Off grid pot growers have problems stashing the cash

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What do we do with all the Green?

Legalization of marijuana in 28 states across the US has caused off-grid pot growers to jump for joy, but ongoing issues with depositing the large amounts of cash generated from the business, (and uncertainty on Trump’s stance) has put a damper on the industry.

Pot growing requires a lot of power and is therefore an expensive off-grid venture – cannabis is something that needs regularity, 12/12 light without interruption and regular temps – it is hard to create a stable indoor environment without large solar panels and batteries to guarantee access to power. While new technologies to assist in the process are being developed by NOW Corporation, these wind turbines, called exoPower, are still in the trial stages.

Although difficult, off-gridders like Hezekiah Allen, who grew up in rural Humboldt County and tended a small medical marijuana farm in Northern California, managed to run a profitable business for years, but was forced to bury his cash in the same way many cannabis corporations did in the past.

“I had three different safes buried on a 200-acre parcel,” Hezekiah said. “Fifteen steps from the oak tree, a lot like a pirate. I had a little map. Pretty inconvenient and not the best cash management system. Bankers on the north coast talk about mildewy money. They can tell it’s been buried.”

Times have changed. Hezekiah left his growing operation to serve full time as an advocate for marijuana farmers, and now works to get their profits out of the ground and into banks as the executive director of the California Growers Association.

“We don’t want to lie anymore, we don’t want to have to hide what we are doing,” Hezekiah said. “We want to be open and transparent about what we are and want to do. [Banking] is an area where there are some really bad behaviors being reinforced.”

Although California voters approved the legalization of recreational pot, these businesses are still faced with one major unresolved issue: banking. As marijuana is still illegal under federal law, it is also illegal for banks to work with any marijuana-related businesses. This is forcing the majority of the state’s legal cannabis community to continue to operate in the shadows, despite the state legalization.

While the Obama administration in 2014 issued stringent guidelines that allow banks to pot-related businesses if they are following state laws, most banks have not been willing to risk the lingering threat of criminal prosecution or spend the resources it takes to comply with the additional rules of business.

Rob Rowe, vice president and associate chief counsel of regulatory compliance for the American Bankers Association, said it all comes down to risk assessment – and with the added uncertainty around Trump’s stance on the matter, it doesn’t seem like the outlook will improve any time in the near future.

“Bankers have said that in the current environment, with the enforcement and examiners looking at everything bankers are doing, they aren’t really predisposed to take on anything risky,” Rob said. “And banking a marijuana business is risky.”

The medical marijuana industry has grappled with this for years in California and elsewhere. Now, entrepreneurs and conglomerates going after a slice of lucrative recreational pot sales will have to confront the banking challenge.

Costs of running business

No banking access means businesses must pay employees, bills and taxes in cash. Clients are unable to pay using credit or debit cards, and there is no way to process business loans or real estate mortgages. The company effectively has no paper trail – no official records to build credit or establish a financial identity. And these businesses – whether they be licensed recreational sellers, medical marijuana farms, or trade associations – are forced to stash a lot of cash, making them a target for violent crime.

Michael Julian, CEO and president of MPS Security, which caters to marijuana-related businesses, said business owners are forced to get creative with finding places to hide their money.

“They have tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars,” Michael said. “And it’s not as secure in a vault in their establishment, in a closet at home, in their mattress, in the trunk of their car, whatever.”

A recent survey by the California Growers association found 75 percent of its members don’t have a bank account, and the ones who do have had three or more accounts closed in the course of doing business. A 2015 survey by Marijuana Business Daily of more than 400 cannabis professionals nationwide also found 70 percent of businesses that deal directly in marijuana operate without traditional banking services. As for firms that support the business but don’t handle the plant, 49 percent don’t have bank accounts.

The long-running conflict between the banks and the industry has been ongoing since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. The conflict ballooned when recreational pot sales started in Colorado and Washington in 2012, but with more and more states entering the recreational market, including California, Massachusetts, Nevada, Maine, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, the problem will be compounded. Adding in the states that allow medical marijuana brings the total to 28 states, plus D.C., with cannabis laws on the books.

According to experts, the only real solution is for Congress to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I narcotics, putting the drug on par with an FDA-regulated medicine rather than heroin or cocaine. Until that happens, state-legal marijuana-related businesses are treated under the letter of the law the same as cartels trafficking methamphetamine.

Banking on marijuana

In 2013, the Obama administration released a document called the ‘Cole Memo’, which stated it would generally not prosecute marijuana businesses that were following state law and didn’t engage in certain activities, such as selling to children, crossing state lines or funding criminal organizations. In a separate memo, months later, the administration modified the way banks conducted business with state-legal operations, making it easier under new guidelines from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the federal agency that monitors banks for fraudulent activity, such as money laundering. But banks were also reminded that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and is subject to prosecution.

Under the guidelines, banks serving marijuana-related businesses must file suspicious activity reports, or SARs, so the transactions are transparent and can be tracked by the government. Three kinds of reports dictate the level of suspicion against the businesses: ‘Marijuana limited’ SARs indicate the business is following state law and no red flags suggest it is breaking any other laws; ‘marijuana priority’ suggests the business may not be following other laws and may be involved in suspicious activity; and ‘marijuana termination’ alerts to a bank account that has been shut down for suspicious activity.

The SARs must be filed when an account is opened and then quarterly after that, listing every transaction that has been made. Banks are also told to investigate and track marijuana businesses they are serving, making sure they are not violating any guidelines.

