According to a 2015 survey, 62.7 percent of people in the United States live in the city, despite US cities taking up just 3.5 percent of the total land area. No doubt, living in a city provides plenty of advantages, from dining and entertainment options to proximity to your place of employment. One advantage that […]
According to a 2015 survey, 62.7 percent of people in the United States live in the city, despite US cities taking up just 3.5 percent of the total land area. No doubt, living in a city provides plenty of advantages, from dining and entertainment options to proximity to your place of employment. One advantage that […]
Today you’ll learn how to create homemade potting soil using only three simple ingredients. I’ll also give you alternate recipes for potting soil in case you don’t have those three readily available.
My Homemade Potting Soil Recipe
If you’d like to see me make my homemade potting soil, here’s a video I created illustrating the process:
First, you’ll need a place to work.
I like to spread a tarp on the grass and use that as my mixing area, but you can work on any solid surface. A tarp is easy to roll back and forth to help you mix, but making potting soil isn’t rocket science and you can really do it anywhere.
Second, gather your materials. My potting soil recipe has three main ingredients:
1. Rotten Wood
Fresh wood chips will eat up a lot of the nitrogen in your potting soil mix and can cause your plants to struggle. Rotten wood doesn’t cause that issue, plus it holds moisture and provides a loose and airy texture to the mix.
As you know if you’ve read my popular book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting, I don’t throw away or burn the logs and sticks that fall in my yard. Instead, I use them to feed the soil.
Leaving a pile of brush and logs in a corner of your property to rot over time will give you a ready source of rotten wood.
If you haven’t started doing that yet, just go for a walk in the woods and get a nice sack of fluffy, crumbly wood and drag it home.
2. Aged Cow Manure
I gather manure from my neighbor’s cows and leave it on a piece of metal in the sun to age and dry for a few months.
Fresh cow manure is too “hot.”
If my home-baked manure sounds too weird, just pile it up in a compost heap somewhere and let it go for a few months. That will leave you with a nutritious, organic-matter-rich pile of good stuff for your homemade potting soil.
NOTE: Manure in the United States is often contaminated with long-term herbicides that will destroy your garden and your potted plants. Read Karen’s story and learn more about that danger here.
3. Sifted Soil/Grit
I let my chickens do a lot of composting for me, like this:
I go into the coop or chicken run, sift out the grit, soil and compost, then use it in my homemade potting soil.
You don’t need to do that, though. No chickens? No problem.
I sift grit from the local creek bed and add that sometimes. I’ve also just added good garden soil, old potting soil mix from expired plants and even regular old sand.
Mix It All Up
Now all you need to do is get mixing.
Smash the rotten wood into smaller chunks, break up the cow patties, and pour in the grit. I use one part rotten wood, one part aged manure and one part grit/soil in my potting soil recipe, but don’t overthink it. If it looks loose and feels good, the plants will be happy.
As you’ll notice in my video, I often leave pretty big chunks of wood in my homemade potting soil. The potted plants seem to like them and they act as moisture reservoirs and soil looseners.
If you need a finer homemade potting soil for starting seeds, just crush the mix finer or run a coarser mix through some hardware cloth to sift it.
Alternate Ingredients for Homemade Potting Soil
If you don’t have cow manure, try goat or rabbit manure. Both work quite well. Homemade compost is also excellent, though I never seem to have enough for everything I want to do. It’s often full of seeds, so watch out for that unless you want pumpkins growing out of your potted begonias.
Don’t have grit/sand available? Vermiculite or perlite both work nicely, though you have to buy them.
Rotten wood can be replaced with peat moss or coconut coir. I prefer the coir. It seems to repel water less. You can also use leaf mould. Sift it out in the local forest – it’s wonderful. As a bonus, it contains beneficial bacteria and fungi.
Along with these ingredients, I’ve also added some ashes, crushed charcoal, coffee grounds, old potting soil, peanut shells and even moldy cocoa nibs.
When I ran my nursery business I often stretched my potting soil budget by mixing purchased soil with rotten wood chips I got from a local tree company and set aside for years to break down.
Just keep your homemade potting soil loose and fluffy with a good mix of ingredients and your plants will do great.
The post Make Homemade Potting Soil With 3 Simple Ingredients appeared first on The Grow Network.
When you’re new to growing vegetables and herbs in pots, figuring out the how, when, and what of fertilizing container gardens can feel overwhelming. This article is the second in a three-part series that offers a beginner-friendly guide to feeding your potted edibles.
In part 1 of the series, I talk about fertilizing basics, including the special challenges plants face when growing in containers and why feeding them is essential to their health.
This article, part 2 of the series, provides my four-part recommendation for fertilizing and offers three sample schedules you can follow depending on the plants you’re growing and your gardening goals.
Part 3 of the series is designed to give you in-depth information about the four types of fertilizers and supplements: liquid fertilizers, liquid supplements, granular fertilizers, and granular supplements.
A 4-Part Recommendation for Fertilizing Container-Grown Vegetables and Herbs
All of the following recommendations can easily be classified into one of four main categories:
- Liquid fertilization
- Liquid supplements
- Granular fertilization
- Granular supplements
For a basic beginner’s approach, you can get by doing only the first one, liquid fertilization. I think this is the bare minimum if you want to grow healthy food in a pot.
If you’re overwhelmed by this information, or if you’re just too busy to fuss with it, simply pick up a bottle of liquid organic fertilizer and start there.
That alone will probably take care of most of your problems, and greatly improve the quantity and quality of the food you grow.
An ideal fertilization regimen for container plants would include all four of these categories. If you have a special baby in a container, do all four. Your plant will thank you for it.
I do all four of these for some edibles that I grow in pots—especially fruit-intensive plants like tomatoes.
There are a few key exceptions that I’ll talk about below.
As you learn more, you’ll figure out which bits and pieces are most important for different plants, for different problems, and for different uses.
- When I first noticed the visual difference in my aloe plants after they got a handful of mineral sand, something clicked, and I haven’t planted aloes without trace minerals since.
- When I saw how much resin accumulated on a calendula plant that grew in a tomato pot with regular high-potassium fertilizer, something clicked, and now I always use high-potassium fertilizer on calendula.
- When I first saw the visual difference in my strawberries after they were treated with liquid seaweed, something clicked again. I don’t grow strawberries anymore, but if I see someone else’s strawberries suffering, I know that a little liquid seaweed will probably fix them right up.
This is the learning curve, and with each new experiment, you’ll add another piece to the puzzle.
Schedules for Container Plant Fertilization
As I said above, I think the best basic, beginner’s plan for fertilizing container plants is to use a simple, well-balanced, organic liquid fertilizer. There is more information on specific fertilizers below.
The Basic Schedule
Regarding the schedule for using fertilizers, I generally would recommend one application every two weeks.
So, a basic schedule would look like this:
- Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
- Week 2: Skip
- Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
- Week 4: Skip
- Repeat indefinitely
An Intermediate Schedule for Certain Situations
If I notice that the soil smells off in a certain pot, I will often apply aerobic compost tea to restore healthy microbial life to the container. I apply this on the off weeks when I am not giving liquid fertilizer.
