Sustainable Gardening Systems!

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

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Vegetables In 1950 Were More Nutritious. Seriously.

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Vegetables In 1950 Were More Nutritious. Seriously.

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Most potatoes we eat today have 100 percent less vitamin A than potatoes did in the 1950s. One hundred percent. That may sound unbelievable, but it doesn’t end there.

An analysis of nutritional records done by Canada’s national newspaper found that potatoes also lost 57 percent of their vitamin C and iron, 50 percent of their riboflavin, 28 percent of their calcium, and 18 percent of their thiamine. Of the seven nutrients analyzed to determine nutrient density, only niacin levels increased in potatoes in the past 50-60 years.

This decline in nutrient density isn’t specific to potatoes. Broccoli in the 1950s had more calcium. Scientific American reported – shockingly — that it takes eight of today’s oranges to pony up the same amount of nutrients that one single orange had in the 1950s. What on earth is going on?

Nutrient Density

Nutrient density is the measurement of key nutrients in a predetermined amount of food. For example, the USDA’s “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference” indicates that 100g of “tomatoes, red, ripe, raw, year round average” contains 237 mg of potassium, 1.2 g of fiber, and 833 IU of vitamin K. These numbers are averages, based on testing done on produce purchased around the country. Nevertheless, these averaged numbers help determine how nutrient-dense — how healthy — each type of food is. And it’s by comparing historic numbers with contemporary numbers that the decline in nutrient density can be tracked.

Crop Development

Vegetables In 1950 Were More Nutritious. Seriously.

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Agribusiness is called “agribusiness” for a reason: It’s about making money. And in its quest to make money, agribusiness has developed new varieties of vegetables, selecting for characteristics that impact the bottom line, rather than nutrient density. Cultivars are chosen for their disease resistance, suitability for the climate, maturity rate, high yields, and physical appearance.

Plants are growing bigger, but their ability to take up or process nutrients has not increased at a comparable rate. Also, as Scientific American points out, the high yields of commercial plants have a direct impact on nutrient density. It’s not unusual for commercially grown tomato plants to produce 100 tomatoes per plant. The plant itself is limited in how many nutrients it can take up and disperse among that many fruits.

Soil Depletion

Another problem that’s rooted in agribusiness is soil depletion. Intensive farming methods strip the soil of its nutrients. If the soil lacks nutrients, so too will the plants that grow in that soil. Just as the health of human beings depends on what they eat, the health (nutrient density) of vegetables depends on what they “eat” or absorb from the soil. The more nutrients they take up, the more nutrients their produce will have.

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get The Best Deals Here!

The only way to address soil depletion is to fertilize the soil. For agribusinesses that are not concerned with nutrient density, the high cost of fertilization may seem to be an unnecessary expense. But, as Scientific American points out, without re-mineralizing the soil, “each successive generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before.”

Chemical Pesticides

The term “pesticide” collectively includes substances that control pests and/or weeds, including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides. Chemical pesticides are formulated to kill specific things, but once released into the soil, they also may kill beneficial microorganisms. Microbes are crucial to nutrient density because they recycle and release nutrients in the soil, which are then taken up by plants and distributed to the produce.

Long-Haul Transportation

Once picked, vegetables start losing nutrients. Leafy greens lose their nutrients very quickly; some types of spinach may lose 90 percent of their vitamin C within 24 hours of being picked. While vegetables are in transport to grocery stores or sitting on grocery shelves, they continue to “respire;” that is, they continue to live by drawing from their nutrient stores. The longer the time between harvest and consumption, the more nutrients are used up during respiration.

Impact on Human Health

Insufficient nutrients may be one reason why we continue to crave food even after we’ve eaten full servings. And, some speculate that due to the decrease in nutrients, five to ten servings of fruit and vegetables daily is insufficient to meet our needs. Foods that are low in nutrient density may contribute to Type B malnutrition, which is prevalent in industrialized nations. While people with Type B malnutrition take in adequate calories and do not appear outwardly malnourished, the food they eat does not contain sufficient nutrients for health.

What Can We Do?

The solution? Plant a garden. Amend the soil with natural fertilizers. Besides producing healthier nutrient-dense produce, nutrient-dense soil creates a healthier plant. A healthier plant has:

  • Increased pest and disease resistance.
  • Higher and healthier yields.
  • Produce that has more intense and complex flavor due to increased nutrients.

Soil that is rich in microorganisms and nutrients is good for plants — and good for us, too.

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

8 Ways To Fertilize Your Garden With Household Items

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8 Ways To Fertilize Your Garden With Household Items

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Self-sufficient gardeners avoid the use of pre-packaged fertilizers and soil from the store. But chances are you have plenty of items in your house that can be used to fertilize your garden, saving you money and time – and giving your vegetables a healthy boost.

Let’s take a look:

1. Coffee grounds. Do you start the day with an overflowing cup of coffee? Those dried coffee grounds add nitrogen, potassium and magnesium to your garden — all vital nutrients for the growth of your plants. Just remember that coffee grounds can change the pH of your soil, possibly affecting plants that need a delicate balance.

2. Tea bags. If you aren’t a coffee drinker, tea bags have a very similar effect on the soil as coffee grounds. Remove the tea grounds from the bags and allow them to dry before application. Many gardeners notice tea grounds are particularly beneficial around tomatoes.

Need Non-GMO Seeds? Get The Best Deals Here!

3. Egg shells. Your chickens can contribute to more than just breakfast. Egg shells are a fantastic calcium source.

After breakfast, wash out the shells and let them dry. Break the shells into smaller pieces and put them in the ground when planting tomatoes. You also can add them around the base of already-planted tomatoes. Tomatoes require more calcium than other plants.

4. Fish scraps. Early Pilgrims had trouble growing crops when they arrived in North America, mostly because of nutrient-lacking soil. The Indians who came to their aid, including the famous Squanto, taught the Pilgrims a trick – burying fish with the seeds. You don’t need to plant multiple fish inside of your garden, but using the scraps can help.

If you have an aquarium, don’t dump the water down the drain. Use this water to hydrate your garden beds and potted plants. The fish waste provides vitamins to the plants without any extra steps for you! If you filet a fish, save the bones and scraps. Some gardeners like to puree them with water and milk, creating a strong fertilizing mixture. You could bury scraps, as well.

8 Ways To Fertilize Your Garden With Household Items

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6. Wood ash: Those who have a wood stove or fireplace have a free source of fertilizer, adding potassium and calcium carbonate to the soil. Remember never to use the ash if you added anything else! Ash is an easy way to increase your soil pH, so don’t use it if your soil is alkaline. Ash also can keep slugs away from your plants.

7. Bananas. Do you have kids who eat bananas like candy? Don’t toss those peels! Putting them in your compost pile is a good first step. You also can put them right into your garden to give the soil a quick potassium boost. Peels degrade fairly quickly, and they don’t produce a nasty odor. A benefit of using banana peels is that they repel pests!

8. Grass clippings. Free makes everything better, and you likely have an unending source of grass clippings. Yard waste is the perfect organic matter to add to your garden. Add them to your garden to work as mulch. Every time you mow and rake, continue to add more. As it decomposes into the soil, grass clippings release nitrogen.

Powdered milk. Do you have powdered milk in your cabinet that is past expiration? Don’t throw it away! You can mix one part milk into four parts water. (You also can use expired milk in your fridge for this.) Milk is a fantastic source of calcium for more than just humans! It also contains proteins, vitamin B, and sugars that improve the overall health of the plant. Plants that are failing to grow to their full potential can benefit from a boost in calcium. Milk also helps with blossom end root, commonly ailing squash, tomatoes and pepper plants.

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

Planting by the moon, hype or help?

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I was born in 1965 so I grew up less than one generation removed from those in my family who really farmed and those who went through the Great Depression. We saved everything, we didn’t throw anything into the trash until it was used up, worn out, reused and even then, it would be more likely put aside for parts…

I remember hearing my dad talking about “planting by the moon” as I grew up, one summer he decided it was all nonsense and would just plant whenever, with no regard to what the moon cycle was doing. Well, that year our garden wasn’t as good as it usually was, after that, we went back to planting by the moon.

What does that mean? Well, to simplify it, anything that is harvested from underground (root vegetables, carrots, onions, potatoes) need to be planted by the “dark of the moon”, when the moon is past full going toward the new moon. Anything that is harvested above ground, (corn, tomatoes and the such) should be planted by the “light of the moon”, meaning after the new moon going toward the full moon. If you get an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” it will get even more detailed as to the specific dates when you should plant based on the moon phases.

There is science behind this, it’s not hocus pocus, the moon affects water on earth, just look at what it does to the tides. Here is a video explaining how all of this works.

https://youtu.be/kYtnZPuP4zk

What about you? Do you plant by the moon? Do you believe in it or do you think it’s nonsense? Let me know below!

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21 Cute and Easy DIY Garden Markers

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It’s gardening time!  Have you ever planted your garden and then not remembered what was growing where?  Me, too.  Every year I make a garden map, but then somehow it gets displaced and I end up wondering what I have growing where until it sprouts.  Enter garden markers.  These can be simple or complex, plain […]

Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

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6 Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

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During early spring, the urge to get out in the garden and start planting almost becomes overwhelming.

Stores are stocking up on gardening tools, and seeds are luring me in with the promise of a bountiful harvest. I take full advantage of the warmer climate where I live. But if you live up north you may be hesitant, knowing winter may still throw a few frosty nights at you.

Go ahead and get your gardening gloves out; you can avoid pre-season garden blues by planting frost-resistant plants this spring.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Peas

Snow peas, snap peas or other varieties are easy-to-grow veggies that do well in early spring. With their large seeds, they’re perfect for even the smallest hands to plant. Useful for getting restless kids (and grandkids) out of the house and into the yard, peas do well in early spring – even with a late frost. They’ll grow as vines or bushes, and can take up to 65 days to mature. Plant more than you think you’ll need – the harvest seems to disappear with these easy-to-reap veggies that are loved by both grown-ups and kids alike.

2. Spinach

Baby spinach is a quick sprouting addition to an early spring garden. You can harvest in as little as three weeks, giving you small, tender leaves to use in salads and cooking.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Spinach is frost-resistant, but seems to thrive when grown under cover, so consider using a garden cover the first few weeks after planting. To help prevent loss from frost, plant spinach close together and harvest early. Plant a few varieties to have an assortment of greens from which to choose.

3. Chard

6 Frost-Tolerant Vegetables You Should Be Planting Right Now

Image source: Pixabay.com

Another type of green that grows well in early spring, chard gives your garden a sneak peek at the bursts of color that warm weather brings. For a beautiful display, add yellow, red or white varieties to your planting rows. Sow seeds close together, and then harvest young growth to thin the seedlings. Some chard is available for harvest within 25 days, while others can be grown longer to reach full size. Use chard fresh, toss some into a blender for a nutritious smoothie addition, or cook leaves for a delicious addition to soups.

4. Beets

Beets thrive with cooler weather, and seem to do best before the ground heats up. You can plant beets up to a month before the last frost. This prevents their roots from becoming woody, and it gives them a sweet taste. Beets mature in 60 days and should be approximately two inches wide at harvest. Plant seeds three to four inches apart for optimal growth. Their lovely greens add bright stripes of green to your garden.

5. Carrots

Perfect for locations with heavy soil, carrots take longer than most vegetables to germinate. Sow carrot seeds directly in the soil, but plant more than you will need, because germination is spotty. Get them in the ground up to a month before the last frost, and then thin out the seedlings when you start to see leaves appearing. This is another fun plant to send your kids out to harvest, but don’t be surprised at their abnormal shapes. Depending on your soil, it can split the roots and produce funny-looking carrots that taste delicious!

6. Lettuce

Lettuce can be hard to germinate, so for best results, start some indoors and then transplant seedlings in early spring. They can be moved to your garden up to six weeks before the last frost. Sow additional seeds around the transplants for succession plants, giving you a season-long supply of lettuce. Cover the seeds with a light soil. Harvest leaves when there are enough on the plant for continued plant growth.

Don’t let the fear of frost keep you from getting a head start on your garden. Use cool weather-friendly plants to ease into spring, and enjoy the tender produce your garden will grow before hot weather sets in.

What frost-tolerant or frost-resistant plants would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

How to Make the Perfect Potting Soil Recipe in 5 Easy-to-Follow Steps

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Have you noticed how expensive potting soil can be?

I mean, truthfully, when you think about it – you are buying dirt. Why is it so expensive?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the nutrients that you are purchasing so your plants will grow better. But don’t you think there has to be a better way?

If so, then you’re in luck because I’m going to discuss how you can create your own potting soil and a few other facts that you might need to know along the way.

Here is how you create your own potting soil:

A Quick Warning:

When creating your own potting soil there are two things you need to understand.

First, there is no ‘one size fits all’ potting mix. Each plant has different requirements. So you may have to tweak any recipe for potting mix to better suit exactly the plant that you are wanting to grow.

Secondly, when creating potting soil there are dangers. Namely, you’ll want to be aware of a disease known as Legionnaire’s Disease. It is basically a severe form of pneumonia that can be contracted from bacteria which can live in potting soil mixes and compost.

So you’ll need to use safety precautions such as wearing a face mask, wear protective clothes and gloves, try not to work with soil when the wind is blowing heavily, and spritz dusty ingredients of potting mixes with water to keep them from flying in the air.

Also, be sure to always wash your hands after working in the garden or anywhere else outdoors. If you feel ill and think it could be an onset of this disease, please seek out treatment. Especially if the warning signs are spotted in those with weakened immune systems, small children, or the elderly.

Now that all of our safety notices are out there, let’s move on so you can create your own potting soil.

Why should you create your own potting soil?

Before you take on a DIY project, you need to be sure you know why you are doing it.

Otherwise, you might get frustrated half way through and quit. I’ve been there, and I totally understand. Sometimes when you are buying things to create something, you start adding up the costs.

Though the supplies you buy might make you a lot more than the store bought stuff, it still hits your wallet all at once.

And you begin to ponder why in the world you are doing what you’re doing.

Well, that is why it is important to know why you are doing the task. So in this case, you are creating your own potting soil.

Benefits of Making Your Own Potting Soil:

Here are a few of the reasons you might want to consider doing this yourself:

1. It Saves You Moola

When creating your own potting soil, you are actually saving yourself money. You may not feel like it at first, but how many times have you purchased potting soil and not used it all?

