6 Simple Ways To Save Money On Your Vegetable Garden This Year

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6 Simple Ways To Save Money On Your Vegetable Garden This Year

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Growing your own vegetables is a great way to have fresh produce available at any time — and also to save money. Sometimes, though, even growing your own food can get too pricey.

Here are seven ways to make sure you’re getting the best value from your vegetable garden this year.

1. Save the seeds.

Initially when you were planning your garden for the first year, you might have had to purchase all of the seeds. But once you have a season or two under your belt, you should start saving the seeds for the next season.

2. Find a seed swap.

There likely are people in your community growing plants you aren’t currently growing – plants that you’d like to grow. And, of course, the vegetables you grow will have a ton of seeds in them — and you don’t need all of them. So share them around! If you can’t find a seed swap in your community, then put the word out there to start one; you might get more interest than you think.

3. Plan ahead/preserve.

If you know what you want to grow ahead of time, it will be easier to ensure there’s little to no waste.

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By planning what’s growing in your garden, you can prepare the space needed and know (approximately) how much will be growing. That way, you will be prepared to “put up” all of those vegetables without them going to waste.

4. Sell or trade extra produce.

You might have extra produce due to a great growing season, or maybe you planned it that way. But either way, you need to do something with that extra food. With the extra produce you have, you could team up and trade with others to gain fresh, local produce you didn’t grow in your garden. You even could look into selling the extra vegetables at a local farmer’s market.

5. Make your own compost.

Compost is an important part of successfully growing produce, but it can get expensive depending on the size of your garden and what you are growing. With this in mind, it makes sense to see if you can grow it yourself. All of the scraps and skins of other produce can go into a composting bin. Even if you don’t have a huge backyard or area to make compost, there are compost tumblers you can purchase.

6. Feed your plants scraps.

One of the greatest sources of nutrients for your plants comes from your very own kitchen. For example, the leftover water from cooking and boiling vegetables is rich in nutrients. Most people will dump this right down the drain, but using it to water your plants is a great way to help them grow. Just make sure the water is completely cool before pouring it on your plants.

What gardening advice would you add? Share it in the section below: 

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

The Dirt-Cheap, Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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The Dirt-Cheap & Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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It’s easy to go overboard when shopping for seed supplies. Not only is it exciting to start growing things again, but there are so many tempting products. If you’re not careful, starting seeds can become surprisingly expensive. But with a little planning, you can get your hands on everything you need at a low cost — or even for free.

Containers

Reusing, repurposing and making your own planting containers is one of the easiest ways to pinch pennies.

If you don’t mind transplanting your seedlings, all kinds of plastic food containers can be repurposed into pots: yogurt cups, cheese tubs, milk jugs, water/juice/soda bottles, plastic clamshell containers from purchased fruit and vegetables, or K-Cup coffee pods. Soft plastic containers have an advantage — when you’re transplanting, you can squeeze the soil and seedlings out, without worrying about injuring the seedlings or their roots.

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However, if don’t want to mess around with a bunch of different-sized pots (which can be a headache as far as positioning your grow lights), you can make seed flats out of larger containers. Foil containers with clear plastic lids are especially useful, because they will create a greenhouse-type effect. Rotisserie chicken trays, frozen cake pans, or trays from the deli section, used for family-sized meals like lasagna, work well.

If you prefer biodegradable pots so that you can avoid transplanting, there are free options for those, too. It’s easy enough to cut toilet paper/paper towel/wrapping paper tubes down to peat-pot size. You don’t really need a bottom on these. Paper egg cartons provide excellent individual seed pots, too — just cut the cups apart when you’re ready to plant. Or, if you’re looking for a project on a blustery winter day, you can fashion pots out of newspaper. There are lots of online tutorials with instructions. All you need is newspaper, a glass or small mason jar to roll the paper around, and tape.

Potting Mix

The Dirt-Cheap & Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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The next step, of course, is filling your pots with a planting medium. While bringing in garden soil might be the cheapest option, this is the one item that you really should spend money on (one bag goes a long way). Garden soil might contain insects, weed seeds, or pathogens, and it’s likely too heavy and dense to have good aeration and drainage. If you really want to use garden soil, you should sterilize it by baking in your oven, and then amend it by mixing one part soil with one part peat moss and one part perlite or coarse builder’s sand.

You also can make your own soilless mix, which costs more than amending garden soil, but is still cheaper than buying the premixed stuff. A basic recipe is to mix together one part perlite with one part peat moss and one part ground sphagnum moss. Another recipe, posted at The Prairie Homestead, is to mix two parts coconut coir with one part perlite and one part sifted compost.

Seeds

The last essential product you need to start seeds is, well, seeds. If you don’t already save your own seeds from year to year, you might want to plan for that this season. If you buy seeds, you might have extras lying around that you didn’t plant in years past. It’s always best to test the viability of old seeds before planting them. The germination rate of seeds decreases over time.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

It’s easy to test the viability of seeds. Simply moisten a couple of layers of paper towels, and space out about 10 seeds of any one variety. Roll or fold up the paper towel and place in a plastic bag. Keep the bag in a warm, bright spot, and make sure the paper towel stays moist until the testing is done, which might take up to two weeks, depending on the type of seeds. Check every few days to see if any seeds have sprouted. If at least some sprout, it’s worth planting them — but make sure to plant extras to make up for the ones that won’t germinate.

Seed Tape

One last tip: if you love seed tape as much as I do, you can pinch pennies by making your own. All you need is toilet paper, homemade flour and water paste, and seeds. There are several online tutorials about how to make seed tape, and it’s another great project for a blustery winter day.

Gardening is already a frugal way to feed your family, but you can stretch your food dollars even further by starting seeds at an extremely low cost.

Do you have any more tips on how to save money while starting seeds? Share your secrets in the comments below:

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

Medicine Growing Your Own!

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Medicine Growing Your Own Cat Ellis “Herbal Prepper Live” Audio in player below! It’s almost spring, and that means it’s that time of year to get planting your medicinal herb garden. The question is, what herbs are the most important herbs to grow? In this episode of Herbal Prepper Live, we will cover a wide variety … Continue reading Medicine Growing Your Own!

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9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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While garden season may seem a lifetime away when you’re hauling wood and shoveling snow mid-winter, there are many things you can be doing now to ensure a healthy, productive garden in the coming season.

1. Collect wood ash

Wood ash, used in moderate amounts, makes excellent garden fertilizer. The ash is comprised of non-combustible minerals that the tree took out of the soil to fuel its metabolism. Those concentrated nutrients can go back onto your garden soil or into your compost to give both a boost. Wood ash can impact soil pH, so use in moderation.

2. Browse seed catalogs

Real gardening starts with mid-winter dreaming. Browsing seed and nursery catalogs early can help ensure that you’re organized and prepared in the spring. It also can build a good bit of excitement to keep your mood up until the warm weather comes back. Try something new this year and consider planting varieties you’ve never even heard of.

3. Start a worm compost bin

Compost bins tend to stall in the winter as the cold temperatures slow down micro-organisms from decomposing your food scraps into nutrient-rich fertilizer. An indoor worm compost bin is an easy way to keep your compost going all year to ensure you have an ample supply to start seeds in the early spring.

4. Research new methods

Have you heard of permaculture? Back to Eden gardening? Hydroponics? Tomato grafting? Small scale mushroom farming?

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There are all sorts of innovative gardening and food production techniques that go well beyond just planting a few novelty tomatoes in a raised bed. Use the winter to research new methods to keep your mind sharp and your garden fresh and exciting.

5. Build cold frames

Winter is a great time to build a few cold frames either to get your garden started earlier in the spring, or to extend the season later into the fall. Cold frames are like mini-greenhouses that insulate a small area or growing bed from the mild conditions of the “shoulder seasons” or spring and fall. If you get started assembling a few now, they’ll be ready to be set out with greens by late winter, giving you a heads start on the gardening season.

6. Start long-season seeds

9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

While most garden crops, such as tomatoes, need to be started just six weeks before the last expected frost date, there are others that will need to be started as early as mid-winter if you expect to have a full harvest. Leeks and onions need to be started from seed indoors as much as 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost. Early cold weather crops that you’ll want to plant and hope to harvest before the mid-summer heat, such as broccoli, also might need to be planted well before your other seeds.

7. Trim or cut shading trees

Most annual garden crops need full sun to produce full crops in a single summer season. Winter is a great time to prune back branches to ensure that your garden beds are getting as much sun as possible.  With the trees dormant, winter trimming will do the least damage to them in the long term. Winter also is a great time to cut down trees. With the soil frozen and leaves gone, cleanup will be much easier.

8. Plan a root cellar

If it’s mid-winter and you’re desperately missing your garden produce, perhaps take this time to plan ahead for next year to ensure that your garden provides for you a bit longer. Root cellars don’t need to be complicated affairs involving lots of land or heavy equipment for digging. Even a cold closet on the north side of your house can keep storage squash in prime condition all winter long. Evaluate the space you have and determine if you can convert part of your basement to cold storage, or in warmer areas, perhaps a buried cooler or refrigerator just outside the back door will be sufficient to keep things cool.

9. Force perennials indoors

Consider planning ahead to force perennials indoors. Rhubarb and asparagus roots are some of the simplest plants to dig in late fall or early winter and store in cool moist soil in a basement or back closet until you’re ready to give them an early start. Planted in buckets and brought into a warm room in the house, both rhubarb and asparagus can provide a dependable indoor harvest over a few weeks, even in January.

How do you jump start your garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Cold Frames: The Easiest Way To Get A Jump On The Growing Season

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Cold Frames: The Easiest Way To Get A Jump On The Growing Season

Are you as impatient as I am, waiting for the frost-free planting dates to arrive? As the days get longer and spring inches closer, it’s hard not to get itchy fingers for gardening. Still, at this time of year, many of us need to wait for several more weeks, or even months, before we can start planting outdoors. But what if you didn’t have to wait that long? What if you could start gardening about five weeks prior to your traditional frost-free date? You can do it with a cold frame.

A cold frame is basically just a low bottomless box with a translucent top. It protects plants from the elements and provides solar heat to keep them warm.

Creating a Cold Frame

Cold frames are easy to build with found or repurposed items, and unless you want to, there is no need to use tools. It’s true that they’re often built from lumber, with distinctive sloping tops that are covered with clear poly sheeting, polycarbonate sheets or glass. It’s easy to find plans for these kinds of cold frames, like   or  . If you are recycling windows or other material to use as the lid, you can certainly modify the plans to fit the dimensions of the cover.

If you’re not handy with tools, don’t despair. Start by finding something that will work as the translucent cover, so that you know how large the frame should be. To create the frame itself, you can use things like straw or hay bales, cinder blocks, or bricks.

Need Non-GMO Herb Seeds? The Best Deals Are Right Here …

Although having a sloping lid is ideal, as it captures more sunlight and facilitates rain runoff, it’s not necessary. The cover can just rest flat on top of the frame. Make sure the lid fits well, though. To best protect the plants, there shouldn’t be any gaps between the cover and the frame. A well-fitted lid will also increase the humidity levels, which will keep your plants happy.

Choosing a Location

The weeks prior to your last frost date can be nippy. To keep your plants toasty and flourishing, position the frame so that it faces due south and gets full sun.

Traditionally, seeds are planted right in the ground inside the frame. However, the frame can also be used as a mini-greenhouse, if you prefer, where you can start seeds in trays or pots for later transplanting. In this case, the frame even could be placed on a deck or patio if necessary, but take care to protect the area underneath.

Best Plants for Cold Frames

Cold Frames: The Easiest Way To Get A Jump On The Growing Season

Image source: Green City Growers

Cold frames are widely used to grow lettuce, which are cool-weather crops that flourish in temperatures of 45 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Other greens work well, too, such as beet greens, chard, kale and spinach. If you want to branch out from leafy greens, give carrots, leeks, radishes, kohlrabi or turnips a try.

Managing the Temperature

Cold frames are easy to build with found or repurposed items, and unless you want to, there is no need to use tools. It’s true that they’re often built from lumber, with distinctive sloping tops that are covered with clear poly sheeting, polycarbonate sheets or glass. It’s easy to find plans for these kinds of cold frames, like this one at Better Homes and Gardens or this one at Popular Mechanics. If you are recycling windows or other material to use as the lid, you can certainly modify the plans to fit the dimensions of the cover.

If the outdoor temperature is consistently lower than 40 degrees, insulate your frame by heaping soil or mulching materials like leaves or wood chips around its perimeter.

Using Your Cold Frame Beyond Spring

Although most commonly used to start vegetables early in the spring, a cold frame can be used year-round. It provides a good home to heat-loving vegetables like peppers and eggplants until the extreme heat of summer hits. During the hottest days of summer, simply remove the lid to keep using the space. The fall growing season can be extended by replacing the cover at that time. Frames also can be used to overwinter plants.

For the minimal cost and effort needed to build them, cold frames provide a big payoff.

Do you use a cold frame in your garden? Let us know your tips in the comment section below.

Are You Making These Common, Avoidable Gardening Mistakes? Read More Here.

3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

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3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

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Sure, the idea of gardening indoors during the winter is appealing, but how practical is it, really? Even putting aside things like calculating the wattage of grow lights and researching the best seed varieties for indoor gardening, how do you find space? Where do you put enough plants to get a meaningful harvest?

If you have a basement or other unused space like a spare bedroom, you could certainly set up shop there. But not all of us have the space to spare. Plus, there are benefits to being surrounded by greenery. Numerous studies show that being in the presence of plants reduces blood pressure, anxiety, the effects of stress, and feelings of fatigue.

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Whether you have existing free space or not, it’s worth exploring ways to fill the nooks and crannies of your everyday living areas with lush-producing plants.

1. Hanging baskets

Tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, salad greens, some herbs, and strawberries grow well in hanging baskets, as long as you keep these tips in mind:

  • Bigger baskets give your plants room to flourish. Choose baskets that are at least 12 inches deep and that have a minimum diameter of six inches.
  • Keep the soil light by buying commercial potting mixes and working in some perlite or vermiculite before planting.
  • Research cultivars to determine the best ones for indoor gardening, and while you’re at it, make a note of how much sunlight each one requires. Oftentimes, a sunny southern window will provide enough light, but it’s easy enough to supplement natural light with a clamp-on grow light if needed.
  • Most vegetable plants thrive in temperatures that range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. While peas can tolerate light frosts, position other producing plants away from drafty doors and windows.

2. Vertical growing spaces

3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

Image source: Instructables

Create vertical growing spaces for smaller compact plants like herbs and salad greens. Install fixtures against your existing walls and maximize your growing space with ideas like these:

  • Fabric wall pockets, similar to over-the-door shoe holders, are super easy to install and use. Choose ones that are designed for indoor gardening, since they are made with waterproof fabric and/or water reservoirs to protect your walls.
  • For a rustic look, use stainless steel hose clamps to attach mason jars or other small vessels (like mini galvanized pails) to a length of board.
  • Build a large, simple frame out of 1x4s, and install cleats on the inner sides. Stack rectangular plastic balcony box planters on the cleats for a picturesque — and highly practical — wall planter.
  • A prefab shelving unit provides not just ample vertical growing space but a place to permanently install a grow light system, too.

3. Plants with small footprints

With only a little bit of space, potato plants provide large yields. Potatoes are easy to grow indoors, and can be planted in any tall container, such as a five-gallon pail, plastic tote box, waste bin, or even a large bag, such as a chicken feed, fertilizer or garbage bag. Additionally, growing potatoes in straw keeps the container light and easy to move. Although the base of the container needs to be covered with small gravel and a few inches of topsoil, once the potato eyes are planted in the soil, the rest of the container can be filled with straw. Start with about four to six inches of straw, and when the plants start peeking out, top up the straw to encourage the plant to keep growing. Late-season cultivars work best because they will continue to set tubers as the plants grow taller, unlike early-season potatoes, which set tubers only once.

When planning your indoor garden, think outside the traditional floor-bound pot, and find ways to fill the nooks and crannies of your home with edible plants. Not only will you harness the health and environmental benefits of growing your own food, but your home will be lush and vibrant.

How do you maximize your indoor gardening space? Share your tips in the comment section below:

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

7 Things To Do Right Now To Get Ready For a Fabulous Summer Garden

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summer gardenHold on to your hat! Spring and it’s warmer cousin, summer, are just around the corner. Yes, even if you’re looking out the window at piles of crystalline, white snow — believe! One day soon, the days will lengthen and your summer garden will become just as real as those freezing temperatures!

Seed companies from companies like Seed Savers, Territorial Seed Company, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have their catalogs at the ready. Be sure to request them now before supplies run low. Here’s a comprehensive list of seed companies to peruse.

Even before the catalogs arrive, though, there are a number of actions you can take right now to get that summer garden ready before the spring thaw.

1.  Improve your soil, if it needs it.

Marjory Wildcraft of The Grow Network, says that conditioning your soil is one of the first thing any gardener should do. Keep in mind that soil composition can change over time and should be re-evaluated every so often.

Our garden was growing tomatoes non-stop, even throughout the winter, when suddenly everything pretty much died. We learned, later, that our soil had accumulated too much nitrogen and had to back up several steps to make some adjustments. You might need to:

  • Have your soil tested by your local extension office.
  • Mix compost in with the soil you now have.
  • Add amendments, per instructions from extension office or local growers.

This article outlines even more mistakes a backyard gardener can make on her way to developing a healthy, productive garden.

2.  Push your composting into high gear!

Make sure everyone in the family knows what can and cannot be added to compost and place “compost catchers” near the kitchen sink and anywhere else food is prepared. As explained in this article, you really can compost through the winter.

Get the kids busy shredding newspaper and old mail (remove plastic windows in envelopes before shredding). Visit a nearby coffee house and ask for their old coffee grinds. Ask neighbors for grass clippings, piles of old leaves, and vegetable peelings. If it’s too cold outside to venture out to a compost pile, keep a rolling compost bin like this one on the patio, just outside the back door, or in an outbuilding. You can always move it when warmer temperatures arrive.

3.  Research what grows best in your area and microclimate.

If you’re not sure what to plant and when, visit a farmer’s market and talk to the pros or search on the internet for local gardening blogs.

Out of curiosity, I did a search for “Phoenix garden blog” and came up with 28,900,000 results. OK, most of those didn’t have the information I was looking for, but the way I figure it, is that if someone cares enough to write about their gardening efforts, they probably have some pretty good information and tips to share!

Local nurseries (probably not the big box store nurseries) will likely have good advice about what grows best in your climate. Remember that many of us live in micro-climates, and our backyards may have more than one microclimate, which affects what we can grow and when it should be planted and  harvested.

4.  Check your watering system.

Replace any missing or damaged valves or hoses. There’s nothing quite like spending some money on seeds and/or seedlings, amassing a good amount of quality compost, and then coming out one day to discover that your plants are nearly dead from an unexpected heat wave.

This happened to us last June, and it was so disappointing. If your garden depends on a watering system, this is an area that can’t be neglected.

5.  Think about what you like to eat a lot of.

There’s no point whatsoever in planting lima beans if no one, and I mean no one, in the family will eat them! Once you have a list of what you and your family enjoy eating, check with gardening blogs, farmers, local nurseries, and planting calendars and schedule planting dates.

Take time to do your research. You’ll find that some carrots, for example, grow poorly in your soil and climate but there are other varieties that will thrive. I learned that in the Phoenix desert, I needed to grow a variety of carrot that produced short, stubby carrots that loved hot weather and the type of soil in our raised beds.

By the way of a bonus tip, winter is a great time for building and preparing your raised beds. Here are reasons why these are a great way to garden.

6.  If your planting season is still a month or more away, solarize your garden area.

This is a very easy thing to do, and I wish I had done this last month. It’s a simple way to rid your garden area of weeds.

Water your garden area very, very well and cover it with a huge sheet of clear plastic. I’ve seen some gardeners use black plastic, but this site recommends otherwise.

Weight the plastic down around the edges to make sure that it doesn’t fly away, even in a good sized gust. Wait for 4-6 weeks. This allows the weeds to sprout, thinking, “Yaaay! We can begin adding hours of backbreaking work to this poor gardener’s week!” However, the joke is on them because once the seeds have sprouted, they will quickly die, either from the heat beneath the plastic or from being smothered with no air or sunlight.

Some seeds won’t sprout at all but will still die from being overheated.

How lovely to enjoy a gardening season with very few weeds to spoil the fun!

7.  While you’re messing around with your soil and garden area, check for earthworms.

I was pleasantly surprised this week to discover a nice, healthy assortment of worms in our herb garden that I didn’t realize were there.

If your garden area doesn’t seem to have worms, they can be purchased and added to both your garden and your compost pile. As long as your compost bin is in a sheltered area and safe from freezing, those earthworms will do their part in getting the compost ready, and if you live in an area that doesn’t freeze, the worms will be safe in the ground.

summer garden

Updated January 14, 2017.

Our 2017 Garden Plan – Growing Incredible Flavor In The Garden

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It’s time for our 2017 garden plan! To an avid gardener, creating a garden plan is like trying to paint a masterpiece. Or perhaps, attempting to write a prize-winning novel. For us, it has always been a great way to look

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Grow Lights Explained: Here’s What You’re Doing That’s Wrong

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Grow Lights Explained: Here's What You’re Doing That's Wrong

Image source: gehl-led.com

One of the most important considerations for indoor gardening is light. While some vegetables will chug along with a bare minimum of six hours of light daily, they will flourish with 12-16 hours daily. Clearly, grow lights are a must, especially during winter. However, one of the most common mistakes among indoors gardeners is using the wrong type of light.

Red, Blue, And Full-Spectrum Light

Let’s start by talking about the color in light. We perceive sunshine, for instance, as white light, but it’s actually made up of all the colors of the rainbow — it’s full-spectrum. Light bulbs don’t generate light the same way that the sun does, and the color of light they produce often appears as off-white. Traditional incandescent bulbs, for instance, give off a yellow-red glow, whereas basic fluorescent tubes often have a blue glow.

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Plants have different reactions to the different colors within light. Blue light encourages the growth of strong leafy plants, while red light helps plants flower and fruit. It helps to understand how plants react to red and blue light in order to choose the best grow lights for your indoor garden.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

Not that long ago, basic fluorescent tubes were the only real option for grow lights, and many gardeners still swear by them. They are inexpensive, easy to install, and energy efficient. And, with the advent of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, installation is easier than ever, since you can simply screw a bulb into any existing light fixture.

Grow Lights Explained: Here's What You’re Doing That's Wrong

Image source: Wikimedia

Fluorescent bulbs come in warm (red), cool (blue), and full-spectrum ranges. The light that fluorescents produce is relatively weak, but there are also high-intensity fluorescent bulbs if needed. Full-spectrum and high-intensity fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than basic ones, but they may end up being more cost-effective.

LED Grow Lights

Light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs have a lot of potential for grow lights, but they are not yet widely used. Like many technologies in their infancies, they are relatively expensive, although their cost is coming down. Keep your eye on LED grow lights because they have a lot of benefits, including having a long life and being energy efficient, and emitting little heat. Also, they can be programmed to produce specific wavelengths of light.

HID Grow Lights

There are two types of high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, both of which produce bright and intense light. Metal halide (MH) bulbs emit light that is quite similar to natural sunlight, without generating a lot of heat. However, they do tend to the blue end of the spectrum, and depending on the type of bulb used, you may need to supplement with high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting, which emits red light. HPS bulbs are excellent to promote flowering and fruiting. However, both types of HID bulbs can only be used in special fixtures, with ballasts, and the complete set-up can be expensive.

Your Grow Light Set-Up

Indoor gardening requires light, but that light must be cool. The heat created by incandescent and halogen bulbs is too intense and will fry your seedlings. Stick with fluorescent, LED or HID lighting.

Consider where the grow lights will be placed in your house. If your plants are already getting a great deal of light from a south-facing window, then weaker bulbs (like basic fluorescents) will work fine as supplementary lighting. If your plants are in a darker area of your home, you will need more powerful grow lights, like high-intensity fluorescent or HID bulbs.

The distance between your plants and your light source depends on what kind of bulbs you use. Since fluorescents are weaker, they can be placed only 2-3 inches from your plants; but LEDs should be 12-18 inches away. Either way, you will need to adjust the height of your grow lights as your plants get taller. Don’t count on keeping the position of your lights static. Seedlings will grow tall and spindly, without putting out leaves, if they need to stretch toward a far-away light source; and, of course, you don’t want them to touch the bulb.

The most complicated part of creating a grow light system is figuring out how big — in terms of wattage — it needs to be. It’s not just about the square footage of your growing space, but also about the type of light you’re using and what you’re growing. You will need a higher wattage if you’re using weaker bulbs, or are growing light-loving plants. Lettuce, for instance, needs less light than tomatoes do. While it’s tempting to just go with a higher wattage to cover all contingencies, that can have a negative effect on your energy consumption. There are all kinds of online guides that can help you figure out how to tailor your wattage to your plants.

Grow lights aren’t rocket science, but they aren’t a trip to the candy store, either. To effectively use grow lights, it helps greatly to have some understanding of how plants react to light, and of the available bulb options. Once you have that knowledge, you can optimize your own grow light set-up so that it best suits your needs.

What advice would you add on using grow lights? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The 2017 Prepper Community

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The 2017 Prepper Community James Walton “I Am Liberty” Audio in player below! As we head into another year it’s my duty to batter you with ideas about engaging your community. I truly believe that this is the way to liberation. I think if we can build sustainable and powerful communities across the nation we … Continue reading The 2017 Prepper Community

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5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

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5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Growing your own vegetables indoors allows you to have fresh ingredients any time of the year, regardless of where you live. Still, many indoor gardeners start out with a lot of ambition but often give up when their plants don’t get past the seedling stage or are less than ideal for eating.

Here are five common, overlooked mistakes indoor gardeners often make:

1. Being unrealistic.

If you are going to grow plants that, otherwise, need lots of space outside, you may need to reassess what you’re doing. A fully grown plant is going to be much bigger than the seedling. Perhaps you need to plant something else.

You also will need to make sure the plants you are growing are not dangerous to household pets. The bottom line: Do research and have a plan.

2. Not giving the plants a chance.

Different plants grow at different rates. Some seeds need to be planted deep within the soil, while others need to be planted just below the surface for optimal growth. Some need darker environments, while others will not grow at all without as much light as possible. Most packages of seeds give you the appropriate growing instructions for what you are planting.

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Again, do your research and be realistic about what you can grow. If you live in a small apartment, it doesn’t make any sense to try and grow plants that require a large amount of space.

3. Not watering properly.

5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

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Newly planted gardens are very picky — too little water and nothing will grow, but too much water and your plants will drown. The challenge to a flourishing indoor garden is to find the balance and provide the right amount of water. In general, you will want the soil to be damp but not wet. This can be a bigger challenge during winter when the air is dry.

Make sure you dampen the soil before you sow the seeds and then – after planting — cover the container with clear plastic until the plants are germinated. Check the plants daily to make sure they are not drying out, and water them accordingly.

4. Not providing enough light.

Light will help almost all plants grow, unless you have selected plants that are more shade tolerant. Placing your plant containers in front of a large window is often the gardener’s first choice, but if your window doesn’t face the right direction or get enough sun during the day, then it may not produce desirable results.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Since it might be difficult to provide your new garden with an adequate amount of natural light, you may want to think about an alternate source of light, including grow lights. Your new plants will need about 12-16 hours of light a day. Use a timer to make it easier.

5. Not providing the right environment.

Most newly planted seeds need a warm environment to germinate properly and sprout. But once the seeds have sprouted, they don’t require as warm of an environment and are more tolerant to temperature fluctuations. Proper temperature and air circulation are essential in the early stages of indoor gardening. Set your containers in an environment where these things can be controlled.

Growing plants indoors isn’t easy, and like any hobby it is always best when you have done some research and have as much information as possible. If you can provide your plants with the necessities needed to germinate and sprout, then you will have an indoor garden you can appreciate all winter – and year-round.

What common mistakes have you made growing vegetables indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

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The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

As a gardening blogger and writer, I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t start seeds indoors.

Living in zone 3, I should start most seeds in March or April. But April is always extremely busy at my day job, with lots of stress and long hours. Typically, I forget to water, don’t have the patience to adjust grow lights, and don’t have time to carry plants outside before work so that they harden off. The few times I tried this, it ended up being a big, fat failure. I don’t even try anymore.

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

That’s why I was excited to stumble across the idea of winter sowing. In a nutshell, winter sowing is planting seeds in repurposed plastic containers, which act as mini-greenhouses. Once planted, the containers should be put outside — even in freezing temps, and even in the snow. As the temperature warms up, the seeds will germinate, and the seedlings will stay toasty in their little greenhouses.

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The containers will naturally collect moisture through their various openings. The plants should chug along on their own, and naturally harden off. You do have to do some work, though: Once the temperatures stay above freezing, the seedlings should be transplanted into your garden. Since it all sounds logical (and easy!), I’m going to give it a whirl.

Containers For Mini-Greenhouses

Tall translucent or clear plastic containers work best so that sunlight reaches the plants. Containers need to hold 3-4 inches of soil, and still allow room for seedlings to grow. Consider using containers like these:

  • Milk jugs
  • Distilled or filtered water jugs
  • Large vinegar bottles
  • Family-size juice bottles
  • Soda/pop bottles
  • Rotisserie chicken deli containers
  • Clear tote boxes

All containers will need holes drilled or cut into the bottom, both for drainage and so that seedlings can suck up available water. Additionally, the containers will need at least one hole in the top so that moisture can get in that way, too. Vessels like milk, water and juice jugs already have that hole built in. A bonus is that if you live in an area that experiences heavy rains, you can use the jug lid as a way to moderate moisture levels.

Creating And Sowing Your Mini-Greenhouses

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

Starting with a clean container, make holes in the bottom. Depending on the type of plastic, you may be able to create holes by carefully twisting a knife tip in a circular motion; or you may be able to cut holes with a utility knife. If you have a harder, thicker plastic, you will probably need to break out your drill. If your container does not have at least one hole in the top, this is a good time to get that done, too.

Next, if your mini-greenhouse doesn’t already have a separate bottom and top (like the rotisserie chicken container or the plastic tote), you will need to cut through the container to create a hinged lid. Where exactly you make that cut depends on the container you’re using. Keep in mind that you want at least 3 inches of soil in the bottom. Depending on how much room will be left for the plants to grow in, you might make your cut anywhere from 3.5 to 5 inches from the bottom. It’s handy to leave a few inches of plastic uncut so that the pieces stay together and to form a hinged lid.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Cover the bottom of your greenhouse with soil and wet it thoroughly. Let the soil drain before planting the seeds to the depth indicated on the seed packet. Once you have your seeds in, tape the sides of the container closed with duct tape. Labelling the containers is a good idea. Then it’s time to stick your greenhouses outside.

Choosing And Timing Seeds

Jessica over at The 104 Homestead has a very helpful zone-by-zone guide to help you choose seeds for winter sowing. Your best bets are hardy seeds, ones that require pre-chilling or stratification, or ones that produce seedlings that can withstand light frosts.

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

Depending on your zone, you can start putting your greenhouses out between the winter solstice (zones 6 and 7) and February (zone 3). Each month, as the weather grows warmer, you can sow different seeds. Typically, flowers can be planted the earliest, followed a month later by herbs and those seeds that require stratification. And then a month after that, you can get your frost-tolerant seeds in; and finally, about a month before the typical planting dates for your zone, the seeds for tender plants can be started. For myself, in zone 3, this means starting in February and wrapping up in late April.

To work on this project, I visited my local gardening center in January. Not surprisingly for zone 3, the selection of seeds there was limited. (Go online for a better selection.) I picked up what I could, and ended up putting out herb seeds a month earlier than recommended. We’ll see how they do. As for my future monthly greenhouses, I’m going to settle in with a steaming mug of tea and a gardening catalog, to do some research about which hardy varieties would be best to plant next. How about you? Will you give this a whirl, too?

