The BEST Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad – So Refreshing!

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This classic Cucumber, Onion and Tomato Salad is a refreshing summertime salad that is served at most picnics and gatherings. It has the perfect balance of tang mixed with a little bit of sweetness that will have you eating this all

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The 6-Step Skin-Care Routine for Those Who Can’t Resist Brownies

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First, I’d like to start with a disclaimer: This is what I have found through trial and error that works for my skin. Everyone’s skin is different, and what may work for me, may not necessarily work for you. I am in no way a trained dermatologist.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while a lot of issues (like acne, for example) can be caused by hormones and general hygiene, I firmly believe that the lead cause is diet. Eating a clean diet and getting plenty of water is—100%—the ultimate skin-care solution. However, I’m not going to be young forever and that brownie isn’t going to eat itself, so I’ll be talking about how to take care of your skin if your diet isn’t perfect.

Your Skin Type

To start, it’s helpful to establish your skin type and what you specifically want to target (acne, wrinkles, dark circles, etc.), so you can find products that can help in those specific areas.

Here are the three basic skin types and a short definition of each one to help you get a sense of what you have:

  • Oily Skin: Shiny skin that usually has enlarged pores and may be prone to blackheads and breakouts due to overproduction of the sebaceous (oil-producing) glands.
  • Dry Skin: Feels tight after cleansing, and usually has smaller pores. Dry skin will also have a tendency toward fine wrinkles, flaking, and red patches.
  • Combination Skin: You may have a slightly oily T-zone with drier cheeks and patches of dry spots. This is the most common skin type, with around 70% of women saying that that they have combination skin.

I personally have combination skin, and I mostly deal with acne.

6 Steps to Beautiful Skin

1. Wash Your Face

When I first started to get acne, I realized that maaaaaaybe I should wash my face. I started to use the random face wash that my dad had in the bathroom every once in a while, but washing my face every night seemed like too much work. Eventually I started to take it seriously, though, and I tried out a few face washes before I found one that really agrees with my skin. Oh boy, are there a lot of face washes and cleansers out there! You can find face washes that hydrate, exfoliate, and who knows what else. The possibilities are endless!

You can use a flannel or one of those fancy spinning brushes, but I’ve found those little silicone things to work wonderfully for only a few dollars apiece.

I’ll probably write this a few times, but finding a natural face wash with good ingredients is very important. Remember that your face is very sensitive, so I wouldn’t recommend using that cheap face wash with harsh ingredients that you found at the dollar store. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you should probably put it back on the shelf and keep looking.

A side note: There is quite the controversy as to whether or not people with acne-prone skin should exfoliate their face or not. Some people say that it helps to unclog your pores, and some people say using abrasive materials on your face could cause more acne. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to, but I don’t because it’s just another step in a long-enough routine.

2. Toning

Next, I like to use toner. Toning is something that I didn’t really know existed until I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole a few years ago and found a video of one of my favorite makeup artists raving about how important toning is. As soon as possible, I went out to a nearby natural grocery store and found a toner that has witch hazel and cucumber in it.

Now, you’re probably wondering what toner is. Simply put, it’s a cleanser that you wipe on your face to further unclog pores, restore your skin’s natural pH balance, hydrate, and help with excess oil production. Plus, witch hazel has all kinds of other benefits like reducing eye puffiness, fighting acne, and slowing down the look of aging. If you’re going to use toner, however, I would recommend getting an alcohol-free toner, because using alcohol on your face can be very harmful and drying.

3. Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Okay, back to 13-year-old Kimber who can barely commit to washing her face. I was starting to notice that my skin felt tight and dry after I washed it, so I turned to the Internet for help and it told me I needed to invest in moisturizer.

At the time, for some reason that I cannot explain, moisturizer was the bane of my existence. I would rather have become a shriveled-up piece of leather than use moisturizer, so I started to try out different oil serums. Unfortunately, I was using the wrong ones and I ended up giving myself more acne than before.