Then you put it in your garden shed, only to return to it later and it is unusable because it is all dried up. If you’ve ever done this, then you know how bad it feels to know that you wasted that money.

Well, if you mix up your own quality potting soil mix, you should save yourself money. You can store it better and easier than the store bought stuff.

Or you could actually just mix up what you need at the time and forget about having to store it, period. Either way, you’ll save yourself some money in the process, usually.

2. Convenience is a Sweet Thing

Convenience is pretty awesome. If it wasn’t then our society wouldn’t have shifted so easily to a newer more convenient way of living.

Let’s face it. We all love to have things when we want it and how we want it as well.

So when you create your own potting soil, you have this convenience. You can actually order most of your ingredients and have them shipped right to your door.

Then, as long as you have everything on hand, you can quickly and easily mix up your potting soil whenever you are ready to use it.

3. You Know All About It

The next benefit of mixing your own potting soil is the fact that you know what it is in it. Let’s face it. All potting soil is not created equal.

And we know that plants love certain things in the soil. It encourages them to grow and produce better, which is the ultimate goal.

Well, if you create your own potting soil, then you can adjust the ingredients as you see fit. You know everything that is in it, and you also can feel better knowing that all of your plants are getting what they need.

4. You Are More Self-Sufficient

So you want to plant your flowers, but it is at a time that maybe the store is closed. If you mix your own potting soil, you are practicing better self-reliance, and you don’t have to worry about when stores are open or closed.

Plus, now that you are learning how to make your own potting soil, you can also know that you are taking another step toward being more self-reliant.

5. Longevity

The final reason why you might want to consider creating your own potting soil is because quality potting soil usually lasts longer.

So if you buy potting soil from the store you might be surprised to realize how much of it is actually bark. This bark will then compost quickly and begin to decompose.

Then your potting soil struggles to retain as much moisture as your plants desire and money is wasted. But with creating your own potting soil (where you include your own quality ingredients), you shouldn’t have to worry as much about it decomposing and not being able to retain water.

In fact, since there is no bark in this potting soil mix, your potting soil should last much longer than a lot of the potting soil you purchase from the stores.

What Do I Want From My Potting Soil?

When I wanted to learn how to make my own potting soil, I found that soil actually did much more than I ever gave it credit for.

Truthfully, I didn’t think about what I actually wanted my soil to do, besides surround my plants, give them a happy home, and then I wanted to see the plants produce.

But now I know what I really want from my soil. Here are few things to consider:

1. Light and Fluffy

I knew I always loved to run my hands through the dirt before planting my flowers and veggies in it, but I never really knew what I was looking for.

But now I know that I want light and fluffy dirt. The reason is because the lighter and fluffier it is the easier it is for my plants to spread out and take root.

Also, you want the soil to be fluffy because that means it is aerated. This means that oxygen has an easier time accessing the plant.

2. Longevity

I want a soil that is going to last. I knew there were a few times I had put bagged soil in the garden shack, come back to it, and the soil didn’t do as well.

But I never knew it was because of the bark content making the soil water resistant. I want a potting soil that won’t break down easily and won’t compact. That way it will last for much longer, and I save money.

3. Retain Water

Naturally, you want your potting soil to hold water. This is great for the plants because they need water to be released to them as needed.

However, if your potting soil won’t hold water, then your plants will not get water as they need. That is something you should keep an eye on when choosing or creating your potting soil.

4. Add Nutrients to My Plants

Obviously, plants get nutrients from the soil. If you create your own potting soil, then you need to create one that will provide these necessary nutrients.

But be sure whatever soil you create or purchase, will give the nutrients your plants desire.

The Recipe

What You’ll Need:

  • Measuring cup
  • Large Mixing Container
  • Water (Jug or Water Hose)
  • A Sieve
  • Trowel
  • A Container to Presoak Peat
  • Potting Soil Ingredients

The Ingredients:

1. Coir Peat or Peat Moss

You will need 1 part of coir peat or peat moss. If you are about living a greener life, then you’ll want to go with coir peat. It is a waste by-product of coconut processing.

So it is clearly a renewable resource. However, if you just prefer peat moss it will do the same thing.

2. Vermiculite

Then you’ll need 1 part vermiculite. This is a natural volcanic mineral that has expanded because of heat. They do this because it increases its ability to contain water.

Also, vermiculite is great at providing necessary minerals for your plants. It can also hold minerals for your plants as well.

3. Compost

Next, you need 2 parts compost that has been sieved. You can make your own compost or purchase it. Whichever option works best for you.

4. Worm Castings

Finally, you’ll need ½ cup to 1 cup of worm castings. If you worm farm, then these should be readily available.

If not, then you can purchase them here. Also, you can use humus from the bottom of your compost pile.

Either way, you’ll want to include this part in your potting mix because it helps retain moisture in your potting soil. It is a great food source for plants and contains microbes that are beneficial to most plants.

Plus, it protects from toxic metals and toxic chemicals that can be found in some soil. It also helps create the desired texture for a potting soil as well.

The Process

1. Presoak the Peat

You will want to begin by placing the coir peat or peat moss in a larger container to soak. Be sure to soak it in warm water. You usually take the amount of peat you have and divide it in half to determine how much water you need to rehydrate.

But once you have loosened the rehydrated peat with your trowel and are satisfied with the consistency of it, then you are ready to move on to the next step.

2. Mix the Peat and Vermiculite

Then you’ll need to mix equal parts peat with vermiculite. If you are not able to purchase vermiculite, coarse sand could be used in its place.

3. Add Compost to the Mix

Next, you’ll need to sieve your compost. Then you’ll need to sieve your worm castings. Once you’ve completed that, you’ll need to take these items and combine them with other nutrients that you might want to add to your potting soil.

Then you’ll add it to the peat and vermiculite to round out your potting soil mix.

4. Check the Acidity

Then you’ll need a pH meter and measure the acidity of the potting mix. You’ll want the acidity to be between 6.0 and 7.0.

If you are having issues with balancing your soil, here is a link that can give you some ideas on how to deal with that.

5. Keep Moist and Store

Finally, you’ll want to insure that your potting mix is moist. Then you’ll store it with a lid to insure it stays moist.

Then you’ll want to recheck the soil’s pH within a few days. You are a looking for a soil pH that is neutral (around 7.0) or a little acidic (around 6.5). When you are ready to use your potting soil just add any last minute minerals you might want.

Plus, you’ll want to add some slow release fertilizers as well.

Finally, add water to moisten the mix and begin planting.

Well, now you are aware of how to make your own potting soil mix. You also know what you should look for in an ideal potting soil. Hopefully, this will help you with your gardening this year.

But I’d love to hear from you. Do you have your own recipe for making potting soil? What ingredients do you add to your potting mixes that you feel work really well for your plants?

We love hearing from you so please leave us your comments in the space provided below.

Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. 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. Watch the video HERE .

Source : morningchores.com

 

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4 Common Soil Problems (And How To Easily Fix Them)

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4 Common Soil Problems (And How To Easily Fix Them)

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

The key to a healthy soil with balanced nutrients may be easier and more complicated than you thought.

It’s not just about spraying the right fertilizer and watching it be miraculously sucked into your plants in the exact quantities they need. That’s because plants work in harmony with specific types of soil structures, microbe populations, and pH balances, so the best thing you can do for your plants is learn about creating a healthy soil through mimicking natural processes in natural soil ecosystems and begin to think of your soil as just that: an ecosystem.

Treatment of Nutrient Deficiencies

There are three main ways of treating soil nutrient deficiencies: increasing bioavailability/absorption of existing nutrients, adding non-harmful nutrient sources, and creating an efficient nutrient cycle.

Nutrient absorption can be increased through creating a healthy soil food web by using composts, compost tea, chop and drop techniques, effective microorganisms, green manure and cover crops, and lots of mulch. With the healthy soil food, web microbes will predigest nutrients for plants, while helping to bind them in the soil within their bodies and within the rich, well-structured soil they help to create.

Efficient nutrient cycles are created through having a diversity of plants with different root depths and patterns, especially perennials (and including trees). This ensures nutrients are pulled from deeper in the soil, while creating less root competition. Protecting your soil from erosion and nutrient leaching through mulch (4-6 inches) and/or cover crops is essential.

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

It’s also important to test your soil, both nutrients and pH, ideally at a soil testing lab. You’ll most likely have to mail in samples following their collection instructions. This will then give you a picture of how to proceed.

Treatment of Nutrient Oversupply

It can be easy to over-fertilize with concentrated chemical fertilizers like ammonium sulfate or sulfur coated urea, for example. These fertilizers are damaging to soil ecosystems. Many fertilizers are directly toxic to soil organisms, particularly in high amounts, reacting with other elements in the soil to create toxic substances such as sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide, and chlorine. Hydrogen ions released from some processes disrupt the soil’s nutrient-holding capacity, while chemical fertilizers also may increase mineral salts in the soil, stealing water from the plants.

It’s always best to go the slow-and-steady route to building your soil, using natural compounds that a healthy soil food web can break down and make available to the plants as they need them, rather than trying to force feed your plants, disrupting their ability to get what they need by themselves, and creating more work for you.

The best way to treat oversupply is to stop fertilizing with fertilizers high in the nutrient in question, and rebalance the soil if the nutrient oversupply may have caused deficiencies in other nutrients.

Following are four common soil nutrients, along with how plants react if there is an undersupply (deficiency) or oversupply.

1. Nitrogen deficiency/oversupply

Deficiency: Leaves turn pale green or yellow before finally dying, starting in older leaves, and overall plant growth slows.

Fertilizers: Seaweed, compost, compost teas, bone meal, and fertilizers containing natural sources of nitrates, ammonium or urea. Nitrogen “fixing” plants can help, since they have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria that pull, or fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Plant things like peas, beans, honey locust and alder tree with your other plants.

Oversupply: Excess foliage growth, lack of flowering and fruiting, stunted root growth, browning of leaves, a buildup of mineral salts in the soil.

2. Potassium deficiency/oversupply

Deficiency: Leaf tips curl, leaves turn yellow between the veins before browning and dying, root growth slows, and plants have poor seed and fruit quality and quantity. Leaves may also develop brown or purple spots on underside.

Fertilizers: Compost and compost teas, langbeinite, potassium sulfate, sylvinite, seaweed, greensand, rock minerals and wood ash.

Oversupply: Calcium deficiency, low oxygen levels in soil, production of toxic compounds, loss of soil structure leading to compaction and poor water infiltration.

3. Phosphorous deficiency/oversupply

4 Common Soil Problems (And How To Easily Fix Them)

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Deficiency: Poor leaf, shoot and root growth; deep green, purple or red leaf color; delay in the maturity, including with fruit and seeds; poor nitrogen fixation in nitrogen-fixing plants.

Fertilizers: Compost and compost tea, mulch such as wood chips or straw, chicken manure, bone meal, rock phosphates (with no phosphoric acid added) and fish bone meal.

Oversupply: Yellowing of the leaves (especially just beyond veins), brown spotting, death of leaves, inhibition of beneficial fungi growth, decreased uptake of iron and manganese.

4. Sulfur deficiency/oversupply

Deficiency: Common in weathered soils and areas with heavy rainfall. Yellowing of leaves (especially younger leaves), dying leaf tips, stunted growth, high seedling mortality, few flowers. Similar to nitrogen deficiency, but with reddening of veins in young leaves.

Fertilizers: Compost and compost tea, langbeinite (as long as you need all of the nutrients contained), potassium sulphate (also includes potassium), gypsum and Epsom salt.

Oversupply: Rare, but causes acidity and deficiencies in selenium.

To recap: The most effective, low-labor and low-cost way to prevent and treat nutrient deficiencies and oversupply is to start conceptualizing your gardens or landscape as an ecosystem, and to begin treating it as such.

Just as a forest has a constant layer of mulch, so, too, should your plants. Just as an oak savanna has healthy and diverse soil ecosystems supported by multiple species of plant roots at varying depths, so, too, should your landscape. We indeed can mimic natural ecosystems while still achieving our own aesthetic, using the plants we prefer while giving them what they need to (largely) take care of themselves.

What advice would you add on taking care of nutrient deficiencies in the garden? Share your tips in the section below:

Fertilizers, feeding your plants!

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Fertilizers, feeding your plants! Bobby “MHP Gardener” Audio in player below! Before you plant a seed or seedling, you need to apply some fertilizer to the soil or container. What kind and how much depends on what you’re growing, and your particular style of growing. So it’s important to have a good understanding of the … Continue reading Fertilizers, feeding your plants!

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Why You Should NEVER Use Rows In Your Garden Again

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Why You Should NEVER Use Rows In Your Garden Again

I recently wrote about how I often do things in the garden just because that’s how I’ve always done them. For example, I always plant all my seeds and seedlings in one big push after the last frost date. That’s what my mom always did, and I learned how to garden by working alongside her. And so, I was surprised when a local friend told me that he planted peas about six weeks prior to the last frost date. He explained that he followed the directions on the back of the seed packet, which said to plant as soon as the soil was workable. Go figure. People actually read seed packages?

Maybe I need to re-evaluate my gardening methods.

There’s another thing I do just because that’s the way I’ve always done it: Plant my vegetables in rows. And you know what? I have raised beds. Rows aren’t the best choice for any home vegetable garden, and they certainly aren’t the logical choice for raised beds.

Yep, you read that correctly. Row cropping is a bad idea for home gardeners. Think about it:

  • Traditionally, there is a path on each side of every row to allow space to tend to the plants. Simply put, rows waste valuable space.
  • When you walk on the garden, the soil gets compacted. Soil compaction can cause a number of issues, such as:
    • decreasing water infiltration.
    • decreasing air within the soil (and roots need air to breathe).
    • making it difficult for roots to penetrate the soil and grow.
    • decreasing the amount of soil roots can reach in their quest for nutrients.
    • decreasing yields.
  • Unless drip lines are carefully rigged, irrigation water may be wasted on the space between rows.

There are actually a number of alternatives to row cropping, but they all boil down to one idea: intensive gardening, which eliminates wasted space and maximizes the space you do use. Plants grouped closely together create shade for each other and reduce water evaporation, essentially creating their own little microclimates. Plants grouped closely together also discourage weed growth.

