Congratulations, May Certification Graduates!

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Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in May!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Sharon Companion
  • Suzette Carlin

 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in May!

  • Downing
  • Nanciann Lamontagne

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing Home Medicine 101:

  • david jones
  • ginaBacigalupo Zappia
  • goldenangel0819760
  • JessicaPatel
  • Kerry Lowe
  • MarilynSunia
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Nelly P
  • Ray Harney
  • Shelli Haun
  • Sherriamaro

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in May:

  • ChimneyFieldFarm
  • Daviddulock
  • Diane Massey
  • jbartlett
  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Whtwtrldy

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Nanciann Lamontagne
  • Suzette Carlin

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Medicine,” “Growing Mushrooms,” “Raising Ducks,” “Beekeeping,” and “Growing Medical Marijuana.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, May Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, March and April Certification Graduates!

Click here to view the original post.

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in March and April!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Cherlynn
  • Connie
  • daviddulock
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Diane Massey
  • Donna Detweiler
  • Downing
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Luetta
  • Mark Davis
  • MikeF
  • Nata Porter
  • Rebecca Potrafka
  • Scott Sexton
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in March and April!

  • bonhil777
  • Cherlynn
  • elizsiracusa
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Kathryn Magoon
  • Lauren Premo
  • Linda Clardy
  • Mary Ellen Rowe
  • MikeF
  • Richelle John
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun
  • susanna.schuch
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • alyssabpanico
  • AmyMatter
  • andreasexton
  • Anna-Marie
  • barb.stinson
  • bayetdelatour
  • bonhil777
  • Brenda Nicholson
  • cathyneumans
  • CeceliaStubbs
  • Cherlynn
  • ChristieWeixel
  • Chuck Belshe
  • CindaDunham
  • crowe.martin
  • DavidColley
  • Denise Poundstone
  • Diane Massey
  • Dianne
  • Donna Raygoza
  • elizsiracusa
  • equussue
  • ewbroach
  • fostermom30
  • Gee
  • Greg
  • griesjoe
  • handhinternatl
  • Jamie Carels
  • jasabelle6
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • KarinHolzscheiter
  • Katrina Rhoades
  • Kevin White
  • KrisLaubach
  • Lann
  • Lisa Petrillo
  • M
  • Marilyn Nepper
  • Mary Anne Chase
  • Mary Linda Bittle
  • michaelbuzel
  • nancybekaert
  • nicolette_b_2000
  • NINITAKELLER
  • NoeleneChadwick
  • ntcherneva
  • philipcabrams
  • rikkamojica
  • rleneraigoza
  • Shane Kraus
  • Sieglinde
  • smith4536
  • suzan.mckillop
  • tjm5
  • Tracy

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in March and April:

  • 4cheers4u
  • Angel Nance
  • Barbara Maneja
  • Bill Burger
  • bonhil777
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • cathyneumans
  • CeceliaStubbs
  • Cherlynn
  • Constantine Spialek
  • Dale M Sieting
  • Denise Poundstone
  • dianamlott
  • Donna
  • Downing
  • Edge
  • EllenHomeister
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • HeidiRockwell
  • Janet MacLennan
  • janicepizzonia
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Kali Mason
  • Kathryn Magoon
  • Lauren Doyle Kerins
  • MarieCrum
  • Marilyn Nepper
  • Mary Ellen Rowe
  • MikeF
  • Nadia Cassar
  • preacher
  • Rebecca Potrafka
  • Selene Staehle
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun
  • susanna.schuch
  • suzan.mckillop

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Carol Williams
  • Cherlynn
  • griesjoe
  • Heather Duro
  • Joanna Newcomer
  • Mark Davis
  • MikeF
  • Sharon Companion
  • Shelli Haun

 

 

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, March and April Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Congratulations, February Certification Graduates!

Click here to view the original post.

Congratulations to the following Community members on completing one or more of our Certifications in February!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification in February!

  • Robert Held
  • Scott Sexton

 

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Community members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • cathy.marcotte
  • DeniseChristensen
  • emull
  • Heather Duro
  • James Douglas
  • RoseBruno
  • Barefoot Kent
  • Catherine
  • JaneMcCutchen
  • George
  • Ruthie Guten
  • Bonnie Guffey
  • Shelley Buttenshaw
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • cathieonline
  • Emma May HunterHunter
  • janetch2008
  • russraiche
  • ShirleyJohns
  • Markkroneberger
  • Sharon Companion
  • joysong42
  • Carol Harant
  • jonhg
  • Lisa Cannon
  • Ericka Bajrami
  • rachelthudson
  • Patricia McBurney
  • PamWatros
  • Scott Sexton
  • Jane Mobley
  • Kim McClure
  • Waylon Olrick
  • Lisa Carroll

 

Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In just 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification in February:

  • Robert Held
  • PatriciaWolfe
  • tnsh5699
  • Lisa Carroll
  • Scott Sexton

 

Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab member on completing this Certification:

  • Scott Sexton

 

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’ve put the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving Certification, which has just been added to the Honors Lab:

NEW! Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

The post Congratulations, February Certification Graduates! appeared first on The Grow Network.

Where to Buy Heirloom Seeds

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A few years ago I made the decision to stop buying plants from the local hardware store. I knew that the purchasing of these plants was taking away from the self sufficiency of my own garden. I wanted a better option and that option came with heirlooms seeds and sprouting seeds. Now I start my …

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The post Where to Buy Heirloom Seeds appeared first on SHTF Prepping & Homesteading Central.

Seed-Starting Mistakes Even Smart People Make

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For the beginning gardener, seed-starting can seem so easy. Place a few seeds in a pot of dirt, water them, and watch them grow. Right?

If only it were that easy. As every gardener eventually discovers, seed-starting can be one of the most difficult parts of gardening.

Seed-starting is the subject of this week’s episode of Off The Grid Radio, as we examine common mistakes and look at a few tricks that can help your seeds sprout. Our guest is Craig LeHoullier, the author of two gardening books: Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales and Epic Tomatoes: How to Select And Grow The Best Varieties of All Time.

Craig tells us:

  • What type of soil to use.
  • How much light seeds really need.
  • What types of vegetables he starts early.
  • How to ensure you’re giving the seeds the right amount of water.

If you’re a gardener, then this week’s show is for you!

 

11 Amazing Ways Squash Can Keep You Healthy

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11 Amazing Ways Squash Can Keep You Healthy

Image source: Pixabay.com

What do you think of when you hear the term “squash?” Maybe it’s last summer’s bumper zucchini crop or the pumpkin that you carved last October? Yes, those are two popular squashes, but there are so many other varieties. In fact, squash is a term that includes literally dozens of fruits – yes, fruits – that share similar characteristics and belong to the plant genus Cucurbita.

Some of the popular squash varieties are butternut, acorn Hubbard, Kabocha, Delicata, Calabaza and spaghetti. Some squashes are identified by the season they are harvested, such as summer and winter squash.

Squash has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years. Archeologists have found evidence of squash being grown in ancient North and South America, and early European settlers found it to be a staple part of the diet of some Native American tribes.

More than just a decorative object for fall harvest season, squash offers many nutritional and health benefits. It is packed with vitamin A and contains a high percentage of vitamins C, E, and B6, niacin, thiamine and folate. Squash also boasts a variety of healthy minerals, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium and iron.

Here are 11 health benefits you can enjoy from adding more squash to your family’s diet.

1. Inflammation reduction. The omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids (including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene) in squash can help reduce inflammation in the body. Squash consumption has been linked to less inflammation in conditions such as arthritis, gout, type-2 diabetes, ulcers and cardiovascular disorders.

2. Immunity boost. The vitamins (especially the vitamin A) and minerals found in squash work as antioxidants in the body, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals and offering an important boost to the body’s immune system.

3. Lung health. Vitamin A, which is abundant in squash, has been linked with healthy lungs, and it may offer some protection against emphysema and lung cancer.

4. Diabetes management. Squash is rich in B-complex vitamins, which are important to the metabolism of sugar in the body. In addition, the dietary fiber found in squash, such as pectin, is an important part of the body’s blood sugar regulation process.

5. Infection protection. Have you ever roasted and eaten pumpkin seeds? Squash seeds offer antimicrobial and antifungal benefits, which can protect the body from harmful parasites and certain diseases.

6. Neural health. Folate, which is plentiful in squash, is important to the diet of pregnant women. A lack of folate, or folic acid, has been linked with infant neural tube defects.

7. Cardiovascular health. Minerals, such as magnesium and potassium, that are in squash are important to the heart. As a vasodilator, potassium helps relax the tension of blood vessels and arteries and increase blood flow to the heart. The pectin (fiber) found in squash is important to healthy and strong artery walls, which help reduce the chances of heart attack or stroke.

8. Blood circulation. Squash has high levels of iron and copper, two essential minerals for the body’s red blood cells. Therefore, eating more squash can help reduce anemia and can improve your overall mental and physical energy levels.

9. Better vision. The large amount of beta-carotene found in squash is good for your eyes. Beta-carotene consumption is linked with a reduced risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and other issues associated with aging eyes.

10. Breathing. A diet that includes squash can help you breathe better. In fact, squash’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can reduce the irritation that causes asthma.

11. Strong bones.  As an important source of zinc, calcium and manganese, squash can help strengthen your bones and reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis.

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

 

Sources:

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/enjoy_the_taste_and_health_benefits_of_winter_squash

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/winter-squash/

The Giant Book of Kitchen Counter Cures, Karen Cicero and Colleen Pierre, Jerry Baker Books, 2001.

12 Seeds You Need To Start NOW For Spring Planting

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12 Seeds You Need To Start NOW For Spring Planting

Image source: Pixabay.com

For many of us, late January is still cold and snowy, but the days are lengthening, and warmer temperatures are on the way. It’s so tempting to break out the seeds!

But planting seeds too early can backfire unless you have a setup that includes things like heated seed propagation mats, grow lights, and consistent regulated temperatures. I don’t. I do have a terrific enclosed south-facing verandah with lots of windows, but the days are still short here, without the amount of sun many seedlings need. This can make for spindly, weak plants that stretch towards the light, and that are unable to support the weight of their leaves. Also, the temperature is hardly consistent, given the blasts of cold air each time the door is opened.

That said, some seeds can be started by late January with just a little care. Often, these are seeds that germinate slowly, with their seedlings becoming established in mid-late February, when the amount of sunlight and daily temperatures have both increased.

When choosing what to plant this time of year, always check seed packages (or research the varieties you’re planting) to find out the expected number of days to maturity. Then, cross check that with the last expected frost date in your area, which you can find here. Don’t choose seeds that will mature before your last frost date — you need to move your plants outside after the last frost so that they can finish growing outside for the best results and flavor.

General Hint

The top of your refrigerator is often warm enough to replicate a heated propagation mat. If you’re sowing seeds that need heat to germinate, keep them on top of your fridge. Once sprouted, the seedlings should be moved to a window area to get as much sunlight as possible.

Strawberries

It can be tricky to grow strawberries from seeds, but it’s much more fulfilling than buying established plants at a nursery.

The earlier you start strawberry seeds, the more likely you’ll get fruit in the first year. Aim to start in January or even December. That said, strawberries are perennials. If you start late, you’ll still get plants, if not fruit, in the first year.

Strawberry seeds germinate best if they go through a stratification process. Put the whole package of seeds into an airtight plastic bag or container and toss them into the freezer for 3-4 weeks. When you take the seeds out, let them warm up to room temperature before removing them from the bag or container, so that they don’t get condensation on them as they thaw. Then, once planted, keep the cells or containers in a tray that has a thick piece of fabric placed on the bottom. Keep the fabric wet so that the soil in the containers can wick up moisture as needed, without sitting in water. Use bright fluorescent lights to supplement sunshine and keep the temperature between 65-75 °F (18-24 °C). Germination can take one to six weeks. Be patient!

Once strawberry seedlings have their third true leaf, transplant them to bigger pots. Make sure to harden them off before transplanting outside.

Onions, Leeks, and Shallots

It’s best to plant onion, leek, and shallot seeds about 10-12 weeks before the last frost date, which means sowing in January or February works well in most hardiness zones. All three need warmth to sprout; keep sown seeds on a heated propagation mat, on top of the fridge, or tucked under a plastic bag or dome. The seeds should sprout fairly quick, but the seedlings grow quite slowly. Like other plants started indoors, these should be first repotted into larger pots, before being hardened off and transplanted into the garden.

Celery and Celeriac

Celery and celeriac are relatively easy to start from seeds, but it can be a challenge to get these plants to produce in the garden, as they are averse to both cold and heat. If you’re up for the challenge, start in late January or February as the plants need about 90 days from seeding until they’re ready for transplanting. Mix the tiny seeds with sand and then sprinkle that mix on top of your potting soil. Celery is slow to germinate and grow, but it doesn’t require any help (like a heated propagation mat or wet fabric to wick moisture from). All it needs is patience.

Woody Herbs (Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme)

Herbs with woody stems are usually propagated by cuttings because they grow so slowly from seed. But that’s just what we want when we’re looking for seeds to start in January and February. Of the four herbs listed here, rosemary is the most finicky and hardest to grow from seed. It will need a heated propagation mat or fridge top and should be covered with plastic. Oregano, sage, and thyme, however, have no special requirement other than bright light. Once the seedlings are sturdy enough to handle, transplant them into larger pots. By late April or May, they should be ready to plant outdoors — just be sure to harden them off first.

Chili Peppers

In general, the hotter the pepper, the longer it takes to mature. Hot Rod peppers, for instance, only need 57 days to mature, while Habaneros take a minimum of 120 days. Keep this in mind when choosing which variety to plant now. All hot pepper plants need heat to flourish. Use a heated propagation mat, the top of your fridge, or at least keep your seeds and seedlings as toasty as possible, in a warm, draft-free location, and covered with a plastic bag or dome. You’ll need to repot them when they have several sets of leaves; they should be transplanted outdoors once overnight lows stay at 50°F (10°C) or warmer.

Eggplant

Like many of the other seeds that are suitable for early planting, eggplant seeds require warmth to germinate. The seeds are quite tiny; mix them with sand, if needed, and then sprinkle the sand mixture on your potting soil. Once planted, keep the cells or containers on top of your fridge, on a heated propagation mat, or covered with a plastic bag or cloche. It should take about one week for seeds to germinate. They’ll be ready to transplant in about four to six weeks, and ready to go into the garden 10-12 weeks after planting.

Have you started any seeds already? Do you have any tips for producing strong healthy seedlings when you sow seeds early? If so, please share in the comments below.

Congratulations, Members, on Completing These Certifications!

Click here to view the original post.

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing one or more of our Certifications!

As many of you know, one of the perks of membership in our Honors Lab is FREE access to several amazing certifications in our Honors Lab area—and lots more are in the works.

These Certifications dive deep. They’re essentially multi-lesson master classes, full of practical know-how so you can immediately start reaping benefits for yourself, your family, and your garden.

(And if you’re not an Honors Lab member yet, you can gain access to these Certifications + lots more perks of membership by joining today. Click here to learn more!)

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification 

Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification

This 8-week course teaches the principles of bio-intensive gardening—one of the easiest, most sustainable ways to produce big, delicious fruits and vegetables!

It covers everything from starting and transplanting seedlings to the basics of garden beds and soil, and from making compost to garden maintenance. There’s even a section on harvesting and processing grains!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing the Bio-Intensive Gardening Certification!

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Alice Krueger
  • Ann Kudlicki
  • Carole Barrett
  • Chantal Turcotte
  • David Clark
  • Diane Jandt
  • Ellie Strand
  • Fern Cavanaugh
  • George Griggs
  • HP P
  • James Tutor
  • Keith Gascon
  • Kristina Head
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Lyndsy Schlup
  • Marlene Wild
  • Michael Clayton
  • Michael Oden
  • paulasmith
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Revola Fontaine
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Rogers George
  • Saunya Hildebrand
  • Shawn Skeffington
  • Stephen Biernesser
  • Stephen Bolin
  • Susan Faust
  • tnsh5699
  • William Torres

Home Medicine 101 Certification

Home Medicine 101 Certification

The Home Medicine 101 Certification is a perennial favorite in the Honors Lab!

This eight-week class teaches you how to remedy:

  • Burns, stings, and rashes,
  • Wounds and lacerations,
  • Coughs and colds,
  • Fevers,
  • Indigestion,
  • Anxiety and insomnia,
  • Muscle pain, and
  • Topical infections …

… with readily available plants you may already have growing in your backyard!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members for completing Home Medicine 101:

  • Raelene Norris
  • Alfredo Moreno
  • Alice DeLuca
  • Alice Krueger
  • Alta Blomquist
  • Amanda Gossett
  • Amy Blight
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Instant Master Gardener Certification

Instant Master Gardener Certification

In 8 lessons, The Grow Network’s Instant Master Gardener Certification reveals gardening secrets, tips, and tricks that most people spend years discovering.

Lessons include:

  1. “The Secret to a Green Thumb”
  2. “How Much Land Do You Need?”
  3. “The Power of Herbs”
  4. “The Easiest Way to Prepare a Garden Bed”
  5. “Three Facts About Seeds Every Master Gardener Knows”
  6. “Transplanting Baby Plants”
  7. “The Four HUGE Advantages of Backyard Food Production”
  8. “A Homemade Fertilizer So Powerful, You Could Create a Business Out of It”

Congrats to the following Honors Lab members for completing this powerful certification:

  • Brian Moyers
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Dianne
  • Jennifer Walton
  • Aldo
  • Alice Krueger
  • Andrea Hill
  • Annie Degabriele
  • Barb
  • Beth Zorbanos
  • Bonnie Tyler
  • Bryson Thompson
  • bydawnsearlylite
  • Christina Hawk
  • Christy Dominguez
  • csells815
  • Cynthia Parker
  • David Clark
  • Debbie
  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Deborah Gonzales
  • Debra Frazier
  • Debra Hollcroft
  • Doc Hecker
  • Elmer Caddell
  • Gary Conter
  • Gayle Lawson
  • Geraldine Christmas
  • Gregg
  • HP P
  • Ibeneon
  • James Judd
  • Jamie Barker
  • Jeanette Tuppen
  • jeff780
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  • JoAnn
  • Joe Prohaska
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  • Karen
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  • Keith Gascon
  • Kenneth
  • Laura Mahan
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  • Lisa Blakeney
  • Lori Rupp-Reagle
  • Marti Noden
  • Mary Falkner
  • Megan Venturella
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  • Michael Dirrim
  • Nicole Mindach
  • Philip Vance
  • Rachel Tardif
  • Robert Wohlfiel
  • Robin
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  • Samantha Straw
  • Sammabrey
  • Sandy
  • Shawn Skeffington
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  • Stacey
  • Teddy Plaisted
  • Teresa Wolf
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Saving Quality Seeds Certification

Saving Quality Seeds

Learn how to save seeds that will ensure an abundant harvest in years to come with the in-depth information in TGN’s Saving Quality Seeds Certification.

This 7-lesson Certification teaches which plants are easiest to save seeds from, how to plan your garden with seed-saving in mind, how to do a garden soil inventory, the basics of dry and wet harvesting, the best way to store seed, how to determine seed quality—and more!

Congratulations to the following Honors Lab members on completing this Certification:

  • Debbie Kennedy
  • Brian Moyers
  • Diane Jandt
  • Gary Conter
  • HP P
  • Janna Huggins
  • Phil Tkachuk
  • William Torres

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production Certification

I’m excited to announce that we’re putting the finishing touches on another multi-lesson, deep-diving certification, which will be added to the Honors Lab very soon:

Backyard Chickens for Egg Production 

In this awesome new certification, TGN blogger (and homesteader extraordinaire!) Tasha Greer covers everything from breed selection and coop design to flock health and egg storage — plus lots more….

We’ve also got several more certifications in the works, including “Making Home Medicine,” “Backyard Meat Rabbits,” “Bird-watching,” and “Beekeeping.” We’re working with some fantastic experts on these, so you’ll definitely want to check them out in the Honors Lab once they’re ready. Exciting stuff! 🙂

 

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7 Tips for Starting Seeds Like a Professional Grower

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There you sit, surrounded by seed catalogs. You have a head full of dreams about the best gardening season ever, flipping through pages of new cultivars to try and great new gardening tips to test out. Your seed is fresh, you have an ample supply of compost bursting with life, and you have more planting space prepared than ever before.

What could possibly go wrong?

Wait! You’ve been here before, excited about your spring planting, only to end up disappointed with your seed germination rate and the health of your seedlings.

Let’s slow down to take a closer look at some of the most common problems people have when starting seeds, and talk about some of the tools available to help you get the best possible results. With a little extra effort, your seeds and your spring garden will be the talk of the neighborhood!

seed packets

In my work advising gardeners and farmers, the number one problem I see is people starting out with weak seedlings. Gardeners often set out with admirable efforts to save money and be self-sufficient, but they can really shoot themselves in the foot before they even step out into the garden when they start with weak seedlings.

