the other livestock on the farm.

Watch and enjoy the video, I certainly did.


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Small-Space Vermiculture, Step-by-Step

According to the EPA, 20 to 30 percent of what is thrown away should be composted. If you’re the type of person who hates to throw out kitchen scraps, but don’t have room for a compost pile in your small apartment, small-space vermiculture is for you!

What is vermiculture?

Vermiculture, or Vermicomposting is the breakdown of organic material by vermis, which is the Latin word for “Worms.” The worms take that waste and turn it into nutrient-rich “castings” or worm poo that helps build the soil. It is the most efficient way to compost most of your household waste.

Steps to your Vermicomposting happiness

Let’s bypass the trash collector and have your worms “eat” your garbage!

Make your worm bin

Start out with a cheap bin to get started. A $10 system works just as well. A 5-gallon bucket, large kitty litter bucket, or 16 in. X 24 in. X 8 in. (or 10-gallon) plastic bin will work just fine.

Next prepare the bedding

Shred about 50 sheets of newspaper into 1/2 in. to 1 in. strips. Avoid color print. It is toxic to worms.

Place the shredded newspaper into the bin. Add water to the newspaper until the bedding feels moist like a damp sponge. Add more dry strips if it gets too wet.

Sprinkle two to four cups of potting soil or soil from your yard into the bin. This introduces the beneficial microorganisms.

Get Your worms

Red Wigglers, or Eisenia fetida, are the worms you want for your worm bin. You don’t want Earthworms because they are large soil movers, and don’t do well in worm bins.

Get worms from a local source (if possible), because they are acclimatized to conditions in your area. Ask around, look on Craigslist, aquaponics or hydroponic stores, or ask other vermicomposters in your area.

How many worms do you need?

Say you bought a pound of worms. A pound of worms will eat half to their full eight every day. They are the best recyclers in the world! Think about how much waste you have.

Feed your new friends

Worms are vegan, but they can eat quite a bit. You’ll want to feed them a balanced diet, not just coffee grounds! As your bin gets going, you’ll feed those worms about half-a-pound to a pound of food in 24 hours.

Fun Fact: The worms don’t actually eat the scraps. They eat the bacteria that is breaking down the food scraps.

What to feed?

Feed your worms veggie and fruit scraps, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, tea and tea bags (the ones that aren’t shiny), such as peels, rinds, cores, etc. Cut or break the food up into smaller pieces. If you run it through a blender, that would be even better! For instance, juicing pulp is fantastic!

What not to feed?

Limit or eliminate citrus fruits and onion peels in your worm bin. Also, do not add meats, bones, oils or dairy products.

How to feed your worms?

  1. Feed your 1 lbs. of worms about three times their weight each week. So, for one pound of worms, you’ll feed 3-lbs of food each week, or slightly less than half-a-pound.
  2. Bury the food in the bin.
  3. Lift up the bedding. Add the food scraps. Then, cover the food with the bedding again.

Check the bin every week to make sure the worms are eating all of the food. Adjust the amount accordingly.

Harvesting the black gold

There are many methods to harvest the worm castings. These two techniques  work great.

  1. Try a melon. Place a piece of melon in one area of your bin. The worms really love musk melon or watermelon, because they don’t get it very often. Put that little piece of melon in the corner of the bin, and the worms will herd over there. Then, scoop out the castings from the other side of the bin.
  2. Vertical migration system. The whole point of a vertical migration system is to let a layer finish out and put a new layer on top with new paper and new food. The worms migrate up into a new layer where the food is. They don’t want to live in the lower layers that is filled with their poop. Essentially the system separates the casting for you, but in a much slower way. The lower bins still may have a few worms, but you can hand pick them. It’s not bad to get worms in your finished compost either. They’re going to end up living in the soil in your garden.

Tips for success

  • Place a full sheet of dry newspaper on top of the bedding. This will help maintain the moisture of the bin. It also keeps odor problems in the bin and prevents fruit flies.
  • If you find fruit flies or the bin is too wet, replace that top layer of dry newspaper.
  • Cover your bin and choose a place for your worms. Worms like it dark and between 55°F and 75°F. Under a sink, in a closet, or wherever is convenient for you, so you remember to feed and check on them.
  • Castings are high in nutrients and micronutrients, so make worm tea in a 5-gallon bucket. Or add it to your potted plants for a healthy boost.
  • We don’t always produce a pound of kitchen scraps in a day, or we’re on vacation or busy. You don’t need to micromanage your worms. You don’t have to feed them a pound of food every day.
  • Sometimes we produce more than a pound of kitchen scraps, or your worms aren’t eating as fast. If this happens, simple put the scraps in a container or baggie and put that in the refrigerator until it’s time for a feeding.
  • Worms don’t like light, so be sure to keep your bin in a quiet out-of-the-way place. They like warm, dark places.
  • If your bedding dries up, spray it with a bit of water. Fluff the bedding once-a-week to give the worms some air.
  • If you live in a cold climate and have your bin outside, be sure to bring it inside.
  • Rotting food will produce a strong odor. Stop adding food until your worms have caught up. Adding air by stirring the contents will help.
  • If the worms are crawling out of the bedding or onto the sides or lid, they may need more air, the bedding is too wet, or the bin is too acidic. Did you put too many orange peels in there?

Need other ways to compost in a small space? Check out this article!

Now we want to hear your wormy stories! Do you practice small-space vermiculture? Tell us in the comment below.


EPA. Composting At Home.


Click here to get your FREE pass!


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How To Create A Great Fall Compost Pile For Next Year’s Garden!

If you want to have a great garden and healthy plants next year, then creating a great fall compost pile is a must! Having ready-made compost in the spring is the key to getting your garden and flowers off to

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What Should Not Be Put In Your Compost

What Should Not Be Put In Your Compost Compost can be defined as the organic matter that is the result of the decomposition of everyday waste. Compost is used as a fertilizer and it is the main ingredient to organic farming. It is nutrient rich and also acts as a natural pesticide. However, the process …

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Stuff You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Compost

Stuff You Probably Didn't Know You Could Compost

Image source: Oregon Metro

Most people know there are a lot of items that can be composted.  Vegetable trimmings, for example—things like outer lettuce leaves, tomato cores and sweet pepper seeds are no-brainers.  But for those who are ready to get really serious about reducing waste and building up a nice mix in the compost pile or container, here are a few more ideas for stuff you might not have known you could include along with a few other things you should leave out.

First, bear in mind that anything which is plant-based can usually be composted—and don’t forget that paper is made from plants.  Some plants have a higher carbon-to-nitrogen ratio than others, but all plant-based materials contain both. And that is a good thing, because your compost needs both. Here’s a partial list of high-carbon materials:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Leaves
  • Straw
  • Bark
  • Woody plants like corn stalks and brassica stems
  • Egg shells

And for comparison, some examples of low-carbon materials:

  • Kitchen scraps
  • Weeds
  • Grass clippings
  • Coffee grounds
  • Hay
  • Manure

You can consider ratios if you want to, but don’t get too stuck on them. And if you forget which plant-based materials are higher nitrogen ratios and which lean more towards the carbon end, just remember this general rule of thumb: carbon is the brown stuff, and nitrogen is the green stuff. (It isn’t a hard and fast rule, I know, since egg shells are not all brown and coffee grounds and manure are not green. But it’s mostly true.) If it gets soupy and stinky, add more brown stuff. And if it isn’t decomposing well, add more green stuff. Meanwhile, just throw it all in and amend later if you need to.

The materials visitors at my place are most surprised to see designated for compost are usually paper products—and not the ones they had ever considered separating out of the regular trash. Toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls, for example, get composted. So do used paper towels, used facial tissues, gum wrappers, paper bags and some paper and boxboard. Even the little paper packages that my individuallywrapped dental floss comes in gets saved for the compost.

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If I used paper plates and paper napkins, I’d definitely compost those, as well. I do use paper coffee filters and pre-bagged tea (as opposed to metal filters and loose tea leaves) and just toss it all in, filters and strings and tabs and all.

The reasons I say “some paper and boxboard” are twofold. First, crisp glossy products don’t compost as well as soft dull paper does. And second, even households like mine which are diligent about not acquiring unnecessary paper still end up amassing a lot of it—probably too much for most compost ratios.

Stuff You Probably Didn't Know You Could Compost

Image source:

Other possible ingredients for home composting include the results of refrigerator and cabinet clean-outs. Consider stuff like this when it’s no longer edible:

  • Bread
  • Pastries
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Cereal
  • Pickles
  • Ketchup
  • Yogurt
  • Cream cheese
  • Jellies and jams
  • Anything at all that doesn’t contain meat

The sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to cleaning out the kitchen, garden, barn, henhouse or backyard.  Composting is super easy and takes very little time, once you make a habit of it. Before we open a trash can at my house, we first consider whether it can be eaten by livestock, burned, recycled or composted—we’ve done it that way for so long that it has become routine.

The one thing I would caution casual backyard composters against is including meat. Meat, either cooked or raw, can develop potentially dangerous pathogens if the compost pile does not get hot enough for long enough. Experienced composters can and do place animal carcasses into compost piles with good results, but that’s nothing you or I should try at home.

Feces from omnivorous mammals such as pigs, cats, and dogs should be left out of the compost, as well. Many people successfully compost human waste, but that is a whole art and science unto itself and should not be added to regular compost.

Another thing to remember when composting is before offering anything to the microscopic organisms in the compost which might want to consume it, make sure there are no bigger mouths around the homestead that want dibs on it. In other words, offer home and garden scraps to cattle, goats, chickens and other animals first, and toss it into the compost only after everyone else has said no thanks.

Composting all you possibly can is an excellent way to reduce household waste and create a pile of free nutrients for your garden—a win for all involved.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below: 

Does A Compost Pile Destroy Weed Seeds?

Does a compost pile destroy weed seeds? Or more specifically, does YOUR compost pile destroy weed seeds?

We are regularly assured by composting experts that hot composting destroys seeds … yet I have some pumpkins that beg to differ.

composting destroy weed seeds

Those pumpkins grew as volunteers from a compost pile a few years ago. Granted, it wasn’t a regularly turned compost pile, meaning they probably missed the hottest part of the heap, but how many of you turn your compost regularly? And I’m going to bet that you still had little tomatoes or weeds pop up in it. Come on, admit it!

My bet is ALL of you.

Here’s an example of “hot composting kills weed seeds” advice from Aggie Horticulture:

“The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.”

They recognize the difficulty, though, as the next line reads:

“The keyword is properly.”

My bet is that few gardeners reach that lofty, “proper” status.

Why Our Backyard Compost Pile Doesn’t Kill Weed Seeds

compost destroy weed seeds

A typical backyard compost pile isn’t insulated or turned often enough to maintain heat. Those viable seeds in the compost don’t get rotated through the hot center of the pile.

Yes, the heat generated by thermophilic bacteria (an organism living at hot temperatures) is high enough to destroy weed seeds, but getting every bit of your compostable materials hot enough to kill the seeds takes very good compost management.

My old compost pile didn’t do it. It was built from reclaimed landscape logs with too many gaps to get everything hot. Plus, turning it was a pain.

I imagine if you owned a cement truck and packed the barrel of it with a proper mix of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials. Then you rotated it every day or so, and perhaps insulated the inside with foam. You could get that compost to heat up perfectly.

I’m joking. A bit.

My composting methods have gone from complicated to simple over the years. I’ve realized creating perfect compost doesn’t really matter.

Nature doesn’t create perfectly sifted, totally rotted, brown humus. No! She throws logs and leaves on the ground. There’s always some finished material and some fresh material, fungi eating at this, and some insect boring away at that.

But let me back up. What prompted today’s post?

This Viewer Asked a Question

There was a comment that prompted today’s great big post on weed seeds in a compost pile. Four words that led to 1,145 words (give or take):


Martha asked this question on this anaerobic compost tea video I posted:

My answer was:

“Good question. I try to avoid throwing plants with mature seeds into the tea. They never seem to get completely die in a hot compost pile, either. Even though we hear all the time that “hot composting kills weed seeds!” It’s probably true for the ones in the middle of the pile, but I’m always getting volunteer tomatoes, wheat from straw, weeds, and pumpkins popping up even from a hot compost pile. My guess is that this tea method will rot down most of the seeds, if it sits long enough … but not all of them.”

It takes a lot of faith in your compost to deliberately throw in weedy materials, no matter how you’re composting.

If you have spiny pigweed going to seed in your food forest, do you really think you’ll be able to throw that in your compost bin and use the resulting compost in your spring gardens without spiny pigweed popping up?

Do you want to take that risk?

I hear you, “But I Compost the Right Way!”

That’s fine—I appreciate the “thermometer and sifter” brigade.

To those about to compost, I salute you!

I am totally sure that I could destroy weed seeds by hot composting if I thought it out properly. However, my interest is more in gardening than in the processes that lead up to it. Making a “perfect” looking compost pile, or compost for that matter, isn’t as important to me as growing corn, pumpkins, beans, yams, and fruit trees. I also don’t like spending money to make perfect systems.

If you enjoy it, that’s fantastic. I love the smell, look and taste (well, maybe not taste) of finished compost. I made some nice-looking stuff myself this year and just sifted it the other day.

composting destroy weed seeds

I made that compost with almost no work, though. No thermometers, no turning, no measuring ratios of carbon/nitrogen to get that 25/1 mix. No, I just threw it all on the ground in one of my garden beds.

And—oh YES—LOTS of seeds came up in it! Enough to start my new fruit tree nursery.

I view this as a feature, not a bug. Sometimes I just let compost piles turn into garden beds since there are so many volunteer edibles coming up.

But What About Killing Weed Seeds???

Right – that’s what you all want to know, right? How CAN you compost those pesky weedy plants?


My favorite method is to keep them out of the compost pile and gardens altogether.

In my former food forest, I would chop down weeds and throw them on the ground around my fruit trees and other shrubs. If they self-seeded and came back, I’d chop them down again.

Unlike delicate annual garden plants such as lettuce and cabbage, trees and shrubs don’t need to be perfectly weeded in order to produce. I just knocked down the weeds again and again. Every time I did, guess what?

Those fallen weeds rotted into humus.

Nature does this all the time.

The winter freezes come once-a-year and kill all the weeds. They fall to the ground and rot into the soil, which improves it.

If you want to use weeds to feed your gardens, you’ll have much better luck in a no-till system where you throw a pile of seedy weeds on the ground. Then, cover them up with mulch … and then, DON’T TILL!

If you till, you’ll bring those seeds up to the light and warmth. They’ll go crazy in your eggplants. However, beneath a layer of mulch, they’ll eventually rot away safely.

That’s my two cents on composting and destroying weed seeds. Yes, a compost pile can destroy weed seeds … BUT … and it’s a big but … most of us aren’t doing it “properly.”

Don’t trust too much in the magic of compost to pile-drive your pesky pigweed problems.

Personally, I prefer cold composting anyhow! I believe it keeps more of the good stuff in the pile instead of steaming it away into the air. Nature almost always cold composts! While that process takes longer, I think it’s a simpler and gentler method. I wrote an entire book on composting (Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting) and many of the methods in that book are cold compost approaches.

You might also like these composting articles from David the Good:

How to Build a Super Simple Compost Pile From Local Materials

Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting: Easy and Productive!

Nature Is An Extreme Composter—You Can Be, Too!

Manure Tea—An Easy Way To Stretch Your Compost

So, tell us … have you had success hot-composting seedy weeds? The comments below are waiting for yours!




The post Does A Compost Pile Destroy Weed Seeds? appeared first on The Grow Network.

Homemade Fertilizers – 15 Simple and Inexpensive Options

Grow Your Own Groceries with Homemade Fertilizers

There was a time when people gardened because backyard produce was far better and cheaper than anything from the store.  To tell the truth, it still is, or at least it still can be.  The trick is knowing that back in the day, people used their own compost and homemade fertilizers.

Yet some are convinced that you have to spend a bundle of money to have a really nice, healthy garden.  I think that this misconception grew out of the fact that most people have backyards that are filled with really poor/weak soil.

The reasons for this are complicated – a subject for another day.  Suffice it to say that if the soil is weak, your plants will also be weak.  And so it follows that weak plants have poor production, leading to more time and money spent on a low quantity of low quality vegetables.

Healthy Soil Equals Healthy Plants

This means that you need to enrich your soil.  Because most people are not making their own compost at home, they need to buy fertilizer.  Plant fertilizers purchased from the local garden center often contain chemicals that may harm your plants, and are not environmentally friendly.

In addition, fertilizer can be a bit pricey, and this is most likely why the myth that home gardens are expensive continues.  This is not necessarily true.  You needn’t spend a bundle of money because, believe it or not, you are full of fertilizer!