If I am growing a crop that specifically appreciates some liquid seaweed, like strawberries, or leafy spring greens that have survived into the heat of summer, I will also apply the seaweed on the off weeks.
So, an intermediate schedule might look like this:
- Week 1: Liquid fertilizer
- Week 2: Liquid supplement
- Week 3: Liquid fertilizer
- Week 4: Liquid supplement
- Repeat indefinitely
An Advanced Schedule for Special Plants
If I am growing tomatoes in a pot, I go all out. I use all four categories, and I give the plants everything in my arsenal to ensure a healthy life and a good yield.
An advanced schedule for special plants would look something like this:
- At planting: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
- Week 1 after planting: Skip
- Week 2 after planting: Liquid supplements
- Week 3 after planting: Liquid fertilizer
- Continue to alternate a week of liquid supplements and a week of liquid fertilizer until fruit set, then:
- At fruit set: Granular fertilizer and granular supplements
- Week 1 after fruit set: Skip
- Week 2 after fruit set: Liquid supplements
- Week 3 after fruit set: Liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements
- Continue applying liquid fertilizer and liquid supplements each week until the end of the growing season.
Any time I’m applying a lot of fertilizer and supplements, as in the example above, I cut back on the dilution strength of the liquids and the volume of the granular. The general idea is to give less, more often.
A Few Key Exceptions
I distinguish between leafy annuals and woody perennials in my fertilization schedules.
Some woody perennial plants don’t appreciate the extra nutrients, and you can cause more harm than good by overdoing it with regular fertilization.
Woody herbs like rosemary and lavender are especially sensitive to this. I fertilize rosemary about half as often as I fertilize other plants, and I fertilize lavender rarely if ever.
Blueberries benefit from special treatment in a container. They love seaweed, iron, and acidity. Watering with vinegar is beneficial here. Give your potted blueberries some extra love and they will pay you back with plenty of tasty berries.
When I’m growing tomatoes in a pot, as I said above, I go all out. I use everything in my arsenal to get the plant as productive as possible. I normally don’t worry about burning plants with too much fertilizer, because I only use mild organic fertilizers and I dilute them well. In this case, however, I always keep a close eye on the leaf margins to make sure that I am not overdoing it with the tomatoes.
(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published in October 2015.)
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:
- Bok Choy
- Carrot Greens
- Garlic Sprouts
- Green Onions
- Sweet Potatoes
- Romaine Lettuce
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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!)
Today we’re going to set to work on the self-sufficiency task of apartment homesteading. Let’s talk about your Apartment Homestead garden!
There is something so simultaneously spiritual and physical about digging in the dirt, planting seeds, nurturing them to grow and prosper, and reaping the harvest of your hard work a few short months later.
But it does take work and determination, especially when you are an apartment homesteader.
Why Apartment Gardening?
As apartment homesteaders, we have to bring potting soil into our apartments instead of simply tilling up a piece of our land for the garden. We have to take cleanliness and visual appeal into consideration as we plan our apartment gardens, because we have landlords and neighbors to contend with. We have to troubleshoot issues of lack of sunlight at certain times of the day, and we have to find ways to bring the garden inside when we don’t have enough space on our patios.
In short, apartment gardening takes some creativity and determination in order to truly reap the benefits.
But we certainly have good reason to attempt to grow our own food and be on our way to self-sufficiency, even while we are still apartment and condo dwellers. Those reasons include avoiding the pesticide contamination of non-organically grown produce, saving money, and learning how to be self-sufficient for the future.
And, even if you’re a non-apartment dweller, keep in mind that you can use some of these techniques to extend your growing season by bringing the harvest indoors!
Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen
The Environmental Working Group keeps track yearly of the amount of pesticides used to grow certain fruits and vegetables. The foods with the heaviest pesticide contamination go in the “Dirty Dozen” column. The foods with the least amount of pesticide contamination go in the “Clean 15” column.
Here are the lists for 2017:
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas
I know we can’t all afford to buy only organic produce from the store, but with these lists in mind, we can at least be careful to purchase the Dirty Dozen organically and be a little less strict with how we purchase items from the Clean Fifteen list.
But, even better than simply buying organically produced items on the Dirty Dozen list, we can grow our own! The items in bold text on the Dirty Dozen list are the ones we’ll talk about growing in a patio, container, or indoor garden in our apartment homestead. We’ll also talk about growing other items, such as herbs and salad greens.
Remember, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to grow everything you need to live off of in an apartment. (If you are able to do that, please comment below and share your methods with us!)
But you can grow a variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruits to get you part of the way there. And, if you can grow some of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables in your apartment, you’ll save money by having to buy fewer of them at the store!
Seeds vs. Seedlings
Some of the garden items below are easiest to grow from a small plant that you purchase at a local farm. But growing from seed is entirely possible and you may decide to go that route.
Whichever route you choose, be sure to find a seed or plant source that grows using organic methods. You don’t want to start your apartment garden with seeds or plants soaked in pesticides. You’re trying to get away from that chemical yuck!
Look for certified-organic seed sellers. Local is always better for you and for the environment.
Herbs to Grow While Apartment Gardening
There are two different types of herbs you can grow in your apartment homestead: medicinal herbs and cooking herbs. Often times, a single plant variety will serve both purposes.
We won’t get into the specific medicinal uses of each of these herbs here, but look for a future post on how to create your own “apartment apothecary”!
These are some of the herbs you might decide to grow in your apartment homestead garden:
- Mint: Great for cooking and has medicinal uses (both)
- Basil: Both
- Thyme: Both
- Oregano: Both
- Chamomile: Use to make a medicinal tea
- Echinacea: Medicinal
- Feverfew: Medicinal
- Johnny Jump Up: Medicinal
- Lavender: Use to make a medicinal tea and for other medicinal purposes
- Lemon Balm: Medicinal
- Marigold: Medicinal (Pretty, too—and it helps keep pests away!)
- Parsley: Both
- Rosemary: Both
- Sage: Both
There are so many ways to grow herbs in your apartment garden, but here are two of my favorites:
Grow individual herb plants in large-mouth mason jars. Plant and clearly mark one herb plant in each mason jar and display them on your kitchen counter. Most of these need some sun, so try to place them near a window. They look really nice hanging or sitting in a window sill!
Grow an “herb wall.” Plant herbs side by side in long, rectangular, wooden boxes that are lightweight and can easily be hung on a wall with studs. I’ve also seen some clever uses of old shipping pallets to make a wall planter.
Analyze your apartment space and decide what herb-planting method will work best for you . . . then share it with us!
The Apartment Homesteader Herb Garden Schedule
- Decide which ailments you would like to treat with natural, organic herbs. Do a simple Internet search to see which herbs may help improve those ailments or your overall health. Also make a list of herbs you use regularly in the kitchen.
- Look up the growing recommendations for each herb you want to plant, and make note of the supplies you’ll need. (Or, check out Marjory’s herbal how-to here!