Weak, leggy, pale seedlings usually result in plants that are anything but vigorous. When these babies are transplanted into the garden, they are not prepared to face the world. Their pale foliage is likely to burn in direct sunlight, their thin stems have trouble holding up in the wind, and their delicate health sends a loud call out to tiny predators, “Come and get it!”

Pill bugs, which normally stick to recycling, will happily munch on your precious little seedlings even though they are not actually dead … yet.

Cutworms can endanger the best of your young plants, and they especially like the overly tender stems of plants that have had a poor start in life.

Whew! That is not how you want to start out this gardening season. So, let’s get some stocky, healthy, rich green starts going.

Tips for Starting Seeds Successfully

First, we want fresh, viable seed. A germination test can save time and material, but it doesn’t guarantee that your seeds are fresh. Have they been stored properly? Seeds are still the cheapest gardening investment. Be picky about who gets a spot in the seedling tray!

What about your germination mix? If you usually just scoop some soil out of the garden, stop before you kill again! Good garden soil is fine for direct seeding in the garden bed, but seeds sown in containers deserve an organic mix.

Read More: TGN’s Favorite Seed-Starting Equipment

There are some excellent mixes available for purchase, but it is so easy and fast to mix your own that it just makes sense to do it yourself. Many gardeners develop fancy secret recipes, but we are going to keep it simple.

I have had the best results using a mix made of half coir fiber and half fresh worm castings. It’s that simple!

If you don’t have access to either of those, use the very best, still moist, living compost or leaf mold. If you use compost, you should sift it before planting; you want the finest grains, not the sticky clumps.

Some gardeners sterilize their germination mix. I don’t agree. I always use ingredients with good, active biology. How would you like to be born into a little plastic cell, devoid of life? Trust in Mother Nature and use a mix with vibrant biology.

cucumber seedling in tray

When it comes to the container you use, the type of container is not important. I like the manufactured seed starting flats. They are cheap, reusable and recyclable. They drain well, and everything is contained in a well-fitted tray. If you don’t have these or don’t want them, use any well-drained container that you like.

  1. Fill the seed cells almost to the top with your starting mix. 
  2. In order to avoid tearing the young roots when you remove the seedlings from the container for transplanting, it is a good idea to tamp down the germinating mix in the cells now.
  3. After tamping, add chemical-free water to thoroughly moisten the starting mix. If you really want to be nice, use liquid or dry seaweed according to the instructions on the label. Seaweed is a great item to have on the shelf and it keeps indefinitely.
  4. When the starting mix is moist, you can plant your seeds at the depth specified on the seed packet.
  5. When the seeds have been planted, spray the top of the cells with water until the mix is well settled.
  6. After seeding, you can cover the cells with plastic. You can buy fitted plastic covers for seed starting trays, or just use some plastic wrap or a plastic bag.

Control the Light

Now, here is where the rubber meets the road: Light! You need a strong, reliable light source. You can compromise on many other aspects of gardening, but don’t cheat your green babies on the one thing they need most.

If you have a greenhouse, choose the brightest spot for your new seedlings. If you’ve been setting your seed trays on a windowsill, re-evaluate that choice. Remember: weak light = weak seedlings.  If you want husky, healthy seedlings, don’t gamble on the fickle winter sun filtered through a window.

Control the light and you control the outcome!

Setting up a grow light today is easy and inexpensive, and it doesn’t take up much room. Bulky shop lights and fiendishly hot tungsten bulbs are fading into history. If you have some empty space on a bookshelf or an empty shelf in a kitchen cabinet, you can easily install a couple of tiny T-5 light fixtures. There are also several LED offerings on the market. LED grow lights are powerful and super efficient, and they generate very little heat.

Simply attach a light or two to the bottom of one shelf to light the shelf underneath it where your tray will sit. If the shelf is adjustable, you are all set. If not, the tray can be elevated when the seedlings are started, to bring the surface of the soil within two or three inches of the light. That’s right! The light will be very close to the seeds.

If you have room to start seeds on a countertop or a table, there are several tabletop light stands that are designed for the space. The typical design is a simple metal stand that holds the light, suspended by an adjustable string or chain. Tabletop lights are small and easy to use, and they are available in a range of sizes.

The next size up is the shelf model. These resemble a regular set of utility shelves, with a grow light suspended from the bottom of every shelf. These lights offer enough space and power to grow starts for the whole neighborhood! These shelf units aren’t cheap, but they are very useful. In addition to starting seeds they can be used to overwinter plants indoors, and even to grow summer veggies and herbs all winter long.

Consider the Time

Now that you are in control of the light, there is one more important factor to consider: time. You need to transition the plants at the right times on their journey to the outdoor garden. Calculate the correct amount of time various plants need to develop to the optimum transplanting size to avoid holding the plants for extended periods. Begin your seeds based on that timetable.

When your seeds germinate, you will see cotyledons. They should be bright green and fleshy, standing on short stems. Now is a good time to remove the plastic covering, if there is any. At this earliest stage you should water the seedlings with a spray bottle, to avoid damaging the delicate young roots. Ideally, you will not need to water, but if the air is dry, the soil may require additional moisture.

Soon the tiny plants will develop their first true leaves. This is a great time for their first feeding.

Wait until the surface of the soil begins to dry out. Use a mild, natural fertilizer mixed at half strength. Fertilize every two weeks until the plants move outside.

Transplant Carefully

As the seedlings get larger, adjust the height of the light to keep it at least two inches from the top of the tallest plant, allowing for continued growth. When the root system begins to fill the cell, it is time to move up to a four-inch pot. If you transplant too soon, the seedling can break away from the germination mix, causing the roots to tear. If you wait too long, the roots can become bound and constricted in the cell, restricting optimal growth.

Wait to transplant until the soil is neither too wet nor too dry.

Now is the time when the tamping you did at the beginning is going to pay off. If the transplants are reluctant to pop out of their cells, you can give them a little push from the bottom drain hole using the eraser end of a pencil. If you are pricking out, you should transplant much sooner because a smaller root system is easier to remove intact.

Use potting soil as the growing medium for the four-inch pots, or just add a little perlite to the leftover germination mix. Remember the rule we discussed above: Garden soil belongs in the ground, not in containers.

After transplanting from the seed cells to the four-inch pots, give the plants a good drench of seaweed. You will still need to raise the lights periodically as the plants get taller. When the plants begin to fill the four-inch pots, you need to decide when they are ready to harden off.

In the case of very cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes, sometimes the weather will not permit you to begin hardening off even though the plant is outgrowing its four-inch pot. You can transplant forward again into a quart-sized pot to buy some more time. It is better to move the plants into a bigger pot than to let the roots become pot bound.

I find that potting forward to larger containers is easier than protecting young outdoor plants from late spring cold snaps.

When you decide it is time to begin hardening off, move the plants outside to a protected area and allow them to begin adapting to the outdoors. Filtered light is good for a day or so, but then don’t hesitate to move them out into the sun. These will be tough little rascals and they will transition to the garden well.

Following these simple steps will get you some of the strongest seedlings you have ever grown, and your spring garden will thrive as a result. After a few rounds of success, you will look at your seed catalogs through new eyes, confident that you can start any seed you want!

(This article was originally published January 29, 2015.)

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Growing Lettuce From Seed

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Growing Lettuce at Home

When lettuce is mentioned, many people think of the standard iceberg lettuce found in supermarkets and restaurant salads. But that is changing quickly with the growth in popularity of different types of lettuces, mainly due to the flavors and colors that they offer. When you’re growing lettuce from seed at home, you can choose from the full spectrum of seed that’s available.

At farmers markets, health food coops, and organic food stores, a big variety of lettuce types have cropped up.  Their colors range from deep red to mottled greens, all the way to almost white.  And their flavors vary from noticeably sweet to tangy, and slightly bitter.

Iceberg lettuce, originally bred as a hybrid, is now offered as open pollinated varieties and has been around long enough to be considered by some as an “heirloom”!

Eating with the Seasons

We have come to expect lettuce year round. We’ve been educated by the supermarkets about what our vegetables should look like, what they should taste like, and when they should be available. And for most of them, we expect them to be available all year.

Many people are surprised to learn that lettuce is a cool-season crop.  It will bolt, or go to seed, readily during late spring and early summer months.

Where I live, it is best to plant lettuce early in the spring and then again in late summer or early fall when the temperatures start to cool off.

Infographic: Save Our Seeds

Better Lettuce Seed Germination

Lettuce seeds won’t sprout when soil temperatures are above 80° F.  But they will start to Freckles-LettuceWeb1-germinate as low as 40°F, making it ideal for early- and late-season planting.

When temperatures are too high, a plant hormone is produced that stops the germination process. This is called thermo-inhibition. This trait is a carryover from wild lettuce that originated in the Mediterranean Middle East, where summers are hot with little moisture. If the lettuce seeds were to sprout under these conditions, they would soon die out and the species would go extinct.

Choose Heat-Resistant Lettuce

Thanks to traditional plant breeding, several varieties of lettuce have been selected for heat-tolerant characteristics. And some of these are open-pollinated, meaning you can save the seeds from year to year.

Some examples are Saint Anne’s Slow Bolting, Summertime, Black Seeded Simpson, and Jericho. Just because these are heat tolerant doesn’t mean that they will grow through the summer. It only means that they won’t bolt or turn bitter quite as quickly.

Growing Lettuce from Seed: Tips & Tricks

Thanks to ongoing research on lettuce traits, there are some techniques home gardeners can use to extend the sprouting for lettuce seeds into the warmer months. The optimum soil temperature for most lettuce seeds is 68°F, with some varieties sprouting in the 40-75°F range. The temperature of the soil must be taken—not just the air temperature, which can be several degrees different.

Imbibing or soaking the seeds in cool water for 16-24 hours in a well-lit area before planting will increase the germination percentages greatly. Red light has been found to be the best color, but if you don’t have access to a non-heating red light, sunlight or full-spectrum light was found to be almost as good. In warm conditions, soaking the seeds in the dark can actually decrease their germination rates. And soaking for less than 16 hours has little to no positive effect on germination rates.

Read More: 7 Tips to Start Seed Like a Professional Grower

Extending the Lettuce Season

Successful methods of extending the season for lettuce in the garden include laying a thick mulch of straw or wood chips on the ground at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. This insulates the soil from becoming too hot and helps to preserve moisture in the soil.

Lightly shading the lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.

The traditional rule of thumb of “plant early and plant often” can be adjusted for lettuce as “plant late and plant often.”  When temperatures start to drop, be ready to start more lettuce seed for a second harvest in the fall.

Read More: A Cheap and Easy Way to Extend Your Growing Season

(This article was originally published May 22, 2014.)

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Meet Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

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Mike Reeske, Local Changemaker

Mike Reeske
Local Changemaker

Company: Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans

Website: RioDelReyBeans.com

Fast Fact: It was a happy accident that first led Rio Del Rey to introduce the Anazapi bean, a cross between the Anasazi and Rio Zape. The company will produce its first commercial crop of the hybrid bean in 2018.

Nominated by:
Cat M. | Escondido, CA

____________________________________________

Please explain a little about your background and what first sparked your interest in developing organic dry heirloom beans?

I grew up in Anaheim, California, where my parents were orange ranchers and restaurant owners. I graduated from Chapman University in 1967 and began teaching high school science, a career that spanned more than 40 years in the classroom.

During this time, I opened the Orange County Marine Institute in Dana Point Harbor as its education director, developed the Outdoor Education Program on Palomar Mountain for the Vista Unified School District, and worked 12 years as a writer and developer on the Science Education for Public Understanding Program for the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I have co-authored 13 books there, including Science and Sustainability, Understanding Environmental Health Risks, and Plastics in Our Lives. My last book, The Life Cycle of Everyday Stuff, deals with natural systems.

In every place I have lived, I’ve developed programs that were community-based, teaching people about their local environments and the need to preserve them. I live in the chaparral now and have merged my bean-growing philosophy with the cultural and historic themes of the Southwest.

After retiring, I began what is now an eight-year effort to bring heirloom dry beans to more people as a fantastic superfood that is both very flavorful and great for personal health.

How did your passions grow into what is today Rio Del Rey Heirloom Beans and the “small family farm” that yields them?

While teaching, I had the opportunity in the early ‘70s to offer gardening as an alternative to a semester of life science in high school. There was an acre of land behind my classroom, and it soon became the center of 36 student gardens. There, the kids discovered that kohlrabi actually tastes great, and real learning takes place when we provide relevant, hands-on experiences.

Soon after this, I was hired at a new high school in Cypress, California. In addition to teaching science, I was asked to lead a volunteer community and student effort to raise funds in order to landscape the new school—a task both fun and formidable. It took two years of work, and when I wasn’t in the classroom, I was out pushing a wheel barrow of hoses to water the burgeoning plants.

After I retired, I asked myself, “What would I like to do when I grow up?” You see, in all of our lives there are opportunities to reinvent ourselves—to germinate the dormant seeds of creativity we have made in other parts of our lives and call upon those energies and ideas to lead us into the future.

I remember thinking back to what Voltaire said in the ending to Candide. After experiencing the world’s conditions and catastrophes, Candide was asked what he learned about life. His reply was, “We must tend our gardens.” That really struck me in its beautiful simplicity. I had always enjoyed working the soil and seeing the fruition of my labor. But what would I grow?

There are meaningful coincidences in our lives. In 2008, I was reading an article on heirloom dry beans—and it struck me that I had never really tasted these critters. I did some research and discovered Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona. It was founded to preserve the native tribal seeds of the Southwest (including Northern Mexico).

I obtained some purple Hopi beans. They were like the purple, black-striped, shiny Rio Zape beans we sell today.

I was blown away by their taste!

After preparing them simply with garlic, onions, and some salt, I took my first taste. Wow! These were not my mother’s limas. They were meaty, full-flavored, and oh, so creamy. They were so unlike the canned pinto, black, and kidney beans that I had come to think of as my culinary bean palette. They sung with flavor and richness. I had to have more, and I needed to do my homework on beans.

I was able to begin growing some varieties of heirloom beans to determine which ones had the best taste and were adaptable to the inland valley of San Diego County. After three years of work, I had grown enough beans organically to begin commercial production on 23 acres of land adjacent to the San Luis Rey River that I leased from an Indian tribe.

I named my farm Rio Del Rey (“the King’s River”) and began growing heirloom beans in 2013. In 2017, we moved the farm to the land surrounding our home in Valley Center, California.

Can you describe the main tenets of the organic and sustainable farming practices you employ? How can Rio Del Rey serve as a model for other small farms that share your climate?

As I began my farm, I realized that to produce great food, you must employ the best of farming methods—and do this in a sustainable way. Conventional farming methods are, at many times, at odds with nature and interfere with the natural systems that produce soil fertility. The heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on our food crops is not sustainable and, in many cases, harmful.

We go through a great deal of effort to say that our beans are certified organic. Unlike with other terms, such as “natural,” our beans are regulated through an extensive certification process and undergo an annual inspection to ensure they meet the USDA’s National Organic Program requirements.

Our products are also certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), a not-for-profit organization. It is important to me to share with others the goal of sustainability and the stewardship we practice in caring for the land we grow on.

There are more small farms and organic farms in San Diego County than in any other county in the U.S. More than 5,500 farmers call it home and make their living on 5,732 small family farms. Sixty-eight percent of these are nine or fewer acres in size.

When I decided to farm heirloom dry beans organically, I made the commitment to a holistic management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.

In short, it’s restoring the soil to the point that it can sustain healthy growth now and in years to come.

Beans are a natural complement, because they add nitrogen to the soil and are a part of the traditional rotation of crops to promote long-term sustainability. As farmers, we work for years to restore this natural balance of the soil. Sustainable farming works in harmony with the renewable systems found in nature. Because it requires long-term goals, it costs more to implement—and leads to increased costs for organic produce.

Heirloom dry beans are a niche market with few organic players. Our farm serves as a model for what is possible using relatively inexpensive equipment and enhanced farming practices to produce a unique crop that is highly desirable for a healthy lifestyle.

Rio Del Rey’s goals focus on:

  • Developing new and disease-resistant bean varieties
  • Collecting and preserving rare and endangered beans from around the world
  • Supplying unique organic heirloom beans for cooking and for planting as seeds
  • Creating a sustainable farming system as a model for future small farms to use in further developing heirloom beans
  • Providing educational opportunities for everyone interested in our heirloom beans

You source rare and endangered bean varieties (and even the farming equipment used on them!) from all over the world. Please describe how some of these connections came about.

When I met Steve Temple, a highly respected bean researcher at the University of California, Davis (UCD), he pointed out that the greatest barrier for the small bean farmer comes in the cost of a bean threshing machine, because no small machines have been made in the U.S. for many years.

My earlier research had confirmed this, and lingering at the back of my mind was the impending harvest of 4 acres of beans. Imagine freeing the beans by hand labor! (We do this now for our 44 experimental beans, and I can assure you that shelling thousands of beans is no pool party!)

The only small-scale threshers on the market were those made in China and Italy, but after intensifying my search, I also found a company in Konya, Turkey—home of the Whirling Dervishes. These threshing machines are used all over Greece, Turkey, and northern Africa. And the best part? They were affordable! I contacted them and purchased two machines. The thresher runs off the PTO drive of a tractor. It met my desires for a more sustainable use of energy, as opposed to buying a diesel or electrically powered model.

In October 2013, my wife, Chris, and I flew to Konya for a day to meet the owners, Osman and his son Nuri, and the workers at their thresher factory. [It astonished me that the threshers were completely manufactured there using large rolls of steel and steel bars, formed by milling, bending, and welding. Only the wheels and tires were outsourced. Even the painting was done there.]

It was a great visit, demonstrating to me the high quality of the product and the integrity of the owners. I also learned how to operate the thresher and diagnose any problems that might arise during operation.

As for the beans themselves, I spent time in 2014 in Mexico’s Hidalgo state learning to harvest and prepare many foods in a 1704 hacienda. I had the opportunity to meet bean farmers who had preserved some of the great diversity found in beans.

One Hidalgo farmer gave me a bag of large, purple runner beans—each just sparkling like a deep purple gem—the Ayocote Morado.

I planted these beans back home along with subsequent beans that we collected from Turkey in 2014 and from Chile and Argentina in 2015 to determine which kinds were most productive and well-suited to our soil and climate. All of this has led me to the passion I have today for growing and sharing my heirloom beans with people.

Can you explain the goals behind the research you conduct on your own and in conjunction with the University of California?

Our goal is to make the supply of heirloom dry beans available in larger quantities and at a cheaper price than the going rates of $6-plus per pound.

We face two challenges.

The first is the lack of availability of high-quality organic bean seed, and the second (and much more daunting) is the limited amount of seed free of the Bean common mosaic virus (BCMV), which stunts plant growth and pod production.

Any industry is always in need of good research and development, and I found that partnering with UCD was an ideal answer. It has one of the most well-known bean researchers in the world, Dr. Paul Gepts. With his support, we are making great progress toward our goal.

As I mentioned, one of the greatest problems in growing heirloom dry beans is the presence of BCMV. Plants infected with the virus have light green or yellow mosaic patterns on the leaves, accompanied by puckering, blistering, and downward curling and rolling, resulting in stunted growth or death of the bean plant. This is a major barrier in producing substantial bean yields.

In 2015, we provided a grant donation to help fund the research efforts of Travis Parker, a UCD doctoral student. Travis’s work involves inserting the BCMV-resistant I gene (found naturally in most string beans and many commercial beans) into some heirloom varieties using the traditional processes of plant breeding. This begins with growing, then cross-pollinating, an heirloom plant.

In this example, the Rio Zape is crossed with a white bean, the Matterhorn, which contains the resistant I gene. The plant is grown to maturity, producing what is called the F1 hybrid seed. The hybrid seed (all brown) looks quite different from the original Rio Zape seed (purple with black stripes), but now contains the I gene. This process is repeated six more times. With each generation of back-crossing to the heirloom parent, more heirloom seed characteristics are recovered. To regain all of the original qualities of the Rio Zape bean, the hybrid seeds are planted, and their pollen is used to cross-pollinate a normal Rio Zape parent.

At the end, 99.6 percent of the qualities of the original Rio Zape have been added—with the benefit of the plant now being resistant to BCMV. From our 2017 research, this bean produces a plant twice as big as the original and with many more pods!

Our goal now is to scale up seed production and distribute the seed free of charge to farmers across America.

How about the work you’re doing to develop your own hybrid bean made from crossing an Anasazi with a Rio Zape?

Since there are no large bean processing warehouses in southern California, I needed to find a way to further clean my beans. I purchased a new Clipper seed and grain cleaner—the most widely used air screen cleaners in the world—from the A.T. Ferrell Company, which has been manufacturing them since 1869.

It worked wonders in separating split beans and debris from the beans. However, no cleaner can further separate out discolored or slightly cracked beans.

The big warehouses use a $750,000 color sorter that uses computers, laser beams, and air jets to do the final sorting. For a small farm like ours, it’s my wife and I who do the final hand sorting, a slow but effective process.