The American Bankers Association stated on its website that the level of scrutiny was “far beyond” that expected of any normal banking relationship.

“Because of the standards in place, if we do this we have to have someone almost embedded in the customer 24/7, and we’re not 100 percent certain we saw everything we need to see,” Rob said. “We’ve got to have such close tabs and use so much resources to closely monitor everything with these businesses, it’s just not economical.”

However, according to data from FinCEN, some banks have taken on the risk of working with marijuana-related businesses; in the first six months that the new guidelines were in effect, banks across America filed 502 SARs marked as ‘marijuana limited,’ according to Dynamic Securities Analytics statistics. During the same period, FinCEN received 123 ‘marijuana priority’ SARs and 475 ‘marijuana termination’.

Rob said banks generally keep quiet about it due to the perceived consequences of doing business with the volatile industry.

“Bankers will say that we know someone who is (serving a marijuana business), but it is the exception to a general policy, a one-off thing,” Rob said. “I’ve heard from dispensaries that say we don’t want to call attention to it because we had trouble getting an account and don’t want to lose what we’ve got.”

Mike Cindrich, an attorney who represents marijuana-related businesses and is executive director of the local chapter of NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, said there are ways around the banking ban on marijuana-related businesses – but he wouldn’t recommend them. One such way would be to set up limited liability corporations that are management companies providing a list of services, from payroll to accounting to bookkeeping to property management. The money from the marijuana business flows to the company – usually with a nondescript name that doesn’t disclose its ties to marijuana – and is deposited in the company’s bank account. This is technically money laundering, and illegal, but some companies have found success with the tactics. Others have been busted by banks and their accounts closed.

“When you start doing something that looks like money laundering, funneling cash from a non-profit to something that looks like an LLC, now someone is looking at felony charges,” Mike said. While he “sternly advises against it,” Mike said he could see how marijuana operators feel like they are being backed into a corner by the government.

“They’re not leaving the cannabis community with many options here,” he said. “It’s a complete nightmare for these businesses. People who don’t want to be legitimate, it’s very easy for them to not report this cash. If we want legitimacy and for these businesses to come out into the light, then we should allow full banking because it allows this money to be accounted for, taxed, tracked, traced. If this is something the feds really want to keep an eye on they’d change the banking laws altogether and make this happen.”

Trump stance

The cannabis industry has been suspicious of President Trump’s election, waiting to see if the new administration will address the growing legal marijuana market and how it conflicts with banking laws.

Trump voiced support for legalization but brought up some concerns about the drug during his campaign. He did not make it a major issue, and the industry believes Trump will focus on his bigger priorities – terrorism, immigration, the border wall.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the former Republican senator from Alabama who once said “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” is a bigger worry. As head of the U.S. Department of Justice, Jeff has control over how the government enforces federal law and could reverse the Obama administration’s willingness to look the other way as long as dispensaries followed state law.

The Attorney General said he would review the Cole Memo and commit to “enforcing federal law with respect to marijuana, although the exact balance of enforcement priorities is an ever-changing determination based on the circumstances and the resources available at the time.”

The post Off grid pot growers have problems stashing the cash appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.

How To Stop Invasive Plants From Taking Over Your Garden

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How To Stop Invasive Plants From Taking Over Your Garden If you love lilies and black-eyed Susans, but hate the way they’re taking over your garden and choking out other plants, here’s what you can do: Many plants multiply by dropping seeds and by sending out roots that establish new plants. A layer of mulch will prevent the …

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24 Ways to Prepare for Your Spring Garden in the Dead of Winter

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prepare-spring-garden-in-winterIt can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!

If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them in the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong. You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.

Fall Preparation

Before it freezes (or at least quickly after the first frost):

1. Remove and discard diseased parts of plants. But not into the compost! (If you put them into the compost, the weeds could sprout up wherever you use the compost later.

2. Mulch over any plants that might be susceptible to the cold (about 8″ deep), including over-wintering vegetables such as carrots, so they are still alive in the spring.

3. Make sure all beds are composted or mulched. A compost pail with a charcoal filter will allow you to start your compost stash inside the house while controlling odors until you can empty it outdoors.

4. Clean up, maintain, and properly store garden tools and equipment. Note any that need replaced. If you need a new set of good quality hand tools like the ones in this kit, add it to your Christmas list!

5. If any garden tools need significant repairs, take them in to be fixed.

6. Start a wish-list of gifts you would like. The holidays are approaching!

Planning for next spring

7. Order seed catalogs. There are multiple good companies, so go ahead and order a few. You may be surprised by what you find, and really good catalogs will have your mouth watering and you itching to start digging in the dirt. A couple of my own favorites are Seeds of Change and Baker Creek.

Remember: if you want to save the seeds from the plants to grow new plants in the future, you almost certainly will want heirloom varieties.

8. Decide if you want to use cold frames or another technique to extend your growing season. Plan and build accordingly, if you want to go for it.

9. Start diagramming/planning what you want where. Once you have a very general plan – vegetable garden, herb garden, annuals, perennials, bushes, and trees planned out – it’s time to start getting more specific. A journal specifically designed for gardeners will give you room to plan your garden, journal your efforts, and then make notes about what worked and what didn’t.

10. Check the viability and test germination of any seeds you have on hand.

11. When planning, start with the plants that take the longest to mature and will be there for the longest – the trees. Next come bushes, then perennials including any perennial herbs, annuals including vegetables, and finally any potted plants.