- Find a local, organic seed or plant seller and purchase your plants. Also purchase (or repurpose!) your materials to “build” your garden.
- When your herbs are ready to harvest, decide how to preserve each herb and reap your herb garden abundance for months to come. You’ll probably use some fresh and save others for later use. Most herbs can be easily dried simply by hanging the cut stems for a few days. Some people also chop up fresh herbs, place them in ice cube trays, add water, and freeze them for later use!
Container-Friendly Vegetables and Fruits
In addition to herbs, you can also grow a bunch of your favorite fruits and vegetables in your apartment garden!
Here’s a list of some of the plants that are easy to grow in small spaces—in pots, in wall gardens, and on your patio in garden boxes:
- Garlic Greens
- Salad Greens
- Bell Peppers
- Green Beans
- Winter Squash
Pick two or three of your favorites from this list and research planting and growing recommendations for those plants.
Start with the ones that are easiest to grow. (And bonus points for growing some of the produce on the Dirty Dozen list!) Consider planting one tomato plant, two bell pepper plants, and two different salad greens in your first garden go-round.
Just like with your herb garden, each plant will have specific instructions for optimal growth. Also, make sure you look into how much soil space each of the plants you want to try requires when mature. Then, purchase or build your pot or garden box to accommodate them.
The Apartment Homesteader Vegetable Garden Schedule
- Decide which fruits and vegetables you want to try to grow in your apartment garden. Pick stuff you like to eat and wouldn’t mind eating in back-to-back meals.
- Look up the growing recommendations for each item you want to plant, and make note of the supplies you’ll need.
- Find a local, organic seed or plant seller and purchase your plants. Also purchase (or repurpose!) your materials to “build” your garden.
- When your produce is almost ready to harvest, make a menu schedule. Find a multitude of recipes that use the produce you are growing and eat as much of it fresh as you can. You can also find recipes and methods to can, dry, or otherwise preserve your produce for eating in the future. There are some stellar tomato-preserving recipes out there!
Pick a Garden Design You (and Your Neighbors!) Will Love
I was clicking around on Pinterest the other day and came across some truly awesome patio garden designs.
One of my favorites used cinder blocks and garden fabric. This pinner stacked the cinder blocks in different ways to expose square openings in the blocks and then attached garden fabric to the inside of the exposed openings. He then filled each “cinder block pot” with soil and planted what he wanted to grow in them.
I also love the raised garden bed designs floating around. I give it bonus points if the gardener uses repurposed materials during building! Make it fun, make it fashionable, and make it sustainable—just like everything else you do as an apartment homesteader.
The same goes for your indoor garden and any container gardening you do. It might seem a little “hipster” or HGTV-wannabe to do so, but making your garden fun and fashionable (think “Pinteresting”) will inspire your friends and neighbors to create their own fun and fashionable apartment gardens. Making self-sufficiency and sustainability look cool encourages more people to pursue it.
What to Plant if You Don’t Get Enough Sun
If your apartment doesn’t face the right way for optimal sunlight, don’t fret! You can still grow a multitude of plants, but you need to get even more creative with your choices.
Here is a list of herbs that grow well in the shade:
- Golden Oregano
- Lemon Balm
And here are vegetables that grow well in the shade:
- Salad Greens and Leafy Greens
- Brussel Sprouts
- Swish Chard
Or make your own sunlight by purchasing a sun lamp. Just search online for “plant growing lamps”—you’ll find a bunch of options to choose from.
Restarting Plants From “Scraps”
Another really cool way to live a truly sustainable apartment homesteader life is to restart some of your garden items from scraps!
Check out this long list of produce you can restart from your organic table scraps:
- Spring Onions
- Romaine Lettuce
- Bok Choy
- Bean Sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes
Remember, once they get going, many of these will need more room than a pot provides, plus a warm climate or heated greenhouse to grow properly. Take that into account before you go through the work of restarting a lemon tree in a northern climate.
If gardening in your apartment is simply not an option, look around your city for community gardens to join.
You’d be surprised how many community gardens there are around you. For a small fee, you’ll be allocated a small parcel of the garden and you can plant what you want to plant.
Make sure you ask about the garden’s policy on the use of pesticides. If the rest of the gardeners douse their produce in chemicals, you may want to look elsewhere for a garden space.
Once you’ve found your community garden plot, plant a handful of medicinal herbs, a tomato plant, some leafy greens, beans, a row or two of potatoes, a few pepper plants, and any other vegetables you can’t live without.
If for some crazy reason there aren’t any community gardens near you, start your own with other apartment homesteaders! Start a Meetup group for people in the area interested in homesteading and gauge how much land you’ll need to grow a community garden.
Ask your landlord about possible locations for a community garden in the area, or seek out churches and community groups to see if they will sell or allocate a small parcel of land for garden use. You never know what kind of neighborhood green initiative you might start by simply asking questions and offering some encouragement.
What if You Don’t Have a Green Thumb?
Do you lack the gift of growing? Don’t worry; do research. Find local homesteaders and inquire about working in their gardens or in other areas of their homesteads in exchange for free produce.
But don’t just work. Ask questions. See what knowledge you can glean from established homesteaders who grow their own food.
Before you know it, you could be well on your way to becoming a green-thumbed expert in the field of apartment-homestead gardening.
There are so many ways we apartment homesteaders can practice self-sufficiency, even when we don’t have any physical land to grow on. With some creativity, research, and a little determination, we can become abundant apartment homestead gardeners.
Share your apartment garden projects below! We’d love to hear from you!
The post Apartment Gardening: Reaping Abundance in a Small Space appeared first on The Grow Network.
Growing lavender is fun, easy, and has a number of health and culinary benefits. Lavender is known for its versatility and numerous uses, especially its oils, which are extracted from the flower of the plant through steam distillation. It is a member of the mint family, and can be used for medicinal or culinary purposes.
The flowers of the lavender plant have a soothing fragrance when they are fresh or dry, which is one of the many reasons why they are so popular among those who grow herbs.
The calming scent of lavender makes it a regular ingredient in aromatherapy. Lavender oil combines beautifully with other herbs, such as cedarwood, pine, clary sage, geranium, and nutmeg. You’ll find lavender commonly used in many personal care products, including lotions, gels, and soaps, as well as in sweet and savory foods.
In addition to the calming effect of its aroma, lavender oil has many other benefits.
On a related note … Did you see this article on the benefits of Mugwort?
10 Benefits of Lavender and Lavender Oils
1 Bug Repellent
Lavender oil is the perfect natural alternative to harmful bug repellents. The scent of lavender oil is too strong for many types of insects including mosquitos, midges, and moths.
If you have been bitten by a bug, rub a few drops of lavender oil onto your skin. This should relieve the irritation caused by the bite. Lavender oil has anti-inflammatory properties.
Next time you go out in the woods, keep a bottle of lavender oil in your Natural First Aid Kit.
One in three adults has trouble sleeping, (1) which heavily affects his or her ability to do day-to-day activities. The lack of sleep affects mood and the immune system, too.
Prescription drugs that help you sleep can have severe side-effects, including addiction.