In 2014, while hand cleaning some Anasazi beans, my wife noticed a very different bean that looked like it had the characteristics of both the Anasazi and Rio Zape. After cleaning several hundred pounds of beans, we had gleaned about 50 of these seeds.

Since beans are self-pollinating, there had to be a pollinator, which we attributed to the four beehives on the farm (the Anasazi beans were planted on a field next to a field of Rio Zape beans). The following year, I planted these seeds and they stayed “true,” producing the same hybrid seeds we began with. After two more years of planting and selectively harvesting, we now have almost 30 pounds, enough to finally produce a commercial crop in 2018—God willing and the creeks don’t overflow!

Anasazi and Rio Zape beans are some of our best-tasting beans. The new Anazapi bean, as we call it, should surely excel in taste, and it also has a more upright bush habit and shorter maturity date than the Rio Zape.

You work with chefs in San Diego County and throughout southern California. How do you partner with them to determine which heirlooms will most complement their menus?

Our beans serve as an alternative to traditional bean varieties, offering unique taste and freshness free of synthetic residues. (Commercial bean producers employ up to six different synthetic pesticides.)

Unlike the limited variety of dry beans found in stores (that can be up to five years old), our beans are sold fresh each year. The difference in how fast they cook is amazing! But the real delight comes in the remarkable taste of heirloom beans.

After hosting many cooking demos at farmers markets and stores, I realized that another valuable way for people to learn about heirloom dry beans was to educate the chefs of top San Diego restaurants. I invited the chefs and their staffs to our farm to see how we grow and process the beans and, most importantly, to do some tasting!

I developed a bean-tasting scale to evaluate the flavor, texture, and other qualities people look for in a good bean. This provided an education for the chefs and helped them discover what traits were valuable for use in their cooking. They assessed our current crop of beans and also some new varieties we had been growing to help determine what we would plant the next growing season.

This made them feel more connected to the farm and also provided us with a future market for these new beans. My philosophy here was to have chefs taste and think of the beans as a culinary palette of colors and flavors. A creative chef could use these experiences to come up some great new ideas that featured our beans in their menus.

You’ve said your work is a “celebration of a common heritage we share with all the people of the Americas.” What makes this a focal point of your efforts as a farmer and business owner?

Dry beans were domesticated from wild plants and first cultivated in Mexico more than 10,000 years ago, then shared with people who spread both north and south to form some of the great empires of the Americas. Today, we find these beans in a multitude of shapes and colors throughout the world. It is these dry bean seeds that are the heartbeat of Rio Del Rey.

I share a love for the indigenous people of the Americas, who gave us so many foods, including beans, corn, tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, quinoa, and myriad more.

I first discovered this on my honeymoon in 1968, when we visited my best friend, John, who was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. We traveled through Quito and reached the headwaters of the Amazon in the small village of Tena, crossing the river on a cart attached to a wire and pulley. There was no electricity, but infinite night sky and bats flying through the open houses!

It was here that I first experienced the wonder of the unknown, the sweet taste of so many different foods, and, most importantly, the friendship of the people.

We continued our travels, and in early 2017, we met organic farmers in Lima, Peru, who shared some of their beans with us. They are now growing outside our home so we can determine whether they are adaptable to a southern California climate.

We all benefit from the great diversity of people, cultures, and food traditions found in the Americas. In a time when there are forces at work to separate us from our common humanity, I find the mentality of the campfire most useful. Around the warmth of the fire, we share songs and stories and celebrate our differences rather than our prejudices. In our eyes is reflected the fire that radiates our hopes and dreams for the future and our optimism that those forces that would divide will fade away in the coming dawn.

Are there plans for Rio Del Rey to provide formal educational opportunities to those interested in heirloom beans?

We are currently working with CCOF to promote more agritourism in San Diego County. In the past, we have hosted groups, such as Farm Bureau members, schools, garden clubs, and permaculture clubs. We are working on a plan with a major tour company in San Diego to promote Valley Center, where our farm is located, and the new, unique groups of farms, wineries, and specialty livestock growers in this area 40 miles north of San Diego. We also teach organic farming to students at the local high school adjacent to our farm.

Can you offer a specific piece of farming, cooking, or healthy living advice that would be of interest to our Grow Network community?

Beans are an excellent, nonfat source of protein. Just one cup of cooked dry beans provides as much as 16 grams of protein (adults generally need to eat between 50 to 60 grams in a day). Beans can also help to counteract increases in diseases linked to lifestyle, such as obesity and diabetes, and are celebrated for increasing food security in areas with shortages. Plus, they improve cropping systems and are good for farmers.

 

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Essential Guide On How To Store Seeds In Winter

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You’ve worked hard all year to grow your crop. You’ve preserved enough food of your harvest to get you through winter. You’ve chosen and harvested your seeds and dried them, and now have them safely stored back for winter. Or so you think.

There are a few details that you need to pay attention to if you want to have viable seeds come spring and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Dry Your Seeds Well

Hopefully you have a beautiful supply of heirloom or open-pollinated survival seeds just waiting to be planted next spring, so let’s make sure that they make it that long.

The first step in protecting your seeds in the winter is to make sure that they’re dried properly. If you put your seeds in storage before they’re adequately dried, they’ll mold and be worthless.

So how do you tell if your seeds are dry enough? Easy. They will have zero discernable moisture in them whatsoever. Pumpkin and cucumber seeds will snap in half rather than bend. Tomato seeds won’t have any of that gooey layer left on them and when you press your nails into it, it should be firm.

Corn and beans should be hard – you should need a hammer to break them. Pay close attention to the seeds as soon as you dry them because if you see any condensation inside of the bag, take them out immediately and dry them some more or else they’ll mold.

You Can Freeze Seeds

Freezing is actually part of the life cycle for many seeds. It drops from the plant in late summer or early fall then lies under the snow all winter. When the weather gets warm and the temperature of the soil increases, the seed begins to sprout. It’s just the nature of things.

Seed banks store all of their seeds in temperature-controlled, refrigerated or cryogenic chambers, so it’s perfectly fine to refrigerate or freeze seeds as long as you do it properly. The main issue that you have to worry about is moisture. You went to a ton of trouble to dry them. The last thing you need to do is reintroduce moisture back into them.

That’s why you need to break out your cryogenic chamber. What? You don’t have one?

Well luckily, you won’t need one because a home fridge and freezer are just fine. In fact, refrigerating them extends the viable lifespan of seeds considerably and freezing extends their viability to at least five years, and some as long as twenty.

There are a couple of tricks to storing seeds no matter whether you choose to freeze or refrigerate them or not. We’ve already discussed the first step – drying the seeds well. The second step is making sure they stay dry, so you need to store them in an air-tight, water-tight container. A freezer bag is perfectly good for this as long as there are no holes.

Storing Your Seeds

Next, you need to store them in a cool, dry place.

You don’t want to risk moisture reaching your seeds and you don’t want the temperature to fluctuate. Storing in a warm area decreases the lifespan of your seed.

Now that you’ve got the seed in a good storage bag, you want to store them somewhere that the temperature will remain fairly constant.

A cellar is good for this, as is a cool pantry as long as it stays cool.

Freezing is better for this than refrigerating, especially if you’re using your home fridge/freezer that has other food stored in it.

Another good idea is to put it in a chest freezer or an outside fridge that has a freezer that you rarely or never use.

There’s no better way to ensure a constant temperature than to keep them stored in a freezer that’s only opened a few times a year.

Label Your Seeds

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, many of the tiny seeds look alike, at least until you gain some experience. Even then, it’s impossible to tell the difference between varieties of plants. A lettuce seed typically looks like a lettuce seed. Same thing with carrot seeds. You can’t tell the variety just by looking at it.

Another reason that it’s good to label is so that you can practice FIFO – First In, First Out – with your seeds just like you do with your stockpile. Label the container with the seed variety and the year. Some people add a few directions in with the seeds that they’ve gained from experience. It’s even better to start a seed journal to keep track of how your garden grows.

How to Tell if Seeds are Good

This isn’t a perfect indicator, but it’s pretty darned accurate. If you want to tell if the seeds are still good, drop them in water. If they sink, they’re good. If they float, they’re not. Of course, you don’t want to go and get the seeds wet if you’re not going to use them, so just test a few of them. That sounds like common sense, but it’s always better to give too many directions than not enough.

How to Tell How Many of Your Seeds Will Grow

There’s nothing more disappointing as a gardener, or even worse, as a hungry person, than planting seeds that don’t sprout. If you’re depending on your crop to feed yourself and your family, then growing plentiful crops becomes a necessity.

Therefore, you need to know how to tell how many seeds out of a crop are going to grow. You can get a good idea of this by doing a test germination run.

A couple of weeks before you’re ready to plant, put at least 10 seeds from a single batch onto one half of a paper towel then fold the other half of the towel over the seeds. Spray it down with enough water to moisten the towel. It may be helpful to spritz it with a 1:10 bleach to water ratio to keep them from molding.

Place them in the baggie and only partially seal it so that air can still get in. Label the bag and start a record with the date and how many seeds were started. Store it in a warm, dark place and dampen the towel as necessary to keep it from going dry. Within a couple of days, you should start to see germination.

Every day, record how many seeds either germinate or mold and remove those seeds from the bag. All of the seeds will germinate within 14 days if they’re going to.

Next, divide how many seeds germinated by how many seeds you started with and you have a pretty good idea of the germination ratio of your batch. Even if only half of them germinate, but they’re quick about it, you may want to just plant twice the seeds instead of tossing the batch.

If the germination ratio was low and they germinated slowly, you may just want to toss them.

I hope this gave you a good general idea of how to store and ensure the viability of your seeds. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Grow Your Own Jack-o’-Lanterns: Learn How to Save Pumpkin Seeds

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How to save pumpkin seeds demonstration

Are you are a crazy seed saver?

You know the type: you have avocado pits sprouting on the counter, watermelon seeds drying on paper towels, lemon seedlings sprouting on the bathroom windowsill…

Life is full of temptations for seed savers. Every fruit has a pit… Every nature hike has a must-have wildflower… Every trip to a botanical garden, you’re keeping your hands stuffed in your pockets so they don’t “accidentally” pinch a cutting.

But then, fall arrives… and you completely lose it.

Farm stands are loaded with amazing produce containing seeds!  Yes seeeeeeeds, precious seeds! The grocery store is stocking winter squash varieties you’ve never seen before. That nice Mennonite family down the road has some crazy birdhouse gourds in a shape you haven’t seen before.  There is amazing Indian corn for sale on the roadside.  And you’re all over it.

My personal favorite finds are the pumpkin and winter squash, and this is most definitely the season.

The other day I screeched to a halt in our car after passing a roadside stand sporting the craziest pumpkin I’d ever seen for sale. After realizing we weren’t all going to die in a fiery crash, my wife grinned at me and said, “pumpkin?” I nodded and ran before someone else could snag it.

She’s used to this seed-saving madness. I’ve been doing it for so long that if I ever stopped, she’d know I was taken over by an alien space pod.

But I digress.

Since Halloween is almost here and a lot of us will be cutting open pumpkins, let’s cover how to save pumpkin seeds. If you’d like to grow next year’s jack-o’-lanterns yourself or if you’re the type that can’t help but bring home beautiful new varieties from the local farmer’s market, today’s post is for you.

I’ve been growing pumpkin and winter squash for a long time and I’ve always loved how easy it is to save pumpkin seeds. They are a great size for planting and also germinate readily. Much more fun than dealing with mustard, lettuce, or carrot seeds.

Recently I posted a new video on how I save pumpkin seeds — and how I make seed packets to hold them until it’s time to plant them in the spring.

Here’s the video:

Now let’s break it down into a nice visual guide with pictures and everything.

How To Save Pumpkin Seeds, Step by Step

Are you ready to pack away seeds like a kleptomaniac squirrel so you never have to buy another pumpkin from the store again? I will help.

Step 1: Gut the Pumpkin and Save the Slop!

How to save pumpkin seeds step 1

The inner cavity of pumpkin and winter squash is filled with a stringy mess of pumpkin bits and seeds. This isn’t the “good eating” part of the pumpkin, so it’s not worth trying to save any of the stringy mass, except for the seeds. In order to do that, move on to step two!

Step 2: Clean the Pumpkin Seeds

saving pumpkin seeds step 2

I dump pumpkin guts and seeds into a colander and swish them around under running water to clean them off, smashing the goop through the holes and separating the strings. If you’d like to save pumpkin seeds for eating rather than planting, you can just go directly to roasting them at this point.

For seed-saving purposes, I’ve sometimes let pumpkin guts sit on the counter for a few days and rot around the seeds. This smells bad but really loosens up the seeds when you wash them out. I think it may also increase the germination rate but I haven’t tried a side-by-side trial.

Step 3: Dry The Seeds

saving pumpking seeds step-3

Seed-covered paper towels on counters, windowsills, shelves, tabletops, dressers and even the bathroom counter are common in our house during the fall as we save pumpkin seeds alongside the other heirlooms we want to plant in our spring gardens.

Spread your pumpkin seeds out someplace where they won’t get wet again. Also make sure they aren’t too wet when you spread them out (sometimes I pat them down with one paper towel, then spread them onto a second) and have good air circulation as you most definitely do not want them germinating on your counter. They should dry quickly. This will also keep them from molding as easily in storage and potentially losing their ability to germinate.

Step 4: Make Seed Packets and Pack ’em Up!

 saving pumpkin seeds making homemade seed packet

There are better ways to make seed packets, but I just rip a sheet of paper in half, fold that, then fold up the edges a few times and tape them. You can see how in the video – it’s very simple.

Because I’m cheap and hate throwing things away too fast, I use scrap paper from the children’s homeschool assignments or pieces the toddler has doodled upon.

My friend Steven Edholm has better looking seed packets, but they’re a bit small for the amount of pumpkin seeds I store.

saving pumpkin seeds homemade seed packet step-6

I also illustrate my homemade seed packets, which is NOT OPTIONAL. You have to draw on them. You just have to. It’s the rule.

Along with a drawing of the mother pumpkin, I also note the variety, the harvest year and notes on type. This is important as I work on my pumpkin breeding projects, but for your pumpkin seed saving, you likely just need to note the type or draw a nice picture of the headless horseman.

If you live in a humid climate or need to store seeds for a longer period, you can dry pumpkin seeds a little further in a dehydrator and then pack them in tightly shut Mason jars stowed in the fridge.

That’s it, the whole scoop on how to save pumpkin seeds. Happy gardening and enjoy the rest of October.

TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This is an updated version of a post that was originally published October 25, 2016.)

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Does A Compost Pile Destroy Weed Seeds?

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Does a compost pile destroy weed seeds? Or more specifically, does YOUR compost pile destroy weed seeds?

We are regularly assured by composting experts that hot composting destroys seeds … yet I have some pumpkins that beg to differ.

composting destroy weed seeds

Those pumpkins grew as volunteers from a compost pile a few years ago. Granted, it wasn’t a regularly turned compost pile, meaning they probably missed the hottest part of the heap, but how many of you turn your compost regularly? And I’m going to bet that you still had little tomatoes or weeds pop up in it. Come on, admit it!

My bet is ALL of you.

Here’s an example of “hot composting kills weed seeds” advice from Aggie Horticulture:

“The composting process also naturally kills weed seeds. Properly managed, a compost pile should easily reach 140°F, which breaks down all organic matter, including weed seeds.”

They recognize the difficulty, though, as the next line reads:

“The keyword is properly.”

My bet is that few gardeners reach that lofty, “proper” status.

Why Our Backyard Compost Pile Doesn’t Kill Weed Seeds

compost destroy weed seeds

A typical backyard compost pile isn’t insulated or turned often enough to maintain heat. Those viable seeds in the compost don’t get rotated through the hot center of the pile.

Yes, the heat generated by thermophilic bacteria (an organism living at hot temperatures) is high enough to destroy weed seeds, but getting every bit of your compostable materials hot enough to kill the seeds takes very good compost management.

My old compost pile didn’t do it. It was built from reclaimed landscape logs with too many gaps to get everything hot. Plus, turning it was a pain.

I imagine if you owned a cement truck and packed the barrel of it with a proper mix of carboniferous and nitrogenous materials. Then you rotated it every day or so, and perhaps insulated the inside with foam. You could get that compost to heat up perfectly.

I’m joking. A bit.

My composting methods have gone from complicated to simple over the years. I’ve realized creating perfect compost doesn’t really matter.

Nature doesn’t create perfectly sifted, totally rotted, brown humus. No! She throws logs and leaves on the ground. There’s always some finished material and some fresh material, fungi eating at this, and some insect boring away at that.

But let me back up. What prompted today’s post?

This Viewer Asked a Question

There was a comment that prompted today’s great big post on weed seeds in a compost pile. Four words that led to 1,145 words (give or take):

weed-seeds-in-compost

Martha asked this question on this anaerobic compost tea video I posted:

My answer was:

“Good question. I try to avoid throwing plants with mature seeds into the tea. They never seem to get completely die in a hot compost pile, either. Even though we hear all the time that “hot composting kills weed seeds!” It’s probably true for the ones in the middle of the pile, but I’m always getting volunteer tomatoes, wheat from straw, weeds, and pumpkins popping up even from a hot compost pile. My guess is that this tea method will rot down most of the seeds, if it sits long enough … but not all of them.”

It takes a lot of faith in your compost to deliberately throw in weedy materials, no matter how you’re composting.

If you have spiny pigweed going to seed in your food forest, do you really think you’ll be able to throw that in your compost bin and use the resulting compost in your spring gardens without spiny pigweed popping up?

Do you want to take that risk?

I hear you, “But I Compost the Right Way!”

That’s fine—I appreciate the “thermometer and sifter” brigade.

To those about to compost, I salute you!

I am totally sure that I could destroy weed seeds by hot composting if I thought it out properly. However, my interest is more in gardening than in the processes that lead up to it. Making a “perfect” looking compost pile, or compost for that matter, isn’t as important to me as growing corn, pumpkins, beans, yams, and fruit trees. I also don’t like spending money to make perfect systems.

If you enjoy it, that’s fantastic. I love the smell, look and taste (well, maybe not taste) of finished compost. I made some nice-looking stuff myself this year and just sifted it the other day.

composting destroy weed seeds

I made that compost with almost no work, though. No thermometers, no turning, no measuring ratios of carbon/nitrogen to get that 25/1 mix. No, I just threw it all on the ground in one of my garden beds.

And—oh YES—LOTS of seeds came up in it! Enough to start my new fruit tree nursery.

I view this as a feature, not a bug. Sometimes I just let compost piles turn into garden beds since there are so many volunteer edibles coming up.

But What About Killing Weed Seeds???

Right – that’s what you all want to know, right? How CAN you compost those pesky weedy plants?

Weed_Bouquet_3

My favorite method is to keep them out of the compost pile and gardens altogether.

In my former food forest, I would chop down weeds and throw them on the ground around my fruit trees and other shrubs. If they self-seeded and came back, I’d chop them down again.

Unlike delicate annual garden plants such as lettuce and cabbage, trees and shrubs don’t need to be perfectly weeded in order to produce. I just knocked down the weeds again and again. Every time I did, guess what?

Those fallen weeds rotted into humus.

Nature does this all the time.

The winter freezes come once-a-year and kill all the weeds. They fall to the ground and rot into the soil, which improves it.

If you want to use weeds to feed your gardens, you’ll have much better luck in a no-till system where you throw a pile of seedy weeds on the ground. Then, cover them up with mulch … and then, DON’T TILL!

If you till, you’ll bring those seeds up to the light and warmth. They’ll go crazy in your eggplants. However, beneath a layer of mulch, they’ll eventually rot away safely.

That’s my two cents on composting and destroying weed seeds. Yes, a compost pile can destroy weed seeds … BUT … and it’s a big but … most of us aren’t doing it “properly.”

Don’t trust too much in the magic of compost to pile-drive your pesky pigweed problems.

Personally, I prefer cold composting anyhow! I believe it keeps more of the good stuff in the pile instead of steaming it away into the air. Nature almost always cold composts! While that process takes longer, I think it’s a simpler and gentler method. I wrote an entire book on composting (Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting) and many of the methods in that book are cold compost approaches.

You might also like these composting articles from David the Good:

How to Build a Super Simple Compost Pile From Local Materials

Back to Eden Chicken Run Composting: Easy and Productive!

Nature Is An Extreme Composter—You Can Be, Too!

Manure Tea—An Easy Way To Stretch Your Compost

So, tell us … have you had success hot-composting seedy weeds? The comments below are waiting for yours!

david-the-good-top-10-survival-crops

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Seed-Saving 101: Everything You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask

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Seed-Saving 101: Everything You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask

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A legitimately independent gardener/homesteader incorporates some aspect of both plant breeding and seed saving into the list of skills that are required for supporting a family through good times and bad. Fortunately, learning to save seeds is relatively easy.

First, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with some necessary terminology. For seed-saving, these terms include “annual,” “biennial” and “perennial.”

