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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aerated Compost Tea

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

Materials Needed

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

Recipe: Ingredients 

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

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How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

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

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

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

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

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

Sterilizing Garden Soil

How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

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

Microwave Method

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

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

Image source: Jacki Andre

Conventional Oven Method

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

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

Amending Garden Soil Into Potting Mix

How To Turn Ordinary Garden Soil Into Organic Potting Mix

Image source: Jacki Andre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: The Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

Same Crop Succession Planting

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

Different Crop Succession Planting

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

Intercrop Succession Planting

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

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

Image source: The Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Reasons Raised Beds Beat Traditional Gardening Nearly Every Time

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6 Reasons Raised Beds Beat Traditional Gardening Nearly Every Time

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

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

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

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

1. Improved soil quality.

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

2. Pest management.

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

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

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

3. Increased production.

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

4. Improved drainage.

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

5. Improved aeration.

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

6. Improved weed control.

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

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

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

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

10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

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10 Strange (And Common) Vegetables Your Ancestors Planted

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Cardoon

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

2. Artichokes

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

3. Fava beans

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

Fava beans. Image source: Pixabay.com

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

4. Pumpkins

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

5. Lettuce

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

6. Cucumber

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

7. Lemon balm

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

8. Leeks

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

9. Cabbage

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

10. Salsify

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

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

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

5 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.

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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

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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.

5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

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5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

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

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

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

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

1. Not reading seed packages

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

2. Forgetting to label

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

Don’t forget to label!

3. Not watering properly

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

5 Dumb Seed-Starting Mistakes That Nearly Everyone Makes

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

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

4. Starting seeds too early

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

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

5. Not cleaning and sterilizing equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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

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

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

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

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

1. Shapes matter

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

2. Location, location, location

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

3. Spacing

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

4. Companion planting

6 Ways To Maximize Your Raised Bed Garden This Year

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

5. Succession planting

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

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

6. Think vertical

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

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

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

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

Magic Food: 7 Vegetables You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

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Magic Food: 7 Vegetables You Can Regrow From Kitchen Scraps

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There is a great form of recycling that is easy, fun and nutritious: re-growing vegetables from leftover scraps. You don’t need much to get started — just containers, soil, water and a sunny windowsill. Sometimes you don’t even need the soil.

Many vegetables have the ability to regenerate, and you can regrow quite a few common veggies with as little as a glass of water. It’s a great project for any time of the year, but especially during colder months when you likely don’t have access to your garden.

To help you begin, here is a list of vegetables that are easy to regrow.

1. Lettuce and cabbage — After you prepare a salad or a stew, do you toss the lettuce or cabbage heart in the trash or on the compost pile? Next time, place it in a shallow dish with about a half-inch of water and then put the dish on a sunny windowsill. The water will get cloudy and a bit smelly, so you will want to replace it every day or two.

After three days or so, you will notice new leaves sprouting. When they are large enough for eating, you can harvest them. Leave the head in some clean water, and you can repeat the process.

2. Scallions, green onions, leeks and fennel – Set the white root base in enough water to completely cover the bulb and then place the container on your windowsill.

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Replace the water every few days. After a week or so, you will notice new growth. You can keep regenerating these bulbs and even can transfer them outdoors in the spring.

3. Onions – Onions need a bit more room, but they are still easy to grow. Place the onion’s root section in a cup of water on a sunny windowsill and watch for sign of regrowth. When the bulb has grown back, transfer the plant to a large pot of soil. You can replant it in your outdoor garden during the warmer weather.

4. Garlic – Did you know that you could regenerate a garlic plant from just one clove? Here’s how: Plant the clove root-end down in a pot of soil and then place the pot where it can get direct sunlight.

5. Ginger – To regenerate the root of the ginger plant, which is the part you use in cooking, take a fresh piece and submerge it partially in soil with the nubbins pointing upward.

Place the pot in indirect sunlight and keep the soil moist, and the root will begin growing within about two weeks. To obtain fresh ginger, pull up the plant, harvest some of its root and then repeat the process.

6. Celery – Celery takes a while to regrow, but the results are worth it. Place the base (about an inch or two) in a jar of water on a sunny window ledge. As with some of the other veggies, you will need to replace the cloudy water regularly. Tiny sprouts begin to appear in about a week. After a few more weeks, you will see enough growth to harvest.

7. Bean Sprouts – Soak your leftover dry beans overnight before spreading them out evenly on towels to dry. Repeat this process three or more times until you begin to notice sprouts appearing. You may use the sprouts on sandwiches and in salads. Store any leftover sprouts in the refrigerator.

Like many gardening projects, regrowing vegetables takes some time and some patience. Usually, the fresher the scraps, the better the results will be.

Keep in mind that many plants are sensitive to chlorine or fluoride. If you are on a municipal water system, consider using distilled water for your kitchen scrap garden. Also, if your windowsills do not get much sunlight, grow lights will work well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Save the seeds.

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

2. Find a seed swap.

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

3. Plan ahead/preserve.

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

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

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

4. Sell or trade extra produce.

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

5. Make your own compost.

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

6. Feed your plants scraps.

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

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

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

The Dirt-Cheap, Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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The Dirt-Cheap & Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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

Containers

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

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

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

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

Potting Mix

The Dirt-Cheap & Frugal Way To Start Seeds

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

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

Seeds

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

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

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

Seed Tape

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

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

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

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

9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

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

1. Collect wood ash

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

2. Browse seed catalogs

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

3. Start a worm compost bin

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

4. Research new methods

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

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

5. Build cold frames

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

6. Start long-season seeds

9 Clever Ways To Jump Start Your Garden During Winter

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

7. Trim or cut shading trees

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

8. Plan a root cellar

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

9. Force perennials indoors

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

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

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

3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

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3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

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

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

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

1. Hanging baskets

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

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

2. Vertical growing spaces

3 Space-Saving Ways To Grow Vegetables Indoors

Image source: Instructables

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

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

3. Plants with small footprints

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

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

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

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

Radishes: The Underrated Indoor Vegetable You Can Grow In 1 Month

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Radishes: The Underrated Indoor Vegetable You Can Grow In 1 Month

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Radishes are highly underrated vegetables. Occasionally, they might make an appearance on someone’s veggie platter, or be sliced into a salad, but they don’t seem to get the kind of heavy rotation in kitchens as carrots and broccoli do. That’s too bad, because those peppery and crunchy globes are packed with healthy benefits. Radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C, and are also a source of folate, fiber, riboflavin, potassium, copper, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese and calcium. They are a natural diuretic, as well.

But wait! There’s more! Radish sprouts and greens have the same peppery flavor as the bulbs, and they’re good for you, too. The greens are packed with potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, phosphorus and thiamine. Like the bulbs and the greens, radish sprouts are also an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as a good source of folate, niacin, vitamin B6, and manganese.

On top of the health benefits, radishes are super easy to grow. As a cool-weather crop, they can do well in the cooler areas of your home during the winter. And within about 1-2 weeks of seeding, you can harvest radish sprouts and microgreens. Depending on the variety, the bulbs will be ready for harvest in as little as one month after seeding.

Radish Sprouts

If you’re aiming for radish sprouts, it’s best to buy seeds that are specifically sold for sprouting. They are more expensive than regular vegetable seeds, but they are cleaned better by the producer; they should be certified to be free of pathogens; and they have a high germination rate.