Oh dear… I eventually gave in and started playing around with different brands of moisturizers until I found one that I really like. I’m not sure what changed, but now I absolutely love moisturizer. You could drown me in moisturizer and I’d die happy!

So, after the toner dries, I moisturize.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to moisturizers, but I recommend finding one with vitamin E or vitamin C in it. Along with lots of other benefits, vitamin E can reduce the appearance of acne scars, and vitamin C promotes the production of collagen, which combats wrinkles and fine lines.

Although moisturizers can be quite pricey, it is especially important to find a good, natural one.

Think about it: This product is meant to be absorbed into your skin.

4. Spot Treatments

While washing, toning, and hydrating my face was helping with my acne, I needed more help. Again, I was watching a YouTuber talk about her skin-care routine, and she mentioned an overnight spot treatment. This was perfect, because unlike most spot treatments that I had heard about at the time, this spot treatment was clear and didn’t need to be washed off. All I had to do was pop it on my worst spots and head off to bed without worrying about it. A key ingredient that makes this product so effective is salicylic acid, which will reduce the size and redness of any pimple overnight.

5. Rose Water

When I remember to, I’ll mist my face with some rose water, because it has all sorts of wonderful acne-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

However, while spot treatments and rose water do work wonders for my acne, I have noticed that when I avoid dairy and eat minimal sugar, my skin is much clearer.

6. One Last Step

Finally, because I’m a blonde, my eyebrows are quite sparse and lightly colored, so for the final step of my routine, I’ll rub some cold-pressed castor oil into my eyebrows. Castor oil contains essential fatty acids, proteins, and vitamin E, and when it’s rubbed onto your brows, it stimulates blood circulation, resulting in thicker, fuller brows. It will take a few months to see results, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

How Can You Skip This Entire Routine and Still Have Beautiful Skin?

Some people may need to put more work into managing their skin, and some people can get away with a lot less. My mom literally never does anything to her face and she has amazing skin, while I’m over here researching skin care and composing complex routines to keep my skin somewhat desirable.

What’s the difference? My mom has a very clean diet (no processed foods, minimal wheat or dairy, and barely any sugar). What about me? Well, I’m not turning down Grammy’s homemade cake!

There are so many factors that decide what your skin type is and what you’re going to struggle with, but at the end of the day, it’s important not to fixate too much on any imperfections and to be happy with the skin you have.

 

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Supercharge Your Garden! 4 Steps to Vibrant Soil Using Compost and Crop Rotation

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Pest management and pathogen control are great reasons to use crop rotation. For me, though, nutrient management is my most important reason.

Our soil was devoid of organic matter when we moved to our homestead. I sheet-mulched, piled my beds with fresh compost, cover-cropped, chopped and dropped, trench-composted, and spread worm castings like I was icing a cake.

In short order, we had incredible yields. I thought I was a gardening genius…

Parsnip - Crop Rotation

The first clue that I’d run up against diminishing returns on compost applications was my parsnips. The tuber-tops peaking from the soil were 5 inches wide. The greens were shrubs. I expected a lifetime supply of parsnips. Then I harvested. My parsnips were only 2-3 inches long and looked like parsnip pancakes.

That’s when I learned about nitrogen overload from compost. I yanked my disappointing parsnips and planted corn. My corn was supposed to grow 6 feet tall and have 1 large ear and 1-2 small ears. I got 3 full-sized ears on 10-foot stalks.

With the magic of crop rotation revealed to me in that experience, I studied it and experimented extensively to create optimal crop rotations. Here’s what I learned.

1. Start with a Soil Test

If you haven’t had a comprehensive, professional soil test recently, get one. You’ll be surprised by how much they can tell you about your soil and gardening practices.

Mineral Content

Soil tests include listings of mineral content. If you have deficiencies, they will include application rates for minerals to bring your soil up to par.