Annual plants are those that grow to maturity and produce seed within one growing season. A few good examples of annual plants include head lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant cucumbers and melons. This category also covers several important medicinal flowers and herbs, such as dill, cilantro, calendula and nasturtiums.

Biennial plants are those that produce a crop within the first season but will not produce seeds until the second year of growth. Some examples of biennial crops include carrots, parsnips, shallots, onions and leeks.

Perennial crops are those that come back year after year. Although seed can be saved from perennials, typically these plants are propagated by divisions or cuttings. Some examples of perennial crops include rhubarb, raspberries, grapes, horseradish and asparagus.

Open Pollinated, F1 Hybrid, Grafted Stock

Another important set of terms relates to how the seed was originally bred. This terminology is also important to understand because it can affect the overall outcome of your success as a new seed-saver. Some terms used to describe breeding techniques include “open pollinated,” “F1 hybrid,” “grafted stock” and “genetic modification.”

Get The Best Deals On Non-GMO Seeds For Your Garden Right Here!

Open-pollinated seeds are the best planting stock for folks who are truly interested in experimenting with at-home seed saving. Since they have been allowed to cross naturally with each other, these seeds still have the ability to adapt quickly to their host environment through the exhibition of a large variety of traits that still remain present within their genetic make-up … in other words, they are still a little bit “wild.”

F1 Hybrids are plants that are bred using traditional breeding techniques — usually hand pollination by humans. Some F1 Hybrids produce sterile seed, making them less ideal for at-home seed-saving. However, many of today’s F1 Hybrids have been in production long enough to be incredibly stable, and the seed that is produced is frequently still viable.

Seed-Saving 101: Everything You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask

Image source: Pixabay.com

Grafting stock usually refers to fruit trees. During this process, a branch is clipped from a tree that produces a known variety (such as Fuji Apples) and is attached to a hardy rootstock via a graft. There are multiple rootstocks available for the same variety. Each rootstock is geared toward a specific overall tree size, disease resistance or a certain soil type. It is possible to graft trees at home; however, unless you plan on growing your own rootstock, grafting is less sustainable than other forms of plant breeding.

Finally, genetically modified organisms are those that are created within a laboratory. To date, it is not practical to produce genetically modified crops at home. Of course, supporters of organic gardening wouldn’t want to do so, anyway.

How I Save Seed

So now that you have a small vocabulary of terms at your disposal, what is the next step? Start by identifying the crops that you utilize most regularly within your garden. At my house, we eat a lot of lettuce, so it makes sense for us to save our own seed. During the early part of the season, we identify individual plants that seem to be doing exceptionally well within our climate. We look for characteristics that are important to us, such as speed of growth, overall size, color, texture and (most importantly) flavor. We then mark those individual plants with a flag or some other type of marker – and we do not harvest them.

As the season goes on, these plants will continue to grow and will eventually send up flowers. We allow them to pollinate naturally via insects or the wind. Once there are mature seeds available for harvest, we clip the entire flower stalk and place it upside down in a paper bag. Using our fingertips, we roll the seed free from the chaff and discard the hard and poky stems. We agitate the seed slightly to shake the fluff off the seed and then use a blow dryer to blow out the lighter material. We then have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful lettuce seeds that we can plant again the following season. We place these seeds into a sealed glass jar and store them in a cool and dark location. The jars are labelled with the year the seed was collected and the original variety. For most annual plants, this is about as complicated as things get.

For more information on how to save seed for other crops in your garden, check out the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. She does an amazing job of helping newbie seed savers understand the process of both creating and saving seed at home.

Happy gardening!

Share your tips on saving seeds in the section below:

How to Germinate Peach Pits (and Why You Should)

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Save money by growing your own peach trees from seeds. It’s amazingly easy! My video on how to germinate peach pits has almost 40,000 views since I posted it back in July of last year. Watch it below.

Since posting that instructional video, I have received a lot of comments and emails from people thanking me for showing them how to grow their own peaches from seeds.

Recently, my friend Amanda sent these two pictures of her peach-sprouting success.

germinate peach pitgerminate peach pit

How Do You Germinate Peach Pits?

Some years ago, I discovered in some dusty corner of the internet that peach pits require cold stratification to germinate. Cold stratification is a technique used to simulate real-world conditions that a seed would get outdoors after a frozen winter, which then gives way to a warm, wet spring. There are six methods of cold stratification to choose from: cold water soaking, refrigeration, fall planting, winter/solstice sowing, outdoor treatment, and snow planting.

I put this knowledge to the test with great success, starting about 50 peach pits I found beneath an abandoned and squirrel-ravaged Tropic Beauty peach growing a few miles from my old place in North Florida.

germinate peach pit

I did this experiment despite the fact that there are hordes of small-minded gardeners, who take great pleasure in lecturing everyone about the utter worthlessness of starting fruit trees from seed.

These people are wrong.

Here’s a video I did showing some of my seed-grown peach trees in fruit:

And here are two pictures of some of the delicious fruit I got as a result of germinating peach pits in my very own refrigerator:

germinate peach pitgerminate peach pit

In their SECOND year, my two seedling peach trees produced about five gallons of fruit. They continued to massively outproduce the grafted peach trees I planted before them, plus they grew with more vigor.

Growing fruit trees from seed isn’t a dumb thing to do. It’s a great thing to do, and a YUGE, high energy, too. Check out this video on how I germinated other fruit trees from seed!

Sometimes the “experts” aren’t necessarily correct. They’re just people who say things adamantly because they’ve heard other people say them.

Heck with that.

Germinate peach pits and you get free fruit trees. Easy! The same method works for plums and cherries, too. And if that’s not enough, you can read about sprouting avocados here.

Finally, here’s how you germinate peach pits, cartoon-style:

germinate peach pit

 

Thanks for the pictures, Amanda, and may your peaches grow and produce abundantly. And let us know how your germination experiments go! We’d love to hear from you. Put your comments below.

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The post How to Germinate Peach Pits (and Why You Should) appeared first on The Grow Network.

4 Steps To Storing Your Seeds For 30 Years (Or More)

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4 Steps To Storing Your Seeds For 30 Years (Or More)

We gardeners are a frugal lot. Few of us would throw out seeds that we don’t use. Whether there are too many seeds in the packages we buy (and we don’t plant them all), or whether we save our own seeds, we’ve all most likely had a seed stash somewhere at one time or another.

That’s a problem: Unless they’re carefully frozen, seeds lose their viability over time. As they age, their germination rate decreases. However, with a little bit of care, it’s easy to maximize the life of your seeds. Some gardeners even have saved seeds for 30 years with this method.

1. Keep them Dry

If you’ve saved your own seeds, it’s especially important to make sure that they are completely dry before you store them. Just spread them out on a piece of paper and let them air dry for about a week. (Keep different types of seeds on separate sheets of paper, and also keep each accurately labeled.)

Seeds need to be dry enough so that they snap or shatter when you apply force. If they simply bend without snapping, or if they just get squished, they aren’t dry enough for storage yet.

Seeds that aren’t fully dried are at risk of damage. If stored at room temperatures, they may mold or sprout. In the fridge, they may rot; in the freezer, they may suffer frost damage.

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You can ensure that stored seeds remain dry by adding a desiccant. It’s easy to make a small silica-gel-type packet of desiccant to toss in the storage container. Just wrap a couple tablespoons of rice or powdered milk in a few layers of facial/toilet tissue or cheesecloth.

2. Use the Right Storage Containers

4 Steps To Storing Your Seeds For 30 Years (Or More)

Image source: Pixabay.com

Glass, airtight containers, like jars with rubber seals on their lids, are best. Repurposed baby food jars and small home canning jars work well. If you don’t have jars with rubber seals handy, the next best option is to tightly seal seeds in plastic bags, and then place the bags inside a receptacle with a tightly fitting lid. This second option would also decrease the number of containers needed since you could tuck multiple bags into one container.

Neither metal nor plastic containers are recommended for long-term seed storage, primarily because they don’t seal as well as glass jars with rubber seal lids.

3. Make Labels for Them

Always label your stored seeds, not just with information about the variety, but also with the date. That way, you will be sure to always plant your oldest seeds first. And, if you’re storing your seeds at room temperature, knowing how long they’ve been stored will give you a fair idea of whether they’re still viable.

4. Keep them Cool

Temperature — and consistency of temperature — is crucial to long-term seed storage. If you only intend to keep the seeds for a few years, it’s okay simply to stash them in a cool area of the house, where the temperature is fairly consistent, such as the basement.

But to max out the life expectancy of your seeds, it’s recommended that the combined temperature and humidity level be kept under 100. For example, if the temperature inside your home is normally 65 degrees Fahrenheit, then humidity levels should be 34 percent or less, which is quite dry. You can see why maintaining this standard consistently can be tricky. It’s easier simply to store your seeds in the fridge or freezer.

Keep in mind that frost-free fridges and freezers work by drawing out moisture, and can seriously dry out seeds. However, as long as your seeds are in appropriate containers, they shouldn’t become damaged.

Temperature and humidity levels fluctuate more in a fridge than in a freezer, simply because we open our fridges more often. For this reason, storing seeds in the freezer — tucked inside their sealed glass jars — is the absolute best way to prolong their longevity. After all, national and international seeds banks like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault count on freezing to keep their seeds viable for centuries. It’s hard to say how long seeds will remain viable when stored in a home freezer, but there are stories online of people successfully germinating seeds that they hauled out of their freezers after 30 years of storage.

Have you ever frozen seeds? If so, how long did they remain viable? Let us know in the comments below.

How to Save Seeds For Optimal Vitality

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As summer begins rolling into autumn, it’s time to get busy saving seeds from your summer harvest.  Remember that HEAT and MOISTURE are the enemies to seed viability after storage.  In other words, just the things that make a seed germinate when planted are the things that will kill them during storage and prevent germination later when planted.  Even if the poorly stored seeds germinate, they may produce weak, spindly plants that do not produce fruit or vegetables.  You may get carrot sprouts but never any root bigger than a thread even after months of growing.

When stored properly, some seeds can last 5-10 years, but this depends on the type of seed.  Some seeds don’t do well the second year no matter how good the storage conditions.  Seed banks use climate controlled environments (temp/humidity) to store their seed banks and grow them out every second or third year.

Fedco Seeds has a great chart on Seed Saving for Beginnners which gives great information including seed longevity. Most seeds store well for 2-3 years. Onion will only last one year and leek will last two at the most. Cucumbers, melons, and tomatoes can last up to ten years.  I have successfully grown tomato plants from seven year-old seeds. Remember the younger the seeds, the more vigorous the plants will be.

If you are faced with an emergency where you had to get a garden in and survive off what you produce, you will also need to harvest seed from that garden so you don’t use up all your precious seed bank and have nothing left for the next season. If your emergency is such that you have enough time to grow a garden, you may need to do it for more than just one season. There is no substitute for experience in the garden.

I recommend a fantastic book by Steve Solomon called Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food In Hard Times. His premise is that you are gardening because you are going to live on what you grow so you cannot afford to waste money or to fail. This book was not written specifically for any particular state or zone and is not for the Square Foot Gardening crowd but it is full of extremely valuable advice gained from decades of experience with subsistence gardening. He also discusses seed longevity and seed saving.

In an ideal situation, you would be growing your seeds every year and saving seeds from the most vigorous plants and the best fruits. Watch for the plants that produce the biggest and best leaves and fruit. Tie a piece of yard around the stem, so you’ll remember those are the plants whose seeds you want to save.

By saving seeds from each harvest season, your seeds will always be fresh. Even if you live in an apartment, you can practice growing seeds on your balcony in pots. That said, you may purchase seeds for your garden and only plant some and save the rest for the next years. I do this. It’s a great money saver.

Seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place. A mason jar in the refrigerator is ideal and easy. I store seeds from each type of plant in small, labeled paper envelopes. (These small packets make it very easy to trade seeds, too.) Adding a desiccant, oxy pack, or pumping down to vacuum would also improve shelf life. Do not store seeds in a frost free freezer without making sure the container is airtight. Ever seen an ice cube left too long in a frost free? It evaporates. This will kill your seeds. Seeds need to maintain a low level of moisture to survive, and if you’re packaging seeds yourself, that desiccant packet could make a huge difference in whether or not the seeds remain viable.

If you buy your seeds in a #10 can, keep it in the refrigerator. Every 10 degree F increase in temperature above standard conditions combined with a 1 percent increase in the moisture content of the seed, cuts the storage life of the seed in half.

Last but not least, make sure you purchase good quality seeds to begin with. Some seeds are nearly worn out when you get them. If you purchase seeds that have been stored in an outside nursery with the lovely trays of flowers under a mister system, they are in trouble. I was at a “big box” garden center the other day and the seed envelopes were under the shade cloth outside, in the heat, near the flowers.  The packages had been so damp they were bent over. They had probably been out there all summer. I checked the envelopes and the seeds were loose in the packet and not inside a foil pack inside the envelope. At a “supercenter” I went to, the seeds were inside the air conditioned part of the store and well away from any moisture.  These would be a much better bet. The best place to get seeds for storage is through mail order or order online from a reputable dealer. My favorite is Fedco Seeds for quality, price, and customer service.  There are several other good ones as well.  These seed dealers store their seeds appropriately and test germination each year for each lot.

Growing food is a big enough challenge but can you imagine trying to do that with old seeds that may or may not be viable? Take the time to not only learn how to save seeds but then store them so they will retain their optimal vitality.

Marta Waddell contributed to this article.

The post How to Save Seeds For Optimal Vitality appeared first on Preparedness Advice.

Branch Out! Here’s 5 Weird (But Delicious) Vegetables You Should Plant This Year

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Branch Out! Here’s 5 Weird (But Delicious) Vegetables You Should Plant This Year

Kohlrabi. Image source: Pixabay.com

It’s easy to fall into a predictable habit when you garden. You plant a few of your favorite vegetables and some flowers, and consider your crop selection over.

In doing so, you may have overlooked a few of some of the most unique (and even weird) plants that you could (and should) grow. It’s time to take your garden to the next level. Instead of simply planning the same standard garden this year that you’ve always done, spruce it up with a few of these unique plants.

1. Black tomatoes

Love tomatoes? Add some visual appeal to your tomato crop by planting the Indigo Rose tomato – also known as black tomatoes. These antioxidant-rich tomatoes are healthier than their traditional red counterparts, but are just as easy to grow. With their striking black color, these tomatoes have a dark skin, but the interior is fleshy and savory.

2. Kohlrabi

Earning a place in the “oddest looking” category, kohlrabi comes in bright purple, white or green. Part of the cabbage family, this colorful plant might be the closest you get to an alien encounter – and you won’t even have to leave your garden. Perfect for gardens in cooler weather, the kohlrabi is a cross between the cucumber and the radish.

3. Mexican sour gherkin

cucamelon -- pixabay

Cucamelon. Image source: Pixabay.com

The Mexican sour gherkin (or cucamelon) is a miniature cucumber, with the look of a watermelon.

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They thrive in very similar conditions to the cucumber (warm temperatures and sunny location), but are more pest-resistant than their traditional counterparts. Despite their sweet outward appearance, they have a tangy cucumber taste.

4. Stevia

This calorie-free, natural sweetener is easy to grow and has multiple benefits that can only be obtained from the plant. The highly-processed compound used in most commercial sugar substitutes has little of the healthful properties found in the plant. Stevia leaves can be used fresh or dried. Recent studies have indicated that the stevia plant may be more effective in the treatment of Lyme’s disease than the commonly used antibiotics. This plant can be grown easily in raised beds or containers, making it a plant that can find a home in almost every garden.

5. Amaranth

If you live in a warm climate, then you have a small window of opportunity to grow leafy vegetables such as spinach. With their green, stalky leaves, amaranth gives you a viable substitute to spinach, kale or chard. In addition, it is one of the few greens that thrive in hot, humid conditions. Use this in soups, salads or sandwiches – anywhere you would use spinach leaves.

What unique plants have you tried in your garden? We’d love to hear about them! Share your thoughts in the section below:

The 8 Seeds That Can Store At Least 5 Years

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The 8 Seeds That Can Store At Least 5 Years

Do you have a seed stash tucked away? I certainly do. It’s rare that I use up all the seeds I buy in any given year. When I have some left over, I put them away for next year’s garden.

It just seems so wasteful to throw seeds out, doesn’t it? And, of course, if you harvest and save your own seeds from year to year, then you definitely have a stash, too.

Whether your own stash was purchased or saved from a previous harvest, those seeds won’t be viable forever. The longevity of seeds depends both on which cultivars they are and how they’re stored. Some seeds — including leeks, onions, parsley and parsnips — will last a year at best. Others will remain viable up to five years after they were harvested, and possibly even longer if they’re stored in the right conditions.

Best Method of Seed Storage

Seeds are best stored in cool, dry locations. A general guideline is to keep the combined temperature and humidity level under 100. As an example, the ideal temperature for seed storage is about 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit, which would allow for a maximum humidity level of about 50 percent. To keep your seeds dry, store them in an airtight container. Glass jars with rubber seals on their lids, like baby food or home canning jars, work best. If you’re concerned about moisture within the jar, you can add in a desiccant such as rice.

Keeping the seeds in the fridge or freezer is an excellent way to maintain perfect storage conditions. Keep in mind that frost-free fridges and freezers work by drawing out moisture, and can seriously dry out seeds. However, as long as your seeds are in an appropriate container, they shouldn’t become damaged.

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Freezing seeds properly can exponentially prolong their longevity. After all, seed banks like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault count on freezing to keep their seeds viable for centuries. The home gardener shouldn’t expect her own seeds to last quite as long in a home freezer, given the strict scientific protocols and optimal conditions of the Global Seed Vault. Still, frozen seeds should remain viable longer than seeds stored at room temperature.

8 Seeds That Easily Store for 5 Years

The 8 Seeds That Can Store At Least 5 Years

Image source: Pixabay.com

While storage methods have a big impact on seed longevity, the type of cultivar also makes a difference. Some of the longest-lasting seeds are members of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae), but there are eight different types of vegetable seeds that will remain viable for about five years, even if not frozen:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cabbage
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Cucumber
  5. Muskmelons
  6. Spinach
  7. Radishes
  8. Lettuce

Viable and Vigorous Seeds for Healthy Plants

For the healthiest and best-producing plants, you need viable, vigorous seeds. Viability is basically the rate at which seeds sprout or germinate. If, in a sample of 10 seeds of the same cultivar, eight sprout, the germination rate is 80 percent, which is highly viable. If, however, only two or three seeds in that sample sprout, the germination rate is 20-30 percent, and the viability is low.

In addition to viability, the vigor of seeds is an important consideration. Viability is generally measured under optimal conditions. But vigor measures how well sprouted seeds perform under less-than-optimal conditions (e.g., outside in the garden). Seeds need to be strong and healthy to flourish in variable weather conditions and in soil that may be less than ideal.

As seeds age, they decrease both in viability and vigor. They may lose their ability to sprout at all, and those that do sprout may just not have the strength to create a healthy plant. It’s easy to test a seed’s viability, but somewhat more difficult for the home gardener to determine a seed’s vigor. However, by keeping track of how long your seeds have been stored, you can use the list above to determine how well your seeds are likely to perform without bothering with tests.

If you’ve had any of the listed seeds stored for five years already, it would be best to get those planted this year, for healthy plants and a bountiful harvest.

What’s your personal record for planting seeds that have been stored a long time? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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.

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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:

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.

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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.

DIY Seed Tape: The Fast, Easy Project That Saves Time And Money

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DIY Seed Tape: The Fast, Easy Project That Saves Time And Money

Photo: Jacki Andre

I don’t know who invented seed tape, but that person deserves a gold star. If you’re not familiar with it, seed tape is tissue-thin biodegradable paper, usually about an inch wide, that has seeds embedded in it.

There are several benefits to using seed tape:

  • The seeds are optimally spaced for plant growth so that you don’t need to thin.
  • No thinning means less waste.
  • No thinning means less work.
  • It’s easier to plant tiny dark seeds since you won’t accidentally pinch extras out of the package, nor lose them in the soil, being unsure how many you actually sowed.

There are two downsides to using seed tape (or wanting to use it). There is a limited selection of vegetables — and varieties — that are available. Commonly, carrots, radishes, beets, and some salad greens (like lettuce and spinach) can be purchased in seed tape.

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DIY Seed Tape: The Fast, Easy Project That Saves Time And Money

Photo: Jacki Andre

The other downside is cost. Naturally, since additional materials and work are needed to create seed tape, it’s pricier than loose seeds. For example, a well-known seed company has radish seeds listed for $5. But the tape with the radish seeds is $7 for roughly 22 inches of tape; and you’re getting only one-fourth the number of seeds!

But you can make your own seed tape for pennies. And you can use any seeds that you want. It’s a super-fast, easy, cheap and practical project.

There are lots of websites with directions on how to make seed tape. I relied heavily on the tutorial at learningandyearning.com.