Lavender oil induces sleep without any side-effects; a few drops on your pillow, or a sachet of lavender under your pillow, is all you need.
3 Nervous system
Lavender’s soothing aroma is known to calm nerves and reduce anxiety. It helps provide symptom relief of migraines, depression, and emotional stress. The calming fragrance relaxes your nerves, while revitalizing your brain.
Studies found that people suffering from anxiety and stress before an exam had increased mental function after sniffing lavender oil. (2)
4 Skin Conditions
It is common for people to suffer from acne breakouts during puberty, but some adults also suffer from this bacterial outbreak.
Lavender oil reduces the growth of bacteria that cause infections and regulates the over-secretion of sebum (oil produced by the skin).
Scars left by acne can be reduced by the use of lavender oil. By adding a couple of drops to your moisturizer, or even some water splashed on your face, should reduce your acne and its scars.
5 Immune system
According to the Journal of Medical Microbiology, “lavender shows a potent antifungal effect against strains of fungi responsible for common skin and nail infections.” (3) Lavender has antibacterial and antiviral properties, which protect the body from diseases like TB, typhoid, and diphtheria.
6 Circulatory system
Research has found that aromatherapy using lavender promotes blood circulation, lowers elevated blood pressure, and reduces hypertension.
The increased blood flow leads to increased amounts of oxygen in the muscles and the brain. Your skin also glows due to better blood flow, and your body is better protected against heart disease. (4)
7 Digestive system
Lavender oil leads to better digestion by increasing the movement of food in the digestive track.
The oil stimulates your intestines and the production of bile and gastric juices. This helps with upset stomach, stomach pain, indigestion, gas, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea. (5)
8 Pain relief
It can help with sore or tight muscles, joint pain, sprains, backache, and menstrual cramps.
For menstrual cramps, massage a few drops of lavender oil on your lower abdomen and apply a warm towel. Also, applying the oil on the bottom of your feet will help.
9 Diabetes treatment
In 2014, Scientists in Tunisia tested the effects of lavender oil on blood sugar levels to see if it would help with diabetes.
During their study, they found that lavender oil treatments protected the body from increased blood glucose, weight gain, and liver and kidney function. Researchers were amazed to find that the radical antioxidant properties of lavender were more effective than Vitamin C. (6)
10 Healthy Hair
Lavender oil helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. There are some studies that show that lavender can possibly treat hair loss and boosts hair growth by up to 44 percent after seven months of treatment. (7)
Growing Lavender at home
Lavender is a very useful herb, it can be used for everything from taking care of you to cleaning your home. With these types of benefits, it would be great to grow your own lavender plants.
Here is one of the easiest way of growing lavender at home:
Grow Lavender in Pots
Growing lavender in a pot is easy, whether you use seeds, cuttings or bought plants.
If you’re going to use seeds, place them on top of sandy soil. Cover them lightly with a layer of perlite. In two to three weeks, your seeds should sprout.
If you’re going to use cuttings, make sure to take them below the node (the leafy part of the plant). Dip your cuttings in root hormone or an organic rooting hormone. Place them upright in warm, damp sandy soil.
Make your own Organic Rooting Hormone! Grab a small cup and cinnamon. Spit into the cup, or have your son do it. Dip your cutting in the saliva. Then, dip it into the cinnamon. Place your cutting into your rooting medium. Saliva is a natural root enhancer, and cinnamon minimizes damping off of your cutting.
Whatever type of container you choose to hold your lavender plant, keep in mind that while lavender does need water, it does not like moisture. This means that you need a container with a good drainage system.
A container with plenty of drainage holes is perfect. If there are only a couple of holes, drill some more.
If your pot is going to be inside, then get a pot with a removable saucer at the bottom to catch the excess water. Do not get a pot with an attached saucer. You don’t want your lavender plant to be too damp.
Maintain your potted lavender
Once you’ve found the right amount of moisture in the sandy soil, maintaining your lavender becomes pretty easy. Ensure that the plant receives the right amount of sun exposure, water, soil pH, and temperature.
Place your lavender pot somewhere that it will get at least 8 hours of sunlight a day. Note: In places in the southwest and southeast where the sun is extremely strong, your lavender may need a bit of shade.
Lavender does not require much water. Let the soil become dry in between watering, but do not let it get so dry that the plant wilts.
Lavender does not like acidic soils. It may look fine the first year, but it will start dying off. This member of the mint family loves an alkaline soil with a pH between 6.7 to 7.3.
Depending on where you live, your lavender will grow best in the late spring to early summer. If you are in a cooler climate, you might want to look at varieties, like English Lavender, which will grow in your cooler temperatures.
French Lavender is at its healthiest when it is warm. There is a good chance it won’t survive a cold winter, which is why it is better to plant it in pots, so it can easily be moved when temperatures drop.
Lavender has many benefits in all its forms.
If you prune the first bloom in early spring, you may have a second harvest in the summer.
When re-flowering begins to slow, (after about a month of flowering), you’ll be ready for your final harvest. Remove the flower stems from the bush and gather the stems into a bunch.
Cut your lavender a few inches above the woody growth with a harvesting knife.
Dry lavender in bunches, on screens, with a dehydrator, or in a paper bag. Either dry in a cool, dark place hanging upside-down, or on a screen out in the sun. Note: The sun will change the color of the lavender.
Now use YOUR lavender for anything from crafts to cooking. However, the lavender oil, which you can extract through steam distillation, is lavender’s most popular use.
What is your favorite way to use lavender? The comment section is waiting for you below.
- Trouble Sleeping? [https://centracare.org/florida/blog/2016/05/23/trouble-sleeping/]
- Lavender Oil Benefits: Reducing Stress and Depression [https://www.drwhitaker.com/lavender-oil-benefits-reducing-stress-and-depression]
- Lavender Oil Has Potent Antifungal Effect. Science News. [https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110214201842.htm]
- Relaxation effects of lavender… [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17689755]
- Love Lavender? Try Lavender Oil. Mercola. [http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lavender-oil.aspx]
- Lavender essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia… [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3880178/]
- What are the health benefits of lavender? Medical News Today. [http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265922.php]
Growing tulsi (holy basil) is super-easy!
About two years ago, I joined a community garden and planted a 4-foot by 8-foot plot. A friend has a local nursery, so I picked up some plants to get started and used seeds for the rest. One of the plants I purchased was a goji berry bush. To be honest, I am not the best community gardener. I have problems incorporating regular visits to the garden into my weekly schedule.
Getting Everything Planted
A few weeks after I got everything planted, I noticed another plant growing like crazy next to my goji berry bush. I tried to cut it back, so the goji would have room to grow.
The leaves tasted like a spicy mint that was very pleasant.
As the weeks went by, this crazy plant literally took over and smothered the goji berry bush.
Every time I would go to my plot, I would cut it back. It didn’t work. Then, it started to flower. It had tiny whitish purple flowers on a long stalk. I brought a few of the flowers home so I could research and identify the plant.
Have you seen this article on how to identify plants.
It turned out to be holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum).