Make Your Own Homemade Fertilizers

Making your own organic plant food is easy and fun.  It should be noted that most people understand that the best way to get good garden soil is to use compost to amend the soil.  Of course, that is true.  Compost can be made at home out of leftover food scraps and lawn clippings, and so it is virtually cost-free.

Composting may be all one needs for a successful home vegetable crop.  If, however, the soil is still lacking in nutrients or if you are planting a more demanding vegetable garden, augmenting with another type of fertilizer may be advisable.  So why spend good money on store bought fertilizer when you can make it yourself with just a little information?

Fertilize with Beer and Milk: A Simple Fertilizer From The Greek Gods

Nourishing Nutrients for Prolific Plants

The key to a good garden is good soil.  Of the essential nutrients plants need to thrive, most of them are found in soil.  Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and to a lesser extent calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are called macronutrients, and these are the nutrients that plants need most.

The remaining micronutrients can be supplied in smaller amounts even by some of the poorest soils out there.

While it may not be the most exciting of gardening topics, nothing is more important than having a basic understanding of fertilizer.  Just like you and I need nourishment – so do plants.  Understanding just a small bit of information about fertilizer can go a long way toward helping your garden to grow big, strong, healthy plants on a light budget.  Before we look at some inexpensive homemade fertilizers, let’s look briefly at the subject in general.  All fertilizers fall into one of two basic categories: chemical/synthetic or natural/organic.

Organic Fertilizers Versus Synthetic Fertilizers

Chemical/synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using synthetic substances that usually contain highly concentrated forms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (these are the N-P-K values listed on the fertilizer packaging).

These fertilizers work quickly because they feed the plants directly.  But they do come with a downside – they do not improve the soil itself and they can, over time, even destroy the beneficial organisms needed for healthy soil.  When you use large quantities of this inorganic stuff over and over again, its byproducts will actually build up in the soil and in time they can hinder plant growth.

Organic/natural fertilizers often use alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, or fish emulsion to provide nitrogen; bone meal or rock phosphate to provide phosphorus; and kelp meal or granite meal to provide potassium.

The downside here is that they work much more slowly, first breaking down in the soil into forms that the plant roots can more easily absorb, then making their way up the plant roots to your hungry plants.

Organic/natural fertilizers, on the other hand, don’t feed the plants directly but rather add essential nutrients to the soil where they become available to the plants, more slowly, over time.

Homemade fertilizers include fresh bananas

Understanding the Basics about N-P-K

While there are also many important micronutrients in good fertilizer, it is understanding the “big 3,” the N-P-K, that is the key to making your own effective fertilizer at home.  The N is for nitrogen, the P for phosphorus, and the K for Potassium.  Each has an important role to play in the health of your garden.

Nitrogen is the nutrient plants use most to grow large and lush – tall stems with lots of good leafy growth.  If you examine the N-P-K content of commercial products that advertise “miracle growth” you will find there is no real miracle at all – the amazing growth is due to a balanced but high N-P-K ratio with a hefty amount of nitrogen in the mix.

Phosphorus is needed to grow strong healthy root systems, and to promote vigorous flowering.  Commercial “blooming” mixes are usually high in phosphorus.

Potassium helps with plant growth, protein production, plant hardiness, disease resistance, insect resistance and efficient water use.  Plants without enough potassium grow slowly and can have yellow leaves.

Read more: How to Measure Your Favorite Organic Fertilizers

Less is More

Always remember the one basic rule that applies to the use of all fertilizers – “less is more.”  If you use too much fertilizer or too strong a concentration, you could do much more harm than good.  Plant roots can be harmed and you will soon see the tell-tale symptoms of fertilizer burn – brown, curled leaf edges and leaves that wither and fall from the stem.  Always err on the side of caution – “less is more!”

Now, with a simple understanding of the information above, you are ready to get out and make your own fertilizer.  For my purposes I needed a good, effective, general use fertilizer.  Here are a few of the solutions that have brought me success:

Easy Household Fertilizers

There are quite a few common items found in your kitchen, and elsewhere around the house, that can be used as plant fertilizer.

Aquarium Water

Water your plants with the aquarium water taken right out of the tank when cleaning it.  Fresh water only please, do not use water from a salt water tank.  The fish waste makes a great plant fertilizer.


Bananas are not only tasty and healthy for humans, but they also benefit many different plants.  When planting roses, bury a banana (or just the peel) in the hole alongside the rose.  As the rose grows, bury bananas or banana peels into the top layer of the soil.  Both of these approaches will provide the much needed potassium that plants need for proper growth.

Blackstrap Molasses

Blackstrap molasses is an excellent source of many different nutrients that plants use.  This includes carbon, iron, sulfur, potash, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper, and magnesium.  What makes this an excellent type of fertilizer is that it feeds beneficial bacteria, which keep the soil and plants healthy.  To use blackstrap molasses as a fertilizer, mix it with another all-purpose fertilizer.  A good combination to use is one cup each of epsom salts and alfalfa meal.  Dissolve this combination in four gallons of water and top it off with one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses.  Or simply mix blackstrap molasses in with compost tea.  Do this only after the compost tea has steeped.

Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds contain about two percent nitrogen, about a third of a percent of phosphoric acid, and varying amounts of potash (generally less than one percent).  Coffee grounds are particularly useful on those plants that like things a bit more acidic such as blueberries, evergreens, azaleas, roses, camellias, avocados, and many fruit trees.  I recommend that you allow the coffee grounds to dry and then scatter them lightly, as a mulch, around your plants.  Avoid scattering them thickly when they are wet, because clumps of coffee grounds have a tendency to get moldy.

Cooking Water

Many different nutrients are released into the water that food is cooked in.  Water that is used to boil potatoes, vegetables, eggs, and even pasta can be used as a fertilizer.  Just remember to let the water cool before applying it to your soil.

Corn Gluten Meal

Corn gluten meal is a byproduct of the wet-milling process for corn.  It is used not only as an organic pre-emergent herbicide, but also as a fertilizer that is 10 percent nitrogen.  To use as a fertilizer, simply spread a thin layer of corn gluten meal and scratch it into the top inch of soil. Plant veggie starts inside the treated area for optimum nitrogen benefit, and do not worry about accidentally harming your plants.  Corn gluten meal only works as an herbicide before seeds germinate, not after, so it won’t hurt plants that have already sprouted.

Egg Shells

Egg shells contain about 1% nitrogen, about a half-percent phosphoric acid, and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer.  Calcium is an essential plant nutrient which plays a fundamental part in cell manufacture and growth.  Most roots must have some calcium at the growing tips to grow effectively.  Plant growth removes large quantities of calcium from the soil, and calcium must be replenished, so this is an ideal way to “recycle” your egg shells.  Simply crush them, powder them in an old coffee grinder, and sprinkle them around your garden soil.

Epsom Salts

1 tablespoon of epsom salts can be combined with 1 gallon of water and put into a sprayer.  Apply once a month, directly to the foliage for a quick dose of magnesium and sulfur.

Wood Ash (From Your Fireplace or Fire Pit)

Ashes can be sprinkled onto your soil to supply potassium and calcium carbonate.  Hard wood is best, and no charcoal or lighter fluid, please, as this can harm your plants.  Don’t use ash in areas where you are trying to maintain acid-loving plants – the ashes are alkaline and can increase alkalinity in the soil.


Gelatin can be a great nitrogen source.  Dissolve one package of gelatin in 1 cup of hot water and then add 3 cups of cold water.  Pour directly on the soil around your plants once a month.  This is great for houseplants!

Green Tea

A weak solution of green tea can be used to water plants every four weeks.  Use one teabag to 2 gallons of water.


Hair is a good source of nitrogen and it does double duty as a deer repellent.  A good source for this hair is not only your hairbrush but also the local barbershop or beauty salon.  Many of these establishments will save hair for your garden, if you ask them for it.  But do not limit yourself to only human hair.  Dog hair, horse hair, and cat hair work just as well.

Horse Feed

What makes horse feed irresistible to horses is also what makes it an excellent fertilizer.  The magic ingredient is molasses.  To use horse feed as a fertilizer is simple and easy.  It can be used as a soil amendment just by sprinkling it on top of the soil.  Alternatively, it can be dissolved in water alone or combined with another organic fertilizer, and applied as a soil drench.


The old fashioned easy strike matches are a great source of magnesium.  To use this as a fertilizer, simply place the whole match in the hole with the plant, or soak the matches in water.  The magnesium will dissolve into the water and make application easier.

Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is not only good for human consumption but also for plants.  This source of calcium needs to be mixed in to the soil prior to planting.  Since the milk is in powder form, it is ready for use by your plants.

Read more: How to Fertilize Your Container Gardens

Four Easy Homemade Fertilizer Recipes

These are some slightly more complex fertilizer recipes that I like to use.  My favorites are the Simple Tea and the Quick Fix, but each of these make regular appearances in our garden fertilizing schedule:

Recipe #1 – Simple Tea Fertilizer

This simple recipe has been used for 1000s of years. Give it a try in your garden for a quick and inexpensive dose of nutrients for your plants.


• In a five gallon bucket, mix 1/4 cup of epsom salts, 2 cups of urine (yes, good old pee pee), and 2 cups of wood ash (again, no lighter fluid or charcoal, please)
• Fill the rest of the bucket about half way with grass clippings, pruned green leaves, or even green weeds pulled right out of the ground
• Fill the bucket to the top with water and allow the mix to steep for three days
• After steeping, strain the tea or decant into empty milk jugs or old 2 liter bottles
• Before use, dilute by 50% by mixing half water and half tea into your favorite watering can
• Apply this wonderful mix by pouring it directly onto the soil around your plants

If your results are anything like mine you will see a noticeable difference in just a few days.

Note: Only steep for three days. By the third day, most of the soluble nutrients will have seeped out into the water solution. Stopping now prevents fermentation, which you want to avoid. Fermented materials will smell bad, and their pH can change rapidly, so it’s important to stick with a three day steeping, and then use the concentrate within a day or two.

Recipe #2 – Homemade Fish Emulsion Fertilizer

Fish emulsion is a homemade fertilizer made using fish waste – such as fish parts and guts – and water. This organic all-purpose fertilizer has also been around for 1000s of years and it works great, but it takes weeks to make, and the mixture must have time to rot before you can use it. Yes, there is some bad smell here – it is made from rotting fish after all!


• To begin the process, fill a 55-gallon drum about one-third full with a ratio of 2 parts water and 1 part fish waste
• Allow this mixture to steep for 24 hours
• After steeping, add more water to the drum until it is completely full
• Cover loosely and let the drum ferment for several weeks – we usually allow about 3 weeks for fermentation
• To use, apply the fish emulsion fertilizer to the soil around your plants at a rate of 3 gallons of liquid for every 100 square feet of yard or garden

Homemade fish emulsion fertilizers

Recipe #3 – Seaweed Fertilizer

Another fertilizer with a 1000 year pedigree. Not only is seaweed an all-purpose organic fertilizer, but it also contains mannitol. Mannitol is a compound that increases a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients in the soil. Either fresh or dried seaweed can be used to create the all-purpose fertilizer. However, if you use fresh seaweed or dry salted seaweed, ensure it is thoroughly washed before using.


• Add 8 cups of chopped seaweed to a five gallon bucket and fill halfway with water (rain water is always best if it’s available)
• Loosely cover the container, and let the seaweed steep for about three weeks
• After steeping, strain the seaweed and transfer the liquid to a container to store it for up to 3 weeks
• To use, mix half water and half seaweed tea into your favorite watering can and apply it to the soil around your plants. Your plants will thank you for it within just a few days.

Recipe #4 – The Quick Fix Fertilizer

If you haven’t got time to wait 3 days to make the Simple Tea, you might want to try this idea. Most of the ingredients can be found around your home.


• In an empty 1 gallon milk jug, mix 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ammonia (a very strong source of quick nitrogen), 3 teaspoons of instant iced tea (the tannic acid in this helps the plants to more quickly and easily absorb nutrients), 3 teaspoons blackstrap molasses (this helps feed soil bacteria), 3 Tablespoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide (hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer, as it combines with the air and water it decomposes, freeing the oxygen elements and thus providing a supplement of oxygen to the plants and aerating the soil), 1/4 cup crushed bone scraps (this adds phosphorus – any bones will do but I like to use fish bones myself as they also provide potassium), 1 crushed egg shell or 1/2 a dried banana peel for potassium (you can omit if using fish bones, but I would still add the egg shell for the calcium – especially for my tomatoes as it helps prevent blossom end rot)
• Fill the jug the rest of the way with water (again rain water is best). Replace cap and allow the jug to sit in the sun for about 1 hour to warm, then water your plants with this mixture at full strength.

Homemade manure tea fertilizer

Using What Your Animals Give You

There are many other ways to make your own fertilizer, and some are easier to make than others. It doesn’t get much easier than using manure from your animals. For eons, man used “free” fertilizer from manure to fertilize his crops. Manure can be used as is after drying, or in the form of manure tea.

Before manure is used in the garden, it should be aged and dried, and/or composted first. Age fresh manure for at least 6 months. Well-aged manure on its own makes a great fertilizer for garden plants. You can spread aged manure directly on top of your garden soil at a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Another option is to till it, or mix it by hand, into the top layer of soil in the fall or winter, prior to spring planting.

Generally, fall is the best time to use manure in the garden. This allows plenty of time for the manure to break down, eliminating the threat of burning plants in the garden come springtime. As the soil absorbs manure, nutrients are released. This enriches the soil, which in turn helps the plants. One of the most important benefits of using manure in the garden is its ability to condition the soil.

Composting manure is one of the best and safest ways to use this free fertilizer, as it eliminates the possibility of burning your plants and controls potentially harmful bacteria.

Nearly any kind of manure can be used. Generally horse, cow, and chicken manures are the most commonly used for manure fertilizer. Some people also use sheep, rabbit, turkey, and more. It is not recommended that you use manure from your cats, dogs, other household pets – or any other meat-eating animals. These manures are unsuitable for the garden or the compost pile, as they are likely to carry parasites.

Making Manure Tea Fertilizer

I will leave you with one last recipe. I use this tea regularly and it works great – just make sure that your manure is well-aged.

Bonus Recipe: Manure Tea Fertilizer

Manure tea enriches the soil and adds much needed nutrients for healthy plant growth. The nutrients found in manure tea make it an ideal fertilizer for garden plants. The nutrients from manure dissolve easily in water so that they can then be added to a sprayer or simply used in a watering can. The leftover manure can be thrown in the garden or reused in the compost pile.

Manure tea can be used each time you water plants, or periodically. It can also be used to water lawns. However, it is important to dilute the tea prior to use so as to avoid burning the roots or foliage of plants. I fill my watering can 1/2 way with the tea and then fill it to the top with rain water. I use this every 3 weeks or so during the growing season.


• Place a shovel full of well-aged manure in a large burlap sack or pillowcase
• Make certain that the manure has been well aged or “cured” beforehand. Fresh manure is much too strong for plants, and it can contain harmful bacteria.
• Suspend the manure-filled “tea bag” in a 5 gallon bucket, and add water to create a mix of 5 parts water to 1 part manure
• Allow this mixture to steep for up to two weeks
• After steeping, remove the bag, allowing it to hang above the container until the dripping has stopped
• Skipping the tea bag and adding the manure directly to the water usually speeds up the brewing process. Without a bag, the tea is usually ready within only a few days if you stir it thoroughly during this period. Once it has fully brewed, you will have to strain it to separate the solids from the liquid. The remaining manure can then be added to the compost pile.
• To use, dilute the tea by half, as mentioned above, prior to use

Helpful resource: How Much Nutrient is in Your Homemade Fertilizer?

Add to This List of Homemade Fertilizers

This list of homemade fertilizers is by no means exhaustive. If I’ve missed any of your favorites, be sure to let me know in the comments below! Keep in mind that the most important thing you really need to understand about making your own fertilizer is that you control what goes into the fertilizer, so you know exactly what goes into your garden and therefore what goes into your body. Making your fertilizer is also a great way to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

Lately, before I toss anything into my trash, I stop and ask myself, “How else can I use this?” As often as not, the things I would have otherwise thrown away can help out in my garden. And, best of all, I’ve come to realize that my home, my animals, and even my own body are all full of fertilizer!

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35 Cheap Organic Fertilizers to Power UP Your Garden

Home gardeners spend millions each year on fertilizer for their gardens and houseplants. WOW! While many scientists agree that chemical fertilizer is harming the environment, organic fertilizer is draining our wallets. The good news is that you can easily make your own fertilizers from organic waste material and other things that you have around the house.