The last would be plants that can’t survive in your area that you really want. In my case, I have some potted chamomile and an aloe plant that I bring in during the winter. Other people have lemon trees, but it could be almost anything.

12. Ask these questions for trees, bushes, perennials, and annuals:

  • Do you want to plant any new ones?
  • What kind?
  • How will planting these affect other plants you’ll put nearby? If you put in a tree that gets very wide, so you probably won’t want to plant bushes or anything long-lasting near it, but annual flowers could do great and provide a nice pop of color!
  • Are there any other plants that cannot coexist with it?
  • What plants do really well with it?
  • Where do you want them on your lot? You may realize that you want a vegetable garden near the driveway, but you need some bushes between it and your teenage driver.

13. Start picking out what you want! I think this is the most fun. I can totally lose myself in seed catalogs.

Guidance on Picking Plants

14. Decide what you are looking for, and why. I like unusual varieties of common plants, like yellow carrots or banana melons. You might prefer more traditional orange carrots. This article with advice from a master gardener may help you make these decisions.

15. Do you want to involve your kids? My youngest loves picking out plants. It makes him crazy-happy to pick out, plant, nurture, and (sometimes) eat plants. There are areas in the garden with nothing planned so he can put whatever makes him happy. And yes, sometimes he decides on a spot I know or that makes me a bit crazy, but it still goes there unless I have a really good reason not to – like it’s right exactly where the mower will kill it.

16. Don’t forget to check which grow zone you live in. Your county or state extension service might have more detailed information available, or ask at a local nursery, to get the best information.

17. If you plant an herb garden, be sure to check which weeds are considered weeds or pests in your area. I planted lemon balm, which can go crazy, but I made sure to plant it where the driveway, a brick walk, and the house formed three sides, containing it a bit. (It’s apparently a member of the mint family, and they all grow like crazy pretty easily.) Yarrow is also considered a weed, but not invasive like lemon balm. So, to me, as a not-so-active-gardener, that just means yarrow will be harder for my chronic neglect to kill.

18. Think about what you actually use and eat. I planted about 8 oregano plants a few years ago and they grew great – but I rarely use oregano in my cooking. I love the smell of lavender and it’s a slight bug repellant, so I have planted a bunch of that around the house. I am interested in herbal remedies, so I planted yarrow, several kinds of mint and chamomile. The last two are potted. One, so it doesn’t spread and take over everything, the other because it can’t survive a winter outside in our climate.

19. Use kitchen leftovers to start new plants. Since you’ve already eaten them, you know these are veggies you’ll like. Growing pineapples this way is easy, too.

Steps to Take Mid-Winter

20. Consider the weather – is it an unusually cold or snowy winter? Is it mild? If it is mild, then you probably don’t need to do anything extra to your plants, but if it is a really cold or snowy year, you might want to protect your plants better. Last year, I lost almost all of the strawberry plants that I had nurtured from a few starts over the previous four years! A layer of mulch over top of them would have kept the cold out and the plants alive, even though they didn’t need it in previous warmer winters.

21. Take advantage of the increased visibility from all the plants dying or being dormant and take a good look at your grounds. Are there areas of erosion? If so, you have a project for spring and can start researching and planning how to best fix it.

22. Can you see roots damaging walls, foundations, pathways, or anything else? Don’t forget to check the area near the septic field and the well. In the spring, have a professional take care of any problematic roots. Research a good tree service and ask for referrals from friends and neighbors.

23. Where does the snow and ice melt first and where does it last? That gives you an idea of what spots naturally receive more sunlight or less sunlight. Of course, the micro-climate(s) in your yard will be a little different when the trees have leaves and as the angles of the sun change, but this will give you a starting point.

24. It’s finally time to start planting, even with the ground frozen rock-hard. Start your hardy (early season) plants indoors. In four to six weeks, you can put them in the ground and start the next group of plants inside. A Grow Zone map can  help you determine what to plant and when, as the weather begins to warm up.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your family get excited for your garden for next summer and you’ll have a great growing season!

Enjoy the process and the produce!

This article was updated on November 17, 2016.

9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

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9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

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Time flies, doesn’t it? Prime time for planting certain long-season vegetables may have come and gone, but unless you live in a climate with a short growing season, you still have time to plant plenty of vegetables before the first frost.

Obviously, gardeners in super-hot climates might not be able to plant everything on this list, but for gardeners in most parts of North America, try planting these this month:

1. Bush beans – Check your calendar; if you have 45-65 days before the first average frost date in your area, then you have time to plant bush beans. Hold off if you tend to have early freezes; beans aren’t cold tolerant and are killed by frost.

2. Carrots, beets and turnips — Root crops aren’t typically fast-growing vegetables, but carrots, beets and turnip can burst out in a hurry in warm weather, and all three can tolerate a light frost. Look for them to ripen in 50-60 days.

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3. Kohlrabi – If you haven’t tried this mild, crunchy veggie, then there’s still time for a crop this year. Kohlrabi is ready to pick in 50-60 days and tolerates light frost. Although kohlrabi loves sunshine, it’s a cool season crop, so a spot in morning sunlight and afternoon shade is preferable.

9 Popular Vegetables You Can Plant, From Seed, In July

Radishes. Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Radishes – If you’re looking for a super-speedy, dependable vegetable, then you can’t miss with radishes. However, radishes don’t like extreme heat and may bolt in hot climates. Look for heat-tolerant varieties like Rover, Inca, Roxanne, Cherry Belle or Crunchy Royale.