Angela Counter has an excellent tutorial here on Off The Grid News on how to grow sprouts . But, a note specific to radish seeds: They’re floaters by nature. If necessary, during the first step of soaking the seeds for 8-12 hours, push them underwater until they become waterlogged and sink. Once that first soak is done, it’s just a matter of rinsing and draining the seeds a few times a day until they have sprouted and are ready to harvest.

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You should have edible sprouts within five to six days. Before eating, it’s best to dehull them just in case all the seed shells have not already fallen off. Dehulling is easily done by submerging the sprouts in water and swishing them around with your hand. Any remaining shells will pop off and float on the water, making them easy to remove.

Radish Microgreens, Greens And Bulbs

Radishes: The Underrated Indoor Vegetable You Can Grow In 1 Month

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Even though radishes are a root vegetable, they can be grown in fairly shallow containers, like plastic seedling trays. The trays work great because they are large enough to provide a decent harvest of microgreens and greens while you wait for your bulbs to mature. Keep in mind, though, that if you use shallow containers, you will need to fertilize about once a week, since the small amount of soil will be quickly depleted of nutrients.

Choose radish seeds that will produce compact round bulbs, rather than cylindrical tubers. Some varieties to consider are Perfecto, Sparkler, Ping Pong and Cherry Belle.

Start by filling the trays with purchased soil and mix in some compost. The soil should be loose to encourage root development. Because you’re aiming to harvest microgreens, the seeds can be densely planted in rows that are spaced 3-4 inches apart. Once planted, the trays require at least six hours of direct light a day, which can be supplemented by a grow light if necessary. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

You should be able to start harvesting microgreens within 1-2 weeks of planting. It’s best to use scissors to snip the microgreens out. Because the seeds are densely planted, yanking the greens out will likely disturb — or even dislodge — nearby greens. If you intend to let some of the plants mature enough to produce edible bulbs, keep in mind that the ideal spacing for radish plants is about 1.5-2 inches.

If you’re aiming for radish greens, they are best when young and tender — when the root of the radish is still slim. Some radish varieties are a better choice for salad greens. If you’re hoping to toss raw radish greens into your salads or sandwiches, choose “hairless” varieties, like Perfecto. Otherwise, it can take some adjusting to get used to the slight fuzziness or roughness of radish leaves, especially the more mature ones. But, radish greens also can be added to soups, stir-fries, or casseroles, or even made into pesto, which negates any concern for their texture.

The radishes themselves may take a little longer to mature indoors than if grown outdoors. Don’t be surprised if they take a week or two longer than indicated on the package. Just be patient. It’ll be worth it.

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

How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw

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How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw & A Garbage Bag

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Did you know that you can grow potatoes in a container with just a little bit of soil and a whole bunch of straw? You bet you can. Using straw has a couple of huge benefits: the container remains light and easy to move around, and it’s easy to harvest early potatoes without disturbing the plant and the rest of the tubers.

Preparing The Seed Potatoes

One of the most important steps is choosing the correct variety of seed potatoes. Late-season cultivars work best because they will continue to set tubers as the plants grow taller, unlike early-season potatoes, which set tubers only once. There are a lot of fantastic late-maturing varieties to choose from. Kennebec and German Butterball are popular late-season varieties, but you also can switch it up and try cultivars like Russian Blue or All Blue (which have blue flesh) or the Purple Peruvian, which is a purple-fleshed fingerling variety. Whichever kind you choose, it’s best to use seed potatoes. If you saved potatoes from last year’s crop for seed, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t have your own seed, buy them from a reputable seed company to ensure that your own potato crop is disease-free. It’s not recommended to plant store-bought table potatoes.

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When planting a potato, the most important part is the eye — the indentation on the surface of the potato skin where sprouts pop up. Larger potatoes have a number of eyes. While you can plant a whole potato of any size, it’s more cost-effective and productive to cut larger ones up, leaving one to two eyes on each piece. It’s possible to start potato plants from potato peels that have eyes, but for best results keep each cut piece to roughly the size of an ice cube or small egg.

If you plant freshly cut potatoes, they may rot. It’s best to let the cut parts “scab over” before planting. Just spread the cut pieces out and allow them to sit for a day or two. The flesh of the potato should dry up a bit. If they turn black or start to mold, you should cut up new seed pieces.

Preparing The Container For Planting

Tall containers work best for this project. Use things like tall tote boxes, garbage cans, bushel baskets, and five-gallon pails. Extremely soft bags probably won’t work since the straw won’t support the sides very well, but sturdy grow bags should do just fine.

Start with about an inch of small gravel at the bottom of the container. Cover that with about four inches of container soil that has been amended with a little bit of compost. Water the soil and let it drain before planting. It should be moist but not soaking wet.

How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw & A Garbage Bag

Image source: Pixabay.com

Once you’re ready to plant, place your seed pieces on the soil, with the eye/sprout facing upwards. Aim for about eight inches between each seed piece. The seed pieces only need to be covered with about a half inch of soil. Once the soil is in place, cover it with about six inches of weed-free straw. Do not pack the straw in. Keep it loose.

The Growing Stage

While you wait for your potato plants to grow tall enough to poke out of the straw, keep the sunlight and moisture levels regulated. The container is nice and light, and easy to move around so that it gets as much sun as possible. The straw acts as mulch and keeps your soil from drying out. It’s important to not overwater potato plants or they will rot. Just stick your hand in through the straw to see how dry the soil is, and water right through the straw as needed.

It should take about three weeks for your potato plants to start showing. Once they start peeking through, add about another four inches of straw. This encourages the plants to keep growing taller, and as they grow taller, they will set out more tubers. Once the plants poke through this second layer, you can add another four to six inches of straw.

Harvesting

You can start checking for new or baby potatoes about eight weeks after planting. Potatoes are super-easy to locate and harvest when you grow them this way. Just stick your hand into the loose straw and gently feel around for potatoes that are large enough to pull out. If you are helping yourself to potatoes as the plant keeps producing, there probably won’t be a lot left when the plant dies back. But once the plant starts turning yellow and withering, it’s time to finish the harvest.

Potatoes are not fussy plants. They are generally easy to grow and it’s fun to try the different varieties. Growing them in a container with straw makes it easy to enjoy fresh homegrown food in the depths of winter. Wouldn’t fresh baby potatoes, steamed, and served with butter and dill, hit the spot right about now? I think so!

Have you ever grown potatoes indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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

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

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

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

Red, Blue, And Full-Spectrum Light

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

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

Fluorescent Grow Lights

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

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

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

LED Grow Lights

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

HID Grow Lights

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

Your Grow Light Set-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

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5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

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

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

1. Being unrealistic.

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

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

2. Not giving the plants a chance.

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

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

3. Not watering properly.

5 Overlooked Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Indoor Garden

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

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

4. Not providing enough light.

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

5. Not providing the right environment.

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

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

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

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

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.

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

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The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

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

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

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

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

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

Containers For Mini-Greenhouses

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

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

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

Creating And Sowing Your Mini-Greenhouses

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

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

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

Choosing And Timing Seeds

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

The Cheap Mini-Greenhouse That Makes Seed-Starting Easier

Photo: Jacki Andre

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

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

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

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

7 Smart New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

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7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

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

Here are seven:

1. Use what you have

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

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

2. Choose the right plants

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

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

3. Start your own compost bin

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

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

4. Keep your tools in top shape

7 New Year’s Resolutions Every Gardener Should Make

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

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

5. Know what you’re planting

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

6. Keep a garden diary

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

7. Create a garden scrapbook

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

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

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

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

How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

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How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

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There are few things that you can grow in your garden that are as versatile as the pepper. Hot, sweet, red or green – even yellows, oranges and purples can add a touch of the exotic to your next dish. For most gardeners it simply wouldn’t be the same without a nice harvest of peppers come late summer and early fall.