Have you ever tried winter sowing? If so, what tips would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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

7 Smart New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

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7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

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Are you making New Year’s resolutions this year? If so, consider making resolutions that could benefit your garden.

Here are seven:

1. Use what you have

Many people will say they want to have a garden but that they don’t have enough space. They just need a new perspective. You always can grow with what you have, whether it’s a small window box for herbs or microgreens indoors. There’s a variety of vegetables that will thrive in almost any space and that require minimal care.

Some plants may be harmful to your pets, though, so it is always recommended you do some research before you make a purchase if you plan to have indoor plants. If you really cannot have a garden in your home, you can reach out to your surrounding community, as there are often community gardens with plots available where you can plant and grow in an outdoor space.

2. Choose the right plants

Photos of gardens that look perfect might make you feel slightly jealous or incompetent as a gardener, but what you might not realize about those picture-perfect gardens is that the plants were selected for that specific region.

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With this in mind, you want to choose the right plants for your climate. Do you live in a humid climate, or do you normally experience long, dry summers? If you can resolve to select the plants that thrive in the climate in which you live, then your garden is more likely to thrive – and it will be something you will want to show others.

3. Start your own compost bin

Some cities have rules regulating compost bins, and if so, there are smaller versions of personal compost bins available to keep in your kitchen or outdoor space.

Adding compost will definitely improve the quality of your soil – and garden.

4. Keep your tools in top shape

7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you live in a climate with distinguishable seasons, like summer, spring, fall and winter, then you can use the winter season to make sure all of your tools are in top shape — or replace any that might be getting old.

This way, you can begin gardening immediately when weather again becomes favorable. You don’t want to have to wait to plant during spring if you discover one of your beloved tools needs repaired or replaced.

5. Know what you’re planting

Different kinds of plants require different maintenance schedules, so take some time and learn about them. When should they be planted? What is their pruning schedule? How much water do they require? Appropriate pruning and maintenance is also essential for effective pest control.

6. Keep a garden diary

This isn’t like a mushy diary kind of thing, but instead focuses on when you planted it, when you watered it, when you noticed the first bud, etc.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

You also could include the weather experienced in your area each day; this will help put a pattern together for effective gardening. By keeping track of your gardening, you will be able to see patterns of what worked and what didn’t so that you don’t make the same mistake twice.

7. Create a garden scrapbook

You might take digital photographs of your gardens, but do you actually print any of them out? Start printing them. When you do this and put them into a photo album or scrapbook, you will have memories to look back on during those cold winter days.

Also, by having memories of what you garden looked like last year, you can make plans to change or reorganize your garden next season. These memories will give you beautiful photographs you can set on a desk or table around your home, and they will brighten up any room with your very own artwork.

What gardening resolutions are you making? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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

The Space-Saving Indoor Garden You Can Easily Build At Home

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The Space-Saving Indoor Garden You Can Easily Build At Home

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Living walls are popping up more frequently in home design. These “walls” (which may be an entire wall or just a picture-frame type installation) are often planted with succulents. They are aesthetically stunning and bring a range of advantages into your home, including improved air quality and the buffering of acoustics. They also can lower anxiety and increase attentiveness and productiveness.

What if living walls were reimagined with edible plants like herbs? What if we also could harness all the benefits of growing culinary produce, like saving money and having better-tasting food? Would you do it? After researching how to do it, I know I will! I’m excited to get started.

While it may not be possible to create an actual “living wall” of herbs, due to the size of mature herbs and their growing characteristics, we certainly can create vertical gardens against the walls in our homes.

Depending on how much you want to spend, and how much of a DIYer you are, there are all kinds of options for indoor vertical gardening. You can buy fabric or plastic wall pockets simply to attach to your walls. You can build your own systems from jars or bottles and scraps of lumber. Or you can reach deep inside your wallet and buy a freestanding vertical garden unit.

Fabric Wall Pockets

You know those over-the-door shoe holders, made from a length of fabric with rows of small plastic pockets for your shoes? While you can actually use those for outdoor vertical gardening, they aren’t recommended for indoor use because the fabric isn’t water resistant and would likely The Space-Saving Indoor Garden You Can Easily Build At Homeruin your walls. However, several companies make similar fabric wall pockets specifically for growing plants indoors. Make sure you choose those that are waterproof, or that have reservoirs for retaining water. Wall pockets are an extremely economical choice and they are easy to install. And it’s easy enough to build a wooden frame to attach the pockets to, if you wish to up the style quotient.

Mason Jar Planters

If you have a rustic country-style decor, this will suit your space quite well — and it’s a very easy DIY project. All you need to do is attach heavy-duty stainless steel hose clamps to a strip of lumber. Securely clamp in mason jars, with a clamp encircling the center of each jar, and you are ready to plant.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Start by cutting 1×4 or 1×6 lumber to your desired length. If you want to paint, stain or otherwise prep the lumber, do so before proceeding to the next step, which is screwing on the clamps. Make sure you choose clamps that will fit the circumference of the jars you will be using.

Depending on your space, the board can be hung either vertically or horizontally. Comfortably space the clamps on the board, keeping in mind the size of mature herbs. If your board will be hung vertically, then attach your clamps so that your jars are tilted at about a 45-degree angle. This way, the jar above won’t hinder the herbs’ growth, and the jars can be placed closer together, making better use of your available space.

For a super-economical and eco-friendly version of this project, recycle plastic pop bottles instead of using mason jars. Just cut the tops off the bottles and screw the bottles directly to the board.

Framed Balcony Box Planters

Picture this: a large window-frame type structure — about 6 inches deep and 24 inches across. The height will depend on how many plastic rectangular balcony-style planters you want to place in it. Use cleats on the inside of the vertical pieces to hang your baskets. The planters will be easy to remove from the frame for maintenance or replanting. Cross braces on the back of the frame will strengthen your structure and keep the planters from touching the wall. This type of structure is easy to build, even for those with the most basic carpentry skills, and it is easily customizable to fit your available space. While a pre-fab shelving unit may be easier to put together, you may end up with wasted space surrounding your planters, and the shelves might get damaged by water.

Buying Freestanding Vertical Wall Gardens

If you have the money to spend and you don’t get itchy fingers over DIY projects, there’s a wide assortment of freestanding vertical wall gardens available for purchase. These can be placed against existing walls, or they work beautifully as room dividers. A little Internet research will turn up a slew of these systems.

Building (or buying!) your vertical herb garden structure is just the beginning of the fun. You’ll also need to pick out your herbs. If you’re creating a few smaller gardens, like a couple of wooden mason jar boards, why not create a themed herb garden in each? One could be for Italian herbs, like rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano, and another for tea herbs, like various mints. Whatever you end up doing, have fun, and enjoy using your fresh herbs all winter long.

Have you ever built or planted a wall garden? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Leaf Mold and How it Can Help Your Soil

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Leaf Mold and How it Can Help Your Soil Have you ever considered allowing your leaves to break down and become leaf mold? Although it might sound funny, allowing your leaves to molder will ease them into becoming a wonderful rectification for soil. Easily recognized as being dilapidated leaves of brackish colors, leaf mold is …

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The post Leaf Mold and How it Can Help Your Soil appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

The Indoor ‘Egyptian Secret’ That Grows Vegetables 30 Percent Faster

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The Indoor ‘Egyptian Secret’ That Grows Vegetables 30 Percent Faster

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When you live in a climate that experiences changes in climate, you know that there’s a limited time of year where you can successfully garden. By using hydroponic technology, you can grow a garden in the winter — and you can do it without soil. Hydroponics is an indoor gardening system that is completely soil-free and can be kept year-round. With this system you can grow pretty much any type of plant you’d like, as the only limitation is the amount of space you have in your home.

What Is A Hydroponic Garden?

Have you ever put a part of a plant clipping into a glass of water and watch it develop roots? This is, essentially, hydroponic gardening. Plants get nutrients from soil normally, but with this type of gardening the nutrients are dissolved into water or another nutrient solution rich with minerals. Depending on the system you have set up, the plants even may grow better than in a soil-based garden.

This technique for growing plants is not new and was actually used by ancient Egyptians many years ago.

How Does It Work?

The Indoor ‘Egyptian Secret’ That Grows Vegetables 30 Percent Faster

Image source: Pixabay.com

These systems work by using nutrients dissolved into water (or another mineral-rich solution) using mediums like expanded clay pebbles, gravel or mineral wool. Plants are grown with their roots in the solution while the plant itself is supported above the solution.

As long as the plant receives the nutrients it needs to grow, the soil really isn’t needed. This type of gardening allows for plants to grow in greenhouses or entire buildings dedicated to agriculture – or in your basement. Since, for some avid gardeners, space or environment might be the biggest roadblock to successful outdoor gardening, this system allows for everyone to garden year-round regardless of how much space they have.

Getting Started

Setting up a hydroponic system is not a small task, and it requires a consistently dedicated space within your home. While this type of gardening might be intriguing to you, you might find yourself asking whether it’s worth it to go through all of this when so many people can successfully garden the regular way with soil.

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The biggest, and probably most obvious, benefit to this type of gardening is that it allows you to grow plants where regular agriculture just isn’t possible, such as in urban centers or northern climates where farmland isn’t plentiful or fresh produce isn’t readily available due to environmental factors.

Aquaponics: The Secret To Growing More Food Than You Can Eat

The second benefit from these kinds of system is for the environment. Studies have shown that hydroponics uses approximately 10 percent of the amount of water that its soil-based equivalents do. And since these systems do not require any kind of pesticide, there aren’t any chemicals or other damaging agents released into the air.

Finally – and for some gardeners most significantly – plants grow faster and produce a greater yield through hydroponics. When set up right, hydroponics plants will grow about 30-50 percent faster than ones planted in a soil-based garden.

There is more than one kind of hydroponic system, and which one you select will depend on what is right for you. The kinds of systems you can set up are:

  • Wick systems
  • Aeroponics
  • Drip systems
  • Nutrient film technique
  • Ebb and flow systems

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Hydroponic systems are flexible and can be created on a large or small scale to fit your space and budget. Even better, most of the equipment needed to start a hydroponics system can be purchased from gardening centers or home improvement stores, so you don’t need to place special orders or have everything shipped to you.

Have you ever planted a hydroponics garden? What advice would you add on getting started? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn’t Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

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The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn't Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

Image source: Pixabay.com

The square footage of my vegetable garden is about the same as the square footage of my house. While I do love fresh organic veggies, finding space to grow them indoors during the winter can be a bit of a puzzle. One way to maximize indoor growing space is to use hanging baskets.

Getting Ready to Plant

Bigger baskets will give your edibles more room to flourish. Choose baskets that are at least 12 inches deep. Their diameter can be as small as 6 inches, but the bigger you go, the more you can plant.

Keep your soil light by using a potting mix, and working in some perlite or vermiculite. Avoid bringing in soil from your outdoor garden, or using soil with clay or loam in it, as those will be heavy. Work some fertilizer in before planting to give your edibles a strong start.

Choose a location where your plants will get lots of sun, like a south-facing window. Most edibles need at least six hours of daylight each day, but some require up to 16 hours. Research your cultivars before planting to determine the amount of light needed, but remember that it’s easy enough to attach a small clamping grow light to a basket for supplementary light.

You also should consider your home’s temperature and humidity levels. Most edibles thrive in temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the usual range in most homes. Keep in mind that winter air is often quite dry; and placing your baskets near heat vents will cause further drying. Use mulch in to help maintain moisture, and plan to water daily. You also can increase humidity by misting your plants or running a humidifier.

Choosing Edibles to Plant

Dwarf varieties are best for hanging baskets. Compact plants that produce small, light fruits will keep your baskets healthy and manageable. Some plants, like tomatoes, have varieties bred specifically for baskets. For others, such as cucumbers, choose cultivars with smaller fruit.

1. Tomatoes

There are lots of great choices when it comes to tomatoes. Florida Basket and Micro Tom are just two of the varieties bred for baskets and pots. Tomatoes that mature early, such as Tumbler F1 and Tumbling Tom, are also good choices for growing indoors.

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Tomatoes need at least eight hours of light each day, and should do well in a south-facing window for most of the winter. On the darkest days, supplement with a grow light if necessary. They are heavy feeders, and you should start fertilizing them twice a week once the plants are about three inches tall. Because there aren’t any insects or wind to do the job, you will need to hand pollinate your plants once they flower. Simply tap the flower stem to dislodge the pollen; or, if you like, you can use a cotton swab to transfer pollen from one flower to the other.

2. Peas and beans

The Indoor Winter Garden: 5 Vegetables You Didn't Know You Could Grow In Hanging Baskets

Image source: Pixabay.com

As a cool weather crop, peas are particularly well-suited to growing indoors during the winter. Since they can tolerate light frosts, you don’t need to worry about the vines getting too close to frosty windows. Keep your beans more protected, though, because they prefer warmer temperatures. Both peas and beans require only about six hours of sunlight daily. Plan to water once a day and fertilize once a week for best results.

3. Cucumbers

Choose your cucumber varieties carefully. Some, like Carmen, are bred to grow indoors — or, rather, in greenhouses. These cultivars have a high propagation rate, high yields, good disease resistance, and most importantly for the indoor gardener, they self-pollinate. However, Carmen produces large 14-16 inch fruit, which will be difficult to manage in hanging baskets.

Regular outdoor varieties will have lower yields, and you’ll need to help the pollination process along. However, a variety bred for planters (like Patio Snacker), or one that produces small fruit (like County Fair Hybrid) are excellent choices to grow indoors.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Cucumbers require only moderate amounts of light (5-6 hours daily), but they bask in warmth. Plan to water daily and increase watering once the plants flower. Indoor cucumber plants should be fertilized once a week.

4. Salad greens

Lettuce and other salad greens like kale and spinach are cool weather crops, and are well-suited to growing in your home’s cooler nooks and crannies. They are also very easy to grow from seed. However, these veggies do need a lot of light — 14 to 16 hours a day is ideal. If you’d like to grow salad greens indoors, plan to attach a clamping grow light to your basket. Since salad greens need a moist environment in which to germinate, mist the soil frequently.

5. Strawberries

Strawberries grow well indoors as well as in hanging baskets. The best variety for indoor baskets is the Alpine strawberry, which produces small, fragrant and flavorful fruit. Strawberries do just fine in regular indoor temperatures and need only six hours of sunlight per day. Plan to fertilize about every 10 days, and break out your cotton swabs, because you’ll need to pollinate your strawberries as well.

Even with decreased amounts of sunlight, low humidity and frosty windows, it’s possible to grow some fruits and vegetables indoors during the winter. Use hanging baskets to maximize your growing space — and your harvest. Why spend your winter daydreaming about next year’s garden? Just go ahead and break out those seed catalogs now.

What do you grow indoors during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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

3 Unique And Inexpensive Gardening Gifts For The Gardener In Your Life

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Looking for a couple of unique gardening gifts for that hard-to-buy-for friend?  Almost everyone has at least one dirt digging, plant loving gardener on their Christmas list. And during this season of giving, why not surprise them with something to celebrate

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Mushrooms: The Perfect, Indoor, Fast-Growing Winter Crop

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Mushrooms: The Perfect, Indoor, Fast-Growing Winter Crop

The idea of gardening indoors during the winter can be daunting. It’s easy to feel defeated by the low levels of sunlight and the limited amount of space. But some crops are excellent choices to grow inside during the winter, and mushrooms are one. They will happily grow in a plastic bucket, a chunk of log or a seedling flat — and they require minimal space. Plus, the naturally dark and cool winter environment suits them perfectly.

Mushrooms are little health warriors. Carb-free, gluten-free, low in calories and sodium, and nutrient-rich, they are incredibly healthy. Different varieties of mushrooms are packed with nutrients like potassium, selenium, iron, and vitamins B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin). Mushrooms enhance our immune systems and lower hypertension and cholesterol. Their meat-like texture makes them ideal meat substitutes.

There’s no doubt that mushrooms are healthy, but how feasible is it to grow them in our homes? Many of us have heard stories about mushrooms being grown in places like abandoned mines. Plus, mushrooms grow from microscopic spores, instead of seeds. Still, believe it or not, mushrooms are fairly easy — and fun — to grow.

Mushroom Kits

Mushroom spores need to be mixed with a nutrient-rich base like sawdust, grain or straw. This mixture will develop mycelium: thin, soft, white threads (think of mold). Once mycelium develops, it’s called “spawn.” For the best mushroom crop, spawn should be spread on a substrate (base material). Common substrates include cardboard, straw, logs, manure and grain; but other materials like coffee grounds and tea leaves can be used.

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Because each variety prefers different substrates and growing conditions, getting a mushroom harvest is a bit of an art. First-time growers should consider using a kit. Kits come complete with spawn, substrate, instructions, and often additional supplies like water misters and plastic sheeting. Growing mushrooms from kits is a breeze, and it offers a terrific chance of success.

Experimenting with Spawn and Substrate

Mushrooms: The Perfect, Indoor, Fast-Growing Winter CropKits are great because they give you a chance to see what’s involved in the process. But once you’ve tried a kit, it can be more fun to experiment with spawn and substrates. Start by researching different mushroom varieties and the types of substrates and growing conditions each requires. Once you decide on a mushroom variety, look online for spawn suppliers.

Using your own substrates is part of the fun, and it’s a money-saver. Most substrates do need to be pasteurized before use to kill off harmful bacteria and fungi, but the process is fairly simple. Common methods include baths in hot water, hydrogen peroxide or lime, and cold incubation.

Cardboard is an exception. Since most other fungi and bacteria won’t grow on cardboard, it doesn’t need to be pasteurized before use. Simply tear waste cardboard into small pieces and soak in water for at least an hour. Once it’s drained, it’s ready to use.

Cultivating mushroom spores so that you can bypass spawn suppliers is, unfortunately, labor-intensive and costly. It requires a sterile workplace, as well as a pressure cooker or autoclave. However, if you become an avid mushroom producer, you might want to look into cultivating your own spores, too.

A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Buy a mushroom kit or spawn.
  2. If you’re not using a kit, prepare the substrate, and then inoculate it with spawn.
  3. Place the inoculated substrate in the best possible environment for the variety. Most mushrooms grow best if the temperature is around 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, but some varieties will perform better in temperatures that are slightly cooler or warmer. Some light is OK, but keep the substrate away from direct sunlight. Basements often work well for growing mushrooms, as does the space under your kitchen sink.
  4. Keep the inoculated substrate moist by covering it with a damp cloth or a sheet of plastic that has some holes punched in it for air circulation. Remove the covering and spritz with non-chlorinated water two to three times a day.
  5. Depending on the variety chosen, the quality of the spawn, and the suitability of the growing environment, tiny mushrooms may begin growing within a few days to a few weeks. This process is called “pinning.”
  6. Once your mushrooms begin pinning, they will mature quickly, usually within a few days.
  7. The method of harvesting your mushroom depends on the variety you are growing. Some should be cut at the stem; others should be broken off in clumps.

And that’s it! Who knew it could be so easy to grow mushrooms? It really isn’t all that different from growing vegetables, except you are using spawn instead of seeds, and darkness instead of light. Because they prefer cool, dark environments, and require only a little bit of space, mushrooms are the perfect indoor winter crop.

Have you ever grown mushrooms? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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

6 Fasting-Growing Indoor Vegetables You Can Harvest Within 2 Months

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6 Fasting-Growing Indoor Vegetables You Can Harvest Within 2 Months

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The outdoor growing season is ending for much of North American, but don’t despair — you can continue to grow food to eat. With the help of grow lights, you can provide fresh vegetables to be harvested during the cold months of winter.

And if you get started soon, you can be eating your vegetables in January. All of these vegetables can be grown in two months or less:

1. Microgreens are a delicious choice for an indoor garden. The leaves are harvested when young and tender, which makes a wonderful addition to salads and winter dishes. They can grow as quickly as two to three weeks. When the plants develop at least one set of true leaves, they can be harvested. You only harvest the part above the soil. The leaves are not only tasty but also are rich in important nutrients.

2. Bok choy or Pak choi. These greens need lots of water but are fast growers. Plant them in large pots so they will obtain moisture better. The plants reach harvesting stage at about four weeks. Clip only the outer leave, allowing the plant to continue producing on the inside. Or, you can harvest the whole plant at baby size if you want it for stir frying.

Need Non-GMO Herb Seeds? The Best Deals Are Right Here …

3. Beans can be grown under grow lights, and bush beans are the best choice for indoor use. Supports aren’t necessary, and harvesting is a lot easier, too. You may want to think about planting several plants so that you have a bigger yield. Beans can be picked between 50-60 days after planting.

4. Radishes are an especially great vegetable to grow indoors. From seed to actual radish takes about one month. If you plant them back to back, you can have a continuous supply of radishes all winter. Plus, it’s just not the tuber that’s good to eat, but the greens can be added to salads, as well. The radish seeds can be sown in five-inch-deep trays of compost and well-drained soil in straight rows. They need to be covered with paper until they begin to sprout. Seedlings can be thinned out when two to three true leaves appear on them.

5. Spinach & lettuce grow well under grow lights. If harvesting for baby greens, you can harvest when the leaves are about three to four inches tall at about 20-30 days. If you’re harvesting for a larger plant, then harvest between 45-60 days.

6. Arugula is a plant that has an even higher yield when grown under grow lights. The more you cut it, the more it grows, giving an unending supply of leaves. It can be harvested about 30 days from when it’s planted. Pick only the outside leaves of the plant.

What are your favorite vegetables to grow under lights? Share your tips in the section below:

Are You Making These Common, Avoidable Gardening Mistakes? Read More Here.

STRAW BALE GARDENING: SMART REASONS TO GROW MORE FOOD IN LESS SPACE WITH LITTLE EFFORT

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STRAW BALE GARDENING: SMART REASONS TO GROW MORE FOOD IN LESS SPACE WITH LITTLE EFFORT

This article first appeared on no-dig-vegetablegarden.com

Limited space? No soil? Toxic or rocky ground?

Spare corner? Edge of drive or yard? Here’s bales of advice for you on the straw bale gardening way.

TIP: Kids just LOVE to climb on these irresistible messy playthings, so if it’s feasible, get an extra 1 or 3 bales and put them out of the garden just for fun.

A note about water. . .

Don’t do straw bale gardening because it sounds like fun. It’s not meant to be a gimmicky way to grow plants; it’s a means to use if circumstances make it difficult to grow plants in soil.

It may be that your straw bale garden the first season will be the beginnings of a new garden the following season… then you can build up your growing levels with compost, soil or lasagna layers later.

Unless you have plenty of natural rainfall, handy waste water, or you recycle or pump the runoff from watering your bales, then straw bale gardening is NOT water wise.

Straw or hay bale gardening is not to be confused with using loose straw in your garden for mulch or compost. What we’re talking about here is the whole bale, as it stands, tied with twine and used for planting plants on the top. For how to use loose straw, see No Dig Materials

Especially good for those with dicky backs, straw bale gardening needs only someone to lug the jolly bales into place and with a minimum of effort you’ll have a marvel of bounty and beauty indeed.

We can learn from others here. There are timely tips on straw bale gardening that will save you angst. Here’s the hoedown:

The bale is the garden. Put it on your balcony or path if you want to.

Use one or umpteen bales as you need and in any pattern. Because straw bale gardening is raised, it’s easy to work with, so make sure you allow for handy access.

RELATED : 5 UNIQUE WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM A FROST!

Which straw to use for straw bale gardening?

The best straw bales for a garden are wheat, oats, rye or barley straw. These consist of stalks left from harvesting grain; they have been through a combine harvester and had the seeds threshed from them, leaving none or very few left.

xstrawstalks-in-field-1-jpg-pagespeed-ic-3ehmllrkaiHay bales for gardening are less popular as they have the whole stalk and seed heads with mucho seeds. They also often have other weeds and grass seeds to cause trouble. Use what you can get locally — it may even be lucerne, pea straw, vetch or alfalfa bales.

Corn and linseed (flax) bales are not so good as they are very coarse, and linseed straw takes a long time to decompose due to the oil residue left on the stalks.

It’s simple to pull out the odd wayward grain seeds with straw bale gardening, but hay bales have tendency to grow the likes of a small lawn! Thus you may need to occasionally give them a haircut rather than try and pull the tenacious new sprouts out.

Hay bale gardening has one up on straw in that it is a nice warm and rich environment with enough nitrogen to continually supply growing plants. Straw is mostly carbon and so nitrogen must be added for plant growth (see further below).

Where to buy straw bales for garden?

xstraw-bale-gardening-jpg-pagespeed-ic-xyr-y1q-acMost garden supply centers and nurseries sell straw bales. The big nursery centres often have free trailer use to cart your bales home if you have a towbar and if you need more than one bale that won’t go in your car.

Farmers are your next bet if you live in the country.

Also try animal breeding places and stables as they often buy straw bales in bulk for bedding and may sell you the odd one.

With the popularity of straw bale house building, it’s worthwhile asking at builder’s suppliers for bales for your garden.

Local councils, public road or transport control organisations are also worth a try for buying straw bales for gardening, as they sometimes use bales to buffer traffic and divert rubble from drains etc. If they won’t part with one to you, they should be able to give you a supplier’s contact.

How much do straw bales cost?

Straw bales costs vary from country to country, but your cheapest option is usually going to a farm, where you could be lucky at US$1.per bale. Otherwise prices range from US$2 to $15 per bale. Still good value for an instant little garden!

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Arranging your strawbale garden

Put each bale in the exact place, because it’s hard to even nudge these monsters once you’ve got your little straw bale garden factory in full swing.

Just like a normal vegetable garden, your straw bale plants need sun, 4-8 hours if possible, depending on your choice of plants. Leafy greens and some herbs need slightly less sun than vines and tomatoes for example.

If you have a sunny rot-proof wall, you can put your bales against it and grow tomatoes, cucumber or similar up the wall.

A very popular idea for hay bales and straw bales is to make a raised garden bed with the bales as the edge. This limits excessive evaporation from both the garden in the middle and one side of the bale.

If you are starting a no-dig garden and don’t have enough filling to begin with before your compost, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, mulch or whatever you have, are not ready, then a cheap way for the first year is to buy bales and with a little bit of compost on the top, and a few other ingredients mentioned here, you can get your garden going the first year.

Deter those darn diggin’ moles, gophers, rats or whatever thieves populate your area, by first laying down galvanized wire bird netting before laying your bales down.

Lay the bales lengthwise to make planting easy by just parting the pads of straw. There are two opinions on which side to lay straw bales…xstraw-bale-gardens-twine-jpg-pagespeed-ic-omuu6sz5lm

  1. Make sure the string is running around each bale and not on the side touching the ground in case it’s degradable twine such as sisal. The straw is now vertical, cut ends up.This means when you water much of it will go straight through the bale and wash away.
  2. Laying your bale or bales with the twine touching the ground (as long as it’s plastic or wire twine of course), means that the straw stalks are horizontal and water will more likely soak in and not flow through the bale and be wasted.This method of laying down your straw bale lends itself to using a soaker hose better than the vertical way. If using a soaker hose, which are marvelous by the way, lay it under the twine to stay in place. The steady slow drips of water will find it hard to escape through channels, unlike the vertical method whereby the water channels downwards.

RELATED : 15 Simple Gardening Hacks You Probably Didn’t Know About

Starting your straw bale garden

If you start with aged bales of about 6 months or more, they may already have been through their initial weathering and starting to decompose slightly inside. If they have been wet at all they almost certainly would have lost their cool and done their cooking.

If not and they are still new or in pristine condition, they need to do a bit of stewing before it’s safe to plant in them.

Thoroughly soak with water and add more water so they don’t dry out at all for the next 5 days whilst the temperature rises and cooks them inside. Slowly they will cool over the next 1-2 weeks and then be ready for planting.

You can plant when the bales are still warm which promotes root growth. The bales won’t be composting much inside yet, that takes months, but you don’t want that initial hot cooking of your plants.

Some sneaky people speed up the process of producing microbes and rot by following a 10-day pre-treatment regime of water and ammonium nitrate on the top of each bale. But, hey, organic gardeners are a patient lot aren’t we, so let’s follow nature?

Just so you know, the chemical ammonium nitrate (AN) acts as a catalyst. It is high in nitrogen and encourages and feeds microbes which rot the straw so plants can grow. You may be questioned when buying it due to security reasons, especially if you look like a bomb maker rather than a gardener… 🙁

More natural ways that help speed up that all important burn out, are to spread on a high nitrogen organic fertiliser just before the start of your watering process and watered in each day as detailed above.

Remember though that this fertilizing along with the initial soaking will mean that the bales will continue to cook longer and you will have to wait before planting. It ultimately provides a better base and growing conditions and saves you having to be so worried about getting nutrients to your plants as they start growing.

Some materials to use are:

  • A 3cm (1″) layer of fresh chicken manure—double that if aged chicken manure, or
  • Other suitable manures such as turkey or rabbit—5cm (2″) layer, or
  • A covering layer of 2/3 bone meal to 1/3 blood meal, or
  • A very thick layer of milder stuff such as spent coffee grounds.

Also to balance the growing medium, add potassium by sprinkling on a handful of sulphate of potash.

Especially great is urine to add (sneak out at dawn for a… 🙂

Watering a Straw Bale Garden

Keep watered. That’s going to be your biggest task — twice a day if necessary. Straw bale gardening uses more water than a normal garden, so set up a system now. It may be that swilling out the teapot on it each day is enough in your area, or you may need to keep the hose handy.

strawbale

RELATED : Make Your Own Winter Tea | A Great Drink for Comfort and Health

A soaker hose system set in place is perfect.

A DIY drip feed is another option for when you can’t be there over a hot period. For a DIY, take a large plastic bottle such as soft drink or milk container. Take out thin lining from inside cap and make a tiny hole in cap with a hot needle, pointy scissors or smallest drill bit. Now pierce the thin cap lining separately with 5-6 tiny pin-prick holes and put back inside lid, and put lid back on bottle.

Fill bottle with water and place, cap end down into soil near a plant. Put a few stones in first so the hole doesn’t get clogged up with dirt.

Depending on size of holes the water should slowly drip out over 1-6 days. You can also add diluted fertilizer, such as seaweed or compost tea to this bottle.

Another bright idea is to poke some water soaked remnants of old cloth, (babies nappies/diapers to some, or toweling are ideal) down the bottom of the space you plant each plant in before you put soil in. These will eventually rot along with the straw.

If you have room for more than one bale, group them side by side to minimize evaporation from the sides. You should still be able to reach and tend to the plants this way.

Anything you can put on the exposed sides of your straw bales will help conserve water and stop them drying out in the sun. Low bushes or herbs, planks or bricks and so on will work. I don’t believe in buying new plastic, but if you have some already, and don’t mind the unnatural look in your garden, then put that around the sides.

Keep the twine there to hold it all in place for as long as possible, and if it does rot, bang some stakes in at both ends. If your straw bale is on a balcony or concrete, you may need to chock up the ends with something heavyish, like rocks, bricks, boxes or plant containers.

Straw bale gardening — plants to plant

xstrawbale-tomatoeplants-jpg-pagespeed-ic-xqexen8icmAnnuals of vegetables, herbs or flowers will love it. Remember your bales will be history in 1-2 years. Young plants can go straight in. Pull apart or use a trowel and depending on the state of the straw, put a handful of compost soil in too, then let the straw go back into place.

Seeds can be planted on top if you put a good 5cm (2″) layer of compost soil there first.

Top heavies like corn and okra, are not so good, unless you grow dwarf varieties. With straw bale gardening it’s hard to put solid stakes in so big tomato plants are out, although they will happily dangle over the edge.