5. Pak choi – Harvest this tender oriental vegetable after about a month, or wait another couple of weeks if you prefer pak choi in heads. Also known as bok choy, pak choi isn’t terribly finicky about high temperatures, but partial shade is a good idea if you’re concerned about bolting.

6. Peas – Plant peas in early July and be ready to harvest in 70 to 80 days. The plants are ready for harvest by autumn in most climates, but don’t worry about a light frost; peas can survive temps in the high 20s.

7. Lettuce (and other salad crops). What? Gardeners know that lettuce is a cool season crop that performs best in spring and autumn, but it’s possible to grow lettuce even in the heat of summer. With a few workarounds, you can continue to plant lettuce every two or three weeks throughout the season.

  • Plant lettuce in semi-shade. A little light morning or evening sunlight is enough to keep your plants healthy, without bolting too soon. Use shade cloth if necessary, or plant lettuce to the north of a bean trellis, sunflowers or other tall plant.
  • Grow lettuce in containers so you can move the veggies into shade as needed. If you use a heavy container, a rolling platform simplifies the task and saves your back.
  • Provide plenty of water – preferably from a drip system or soaker hose. Never allow the soil to become bone dry.
  • Try some of the following heat-tolerant varieties, which tend to be slow to bolt and resistant to bitterness. Butterhead/bibb lettuce – Adriana, Summer Bibb, Buttercrunch or Fireball; Romaine/cos – Green Towers, Cimmaron, Jericho or Little Gem; Iceberg/crisphead – Ithaca, Summertime, Calmar or Great Lakes; Red leaf – Red Fire, Lovelock, Red Sails or Ruby.

8. Garlic – Planting garlic in July is no problem. Let the garlic winter in the ground, then harvest it next summer.

9. Herbs – Fast-growing herbs suitable for planting in July include dill, coriander and parsley. Cilantro and basil are speedy growers, ready to snip in about a month.

What would you add to this list? Share your tips for planting in July in the section below:

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

Secret Gardening: How To Hide Your Food In Plain Sight

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How To Plant A ‘Camo Garden’ No One Will Ever Find

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You’ve been gardening for years, and have mastered the art of growing food on your homestead. You do it organically, without using commercial pesticides and fertilizers. You save your own seeds, can your own produce, and are practically self-sufficient.

But in the event of a local or nationwide disaster that closes stores and causes people to become desperate, how are you going to protect your garden from potential thieves? Sure you could be generous and help a number of people for a while, but you can’t possibly feed each every individual that shows up at your door every time.

If you want to play it safe and make your garden “invisible” from unwanted elements, turn it into a “secret garden” with planting guilds.

A guild is a design principle in permaculture that groups assorted plants together, usually in a circle, surrounding a central plant. Each plant is carefully chosen to complement the others, ensuring each other’s growth. Like forests, guilds mimic the wilderness by having multiple layers of diverse vegetation: trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, root crops, ground cover, and even animals, insects and beneficial microorganisms. All of these work together to meet the four basic needs of plants: food (mostly in the form of nitrogen), mulch, pollination and protection. A guild is an ecosystem in itself, with different members in symbiotic relationship with one another. On a larger scale, a forest garden, also known as a “food forest,” is a great example of a guild.

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I first heard about guilds after watching a video of renowned natural farmer Sepp Holzer, who grew a food forest in the mountains of Austria. He cultivated a sundry mix of fruits, flowers, legumes, corn, buckwheat, herbs and spices, pumpkins, salad greens, medicinal plants and different kinds of root crops all across his acreage. He didn’t plant them in neat rows, but scattered seeds at random and just let nature do its course. Guild-planting, he says, makes the garden so much more dynamic, abundant and efficient. In fact, the yield in his food forest in the Appalachians is five times more than it would be if he did traditional row gardening.

How To Plant A ‘Camo Garden’ No One Will Ever FindThe benefits of guilds are undeniable: less or practically no irrigation, no mulching, no commercial pesticides and fertilizers and, ultimately, minimal maintenance. You get high yields from a very small space. And, because food forests look like a wild, untended, neglected hodge-podge of overgrown bush, nobody will think it’s a virtual paradise brimming with food! Even animals and pests would have a hard time fighting an array of repellents to get through to your goods.

Here are the different layers to plant in a guild:

1. Trees. In a guild, the trees are strong, deep-rooted plants that reach deep under the ground to absorb minerals and bring them up to the surface. They’re the canopy layer, dominating but not saturating the surrounding plants. They provide shelter for smaller trees and shrubs, beneficial animals and insects. The trees grown in the center of guilds are normally fruit or nut trees. In the northern states, they’re most likely apples, pears, cherries, plums and figs; in the subtropics, citruses like oranges, limes and lemons.

2. Shrubs. Shrubs provide a windbreak to reduce stress on your central tree. They can be low or understory fruit trees like bananas and papayas, stalks like corn, various woody perennials and most berry bushes. Comfrey, borage and dandelion are good because they’re “miners” – they collect nutrients from the soil, store it in their leaves and feed it to surrounding plants when they shed their leaves. You can also chop-and-drop them to use as green manure.

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 3. Vines. Vines make up the vertical layer that climb up the central and understory trees. They need little soil and ground space to thrive, but they require physical support from stronger plants beside them. Vines provide much food in less space, not just for humans but also for surrounding plants since they are nitrogen-fixers – they absorb nitrogen from the air and make them bio-available for surroundings plants. Examples of good leguminous vines are lima and runner beans. Annual climbers that seed themselves easily are gourds like cucumbers and squashes. Other edible vines are honeysuckle, jasmine, bramble, passionflower and of course, grapes.