1. Raised beds

By their nature, raised beds get around the issues of wasted space in the pathways and soil compaction. But, if you’re still planting rows in raised beds — like I am — you’re missing out on the benefits of intensive gardening. Raised beds are best used in tandem with square foot gardening, hexagonal spacing, and vertical planting, all explained further below.

2. Square foot gardening

In 1981, Mel Bartholomew revolutionized the idea of intensive gardening with his book Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work. Square foot gardening is exactly what it sounds like: creating a large grid of 12-inch-by-12-inch squares and planting within each square.

Why You Should NEVER Use Rows In Your Garden AgainPlanning is necessary when gardening by the square foot. Larger plants like tomatoes and potatoes should be planted one per square foot, while smaller vegetables like radishes could be planted at a rate of 16 per square foot. Spacing in intensive gardening is different from the spacing recommended on seed packets, which is determined for row cropping.

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A little online research will turn up sites that provide guidelines for intensive spacing. Also, care needs to be taken in regards to which vegetables are situated next to each other. Short sun-loving plants shouldn’t be placed next to plants that will grow tall and bushy and create shade. And this is a great time to take companion planting into consideration as well.

3. Hexagonal spacing

Similar to square-foot gardening, hexagonal spacing maximizes space even further. Suppose someone challenged you to fit as many round dinner plates on a kitchen table as possible. Lining up all those round plates in a grid pattern produces a lot of wasted space. You can get more plates on the table if you shift every second row over just a bit so that rows are staggered. Now envision this same scenario with plants like cabbages, tomatoes or eggplants. That’s hexagonal spacing in the garden. It’s absolutely OK for the leaves of the plants to touch when planted in this way, and indeed it is ideal that they touch. Planting densely helps minimize evaporation and conserve water. It also keeps the ground shaded and cooler, and discourages weed growth.

4. Vertical gardening

Vertical gardening is again exactly what it sounds like: making use of vertical growing space by using trellising systems. Plants with vines that sprawl and take up a lot of space are ideal for vertical gardening. Cucumbers, melons, squash, peas and pole beans all can be grown vertically. Some plants are natural climbers and will grab onto any support system they can find. Others need to be trained and/or tied. And if the fruit grows large and heavy, it will need to be supported so that it doesn’t drop off the vine. The toe ends of old pantyhose work perfectly for this purpose.

Of course, plants grown in this way will cast shade. If you’re integrating vertical gardening with either square-foot gardening or hexagonal spacing, take care where you place your trellising system and which plants you plant nearby the climbers.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of which intensive gardening method you use, remember to fertilize! All those plants will be sucking up every nutrient they can find in your soil. It’s important to replenish the soil by fertilizing regularly.

Do you use any intensive gardening systems? If so, share your tips in the section below:

8 Insanely Fast Vegetables You Can Harvest In One Month

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8 Insanely Fast Vegetables You Have Harvest In One Month

Arugula. Image source: Pixabay.com

Let’s face it: gardening can be challenging. The idea of waiting weeks and weeks for produce to be ready seems disheartening.

This is particularly true if you live in a suburban area, like I do, where the nearest grocery store is less than a quarter-mile away. If I want fresh tomatoes, the expansive produce department at my favorite store has an ever-present supply. Why go through the trouble of waiting so long for a harvest when I can simply pick up what I need at the market?

There are plenty of reasons you should be gardening, but did you know that some plants can be harvest-ready in a matter of days? Yes, days. If you struggle wondering if the effort of a garden is worth it, then planting a few of these fast-growers gives you (almost) immediate results and can help you hold on through the long days of waiting for harvest.

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As you’re planning your garden, add in a few of these plants to jump-start your production. Of course, spinach and lettuce are popular quick-growing varieties, but here are eight others:

1. Sunflower Shoots. These tiny sunflower shoots are ready to harvest in about 12 days. Ready to be used when the stem has two leaves, they are a wonderful addition to salads. Even better, they’re packed with nutrition, so they’re a healthy “fast food.”

2. Radishes. Green shoots show up in a matter of days; most have growth three days after planting seeds. If you want continual growth, plant a few seeds every week to maintain a steady supply of this peppery vegetable. Use heirloom radishes to get a variety of colors and flavors These are a great starter veggie for small children to grow, as well.

3. Arugula. A popular salad green, arugula grows quickly and easily. It’s slightly peppery taste gives your salad a kick, and the quick growth gives you gardening satisfaction in around 20 days. Simply cut the leaves when they are large enough, and continue to enjoy fresh arugula all summer long.

4. Green onions. Sometimes known as scallions, these easy-to-grow onions are ready for harvest in 21 days. Harvest the green shoots when they reach about six inches tall. Leave the onion bulb planted for a continuous supply of shoots.

8 Insanely Fast Vegetables You Have Harvest In One Month

Bok choy. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Bok choy. An Asian green, this plant not only tastes good, bit it’s beautiful to grow, too. Leaves can be harvested individually, or you can use the entire plant and use the bulb, as well. Plant seeds staggered through the spring for a sustained harvest of this exotic lettuce. Baby Bok choy is ready to harvest in 30 days.

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

6. Tatsoi. Another fast-growing green, tatsoi is a mustard green that is perfect for salads and soups. Harvest when the leaves are four-inches tall, or wait until they reach full maturity at 40 days.

7. Chinese cabbage. A unique garden variety, this plant doesn’t tolerate heat well, so plant in a shady area of your garden. Harvest the entire head of greens in 30 days for a delicious addition to your salads.

8. Turnips. An old-fashioned garden staple, turnips are easy to grow and can be used in their entirety. Tender roots are mild when harvested early (around 30 days after planting), or you can let them reach maturity (in 60 days) and use the greens. Let bulbs grow to a diameter of about three inches before plucking at full growth.

Add some of these quick turn-around plants to your garden to give you immediate gardening gratification. Not only will it make your efforts pay-off, but the plants will add variety and interest to your table!

What are your favorite fast-growing plants? Share your tips in the section below:

2 Simple Ways To Eliminate Garden Weeds This Year

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2 Simple Ways To Eliminate Garden Weeds This Year The bane of any gardeners existence is the consistent and unrelenting growth of weeds. Its a nightmare each and every year the plucking and picking. Most gardeners threaten to place weed blocker down to assure nothing can grow through it and into your garden. But even …

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5 Low-Cost, Creative Ways To Build A Raised Bed Garden

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5 Low-Cost, Creative Ways To Build A Raised Bed Garden

With spring finally here, you may be considering putting in a raised bed garden. But if you’ve headed to your local garden supply center, you (and your budget) may have recoiled in shock.

Instead of crossing “raised beds” off your to-do list, consider some of these budget friendly ideas that can get your garden up and growing quickly.

Making the Bed

Often, the biggest expense for raised beds is the actual bed itself. Find ways to reduce the cost of your raised bed by thinking outside the box.

1. Lose the bed. Want to really cut costs? Don’t use a box at all. Build your raised bed by creating mounds wherever you want your bed to be located. Simply put down a layer of newsprint, followed by a two-inch layer of grass clippings or shredded leaves. Include a layer of manure, followed by a layer of top soil. The rounded edges help rain to run off, and the elevated bed helps prevent it from being trampled by mowers or walkers.

2. Use recycled materials. If your garden also doubles as a yard for small children or animals, you may need a raised bed with walls. Look for pieces that can be repurposed: old cribs, galvanized tubs, old fence rails or scrap lumber. A quick-and-easy bed can be made out of concrete blocks. For a natural look, use tree stumps, rocks or reclaimed concrete. Scour your local classifieds or Craigslist ads for free items that you could use to build a garden bed.

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

3. Build on the cheap. Really like the look of a wood bed, but don’t want the expense? Visit the fencing section of your local lumberyard. Purchase individual fence slats to build the walls of your bed. Cedar is weather-proof and makes a great raised bed. Look for untreated lumber if you’re planning on growing food. Pallets can be found easily and can be used to build your bed.

Filling the Space

4. Make your own soil. Bags of growing medium can add cost to the project quickly. For best results, and for maximum growth potential, create layers in the growing box. Not only will it cut down on the cost of soil, but it will give your garden the nutrients it needs to produce a bountiful harvest. Every gardener has their own “special sauce” of growing soil — a mixture of dirt, fertilizer and other additives that they’ve had success with. The basic formula I use, however, looks like this:

Start with a layer of weed block. (I prefer three layers of newspaper; it’s effective at stopping weeds and grasses from getting through and will break down over time.)

Add two inches of “green material.” Leaf clippings, grass cuttings and other yard waste is perfect here. A neighbor of mine swears by the fact that he adds a bag of Old Roy dog food to the raised beds. While I’m not sure what the dog food does, you can’t argue with his results! His garden overflows with food year-round! (Don’t have a lot of leaves to use? Ask your neighbors to save their grass cuttings; most people will be happy to have someone else dispose of their yard waste!)

Add a layer of mulch. This helps to hold moisture in the garden bed, and provides additional nutrients as the mulch breaks down. (Be sure to get “natural” mulch. Check with your local extension office for free mulch that may be available.)

Add a layer of dirt. I prefer to mix my soil with worm compost before adding it to my raised bed, to ensure even coverage. Add a few inches of soil to the top of your garden.

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

For extra help with water retention, I like to cover my raised bed with hay or mulch after putting in my plants. It helps to prevent weeds from taking root, and holds in moisture, essential in the hot climate where I live.

Adding Your Plants

5. Don’t pay for high-priced seedlings. Start your own seedlings, using last year’s seeds or seeds you purchase.

Or visit local garden shows, small nurseries or other garden centers for inexpensive seedlings. Check with your extension office for “plant swaps” and other plant-sharing events that will allow you to share (and receive) plants from other gardeners. Make friends with people who garden – most gardeners love to share their plants and will offer cuttings or seedlings to get your garden started.

A raised bed doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find ways to garden “on the cheap,” giving you and your family access to delicious fruits and vegetables right outside your door.

Be creative – your garden can be as unique and individual as you!

What advice would you add on building an inexpensive raised bed? Share your tips in the section below: 

The Very Best Vegetables To Grow In A Raised Bed

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The Very Best Vegetables To Grow In A Raised Bed

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

One of the best benefits to having your own garden is the ability to pick and choose what you grow. There is nothing quite like harvesting a crop and serving it to your family.

With a raised bed, you have more flexibility than a traditional garden, so your planting options are endless. But what should you plant? Some vegetables do better than others in a raised bed. If you’re new to raised-bed gardening, start with some of these sure-fire winners:

Potatoes. A raised bed is perfect for growing potatoes. The loose soil allows the plant to spread easily, and also allows for easy draining, preventing the plants from rotting quickly. A contained bed makes it easy to add hills over the plant shoots and gives you easy access for harvesting.

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Onions. For best results, onions need a long growing season. A raised bed lets you plant early and leave them until they mature; for most varieties, this can be up to 100 days. By customizing the soil, you can create an optimum growing medium for onions by mixing lots of compost in with your soil. The easy draining and loose soil are perfect for onions.

Root vegetables. Carrots, radishes, beets and other root vegetables grow best in soil that is loose and rock-free. Your garden bed allows these veggies complete growing freedom in an environment designed for success. You can customize the depth of the bed, ensuring that they have enough soil to grow.

Tomatoes. One year, I did an entire raised bed of tomatoes. To mix things up, I had several varieties: cherry, plum, beefsteak, green and yellow. Tomatoes thrive in a raised bed! Give them a rich, nutrient-dense soil and they will produce (and produce, and produce, and produce!).

The Very Best Vegetables To Grow In A Raised Bed

Image source: Pixabay.com

Have some specific gardening needs? You can still have success with your raised beds.

Problems With Shade?

If your yard gets less than six hours of sunlight a day, you can still have a bountiful garden. Try some of these shade-loving vegetables that do well in a raised bed: beets, carrots, kale and scallion.

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

Some years, I purposely move my raised beds into a shady part of the yard so I can take advantage of early spring planting to grow a variety of lettuces. With a raised bed, I can plant earlier than in a traditional garden, so the less heat-tolerant plants have a better chance of success.

Have Young Gardeners?

Have kids (or grandkids) that love to help in the garden? Add interesting plants to help captivate their attention and keep them interested in what’s growing! Blue potatoes, carrots, peanuts, watermelon, and pole beans are all perfect raised bed plants. Add some cherry tomatoes for fun (they’re perfect to snack on while working in the garden), or Swiss chard for visual interest.

Want a Photo-Worthy Garden?

Make your neighbors (and your social media friends) jealous with a garden that is not only supplying you with vegetables, but has visual appeal. Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, asparagus, peppers and sunflowers are a delight for the eyes (and the taste buds). They do well in a raised bed and make an impressive display for front-yard gardens.

No matter what you grow in your raised bed, always try to add something new. You never know what new favorite you may discover!

What are your favorite vegetables to plant in a raised bed? Share your tips in the section below:

Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box Store

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Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box Store

Image source: Jacki Andre

 

It’s here! It’s spring! It’s time to start breaking out the seeds!

If you’re like me, you probably spent at least some time this winter browsing through seed catalogs, creating wish lists, and making scale drawings of your garden to make sure that you have space to grow everything you want to. But before you buy seeds and start planting, it’s a good idea to take stock of your existing seeds and make a plan. Which seeds need to be started indoors, and which ones should be sown directly? When should they be planted? Are the seeds you saved from last year viable?

Taking Stock: Stored Seeds

Start by looking for seeds that you have stored away. I, for one, am bad at figuring out how many seeds I need and I usually have a lot left over after planting. You might be surprised at how many seeds you already have on hand — and using those up could provide a nifty little cost savings.

Testing the Germination Rate

If you’re using stored seeds, start with a germination test. Simply put, you want to figure out if the seeds will sprout. Seeds don’t have an expiration date, but many do lose their viability after awhile. If only a small percentage of your stored seeds sprout, you don’t want to waste time planting them and waiting for them to come up.

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

Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box StoreIt’s simple to figure out the germination rate. Layer a few paper towels and thoroughly moisten them. Space out ten seeds of any one cultivar on the wet paper towel and then fold it up so that the seeds are covered. Place the folded paper towel in a clear plastic zip-top bag. Keep the bag in a warm, bright spot. Check on it every few days to make sure the paper towel is still moist and to see if any seeds have sprouted. It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for the seeds to sprout.