But why limit yourself to fresh peppers for only a few months of the year? Unbeknownst to many of us who do not live in a desert climate, peppers are actually perennial plants that can live for many years if given the proper care.

There are two main ways that you can grow peppers indoors. The first is by starting a plant from seed, and the second is by bringing your existing plants indoors at the end of your normal outdoor growing season.

Starting Peppers Indoors

Starting your peppers indoors from seeds is fairly simple and can be done at any time of year. Seeds should be planted in a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and sand (roughly equal parts of each). Place two seeds in each pot near its center, and push the seeds just below the surface of the soil. Keep soil moist but not wet, and keep pots in a spot where they will get sunlight throughout the day.

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If you are starting peppers from seed, then you will have the advantage of selecting a variety that will grow to the ideal size for your indoor space. If you have lots of room, then you can grow larger plants such as red bell peppers or Hungarian wax peppers. If you are short on space, however, then try more compact varieties such as dwarf chilies.

Bringing Your Outdoor Peppers Inside

If you’ve already got pepper plants in your garden, you’re ahead of the game. Peppers in containers can be brought directly inside.

For peppers that are planted directly in the ground, the process for bringing them inside is trickier – but so worth it! Start this process well before your first frost. Using a sharp shovel, you can dig around each plant and lift it out of the ground, placing it into a plastic (not terra cotta) pot. This should be done during the evening so that the plant has the cool of the night to recover.

How To Grow Peppers Indoors All Winter Long

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If there is extra room in the pot, you can add some compost, but avoid adding extra garden soil. Water you plants and place them in a shady spot outside, and leave them for a few days. Inspect you plants for any pests or aphids and rinse them off very well and then move them to a different spot. Repeat as necessary, until you can’t find any pests. After a few days, you can bring your plants into an in-between spot like a porch.

Finally, bring your pepper plants inside and place under florescent bulbs.

Keeping Your Peppers Fruiting

It is possible to keep your pepper plants fruiting the entire winter – but you will need to keep them toasty warm and give them sufficient light if you are to be successful. Ideally, the room that they are in should be a constant 65-75 degrees. Using very bring florescent lighting or a combination of sunlight and florescent light is best. Peppers tend to need more light than other plants, so if you want fruit you should plan on leaving their lights on for 14-16 hours per day. Some people control this using a timer, but it is also fine to leave the lights on 24 hours a day. Once plants have flowers, they should be fertilized on a weekly basis.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Watering may be done whenever the soil is slightly dry. It is important to never let your peppers sit in a pool of water, as this can cause disease.

Finally, in caring for you plants, remember that peppers are sensitive to air quality. They should not be kept in a room where people smoke or where there are other pollutants in the air, as this can damage the plants.

When fruit is ripe, you may harvest it using a sharp knife. This will help to prevent you from inadvertently damaging the plant.

Growing any type of fruit or vegetable indoors gives you greater control over your growing environment and provides an extended growing season. Peppers are a perfect choice for those who love to make spicy Asian or Mexican dishes to beat out the chill of winter.

Even if you decide that it is too much trouble to keep your pepper plants fruiting over the winter months, there is still good reason to bring this season’s plants indoors and keep them healthy. That’s because next season, you’ll be able to re-plant your mature pepper plants – instead of seeds or starts from your local garden center.

And those mature plants will start producing peppers fast, and you will be the envy of the neighborhood. Your only problem will be trying to figure out what to do with all of those peppers!

Have you ever grown peppers indoors? What tips would you add? Share them in the section below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fabric Wall Pockets

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

Mason Jar Planters

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

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

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

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

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

Framed Balcony Box Planters

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

Buying Freestanding Vertical Wall Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is A Hydroponic Garden?

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

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

How Does It Work?

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

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

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

Getting Started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Ready to Plant

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

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

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

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

Choosing Edibles to Plant

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

1. Tomatoes

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

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

2. Peas and beans

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

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

3. Cucumbers

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

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

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

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

4. Salad greens

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

5. Strawberries

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

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

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

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

The Space-Saving, ‘Upside-Down Way’ To Grow Indoor Tomatoes This Winter

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The Space-Saving, ‘Upside-Down Way’ To Grow Indoor Tomatoes This Winter

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Indoor gardening can be a great way to have fresh vegetables year-round and satisfy your green thumb during the winter, but if you live in a small home or apartment, it can be challenging to find enough room for your plants. One solution is to turn your indoor garden on its head – literally.

Many vegetable plants that do well indoors – including cherry tomatoes — can be grown upside down. This not only saves you space, but it can give you a visually appealing container garden, too.

Hanging gardens have been around for centuries and are ideal for those without a lot of space. While we typically think of them as being outdoors – on an apartment balcony, for example – the method works just as well indoors.

Starting Your Indoor Hanging Garden

Since you won’t want to move your plants around too much once you get them started, your first step is to find the location in your home where you’d like to grow your vegetables. Ideally, it should be an area that gets plenty of sun, such as a south-facing window. Natural lighting is best for this type of growing, as setting up grow lights can get rather awkward for a hanging garden. (Although, with the right arrangement, grow lights can work.) Also, for an upside-down hanging garden, you must use a plant that has been started; planting from seed in an upside-down pot is extremely difficult.

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You will need a place where you can hang your containers, so you’ll either want to install sturdy hooks into the ceiling or have some kind of rack system. Whatever you choose, you will want to make sure that it can support the weight of the containers and potting soil, along with mature plants. Since some soil and water will come through the bottom of the container via watering, it is also a good idea to prepare a tray or mat underneath your hanging garden to prevent making a mess.

The next step is choosing containers suitable for the types of plants that you will be growing. Drill holes in the bottom of the containers (about 2 inches in diameter for larger containers and slightly less for smaller ones). To make the work a little easier, find a place to hang the containers while you are planting so you won’t have to flip containers around.

Choose a good potting soil that has been amended with compost. You also will need something to anchor the plant in place in the bottom of the container, such as fabric, cardboard or foam. Add a slit to this material and work the plant’s roots through the material into the container and then fill in soil around it. If you wish to optimize your space even more, you can use the top of the container to grow things such as salad greens, herbs or even radishes. Just be sure that whatever you plant in the same container has similar growing requirements (sunlight and watering needs etc.). While the initial planting tends to be a bit more labor intensive than it would be with an upright garden, many indoor gardeners find the space-saving benefits to be well worth the extra effort at the beginning.

The video below shows how to accomplish this with a kit, although most homesteaders already have the supplies they need.

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Now that you have your indoor hanging garden, simply care for it the same way that you would for any of your upright plants. Enjoy the unique appearance and tasty, fresh vegetables all year round!

What Can You Grow?

There are many vegetables that may be grown upside down, but here are some of the most common:

  • Tomatoes – you can grow any size tomato upside down; however, cherry tomatoes are the easiest to manage since they won’t get as heavy.
  • Peppers – whether you like them hot or sweet, you can grow just about any type of pepper in an upside-down garden.
  • Cucumbers – again, by choosing a smaller variety such as pickling cucumbers, it will be much easier. Bush cucumbers should be avoided when using an upside-down growing method.
  • Eggplants – eggplants have similar needs as tomatoes, and you can have success growing them in a hanging garden. Choose a slender Asian variety or miniatures.
  • Beans – both pole and bush beans can do well in a hanging garden.
  • Strawberries – want to add something a little sweeter to your inverted garden? Strawberries can be easily grown upside down.