3 Reasons You Need Organic Fertilizer

Your plants need organic fertilizer because:

  1. Most soil does not provide the essential nutrients that are required for the best plant growth and production.
  2. Even if you are super lucky to have rich loamy soil that all of us crave, as your plants grow they absorb those nutrients and leave the soil less fertile.
  3. All of those beautiful flowers, fruits, and veggies that you grew last year took the nutrients that were in the soil. This year, your garden needs another boost of nutrients for this year’s plants.

Why It’s Important To Know Your Soil

While it’s important to fertilize your plants and the soil, it’s also important to know what your soil needs. That’s where a soil test comes in. Get one from your local county extension office. When you send in your sample, you’ll get the report. It tells you what your soil has in abundance and what you really need to add for best plant growth.

Also, soils vary in their ability to hold nutrients and make them available to plants. Sandy soils do not hold nutrients well, clay soils do. However, clay soils do not like to give up the water they hold, so it is more difficult for plants to take up the nutrients that are available.

Which Do I Need A Soil Amendment Or Organic Fertilizer?

Soil amendments are mixed with soil to improve the physical properties or increase microbial action. It makes a plant’s roots happy and healthy. Amendments improve the soil’s water retention, permeability, drainage, air holding capacity, and structure.

Fertilizers are soil amendments that are applied to promote plant growth not change the soils characteristics.

The short answer is you need both. Okay, so what’s the difference? Soil Amendments are added to…well…the soil!  You can add them before, during, or after planting. However, the nutrients are not readily available for the plants to take up. Microorganisms in the soil need to break them down further so the plants can use the nutrients in the amendment. Fertilizers are pretty close to being available for the plants to get their nutrients pretty quickly. Think of soil amendments like eating your favorite veggie. The nutrients in that veggie aren’t readily available for your body to use right away. Your body has to digest it for the nutrients to be available for your body to use.

Organic vs. Inorganic Manufactured Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer comes from the remains of or are because of different types of organisms. Microorganisms found in the soil breakdown the organic material, making its nutrients readily available to the plants.

Inorganic fertilizers completely or partially contain man-made materials. Manufacturers combine these in different ways and amounts to get a super-growth fertilizer that may or may not be organic. Many inorganic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels, too.

TIP: Over use of inorganic fertilizers or adding a fertilizer that your soil or plants don’t need can lead to a buildup of salts and other minerals in the soil causing damage to your plants. It can also be a waste of money. More is not better when it comes to any kind of fertilizer!

Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer releases nutrients slowly and decreases the risk of over-fertilization. The slow release of nutrients also means they are available for a longer period of time. Many organic fertilizers improve your soil, by increasing your soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. They will also help decrease erosion and hard, packed soil due to wind and rain. Organic fertilizer adds natural nutrients, feeds important microbes, and improves the soil structure.

On the downside, organic fertilizer is released slowly so your plants will be nutrient deficient until the decomposing process is completed, and some organic fertilizers contain lower percentages of the three key nutrients: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K). Timing is everything with any fertilizer. The best time is to add them when your soil is waiting to be planted.

TIP: There are fast-acting organic fertilizers, too. Bat guano, fish meal, and worm casting all have nutrients readily available for plants.


You’ve probably already read about
15 of the best fertilizers here.

Here are 35 more great fertilizers to consider:

  1. Worm castings
 – Worm castings are soil superfood! They provide nitrogen and make soil absorbent. A huge number of beneficial microbes and bacteria are introduced to the soil, too.
  2. Beer
 – The jury is out on this one. Many tests have shown that beer doesn’t add anything, but some people swear by it. Beer is a simple sugar and plants need complex sugars. Scientifically speaking, it probably doesn’t work. However, it does work to get rid of slugs and is a great cool down on a hot gardening day! Also, if you brew your own beer or live near a microbrewery, you might want to use “Beer Mash” (the grains leftover from making beer). It’s a great soil amendment.
  3. Ammonia
 – Ammonia naturally occurs in the soil. There are microbes in the soil that pull nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil in the form of ammonia. The amount is what is important here. Use 1 or 2 ounces per gallon of water mixed with molasses. Microbes love this stuff. If you’re uncomfortable using man-made ammonia, you can always slide down the list and use urine instead.
  4. Liquid Dish Soap
 – This is another one that is up for debate. There are a lot of studies that show that dish detergent (made with a lot of chemicals) is harmful to plants. However, there are some organic dish soaps that will help your “supertonic” to penetrate the soil. You only need a couple of drops in 32 oz. of water to get the job done. Remember, more is not better!
  5. Dog and Cat Food
 – Make sure that it is an organic pet food. Sprinkle the dry pet food on the bed or container. Turn the soil or water it in. It provides protein to feed the fungi and bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, plus other minerals. To discourage vertebrae pests, be sure to cover this fertilizer with cardboard.
  6. Tea
 – Tea and tea bags are excellent for your garden. As the bag and tea decompose, they release nitrogen. First, make sure your tea bag is compostable. You don’t want the ones made of polypropylene. If the bag is slippery, don’t use it in the garden. Tea also makes a great brew for acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries. Tea also helps deter some root maggots.
  7. Bone Meal
 – Alright so this is a stretch for just having some lying around the house. However, bone meal is a really good source of phosphorus and protein. It is coarsely ground animal bones and waste products. Make sure you need phosphorus in your soil before adding it. A soil test is your best friend in the garden. However, if you want to make your own bone meal, here’s what you do: 1. Collect bones by storing them in the freezer. 2. Clean them by making a bone broth. 3. Once they are clean, sterilize them. Place them on a baking sheet under the broiler for 10-15 minutes. 4. Dry the bones by placing the cooking sheet on the counter for about three to four weeks. They need to be completely dry. 5. Crush them into a fine powder with a food processor. If you use a mortar and pestle, be sure to wear a mask over your nose and mouth. 6. It is now ready to use.
  8. Antacid Tablets
 – If your soil is low in calcium, this should be a go-to. It helps prevent blossom end rot in your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Push one tablet into the soil by the plant’s roots. Voila! Instant calcium boost.
  9. Coconut Coir
 – Coconut coir has become the replacement for the non-renewable Peat Moss. This soil amendment adds air and space to assist with water retention and nutrient uptake. It makes a great seedling starter!
  10. Humanure – (To prevent pathogens and disease, only use for fruit and nut tree, not vegetables)
 Okay, I hear you with your “Ewww’s,” but hear me out. This organic material is a valuable resource rich in soil nutrients. In the U.S., each of us wastes more than a thousand pounds of humanure each year. Composting is key! It takes a year to fully compost human feces and breakdown the pathogens. For more information, check out The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins.
  11. Newspaper
 – Makes a great mulch and soil amendment. The added bonus is that the soil-based ink kills diseases in the soil. It can be shredded or laid in a thick layer on your beds. It is best to wet the newspaper before applying.
  12. Comfrey
 – This deep-rooted herb was once a traditional remedy to help heal broken bones. Its vast root system acts as an accumulator by extracting a wide range of nutrients from deep in your soil. These nutrients naturally accumulate in its fast-growing leaves. Cut 4 to 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.27 kg) of leaves from each plant. It is super-rich in nitrogen and potassium. Some research has shown that comfrey leaves have 2 to 3 times more potassium than farmyard manures!
  13. Urine
 – Yes, you read that right! Human urine is an excellent source of nitrogen. It is great to add to compost tea or your compost pile as an activator. Pathogens, disease, and toxins are quickly killed within 24 hours of leaving your body. Dilute the urine with water in a ratio 1::2 and water your plants.
  14. Citrus rinds – 
Stir those rinds right into the soil. As they break down, they’ll release sulfur, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more nutrients. You can also dry the peels and grind them into a fine powder that can be added to the soil.
  15. Kelp meal or seaweed
 – Kelp contains small amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, but it’s very high in trace elements, too. Typically, you’ll mix this liquid fertilizer with water. Use it as a foliar spray or pour it onto the soil around plants.
  16. Granite dust – 
Granite is made of volcanic rock. It is filled with more than 60 different elements, including potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Trace elements in granite make the soil nutrient dense. Be sure to read the label!
  17. Green manures
 – This is a favorite! Green manures are a fall cover crop that is grown on beds or pastures before or after crops or flowers to add nutrients back into the soil as they grow. They get turned under after their season. Some green manures include clovers, vetch, rye, and mustards.
  18. White Vinegar
 – There is a lot of chatter on the Internet about white vinegar changing the pH level of your soil. Tests have shown that it may have a temporary effect, but it is nearly impossible to change the pH of your soil, except over the very long-term. However, feed your container plants with a mixture of 1 Tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar in 8 ounces of water. Bring the mix to a slow boil until the sugar dissolves. Then, let it cool and feed those hungry plants.
  19. Grass clippings and Weeds – These are an excellent source of nitrogen and potassium for your fertilizer teas. Put the clippings in a 5-gallon bucket filled with water. Cover and let marinate for 3 to 4 weeks. You’ll have a lovely batch of “green” fertilizer tea.
  20. Mushrooms
 – The part of the mushroom that you see is actually the fruiting body. In the soil is where the real magic happens. Fungi are part of the soil web that helps bring nutrients to your plants.
  21. Borax
 – Some plants of the Brassica Family, like broccoli and cauliflower need boron (found in borax). Be sure to do a soil test to see if your soil needs boron. If it does, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon over 100 linear feet.
  22. Bat guano
 – Whether fresh or dry, bat poo adds a heavy dose of nitrogen to the soil. It acts fast and has very little odor. It also helps enrich the soil and help with drainage and texture. Add it directly to the soil or make a bat guano tea!
  23. Rabbit droppings
 – Bunny poo has a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other trace minerals. It can be added directly into the soil or added to your compost pile. Bunny Poo Tea can be made using a 5-gallon bucket, a shovel full of rabbit pellets, add water, and let steep for two days. Water the soil when it’s ready!
  24. Chicken feathers – Feathers from your backyard chickens add nitrogen to your compost pile, and eventually, the garden. First, put them into your compost pile to let them decompose.
  25. Shellfish – 
Lobster, shrimp, and crab shells provide nutrients, including phosphorus. However, the bacteria that breaks them down is even more important! Simmer the shells for 20 to 30 minutes in boiling water. Drain well. Put them in a food dehydrator or oven until dry. Crush the shells with a mortar and pestle. Add to your compost pile or directly into the soil.
  26. Baking Soda – 
In order to sweeten tomatoes and discourage pests, lightly sprinkle baking soda on the soil.
  27. Compost
 – Compost is a great soil amendment and provides nutrients and micro-organisms to your soil. The microorganisms make the nutrients available for the plants to take up. However, some research is showing that compost teas are ineffective. Basically, it is watering down the nutrients in the compost, and doesn’t make it any more available to the plants to take up. Click here to read more about boosting your compost pile.
  28. Alfalfa
 – Alfalfa is commonly used as part of livestock feed. However, alfalfa meal is simply ground up so that it breaks down faster. This particular fertilizer has low amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. As a result, alfalfa meal works fairly slow. The best use for this fertilizer is as a soil amendment in the early spring prior to planting crops.
  29. Nettles
 – The stinging hairs of the nettle plant may deter you from using this bad boy, but if you can stand it, put your harvest into a 5-gallon bucket, and cover them with water. In 3 to 4 weeks, you’ll have wonderful plant food for your garden.
  30. Hydrogen Peroxide
 – Your plants’ roots will thank you for a little extra oxygen. Mix 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide with 2 cups of water. Water your plant’s roots with the solution.
  31. Pine needles or Straw
 – Adding pine needles supplies nitrogen to your soil. It also adds bulk that will bring in the beneficial microbes to help break them down.
  32. Blood Meal
 – Add crucial nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil by using blood meal to promote healthy plant growth. Want to make your own blood meal? You can! Gather the blood. If you’re a woman, use your menstrual blood by collecting it in a menstrual cup. You can gather it from your meals, or from butchering some of your animals, too. Either way, pour the blood onto a baking sheet. Put it into a 375° oven. Keep it in the oven until all the blood is completely dry, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Scrape the dried blood off the baking sheet and into a container. Use a mortar and pestle to ground the blood into a fine powder.
  33. Fish Emulsion
 – Fish emulsion fertilizer is high in nitrogen but pretty stinky! It is also very acidic and should be used lightly to avoid burning plants. Nonetheless, fish emulsion acts immediately once it is applied, which makes it a good treatment for leafy greens that are suffering from low nitrogen levels. Be sure to experiment. Some plants may not tolerate it very well. There is a recipe below!
  34. Ground oyster shells
 – You may or may not have access to oyster shells, but they are a slow-release fertilizer to keep your garden healthy. Crush them into small pieces and bury them in the garden. The calcium carbonate in the shells will make the soil alkaline. Again, make sure you know your soil before adding this amendment.
  35. Nut Shells – 
Pop the nut in your mouth and toss the shell into the garden. It’s a win-win! Nut shells add bulk, which will allow water and nutrients to get to the plant roots. Microbes will be super-happy with your discarded shells.

Five More Easy Homemade Fertilizers

Comfrey Tea

What you’ll need:

  • Brick to hold the comfrey leaves down
  • Big bucket or plastic trash can with a lid
  1. Submerge your leaves for 3 to 5 weeks in a bucket or trash can of water. It depends on the warmth of  your climate.
  2. Mix the comfrey solution with more water to dilute (so it doesn’t damage or burn the root systems of plants), a 1::3 (water) ratio should work.
  3. Store in a cool dark place.

WARNING: Comfrey Tea stinks like crazy, but is OH-so good for your plants!



For Acid Loving Plants

Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in one gallon of water. Hand water your acid loving plants.

Seed Starter Organic Fertilizer

What you’ll need:

  • 1 drop of organic liquid dish soap
  • 2 drops of ammonia
  • 1 tablespoon of worm castings
  1. Place the above into a one quart misting bottle.
  2. Fill with water.
  3. Shake it gently and mist the surface of the seed container every day until you start to see little sprouts.

Homemade Fish Emulsion

Don’t buy fish emulsion. You can make it with this recipe! Click here to get the homemade recipe.


 Apartment (or Condo) Container Garden Smoothie Fertilizer

What you’ll need:

  • Compost bucket
  • Blender
  • Kitchen scraps
    • Egg shells
    • Vegetable scraps
    • Banana peel broken into small pieces
    • Old coffee grounds
    • Used bulk herbs from herbal teas
    • Spent fruit (non-moldy)
    • Stale sea-vegetables
  1. Place all scraps in blender.
  2. Fill blender halfway with water. Don’t add too much water because there is already liquid in your kitchen scraps. (You don’t want your blender to explode compost all over the kitchen!)
  3. Place lid on blender.  Start on a low setting and puree until everything is combined and becomes a liquid.
  4. Feed it to your container soil.

Other Options:

  • Pour it on top of the soil, and let it sit for 24 hours. Then, water it in or turn the soil.
  • Water it in as soon as you put it on the container’s soil.
  • If you already have plants in place, pour the mixture into large bucket and fill with water.  Then pour the water-liquid over soil.

There are a lot of different types of fertilizers for you to try. However, use what you have locally or in your home to save you some money. If you are in the Midwest, there is no point in ordering Oyster Shells. Use what you have! Whether you are a Hobby Farmer or a Container Gardener, here are your first steps in a nutshell (pun intended!)

  1. Start your compost pile. Regardless of what your soil test tells you, a compost pile will be an invaluable source of nutrients that will feed your soil’s microbes and your plants.
  2. Get a soil test to know and understand what your soil needs. More than likely your county extension office will have soil testing kits.
  3. Understand what your plants need at different times of the season. Are they growing, flowering, or needing to add roots? Fertilize at the right time with the right organic fertilizer!
  4. Make up a batch of fertilizer that is just right for your garden. Experiment. Learn. Have fun!
  5. Remember that gardening is an adventure. Try different things and make note of the results. Some things may work better for you than others. You be the judge!


What’s your favorite organic fertilizer and how do you use it in your garden? Tell us in the comments below. We’d love to hear about your gardening adventures!

Keep growing!



organic fertilizer land













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Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens Organically – When, How And What To Use!

When it comes to fertilizing vegetable gardens, nothing can top good old, time-tested organic solutions! Not only are they safe to use on the plants that will feed your family, they are extremely economical. Organic fertilizers, with their natural nutrients,

The post Fertilizing Vegetable Gardens Organically – When, How And What To Use! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Composting Guerrilla Style

This is an entertaining video from The Urban Farming Guys who are doing their best to make urban farming exciting. There is no shortage of talent and resource in most urban areas, but there is a serious shortage of fresh foods. This is a giant problem in America today. This food shortage would only be […]

The post Composting Guerrilla Style appeared first on Urban Survival Site.

Sustainable Gardening Systems!