Start by gathering your supplies together. You need:

  • Seeds.
  • Toilet paper (unbleached is best).
  • Flour & water to make a paste.
  • Measuring tape or ruler.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Marker or pen (optional).

Make the flour paste by mixing flour and warm water together in approximately equal parts. The paste should be thick and goopy. Adjust the flour or water if needed to achieve the right consistency.

DIY Seed Tape: The Fast, Easy Project That Saves Time And Money

Photo: Jacki Andre

Tear off strips of toilet paper. My kitchen table is about three feet across, so that’s how long I made my strips. Your own strips can be as long as you like. Keep in mind the row length in your own garden. I have raised beds with eight-foot rows. It would have made more sense to make seed tape in four-foot lengths, but I worked with what I had.

Fold the toilet paper in half lengthwise. The purpose is to make a straight seam down the middle to use as a guide, so press the seam firmly and then reopen the toilet paper.

Read the directions on the seed packet to find out the optimal distance between plants. Ignore the part where it suggests seed spacing, as this is often considerably smaller than plant spacing.

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

You can use a pen or marker to indicate where the seeds should be placed. Marking dots is a good idea if you’re using a small ruler that you need to frequently move. If you’re using a yardstick or measuring tape, though, it’s faster and easier to just leave the measuring device on top of the toilet paper and plop the seeds down in their appropriate spots. Note: The seeds should be placed in the center of one side of the toilet paper.

DIY Seed Tape: The Fast, Easy Project That Saves Time And Money

Photo: Jacki Andre

Dump your seeds onto a light-colored surface. The tutorial I read suggested using a sheet of paper, but you don’t have to worry about seeds rolling away if you use something with a lipped edge, like a dinner plate.

Dip a toothpick into the flour paste and then use the gluey tip to pick up one seed. Transfer the seed to its spot on the toilet paper. Once your length of toilet paper has the correct number of seeds, put small goops of paste here and there on the toilet paper to act as a sealant. Then fold the toilet paper together and press. That’s it. Voilà. You have seed tape.

Once the glue is well-dried, roll or fold the tape and store it in a Ziploc bag. Whether you label the bag or not, I suggest sticking the seed packet in there for future reference.

I made about 24 feet of seed tape in less than half an hour, and that included gathering together all my supplies and taking photos. Once you get set up, you should be able to churn out the seed tape quickly.

When it’s time to plant, just make a neat furrow to the depth indicated on the seed packet and place the seed tape into the furrow. After you cover it with soil, all you have left to do is wait for your perfectly spaced plants to pop up.

Have you ever made or used seed tape? Share your tips in the section below:

5 Questions You Better Ask Before Buying Garden Seeds

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5 Questions You Better Ask Before Buying Garden Seeds

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Those of us who raise our own vegetables know it involves more than simply sowing spring seeds and reaping the delicious rewards at harvesttime. One of the many gardening tasks which requires thoughtful research and attention is purchasing seeds. If you are contemplating your garden for this season, following are six questions worth consideration.

1. How long do seeds last?

The reason this question should be asked first is because you need to know if last year’s leftover seeds will suffice. The answer varies greatly, depending upon the particular vegetable. Overall, seed longevity is improved by storage in a cool dry place, out of direct light.

Some seeds can be expected to germinate well after having been stored for up to 10 years, most notably those of wheat, sorghum, rice and other grains.

Other types of long-lasting seeds include those in the brassica family—broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts—which can last about five years. More types of seeds with a longevity of four to five years include cucurbits—cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and some melons—as well as radishes, turnips, celery, Swiss chard, beets and lettuce.

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

Depending upon the source of information and the specific cultivar, spinach may be among the longer-lived seeds or among those which last just a year or two, but it has lasted quite well in my personal experience.

The seeds in the nightshade family vary. Eggplant can last up to five years, tomatoes four, and peppers only two.

The midrange seeds—those which last about three years—include beans, peas and carrots.

Some sources say leeks can last up to three years, as well, and other sources place it in the shorter-lived category with its allium relatives such as onions.

In addition to onions and possibly leeks, other short-lived vegetable seeds which can be expected to last only one or two years include corn, okra, parsley, peanuts, salsify and parsnips.

Keep in mind that there are few hard and fast rules about how long each seed might last. The best thing to do is to give them a try, bearing in mind that the older the seeds and the shorter the general viability, the less likely they are to germinate. But there is no harm in trying.

The ideal way to try questionable seeds is to start them indoors well ahead of time and be prepared to replace them with new ones if they do not germinate. If your situation does not allow you that much wiggle room, buy new seeds.

2. How early should they be started indoors?

The type of seeds, your climate, and your growing conditions all play huge roles in figuring out how early to start them.

The absolute best advice here is to follow the directions on the seed packet, in the seed catalog from which you purchased the seeds, or from the greenhouse or retailer who marketed them.

Some seeds allow a great deal of timing latitude. Others do not. One of the most important things to consider is the needs of the plant as it grows and fruits. For example, does it need intense sun to thrive, or will heat cause it to bolt? Does it need long day lengths, or a long-growing season, or warm overnights, or plenty of rain? The timing of what your plant needs should dictate the timing of your seed starting.

5 Questions You Better Ask Before Buying Garden Seeds

Image source: Wikimedia

Long-day onions, for example, will form proper bulbs only when there are 15 or more hours of daylight. Since summer day length increases further from the equator, these types of onions are best grown in northern climates. And since the days are longest in late June, onions need to be ready to set bulbs by then. Onions need to be started before most other seeds—as early as March in some regions.

Other vegetables are typically started indoors in order to make sure they fruit before frost. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are sensitive even to a light frost, and are usually started indoors well ahead of time. Many types of squashes, cucumbers and melons need to reach their growing peak during the height of summer sun, as well.

With other vegetables, the key factor is growing them early to avoid the heat of summer. Lettuce, spinach, peas and broccoli thrive best in cool conditions, which is why they are planted very early—either started indoors or directly sowed in cold soil—ensuring they will have served their purpose before succumbing to heat.

3. Start them at home or buy seedlings?

Many gardeners do some of both. Economy of scale is a primary factor. The cost per seedling is certainly higher from a greenhouse than starting one’s own, but buying them already started can sometimes be a better value. If a gardener is planning just a tiny plot with a few vegetables, it hardly seems worth the trouble and expense of buying potting materials and running heat lamps, or even buying the packets of seeds. (Then again, it is more fun to plant them indoors.)

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

On the other hand, the cost of buying flats of seedlings adds up quickly, and paying someone else to start an entire garden full of vegetables can be an expensive proposition.

Another thing to consider is whether you will be able to find the cultivar you want already started. You may not be able to find specialty items at a commercial greenhouse.

It makes sense to start some of the seeds you’ll use the most of and the specialty varieties you want, and plan to purchase a few flats of additional seedlings when planting time comes.

4. How much is enough?

It is way too easy to get carried away when buying seeds! Perusing the pages of seed catalogs during winter makes gardeners want to buy more seeds than can realistically be managed, in the same way that people load up their buffet plates with more food than they can possibly eat.

5 Questions You Better Ask Before Buying Garden Seeds

Image source: Pixabay.com

One way to control the temptation to buy one of everything is to choose one or two areas in which to splurge. Pick a couple of favorite vegetables and go wild with cultivars—six kinds of eggplants or four varieties of butternut squash, for example—and commit to restraint with everything else.

Another idea is to allow one new cultivar in each category each season in exchange for discontinuing one from last year, thereby keeping the total volume within reason while still enjoying new items and replacing choices that proved less successful.

Good record-keeping is an excellent way to determine how much is enough and rein in overspending. Annotating seed purchases, garden yields, and the preserved food volumes enables a gardener to figure out whether increases or cutbacks are in order. If most of last year’s pumpkins landed on the compost heap and there are still canned green beans from three years ago, consider planting less of those vegetables and delegate the space to something else this year.

5. Open-pollinated versus hybrid?

Open-pollinated seeds are those which can be replicated at home. In other words, the seeds produced by your open-pollinated vegetables can be dried, saved and planted next year, and the result will be the same vegetable as this year.

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

Hybrid seeds are genetic mutations. They very often produce a higher quality vegetable out of the seed packet, having been developed for specific purposes such as disease-resistance or drought tolerance or higher sugar content or better productivity. But the seeds from this year’s vegetables will not produce identical offspring next year.

If you are a seed-saver, open-pollinated is a must.  If you are not, then it is OK to choose your seeds based upon other factors.

Lest it seem that the act of buying seeds for the upcoming season is too overwhelming, do not be discouraged. Most gardeners miss the mark on at least one of these questions some of the time, and many gardeners spend a lifetime striving for perfection. The important thing to remember are the reasons for gardening in the first place: the opportunity to be self-sustaining, the reward of choosing your own food—and more than anything, the enjoyment of it all.

What are your most important questions when purchasing seeds? Share your advice in the section below:

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

15 Slow-Growing Seeds Smart Gardeners Start In March

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15 Slow-Growing Seeds Smart Gardeners Start In March

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Is it spring yet?! As the days stretch out longer, and temperatures become increasingly mild, we start to feel the tug of the garden.

Many areas are still experiencing frost in March, but most of us can start planting seeds. Whether or not you can go ahead and start seeds depends on a number of factors, including your hardiness zone, your last frost date, which seeds you aim to plant, and whether you intend to start your seeds indoors or out.

Determine Your Last Frost Date

Your last frost date is important. It will help determine when to plant your various seeds. While information specific to our hardiness zones gives us a rough idea of our last frost date, it’s best to use an interactive calculator, like this one at The Old Farmer’s Almanac for a more exact date.

Sort Your Seeds

There are basically three types of seeds: 1) those best sowed directly into your garden; 2) those that can be sowed directly or started indoors; and, 3) those that most people should start indoors. Start by sorting your seeds into these three groups.

Seeds to Sow Directly

For a variety of reasons, some seeds do best when sowed directly into the ground. Some don’t transplant well. Others are cool-weather crops that can handle light frost and flourish in cooler temperatures.

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

If you have any of the seeds listed below, pull them out and put them aside:

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Dill
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnips
  • Leafy greens, including lettuces, arugula, kale, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, chard

15 Seeds That Should Be Started In March

Some seeds must be started indoors in most parts of the country — otherwise their fruit may not come to maturity before fall frosts. If you have any of the seeds listed below, pull them out and make a second pile:

1. Basil

2. Broccoli

3. Cauliflower

4. Celery

5. Eggplant

6. Kohlrabi

7. Mint

8. Oregano

9. Peppers

10. Tomatoes

Seeds That Can Be Started Indoors or Out

While some seeds do perfectly fine when sowed directly into your garden, you also can start them indoors in order to get a jump on the growing season. It’s great to be able to enjoy some vegetables earlier in the summer. Plus, you also can stagger your planting by putting out transplants at the same time as directly sowing seeds of the same variety, so that your harvest lasts for several weeks.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

On the flip side, it can get daunting to find enough space, lighting, and time to look after large numbers of seedlings. Plus, don’t forget that you’ll need to haul your seed flats in and out for a little while, too, to harden off your seedlings before transplanting. Consider how many seedlings you must start indoors, plus the pros and cons listed, in order to decide whether to start any of these seeds indoors, too:

11. Cabbage

12. Cucumbers

13. Melons

14. Parsley

15. Squash – summer and winter, including zucchini

Determine Planting Dates for Indoor Seeds

Now that you know which seeds to start indoors, the next step is figuring out when to do it. Using the information on the seed packages, count backward from your last frost date to determine when to start your seeds. For example, some vegetables, such as broccoli, should be started 10 weeks prior to the last frost date. Cherry tomatoes should be started nine weeks prior, and full-size tomatoes eight weeks prior.

Have you started seeds indoors yet? When do you start them? Share your gardening and growing tips in the section below:

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

Gardening for Preppers and Survivalist

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Gardening for Preppers and Survivalist Forrest & Kyle “The Prepping Academy” Audio in player below! The “The Prepping Academy” and talking all things gardening. There’s not a single good reason anyone could give for not building a seed bank. In the eventuality of a grid down scenario, or even unemployment, a seed bank could be life saving. … Continue reading Gardening for Preppers and Survivalist

The post Gardening for Preppers and Survivalist appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

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.

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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.

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?

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

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.

Survival Seeds From Hometown Seeds

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Hometown SeedsHere at Surviving Prepper we prefer to minimize the number of affiliate ads that we allow on our site. Too many ads distract the reader from the content of the posts, and content is important to us. So, if you see an ad on our page it means that we believe the product is worthy of your time and your consideration. Hometown Seeds (and their survival seeds pack) is one of those companies/products that we think is worth talking about.

In a SHTF situation you’ll need a stockpile of ready to eat food. But, stockpiles run out. They’re only meant to get you through the aftermath of an emergency. For long term living, you need a garden. And Hometown Seeds sells all sorts of seeds to plant in your garden. Viable, fresh, non-hybrid heirloom seeds.

Heirloom Seeds vs. Hybridized Seeds

Heirloom plants are called “heirlooms” because they are the varieties that have been around for a long time. They are the plants that your great-grandparents probably grew. Heirloom plants are open-pollinated, and can be re-grown from seeds saved from generation to generation while retaining their flavor, appearance, and resistance to disease. The heirloom cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers that you grow and love will have seeds that will provide the same quality produce the next year, and the year after that, all the way down the line for as many years as you save their seeds. These are not plants that have been optimized for commercial planting, ease of corporate farming harvest, and efficient distribution packaging. This is real food. It looks different, and almost always tastes better.

Why non-hybrid seeds? Because hybridized seeds don’t “come true to seed,” which means that the veggie babies won’t likely look or taste much like their parents. If you want to minimize the potential for ugly surprises come harvest time, avoid store-bought, hybridized seeds. Seed Savers Exchange explains this better than I can in the following excerpt:

…commercially available hybridized seed, often labeled as F1, is deliberately created to breed a desired trait. The first generation of a hybridized plant cross also tends to grow better and produce higher yields than the parent varieties due to a phenomenon called ‘hybrid vigor’. However, any seed produced by F1 plants is genetically unstable and cannot be saved for use in following years. Not only will the plants not be true-to-type, but they will be considerably less vigorous. Gardeners who use hybrid plant varieties must purchase new seed every year.

So, when you plant seeds from hybridized plants, you never really know what you’ll get. There is a risk that you will end up with smaller plants that are less resistance to disease and have lesser yields; none of which is good when you’re trying to rebuild your world after societal and infrastructure collapse. Better to go with tried-and-true heirloom seeds instead.

 

 

Family Survival Seed Pack

The Family Survival Seed Pack – Non-Hybrid Heirloom Seeds

With around 20,000 seeds, this pack comes in a resealable triple-layered Mylar bag. Detailed instructions on how and when to grow the seeds. A small resealable plastic bag for each type of seed. Below is the list and amount of seeds in the pack.

  • Black Beauty Zucchini (appx. 110 seeds)
  • Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach (appx. 890 seeds)
  • Champion Radish (appx. 895 seeds)
  • Detroit Dark Red Beets (appx. 535 seeds)
  • Golden Acre Cabbage (appx. 2,500 seeds)
  • Golden Bantam Sweet Corn (appx. 480 seeds)
  • Lincoln Peas (appx. 325 seeds)
  • Long Green Improved Cucumber (appx. 360 seeds)
  • Lucullus Swiss Chard (appx. 465 seeds)
  • Provider Bush Bean (appx.235 seeds)
  • Romaine Paris Island Cos Lettuce (appx. 2,500 seeds)
  • Rutgers Tomato (appx. 1,800 seeds)
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots (appx. 6,800 seeds)
  • Waltham Butternut Winter Squash (appx. 70 seeds)
  • Yellow Sweet Spanish Onion (appx. 2,850 seeds)
  • Yolo Wonder Pepper (appx. 250 seeds)

Hometown Seeds Information

Hometown Seeds’ Family Survival Seed Pack includes enough seeds to cover 3/4 of an acre, and sells for $30. The seeds can be planted as soon as this year, or put away and stashed for as long as twenty-plus years before planting. Hometown seeds is a great company–a family own business–that provides the highest quality seeds at a fair price. They guarantee their product and have exceptional customer service. Take a few moments and check out Hometown Seeds’ Survival Seeds today.

If you found this article helpful/interesting, please Share it by clicking on the social media links. Thank you for helping us grow!

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Edible Greens In Only 10 Days? Yep — And You Can Do It Indoors

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Edible Greens In Only 10 Days? Yep -- And You Can Do It Indoors

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During winter when it’s cold and dreary, you might be in need of something fresh and bright to remind you spring will come sooner than you think. Why not grow microgreens indoors?

Microgreens are the new shoots of a vegetable plant. They are tender, sweet and incredibly healthy – so much that newly sprouted microgreens have up to 40 times the amount of nutrients that their mature counterparts do.

Microgreens are delicious in the winter for salads and sandwiches. The best part about them is that they sprout fast and are easy to grow, so you will always have fresh greens available to you and you can proudly say you grew them yourself.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Seeds. You can use almost any vegetable seed for this, but a lot of companies offer microgreen seed mixes that are a fantastic option for first-time indoor growers. If you don’t want to use a pre-made mix, then options such as cilantro, kale, radishes, basil or beets are usually great options.
  • Soil. The best bet for this is a seed-starting medium, but any potting soil will most likely work as long as it doesn’t have chemical fertilizers. Many local groceries carry organic varieties, too.
  • Trays or containers. Some gardeners use the seed-starting trays available at local garden centers, but really any tray or container will work. The microgreens won’t stay in the containers very long.
  • Lighting. You can use either a natural or artificial source for this. If you have a large window, then you can simply place the tray under the window and you’re all set; however, if that’s not available, then a florescent light source will provide the same benefit.

First Steps

Fill the trays with soil. Plants will be in the trays for about 10-12 days, so they won’t develop a deep root system and therefore you don’t need a lot of soil. About two inches of soil should be sufficient.

Microgreens: The Best-Kept Secret In Indoor Gardening…

Next, spread the seeds over the tray. Unlike traditional gardening, you don’t need to worry about giving the plants space because they won’t be in the tray long enough to develop roots. It’s a good idea to spread a pretty thick coat of seeds.

Sprinkle soil over the seeds, being careful not to bury them too deep; a light cover of soil is sufficient. Then, water your seeds. You don’t want to drown your seeds, although the soil should be quite wet.

Place the trays in light. Spray the soil with water a couple of times a day.

Harvest Them

Depending on what you planted, you might see sprouts in a few days or up to a week. Beginning at about day 10, you can harvest your plants – but it’s really up to you when to do it.

Harvest them by either clipping them with sharp scissors or by pulling the plants out of the soil and rinsing them. If you are going to use the latter route, then make sure the plants are dry so they don’t rip or tear; to do this, stop watering the plants a day or so before you’re ready to harvest.

Once you have your system down, you will be able to grow multiple varieties of microgreens year-round. Enjoy!

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

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

Possibly The Best NON-GMO Heirloom Seed Package Available

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Possibly The Best NON-GMO Heirloom Seed Package Available The seeds guy’s 60 Variety Heirloom Seed package has 26,000 Seeds, Non GMO, and has varieties included that will grow well for you in your Spring and Fall Garden. This would make a great Christmas Present for that someone special that Loves to Garden. Price is just …

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The post Possibly The Best NON-GMO Heirloom Seed Package Available appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

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.

PREPPER SUPPLIES: Growing Your Own Food

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PREPPER SUPPLIES: Growing Your Own Food Bobby Akart “Prepping For Tomorrow” Audio in player below! The process of gardening is the result of more than tilling, planting,  weeding and harvesting. It is also the result of preparedness to overcome challenges such as location, pests and other unforeseen complications like unusual weather. Imagine the pressure a prepper will … Continue reading PREPPER SUPPLIES: Growing Your Own Food

The post PREPPER SUPPLIES: Growing Your Own Food appeared first on Prepper Broadcasting |Network.

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.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

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11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

If spring and early summer somehow slipped past without you getting all the vegetables planted that you wanted to, you are not alone. Life happens on its own schedule, and when one of the kids takes sick or the boss needs you to work overtime during planting season, it can interfere with your high hopes and well-laid plans.

But take heart—it is not too late. Depending on your growing zone and how many days you have left before frost, there are up to 11 vegetables you can still plant, from seed, and eat this season.

Where I live in Zone 4, we usually expect our first frost about the third week of September. That means I can plant all eleven of the following vegetable choices right up until late July.

If you have 60 or more days left of your growing season, you can plant the following:

1. Radishes. Almost all cultivars of radish can be grown in under 60 days. Most of them mature in half that time. Summer radishes are great plain, on salads, and braised in a buttery syrup. Even winter storage and daikon types are generally 60 days or less.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

2. Kale. This healthful favorite can be grown to full maturity in 60 to 75 days, depending on your conditions and the specific cultivar. From salads and stews to smoothies and sautes, nothing beats fresh-from-the-garden kale.