They’ll include the phosphorous and potassium (the PK in NPK) content. If you are a regular compost user, it’s easy to overload soil with phosphorous and potassium. This test can let you know if your compost habits put you at risk for excesses.

Soil pH

Soil tests divulge soil pH. Unless your pH is right for what you plan to grow, you might as well be planting on the moon. Most vegetables like a pH around 6.5.

You may have to add lime to make soil alkaline (e.g. raise the pH). Alternately, you may have to add sulfur to acidify soil (lower the pH). A soil test should include recommendations for this, too.

Organic Matter Content

Tests also tell you how much organic matter is in your soil. Less than 3% and you need to add a ton (or tons) of organic matter to get your soil into shape for growing healthy vegetables.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen level is the one thing a good soil test will not tell you. Or, it should warn you that nitrogen results are unreliable. Nitrogen, in the soil, is inherently volatile.

Nitrogen changes based on what you plant (or your weeds), tilling and harvesting practices, amendments used, weather (e.g., lightning adds nitrogen), and water sources. Heavy rain can leach nitrogen, while acid rain adds it.

This volatility is why nitrogen is one of the most difficult forces to manage in a vegetable garden. It’s also why professional growers tend to use slow-release fertilizers, or multiple applications.

If you are like me, though, you want to use stuff you can produce at home without spending a fortune. In that case, consider rotation plans that include rotating your food crops, cover crops, and homemade amendments for nutrient management.

Start by making the adjustments determined by your soil test. When you have a good soil-health baseline, start using crop rotation for long-term nutrient management and soil improvement.

2. Rotate Food Crops by Nitrogen Needs

Nitrogen is like candy to plants. They love it. Some plants can eat all the nitrogen they want and grow better. Others eat too much and end up sick. And just like people sometimes do with candy, plants are prone to eat too much nitrogen when it’s available—even when it’s not good for them.

Plants do need some quantity of nitrogen to grow. The right quantity is good for them (I can’t say the same about candy for people). Still, this analogy offers an easy framework for understanding nitrogen and its use in crop rotations.

To manage plant consumption of nitrogen, the first thing you do is load up the nitrogen in your soil. Then start the rotation party!

  1. Start with plants that thrive on nitrogen—a.k.a. heavy feeders.
  2. After the heavy feeders, bring in plants that benefit from moderate nitrogen. These are your medium feeders.
  3. When the nitrogen is nearly depleted, bring in the candy addicts. These plants can’t handle much nitrogen, but they love it so much they’ll suck every speck of it out of your beds. We call these light feeders, but they are really more like the cleanup crew.
  4. Once your bowl is empty, refill it and start the progression again. Grow nitrogen-fixing plants or add nitrogen-heavy amendments like fresh compost. Or do both.

Real Garden Crop Rotation

In a real garden scenario, this would look like adding a whole bunch of compost and fertilizer to your beds. Then, plant corn, followed by cucumbers, and finally turnips. Next, add more fertilizer and/or bring on the beans (or peas, or clover…).

If you spread this cycle over a four-year period, you have also created a rotation schedule that works for pathogen management by using four different families of plants.

Identify Heavy, Medium, and Light Feeders

When I tried to find a good list of plants by feeding type, I found a lot of discrepancies. I recommend you make your own lists based on what you actually plan to grow and on your own experience in your garden.

Whether you like big agribusiness or not, they sure know how to manage nitrogen for optimal production. Checking nitrogen application rates for commercial fertilizers is a great way to identify your feeder type (even if you won’t be using their products).

Here’s the list I used to glean this information. It’s geared for Wisconsin, but the general reference tables have universal utility.

Page 43 starts a table of nitrogen application rates for many common crops. Those rates change based on the amount of organic matter in soil. Compost-rich beds need less nitrogen than tilled dirt because the biological life in the soil continues to make nitrogen if soil is kept moist.

A table on page 30 tells you how much potassium and phosphorous plants need—as well as which plants will remove it from the soil—which conveniently brings us to our next topic!