When I harvested my garden plot, I decided to bring the tulsi home to see if it would grow. It lasted a while with a lot of flowers. Then it died completely, or so it seemed. The tub was on my front porch and left there throughout the winter.
When the weather started to warm again, I saw the green leaves of the tulsi start to sprout out of the soil in the tub.
We have been harvesting tulsi for the last eight months. It is delicious in our salads. It adds a spicy, mint flavor similar to regular basil.
The Many Benefits of Tulsi
In India, people have been growing Tulsi for its medicinal properties for more than 3,000 years. Holy basil is considered a sacred plant in Hinduism.
In traditional medicine, Tulsi is used for:
- Digestive problems
- Treating colds and fevers
- Treating allergies & infections
- Strengthening the immune system
- Treating hair and skin disorders
- Dental health
- Repelling insects and treating insect bites
Tulsi is very important in Ayurveda and naturopathy, because the plant is loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, essential oils, and vitamins A and C, which have been known to help manage diabetes and high blood pressure. If you use a few tulsi leaves regularly, it will help the body function properly.
It is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is considered an adaptogen, (a substance that helps the body adapt and function optimally).
Besides adding it to salads, the leaves are easy-to-make into a tea.
Add it to your garden
There are more than 100 varieties of Tulsi. If you have a warm, sunny place in your garden or on your porch or windowsill, consider adding a tulsi plant. It is perfect in a container garden with other sun-loving herbs. It is easy-to-grow and requires very little care.
In the late spring or early summer, when the temperatures in your area are around 70°F, sow seeds outdoors. If you want an early start, sow the seeds indoors in a sunny window.
Put the tulsi seeds on top of the soil and lightly press down for soil contact. Spray the seeds with water or compost tea. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate in about 1 to 2 weeks.
Pinch the top of the tulsi plant when there are four to six pairs of leaves for a bushier plant.
Harvest the tulsi leaves throughout the growing season. As the plant gets bigger, use a pair of scissors to cut the larger leaves or cut an entire branch.
Use the fresh leaves the same day, or they will fade. Or dry the leaves by collecting the branches. Place them in a dry place away from direct sunlight. Move the stems around about three times each day until the leaves are crisp and easily crushed.
Do you have tulsi in your garden? How do you use it? Tell us in the comments below.
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(Length: 1:16 minutes)
How old are the spices in your spice cabinet?
If you’re like me, some of spices and seasonings might be just slightly older than two to three years—the point at which they lose potency and should be discarded.
But what if you could have a continual supply of homegrown spices and seasonings that you use most, without having to worry about an expiration date?
In this quick video, I show you a quick solution—a living spice cabinet on your kitchen windowsill filled with homegrown spices and seasonings.
I grow basil, chives, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage.
These are all excellent choices for indoor container gardening. And you can add parsley, horehound, winter savory, dill, marjoram, coriander, and mint to that list.
Whether you’re a well-established gardener or your gardening skills are just starting to bloom (sorry, couldn’t resist! 😉 ), you’ll need a few things to get your living spice cabinet started.
Environment: Right Plant, Right Place
One of the most basic principles of successful gardening is “right plant, right place.”
Basically, if you grow a plant in an environment that meets its basic needs for sunlight, temperature, airflow, soil drainage, etc., you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor in the long run.
Your plant will be stronger, healthier, happier, and more productive; have fewer disease and pest issues; and create fewer headaches for you!
So, before you head to the garden center for pots and seedlings, take a few minutes to determine how you’ll provide the right environment for your herbs.
Here’s what you’ll need to consider:
- Light Sources
Sunlight: Most herbs need six to eight hours of sunlight daily. You can usually provide this via an unobscured window with western or southern exposure. To ensure that the entire plant gets adequate sunlight, rotate it every three to four days.
Artificial Light: If you don’t have an indoor location that provides enough natural light, you can use two 40-watt cool white fluorescent bulbs. Place the plants 6 to 12 inches below the light source, and keep the bulbs lit for two hours per hour of required sunlight. For example, if your plants need eight hours of sunlight, expose them to 16 hours of artificial fluorescent light daily. And if you don’t want to mess with turning the lights on and off at certain times each day, consider buying a plug-in timer to handle the task for you. (Trust me, they’re awesome. Highly recommended!)
Herbs prefer moderate temperatures, so choose a location that reaches 65°F–70°F during the day and 55°F–60°F at night. Avoid temperature extremes by keeping your herb plants away from mechanical heat sources and out of chilly drafts.
Herbs will grow best in a somewhat humid environment. So, if you live where it’s arid, you’ll need to get creative to provide supplemental humidity. You might fill a tray with stones, set your pots in it, and keep it filled with water just to the bottom of the herb containers. Alternately, you can keep a spray bottle handy and mist your herb plants with water as needed.
Like many other plants, herbs do best with good air circulation. So be sure not to crowd your plants together, maintaining a bit of space between them. And, when possible, crack a window or turn on a fan to keep some air flowing in the area.
Materials: Four Essentials
Now that you’ve figured out the best spot in your house for your homegrown spices and seasonings, it’s time to go shopping—either in your potting shed or at your local garden center!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Fast-Draining Growing Medium
Look for a potting mix designed to drain fast and control moisture.
The main ingredient will be coir or sphagnum peat moss. These amendments have a large texture that helps the soil stay aerated and well drained, and their natural absorptive properties help keep the soil moist. (Interestingly, the more sustainable choice of the two, coir, is also the most useful. Not only is it a renewable resource produced from coconut husks, but it absorbs nearly a third more water than peat, is much easier to re-wet when it’s dry, is more alkaline, is slower to decompose … the list goes on.)
The ingredient list will also include some combination of water-holding minerals, such as vermiculite or perlite.
Many growing mediums will also include additions like compost, fertilizer, and wetting agents.
Or, you can be like Grow Network, Change Maker, David the Good and make your own!
Think fish emulsion and seaweed. Make your own liquid fertilizers centered on these ingredients here, or find some premade options at your local garden center.
Recommendations vary on how often to feed your culinary herb plants. Some say to use low-dose liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks, while others recommend feeding them every four weeks, or even less often. If you’re concerned about overfeeding, let your plants be your guide. If they look lush but have poor flavor, it’s time to cut back on the fertilizer.
Many people prefer to plant seedlings because they get you to your goal of freshly harvested herbs that much faster. However, if you’re willing to wait a little longer, grow your herbs from seed. In either case, follow the planting directions provided on the pot or seed packet, and you’ll have homegrown spices and seasonings in no time.
Water: The Final Ingredient
Finally, remember to water your herbs—but just occasionally.
Almost all herbs grown indoors will do best if you let their soil dry out between waterings. You’ll know it’s time to water if, when you stick your finger into the soil to a depth of one-inch, the soil is dry. Rosemary is the exception to this rule. Its soil needs to be kept moist.
It’s Time to Spice Things Up!
With just a few simple materials, plus a careful choice of environment, you’ll have homegrown spices and seasonings in YOUR living spice cabinet, just like mine.