If 9 out of 10 seeds sprout, that’s a 90 percent germination rate, and those seeds are good to plant. If you get a 50 percent germination rate, you can still plant the seeds, but you might want to sow twice as many as recommended (such as four squash seeds to a hill instead of two) to make up for the ones that won’t sprout. If the germination rate is very low, it’s better to source different seeds.

Starting Indoors vs. Direct Sowing

Some seeds need to be started indoors, or their produce just won’t be ready to harvest prior to fall frosts. Other seeds do best if sown directly into the garden. Still others can be started indoors or sown directly. It’s a good idea to start by sorting your seeds into three separate piles: “indoors,” “outdoors” and “either.” Once you know where to sow them, the next step is to figure out when.

Determining Planting Dates

Your last frost date is the key to figuring out when to plant. There are a number of interactive calculators online that indicate your exact last frost date, such as this one at The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Next, read the seed packets or do some online research to find out how long before the last frost date the seeds should be planted. Then count backward from your last frost day to determine the best dates to plant each variety.

Tips for Organizing Seeds

Seed-Storage Tips You Won’t Learn At The Big Box StoreA simple seed organization system takes only a few minutes to create, but you’ll be able to use it for years to come. Remember that whichever organization system you use, seeds should be stored in a cool, dark, dry location, which has little temperature fluctuation.

Charts/Tables

One of the simplest tricks is just to make a written list of the seeds you usually sow and their planting dates.

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

The list can be stored with your seeds in a shoebox or large zip-top bag for future reference.

Seed File Box

My own favorite seed storage idea is to use a small box as a filing system. Each file divider indicates the planting date, whether the seeds should be sown indoors or outdoors, and a list of seeds that should be planted on each date. That way, it’s quick and easy to determine if I have all the seeds I need for each round of planting.

Seed Journal/Book

My mom used a photo album with plastic sleeves to store her seed packets. Using an album with an area for notes is genius, because you can jot notes about each seed variety beside the packet to keep track of germination rate, planting locations, yields, etc. The album can be organized in any way you choose, but I do like the idea of sticking to planting dates so that by flipping through the album, you sequentially see which seeds to plant next.

Do you have tips for organizing seeds for spring planting? If so, please share in the comments below.

22 Ways for Growing a Successful Vegetable Garden

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Spring is fast approaching, so are you planning to grow a healthy and beautiful vegetable garden that will help beautify your home’s outdoor and be a place of relaxation? Growing your own fruits and vegetables in the yard lets you spend more time outside, at the same time saves your money for buying organic food. So if you have the space to grow your own vegetables, you should definitely take advantage of that. Even if you only have a small space, it isn’t an obstacle anymore in your effort to vegetable garden. In the following projects you will find a lot of vegetable garden designs to help you start your neat and tidy veggie garden that produces fresh and tasty food for you. Take a look and get started!

1. Use metal trough as container for vegetable garden and install a path between your veggies:

Tutorial of above project ====> houseandbloom.com

2. If you are planning to plant cucumbers, melons, and beans in your garden, you can build a trellis and raised garden box combo to let them get support at some point:

Tutorial of above project ====> weedemandreap.com

3. Spiral garden has very cool looking and works great for people with limited space:

Source: recycledawblog.blogspot.com

4. Use landscaping rocks to build a series of raised garden beds and put a galvanized water trough in the center of garden for easy watering:

Source: recycledawblog.blogspot.com

4. Use landscaping rocks to build a series of raised garden beds and put a galvanized water trough in the center of garden for easy watering:

Source: bhg.com

5. U-shaped raised garden makes efficient use of limited space:

Source: brittanystager.com

6. Build pea tepees structure to make the harvesting and maintenance more easier:

Source: lillbutton2.blogspot.com    Source: grit.com

7. Use landscape stones to build a stunning carved garden in your backyard:

Source: paintspeckledpawprints.net

8. Wire trellis is a great option to build a vertical growing garden in a tiny backyard:

Source: gardenoholic.com

9. Lay the ground with red bricks or pebble and place cedar and pine planks garden boxes on it to plant your veggies:

Source Unknown.

10. Build a mini vegetable garden along a foundation wall:

Source: flickr.com

11. Concrete blocks are the perfect materials to organize an easy and cheap vegetable growing place:

Source: vintagekidsmodernworld.com

12. Build a bean tunnel for your climbing beans:

Source: wahsegavalleyfarm.typepad.com

Source Unknown.

Source: houzz.com

Source: palletwoodprojects.com

Above image source: raisedurbangardens.com    Bottom image source: gardensall.com

Source: bengreenfieldfitness.com

Source: flickr.com    Source: landscapingcapetown.co.za

Source Unknown.

Source: commmunitygardening.blogspot.com

Source: youtube.com

Source: homegardenseedsorganic.com

 

 

Source : www.woohome.com

 

 

 

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The Simple, 7-Ingredient Compost Tea That Will Revolutionize Your Garden

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The Simple, 7-Ingredient Compost Tea That Will Revolutionize Your Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Earth, by its very nature, is in a partnership with microbes of all kinds. From the deepest seas, to the highest mountains, microbes such as bacteria, yeast and fungi are a key part of our planet’s ecosystems, performing vital functions like making nutrients bio-available to plants and animals, and helping our soils maintain structure and moisture.

It turns out that we can take advantage of these symbiotic soil allies to great effect, and one of the easiest ways we can do this is by creating our own aerated compost tea. We’ll get into the how of compost tea, along with a recipe, in a moment, but first, let’s look at the why.

The main purpose of compost tea, besides adding a nice dose of pre-digested fertilizer to your garden, is to increase the number and diversity of beneficial microbes in the soil. How are they beneficial? Fungi, for example, help plants take up phosphorus, manganese, zinc, iron and copper, secreting digestive enzymes that dissolve and break down compounds so that plants can absorb them. They also dramatically increase the amount of water plants can take up, and act like a huge extension of their root systems. Other microbes predigest different compounds and help plants take up different nutrients.

In addition to the aid they give us below-ground, microbes on the leaves of plants also may be important allies, helping in the fight against disease by both filling an ecosystem niche that would otherwise be open to pathogens, and creating conditions that make it difficult for existing pathogens to live or reproduce.

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

Many beneficial bacteria, for example, produce acids that make it difficult for pathogenic yeasts and fungus to thrive. Although there is less scientific study in this area, the theory that aerated compost teas help with above-ground diseases is borne out by my own experience. Last year, some haskap bushes on my farm had a nasty fungus infection on their leaves, so I mixed up an aerated compost tea and sprayed it on them. Within days the fungus had completely disappeared.

So, now that you know why it’s good to use compost teas, let’s get into how you can make your own. I’m going to go over making aerated and aerobic (oxygenated) compost tea specifically, but you can also make anaerobic (lacking oxygen) compost tea by simply putting a bunch of (ideally, deep-rooted) plants like comfrey into a bucket or barrel with non-chlorinated water, letting it sit for about a week until it gets really nasty smelling, and then putting it on your soil. (I would avoid plant leaves with this stuff). Another anaerobic mixture known as effective microorganisms is also incredibly useful and can be purchased online and then mixed up at home.

Aerated Compost Tea

The Simple, 7-Ingredient Compost Tea That Will Revolutionize Your Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

Materials Needed

  1. Bucket or barrel. At least 25 gallons is ideal for anything but the smallest garden.
  2. Air pump sufficient for the amount of water. You can get good ones at hydroponic shops. Tiny fish tank aerators are not the best ones, although they may be sufficient for a 5-gallon bucket.

Recipe: Ingredients 

  1. Non-chlorinated water. Chlorine in the water will kill microorganisms.
  2. Vermacompost and well-aerated compost are best. The more diversity of compost, the better. It should smell good, like forest soil, and not stinky. 5 pounds per 25 gallons.
  3. Unsulphured molasses. Food for bacteria, etc. 1 ¼ cup per 25 gallons.
  4. Liquid kelp. Fertilizer and microbe food. ½ cup mixed into 5 cups of water before adding to the mixture.
  5. Humic acid. Microbe food and soil conditioner: 1-2 tablespoons per 25 gallons, mixed into 2 cups of water before adding to the mixture.
  6. Rotten wood chips, straw or hay (optional). Decomposing high carbon materials encourage fungal inoculation. 1-2 cups per 25 gallons will do.
  7. Steel cut oats. Food for fungus. 1 cup per 25 gallons.

Directions

First, put the water in, then the molasses, and then add everything else. Some people like to put all of the solid materials into a pillowcase or similar (like a tea bag), but I prefer to mix them directly into the water. If you’re a little off in the amounts, it doesn’t matter, as long as you have enough molasses to sustain the microbe populations for the amount of time you will be bubbling your brew. I should also note here that a compost tea recipe can be as simple as compost and molasses. The other things will take it to the next level.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Next, stir the container well, and put in your air pump bubbler. It’s good to stir the mixture from time to time. Let it sit for 24 to 48 hours (the full 48 is better).

Once you’re done bubbling, remove the air pump and give it another good stir. Now it’s time to apply it to your plants. If you’re going to create a foliar spray for leaves (definitely recommended), let it settle and skim the liquid off the top so that it contains fewer solids and won’t clog your sprayer. To spray it, simply evenly cover the leaves on the top and bottom. For soil application, use buckets or other manageable vessels and dunk them into the stirred up mixture in order to get the solids as well as the liquid. Then, apply to the soil around the plants, ideally covering up to or beyond the drip line.

That’s all there is to it. You should notice a significant kick to your plant growth, especially if you do this every couple of weeks during the growing season. Just make sure not to fertilize beyond the first two weeks of summer in temperate climates, as this could prevent new growth from hardening off in time and you may lose it to frost.

Have you made compost tea? What recipe did you use? Share your compost tea tips in the section below:

Growing in a bale

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Straw bale gardening
Straw bale gardening, it’s becoming more and more popular. I wondered if it would be as good as growing in raised beds, I had great luck growing in raised beds using a thick layer of straw as a mulch, the Ruth Stout method. A few years ago, one of my neighbors and friend who had very poor soil, in fact she had mostly rock. She took a large chain link fence dog kennel and 4 or 5 bales of hay and gave it a go.

That year, we had a gardening round-table in our community, we discuss tips and tricks for growing at our elevation and climate, my friend mentioned that her garden was going crazy, we were invited to come over and take a look after the meeting, I think most everyone at the meeting eagerly went over to see her garden.

It was unbelievable, the plants were bursting out of the dog kennel, when she went inside the kennel, you couldn’t see her anymore, the plants completely obscured her. The plants were quite happy and healthy, she didn’t even try to keep the plants inside the kennel – allowing the birds and other animals to nibble on the plants that were escaping the chain link fencing.

Seeing her garden really sold me on the straw bale gardening method. One thing I’m going to be contending with starting this year are gophers, they have been around in other parts of the neighborhood, but I’ve not seen them around this area. This year, I’ve started to see the tell tale signs of the gophers, they are small, not like the ones I remember in California, those created holes large enough to step in and break a leg. Our gophers our here make holes that are only a few inches across, though they do create lots of piles of dirt. I’ve seen them around the garden area on our property, I suspect they will be very interested in whatever I choose to plant in the garden.

https://youtu.be/juzf5VGMjCA

 

 

 

 

 

https://youtu.be/UfItdfkRikU

I’m thinking that growing in straw bales, closer to the SkyCastle, I can protect it better than out farther away. What about you? Have you grown in a straw bale? If so, how did it work for you and are you going to do it again? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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How To Grow Garlic: A Step by Step Guide

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This article was originally published by Susan W. on dengarden.com

Garlic: An Introduction

Garlic is a truly delicious allium and is a favourite by many chefs around the world. No meal is truly complete without a dash of garlic when needed. It has a distinct flavour, defined a classic. Not only that, but garlic has lots of health benefits too, research has shown. I will be discussing that later on in this hub.

Growing garlic in the garden is easy, and like onions requires little attention, has great results and is perfect for any beginner.

Did you ever want to grow garlic but didn’t know how to? Or maybe you want some handy tips for growing garlic successfully. Well, this is the hub for you! Here, you will learn how to plant garlic, cultivate it and harvest it, with great results.

You are bound to find some great tips here, no matter whether you are a beginner or an expert. But first, let’s delve into why garlic is so good for you, and how it can benefit your body.

Why Should You Grow Garlic?

What sets garlic apart from the crowd? Garlic can be stored easily and can be kept for the winter months. In a small city garden, you can grow almost 50 bulbs of garlic. That’s enough for an entire year! Don’t worry, growing garlic is easy, cheap and is great for beginners as they require little attention unlike other vegetables. Assuming that you don’t mind clearing weeds, you will find garlic a joy to grow.

If you think growing the garlic is good, the eating is even better. Like I mentioned above, it has a truly distinct flavour and adds a spicy kick to any meal. The flavour is one thing, but the benefits are the other. Garlic has so many health benefits, it is classified as a superfood. Here are some of the health benefits it brings:

  • It helps to lower blood pressure.
  • It helps to rid of prostrate, colon and stomach cancer cells, giving you better protection against cancer.
  • It wards off germs and bacteria in the body.
  • Garlic also have many nutrients including potassium, chromium, sulphides, vitamins B and C and selenium.
  • Scientific research has found that garlic contains an antimicrobial compound which prevents the formation of nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. Carcinogens often lead to cancer.

What You Will Need

To grow garlic, you will need some basic items including garden tools, garlic cloves and fertiliser. You will probably have some of the garden tools in your garage, if not you can buy them on Amaon or at your local garden centre.

  • Garlic Cloves – You can buy garlic from the supermarket if you wish, but most garlic from the supermarket was previously grown in hot climates so if you do not live in a hot climate, do not buy these. Instead, you can buy garlic suitable to your climate at your local gardening centres or on Amazon. Once you have your garlic, split the garlic into cloves. Each bulb of garlic should get you eight to ten cloves, which will result in eight to ten bulbs of garlic in the future. Pick out the big cloves from the small cloves, bigger cloves equal bigger bulbs of garlic when grown.
  • Fertiliser – To get bigger bulbs of garlic, you may want to use fertiliser. You can add fertiliser to the soil before you plant the garlic. However, if you want to stay organic, there is no need to use fertiliser, you will still get good results. You can also buy ‘vegetable feed’ which has the same functions as the fertiliser.
  • Compost – Rake in two to three bags of compost into the soil prior to planting. This will add extra nutrients to the soil.
  • Others – Common garden tools such as a rake, hoe and garden trowel will provide useful later on when clearing weeds and other jobs.