If you have ever decided that indoor gardening wasn’t for your because you didn’t have enough space, then perhaps the idea of having a hanging garden might be enough to make you reconsider. You can grow a variety of produce or just start with something simple like some cherry tomatoes!

Have you ever grown an indoor hanging garden? What advice would you add?

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

How To Grow Turmeric Indoors (The Secret Is In The Watering)

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How To Grow Turmeric Indoors (The Secret Is In The Watering)

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For centuries, people have used turmeric as a medicinal herb and a cooking spice. Today, herbalists recommend turmeric and turmeric tea blends to aid in the relief of inflammatory conditions, aches, pains and gastrointestinal problems.

One of the active components in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin is obtained from the dried rhizome of the turmeric plant, and it has been found to reduce inflammation and stiffness related to arthritis and joint pain.

The good news is that it is possible to grow turmeric at home ─ indoors or outdoors ─ so that you can harvest the root yourself! If you would love to have a constant, fresh supply of turmeric root, then this is the way to go!

Since cold weather is soon approaching, let’s focus on growing turmeric indoors.

1. Attain turmeric root

Turmeric doesn’t propagate seeds and is grown from rhizomes (root cuttings). Therefore, all you need is one turmeric root, which you can buy at a local nursery or online.

2. Break up the rhizome

Break larger rhizome into smaller pieces. Make sure each piece has a bud or two on it.

3. Use a large pot

Start off with a pot large enough to grow a nice root system. The larger the pot, the larger the root will grow. This, of course, will depend on how much indoor space you have. Make sure your pots have drainage holes so that the soil will drain well. Fill your pot with slightly moistened, rich, organic soil.

4. Planting

Plant the rhizomes two inches beneath the soil, making sure that the buds are facing up. Turmeric prefers sunlight but will grow under artificial grow lights.

5. Water

Turmeric grows better when it is kept moist, especially in hot climates. Water it about every two days, and spray it with a mist bottle between waterings. When the weather is cold, you will not need to water it as often. You always want the soil to be moist, but never soggy!

6. Fertilize:

How To Grow Turmeric Indoors (The Secret Is In The Watering)

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Fertilize your turmeric plant twice a month. You can use organic fertilizer or make your own compost.

When Is Harvest Time?

One downside to growing turmeric is it takes about 8-10 months to mature. Furthermore, it is best to harvest the root in one entire piece.

It is best to maintain several plants, started at different times of the year so that you have a continuous supply of turmeric root.

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After the 8-10 months, when you feel that the roots are large enough, it is time to dig them up.

Save a few pieces of the rhizome for re-potting. Change the soil, though, as the original plant more than likely depleted all the nutrients.

To process turmeric:

  • Boil the rhizomes for about 45 minutes.
  • Let them dry on a drying rack, in a cool, dry place for about one week.
  • After the rhizomes are completely dry, peel them. You might want to wear gloves, as the dried root will turn your hands orange.
  • After peeling, grind up the root into a fine powder to use as a spice or as a tea.

Fresh-Brewed, Turmeric Root Tea Recipe

What you will need

  • For each cup of water, you will need two teaspoons of freshly grated turmeric root or two-thirds teaspoon of fresh-ground turmeric root.
  • Raw honey.
  • A wedge of fresh lemon.
  • 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil or coconut oil ─ or black pepper ─ to aid in the absorption of curcumin.

Preparation

  • Bring the water to boil in a small pot.
  • After the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer and blend in the turmeric root.
  • Continue to simmer for 10 minutes. If you are using ground turmeric, simmer for an extra 5 minutes.
  • Mix well, and then strain the turmeric from the tea.
  • Add a wedge of lemon and honey to taste.
  • Add the flaxseed oil, coconut oil or black pepper to aid in the absorption of curcumin.

Tumeric root tea is great for reducing aches and pains due to inflammation. It is suggested that you drink at least one to two cups of turmeric tea per day. However, there is not a standard amount for precise dosing.

Enjoy!

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or cure any particular health condition. Please consult with a qualified health professional first.

Have you ever grown turmeric indoors? Share your harvest tips in the section below:

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

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

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

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

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

Mushroom Kits

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

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

Experimenting with Spawn and Substrate

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

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

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

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

A Step-by-Step Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This Winter

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Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This Winter

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For gardeners who just can’t stand to keep their hands out of the soil for any length of time, growing food indoors in containers can be a great pastime during the winter months.

Green beans are a relatively quick-growing vegetable that can be grown inside your home and also look quite beautiful, as well.

Not only that, but they are also quite tasty and nutritious. While they may not be a nutritional powerhouse like broccoli and kale, green beans are still rich in many vitamins and nutrients. For example, one cup of cooked green beans has 22 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, 18 percent of manganese and 16 percent of fiber. They even have carotenoids in concentrations similar to that of carrots and tomatoes.

Some Facts About Green Beans

Green beans were once referred to as string beans because of a “string” that ran down the seam of the bean and needed to be pulled out before eating. Today, most varieties have had the string bred out of them and they are more often referred to as snap beans because their crunchiness allows them to be easily snapped between your fingers.

When selecting your seeds, it is important to know that there are two main types: beans that grow as vines (typically referred to as pole beans) and bush beans. For indoor gardeners, bush beans are preferred because they do better in containers and take up less room in your home.

Plants that you are growing indoors can be started any time of the year, but you still need to remember that they have certain environmental requirements. Green beans need plenty of light, so you will need to place them in a part of your home where they can get a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. Alternatively, grow lights can work if you do not have a window that gets enough sun.

The Best Source For Long-Lasting Heirloom Seeds Is Right Here …

Your plants will do best if they are kept in a spot where the temperature is between 50 and 85 degrees.

They are also an annual plant, so you will only have them for one season.

Starting Your Seeds

The best containers for your green beans are long and narrow with plenty of drainage. Fill your containers with compost-enriched and well-draining soil. A good formula for growing green beans is two parts garden soil, one part compost and one part sand. You should avoid using soil that is rich in nitrogen.

Miss Gardening? Grow Green Beans Indoors This WinterOnce your containers are ready, plant your seeds about one and one-half inches deep and at least four inches apart from one another. If you are growing pole beans, you will need longer stakes, or a trellis for the vines to climb. Place stakes that are about one foot in height next to each seed, and water.

Caring For Your Plants

Keep the soil for your green bean plants evenly moist, but not too wet. As the shoots begin to appear, make sure you are watering at root level rather wetting the entire plant. Once the seedlings are a couple of inches tall, you can add some mulch around them, as this will help to hold in the moisture and give you healthier plants.

Keep in mind that green beans are vulnerable to certain types of diseases, such as blight. If you notice a diseased plant, remove it immediately to keep the disease from spreading to other plants.

Green bean plants do not require much in the way of fertilization, but since you are growing them indoors, they can benefit from light feeding every so often. Try using a compost tea once or twice during their growing season.

Within 50-60 days, your plants should be fully grown and ready for harvest.

Harvesting and Enjoying Your Green Beans

Green beans are picked when they are still immature. Most varieties will be ready for harvest after they have reached about three inches in length but have not yet plumped out. Harvest them regularly to encourage more growth.

Unwashed beans may be stored in a plastic bag in your vegetable crisper for about a week, or if you have more than you can use in that timeframe, you may freeze them.

If you wish to save seeds in order to start a new plant, you will have to allow the plant to mature until some of the pods have become very plump and turned brown.