Sustainable Gardening Systems James Walton “I Am Liberty” Audio in player below! Is there anything like eating out of your backyard? I don’t know about you but when I get the change to look out back and see beds of kale, chard, beets and spinach growing tall I am so satisfied. Just having access to … Continue reading Sustainable Gardening Systems!

The post Sustainable Gardening Systems! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

Survival Composting: Can Human Excrement Be Used as Compost?

If Society Falls, How Will You Feed Your Family? Here’s One Way …

After the movie, The Martian, a lot of people wonder — can human excrement really be used as compost?

Wow — ready for the answer?


Imagine what the world would look like after a devastating event on an apocalypse level.

The World After an Apocalypse — Can You Survive?

The apocalypse could be something like a major power grid failure, major war or some natural disaster that completely destroys the world as we know it. What some proclaim as “judgment day” coming from the hand of God and others consider just a probable event when unruly nations like North Korea are allowed to develop several nuclear weapons, an EMP caused by a nuclear explosion, a solar flare or some man made device is a very real possibility.

It is something the governments are preparing to deal with because there is such a high probability it will happen. There is no doubt that our power grid is in danger and that terrorists are dreaming up ways to try to take it down.

If an EMP takes place…

If a massive EMP happens, the world as we know it will crumble. It will take out the power grid, which will create a domino effect. Everything will fall apart. Businesses will collapse. The banking systems will be non-existent and the food supply chain will cease. Life is going to be much harder and you will be completely dependent on yourself.

Growing your own food will be a necessity. You won’t have the luxury of running to a grocery store when you need to put food on the table. It will have to come from your own crops. That is a lot of pressure. In today’s world, most people are not prepared to grow their own food. They don’t have the knowledge or the know-how. It is going to be a scary situation.

If you are familiar with gardening at all, you are probably well aware of the many, many products on the market to help your garden thrive. Fertilizers are regularly used by commercial farms and hobby gardeners. They help speed things along while ensuring plants are healthy. If your plants and the soil in which they grow don’t have the necessary nutrition, your garden is going to fail.

If Your Garden Fails – You Starve

Without backup foods and preps of course, and we’ve written previously on several of the best survival foods to be stockpiling today.

That should be a simple fact to understand, which is why you need to know about survival composting.

Compost is Organic Material with the Nutrients for Rich Soil

Compost is organic material added to the soil. Compost is rich in things like nitrogen and carbon. These components are what make soil rich and fertile. Fertile ground is what you need to make your garden grow. If your soil is healthy and full of nutrients, you won’t have a need for fertilizer.

Compost Attracts Worms

Compost attracts worms as well. Worms thrive in rich soil and make it even better. Their little tunnels help break up the soil, making it nice and loose for the sprawling roots of your plants. They also add their own fertilizer and organic material to the soil for the plants’ roots to feed on. It is a harmonious balance that every gardener strives for.

Why Compost?

Every time you grow something in soil, you are depleting the nutrients. Think of your soil as a bucket of water. Each time you grow a plant, you are taking out some of that water. Soon, it will be empty. Your soil will quickly be drained of the nutrients it needs to feed the plants. This is why it is so important you are constantly adding nutrients to the soil in the form of compost.

If you continue to plant, harvest, plant, harvest, you are going to deplete your soil. Practicing proper crop rotation is one way you can give the soil a rest. This is a practice that is very common in today’s world. Farmers will rotate fields each season. One season it is planted with something like corn or potatoes and the following year a cover crop, like clover or alfalfa is planted. The cover crops add nutrients back to the soil. The plant material sits in the fields over the growing season and winter, slowly breaking down and feeding the soil so it is ready to go the following year.

Unfortunately, in a grid down situation, that may not be possible. Every inch of ground you have available is an invaluable commodity. You need to grow as much food as possible on every bit of land available.

You can skip the downtime for a field by mixing in compost after a harvest. The compost cuts out that waiting period. You would harvest, add in your compost and allow it to sit in the ground over the winter months, eliminating the need to give your field a rest season. Your fields or garden bed are going to be ready for your seeds.

What is Compost Exactly?

Compost is really garbage. It is a lot of kitchen scraps that you wouldn’t eat. Things like potato peels, rinds, coffee grounds and so on. It can also be the parts of the fruits and vegetables you don’t eat like the tops of the carrots or the core of an apple. Newspaper and cardboard are also nice additions to a compost heap. Compost is comprised of organic material. Anything that can break down can be tossed in a compost pile. You would want to avoid things like plastic that don’t break down-at least not in the next five lifetimes.

Compost has fondly been dubbed Black Gold. It is a vital part of a healthy garden. After the kitchen waste has been given some time to break down, it turns into a dark loose material. It resembles a mixture of straw and dirt once it has gone through the break down process. This material is worked into the soil with a rototiller, hoe or just spread over the top and allowed to naturally work its way in.

Compost is not fertilizer. Compost feeds the soil. Fertilizer feeds the plants. If your soil is rich in nutrients, you don’t need the addition of chemical fertilizers. There is a reason organic gardening is so popular these days. The produce from an organic garden tastes better and is far better for you than produce grown with the help of some chemical fertilizer cooked up in a laboratory.

Now, when we say organic matter is what makes up a compost heap, we are also talking about waste i.e. poop. Every compost heap is benefited by the addition of poop. Yes, poop. Chicken poop and steer manure is so popular for use in gardens, it is sold by the bag at nearly every nursery and home store. You don’t have to pay for this excellent soil additive. You make your own everyday, right in your own home.

Yes, human waste is a fabulous addition to your compost heap that can mean the difference between having food on the table and starving. Before you turn up your nose, wait. There is plenty of evidence to back up the use of human waste in the garden.

Poop for Compost Heaps?

In today’s world, people are picky about the poop they use to fertilize their gardens. As mentioned earlier, chicken and steer are highly sought after. Feces is high in nitrogen. It will make your plants green and very leafy. As you get into composting, you are going to hear a lot about what NOT to compost. One of the things that is always heavily debated is the human waste addition to a compost heap.

Plenty of compost experts are going to tell you to never use human waste in your heap. There is a good reason for that. Human waste is full of parasites and bacteria that can make you incredibly sick. We know how important it is to wash our hands after taking care of business so we don’t spread disease. We know that poor sanitation can lead to a lot of nasty viruses and outbreaks of potentially fatal diseases.

So, why would we ever use human waste in a compost bin?

It’s free. It’s plentiful. And, it is a great way to recycle. After a world as we know it ending situation, compost is going to be a necessity and the one thing you are guaranteed to have available is human waste.

Safety of Human Waste in Compost Heaps

This is a topic that will get people really fired up. After movies like “The Martian” and a society that is more environmentally conscientious, recycling everything, including human waste, has become very trendy. It is something referred to as humanure. The bacteria and other pathogens found in human waste need a certain temperature to thrive. Think about the meat you cook for dinner. If you were to eat raw chicken or hamburger, there is a pretty good chance you could get sick. If you cook the meat to a certain temperature, the nasty viruses are killed and the meat is safe to eat. This concept applies to human waste as well.

Human waste needs to be heated in order to kill off the harmful organisms. This does not mean you cook up a poop stew. A compost heap provides all the heat needed to kill the harmful bacteria, viruses and other dangerous organisms that are in human waste.

The break down of organic material creates a reaction that quite literally cooks the manure and transforms it into the nutrient-rich compost that can make your garden flourish. In a recent test of the humanure system, Nance Klehm collected feces from 22 people. The people pooped in buckets and delivered it to Klehm. She dumped all of the waste material together and allowed it to sit in a compost heap for 11 months. It was given a stir and then tested again a year later. It was completely free of the bacteria and pathogens that typically contaminate human waste. It was completely safe once it went through the break down process, which we will cover in depth a bit later.

Composting Toilet

The composting toilet is a great way to get started with the humanure process. There are a number of different ways to create a composting toilet or you can spend a little extra cash and buy one that has everything you need. A composting toilet will catch all of the human waste. Every time a person uses the toilet, they add a layer of sawdust or woodchips. This helps contain any odor, covers up the business and starts the process of breaking down the waste to turn it into compost. Sawdust or wood chips are the best option for your composting toilet when it is in use in the house. Once you remove the basin/bucket or whatever you are using to catch the waste, you can add things like straw, grass clippings and etc…to the waste to help speed up the composting process. A composting toilet will not only save water, but it will give you an excellent additive for your garden. Imagine a world without plumbing, which is exactly what will happen after a massive EMP. People will still need to use the toilet. It just makes sense to put everything to good use!

Aerobic Composting of Human Waste

Aerobic composting is basically an open air compost heap. You will quite literally have a pile of poop in the yard or wherever you have designated your compost heap to be.

The waste from the composting toilet is dumped into the pile along with your kitchen and yard waste and allowed to ferment. You will need to use a pitch fork to “stir” the pile from time to time. In the very beginning of a compost heap, it will smell. Just avoid the area until the process gets moving along. The breakdown of organic material produces heat. The center of a compost heap can reach temperatures of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where you want your heap to be temperature wise for at least three weeks. You will often hear gardeners and expert composters talk about a heap and say it is too hot to be put into the soil. It is. It would actually scorch the soil if a cooking heap of compost was put into the soil. When a compost heap is “hot” you will get a very strong ammonia smell. Give it a good stir, wait a day or two and the smell will dissipate.

A hot compost pile is killing off those harmful pathogens and bacteria that are typically found in human waste. It is important you actually take the temperature of your compost heap. This is a critical step in the process of turning otherwise deadly human waste into a nutrient-rich material that will make your garden thrive.

Once the pathogens and bacteria are killed off, your heap cools down and you get this mellow process that slowly transforms the waste into an earthy, almost dirt-like substance.

Don’t Get the Compost Too Hot — Or You’ll Kill Good Microbes

It is possible for your compost heap to get too hot. If you have a lot of nitrogen-rich waste in your heap, things can really start cooking to the point the good microbes are killed off. If this happens, the breakdown process is interrupted and the heap will no longer be compost. It will be a very flammable alcohol. These hot heaps are fire hazards waiting to happen.

Human waste has got a bit of a bad reputation. When done right, it can be an invaluable tool to your survival garden. Check out the following books to learn more about survival composting with human waste.


Building Your Compost Bin

You can make your own outdoor aerobic compost heap with a few wooden pallets. Create an open U with the front being the open place. The pallets along the back and both sides will help keep the heap contained in one area. Ideally, you will want three bins so you always have a fresh batch of compost cooking. Once you have constructed your space for your heap, it is time to start adding your organic matter. There are some basics you will want to follows. Things to add to your heap include;

• Human waste

• Chicken, horse and other livestock waste

• Kitchen scraps

• Grass clippings

• Newspaper

• Cardboard

• Dead leaves, branches

• Cotton rags, scraps

• Ash from woodstove

• Sawdust (if using a composting toilet, you won’t need any extra)

• Wood chips

• Hay/straw

There are some things you will want to keep out of your compost heap. These are things that may introduce unwanted elements, like a noxious odor and unwanted parasites and diseases.

• Weeds or their seed heads

• Meat bones

• Milk products

• Plants that are diseased or full of pests like aphids

• Grease, lard or oil will attract flies, which brings maggots

• Black walnut leaves and branches are toxic

• Avoid adding wood chips that have been chemically treated

• Avoid any chemicals in general

You will be amazed at how quick your compost heap builds up. Once your pile has reached a certain height or you have been building it for about a month or two, it is time to leave it alone and let it do its thing. You can buy an actual compost heap thermometer at Home Depot or online. It is pretty quick and easy to check the temperature of your heap. Poke the thermometer in, wait for the dial to stop moving and you will know where you stand. If it is too hot, give the heap a good stir and spread it out. If nothing is happening, you need to add more waste to help get things cooking.

You will soon see how easy it is to compost and will appreciate what it does for your soil.

Why Survival Composting? Modern Day Society Could Crumble

Rather than the world moving toward an advanced and peaceful society, the fact is that the chaotic nature of unruly governments and religious extremists like Islamic Radicals mean that we will always have war, violence, disease and the possibility for a clash of civilizations. History is littered with these clashes and multiple societies have crumbled in the aftermath.

Only someone with their head in the sand would fail to realize that history has a bad habit of repeating itself. So whether our next clash is the result of the Biblical judgments of a Holy God, or because of the next major world war that some say is shaping up right now — or a combination of both to the shock of many — we need to be prepared with ways to support our family and possibly even help our neighborhoods and communities in the years ahead.

If stores ever close their doors suddenly, a lot of people simply are likely to die in the aftermath, not having seen the signs that danger was approaching. They won’t have food. They won’t have water. They won’t have any idea what to do to feed and protect themselves.

Food, Supplies, Plans, Knowledge … and Prayers Don’t Hurt

The right foods, supplies, plans, knowledge and a lot of those prayers for those who believe are going to make the difference for those who seek to be prepared.


Source :


                        RELATED ARTICLES : 

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How to Build a Super Simple Compost Pile from Local Materials

Here’s a simple compost pile design:

Unlike many of my composting experiments, this is a traditional compost pile of alternating layers of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials. The boundary is made from cut limbs hammered into the ground and woven about with palm fronds.

I also added homemade biochar to this compost pile to get it “charged” for future projects.

The C/N ratio in this pile should be about perfect with the greens and browns but if it doesn’t get hot enough I can always pour on some diluted urine to raise the nitrogen levels.

This simple compost pile can be set up anywhere in about an hour using local materials. I’ve done this in a cornfield before, cutting and chopping old stalks for the base, then adding on layers of greens and browns. Come back a few months later and harvest your compost!

Here’s a breakdown on the whole process.

How to Build a Simple Compost Pile with Local Materials

Step 1: Cut Stakes

I used sticks cut from some unidentified roadside nitrogen-fixing tree locals use as a windbreak.


It’s a soft wood and easy to chop, but you can use anything you like from bamboo to oak to PVC. 4-5′ lengths are good, as you want the pile to reach at least 3′ tall and you need some stake depth to drive into the ground.


Step 2: Install Stakes and Put Down Rough Material

I had already cut up some rough material and thrown it down before putting in the stakes, but it’s better to put in the stakes first.

Simple ompost pile Step_1

Cornstalks, hedge trimmings and other rough materials filled with air pockets make a good compost pile foundation. In the case of this pile, I used chopped twigs and leaves from the nitrogen-fixing trees used for the stakes, some jasmine and hibiscus trimmings and a papaya tree.

Step 3: Weave the Sides

I can’t make a good basket, but I’m not bad at simple compost pile weaving.

Simple compost pile weaving the edges

The idea is to hold in the compost while still allowing some air through into the pile. This also supports the stakes. In a temperate climate you could replace the palm fronds with grape vines, tall grasses, cattails or other plant material.

Step 4: Add some Browns

Gotta get that carbon!


As I state in the video, these leaves have a lot of dirt in them. That soil contains microbes which will help break everything down, so I didn’t bother adding a few shovelfuls of soil as I normally would when making a compost pile.

Step 5: Add some Greens (and Keep Layering!)

Get that nitrogen in there!


Grass clippings are a really good compost pile starter – if you have them, use them.

Just keep laying greens and browns until you’ve made the pile nice and tall. You can also throw in biochar if you have it.


It won’t really help the composting process, but my hope is that it will be charged up with nutrients, bacteria and fungi as the pile rots.

Step 6: Water Well

This is important: composting uses a lot of water, so get some on at the beginning. If most of your materials are dry, you might want to water each layer as you build the pile. I was too lazy to do that so I soaked it from the top before finishing the final covering layer.


Step 7: Cover the Pile

Covering the pile holds in heat and moisture. Sticking with my locally available materials, I used banana leaves.


You can also use a tarp or just another layer of brown leaves. Compost really isn’t a finicky thing to make – it’s will work, even if you don’t do anything “right.”

It’s going to decay and become humus over time, hot or not, perfect ratios or not.

In a few months you can turn this pile over and sift out the good stuff – or just push it around over the garden bed beneath and get planting.

Get out there and get composting – a simple compost pile is all you need.

The post How to Build a Super Simple Compost Pile from Local Materials appeared first on The Grow Network.

3 Simple Organic Fertilizers That Can Power Your Garden!

The Power of Organic Fertilizers! Let’s face it, sometimes your vegetable plants need a little boost. When it comes to the dirt in the garden, vegetable plants can consume a lot of the trace elements, minerals and nutrients in the soil that are

The post 3 Simple Organic Fertilizers That Can Power Your Garden! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

DIY Dry Banana Peels as Fertilizer

How to dry banana peels and give a potassium boost to your garden | PreparednessMama

Did you know you can take dry banana peels and turn it into fertilizer for your garden? We eat a lot of bananas at our house so I like the idea that all the peels that we would normally compost can be used to benefit the garden. Homemade potassium fertilizer using banana peels is very […]

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24 Ways to Prepare for Your Spring Garden in the Dead of Winter


prepare-spring-garden-in-winterIt can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!