Tip!

Here is an excellent fact to know when buying garlic. It has been found that 90% of store bought garlic has been radiated on to prevent it from germinating. So that means that if you buy garlic from your supermarket, it will more than likely not grow.

How To Plant Your Garlic

First of all, you need to know when to plant your garlic. You have two options which are outlined below.

  • You can plant the garlic in late autumn, the shoots will generally come out during early spring.
  • Or alternatively, you can plant them in early spring and the shoots will come out after two weeks.

Now that you have what you need, it is time to get started! Mix in the compost with the soil that you will be planting the garlic in. Set a string in a straight line across the ground. Using your trowel, dig holes in the ground. Make sure each hole is 15 centimetres apart, to prevent cramming. Once you have your cloves chosen (make sure to select the big cloves from the small cloves – bigger cloves equal bigger bulbs of garlic). Place each clove into each holewith the white base facing into the ground and the pointy end facing the sky. It would be ideal to place the garlic about 2 to 3 inches into the soil.

Once you have finished planting your cloves, cover the cloves with compost. Fertilize the soil straight away, this is optional. Follow the instructions on your fertilizer or vegetable feed and spray the ground where the bulbs are. Keep watering often, if you live in a hot, dry climate. However, if it rains there is no need. Do not overdo on the watering! Garlic does not like overly wet soil!

Tip!

Make sure to plant your garlic in an area where it will get plenty of sunshine daily. That is key to achieving great results.

Plant Your Garlic in Containers

If you live in a city apartment or you are tight for space, garlic can be grown in containers in the porch of your home or even indoors. All you have to do is to fill a container with compost. Then dig holes about 2.5 inches deep into the compost, and make five to six holes per container. Water every two to three days depending how damp the compost is. As I mentioned earlier, don’t over water the garlic.

Garlic Cultivation

So whilst you have to wait for the garlic to be harvested, there are plenty of things to do in between.

  • If you planted your garlic in your garden, you will need to clear away any weeds by hand or by a hoe. This may not be a task you may enjoy, but it’s a task all gardeners have to do! It should only take twenty to thirty minutes every three to four weeks, that way your garden will be kept free of weeds.
  • Remember to fertilize every two to three weeks.
  • Also, water when the soil becomes dry.

That’s it! I told you there wasn’t much to do with garlic. Once you follow the steps above now and again, you will be on the path to harvesting great garlic! Take a look at the picture on the right. This is what garlic looks like after three months.

Garlic In Progress

Harvesting Your Garlic

At the start of Autumn, the wait is finally over and you can harvest your garlic! There are two signs to look out for. Firstly, you will see the scapes (shoots, green stems) turn brown or yellow and dry out. Secondly, you can feel the individual cloves formed within a bulb of garlic. When you see these signs, it is time to harvest your garlic.

Do not wait any longer as the clove will shatter into individual cloves. To harvest, gently loosen the soil around the garlic and gently pull the garlic from the ground. Brush away any dirt from the clove and leave your garlic to dry for a few days.

How To Store Garlic

Now that you have your garlic, you may want to store your garlic for the winter or for a few weeks. There are two ways to store your garlic.

The first is to braid your garlic. Just take one garlic with the shoot and then tie the others around it. Then you can hang the braided garlic in your kitchen or in the pantry, so you can take a clove or two when you need to use it.

Or, you can store your garlic in a ventilated pottery container, made ideally for garlic. You can buy a container on Amazon. They are ideally very handy as you can store the garlic there for months.

For an extra tang, you can store your garlic in vinegar or oil. However, bacteria may grow on the garlic so keep in the refrigerator and consume within two to three days.

 

Source : dengarden.com

 

 

 

 

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101 Gardening Secrets the Experts Never Tell You

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This article was originally published by Thomas Byers  on dengarden.com

A well-tended 400 square foot garden will feed a family of four. The trick is planning, planting, tending, and harvesting that garden right. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know to maximize your garden’s production, everything the experts don’t tell you!

How to Grow from Seeds

  1. I like to use natural topsoil to start my garden seedlings in. I usually don’t use potting soil because it generally does not produce the results I want.
  2. I fill a large, deep baking pan with top soil and bake it for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. This sanitizes the soil and ensures that no unwanted weeds or grass will come up in your soil. I usually start on this project in the winter and I fill up a couple of large plastic barrels with lids with the sanitized soil.
  3. After I have planted the seeds in the sanitized top soil, I sprinkle the top with powdered cinnamon. This keeps away fungus that can cause damping.
  4. I cover each seedling with a clear plastic cup that I wash and reuse. This protects the seedling and keeps the moisture in. It also keeps away cold and wind. I do my seed starting on a screened-in porch.
  5. If you plant your seeds outdoors, sprinkle flavored powdered gelatin in the soil with the seeds. This will feed beneficial bacteria and provide needed nitrogen to your plants as they come up.

Starting from a Clipping

If you want to root a plant or cutting in water, add an aspirin or two to the container. Buy a cheap bottle of aspirin and grind it up before you add it to the water. This will aid in water absorption and will help the cutting to start roots.

You can easily start plants from cuttings from roses, saliva, and geraniums. Just dip the cuttings into a rooting hormone, then put them into potting soil. Spray the cuttings several times a day with water until you are sure they are rooted. Hibiscus are also easy to root this way.

 

How to Plant or Transplant Tomatoes or Peppers

Try it this way and I promise you that you’ll be rewarded with faster growing and healthier plants:

  1. When planting any type of tomato or pepper plant, pinch off all but the top leaves.
  2. Dig a deep hole. Always add a cup of water to the prepared hole and then set the plant into the hole and put a tablespoon of powdered, unflavored gelatin in the hole as near to the roots of the plant as possible. A teaspoon of cinnamon also goes in. The gelatin will feed and encourage helpful bacteria and the cinnamon will keep away fungus and cutworms.
  3. For sweeter tomatoes, put two tablespoons of baking soda in the bottom of the hole. Cover the baking soda with an inch or two of dirt before you put the plant in the hole.
  4. Carefully fill the hole with dirt and pack the dirt down tight.
  5. Use tomato cages or wooden stakes and garden twine to tie your tomato plants up and give them support to keep them from getting blown over by the wind. If they aren’t supported, they won’t produce nearly as much and may develop fungus diseases if the plant is laying over on the ground.

Note: I suggest that everyone learn everything they can about heirloom tomatoes, which have much better flavor than modern ones.

How to Keep Deer out of Your Yard

If you follow the below tips, you can keep deer out:

  1. Purchase motion-activated sprinklers. If the deer or other animals go near them, the sprinklers activate automatically and run them off quickly. Deer and most other animals don’t like to be sprayed by water.
  2. Sometimes something as simple as hanging up tin pie pans around the garden can keep the deer away. You will want to hang the pans so they swing freely and make noise. Move them to another spot about once a week to be sure the deer don’t become used to them and just walk around them.
  3. Human urine works great as a deterrent. Bring a container full from the bathroom and pour it around the edges of your garden. Put down fresh urine as often as you can and the deer will stay away.
  4. Hang up noisy wind chimes. As with the pans, you’ll want to move them every week or so.

 

From Garden to Kitchen and Back Again

  • When you boil or steam vegetables, don’t throw the water away. After it’s cool, use it to water the plants you are growing in containers. You’ll be surprised how plants respond to this type of water.
  • Always put leftover tea, tea bags, and coffee grounds under your azaleas. You will end up with healthy plants with bright flowers.
  • The quickest and best place to dry herbs is on a few sheets of newspaper on the back seat of your car. The herbs will dry out quickly, usually in 1 – 2 days.
  • Don’t be afraid to grow your own kitchen herbs. Most herbs are easy to grow and you’ve never tasted anything as good as your own homemade pesto sauce. I grow purple heirloom sweet basil and it is so delicious. It also gives a wonderful smell to my garden. Don’t forget to compost what you don’t use.
  • Do you stir fry? You should if you don’t. If you do, try using things like immature broccoli, baby squash, and tiny eggplants. You won’t believe the wonderful flavor of these tiny baby vegetables. Don’t be afraid to pull baby green onions to add to the mix. You can come up with some wonderful flavors this way.
  • Blood, fish, and bonemeal are great organic fertilizers. Apply them throughout the growing season to your vegetables and flowers. Blood and bonemeal will also keep rabbits and groundhogs out of your garden and away from your plants.
  • If you grow an abundance of cayenne pepper, keep it picked off green and keep adding it to a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. If you wish, go ahead and cut the stems off before you freeze the cayenne. (Don’t forget to use those stems to enrich your soil.) You can add a tablespoon or two of fine diced green cayenne to soups and stews to add spice and flavor.
  • If you’re going to be growing a garden every year, you should learn how to can as soon as possible. Growing and canning tomatoes is easy and very satisfying. Do some research and learn everything you can about canning and preserving what you grow in your garden.
  • If you don’t have one yet, purchase a food dehydrator to preserve your vegetables. You can make wonderful sun-dried tomatoes this way. You can dry almost any kind of fruit or vegetable and if you do it right, you’ll end up with delicious treats. Store them in a tightly-covered container or freeze them in a large ziplock bag. If you make a dried mixture of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and onions, you’ll have the perfect soup mix. Add the dried vegetables to chicken or vegetable stock and you can quickly have a delicious soup. Add pasta and fried hamburger for a delicious stew. Be sure that you carefully read the instruction book that comes with the dehydrator.
  • Save all your banana skins and let them dry outdoors. Plant them at the base of your tomato plants: It’s like giving your tomatoes a pick-me-up and will encourage growth. You can speed things along by pureeing the banana peels with water in a food processor or blender and then pouring this around the base of the tomato plants.
  • You can use chamomile tea to prevent fungus on your seedlings. Spray it on before sunrise or after sunset for the best results.
  • Canning is the preferred method of putting up your garden veggies because cans don’t need refrigeration and won’t spoil if the power fails. The next best solution is to dehydrate as many of your fruits and vegetables as you can. And if you plan to store a lot of fruits and vegetables you should have a small chest freezer. You can make things like squash casseroles or zucchini bread to freeze for later use. Make sure that you date and label each item so you know what it is and how old it is.

Use Leftover Fruit and Vegetable Peelings

Take all of those peelings and vegetable scraps and run them through your food processor, then sprinkle this in your soil to feed your growing plants. Peppers especially love this and will grow and produce bumper crops when you feed them this way.

Use Newspaper and the Lint from Your Dryer as a Mulch

Instead of throwing away the lint your dryer filter collects, save it in a tightly-sealed container and till it into your dirt to help hold moisture in your soil.

You can also shred your daily newspaper and add the shredded paper to your compost bin. It will help you to have healthy compost and will help to retain the soil’s moisture.

When you plant things like tomatoes, peppers, and squash, put a fist-sized piece of dryer lint in the bottom of the hole. The dryer lint will hold moisture in and around your just-planted plants, insuring that the water stays there at the roots where it is needed.

Always plant marigolds, especially near tomatoes and cabbage, to keep garden pests away.

What Expert Gardeners Know About Planting

  • Go on the Internet in the winter and very early spring and order all your seeds.
  • Plant the vegetables that your family likes to eat. Why plant asparagus if no one likes it?
  • The easiest plants to grow include beans, tomatoes, radishes, Swiss chard, peppers, corn, cucumbers, and potatoes. Anyone should be able to grow these.
  • Plant your cucumbers so they can grow up a fence or trellis and you will grow far more cucumbers.
  • Plant pole beans around the base of a tee-pee bamboo frame and the plants will grow up it and you can easily pick and enjoy your beans.
  • Grow cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets—they will grow well there and will be easy to pick. Be sure that you keep them well-watered. Keep them picked off and they will keep producing.
  • Be sure that you don’t try to grow things too close together. Read the backs of seed packs so you’ll know how far apart your various plants should be. If you plant them too thickly, they won’t produce as well
  • When planting rows, measure off three feet on your garden hoe with a permanent marker so you can measure this distance off between each row. If you’re going to use your garden tiller to keep the weeds down, you’ll need to have at least three feet between your rows.
  • Before you plant, always draw a plan out on paper. Put taller plants towards the back of the garden and shorter plants at the front so you can see everything from a distance.
  • Keep your plants healthy by anticipating the plants’ nutritional needs. You’ll most likely need to add fertilizer while your plants are growing. This is where research is important. Always keep a journal with detailed notes that you can refer back to later.
  • Be sure to use tomato cages or sturdy stakes to provide support for your tomato plants. If you don’t, your plants won’t produce nearly as many tomatoes and they may catch diseases.
  • Radishes, Swiss chard, beets, and carrots can be planted up to four weeks before the last frost. They are quite hardy.
  • It’s important to plant only the varieties of vegetables that grow well in your area. At your local farm or garden center, ask what varieties do well.
  • Lay down sheets of newspaper before you put down potting soil or top soil. This will help to keep weeds and grass from coming up in your garden. You can also lay down sheets of newspaper before you put down mulch.
  • You can use foam packing peanuts in the bottom of large pots to save on soil and to help with drainage. This keeps them out of the landfill and it will help to keep potted plants well-drained.
  • Plants like rhubarb and asparagus will come back year after year. All you have to do is fertilize and keep the weeds out. I add heavy mulch once they are up and growing and this keeps the weeds out. Rhubarb pie is so delicious. I like it mixed with just-picked strawberries.
  • When you plant things like radishes or carrots, mix the seeds with powdered, unflavored jello. Add three tablespoons of gelatin to one pack of seeds, then plant. The gelatin will provide the seedlings with needed nitrogen. If you don’t believe it, you can try an experiment: plant some with and some without. The ones planted with gelatin will be much healthier than those planted without.
  • Plant one long, wide row with crops like radicchio, white beets, bok choy, bulb fennel, celeriac, and escarole. This way, you can get to experiment with a wide variety of tastes.
  • You should plan to grow crops that store well, like dry beans, garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, and butternut winter squash. You just harvest and store these items in a cool dry place and they will last through the winter. Butternut squash and shallots allow you to enjoy food from your garden all winter long.
  • You can use a small greenhouse or handmade cold frame to grow and harvest radishes and lettuce all winter long, especially in the American south.
  • Keep in mind when laying out your garden that tomatoes and peppers must be planted where they receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. You cannot grow tomatoes or peppers even in partial shade.
  • Ideally, your entire vegetable garden should get at least 8 hours of full sun a day. Most vegetables won’t do well even in partial shade, so be sure to plan your garden where it will get as much sun as possible.
  • For corn, do like the Native Americans did and plant pole beans near each cornstalk as soon as it is a foot high. When the beans come up, encourage them to grow up and around the stalks. You can plant pumpkins down the middle of your corn rows—this way, you can use the same ground to grow multiple crops.
  • If you want to grow really huge pumpkins, remove all but one or two pumpkins per plant and be sure that your plants get an abundance of water and nutrients. I use miracle grow potting soil for this. I use post hole diggers to dig holes that are two feet deep for the pumpkin plants. I usually end up with healthy plants with huge pumpkins on them.
  • Did you know that you can grow luffa gourds and have your own natural sponges that are better than any dish sponge you can buy? Plant them in full sun and allow them to mature completely. In the fall, dry out the gourd and cut the shell away. You’ll end up with luffa sponges you can use to wash your dishes with (or your body in the bathtub). And they are environmentally friendly.
  • You can easily grow birdhouses in your garden. All kinds of birds will make nests in gourds, and your kids will love the fact that you’re growing birdhouses in your garden.