As for the beans that you harvest for eating, you can enjoy them raw or cooked in soups, casseroles or simply on their own. One of the healthiest ways of cooking them is to steam them for only five minutes. Doing so will make them nice and tender while bringing out their maximum flavor and preserving their nutritional value.

Do you have any advice for cooking green beans indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Top 7 Survival Gardening Secrets

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If your eyes are open right now, you know Western Civilization is in trouble. Now is the time to start survival gardening.

Today we share 7 survival gardening secrets that will get you off on the right foot.

1. Grow Near, Not Far

This is one of those “secrets” I can’t repeat enough. Don’t put your garden beds at the edge of your yard. Put them where you’ll see them. This will keep pest problems from becoming plagues. If your chickens are digging up the corn, you’ll see it… instead of finding bare ground and chicken tracks a week later. You may think you’ll be out there in the garden every day, but “out of sight, out of mind” holds truer than most of us would like to admit.

2. Healthy Soil is Key

Make sure the ground you’re trying to garden upon is suited to it. A reader recently sent me pictures of the land she is hoping to plant as a food forest. I took one look and shook my head.

The ecosystem was obviously Pine Flatwoods: acid sugar sand, poor mineralization, a clay layer, intermittent flooding and droughty conditions.

survival gardening

This is tough land for survival gardening.

When even the weeds look sick, you may need to hunt for a better spot. Though it’s possible to grow a food forest there – barely – a better use for the ground would be for growing timber and blueberries, not survival gardening or food forests.

If that was the only land I could get, I would turn to livestock such as goats, chickens and cattle for my calories, rather than plants.

If you are stuck with poor conditions all over your yard and need to garden, I recommend deep mulching the worst areas if you have the material – and if you don’t, then double dig or broadfork the soil, then feed it well with a wide range of nutrients. Planting nutrient-accumulating chop and drop species for mulch and compost is another good idea.

3. You don’t Need Lots of Compost

Having tons of organic matter is great but most of us don’t have that luxury. It’s hard to make enough compost (though I greatly expand the possibilities in my book Compost Everything) so you need to get creative. My favorite method is to make an anaerobic compost tea with a wide range of inputs. Manure, urine, seaweed, saltwater, fish guts, kitchen scraps, Epsom salts, weeds, grass and leaves – if it has some decent nutrition in it, I will pile it in a barrel, top off with fresh water and let it rot for weeks, then use it as a diluted fertilizer for my crops. Like this:

It (literally) stinks but can save your life in a survival gardening situation.

4. No Irrigation? No Problem

If you get a decent amount of rainfall during the growing season, you may not have to run irrigation to your gardens. Instead of planting intensively in tight spacing, clear more ground and increase the space between plants and rows. I grew a corn patch this way as an experiment one year and had fine luck.

survival gardening

Since then I’ve done the same with cassava, pigeon peas and winter squash.

Wide spacing and clear ground will keep your plants hydrated as root competition will be reduced and they can find the moisture in the soil with less difficulty. Steve Solomon’s book Gardening Without Irrigation is available online for free – download and read it for good in-depth info.

You can’t do this in all climates but you might be surprised how many farmers pull off irrigation-free gardening and where they are able to do so.

Want To Know Where To Find Hidden Water Sources For Irrigation?

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5. Urine is an Excellent fertilizer

This ties in with the anaerobic compost tea idea but it’s quicker. Urine contains a range of minerals and lots of much-needed nitrogen. In many countries it’s been used instead of chemical fertilizers and I think it makes more sense. I’ve seen rich, green gardens and trees fed on nothing but urine. It works.

Dilute urine with water so it doesn’t burn the plants with nitrogen and salt – I find six parts water to one part urine works well. I’m feeding some weak pumpkin vines this way right now and they’re really starting to perk up.

6. Calories First!

survival gardening

I grow African yams as a staple.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but we gardeners aren’t always the most practical people on the planet. We like the challenge of growing interesting things and we also love our culinary treats. Fresh tomatoes, cilantro, hops. These are all great – yet if you’re survival gardening, you’re not hobby gardening.

You need to find the best staple crops for your area and concentrate on those primarily.

As I’ve written before, plant calorie crops first – then plant some patches of nutrition crops next.

Keeping yourself from starving is more important than the potential nutritional deficiencies you might face later.

I would argue that in most case you could probably meet many of your nutritional needs through wild plant foraging for greens, nuts, berries and game.

Finding caloric staples is harder.

Plant roots, winter squash, beans and grain corn first in most climates. Also – Jerusalem artichokes and white potatoes are good in the north, cassava, sweet potatoes and African yams in the Deep South. Dent corn is your grain corn for the South – flint corn for the north.

This ties in to my next tip:

7. Snag Seeds Locally

survival gardening

I found this beautiful pumpkin at a roadside stand. Now I own the seeds and can grow my own.

Buying seeds through the mail from a seed company growing crops in a different climate isn’t the best way to prepare for a crash.

If the plants were cultivated for seed in Southern California but you live in New Hampshire, the varieties may not be well adapted to your growing conditions. This is why I seek out local varieties of vegetables at farmer’s markets, farmer’s stands and local gardeners.

See a stack of pumpkins on a stand by the road?

Ask the farmer if he grew them locally. If he did, buy one and save the seeds. Ask around for bean varieties that do well in your area. Pick up local grain corn from the farmer’s market if it’s being sold for decorations in the fall.

Keep your eyes open.

You want those seeds which will make plants that can handle your levels of sunshine, pests, humidity, rainfall and everything else. Local is good – start hunting!

I buy pumpkins all the time and save their seeds. In this video you can see how I do it:

I have been known to screech to a stop by a roadside farm stand because I spotted a variety not currently growing on my farm.

Conclusion

The survival gardening secrets I shared today will put you in good stead in a crisis but they’re just part of the story. You can grow your own food in a crisis but it’s very important to start right now.

I highly recommend you pick up my Survival Gardening Secrets program and learn. Get growing – and may God be with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selecting Your Ginger

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

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

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

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

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

Planting and Caring

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

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

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

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

Will My Ginger Flower?

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

Harvesting Ginger

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

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

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

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

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

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Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

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Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

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Many experts insist that in order to make good compost, it must be turned regularly, but is that really the case?

Consider: When leaves fall each autumn and dead trees topple over in hardwood forests, is that decaying matter turned over? No, it just sits there turning into rich leaf mold. A common myth is that you cannot make good compost without regularly turning the compost pile. It’s not true. You can make your life easier by eliminating the compost-turning step.

Compost-turning proponents tell us that turning the compost pile does four things:

  1. It supplies oxygen to aerobic microbes.
  2. It eventually places all parts of the pile into the high-heat area.
  3. It mixes all compost ingredients for a better-looking end result.
  4. It speeds up composting.

Toss Out Numbers 3 and 4

But if you’re the only one using your own compost, then worrying about how it looks once the compost is buried in your garden is ridiculous. It’s in the ground, so who cares how it looks? Gardening, by its very nature, is not a hectic and fast-paced activity. Why speed up composting if it’s not needed? That eliminates reasons three and four.

Importance of Oxygen

The first point on the list — adding oxygen to compost to benefit aerobic microbes — is an excellent argument. Without adequate oxygen, anaerobic decomposition develops, creating a stinky mess. Commercial compost businesses pump air into compost piles, with big fans blowing through holes in aeration tubes.

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

How do you aerate garden soil? You do it by adding humus, or the compost that you’re making. Well, that same principle can be applied to compost production. You can add minute air spaces to the compost pile by layering in coarse items, such as weed stalks, straw, hay, and even egg shells.