Cover Crop - Crop Rotation

3. Rotate Cover Crops for Healthy Soil

In addition to rotating food crops, rotating cover crops is important for nutrient management. Different cover crops serve different functions.

Cover Crop to Remove Excess Potassium and Phosphorous

Compost adds humus and fertility to your garden. However, without good crop rotation, compost can overload soil with phosphorous and potassium in the long run. To prevent this, you need to rotate in plants that are effective at extracting those nutrients.

Alfalfa and red clover are exceptional at extracting potassium and good at extracting phosphorous. Hairy vetch and field peas are excellent for removing excess phosphorous. These plants are also potential nitrogen fixers.

For phosphorous and potassium removal, harvest the above-ground greens to feed your greens-eating livestock or add them to your compost pile for later application. Do not use them as chop-and-drop, or they will just end up right back in the soil. Always leave the roots in the ground, though, for nitrogen-fixing benefits.

Cover Crop to Add Nitrogen

Nitrogen fixers are plants that pull nitrogen from the air and store it in nodes on their roots. When the plants die, the nitrogen nodes decompose and release that stored nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen fixers add more nitrogen when they are killed before they flower. If they set fruit (e.g., peas or beans), they are more like “nitrogen neutral.”

Nitrogen fixers work best when inoculated with a beneficial bacteria that encourages them to store more nitrogen. Planting rates are different for nitrogen fixing than for food production. To kill plants being used as nitrogen fixers, scythe or mow them to the ground. Leave roots in the ground and greens on the beds.

Cover Crop With a Biofumigant

Mustard is a beneficial biofumigant to break up soil pathogens and pest problems. Mustard also scavenges minerals in deeper soil and makes them available to plants that don’t root as deeply.

When using mustard as a biofumigant and mineral source, you need to purchase cover-crop mustard seeds (not edibles). Before the plants flower, cut them to the ground and gently turn them into your soil.

Cover Crop to Preserve Nitrogen

Grasses like wheat and annual rye are used as cover crops because of their ability to protect soil and scavenge nitrogen. While they don’t technically fix nitrogen like legumes, the biological organisms in your soil will quickly decompose those grasses if they are cut while green and allowed to decompose in the beds they were grown in. As the grass decomposes, it releases nitrogen into the soil at the surface, making it more readily available to next-round crops.

Choosing Your Cover Crop

Cover crops work best when selected based on either what you plan to grow next or on what you harvested, to correct for deficiencies. For example, corn is a heavy feeder. It sucks up nitrogen like a vacuum—as in, everything easily in reach.

After corn, wheat would be a good option. Wheat will pull nitrogen from all the areas the corn missed. If chopped and left on the bed, it decomposes and disperses that nitrogen more uniformly for the next planting (e.g., cucumbers).

Alternately, if nitrogen depletion is suspected, Austrian peas or clover used as a nitrogen fixer would work better than wheat. Rather than having a set schedule for cover crop rotation, make decisions based on the needs of your beds. There are fewer pests and pathogens in cooler weather, so strict rotations are not as necessary with winter cover crops.

Compost - Crop Rotation

4. Rotate Your Homemade Amendments by Crop Needs

If your main amendments are of the homemade variety, you also want to consider rotating the kinds of amendments you put on your beds along with your crops.

4 Types of Compost and Their Uses

Humus Compost

Humus compost is the stuff made by layering browns and greens at a ratio of 25 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, making a large pile that heats to at least 130°F, turning it a few times, and then allowing it to age for 2 years. Humus increases the air- and water-holding capacity of soil and allows biological life to thrive. This kind of humus compost doesn’t have a lot of nitrogen.

Fresh Compost

The biological life that makes compost also creates nitrogen through their digestive processes. The longer a pile ages, the more nitrogen and other nutrients leach out by way of rain, air, etc. Fresh compost is made by the same process as humus compost. It’s just been aged less than six months and so has more nitrogen.