Each bale should take…

  • Up to half a dozen cucumbers, trailing down, or
  • Squash, zucchini, melons — maybe 3 plants, or
  • A couple of tomato plants per bale with one or two herbs and leafy veggies in between, or
  • Four pepper plants will fit, or
  • 12-15 bean or pea plants, or
  • A mix of the above or any other plants you like.

There’s no limit and why not poke in around the side some flower annuals for colour and companion if you like.

Once a week or more often when your plants are in full growth water in a liquid organic feed, such as compost tea or fish emulsion. Tip some worms on top if you want to use your bales only one season.

If you are using hay bales instead of straw bales, this liquid feed can be spaced much further apart because hay bales have a more nutrient dense environment.

You’ll get one good season out of a hay bale garden, and usually two with a straw bale, albeit with a bit of sag. It makes for great compost or mulch when finished with.

One of the neatest ideas ever, it’s not too late for you to give straw bale gardening or hay bale gardening a go somewhere around your place.

 

Source : no-dig-vegetablegarden.com

Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers were the last generation to practice the basic things that we call survival skills now. Having the skills to survive without modern conveniences is not only smart in case SHTF, it’s also great for the environment. Keep in mind that the key to a successful homestead does not only lie on being able to grow your own food but on other skills as well. Learning these skills will take time, patience and perseverance, and not all of these skills are applicable to certain situations. Hopefully, though, you managed to pick up some great ideas that will inspire you and get you started! Just like our forefathers used to do,  The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones.

lw2

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How To Grow (And Harvest) Ginger Indoors … Without Killing It

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How To Grow (And Harvest) Ginger Indoors ... Without Killing It

Ginger is one of those ingredients that warms you from the inside out. It is especially great to have during winter as part of soups, teas, juices, Asian dishes and herbal remedies.

And if you like to grow your own food, you’ll be happy to know that ginger is very easy to grow indoors – and for most of us in North America, growing this herb indoors is actually preferable than growing it outdoors.

Ginger is an extremely low-maintenance plant that does well in partial sunlight. Because it takes about 10 months to mature and does not tolerate frost or strong winds, growing it as a houseplant is the best solution for most vegetable gardeners.

The roots can be easily dug up and bits removed for cooking, and the remaining root re-covered. In other words, once you’ve started growing this bright and spicy root, it’s possible to have a never-ending supply.

Need Non-GMO Salad Green Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

And because it is so low maintenance, it is a great plant for anyone who is new to indoor gardening, provided they have the necessary patience to wait for that first harvest.

Selecting Your Ginger

For best results, it is recommended that you purchase seed ginger from a garden center or from a fellow gardener who already has a healthy plant.

Look for a rhizome that is plump with fairly smooth skin. You should notice several “eye buds” on it – similar to potato eyes. If you’d like to start more than one plant, you may cut the root into sections as long as each section has a few eye buds.

Ginger root purchased from a grocery store might not work, since it’s possible it was sprayed with a growth inhibitor which is meant to prevent it from sprouting after harvested. Store-bought ginger also may have pesticides and other chemicals on it.

If you do decide to try growing a plant from store-bought ginger, it is recommended that you soak the root in water overnight. This will help to remove some of the growth inhibitor and pesticides and give you a better chance of success.

Ginger root grows horizontally rather than down, so the best pot for growing ginger indoors is one that is fairly wide and shallow. Fill your pot with well-draining potting soil.

Planting and Caring

Begin by soaking your ginger rhizome in lukewarm water overnight. Then plant your ginger one to two inches deep with the eye bud at the top. Cover the root and water well.

How To Grow (And Harvest) Ginger Indoors ... Without Killing ItPlace the pot in an area of your home that is warm but that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight. Ensure that you keep the soil moist, either through light watering or with a spray bottle. After a few weeks, you’ll notice tiny shoots emerging from the soil.

Continue to mist regularly and keep the area warm. Some gardeners like to put their containers outside during the warmer weather and bring them in for colder months. As long as your plant is kept sheltered from strong winds, too much rain and direct sunlight, this is fine.

It also is OK to keep the plant indoors year-round.

Will My Ginger Flower?

Many people understandably get confused between the beautiful red and orange flowering gingers that they see in garden centers and culinary ginger, which is the topic of this article. While culinary ginger does flower after the plant is about two years old, its flowers are small and green – and not the flashy showpieces that the ornamental varieties produce.

Harvesting Ginger

The ginger plant is a slow grower, so in the early stages it is necessary to have some patience. Once the shoots emerge from the soil, you should wait another three to four months before you begin harvesting. But don’t worry – the wait will have been worth it!

To harvest your ginger, pull back some of the soil from the edge of the pot until you find part of the root underneath. Cut off the amount that you want and then cover the remaining root back up with soil. At first, you should only take small amounts, but since a little ginger can go a long way this will be ok for most recipes or herbal remedies.

Should you wish to use a larger amount of ginger, you may dig up the whole plant. Just keep in mind that in doing so, you’ll have to start the whole process over again if you wish to continue growing ginger.

If. however, you are patient and don’t take too much in those first few harvests, you will soon find yourself with an abundance of rhizomes that you can use in your kitchen, divide into other pots and share with friends and family.

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

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

7 November Garden Tasks You Still Need To Do!

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7 November Garden Tasks You Still Need To Do! For most of us in the Northern Hemisphere, November means the end of gardening season.  Cold, frost and maybe even snow are on the way in just a few weeks.  So it’s time to head out to the garden and accomplish the last of this years …

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The post 7 November Garden Tasks You Still Need To Do! appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

Growing Salad Year-Round: The Right Way To Do It

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Growing Salad Year-Round: The Right Way To Do It

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Spring and summer bring a bounty of wonderful fresh vegetables to enjoy and for many, salad greens become a staple. But in the fall and winter, you might feel like you’re missing out if you can no longer enjoy fresh greens from your garden.

For the most part, salad greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustard, arugula and certain herbs are cool weather crops, best planted when temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When soil temperatures fall below 50 degrees or rise above 80 degrees, germination can be hit or miss. The good news is that with a little bit of planning, it is possible to enjoy fresh salad greens year-round.

Choosing Your Varieties

One of the great things about lettuce is how many varieties are available to today’s gardens. Different shapes, colors and textures – a green salad need never be boring! But if you’re wishing to have fresh greens year-round, you need to make your selections based on more than just appearance.

Plan on getting at least eight to 10 types of seeds. For outdoor gardening, get your start in early spring by planting varieties that do well in cool soil and less daylight. These include types such as Arctic King and Black Seeded Simpson. A variety of arugula called Astro also does well.

Leed Non-GMO Salad Green Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

As the weather begins to warm, you’ll want to switch over to more heat-tolerant greens. Consider lettuce varieties such as Red Butterworth and Larissa or spinach varieties such as Tyee or Emu.

For greens that you intend to grow indoors, choose varieties that are suited to an indoor environment such as Tom Thumb lettuce, Catalina spinach and Mesclun mix.

Seed Starting – Indoors or Out

If you expect to have fresh salad greens throughout the year, then you’ve got to have a steady supply of healthy young transplants. This means you’re going to be planting one or two pinches of seeds each week.

Choose soil or potting mix that has a good amount of organic matter. If planting outside, first use a fork or trowel to mix in some compost with the top few inches of soil.

During ideal soil temperatures, greens are easy to grow by directly sowing outdoors. When it is either too hot or too cold to plant outside, you can plant indoors using grow lights.

Planting With Grow Lights

For cultivating salad greens indoors, it is best to have a set of two to four fluorescent bulbs with a combination of warm and cool white light bulbs. The newer T-5 bulbs are also a good energy saving option. Be sure to replace bulbs once they start to turn black at the tips.

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Greens tend to not too picky about the type of container that they are grown in, so you can use whatever is available, including pots, plastic trays and recycled containers from the grocery store as long as they have decent drainage.

Seeds should be sown between ½ to 1 inch apart and not very deep (some types of lettuce seeds actually need to be exposed to a bit of light in order to germinate). Once the seeds are sown, mist them with water. Cover containers with plastic wrap until the seeds have started to germinate.

Planting in Outdoor Microclimates

If you are not a fan of growing indoors but would rather extend your outdoor season, this can be done by creating outdoor microclimates in order to keep your soil close to the ideal temperature range of 60-70 degrees.

Using hoops and a row cover, you can create tents in your garden that will protect your greens and allow them to grow outside for much of the year. When the temperatures drop to around 25 degrees Fahrenheit during winter and late spring, it is best to use a garden quilt and as the temperature starts to warm, an all-purpose garden fabric will do the trick.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

You also can use the same principle to keep your lettuce and spinach thriving in warmer temperatures. When the mercury reaches 80 degrees or higher, use the same hoops but with shade netting in order to lower the temperature of the soil.

Another option for outdoor winter growing is to make use of cold frames.

Harvesting

Most types of greens will regrow if they are harvested correctly. Use a clean pair of scissors or knife and cut the leaves, leaving about half an inch.

Having tasty and fresh salad greens every month of the year does not have to be “mission impossible.” With some planning, you can grow lettuce, spinach and other greens outdoors for most of the year, and indoors for the few months in which outdoor growing becomes too difficult. During the dead of winter, outdoor plants are likely to stop growing – or grow very slowly; however, if protected property, most of the hardy plants will overwinter and be ready to harvest again come March.

What advice would you add on growing lettuce year-round, including indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The TOP 11 Gifts For the Skeptical Prepper

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Written By Mike Harris

With the Holidays fast approaching I know how frustrating it can be trying to get loved ones the perfect gifts that is not only practical but will benefit them in ways a flashy pretty piece of jewelry or a cool video game can’t. Having first hand experience with getting high dollar prepping items for non-preppers who not only don’t appreciate them but also shake their head in disdain is a feeling all to familiar to me. So here I have compiled a list of 11 gift ideas under $50 that can put that loved one in a better predicament of preparedness without them even knowing it. This list is non-excusive that will make for great gift ideas for both guys and gals of all ages!

 

  1. Portable Power pack

Portable Power packs come in all shapes, sizes, colors and capacities. I have found these not only extremely well received by non-preppers but unprecedented by most in the overall preparedness value it brings. The typical IPhone battery is about 2,000 mah of power. With power packs ranging from 2,000 mah to the 50,000 “All Powers” external power pack. The user can charge their portable electronics many times over. Not only are their uses for small electronics great but also they provide so much diversity in regards to their many colors, sizes and applications. Giving your loved ones the ability to meet all their small electronic needs is a huge prepping multiplier! We all know inclimate weather, terrorism, earthquakes, accidents, and overall disaster will happen it’s never been a matter of if but when. According to Current statistics there are over 260 million cell phone users in the United States of America! With this knowledge in mind equip your loved ones with the ability to send that text message, write that tweet, updated that Facebook status, hash tag their ideas, post that controversial idea, record that memorable moment. But most importantly give them the life saving power they need to get in contact with Emergency services and loved ones in the event something goes wrong! You will be happier and can rest assured knowing you have set them up for success.

 

  1. Foldable solar panel

Small foldable solar panels are not only “hipster and progressive” in many aspects but provide a wealth of preparedness capabilities unparalleled in many respects. Not only do these solar panels provide an unlimited amount of electricity when the sun is out but are very easy to store and user friendly to use. Requiring virtually no maintenance upkeep, they can be that lifeline you can depend on when everything around you is falling apart. They can be used and implemented anywhere at anytime as long as there is light. Even under bad forecast they can provide you the life saving power you or someone you know may need in the event of a disaster.  Now couple this with an external power pack (Apple Product Power Pack) and now you have an unlimited power source that can keep you off grid indefinitely! You will be hard pressed to find something that brings more independence and stress free living then being able to personally provide for all your small electronic power needs free from the power grid!

 

 

  1. Solar flash light/ Lantern

Light more often then not is something that is taken for granted by the average person. Fortunately most of us live in a world where we can flip and switch and magically we have light. While this is ideal it’s not always the case when disaster strikes. Solar Lighting not only gives the user the ability to have light where they may otherwise not have it but also allows them to have lighting abilities indefinitely because they are not susceptible to depleted disposable batteries, or oil sources like what we see with traditional flashlights and oil lanterns. Natural sunlight light can be taken advantage of during the day and can be used at night. Also like the already mentioned items many of them have the ability to be also used as an external power pack giving them more then one use. We don’t realize the importance of light until the light goes out and we hear that boom in the middle of the night! Remember two is one, one is none. To see the capabilities these light devices have check out my product review.

 

  1. Cutting Tools

When you say cutting tools you are referring to a broad diverse spectrum of “sharp objects”. This was done purposely every one is different and requires different types of cutting tools. What I would give a college sorority girl that drives a Toyota corolla and has no preparedness inclination versus an avid hunter that drives a lifted 4×4 truck and stays off the beaten path for days at a time is going to be different in style and ergonomics; but the methodology and application will be very similar. Examples for a self-defense situation I would be more inclined to give a college sorority girl a “Honeycomb Hairbrush concealed stiletto dagger” or a “Cat personal safety key chain”. They are complete concealable very fashionable that can go with any purse or outfit. These items will provide a quick control for an unprecedented attack while serving primarily as an everyday use item. While for my avid hunter, Military, or EMS person I might give a “SOG Fast-hawk Hatchet” that can be used as a self defense tool, extrication device, wood cutting tool etc. As you can see cutting tools have a wide range of styles and uses that can serve a diverse array of preparedness needs without coming across as such.

 

  1. Portable water filter

Portable water filters are one of those small cheap out of sight out of mind water applications that quite frankly will at a minimum sustain life! These make a perfect gift for all people regardless of age, gender, or lifestyle. I can say from personal experience being well traveling around the world these have been a game changer. Being in other countries where the tap water was considered unsafe due to viruses and bacteria I never had to worry about where I got my drinking water. Especially with products like the “Sawyer mini Water Filter” that will easily screw onto any commercial water bottle I was able to fill up my bottle (from any local water source) attach the filter and keep moving without any fear of contracting any water borne illnesses. Most commercial portable water filters on the market today will remove over 99% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli and remove over 99% of all protozoa elements such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium. The “Sawyer Mini Water Filter” Claims it can filter up to 100,000 gallons and weighs only 2 ounces. According to science the average adult human body is 50-65% water. On average the every day American family uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. While this is taking other water usages into calculation one can still see the importance of water especially when considering that in a disaster the average person will be expending more calories and using more water. No matter where you are whether that be in a local park, traveling in another country, or in the safety of ones home drinking clean potable water is an absolute necessity and water is unequivocally the giver of life! Make having clean and potable water a necessity!

 

  1. Waterproof speakers with external charging capabilities

The waterproof speakers with external charging capabilities are what gets the person from the sidelines into the action in regards to preparedness. This is a gateway preparedness gift. Regardless if you are an NCAA Cheerleader, Surfer, camper, Military Service member, or the everyday person the ability to access to and have all their music and electronic needs met is an extremely good selling point. According to a Nielsen’s Music 360 2014 study, 93% of the U.S. population listens to music, spending more than 25 hours each week jamming out to their favorite tunes. The waterproof speakers encourage the user to take their lives off the beaten path, to push beyond the realms of their typical everyday habits. The external charging capabilities give the user an added layer of support and comfort being outside in those environments. Now add a foldable solar panel and the possibilities for adventures off the beaten path are endless. It’s much easier to engage someone in a “what if” scenario or talk about preparedness if your already off the beaten path, outside the “safety confines” of the power grid simultaneously creating your own endless energy while listening to their favorite music. I’m just saying!

 

 

  1. Seed Bank/Plant

Seeds and plants are one of the only prep “gifts” that will give back in dividends that will exceed the initial cost. Being able to take a handful of seeds or a plant and create an endless life-sustaining ecosystem is truly beyond words. Permaculture does more then just provides a means by which to feed ones self. Permaculture in many respects is one of the most rewarding pursuits we can do as human beings. Giving us the ability to create and take care of life, being independent of the corporate bureaucracy of Big Ag, and allows one to create their own sustainable paradigm. The lessons gained from the successes and losses of growing.  Not to mention the invaluable skill set that has been slowly taken out of our modern day society. Living in a day and age where we have become so dependent on a system that could careless the consequences of their actions and practices should worry us all. So stay one step ahead of chaos get someone you care about a small seed variety pack, or a tomato plant. If you really like them get them a moringa tree!

 

 

  1. Multi-Tool

Multi-Tools are invaluable to anyone, they provide hundreds of functions and are more compact then wallet or small makeup case. Yet it provides the essentials to most day-to-day maintenance. Whether we are talking about opening a bottle or performing a plumbing task using pliers and a cutting tool. The Multi-Tool is a silent hero; it can be carried as an EDC or left in the glove box of a vehicle until needed. It’s a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. You won’t necessarily build a house with it but it can get you out of pretty much any tight situation you might find yourself in. To top it off, in modern day 2016 Multi-Tools are no longer big bulky steel bricks carried in the same old leather or webbing straps. They come in all styles, colors, and designs. They even have bracelet Multi-Tools

 

 

  1. Hand-Crank Emergency Power Source

I’ll let you choose what features are important to you but having a power source independent of another source but your will is absolute by its own definition!  We don’t get to choose when disaster will strike, or how it strikes, or what is affected. What we can do is decide for ourselves how prepared we will be. Having the ability to provide an indefinite amount of light, power, and communication etc. day and night is what preparedness is all about. How many times have we looked down at our cell phone and realized we at minimum battery life now, now throw a wrench in your charging plan. That’s where these device swoop in to save the day. Many Hand-Crank Emergency Power Sources charge at the same rate as plugging it into a wall outlet. So in a few minutes you can bring a phone back from the dead regardless of the time, emergency, or situation you find yourself in!

 

 

  1. Emergency Car Kit

Do you know a loved one with a vehicle? Do they have an Emergency Kit in their vehicle? If they don’t they are wrong and so are you! In the United States alone, approximately 7 tire punctures occur every second, resulting in 220 million flat tires per year. Approximately 50% of Americans don’t know how to change a tire. I could talk to you for days on this subject but at the end of the day one must ask him or her self some simple questions. In an emergency situation will you depend on technology (AAA), the kindness of a stranger, or empower your self and loved ones to be self-sufficient?  I can’t tell you how many people I have helped that have found themselves broke down on the side of the road. It breaks my heart because I know somewhere down the line they were failed! Don’t fail your self or your loved ones. Give them and yourself the tools for success and most importantly train them to do the basics!

 

 

  1. Candles/Fire-Starter

Last but certainly not least we have candles and fire starters. I put these two in the same category because they go together very interchangeably. For the record U.S. retail sales of candles are estimated at approximately $3.2 billion annually, excluding sales of candle accessories (Source: Mintel, 2015). Candles are used in 7 out of 10 U.S. households, and are seen as an acceptable gift by both mean and women. Not to mention Candles come in an endless variety of shapes, sizes and uses. We see this from votive to floating candles to those that are used in religious and ritual like settings.

Regardless of why or how you use candles the ability to hold a flame is paramount in a disaster situation! So if holding a flame is paramount starting a flame is essential. Now I’m not advocating going out and getting everyone a Ferrocerium rod bush craft kit with char cloth all included. Nor am I saying go out and get your 19 year old college sorority daughter a pack of cheap plastic Bic lighters either. The great thing about fire starters now-a-days is that they come in all styles and colors. You have the Colibri Scepter lighter that looks like a tube of lipstick for the ladies to the custom Harley Davidson zippo for the seasoned veteran biker. In my humble opinion I would say that candles and fire starters are not only the easiest, and least expensive gifts to give but will arguable be, the first thing one reaches for in the event of a disaster. The ability to have a lite candle not only helps our physical needs in regards to light and heat. But the psychological ones are just as important if not more. The flame’s soft illumination reaches the soul; it can deliver hope and instill a calming relief.  This coupled the aromatherapy of a scented candle can literally make all the difference in a disaster setting!

 

This completes my Top 11 gifts for your non-prepper friends and family. While the old slogan “it’s the thought that counts” may resonate with a lot of people it’s important to realize that your feelings and thoughts won’t be the deciding factor in who lives and who dies. Their ability to react logically and swiftly with the right tools will be the deciding factor. While you may not be able to control ones actions you can equip them with the right tools and get the brain working in the preparedness mindset without them even realizing it and that is the purpose of this article.

I can tell you from personal experience when I realized this reality. I was there when the May 3rd Tornado hit the Midwest in 1999. Not only do I remember the destruction that it left in its wake in my small Cleveland County, Oklahoma town. I remember my mother reaching under the bathroom sink to grab three candles so she could provide just a little light to her 3 confused and frightened boys. I remember her lighting these candles she had received as a gift. I don’t remember who gave them to her, but I can tell you I will never forget the smell of that first apple cider candle she lite, nor will I forget the impact of what a simple candle can do for a small frightened family in a ravaged home. I don’t personally think that individual who gave us those candles envisioned the scenario that they would be used for. Nor do I believe they knew the impact that such a small gift would have on someone’s life. But what I can say unequivocally was that small flame ignited hope, determination, and most importantly a quenching desire to seek knowledge on all that is preparedness and to teach others everything I can. So wherever you may be, wherever life might I have taken you I want to say from the bottom of my heart; Thank You.

I hope you guys enjoyed this article, I hope to bring you more content in the future.

 

Author bio

Mike Harris is a full time RV’r spending the last couple years traveling not only the country but all over the world. Being a 4th generation sailor he has not only operated all over the world but grew up experiencing the rich diversities that make this world great but also a dangerous place. He is still Active duty he is a Search and Rescue Corpsman (Flight Medic) and an Aerospace Medical Technician.  His preparedness and desire for sustainability are deep rooted in reality. Having to endure and face catastrophe is not just a job description but also his personal mission. He has trained both local and federal agencies as well a foreign. He done real life missions he was there during hurricane Sandy and was also apart of the 2515th NAAD. When not working or prepping you can find him traveling the country in his RV, hiking off the beaten path or enjoying much needed catch up time with friends and family. You can catch his adventures on his YouTube channel.

The post The TOP 11 Gifts For the Skeptical Prepper appeared first on American Preppers Network.

The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

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The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

Image source: Wikipedia

There’s more than one way to plant a bounteous vegetable crop. It’s possible to have a hearty garden even if you don’t have space in the backyard, even if you don’t have a patio or balcony for containers, and even in the dead of winter.

The approach may be different than planting seeds in the ground, but it isn’t difficult to grow vegetables in the convenience of your toasty, warm home. And, unlike growing vegetables outdoors, you’ll have total control over temperature, water and light – all without bothersome bugs and pesky weeds.

You may, however, need to provide supplemental lighting, especially if you’re growing vegetables indoors during the winter months. If the atmosphere in your home is dry, mist the plants frequently or raise the moisture level with a humidifier.

Vegetables aren’t fussy about containers. Nearly anything will suffice, as long as it has a good drainage hole in the bottom. Use a good quality potting mix. Don’t attempt to use garden soil; it won’t work.

Looking For Non-GMO Vegetable Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

Starter plants may be difficult to find, but if you plant seeds, the top of the refrigerator is a good place to provide a little extra warmth for germination.

Now that you know the scoop on growing vegetables indoors, here is a list of the best, indoor-friendly veggie plants.

1. Tomatoes do well indoors with plenty of light and warmth, but they need a good-sized container – preferably at least five gallons, even if you grow dwarf or patio varieties. Once the tomatoes bloom, you’ll probably have to help with pollination by giving the plants a gentle shake to release the pollen. Choose indeterminate tomatoes, which will grow and product fruit indefinitely.

2. Eggplant and peppers belong to the same plant family as tomatoes, and their growing conditions are similar. Look for dwarf varieties that take up less valuable growing space.

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3. Carrots generally need deep soil to accommodate the long roots, but you can plant dwarf or round types successfully in pots. Sprinkle the seeds over the surface of moist potting soil, and then clip the tiny seedlings to ½ inch apart soon after they germinate. Once the carrots reach 3 inches, thin them again to a distance of about an inch.

4. Radishes are easy to grow just about anywhere, and growing them indoors is no exception. Like carrots, round or dwarf varieties fit best in containers.

5. Potatoes don’t require a lot of space, but they need large, deep pots because you’ll need to add straw or compost to build up layers over the plants as they grow. You can even grow potatoes in a garbage bag with the top rolled down; then roll up the top as they grow.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

6. Mushrooms are a fun indoor crop. It’s easy to get started with kits, but you can also purchase mushroom spawn and do it yourself. The growing medium depends on the type of mushroom, but you may need to stock up on straw or sawdust. (Or rotten manure if your mushrooms are in a garage).

7. Beets do fine in lower temperatures, but they need plenty of light. Don’t crowd the plants, as beets need space for the roots to develop.

8. Lettuce is one of the few vegetables that you can plant in a small pot if you’re low on space. Like beets, lettuce is a cool season vegetable that doesn’t require a lot of heat.

9. Green onions do great in a sunny window. They don’t require much growing space if you harvest them while they’re small.

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

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

The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

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The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

Image source: Pixabay.com

The centuries-old German gardening technique of hugelkultur imitates forest growth, using rotting wood to supply green growth with water, nutrients, beneficial bacteria and fungi. Using hugelkultur practices in tubs, you can produce tasty winter greens. This simple approach fertilizes your plants, places quality bacteria and fungi in your container’s soil, and helps retain water for your growing greens.

The craft of hugelkultur gardening starts with a healthy mound of partially rotten wood about 40 inches wide by any length you wish, using large wood chunks with smaller branches to fill in spaces between the bigger pieces of wood. Compost, grass clippings, tree leaves and topsoil are added, resulting in a mound approaching five feet in height, with two slopes at roughly a 65 to 80 percent grade.

Looking For Non-GMO Vegetable Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

The decaying wood at the base of the hill releases nutrients for plants growing on top of these mounds. Heat also comes from the rotting process, boosting soil temperature. Half-rotten wood acts like a sponge, soaking up water, which is then accessed by your plants’ tap roots. The hill’s surface area gives gardeners three times the garden space on soil and requires no tilling. Hugelkultur is a very popular gardening technique for permaculture enthusiasts.

Hugelkultur in a Tub

The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

Image source: Flickr

When transferring hugelkultur to containerized gardening, the hill concept is eliminated, because there isn’t enough space in an average tub to construct a mound as described above. But all of the other hugelkultur advantages are enjoyed. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Obtain several plastic totes or tubs. I bought mine for a buck each at a local Salvation Army secondhand store. Mine are 21 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 16 inches high.
  • Drill 1-inch diameter holes in the bottom. I drilled 5 or 6 holes.
  • Cover the inside of each hole with a 2-inch-square piece of fiberglass screening material.
  • Fill about 4-5 inches of the bottom with rotten deciduous wood. An oak/hickory forest on my land supplies me with an abundant supply.
  • Add about 1-2 inches of grass clippings, which will compact. I added ground-up autumn leaves, but this is optional, according to the season.
  • Next, add 3-4 inches of compost. My compost includes decayed vegetation and monthly additions of chicken manure coming from cleaning out a coop where a dozen chickens roost every night. I have multiple compost mounds that sit a year prior to use.
  • Since my soil tends toward the acidic side on soil pH levels, I added about ½-inch of hardwood wood ash, which sweetens, or boosts the soil’s pH to a more neutral level. Lime does this, too, but since I burn wood for heat, I have plenty of free wood ash. This step can be omitted if your topsoil contains a neutral pH level, determined by a pH kit or an electronic pH reader.
  • Fill to the top of your tote or tub with topsoil, either purchased from a nursery, or from your own weed-free home source.

What to Plant in Your Hugelkultur Tub

Once your containers are filled, plant seeds of your favorite winter greens and watch them grow. Cold-hardy plants are desirable for growing greens through the winter. Plants that can grow in cold temperatures include winter spinach, winter lettuce, arugula, Asian greens (tatsoi, dwarf bok choy, Chinese cabbage, and mizuna or Chinese mustard), chard, kale, and mâche or corn salad. I grow kale, winter lettuce, and Fun Jen, a mild-tasting Chinese cabbage in my hugelkultur tubs.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

I learned the importance of cold-hardy plants the hard way. A summer lettuce variety turned into little brown crusty wisps as soon as freezing temperatures infiltrated the top of the tub. I got a couple of tiny bits from radishes that I planted in a hugelkultur tub, but most of the radish plants turned into brown mulch, too, after a cold snap.

Protect Your Winter Greens

Even though some heat is generated by hugelkultur planting practices, greens survive winter better when grown under the protection of a greenhouse, a hoop house or tunnel, or a mini-hoop house or mini tunnel. I protected my winter greens during sub-freezing temperatures inside a mini-hoop house, with supplemental floating row covers through sub-zero temperatures.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

5 UNIQUE WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR PLANTS FROM A FROST!

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frosty-plants

5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR PLANTS

In this post, I am going to give you 5 different methods that you can use to protect your plants!

1. Use a fitted Sheet. I love this idea. I use a fitted sheet that fits tightly to my raised bed so I don’t have to worry about the wind blowing it off!

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2. Use a glass mason jar. I have so many mason jars free for use right now. For your more delicate plants, gently place the jar over the plant and work the jar slightly into the soil to help it stay in the soil.

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3. Use a plastic milk jug for your slightly larger plants. Make sure you dig the jug into the soil a bit so that the wind doesn’t blow it off.

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4. Use empty pots to protect your plants. Right now I have so many empty pots in my garage because it isn’t quite time for container planting yet. Utilize these unused pots to protect your plants.

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5. Use a plastic cup to cover up young plants. Again, be sure to dig the plastic cup into the soil a bit so that the cup doesn’t blow away if it is windy.

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Do you have a favorite way to protect your plants?

 

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Source : wholelifestylenutrition.com

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15 Simple Gardening Hacks You Probably Didn’t Know About

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15 Simple Gardening Hacks You Probably Didn’t Know About

With the weather getting warmer, spring is the perfect time to start planting flowers, vegetables, herbs, and more!

In this post you’ll find 15 useful tips & tricks to make growing vegetables and gardening easier and more fun. Whether you are new to gardening or have a wealth of experience, you are guaranteed to learn something new.

1. Sprinkle Eggshells Around Your Plants

sprinkle-eggshells-around-your-plants

                                                                           via Seeds Now

Eggshells provide a rich source of calcium and also deter slugs & snails without the need for chemicals.

2. Use Toilet Paper Tubes As Starter Pots

use-toilet-paper-tubes-as-starter-pots

                                                              via Dunster House

They are a great way to re-use something you would have thrown away and can be put directly into the soil.

3. Sprinkle Cinnamon On The Soil Surface

sprinkle-cinnamon-on-the-soil-surface

                                                              via The Rusted Garden

Cinnamon get’s rid of molds and mildew in house plants.

4. Upcycle A Milk Jug Into A Watering Can

upcycle-a-milk-jug-into-a-watering-can

                                                   via A Journey to a Dream

Wash the bottle, poke some holes in the lid, and you have a quick watering can to sprinkle both indoor and outdoor plants.

5. Use Coffee Grounds In The Garden

use-coffee-grounds-in-the-garden

                                                                        via GoodFood

Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, tannic acids and other nutrients that promote healthy plant growth.

6. Reuse Empty Wine Bottles As A Gradual Water Supply For Your Plants

reuse-empty-wine-bottles-as-a-gradual-water-supply-for-your-plants

                                                                via The Greenists

This is such a great solution for watering a container garden.

7. Coffee Filters Make Good Pot Liners

coffee-filters-make-good-pot-liners

                                                                 via Shine Your Light

Put a paper coffee filter on the bottom of the plant pot to keep the soil from leaking out of the drainage holes.

8. Use A Hanging Shoe Rack To Plant Herbs In

use-a-hanging-shoe-rack-to-plant-herbs-in

                                                                  via Instructables

Perfect for a small garden, terrace or balcony.