4. Herbs and flowers. Herbs and flowers protect the fruits and nuts in your guild. Spices like peppers and herbs from the allium family like chives and onions ward off harmful insects. Even mice are said to be repelled by chives. On the other hand, fennel and dill attract wasps that prey on those harmful insects. Flowers, for their part, mostly attract pollinators, but certain ones draw predator insects: those from the daisy family, the Umbelliferae family when flowering (carrots, parsley, celery), yarrow and allysum. Marigolds, nasturtiums, lavender, tansy, elderberry, wormwood and peppermint geraniums are known pest repellents, while daffodils are said to keep deer at bay.

The thing to remember is that pests are attracted through sight and smell. Having an assortment of flowers, whether pungent-smelling or aromatic, will give mixed signals and confuse them. Other plants that can protect your guild from bigger animals and unwanted folks are thorny ones like cacti and osage orange.

How To Plant A ‘Camo Garden’ No One Will Ever FindSpeaking of protection, try attracting beneficial animals, too, like frogs, lizards and birds, or keep ducks or guinea fowl to control slugs. They’re natural predators. Put up birdhouses or consider building a pond to help attract these garden friends. The key is to simulate a balanced natural ecosystem so the different elements can regulate each other’s growth.

5. Ground cover – Ground cover plants protect the soil around the guild from too much sun, and reduce erosion during heavy rains and strong winds. They are your living mulch, building the soil while smothering unwanted weeds. They hold moisture and nutrients in the soil, keeping beneficial microorganisms underneath happy. They are usually in the form of grasses, legumes and brassicas. Ground covers that are wonderful nitrogen-fixers are comfrey, alfalfa, hairy vetch, field peas, soybeans and clovers. Other great edible cover crops are oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, canola, flax, rapeseed, spelt, spinach, mustards, strawberries, globe artichokes, parsnips, radishes, fava beans, fenugreek, chamomile, nasturtiums, elderberry, dandelions, sunflower and chicory.

6. Rhizomes — These are root crops that are diligent diggers:  white and sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, yams, daikon radish, and edible tubers like turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, cassava and yacon. They loosen compacted soil, make it soft, and mine nutrients underground. In the level which they belong to, called the rhizosphere, permaculturists like to include beneficial organisms like worms, insects and fungi.

For a comprehensive list of edibles you can plant in your food forest, click here.

As you can expect, you’ll have to prioritize growing perennials so you won’t have to sow and pull out parts of your garden year after year. Use open-pollinated heirloom seeds, and just let them go to seed to replenish themselves. And remember: The more diversity you have, the greater the variety and nutrients on your plate … and, the more confusion and camouflage you’ll create for both pests and people.

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

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

The 8 Dumbest Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make (No. 3 Could Ruin Your Entire Crop)

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The 8 Dumbest Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make (No. 3 Could Ruin Your Entire Crop)

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There is more to gardening than meets the eye. From the viewpoint of one who has never tried growing their own food, it may appear to be simply a case of tilling up some soil, popping a few seeds in, and sitting back and waiting for the gourmet vegetables to roll in.

Usually, though, there is more to it than that. Growing food is a combination of science, art, diligence and good fortune — and it is a moving target. There are the perennial challenges to stay ahead of weeding and watering, and to protect the plants from the hungry jaws of insects and wildlife looking for a free meal. But there are a few more tricks of the trade beyond the basics, and even smart gardeners make mistakes. Here are eight ways that even the best gardeners can slip up.

1. Leaving inadequate space between plants and between rows. While setting tiny little broccoli or Brussels sprouts seedlings into the bare ground, the expanse of wide-open garden can be deceptive. Even though the directions on the seed packet expressly say to leave three or four feet of space, it takes a lot of willpower to do it.

It is so easy to get swept up in the excitement of buying and planting and then run out of garden space, resulting in the temptation to just squeeeeeeze those hills of pumpkin plants a little closer together. Because, they can’t get that big, right? Wrong. They can. And they will.

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I once read that placing plants too close together is a common beginner error, but it can be difficult even for seasoned gardeners to avoid.

There are a few exceptions to the rule of giving plenty of room — most notably peppers and snap beans, both of which are happier touching their neighbors.

It is important to follow the instructions on the seed packet or in the catalog, and even get out a tape measure if necessary in order to prevent underestimating the distance between plants.

The 8 Dumbest Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make (No. 3 Could Ruin Your Entire Crop)

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Losing control of succession planting. The idea behind this concept is to plant a little at a time, over a span of several weeks. This is to prevent drowning in those early summer vegetables such as lettuce and spinach and radishes and carrots and beets and chard — plants which grow quickly and require only a partial season from start to finish. It makes more sense to plant a small amount of each every two or three weeks so that they reach maturity a little at a time.

However, it is sometimes easier said than done. By the time the third or fourth planting of early season vegetables is due to go in, a gardener can be too busy with planting and tending warm-weather crops to bother with them. And then there are the warm-weather harvests to keep food-growers busy.

Gardening involves a lot of intricate timing and juggling, and succession planting adds a little extra complication to the mix. But wrapping up the harvest without a last blast of those delicious cold-weather foods leaves gardeners wishing they had followed through with later plantings.