It will add visual and aromatic appeal to your home and your meals—and, perhaps best of all, help ensure that your favorite spices are always fresh and full of flavor!
What are your favorite spices to grow? Do you have a living spice cabinet? Let us know in the comments below.
The post Homegrown Spices and Seasonings For Your Living Spice Cabinet appeared first on The Grow Network.
Urban gardening is all about making the most out of the space you’ve got. All it takes to turn your outdoor balcony or back porch into a full-on garden is a pinch of creativity and a dash of strategy. Rather than planting one crop in one small pot, we are going to focus on planting […]
It’s a lot easier to have soil problems than soil perfection. But whether you’re dealing with pH complications, drainage issues, rocky or cold soil, or perennial pest and disease concerns, Joel Karsten has a solution for you…Straw Bale Gardening!
As the culminating event of this year’s Home Grown Food Summit. Marjory interviewed Joel about the innovative straw bale gardening method he created more than 20 years ago.
If you have soil concerns, this method is worth considering. (Be aware, however, that there are some hidden dangers to keep in mind.)
The following article provides a summary of highlights from Marjory and Joel’s conversation.
And If You Missed the Podcast, Click Here to Listen Now!
Straw Bale Gardening—What Is It and How Does It Work?
First, let’s talk about what straw bale gardening isn’t. You aren’t growing vegetables in straw. What you’re actually doing is growing them in very recently decomposed straw.
And it doesn’t have to be straw. It can be any tightly compressed organic matter. Use whatever you have available in your area: oat straw, wheat straw, barley straw, rice straw, hay, grass clippings, etc.
Depending on how large and tightly compacted your bales are, you may be able to get a couple of growing seasons out of them.
But even when the bale has lost its shape and decomposed extensively, you can still take that same straw, put it in a large container, and compress it. If needed, add additional organic matter such as fresh grass clippings and leaves, and just make a new “bale” yourself.
The Soil-Making Process
Essentially, you are creating virgin soil within the interior of the bale—soil that is free from lingering disease or insect problems, and which provides the nutrient capacity the roots need to grow. To create this decomposition, you encourage the rapid reproduction of naturally occurring bacteria by “feeding” them nitrogen.
Now, depending on which kind of straw you’re using, you could be starting with as much as an 80:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. What you’re aiming for at the end of the conditioning process is a 20:1 ratio. So, you’ll need to add a significant amount of nitrogen. (This process is called “conditioning” the bale.)
You’ll spend several days conditioning the bale, although exactly how long it takes depends on what type of nitrogen you choose—traditional or organic.
Either way, you’ll want to start the conditioning process 20 days before your area’s average last frost date.
This will help ensure that the temperature outside isn’t so cold that it inhibits bacterial growth. (If, however, you get a cold snap during this time and the daytime temperature stays below 45°F one day, just pretend that day didn’t exist. Don’t treat your bales at all that day—no fertilizer, no water. Simply start the conditioning process up again the next day.)
Conditioning With Traditional Fertilizer
If you condition your bales using traditional fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizer, the process will take 12 days from start to finish. Choose a lawn fertilizer that has at least 20 percent nitrogen. (Nitrogen will be the first of the three numbers on the bag.) Make sure it’s not slow-release nitrogen.
Use 1/2 cup on days 1, 3, and 5 of this process. Simply spread it on top of the bale. (You’ll add water afterward, which will help push the fertilizer into the interior of the bale. More on this in a minute.)
Then, use 1/4 cup on days 7, 8, and 9. On the 10th day, add the phosphorous and potassium by applying one cup of 10/10/10 garden fertilizer to each bale.
By day 12, you’ll be ready to plant.
Conditioning With Organic Fertilizer
You’ll need 18 days to complete the conditioning process if you use organic fertilizers such as feather meal or bone meal, both of which have about 12 percent nitrogen. These fertilizers work because they are high in protein, and as it decomposes, protein becomes nitrogen.
(Some people even use urine, which has between 9 and 12 percent nitrogen, but keep in mind that you’ll need about 3-1/2 gallons of urine per bale per day!)
If you use an organic fertilizer, use 3 cups per bale on days 1, 3, and 5. Then, use 1 to 1-1/2 cups on days 7, 8, and 9.
On the 10th day, it’s time to add phosphorous and potassium. Do so by applying 1 cup of bone meal and 1 cup of wood ash to each bale.
You’ll be ready to plant in the bale by day 18.
Irrigating Your Bales
Whether you use organic or traditional fertilizers, you’ll need to water your bales every day—during both the conditioning process and the growing season.
Every day during the conditioning process, add one gallon of water to each bale. If you’re watering on a day when you also fertilize, add the fertilizer first, then top it with water to help push it into the bale.
It’s okay if the fertilizer doesn’t completely wash into the interior. The bacteria will actually come up to the surface of the bale to access the fertilizer when they need it.
Ideally, use water that has been warmed to air temperature so you’re not inhibiting the decomposers with frigid water straight from the spigot. Simply fill a bucket with water today, then use it tomorrow so the water has had a chance to warm up a bit.
Once the conditioning process is complete, you’ll still want to water your bales each day.
There are two options that Joel recommends:
- The cheapest, easiest, and quickest method is to use a soaker hose. However, the UV light from the sun breaks them down fairly quickly, and you’ll end up having to replace the hoses eventually.
- Once you know straw bale gardening is for you, he recommends upgrading to a drip system. It’s a little more expensive up front, but due to its adjustable nature, a drip irrigation system allows you to save money on water long-term since you are able to water each bale only as much as the plant needs. For example, your tomatoes are going to need more water than your potatoes. With a soaker hose, you have to water to your least common denominator—meaning your potatoes are going to get overwatered so that your tomatoes can get enough water. Drip irrigation solves that problem.
The Benefits of Straw Bale Gardening
This unique gardening method offers many benefits:
- The virgin soil within the bale has a very neutral pH, so depending on your water, your soil will be about a 6.8 to 7 on the pH scale. That’s an ideal range for most edibles.
- Straw bales both drain and hold moisture exceptionally well. You can’t flood a straw bale garden. No matter how much you water it, it will only hold three to five gallons. The rest of the water will run right out the bottom of the bale.
- Since you are creating virgin soil during the conditioning process, you don’t have to deal with perennial insect or disease problems.
What Grows in a Straw Bale Garden?
Most plants will thrive in a straw bale garden.
A few won’t.
Personally, Joel has had trouble growing onions and rosemary in his.
He also doesn’t recommend trying to grow sweet corn in straw bale gardens, because their height and big root structure make the process inefficient. (You’d only get about four good stalks of corn per bale!)
And perennials like asparagus and rhubarb aren’t ideal since the bale will break down before those plants really start to produce well.
How Many Plants Per Bale?
Space your plants in the bale as you would if you were planting them in the ground. You might even be able to space them a little bit tighter.
In a bale, though, what you’d usually plant in a row you’ll plant in a checkerboard pattern, instead.
You can also build a trellis above the bales to allow your larger or vining plants—such as green beans, tomatoes, sweet potato vines, cucumbers, and squash—to grow vertically instead of horizontally.