9. Make An Automatic Water Supply

automatic-water-supply-for-plants

                                                                     via Lifehacker

If you’re going away for a few days, you can actually keep your plants alive with some paper towels and a glass of water.

10. Prevent Animals From Getting Into Your Garden

prevent-animals-from-getting-into-your-garden

                                                                 via Woulda Shoulda

Place plastic forks in your garden to keep the animals from pooping on you fresh herbs, fruits and veggies.

11. Create A Mini Greenhouse

mini-greenhouse

                                                        via Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

Protect your seedlings from frost or pest by creating a greenhouse using the top of a milk jug.

12. Put Diapers In The Bottom Of The Pot To Keep The Soil Moist For Days

put-diapers-in-the-bottom-of-the-pot-to-keep-the-soil-moist-for-days

                                                                  via Pinterest

Just make sure you lay them absorbent side up.

13. Broken Pot Plant Markers

broken-pot-plant-markers

                                                             via Hardly Housewives

Save your broken clay pots and use the broken pieces as markers.

14. Seed Organization

seed-organization

via Fresh Eggs Daily

Organize your seeds using a basic photo album.

15. Use Vegetable Cooking Water to Fertilize Plants

use-vegetable-cooking-water-to-fertilize-plants

The next time you boil or steam some vegetables, don’t pour the water down the drain. It is full of nutrients and when cooled, makes a free fertiliser for watering your plants.

720x90_aquaponics

 

Source : yourhouseandgarden.com

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The Best Way To Grow Indoor Potatoes Is In A … Garbage Bag?

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The Best Way To Grow Indoor Potatoes Is In A ... Garbage Bag?

Image source: Pixabay.com

Potatoes are traditional vegetables that pretty much everybody loves. They’re easy to grow, and harvesting spuds is a little like hunting for buried treasure — but a whole lot easier.

While potatoes certainly aren’t your standard house plants, they’re surprisingly easy to grow indoors, and unlike planting in the garden, you get to control the growing conditions. Better yet, you can grow potatoes indoors any time of year, which means fresh potatoes for dinner, even when snow is falling.

By the way, while you can plant potatoes indoors in large buckets or plastic containers, it’s really fun to grow them in plastic garbage bags. Here’s how.

Preparing to Plant

Start with fresh seed potatoes from a reputable garden supply store. Avoid potatoes from the grocery store, which are treated with substances that keep the potatoes from sprouting. If you decide to try planting grocery store potatoes, be sure they’re organic.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

If the potatoes are large, cut them into chunks about the size of a small egg, each with at least two “eyes.” Set cut potatoes aside to dry at room temperature for three or four days.

Place 4 to 6 inches of potting soil in a large garbage bag, and then fold the top of the bag down to just above the surface of the soil.

Planting Seed Potatoes

Plant the seed potatoes on top of the potting soil, with at least one eye facing up. As a general rule, figure about three seed potatoes for every square foot of planting space, then add one more for every 4-inch square.

Cover the seed potatoes with an inch or two of potting soil. No fertilizer is needed if you use fresh, good quality potting soil.

Caring for Potato Plants

The Best Way To Grow Indoor Potatoes Is In A ... Garbage Bag?

Image source: Pixabay.com

Place the garbage bag where the seed potatoes are exposed to full sunlight (or grow lights).

Water as needed to keep the potting soil barely moist. Don’t water to the point of sogginess, but on the other hand, never let the soil become completely dry.

When the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, roll up the bag and add just enough soil to cover the entire plant so just the tips of the top leaves are visible. You can also use straw or a mixture of potting soil and straw, which keeps the soil loose and easy to handle.

Continue to roll up the bag and add more potting soil every so often as the plants grow. Be sure the potatoes are never exposed to direct sunlight, which can cause them to turn green. Never eat green potatoes, as they contain solanine, a substance that makes potatoes taste unpleasant and can make you sick if you eat enough.

Harvesting the Potatoes

Stop watering the potatoes when the leaves begin to die back and turn yellow – generally about 10 weeks. The extra time gives the skin time to firm up.

To harvest potatoes, simply reach into the bag and pull them out. Or, take the bag outdoors and dump the contents on the ground, and then pick out the potatoes.

Brush the soil off of the potatoes, and then set them in a dry, sunny spot to dry for a few hours. If it’s too cold, spread them out under a fluorescent light.

What potato-growing advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

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Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

Image source: Pixabay.com

Have you ever thought about planting garlic bulbs during fall? Garlic grown in late autumn tends to be bigger, tastier and just plain better, probably because the roots have all winter to get established before the heat of summer sets in.

Plant garlic two to three weeks after the first frost in autumn, but before winter arrives in earnest. This way, the garlic has time to develop roots – but not shoots — before temperatures get seriously cold. Garlic can tolerate severe cold, but too much top growth can put the plants in jeopardy. On the other hand, if you wait too long, the cloves won’t have time to produce a few healthy roots. If you live in a mild climate, you can wait until the end of the year.

Now that we’ve determined the best planting time, here’s everything you need to know, step by step.

Purchase clean, firm garlic bulbs and plant them. It’s best not to use bulbs from the grocery store, which are treated with substances that prevent sprouting and make them last longer in your refrigerator.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

Prepare a sunny spot in your garden by digging in an inch or two of organic matter such as decomposed manure or compost. Avoid soggy spots; garlic requires well-drained soil.

Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

Image source: Pixabay.com

Break the cloves apart, but leave the papery outer skins intact. Plant good-sized, plump bulbs and discard the tiny ones, or toss them in a pot of soup or pasta sauce.

Plant the garlic cloves upright, with the wide sides down. The cloves should be about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep.

Work 1 to 2 teaspoons of organic general purpose or high-nitrogen fertilizer into the soil around the garlic. Alternatively, apply blood meal according to label recommendations.

Water well immediately after applying fertilizer.

Once the garlic is planted, you may want to surround the area with stakes or rocks; otherwise, you may forget they’re there.

Mulch the garlic bed with 4 to 6 inches of mulch if you live in a cold climate, or just lightly if winters are mild. Straw works well because it allows the soil to breath, but skip mulch altogether if you live in a rainy climate, as the cloves are likely to rot in soggy soil.

Remove the mulch in early summer when the plants are no longer producing new leaves. Stop watering and let the soil dry for a few weeks. At this point, dry soil won’t hurt the garlic, but the bulbs will keep longer in storage.

Lift the garlic with a garden fork or spade when the tops begin to die back and turn yellow – usually mid-to-late summer. Don’t wait too long, or the papery covering will break down and the garlic won’t keep as long.

When you plant garlic this fall, plant a lot of it. The garlic lovers in your family will thank you.

Have you ever planted garlic during fall? What are your best tips? Share them in the section below:

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The ‘Laid-Back’ Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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The ‘Laid-Back' Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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Nothing slows the activity on a homestead down as much as wintertime. The bustle of spring planting and calving, and the harvest of summer and fall give way to quieter days of tending livestock, maintaining equipment and feasting on the bounty gleaned from this year’s harvest.

There is something you can do this fall that will quietly work through the winter months – while your laid back and relaxing — to improve the condition of your land. No matter how small the fields, gardens or raised beds on the homestead might be, consider allowing a winter cover crop prepare your soil for the next planting season.

A winter cover crop is valuable in many ways. Winters can be harsh on the land, particularly soil left bare following fall’s harvest. Winter cover crops prevent erosion, which is important not only in maintaining a garden or field, but also valuable for protecting nearby waterways that can be corrupted by too much silt. Cover crops add nutrients back into the soil. Many of these crops also can be used as livestock fodder.

1. Cereal grains

As I drive through the small homesteads that surround us, I see a haze of green rise in the fields each autumn. Many choose cereal or winter rye as the cover crop of choice. There are several benefits to using cereal grains as covers. Their root systems break up compacted soils, reduce erosion and fix nitrogen. If cut before flowering, the cut stalks can be left to decompose and be turned under in the spring, adding nutrients back into the soil.

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These also can be left to harvest as usual if time permits. Oats, barley and wheat can also be used; however, rye produces the largest amount of green material to add back into the soil. Grains and grasses are best used in fields and gardens. Avoid using them in raised beds, as they are more difficult to eliminate.

2. Clover

Though more time-consuming to manage, clover provides a generous supply of green material for your compost pile while improving your soil. Choose crimson clover for a yearly cover, as it is easily eliminated by simply tilling under. Red clover can be used as a biannual crop, while other clovers are perennial and much harder to control as cover crops.

3. Field peas

Field peas can be grown either as a companion crop, under sown during the growing season, or as a winter cover crop. As a winter cover crop, field peas will be killed off from the cold temperatures and left to mulch-in-place, adding nutrients to the soil.

4. Vetch

The ‘Laid-Back' Way To Improve Your Soil During Winter

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Similarly, fava beans, or bell beans, are actually a member of the vetch family. It is a popular choice as a cover crop, because it is easier to till under than hairy vetch and less likely to overtake other plantings. Purple vetch is another close relative that is less cold-hardy, which allows it to be left to mulch in-place.

5. Radish

A relatively new addition to the winter cover crop rotation is the radish. Radishes, particularly the daikon radish, provide all of the benefits of a good winter cover crop with very few drawbacks. Radishes break up compacted soil, reaching even into the subsoil. As they decompose after winter killing, they leave empty holes that improve soil drainage and even help the soil temperature to warm more quickly during spring. They are nitrogen fixers, and also draw additional potassium and phosphorus to the surrounding soil.

Planning Your Cover Crop

Starting around September, planting of the chosen cover crop should begin. Time the planting to allow the crop to mature before the first hard frost date for your region. For other crops, such as oats and cereal rye, multiple cuttings may be needed to prevent the crop from reseeding your land. Some cuttings can be used as fodder for your livestock, while other cuttings must be added to the compost pile or left to mulch in the fields.

Growing a winter cover crop will add a bit of work to your fall schedule. However, you will greatly benefit from improved soil conditions come spring.

What is your favorite cover crop? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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When it comes to growing vegetables, it doesn’t get much easier than onions. Just plant them in the garden, give them a little water, and these distinctive, dependable vegetables are ready to harvest almost before you know it.

Once harvested, onions can last weeks and even months if they’re properly cured and stored, and you can grab one for the kitchen whenever you need it. Here’s how to harvest, cure and store onions.

Harvesting Onions

Onions are ready to harvest when the tops begin to flop over and turn yellow. This means the plant has finished growing and the leaves no longer need to provide energy to the bulb. It isn’t necessary to wait until the tops are completely dry.

Don’t harvest the onions right away, though, unless rain is predicted. Instead, stop watering and give them a week or 10 days to finish maturing. If weather turns damp and rainy, then go ahead and harvest.

The best time to harvest onions is during the morning when weather is dry and sunlight is less intense. Loosen the soil around the plants carefully with a spade or garden fork, and then pull the onions gently from the ground. Lay the onions on top of the soil for a day or two to dry. If the weather is hot, cover them lightly with straw to prevent sunburn. If the soil is wet, put the onions in a protected spot like a patio or garage. Handle the onions with care to avoid cuts and bruises. You even can hang the onions over a fence if you live in a dry climate.

Curing Onions

If you want to store onions, curing is a critical step that allows the onions to form a papery, protective covering. If you plan to use onions soon, don’t bother curing them, as there’s no need. Keep in mind that mild, sweet onions don’t store as long as sharp, pungent onions. If you grow both types, then use the sweet onions first and save the pungent onions for storage. Some popular onions that store well include Copra, Southport Red Globe, Redwing, White Sweet Spanish and Downing Yellow Globe.

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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To cure the onions, place them in a clean, dry, shady, well-ventilated spot with stems still attached. If you’re short on space and need to cure the onions outdoors, spread the onions in a single layer and cover them with a light sheet to prevent sunburn, and then anchor the rocks in place with rocks. Never cover them with plastic, as lack of air circulation can cause the onions to rot.

Allow the onions to cure for two or three weeks, until the papery skin is tight and crispy and the roots are dry. Turn them every few days so they cure evenly. Set any soft onions aside for immediate use.

Storing Onions

Brush the onions gently with your fingers to remove remaining dirt, and then trim the tops to about an inch with scissors before you store the onions. You can also trim the roots.

Sort through the onions again. If any are bruised, store them in the refrigerator and use them soon. Like apples, one bad onion can ruin the entire batch. Also, do not store onions near potatoes.

Place onions in a wooden crate or a nylon or mesh bag – that is, a dark area — and store them in a cool, dry place where temperatures are kept between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but never freezing.

Check the onions every few weeks and remove any that are turning soft.

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7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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After a full season of intense gardening and homesteading activities, many of us are ready to pull up the last of our vegetable plants and sit back on our heels as cooler weather moves in.

Don’t do it.

As tempting as it is to put things off until spring, there are a handful of tasks that you will wish you had already completed when the next gardening season rolls around. Springtime is usually so busy for those of us who grow our own food that we just cannot get it all done, and many projects are easier or more practical to do in the fall anyway.

Following are 7 ideas for things you might want to consider doing before winter hits.

1. Soil testing. Having the right soil for what you are trying to grow is a key component to success. Unless you have it tested, you will not know if you have enough organic matter, major nutrients or micronutrients. You can add amendments until the cows come home, but unless you know exactly what you already have in the soil, you may be missing out on essential information.

While many substances are said to be good for the garden, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” I live in an area where the soil is generally on the acidic side, and therefore believed that routinely disposing of wood ash in the garden was the right way to go. After a few years of doing this, a soil test came back with a high pH, and the advice to refrain from using wood ash.

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Testing in the fall is a good idea, not only because of timing—in addition to your own busy gardening activities, the laboratory might have a full slate in spring and take an extra few weeks to return your results—but because fall testing will give you the chance to make adequate amendments before planting.

In my state, testing is done professionally and inexpensively by the Cooperative Extension. They send back a thorough written report and are available for follow-up answers and guidance. I expect most states offer a similar service, and although it may be a little more trouble and money than those instant-read gadgets you can buy, it is worth it.

2. Soil amendment. After testing your soil, you will want to follow the advice provided. It is never a good idea to add raw manure to a garden in springtime, but you can get away with doing so and tilling it into the soil in fall. And if the advice is to avoid adding wood ash, you need to know that before winter, not after.

3. Preparing sites for perennials. Many crops get off to a running head start when the site preparation began the previous year. Killing weeds, leveling the site, testing and amending the soil, and creating any necessary infrastructure ahead of time will make both you and your plants happy during spring. It will be less challenging for your berries and other perennial plants to become established and develop vigorous habits, and less stressful for you without having to squeeze it in with tilling and greenhouse-tending and planting.

4. Rototilling. Not everyone uses traditional tilling methods, but if you do, fall is a great time to get it done. Running the rototiller over the garden now will prevent weeds from taking hold before the snow flies. Be sure to first remove any spent plants that had disease or parasites this growing season in order to keep them from overwintering in your garden.

7 Garden Must-Do’s You Shouldn’t Put Off Until Spring (No. 5 Might Be Most Important)

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5. Mulching. Sure, you mean well. You are going to jump right on that garden and begin tending it before a single weed has a chance to grow next spring, right? We have all vowed something similar, but things happen to prevent us from following through. Two straight weeks of rain makes the garden too wet to work in, or the kids are sick, or there is a lot of overtime at work—and before you know it, the garden is full of weeds before you even start. The secret is to prevent them now by mulching. Whatever you normally use—grass, plastic or fabric—go ahead and lay it in fall. Even if you do not want to mulch the whole garden, you can do selected sections. Mulching works well to prevent weed growth on your garden perimeter and designated pathways. I use strips of used old carpet for this, and like to pull it up and re-lay it every few years, to keep it tidy and to keep out persistent weeds from coming through.

6. Mapping and planning. Unless you have a terrific memory or a very small garden, you might lose track of when and where you grew which crops. I take lots of pictures throughout the summer, which helps, but nothing beats written documentation. Maps, sketches, graph-paper drawings, and narratives are all great ways to keep your garden organized year to year. This helps with rotating crops in order to ensure that diverse nutrients are drawn from the soil over time.

A good reason for doing as much planning as possible in the fall is because the successes and failures of this season are still fresh in your mind. Right now, you remember that the location of the basil was in an inconvenient spot, or that the dog kept running through the space where the winter squash was trying to spread out, or that the amount of sun was perfect for the corn this year. Make your garden sketch for next year with those things in mind—or at the very least, make notes of what worked and what did not for reference during spring.

7. Taking care of infrastructure. This is a big one. If any one thing really knocks the wind out of my spring sails, it is trying to build, modify and make major repairs to infrastructure. It is always something I need to get done before the plants go in, so there is always a rush. Trying to put together raised beds, install new pea fencing, build arbors and trellises, rig up new rain collection systems, set up low tunnels—it is tough to get all that done during spring. I always get excited about planting season and am ready to hit the ground running as soon as I can, but having too many infrastructure projects trips me up every time.

Minor repairs and re-installments are fine. Even adding a raised bed to an existing plot or modifying a roof rainwater collection system can be done during spring. But major infrastructure projects are tough to get done before planting a garden, and can set the tone of being overwhelmed for the whole summer if you try to squeeze too many of them into spring.

If all of this sounds like more than you can get done this fall, then remember that few gardeners do everything exactly right every season. Do your best to get these projects done during the fall, but cut yourself a little slack if needed. If you do not get as much finished as you hoped before winter, then remember the gardener’s perennial mantra: Next year will be better.

What would you get done before spring? What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

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Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

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Onions may well have been among the first edible foods grown in domestic gardens, as the history of the domestic onion goes back thousands of years – seeds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs — and they are still one of the most common vegetables found in modern kitchens.

Most people who grow their own onions plant them during spring, but did you know it is possible to get a head start on your harvest by planting in the fall, as well? There are several advantages of planting in the fall. First, it is a time when there a fewer garden chores that need done. Also, onions that have been planted this time of year are often more productive and reliable than their spring counterparts. They are less vulnerable to common pests that enjoy munching on them.

Like their garlic cousins, onions can be very hardy and cold tolerant. You simply have to keep a few things in mind if you choose to plant them during autumn.

Planting Your Onions

Fall onions tend to do well if planted between early September to late October (provided the ground is not frozen). It often works well to plant them following the harvest of a summer crop such as potatoes, as you already have ground that has been dug.

While it is possible to grow onions from seed, it is much more common (and easier!) for backyard gardeners to grow them from sets or immature bulbs. Over winter, these sets have the opportunity to establish a healthy root system before their green shoots emerge in the spring.

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Choose a relatively weed-free area that gets full sun and that has firm, well-draining soil. To avoid possible disease, do not plant onions where you have grown other onions, carrots, beetroot or garlic during the previous season.

Sets of onions should be planted about one-inch deep, allowing the tip of the bulblet to slightly poke above ground level. If the tips are on the long side, you can trim them down to the shoulder of the bulb first. Space your onions 3-4 inches apart.

Caring for Onions

Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

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One of the nice things about planting onions during the fall is that they don’t really require a great deal of care. Your sets will only grow for a few weeks before the colder temperatures send them into a kind of semi-hibernation mode.

Still, you need to ensure that the area in which they are planted has few weeds and that they do not get waterlogged.

Sets of onions may be watered once after they’ve been planted, and after that normal fall rain should be enough to give them the water that they need. If you live in an area that gets excessive fall rain, you may not find it worth it to plant during autumn.

Varieties to Plant

Planting onions during fall is not something that can be done with every variety. Many types simply will not survive freezing temperatures, so you have to choose carefully. For gardeners in zone 6 or colder, you should cover your plants with straw or mulch and use plastic sheeting or tunnels to help them survive the winter.

Among the best varieties of onions to plant during fall are:

  1. Senshyu yellow – this cold hardy onion produces a semi-flat, average-sized bulb with yellow skin.
  2. Radar – this type of onion has light-brown skin and boasts a mild to medium flavor. This type of onion also stores better than many other varieties of onion when harvested during June.
  3. Electric – a red-skinned onion that has red and white flesh. This variety has a medium to strong flavor and can be stored for up to four weeks.
  4. Valencia – these onions have a golden to brown skin and a mild, somewhat sweet flavor. They tend to do well in almost any region.
  5. Talon F1 – these form hard, uniformly shaped bulbs with golden brown skin and white flesh.
  6. Red baron – a very pretty variety that has deep red skin. The flesh is mostly white, but has red to purple inner rings.
  7. Evergreen hardy bunching onion – one of the most cold-tolerant varieties! Can be overwintered in even northern regions such as Vermont. Grows in dense, green clumps.
  8. Bandit leeks – produces nice blue-green flags and a thick white base with very little bulbing.

Your Spring Harvest

Overwintered onions are generally producing bulbs by May and reach their full size by June. Harvest your onions before or shortly after you see a scape appear.

These onions will not last in storage as long as other onions, so it is best to use them fresh — in the same way you would use scallions.

Do you have any fall-planting tips for onions? Share your tips in the section below:

DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

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DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

Image source: Dick Melvin

Growing your own food moves you one step closer to the goal of self-sufficiency, but Jack Frost’s freezing winter temperatures hinder such efforts.

This year, why not build a cheap survival mini-hoop house and realize your independent objective of raising winter greens?

Most hoop houses are walk-in arched structures with plastic sheeting covering steel conduit frames. Smaller crawl-in mini-hoop houses usually contain white PVC pipe ribs. The problem: Heavy winter snowfall collapses these plastic ribs. One solution is to add purlins, or horizontal wooden 1x2s, connecting and supporting the ribs.

An even better idea is producing mini-hoop house PVC framing that has 2½-foot squares built into the structural integrity of the framework, a vast improvement over single PVC ribs. It’s done by inserting 4-way PVC connectors in three places every 2½ feet along middle ribs. PVC tees are used similarly in two ribs that will be at the ends of your new mini-hoop house. Then, 2½-foot PVC pipe connects horizontally, between 4-way interior connectors and to the tees on the two end ribs. The final 10-foot-long PVC frame involves five hooped ribs with horizontal PVC pipe halfway up each side and on the very top. It holds up to winter snow loads.

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To build this mini-hoop house:

Shopping List – Purchase the following, inexpensively, from any home building supply store:

  • 6 — ½-inch PVC tees
  • 9 — ½-inch PVC four-way connectors
  • either 16 5-foot, or 8 10-foot lengths of ½-inch PVC pipe
  • PVC pipe cleaner & PVC cement
  • 20-foot length of ½-inch rebar (use a hacksaw in the building supply parking lot and saw it into 4-foot lengths to fit inside your vehicle)
  • 150-foot length of ¼-inch polypropylene or nylon rope
  • 12-foot by 25-foot roll of 4-mil clear plastic sheeting
  • 22 8-inch wide by 16-inch long by 3-inch high cement blocks to hold down your plastic sheeting

Saw PVC Pipes & Rebar

Saw your PVC pipe, with a power saw, or a crosscut handsaw, into 32 2½-foot lengths. Hacksaw the ½-inch rebar into 10 2-foot lengths.

Construct PVC Hoop House Frame

DIY: The Cheap-And-Durable Hoop House Your Winter Garden Needs

Image source: Dick Melvin

Make your two end ribs first. Rub the cotton dauber found in your PVC pipe cleaner on the outside of the last half inch of one 2½-inch length of PVC pipe and inside a PVC tee. Apply PVC cement on these same surfaces and immediately slide the pipe and the tee together. Use the same procedure to connect pipes and tees, positioning all tees to face in the same direction. The resulting 10-foot-long rib contains four pieces of 2½-foot pipe connected with three tees. This rib will be at the end of your mini-hoop house frame. Make another rib in the same manner. Then, make three middle ribs, but use 4-way connectors, instead of tees. Again, make sure all 4-ways are positioned the same direction. Lay your five ribs 2½ feet apart on a flat surface, with your two end ribs on each end of your five ribs and three middle ribs in between. Now, cement 12 2½-foot PVC pipes between tees on the end ribs to the 4-way connectors on the next middle ribs, and between the 4-ways on the middle ribs.

Rebar Supports

Hammer five rebar pieces into the ground at a slight angle toward what will be the inside of the hoop house. Leave about four inches above ground. Place each rebar in a straight line exactly 2½ feet apart. Using your new framework as a guide, place the next five rebar pieces in a parallel line that is six feet away from the first line of rebar stakes, driven at a slight inward angle.

Arched Framework

Slide the ends of your ribs over your rebar supports on one side. Then, slide the other end of your ribs over their corresponding rebar supports.

Build Tie-Downs

Cut eight 15-foot lengths of rope and heat the ends with matches or a propane torch so they don’t unravel. Cut two 3-foot lengths, heating their ends, too.

Plastic Tied & Weighed Down

Pull the plastic sheeting over your arched frame. Trim it, leaving two feet extending onto the ground on all sides. Secure your tie-downs over the top of the plastic, on either side of each rib, tying each end to an appropriate rebar support. Gather the plastic on the two hoop house ends and tie your three-foot rope around this twisted-together piece of plastic. Use three cement blocks per end to weigh down plastic lying on the ground, and two blocks on the ground between each rib down each side.

Critics will advise building a door into one end, attaching ribs to a raised-bed wooden structure, using UV-protected plastics, or 6-mil plastic sheeting. These are all great ideas, but cost more money. This is the cheapest mini-hoop house design that stands up to winter’s winds and snow—a perfect solution for any homesteader.

What advice would you add on building a mini-hoop house? Share your tips in the section below:

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8 Hardy Vegetables You Can Leave In The Ground During Winter For A Super-Early 2017 Harvest

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8 Hardy Vegetables You Can Leave In The Ground For Winter For An Early 2017 Harvest

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It may seem like not much happens in the garden during September, and that spring is the only acceptable time to plant a crop of vegetables.

And while it’s true that plants don’t grow when winter sets in, there are a surprising number of vegetables you can plant in autumn – and that will be ready for spring. The plants lie dormant during the winter months, spring back to life when temperatures begin to rise in March or April, and are ready to harvest soon thereafter.

Straw or mulch provide good protection for overwintering vegetables in most climates. Some vegetables may need a little protection in the form of row covers or cold frames if you live in a cold climate. One simple way to protect plants is to arrange bales of hay on each side of the rows, and then cover the bales with old windows. You can also use clear plastic anchored with rocks or stakes.

Here’s a list of vegetables appropriate for planting in autumn. Some are old favorites, while others may surprise you.

1. Onions – Plant onions now, in September, and then leave them alone until they’re ready for harvest next summer. Onions grow nearly anywhere, but they may not do well if your garden remains soggy during the winter months. Alternatively, you can always plant onions in raised beds.

8 Hardy Vegetables You Can Leave In The Ground For Winter For An Early 2017 Harvest

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2. Shallots – Fall is a good time to get shallots in the ground, but there’s no hurry. It’s possible to plant this popular culinary vegetable as late as December, depending on where you live.

3. Garlic – Plant garlic cloves in the garden around September and harvest them next summer. Fall is actually the best time to plant garlic, as the cloves need several weeks of cold in order to multiply. Also, garlic planted in autumn tends to be larger and more flavorful.

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4. Spinach – Plant spinach in autumn and harvest the leaves regularly throughout the winter, until next summer. Spinach is a cold-weather crop, and planting after summer heat eliminates the need to worry about bolting.

5. Broad beans – Varieties such as “super aquadulce” or “aquadulce claudia” are good for planting as late as October or early November. As an added benefit, beans work as a cover crop by preventing erosion and nourishing the soil. You may need to stake the plants to keep them upright if winter winds are common.

6. Chard – This nourishing leafy vegetable survives winter in great shape in most climates, and is the first green ready for picking in spring. In fact, chard tolerates temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit without protection and cold actually brings out the natural sweetness. But if you have seriously cold winters, you may need to protect chard with row covers or a cold frame.

7. Peas – Select a cold-hardy, early variety like meteor or kelvedon wonder. Plant the rows thickly, a little closer than usual to allow for the few that you’ll probably lose. Peas may be chancy if you live north of USDA zone 5 or south of zone 8.

8. Mache – If you haven’t tried mache, you’re likely to love the mild, nutty flavor of this cold-hardy solid green. Mache survives winters in USDA zone 6 with no protection, but may need a little protection in northern climates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start

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

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

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

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

When to Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lasagna gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening, including:

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

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

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

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

19 Things You Can Plant In The Fall (By Region)

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Gardening isn’t just for the spring and summer months. If you’ve already harvested the majority of your crops and are now left with an empty gardening space, you may be wondering if you should do something with it. If you don’t take advantage of the fertile soil, the weeds certainly will. The weather is still […]

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High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

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High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

Image source: Flickr

Gardening is time-consuming for any homesteader or off-gridder, and the smart gardener is constantly looking for ways to make it easier.

Perennial crops are one of the easiest ways to save time, in that you only have to plant them once for them to keep producing. They are rare in North America gardens, but are the gift that keeps on giving!

The most common types of perennials are asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes. They require very little maintenance and can be harvested in the event of an insufficient production of annual crops.

We can trace perennial crops to European settlers, who came to North America and brought their knowledge and seeds, along with other skills such as drafting animals for plowing. In temperate climates, like most of North America, perennial root, starch and fruit crops were purposely bred, selected and cultivated. They favored the perennial crops because they didn’t require much input to get a large output. Only hand tools were necessary.

Benefits of Perennials

The problem with annuals is that they are very limited in terms of production seasons. They must be re-planted and re-grown every year, and you must worry about transplanting annual seedlings or waiting out the heat in the summer. Perennials may be grown year-round, and they will be strong and ready to produce long before those annuals are ready to be harvested.

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Not only are perennials trustworthy, but they are also a great fertilizer to both themselves and nearby plants, because they fix nitrogen in the soil. They even have the ability to provide a safe haven for helpful insects and pollinators. Furthermore, some have the ability to climb up nearby structures to provide shade for surrounding plants.

Disadvantages of Perennials

There are several drawbacks to perennial vegetables, despite their numerous advantages.

High-Value, Low-Maintenance Crops For The Busy Homesteader

Image source: Pixabay.com

First of all, some are very slow to establish before they yield well. An example of this would be asparagus. I’ve had asparagus plants for several years, and it is important to let them grow more than the span of a few seasons. The general rule is to plant them and don’t touch them until the third year, when they should only be harvested, very lightly, for one to two weeks. Four years in, they can be harvested for two to three weeks. Over the age of five, you can harvest four to five weeks. (They can last 20 years or more!)

Other disadvantages include the associated bitterness. They can become bitter once they begin to flower. So, they must be harvested early in the season, in some cases. Some perennials also have really strong flavors that aren’t appealing to North Americans.

Some perennials require such little care that they may soon overtake your garden. They must be carefully placed in a permanent space in the garden and maintained separately.

Furthermore, perennials have unique pest and disease challenges, simply because crop rotation cannot be utilized to minimize problems. If they do, in fact, catch a disease, they might need to be replaced.

Examples of perennials commonly cultivated in North America include the following:

  • Raspberries, blueberries, and other berry bushes
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Dandelions
  • Horseradish
  • Sorrel
  • Lovage
  • Watercress

Perennials are perhaps the most useful plants out there. They are dependable, easy to manage, and typically an attractive addition to the garden.

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

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

8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden (But You Gotta Plant NOW)

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8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Crimson clover. Image source: Pixabay.com

There’s no reason why your garden should remain unproductive between fall harvest and spring planting. Planting a cover crop, which isn’t just for big agricultural operations, ensures your garden keeps working hard throughout the offseason.

Plant a cover crop after harvest, about four weeks before the first hard frost, and then till it into the ground in late winter or early spring. The organic matter builds healthier soil, helps smother weeds, loosens compacted soil, helps control diseases, attracts beneficial insects, keeps pests in check and prevents erosion – all for a very reasonable investment of time and money.

Loosen the top 1 to 2 inches of soil, then sow the seeds thickly, much like grass seeds. Rake the seeds into the soil, then tamp lightly so the seeds make good contact with the soil.