Composted Manure

Composted manure—i.e., a pile of manure mixed with fallen feed and bedding materials not necessarily at a rate of 25:1—can radically vary in nitrogen and nutrient content. Store-bought chicken manure has a 3-2-3 rating for NPK. Meanwhile, uncomposted chicken manure could have an NPK rating of 40-60-40, 55-55-47, or other variations.

Personally, I use a mix of chicken and goat manure that’s been aged for 3-6 months as a nitrogen source. I don’t know the exact nitrogen content, but it doesn’t burn my plants and it grows huge corn and cabbage.

Mystery Compost

Mystery compost happens when you throw a bunch of stuff together and wait. The nitrogen content will vary by what’s in the pile and what decomposed it. You could just throw it on your beds fairly fresh and hope you get lucky! Or, you could age it and use it for humus.

With these compost definitions out of the way, on to when to use them for nutrient management crop rotation.

Rotating Compost Applications for Nutrient Management

Here’s what my amendment rotations generally look like:

Year 1: Apply 4 inches of fresh or manure compost.

The risks from E. coli and other bad bacteria are minimized if your compost materials are 6 months old when your food is harvested. If you are growing lettuce, aim for 6-month-old compost to start. If you are growing vegetables like winter squash, aim for 3-month-old compost, because it will be over 6 months old by the time you harvest.

Year 2: Apply 2-4 inches of humus compost

Humus compost will still provide some nitrogen and other nutrients. Mainly though, it will help preserve any leftover nitrogen from the fresh compost in year 1 and replace the organic matter you harvested.

Year 3: Apply 2 inches of mulch to preserve moisture.

By year 3 in this plan, you are organic-matter heavy. You may also have extra potassium and phosphorous. For light feeders, just use mulch to protect your soil and preserve moisture rather than piling on compost.

Mulch is essentially browns with no greens. Straw, leaves, or wood chips work well. Mulch will eventually decompose and add nutrients, but not within the planting period that you apply it.

Year 4: Add nitrogen; remove phosphorous and potassium.

This is when you want to plant your nitrogen-fixing, phosphorous- and potassium-extracting cover crops.

Personally, I like to eat some peas and beans, too. I plant peas and beans to eat in early spring through mid-summer. I cover-crop from late summer through winter. I mulch the plants I grow for me and leave them on the beds. I remove the greens and leave the roots from my cover crops.

Year 5: Soil test and repeat.

Start the cycle again. But first, get another soil test and make adjustments as necessary. That second soil test is like a report card on how you are doing with your crop rotations for nutrient management.

Be Flexible in Your Use of Amendments

Just like with cover-crop rotations, if your beds seem depleted, then you may need to add fresh compost rather than humus compost. You may want to add humus compost rather than mulch if your beds feel dirt heavy and humus short. You may also need to up your game at times and apply worm castings or other stronger amendments. Use the health of your crops as your guide.

Crop-Rotation Conversation—What Do You Think?

To do crop rotation really well, you need to make it specific to your soil, pests, pathogen risks, crops, and amendments. There’s no canned crop-rotation plan that is going to work well for every garden.

Personally, I love the challenge of figuring out effective crop rotations. Gardening could get boring really fast if you weren’t taking your skills to the next level, paying attention to your plants, and improving your processes.

My intent with this series has been to inspire you with some of my crop-rotation concepts. Now, I’d like to hear from you!

What kind of rotations are you thinking of, what are you using now, and what is your intuition telling you? What works? What doesn’t?

(Also, include your growing region and soil type (loam, sand, clay) if possible so others can decide whether your ideas will work for them. I started with clay, but now have what I call clay-loam.)

Please join the conversation on crop rotation and share your comments below!

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The post Supercharge Your Garden! 4 Steps to Vibrant Soil Using Compost and Crop Rotation appeared first on The Grow Network.

Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 2: Pathogen Prevention

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Pathogen…. That just sounds like a creepy, scary word. And when you are talking about pathogens in your soil, it really can be.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

Irish Potato Famine

You’ve all heard of the Irish Potato Famine, right? A million Irish people died and another million emigrated because the Irish potato crops were decimated by a pathogen called Phytophthora infestans.