If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them in the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong. You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.

Fall Preparation

Before it freezes (or at least quickly after the first frost):

1. Remove and discard diseased parts of plants. But not into the compost! (If you put them into the compost, the weeds could sprout up wherever you use the compost later.

2. Mulch over any plants that might be susceptible to the cold (about 8″ deep), including over-wintering vegetables such as carrots, so they are still alive in the spring.

3. Make sure all beds are composted or mulched. A compost pail with a charcoal filter will allow you to start your compost stash inside the house while controlling odors until you can empty it outdoors.

4. Clean up, maintain, and properly store garden tools and equipment. Note any that need replaced. If you need a new set of good quality hand tools like the ones in this kit, add it to your Christmas list!

5. If any garden tools need significant repairs, take them in to be fixed.

6. Start a wish-list of gifts you would like. The holidays are approaching!

Planning for next spring

7. Order seed catalogs. There are multiple good companies, so go ahead and order a few. You may be surprised by what you find, and really good catalogs will have your mouth watering and you itching to start digging in the dirt. A couple of my own favorites are Seeds of Change and Baker Creek.

Remember: if you want to save the seeds from the plants to grow new plants in the future, you almost certainly will want heirloom varieties.

8. Decide if you want to use cold frames or another technique to extend your growing season. Plan and build accordingly, if you want to go for it.

9. Start diagramming/planning what you want where. Once you have a very general plan – vegetable garden, herb garden, annuals, perennials, bushes, and trees planned out – it’s time to start getting more specific. A journal specifically designed for gardeners will give you room to plan your garden, journal your efforts, and then make notes about what worked and what didn’t.

10. Check the viability and test germination of any seeds you have on hand.

11. When planning, start with the plants that take the longest to mature and will be there for the longest – the trees. Next come bushes, then perennials including any perennial herbs, annuals including vegetables, and finally any potted plants.

The last would be plants that can’t survive in your area that you really want. In my case, I have some potted chamomile and an aloe plant that I bring in during the winter. Other people have lemon trees, but it could be almost anything.

12. Ask these questions for trees, bushes, perennials, and annuals:

  • Do you want to plant any new ones?
  • What kind?
  • How will planting these affect other plants you’ll put nearby? If you put in a tree that gets very wide, so you probably won’t want to plant bushes or anything long-lasting near it, but annual flowers could do great and provide a nice pop of color!
  • Are there any other plants that cannot coexist with it?
  • What plants do really well with it?
  • Where do you want them on your lot? You may realize that you want a vegetable garden near the driveway, but you need some bushes between it and your teenage driver.

13. Start picking out what you want! I think this is the most fun. I can totally lose myself in seed catalogs.

Guidance on Picking Plants

14. Decide what you are looking for, and why. I like unusual varieties of common plants, like yellow carrots or banana melons. You might prefer more traditional orange carrots. This article with advice from a master gardener may help you make these decisions.

15. Do you want to involve your kids? My youngest loves picking out plants. It makes him crazy-happy to pick out, plant, nurture, and (sometimes) eat plants. There are areas in the garden with nothing planned so he can put whatever makes him happy. And yes, sometimes he decides on a spot I know or that makes me a bit crazy, but it still goes there unless I have a really good reason not to – like it’s right exactly where the mower will kill it.

16. Don’t forget to check which grow zone you live in. Your county or state extension service might have more detailed information available, or ask at a local nursery, to get the best information.

17. If you plant an herb garden, be sure to check which weeds are considered weeds or pests in your area. I planted lemon balm, which can go crazy, but I made sure to plant it where the driveway, a brick walk, and the house formed three sides, containing it a bit. (It’s apparently a member of the mint family, and they all grow like crazy pretty easily.) Yarrow is also considered a weed, but not invasive like lemon balm. So, to me, as a not-so-active-gardener, that just means yarrow will be harder for my chronic neglect to kill.

18. Think about what you actually use and eat. I planted about 8 oregano plants a few years ago and they grew great – but I rarely use oregano in my cooking. I love the smell of lavender and it’s a slight bug repellant, so I have planted a bunch of that around the house. I am interested in herbal remedies, so I planted yarrow, several kinds of mint and chamomile. The last two are potted. One, so it doesn’t spread and take over everything, the other because it can’t survive a winter outside in our climate.

19. Use kitchen leftovers to start new plants. Since you’ve already eaten them, you know these are veggies you’ll like. Growing pineapples this way is easy, too.

Steps to Take Mid-Winter

20. Consider the weather – is it an unusually cold or snowy winter? Is it mild? If it is mild, then you probably don’t need to do anything extra to your plants, but if it is a really cold or snowy year, you might want to protect your plants better. Last year, I lost almost all of the strawberry plants that I had nurtured from a few starts over the previous four years! A layer of mulch over top of them would have kept the cold out and the plants alive, even though they didn’t need it in previous warmer winters.

21. Take advantage of the increased visibility from all the plants dying or being dormant and take a good look at your grounds. Are there areas of erosion? If so, you have a project for spring and can start researching and planning how to best fix it.

22. Can you see roots damaging walls, foundations, pathways, or anything else? Don’t forget to check the area near the septic field and the well. In the spring, have a professional take care of any problematic roots. Research a good tree service and ask for referrals from friends and neighbors.

23. Where does the snow and ice melt first and where does it last? That gives you an idea of what spots naturally receive more sunlight or less sunlight. Of course, the micro-climate(s) in your yard will be a little different when the trees have leaves and as the angles of the sun change, but this will give you a starting point.

24. It’s finally time to start planting, even with the ground frozen rock-hard. Start your hardy (early season) plants indoors. In four to six weeks, you can put them in the ground and start the next group of plants inside. A Grow Zone map can  help you determine what to plant and when, as the weather begins to warm up.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your family get excited for your garden for next summer and you’ll have a great growing season!

Enjoy the process and the produce!

This article was updated on November 17, 2016.

Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

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Many experts insist that in order to make good compost, it must be turned regularly, but is that really the case?

Consider: When leaves fall each autumn and dead trees topple over in hardwood forests, is that decaying matter turned over? No, it just sits there turning into rich leaf mold. A common myth is that you cannot make good compost without regularly turning the compost pile. It’s not true. You can make your life easier by eliminating the compost-turning step.

Compost-turning proponents tell us that turning the compost pile does four things:

  1. It supplies oxygen to aerobic microbes.
  2. It eventually places all parts of the pile into the high-heat area.
  3. It mixes all compost ingredients for a better-looking end result.
  4. It speeds up composting.

Toss Out Numbers 3 and 4

But if you’re the only one using your own compost, then worrying about how it looks once the compost is buried in your garden is ridiculous. It’s in the ground, so who cares how it looks? Gardening, by its very nature, is not a hectic and fast-paced activity. Why speed up composting if it’s not needed? That eliminates reasons three and four.

Importance of Oxygen

The first point on the list — adding oxygen to compost to benefit aerobic microbes — is an excellent argument. Without adequate oxygen, anaerobic decomposition develops, creating a stinky mess. Commercial compost businesses pump air into compost piles, with big fans blowing through holes in aeration tubes.

Seamazing: The Low-Cost Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

How do you aerate garden soil? You do it by adding humus, or the compost that you’re making. Well, that same principle can be applied to compost production. You can add minute air spaces to the compost pile by layering in coarse items, such as weed stalks, straw, hay, and even egg shells.

Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

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The king of organic gardening knowledge, the late J.I. Rodale, wrote in his 1960 book, The Complete Book of Composting, “Good compost can be made without turning by hand if the materials are carefully layered in the heap, which is well-ventilated and has the right moisture content.” Ventilation, layering and moisture are keys words in Mr. Rodale’s statement. Coarse material layered between moist animal manure gives you excellent compost ingredients.

Heat Layer of a Compost Pile

To analyze the second reason for turning a compost pile — that it places all parts of the pile into a high-heat environment — you first need to understand the mechanics of compost heat. It’s a result of a blend of carbon to nitrogen, with various bacteria breaking down this combination. The perfect carbon/nitrogen blend is 20 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon comes from plant matter. The best nitrogen sources originate from animal manure.

Three bacteria types break down the compost. Bacteria that enjoy cool temperatures of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and lower are psychrophilic. They work very slowly. Mesophilic bacteria like medium temperatures of 68-113 degrees Fahrenheit (20-45 degrees Celsius). Thermophilic bacteria love temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). All of these bacteria work together by combining carbon and nitrogen to create carbon dioxide and energy. Part of the energy helps reproduce more bacteria. The remaining energy creates heat.

Just after you apply layers of carbon (plant matter) and nitrogen (manure) to compost, the mesophilic bacteria multiply, boosting the temperature of that layer to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius). Add additional layers and your first layers go into a second stage where thermophilic bacteria thrive, boosting the temperature to roughly 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius). This thermophilic activity is located just a couple of layers under the compost pile’s top surface. As layers are added, the original layer cools, bacteria die off, and fungi takes over decomposition.

Mixing Cools the Hot Bacteria

Stir up these layers by turning over your compost pile, and you cool down temperatures below the level enjoyed by thermophilic bacteria, or those that perform the most robust breakdown of the carbon and nitrogen in your compost. So, continuously stirring your compost actually cools that heat layer just under the top of the pile, instead of putting all areas of the compost into the heat, as suggested by compost-turning proponents in their second argument.

A better composting method is to lay down layers of course plant matter with layers of manure. High-moisture manure is best: pig manure, at 82 percent moisture; cattle manure, at 80 percent; and horse manure, at 75 percent, are best. When using sheep manure, at 68 percent, or chicken manure, at 56 percent, you need to add a daily bucket of water to your compost.

Continue layering like this for a year. Start a new compost pile of layers on year two and allow the year one compost pile to rest during the final fungal breakdown. At the end of the second year, add your compost to the garden and enjoy tremendous gardening results without the backbreaking chore of always turning the compost pile.

Do you agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Every Year, Gardeners Make This Stupid Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

4 Season End Garden Tasks You Shouldn’t Skip

4 Season End Garden Tasks you Shouldn't skip | PreparednesszMama

It will be easy to just turn your back on the garden until spring. It can wait, you think, the season is over and you’ve worked hard. You’re done growing and have moved on to preparing for the holidays. But skipping these season end garden tasks will be a big mistake. If you will take […]

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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An invaluable resource on the homestead, compost is easy to create and maintain in a relatively small area on your existing acreage. It revitalizes nutrient-stripped soil and helps to maintain a balanced pH level throughout it, in addition to encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes.

Much has been said about the benefits of composting your kitchen waste in recent years, but for the homesteader, composting goes far beyond just reducing waste in your home.

Even the best composting systems require a bit of attention when the seasons begin to change. Whether you are using commercial barrels or drums, homemade fence-style bins, or open windrows, a few fall composting chores will ensure your soil gets nourishment throughout the winter months. This, in turn, will make sure that you have a new supply of rich compost come spring for established gardens and fields and any additional acreage that will be planted.

Following harvest, clearing the garden beds is an essential chore, and vegetable plants left to decompose in the garden often introduce diseases into the soil. However, before you add those plants to your compost, set aside your remaining summer compost so that it can be used anywhere in the garden that won’t have a cover crop.

Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Put your garden to bed by covering it with a layer of this finished compost. Layers as deep as three inches work best. This will allow nutrients to start assimilating into the soil during the winter months, as well as protecting the soil from acquiring agents that cause many common plant diseases. Moreover, compost can be incorporated again in the spring before planting begins, adding additional nutrients to the soil.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

Restocking your compost system, or even starting one, is simple to do in the fall months. Fallen leaves and dried garden plants, free of seeds, provide a nearly endless supply of brown material for composting. If there are not a lot of leaf-dropping trees on the homestead, then ask friends and neighbors if they would donate their leaves. Many of them will be more than happy to part with bags of leaves collected for disposal.

All of the scraps left over from putting up late summer fruits and vegetables, as well as from used livestock bedding and the last grass clippings of the year will provide the necessary green material for a healthy compost system. If the ratio of green material to brown material seems too low, then consider finding a source, like your local coffee shop, for coffee grounds. The coffee grounds will make an excellent green addition to a compost pile.

To maintain a healthy compost pile you may need to water the pile, as the breezy days of fall can quickly dry them out. Compost should be moist, but not wet. This also means that a cover may be needed in the wet winter months that follow. How frequently you should turn the compost also should be considered. Turning the pile frequently will speed the rate of decomposition, but in late fall it may be better to allow the pile to rest. Compost that is finished will begin to release its nutrients immediately, so allowing it decompose more slowly through the winter months is to your advantage.

What “fall compost” advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

How To Use Autumn’s Falling Leaves To Power Next Year’s Garden!

Fall has arrived, and that means it’s time to use those gorgeous falling leaves to help recharge your garden. Collecting leaves each fall has become a ritual for us. It is a simple, inexpensive (actually free), and excellent way to provide valuable organic nutrients

The post How To Use Autumn’s Falling Leaves To Power Next Year’s Garden! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

The Clever, Lazy Gardener’s ‘Fall Trick’ That Will Eliminate Spring Weeds

The Clever, Lazy Gardener's ‘Fall Trick’ That Will Eliminate Spring Weeds

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For many gardeners, growing a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables for their family and friends to enjoy is a labor of love – but nevertheless still a labor. And when other activities and responsibilities start to mount up, it can be easy to let the garden suffer.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to make gardening easier, with less work and perhaps an even greater bounty? If this sounds like fiction or wishful thinking to you, you may not have heard of lasagna gardening. But to do it right and reap the rewards come spring, you need to start on it during the fall.

When we talk about lasagna gardening (also known as sheet mulching or sheet composting), we are not talking about planting tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini – ingredients of lasagna (although you may certainly plant these and other vegetables in your lasagna garden). We are talking about a style of composting that can result in beautiful black soil, without tilling, very few weeds, and less need for fertilizer.

How to Start

Starting a lasagna garden is very easy. In fact, it doesn’t even require the use of a shovel or the removal of existing weeds. Start with some simple brown corrugated cardboard or some newspaper (use three layers if you decide to go with newspaper) and lay them down right on top of the area that you’ve selected for your garden – right over the top of grass and weeds!

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Keep this layer moist so that it provides a nice cover that earthworms will be attracted to; that will allow them shelter to loosen up the earth below.

Just like the kind of lasagna that you eat, a lasagna garden consists of multiple layers. In the case of a garden, the layers consist of alternating between brown and green compost. Brown compost can be made up of items such as cardboard, shredded newspaper and dead leaves. Green compost may be items such as fruit and vegetable scraps, trimmings from the garden, etc.

As a general rule, you should make your brown layers about double the thickness of your green layers. Doing this by sight is fine, though, – there is no need to break out the tape measure. Keep building your layers until they reach about two-feet tall. This may sound like a lot, but remember that this is going to shrink down considerably over the next few weeks.

When to Start

You can start the process of building your lasagna garden any time of year, but fall is the most ideal time. This is for a number of reasons:

  • There is an abundance of dead leaves and other “brown” compost material available during the fall.
  • Autumn rain and winter snow will help to keep your garden materials moist, allowing rich workable soil to develop.
  • Your garden will be ready for planting by spring.

Lasagna Gardening: The Clever, Lazy ‘Fall Trick’ That Will Eliminate Spring WeedsPlanting in your lasagna garden is easy and quite similar to planting in a traditional garden. Just dig down with your spade or shovel as you normally would. If you used cardboard for your first layer, you may have to cut through it, but you should find nice workable soil underneath. If you used newspaper as your first layers, you’ll likely dig right through it without even noticing.

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Plant whatever you like. Just be sure to follow the normal guidelines for each fruit and vegetable that you introduce to your garden.

It is also a good idea to add mulch to this garden once it is complete. This may be in the form of chopped leaves, straw, bark mulch, etc.

From that point on, you’ll care for your lasagna garden much like you would any other garden by watering, weeding, rotating crops and finally enjoying bountiful harvests at the end of the season.

Lasagna gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening, including:

  • Less weeds. Because of the newspaper or cardboard layer at the bottom, fewer weeds will be able to make their way to the surface.
  • Improved water retention. The layers of compost will be better at retaining water than plain garden soil. This is a great way to give new plants a strong and healthy start in your garden.
  • Nutrient-rich soil. Again, because of the layers of compost, your garden’s soil will be rich in nutrients. This means that there will be less need for fertilization.
  • Easy-to-work soil. Lasagna gardening results in soil that is soft and workable. This eliminates the need for tilling.

If you love gardening but are looking for a way to reduce your workload next season, then lasagna gardening may be just the answer you’ve been looking for. Why not give it a try this fall and see how much less work your garden can be next year?