It’s a very productive method, and you end up with a lot less disease and a lot fewer insect problems.
Any Special Instructions for Planting Seeds?
If you’re going to plant tiny seeds, you’ll need to make a seed bed on top of the bale with some really clean compost or potting mix. Spread it into a half-inch layer and put your seeds in that. They’ll root right down into the bale.
If the seeds you’re using are big, such as peas and beans, you can use your finger to push them right into the bale.
What If My Bale Is Full of Mature Seeds When I Get It?
While you are conditioning a bale, its interior will reach approximately 140°F or 150°F. This heat is going to kill most of the seeds that may be present at first.
But it won’t reach the outside of the bale, so it’s still possible to end up with a “chia pet” growing out in your garden.
If you do, simply head outside with a sponge mop and a cake pan filled with vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish soap. Dunk your sponge mop in the liquid, and wipe down the outside of the bale.
When those sprouts first emerge, they have very limited energy reserves. The vinegar solution will knock them back. And, since they won’t have enough energy in the seed to regrow, you’ll only need to use the vinegar solution on them once.
What if There Are Latent Herbicides in the Bale?
It’s true that many fields are sprayed with broad-leaf herbicides, and that it can take some of these chemicals a pretty long time to break down naturally. It’s one of the reasons we are often cautioned against using straw or hay as mulch in our gardens. After all, most of our edibles are broad-leaf plants, too.
However, one of the great things about a straw bale garden is that it takes the guesswork out of whether or not your bales contain latent herbicide. The truth is that, if they do, your plants simply won’t grow.
If you’re concerned about it, though, Marjory recommends a simple test. (This test also works for manure.)
- Grow a flat of legumes.
- Mix the straw or hay with water in a five-gallon bucket and stir frequently for a day or two.
- Then, use the water on the legumes.
- Keep an eye on the legumes to see how they respond. If the second and third set of leaves look normal, the straw, hay, or manure is probably safe to use.
How Do I Keep Mice From Nesting in the Bales?
A properly conditioned straw bale really isn’t going to make an attractive home to rodents.
Since the straw itself has been harvested, it shouldn’t contain many oats or wheat seeds. That means it doesn’t provide much of a food source for rodents.
Also, during the conditioning process, the bale gets really hot inside and the interior starts to turn into a big, mushy pocket of soil. Neither of those conditions are attractive to mice or rats.
That said, there are a couple of things you can do to further discourage rodents from taking up residence in your straw bale garden:
- First, make sure there aren’t any bird feeders nearby. Those really tend to attract rodents.
- Second, make sure you’re watering your bale appropriately—on a daily basis, with the water fully saturating the bale.
It’s always important to do your research when embarking on a new gardening adventure. But once you do, you may find that straw bale gardening is the solution you’ve been looking for—no matter where you live, what your soil is like … or whether you have soil at all!
Are you excited about Straw Bale Gardening, or have a burning question? Tell us in the comments below!
Store-bought or homegrown, you can reuse those veggie scraps to grow an endless supply of food starting with just a container of water at home. DIY water gardens are ideal for anyone who wants to minimize waste, grow organic, save money, and make fewer trips to the market. Homesteaders and city dwellers–this one’s for you. […]
No garden? No Problem! You can grow your own indoor herb garden without a pinch of soil. Even if you live in an apartment with nothing more than a tiny back porch or balcony, there is still room to grow some fragrant herbs. All you need is water, sunlight, and a place for your plants […]
With a little preparation, it’s easy to grow vegetables in containers. Whether on a patio, driveway, porch or deck, if you get a little sun, you can grow! Beyond just space constraints, growing fresh produce in pots, buckets or a couple
The post How To Grow Vegetables In Containers – Growing Food In Small Spaces appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
Yes, we’d all love to have a sprawling garden full of fruits, veggies and magical beans that lead us up to a castle in the sky–but life’s not fair. Maybe you are working with a small space, or perhaps winter is coming and you want to actually give your crops a fighting chance. Regardless, it’s […]
For around $10 you can grow fresh salad fixings to harvest for months We are eating salads most every night now. They’re healthy and I love the variety I can get by having a different mix of greens each night. The fixings can get expensive, especially if I want to eat organic. Here’s a simple way […]
Basil and containers go together Basil is one of the most popular herbs to grow for culinary creations and you can easily grow basil in containers. After all, who can resist a batch of fresh pesto made from basil growing in your own yard! As soon as the weather turns I begin growing basil in […]
This is Marjory Wildcraft, and in today’s Homesteading Basics, I want to show you a unique container planting system that I use to grow turmeric — one of my favorite home medicines.
This container gardening system is called the Urbin Grower, and it’s a small bed that has a trough bottom for water, creating its own self-watering system.
The thing that I really look for in all my planting systems is that it doesn’t involve electricity, or pumps, or things, ’cause, believe me, that’s just beyond my technical capability.
I’ve been working with this Urbin Grower for several months now, to grow turmeric in it. Turmeric is an amazing medicinal plant. I’m sure you know all about it. Here’s the photo of when I planted this where I just got some turmeric root that I picked up from the grocery store and planted it in here. This is how it’s growing.
I have to say that I love this container. I just checked to make sure that the water is always in the bottom here. That water is a natural moat that keeps ants and other insects out, and it’s also a buffer, so if I’m gone for a week, this planter is going to be fine.
So far, I have to say, if you’re growing in small spaces, on patios, or for those precious plants that you want to have by your house, the Urbin Grower is really working out well for me.
I do want to let you know, I’m going to be doing a whole series on other container gardening systems, so stay tuned for more reviews.
This is Marjory Wildcraft with The Grow Network.
Want to read another article about how to grow turmeric? Check out Learning to Grow Ginger and Turmeric in the Midwest.
Whether you live on a farm, in the suburbs, or the middle of the city, nearly everyone can experience the joy of container gardening. Container gardening is a great way to grow your favorite flowers, vegetables, herbs and more. All you need
The post Container Gardening Secrets – 6 Tips For Gorgeous Pots, Containers & Baskets! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
Most of us are forced to dwell in an very small space (which we call home) at one stage or another in our lives. The problem is that most of us also adore the idea of having our own little patch of land, or at least a small garden in some form, especially one from […]
Growing your own fruit and veg is a pursuit that is packed with advantages. Before you even eat the things, the action of nurturing these plants can be calming for the heart and soul, and offer a healthy sense of pride. Then there’s the nutritional benefits: knowing precisely what (if any) fertilizers and pesticides are on your veg, picking and eating them when they are perfectly ripe, and — if you have the room to grow them — you’ll probably end up eating more greens than usual. Even if you don’t have the room to grow food, it’s still possible to acknowledge your inner agriculturalist by maintaining a limited amount of seasonally appropriate produce in just one rotated pot.
With a good-sized pot (at least 45cm deep and wide), good compost and some trusty bamboo, you can soon master the hobby. The right watering patterns, fertilizer treatment and placement will vary from crop to crop. As the seasons turn and you switch one vegetable for the next, you will find that the transition process is also nuanced but achievable — great if you want to challenge yourself, or get the kids’ green fingers working.