3. Peas. Mid-to-late summer is the perfect time to plant peas for a fall crop. They do not like high heat, and planting now will allow them to grow in relatively cool conditions. Most varieties are ready to harvest at between 50 and 60 days. Eaten in or out of the shell, peas are a wonderful addition to any meal.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

Image source: Pixabay.com

4. Cucumbers. Many cucumber cultivars reach maturity from seed in 60 days or less. Cukes vary widely, from as few as 49 days to nearly 70. There is at least one cultivar in each type—pickling, slicing, beit-alpha, and Asian—with a short growing season. Plant now for that one last cucumber sandwich before the first fall frost!

5. Summer squashes. There is a delightful array of zucchini, yellow and patty pan squashes that can be grown in a very short time. Some cultivars reach harvestable size in an astonishing 40 days. The culinary delights of summer squashes are practically limitless!

6. Carrots. Many varieties of summer carrots reach maturity in under 60 days. Short and round, long and skinny, thick and blunt—there are some short season cultivars in every shape. Storage carrots can take a little longer, some up to 85 days, so be sure to read the packet or catalog information.

7. Beets. This amazingly diverse vegetable can produce delicious edible greens in just over a month, and can reach full maturity in well under 60 days. I thin early beets and use the tiny pulled seedlings on salads and wraps. Later, the larger greens are great cooked and topped with butter. Mature beets are excellent pickled, pan-fried, or in baked goods. Most beet cultivars are harvestable in under 60 days, including classic reds, striped Chioggia types, and mellow golds.

11 Late-Summer, Quick-Growing Vegetables You Gotta Plant NOW To Beat The Frost

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Swiss chard. This hardy vegetable is able to be harvested as tender baby greens in as little as four weeks after harvest and reaches full maturity in under 60 days. Beautiful and delicious, chard comes in a rainbow of colors from greens and yellows to reds and golds, packs a powerful nutritional punch, and will make you glad you planted it right now.

9. Non-heading broccoli. Sometimes called “broccolini,” this fast-growing brassica variety is ready for harvest in under 60 days. The entire plant—flowers, stalks, and even leaves—can be enjoyed raw, steamed or stir-fried.

10. Beans. Most bush beans meant for fresh eating, such as green beans, wax beans and haricot verts, are ready for harvest in 60 days or less. If planting pole beans instead, check the package—a few can be grown in a short season, but pole beans often require a medium-to-long season. Perfect for fresh eating, pickling, salads, steaming and roasting, easy-to-grow beans are an excellent last-minute choice for getting the most out of your backyard garden.

11. Greens. Almost all greens are mature in less than 60 days. Spinach, depending on the particular cultivar and growing conditions, is ready in as little as a month. Lettuces take a little longer. Asian greens such as Chinese cabbage, mizuna and mustard greens, and pac choy range from six to eight weeks to maturity. Collard greens take a little longer to fully mature, but as with any greens can be picked and eaten earlier if preferred, or if needed to beat an early frost.

An additional bonus with kale, spinach and a few other greens is that they will survive frosts, to some extent. They will not continue to grow afterwards, but will remain viable in the garden, making them able to be planted and harvested even later.

As you can see, there is still plenty of opportunity this season to grow a nice selection of tasty nutritious vegetables for fresh eating and preserving. It is time to dig out those seed packets and get ready for late-summer bounty.

What vegetables would you add to our list? Share your suggestions below:

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

Grow Epic Tomatoes!

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Grow Epic Tomatoes! Karen Lynn “Lil Suburban Homestead” Karen Lynn a professed “tomato” addict once titled herself the “Tomato Queen” on the boards at various homesteading sites but realized she could grow a prolific amount of tomatoes but has always felt like she could do more if she had more tomato knowledge.  Former co-host of … Continue reading Grow Epic Tomatoes!

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Prepper Project: 3 Ways To Make Seed Bombs

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SVP seed bombsI don’t know about you, dear reader, but I really hate those barren vacant lots on city streets or on the side of the roads, you know what I am talking about? Every single time I pass by these urban wastelands, I fantasize about planting a garden there, in one of those blank lots.

However, in this day and age, I bet it would be against the law and I’d end up raided by SWAT teams, under suspicion of aesthetic terrorism or discrimination against urban decay. Ok, I may sound a little bit dramatic; it’s just for the artistic impression.

Regardless, empty lots are a common problem these days, and plant transplants will end up costing you an arm and a leg if you want to really make a difference.

Enter the latest seed-bomb technology, just for you, the new Captain Planet, the Eco-warrior. Seed bombs are a cheaper alternative compared to buying plant transplants, and as organic and natural as Mother Earth.

The Anatomy of a Seed Bomb

Make no mistake: the bomb particle in a seed bomb has nothing to do with terrorism. This is a bomb that, once “detonated”, will bring peace and harmony, fresh air, beauty, life, the whole nine yards. If I may use a metaphor, the seed bomb can be described as the weapon of choice for urban guerrilla gardeners, as it gets the job done in two shakes of a lamb’s tale.

A seed bomb is fast, precise and laser-accurate! Okay, now that I’ve got your undivided attention, do you know what a seed bomb is? Let’s begin with the seed, which in itself is an amazing thing, as it contains the key that makes life on Earth possible and livable.

The vast majority of plant seeds will require next to nothing for germinating/giving birth to a new plant. In most cases, all a seed will ever need is to get buried in moist soil, safe from direct sunshine or dehydrating winds, and away from predators, insects, or animals that would eat it  instantly…yes, it’s a hard job being a successful plant seed.

Nature mitigates these survival problems by spreading the earth with a huge number of plant seeds, as becoming a plant from a seed is a very risky business.

But there is another way, and that’s where the seed bomb comes into play. Using a seed bomb, you’re basically hiding the plant seeds inside of a ball made from an absorbent material, usually a mix of soil/compost and clay. As the ball dries and its shell turns hard, it becomes very easy to spread the respective balls (these are seed bombs actually) on the barren area you wish to bring back to life. The hard shell of the seed bomb keeps the predators away until the planting time is near.

When the right time arrives, i.e. when it starts raining, the hard coating of the seed bomb will soak up with moisture, releasing its “cargo” (the actual seeds) onto the ground and providing a protective layer which holds the moisture near the seed, helping it germinate and develop into seedlings and then into a new plant. This is an elegant and beautiful concept, don’t you think?

However, this is not a new idea – pretty far from it. Seed bombs were used traditionally by many Native American tribes for protecting their planted corn kernels from predatory birds and drought. About 40 years ago, a Japanese gardener invented clay seed balls as an efficient way for planting his next crop of veggies and grains, but without disturbing what was left from the previous crop.

Seed bombs are the perfect way for planting all types of seed in places that are not very easy to take close care of, such as roadside strips, meadows or stream banks.

Also, seed bombs are a great method for planting grains or veggies without tilling or digging the soil, or for adding patches of color in already established gardens, without disturbing the plants that are already there.

If you’re a free range chicken-farmer, seed bombs will help your newly planted seeds to survive the chicken attack, and, as a plus, seed bombs are really fun to manufacture and to use, especially for kids.

guerilla gardening

Now, let’s see about the DIY part of the deal, i.e. how to make your own seed bombs.

Seed Bomb Recipe 1

Ingredients:

  • five parts pottery clay mix, available at your local art store,
  • two parts potting soil,
  • 1-2 parts seeds (whatever you desire),
  • 1-2 parts water,
  • a big tub for mixing the ingredients,
  • a big box for drying/storing the seed bombs.

Instructions: blend the clay, the soil and one part of water together thoroughly and stir vigorously, removing lumps. Add more water slowly, until the mixture has the proper consistency. It should be just like canned molding clay you buy in the store.

In the next step, you put the seeds into the mix and keep kneading until the seeds are mixed in well; if necessary, add more water.

Now it’s the time for building the bombs by taking small amounts of the mixture and rolling them to form a ball about 1 inch in diameter. If the balls tend to crumble, i.e. they don’t hold together easily, just add more water.

Let the seed bombs dry for one or two days in a shady location before storing or seeding them, for example put them inside a cardboard box, but never in plastic containers. They need the open air to dry or else they’ll mold.

After they are dried, you can place them/toss them on your desired location, but remember, don’t add water and don’t bury them. The rest is up to Mother Nature.

Seed Bomb Recipe 2

Ingredients:

  • seeds of your choice,
  • colored paper torn into pieces (3 pages for example, orange, pink and red),
  • two cups of water,
  • a silicone mold if you don’t want to use your hands,
  • 2-3 pages of newspaper torn into pieces, a strainer,
  • blender.

Instructions: All the paper must be torn up and the pieces put inside the blender. Add two cups of water into the blender and blend, baby, blend, until everything turns to mush!

Place the strainer over a small receptacle and pour the contents of the blender into the strainer. The filtered “pulp” will be scooped out of the strainer and mixed with the seeds; this is basically the raw material for your seed bombs.

The raw material must be gently mixed and the excess water squeezed out, using the mold or your hands for making the same 1 inch-diameter ball as described in the first recipe.

In the final step, use a paper towel for pressing gently on every seed bomb, to soak any excessive moisture. You want to prevent the seed bomb from germinating prematurely; that would be bad. Now, allow your seed bombs to dry for two days and you’re ready to go. It’s best to store these seed bombs inside paper bags, remember that folks.

Or watch below for the video version about making the perfect tools for guerrilla gardeners and a great way for propagating seeds on a large scale or in not-so-rich soils!

Video first seen on Emilie Lefler.

Seed Bomb Recipe 3

Ingredients:

  • seeds,
  • sawdust,
  • natural glue,
  • seaweed extract.

Instructions: Mix one part seeds with five parts sawdust, and add some natural glue to the mix (read my previous article about glue here) along with a little bit of seaweed extract. The mix shouldn’t be too wet, or too dry, but just moist enough to form and keep a ball shape.

Allow the seed bombs to dry out thoroughly for at least a day, by placing them on a sheet of newspaper for example, laid out in your shed or something similar.

Remember to consider the habitat when you’re in the process of selecting the seeds, i.e. do you desire seeds that will build a brand-new habitat or you want to add some variety inside your garden?

Good luck, and have fun folks in your prepping!

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This article has been written by Chris Black on Survivopedia.

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How to Save Carrot Seed

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Save Carrot Seed Like a Pro

Here’s a great video from Seed Savers Exchange that will answer all of your questions about how to save carrot seed.  Dr. John Navazio is a veteran organic seed saver, with a PhD in plant breeding from the University of Wisconsin.

Here he shows you the different stages of seed maturity in carrot flowers (or umbels).  The videography is great and you really get a good visual example to know when the seed is ready to take.

As you’ll see, the only tools you’ll need for this task are two hands and a cookie sheet.  John has some really nice screens for separating the seed from the burrs and dust, but you can manage just fine without those.

Cleaning Your Carrot Seed

When you save carrot seed, the hardest part is usually separating the seeds from the rest of the drying plant.  You don’t want to store all of the dust and debris from the dead flower.  And if you’ve ever handled carrot seed, you know that we’re talking about some really tiny bits and pieces.

In this video, John uses screens to separate the seeds from the dust and dead plant matter.  That’s a great approach, but many of us don’t have a set of screens for this purpose.

One alternative is to keep rubbing and blowing the seeds, as shown in this video – indefinitely, until the seeds are separated enough for storage.  Using an electric fan to blow away the dust is another popular technique.  With tiny seeds like these, you won’t want to put your work directly in front of the fan, but arrange it somewhat to the side of the fan, so that you only get a gentle breeze to blow away the dust and crumbling leaf bits.

Storing Saved Carrot Seeds

All of the carrot seeds in the world won’t help you if you can’t find them next season at planting time.  Check out this helpful video Marjory made to show you how she stores her saved seeds: Organizing Your Seed Collection with Marjory Wildcraft.

organic-seed-alliance-seed-saving-guide


Thanks to John Navazio and the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm for producing and sharing this helpful video.

The post How to Save Carrot Seed appeared first on The Grow Network.

The Best Frugal Gardening Ideas on the Internet

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The Best Frugal Gardening Ideas on the Internet Everyone knows that growing your own food is the best way to save money on groceries…but few stop to consider how expensive it can be to get started with a garden. There’s a lot more to it than just dumping a handful of seeds into a hole …

Continue reading »

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Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

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Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

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If you live south of a certain latitude, your garden is already in the ground and your growing season is underway. Many of us up north, however, are still digging out from a winter’s worth of snow and ice. Planting even cold-hardy crops such as peas and spinach might require a drill or chisel to loosen the topsoil, if we could get to it at all.

Even if you can’t get your hands in the dirt quite yet, there are plenty of things you can – and should – be doing right now.

In order to hit the ground running when spring does arrive in your region, it is a great idea to have all your planning, decision-making, inventorying, purchasing, preparing, repair and maintenance jobs done. Here are a few details to help you set up your own to-do list to maximize your pre-season readiness.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Envision this year’s garden. Many gardeners add on, rearrange and tweak the layout every year. I usually draw it out on paper. Some of the things I try to keep in mind in this endeavor include:

  • Can it be easily accessed when needed? Some people keep a “kitchen garden” near the house which contains often-used plants such as herbs, lettuces and cherry tomatoes, so they can run out and grab what they need for meal preparation.
  • Try to keep the plants most appealing to hungry wildlife in spots least accessible to them, or in areas you are most able to protect. When planning the vegetables for my plots furthest from the house, I try to avoid deer favorites. When planting corn, I make sure it is in a location near one of my fence chargers – that way I can electrify the fence when the corn is ready for harvest and prevent raccoons from beating me to it. Crops that attract ravenous flying pests need to be placed in an area conducive to netting or row cover.
  • Remember the needs of pollinators. Include plants that will draw them in without causing discomfort to you or others enjoying the garden.
  • Consider companion planting. Certain plants do better in close proximity to others. For example, the combination of beans, corn and squash is often said to be desirable.
  • Think about soil depth and composition. Plants that need more acidity will not do well in the section where you have discarded wood stove ashes, and a very long root crop such as parsnip will need deep, rock-free soil for proper growth.
  • Try to move things around year-to-year. Different families of vegetables use different soil nutrients and leave the rest. Placing tomatoes or rutabagas in the same spot year after year could result in diminished yield or quality.

Once your plan is in place, buy the seeds you need. Do not procrastinate on this point. Many seed catalogs sell out early, particularly the smaller and local ones. If you have not ordered your seed packets, do it right away. If the ones you want are already sold out, do not despair. High-quality local seed selections are often available for resale at small commercial greenhouses.

Order Your Spring Seed Catalog Right Here!

Remember that some of your vegetables should be planted from seed and other varieties need to be started ahead of time indoors or in greenhouses. Some can be done either way, depending upon your local conditions and personal preference. Know which is which and be ready for implementation. You can start your own seeds, or buy them all started from a greenhouse.

Must-Do Spring Gardening Preps You May Have Forgotten

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you do plan to start your own, remember that leeks and long-day-length onions should have already been started in February or March for the best possible yields. Other vegetables can be started now or later in spring.

Inventory your supplies. If you are starting your own seeds, make sure you have all the plug trays and soil you need. Check out your lights, bulbs and mats, and repair or replace as needed.

If you use row cover, plastic mulch, greenhouse plastic, landscape fabric or any other materials which are reusable but do not last forever, take a look at your collection right now. If there are rips you forgot about or if you discover mice did damage to it over the winter, you will want to replenish your supply early while there is still a good selection available in stores.

If you are still waiting for the ground to thaw, now is a terrific time to get your garden tools out and look them over. Sharpen, repair and replace as necessary.

If you are able to access your gardens at this point, get busy outside.

  • Clean out leaves and debris.
  • Do soil testing if you did not do so last fall. Many people prefer fall testing so that any amendments can be made ahead of time, but a spring test is better than no test.
  • Add compost and amendments as needed.
  • Repair raised beds and garden structures as necessary.
  • Get fences, posts and climbing trellises in good working order.
  • Shore up greenhouse and tunnel structures. Tighten tubing, replace plastic coverings and ensure heating and cooling components are ready to go for the season.

Few undertakings are more rewarding than growing your own food, but every climate has its particular challenges and advantages. If you want to grow vegetables but live up north, do not let that slow you down. Get organized, stocked up and busy now for a wonderful harvest season down the road.

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

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

Did You Choose The Proper Seeds For Planting?

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SVP choosing seeds for planting

Planting fruits, vegetables, and herbs is easy – you just toss some seeds into some dirt, add water, and wait for them to grow, right?

Well, in the most basic ways, yes. But if you want to grow quality plants and preserve your seeds long-term, you need to put a little more effort into finding quality seeds.

A tomato seed is a tomato seed, right? Wrong. It’s a good thing you’re reading this article! There are different types of plants, thus different types of seeds, and which type you choose will drastically affect the quality of future generations of plants.

Here’s how to make the smart choice for growing healthy crops!

You Need to Know the Types of Seeds

GMO Seeds

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. What it means is that scientists take a standard seed or seeds and add organisms to the DNA strands of the plant. They may do this to make the plant more resistant to disease, or to make it grow denser is smaller space. Regardless of why it’s modified, the seeds from these plants may not sprout, or thrive even if they do.

Hybrid Seeds

These seeds have been made by pollinating one strain of plant with a different strain of plant. This is usually done to create hardier plants or plants with the best features of each parent plant. By doing this, hopefully, you’ll get the results that you want.

However, future generations of seeds are unstable. It’s sort of like breeding “boutique” dog breeds. For instance, a puggle is a cross between a pug and a beagle. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not making fun of this breed because I have one that sleeps with me every night. I’m just saying that, even though he’s adorable, the mix was unreliable.

He could have been born looking like a pug with spots, super long ears and a long, straight tail, or he could have been born looking like a beagle with a curly tail and a long snout. There are a million variations that could have happened, and you can see that for yourself just by searching “puggle”. And even by breeding him to another puggle, there’s no telling what the puppies would look like.

Anyway, you get the idea about why hybrid seeds may not be the best way to go if you’re going to store seeds for survival.

Organic Seeds

Don’t let the name fool you. The term “organic” simply means that the seeds were obtained from plants that were grown using natural methods. That’s it. They may still be hybrids or from GMO plants.

Heirlooms

These are seeds that have been handed down from generation to generation. They’re going to grow the same type of plant and produce the same type of fruit each season and the yields will be similar, given similar growing circumstances.

heirloom seeds

The only warning that I have about heirloom seeds is that you should make sure that the seeds will grow to crop in whatever area you intend to bunker down in.

Open Pollinated Seeds

These are seeds from plants that have been grown and allowed to be pollinated as nature intended – by local birds, wind, etc. They’re more genetically diverse, which allows plants to slowly and naturally adapt to local growing conditions. As long as the pollen isn’t shared between different varieties of the same  species of plants, these seeds will remain true-to-form every year.

How to Test the Quality of Seeds

This may be putting the cart before the horse if you’re storing your own seeds butt many new growers overlook a critical step in planting crops – making sure the seeds will germinate. If you’re planting seeds to grow food for survival, you could starve to death waiting for the seeds that you plant to grow.

Fortunately, it’s easy to tell if a batch of seeds is going to grow. There are a few germination tests that you can use instead of just tossing the seeds in the ground and hoping for the best.

Water Test

Maybe you’ve found a really good deal on a batch of seeds at a trading event or even a yard sale, but will they grow? Toss them in a glass of water and wait a few minutes. If the seeds sink, they’re good. If they float, they’re not.

Test Germination Run

Put at least 10 seeds from a single batch onto one half of a paper towel then fold the other half of the towel over the seeds. Spray it down with enough water to moisten the towel. It may be helpful to spritz it with a 1:10 bleach to water ratio to keep them from molding.

Place them in the baggie and only partially seal it so that air can still get in. Label the bag and start a record with the date and how many  seeds were started. Store it in a warm, dark place and dampen the towel as necessary to keep it from going dry. Within a couple of days, you should start to see germination.

Note daily how many seeds either germinate or mold and remove those seeds from the bag. All seeds will germinate within 14 days if they’re going to.

Now, divide how many seeds germinated by how many seeds you started with and you have a pretty good idea of the germination ratio of your batch. Even if only half of them germinate, but they do it quickly, you may want to just plant twice the seeds instead of tossing the batch. If the germination ratio was low and they germinated slowly, you may just want to toss them.

Now that you’ve found some great seeds that you know will grow where you need them to, you need to store them.

Preparing Seeds for Storage

This is an extremely important step in storing seeds so that they don’t go bad, but it’s fairly simple.

First, you need to decide if your seeds will germinate if you dry them. Seeds that can be dried are called desiccation-tolerant. Most garden plants fall into this category and can dried and stored long-term.  Desiccation-intolerant plants produce seeds that won’t germinate if dried, but they can still be stored short-term. Some seeds, such as citrus seeds, are semi-tolerant which means that you can dry them but that they lose viability quickly and germinate slowly once they’re dried.

Preparing Desiccation-Tolerant Seeds for Storage

These seeds are great for storing dried because during natural the ripening and drying process, they’re preparing to go dormant. Most of their physiological processes slow down or stop altogether and they convert food reserves from sugars to fats and starches.