3. Forgetting about soil health. Soil is a living entity. Without healthy soil, hopes for healthy garden plants are slim. It is important to have it tested regularly and heed the recommendations for amendments — and to follow the guidelines pretty closely. Soil only slightly deficient in nitrogen will not necessarily benefit from five times the recommended amount.

Other tenets of soil health include insuring adequate drainage and avoiding walking on it when wet so that it does not become too hard packed.

4. Recreational rototilling. Some gardeners believe in tilling, and others do not. But either way, tilling is directly related to soil health. Excess tilling can destroy organisms which keep the soil alive and vibrant, and allow the soil to become compacted and lifeless.

It is important to use a rototiller only when truly necessary and to avoid tilling when the soil is mucky and subject to too much damage.

The 8 Dumbest Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make (No. 3 Could Ruin Your Entire Crop)

Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Neglecting to thin rows. Directions on vegetable seed packets say to plant every half inch to an inch and then later thin them to somewhere between two and 12 inches, depending upon the species. The point is to attain a high rate of germination — because every seed does not germinate into a seedling — and then once they take root, to pull out enough to allow the remainders space to grow.

It is hard to do. Ripping out half of those green bobbing heads of radish leaves popping up in sweet little rows feels self-defeating. And destroying all those healthy-looking corn plantlets already reaching for the sky and promising to become healthy fruitful stalks — ouch!

It has to be done. It helps to remind oneself of how much healthier those remaining ones will be, and how scrunched up and unproductive the whole crop will be if they are not thinned. And the crop is guaranteed to be subpar if they are not.

I’ve tried to plant them as far apart initially as they are supposed to be after thinning, with poor results. Big gaps show up in my rows, and while it probably was possible to replant, I did not get to it. Additionally, many must-thin seeds like lettuce and carrots are so tiny that it’s nearly impossible to plant them in neat pre-thinned rows.

6. Being nonchalant about compost sources. Gardeners need to ask all the right questions of compost sellers and make sure they know what they are getting. What is the actual composition — is it cow manure, household compost, or biosolids? And does it contain peat moss and other fill material? Has it been adequately heated? Is it organic? Are there scraps of non-biodegradable materials? Has it been tested for metals?

The 8 Dumbest Mistakes Even Smart Gardeners Make (No. 3 Could Ruin Your Entire Crop)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Biosolid material, or human waste, is off-putting to some gardeners. Fill material can be an excellent addition, but not if it results in a mix that is mostly wood chips or other carbons. Unheated compost of any kind can contain pathogens. Compost which is not certified organic can possibly contain herbicides that could damage the garden.

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

It is easier to be careful up front than to risk having to dig it out of a raised bed garden and haul it off later.

7. Touching plants when wet. It is never the best idea to bother any wet vegetable plants, but it really matters with beans. Picking, weeding or brushing past bean plants when wet can increase their chances of disease and should be strictly avoided. It is worth rearranging a schedule to pick or tend beans before predicted rain and even in order to work around a heavy dew.

8. Leaving ripe fruit unpicked. Fruit, in this case, is the mature result of a flowering body—vegetables such as squash, beans, eggplant, peppers and anything else which grew from a blossom and is not part of the plant’s stalk or root. These plants live to produce fruit. The more is picked, the more they produce. Plants can become stagnant and stop putting on more fruit if it is not consistently picked.

It is important to pick vegetables diligently. Even if there is too much to use immediately, it is better to do so, and give it away or even feed it to livestock if necessary, than to let it sit on the plant and inhibit later production.

Gardening is great, and growing your own food even better. Paying attention to concerns such as space, timing, sourcing and diligence can help growers save valuable resources and avoid crop loss. By following these simple guidelines, even smart gardeners can avoid common mistakes and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

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

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

Garden Planting Calendar: When To Exactly Start Your Crops

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Garden Planting Calendar: When To Exactly Start Your Crops I am not an expert gardener by any means and I don’t claim to be either. I have only really been growing my food for a little over 3 years and for two of those years I failed miserably. The first year I planted my seeds …

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Sowing Concepts & Planting Styles

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Written by R. Ann Parris on The Prepper Journal.

Regardless of scale, maximizing our production is something we all strive for. There are some terms and sowing concepts we may see but not really understand that relate to sowing seeds, especially, that can help us maximize our yields

The post Sowing Concepts & Planting Styles appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Super Fast Method To Start Seeds In One Day

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Super Fast Method To Start Seeds In One Day I think everyone at least once in their life have started seeds a little late in the season. I am guilty of this. Would you like to know a tried and true method of reducing the time of seed germination by 70%? This not only gives you …

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The post Super Fast Method To Start Seeds In One Day appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

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5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Khol Rabi. Image source: Pixabay.com

The days are getting longer, snow is disappearing from the garden and the air is rapidly getting warmer. You’ve spent your dreary, winter days planning this year’s garden. Are you feeling the gardening “itch” yet? If you haven’t chosen which vegetables yet to grace your garden this year, here are five hardy vegetables you can sow outside soon – if not right now.

The soil may still be a bit hard, but if it is workable, then dig and add a layer of compost or manure to the garden. This doesn’t mean scrape the ice and snow off if there is any still there. If you still have snow and ice on your garden, you will need to wait a bit.

If all is well, then begin planting. Remove any weeds and other plant debris you may find. If you are planning to plant any produce that requires stakes or supports, add the supports now. Place a cover over your garden to help protect and warm up the soil before planting.