When it happened, Irish farmers were growing potatoes about like the rest of us grow weeds. They were so good at it, that the diets of the Irish poor revolved around that one calorie crop. Little did they know that a vicious pathogen was lurking in their soil, biding its time until it had the numbers to totally decimate the Irish food supply.

OK, in reality, the pathogen itself is not quite that menacing. The real reason this was such a big deal was because more diverse food options were not available for a large percentage of the Irish population. (The wealthy had diverse diets; the poor relied on potatoes.)

Additionally, because potatoes were planted prolifically, the pathogen spread quickly through the sharing of seed potatoes (like the way a cold spreads through an office). Once in the soil, it stayed dormant until significant rains sent it into reproductive overdrive and allowed it to infect and thrive in sopping wet potato plants. Heavy rain is to fungal pathogens what dry wind is to an open fire.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

How Pathogens Spread

If you grow tomatoes, you are probably familiar with two well-known pathogens commonly called blight and wilt. These pathogens are similar to the Irish potato plant killer. They spread slowly in the soil—usually transmitted by transplants, compost, soil mixes, or even your shoes.

In relatively dry conditions, these pathogens may be present in the soil, but have no impact on your plant. Then one day, you get 2 inches of rain, your soil compacts and doesn’t dry out for days, and leaves turn yellow and drop off. Then, on the next sunny day, your tomatoes get ugly sun scald spots and rot before you can eat them.

Here’s the thing: Pathogens alone present no risks. Many of them are plant specific, which means that unless they come into contact with a suitable host plant, they are harmless. Even when you have the pathogen and the plant in the same place, this will not necessarily result in plant damage.

It’s only when you get a trifecta of conditions that include the right plant, the right pathogen, and environmental conditions suitable for incubation and infestation that problems happen. Here’s a simple mathematical expression for how that works:

Pathogen + Susceptible Plant Host + Optimal Environmental Conditions = Disaster

Remove one of these pieces from the equation, and you can avert disaster. Since you often don’t know the pathogen is present in your soil and you can’t control things like the weather, the most logical way to avert disaster is to take the host plant out of the equation.

Crop Rotation for Pathogen Prevention and Control

Rotate Plants by Family to Reduce Risk

This is where the idea of only planting one family of plants in the same plot once every four (or more) years comes into play. By rotating your plants, you limit the risk for having a trifecta. Also, depending on the life cycle of your pathogen, sometimes without a host plant, the pathogen will disappear over time.

Crop Rotation Slows the Spread

Additionally, with good plant-rotation plans, even if you do occasionally get small infestations of a pathogen, you can slow the spread by not offering host plants in close proximity year to year. Many pathogens are soil bound. They must make their way around on the bodies of soilborne critters, through transplants, on your garden tools, by catching a ride with an airborne insect, etc.

If they can move from host plant to host plant year after year, they can build up more quickly. With no nearby hosts, they remain dormant and pathogen populations remain in check.

Crop Rotation Gives you Time to Identify and Solve Pathogen Problems

Four-year rotations improve your odds by limiting a buildup of pathogens and spreading risk. Longer rotations are even better, since many pathogens can persist in the soil for 10 years or more. However, this can be more difficult to achieve in a small garden.

Luckily, if you do have plants that become infected with a pathogen, four-year crop rotation plans give you time to research and remedy your pathogen before you plant that family in that location again.

Start by identifying the pathogen. Aim to understand its life cycle and avoid planting the susceptible host plant again until you are sure the pathogen is gone.

Depending on your pathogen, there are different strategies you can follow to make your soil safe for planting again. For example, you can plant certain kinds of mustard and till them in. This practice is called biofumigation.

You can solarize your soil. This will kill all the biological life in your soil, too. You’ll need to then build back up your biological life with organic matter inputs.