What advice would you add for lasagna gardening? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

The 4 Big Keys To A Great Garden – And A Happy Gardener!

I have long been a believer that you don’t need to have a “green thumb” in order to have a great garden.  In reality, what it takes is a combination of a few simple things – like patience, a consistent and persistent approach, a

The post The 4 Big Keys To A Great Garden – And A Happy Gardener! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

7 Quick Garden Tips To Keep Your Garden Beautiful This Summer!

We have all been there. One day, its late Spring and the garden is growing beautifully – and in the blink of an eye – summer rolls in and it all becomes a tangled jungle of weeds & bugs!  But

The post 7 Quick Garden Tips To Keep Your Garden Beautiful This Summer! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

What Gardeners Often Misunderstand About The Carbon-Nitrogen Ratio

What Gardeners Often Misunderstand About The Carbon-Nitrogen Ratio

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We all know the importance of a balanced diet for people, and the same is true for the microorganisms that make composting magic happen. Rather than four major food groups, though, the “food plate” for these miniature humus-makers only includes two categories: carbon and nitrogen.

Carbon and Nitrogen

These two chemical elements, carbon (C) and nitrogen (N), each bring something different to microorganism mealtime. Carbon is the basic building block of life for all organic creatures, and is an important source of energy. The bacteria and fungi living inside a compost pile require large amounts of carbon just to sustain their existence. Nitrogen plays a different, but no less important role, providing a critical component of proteins, genetic material and cell structures.


  • Carbon: basic building block of life; important source of energy
  • Nitrogen: component of proteins, genetic material, and cell structures

When Something’s Missing

Composting is often misunderstood, and common problems can generally be traced back to an imbalance of these two key ingredients. When a pile doesn’t seem to be breaking down as quickly as expected, the reason is often an abundance of carbon. Without adequate nitrogen, the microbe population can’t expand and the pile simply sits there.

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Foul odors, on the other hand, are most often the result of excess nitrogen. If there’s too much nitrogen and not enough carbon, the microorganisms can’t make use of all of the nitrogen and it instead escapes in the form of ammonia, giving the pile an unpleasantly sour smell.

The 25:1 Ratio

What Gardeners Often Misunderstand About The Carbon-Nitrogen Ratio

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The best way to avoid these compost conundrums is to aim for an overall ratio of 25:1 — 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Microorganisms are most effective at decomposing materials when the proportion of carbon to nitrogen is kept close to this ratio. And while virtually everything that can be added to a compost pile includes both of these important nutrients, the percentage of each varies dramatically from material to material.  Some materials, like leaves, are carbon rich, with a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 60:1. Others narrow the gap between the two, contributing a more substantial percentage of nitrogen, like bloodmeal which has a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 4:1. By balancing different materials so that, overall, the pile approaches a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 25:1, you’re in an ideal position to maximize your composting capabilities.

The chart below summarizes the carbon-nitrogen ratio of some common composting materials:

Carbon-Nitrogen Ratios*

Material Carbon-Nitrogen Ratio
Blood meal 4:1
Coffee grounds 20:1
Eggshells 35:1
Fruit waste 35:1
Grass clippings 20:1
Leaves 60:1
Manure 10-20:1
Pine needles 90:1
Saw dust 500:1
Straw 80:1
Vegetable peelings 10-12:1

* Source: University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture

Green and Brown

To make the process of achieving the elusive 25:1 ratio easier, it can be helpful to alternate layers of “green” and “brown” materials. While not necessarily literally green-colored, “green” layers are made up of fresh organic matter, like vegetable scraps, grass clippings, rotted manure and general garden waste. These components contribute a greater percentage of nitrogen to the pile.

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“Brown” materials, so-called because they tend to be older and more dried-out, include leaves, straw, pine needles, sawdust, etc., and are excellent carbon donors. Thinking in terms of these two main categories will make it easier to adjust your pile to find the perfect balance, which many gardeners suggest is approximately two-parts green to every one-part brown.

Problem: Pile doesn’t seem to be breaking down. 

Solution: Pile has too much carbon. Increase percentage of nitrogen-rich “brown” material.

Problem: Pile has a sour smell.

Solution: Pile has too much nitrogen. Increase percentage of carbon rich “green” material.

The real action in any compost pile happens on a scale too small to see, and being mindful of how your pile operates on this level is critical to turning raw materials into soil-enriching black gold. The 25:1 carbon-nitrogen ratio is a surefire recipe for microbe satisfaction, and the best way to ensure composting success.

What advice would you add on making compost? Share your tips in the section below:

Bust Inflation With A Low-Cost, High-Production Garden. Read More Here.

5 Natural Garden Sprays For Combating Insects, Pests and Animals

When you rely on your garden to provide a large portion of your family’s food – you want to make sure that the food coming out is as healthy and pure as possible. For us, that means using ZERO pesticides and

The post 5 Natural Garden Sprays For Combating Insects, Pests and Animals appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

Planting The Garden – 6 Big Tips To Get Plants Off To A Great Start!

Garden season is here! Over the course of the next few weeks, millions upon millions of tomato, pepper, cucumber, zucchini and other vegetable plant varieties will make their way into gardens.  Getting your plants off to a great start is a

The post Planting The Garden – 6 Big Tips To Get Plants Off To A Great Start! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

The Brilliant No-Till, No-Weeds, Pain-Free Way To Garden

The Brilliant No-Till, No-Weeds, Pain-Free Way To Garden

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Gardening involves a lot of hard work, from turning the compost pile to deep tilling. If you love gardening but hate all of the chores, then we’ve got your answer.

Lasagna gardening is exactly what the name implies: layering the garden beds with different materials to form the growing medium. It is not only an easy way to grow veggies, but an excellent recycling project. You can dump all sorts of organic material, as you do it in alternating layers.

The beds are built on top of the soil without disturbing the ground in any way. The area is watered and covered in newspaper, on which hay, compost, grass clippings, peat, dry leaves, rotted manure and crushed leaves all go in repeated layers. The beds are kept moist to create the ideal conditions for microbial decomposition. Earthworms do their part, too. Seeds and seedlings go directly into the beds in close plantings.

Getting Started

Choose the site

To start your lasagna garden beds, you should first locate the site. Traditional gardeners always look for ground that previously has been under cultivation. That’s because you get at least a foot or two of loose soil in such areas, which makes deep tilling easier.

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However, no-till gardening is not restricted by such limitations. You can choose any piece of land, whether it is hard as rock or overrun by weeds. It doesn’t matter whether you have clay or sandy soil, or the property is in a rocky area. The only requirement is that the site gets good sunlight.

Direct sunlight is a prerequisite for a successful vegetable garden, be it lasagna garden or not. A few leafy greens may tolerate shade, but most vegetables – such as tomatoes, beans, potatoes, onions and carrots — are sun-loving.

When to start

It is possible to start planting your garden as soon as you make the beds with layers of materials, but then you need to add a few inches of soil or matured compost for planting. But it is best if you can give nature a few months’ time to work her magic on the beds. So, for early spring planting, you can start making the bed in late summer or in fall.

Laying the foundation

The Brilliant No-Till, No-Weeds, Pain-Free Way To Garden

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Several layers of newspaper make the bottom part of the beds. There is no need to dig up the sod or remove rocks. If the area is overrun by weeds, you can either cut them down, leaving them where they land, or just stomp them down as you lay the newspaper layers. If it is grassy, then you can mow it down and keep the clippings aside to form a layer above the newspaper layer. If that particular piece of unused land has years of accumulated leaf litter, then you can add some lime to reduce the acidity that rotting leaves generate.

Aim to cover the entire area with four to five layers of newspaper, wetting them with water. Add four inches of straw over it, and cover that layer with two to three inches of compost or aged manure. Water down each layer as you add it. Spread your grass clippings and add a layer of peat over it. Add dry leaves or straw, and cover it with layers of compost and manure. Keep adding alternate layers of green and brown materials and watering in between until the bed is at least two-feet high.

Get Non-GMO Seeds For Your Lasagna Garden Right Here!

You don’t have to build the layers in a day or a week. Do that as you come by more materials from your kitchen and your lawn and garden. You can get some from your neighbor’s garden or nearby markets and lumberyards. The leaf litter in fall can be crushed and added, too. If you are not planting immediately, then water the bed well and cover it with a layer of plastic weighed down by stones. The steamy atmosphere created under the plastic will accelerate the breakdown of plant materials.

Carbon-nitrogen balance

You need to have the right balance between carbon-rich dry stuff (brown materials like straw and dry leaves) and nitrogen-rich green stuff (like grass clipping and pruned plant materials, kitchen waste). To get the ideal C:N ratio of 25:1, you can add one part by volume of green material to 2 part by volume of brown materials.

How to plant

You don’t have to dig and turn the lasagna bed to make it uniform. Just make small pockets for your seedlings to go in. Fix them in place with some garden soil or compost. Close planting is recommended. As the plant grows and spreads, there shouldn’t be any space for weeds to grow.

Water the beds as you normally do. You can do top dressing or use organic liquid fertilizers as foliar spray. Mulching can be done, but weeding may not be necessary.

What to grow

You can grow any vegetable in the lasagna garden that you normally grow in regular beds. Tomatoes, potatoes, beans, root vegetables, cabbage-family veggies, greens, all do well in these beds. Harvesting potatoes and other root veggies is extremely easy, since you can just pull them out when ready.

Try this no-till gardening technique and enjoy the benefits and ease with which you can grow a bountiful harvest for your family!

What advice would you add for lasagna gardening? Share your tips in the section below:

Every Spring, Gardeners Make This Avoidable Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

5 Great Gardening Tips for New Gardeners

It’s nearly impossible to believe that in just a few weeks, we will be heading into our 6th planting season at the farm. That is of course if Mother Nature finally starts figuring out that planting a garden actually requires

The post 5 Great Gardening Tips for New Gardeners appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

The Cheapest Way To Feed Your Chickens When You Can’t Free-Range

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If you’re like me and a lot of other homesteaders, you:

  • Keep a small flock of backyard chickens to feed your family;
  • Want to cut down on commercial feeds;
  • Prefer to eat organic;
  • Can’t free-range because of limited pasture or too many predators.

But do you have access to lots of biodegradable stuff that can be composted? Then consider what a growing number of homesteaders are doing: raising chickens largely on compost. Yes, compost. It’s entirely feasible for small homesteaders like us.

Contrary to what many believe, chickens are natural omnivores, not herbivores. They like to eat a wide variety of stuff, from insects to seeds, berries to reptiles. When I watch chickens forage freely, I notice they search for worms and bugs first, then go for grains, greens and fruits later.

Even though chickens’ nutritional requirements consist largely of carbohydrates (around 80 percent), they just love going after the proteins first. Whether it’s the joy of pecking at a juicy, wiggly worm, or the thrill of chasing after a scampering mouse — chickens instinctively go after small animals — lizards and snakes included!

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So whether we raise them for meat or eggs, we have to provide the right mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber in their diet.  And to do that from scratch can be quite a challenge.

Composting in the Chicken Run

The trick is to keep compost piles in the chicken run. Set up a series of piles, next to each other, at the end of the run. There you can dump all the fresh biodegradable matter you can collect, so the hens have quick, easy access to the edible things they can get their hands (or beaks) on. They’ll scratch and peck on the goodies on top, shred what they don’t want, and mix and turn the compost as they go. They’ll also leave droppings, providing rich fertilizer for you to use in the garden.

The method certainly isn’t new. Our forebears probably did this for ages, when straw, woodchips, manure and all sorts of garden waste were in abundance. But industrialization and the availability of cheap commercial feeds caused modern chicken growers, big and small, to drop the practice and conveniently resort to store-bought feeds – most of which contain GMO soy and grains, antibiotics, growth hormones and other synthetic ingredients.

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There are organic commercial feeds, of course. But like anything organic, they cost substantially more.

Consider the essential protein a good compost offers: vertebrates as well as invertebrates — arthropods, insects, arachnids and crustaceans — that can provide up to four times the amount of protein chickens need. [1] Couple those with all the variety of goodies you dump into the compost – stale bread, old oats, fruit peels and other scraps from the kitchen and garden – and you’ll soon see a decline in your need to run to the store. And, quite likely, an increase in your flock’s health. You get healthy chickens with strong immune systems and, as an added bonus, eggs that have nutrient-dense, bright yellow yolks.

The Compost’s Composition

If you already have existing farm animals, their manure and hay beds would be the perfect starting material. Add to them your fresh kitchen waste, grass clippings, dead plants and any organic, biodegradable material you can find in and around your property. If you live near the woods from where you could collect fallen branches, see if you can gather them to turn into woodchips and sawdust. You could also ask the local public works department or any tree service company near you if they’d be willing to give you some of the wood they fell.

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Don’t be shy about asking neighbors and the farmers’ market in your area for kitchen and garden scraps. Many grocers, health food stores, restaurants, food pantries and school cafeteria would be happy to get rid of their waste to cut down on garbage collection fees. It would also spare them of the guilt of contributing so much amount of bins to the city landfill.

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Small farms, grain mills and other operations that grow and trade all kinds of fresh produce would also have tons of hulls, stalks and other wastes to discard. Just be wary of their growing techniques, if they use a lot of chemicals or not — you wouldn’t want those ultimately getting into your system.

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Some Tips

Justin Rhodes of offers a practical, step-by-step guide to building a composting system in a chicken run. [2] In it, he recommends setting up a succession of three or four piles, about a cubic yard each, next to each other. You can work it one at a time, week by week, so that you have a chain of piles that are cooking and curing progressively.

Depending on where you live and how cold or rainy it gets, you should be able to keep the compost warm until the late fall or early winter. Just cover with a tarp to help insulate it.

When it gets a bit challenging to balance the carbon-nitrogen level of your compost, try adding some biochar, paper or cardboard if it gets too wet; add water it if it gets too dry. Lime is also said to induce microbe growth and provide extra calcium for the hens to produce harder-shelled eggs.

If you’re growing chickens primarily for eggs, there are certain foods that you’ll want to avoid, as they may cause problems, including low egg production and foul-tasting eggs. These are avocados, citrus peels and fruits, long-cut grasses, garlic and onion, bones and meat scraps that have gone bad.

Have you ever fed your chickens with compost? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:


If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do. Find Out More Here.

hydrogen peroxide report

How to Start Worm Composting

How to Start Worm CompostingThe very first time I heard about worm composting I was intrigued. The idea that you can feed food scraps to a bunch of worms and they’d turn it into rich nutritious compost for your garden…And you don’t need a ton of space to do it…And, you can even do it inside…Well, that’s something I definitely wanted to try!

This month, I finally got my chance to try it. And today, I’m gonna show you what I did to get started so you can try it too.  

What is Worm Composting?

Worm composting (a.k.a. vermicomposting) is the process of using worms to recycle food scraps into a high nutrient soil amendment called vermicompost or worm compost. To put it simply, the worms eat your fruit and veggie leftovers and their waste, (a.k.a castings) becomes your garden’s black gold. Nice, right?

Why Compost with Worms?

Because it’s good for your garden (and good for the Earth). Healthy soil is the key to growing healthy plants. When you add worm compost to your garden you are putting organic matter back into the soil which has the nutrients plants need.

Organic matter is simply any type of living or dead plant or animal material. Worm compost is one type of organic matter that you can add to your garden soil. And, it may be the best. More organic matter in your soil means enhanced soil structure, better soil drainage, and a better environment for nightcrawler earthworms to live, eat, poop, and tunnel. 

Also, like I mentioned earlier, vermicomposting doesn’t require a lot of space (It can even be done inside!) so it’s a great way for urban families to start composting.

What Do You Need to Get Started?


Obviously. :) But will any old earthworm, do? No, not all worms are suitable in a worm composter. The best type of worms for vermiculture are Red Wiggler (Eisenia foetida), Brown Nose Worm (Lumbricus rubellus)  or European (Belgian) Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) variety. You can find these types of worms at bait-and-tack shops or online.  And once you find a supplier, you’ll need 1 pound or approximately 800-1000 worms to start.


Inside a worm composter, worms don’t live in dirt. They live in bedding and the bedding is made up of “browns” which is carbon-based materials. “Browns” include shredded or torn newspaper, office paper, cardboard, leaves or combination of these items.


What do worms eat? Your recycled kitchen scraps! Worms love fruit and vegetable scraps (raw or cooked) and their favorites are tomatoes, lettuces, melon rinds, banana, potato and carrot peels. They even eat egg shells, coffee grounds, bread and tea leaves! But be sure to skip the onions, citrus, meat, fish, dairy, fats and oils.

A Worm Bin

You can make your own worm bin or you can purchase one like this cool Worm Factory 360 sent me. The Worm Factory is a compact, nice looking system that includes everything you needa durable, plastic, stacking tower, bedding made from coconut coir, pumice and shredded paper, thermometer, hand rake, mineral rock dust, an instruction book and DVDto get started. You have the option of purchasing the factory “with worms” or “without worms”. If you choose the “with worms” factory, like I did, it comes with a worm voucher. Basically, you go to the website listed on the voucher, type in a code and they send you the worms by mail.  Easy peasy.

How to Start Worm Composting

The Worm Factory 360 consists of a plastic tower made up of 4 stacking trays that have holes in the bottom. To give you an idea of how this works, the worms start in one tray and as they eat and fill that tray with compost, you’re adding additional trays with newer food to the top of the tower. The worms migrate upwards towards the new food and you’re able to harvest the compost from the lower trays.

I really like the Worm Factory 360. It’s a done-for-you option. Everything you need to get started comes together and you can easily set it up in minutes.

How to Set Up a Worm Bin

You want to make sure your bin is set up and ready before your worms arrive.

Here are the exact steps I followed:

1.Find a good location for your worm bin. Place your bin in a location where temperatures get no higher than 90º F and no colder than 40º F.  Some places to consider are a porch, patio, balcony, garage, basement, laundry room, or even under the kitchen sink. You can also keep the worm bin outside in the yard as long as it’s in the shade and is protected from wind and rain. Since the height of the Worm Factory 360 is taller than the space I have under the sink, I opted for the garage.

2. To start, you will use one stacking tray as the “starter tray” and set the other 3 stacking trays off to the side.  

3. Mix up the bedding.  The Worm Factory 360 came with a brick of coconut coir, minerals, pumice and shredded paper.  I moistened the coir in a mixing bowl, added the shredded paper, some pumice and 1 tablespoon of the minerals and mixed it all together. It’s a good idea to add one or two cupfuls of garden soil or compost because it contains organic organisms that will make the environment hospitable for the worms and help them digest the food. The bedding mixture should be moist, not dripping. It should feel like a wrung out sponge.

How to Start Worm Composting4. Take one or two sheets of dry newspaper and line the bottom of the first stacking tray. Then add the bedding mixture and spread it evenly around the tray.

How to Start Worm Composting

5. Add 2 to 3 cups of food in one corner.  The Worm Factory 360 instructions recommends feeding worms an even mixture of “browns” (shredded newspaper, cardboard, leaves) and “greens”(fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds).

6. Gather 5-10 full pages of newspaper and wet until it is damp. Fold the newspaper so it fits in the stacking tray and lay it on top of the bedding to create a moist newspaper cover. Place the tower lid on top of the starter tray and wait for your worms to arrive. 

What to Do When Your Worms Arrive

When your worms arrive, open the worm bin and remove the moist newspaper cover. Add the worms (including all the bedding they came in) to the bin and replace the moist newspaper cover. 

How to Start Worm Composting

Replace the moist newspaper cover and put the plastic lid back on the worm bin.  It’s a good idea to leave the worms alone for two or three days so they can acclimate to their new home. 

After a few days, open the lid and lift the moist newspaper. If the worms aren’t moving around in their food, replace the newspaper cover and lid and wait two more days. If the worms are moving around in their food and feeding, it’s time to start adding food to your worm bin.

If you’d like to learn more or see how my worms are doing, join me in GROW…my Facebook group for beginner gardeners. 


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How To Grow Healthy Tomato Plants This Year

“How Can I Grow Healthy Tomato Plants?” That is by far the most frequently asked question to the blog each and every summer – and with good reason. Whether it be blight, black rot, insect damage, or watering issues – the

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How To Make Great Compost – A Garden Must!

When asked the key to our garden’s success – we always come back to the basics – it all starts with great compost! Compost is King. Great compost holds all of the nutrients needed to power your garden, and helps

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How To Create Super Soil For Garden Containers, Planters And Hanging Baskets!

Today is the third installment on creating a DIY Any Age Anywhere Garden.  The Any Age Anywhere Garden is a container garden that lets anyone of any age grow some, most, or nearly all of their food. Today’s focus is on building great soil

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8 Foolproof Ways To Heat Your Home When The Power’s Out

8 Foolproof Ways To Heat Your Home When The Power’s Out

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It’s wintertime and the power goes out. If you’re like most of us, you’re not all that worried – you trust that the power will come back on soon. But when 12 hours goes by and you still don’t have any electricity, you start getting concerned. It might be days before the power comes back on.

For many of us, the quick solution is to turn to wood. Heating with wood is historically the most common means of keeping your home warm. Throughout the centuries, people used wood to warm everything from tents to palaces. It has withstood the test of time quite effectively, providing warmth for millions of people. That makes it a survivalist’s number one choice for a backup heat source.

But it takes a lot of wood to keep your home warm. In a long-term crisis situation, you might run out of wood before the power comes back on. Or, perhaps your wood-burning stove is unusable. Whatever the case, you’re going to need another alternate heat source. Here’s a few to consider:

1. Propane

Many people living in rural areas already heat with propane. Unfortunately, their forced-air propane heater won’t work any better without electricity than anyone else’s does. However, there also are ceramic heaters, commonly referred to as “catalytic heaters,” that can be tied into the home’s propane. These allow you to burn the propane for heat without having any need for electricity. They are extremely safe for use indoors.

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These catalytic heaters also are available for connection to a portable propane tank, such as the type used for a barbecue grill. I actually heated a motorhome through a couple of winters with these, as they were much more efficient than the furnace that the motorhome was equipped with.Kerosene

2. Kerosene

8 Foolproof Ways To Heat Your Home When The Power’s Out Kerosene heaters provide a considerable amount of heat, without needing electricity. I used to heat my office with a kerosene heater, back when my office was an uninsulated attic in upstate New York. If you live in a part of the country where people use kerosene for heating, then the price is quite reasonable. But if not, avoid this one, as buying kerosene at the paint store is just too expensive.

3. Passive solar

Anyone who builds a home without giving it at least some passive solar capability is missing out on a great opportunity for free heat. Even if passive solar can’t heat your whole home, you will still save money on heating costs. Passive solar is reliable, cheap and plentiful, especially if your home is designed for it.

If your home isn’t designed for passive solar heating, you can still take advantage of it. Open the curtains on all your south-facing windows during the day and put something dark colored on the floor to absorb the sunlight and convert it to heat. While not a perfect solution, it will help.

The big problem for most people is having a thermal mass. This is a mass of rock or concrete that becomes warmed by the sunlight striking its surface. The surface, which must be dark, is called the absorber because it absorbs light and converts it to heat. If your home has concrete floors and you cover them with dark-colored floor covering, then you’ve got a basic passive solar system, even if the concrete isn’t thick enough to absorb much heat.Solar convection

4. Solar convection

Another way you can take advantage of solar energy is to build a solar convection heater. The easiest and cheapest way to make one of these is to cut the tops and bottoms out of a bunch of aluminum soda or beer cans. Glue them together, forming tubes out of the cans that are the height of your windows and leave an opening at the top and bottom. Connect several of these together, side to side, to fill your window opening and paint the whole thing black.

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Since warm air rises and cool air drops, the cooler air at the bottom of the window will enter into the bottom of the solar convection heater and exit out the top, warming as it passes through.

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5. Coal

There are still many homes in the northeast which have coal bins and coal chutes into the basements, even though they are no longer heated with coal furnaces. Coal burns hotter than charcoal and will burn a long time. Essentially, coal is petroleum-filled porous rock. So what is burning is the petroleum, leaving behind the rock, which is referred to as coke. The biggest problem with burning coal is keeping it lit. It needs a lot of oxygen to burn, so you’ll have to have good airflow to the fire. It burns slowly, making it perfect for heating, but does produce a lot of soot.

In order to use coal, you’re going to have to use it in a fireplace or a wood-burning stove that is lined with fire brick. Please note that this is only an emergency measure, as the coal will damage the fireplace or wood-burning stove. A coal insert in the fireplace is better and will allow the coal to burn more efficiently. Don’t use coal in a metal, wood-burning stove without fire brick since it can get hot enough to soften the metal, distorting it. You absolutely have to have some ventilation, or your home will fill with the coal smoke.

6. Animal dung

Dried animal dung has been used by a variety of cultures throughout history for heating and cooking. While not anyone’s favorite, it works well. If you have livestock, you have a regular source of this heating fuel. Just allow them to dry naturally in the field and collect them. Surprisingly, dried animal dung burns without stinking up your home.

7. Burning flammable fuels

Gasoline, diesel, oil and other liquid fuels can be burned for heat if you are careful. The problem is controlling the burn rate. This is fairly easily accomplished by pouring the fuel into a sand-filled container, such as a number 10 can. The sand will act as a wick, controlling the burn rate.

There also are oil heaters. Some of the simpler ones control the burn rate by dipping the oil from a tank into the burner. The Army used to use heaters of this sort, with gasoline, to provide hot water for field kitchens. So you might be able to find one of those heaters at your local army surplus store.

The big problem with this is that you’ll go through a lot of fuel quickly, so this should be considered only if no other option exists. Ventilation is essential.

8. Compost

The natural act of composting produces quite a bit of heat as the millions of bacteria eat the organic material, breaking it down into its basic elements. You can tap into this heat source by burying pipes in your compost pile. Those pipes can carry water to be heated or you can push air through them to be heated. As long as the compost pile has a continuous source of organic material and is kept moist, it will continue to produce heat.

What tips would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:

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6 Natural Ways To Make An Unheated Greenhouse Warm

6 Natural Ways To Make An Unheated Greenhouse Warm

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For most people, gardening is limited to the summer months, when the weather is warm. However, commercial growers don’t always depend on the weather being cooperative. While most farmers are limited by the weather as well, there are some who manage to grow their produce most of the year, if not all of the year.

Having extra growing seasons or even growing year-round has some distinct advantages. More than anything, it can ensure a year-round food supply, rather than having to depend on the food that one has canned in harvest time. It also evens out the workload, rather than working a huge garden in the summertime.

The key to this is a greenhouse. Greenhouses were invented by the ancient Roman Empire for the purpose of growing vegetables 2. Considering that Rome is at a higher latitude than Denver, if they were able to grow vegetables there during the winter, we should be able to do the same in most of the country.

Although professionally built greenhouses are very expensive, made with aluminum framework and glass windows, you can build a homemade greenhouse quite cheap. A quick search online shows countless examples of homemade greenhouses, mostly made out of PVC pipe or 1 inch x 4 inch dimensional construction lumber and visqueen plastic sheeting. Of the two, building out of PVC is the easiest, although PVC pipe will become brittle after a few years if you have a lot of sunlight.

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The key to using your greenhouse year-round is to maximize the heat produced inside it. Your goal has to be to keep the temperature inside the greenhouse above freezing. If you can keep it even warmer, that will be better for the plants. There are a number of things you can do to help accomplish this; not all of them need to be done, and you’ll need to pick a combination that works for your situation.

1. Use a double layer of plastic for the “windows”

Insulation helps, but most insulation blocks the light. So, instead of insulating the south and west sides of the greenhouse, use a double layer of plastic for the windows. That will double the R-value of the greenhouse. It may not seem like much, but it will help tremendously.

2. Use compost

The natural breakdown of organic material to make compost generates a lot of heat. Specifically, it is the bacteria that is breaking down the material which generate that heat. So, topping your garden beds with fresh compost before the cold weather hits will help to keep your plants, especially the critical roots, warm. Make sure that you add a good layer, two to three inches thick, as the bacteria like a warm environment. The thicker layer helps the bacteria create that warm environment.

3. Use black wood mulch for the walkways

6 Natural Ways To Make An Unheated Greenhouse Warm

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The space between your planting beds is prime real-estate for absorbing sunlight and converting it to heat. This can either be left as bare dirt or covered with black wood mulch. Whatever you do, make sure that it is black or at least dark colored, as dark colors absorb more sunlight. Black-colored cement would be even better, although it would add a lot of cost to your greenhouse.

4. Add heat-absorbing barrels

One of the best things you can do is to place black plastic barrels, filled with water, inside the greenhouse, where the sun can strike them. The sunlight entering the greenhouse will be absorbed by the black plastic and converted to heat, warming the water inside. That water will act as a thermal mass, holding the heat like a battery, until it is needed. Then, usually after the sun goes down, that heat can be radiated into the air.

You must be careful about the placement of these barrels, so that they do not block the sunlight from reaching any of your plants. Remember that the sun will be lower down on the horizon, so sunlight will be blocked easier. The best place to locate these barrels is along the north wall of your greenhouse. For that matter, you can make the north wall out of them and then cover them up with white fabric in the summertime, so that they don’t create extra heat in your greenhouse.

5. Insulate the north side

6 Natural Ways To Make An Unheated Greenhouse Warm

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The north side of your greenhouse isn’t going to generate any heat for you. That’s because we live in the northern hemisphere and the sun is always south of us. So, there’s really nothing to be gained by having the north wall be clear plastic, like the other walls and roof. You’re better off insulating it with Styrofoam sheets, helping to hold in the heat and blocking any wind.

6. Build your greenhouse partially underground

Probably the hardest, but one of the most effective strategies is to build the greenhouse partially underground. The deepest you’ll want to go is about 4 feet, with another four feet of roof sticking up above the ground. By building it underground, the earth around the greenhouse will act as an insulator from the cold outside air. The lowest that the ground temperature can reach is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so if you have colder air in the winter, the ground will actually be warmer.

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This works extremely well if you can build your greenhouse into a south-facing hillside. The sun coming into the greenhouse can warm the earthen wall on the north side, just the same as it warms the ground. Between the two, it will produce more heat.

Add a heater, if you must

When all else fails and these ideas don’t keep your greenhouse warm enough, you might have to add a heater. This becomes more likely the farther north you go. A small space heater inside your greenhouse may be just enough to break the chill, especially at night. Don’t worry about producing too much carbon dioxide, as your plants will consume that, converting it to oxygen.

Finally, grow cold-weather plants. All plants are assigned a “growing zone” in which they grow best. These zones come from a map produced by the USDA and equate to the temperature encountered in those areas of the country. During the winter, pick out plants that grow best in the northern part of the country. This will be indicated by a lower growing zone on the seed packet.

Do you have a greenhouse? What tips would you add to the list? Share them in the section below:

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The No-Till, Super-Easy Gardening Method (That You’ve Got To Start NOW)

The No-Till, No-Frills Garden Method You've Got To Start NOW

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Lasagna gardening is a great, time-saving, no-ill, easy form of gardening. With a little start-up work, you can create an almost completely weed-free garden of rich soil in which your plants will thrive.

A lasagna garden, as its name suggests, is made up of layers. These layers need time to break down, so it’s best to put your layers on the ground in the fall and let the garden cook over the winter months to give it a jumpstart on the composting. Allowing time for decomposition over the winter is key to getting a great and easy start in the spring. Lasagna gardening mimics what happens every year in the forest. Layers form, begin to break down over the winter months, and then in spring, plants grow, continuing to break down the layers to release more nutrients. It’s a beautiful cycle.

So, first things first: You need to lay down those layers. Pick your plot and procure enough cardboard to lay down over the entire area. This layer is going to be the barrier that keeps those pesky weeds and grass away. And, here’s an awesome perk: You don’t need to till or dig up any part of the plot. Just go ahead and lay your cardboard down over the grass or old garden plot. Then pull out your hose and water the cardboard until it’s nice and soaked. Or, if rain is coming, run out there and put the cardboard down quick and let nature do your work for you. (If you use your hose, be sure to drain it out well so it doesn’t freeze.)

Next, start adding layers. This first layer needs to be water absorbent, so think leaves, peat moss, straw, etc. If you time this right, your yard should be replete with lots of leaves just waiting for you to make use of them. Rake those leaves over the area and spread them out. This layer needs to be about two to three inches thick. If you have extra leaves, then hold some back. You’ll use them for another layer.

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Time for your first green layer. Mow your yard for the last time this fall and spread the grass clippings out on your lasagna garden plot. If you don’t have enough grass clippings, look for other “green” stuff. Any trimmings from this year’s garden, veggie scraps from the kitchen, etc.

Keep adding layers until you’ve got about two feet of layers. Lay down a brown layer, then a green layer, then a brown layer and so on. Compost, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, sawdust, shredded newspaper, and fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen all are great layer ideas. Stay away from meat, bones, dairy products and dog and cat feces, as these can harbor pathogens (not something you particularly want in your garden). Also, steer away from including weed seeds in your layers, as these will just come up in the spring.