The same sweet corn 45 days later.

Expert Tips on Watering, Tending, Composting, Harvesting, and Storing

  • If you want to harvest your vegetables early, plant radishes, sweet peas, beans, squash, and cucumbers.
  • If you find your green onions developing seed pods before the onions are mature, cut them off with scissors and the onions will keep developing larger onions.
  • Never add mulch to plants your going to winter over until after the first frost has occurred. If you add it sooner, you may be providing insects with warmth and shelter from the cold.
  • Put a ball of gardening twine in a clay flower pot with a hole in the bottom. Bring the end of the twine out the hole and turn the pot over. Put it in a convenient place in the garden and you’ll always have gardening twine available when you need it.
  • Try to plan to harvest your vegetables in the morning when the veggies are packed with nutrients. You can preserve the flavor and nutrients of leafy green vegetables by chilling them in the refrigerator, but don’t put onions or tomatoes in there. If you do, they will lose some of their flavor.
  • You can of course build bamboo teepees and grow pole beans up and over them. Make them really large and well-secured at the bottom and you can step inside the bean teepee to pick your crop.
  • You can grow and enjoy a mixture of baby greens. As soon as they are a few inches high, harvest them with scissors.
  • If you harvest your squash on a regular basis, when they’re still small, you’ll be rewarded with twice as many squash as you would have if you allowed the squash to mature. They are so delicious when the seeds in the squash are very small.
  • Use a barrel and add sheep, cow, or rabbit manure to it, then top it off with water. Stir it every day for a week and then strain off the water and give it to your vegetable plants. The plants will get a boost and they will be a lot more healthy.
  • Water your garden wisely. Never water in full sun. Water before the sun comes up or after it has set. Consider watering with a good quality sprinkler after the sun has set or late at night. Your garden will get a lot more water this way and it will be a few hours before the sun comes up to dry up the water.
  • Harvest and freeze your garden in small batches as it gets ripe. If you do this, you will lose much less of your vegetables. You can, for example, put chopped peppers, cubes of summer squash, green beans, and cut-off sweet corn into ziplock plastic bags and toss them into the freezer. Use a permanent marker to mark the contents of each bag. You can freeze bags of mixed veggies this way and then use them in the winter to make delicious soups or stews.
  • You can if you wish let your cayenne pepper turn red on the plant and then pick it. As soon as you pick it use a needle and thread and string the red pods on a long string. When you have a full thread of the red cayenne hang it up in a cool dry place and let it dry completely. You can use the dried cayenne to season foods, stews and soups with. As soon as the pods get red pick them off the plant so the plant will keep producing more peppers. You can run the dried peppers through the food processor but wear plastic kitchen gloves and a face mask while you do it. You can make the red dried cayenne peppers into a fine powder this way that you can store in a tightly covered container or you can put it into a large shaker to shake it out on foods or in your cooking.
  • Most in-ground plants need one to two inches of water a week. Buy a rain gauge so you can keep a eye on how much natural moisture you’re getting. If your soil feels moist to the touch, it’s okay, but if you have dry, powdery soil, you need to water. Just be sure to water with a soaking sprinkler and do it when their is no direct sun. The ideal time to water is before the sun comes up or after it goes down.
  • Every year in the late fall or winter, work well-aged manure and compost into your soil with a garden tiller. Be sure that any manure you add is very well-rotted or it will burn your plants and kill them. You can put green rabbit manure in the hole under tomatoes and peppers. I always make use of my rabbit manure this way.
  • If your rhubarb sends up flower stalks, cut them off close to the plant to encourage it to grow foliage and not flowers.
  • If you grow herbs like basil, cut the top third of the plant off every time it tries to bloom. This will encourage the plant to keep putting on more foliage which you can dry and use in the kitchen. If you’re going to be using dried herbs sooner rather than later, store them in a brown paper bag tightly closed in the freezer.
  • If you have lots of fall leaves, don’t discard them. Instead, put them into a big compost bin. In a year or two, you’ll have ideal compost.
  • You’ll need a hoe to use to chop or hoe weeds up out of your garden. The one mistake a lot of gardeners make is letting the weeds get ahead of them and then they can never get back control of their vegetable garden. As soon as your vegetable plants are large enough, put mulch around them to prevent weeds from coming up.

Controlling Weeds Naturally

  • Weed early and often. And once your vegetables start growing, mulch your plants heavily to keep the weeds out. Don’t let your garden get overrun with weeds or you will lose control.
  • Put down sheets of newspaper around plants before you put down mulch. The newspaper will insure that weeds and grass can’t come up.
  • Vinegar is a better weed killer than most commercial products, but don’t spray it on your vegetable plants because it will kill them, too. If you have weeds or grass coming up in cracks in cement, this is a ideal place to use vinegar, which will kill the weeds and grass and prevent them from coming back any time soon.
  • If you’re using a string trimmer to cut weeds, spray the string on the weedeater with vegetable cooking oil and you won’t have problems with your string getting stuck or tangled.

Plant Sunflowers and Marigolds for the Ladybugs

If you’re going to turn ladybugs loose in your yard, be sure to plant sunflowers and marigolds to provide a home and a place to lay eggs.

Natural Ways to Control Bugs and Insects

  • Consider putting up bat houses and provide them with a bird bath to get water from. Bats also eat huge amounts of bugs.
  • Plant mint and marigold to repel unwanted insects.
  • To keep the mosquito population down, be sure to turn over and empty out anything that is holding water. Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle.
  • Always plant marigolds in your garden, especially near tomatoes and cabbage, because the marigolds will keep garden pests away.
  • Do you have a problem with aphids? Use a strong insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
  • Buy lady bugs and preying mantis egg sacs from your local garden supply store in the spring and turn them loose in your garden to declare an organic war on garden pests.
  • Unless you’re terribly afraid of spiders, let those like the golden orb weaver spider (aka writing spider) make a home in your garden. Believe it or not, every year spiders eat an amount of bugs that exceeds the weight of all the humans on earth.
  • Encourage toads to move into your garden by providing a small pool of water and clay flower pots for the toads to use as houses. Burn a light in the garden at night and they will show up to eat the insects and bugs attracted by that light. Provide toads with a cool, dark place and they will stick around for years, helping to keep your garden insect-free.
  • Put up bird houses and the birds will build nests there and help to keep your garden free of bugs and insects.
  • Put your garlic and onion skins into a gallon jar, cover with water, and seal tightly. Leave the skins soaking for a week and then strain off the water. Spray this water anywhere you have aphids or spiders and it will get rid of them quickly.
  • If you have a slug and snail problem, put out small saucers of beer at sunset and they will crawl in overnight and drown. Simply discard the contents of each saucer the next morning.
  • Put fabric tents up over cabbage plants, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli to keep away garden pests. Sprinkle cabbage heads with cinnamon and the cabbage worms will stay away.
  • You can make your own insecticidal soap by mixing two tablespoons of liquid soap into a gallon of water. This is an excellent solution to get rid of aphids.

Some Insects (Like Ladybugs and Preying Mantis) Are Great for Your Garden

How Do I Keep Rabbits and Groundhogs Out of My Garden?

If you’re having a rodent problem, try sprinkling ground cayenne pepper around the base of the plants that are getting eaten. This will keep them away like nothing else ever will.

If you’re bothered by groundhogs, pour mothballs down their holes. Every time they dig a new hole, fill it up again. You can also pour red pepper flakes down their holes.

A Recipe for Rabbit-Repellant:

Mix up the below ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until very smooth. Spray the solution on and around the base of your garden plants and it will keep rabbits and groundhogs away.

  • Two large raw eggs
  • One quart warm water
  • Two tablespoons Dawn dish detergent
  • Two tablespoons hot sauce

Hair Works Great, Too

When you or a family member goes to the barber, save the hair and sprinkle it around the garden. This also will keep rabbits and groundhogs out.

Hair Is Great for the Garden

* Repellant of rodents, deer, and snails.

* Natural mulch that retains moisture, abets erosion, and deters weeds.

* Fertilizer that adds a significant amounts of nitrogen to the soil.

Squash are so delicious. Try squash fritters or squash bread. Both are delicious.

How Many Squash Plants Should I Grow?

  • Six to eight squash plants will provide all the squash you need for a family of 4-6.
  • You will need to keep the squash picked off and you’ll want to be gentle removing the mature squash. I like to pick mine while they are smaller than those you see in the store. If you do this, the plants will keep producing more blooms and more squash. If you stop picking the squash, they will get so big you can’t use them and the plants will stop producing more.
  • You should water your squash plants before sunrise or after sunset. Never water in full sun or you will damage and possibly kill your plants.
  • I like all varieties of squash, but I usually grow the yellow butternut and zucchini types every year. Both taste wonderful, are disease-resistant, and produce an abundance of squash.

Rainwater Harvesting

The gutters on the house feed the rainwater into the tank.

Make Use of the Rainwater

You should set up a system where all the gutters on your house feed into a large tank that has a spigot where you can attach a hose and water your garden.

You’ll need very thin wire mesh over your rain barrels or water tank to keep mosquitoes out. It’s very important that you keep your gutters clean to prevent leaves and debris from clogging the system.

Beautiful potatoes ready for harvest

Suggestions for Growing Potatoes in a Grow Box

  • You will want your potato plants to be about a foot apart in the potato grow box. This will ensure that they have room to grow and spread out.
  • It’s very important to fill your grow box with a mixture of rich topsoil and well-rotted and aged compost or manure. You want to mix it at a ratio of 70 percent topsoil to 30 percent well-rotted compost or manure.
  • When the plants are about a foot tall, give them more well-rotted manure or compost. Dig a hole about 4-6 inches around the plant and a foot deep and fill the hole with well-rotted manure or compost.
Potato Grow Box: If you follow the instructions above, you can grow a huge amount of potatoes in a very small space.

Gardening Tools and Tips

  • In the spring, before you start using your shovels or hoes, coat them with car wax. If you do, the dirt will come off them easily and won’t cling. Repeat this about every month and the hoes and shovels will be so easy to use. You can ask for used peanut oil at local restaurants and cafes and use it for the same purpose. Apply a heavy coat in the fall to keep the tools from rusting over the winter.
  • Buy a sturdy basket with a carrying handle to carry small garden tools to the garden.
  • Invest in a couple of good-quality garden gloves. This will make it so much easier for you to work in your garden.
  • You should know that the better your soil is, the better your garden will be. You should purchase and have a soil test kit to test your soil and know what you need to add to maximize your garden’s production.
  • Always wash your garden tools and put them away in a cool, dry place. Spray the metal parts with vegetable oil in the late fall when you put your tools away for the winter.

How to Grow Fresh Vegetables if You Live in a Big City

 

 

 

How I Grow a Summer Vegetable Garden and You Can Too

Source : dengarden.com

 

 

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How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

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How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

If you’ve been gardening for a while, you’ve likely heard that you shouldn’t use garden soil in containers or as a seed-starting medium.

But garden soil is free and it’s right there for the taking. So, what’s wrong with using it? The short answer is that soil used in any kind or size of container should be light, fluffy and specially formulated to provide optimal growing conditions. Specifically:

  • Garden soil, particularly if there is clay in it, may not drain well. Seeds and young delicate roots are prone to rot in excessively wet soil. Further, when soil is wet all the time, its oxygen gets used up, and microorganisms that require oxygen die. The lack of beneficial microorganisms opens the door for anaerobic bacteria and pathogenic fungi to move in and kill off your plants.
  • At the same time, soil in containers needs to retain some moisture since plants can’t grow without it. If your garden soil is sandy, it may have difficulty retaining moisture.
  • Loose soil provides good aeration, so that roots have room to breathe and grow. When packed into a pot, garden soil may hinder air flow.
  • Garden soil can contain weed seeds, which will be annoying to deal with; it also may contain pathogens, which are more serious as they are potentially lethal to your plants.

Still, garden soil is free, right? And sometimes it’s fun to experiment and try something you’ve never done.

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

If you’re up for it, you can make your own organic potting mix out of garden soil. To do it, you will need to sterilize the soil and gather some things to amend it with.

Sterilizing Garden Soil

How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

There are three ways to sterilize soil . The fastest way, especially during early spring, is by baking it in your microwave or conventional oven. (In the hot summer months, you can sterilize it by spreading it on a plastic sheet in the sun, and letting it cure for 4-8 weeks.)

Microwave Method

I have not used the microwave method, so I can’t speak to it, but this is what you do:

  • Moisten up to two pounds of garden soil. Aim for a mud pie consistency; it should be thick and moldable, but not soupy.
  • Put the moistened soil into a heavy plastic bag and leave the top of the bag open.
  • Place the bag in the center of the microwave.
  • Run the microwave on high, and plan to do so for 2-5 minutes.
  • Periodically, stop the microwave and stick a meat thermometer into the soil.
  • Once the soil reaches a temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the bag of soil from the microwave and place it in a cooler or other insulated container. The insulation will hold the heat in so that the sterilization process can complete.
  • Leave the bag in the cooler until the soil has completely cooled off. It is then ready to be amended.
How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

Conventional Oven Method

I have sterilized soil in my oven. This is what I can tell you: It takes a long time and it doesn’t smell all that lovely. It’s best to do this on a nice day when you can open some windows. And maybe light some candles.