With some pathogens that have long life spans, you may also need to consider more drastic measures. Replacing your soil, installing equipment to improve drainage, and developing alternate garden areas may be necessary in some instances.

Rotate by Families Prone to Similar Pathogen Problems

Because pathogens tend to affect entire plant families, rotating by family is the most common way to avoid pathogen problems. For example, tomatoes and potatoes might seem like very different plants to us. However, even if they have a preference for tomatoes over potatoes, opportunistic pathogens will take what they can get.

These are the family categories I use in my vegetable plant rotations:

  1. Nightshade Family: Tomato, Potato, Pepper, Eggplant
  2. Grass Family: Corn, Sorghum, Wheat
  3. Lettuce Family: Lettuce, Sunflowers, Dandelion, Chicory, Radicchio
  4. Beet Family: Beets, Spinach, Chard
  5. Cole Family: Cabbage, Mustard, Turnips, Arugula, Broccoli, Cauliflower
  6. Curcurbit Family: Squash, Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins
  7. Legume Family: Peas, Beans, Clover, Alfalfa
  8. Umbel Family: Carrots, Parsnips, Parsley, Fennel, Celery
  9. Allium Family: Onions, Garlic, Chives, Shallots
  10. Miscellaneous: Buckwheat, Okra, Sweet Potato

This is a lot to try to rotate in a small garden. Personally, I lump a few families together to create rotational pairings.

  • The nightshade, allium, cole, and sweet potato families tend to take up more space in my garden than the other families. They each get their own rotation.
  • I lump the grass, legume, and curcurbit families together in my rotations. I use that grouping because I tend to only need one row of space for those three plant families to one row of sweet potatoes based on how we eat. Sweet potatoes are a calorie crop that we need a lot of. Corn, cucumbers, and even beans (which are hard to grow enough of in useful amounts) are things we grow for fun to add variety to our diets.

Create Interplanting or Seasonal Plant Groupings

As long as you are consistent in your crop rotation methods, you can mix and match your families to get down to a four- or five-year planting rotation cycle.

If you use interplanting in your beds for soil protection, you may want to plan your family rotational groupings using this information. For example, if you grow carrots, radishes, and lettuce in the same bed at the same time, then one of your rotations would include the umbel, cole, and lettuce families.

Once you establish that grouping of families as a rotational pattern, then you can use that information to plan other rotations. You could grow early cabbage, followed by summer sunflowers, and then over-wintering parsnips. Using that same family grouping in different ways, you can achieve more food production while still having distinct rotations geared at preventing pathogens.

If you are following this series, you now have information to help you plan your crop rotation schedules to prevent pests and pathogens. However, there is one more really big reason why you may want to use crop rotation, even in a small garden. It’s for nutrient management. In the next post, we’ll cover that in more detail. Then you can take these three concepts and apply them to growing a more problem-free garden at home.

Read More: “Crop Rotation for the Home Garden, Part 1: Pest Control”

In the meantime, start thinking about what you grow, and the kind of pathogens that are common to your area. Are there any you are particularly worried about? Talk to your local agricultural office and find out what risks may apply to your garden.

If you have any tricks or tips you’ve learned that might help with crop -rotation planning, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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Companion Planting Basics

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Get companion planting basics for tomato, beans, peppers, and squash. Implement companion planting in your garden and have a bumper crop this year. | PreparednessMama

Implement companion planting in your garden The practice of companion planting has been around for generations. We see the principle working brilliantly when the three sisters – corn, beans, and squash – are planted together. Each crop is doing its part to sustain the other. “Companion planting is about marrying plants that work well together […]

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The Trick To Growing 50 Lbs. Of Tomatoes In The Smallest Space Possible

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The Trick To Growing 50 Lbs. Of Tomatoes In The Smallest Space Possible

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If you’re like most people new to homesteading and self-sufficiency, then you have limited space to garden. What’s the best way to make the most of your small parcel of land? Vertical gardening.