Why You Should Never, Ever ‘Turn’ A Compost Pile Again

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The king of organic gardening knowledge, the late J.I. Rodale, wrote in his 1960 book, The Complete Book of Composting, “Good compost can be made without turning by hand if the materials are carefully layered in the heap, which is well-ventilated and has the right moisture content.” Ventilation, layering and moisture are keys words in Mr. Rodale’s statement. Coarse material layered between moist animal manure gives you excellent compost ingredients.

Heat Layer of a Compost Pile

To analyze the second reason for turning a compost pile — that it places all parts of the pile into a high-heat environment — you first need to understand the mechanics of compost heat. It’s a result of a blend of carbon to nitrogen, with various bacteria breaking down this combination. The perfect carbon/nitrogen blend is 20 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Carbon comes from plant matter. The best nitrogen sources originate from animal manure.

Three bacteria types break down the compost. Bacteria that enjoy cool temperatures of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) and lower are psychrophilic. They work very slowly. Mesophilic bacteria like medium temperatures of 68-113 degrees Fahrenheit (20-45 degrees Celsius). Thermophilic bacteria love temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). All of these bacteria work together by combining carbon and nitrogen to create carbon dioxide and energy. Part of the energy helps reproduce more bacteria. The remaining energy creates heat.

Just after you apply layers of carbon (plant matter) and nitrogen (manure) to compost, the mesophilic bacteria multiply, boosting the temperature of that layer to 111 degrees Fahrenheit (44 degrees Celsius). Add additional layers and your first layers go into a second stage where thermophilic bacteria thrive, boosting the temperature to roughly 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius). This thermophilic activity is located just a couple of layers under the compost pile’s top surface. As layers are added, the original layer cools, bacteria die off, and fungi takes over decomposition.

Mixing Cools the Hot Bacteria

Stir up these layers by turning over your compost pile, and you cool down temperatures below the level enjoyed by thermophilic bacteria, or those that perform the most robust breakdown of the carbon and nitrogen in your compost. So, continuously stirring your compost actually cools that heat layer just under the top of the pile, instead of putting all areas of the compost into the heat, as suggested by compost-turning proponents in their second argument.

A better composting method is to lay down layers of course plant matter with layers of manure. High-moisture manure is best: pig manure, at 82 percent moisture; cattle manure, at 80 percent; and horse manure, at 75 percent, are best. When using sheep manure, at 68 percent, or chicken manure, at 56 percent, you need to add a daily bucket of water to your compost.

Continue layering like this for a year. Start a new compost pile of layers on year two and allow the year one compost pile to rest during the final fungal breakdown. At the end of the second year, add your compost to the garden and enjoy tremendous gardening results without the backbreaking chore of always turning the compost pile.

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing Your Varieties

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

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

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

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

Seed Starting – Indoors or Out

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

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

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

Planting With Grow Lights

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

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

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

Planting in Outdoor Microclimates

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

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

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

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

Harvesting

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

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

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

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

How To Grow Hops Indoors (Yes, Indoors)

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How To Grow Hops Indoors (Yes, Indoors)

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With the popularity of home brewing and craft beers on the rise, there is an increasing interest among home gardeners in growing their own hops. Since the hops plant is a large, aggressively growing vine, many hold to the belief that it can only be grown by those with enormous, sprawling properties. With a little creativity and adventure, however, it is possible to grow this bitter plant just about anywhere – even indoors.

But if you’re up to the adventure, here are some tips for growing your own hops – indoors.

Getting Your Rhizomes

While it is possible to grow a hops plant from seed, it is not the best strategy. This is because there are both male and female hops plants – and since only the females produce flowers, growing from seed means you will only have a 50 percent chance that the plant will produce that critical ingredient for your home-brewed IPA.

A much better plan is to purchase some female rhizomes from a reputable nursery.

Select Your Growing Location and Container

Keeping in mind that your hops plant is going to take up a lot of room once it starts growing, you will want to select a location with plenty of space near a large window where it will get a lot of sunlight.

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Your container should be at least 20 inches in diameter and have good drainage. Fill the container with planting mix. Since hops is a climbing plant, insert stakes that are six- to eight-feet tall.

Because hops can easily grow more than 20-feet tall — and can grow a foot per day at their peak — keep in mind that your plants will outgrow your garden stakes. In order to deal with the overgrowth, you can either insert screw-in hooks on the ceiling above and allow them to hang, or train them to grow upwards and along the window frame. Alternatively, it is also OK to let them dangle back down to the floor once they have reached the top of the stake.

Watering and Feeding Your Plant

Hops tend to be very hungry and thirsty plants, so you must be prepared to water and fertilize regularly. It is important, though, not to overwater when the plants are young, as this can cause root rot. If you are growing hops indoors, the limited size of the container means that they will eat up the nutrients very fast. To counter this, use a liquid- or slow-release granular fertilizer. Water your plants daily or whenever the soil becomes dry.

Harvesting Your Hops

To know if your hops flowers are ready for harvesting, do the pinch test. The hops should have a somewhat papery feel to them and should be starting to turn slightly brown. You may use your hops right away or store them in the fridge or freezer.

How To Grow Hops Indoors (Yes, Indoors)

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Should you notice that your plant is developing additional unwanted shoots, you can cut these back and even eat them. These shoots can be enjoyed raw or sautéed with butter. Hops shoots are considered a delicacy in Europe and a kilogram (about two pounds) of hops shoots can command a price of over $1,200 – which easily makes them the world’s most expensive vegetable!

Using Your Hops

The most popular use for hops cones, of course, is for the bitter flavor that it gives to beer. But this plant has a number of other uses that you might want to explore. As noted, hops shoots may be eaten as a vegetable; their flavor is similar to a cross between asparagus and spinach.

Hops may also be used in animal feed and may help to protect livestock against illness, as the plant inhibits bacteria growth.

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The cones also may be brewed into a tea – a popular home remedy for insomnia.

Other Things to Consider When Growing Hops Indoors

Growing hops indoors should be considered more of an experiment and indoor gardening adventure than anything else.

With some patience and diligence, you should be able to harvest enough hops flowers to make a batch or two of your favorite homebrew, but it won’t replace what you can grow outdoors. Over time, indoor plants can become pot-bound, which means that the root system takes over the inside of the container. Once this happens, your plant will not be able to produce very much.

Waste Not, Want Not

When your plant is no longer producing many flowers or you no longer wish to have a 20-foot vine taking up room in your home, you can cut it back – but don’t throw out everything. When you pull up the roots, you should notice thick branchy growths near the surface. These can be cut into four-inch sections that are each capable of starting a new plant.

Use them to begin a new indoor hops vine, or try planting them outside in the spring!

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

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The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

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The 9 Most Productive Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors During Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

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

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

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

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

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The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

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The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

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

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

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

Hugelkultur in a Tub

The German Secret To Growing Outdoor Winter Greens

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

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

What to Plant in Your Hugelkultur Tub

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

Protect Your Winter Greens

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

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

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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An invaluable resource on the homestead, compost is easy to create and maintain in a relatively small area on your existing acreage. It revitalizes nutrient-stripped soil and helps to maintain a balanced pH level throughout it, in addition to encouraging the growth of beneficial microbes.

Much has been said about the benefits of composting your kitchen waste in recent years, but for the homesteader, composting goes far beyond just reducing waste in your home.

Even the best composting systems require a bit of attention when the seasons begin to change. Whether you are using commercial barrels or drums, homemade fence-style bins, or open windrows, a few fall composting chores will ensure your soil gets nourishment throughout the winter months. This, in turn, will make sure that you have a new supply of rich compost come spring for established gardens and fields and any additional acreage that will be planted.

Following harvest, clearing the garden beds is an essential chore, and vegetable plants left to decompose in the garden often introduce diseases into the soil. However, before you add those plants to your compost, set aside your remaining summer compost so that it can be used anywhere in the garden that won’t have a cover crop.

Composting 101: Essential Fall Chores Every Homesteader Should Do

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Put your garden to bed by covering it with a layer of this finished compost. Layers as deep as three inches work best. This will allow nutrients to start assimilating into the soil during the winter months, as well as protecting the soil from acquiring agents that cause many common plant diseases. Moreover, compost can be incorporated again in the spring before planting begins, adding additional nutrients to the soil.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

Restocking your compost system, or even starting one, is simple to do in the fall months. Fallen leaves and dried garden plants, free of seeds, provide a nearly endless supply of brown material for composting. If there are not a lot of leaf-dropping trees on the homestead, then ask friends and neighbors if they would donate their leaves. Many of them will be more than happy to part with bags of leaves collected for disposal.

All of the scraps left over from putting up late summer fruits and vegetables, as well as from used livestock bedding and the last grass clippings of the year will provide the necessary green material for a healthy compost system. If the ratio of green material to brown material seems too low, then consider finding a source, like your local coffee shop, for coffee grounds. The coffee grounds will make an excellent green addition to a compost pile.

To maintain a healthy compost pile you may need to water the pile, as the breezy days of fall can quickly dry them out. Compost should be moist, but not wet. This also means that a cover may be needed in the wet winter months that follow. How frequently you should turn the compost also should be considered. Turning the pile frequently will speed the rate of decomposition, but in late fall it may be better to allow the pile to rest. Compost that is finished will begin to release its nutrients immediately, so allowing it decompose more slowly through the winter months is to your advantage.

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The Fastest Way To Grow Lemon Trees Indoors

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The Fastest Way To Grow Lemon Trees Indoors

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Lemons are one of the most versatile fruits around. They are a mainstay of seafood and Mediterranean dishes, a key ingredient of refreshing favorites like lemonade and lemon meringue pie, and are great to have on hand for natural cold remedies and cleaning solutions.

It is easy to imagine them growing in the backyard garden of a lovely California or Florida estate, but for most of us, that is not an option. There’s good news, though: Lemon trees can be grown indoors by just about anyone.

Lemon and other types of citrus trees can do well in containers, with the right care. This means that you will be able to keep them outside during the summer and pull them indoors for the colder months. Imagine being able to pick a fresh lemon from your own tree when making yourself a cup of hot tea or for a homemade salad dressing – when there is snow on the ground!

Choosing a Plant

While lemons can be grown from seed, this is not the best option for those who wish to have indoor plants. The reason: Indoor growers will want to have a dwarf variety because other trees would get too big; this will be a special rootstock with a plant grafted onto it.

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If you wish for your tree to start producing fruit right away, then you should choose one that is between two and three years old.

Container and Soil Requirements

When selecting a container for your lemon tree, choose one that is slightly larger than the root ball; it makes little difference whether you use clay, ceramic or plastic. What does matter, however, is that there is plenty of good drainage for air circulation.

Potting soil specially formulated for citrus trees is available, but if you cannot find that – or if you prefer the DIY route – then use a slightly acidic (pH 6-7) mix that is loam-based.

Creating an Ideal Indoor Climate

The inside of a house is a far cry from the natural climate that most citrus trees tend to grow in. Therefore, it is important that you do your best to create a climate in which your tree can thrive. Lemon trees should receive 8-12 hours of natural sunlight.

The Fastest Way To Grow Lemon Trees Indoors

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Place your plant next to a south-facing window and if necessary, supplement the natural light with grow lights. Ideally, the temperature should be kept to around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remember also that lemon trees do not like sudden changes in temperature, so when positioning them, keep them away from drafty windows, heaters, ovens, etc.

If you intend on moving your tree outdoors for the warmer months, be sure to acclimatize it gradually – putting it outdoors for a few hours when the temperature is not too extreme, and then bringing it in again. Each time, leave your tree out for a little longer. When the weather starts to turn cool again, simply reverse the process.

Caring for Your Lemon Tree

Regular watering is an important part of caring for your lemon tree, but to avoid root rot and fungal infections, the soil should be kept only slightly moist. By adding a decorative mulch such as moss, it will not only add a bit of visual interest to your plant, but it will also help to keep the water from evaporating too quickly from the soil.

The All-Natural Fertilizer That Doubles Your Garden Yield!

Keeping the leaves of the tree hydrated during the winter months is also important. This can be done by positioning the tree near a humidifier or having a spray bottle handy to regularly mist the leaves.

During the spring and summer, you should fertilize it once every three weeks with a high nitrogen fertilizer. In the fall and winter, you can fertilize it once every six weeks.

Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor

Depending on the type of lemon you are growing, the time from blossom to harvesting can be anywhere from six to nine months. Once ready, however, they can be harvested for weeks – sometimes even months.

Lemons only will continue to ripen while they are on the tree, so it’s important not to pick them too early. When your fruit has reached the proper color, you can test in for ripeness by using your thumb to apply a little pressure to the rind. If the lemon feels slightly soft, then it is ready to harvest.

If you are considering taking on a new indoor gardening challenge this winter, then growing lemons just might be right for you. It does require a little care and a whole lot of patience, but the payoff is worth it. And when your tree gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Have you ever grown a lemon tree indoors? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing to Plant

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

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

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

Planting Seed Potatoes

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

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

Caring for Potato Plants

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

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

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

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

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

Harvesting the Potatoes

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

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

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

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Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

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Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

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

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

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

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

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

Garlic-Growing Secrets Of Fall Gardeners

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

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

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

Water well immediately after applying fertilizer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Cereal grains

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

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

2. Clover

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

3. Field peas

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

4. Vetch

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

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

5. Radish

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

Planning Your Cover Crop

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

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

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

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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

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

Harvesting Onions

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

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

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

Curing Onions

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

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How To Get Your Onions To Store ALL WINTER Long

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

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

Storing Onions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

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Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

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

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

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

Planting Your Onions

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

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

Looking For Onions For Your Garden? Get Them From A Family-Owned Company You Can Trust!

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

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

Caring for Onions

Why Fall May Be The Best Time To Plant Your Onions

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

Varieties to Plant

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

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

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

Your Spring Harvest

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

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

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

Prepper Relocation Part V: The True Best Places to Relocate

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Over the past two weeks, I have released a series on prepper relocation that completely changes the old conventional theories that drove prepper relocation strategies (See: http://www.lastminutesurvival.com/?s=prepper+relocation).  The key takeaway

Squash 101: Tricks To Keep Your Harvest Stored For MONTHS

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Squash 101: Tricks To Help Your Harvest Last Months

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Squash is easy to grow, and the rambunctious vines, huge leaves and colorful blooms add beauty to the late summer garden. However, there’s a distinct difference between summer and winter squash.

Unlike zucchini and other types of summer squash that are harvested in summer when the fruit is immature and the rind is tender, winter squash, including acorn, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, delicata and pumpkin, are ready to pick in fall when the fruit is mature and the rind is hard.

Most types of winter squash store beautifully with proper preparation, and the flavor is enhanced by the concentration of natural sugars in the fruit. However, storage time varies. Hubbard squash stores well and lasts at least five or six months, while buttercup squash and pumpkins maintain quality for two to three months. Spaghetti squash should be used in four or five weeks.