As a matter of fact, many seeds REQUIRE drying and a dormancy period before they can ripen, go dormant, and germinate again. Dry your seeds slowly and thoroughly using the sun (if you’re in a low-humidity area) or a low-humidity, airy environment such as your air conditioned counter. You want the relative humidity to be between 30-40%.

Spread them on a tray or baking sheet 1 or 2 seeds deep. Most seeds should be dry in 1-2 weeks though larger ones will take a bit longer. You don’t want them to be zero moisture, but they should be hard. For instance, corn should be dry enough to require a hammer to break it and squash seeds will break instead of bend.

Preparing Desiccation-Intolerant Seeds for Storage

You can store these seeds for up to several months with some seeds by keeping them in cool, moist condition. Put them in a container with damp material such as peat moss or damp paper towels. Choose a container that allows at least some airflow (poke holes in the lid or leave the lid loose).They have to continue the respiration process to remain viable.

Store in the fridge but don’t let them dry out or freeze. Plant them ASAP because they will eventually mold or rot.

What About Storing Seeds?

If stored properly, seeds can last for years. To remain viable in storage, seeds need a proper temperature and moisture level. If there’s too much moisture and enough warmth, seeds will germinate; not exactly what we’re looking for!

Here are some tips:

  • Keep the seeds out of light. They should be stored in a dark place or in opaque containers.
  • Store in waterproof (actually, moisture-proof container. Tossing in an oxygen absorber in will help, especially if you’re in an area that has an average of greater than 30% relative humidity.
  • Store in an airtight container. Mylar bags are great, but baggies, mason jars or Tupperware containers will work, too.
  • Keep seeds cool – under 40 degrees F and avoid fluctuations of temperature.
  • Rotate your seeds on a first-in-first-out basis just like you do the rest of your supplies.
  • Always, always, always perform a germination test before you plant your seeds.

If your seeds sweat inside the container, you haven’t dried them enough and need to take them out immediately and finish drying them before they mold.

That’s what you need to know to make a smart choice about your planting. And believe me, you will need this knowledge, because things are going to get from bad to worse about our food independence! CLICK on the banner below to find out more!

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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3 Surefire, Guaranteed Ways To Keep Weeds Out Of This Year’s Garden

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3 Surefire, Guaranteed Ways To Keep Weeds Out Of This Year's Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Ask any gardener what their least favorite part of gardening is, and most likely weeding will be near the top of the list. Not only can weeding be a back-breaking and monotonous chore, but it’s also a task that is never really complete.

You can dedicate hours and days to weeding the garden, but if you let a few weeks or a month pass, chances are you’ll have a whole new flush of weeds to deal with. It can be tempting to throw in the towel and let the weeds do their thing. If you do that, chances are you’ll still see a few of the flowers you planted, and be able to harvest a handful or two of cherry tomatoes despite the weeds. However, weeding the garden on a regular basis will improve your plants’ health and productivity, in addition to making the garden a more pleasant place to enjoy and spend time.

Weeds, we should note, are simply misplaced plants. Say, for instance, you really like dandelion greens. You decide to grow only dandelions in your garden this year and will spend the season weeding out everything other than the dandelions. Your neighbor, on the other hand, will most likely spend his season weeding the dandelions out of his garden to make room for the tomatoes and peppers he loves to grow. While productive gardens can support a bit of weed pressure and still produce beautiful plants, the general rule is that your garden will be more productive and experience less disease and pest pressure if you keep the weeds in check.

Looking For Non-GMO Seeds For Your Garden? The Best Deals Are Right Here!

A single weed can produce as many as 250,000 seeds. For this reason, it is important to stay on top of weeding. If you ignore the weeds and allow them to go to seed, you are essentially creating more work for yourself in the upcoming years. Once those seeds fall to the soil, they can remain dormant for years, waiting for a chance to sprout as another weed for you to deal with in the future. Therefore, in addition to staying on top of the current weeds in the garden, it can be beneficial to prevent weeds from sprouting in the first place.

3 Surefire, Guaranteed Ways To Keep Weeds Out Of This Year's Garden

Image source: Pixabay.com

The following is a short list of preventative measures you can take to keep weeds out of your garden:

  1. Don’t let weeds go to seed. As mentioned above, allowing your weeds to go to seed is creating more work in the future. Additionally, young weeds are much easier to deal with than those that have reached maturity.
  2. Use natural or synthetic mulch to decrease weed pressure. Natural mulch options include weed-free straw (some straw itself can contain lots of weed seed), grass clippings, finely chipped wood, and partially decomposed leaves. Synthetic mulch options include landscape fabric (best for ornamental and perennial gardens) and biodegradable black plastic mulch, which will decompose over the course of the growing season.
  3. Solarize the soil. Cover your prepared garden bed with clear or black plastic for about a month to kill weed seeds in the top few inches of soil. You can remove the plastic when you are ready to plant and reuse it in a different area of the garden.

Having the right tools is another necessity in the battle against weeds.

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

A few key cultivating tools in the garden shed can do wonders in dealing with weeds. If you are able to find the right tool for the job, and maintain it and keep it sharp, weeding can even become fun and relaxing! There are a number of tools available to gardeners for weeding purposes, and I recommend trying or borrowing a few different varieties before investing in your own.

You want to find something that you are comfortable using; otherwise, weeding will continue to be a chore and more likely to be put off too long. I personally recommend using a hand cultivator when you are weeding close to plants (for more control and precision) and a hula or stirrup hoe in larger areas or pathways.

With the right mindset, effective preventative measures, and a few high quality and well-maintained garden tools, you will be well on your way to a healthy, productive and weed-free garden.

What advice would you add on keeping weeds out of the garden? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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

Simple Seed Germination Test at Home

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Germination Test for Saved Seeds

Sometimes we save seeds with the best intentions, and then we fall short on the follow through – by not planting those seeds when the next season rolls around.  A simple germination test can tell you whether or not those seeds are still worth planting.

I know there are plenty of orphaned seeds like this in the seed collection at our house.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to start.  Sometimes they’re the remnants of a project from a previous season.  Sometimes they’re seeds that we just forgot to label, so we don’t really know what variety they are or what year they were grown.

However you ended up with questionable seeds, there’s an easy method you can use at home to find out just how viable those seeds are.

Want to start saving your seeds?  The [Grow] Network offers an online training course with everything you need to know.  Learn more here: Seed Saving Training Expedition

Testing Your Old Seeds

The testing method is simple.  You wrap up a random sampling of the questionable seeds in a wet paper towel, place the paper towel inside a plastic container, keep it out of direct light, and wait. The test should last as long as it usually takes good, new seed to germinate.  So, if you normally expect tomato seeds to germinate in 5-10 days – your test for old tomato seeds should be 10 days long.

As the seeds begin to germinate, you check the seeds daily and keep a running scorecard.  Record the number of seeds that germinate successfully, and the number of seeds that fail or mold.  Each time a seed germinates or molds, remove it from the test (take it off of the paper towel).  At the end of the test, determine the percentage of seeds that germinated successfully, and extrapolate that percentage to the total number of seeds you have.

Here is a guide, with pictures, from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: How to Test Germination

And here is a more detailed approach from the Seed Savers Exchange: Home Germination Testing

For starting seeds in trays – this test should help inform your decisions about how many seeds you need to start.  For direct-seeding – this test should help you determine how densely to seed your garden bed.

You should do your test in the same conditions you plan to have when you start the seed.  So if you’ll be starting lettuce seeds in cool conditions – run your test in those same conditions.  If you’re testing peppers that will be started in warmer conditions – make your test conditions warmer too.

Keep in mind that you need to do this test before it’s time to start the seeds in question.  For some seeds, the time it takes them to germinate in the test is the same amount of time that it will take them to germinate in trays, seed starting cells, or directly in the soil.  So if you usually expect 7 days for seed emergence for tomatoes, you should do your germination test at least 7 days ahead of the date when you plan to actually start the seeds.

How Long Can You Store Saved Seeds?

That’s a tricky question.  Typical seed life varies according to plant variety.  And in my experience, I’d say there’s a lot of fluctuation based on how the seeds are stored and environmental conditions.

A few crops, like sweet corn and spinach, typically have very short shelf life and you should probably plant them the very next season after they were saved.  Most seeds have longer lifespans, and typically stay viable for 2 – 5 years.

Here is a helpful list from Iowa State University’s ag extension: Life Expectancy of Vegetable Seeds

If you have some old seeds that have been stored well, don’t give up hope!  Check out this [Grow] Network writing contest entry from 2014: Too Many Tomato Seedlings – From 30 Year Old Seeds!

Interested in ways to use up your old seeds?  Here’s one great idea: How To Create Chicken Fodder Using Your Old Seeds


Thanks to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Seed Savers Exchange for sharing the helpful info!

And thanks to James Romer, Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The post Simple Seed Germination Test at Home appeared first on The Grow Network.

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.

The Easiest (And Fastest) Ways To Protect Your Vegetables From That Dreaded Late Frost

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The Easiest (And Fastest) Ways To Protect Your Vegetables From That Dreaded Late Frost

Image source: Flickr

Don’t be fooled by the early, warm weather. There is always a possibility to be hit a late spring frost, which could be a killer to your vegetable garden.

To keep your vegetable plants safe, here are a few interesting ways to protect your darling veggies from that last late frost of the year.

Bedsheets, Coffee Cans and More

If you know the night will bring frost, cover your plants. You can use the following protection suggestions:

  • Simply cover your plants for the evening with a tarp, bedsheets, pillow cases, burlap sacks or table cloths. These covers will act as insulators.
  • You can also insulate and protect your plants by covering them with coffee cans. For small plants, you can use glass jars, milk jugs or even large, plastic bottles.
  • There is a way to combine the above two ideas. Tomato cages, stakes or even the mentioned coffee cans should be used to help support the plants from the weight of the covers. The frost will settle on the coverings and not the plants. Your vegetables won’t be crushed by whatever you put on them.

When using coverings, be sure and place stones, bricks or some sort of weights around the edges of the covers to keep them in place.

The Best Deals On Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds Are Right Here!

You must remove any coverings in the morning so the plants can get fresh air and sunlight. An easy rule to remember is to cover plants by 8 p.m. and uncover by 8 a.m. Plants can’t breathe under heavy covers, so you must have the cover off during the day, even if there are several cool nights calling for frost.

Water, Water, Water

There is also a way to protect your vegetables by simply using water. Place a container of HOT water beneath the cover of cans and whatever cover you are using during the night. Since water loses heat more slowly than air, the water will keep the small enclosed area warmer than outside.

You can also water your plants the day before the frost, if you know it’s going to happen. Moist soil maintains heat, and the water will help insulate the roots. Water the ground around the plants until six inches of the soil is moist. Do this during the day before the frost, but d not let the plants, themselves, get wet. Just water the soil.

All-Natural Mulch

The Easiest (And Fastest) Ways To Protect Your Vegetables From That Dreaded Late Frost

Image source: HarvestToTable

A layer of mulch, at least two inches thick, can be placed on and around your vegetable plants. Not only will the mulch protect the plants, but their roots, as well. Mulch can be anything natural, from leaves, grass clippings or straw, to shredded or chopped bark and compost.

Hoop House and Cold Frames

You can place a hoop house or cold frame over your vegetable plants during the night. Then you can easily adjust these structures so you can open them up during sunlight hours. If the garden is small, you may be able to make small, portable buildings that you can lift on and off the plants.

Fans Work, Too

Yes, that’s right, a fan can help save your plants from frost. The size typically doesn’t matter.

DOUBLE Your Garden Production With This New All-Natural Fertilizer!

You can place the fan so the breeze flows gently around the plants. The breeze will prevent any frost from forming on the leaves and stems.

Tips to Know When Frost Is Coming

  • If there is no wind and the air is quiet, it will allow cold air to settle near the ground
  • If you have put your garden in a high area, there is less chance of frost than if your garden is set in low areas.
  • Clouds slow the cooling process, and so help prevent frost.
  • Daytime temperatures around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, or 23 degrees Celsius, usually keep the nighttime temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.

So, whatever creative way you wish to protect your plants from that late frost, remember to let the sun and fresh air get to the vegetables during the day. Just like us, our plants need sun and fresh air to grow strong and healthy. Prepare for the frost this year, and come out with a well-protected, healthy harvest.

Related:

5 Frost-Resistant Vegetables You Can Plant Super Early

How do you protect your plants from frost? Share your tips in the section below:

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

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.

Self Reliance Weekly Report: Planning for Spring

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This week’s Self Reliance Weekly Report is all about getting ready for spring.

It’s here: that time of year when it’s still winter, but the anticipation of spring is in Read the rest

The post Self Reliance Weekly Report: Planning for Spring appeared first on The Organic Prepper.

27 Tips from a Master Gardener

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27 Tips from a Master Gardener via The Survival MomA few years ago, I attended a class taught by Marta Waddell, a Master Gardener in Arizona. I’ve referred to my class notes over and over again, and decided they were good enough to pass along to you!

February isn’t too early to think about gardening! It’s the perfect time to start planning, especially since some plants need to be started inside weeks before the final frost.

  1. Practice eating what’s in season locally. This will get your family used to eating seasonal produce, and, therefore, what you can grow in your own garden.
  2. Learn what herbs might help your family’s health issues.
  3. Marta recommends Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables From Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman.
  4. If you’re worried about too much shade in your garden area, plant dwarf trees rather than full-size trees.
  5. All heirloom plants are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated plants are heirloom.
  6. Try more than one variety of each vegetable to see what gives you the best results.
  7. Calorie crops, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, use much less space than grains.
  8. For survival, study what the poorest farmers in third world countries grow: Sorghum, peanuts, and chickpeas are three such crops.
  9. Another good book for those living in harsh desert climates is Extreme Gardening by David Owens.
  10. High quality tools are a must. Keep a bucket filled with sand and a bit of motor oil mixed in to clean off dirty gardening tools.
  11. Solarize your garden area to get rid of weeds a few weeks before planting season. Clear out weeds or scalp mow your garden beds. Moisten the ground well, and cover with a large sheet of clear plastic. Weight the plastic down around the edges with rocks or bricks. Weed seeds will germinate, but the heat will kill them. Leave the plastic sheet on for 6-8 weeks. This will reduce the rate of weed seed germination by 60-80%.
  12. A wire mesh trash can is good for sifting compost.
  13. Test the germination rate of your seeds yourself. Place ten seeds on a wet cloth. Cover and wait ten days. If eight seeds have sprouted, your germination rate is 80%. If only 5 have sprouted, the rate is 50%, and so on.
  14. Store seeds in the refrigerator in an airtight container. “Frost free” will draw moisture from seeds.
  15. It isn’t legal to save seeds that have been patented.
  16. Heat and moisture are enemies of seeds. The seeds may sprout, but they won’t grow anything. Stored properly, some seeds can last 5-10 years, but most will last just 2-3 years. Younger seeds will grow better.
  17. Mail order companies are best when it comes to buying seeds because they store their seeds in optimal conditions.
  18. Just because a nursery is selling certain plants does not mean that particular variety grows well in your area.  They are selling what they know people will buy.
  19. Never work the soil when it is wet or very dry and have your soil tested so you will know what additives it needs.
  20. Recyling your kitchen waste by adding it to a compost pile is great but won’t necessarily result in balanced soil.
  21. Transplant when it’s either a cloudy day or at dusk.
  22. Plan your garden so you’re planting for a staggered harvest. Otherwise, you may be harvesting tons of zucchini, for example, during a single week and then have to wait several more weeks for another zucchini harvest.
  23. Don’t water at night, and be sure to water the soil, not the leaves.
  24. Consider using gray water or water from rain barrels. Drip hoses are good for raised beds.
  25. A couple tablespoons of oil or a teaspoon of soap in a rain barrel will prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs.
  26. The best pest control is the eyes and hands of the gardener. Use soapy water to get rid of many types of pests.  (Don’t use a soap that contains citrus oils/ingredients.) Planting marigolds in the vegetable garden is another way to deter pests.
  27. Another of her favorite books, The Edible Ornamental Garden by John E. Bryan and Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon.

Originally published June 13, 2011.

27 Tips from a Master Gardener via The Survival Mom

Here’s The Quickest Way To Grow Indoor Food This Winter

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Here's The Quickest Way To Grow Indoor Food This Winter

The benefit of growing sprouts, particularly in winter when most garden vegetables are dormant, goes far beyond their flavor.  An excellent indoor crop, sprouts pack a lot of nutritional punch for their tiny size, including many of the vitamins, minerals and protein needed in a balanced diet.

Lentils, beans and peas are particularly good for you; they’re comprised of up to 25 percent protein and provide a good source of iron, potassium, vitamins A and D, and other nutrients.

Seeds from most vegetables, herbs and legumes will produce edible sprouts in their early stage, but the most popular sprouts come from beans, peas and some greens. Growing sprouts to supplement your winter produce is easy, inexpensive and full of variety. With a well-stocked pantry, you can enjoy a surprising range of meals with sprouts, helping your family break out of the monotony caused by winter’s limited harvests.

Sprouting Seeds

Although you can easily sprout most seeds, you may wish to start with some better-known varieties. Alfalfa, mung bean, lentil, green pea or wheat seeds are a great place to start. Choose seeds intended for growing, as beans and seeds intended for cooking will not germinate as easily. Most commercially available sprouting seeds are sold by weight. Plan on half an ounce of dry seeds per half cup serving for most sprouts; alternatively, you can save your own seeds for sprouting, and measure 1/8 cup dry seeds per serving. Other than your seeds, all you really need to begin is water and a container.

Like Sprouts? Then You’ll Love Indoor Microgreens!

Here's The Quickest Way To Grow Indoor Food This WinterSelect a plastic, glass or ceramic container with its own lid to use as a sprouting container.  Follow these steps to sprout your seeds:

  1. Rinse the seeds to get rid of dust, loose hulls and dirt.
  2. Soak the seeds in warm water for half a day. If you do this overnight, you won’t be tempted to disturb the soaking process.
  3. Once soaking is complete, remove any floating seeds, as these won’t germinate. Drain water from seeds using a strainer or cloth and return seeds to sprouting container.
  4. Soak a clean cloth or paper towel in warm water and cover the seeds. Put the lid on the container and move it to a location where it won’t be disturbed. You don’t need light for sprouting, but you should place the sprouting container where it will remain at room temperature.
  5. Soak seeds in clean, lukewarm water and drain twice a day: every morning and every evening, returning the seeds to covered container draped in freshly wet cloth after soaking. Seeds will be fully sprouted after 4-6 days, when the hulls are all separated from the sprouts. Rinse in cool water, allow leaves to dry, and place sprouts in refrigerator.

Types of Sprouts

The variety of plants edible in sprout form is almost limitless, but they can be grouped into a few categories. Bean sprouts come from bean, legume, and pea seeds and are tasty in recipes cooked and uncooked. Leafy sprouts, grasses, greens and microgreens — best eaten raw — come from edible grasses, lettuce, herb, and leafy vegetable seeds. A number of grains, including oats, millet and rye, make excellent salad and sandwich sprouts.

How to Eat Sprouts

Finding ways to include sprouts in your recipes is easy and restricted only by your imagination. You’ll be rewarded with a punch of flavor and a boost of essential nutrients.

The Best Kept Secret In Indoor Self-Reliance Gardening…

If you want to get beyond the obvious uses for sprouts — salads, sandwiches and stir-frys — then try one of these suggestions.

  • Mixed sprouts in hot cereal for breakfast. Add the sprouts right at the end of cooking, and stir them in to warm them. Wheat, rye, sunflower and peanut sprouts stirred into oatmeal with a dash of maple syrup makes a comforting start to a winter day.
  • Sprouted omelet. Prepare a plain or cheese omelet, and fold it over raw arugula, beet, cress or broccoli sprouts. If you like a bit of bite, try radish or mustard sprouts.
  • Sprout smoothie. Blend a handful of alfalfa, wheat, rye or oat sprouts into your favorite smoothie mix for hidden greens. Oat sprouts pair well with berries and bananas, or try a tropical smoothie with wheatgrass. A great way to give yourself a boost.
  • Bean(sprout) Burrito. Warm your favorite bean sprouts in a skillet, and pack a tortilla full. Top with guacamole, rice, Pico de gallo and hot peppers if you’re so inclined. A filling — and fast — meal!

Once you begin adding sprouts to your recipes, you’re sure to find it addictive. There is virtually no simpler food to grow, and when you tire of one sprout, just try another. Keep a supply of your favorite sprouting seeds on hand all year, and beat the blahs between harvests. Experiment freely – your crop will grow in less than a week – and enjoy the concentrated power of sprouted seeds.

Do you have any sprout-growing tips? How do you eat sprouts? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

(Video) Everything You Need to Know about Saving Bean Seeds

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bean-plants-and-flowersThis video contains an abbreviated version of Seed Savers Exchange’s webinar on saving bean seeds. The video touches on lots of good information about growing, harvesting, and saving beans to replant the following season. The advice here is good for any legume, including common beans, peas, lima beans, cowpeas, fava beans, runner beans, and soybeans.

If you’ve ever had questions about when to take your beans, how to separate the beans from the pods, or how to store saved seeds – there’s some good information here to help you along.

I loved the example of a trellis shown in this clip, which is just a group of sticks tied together with twine. I’ve seen a million different attempts at trellises, but I often feel like the simplest trellises are the best looking and the most functional. This trellis is a great example.


Thanks to Seed Savers Exchange for the great video. You can learn more here: Seed Savers Exchange.

 

(Video) Seed Saving Advice for Beginners

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ayocote-de-camote-seeds-close-upHere’s a nice video from Seed Savers Exchange about things you should consider when you’re interested to begin saving seeds. The video includes short interviews with many key players from SSE and their Heritage Farm, including co-founder Diane Ott Whealy.

There is lots of sound advice here, including to choose seeds that you are passionate about, i.e. something you love to eat!

My favorite piece of advice comes from Shanyn Siegel. She says, simply, “start small.” Don’t overwhelm yourself by biting off more than you can chew. Pick one thing that you like to eat, learn to save those seeds well, and then move on from there.


Thanks to Seed Savers Exchange for the great video. You can learn more here: The Seed Garden.

 

How to Tell if Seeds Are Still Good

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How to Tell If Seeds are Still GoodLast week, we explored the question how long do seeds last?  And the general consensus was seeds usually last longer than the stamped shelf life date so don’t toss your leftovers. 

But we also know seeds lose their viability overtime…meaning they’re less likely to germinate and become plants. So, today I’m sharing a video by the University of Wyoming Extension. It’s a simple home test, two tests actually, that you can do. It’ll help you figure out if your seeds are still good.  

How to Tell if Seeds Are Still Good  

Pretty cool, right? 

If you found this video helpful, I’d love it if you share it with a friend. Thanks!

Cheers,

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This article may contain affiliate links. For more information, read the Disclaimers & Disclosures here. Thank you for your support!

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The Trick To Growing An Avocado Tree Indoors

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How To Grow An Avocado Tree Indoors

Image source: Pixabay.com

Most of us have heard about the healthy characteristics of the mighty avocado — besides its full, rich taste and wonderful talent for making the best guacamole. But did you ever consider growing an avocado tree in your home?

There are more than 1,000 types of avocado plants. Some avocado trees grow to reach a height of 80 feet, with most getting 20 to 40 feet tall. Don’t let this scare you away from enjoying your own avocados! There are several dwarf varieties that do well indoors.

You can start avocados from seeds (stones), but it takes years to bear fruit. If growing a tree from its infancy isn’t your thing, you can always save time by buying a dwarfed avocado tree from a garden center or nursery.

If you are just aiming for a beautiful house plant or tree, the avocado is pretty and healthy for you. Bear in mind, though, that most indoor avocado plants are grown for novelty and not for fruit. For the patient gardener, however, the wait for fruit is worth every minute.

What You Will Need    

Collect two avocados. (You may only want one tree, but always plant two in case one doesn’t take root. You can always give the second away.) You will also need at least four toothpicks for each avocado seed. Get the heavy-duty, strong type, as they are going to be supporting the seed. Finally, get a small glass or container that is deep enough to submerge half the pit.

How to Grow Your Avocado    

The first step in growing your avocado tree is to remove the pit from a fruit that is already ripe. After you are done enjoying the fruit, rinse any leftover avocado off the seed thoroughly. This cleaning is important, as it will prevent anything unwanted from growing on the seed while it’s in water.

The Best Deals On Non-GMO Heirloom Seeds Are Right Here!

Once clean, take each toothpick and push it into the seed far enough that it will hold the pit. Continue around the pit until you form a supporting structure. This structure will hold the seed half in, half out of the glass or container of water.

How To Grow An Avocado Tree Indoors

Image source: Wikipedia

The seed should descend one inch into the water, with its dented end inside the glass and the pointed side up. Roots will grow out the bottom, and the stem and leaves will grow out of the pointed end. The glass needs to be in a sunny area where it is at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 degrees Celsius. Remember to change the water often; daily is recommended. Roots will eventually appear, followed by leaves and a stem. Wait until almost half of the glass is full of roots. This step can take several weeks, so be patient. You can now transplant the avocado into a container or pot. Use healthy potting soil.

When the tree is about seven inches tall, pinch off the top leaves to encourage fuller growth, which will hopefully also encourage fruit to grow.

Conditions for Best Growth     

Avocado plants will need cool nights to make the plants bloom or bear fruit. Some plants can take up to 10 years to produce that yummy fruit, so if you have patience, go for it!

Indoor avocado plants need regular care. Stakes are needed to help the new stems grow, and you will have to transplant the tree as it grows.

These plants love and need full sun. Make sure they are in a sunny area of your home for best results. Avocados like warm temperatures, but can handle as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seamazing: The Cheap Way To Re-mineralize Your Soil

It is recommended to fertilize the plants monthly, especially in their normal growing season.

Soil should be rich and fertilized during the growing season. Water when the soil feels dry. Avocados need to be kept moist, but not soaked. Make sure the soil drains well. Yellow leaves are a warning sign that the soil is too wet. If you see white crust on the soil, it means there is too much salt (probably from fertilizer) and you need to flush the avocado’s soil.

Repotting your avocado plant or tree every spring is highly recommended. You also should trim it to encourage the plant to become bushy and full.

Even if you are only growing your avocado tree for something pretty to look at, it can be fun for the whole family to share and take part in the upkeep. Remember to keep the tree pruned, or you may end up with more tree than your family expected.

An avocado tree can add character and freshness to your home during the long winter months, or any season for that matter. You can enjoy the exotic look of the tree year-round, and when the time comes, you can also enjoy the healthy and tasty bounty of the avocado fruit.

Have you ever grown an avocado tree indoors? What are your best tips? Share them in the section below:

Learn Dozens Of All-Natural Gardening Secrets. Read More Here.

How Long Do Seeds Last?

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How Long Do Seeds Last?Last week, the first (of many!) seed catalogs arrived in my mailbox.  Oh, how I love this time of year! The vibrant red tomatoes, deep green herbs, and rich purple eggplants are all calling my name. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Truth be told, I don’t really need to buy seeds. I have so many leftover seeds from past seasons. In fact, I probably have enough to start my own seed catalog! So, that brings up a good question. How long do seeds last?

The answer is, well, it depends. (I know, so annoying, right?)

Seeds can last several years past their recommended shelf life if stored in a cool, dark, dry location. So, don’t toss that pack of leftover seeds quite yet. There’s a good chance something will still germinate.

I did some research, consulting seed companies and extension services to help you figure out if your seeds are still viable.  

Here are the approximate life expectancies of common vegetable seeds when stored under favorable conditions:

1 Year

onion, parsley, parsnip

2 Years

sweet corn, leek, okra, pepper

3 Years

asparagus, beans, broccoli, carrot, celery, kohlrabi, spinach, peas

4 Years

beets, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, eggplant, fennel, kale, mustard, pumpkin, rutabaga, squash, tomato, turnip, watermelon

5+ Years

collards, cucumbers, endive, lettuce, muskmelon, radish

Remember, seeds are living things and as a result they’ll lose viability over time.  

But if they’re stored in a cool, dark and dry place, you’re less likely to experience zero-germination. Because I don’t have a basement, I store my seeds in the refrigerator, tucked inside a mason jar with a moisture absorbing desiccant pack.

Next week, I’ll show you a way to check the germination rate of the seeds you still have hanging around. Meanwhile, enjoy looking at those seed catalogs!

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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.

4 Wintertime Projects To Get Your Garden Prepared For Next Year – And Keep You From The Winter Blah’s!

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Even though the snow and cold of winter’s dark days will be upon us soon enough – it doesn’t mean it’s time to forget about your garden. In fact, wintertime is actually the perfect time to plan, prepare and create all kinds of garden projects to help make next year’s growing season a huge success! Whether you are planning to grow your first veggies ever – or a seasoned veteran of the backyard garden – now is the time to make sure you have everything ready you’ll need next spring to hit the ground running – or should I say hit the garden planting! Here are 4 projects you can do to help chase the wintertime blahs – and get ready for growing next Spring! Plan Your Garden Out On Paper – Now! Taking time to plan your garden over the winter months is one of the most important and overlooked chores each year. By planning now – you can figure out the best ways to get the most from the available space in your garden, and make the most of your family’s food goals. It also allows you to get a jump-start on what seeds to order – and when to start them indoors.  Last but not least – […]

(Video) Grow Sprouts and Microgreens Indoors All Winter Long

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fresh-arugula-micro-greensAs the temperatures drop and the days get shorter – I’ve heard from several gardeners up north that they are packing it up for the year and winterizing their gardens.

But even up north, there’s one easy way to keep some fresh greens coming all winter long – with just a few containers and a little bit of your open counter space.

Microgreens are a great option for keeping your vitamin intake up over the winter. In addition to being tasty and trendy, they pack a big nutritional punch. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry looked at 25 common varieties of microgreens and found that they generally have higher concentrations of healthful vitamins and carotenoids than their mature counterparts. Red cabbage microgreens had the highest concentration of vitamin C, and green daikon radish microgreens had the most vitamin E.

Check out this video about growing microgreens and sprouts indoors:

If you want to give this a try and you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to get started, read this article from our writing contest – Easy and Fresh Micro Greens and Herbs All Year Round. You’ll find one example of a no-frills way to get this done – without needing to buy anything but seeds.

 

Giant World Seed Bank

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A few hundred miles from the North Pole and above Norway a set of islands called “Svalbard” exist. They are controlled by Norway and are hosting something that is quite unique – a Doomsday Seed Vault. This Global Seed vault holds over 1.5 billion seeds. This is an incredible amount and within those seeds a tremendous variety exists. Wheat alone is represented by over 50,000 collections from all over the world.

The intended purpose for the vault is to house seeds in case of some world catastrophe or plant die off. Although the environment is frigid additional refrigeration is provided. Should the vault lose power the seeds will remain preserved for years.

Here are some pictures of the Global Seed Vault:

UvVggft

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albard-racks-55733-600x450

seed-vault-e1445655575944 (1)

location-of-seed-vault (1)

seed7

Lets hope this global seed vault is never needed.

I have stored many seeds and found them to germinate for at least 3 years after date of packaging. I have to admit that many seeds I have tested were not stored especially well. They sat in my garage on a shelf. I think this points to the durability of seeds.

How about you? Have you put away seeds? Seeds are some of the least expensive preps that can be purchased and their use so incredibly rewarding.

Rourke

(Infographic) Save Our Seeds

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If you haven’t started saving seeds from your garden yet, there’s no better time to get started than right now. This handy infographic from the Illinois Stewardship Alliance shows why this is an important part of sustainable growing, and why we should all be doing our part.

The main graphic about the dwindling number of vegetable varieties comes from a National Geographic report about the National Seed Storage Library/National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. The “80 Years Later” numbers reflect the contents of that national library only – not all varieties that are currently available commercially or through public or private libraries. Nevertheless, the illustration is effective in showing just why we should all take part in protecting the genetic diversity of our food and preserving the heirloom varieties that grow well in our regions.

save-our-seeds-infographic

If you want to get actively involved with a public seed library in your region, check out this interactive map from seedlibrarian.com: Seed Library Locator Map. Hopefully there’s an active library in your area. If you know of a library that’s not listed, get in touch and ask them to add it.


Many thanks to National Geographic for the report on the dwindling number of vegetable varieties in the national library. The original graphic is available here: Our Dwindling Food Variety.

Many thanks to the Illinois Stewardship Alliance for developing this great infographic. The original post is online here: You Should Be Saving Seeds, Yes You.

Infographic Credits:

Content
http://www.exploratorium.edu/gardening/control/seeds/two.html
http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/why_save_seeds.htm
http://www.howtosaveseeds.com/whysave.php
http://blog.seedsavers.org/blog/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds

Photos
Infographic: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/07/food-ark/food-variety-graphic
Hands with bean seads photo: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/top-tips-seed-saving
Heirloom tomato photo: https://galerieco.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/heirloom-tomatoes/
Heirloom carrots photo: https://theplantfarm.wordpress.com/tag/tuber/
Seed in hand photo: http://sites.radiantwebtools.com/?i=15934

 

What you need to know about storing seeds

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Most preppers already know that it is vital to have an ample supply of stored food and water on hand. It is equally important to keep and maintain a healthy seed bank precisely because the food supply may become disrupted, and it will be necessary to grow your own emergency food. Properly implemented, a good seed bank can provide for a lifetime of food.

Below are 5 tips on implementing and maintaining a good seed bank as part of your emergency preparedness and the importance of storing seeds:

Tip 1 – Understanding the Function of Seeds

Even an inexperienced gardener knows that seeds go in the ground, and from there plants will grow, but it’s worth taking a moment to understand the purpose of seeds from a plant’s perspective.

Every year, each plant will produce seeds, essentially the offspring or “children”, to be propagated during the next cycle into new variants of the plant. Seeds might be produced by the plant during spring, summer, fall, or even winter sometimes, but all (non-tropical) seeds are designed to blossom and grow in the spring.

Therefore, the vital function of any prepper’s seed bank is to “trick” seeds into thinking that it is winter, so the seeds stay in their dormant phase. Spring is a time for warmth, light, and wetness, while winter is a time for darkness, cold, and dryness. Your first goal in maintaining a personal seed bank is to keep seeds away from heat, light sources, and moisture.

Tip 2 – Open-pollinated, Non-hybridized, and Non-GMO

openIt’s a sad fact that many of the fruits and vegetables we eat today are not as nature intended, and their seeds are often designed to be sterile and therefore useless in the future if you try to grow a garden from them.

When buying seeds for your seed bank, always buy non-hybridized and non-GMO seeds to ensure that you’re getting a healthy, heirloom variant that will grow as nature intended. Seeds that are open pollinated are versatile enough to be pollinated by a wide variety of insects, or even by hand, if necessary.

Tip 3 – Seeds for Growing and Saving

Take a look at the foods you enjoy eating, and then buy seeds that will grow those plants. A critical part of long term food storage is buying enough seeds that you can grow a year’s supply of your favorite plants.

One important function of your seed bank is to grow enough plants that some can be harvested primarily for their seeds, known as saving seeds. There are special techniques for how to extract, dry, and safely store seeds, so be sure to budget enough seeds in your seed bank to grow plants for the purpose of saving seeds.

It’s also important to understand how plants propagate, and that some, such as onions, garlic, and potatoes, are not grown from seeds but from re-planting cuttings from the original mother plant.

Tip 4 – Self-Pollinating Seeds

beansDepending on your projections for the future, it may be difficult to find pollinating insects like bees to help your plants grow. Many preppers therefore choose to store up seeds for self-pollinating plants, which can grow on their own without external help.

Excellent self-pollinating seeds include: chicory, peas, lettuce, mustard, endive, beans, and tomatoes.

Tip 5 – Storage and Orthodox Seeds

When building up your seed bank, it’s important to understand exactly how to store seeds, and which varieties can last for longer periods of time.

The term “orthodox” refers to seeds that can be dried and frozen for years, kept in any ordinary home freezer. Some of the most popular varieties of orthodox seeds are: peas, corn, and tomatoes, but approximately 80% of all plant seeds are considered to be orthodox. Even without a freezer, all plant seeds must be kept in a cool, dry, place out of direct contact with the sun or light sources.

The hardest seeds to store are those of tropical plants like coconuts, coffee, tea, mangoes, and papayas, as they are designed for a year-round hot climate and must be planted immediately or very soon after the plant produces them.

The post What you need to know about storing seeds appeared first on American Preppers Network.

7 Survival and Prepping Hacks

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The prepping population knows their stuff. Knowing your stuff is sort of the name of the game when it comes to preparing for the worst. It’s necessary to be innovative, resourceful and aware in order to be in control when life as we know it changes drastically. There are many different ways that this scenario can play out and, luckily, many prepping practices cover a lot of different possibilities. We know the basics: food storage, water, protection, shelter, etc. But what about the little tips, or prepping hacks, we’ve learned without thinking about them, little things that make prepping just a little bit easier? We all have some, and here is a list of some survival and prepping hacks I’ve come across.

1. Remember The Crisco

Crisco is an amazing and versatile product. This may not seem like a necessity to have in your storage, but there are many ways that Crisco can be used. It’s great for frying food, greasing pans, and making baked goods. It’s great for for the skin in harsh conditions, scaly skin irritants, and can prevent rashes. Other uses include keeping cockroaches away, makeshift soap, making candles, getting things out of your hair, fixing squeaky hinges, preventing diaper rash, and many others. By putting a wick in a tub of Crisco you will have a candle that will reportedly burn for 45 days. There are other alternatives for Crisco including lard or coconut oil. Crisco, however, has a longer shelf life if stored properly and combines the perks and prepping hacks of these alternatives in one product.

2. Get The Seeds

Like I said before, as preppers, we know the importance of food storage. This practice will be vitally important if we are forced to live off of what we have and aren’t able to go out and grab some groceries. It’s important to understand food longevity, creative cooking methods, and the ability to hunt. Food storage, however, shouldn’t be the only way you are preparing to eat if the worst happens. The downside to food storage is that you are forced to leave a lot behind if you are forced to relocate. The solution to this problem is one of the easiest prepping hacks: buy and store a pack of seeds. This will enable you to grow your own, fresh food source and something easy to barter with. The seeds I’d recommend because of their ease to grow are:

  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Beans
  • Basil
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

3. Don’t Forget The Medicine

Storing medicine is one of the first prepping hacks you should consider.  The uses for medicine are an obvious necessity when prepping. It’s extremely important to have a stockpile of medicine that you need for your own specialized medical issues like insulin, inhalers or any other life-saving medication you need. This approach can be tricky for some types of medicine as some prescriptions are quite hard to refill before you’ve finished the amount you were prescribed. Some other types of medicine that are important to keep on hand are pain relievers, antidiarrheal medicines, orajel, amoxicillin, antacids, rubbing alcohol, and antibiotic ointment. Wound dressing is important as well so be sure to remember gauze. Infection can be an overlooked issue with prepping but can easily cause limb loss or death if not treated properly.

4. Bring The Baby Oil

Baby oil is another product that is easily overlooked but can be useful in a survival situation. In cold areas where you are outside in the elements a lot, baby oil can protect your exposed skin from dry or frostbitten skin. The risk for frostbite is highest for people who have reduced blood circulation. It is important for frostbite affected tissue to be removed immediately or gangrene and infection will take hold. Without the proper medication infection can cause death.  Baby oil will not completely eliminate the risk of frostbite, of course, but it will help delay the effects and is one of the easiest prepping hacks to follow.

5. It’s All About The Silver

There are many different types of disaster that can happen at any moment and an economic collapse is one of those possibilities. If it ends up that the dollar no longer means anything in our society we will have to revert back to a monetary system that was in place before paper money was in place as a sort of IOU for the gold and silver it was supposed to represent. Like gold, silver can be used as a hedge against inflation, deflation or currency debasement.

6. The Multi-Purpose Pad

The pad, primarily used for feminine hygiene, is an extremely versatile tool and prepping hack. Along with compiling stockpiles of food, water, and other important supplies, pick up a package of pads for your survival stash. Pads can be used for absorbing lighter fluid to be used later and is extremely light to carry. The cotton material inside the pad can be used for water filtration or creating a wick. You can use it to stop bleeding if you have a wound or to clean a wound. They can be used with string to create a mask, shoe insoles, or an ice pack.

7. Creative Uses For Condoms

Condoms are another cheap and easy to carry item that will be great in a survival situation. Aside for their intended purpose, these great prepping hacks can hold a gallon of water which can be a lot easier than toting around a water jug to do the same. However, once you fill a condom up with water they become highly susceptible to puncture even by small or blunt objects. I’d recommend keeping them around just in case, but not as your main means for keeping water. They are also great for keeping things dry like kindling or matches. The down side to using condoms for water or keeping things dry is the lubricant on the outside, but it’s a small price to pay as an easy substitution for a water jug in a pinch or a way to keep life-saving matches dry.

Survival and Prepping Hacks Wrap Up

Whether your prepping stash includes a giant storage warehouse filled with all of the necessary belongings needed in case disaster strikes or just a small tote filled with a few necessities, hopefully you discovered a few extra hacks to think about in the case of emergency. What unique prepping or survival hacks have you discovered?

prepping hacks

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Guest Poster: Chelsy Ranard on twitter
Guest Poster: Chelsy Ranard
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She worked seasonally in Ketchikan, Alaska for five years where she learned vital survival skills, a love for fly fishing, and a newfound respect for the rain.

…and we’re back…News from Rich and SurvivalRing…

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Hi folks, It’s been a while since my last post, although I’ve been in the backroom of SurvivalRing every day for months, keeping things tuned, tight, backed up, and secure. I’ve thought about posting a lot of things, and often I was poised and ready to add my thoughts to the blog, and at the […]