Keep in mind that many cover crops can become weedy if they are allowed to set seeds, so plow them under before that occurs, preferably while the plants are still young and easy to work. Don’t worry if it seems that your crop hasn’t been around long enough to be helpful; growing cover crops for a short time provides great benefits.

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Here are a few examples of fast-growing cover crops that work well for small gardens in nearly any climate:

8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Buckwheat. Image source: Pixabay.com

1. Buckwheat is great for poor or unproductive soil, or where weeds are a persistent problem. Plant buckwheat any time between late spring and late summer, and then wait five or six weeks before tilling it into the soil. Unfortunately, buckwheat prefers cool, moist conditions and isn’t the best choice for hot, dry climates. Don’t let this plant go to seed, which usually occurs in six to nine weeks.

2. Clover is a terrific source of nitrogen. Many gardeners prefer crimson clover, a robust plant with colorful blooms. However, other types, including yellow blossom clover, sweet clover, white Dutch clover, arrowleaf clover, berseem clover and others all attract beneficial nutrients, fix nitrogen, suppress weeds and attract bees and other beneficial insects. Do your homework and select the clover that works best in your climate.

3. Oilpan radishes have long, fast-growing taproots that power through compacted soil in a couple of months. Plant the radishes in late summer or early fall and the plants will continue to work throughout the winter months, even if they are killed by a hard freeze. Be careful and don’t let the radishes go to seed, as volunteer plants may create big problems in next year’s garden.

4. Winter rye is a good cover crop for dry, sandy, poor soil, and it works well in cold climates. The seeds are quick to germinate and suitable for planting late in the season. One drawback however, is that winter rye grass doesn’t provide a full slate of nutrients, so you may want to combine winter rye with clover, vetch, or other plants from the legume family.

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

8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Hairy vetch. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Hairy vetch is a versatile, resilient legume that works well even in cold, dry climates and nearly any soil type. Plant hairy vetch in late summer or early autumn and work it into the soil in spring. Alternatively, trim or mow the vetch before it blooms — a few weeks before garden planting time, and then plant your vegetable seeds directly in the mulch. Don’t let hairy vetch bloom, as it can become very weedy.

6. Fava beans are hardy, relatively drought-tolerant legumes that germinate quickly and tolerate most soil types. However, this cool-season crop doesn’t do as well when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait until temperatures drop a bit before planting. As an added bonus, fava beans are edible, although removing the pods also reduces the nitrogen available to the soil.

7. Garden peas are a dual-purpose plant that provides all the benefits of legumes. For best results, till garden peas into the soil while they’re flowering. You also can combine garden peas with other cover crops such as winter rye or vetch.

8. Oats don’t provide the rich buffet of nutrients as do other plants, but they are good choices for wet soil. The plants are winterkilled in most climates, but the frozen plant matter provides many benefits, including erosion control and loosening of compacted soil.

What cover crops would you recommend? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Judge Rules Town Can Ban Vegetable Gardens Because They’re Ugly

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BREAKING: Judge Rules Town Can Ban Vegetable Gardens Because They’re Ugly

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MIAMI – In a blow to freedom and property rights, a Florida judge has ruled that residents of Miami Shores do not have a fundamental right to grow vegetables in their front yard, even if they don’t have a backyard or their backyard is deficient for growing plants.

Miami Shores officials say the ordinance benefits neighborhood aesthetics.

The ruling by Circuit Court Judge Monica Gordo is a blow to the well-publicized case of Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll, a married couple who say their backyard is too shady to grow a garden.

The couple grew vegetables in the front yard for 17 years for health and financial reasons until the Miami Shores village government passed an ordinance banning front yard vegetable growing. Ricketts and Carroll were facing a $50-a-day fine.

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“This Court is not convinced that the prohibition of front-yard vegetable gardens impairs any fundamental right” Gordo wrote in her Aug. 25 opinion. “… The Court finds that the prohibition of vegetable gardens except in back yards is rationally related to Miami Shores’ legitimate interest in promoting and maintaining aesthetics.”

She added that “protecting aesthetics is a legitimate government purpose.”

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The couple was represented by the Institute for Justice, which offered experts who argued that vegetables “do not have an intrinsically good or bad visual quality” and “are not aesthetically degrading,” but Gordo wrote that the city’s law was a “value judgement” that she would not second guess.

The Institute for Justice said it will appeal the ruling.

“Today’s ruling affects every homeowner in Miami Shores who wants to grow a garden in their front yard,” said Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil. “The court agreed that Miami Shores never explained how banning front-yard vegetable gardens promotes its claimed interest in ‘aesthetics,’ but the court nevertheless ruled that the village has the power to ban these gardens anyway.”

Their garden was known as one of the more attractive ones in the area.

“I am disappointed by today’s ruling,” Ricketts said. “My garden not only provided us with food, but it was also beautiful and added character to the community. I look forward to continuing this fight and ultimately winning so I can once again use my property productively instead of being forced to have a useless lawn.”

Bargil noted that if Ricketts and Carroll wanted to “grow fruit or flowers or display pink flamingos,” the town would have been fine with it.

“They should be equally free to grow food for their own consumption, which they did for 17 years before the village forced them to uproot the very source of their sustenance,” he added.

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

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

11 Unique, Lightning-Fast Vegetables You Can STILL Plant From Seed

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11 Unique, Lightning-Fast Vegetables You Can STILL Plant From Seed

Arugula. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

By the time August ends, your vegetable garden likely has a number of bare spots. This is a good thing, indeed, and a sign that the bounty of a successful harvest has enriched your dinner table and replenished your cupboards and freezer for the coming months.

Now what? Believe it or not, it isn’t necessary to let those bare patches go unused until spring planting time rolls around. In most climates, it’s possible to grow a second garden by planting another round of vegetable seeds – even in late August and early September.

Many vegetables are even sweeter when the temperatures drop a bit.

This is a good time to try a few new, unique vegetables that you’ve never tried before. Look for varieties with the shortest growing season, or those specifically labeled for late-season growing.

August can be the hottest month in many climates, so while you’re enjoying a good book and a glass of ice cold lemonade, don’t ignore the need to pour on a bit of extra water.

One final tip before selecting seeds for your late garden: Keep insulated fabric or a few sheets of newspaper on hand – just in case.

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

Here are a few ideas for planting seeds in late August or early September:

1. Beet greens. These are nutritious, delicious and ready for picking as soon as two to three weeks.

2. Watercress. It has a crispy, pungent, slightly peppery flavor that adds interest to sandwich, salads or pizza. Plant watercress through August and harvest until late autumn.

3. Kale shoots. These are ready very quickly, and you can toss a handful of the tender shoots in smoothies or salads for a blast of vitamins and minerals. Soak the seeds overnight before planting, and then plant them in full sunlight.

4. Pak choi. Plant pak choi in a sunny garden spot by the end of August. The seeds germinate in six to 10 days, and you can harvest baby pak choi leaves as soon as 30 days. Use this flavorful Asian vegetable in salads or stir fries.

11 Unique, Lightning-Fast Vegetables You Can STILL Plant From Seed

Image source: Wikipedia

5. Radishes. Fast-growing radishes are tangy, crispy and perfect for planting small patches throughout August and September — four to six weeks before the last frost.

6. Turnips. Small turnips are ready in about 45 days, but turnip greens are perfect for picking much sooner. The crispy greens are even sweeter when nighttime temperatures drop into the 40s, and you can grow turnips until the first hard freeze – maybe even longer with a little protection.

7. Tatsoi. An attractive plant with rosettes of spoon-shaped leaves, tatsoi is ready to harvest in 20 to 25 days, although full-size tatsoi takes a bit longer. This mustard cousin can tolerate light frost, which actually improves the flavor. Plant tatsoi in partial shade, or in full sunlight if the days are cool.

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8. Arugula. This one bolts quickly in hot weather, but if you have a cool, shady spot you can harvest this spicy green vegetable in three to four weeks. Arugula, also known as rocket, tolerates light frost. Cook this fast grower like spinach or add it to salads.

9. Mustard greens. Plant mustard greens four to six weeks ahead of the first expected frost, and start picking the tender little leaves in about a month. Mustard greens prefer full sun and moist, rich soil.

10. Collard greens. These are related to kale, and each is an absolute nutritional powerhouse. Plant collards about 10 weeks before frost and harvest the leaves as soon as they’re big enough to use, or wait and let them develop. This cold-hardy plant can survive temperatures in the upper teens. In mild climates you can harvest collards all winter.

11. Mizuna. Plant mizuna in full sun or partial shade six to 12 weeks before the last frost, and then use the mild-flavored, fern-like leaves in stir fries and salads. A member of the cabbage family, mizuna tolerates a bit of frost.

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

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

Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables

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Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables

Farming food for the homestead is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, and you can’t afford to get it wrong.

The truth, though, is that every region has its own challenges to which those plants may not be perfectly adapted.

The solution? Annually selecting and saving seeds to breed a locally adapted landrace for the crops you want to grow can significantly increase your yields. This traditional method for growing food – used by our ancestors — establishes better food security and easier production. Plants that are adapted for the local growing season, local sunlight and precipitation patterns, and local pest and disease resistance will produce more food.

The seeds for landrace gardening come from the “survival of the fittest” – that is, the best-producing individual plants which also possess other desired qualities (like a good flavor!).  Landrace varieties are adapted to thrive in a very local region; in fact, they’ll do best on the property where they are developed.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds To Start Your Landrace Garden? Get Them From A Company You Can Trust!

Developing the landrace variety takes a few generations, but is well worth the effort. Follow these steps to start the process of breeding locally adapted landrace crops:

1. Plant several varieties of a crop close to one another. This ensures genetic diversity among the plants that grow, which will make a more sustainable landrace variety. Seeds from neighbors, if you can get any, already will be partially adapted, so plant them if you can.

2. Do not pamper your plants, but offer them mainly benign neglect. The plants that fare best despite weeds, local pests, and dry, wet, hot, or cold spells are the ones you want the most. The more you care for the plants, the harder it becomes to see which are really the fittest. That being said, some equal-opportunity watering or weeding to ensure you have a yield in early years is not a problem.

Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables3. Eat your fruits and vegetables and save seeds from the best plants. Make notes of why they were chosen and what the conditions were in your garden. Save seeds from multiple plants to preserve a variety of adaptations.

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

4. Maintain the genetic diversity of your plants in the following year by planting saved seeds alongside seeds from other sources. Even after landrace gardening is well-established, maintaining the garden in this way can ensure you don’t wind up with a single-allele crop (i.e. no diversity) which could result in a total crop failure if conditions change.

5. Continue to plant and save seeds yearly and update your records. It is crucial to understand the process by which you develop your landrace varieties, in case you need to go back a step and add the genetics of a different variety into the mix.

There’s a bit of the scientific method in landrace gardening, but don’t get intimidated. Continuous experimentation and careful selection will mean a sustainable future for your food crops. Within two to three years you will begin to notice the hardiness, resistance and productivity of your locally adapted varieties. Your garden will be easier to tend and will produce more. How can you argue with that?

What advice would you add on landrace gardening? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

Fall & Winter Gardening: What You Should Be Doing NOW

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus

Summer gardening season is quickly coming to an end, with fall approaching and winter just around the corner.

Although some gardeners put their tools away for the season during August or September, others keep planting throughout autumn – preparing for a winter harvest.

On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we discuss everything you’ve always wanted to know about fall and winter gardening … but perhaps were too embarrassed to ask.

Our guest is Brad Halm, the co-founder of The Seattle Urban Farm Company and the co-author of two gardening books: High-Yield Vegetable Gardening and Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard.

Brad tells us:

  • What you should plant during the fall — and when.
  • How you can plant carrots and overwinter them for an early spring harvest.
  • Which frost-tolerant vegetables can survive cold temperatures, uncovered, down into the 20s.
  • What you can do now to keep harvesting vegetables outdoors, well into January and February.
  • Why fall and winter gardening sometimes producers better-tasting vegetables.

Finally, Brad tells us four unique ways you can garden outside throughout winter – allowing you to enjoy fresh spring vegetables when snow is still on the ground. If you’ve never tried fall and winter gardening, but have always wanted to give it a try, then this week’s show is for you!

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5 Fall Chores You Can Do NOW To Avoid Bugs In Next Year’s Garden

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5 Fall Chores You Can Do NOW To Avoid Bugs In Next Year's Garden

Image source: Wikipedia

As the season comes to a close for many gardeners in North America, you may be thinking of some much-deserved “time off” from your garden. After all, you’ve spent the last few months caring for plants and probably battling a few garden pests.

But before you pack in your gardening for this year, why not get a jump on battling next year’s pests? That’s right, there are a few things that you can do right now, in the fall, to help you avoid some of next year’s pest problems.

Let’s look at the end-of-season tasks that can help make next year’s gardening season a whole lot smoother.

1. Give your garden a final weeding.

If you’re like many gardeners, wedding is probably your least favorite task, but removing weeds one last time is going to give you a leg up on battling pests come spring. That’s because a weedy garden can allow many of this year’s pests to survive the winter, giving them a ready supply of food and shelter.

Pulling weeds now has the added advantage of making your spring gardening tasks a lot less daunting, too. After all, come spring you’ll be excited about planting, and the less time that you have to spend weeding, the better.

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Why not pull them now instead and start the new season with a few less bugs?

2. Get rid of dead plants and debris.

Just as pests enjoy hiding out in weeds, they also can thrive in dead and diseased plant material and other garden debris. The last thing you want to do is leave a bug buffet out for your garden foes all winter!

Clean up your garden before winter, being sure to remove any annual plants or any crops that are diseased or dead.

Be sure that these diseased plants don’t find their way into your compost, either, unless you are absolutely sure that your compost will heat up (between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal). Otherwise, you could end up inadvertently re-introducing pests to your garden after you’ve worked so hard to remove them.

If you’re at all unsure whether your compost pile will heat up enough to kill these pests, then throw out diseased plant material.

3. Till your soil.

5 Fall Garden Chores You Should Do NOW To Avoid Bugs Next Year

Image source: Wikimedia

Removing weeds and old plants alone does not ensure you’ve gotten rid of the bugs. In fact, some of the worst offenders like to burrow in the ground and remain there over winter only to emerge when the weather warms again – ready to destroy a freshly planted garden. Don’t give them that chance.

To deal with these nasty critters, get out your rototiller one more time this season and give your garden a good, deep tilling. This will help to push those pests deeper underground. Other pests will be pulled up to the surface, where it will become too cold for them to survive.

Tilling your garden once more at the end of the season also has the added benefit of introducing more organic matter into the soil.

4. Amend your garden if necessary.

The healthier your soil is, the healthier your plants will be. And the healthier your plants are, the less vulnerable they will be to pesky garden insects. If it’s been a while since you’ve done a soil test, take the end of the season as an opportunity to do so.

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

Adjust your soil’s pH with any amendments as necessary. Planting a cover crop in the fall and then turning it under in the spring is a great way to add more nitrogen to the soil.

5. Start planning your spring garden.

Planning next year’s garden is about more than deciding what variety of tomato you’d like to try next year. It’s also about reviewing any pest problems that you had the previous season and strategizing how to avoid them in the coming season.

Part of your strategy should be crop rotation. If a particular crop encountered pest problems one year, it should be moved to a different location in the next year.

Another part of the strategy involves how you choose your varieties of vegetables. Depending on what problems you experienced, research some varieties of plants that are resistant to those problems. Or research what types of companion plants can help to minimize the problem.

So before you hang up your gardening gloves this season, take the time to prepare for spring and give yourself the advantage over pests next year.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:  

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

Hugelkultur

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Screenshot_2016-08-28-01-15-07-01

Hugelkultur, pronounced hugle (like bugle but with a “h”) culture, it’s really simple, combining raised beds with lots of organic material under and on top of the mound. You take wood logs and twigs, preferably older ones but fresher ones can be used, cut them to the length of the bed you want to create, lay them in a pile then put dirt on top of them, you will be planting in this dirt. The idea is the wood logs decompose and hold lots of water, meaning you don’t have to water as often. It’s a win win situation. Some even work swales into the hugelkultur beds to help capture water that would otherwise run off too quickly.

I know it’s the end of the summer gardens for most of us, but this is the perfect time to begin planning and building our gardens for next summer. I still want to make a keyhole garden, I might incorporate some of the hugelkultur into a keyhole garden by using decaying wood logs and twigs that we have an abundance of around here, putting it in the base of the keyhole garden. Also working with the rocks and wood when the temps are cooler will be safer (for me) from snakes, scorpions and other creepy crawlies that sting and bite.

Here are a couple of videos about hugelkultur gardening.

https://youtu.be/Sso4UWObxXg

and

https://youtu.be/Lkx2JFO0Dhw

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The Fish You Never Want To Eat – But Will Do Wonders For Your Garden

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The Fish You Never Want To Eat – But Will Do Wonders For Your Garden

Image source: dnr.wi.gov

 

One of the most abundant freshwater fish today is the Asian carp. Depending on your region of the country, you might know these fish under a host of different names. They are generally some of the heaviest fish in the river, and they often sport a population that is larger than any other fish in the area. Whatever you call them. though, the point is the same: There are a lot of them and they are huge!

They eat nearly everything and can be found in nearly all waterways including lakes, rivers and ponds the world over.

So why isn’t there much praise for this versatile fish? Well, for one, they are extremely invasive. Their tendency to survive and even thrive in most conditions puts a real strain on native fish populations and the environment. Another strike against carp is that they are commonly known for being a “garbage fish” with little value as a viable food source. Yes, it is true that carp are one of the most widely eaten fish in the world, but that seems not to be the case in the United States.  Many people attribute carp with having a muddy or unpleasant taste due to their tendency to feed from the bottom of rivers and lakes. Carp also have a very distinct blood line that runs through their body, which can add to the unpleasant taste if not removed. Additionally, carp tend to deteriorate clear and fertile lakes upon their arrival, according to the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.

So what good can be found in fishing for carp? There are a number of recipes aimed at making carp taste better, with just as many techniques for purging the fish of their muddy flavor. Many cultures will pickle carp meat or smoke filets as a means of preservation. The thing to keep in mind is that carp are such a readily abundant natural resource that anyone who is keen to utilize survivalist skills cannot ignore their potential.

Eating Carp

A simple recipe for smoked carp is to first filet the fish and then to soak each filet in salted water for 24 hours. You should use anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 cups of salt per gallon of water. After 24 hours, remove the fish from the brine and sprinkle a little brown sugar on each filet. After that, place them in your smoker at 150 degrees Fahrenheit and smoke them for 6-8 hours.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Each of these methods can provide a lot of versatility in taste preferences and give people an opportunity to bolster survival food stockpiles. And yet there is still another use for these abundant fish. Carp make for one of the best additions to your garden, whether you use the entire fish or just the remains.

Carp in Your Garden

The Fish You Never Want To Eat – But Will Do Wonders For Your Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

This lesson is one that was passed down to me from my grandparents decades ago. I have seen this done and can testify to its potential benefit. The fundamentals behind this concept are simple. Catch the fish, process what you can, and bury the remainder in your garden. (You can honestly use the scraps from any fish you may have – but you will want to eat other fish.) What we always did was to build a weekend out of carp fishing and then process and bury our fish in the garden.

I do not come from a family that was big on eating these fish. In fact, in all the years I was a part of this process, I never saw one person even attempt to eat a carp. The only processing we did in regards to carp was to wrap each fish in newspaper, toss it in a hole, and give it a rough chop with a shovel just before burying it. This gave the carp more surface area to break down and sped up the process greatly. This task was generally done after plants had been harvested or in sections of the garden that were not in use at that time.

The key I learned was that you needed to dig a hole that was at least a foot deep in order to avoid any unwanted guests from digging up your catch. Once the fish were in the ground, all that was needed was time. The fish were generally broken down within a few weeks and never smelled at all. My grandparents always stressed that this was a task done in a specific year in order to pay dividends the following year.

‘Miracle Oil Maker’ Lets You Make Fresh Nut Oils Within Minutes!

The fish add nitrogen and other key nutrients back into the soil. My grandfather would always stress that what one thing takes away, another can always replace. Plants that require larger amounts of nitrogen, such as tomatoes or rose bushes, generally benefit from this massive organic boost to the soil.

How to Fish for Carp

The basics for catching carp are simple. While there are those who prefer to use nets or a modified bow and arrow system, I have generally always stuck by the tried and true method of pole and reel. Have a strong pole, decent reel, and some fishing line that can withstand a little abuse. Their omnivorous eating habit allows for a wide variety of bait. I have had the most success with canned corn and night crawlers, but you can use just about anything. When I was a child, my family would make a dough mixture from cornmeal, water and strawberry Jello to use for bait, and it generally worked very well.

The main thing to consider when fishing for carp is that it requires some patience. Since carp feed primarily wherever they can find food, they will need time to find your bait. Carp may feed both on the surface and on the bottom, so pay close attention to signs of feeding activity, and do your absolute best to target that area. The concepts behind fishing for carp can get far more technical, but the basic rule is to let the bait sit and be patient. If they are in the area, they will come!

Have you ever fished for carp? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

‘When Should I Pick It?’ — Harvesting Essentials For 12 Popular Vegetables

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‘When Should I Pick It?’ -- Harvesting Essentials For 12 Popular Vegetables

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Every novice gardener has done it — picked too early or waited too long to harvest their vegetables. Even experienced gardeners have been known to let excitement get the better of them when they see that first tomato turning red on the vine.

Since late summer and early fall is prime harvesting time, it is a good idea to go over some harvesting basics and give a few guidelines for the best time to harvest certain vegetables:

1. Tomatoes

Yes, it is tempting to pick these as soon as you see that they are red, but for the best quality and flavor, try leaving them on the plant for 5-8 days after they have gained full color. Then, at the end of the season, you’ll want to pick all the fruit before the first frost, regardless of ripeness. You can enjoy the classic “fried green tomatoes” or let them ripen indoors.

2. Zucchini

Zucchini will get huge if you let it – but don’t let it. These are best to pick when they are smaller and more tender. The ideal size is around 1 ½ inches in diameter and between 4-8 inches long.

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If you’re hoping for a few larger zucchinis at the end of the season, don’t worry – there always seems to be a few hiding that you don’t find until they have become rather robust.

3. Lettuce

Young leaf lettuce can be harvested pretty much as soon as it has reached the size you’d like to have it. If you are waiting for more mature and larger leaves, then harvest when they are between 4-6 inches long. For head lettuce, pick when the heads become somewhat firm but before they have formed seed stalks.

4. Carrots

Carrots can be a little tricky for some gardeners, since you cannot see what is happening with them under the soil. Examine the tops and harvest when the diameter is between ¼ to 1 inch. In order to get the best and sweetest flavor, try waiting until there has been a light frost. Be careful as you harvest, because bruising on this root vegetable can cause it to develop soft rot when it is in storage.

5. Beets

The tops of beetroots will begin to emerge as they become ready for harvest. Pick when they are between 1 ¼ to 2 inches in diameter.

6. Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts should be harvested when the small heads reach between 1 – 1 ½ inches in diameter. They are easily picked by holding and twisting. In order to speed up the maturation of this vegetable, remove the lower leaves along the stem.

7. Broccoli

‘When Should I Pick It?’ -- Harvesting Essentials For 12 Popular Vegetables

Image source: Pixabay.com

For broccoli, you want to time it so that you harvest it when it has a nice big flower head but before any of the flowers have started to open. Cut the plant approximately seven inches below the head. Once the main head has been harvested, side heads will develop.

8. Cauliflower

When the curds have reached 2-3 inches in diameter, cover them by loosely tying the head into surrounding leaves. Cauliflower heads should be picked when they have reached full size but are still smooth and white.

9. Peppers

Peppers can be harvested green or ripe, depending on the flavor that you want. If harvesting green, wait until the fruits are full sized and are firm to the touch.

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For ripe (red, yellow, orange or purple) peppers, simply wait until they have reached their full color (generally about 2-3 weeks after reaching full size).

10. Sweet corn

You know that summer is in its apex when sweet corn starts to appear in farmers’ markets and at summer barbeque parties. If you are growing corn yourself, the time to pick it is when the silks have turned brown and dry and the kernels are completely filled. You can determine this by pressing on the husk with your thumbnail.

11. Watermelon

Watermelons should be harvested when they have reached full size – but given the variety of sizes that these tasty summer fruits can come in, how do you know it’s time? Gently turn the fruit and examine the spot where it contacts the ground. If this spot is a cream or yellow color, it means that your watermelon is ready to be harvested.

12. Winter squash

Unlike the summer varieties of squash such as zucchini, the rind of a winter squash should be firm and not easily penetrated by your fingernail. The point where the squash makes contact with the ground should be cream to orange colored depending on the variety that you are growing. If you are picking squash to be put in storage, leave about 2-3 inches of the vine at the top – this will help prevent rot.  While these garden vegetables are hardy and can withstand a light frost, they should be picked before there is a heavy one.

What harvesting advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

6 Life-Saving Uses For An Ordinary Glass Bottle (Don’t Miss The Video For No. 3!)

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6 Life-Saving Uses For An Ordinary Glass Bottle (Don’t Miss The Video For No. 3!)

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It can be frustrating to see litter and trash lying on streets and in fields, but for the savvy survivalist, some trash can turn into life-saving tools.

One such item that is commonly thrown away but can be re-purposed into a variety of different survival uses is the glass bottle.

Here are seven survival uses for an ordinary glass bottle:

1. Make a glass blade.

A glass bottle can be easily re-purposed as a tool or weapon, and specifically as a glass blade. We’re talking about everything from knives to arrowheads to spear points to practically any kind of razor-sharp instrument that you can think of. Just be careful not to cut yourself when breaking the bottle into the shape you need.

2. Boiling water.

In any kind of survival situation, you will always have to boil or purify water before you drink it. Drinking water that has been contaminated in any way whatsoever can sometimes be more dangerous than not drinking any water at all.

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Simply fill the bottle up from the nearest river or lake that you find, and then suspend it over a fire with some sort of cord. The water will begin to boil in just a matter of minutes, and any harmful bacteria or pathogens inside of it will be eliminated.

3. Starting a fire.

On a day where you have plenty of sun, fill up your glass bottle with clear water. Then, position that bottle in between the sun and whatever you’re using as tinder; charred cloth works best for this method. The sun will shine through the bottle and onto the tinder. Hold the bottle steady and roughly an inch or two above the tinder. (It requires patience.) Once the smoke starts to appear, gently blow on it to create an ember that can then catch flame.

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4. Transporting water.

Make sure that you have a cork or some sort of cloth to wrap around the top as a lid. If you’re electing to stockpile your water, then do so in a cool and dry location; storing water under the sun or in a hot room greatly increases the likelihood of harmful bacteria or pathogens developing in it.

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5. As a container.

You don’t just have to use your glass bottles to store water. You can also use them to keep water out. Store anything in your glass bottles that you need to keep dry, such as sugar, salt, cloth and medications.

6. As a portable torch.

Beyond using your glass bottle to get a fire going, you can also use it to maintain a fire, as well, specifically in the form of a torch. Clean up your water bottle from the inside-out, and make sure that you have a wick and some torch fluid on standby. Fill the bottom part of the bottle with water underneath the wick, and then the rest of the bottle with the torch fluid.

Pour a little bit of the fluid over the wick and then place it into the bottle. Light the wick and you have a torch.

What survival uses would you add? Share your tips in the section below:  

Harness The Power Of Nature’s Most Remarkable Healer: Vinegar

Book: The Backyard Orchardist

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See larger image The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden For every gardener desiring to add apples, pears, cherries, and other tree fruit to their landscape here are hints and solid information from a professional horticulturist and experienced fruit grower. The Backyard Orchardist includes help on selecting the best fruit trees and information about each stage of growth and development, along with tips on harvest and storage of the fruit. Those with limited space will learn about growing dwarf fruit trees in containers. Appendices include a fruit-growers monthly calendar, a trouble-shooting guide for

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Drowning In Squash? Here’s 18 Clever Ways You Can Use It

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Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

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Anyone who has ever planned meals around the garden harvest knows there can be too much of a good thing. Eating from the garden is different from buying it at the store. When shopping for food in the supermarket produce aisle, it is easy to get exactly what you need. One bunch of Swiss chard, a sweet pepper or two, and maybe a little box of cherry tomatoes.

Gardens do not grow that way. They are seeds, then developing plants, then there are blossoms, and then wham-o! When a crop is in season, it doesn’t dole out a manageable pound or so a week, giving you time to eat what you have before it delivers more. Instead, it throws a lot at you at once.

Especially if it is summer squash. It seems to explode overnight without warning, going from a few blossoms to a handful of fruits to OH MY GOODNESS. I am pretty sure it has actually happened that I have gone out to the barn and noticed a few ready-to-pick zucchinis as I passed them, spent 15 minutes tending animals, and by the time I walked back past they had all grown to baseball-bat-size.

Even if it does not happen quite that fast, there does seem to be a lot of summer squash and zucchini showing up all at once in the garden. It gets so crazy that friends and coworkers duck for cover when they see gardeners coming, for fear we might be bringing them another armload of squash.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy the bounty of summer squash. Here are my favorite ideas for keeping up with the garden.

1. Raw. Small squashes are perfect in all kind of salads. They can be prepared any way you like. Any shape, any thickness. With or without skins. The pieces are great mixed in with pasta or greens or cherry tomatoes or dressing, or by themselves with dip.

2. Panfried. Fried or chunked, squashes go great in the pan. Use a little oil or butter—I prefer extra virgin olive oil—and spice them up to suit your mood. Use oregano and Italian seasoning for a hint of Mediterranean flavor, or kick it up a notch with a little crushed red peppers or hot sauce. Use Middle Eastern seasonings to side with a nice cut of lamb, or simply salt and pepper in the pan and a sprinkle with parmesan cheese at the table for delightfully simple fare.

Drowning In Squash? Here's 18 Things You Can Do With It

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3. Breaded. Traditional breading—dip in egg coating and then a flour mixture—is tasty, or you can use tempura batter if you are feeling adventurous. Remember that zucchini can soak up a ton of flavor, so be generous with the flour seasonings.

4. Casseroles and baked dishes. Squash can be sliced thin the long way and used between layers of lasagna and shepherd’s pie, cut up and added to your family’s favorite meat-and-tomato recipes, or mixed into a hot vegetable and rice dish.

5. Ratatouille. This one could really be broadened to “stews,” but I so love this unique thick vegetable stew that I have to give it its own section. But if ratatouille is not quite your thing, then go ahead and mix squashes in with other ingredients for whatever kind of stew you like best. Whether all-vegetable or with meat, summer squashes make an excellent addition to stews.

6. Soups. Of course. Everything goes in soup. Meat, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, stock—and squash.

7. Stir fry and fried rice. Even though these are two completely different dishes, I lump them together here because the act of throwing in whatever is on hand to create one-of-a-kind feasts is the same with both of them. Whether in a pan of Asian greens and vegetables, or rice and soy sauce and meat, summer squashes go nicely.

8. Skillet meals. As with Asian-inspired dishes, skillet meals often turn into a unique composition of food on hand. A few potatoes, leftover chunks of pork chops or steak or breakfast sausages, a few handfuls of cut up zucchini, and bam. Supper in a skillet.

9. Eggs. Zucchini and summer squash make a lovely addition to all things egg. If you live on a homestead and have almost as many eggs as you have vegetables, then you can rejoice that they pair so nicely. A few slices of panfried squash on an egg and cheese sandwich, or a little squash cut up or grated into scrambled eggs or omelets, or a mouthwatering potato and squash frittata—yes, please!

10. Pizza topping. Since I discovered this use for zucchini, I never have any left in the freezer by springtime. Fresh or frozen, zucchini is amazing on pizzas! The secret? Panfry it first.  Just a few minutes in a little hot oil with salt and pepper brings out the juices and bakes into a pizza that will knock your socks off.