Check for any pests, especially slugs, as the weather continues to warm up during the month.

Need Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds For Your Spring Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

If you want to try something new, raised garden beds save your back from the hard work of bending to till and dig. These beds heat up quicker than traditional gardens in the springtime, but they still need to have good soil and drain well.

Ready to plant?

Here are five popular and healthy choices for your March planting. They are all hardy, and can be planted outside to enjoy during the spring and summer.

1. Spinach. This cool-weather plant can take about six weeks to grow from seed. All you need to do is loosen the soil before planting. You also can prepare the soil for this vegetable in the autumn if you want to save time in the spring. Spinach likes moist soil, but not soggy. When the plants start to grow, you will need to thin them to prevent overcrowding – a big “no-no” with spinach. You’ll need to buy fresh seeds every year, as spinach seeds don’t seem to store well. This green vegetable is full of vitamins and can be used for salads, main dishes and cooking.

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

Image source: Pixabay.com

2. Leeks. Here is another tough, hardy vegetable you can plant now. Leeks need well-drained soil with organic matter to protect and boost health. They like a sunny, yet sheltered spot. Planting now will allow you to harvest leeks at the same time as you do onions. You will need to break up the soil before planting and the seeds need to be spaced about an inch apart (one to two centimeters.)

3. Turnips. Known as a root-vegetable, turnips are easy to grow. They are full of nourishment, with many minerals and carbohydrates. Turnips grow well in cool, moist soil, and they mature in about six to 10 weeks. You don’t need too many seeds. Plant them by sparsely sprinkling the seeds in a row. Cover with a thin layer of dirt and add a little fertilizer before watering. Turnips should sprout within a week. Water during any dry weather. You can harvest turnips when they are about the size of a golf ball.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

4. Spring onions. This type of onion should be planted in a part of the garden that isn’t waterlogged or still frozen. Pick a spot in the garden that gets a good amount of sun and break up the soil. Rows should be shallow, and you simply drop the seeds into the rows. Add some sort of fertilizer to give plants a boost. By planting spring onions now, you will get a crop in June and July. They can be enjoyed raw or in salads. You can even use them as a substitute for other onions.

5. Kohl Rabi. Here is a fun-looking, hardy vegetable that seems to thrive in cool temperatures. Kohl Rabi grows well in temperatures of 40-75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4-23 degrees Celsius. It needs 45-60 days to fully mature. Kohl Rabi likes full sun and handles frost well. You will want to plant this vegetable half an inch (one and a half centimeters) deep, in a thin row until plants are five to eight inches apart. The soil needs to be moist. Use compost on the garden bed. You’ll notice Kohl Rabi is sweeter than cabbage. It stores very well in the refrigerator for one week, or up to two months in a cool place.

There are so many other vegetables you can enjoy as well. Choose your seeds, wake up your garden and get planting.

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

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

The Most Versatile, Useful Fruit Tree For The Off-Grid Homestead Is …

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The Most Versatile, Useful Fruit Tree For The Off-Grid Homestead Is ...I have 80 acres of property in Michigan. It’s been in the family for five generations, and 30 years ago I was smart enough to plant a variety of fruit trees.

I planted sweet cherry trees for snacking and sour cherry trees for baking. I have continually lost the sweet cherry war with the birds. The sour cherries have done fine if you don’t mind pitting a bushel of sour cherries on a long weekend.

The pears and peaches have done well, and we “can” with them or bake with them. We also set them on the table for snacking, but we end up giving many of them away simply because we don’t have the time to process the entire harvest.

However, it’s all very different when it comes to the apple trees. We’ll easily get four bushels or more from each of our 10 trees for a total of 40-plus bushels — and we use every one of them. Over the years we keep finding new uses for apples, and I think it’s the most versatile fruit I’ve come across.

The ‘Fruit Gardener’s Bible’: Your Complete Resource To Growing Fruits And Nuts!

Here are the top seven things we’ve learned to make with our apple harvest:

1. Apple cider

We pick up windfall apples off the ground. They’re a bit gnarly and often bruised, but we don’t care. We gather them, rinse them, grind them up in the apple grinder and toss the mash into the apple press to make apple cider. This kind of cider has to be refrigerated in some way. You could also process it with a heat process like you would use for traditional canning. The good news is that this usually takes place in autumn, and the overnight temps help with off-the-grid refrigeration.

2. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a natural disinfectant and cleaner and is a foundation for many food preservation solutions. It is reported to have significant health benefits, and its versatility crosses from marinades to salad dressings to brines and cures. Apple cider vinegar may be the most significant benefit of the apple tree.

3. Apple sauce

The Most Versatile, Useful Fruit Tree For The Off-Grid Homestead Is ...

Image source: Pixabay.com

It’s so easy to make. Peel and core apples, and chop. Add to a sauce pan with some apple cider and a little sugar and cinnamon. Gently simmer, and either mash or leave in chunks. It is wonderful as an accompaniment to pork. Refrigerate or process with standard canning procedures.

4. Apple butter

Apple butter is apple sauce on steroids. This recipe is for a crockpot, and it takes 10 hours on low. Peel, core and finely chop six pounds of apples and toss into the crockpot with four cups of sugar, two teaspoons of cinnamon, one-fourth teaspoon of salt, one-fourth teaspoon of ground cloves and stir until blended. Set crockpot on low, and stir occasionally for about 10 hours. Serve, refrigerate or process.