Vertical gardening allows you to produce more food per square foot of space than you could growing horizontally. One good example is growing squash. If you grow squash traditionally, then one plant can take as much as 16 square feet of space. If you have a small lot, that may mean your whole yard will be taken up by a couple of plants. Indeterminate tomato plants also can take up a bunch of room if not staked up.

In an area that is 1 foot by 6 feet, you can grow a cucumber plant, tomato plant and blackberries just fine. You could produce a couple of pints of blackberry jam, 30-50 pounds of tomatoes and 10-20 pounds of cucumbers in that small area.

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

Besides saving room, growing vertically also will help keep your plants healthy, make it easier for insects to fertilize flowers, require less weeding, and make it easier to harvest. It’s the best way to make the most of your space.

Older people or people with medical conditions will have a much easier time of gardening in this fashion. Everything becomes taller, so picking or working with your plants is more enjoyable. Anyone who has spent hours on their hands and knees in the hot sun will appreciate this fact.

Some of the ways you can go vertical is by using garden netting. Stringing your netting between posts is among the fastest ways to go vertical. You will need to sink in the posts deep enough so that when the weight of the crop is applied, the posts won’t pull in together.

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Wood trellis is also a good option. This is a bit more labor intensive but can also be really attractive in appearance. Having a raised bed with an attached wood trellis adds functionality and beauty to any garden.

Going vertical can be as simple as a horizontal line strung about 6 feet in the air above the peas or tomatoes. Then, each plant will have a string tied to the main string and the other end to the plant, so they can crawl up as the plant grows.

Smaller plants also can be grown vertically by other crafty methods:

  • Using gutters strung up on a wall or structure.
  • Planting in skids that are crafted to hold soil.
  • Going vertical downward (planting cucumbers in buckets and letting them dangle down a patio).
  • Using plastic plant bags that are meant for hanging.

Some plants are better than others when it comes to vertical gardening. Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers like to crawl, making it natural for them to climb. Determinate tomatoes and cucumbers like to bush, so they don’t produce as much in an area like the indeterminate do.

When it comes down to it, you can get more efficient with planting. You may be surprised with what you can produce in a small yard when you get crafty!

What tips would you add on growing vertically? Share your advice in the section below:

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4-Year-Old Mispronounces This Vegetable’s Name, And School Officials Label Him Potential Terrorist

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4-Year-Old Mispronounces This Vegetable's Name, And School Officials Label Him Potential Terrorist

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

A 4-year-old boy was threatened with an anti-counterterrorism program and referred to police and social workers because he did not know how to say the world “cucumber.”

Preschool staff reported the boy as a potential terrorist to the United Kingdom’s Home Office after he pronounced “cucumber” as “cooker bomb” and drew a picture of a man cutting a vegetable with knife, BBC Asian Network reported. The Home Office is the British equivalent of the US Department of Homeland Security. The boy and his family are Asian.

Police and social workers were called in to evaluate the boy in order to see if he should be referred to a de-radicalization program, the media outlet reported. Under current law, teachers and other school officials are required to refer students suspected of terrorism or believing in terrorism to the program.

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School officials though he was referencing a “cooker bomb.”

“[The member of staff] kept saying it was this one picture of the man cutting the cucumber … which she said to me is a ‘cooker bomb’, and I was baffled,” the mom told BBC Asian Network.

She said she was fearful her son would be taken from her.

“It was a horrible day,” the mom added.

Alex Kenny of the National Union of Teachers told the media outlet that teachers are “scared of getting it wrong” – referencing not following the law.

“They think [the government] is going to criticize them if they haven’t reported these things, and you end up [with] the boy making the spelling mistake, or the boy saying something in Arabic — that then gets reported on.”

Hundreds of British children have been identified as potential terrorists under the law, which encourages teachers to watch kids for signs of terrorism.

Related:

3-Year-Old Deemed ‘Potential Terrorist,’ Placed Under Gov’t Care

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