  • Fill an oven-proof container with garden soil to a depth of about three inches. I used a foil roasting pan.
  • Moisten the soil thoroughly. Again, aim for a mud pie consistency.
  • Cover the pan with foil and stick it in an oven that’s been preheated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Bake the soil until a meat thermometer indicates that it has reached a temperature of 180 degrees. This likely will take 6-8 hours.
  • Once the soil reaches 180 degrees, let it bake for an additional half hour. Do not over bake.
  • Once it cools, it’s ready to be amended.

Amending Garden Soil Into Potting Mix

How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

The University of Illinois recommends that garden soil be amended by mixing together one part sterilized soil, one part peat moss, and one part perlite or coarse builders’ sand. Peat moss is used to help your potting mix retain moisture, and it also creates the air space that roots need. Perlite also provides air space, and helps keep the potting mix light and fluffy, as it should be.

To mix my soil, peat moss, and perlite together, I lined a cardboard box with a heavy plastic bag and scooped the ingredients in. Once everything was in, I pulled the bag out of the box and gave it a good shake to mix everything together. And voilà! A healthy, well-balanced potting mix awaits seeds and plants.

What about you? Have you ever made potting mix at home? What method did you use, and what tips would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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

Put These 8 Things in Your TOMATO Planting Hole For The Best Tomatoes Ever

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Do you want to grow the best tomatoes in taste and size? And want to have a bumper harvest? Then put these things in the hole before planting your tomato plant!

The homegrown TOMATOES are so delicious, and when you pick them fresh and eat, the delightful taste you get is just unmatchable. Better than store bought fruits. The thick, juicy, plump, sweet, a bit acrid and so satiating– the tomatoes are one of the first fruits (vegetable, if you say) everyone wants to grow from the beginning of the gardening season.

1. Baking Soda

It works and really a good trick (especially when you’re growing tomatoes in containers) if you want sweeter tomatoes. Simply sprinkle a small amount of baking soda around the base of your tomato plants. The baking soda will be absorbed into the soil and lower the acidity levels, thus, giving you tomatoes that are more sweet than tart.

2. Fish heads

Fish heads have been used as a natural fertilizer in the garden for a long time. Their popularity with tomato planting is not a myth that needs to be busted. It works! Their decay releases nitrogen, potassium, many essential trace elements, calcium and phosphorous. The only problem with burying fish heads is that critters may dig them up. To avoid this, bury deeply, at least a foot. You can drop them into the hole whole or use groundfish scraps which you can mix with water(2 cups) and milk(1 cup) for a supercharge solution. If you want to read more on this, here’s an article in detail!

3. Aspirin

Drop 2-3 aspirin tablets in the hole either whole or ground; this is to boost plant immunity, it also helps to ward off diseases like blight and increases the yield. The salicylic acid, a compound in aspirin is the reason why it works. You can also spray plants with the solution contain this drug.

4. Eggshells

Eggshells boost the calcium content in the soil. And just like us, Calcium is one of the most important components that plant needs for growth. Here’s a very educative article if you like to read, it also helps to prevent blossom end rot.  Whether you’re planting tomatoes in the garden bed or containers, you can always put eggshells before planting.

5. Epsom Salt

 

Tomatoes suffer from magnesium deficiency that is why it’s a good idea to add 1 or 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt while transplanting the seedling in the bottom of the planting hole (both in containers or garden bed). Cover this with a thin layer of soil; this is to make sure that roots are not directly touching Epsom salt.

6. Kelp Meal

Kelp meal is rich in micro-nutrients and trace elements. It provides complete nutrient for plants, the addition of kelp gives tomatoes a turbo boosted start. Slow-release kelp fertilizer contains the tomato with sufficient nutrient over a period which prevents the plant from experiencing shock as is with the use of excess fertilizers. One cup-full of kelp meal is adequate for the plant at the time of planting. If you want to read more about kelp fertilizer, click here!

7. Bone Meal

Similar to kelp meal, bone meal is also an addition to the tomato hole during planting. A handful or cup-full of bone meal is essential for a blossoming and quality fruits of the tomato plant since it provides the much-needed phosphorus nutrient which is one of the most vital components for healthy tomato growth.

8. Used coffee grounds

Add well-composted coffee grounds to the planting hole when transplanting tomato seedlings to improve soil composition and provide a source of slow-release nutrients to your plants. It is an excellent source of fertilizer and can be used even as a mulch.

 

Source : balconygardenweb.com

 

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Unbelievable Hydrogen Peroxide Uses In Garden You Should Know

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Is it possible? Are there Hydrogen Peroxide Uses in the garden? Well, yes, it can be useful! Read on to find out how.

How & Why Hydrogen Peroxide is So Useful

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has an extra oxygen atom than Water (H2O), this extra oxygen atom breaks down and the molecule of water releases from this separately. It is this extra oxygen atom that makes the hydrogen peroxide so useful. The Hydrogen peroxide is used in cleaning, bleaching, sterilizing, as a disinfectant etc. but it can also be used in horticulture. In simple words, Hydrogen Peroxide acts as an oxygen supplement for plants (beneficial if used in low strength). It works by releasing oxygen and also aerates the soil.

Here’s a very helpful article if you like to read.

Hydrogen Peroxide Uses

1. Hydrogen Peroxide Uses Against Root Rot

Overwatering causes the shortage of Oxygen at the root zone. If you overwater the plant, the water fills the air spaces in soil and the plant’s roots suffocate due to the lack of air and they begin to die after 24 hours. To save such a plant from this problem, water it thoroughly with 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed in 1 quart of water. The extra oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide provides the roots their much-needed oxygen to survive. After this, don’t water the plant until top 1 or 2 inches of soil dries out well.

Read more about this here

2. Using Hydrogen for Faster Seed Germination

You can use hydrogen peroxide to help seeds germinate more quickly. Hydrogen peroxide softens the coat of seeds and kills any pathogen present on seed coat thus increase the germination rate and help the seed germinate faster. Soak your seeds in a 3% hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes. Rinse the seeds several times with water before planting and plant them as usual.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide for Mold and Mildew

Hydrogen peroxide has an oxidizing property that is fatal for mold and mildew. Mix a liter of water with 10 tablespoons of 3 to 6% hydrogen peroxide depending on the level of infection. Spray this solution on plants daily until the fungus disappears.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide as a Fertilizer

Use hydrogen peroxide to help strengthen the root system of your plants. Hydrogen peroxide has one extra oxygen molecule (than water) that helps plant’s roots to absorb nutritions from soil more effectively, you can use this formula occasionally to boost the growth– Mix about 1 teaspoon of 3% Hydrogen peroxide with 1 gallon of water.

*Read more about this on eHow here.

Caveat: Make sure that you do not use more concentrated hydrogen peroxide as it can kill plants. 3% strength is the most familiar concentration and usually recommended.

5. To Keep Pests Away

The hydrogen peroxide can be used as a pesticide. Spraying the plant thoroughly with 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed in the equal amount of water kills the pests and their eggs. The hydrogen peroxide also kills the bacteria that develop on fruits and vegetables.

 

Source : balconygardenweb.com

 

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It’s The Pain-Free (And Overlooked) Technique To A Bigger Garden Yield

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Succession Planting: The Pain-Free Path To A Bigger Garden Yield

Image source: The Pixabay.com

Succession planting is a great technique to use in your garden that will provide you with delicious benefits for little extra work. The primary goal of succession planting is to produce more food from your garden by continuously planting crops throughout the growing season.

If you’re like many of us fellow food growers, maximizing your garden’s production is a yearly goal. The idea behind succession planting — an often-overlooked technique — is to replant another crop immediately after you harvest, sometimes repeating more than once, depending on your climate and ability to utilize season extension methods.

To prepare yourself for a full season of succession planting, it is helpful to sit down in the spring and map out what crops you are planting where, and when. This will serve as a reminder when to start new seeds indoors so you always have strong and hardy seedlings on hand.

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There are different types of succession planting, and you can use one of these methods or all of them in your garden simultaneously.

Same Crop Succession Planting

“Same crop succession planting” refers to re-sowing the same crop at regular intervals throughout the season to ensure that you always have some of this crop to harvest. This is used most often for lettuces, radishes or scallions. By planting a smaller quantity every 1-3 weeks, you will harvest smaller amounts continuously, rather than a large amount all at once. Not only will you enjoy fresher produce from your garden, but you will surely reduce the amount of food waste your household generates, as well.

Different Crop Succession Planting

Another type of succession planting incorporates different crops in succession, and is very effective in accommodating the changing climate throughout the year. Follow the first cold-weather crop with a different species of plant that thrives in the hot summer sun. You can then follow this up again with another cold weather crop that will hold up to overwintering. If you plan accordingly, you can plant the same spot multiple times throughout the year, using many different scenarios. For example: Plant cold-weather crops in the spring (such as spinach, cold-hardy lettuces, peas) under row covers, hoops or cold frames; followed by quick-maturing, heat-loving crops (beans, radishes, carrots, scallions, summer squash); followed again by cooler-weather crops that you can overwinter (kale, leeks).

Intercrop Succession Planting

A less commonly used method is called “intercropping” and involves planting more than one species of plant in the same spot at the same time. Each crop matures at a different time, usually in succession, and allows you to maximize your production by growing a harvest of more than one crop in one space.

Succession Planting: The Pain-Free Path To A Bigger Garden Yield

Image source: The Pixabay.com

There are a few things to keep in mind to facilitate greater success with this type of a succession-planting schedule.

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

By starting the seeds of your second and third plantings inside, you will have strong and hardy seedlings ready to go, increasing your garden’s efficiency.

Each time you harvest and replant, be prepared with soil amendments to feed your soil. Organic compost, manure, glacial rock dust, Epsom salts or your favorite organic fertilizer will help to ensure that your soil remains as nutrient-dense as possible to support a lush and vibrant garden. The more nutrition you feed your soil, the healthier your plants will be and the more nutrient-dense your food will be.

Utilizing nutritious mulch throughout the year will help retain moisture and nutrients in the soil, while greatly reducing those pesky weeds.

Lastly, intensively planting a space in your garden with multiple crops in one growing season can take its toll on your soil. Follow an intensive season with a nutritious green-manure cover crop; that will help regenerate the soil and prepare it for the next round of edible production. Rotate your bed of intensive succession plantings to a new place in your garden each year to reduce stress on the soil and the risk of pests and disease.

By simultaneously utilizing a few tried-and-true techniques in your garden – succession planting, mulching, and crop rotation with green manure cover crops — you can increase your production potential to a whole new level.

Do you use succession planting? Share your tips in the section below:

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

21 Tips for growing cucumbers

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Looking to add cucumbers to your garden? These easy tips and guidelines could have you knee-deep in cucumbers in as little as 2 months.

Growing cucumbers is among the most popular activities in backyard vegetable gardens across the country. In fact, almost half of the nation’s home vegetable growers – 47 percent according to Susan Littlefield, horticultural editor at the National Gardening Association – plant cucumbers. That makes cukes America’s No. 2 most popular homegrown vegetable. (Tomatoes, which should surprise no one, are the runaway favorite at 86 percent.)

There are two forms of cucumber plants, bush and vining. Bush selections form compact plants and are ideally suited for small gardens and containers. Vining plants, however, may be the better choice. They clamber up trellises and produce fruit that is straighter with less disease and insect problems than cukes grown on bushing plants.

Cucumber plants make two basic types of fruit, those for slicing and those for pickling. There are many varieties of each. Pickling varieties seem to reach their peak faster than slicing varieties.

Growing cucumbers is easy if you have a garden space that gets maximum sunshine. If you follow the few simple directions below from the National Gardening Association and don’t have unexpected late spring freezes, you should begin harvesting cucumbers in 65 to 105 days.

Planning and preparation

1. Select disease-resistant varieties.

2. Choose a sunny and fertile site with well-drained soil.

3. For an earlier harvest and to reduce the threat of insect damage to seedlings, start a few plants indoors in individual pots (or trays with separate compartments) about a month before your last spring frost date.

4. Set up trellises or a fence if you plant the vining form.

Planting

5. Sow seeds in the garden only after danger of frost has passed and you are sure the soil will remain reliably warm. Cucumber plants are extremely susceptible to frost.

6. Make a second sowing 4 to 5 weeks later for a late summer or early fall harvest.

7.  To seed in rows, plant seeds 1 inch deep and about 6 inches apart.

8. To seed in hills, plant four or five seeds in 1-foot-diameter circles set 5 to 6 feet apart.

Discover how our grandfathers used to preserve food for long periods of time.CLICK HERE to find out more !

Care

9. Thin cucumber plants in rows to 1 or 2 feet apart, depending on the type (slicing or pickling), when 3 to 4 inches tall.

10. Thin cucumber plants in hills to the healthiest two plants when plants have two or three leaves.

11. Keep soil evenly moist to prevent the fruit from becoming bitter.

12. Side-dress cucumber plants about 4 weeks after planting. Apply two handfuls of good compost or a tablespoon of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer per plant in a narrow band along each plant.

13. Apply a thick layer of mulch after applying the fertilizer.

Controlling pests

14. Monitor cucumbers and other vegetables for the buildup of insect pests.

15. Perhaps the best way for home gardeners to control insects, especially the destructive cucumber beetle, Littlefield advised, involve strategies to disrupt the insect’s life cycle and habits. These include covering young plants with lightweight row covers until they begin flowering and crop rotation, she said.

16. If you decide to use insecticides, consider trying natural, less-toxic pesticides first. The problem with this approach, said Littlefield, is that there are not many effective “natural insecticide” choices in the case of cucumber beetles.

17. The most effective of the “natural insecticides” choices, she added, is kaolin clay applied preventatively. It acts as a repellent.

18. There’s also a problem with using broad-spectrum contact insecticides such as malathion, bifenthrin, cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin, carbaryl and pyrethrin. These kill beneficial predators and parasites of insect pests.