To get started, try referring to this new info graphic which makes clear how simple this most natural of hobbies can be, and it won’t be long before you’re enjoying a rich and varied vegetable diet from just that one unassuming container. Bon appétit!
Info Graphic provided by Pound Place for your educational purposes.
Most gardeners call it quits in the winter. After all, how are you supposed to have a garden when there’s several inches of snow covering your backyard? Simple. You start an indoor container garden. Even in the winter, you can grow plenty of vegetables as long as you park them in front of a south-facing […]
We all know that growing vegetables in containers is a great way to provide you and your family with fresh fruit and vegetables all year long – and it is especially useful for those who don’t have the space or who might otherwise have difficulty managing a full-size garden.
If you’ve decided to try your hand at container gardening, you’ll be happy to know that there are many tricks and tactics you can use to simplify the process and get better results.
Here are a few ideas for your next container garden:
1. Use a soilless mix.
Many people are surprised to learn that a bag of potting soil actually does not contain any field soil. Instead, it is a mix of organic and inorganic matter that is lighter than actual soil, thus making it easier for plants to grow inside a container.
There are many commercial potting soils, but it is also possible to make your own. For most container garden plants, the ideal mix is comprised of peat moss (about 40 percent), pine bark (20 percent), sand (20 percent) and vermiculite (20 percent).
2. Keep plants sheltered from wind and excessive rain.
Plants grown in containers are not typically the strongest of plants, and you may need to baby them a bit more than ones planted directly in the ground. Find a place for your containers that is sheltered from strong wind.
And if you get a summer thunderstorm or downpour, you’ll most likely want to pull them inside a shelter to avoid damage. And while we’re on the topic of downpours, make sure your containers aren’t left sitting in a puddle of water, either.
3. Place herbs around your vegetables.
Most herbs have strong scents and flavors that are wonderful for keeping bugs away. Use this to your advantage and surround more vulnerable plants such as lettuce, peppers, etc., with herbs.
4. Have proper drainage.
One of the trickier aspects of container gardening is to make sure that that roots are not sitting in water. Make sure that the containers you use have proper drainage holes, or if not, provide another means, such as adding pebbles to the bottom of the container or lining it with sheet moss.
5. Plant quick-growing vegetables.
Any vegetable that you can grow in the ground also can be grown in containers. But it’s usually best to steer clear of anything that has a long maturation period – such as corn.
6. Practice succession planting.
Many of the principles that apply to a regular garden also apply to container gardens. It’s still a good idea to plan your vegetables in succession.
For example, quick-growing crops, such as lettuce, radishes or snow peas, should be planted a little at a time so you don’t end up with more than your family can reasonably eat.
7. Make use of hanging baskets.
Container gardens are a favorite with many gardeners because of their compact nature. But remember that you can make them even more space-efficient by including hanging baskets. Plants like tomatoes and strawberries make good choices for hanging baskets.
8. Stake at the start.
If you are planting something that is going to need a little extra support, be sure to stake it at the beginning. Trying to stake it later could end up damaging the roots.
9. Give plants plenty of water.
Container plants can dry out quickly during dry, hot summers. While most of the time daily watering is sufficient, consider watering twice a day when the temperatures climb higher.
10. Pick off dead leaves.
Removing dead and dying leaves from your plants doesn’t only make them look better, but it also helps protect them from bugs.
Remember these useful strategies and you will be well on your way to having a beautiful and thriving container garden.
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
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Container gardening has exploded in recent years. People everywhere want to have access to fresh produce and save money on groceries, but not everyone has the yard space to put in a garden. Even if you only have a small patio or deck, you can still grow plenty of fresh, organic herbs, fruits, and vegetables in that small space.
Herbs are the easiest plants to grow in pots, and you will have year-round access to those fresh, vibrant flavors because you can move the small pots of herbs from your patio or deck to the kitchen windowsill. You will find that freshly grown herbs have much better flavor than those supposedly fresh herbs you can purchase at the grocery store. The same goes for the fruits and vegetables you can grow in containers. And since you will know exactly what goes into growing them, you control what is put on your plants.
There are a few things you will need to think of when deciding whether to put in a container garden, though. First, does your deck or patio get enough sunlight? As long as it is not situated facing north (in the Northern Hemisphere), then it should get enough sunlight for your plants to grow. Of course, south-facing exposure is ideal. Second, what plants are you wanting to grow? This will affect the third consideration, which is: How much space do you have with which to work? The type of plants and the space you have to work with will determine the types and number of containers you will use for your garden.
Many websites will encourage you to use a specific container to grow a specific type of plant but, truthfully, I’ve used everything from empty butter tubs to high-end pots, and they all work the same. As long as they hold soil so that the plant can grow and you add a couple of holes in the bottom so you don’t end up over-watering, you’re pretty much good to go.
Any plant that grows in the ground can be grown in containers, and you don’t even have to use the “dwarf” plants that have been developed for limited-space gardening. You might want to steer away from pumpkins or corn, since they’ll not give you the harvest you want in containers, but nearly all other fruits and vegetables can be grown in your container garden.
Common Herbs Grown in Containers
Containers for these herbs will need to have between 6 and 12 inches of soil depth. Many of these herbs can be grown together so long as the container is large enough. If you do plant different herbs together, remember you’ll need equal space inside so that you can move the container there during the cold months.
Common Vegetables Grown in Containers
Containers for vegetables will need to have between 6 and 18 inches of soil depth. Leaf plants like lettuce and spinach don’t need very deep soil, while tomatoes will need the larger soil depth. Root vegetables, with the exception of potatoes, need between 12 and 14 inches soil depth. Your plants will get root-bound if the container isn’t large enough and they won’t grow the produce you are wanting to harvest.
Remember that cucumbers and squash are vine plants; they will need a little room to sprawl so that they can properly grow. You will also need to invest in tomato cages for your tomato plants to keep the vine from bending and breaking with the weight of the fruit.
Common Fruits Grown in Containers
Containers for these plants should be about the same size as the container from which you are transplanting. Many websites say not to grow blackberries in containers, but there are thorn-less varieties available, so grow those blackberries!
Some fruit plants may need some form of support, although you won’t want to use a tomato cage; a trellis or something similar will work for the bushes and vines to grow on. There are special pots developed for growing strawberries in containers, and I have to admit that those are the best I’ve found. Strawberries have the added advantage of growing best in hanging baskets. If you don’t have anywhere to hang your strawberries, though, you need to remember that they are invasive and will send out runners anywhere they can reach soil. This could have the effect of strangling other plants you are trying to grow. But this also means that you have ready-made starters for a new pot of strawberries. Just carefully remove the runner, prune it off the main plant and gently transplant it to a new pot for a new plant.
Once you’ve decided on the plants you want to grow in your container garden, purchase your seeds or plants as well as the containers you will be using and plant! In just a matter of weeks you may be enjoying a bountiful harvest!
Have you ever gardened in the city? Share your tips in the section below: