Is your bad back a real pain when you garden? If so, you’ve faced the reality that there are certain gardening methods that are easier on the back than others, such as gardening in containers or planting in waist-high beds.
But what if you want to embrace traditional gardening methods and plant straight in the ground, but can’t—or don’t want to—double dig?
Summer: Bake the Soil to Kill Grass and Weeds
In this video, Marjory shows you how to turn a patch of grass into bare soil using a simplified version of a technique called “solarizing.”
By laying a tarp or 2 mil black plastic on the would-be garden bed, weighing it down with rocks, and letting the plot bake for a few months in the summer sun, you can effectively kill grass, weed seeds, and even unwelcome soil diseases. Some research has shown that using a clear plastic does an even better job killing unwanted grass, weed seeds, and soil-borne diseases.
If you live in a hot area and get a lot of sunny days, you’ll usually need to wait a few summer months before removing the black plastic.
In places where the summers are mild, wait even longer.
(Shorten this timeframe by tilling and re-leveling the soil before laying down the plastic, but it’s certainly more back-friendly to just lay down a tarp and wait!)
Autumn, Part 1: Reintroduce the Good Microbes
For solarizing to be really effective, your soil needs to reach about 150°F (66°C).
That’s hot enough to also kill some of the good microbes in the soil. In late autumn, top dress the soil with about 4 to 6 inches (10 cm to 15 cm) of good organic matter—compost, composted manure, or green manures.
We’re going for no more bad backs. So, spread the top dressing and let irrigation and earthworms pull the nutrients down into the subsoil.
(Do this each autumn to increase soil fertility.)
Autumn, Part 2: Use a Garden Fork in Rocky Soil
A note here for those of you with rocky soil: Once you remove the plastic covering, apply a garden fork to soil to remove the bigger rocks.
If you must do this yourself, be sure to use a garden fork with a long, lightweight handle. Try to keep your back straight by bending at the knees instead of the waist.
(Do a YouTube search for “gardening without back pain” for other helpful videos on safely using long-handled tools in the garden.)
Alternately, ask a relative or friend to do it for you, or hire someone to help with this task.
Trade with fellow gardeners—the work you can’t do for the work you can. Perhaps you could provide compost in exchange for help tilling rocky soil, or seedlings in exchange for help weeding.
Spring: Strategic Planning and Garden Planting
When it’s time to plant in Spring, some folks with bad backs like to use a simple, homemade seed-sowing tool.
Simply take a four-foot length of 2.5 inch PVC pipe and cut a 45° angle on one end. (If you buy your PVC at one of the larger home improvement stores, they will often cut it for you at no charge.)
Use the sharp end of your seed-sowing tool to make holes or furrows.
Hold the pipe upright. Drop the seeds in the top hole, and let them fall through to the soil.
Then, use the tool to cover the seeds with soil.
When deciding what and how to plant, consider reducing the need to weed by using companion planting methods, mulch, a block-style layout—or a combination of the three.
Achieve Gardening Success—Even With a Bad Back!
It’s well-known that converting a plot of sod into a fertile garden is backbreaking work.
But, through pre-planning and gardening smarter, not harder, you can work your beds successfully—without overworking your back!
Now let’s hear from you. What tips and tricks do you use to keep your back in tip-top shape? Tell us in the comments below.
Have you ever noticed that you never feel like you are ever really done when it comes to a homestead?
I realized how frequently I feel like I am caught with my bloomers down last year. It felt like I wasn’t prepared for winter.
But then before I knew it, spring was upon us, and I was chasing my tail again.
So here are a list of spring chores that you should keep on your radar so that your homestead will run smoother. I’m happy to say with a little more organization, I feel much better prepared for my homestead duties this year.
Remember, organization is key to homesteading. Here are a few ways to help your organization along:
1. Nurse Your Garden
If you don’t plan on buying all of your seedlings (which I don’t recommend), then you’ll need to start your own.
Depending upon where you live will depend greatly upon when you need to start your seeds. Here is a great seed starter calculator. However, whenever you can start your seeds, do so. This will save you lots of money and also give your plants ample amount of time to grow.
2. Bring the Babies Home
If you do not set your own eggs, then the spring is the right time to purchase new chicks and ducklings. This is the right time also to purchase chicks that you plan on raising for meat.
Also, if you purchase a hog to raise for meat instead of keeping a breeding pair of pigs, the spring is the right time to purchase it. Keep turkeys in mind too. If you want to purchase just a few turkeys to eat on special occasions instead of raising a breeding pair, then you’ll want to purchase them in the spring too.
3. Rev Up the Incubator
My husband runs our incubator year round. Between it and the massive brooder box he built, we are able to sustain baby chicks, ducklings, and keets year round.
However, if you don’t have a small hatchery in your backyard, then you’ll probably only want to start incubating eggs in the spring and summer months. This means that the spring is a great time to start pulling eggs out of your coops and giving them a chance to hatch.
4. Build Tractors
We use a lot of tractors around our homestead. They are great for baby bunnies, chicks, ducklings, and keets when they are starting out.
However, this means that we must build and repair them in the spring while the babies are still too small for them. Then when the babies get bigger, we can place them in the tractors to move them around the land and allow them to safely forage. This give the animals a healthier diet and saves us a lot of money on feed.
5. Get Ready to Milk
As spring comes around so does the baby boom usually. If you have goats, cows, or any other animal that you use for dairy purposes, then you’ll need to have your milking supplies ready.
We use a basic set-up with a milking station and a pail. However, I have to make sure that my milking stand is in good condition and that my pail is still clean and ready for milk. It is better to make necessary repairs or purchases before it is time to milk. That way you aren’t caught off guard.
6. Prepare Your Birthing Kit
Being prepared for birth is a necessity so you get the most out of your homestead. For rabbits, you need to ensure they have nesting boxes and hay. Be sure your brooder is cleaned out and ready for baby birds.
Though, I actually have a birthing kit when I’m expecting baby goats. It is nothing fancy. It is a laundry basket I purchased at the dollar store. Inside of the laundry basket I have fresh towels and blankets. I also include some latex gloves as well.
However, each spring is a good time to make sure it is easily accessible and that I have everything I need inside the basket. Goats don’t really need much help when birthing, but I’m usually present and there to pull (if needed) and to help my nanny goats clean their kids as I feel sorry for them trying to clean one kid and birth another.
7. Take Down Winterizing Materials
Depending upon where you live, you may have to winterize your coop, hutches, or bee hives. When warmer weather finally comes around, you need to go through and take all of the layers off.
Even though I live in the south, I still winterize to some extent. Our rabbit hutches are layered with more wind breaking material and so are our coops. When summer hits, we remove some of the layering because they just don’t need it.
So spring is the perfect time to go through and shed some of those heavier layers of protection for your animals and bees.
8. Clean Out Your Sheds and Barns
Sheds and barns are used heavily during the warmer months. It is important that they are organized so that you can find everything that you need as efficiently as possible. My husband use to be the world’s worst at just laying stuff down or not putting it in its place.
Finally, I had enough and my oldest son and I went to town on organizing things. It is amazing how much more functional our homestead is now. My husband has even become more organized because it truly makes life that much easier.
So go ahead and clean out your barns, buildings, and storage sheds while you can. It will make your summer and fall much easier.
9. Mend Your Fences
It is a fact of life that things break. Unfortunately, a lot of things break during the colder winter months. Fences are often times one of those things. Something will happen while it is cold and snowy outside.
Often for us, we’ll slap a band aid on it until the warmer months. However, when the warmer months roll around go ahead and mend those fences. It will save you a lot of time later when you aren’t having to round up animals that have escaped through your band aid.
10. Repair Your Buildings
Buildings are not cheap nor easy to build. Taking care of them is a necessity. Over time though, they wear down.
So instead of just letting them fall to ruin, make necessary repairs during the spring. If you had a roof collapse from the weight of the snow, go ahead and put a new roof on it with whatever materials you have on hand. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
11. Repair Equipment
In case you haven’t noticed my theme yet, spring is a great time to make repairs. The reason is that the busy season is almost upon you. You are making preparations for when your homestead is in full swing again.
So go ahead and get your equipment in tip top shape so you won’t lose precious times in those warm months having to fix a tiller, a tractor, or whatever else you need to help your garden along. This will certainly make your life easier later if you make the time now.
12. Place Your Order
Some times we have to break down and purchase things. I hate those moments because I’m frugal. Yet, they must be done. For instance, I can’t grow a tractor part,gardening tools, or even farm equipment. I can purchase them inexpensively or even second hand, but it still requires I place an order.
So if there are items that you absolutely need and you have to purchase, spring is a good time to go ahead and get it over with. That way you’ll have what you need for the busy season, and hopefully the busy season will be a profitable one as well in order for your to recoup some of the money spent.
13. Build Garden Beds
Every year we add a few more garden beds. It just seems that we want to plant more so we naturally create more space for it. If you have any garden beds that need repair, or if you are needing to build extra space, then consider this a good time to begin building them.
So when spring rolls around, try a few of these garden bed ideas to get your amped up for the grow season.
14. Harvest Winter Vegetables
If you live in a warm enough climate, you can still grow vegetables during the winter months. We usually grow vegetables like carrots, radishes, turnip greens, and lettuce throughout the winter.
However, before we use the gardening space in the spring I have to be sure to go through the beds and pull up any left over veggies. This is particularly true for carrots as they hide very easily beneath the soil.
15. Clean Up Winter Greenhouse
If you have a cold frame or a fully heated green house, chances are you may use it to grow vegetables throughout the winter. I think that is awesome! I have a smaller greenhouse I use to start seedlings and grow fodder for my animals throughout the winter months.
But these greenhouses have to be cleaned up and ready for a fresh cycle of planting. The spring is a good time to clean them up and also to plant in them again for the next cycle.
16. Mix Up the Compost
Planting season is upon you if spring time has rolled around. In early spring is a good time to mix up your compost. This gives everything a good chance at complete decomposition by the time you need it for planting in around mid to late spring.
So keep this in mind in the early months of spring. Compost is a vital part of having a successful harvest during the summer and fall harvest.
17. Plant the Future Harvest
If you expect to have a harvest, then you must first plant the seeds. Mid to late spring is when most items need to be planted. This can be a large task depending upon what size garden you have.
We have a larger garden so it usually takes me a couple of days to get everything planted. I also feel like I’ve had a tremendous work out by the time I’m done. So expect to put in a lot of work with this chore.
18. Plant Some Eye Candy
I love flowers. I know a homestead is meant to be functional, but for me, I want it to be gorgeous too. This is why décor around my homestead is super important to me.
So if you love having a beautiful homestead too, then use the spring months to plant gorgeous flowers in beds and in window boxes to add some natural color to your property.
19. Create an Outdoor Living Space
I have lots of outdoor sitting space. I want my home to be a place that sustains us while also being a place that we can enjoy.
For this reason, I create outdoor living space. We have a back porch that gives us a shaded space to rest on hot days. I have a front porch that gives me a great place to relax at night and enjoy the view.
However, when spring rolls around I must put out my outdoor furniture in order to enjoy these spaces. So if you have outdoor furniture the spring is a great time to pull it back out and enjoy those outdoor spaces again.
20. Clean Your Heating Source
I’ve mentioned that we do have HVAC, but we also use awood stove to heat our home during the winter months. When spring time hits, I know it is time to clean out the wood stove one final time as well as the ash pale.
Also, I need to clean my HVAC unit so it can be ready to blow cool air as those warm temps are just right around the corner. This is a good time to perform routine maintenance on these items as well.
21. Work on Your Water Barrels
We use multiple water catchment systems around our house. You should consider these options if you aren’t familiar with rain catchment systems.
However, the spring is a great time to make sure your rain water systems are working as they are supposed to. Use this time to do routine maintenance so you can water your gardens and animals without having to use the water for your home.
22. Defrost and Clean Out Your Freezer
Spring is upon you so the cycle of refilling the freezer for winter has begun again. This is a good time (when it should be at its emptiest state) to defrost the freezer, clean it out, and reorganize the items that are left with in it.
This way you will be able to know what is oldest and eat it first so nothing wastes. You’ll also be able to spot if your freezer needs any maintenance. Plus, you can take inventory of what you have available to eat in your freezer as well.
23. Get Your Pantry Up to Par
I don’t know about you, but my pantry can become a mess rather quickly. I have multiple children who rummage through it and have a way of taking my organization and throwing it to the four winds.
So spring is a good time to get a grip on that situation. I go through the pantry, reorganize, and rotate canned items so I know what I need to eat first. Plus, I make room for the items I’ll be canning in the upcoming seasons.
24. Make Room for Staples
My husband works a regular job while I work at home and then we homestead on top of that. However, his job is based upon work load. So he usually makes a lot more money in the summer in comparison to the winter months.
So I use these months to stock up on staples while I have the extra cash. But I also have to make room in my home to hold these extra staples. Spring is a good time to start making room and dedicating certain spaces in the pantry, closets, etc. to hold certain staples that you can buy cheaper in the summer and use all year.
A few examples of items I’ll buy in the spring and summer are wheat seeds (I grind my own wheat), sugar, baking supplies (like baking soda and baking powder), and often I find coffee cheaper during these months. So I go ahead and stock up for the year so in the winter when I don’t have as much stretch to my budget, these items are already stored away for when I need them.
25. Clean Your Homestead Home
You didn’t think in all of this preparation I was going to forget about your actual dwelling space, did you?
Well, I didn’t. Having a clean house is so important because it helps to keep things organized and that just makes life function so much better.
Not to mention, there are certain areas in our homes (like behind the stove and refrigerator) that need some attention every 6 months or so. This is a good time to make the time to clean these items so you start the busy season of homesteading with an organized dwelling space.
26. Pull Out the Cool Stuff
I’m talking about temperature cool. Spring starts bringing warmer temps with it so you’ll need to put away the warm winter clothing and linens.
Instead, you’ll need to replace them with lighter weight options. This will keep you comfortable and organized too.
27. Clean Your Canners
Canners need a good scrub down. I usually scrub mine down after I complete a season of canning and then again before I begin. You might think that odd of me, but I want to make sure they are put away clean.
Plus, I want to make sure that all of the dust that can gather on them during the winter is removed. It is also a good time for me to check my canners out and make sure they are functioning properly so they can do their jobs.
28. Go Shopping for Canning Season
Spring time is the time to shop for canning supplies. If you need to buy a new canner you better do it before the season really gets started.
Also, you must buy lids. If you live in my neck of the woods, when lids come into town in certain stores with the lowest prices, you have to hustle or you’ll miss out.
So use this time of year to get prepared for canning season and make sure you have all of the supplies you need.
Well, there are 28 chores that should help you use your time in the spring to better prepare for the busy time of year that is only right around the corner.
But I’m curious what chores you do around your homestead in the spring time. Do you have anything specific that isn’t mentioned here?
Please let us know by leaving your thoughts in the comment section below.