11. Baked. Once squash gets a little larger, consider baking it. Slice it the long way, scoop out the seeds, cover it with red sauce—I use plenty of Italian seasoning and a dollop of pesto in mine—and layer some cheeses on top. Mozzarella and parmesan work wonderfully. For a change of pace, add some Kalamata olives and feta. Use a baking dish or sheet pan to catch the drippings and bake until tender.

12. Grilled. Slice it the long way and brush it with olive oil and lay the slices right on the grate for a quick sear, or cut it up and in chunks and add to a grill basket of anything from cherry tomatoes to snow peas to eggplant to broccoli. If you’ve got it, grill it!

Image source: Wikimedia

Image source: Wikimedia

13. Bread. Everyone loves the rich texture and spicy aroma of fresh-baked zucchini bread. While you are at it, bake a few extra loaves for the freezer to enjoy warmed up with a little whipped cream topping on a cold winter night. But wait! Grated zucchini can be used in yeast bread recipes, as well. Just add it in anytime during the mixing process, and it bakes up beautifully.

14. Muffins. As with bread, grated zucchini turns out a delightful muffin, as well. Here are a few hints about muffins: you can usually substitute grated zucchini for carrots in a muffin recipe. Not only that, but muffin and quick bread recipes are often interchangeable. To convert a muffin recipe to bread, bake it at a lower temperature for a longer time.

15. Cookies. In a season of desperate overabundance of squash several years ago, I did an online search and found several excellent zucchini cookie recipes.

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They are so good even picky eaters gobble them up! I use zucchini because that is what I best like to grow, but other kinds of summer squash would also work great. Like other baked sweets, cookies can be tucked into the freezer for later.

16. Cake. Zucchini and yellow squash are perfect grated into cakes. Don’t have a recipe? Just use a carrot cake recipe. You can tweak the spices a little by adding cinnamon, but you do not have to. Or, for a drop-dead divine treat, try a chocolate zucchini cake. The richness swallows up the texture and flavor of squash, leaving just pure chocolate heaven.

17. Mock apples. Yes, you read that right. If all else fails and your best intentions to pick them small do not happen and you are left with a collection of big old squashes, it is still not too late. Peel and core and slice up in the size of apple slices, add the sugars and spices and thickeners you would use for apple dessert, bake it in a crisp or a crust, and see what happens.

18. Preserving. You will want plenty of summer squash on hand to enjoy year-round. Small summer squashes make great pickles, can easily dehydrate into yummy chips, and are a snap to blanch and freeze for later use.

Once you try these ideas for using up summer squash and zucchinis, you will never have too many. So go ahead, plant all the squash you want. And don’t worry about people avoiding you during squash season—just share a few of your yummy results with them, and they’ll be lining up for your bounty.

What squash tips would you add? What creative recipes do you use? Share your tips in the section below:

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

5 Uses For Chickens In the Garden

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5 Uses For Chickens In the Garden If you are looking for a devoted helper in your backyard garden, the humble chicken would like to apply for the job. We all know that there is no egg fresher than that which was laid by one of your own chickens. However, the benefits of welcoming a few …

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10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

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10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

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It’s August, and the window of opportunity has passed for planting tomatoes, peppers and most types of beans. However, if you have an empty space in your garden and you’re itchin’ to fill it, there are several veggies that will do just fine.

Your growing zone does matter, however, and you face a challenge if winter comes early in your area. Read seed packets carefully to determine if you can harvest a crop before Jack Frost makes his first appearance.

Look for quick-maturing varieties with shorter growing seasons. The cultivar name will often give you a clue, and may include words such as “early” or “winter.”

1. Cucumbers have plenty of time to produce an abundance of fruit when planted in August. Look for fast-growing varieties, either bushes or vines.

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2. Kale is a cool weather crop that can be planted now for harvest in fall and winter.

3. Lettuce planted in early- to mid-August provides a delicious fall crop. In late August, plant varieties such as “winter gem” or “arctic king” for harvest in late autumn or early winter. Plant lettuce in a shady location if days are still hot. Mulch plants or protect them with a row cover in the event of cold snaps.

4. Spinach is ready to harvest in about 45 days, but you often can enjoy tender, flavor-rich, baby leaves in less time than that. Harvest the leaves at the base of the plant and the smaller leaves will continue to grow. You can enjoy spinach this way for several weeks, or until the plants are nipped by frost. Although spinach prefers cool temperatures and light shade, it will tolerate sun when daytime temps are cooler.

5. Baby arugula is ready to eat in 21 to 40 days. Toss the tender leaves in salad, sprinkle them lightly with vinaigrette and grated parmesan, or chop a few for your favorite pizza. The flavor is more mild and delicate than mature, full-size arugula.

10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

Radishes. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Radishes are good eating in about a month, and some types are ready to harvest as soon as three weeks. Look for standard spring radishes like “cherry bomb” or “crimson Giant,” or try winter radishes such as “black Spanish,” or “winter China rose” for a very different flavor experience. You can always add the tiny radish greens to salads.

7. Endive is a frilly salad essential that loves cool weather. Most varieties need at least 45 days, and some may require a couple of months, so check those seed packets.

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8. Beets love cool weather and tend to do well when planted six to eight weeks before the first average frost date in your area. If you’re short on time and cold weather comes early, harvest the beets when they’re as small as an inch in diameter. Keep in mind you can always harvest beet greens even sooner. For a change of pace, try a beet with maroon or blood red leaves, such as “bull’s blood.” The leaves are tender and juicy, and the color adds real zing to your salads.

9. Collards generally take 60 days to gain maturity, but the tender baby greens are ready much sooner. Similarly, mustard greens are ready for salads in about 45 days or less.

10. Turnips may sound like an unlikely success story for August planting, but varieties such as “Tokyo cross” and “market express” are big enough to eat in just 35 to 38 days. If frosty weather looms, grab a few of the tender greens. Turnips may be bitter and less than perfect in hot weather, but cooler temperatures mean sweet, mild turnips.

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

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

Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

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Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

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One of the first things people notice about garlic is that it marches to its own tune. During autumn when the rest of the garden is being put to bed, garlic is ready for planting. And while other crops are just beginning to stretch their spring legs, garlic plants shoot into the air with surprising vigor—and then a twist!

Summer garlic looks a little crazy. A single stalk on each plant, about the diameter of a pencil with an arrow-shaped false flower on the end, curls around until it forms nearly a complete circle, looking as if nature were a calligrapher practicing her letter “Ps.”

These curls are called scapes. They develop on the garlic type known as “stiffneck” or “hardneck,” which is frequently grown in northern climates—as opposed to the “softneck” varieties usually sold in grocery stores and more suitable for southern climates—about a month into the growing season. The emergence of garlic scapes presents the gardener with a dilemma which must be addressed: What should be done about them?

Many experienced gardeners say the scapes should be snipped. Conventional wisdom instructs that removing the scapes redirects the plant’s energy to the bulbs, thereby resulting in larger bulbs and a greater yield. Some growers even maintain that removing the scapes affects the longevity of the bulb, allowing it to be stored longer than those which grew with scapes intact.

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To remove the scape, just snap it off with your fingers just below the first bend. Scissors can be used, as well. Scapes can be snipped as soon as the stalk begins to curl, or as late as after it has formed a full circle, but the general rule of thumb is that earlier is better.

One of the reasons that it is a good idea to do scape-snipping earlier is for reasons of palatability. Like most vegetables, they start out tender and grow more tough and woody as time passes.

Another question which must be answered about garlic scapes is that of what to do with them once they are snipped. They can easily be composted or fed to livestock—although it may be wise to avoid giving them to milk-producing animals and running the risk of ending up with garlic-flavored milk—but scapes are becoming increasingly popular as human food.

Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

Image source: Pixabay.com

Garlic scapes can be used in just about any recipe suitable for regular garlic. Soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, skillet dinners and casseroles are all great candidates. They can be thinly sliced or chopped and added to pasta or mashed potato or eggs. The flavor of scapes is generally a little milder than bulbs, especially if they are young and tender, and can even be left whole and eaten as a vegetable. Pan-fried in olive oil, braised or roasted, stand-alone or mixed into other ingredients—the sky is the limit for garlic scapes! If you get them early, you can use them more like chives or scallions, and later on they can be minced.

One very popular method of using garlic scapes is using them to make pesto. Most recipes I have found look similar to pestos made of basil or other herbs. To try making garlic scape pesto, try starting with your favorite recipe and tweak it with scapes, or do an Internet search for more tried-and-true recipes.

They can also be frozen for use later. Although the fresh texture will not hold enough to be enjoyed raw when thawed, scapes that are sliced or minced before freezing will still be a great addition to cooked foods and an easy shortcut when limited time does not allow peeling and mincing a bulb.

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But what if you do not clip them at all? Around my place, summer zooms by fast. Even though there is a fairly wide window of time when the scapes can be snipped off in time to possibly affect the bulb, sometimes it can slide past and slam shut before I know it.

The good news is that for home gardening purposes, it probably will not make a lot of difference. There could even be a few advantages to purposely leaving them on. In addition to saving time and energy, leaving garlic scapes on is aesthetically pleasing. Many people appreciate the art and beauty of gardening as well as the practicality, and enjoying the gracefulness of garlic scapes can be worth the sacrifice of a few ounces of garlic bulbs.

Garlic scapes provide a natural chronometer, as well. When the curls straighten, it is time to harvest the bulbs.

Fortunately, there is no wrong answer for backyard garlic growers. The balancing of larger yields and busy season tasks and summer beauty means there is always a win. It is probably important for market gardeners to use no-nonsense methods to maximize income, such as selling cut garlic scapes in spring and harvesting larger bulbs in summer. But the rest of us have the luxury of being a little more laid-back with our garlic scape decisions. And after all, that is part of the beauty of raising our own food.

Do you cut scapes, or leave them? Share your advice in the section below:

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

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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If you live in a city or geographical region where water is scarce or expensive, you probably already do your best to use it wisely.

There is plenty of water where I live. Freshwater lakes and streams abound, and we generally get all the rain and snow we need.

We did have one particularly dry summer about five years ago which really made the gardeners in my area begin to worry about crops. Good wells that rarely run dry were beginning to turn out water with an off color and odor, and nobody dared to use what limited water might be left on gardens. People began to consider creative alternatives. One of my neighbors used a small gas-powered pump to fill barrels of water at the nearby lake and haul it home in his pickup truck. Others scooped up water out of the river by hand, using five-gallon buckets and pouring it over into larger containers. Some folks set up rainwater collection barrels, but rain didn’t come.

I made it through that season unscathed, as did most of my neighbors, but it changed my way of thinking about the abundance of water. The very next spring, I leapt at the opportunity to purchase a large food grade IBC tote, and used a flexible plastic hose to hook it up to the house gutter and collect roof runoff for garden water.

I have changed other practices with respect to water, as well. I try to collect, use and conserve water as if it is the most precious resource on the planet.

During seasons of adequate precipitation, like most are in my area, it can be difficult to be proactive about saving water. Wasteful habits are so ingrained in most of us today that conservation needs to be an intentional act.

But Why?

Why should I worry about it at all?

Water is a finite commodity. While it’s true there is roughly the same amount of water on the planet as there has always been—what little amount of water vapor that escapes into space every year notwithstanding—the quality of the water remaining may not be the same. Fresh water becomes salinized when glaciers melt into the oceans, and water can become irredeemably contaminated when exposed to fracking or pollutants.

While the supply of arable water dwindles, the demands upon it are increasing exponentially. Not only are there more humans in need of water today than ever before, but the amount of water used by people in developed countries exceeds that of our predecessors. We shower more, wash our cars more, change our clothes more, and consume manufactured products which entail excess water during production.

The bottom line is this: Sooner or later, most people are going to have to conserve water. Homesteads relocate, and conditions change and needs fluctuate. If not on a wide scale or long term, then at least for a season or two.

The time to develop good water-saving habits is now, before it becomes imperative. If you are on “city water,” there’s a great bonus: You will save money!

Easy Ways to Do it

As with any habit, it is easier to cling to old ones than develop new. Here are suggestions of painless ways to start conserving water ahead of time in your home, lawn and garden, and farmyard.

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There are a lot of changes that can be made in the house, and none of them are drastic measures. But doing simple things now might help mitigate the chances of dramatic changes later.

For example, it is wise to limit time in baths and showers—take them to get clean and only as needed, rather than as a routine. Wash full loads in the clothes washer and dishwasher. Run water from the faucets only as needed; shut it off while brushing teeth, between dish rinsing, and other times during which you are not actively using it. And when cleaning house, wash only that which is dirty and needs cleaning—clean clothes can be hung back up, and try spot-cleaning first on rugs and furniture.

Little things like emptying the dog dish into a house plant instead of down the drain before refilling, or pouring the teakettle water into the humidifier, can add up to make real differences in consumption.

The bottom line here is to use water intentionally. Before you open a faucet, ask yourself if doing so is the best option.

There are things you can do outdoors, as well.

If you find you are having to water your lawn a lot to keep it green, consider a smaller lawn. It may be that your particular region’s rainfall amount does not support the idea of a massive expanse of lawn. A smaller, lush lawn for playing and relaxing might be just enough, and the rest could be converted to native wildflowers or shade trees.

Drought-tolerate vegetable choices make more sense in arid areas than do water-hungry plants like lettuces, celery and fruits. For these types of vegetables, consider keeping their numbers to a minimum so that they can be well-watered and worth your time and space to grow.

Use other practices to minimize garden water use, as well. Mulches of any kind—grass clippings, garden waste, cardboard or plastic—help retain groundwater. Techniques such as hugelkultur are water-savers as well. In addition, soaker hoses are generally better options than hand-watering.

Washing cars at home is often not as good an idea as using a commercial car wash. Recycled water and higher pressure sprayers can reduce water volume while maintaining effectiveness. If feasible where you live, try collecting rainwater. Just a few inches of rain runoff from the roof of an ordinary size house can fill two or three 50-gallon barrels. My 325-gallon IBC tote fills up in as few as two good rainstorms and is easy to use for garden watering.

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By using only what is needed in the yard and avoiding waste now, it will be easy to adopt water-saving practices if necessary in the future.

Farmyard water conservation is also important.

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

Image source: Pixabay.com

Change animals’ water only as needed. And when you do dump buckets, use them for dual duty when possible. Pour them onto vegetable beds or over top of something that needs to be rinsed—like calf milk pails or soiled walkways and fences—instead of into a patch of weeds or mud.

Adequate shade for animals can help reduce their water consumption, and placing waterers in areas where they will get soiled and spilled less often can reduce the frequency of changing them out.

Certain animals love to waste water, and pigs are some of the worst offenders. One way to work around that is to teach free-range swine to drink out of a spicket attachment—pigs are smart enough to learn quickly that biting down will yield them a drink.

By conserving water before it is truly necessary, we can do two things. First, we can help avoid water overuse that can contribute to its eventual scarcity.  And second, when the time comes to take conservation seriously, it will already be second nature. Although many in our culture are unaccustomed to being careful about water use, it is a good practice to begin using less as soon as possible and be ready for whatever happens.

What water-saving tips would you add? Share your advice in the section below:

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3 Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Grown Vertically (Yep, We Were Surprised, Too)

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3 Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Grown Vertically (Yep, We Were Surprised, Too)

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Jack may have followed a beanstalk up into the clouds, but beans aren’t the only vegetables that love an excuse to reach heavenwards.

Vertical gardening offers a number of benefits compared to traditional gardening, and is a technique which lends itself well to a surprising number of common plants. This sort of approach is especially helpful when space is at a premium, allowing even a compact section of soil to nurture multiple large plants supported by a trellis or other structure.

Not only does vertical gardening save space, but it also tends to produce healthier plants. The increased air circulation helps reduce problems with pests and diseases, and, because vertical plants are generally easier to access for the gardener, the arrangement tends to result in better watering and fertilizing.

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Let’s take a look at three plants you might be surprised can be grown vertically.

1. Squash

Squash are notorious space hogs, but by sending them skyward they’ll be less likely to overwhelm your garden.  For best results, seek out smaller varieties, like zucchini, pie pumpkins, or acorn squash, that will be easier to shore up. Note, though, that because of their weight, even relatively small squash will require sturdy supports, so consider constructing a trellis with a metal frame to prevent mid-season tragedy.

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2. Cucumbers

While many people are accustomed to seeing bush cucumber plants, several varieties (especially heirloom varieties) are available that embrace the vertical lifestyle and can grow upwards of five feet high if carefully supported. This distance from the dirt is especially helpful in preventing fungal infections and other diseases from overwhelming cucumber plants.

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3. Melons

Like squash, small melons can readily be trained to climb trellises rather than sprawl across the garden. To prevent damaging tender vines, avoid using string to attach the plant to the structure. Instead, consider using surveyor’s tape, strips of fabric, or even pieces of nylon to coax the growing plant along. Once the fruit starts to weigh more than a pound or two, create a sling for it (mesh vegetable bags or cut up nylons work great) to shift the weight of it to the support structure rather than having it pulling entirely on the vine.

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Some gardeners grow these three vegetables near a fence, which can provide even more support.

Vertical gardening is a great way to increase both the yield and the appearance of vegetable plants grown at home. Consider incorporating the different plants listed above in your next garden plan and discover that, when it comes to growing food at home, the sky really is the limit.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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Creating a homestead that is self-sufficient is challenging enough — and one of the most challenging aspects is trying to grow enough food to sustain both humans and livestock each year.

As difficult as that may seem, it is possible with careful planning and a bit of creativity. Choosing what you grow for your family and livestock will make a big impact, especially for those with fewer acres with which to work.

What to raise for livestock fodder may seem like an easy question to answer. We all know that grains and grasses are primary sources for most commercial feeds and many homesteaders, but there are many other choices available if you plan on growing your own feed. One such alternative crop is the mangel beet.

Mangel beets, known as forage beets or mangel-wurzel beets, were a staple crop on many homesteads until the advent of modern day farming equipment and the rise of big agriculture. Their use is recorded in writings dating back to the 1400s, and many modern homesteaders are reviving the popularity of this type of beet.

Mangel beets, also known as fodder beets, contain a wide variety of nutrients in both the root and the greens. The root of the red mammoth mangel beet and the giant yellow eckendorf beet will grow to an average of 15 to 20 pounds apiece, thus providing a sizable amount of feed — up to 50 tons per acre. The greens also can be used as feed, adding even more value to this beet as a crop for sustainable homesteads.

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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These beets prefer neutral soil and are capable of thriving in less-than-ideal soil conditions. Full sun, however, is a necessity. Sow seeds directly into the prepared soil one month before the final frost date for early harvest, 10 to 12 weeks before the fall frost date for a late harvest. Seeds should be placed two inches apart and seedlings must be thinned out early. Rows should be spaced no less than 12 inches apart. A moderate amount of rainfall or irrigation is necessary for optimal growth to facilitate this, and a light covering of mulch may be necessary to retain moisture in drier climates.

The greens can be harvested at any time. Plucking a few leaves from each plant will not stress the root and will allow you or your livestock to enjoy nutrient-rich greens for many weeks. Carefully monitored and controlled grazing may be acceptable in the last few weeks before harvest.

The roots can be harvested anywhere from 70 to 100 days after planting. It is important to protect the roots from drying out. In warmer climates, the beets may be stored in the field and dug up as needed. In colder climates, store mangel beets in a root cellar or other cool, dry area. Farmers, in days gone by, would dig a pit to bury the beets in, near their livestock. Lining the pit with straw, the farmers would add alternate layers of beets and straw, finally covering the pit with a wood lid to limit the loss of fodder to rot or mold. In Europe, it was common to create what is known as a clamp, a protected pile of mangel-wurzel beets above ground.

Traditionally, mangel beets are not used as livestock fodder until January. During the time between harvest and January, certain components begin to break down in the root, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive issues in your livestock.

To supplement your poultry feed and provide a pecking distraction, simply hang a beetroot in the coop. Greens can be fed to the poultry, as well. For other livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs and goats, beets are best sliced or cut into chunks before adding them in the daily ration of feed.

Have you ever grown mangel beets? Share your advice on them in the section below:

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

8 ‘Magical’ Vegetables You Can Regrow From Scraps (With A Little Help)

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8 ‘Magical’ Vegetables You Can Regrow From Scraps (With A Little Help)

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Vegetables typically get one go-round in the kitchen, and then we toss the carrot tops, sprouted garlic or celery bottoms in the compost bin or garbage can without giving it a second thought. Who would imagine that many kitchen scraps actually have the potential to regrow into usable vegetables?

Most vegetables won’t regrow indefinitely, and they probably won’t grow enough to feed your family for very long. However, re-growing vegetables can save you money and in the meantime, many are attractive, decorative plants that bring a bit of the outdoors into your kitchen. If you’re looking for fun gardening projects to inspire kids, this one is sure to be a hit.

Try these vegetables:

1. Celery, bok choy and romaine lettuce – Slice the bottom from the bunch and put it in a bowl of warm water with the cut side facing up and just the root end submerged. Watch for leaves to emerge from the center as the outer section gradually turns yellow and deteriorates. Once the celery bottom has several healthy leaves, plant it in a container filled with potting mix, with only the leaf tips showing above the soil.

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2. Avocado – This is an old trick that kids love. Unfortunately, the plant isn’t likely to bear fruit unless you’re patient and willing to wait a dozen years or so. In the meantime, enjoy the lush, green plant.

To grow an avocado plant, just use toothpicks to suspend a cleaned seed, wide end facing down, over a glass of water so only the bottom half of the seed is submerged. Place the glass in a warm spot where the avocado is exposed to indirect sunlight. Check the water every day and add more as needed.

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Once the stem grows to about 6 inches, cut it down to about 3 inches. When you notice new leaves, plant the avocado in potting mix with about half the seed above the surface of the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

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3. Potatoes – Cut potato peels into 2-inch chunks, each with at least two eyes. Set the chunks on the countertop to dry for a day or two, and then plant them in a large, deep container with the eyes facing up. Cover the potato chunks with 4 inches of soil, and then as the plant grows, add an extra 4 inches of soil. The new, tender potatoes will be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

4. Onions – Slice the root end from the onion, along with about a half-inch of the onion. Plant the onion in potting mix, root side down, and water as needed to keep the soil moist. The onion should be ready to harvest in several weeks. At that time, cut off the root end and grow yet another onion.

5. Ginger root – Plant a small chunk of ginger root in potting mix, with the buds facing up. Water as needed to keep the soil moist, and then harvest the entire plant, roots and all, in a few months. Grow ginger root indefinitely by saving a small chunk from the new root.

6. Garlic – If you’ve left a garlic clove a little too long and it’s sprouted, don’t throw it away. Just plant the clove in a pot with the root end facing down. When the clove is well-established and displays new growth, trim the shoots so that energy is concentrated on the clove. You can grow garlic this way indefinitely; just start a new garlic clove from the newly grown bulb.

7. Carrots – Unfortunately, you can’t grow new carrots with carrot tops, but you can use the lacy tops as an attractive garnish. Put the carrot tops in a tray or dish with a little water, cut sides down, and place the dish in bright sunlight. Check the carrot tops daily and replenish the water as needed. Snip off small amounts as often as needed.

8. Cilantro – It’s easy to start this pungent culinary herb by placing a few stems in a jar of water. When the stems root, plant them in a pot. The new plant will be ready to use in a few months.

What advice would you add? What vegetables would you have placed on our list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

The 3 Best Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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The 3 Best Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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Have you been preparing your soil for growing vegetables and other crops in your garden, only to see it washed away in storms? The valuable time and energy you spend – and the compost and manure you are layering into your garden beds — should be protected from rain and wind. What are the best ways to stop soil erosion from taking its cut of your land?

First, discover where the erosion is coming from. If the plot is in an exposed area, wind may be to blame. Check the soil for telltale signs that it is blowing in the direction of the prevailing wind. If you see evidence of this, such as dust blowing in the wind, or trails of soil leading away from the bed and perhaps even drifting against something nearby, you should combat the soil erosion by blocking the wind. In the short term, a fence or wall can keep the wind from plucking away at your soil; over the long term, it makes a lot of sense to reduce the overall wind on your property by growing trees to act as a windbreak. Small plantings near your garden can also be beneficial for blocking the wind at ground level.

The flow of water is often the culprit, especially on slopes. Water erosion can happen very quickly; a single rainstorm can wash away an entire bed. Signs of erosion caused by water could be trails left as water streamed through the soil, carrying it away, and piles of soil left in lower areas of your property, carried there by the flow.

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Each property has its own characteristics, and you will have to assess the source of problems like soil erosion thoroughly to ensure you’re not putting a Band-Aid on a large wound. However, minor soil erosion can be stopped quite easily, protecting your garden. Try one or more of these techniques to keep your soil in place:

1. Mulching

A mulch is a layer of plant material spread across the soil to help it retain moisture, protect it from weeds, and to combat erosion. It is one of the most effective techniques to preserve your soil from the onslaught of both wind and rain. Mulch can be composed of plant material, wood chips, straw, grass clippings or any other spare plant material generated by the homestead. You can spread it across an area of soil before planting, as well as heap it around existing plantings to protect their base and the surrounding topsoil. The mulch acts as a buffer between the earth and the elements.

3 Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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If a plot will not be used for a season, consider planting a cover crop to act as living mulch. In addition to protecting the soil, the right cover crops can improve the soil nutrients. For winter coverage, try oats, barley or rye in the fall; the dying grains will protect the soil through the fallow season. In summer, buckwheat, clover and wildflowers can attract pollinators while protecting the soil.

2. Edging

Areas that are being affected by water runoff can often be resolved with blocking the flow of water in and out of the bed. Build a retaining wall around small beds and larger plants. Usually, you will place the retaining wall a few inches into the ground and a few inches above it. They will shield your garden from surface water and keep rainwater in the bed.

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On a slope, terracing will keep the soil from running downslope during storms. Ensure you measure the contour of the slope before building the terraces, so you will be able to prevent terraces from losing soil to one another.

3. Controlling the water

If rain runoff or other flowing water is affecting your property, consider diverting the flow. There are a few techniques to consider that will stop the water before it reaches your soil beds. One of these is rain barrels: Catch water in barrels placed upslope for later use in the garden. You could also create a rain garden upslope from your main plot by planting across the flow of runoff; the plantings will absorb and divert water. For a more involved version of the same idea, you can build a berm (or small hill) covered with plantings in the path of the water, using the raised area to shield your soil beds. Lastly, consider controlling the flow of water with a swale running downslope or buried rocks or gravel channeling water away from your garden.

No matter what methods you use, the work will not be wasted. Your soil is a valuable commodity, and your effort will ensure the viability of your garden.

How have you stopped erosion? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

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Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

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The cultivation of potatoes originated in South America, where the Incas of Peru grew them for food some 10,000 years ago.

The original potato, though, bore little resemblance to today’s enormous, oblong, white-fleshed tuber. Instead, they were round, smaller than a golf ball, and dark blue in color.

When the Conquistadors conquered the Andes region of South America in the 16th century, they brought potatoes back to Europe. Basques in northern Spain immediately began growing them, and over the next 50 years cultivation spread throughout Europe. Potatoes were filled with vitamins and easy to grow, and many Europeans began growing them instead of the traditional crops of wheat and oats.

Today, the potato is the world’s fourth most grown crop, trailing only rice, wheat and corn. But potatoes are not restricted to large-scale farming — they are also an ideal crop for your garden because they are easy to grow, provide many calories per acre, and are adaptable to a variety of climates.

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But to maximize success, you should choose the right potato for your needs and growing conditions.

Cooking

Although there are potatoes for general use, different cultivars generally are better for a specific type of cooking. Some are good for boiling and mashing, others are good for baking, and still others are best fried.

The color of the potato flesh can be a good indicator which cooking method is best. For example, red or pink potatoes are often lower in starch, and therefore lend themselves to boiling or steaming. Common cultivars include red LaSoda and red gold.

Russet potatoes and those with blue flesh have higher starch. This makes them a good choice for baking or mashing. Potatoes with a thin white skin make great French fries (with the skin left on).

Yellow-fleshed potatoes tend generally to have intermediate amounts of starch and are good for all uses. Common cultivars include Cal white, Yukon gold, and Yukon gem.

Storage

Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

Image source: Pixabay.com

For generations, Americans in cold areas have grown potatoes and stored them through much of the long winter. If your goal is to grow potatoes during a short summer season and then store the harvest in a cellar over the winter, then remember that not all potatoes store well. So look for cultivars that excel in long-term storage. Examples include Cal white, defender, red Gold and the russet varieties.

Heat Tolerance

Potatoes are a cool-weather crop, first proliferating in the high-altitude of the Andes and then excelling in the cool climates of Ireland and northern Europe. However, over time, much hard work and research has resulted in a few cultivars that can be successfully grown in hot climates. These include bake king, defender, red LaSoda, Viking purple and yellow Finn.

Maturity

Potatoes vary greatly in the time it takes to grow to maturity, from early to medium to late to extra-late. Based on your climate and needs, select the right maturity time. For example, on my homestead I grow an early cultivar and an extra-late cultivar.

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I consume the small, poor storage, early maturing potatoes during the late summer and early fall. I harvest the late cultivars and use and store them over most of the winter.

Caging

Many potatoes can be grown vertically in containers or boxes. The potato seeds are planted about three inches deep. Then, when the plants emerge to a height of several inches, they are buried halfway with soil. After several more inches of growth, the plants are buried halfway again. This continues until the original potato seed is two or three feet deep, allowing potatoes to grow in all the additional soil.

However, caging works better with some cultivars than others. It works well for Butterfinger, defender, purple Peruvian and many others. Caging does not work well with some popular cultivars like bake king, French fingerling or Yukon gold. So if you plan on growing potatoes vertically, choose a cultivar amenable to this growing method.

Final thoughts

Potatoes are a mainstay on the homestead, and can be grown in most parts of the United States. However, based on your cooking methods, storage conditions and other factors, make sure and select the cultivars that best suit your needs and that will be successful in your garden.

What potato-growing advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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While long rows of evenly spaced plants may appeal to a classic sense of what gardening is “supposed to look like,” it isn’t the only way to go … or grow. Row-less gardening offers a number of advantages, especially for small-scale gardeners.

Row-less gardening is a general term for any garden arrangement that doesn’t follow the traditional pattern of planting in continuous lines. While row gardening is great for large farming operations that have lots of land and use heavy equipment to care for it, it isn’t necessarily the best solution for home gardens.

There are several alternatives to row gardening, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of these options include:

  • Biointensive gardening. Companion plants are grown together, typically in a tight hexagonal pattern after the soil has been double-dug and well-composted, for a remarkably plant-dense gardening space.
  • Square foot gardening. Raised beds no larger than 4-feet across are divided into individual square-foot sections, each home to a different kind of crop. One square foot might be home to a single tomato plant right next door to another square foot filled with four lettuce plants.
  • Container gardening. Vegetables and other crops are planted in movable containers, making it an ideal solution for apartment dwellers or others who appreciate the convenience and beauty of patio gardens.

No matter which row-less approach you take, deciding not to “tow the line” when it comes to your garden offers a number of benefits.

1. Provides better use of space.

Row gardening leaves lots of room equipment to maneuver through acres of crops, which also means it leaves lots of potential growing areas unused. Especially if you’re strapped for space, switching to a row-less format is an easy way to get more out of the ground by planting things closer together and by avoiding all the empty space between rows.

2. Avoids compaction.

Plants love loose soil. When the ground is light and friable, water is able to move through it freely, transporting nutrients and preventing the roots from becoming waterlogged. Loose soil also allows atmospheric gases to flow back and forth to the roots and is generally easier for new roots to maneuver through. With row gardening, we walk often on large stretches of ground — the area between the rows.

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This continual compression of the ground leads to compacted soil, which is difficult to grow in, which is especially problematic as the row sizes and spacing change each year.

3. Allows complete control over the soil.

The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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Not only does row-less gardening avoid soil compaction, but – depending on which method you choose — it can give you greater control of the soil. Rather than settling for whatever kind of soil is endemic to your backyard, by using raised beds, containers or double-digging, you’re in a position to completely customize the kind of soil your plants encounter. Great soil means great harvests.

4. Wastes less water.

Growing plants in denser configurations makes it easier to deliver necessary moisture and nutrients directly to them without a lot of waste. Unless careful consideration is given to drip irrigation or other custom solutions, row gardening is notoriously inefficient when it comes to water consumption, wasting gallons on the empty spaces between the crops.

5. Is simply beautiful.

While gardening is fundamentally about providing food, it also can be an incredibly satisfying and even artistic endeavor. Freeing yourself from the assumption that gardens are supposed to be planted in rows will allow you to create a garden that perfectly matches your aesthetic interests. With row-less gardening, there’s no reason not to have a square of sunflowers surrounded by readily-ripening tomatoes, or a container of cosmos next to a box of carrots. By letting go of strict rows, you’re in a position to design the type of garden that will maximize your enjoyment while minimizing wasted space.

Row-less gardening is an increasingly popular approach to backyard growing. Especially if you don’t have a lot of extra room to work with, pursuing a less-conventional layout can be a great way to get the garden you really want in a way that makes the best possible use of resources like water, soil and space.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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Drought is a serious concern for gardeners. As water supplies dwindle across much of the country, we are left wondering how long we can continue to provide a healthy supply of food for ourselves and our families during such difficult conditions.

You can still grow a garden, but the days of free-wheeling water use may be over. Gardening in drought conditions requires careful planning and wise water-usage strategies, such as the following:

1. Create healthy growing conditions. Add plenty of compost or other organic material. Healthy soil retains moisture longer and helps plants build deep roots. You also can use manure, but be sure it’s well composted. Add manure four months ahead of planting time, or wait until the season is over and use the rich stuff to improve soil quality for the coming year.

2. Mulch, mulch, and still more mulch. Gardening pros estimate that three to four inches of mulch can reduce watering requirements by half. A layer of mulch, such as chopped bark, dried leaves, straw or pine needles, keeps the soil moist and helps keeps weeds in check. You can also use dry grass clippings applied in thin layers, but never use grass clippings in your vegetable garden if your lawn has been treated with herbicides or pesticides during the last month.

3. Plant a cover crop in fall. “Green manure” such as alfalfa, vetch or clover improves water retention, adds nutrients to the soil, prevents erosion and discourages weeds from coming through. Till the dead plant material into the soil in early spring. (Be sure to mow if the cover crops flower before they are killed by frost; otherwise you’ll be faced with a weedy challenge in a few short months.)

4. Plant vegetables close together to prevent evaporation. By planting closely, you can also take advantage of companion planting to enhance growth and control pests.

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Similarly, plant in blocks instead of rows, with plants grouped according to their water requirements. Some plants are relatively drought-tolerant, while others, including all the cruciferous vegetables, tend to be notorious water hogs.

5. Go easy on the fertilizer. While fertilized plants are lush and green, they require considerably more water. Additionally, fertilizing in drought conditions always presents a risk of burning the roots.

6. Weed your vegetable garden regularly. Pull or hoe when the plants are small. Weeds are greedy plants that draw water and nutrients from your vegetables.

11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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7. Plant your garden in a sheltered area so winds can’t dry the soil as quickly. Take advantage of a spot next to a building, fence or adjacent to tall plants. For example, sunflowers serve as attractive natural windbreaks, and once established, require very little water.

8. Consider a smaller garden. Plant only what you can use.

9. Create a no-till garden and avoid cultivating the soil whenever possible, as tilling breaks down soil structure, disturbs beneficial microorganisms that process organic matter, and affects the soil’s capability to retain moisture for longer periods of time. (Read about alternatives here.)

10. Install a rain barrel to take advantage of any rainfall. Many gardeners also use a rain barrel to store “grey” water from household use.

11. Plant drought-tolerant vegetables. If you aren’t sure about the best choices, ask at a reputable greenhouse or call your local Cooperative Extension office. One tip: Consider heirloom plants originating from Mediterranean or desert climates, which tend to be naturally more drought-tolerant.

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Finally follow these tips for watering in drought conditions:

  • Water in the morning; moisture evaporates rapidly when temperatures are higher later in the day. A timer or automatic shut-off is a tremendous benefit if you work or need to be away from home for long periods of time.
  • Swap your inefficient hose and sprinkler for a drip irrigation system or a good quality soaker hose that places water exactly where it’s needed – at the roots. Place the hose under mulch if you’re concerned about the appearance.
  • If you aren’t sure how much water to provide, use a soil probe to determine how long it takes to soak the top six inches of soil. Another tip: A handful of soil should stick together when squeezed. If it crumbles, it’s time to water.
  • Avoid overwatering; most vegetable plants require less water once established. Others, such as relatively drought-tolerant plants such as melons, cucumbers and squash, require generous irrigation during fruiting, but only light watering otherwise.

What advice would you add for gardening in a drought? Share it in the section below:

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

8 Reasons Why You Should Pee in Your Garden

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8 Reasons Why You Should Pee in Your Garden If you can get over the ewwww factor, pee-cycling your own urine into the garden makes good sense. Fresh urine is high in nitrogen, moderate in phosphorus and low in potassium and can act as an excellent high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer or as a compost accelerator. Peeing is no …

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I’m Going On Vacation – Is My Garden Doomed?

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I’m Going On Vacation – Is My Garden Doomed?

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Summer is a time when backyard gardeners can enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it’s also a time when many of us enjoy going on vacation and seeing another part of the country or the world.

Unfortunately, gardening and vacationing are not the most compatible of activities. A garden requires care, and being away for a couple of weeks can mean coming back to a garden that is dried up, ravaged by pests or overrun with weeds.

Fortunately, having a healthy vegetable garden and taking some much deserved time off don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It does, however, require some planning ahead.

Plan and Care for Your Crops

If it’s early spring and you already know that you’ll be taking a two-week excursion in July, then you can plan your crops so that you won’t have too many vegetables maturing while you’re away. Although some plants do need to be planted in early spring, certain types of seeds, like carrots and beans, can be planted a little later. You can time them so that they’ll be maturing soon after you arrive back home.

Be sure to care for your crops and water them deeply early in the season. This will help a good, healthy root system get established, and you will have stronger plants that will be able to cope with less watering while you are away.

What About Watering?

Watering can be a challenge, especially if the summer happens to be a hot and dry one. Be sure to give your garden a good, deep watering before you go away, and use a mulch to help prevent evaporation. Consider placing long planks of wood between your vegetables after you water. This will help to ensure that the soil underneath them remains damp for as long as possible.

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It is not recommended that you use plastic, as you want your plants to be able to take advantage of any rainfall during your absence.

Watering devices also can help keep your plants hydrated. Local garden centers often sell beautiful glass globes that allow gradual watering, but a wine bottle works just as well if you’d rather save your money for your upcoming vacation! (Watch the video below.)

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A Little Support Goes a Long Way

Before you head off for your vacation, make sure that any plants that will need support are properly caged or staked. That little tomato plant may not look like much now, but you’d be amazed at how much it can shoot up in just a few weeks.

Early Harvest

If you have plants starting to bear fruit and vegetables before you go, it is advisable to do some early harvesting. Lighten the load of tomato and strawberry plants by picking early. Even if these are not fully ripe yet, it is better to let them ripen indoors (even in the fridge can work!) or give them to a friend or neighbor rather than leaving them outside to rot.

It is especially important to harvest plants like peas and zucchini – which if allowed to mature, will cause your plant to stop fruiting.

Greens such as lettuce are the most vulnerable when you’re away. You can try protecting these by setting up a shade barrier.

Garden With a Friend

Of course, the most ideal solution to caring for your garden while you are away is having a garden buddy. If you have a trusted friend or neighbor who is willing to help, consider yourself fortunate – but don’t assume their thumb is as green as yours. And don’t expect perfection.

Before you go away, take them on a tour of your garden and make sure they know what needs to be watered, and which plants are vegetables vs. weeds. Consider a bit of extra signage to help with their comfort level and be sure they know where to find things like gloves and hoses.

You should also let them know that they are welcome to any of the harvest that ripens while you are away. This will not only be a bonus for them, but it will help to keep your garden healthier, as well.

Finally, be sure to show your appreciation for their efforts. Consider bringing your garden buddy a small gift on your vacation and be ready to return the favor when the opportunity presents itself.

Bon Voyage!

Now that you have done everything you can to ensure that your garden is cared for, it is time to enjoy your vacation. While your vegetables may not get the same kind of attention that they would if you were home, they are not doomed.

You can go away knowing that your garden will still be there when you return.

What advice would you add for keeping a garden healthy while on vacation? Share it in the section below:

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

How To Use Pee In Your Garden

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How To Use Pee In Your Garden If you can get over the ewwww factor, pee-cycling your own urine into the garden makes good sense. Fresh urine is high in nitrogen, moderate in phosphorus and low in potassium and can act as an excellent high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer or as a compost accelerator. I have known that pee …

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10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

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10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Swiss chard. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Growing vegetables in containers is touted as something you do if you’re an urbanite without space for a “real” garden. People often turn to container gardening when back or knee pain make bending and digging too difficult, or when the soil is so poor that it’s incapable of supporting life.

How about growing vegetables in containers because it’s a rewarding, enjoyable activity? No excuse is required. More and more people are discovering that container gardening is a perfectly viable method for growing vegetable crops.

Container gardening is so popular these days that growers have created dwarf versions of even super-size plants (like watermelons).

In fact, some vegetables actually thrive in smaller accommodations.

1. Tomatoes are a little on the fussy side, and thus, they’re perfectly suited for containers. Growing tomatoes in containers makes it easier to monitor and control soil moisture, and it’s easy to move the plants to take advantage of warmth and sunlight. Cherry or grape varieties are ideal, but most types of tomatoes, including standard sizes, do well in pots measuring a minimum of 22 inches in diameter.

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2. Lettuce has shallow roots and tends to grow best in containers that are not too deep. A small container on a front step is handy for easy snipping, while a larger container can accommodate a seed mix for colorful, flavorful salads. Move the pot to a shady spot on sunny afternoons.

3. Spinach needs rich soil, easy to provide in containers filled with a lightweight, compost-based potting mix. Locate the container where it’s sunny during the day and cool at night, and then harvest the power-packed leaves as needed.

4. Swiss chard is a durable, heat-tolerant plant that grows like crazy in containers. Harvest when the leaves are young and tender for the best flavor.

5. Potatoes are easy to plant and even easier to dig in containers, and you may be surprised how many spuds you can harvest. Try smaller varieties like Yukon gold or red Pontiac.

10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Eggplant. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Eggplant is an attractive plant that thrives in containers, but you’ll probably have the best luck with compact varieties like Patio Baby, which produces plenty of mild-flavored, miniature fruit. Little Fingers, with clusters of three to six, long, narrow, deep purple eggplants, is yummy when harvested at finger-size.

7. Carrots do well in containers with a depth of at least 12 inches, or try short, round carrots for shallower pots. Thin the plants as they develop and enjoy the tender, finger-sized carrots. Varieties worth trying include Thumbelina or Short ‘N Sweet.

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8. Cucumbers don’t tolerate cold and should be planted in early summer in most climates. Dwarf plants with compact vines are best suited for containers, but you’ll still need a trellis to support the vines. Consider Arkansas Little Leaf, Spacemaster, Fanfare or Patio King, or try your hand at small “lemon” cucumbers.

9. Radishes, dwarf veggies by their very nature, are easy to grow in containers. Their speedy growth and colorful appearance makes them the perfect vegetable for young gardeners.

10. Summer squash is one of those vegetables that seem ill-suited for containers, but compact varieties like Spacemiser zucchini or Sunburst scalloped squash perform amazingly well in pots.

What vegetables would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

Why You Need to Add Parsley to Your Prepper Garden

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Why You Need to Add Parsley to Your Prepper Garden There are many herbs that fall under two categories: spice and medicinal. What may surprise many people, even preppers, is that adding parsley to your garden is another way to get both from one plant! This simple, unassuming plant is actually a quiet hero just …

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The post Why You Need to Add Parsley to Your Prepper Garden appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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If spring and early summer somehow slipped past without you getting all the vegetables planted that you wanted to, you are not alone. Life happens on its own schedule, and when one of the kids takes sick or the boss needs you to work overtime during planting season, it can interfere with your high hopes and well-laid plans.

But take heart—it is not too late. Depending on your growing zone and how many days you have left before frost, there are up to 11 vegetables you can still plant, from seed, and eat this season.

Where I live in Zone 4, we usually expect our first frost about the third week of September. That means I can plant all eleven of the following vegetable choices right up until late July.

If you have 60 or more days left of your growing season, you can plant the following:

1. Radishes. Almost all cultivars of radish can be grown in under 60 days. Most of them mature in half that time. Summer radishes are great plain, on salads, and braised in a buttery syrup. Even winter storage and daikon types are generally 60 days or less.

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2. Kale. This healthful favorite can be grown to full maturity in 60 to 75 days, depending on your conditions and the specific cultivar. From salads and stews to smoothies and sautes, nothing beats fresh-from-the-garden kale.

3. Peas. Mid-to-late summer is the perfect time to plant peas for a fall crop. They do not like high heat, and planting now will allow them to grow in relatively cool conditions. Most varieties are ready to harvest at between 50 and 60 days. Eaten in or out of the shell, peas are a wonderful addition to any meal.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Cucumbers. Many cucumber cultivars reach maturity from seed in 60 days or less. Cukes vary widely, from as few as 49 days to nearly 70. There is at least one cultivar in each type—pickling, slicing, beit-alpha, and Asian—with a short growing season. Plant now for that one last cucumber sandwich before the first fall frost!

5. Summer squashes. There is a delightful array of zucchini, yellow and patty pan squashes that can be grown in a very short time. Some cultivars reach harvestable size in an astonishing 40 days. The culinary delights of summer squashes are practically limitless!

6. Carrots. Many varieties of summer carrots reach maturity in under 60 days. Short and round, long and skinny, thick and blunt—there are some short season cultivars in every shape. Storage carrots can take a little longer, some up to 85 days, so be sure to read the packet or catalog information.

7. Beets. This amazingly diverse vegetable can produce delicious edible greens in just over a month, and can reach full maturity in well under 60 days. I thin early beets and use the tiny pulled seedlings on salads and wraps. Later, the larger greens are great cooked and topped with butter. Mature beets are excellent pickled, pan-fried, or in baked goods. Most beet cultivars are harvestable in under 60 days, including classic reds, striped Chioggia types, and mellow golds.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Swiss chard. This hardy vegetable is able to be harvested as tender baby greens in as little as four weeks after harvest and reaches full maturity in under 60 days. Beautiful and delicious, chard comes in a rainbow of colors from greens and yellows to reds and golds, packs a powerful nutritional punch, and will make you glad you planted it right now.

9. Non-heading broccoli. Sometimes called “broccolini,” this fast-growing brassica variety is ready for harvest in under 60 days. The entire plant—flowers, stalks, and even leaves—can be enjoyed raw, steamed or stir-fried.

10. Beans. Most bush beans meant for fresh eating, such as green beans, wax beans and haricot verts, are ready for harvest in 60 days or less. If planting pole beans instead, check the package—a few can be grown in a short season, but pole beans often require a medium-to-long season. Perfect for fresh eating, pickling, salads, steaming and roasting, easy-to-grow beans are an excellent last-minute choice for getting the most out of your backyard garden.

11. Greens. Almost all greens are mature in less than 60 days. Spinach, depending on the particular cultivar and growing conditions, is ready in as little as a month. Lettuces take a little longer. Asian greens such as Chinese cabbage, mizuna and mustard greens, and pac choy range from six to eight weeks to maturity. Collard greens take a little longer to fully mature, but as with any greens can be picked and eaten earlier if preferred, or if needed to beat an early frost.

An additional bonus with kale, spinach and a few other greens is that they will survive frosts, to some extent. They will not continue to grow afterwards, but will remain viable in the garden, making them able to be planted and harvested even later.

As you can see, there is still plenty of opportunity this season to grow a nice selection of tasty nutritious vegetables for fresh eating and preserving. It is time to dig out those seed packets and get ready for late-summer bounty.

What vegetables would you add to our list? Share your suggestions below:

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

The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should Know

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The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should Know

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Planning to add some raised beds to your homestead this year? Raised beds are excellent for those who need more compact gardens or those who have back or knee pain, as they eliminate the necessity of bending down to weed the rows.

Natural rock can be used to create raised beds. Think of the stone fences frequently seen throughout the countryside. Most of these barriers were constructed out of rocks gathered from the adjacent fields. Although you may not be able to gather enough rocks from your homestead alone, visiting with a local building contractor may allow you the opportunity to glean rocks from new construction sites for the amount needed for your project.

Of course, raised gardens also can be constructed out of lumber. Cedar is a popular choice, since it is resistant to wood rot and deters termites. Avoid using treated lumber of any kind. Treated lumber can harbor toxic chemicals that will leach into the soil, contaminating both the soil and plants grown in the affected soil. The same can be said for railroad ties and other scrap lumber of unknown origins.

In an effort to save time and money, many homesteaders have turned to using cinder blocks, new and reclaimed, to build raised beds on their property. Although cinder blocks are relatively easy to obtain, are simple to work with and last for years with very little maintenance, there are a few safety concerns that should be addressed.

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First, you must determine if you are working with true cinder blocks or cement blocks, as there is a difference in their composition. Cement blocks are made with Portland cement and aggregates. They are heavier and costlier on average, while cinder blocks are made with Portland cement and fly ash, a byproduct of the coal industry, and they are lighter in weight and most often cheaper to purchase.

The Toxic Truth About Cinder Blocks Every Homesteader Should KnowThe addition of fly ash to the Portland cement is the cause of concern. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal-burning electric plants. The ash is trapped and collected, then used as a partial substitute for Portland cement. While it is true that this process creates what is now considered a green building material, questions remain about how safe fly ash truly is. The coal itself contains many heavy metals and other substances known to be toxic. A considerable amount of these metals and substances remain in the ash and are subsequently found in the cinder blocks that are created from it.

Garden beds, framed with cinder block, may be fine for flowers and other nonedible plants, but be wary of using them to frame gardens that will be home to edible plants and medicinal herbs. There is the potential for toxic materials to leach from the cinder blocks into the soil. These materials have been known to affect cognitive ability, cause nervous disorders, contribute to increased cancer risks and have given rise to many general health complaints.

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There are some ways to safeguard yourself and your raised beds if you are concerned about the increased health risks from using cinder blocks.

1. Plant only in the actual garden space created by the cinder blocks. Do not plant edibles in the hollow chambers of the blocks. The roots of these plants are completely surrounded by the block and may absorb the higher amounts of toxic material leached into the soil from the fly ash.

2. If building a new bed, seal the blocks with a waterproof sealant on all surfaces. This may lessen the amount of leaching that occurs over time from watering and natural rainfall.

3. For a few seasons, grow cleansing plants, such as sunflowers. Some species of plants clean the soil by removing toxic materials from the soil, or at the very least neutralize them. At the end of the growing season it is best to destroy the plants. Adding the contaminated plant to the compost pile will only spread the toxic materials to a new location.

Do you garden with cinder blocks? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

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Aquaponics: The Secret To Growing More Food Than You Can Eat

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus

Each spring and summer, gardeners and homesteaders plan their gardens with the goal of growing the most vegetables possible.

But few of them consider aquaponics, a growing method that involves fish and allows gardeners to grow far more vegetables than they can grow in the ground – without dirt and mostly without weeds.

Aquaponics is the topic on this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio as we talk to off-gridder and blogger Zachary Bauer, who has one of the largest solar-powered aquaponics systems in America.

Bauer says aquaponics doesn’t have to be complicated and that anyone can do it – no matter the size of the homestead or plot of land.

Bauer also tells us:

  • What vegetables can (and cannot) be grown through aquaponics.
  • Why vegetables grow faster in aquaponics.
  • What types of fish work best in an aquaponics system.
  • How often the fish from such a system can be harvested.
  • What you need to get started.

Bauer gives us the pros and cons of aquaponics, and he tells us how he set his own system up – and how you can, too. Don’t miss this amazing show if you’re an homesteader or off-gridder looking to grow more food!

9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening

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9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening

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The traditional garden is a thing of beauty indeed — a well-tended patch of cultivated ground with neat, straight rows of lush, green vegetables. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that image, and many gardeners would have it no other way. In recent years, however, alternative techniques, such as square-foot or raised beds, have come to the forefront.

Container gardening is one alternative that has amassed a dedicated following of space-challenged gardeners. While lack of acreage for a traditional garden is one reason for the popularity of container gardening, it’s only scratching the surface when it comes to the many benefits of growing vegetables in pots:

1. No weeding necessary – Any gardener who has ever planted a traditional garden is familiar with the arduous labor involved in frequent weed pulling and hoeing under the hot summer sun. Vegetables in containers, on the other hand, are generally grown in sterile potting medium. It isn’t impossible that a stray weed may occasionally find its way to the container, but weeds are rare and easily dispatched.

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2. Easy on the back – If your back complains every time you grab a shovel or hoe, then give yourself a break; container gardening is easy on the back, (and the knees, too). While container gardening is helpful for folks with a few aches and pains, it’s often the answer for people who have had to give up the pleasure of gardening due to various physical limitations. Even a wheelchair-bound person can enjoy container gardening.

3. Decreased chance of disease – Container-grown vegetables certainly aren’t immune from disease, but plants in a well-drained container filled with lightweight potting mix tend to be less susceptible than those grown in the ground. Proper watering is a factor, as soggy soil may result in root rot, which is nearly always fatal.

4. Reign in aggressive plants – If you’re concerned that a plant is beautiful and useful but just too much of a pest to grow in the garden, then a container will control rambunctious growth. Mint and lemon balm are prime examples of lovely, aromatic herbs that will take over your entire landscape very quickly if they aren’t contained.

9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening5. Control the weather! (Sort of) – Moving containers from one spot to another allows you to take advantage of sunlight or shade, or to provide shelter in case of an unexpected cold snap, which in turn, means a longer growing season. Place a large container on a rolling platform to simplify relocation.

6. Fresh and convenient – Containers on a patio, deck or balcony are typically handy to the kitchen. Snip a few fresh herbs for dinner or harvest leafy lettuce or spinach and a juicy, ripe tomato for an unbelievably delicious salad. What could be better (or fresher)?

7. A no-till garden – Tilling isn’t only back-breaking work, but loosening the soil can unleash a monstrous amount of dormant weed seeds, meaning more back-breaking work throughout the season. Additionally, many gardening pros agree that cultivation actually disturbs important soil organisms, thus upsetting the natural balance of life in the garden.

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8. Containers are pretty – Containers may be as utilitarian as an old washtub or a row of terracotta pots, but for gardeners with a creative bent, pots are available in nearly every color under the rainbow. Look for containers made of wood, glazed ceramic, plastic or concrete, each with their own set of advantages and a few drawbacks, too. Have fun, but do your homework and consider your budget before investing in containers for your vegetable crop.

9. Vegetables are pretty, too – It’s all about practicality when it comes to growing vegetables in containers, but it’s a nice bonus that many vegetables are also highly decorative. Bright purple kale may be the queen of ornamental vegetables, but colorful veggies like chili peppers, bold rainbow chard, or bright purple eggplant add a real spark to the container garden. Don’t forget irresistible red tomatoes; frilly parsley or carrot plants; spiky, upright onions and chives; bright green basil; purple green beans on a trellis; or a cucumber vine draped gracefully over the side of the container.

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

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

VIDEO: It’s Been 44 Years Since He Watered This ‘Garden In A Bottle’ — And It’s STILL Growing

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Many gardeners enjoy trying to grow plants in a bottle, but it’s likely that no one has had the success that David Latimer of the United Kingdom has.

Latimer planted spiderworts in his 10-gallon glass bottle in 1960, and he last watered it in … 1972. In the 44 years since then, the plant, sealed in the bottle, has created its own ecosystem. Latimer does place it by a window, allowing it to get light.

“It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly,” he told the Daily Mail. “Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”

To learn more, watched the videos below:

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

7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors … No Matter Where You Live

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7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors ... No Matter Where You Live

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When skies hang low and gray, few things brighten an indoor corner quite like a citrus tree. Laden with camouflaged limes or unignorable lemons, modern dwarf varieties mean that growing citrus is no longer the exclusive purview of the fortunate few who make their homes in places like Florida.

Of course, while it’s possible to grow citrus almost anywhere assuming you have a warm, well-lit, place for it, coaxing indoor versions of these outdoor staples to thrive and fruit requires special attention. Here are some helpful tips for growing citrus in containers.

1. Opt for acidic

If your goal is to grow actual fruit, rather than simply a lovely flowering tree, then picking the right variety to start with will greatly improve your odds of success. For best results, stick with fruits that are decidedly acidic, such as improved Meyers lemons, kumquats, and ponderosa limes and avoid the sweeter citrus options like sweet oranges and grapefruits.

2. Pick the right pot

Even dwarf variety trees intended for growing in containers require a decent amount of room in order to thrive. Plants that are 2-3 years old will do OK in 12-inch diameter (5-gallon) pots. Four- to five-year-old plants will need something closer to a 24-inch diameter (15-gallon) pot.

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Although pots can be made of almost any material, note that plastic ones do tend to warm the roots more than other materials, potentially damaging them, while wood ones are more prone to rot.

3. Not all dirt is created equal

While at first glance soils may look similar, it’s important to give your new container-bound best friend a good place to put down roots by using quality potting soil. Potting soil is formulated to handle the increased demands of container plants, and it drains significantly better than even good caliber gardening soil.

When planting, keep the root crown just above the surface of the soil and the top of the leggy root mass just below the surface.

4. Keep dish soap around

7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors ... No Matter Where You Live

Image source: Pixabay.com

Few things are as important to your growing citrus tree as appropriate moisture. Make sure the bottom of the pot allows for good drainage, and then wait for the surface of the soil to dry out between watering. When watering, thoroughly soak the root ball.

Sometimes, you may notice that the water seems to go straight through the soil without actually soaking the root ball. This happens because, as it dries out, the root ball shrinks and pulls away from the edges of the container, allowing water to sneak through in the gaps. To remedy the situation, simply add a few drops of mild dish soap to the exposed root crowns before watering — it will help the water adhere enough to re-soak the root ball.

5. Fertilizer it, slow and steady

Citrus plants are strikingly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, especially when it comes to iron, manganese and zinc. These deficiencies will cause leaves to yellow and the plant to suffer.

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Potting increases the stress on citrus soils because the necessary amount of drainage can flush away soil nutrients even faster. To counteract these effects, select slow-release, chelated fertilizers to help keep your indoor citrus well-nourished.

6. Watch the lighting

Most homes are darker, warmer and drier (especially in the winter) when compared to a citrus tree’s natural surroundings. Keep your plant feeling right at home by upping the light levels and the humidity. Cool, well-lit spaces, like a partially heated sunroom, are especially well-suited for growing indoor citrus. Grow lights are another possible addition sure to be loved by lemons, limes and all their bright-flavored buddies.

7. Watch out for suckers!

Finally, keep an eye out for suckers. Most dwarf citrus varieties have been grafted onto borrowed root stock. Often, the root stock will try and send up growth of its own. Known as “suckers,” these little branches will steal away nutrients and energy from the rest of the tree and should be removed as soon as spotted. To preserve the health of the tree, carefully cut away any branches that appear below the graft scar, typically located just a few inches above the crown roots.

Few things taste better than fresh citrus, and a potted citrus tree is sure to add beauty and interest to any home. Use these tips to help get started growing container fruit that will make the grocer’s produce aisle jealous.

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

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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We live in troubled economic times. A raging debt, stagnant wages, severe unemployment and underemployment, and an unsteady housing market are all signs that the economy could collapse.

Many off-gridders and homesteaders are preparing and stockpiling for an unknown future, but one often-overlooked area is examining what grows in the garden. If society collapses, it may be necessary to change what we plant.

When considering the right vegetables to grow when planning for an economic or societal collapse, there are many factors to consider.

Long-Term Storage

An economic or societal collapse may disrupt the electric grid, or at the very least make power unaffordable. With the exception of those living completely off the grid with no need for fuel, many homesteads will have to turn to traditional storage methods for preserving vegetables. Therefore, vegetables that can be stored long-term in a cellar or cold room should be part of the garden. Even in the hotter climates in the United States, cellars can be dug underground.

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Good choices for long-term storage are potatoes, onions, carrots and similar root vegetables, as well as dry beans, dry corn and winter squash.

Appropriate to Your Climate

Americans love to grow a wonderful array of vegetables that are not native to their particular climates. For example, tomatoes are the favorite vegetable to grow, even though they are perennials native to the tropics. We start them in early spring and grow them as annuals. We also do this with peppers and eggplant.

The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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However, if no electricity is available, grow lights are out of the question, and many households in the north may not have enough sunlight or heat to start the plants.

So for those Americans in cold climates with short summers, opt for vegetables that thrive in those conditions. Potatoes, Cole crops, root vegetables and peas are good choices. Those in the south with long growing seasons have more choices.

Spring and Fall Crops

In most areas of the country, vegetables can be grown to maturity in the spring, summer and fall. Without refrigeration, a variety of fresh vegetables throughout as much of the year as possible is desirable. So in a typical American garden, you can get lettuce and peas in the spring, summer vegetables in the summer, and Cole crops in the fall.

Perennial Vegetables

Starting a garden is hard work — especially getting the soil right. With perennials, you can do all the hard prep work one time and then let the perennials like asparagus and artichokes reward you, year after year.

Barter

With economic or societal collapse, Americans would likely turn to the old way of buying and selling items — bartering. So look around you and your community and see if there are vegetables you could grow to barter. For example, if your neighbors raise rabbits and feed them pellets from the feed store, they would likely be happy to trade for fresh food when the economy forces feed stores to close. Or perhaps your neighbors have a few pigs, and would appreciate root vegetables to supplement their feed.

Many neighbors likely will be desperate for fresh food when the grocery stores close and the power goes out. Long-term vegetables, discussed above, would be a good idea because you could trade them through the fall and winter.

Fruits and Nuts

Many homesteaders focus on annual vegetables because they mature quickly within a few months. However, if you have the space, soil, sunlight and water, consider longer-term investments like fruit vines, fruit trees and nut trees. Once established, these can provide a bounty of fresh fruits during the summer and fall, as well as preserves throughout the year.

Conclusion

Whatever vegetables you decide to grow, learn how to do it now. It will take a few years of practice to find reliable cultivars for your area, and learn the skills of seed saving and long-term storage.

What advice would you add? What vegetables would you recommend growing? Share your tips in the section below:

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

7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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I remember being devastated one spring when, as a new homeowner and a new gardener, I found all my carefully planted tulip bulbs unearthed and eaten. Squirrels were the culprits. Those furry, chattering creatures were not content with the plentiful supply of acorns from nearby trees, and they went after my new bulbs instead.

Squirrels certainly can be a nuisance to the gardener. They are avid foragers. In fact, they spend most of their time gathering food and either eating it or storing it for the future.

Squirrels are also quite persistent and will dig holes and chew through almost anything that gets in the way of their pursuit of a tasty meal. Instead of nibbling on flowers or shoots as deer and rabbits do, squirrels will dig down to pull up and devour bulbs.

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However, there are some bulb plants and other plants that squirrels usually avoid. Here are seven garden plants that repel squirrels.

1. Daffodils

Daffodils and other members of the Narcissi family can deter not only squirrels but also deer and rabbits. Squirrels do not like their taste or their smell.

Although I am a fan of the bright sunny yellow daffodil, these blooms come in orange, white and combinations of bright colors as well. Daffodils are hardy in a range of climates. They are lovely border plants and can provide an early spring burst of color between your shrubs or around your trees.

2. Alliums

7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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Squirrels also are not fond of alliums, which are relatives of the onion family. The ornamental varieties of these plants have large, round flowers that come in white, purple, pink, yellow and blue. Edible alliums include garlic, scallions and onions. These varieties produce a strong odor that repels squirrels. Alliums are hardy perennials in many climates.

3. Fritillaries

In addition to the interesting colors and patterns of their blooms, fritillaries, which are part of the Liliaceae family, have a strong scent that squirrels avoid. Fritillaries are hardy in zones 5 through 9.

These plants do well in rock gardens or as border plantings. Look for Fritillaria meleagris, which has single or double blooms in a checkboard maroon and or a red-purple or red-white pattern.

4. Galanthus

The strong scent from Galanthus bulbs may keep squirrels from foraging in your garden. There are many species of Galanthus, including perennial bulb varieties that bloom from spring well into fall.

The giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) variety has large statement flowers that add drama to your garden.

5. Hyacinth

Although I love the deep blue hyacinths best, these plants come in many shades of reds, purples and whites, too. These spring-flowering bulbs look impressive when planted in groups of 10 or more plants.

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Hyacinths have fragrant flowers that bloom in dense clusters, and squirrels do not like them.

6. Lily-of-the-Valley

What’s great about these pretty plants is that they can thrive in shady areas of your garden. The plant stems are covered with dainty bell-shaped flowers that have a strong scent that squirrels dislike, as well as bright green, sword-shaped leaves.

These plants are easy to grow and they thrive as perennials in many zones.

7. Geraniums

I know I can count on geraniums to withstand cool temperatures of spring and fall as well as plenty of hot sun in the summer. In addition, these workhorses of the flower garden have a scent that repels squirrels.

Geraniums like moist, well-drained soil. Pinch spent blooms for more color.

In conclusion, it’s a good idea to think with your nose when trying to keep squirrels away from your garden. You also might want to try sprinkling hot spices, such as chili powder or cayenne pepper, around areas they frequent in your flower or vegetable beds.

Peppermint is another natural squirrel repellent. You can plant peppermint plants or spray a mist of water with a few drops of pure peppermint oil added to it.

Good luck!

How do you keep squirrels out of your garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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16 Genius DIY Hacks for Your Backyard & Garden

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16 Genius DIY Hacks for Your Backyard & Garden I am always scouring the Internet to find the best DIY hacks so that I can garden smarter with the space that I have. Sometimes you get lucky and find the most amazing and creative do-it-yourself solutions, and the site I found today is no exception. My …

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9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

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9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

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Time flies, doesn’t it? Prime time for planting certain long-season vegetables may have come and gone, but unless you live in a climate with a short growing season, you still have time to plant plenty of vegetables before the first frost.

Obviously, gardeners in super-hot climates might not be able to plant everything on this list, but for gardeners in most parts of North America, try planting these this month:

1. Bush beans – Check your calendar; if you have 45-65 days before the first average frost date in your area, then you have time to plant bush beans. Hold off if you tend to have early freezes; beans aren’t cold tolerant and are killed by frost.

2. Carrots, beets and turnips — Root crops aren’t typically fast-growing vegetables, but carrots, beets and turnip can burst out in a hurry in warm weather, and all three can tolerate a light frost. Look for them to ripen in 50-60 days.

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3. Kohlrabi – If you haven’t tried this mild, crunchy veggie, then there’s still time for a crop this year. Kohlrabi is ready to pick in 50-60 days and tolerates light frost. Although kohlrabi loves sunshine, it’s a cool season crop, so a spot in morning sunlight and afternoon shade is preferable.

9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

Radishes. Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Radishes – If you’re looking for a super-speedy, dependable vegetable, then you can’t miss with radishes. However, radishes don’t like extreme heat and may bolt in hot climates. Look for heat-tolerant varieties like Rover, Inca, Roxanne, Cherry Belle or Crunchy Royale.

5. Pak choi – Harvest this tender oriental vegetable after about a month, or wait another couple of weeks if you prefer pak choi in heads. Also known as bok choy, pak choi isn’t terribly finicky about high temperatures, but partial shade is a good idea if you’re concerned about bolting.

6. Peas – Plant peas in early July and be ready to harvest in 70 to 80 days. The plants are ready for harvest by autumn in most climates, but don’t worry about a light frost; peas can survive temps in the high 20s.

7. Lettuce (and other salad crops). What? Gardeners know that lettuce is a cool season crop that performs best in spring and autumn, but it’s possible to grow lettuce even in the heat of summer. With a few workarounds, you can continue to plant lettuce every two or three weeks throughout the season.

  • Plant lettuce in semi-shade. A little light morning or evening sunlight is enough to keep your plants healthy, without bolting too soon. Use shade cloth if necessary, or plant lettuce to the north of a bean trellis, sunflowers or other tall plant.
  • Grow lettuce in containers so you can move the veggies into shade as needed. If you use a heavy container, a rolling platform simplifies the task and saves your back.
  • Provide plenty of water – preferably from a drip system or soaker hose. Never allow the soil to become bone dry.
  • Try some of the following heat-tolerant varieties, which tend to be slow to bolt and resistant to bitterness. Butterhead/bibb lettuce – Adriana, Summer Bibb, Buttercrunch or Fireball; Romaine/cos – Green Towers, Cimmaron, Jericho or Little Gem; Iceberg/crisphead – Ithaca, Summertime, Calmar or Great Lakes; Red leaf – Red Fire, Lovelock, Red Sails or Ruby.

8. Garlic – Planting garlic in July is no problem. Let the garlic winter in the ground, then harvest it next summer.

9. Herbs – Fast-growing herbs suitable for planting in July include dill, coriander and parsley. Cilantro and basil are speedy growers, ready to snip in about a month.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things You Should Learn

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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

When they consider Thomas Jefferson, many Americans first think of him as the author of the Declaration of Independence or as our nation’s third president, who was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. However, Jefferson’s contributions go deeper than those accomplishments.

Jefferson was a true Renaissance man with a variety of interests and hobbies. He was an accomplished architect, an inventor and a violinist. He could read more than five languages. Jefferson also was a horticulturist who made important contributions to American gardening.

In a letter to Charles W. Peale in 1811, Jefferson wrote, “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. … But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”

At Monticello, his beloved Virginia estate, Jefferson became a pioneer of gardening practices that are useful for us today. Always passionate about growing things, Jefferson further developed this interest during a diplomatic trip to England in 1786 with his long-time friend John Adams.

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Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

Jefferson’s garden at Monticello

During the two-month trip, he was able to tour and examine many English gardens. Those observations became the basis for his own extensive gardening ideas. Much of what he learned can be applied to any garden of any size.

Here are five examples of Thomas Jefferson’s gardening wisdom.

1. Experiment … extensively

Jefferson once wrote that the “greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” When he traveled throughout our young country and abroad, Jefferson often exchanged seeds and seedlings with other gardeners. He enjoyed cultivating those seeds and young plants in his Monticello garden.

Because he grew a variety of crops, including a mix of tropical species with cool weather crops, he devised a unique terraced landscape for his 1,000-foot-long vegetable garden. By placing the garden on a south-facing slope, he was able to capture abundant sunshine.

Creating this unique form of “hanging garden” involved the removal of about 600,000 cubic feet of red clay and the creation of a 1,000-foot-long rock wall that was 15-feet tall in some places.

2. Grow what you eat

Jefferson loved to eat vegetables. In fact, he wrote that “they constitute my principal diet.” Because of his extensive travels, he was exposed to a wide variety of cuisines. He frequently took recipes back home with him and encouraged his cooks to use Monticello’s homegrown produce in new ways. In this way, he created a new American type of cuisine he described as ‘half-French and half-Virginian.”

His Monticello garden featured 330 different varieties of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruits. According to Monticello gardening expert Peter Hatch, Jefferson’s garden inspired a “revolutionary cuisine.” A Monticello recipe for okra soup, for instance, reflects influences from Native Americans (lima beans), Europe (potatoes and tomatoes) and Africa via the West Indies (okra).

Karen Hess, a noted culinary historian, called Jefferson “our most illustrious epicure, in fact, our only epicurean President.”

3. Go natural

Jefferson would be quite at home with the organic gardening movement of today. When his daughter, Martha, wrote to him while he was in Philadelphia serving as secretary of state, she complained about insects damaging the vegetables at Monticello.

Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

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He responded, “I suspect that the insects which have harassed you have been encouraged by the feebleness of your plants; and that has been produced by the lean state of the soil.”

He recommended the garden be covered that winter with “a heavy coating of manure. When is rich it bids defiance to droughts, yields in abundance, and of the best quality.”

In 2009, White House chef Sam Kass reserved a section of the White House garden to showcase Jefferson’s Tennis Ball and Brown Dutch lettuce, Prickly-Seeded spinach and Marseilles fig, a few of Jefferson’s favorite plants.

4. Keep notes

Jefferson had a scientist’s mind, and because of that, he kept scrupulous notes about what worked and what did not work in his garden.

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He recorded his gardening efforts in his Garden Book, a personal journal he maintained from 1766 to 1824. Hatch reports that Jefferson was not afraid to admit defeat in certain gardening circumstances. “On one page in 1809 the word failed is written down 19 times,” Hatch writes.  “He had a holistic view, as we say today, of the gardening process. It is the failure of one thing that is repaired by the success of another.”

Gardening Wisdom From Thomas Jefferson: 5 Things We Should Learn

Jefferson’s garden at Monticello

In his “A General Gardening Calendar,” Jefferson’s only published horticultural work, he offered a monthly guide for kitchen gardening. In the calendar, which was first published in 1824 in the American Farmer, a Baltimore periodical, Jefferson instructs gardeners to plant a thimble spool of lettuce seed every Monday morning from February 1 through September 1.

5. Make your garden an area for retreat

Jefferson enjoyed the restorative aspects of being a gardener and believed that gardens should be seen, experienced and enjoyed.

For example, he designed and built an octagonal pavilion in a central garden location at Monticello and used this spot as a location for reading, writing and even entertaining.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth,” he once wrote, “and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

Have you been to Monticello? What other “Jefferson advice” would you add? What do you remember about his garden? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Sources:

https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/historic-gardens

https://www.monticello.org/site/house-and-gardens/jefferson-scientist-and-gardener

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/05/10/152337154/thomas-jefferson-s-garden-a-thing-of-beauty-and-science

https://www.masshist.org/thomasjeffersonpapers/garden/

A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, a book by Peter Hatch

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Watering Wisely: 6 Ways To Ensure Your Garden Stays Hydrated This Summer

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Watering Wisely: 6 Ways To Ensure Your Garden Stays Hydrated This Summer

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We take care to keep ourselves moisturized throughout the long, hot days of summer, but how many of us remember to do the same for our plants? Most gardeners, either experienced or new, know you need to water your crops to allow them to grow, but the question of “how much,” or simply “how,” creates an even bigger question. These questions are all part of watering smart.

While sun and heat are both good for your vegetable plants, too much can destroy the well-deserved crop. Your vegetables will wilt, wither and dry up. Because of this, you will need to water when needed, but not overdo it. Some gardeners don’t have the time to devote to a regular watering routine, especially during dry weather. As a gardener, you will need to learn to anticipate your garden’s needs and priorities. Let’s take a look at this important topic of watering during the summer.

The whole idea of watering your garden, is to replicate the soaking action of the rain. Not just a sprinkle, but an honest amount of rain. The water needs to be able to reach the very ends of the roots.

Roots of any plant will change their growth patterns in response to wet or dry growing conditions. Plants will close their stomata to preserve moisture during dry times, and roots will grow closer to the surface when the ground is extremely wet so they can get more oxygen.

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Smart watering saves on wasting time and, of course, saves water. There are ways to conserve water, while making sure the garden gets the moisture it needs. Keep in mind that freshly planted seeds need extra care and water. Cover them with burlap or flower pots on those really hot summer days.

Here are some ideas for keeping your garden hydrated during the hotter months.

Ideas for Wise Watering

Watering Wisely: 6 Ways To Ensure Your Garden Stays Hydrated This Summer

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1. Know your soil. If you have a garden with a lot of clay, remember that water will filter through very slowly. At least once a week you should give the garden and vegetables a good, deep soak. If you have ground that is more sandy, then water will go through it pretty quickly; you will have to soak more often. A deep soak twice a week should be good in this situation. Gardens in full sun will obviously dry out faster than those gardens situated in partly sunny to shady areas.

2. Mulch. Mulch can be used around any plant, tree or shrub. It maintains moisture in the soil and creates a barrier between the plant and sun. Mulch also controls the soil temperature, giving protection to the roots. In simple terms, mulch controls and prevents inconsistent levels of moisture and temperature in the soil.

3. Longer watering, less often. Instead of watering each day for short periods of time, it is better to space out your watering, and when you water, do it for longer. You want the water to saturate, but not flood, the soil. Having the water soak deep into the ground is better than giving a quick water to wet the soil. By watering longer, but less frequently, the water can soak down through the soil into the roots.

4. Keep the weeds under control. Try to keep an eye on weeds, and get rid of them as soon as possible. Weeds will absorb the water and nutrients meant for your vegetable plants.

5. Timing. Wise gardeners say the best times to water are in the morning or evening. The middle of the day is usually the hottest, and if you water plants during that time the water will evaporate very quickly, reducing moisture for the plants.

6. Use compost. Compost can be used along with mulch or on its own. Not only does compost encourage healthy plant growth and nutrients, but it also absorbs and holds water.

A Final Thought on Effective Watering

If you don’t have a hose or watering can, try using an empty jug for gradual watering. Make small holes in the jug’s bottom edges. Place it (you may need more than one jug) in an area by your plants. When you fill the jug with water, the moisture will soak slowly into the soil by the roots.

Just like us, our gardens need to keep moisture levels just right to grow their best. Whether you have an abundance of time or just enough to keep your garden going, make sure you water wisely. Your garden will thank you.

What are your best watering tips? Share them in the section below:

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8 Organic Ways To Keep Your Garden Bug-Free (No. 4 Kills Them Quick — But Is Safe For Humans!)

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Image source: Pixabay.com

 

If you’re determined to grow a healthy garden without benefit of pesticides, you’re definitely on the right track. Conventional pesticides kill both good and bad bugs, leaving no natural controls that keep pests in check. As a result, pests are replaced with even tougher, chemical-resistant super-pests, with no beneficial insects left behind to maintain control.

Try not to panic if your plants are bothered by an occasional nibble, as “sharing” the garden is part of growing organically. Keep your plants properly watered. Ensure the soil is healthy and rich in organic materials. Keep in mind that healthy plants are always more pest-resistant than plants that are stressed.

If you find that your garden is overrun with pests in spite of good gardening practices, then consider natural alternatives such as these.

1. Beneficial insects. Such as lacewings, ladybugs, ground beetles, pirate bugs, parasitic wasps, praying mantis and hover-flies. Beneficial insects have preferred targets, so a healthy diversity of helpful bugs will help control a variety of pests, such as aphids, thrips, scale, mites and whiteflies.

2. Beneficial plants. Many blooming plants attract beneficial insects. For example, try alyssum, cosmos, Shasta daisy, yarrow, calendula and coreopsis, as well as herbs like dill, fennel, lemon balm, parsley and coriander. On the other hand, some plants, most notably marigolds, may help deter harmful pests.

3. Handpicking. Although it isn’t anybody’s favorite job, picking pests by hand is a highly effective natural pest control technique made easier with a good pair of gardening gloves. Most pickable insects, including caterpillars, slugs and tomato hornworms, are most active at dusk.

4. Diatomaceous earth. This powdery substance is made of the skeletal remains of tiny marine creatures known as diatoms. The abrasive dust abrades the outer covering of soft-bodied pests like potato beetles, squash bugs, slugs, snails, aphids, whiteflies and others, causing the pest to dry out and die. Although diatomaceous earth is safe, wear a dust mask because the dust can irritate your lungs.

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5. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – A naturally occurring bacteria, Bt is non-toxic to humans, pets, birds and wildlife. However, when it is eaten by pests, the toxin dissolves in the gut and causes death in three to five days. Bt, available as spray or dust, is best applied in late afternoon and must be reapplied after rainfall or irrigation. The substance also can be mixed with insecticidal soap (see below), which improves coverage.

8 Organic Ways To Keep Your Garden Bug-Free (No. 4 Kills Them Quick -- But Is Safe For Humans!)

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6. Insecticidal soap – A spray made of natural soap (not dish soap or hand soap), insecticidal soap spray isn’t toxic to people or animals, but deadly to soft-bodied pests like aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies and spider mites. It is relatively safe, but because it kills on contact, it shouldn’t be applied when beneficial insects are present on the plant. Insecticidal soap spray works fast and is safe to use on vegetables up to harvest time. Don’t spray in the heat of the day or when the sun is directly on the plant.

7. Homemade sprays – The jury is out on homemade pest control sprays; some gardeners swear by them, while others claim they are a waste of time. If you’re inundated with pests, it won’t hurt to give them a try, and they might just work.

  • Garlic spray – Blend 10-12 garlic cloves in a quart of water, and then let the smelly mixture sit for at least a full day. Strain the solution through cheesecloth and add a cup of vegetable oil. For even more punch, add a tablespoon of cayenne pepper or chili powder, then let the mixture sit for another 24 hours. The spray, which is highly concentrated, should be mixed at a rate of ½ cup to 1 gallon of water.
  • Insecticidal soap spray – Mix 1 ½ tablespoon of natural soap (such as castile or oil soap) with a quart of water and a few drops of cooking oil, which helps the spray stick to foliage. You also can add a teaspoon of garlic or a garlic bulb, and/or a small amount of cayenne pepper. Some gardeners like to add one or two drops of citrus essential oil.
  • Red pepper spray – This simple spray consists of a tablespoon of chili powder or cayenne pepper and six drops of natural soap in a gallon of water. Mix well and apply weekly, or as needed.

8. Horticultural oil – A type of highly refined oil, horticultural oil plugs the pores so that insects can’t breathe. They soon suffocate. Although the oil dissipates quickly and little residue is left behind, horticultural oil shouldn’t be applied on very hot or cold days, or on drought-stressed plants. Horticultural oil is effective against a variety of pests, including spider mites, aphids, leaf hoppers and whiteflies, among others.

What all-natural pest-control recipes would you add? Share your gardening tips in the section below:

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The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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One of my biggest concerns each year when I am dedicating space in my garden is where to put the vine plants (such as summer squash and zucchini). I don’t grow anything in super-huge amounts, as I don’t have an enormous space with which to work. My garden inventory is usually something like:

  • a half dozen tomato plants
  • twice as many assorted pepper plants
  • a half dozen beans
  • 3-4 kale plants
  • some lettuce
  • around 4 zucchini and summer squash plants

These last ones are the ones I generally enjoy the most, for their versatility in my summer meal plans. If I could, I would grow these in larger quantities. The trouble I run into is that the vine-based plants seem to become so invasive overnight!

The last thing I want to do is to waste the hard work I put in nurturing my other plants by allowing for my zucchini and summer squash to roam as they will. Here is how I made my garden more vine-friendly without having to limit the space available to each plant.

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One day while attempting to remove some fencing from behind my shed, I had a stroke of genius. Here I was fighting with some random vine that had come out of nowhere and had overwhelmed the fencing I had set against the shed the previous year. Without the fencing, the vine would have a very difficult time securing adequate footing on the bare shed wall. So why couldn’t my vine-based plants use the same method in my garden?

All I needed to do was design something that would be sturdy enough to support the weight of the plants and would have enough surface area to allow the plants to grow and their fruits to fully develop. Here is how I did it.

Materials I used:

  • a wood pallet
  • two pieces of scrap wood
  • metal fencing material
  • wire cutters
  • staple gun
  • cordless drill
  • 2 ½-inch wood screws
The Simplest Way To Keep Squash (And Zucchini) From Taking Over The Garden

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Many times I will repurpose the wooden slats of a pallet and am left with just the square outline of the pallet and maybe one or two slats that I don’t dare remove due to their perceived damaged.  In the past I took these frames and added them to the bonfire pile, but seeing a potential use, I rescued several of them from their potentially fiery demise.

The same fencing that I had to wrestle from the vines behind my shed became the very material I used to help my squash plants climb without fear. All I did was measure the size of the pallet and cut the metal fencing down to size. I found it a little helpful to have the fencing be a little long so it could stretch over the sides of the pallet. The wire cutters made this a quick process.

After that, I took the staple gun and used it to secure the fencing material to the frame of the pallet. Since I cut the fencing a little longer than I needed, it is easier to secure it to the frame since there was very little material on the face of the pallet for me to attach it to.

The next step was to attach two pieces of wood to the underside of the pallet frame in order to help it stand up. I used some scrap 2×2 wood that I happened to have laying around. I cut each piece so that it measured roughly 4 feet in length. I secured each piece as close to the top of the pallet as I could, using a couple of 2 ½-inch wood screws.

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I didn’t tighten the screws all the way at first, because I wasn’t sure exactly what angle I wanted the pallet to set at. This way I could adjust the legs of each pallet before finalizing them. I eventually decided to have the pallets sit at just under a rough 45-degree angle so that the plants had a good platform to grow and it wasn’t too steep for the fruit to mature.

I positioned the pallet as close to the zucchini as I could without crowding the plants. It took a little coaxing, but I was soon able to train the plants to grow up the pallet as opposed to around it. Soon enough, I had free space in my garden that wasn’t being overrun by the vines of these two plants.

One of the unintended results of installing this pallet platform in my garden was that I now also had a unique space where I had access to partial shade during the day. I used this area to plant additional lettuce in the hotter portion of the summer when my other crop was showing signs of damage due to the intense sun and heat.

All and all, this was a fun project that cost me absolutely nothing extra out of pocket. I happened to have all the needed materials on hand, and it only took me about an hour of time to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look.

If I were to build another one of these (which I will be doing shortly), I would be slightly more careful in the edges I left behind on the fencing I attached to the pallet. Some of the remaining edges were sharper than I had expected, and I had to do some maintenance to remove them and ensure the safety of both myself and my family.

The results of this project were exactly what I wanted them to be. Once I have a few minutes of free time, I am going to build three more of these for this year’s garden so that I can have one dedicated for each of my vine plants. If your goal as a potential homesteader is to use what you have and to make the most out of your space, you should consider something like this to get the most out of what you have!

How do you keep your vine plants from taking over the garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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

4 Clever Ways To Garden In A Drought

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Off-Grid Life In a $4,500 Converted School Bus

Summer weather is officially here, and for many gardeners that means one thing: a lack of rain. For others, it may mean a drought.

Gardening during summer is never easy, but how do you grow your favorite vegetables when nature simply doesn’t cooperate?

This week’s guest on Off The Grid Radio tells us what to do. His name is David A. Bainbridge, and he is the author of “Gardening With Less Water,” a book that describes low-cost, low-tech methods for using up to 90 percent less water in your garden.

David has several decades of experience in the subject, and his work even has involved growing plants in the Sonoran Desert – an area that gets only three inches of rain a year.

Get ready to junk the sprinkler system as David tells us:

  • How a 2,000-year-old gardening method can help your garden thrive during summer heat.
  • Why the methods he promotes can be used to irrigate any plants – and not simply drought-tolerant ones.
  • How PVC pipe can be used in your garden to save bundles on your water bill.
  • Why he’s not a big fan of drip irrigation systems, and what can go wrong.

All total, David gives us four methods you can use in your garden this year to water your vegetables – no matter how much rain you get. If you’re ready to watch your garden thrive during the scorching heat, then this show is for you!

5 Ways To Grow More Vegetables In The Space You Have (No. 2 Is Crazy — But Works!)

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5 Ways To Grow More Vegetables In The Space You Have (No. 2 Is Crazy -- But Works!)

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

You don’t have to invest in a large hobby farm to enjoy the benefits of gardening. Whether you’re limited by a small lot size, an abundance of shade, or apartment dwelling, you may be surprised at how many vegetables can actually be coaxed out of even relatively small amounts of space given the right planning. In this post, we’ll take a look at five specific techniques to maximize your harvest, regardless of how much room you have to work with.

1. Nurture the soil

You may have heard the expression “no deposit, no return,” and it’s a principle that’s eminently important when it comes to gardening. Anything coming out of the garden can only be as good as the ground it’s grown in, and if you’re going to expect more from the dirt, it’s imperative to put more in to begin with. Many of the other strategies listed below rely on high-density strategies which can push soil to the limit. If there aren’t adequate nutrients in the ground, these approaches can be a disaster. And even if you aren’t planning to implement high-yield techniques, simply improving your soil will still result in a noticeably improved harvest.

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While there are many soil improvements available for purchase, creating your own compost remains one of the best, most cost-efficient, ways to keep your garden happy. Compost naturally returns nutrients to the soil while simultaneously improving its water-retention abilities, making it the secret weapon when it comes to improving yields.

2. Get rid of rows

Unless you own several acres and a tractor, there’s no reason to stick with conventional rows. When space is at a premium, opting for less linear arrangements ensures that every inch of the garden is put to good use by eliminating walkway areas and other wasted space. Two of the most common routes to row-less growing include square foot gardening, which involves raised beds divided into individual square foot sections, and bio-intensive gardening, which relies on a tight hexagonal planting pattern.

Banishing the idea that true gardening only takes place when there’s room for long straight rows can also be liberating for apartment dwellers. Even a modest patio can provide room for a handful of carefully planned planters, bringing the goodness of home-grown vegetables literally to your doorstep.

3. Go vertical

Another way to increase how much you get from a home garden is to stop living in two dimensions and start looking up. Trade in traditional tomato cages for tall-growing stakes, and train indeterminate varieties to climb as tall as you can pick — you’ll be amazed at how many tomatoes a single vine can grow given the opportunity to move up rather than out. You can also set up a sturdy trellis on one edge of your garden and encourage small melons, gourds, squash, and pumpkins to reach for the sky rather than rambling all over.

Adding hanging planters that allow tomatoes and other vegetables to grow down is another way to capitalize on unused vertical space that not only increases your opportunities to grow, but adds a touch of beauty to enjoy from a deck or porch.

4. Interplant

Once you’ve embraced a non-linear growing strategy, it’s time to take things to the next level by exploring interplanting — the practice of placing different kinds of plants in practically the same growing space.

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5 Ways To Grow More Vegetables In The Space You Have (No. 2 Is Crazy -- But Works!)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Successful interplanting requires some experimentation and extremely healthy soil, but when it’s done right the result is a delightfully dense harvest from even a small space. Looking for some go-to combinations? Consider planting lettuce, basil, parsley or carrots under tomatoes — the shade won’t be prohibitive and tomato roots are generally hardy enough to handle the invasion. You also may want to plant spring crops, such as lettuce and peas, near large sprawling summer plants such as zucchini and pumpkins to get the most out of that space before the bigger plants take over. And, of course, there’s always the old standby “Three Sisters” — corn, beans and squash interplanted for mutual benefit.

5. Embrace rapid succession planting

Finally, if you’re serious about maximizing your yield, it’s time to stop thinking about sowing as a “one-and-done” activity. In most places, gardening easily be divided into three separate (though not necessarily distinct) growing seasons — spring, summer and fall. Careful planning means you can take advantage of all three seasons, resulting in multiple harvests.

For example, as cool weather crops begin to slow down, replace them immediately with summer seedlings. When your neighbors are kicking back, ready to settle for simply gathering the end of the tomatoes and late-season squashes until winter arrives, stay in the game by putting down another round of cool-weather crops. As long as you continue to amend the soil throughout the season, there’s no reason to waste even an inch of garden at any point during the growing months.

Whether you’re on a tiny plot in suburbia, a heavily wooded country acre with too much shade, or trying to crowd everything you can onto an urban balcony, it’s still possible to enjoy the benefits of home-grown food. Take advantage of these five tips to start getting more out of your garden, regardless of its size.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

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Some garden plants require intense diligence and extensive resources to coax out a single flower or handful of berries. Other species, however, are determined producers, bearing bushel after bushel of fresh, sun-ripened, bounty.

Want to get the most “bang” for your gardening efforts? In this post, we’ll look at some of nature’s top producers and why these “bunny rabbits” of the vegetable world ought to be included in your home garden.

1. Tomatoes

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Nothing screams summer quite like a tomato plant covered in bright red fruit. It’s no wonder these plants require caging or other support — a 10-foot row of tomato plants on average yields 15 pounds of sun-ripened bliss over the course of a season. And even more amazing, by taking special care to pick varieties appropriate to your growing conditions, properly amending the soil, and providing adequate support, it’s possible for a single plant to produce that much (or more!) on its own. Even taking into consideration the inherent challenges of growing tomatoes, it’s well worth the effort to include these high-producing summer staples in your garden plot.

2. Summer squash

There’s a reason August 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. Even if you’ve only planted a few of these prolific plants, you’re likely to be swimming in squash by the end of the season!

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Set aside a 10×10 plot specifically for zucchini and you will literally find yourself surrounded by more than a hundred pounds of deliciousness. To keep plants producing, pick zucchini while they’re relatively small — the size of a large cucumber or so. Not only does smaller summer squash taste better than their ginormous counterparts, but the frequent picking will stimulate additional growth.

3. Winter squash

Not to be outdone by their warm-weather counterparts, winter squash are another family of plants sure to bulk up your garden yields. Like summer squash, a dedicated plot of winter squash can easily produce a hundred pounds of fruit over a season. And with so many varieties to choose from, you’ll definitely want to set aside a space for them! Whether it’s pumpkins for home-grown Jack-o-lanterns and pie, vitamin rich butternut squash, or fun-to-eat spaghetti squash, there’s sure to be a variety for every taste. And, unlike many vegetables which must be carefully preserved in order to enjoy long term, an abundance of winter squash isn’t likely to be a problem — most winter squash will keep well into the winter months if stored in a cool, dry location.

4. Cucumbers

Not only are cucumbers easy to plant from seed directly in the garden, but if you can keep the cucumber beetles at bay, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by piles of pickle-worthy produce. You can expect roughly 12 pounds per 10-foot row or 120 pounds per 100 square-foot plot. Want to extend your harvest? Consider staggering seed-starting dates, adding a few plants each week for a rolling harvest that lets you enjoy fresh cukes throughout the season.

5. Beans

All You Can Eat: 6 High-Yield Vegetables Your Summer Garden Needs

Image source: Pixabay.com

Beans are another crop that can easily go gangbusters in a home garden. Not only are individual plants high producers, generally averaging up to 15 pounds per 10-foot row, but because they grow so quickly from seed to harvest it’s possible to rotate through multiple bean plantings in a single season. And while bush beans are notable producers, anyone who knows, well, beans about gardening will tell you that pole beans are where things get particularly impressive. Pole beans are happy to crawl up supports, producing over and over for weeks or even months before petering out.

6. Rhubarb

Finally, any list of high-yield hotshots wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to rhubarb. A rare perennial vegetable, rhubarb returns season after season, expanding as it grows. Considered low-maintenance and long-lasting, once a rhubarb plant is established it’s one of the easiest ways to guarantee a hefty harvest from the garden.

Few dilemmas in life are as delightful as discovering your garden has grown even more food than you can consume immediately. High-producing vegetable plants are the perfect plan for a harvest that can be shared with friends or preserved to enjoy throughout the year, making them not only a great way to maximize the return on your garden, but also the satisfaction that comes with those efforts.

Which high-yield vegetables would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:

Sources:

http://www.msuextension.org/gallatin/documents/horticulturedocuments/PlantingASuccessfulHomeVegetableGarden.pdf

http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

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