5. Baked apples

We’ll gather a bunch of apples, and either wrap them in foil over the grill or bake them in the oven. We keep the skins on and core the apples, being careful to not cut down to the base. (You want a little pocket in the core of the apple). The standard ingredient is a tablespoon of butter in the core with a mix of brown sugar and spices.

Need Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds For Your Spring Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

I usually blend one-half teaspoon of cinnamon, one-fourth teaspoon of nutmeg and one-fourth teaspoon of cloves with about two tablespoons of brown sugar for each apple. I dump all of that in the core of the apple and wrap in foil over indirect heat on the grill, or bake in the oven on a cookie sheet. I give them both about an hour no matter how I’m cooking them. Let them rest a bit or you’ll burn your mouth.

6. Apple pie

There’s a filling for apple pie that can be used across purposes, from a spooned pie-filling on a plate to a filling for an apple pie. The basic filling consists of peeled, cored and sliced apples tossed in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a cup of sugar, two teaspoons of cinnamon, two tablespoons of corn starch or flour, and a tablespoon of salt all tossed together and dumped in the pie shell. Bake at 350 (Fahrenheit) for an hour.

7. Dried apples

There are a lot of ways to make this, but the simplest is to cut them thin, toss them in sugar and cinnamon, and dry them in an oven at 225 degrees (Fahrenheit) for an hour or more. You’ll get apple chips that keep well and are fun to eat. Proportions are about a tablespoon of sugar and one-fourth teaspoon of cinnamon for each thin apple slice.

Final thoughts

Of course, there’s also simply apples on the table. We usually select the best and chill them in the fridge. They’re great on the table and at breakfast. Sometimes we slice them and dip them in peanut butter or chunk them up with granola or dipped in yogurt.

When you consider the benefits, varieties and uses for something as simple as apples, it just seems to make sense to have an apple tree on your property. Maybe two or three. As for me, I’m planting 12 more this spring.

Related:

The Easy Way To Make Vinegar From Scratch

Do you know of other uses for apples? Share your advice in the section below:

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

DIY Milk Jug Seed Starters

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This is a great way to make a low cost, actually free,  cold frame for your  outdoor seeds that winter outside or to do seed starting inside for starting seeds indoors for the spring. We are doing this one. Getting our seeds started very soon indoors so they will be ready for planting outdoors. Or planting indoors in 5 gallon buckets. I have a few items that I want to do indoors. Will be easier for when we get our land to be able to take the plants with us.

But this simple and free milk jug seed starter is a great way to start…

Survival Seeds
  • Cut a gallon milk jug in half horizontally. Leave one edge intact so that it will act like a hinge. 
  • You can throw away the cap. But, my creative son is wanting to save them to somehow make an outdoor “rug” with. Have them bottom up so that you can use it to scrape mud off shoes.
  • Punch several drainage holes into the bottom of the jug.
  • Fill the bottom with a few inches of potting soil.
  • Moisten it well and plant the seeds.
  • Close the top cover and secure with some duct tape.
  • Place the jug inside a clear plastic bag and twist tie closed. Since it is in a clear plastic bag it is like its own greenhouse.
  • Place in a sunny spot outside out of the way , so it will not be bothered or have to be moved.
  • Before transplanting , harden off the seedlings by taking the jug out of the bag and propping it open.

This is a frugal way to start your own garden or to garden indoors. Easy and fun to watch them grow.

Fall for Planting Trees?

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Fall for Planting Trees?

Fall for Planting TreesThe other day, my husband and I loaded up the kids and took a trip to the local farm supply store. Our objective was to get feed for the goats and sheep, and the chickens, as well as a few heat bulb for our adolescent chickens. As we approached, we saw some of the trees that were left from the spring. Still green, but the leaves were falling off, they were fast approaching their dormant stage. As we got closer we saw the sign, the sign that changes your plans.

50% off our nursery stock.

SOLD! $9 for 3 year old fruit trees!?! You know we couldn’t pass that one up. My husband and I looked at each other. Money? ~sigh~ I know. Fruit? yep. Should we? In the long run, it will be worth it. Agreed. {as I said previously, my husband and I are very articulate people}

There was about a dozen or so trees available. We looked at the tags, most were apples, but we already have 4 apple trees, 1 pear tree that has been graphed to produce 3 types of pears, a cherry, a peach and a plum. Our nectarine had been killed in the late frost earlier this year. And there it was, 1 nectarine left in the bunch. I took it. My husband declared that he loved my plum jam, so he decided that another type of plum was needed. It saddened me a bit, because the only reason we got our first plum tree was because of my father, so I was reminded of him. But my husband did indeed like the plum jam, so it was all good.

Wait a minute Phelan, it is cool out now. I know, I hear you. That bitter north winds are starting to cut through the landscape. Frost has arrived at least once by now. Why on earth would we go ahead and buy trees to plant? Autumn is a prime time to plant trees. With them in their dormant stage, they have time to establish roots systems without worrying about getting nutrition to the rest of the sleeping tree.

Bare root and burlap roots are the best for fall planting, but if you happen to find a deal like we did, and the trees are in containers make sure they get the required amount of water. Plant your fall trees as you would your spring ones. They need to be mulched in with organic materials, in wide shallow holes. If you can get them in the ground before the hard freeze of winter, before the soil loses it’s warmth, you will see that those fall planted trees do better, then your late spring, early summer ones.

I would suggest going out this weekend to the places you saw the spring time trees for sale. More than likely they are on sale, and you can get a great deal.
Originally posted on APN

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