19. In the case of all insecticides, read package labels to be aware of whether you must wait several days before harvesting cucumbers after applying the insecticide.

20. Consider capturing the pest, placing it in a sealed plastic bag and taking it to your local garden center and asking the staff there what control method would work best in your area.

Harvesting

21. Once cucumbers reach pickling or slicing size, harvest every couple of days to prevent cukes from getting excessively large or yellow and to keep plants productive.

 

Source : www.mnn.com

 

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6 Reasons Raised Beds Beat Traditional Gardening Nearly Every Time

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6 Reasons Raised Beds Beat Traditional Gardening Nearly Every Time

Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

As winter gives its last hurrah, my thoughts are turning toward the promise of spring.

Maybe you’re like me, and you love the idea of having a bountiful garden, but the idea of dragging soil additives to the backyard, dealing with weeds and pests, and trying to coax a few tiny tomatoes from their vine seems like more work than it’s worth. Instead of trying to force a garden into the ground, I’ve begun using raised beds. It works better in my suburban yard, and gives me more flexibility in how I garden.

What makes a raised bed garden better than a traditional garden? Glad you asked.

1. Improved soil quality.

One of the key components of a successful garden is good soil. Depending on where you live, this may be one of your biggest challenges. Your soil may be too acidic, too hard, too sandy, too chalky. Skip the headache of trying to figure out what to add to correct the soil by using a raised bed. In your raised bed garden, you can create the perfect soil. Add compost, fertilizer or whatever else is needed to create the ideal growing environment for what you’re planting.

2. Pest management.

Few things are as disheartening as finding your garden ravished by pests. Trying to keep critters, bugs and parasites out of your plants is time consuming and frustrating. A raised bed, however, makes it easier. The frames of the raised beds will help keep out pests and other critters that crawl along the ground out of your garden.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Can Double Your Garden Yield!

Soil parasites and nematodes can be thwarted with the use of plastic liners. Wire netting can prevent rodents and other burrowing creatures from invading the garden. Raised beds can be secured with fencing. Physical pest control management is easier and faster, thanks to the size of the raised bed. With easy access to all sides of the garden, you can remove interlopers by hand, or apply localized pesticides.

3. Increased production.

Using staggered rows, you can maximize your crop production. Rich soils allow for more plant nutrients, and compact planting areas prevent weeds from invading the garden. This creates an ideal growing situation that gives you more food in less space. In addition, you can extend your growing season by planting earlier and continuing your garden later in the year thanks to your raised bed.

4. Improved drainage.

Plants don’t like to have wet feet. A raised bed allows for rain to seep into the garden, and prevents the runoff that would typically wash away topsoil. Water is able to soak down into the lower level of the bed, giving the plants all the moisture they need, without the stagnating puddles of water they don’t.

5. Improved aeration.

Plant roots need aeration to breathe and to absorb nutrients. By mixing the soil for your raised bed, you are giving the plants loose soil to grow. This provides for circulation to keep the soil (and the plants) healthy.

6. Improved weed control.

Raised beds give you the ability to control weeds by using soil that is free of dormant seeds. In addition, you can use liners, such as newspaper or other bed liners, to prevent weeds from growing up through the raised bed. Close planting of crops prevents weeds from taking root, and the loose soil makes it easier to pull any errant weeds that may make their way into the garden.

This spring, skip the digging. Try a raised bed garden and see what a difference it can make in your homesteading. Your back (and your garden) will thank you.

Do you use raised beds? What are your favorite benefits from them? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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

10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

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10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

No matter how small a person’s yard was during the 1700s, there always was a need to plant at least some vegetables to help feed the family. Grocery stores were virtually unheard of, and seedlings or even packaged seed were not available until much later.

This is why almost everyone had some sort of vegetable garden outside the kitchen or back door. The family ate most of it, of course, the extras were canned or dried, and if you were fortunate, you had still more that you could sell at the market.

In the 1700s, almost everyone used seeds from the previous year — heirloom seeds — which were passed down from generation to generation, or seeds were sometimes traded within the community. Many seeds planted in “the new world” came from the native people who lived there.

This is why most gardens contained plants that gave you the most bang for your basket, if you will. High-yield plants that took little space were highly prized, although some people planted their favorites because, let’s face it, no one wants to eat squash all year long.

What kind of plants would you expect to find in an 18th century garden? Frankly, I was a bit shocked. I was certain I would see tomatoes and sweet strawberries, but I was mistaken.

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Let’s look at the top 10 plants that were commonly found in an 18th century garden,

1. Cardoon

These are related to the artichoke, but are not nearly as common today. Cardoon is native to Europe and was said to have been brought to the Americas by the Quakers. I must admit that this is a vegetable I’ve never even heard of. Speaking of artichoke …

2. Artichokes

I never imagined this one! But did you know that Thomas Jefferson loved them and grew a great many in his own gardens? Artichokes have been cultivated since at least the 1500s, but I never imagined them in the everyday garden.

3. Fava beans

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

I was certain that green beans would have been a favorite, but fava beans, sometimes called broad beans, beat out green beans by a mile. These were popular right into the 19th century. The most popular variety was Broad Windsor. Fava bean seeds are hard to find in today’s world, but they were an 18th century staple.

4. Pumpkins

A certain variety called Connecticut Field was the popular seed. These were grown for both human and animal consumption. Thomas Jefferson, again, had these in his garden after acquiring seeds from the native tribes.

5. Lettuce

That old gardener Thomas Jefferson loved lettuce, and he grew several different types. The most popular was at that time called Parris Island. Today, we call it Romaine lettuce. This is still as popular today as it was in the 1700s.

6. Cucumber

During this time period, it was white cucumbers that were favored over other varieties. One named White Wonder is listed in a 1727 book about gardening. Cucumbers are so versatile that it’s no wonder they are still used in gardens today.

7. Lemon balm

This herb has been cultivated since at least the 1500s. It’s a natural calming agent that was probably used often by the women of those times. The leaves can be used dried or fresh, and it has a delightful lemon taste when made into tea.

8. Leeks

You may have seen these in your local grocery store and wondered how they were cooked and who ate them. Leeks are something like a cross between a potato and an onion. They have a mild onion taste, but look like potatoes. Even the leaves can be chopped and used in salads. These were probably popular because leeks can be left in the ground over the winter and dug up in the coldest of months. Or, wait until they sprout again in the spring.

9. Cabbage

This is another staple that has stood the test of time. Cabbage is popular due to its ability to be stored for long periods of time. Even if the outside leaves should become moldy, they can be removed, with fresher leaves available underneath. Cabbage is also a cool-weather vegetable, so you can grow it late in the fall or start it very early in the spring.

10. Salsify

This is another vegetable that I have never heard of, but was very popular in 18th century gardens. Salsify is related to parsnip and was used about the same way. Salsify was easy to store and can be boiled, mashed or fried. Even the leaves are edible! This is another cool-weather vegetable that usually was harvested between October and January. In the dead of winter, some fresh leaves and roots must have tasted mighty good.

How many of these seeds have you planted? What are your favorite old-time seeds? Share your gardening tips in the section below:

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

5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

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5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

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I’ve been gardening since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I grew up on a farm and we kids were expected to help in my mom’s large vegetable garden. Many of the gardening maxims that I still adhere to were picked up while working alongside Mom. But just because I’ve been doing things the same way for 40-odd years, it doesn’t mean those are the right — or best — things to do.

I was surprised last spring when a local friend mentioned that he had directly sowed peas in April. April?! Really?! Where I live, our last frost date is May 15, and most local people get their seeds in during the first weekend following that date. This guy, however, was totally new to gardening and, unfamiliar with conventional wisdom, he followed the directions on the seed package. Go figure. Since the package said to sow the seeds as soon as the ground was workable, that’s what he did. He got a terrific pea harvest, too.

Whether you’re just starting out as a gardener, or you’ve been working the soil your whole life, you might be making some of these common mistakes.

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Here are five dumb-but-common seed-starting mistakes:

1. Not reading seed packages

If you’ve been gardening for a long time, chances are you’re like me: just doing things the same way you always have instead of reading the seed packages. As my story above illustrates, that’s not always the best idea. Maybe you’ve been sowing seeds directly — seeds that would really benefit from being started earlier indoors (like broccoli, which needs to mature before the hottest days of summer or it will bolt). Or maybe you’ve been planting your seeds a little too deeply and as a result, your germination rate is low. Reading seed packages can save time and money. It’s worth it.

2. Forgetting to label

Many of us who are old hands at gardening can identify our vegetable plants even before they set their true leaves. But can we identify the different varieties? That’s unlikely. Keeping track of how different varieties perform can help us decide whether to grow the same ones next year; and if so, if there is anything that we can change that might optimize their growth.

Don’t forget to label!

3. Not watering properly

It can be hard getting the moisture levels right for those tiny pots. A slip of the wrist, and they’re flooded. A busy day where you forget to water, and they turn into little Saharas, complete with wilted seedlings. It happens to the best of us. But we should try neither to underwater or overwater.

5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

Image source: Pixabay.com

Start by making sure your potting mix is thoroughly wet, but not soaking, before you even plant. Purchased potting mix is often quite dry. Put some in a container, add water, stir, and let it sit for a little while to absorb moisture before you start planting.

Once planted, it’s best to water by misting the pots, rather than using a watering can, as a heavier stream of water can disturb the soil and dislodge seeds. Let the soil dry out just a little between waterings. If the soil is too moist, the seeds and seedlings will be more susceptible to mold, fungus, disease, and rot.

4. Starting seeds too early

In our eagerness to start gardening again, we might start our seeds too early. What could possibly be wrong with growing bigger, sturdier plants over a longer period of time? Well, particularly if you use seed flats or peat pots, you may need to repot large seedlings before the ground is warm enough for transplanting. Repotting means an increased cost to purchase more potting mix and larger pots; it also means more work. Also, some plants fare better if they are transplanted when they are smaller or less mature. For instance,   if they are transplanted before they start flowering.

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A general guideline is to start seeds 4-6 weeks prior to your local last frost date; however, some herbs and vegetables can be started 8-10 weeks prior. Refer to   at Off The Grid News for more information about when to start seeds indoors.

5. Not cleaning and sterilizing equipment

We gardeners are a thrifty lot, and we tend to adhere to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra. However, when it comes to “reuse,” make sure your materials are clean and sterile. A quick rinse with the garden hose last summer was not adequate to ready your supplies for this spring.

It’s about more than just cleanliness; disease and fungi can lurk on dirty equipment.   is one fungal-borne disease that can kill off your seedlings. If you’re reusing any equipment this spring, start by sterilizing everything in one part bleach to 10 parts water.

Gardening is truly a lifelong learning process. There are often different and better ways of doing things. Always keep an open mind. You might learn better methods through trial and error, neighborly advice, written articles, or even seed packages. Go figure.

What seed-starting mistakes have you made? What did you learn? Share your tips with others in the section below:

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

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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Sitting inside, pouring over gardening magazines, and dreaming about my spring garden, I envision acres of land covered in lush, green plants. Each row is teeming with fruits or vegetables, and my family is awed by the bounty of supplies that our garden provides.

When I step outside and face the reality of my yard, however, reality comes crashing back. I don’t have acres of land to work with, and my expanse of lawn is stopped abruptly by the fence that divides my yard from my neighbors (all three of them). To make matters worse, the “dirt” in my yard is more accurately called sand and doesn’t seem to want to grow more than weeds. How can I still achieve the garden of my dreams? With raised beds.

Using raised beds, I can still have rows of plants; they’re just contained in smaller areas.

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

Here are six ways to maximize your raised bed garden this year:

1. Shapes matter

To maximize the space, think rectangle instead of square. Using long, rectangular boxes allows you to easily reach all the plants without having to leave pathways for walking. The benefit? You can fit more plants in your box. Use raised beds that are no more than three feet wide for maximum gardening ease.

2. Location, location, location

If you live in an area where good soil is hard to come by, raised beds allow you to grow plants anywhere. By mixing your own soil, you can grow a bountiful garden in your yard, on concrete patios or elsewhere. Place your raised bed in an area that receives full sun, has easy access to water and is safe from outside forces such as pets, running children or lawn mowers.

3. Spacing

Instead of long rows of plants with spaces in between, stagger your planting rows. A traditional garden uses planting squares to help guide your planning. In your raised bed garden, think triangles. Stagger the rows so that the plants in the second row are in between the plants in the first and third rows, forming triangles. This creates a fuller garden, giving you more production capacity.

4. Companion planting

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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As you’re developing your garden plan, follow the lead of Native Americans and use “sister” crops. Planting corn, beans and squash together allows the cornstalks to support the beans, while the squash grow happily in the shade provided. Find other compatible plants to group together to provide an assortment of produce. Some other “sisters” are: tomato, basil and onion; carrots, onions and radishes; celery and beets.

5. Succession planting

Want the benefits of your garden to last all season? Plant in cycles. You can capitalize on fast-producers like lettuce by planting a new crop after your harvest. Replace the lettuce with peppers to keep your garden producing longer.

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For even more production, stagger plant dates by using transplants. Grow seedlings by starting them indoors at varying dates. Add plants to your raised bed at two or three week intervals to ensure a continuous supply of produce.

6. Think vertical

Even if you don’t have a large area of ground, your garden can still produce an abundance of food. Just grow up instead of out. Train cucumber and squash to grow up on stakes or trellises. Plant vining crops along one side of your raised bed with sturdy poles, or in the middle using trellises to provide shade or support to other plants.

Are you planning your spring garden? Maybe you’ve decided to try a raised garden bed this year, or you’ve done raised bed gardening in the past, but haven’t been happy with the results. Using these simple tips can help you maximize your raised bed, giving you and your family a rich harvest that can last year-round.

What advice would you add on raised bed gardening? Share your tips in the section below:  

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

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!

The post Medicine Growing Your Own! appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

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.

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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

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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

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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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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 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

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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.

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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

The post 3 Unique And Inexpensive Gardening Gifts For The Gardener In Your Life appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

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.

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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:

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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!

aquaponics2

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.

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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.

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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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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1

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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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:

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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:

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

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

Image source: Wikimedia

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.

What your onion storage tips? Share them in the section below:

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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)

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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:

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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:

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

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

Image source: BackyardBountyFarming.blogspot.com

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.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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!)

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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?

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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:

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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

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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:

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