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Here are a couple of quick tips:

  • To find cardboard boxes, stop at a grocery store and ask. They usually have leftovers and are more than willing to share.
  • Avoid having leaves as your top layer. They tend to blow away in wind. If you have a way of shredding them, they will be a lot less prone to blowing, too.
  • Putting kitchen scraps into your garden can be an invitation to wild (and domestic) animals to show up for a dinner. Consider putting up a fence, or laying a tarp down over your lasagna garden and weighting the edges with rocks or cinder blocks. You also can put a top layer of mulch down to cover all the yummy stuff and discourage foragers.
  • Plan to add more layers in the spring if you will be planting tomato plants or other “heavy” plants that need deeper soil for their roots to hold onto. As the layers grow each year and the soil becomes deeper, this will no longer be necessary.
  • If you’re having trouble coming up with stuff for your “green” layer, you can use alfalfa pellets. Farm supply and feed stores carry these.
  • If you have the resources, a pile about three feet high (rather than just two feet) will cook better over the winter.
  • Finish off your garden plot by topping with straw and/or a tarp. This will help insulate the pile from the cold (as heat is very important for decomposition) and slow down its drying out. Moisture is crucial for the breakdown of everything. You want your plot to feel like a wrung-out sponge. If it gets dry, pull out your hose and water the pile. (Of course, be sure to drain out your hose well when you’re done so it doesn’t freeze.)

Because you started your garden this fall, you have more flexibility with what can be put down, as some decomposition will take place through the winter. Decomposition is much slower in colder temperatures, but if you have at least two (better if three) feet of layers, and you cover with a tarp or straw, the pile will maintain some heat and “cook” over the winter.

Come spring and summer time, the plants’ roots will dig down and continue decomposing the layers, pulling out the nutrients at just the right speed for a hearty and heavily producing garden.

Have you ever grown a lasagna garden? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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4 Wintertime Projects To Get Your Garden Prepared For Next Year – And Keep You From The Winter Blah’s!

Even though the snow and cold of winter’s dark days will be upon us soon enough – it doesn’t mean it’s time to forget about your garden. In fact, wintertime is actually the perfect time to plan, prepare and create all kinds of garden projects to help make next year’s growing season a huge success! Whether you are planning to grow your first veggies ever – or a seasoned veteran of the backyard garden – now is the time to make sure you have everything ready you’ll need next spring to hit the ground running – or should I say hit the garden planting! Here are 4 projects you can do to help chase the wintertime blahs – and get ready for growing next Spring! Plan Your Garden Out On Paper – Now! Taking time to plan your garden over the winter months is one of the most important and overlooked chores each year. By planning now – you can figure out the best ways to get the most from the available space in your garden, and make the most of your family’s food goals. It also allows you to get a jump-start on what seeds to order – and when to start them indoors.  Last but not least – […]

4 Great Ways To Use Those Falling Leaves In Your Garden And Landscape!

The leaves have begun to fall!!!  It’s the time of year when the skyline and ground begin to turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow thanks to all of those beautiful leaves. Those leaves may be a bit of a nuisance to some – but they are one of the best (and cheapest) ways you can ever find to add tons of organic magic to your soil. For us, we collect all we can of that free-falling bounty now to create great compost piles, protect our landscape plants and soil from the harsh winter – and power up next year’s garden! No leaves in your yard?  Don’t despair – the leaves are out there! If you’re not blessed with trees on your property – take a drive around your area and find neighborhoods that are.  It usually doesn’t take too long to find them – and most people are more than happy to let you take them off of their hands! Many times, the hard work is done for you – with homeowners already raking leaves to their curb or even bagging them up curbside for pickup.  A simple knock on the door and a friendly asking can usually net you more than […]

Free Hot Water from Compost Wheelie Bin

Free Hot Water from Compost Wheelie Bin Compost piles do a great job of breaking down our organic waste and keeping our trash cans on the curb lighter with the benefits of organic matter to mix into our gardens. Although it does awesome things for our green footprint, it can do even more than you …

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The Easiest Way To Compost During Frigid Winter Months

The Easiest Way To Compost During Winter

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Were you one of those children who loved to pick up wiggling worms after a rain? You can still play with these helpful friends as an adult gardener. Worms are actually quite the composters themselves and through the art of vermicomposting, they are helping us grow healthy, organic food.

What Is Vermicomposting?

Vermicomposting is a process of composting whereby worms of many different varieties are used to make rich compost – in this case, worm poo. Red wigglers are the most common worm used, as they eat the most and the quickest, followed by white worms and earthworms. In addition to worms, you must include healthy food scraps, moist bedding and vegetable waste. Worms don’t like extreme temperatures, so you will have to keep this in mind.

This worm and waste mixture creates a fertilizer that is natural, organic and rich with nutrients. It is a great way to compost indoors during the winter, and you can do it year-round. This type of composting can be done anywhere, even in apartments.

Why Use This Type of Composting?

Vermicomposting is quick and easy. All the worms need to do is eat and poo. It doesn’t smell, though you need to make sure you do it properly.

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Another reason to use vermicomposting is it is natural and creates a rich fertilizer you can use on everything. It is also very convenient as you usually will have it right at your fingertips.

How to Vermicompost

What you will need

  • Container
  • Bedding
  • Worms
  • Scraps
  • Water

Steps to vermicompost:

  1. You can buy worms if you want a good jump start. Red wigglers are often recommended. They consume a lot more than the regular garden worms, and live in small spaces very well.
  2. Keep your worms and compost at room temperature. Do not let temperatures drop to below 10 Celsius or 50 Fahrenheit. Also, don’t sit your worms in hot, sunny areas, either. Keep your worms inside all year long; it is much easier this way.
  3. Put your compost and worm bin in an area that is easily accessible, for example: a bathroom, basement, warm garage or under the kitchen sink.
  4. Place a tray under your bin or container to collect any moisture or drips. You can use this moisture to fertilize any indoor or outdoor plants.
  5. Moist bedding is needed in the bin for your worms. Shredded newspaper, (not magazines or glossy flyers) works well. Make sure the bedding is moist, but not soggy. Worms need a layer to be covering them all the time.
  6. Do not pack the bedding down. It may be a surprise that not all worms are good at burrowing. At the beginning, add a handful or two of dirt, not too much. Vegetables, fruits – even used tea bags and coffee grounds as well as eggshells are good to add to compost often. Eggshells will help control acidity.
  7. Some food scraps should be avoided. Pineapple and papaya in particular contain an enzyme that can kill your worms. Also avoid adding too much citrus, onions and garlic which can cause the soil to become acidic and send your worms crawling up the sides of your container instead of making valuable compost.
  8. Collect food and “feed” your worms twice a week. Chop the food into small pieces and put it in the bin. Cover the fresh food with a thin layer of bedding. Overfeeding will attract fruit flies and cause a smell.

How To Maintain Your Worms

vermicomposting 3 -- growingagreenerworldDOTcomFeeding: Keep feeding on a routine and harvest whenever needed.

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Check dirt: You must keep an eye on the moisture content of the bin, as your worms can drown if there is too much that is wet. To help with this issue, you can put holes in the bottom of your container or bin to help drainage and prevent soggy conditions. It is a good idea to check regularly, and add bedding when needed.

Use properly sized container: Containers need to be about eight to 12 inches deep; this will help the worms eat easily. If the container is plastic, do not close the lid tightly. Leave it loose when closed.

Bedding and its sources: Shredded cardboard, shredded paper, peat moss and commercial worm bedding are all good. Bedding should make up 2/3 of the container or bin. Wet the bedding with water, and squeeze it all out before adding to the container.

Acquiring worms: You can order worms from garden centers, catalogs, bait stores or even gardeners who are already vermicomposting and have a good stock. You will need about ½ to 1 pound of worms to start.

Watch the diet: While worms are omnivores, adding meat scraps is not recommended as it can attract rats and mice that will not only eat the worms, but take up residence in your home. Vegetables and plan-based scraps are best. Remember to start slowly; it takes time to build up enough bacteria for the composting.

Worms are a simple, easy and affordable way to always have compost at your fingertips. Vermicomposting is one fun way of ensuring a truly organic garden. It can be done by those of all ages, and it doesn’t matter if you are new to gardening or an old pro. The worms won’t judge.

Have your vermicomposted? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:  

Every Year Gardeners Make This Crazy Mistake — But You Don’t Have To. Read More Here.

How To Start Your Own Sustainable Vegetable Garden

A vegetable garden is the perfect example of a sustainable resource. By growing your own crops, you can continue to develop food and cultivate seeds for future growth and expansion. For eager preppers, vegetable gardens ensure you always have food growing, helping you to rely less on supermarkets and even more on yourself and your land. Here’s a quick guide on how you can start harvesting your own vegetables!


garden 1Ground level or Raised Vegetable Beds

When most people think of a vegetable patch, they only consider digging into the earth itself. While it’s good to get in the weeds and experience nature up close, a higher or raised vegetable bed is easier to reach. This also helps separate your actual crops from the ground, avoiding contamination from the likes of weeds. As we’ll soon discuss, this also helps you regulate the individual PH levels for each bed too. These beds can be easy to make, as they need only be large containers, wide enough to plant crops and deep enough to allow roots to spread happily. A good example should be something waist high and these are typically made from wood or other sustainable materials.


PH Levels

Depending on what you want to grow, you will need the right PH levels. In nature, everything is either acidic or alkaline. If the PH level is over 7 are alkaline (the higher the number, the more alkaline it is) while things lower than this are considered acidic. For truly sustainable crops, you need to match the crop to the soil. Potatoes, for instance, thrive in a lightly-acidic soil between 5.3 and 6.0 PH. As such, there are various ways to improve the quality of your soil, including composts and mulches, to either add or subtract the relevant acids or alkaline substances.


Reclaim Waste

A good prepper knows to never throw anything away until it loses all value. When it comes to the garden, nearly all organic matter can be used in some fashion. Compost is the easy to make, while mulch can be made through similar means. Depending on the materials and properties of the waste used, this can even influence the PH levels and add vital nutrients. This makes your home more sustainable overall and you can even use leftover clippings, dead plant matter and more from the garden to sustain the next generation of vegetables! The same goes for leftover food in the home – today’s dinner really can be tomorrow’s fertilizer!


garden 3Stay Organic

As already mentioned, it’s quite easy to support your production with organic, natural boosts. A key part of sustainability is only using organic materials, so as not to provide further damage to the environment. Compost is easy to make, while wood chippings, grass cuttings and other mulches can all be used to provide the added boost. Don’t buy calcium powder in the shops, for instance, when bone meal is readily available elsewhere! If you can’t make something yourself, there’s always someone with excess materials (many butchers and abattoirs have plenty of bones they can’t use, for instance!) so don’t be afraid to ask. It might cost a small amount but most people will be happy to let you take their excess waste off of their hands and, in return, you get to stay green and organic.


Save and Store Seeds

They say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and you shouldn’t plant all your seeds in one garden, either! Another key part of sustainability, as well as being prepared for anything, is expecting the worst. What happens, for instance, if you have a bad harvest and lose many of your plants? For this reason, it’s worth setting up your own seed bank. The majority of garden plants produce more than one seed – while others such as tomatoes and potatoes can be cultivated without seeds at all – giving you amply opportunities to gain additional seeds. Don’t plant all of these straight away! Store some of them in a safe environment. These will help you when you urgently need to plant new crops, or perhaps help a friend or even donate to a larger, national seed bank when you have some spare!


garden 2As you can see, it’s a lot to take in at first, but the basics are quite simple. Learn what soil your plants need, dedicate an area of your garden to it and use organic means to grow and develop your supply! There’s no need to panic, as vegetables take a while to grow, giving you plenty of time to learn and develop your gardening skills.




Author bio:

Tim Sparke is the CEO at 4pumps and for several years, he has been an active advocate of organic farming and sustainability. He also has a passion for writing and he writes the blog at 4pumps.


This article first appeared on American Preppers Network and may be copied under the following creative commons license.  All links and images including the CC logo must remain intact.



The post How To Start Your Own Sustainable Vegetable Garden appeared first on American Preppers Network.

Urban Farming: No Farm Farming

Many people graduate from college and just sit year after year wondering what their calling is. If you are looking to make a difference in the world and find that the typical 9-to-5 isn’t making the cut, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at farming, specifically urban farming.

“What if I don’t have land?” you might ask. This article will help you bring farming techniques into fruition in areas where space is limited. Permaculture is a large concept at work here and it can run the gamut of everything from composting to water retention systems. Although you may think that your backyard is too small to enact some of the main principles, think again. All of these things can bring you one step closer to farming in your backyard.

Water Harvesting

You may not be building the water terraces of ancient China or the aqueducts of old Peru, but you can still change the dynamic landscape of your own backyard to save water. Consider where you need to water and where rain gathers. If you can divert this natural force and slow it’s descent to the sewer you’ll be better off.

First, let’s tackle the backyard. Taking excess dirt and creating a slope that funnels water to the center of the garden is the best way to take advantage of soil architecture and save rain water, as well as water from your sprinkler. 

Roof runoff is also worth saving no matter how rare rainfall is in your area. There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up a water cache system like this.

  • Water Quality: Water must be filtered and should be pollutant free. Keep in mind that zinc-aluminum roofing can be dangerous to your health.
  • Do not let your gutters become blocked with leaves. Leaf guard can be expensive, while homemade alternatives are still effective.
  • Regular maintenance is a must. You’ll want to make sure that water is sealed at appropriate times, to protect from development of mosquitoes in warmer months.

Companion Planting

Growing plants that are native to the same continent and cultures together will improve crops survivability. Because these plants have evolved in the same place for many generations, they require the same protection, and in some instances provide shade, nutrients, and ground cover.

You might find your crops being under siege from spider mites or other pests. This guide will illustrate just how to face those problems in an organic way, by using companion plants.


Composting is central to the farming experience. While we won’t delve completely into the wide world of composting here, there are a few things to remember while at home in the urban setting.

  • Make sure to seal compost bins to avoid confrontation with pets, pests, and neighborly noses.
  • Red Worms are your best friend
  • Save coffee grounds or ask for some from a local business
  • Find a local composting co-op if you don’t have room at home.

Keep in mind that your goal is to return nutrients to the soil as food for crops. You don’t want your backyard turning into a miniature dust bowl after several seasons.


This is a topic that can take some getting used to, but with proper installation you can use the forms of water in your household that are not exposed to human waste to better hydrate the garden. I’ve seen setups where the sink was disconnected and water was free to run into a bucket for later distribution. This comes with it’s problems of course, and is not recommended. But there are designs aplenty for whatever age your home may be. Here are some of the most prominent benefits:

  • More water for use, and less strain on wells or drought stricken areas
  • Less strain on failing septic tank
  • Less energy and chemical use
  • Plants benefit foremost and after water is returned to it’s origin (groundwater) faster
  • Increased awareness of and sensitivity to natural cycles

Poultry & Eggs

Yard pending, you can find a way to install a small to medium chicken coop or convert a pre-existing shed. The chicken housing must meet several requirements, not only for city ordinance, but also for the chickens themselves to be happy and fruitful:

  • Chicken feeding is a regular job and requires a solid schedule. An automatic feeder may lessen the burden.
  • Fencing around the coop can be important if you have nosy pets or live in an area rife with predators.
  • Don’t forget the light! Chickens only lay eggs based on daylight cycles. Some lights will also affect the temperature of the coop, which is another important part of keeping chickens healthy and alive.
  • Make sure you have access to the inside so you may clean regularly.

Whether the goal you have in mind is for eggs (quite sustainable) or for poultry, you should find that the coop is an excellent addition to the home, and is one step closer to making you an actual farmer. Treat your chickens well and healthy product will come along with it.

Position of the Sun         

If you aren’t paying attention this could spell disaster for your first year, mostly because you won’t have a second year. Without proper daylight your crop will never properly flourish, and for some locations the urbanite may have to do some proper planning. Before making any cuts on the tree linings of the property, make a chart that shows where the sun line falls on your property. In some cases you’ll have full coverage, but more than likely you’ll have a tree or two in the way. Note the time of year as well, as the sun will shift depending on the season.

After trimming, consider burying the remnants of your tree trimmings to create a Hugelkultur bed. This is a form of composting that uses trees and tree parts to save moisture, contribute nutrients, and reinvigorate the soil. Gather the tree parts and bury them with a layer of nutrient dense material and cover with topsoil and my personal preference of straw.

Urban Farming For All…

This article is only the tip of the iceberg.  Use the following resources to transform your backyard into a farmer’s market contributor, and turn that day job into that of an urban farmer. If all goes well, maybe you’ll make that return back to college for an agricultural education. For now, supplement your income with fresh fruit, vegetables, and stock!

References and Resources for Further Education

Urban Farming

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Guest Poster: Ryan De La Rosa on twitter
Guest Poster: Ryan De La Rosa
Ryan De La Rosa is traveling the NorthWest looking for a place to farm, even a place to compost would do.