Acorn squash, which are thin-skilled, should be used fairly soon because they last only about a month. They require no curing period; in fact, curing will actually shorten the storage life of acorn squash.

Get Started

Harvesting, curing and storing winter squash is simple. Here’s how:

Pick winter squash when the vines begin to die down in late summer or autumn. The color of the squash should be uniform and the finish dull and no longer shiny. If in doubt, poke the squash with your fingernail. The squash is ready to pick if you can’t puncture the rind.

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

Squash 101: Tricks To Help Your Harvest Last Months

Image source: Pixabay.com

Don’t rush to harvest squash, as immature squash doesn’t store well. However, weather is definitely a factor. Although one or two light frosts won’t damage most types of winter squash, repeated frost or a hard freeze can do serious damage.

Cut squash from the vine with scissors, leaving about an inch of stem on squash; never twist or pull. Leave about an inch of stem on winter squash and 3 to 4 inches of stem intact on pumpkins. (Jack O’Lanterns need a good handle.)

Handle the squash with tender loving care, as any cuts or scrapes can allow pathogens to enter the squash, thus greatly shortening the storage life. If any stems loosen or break, store the squash in the refrigerator and use it soon because it won’t keep.

Place winter squash in a covered porch or other protected, well-ventilated room for 10 days to two weeks. Ideally, squash should be cured at 80 to 80 Fahrenheit to harden the rind and heal any cuts with nighttime temps above 60 degrees. You can leave just-picked winter squash in the garden to dry if weather is dry and temperatures are below 95 degrees.

After curing, brush dirt away gently, and then wipe the squash with a solution of one part water to 10 parts bleach.

Store winter squash in a single layer, not touching each other in a cool, dry, well-ventilated room. Ideal temperatures for storage are between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store squash near pears, apples or other fruits that emit ethylene gases that decrease the life of the squash.

Check the squash every couple of weeks, and discard or use any that are showing bruises or soft spots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worm Farms: The Quick DIY Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

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Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

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Several years ago, Ohio State University researchers reported that there are “more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth.” These microorganisms, of course, are essential to producing rich soil and strong, hardy plants.

And one big key to healthy soil is worms. Worms help compost your soil and add castings (“worm poop”) for proper soil nutrition. Liquid fertilizer then can be made from the worm castings (a fertilizer called worm “tea”). This worm tea boosts the activity of the microorganisms of the soil by adding things like bacteria and protozoa.

You can dramatically improve your soil’s quality with a worm farm, also known as vermiculture — a process in which worms are utilized to decompose the organic food waste into a material usable by the plants. This can be done at home in a cheap and easy setup, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. All you need is creativity and time!

There really is no end to the uses of your worms and their byproduct. Use them for:

  • Fertilizer.
  • As a way to get rid of rabbit poop.
  • Fishing.
  • As a way to get rid of vegetable scraps and coffee grounds.
  • Chicken feed.

You can get creative with your vermiculture, but there is a general structure that must be followed for success. You’ll need the following components:

  • Something to hold your worms.
  • Some newspaper.
  • Compost or soil.
  • Green waste.
  • Manure.
  • Worms (of course!).

Assembly

Think of a vermiculture setup like a compost bin with worms and a tap. The container can be anything from an old broken fridge to a wood bin. Whatever it is, you want to make sure it has a hole in the bottom for draining. If you use the fridge, lay it on its back, take all the stuff out, and drill a hole in the bottom.

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

Make sure your worms are kept cool and are not in the sun! Also, avoid areas with vibrations.

Worm Farms: The Quick Way To Make Fertilizer, Feed Chickens & Get Rid Of Food Scraps, Too

A vermiculture training class at a garden center.

Now that you have your container, it’s time to work on the bedding. Start with the newspaper and rip it into little pieces. Don’t rip it all up, though. Keep some whole sheets for later. Soak it in water until mushy, and then mix well with soil. Take a few sheets of wet newspaper and place it at the bottom of the container as a base. Then, place the soil-compost mixture on top. Make sure there are a few inches of soil. (This depends on the bin and how many worms you have.)

Place the worms on top and they will burrow down into the soil. Place the green waste on one side of the worm bin. This is what the worms are going to eat. If you have some manure, great, put it on top. Use farm manure from pigs, rabbits or cattle, but not from house pets. I would not put more food than one-fourth of the soil you have. Believe it or not, they eat half their weight every day!

To finish assembling, put a lid on it and make sure to allow a small amount of light in to keep them in there. If you don’t have a top on your worms, you will have a breeding colony of flies and maggots.

Worms of choice are red wigglers or composting worms. Earthworms just don’t like to eat like the little red wigglers do. Worms are the most expensive part of the worm bin. You buy them by the pound. Start small if you have more time than money, or go big with a few pounds of worms to get castings quickly.

The nice part about worms is they multiply quickly. Adult red wiggler worms (three months old) can produce up to three cocoons per week. Each cocoon has about two to three worms. The cocoons take 11 weeks or so to hatch.

You even could make some income selling worms!

Tip: The main issue with vermiculture is that people often overwater their worm bins. You can drown your worms, so just keep the plant-based scraps and manures we described above as the main source of moisture. Worms love leaves, so put a layer of leaves on top to make them happy. Also, don’t use meat! This will turn your worm bin into a mess — and worms do not like it, either!

How do you use worms on the homestead? Do you have any vermiculture advice? Share your tips in the section below:

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

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

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

Image source: BackyardBountyFarming.blogspot.com

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

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

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

How to Start

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

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

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

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

When to Start

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

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

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

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

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

Lasagna gardening has many advantages over traditional gardening, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DIY Aquaponics Projects For Beginners

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Aquaponics is the fastest and most efficient way to grow lots of food in a small space. So why don’t more people do it? First of all, it’s a bit more complicated than planting and watering seeds. You have to set everything up properly, and you have to get fish and take care of them […]

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The Tougher-Than-Nails Cold-Weather Vegetable That Can Survive SNOW

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The Tougher-Than-Nails Cold-Weather Vegetable That Can Survive SNOW

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Kale is a tough, cold-hardy member of the cabbage family, but kale grown in cool, frosty weather is amazingly sweet. If you already harvested a crop of kale you planted during spring (or even if you didn’t!), you can plant a fresh crop in late summer or early autumn. If you live in a warm climate, you can plant kale as late as October.

Although kale tolerates frosty weather, it grows best where temperatures don’t drop into the teens. If this is a possibility, then plant kale in a cold frame, or protect the plants with row covers. Consider planting fast-growing cultivars such as Red Russian or White Russian, cold-hardy varieties ready as soon as 40 days. The plants may stall if days are hot, but the kale will take off and grow like crazy when the temperatures drop.

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

Seeds are slow to germinate outdoors when days are still warm, so pick up a few seedlings at your local garden center, or start seeds indoors four to six weeks ahead of planting time.

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Kale isn’t difficult to grow. Here’s a few tips to get started.

  • Although kale prefers at least six hours of sun, the plant will tolerate partial shade, especially in hot climates.
  • Soil for kale should be moist and well-drained but never soggy.
  • Enrich the soil with an inch or two or compost, well-rotted manure or other organic material.
  • Plant the seedlings at about the same depth they’re situated in the nursery container, but definitely no higher than the lowest set of leaves.
  • Allow 12 to 15 inches between each plant and 18 to 24 inches between rows. You can also stagger the plants, which saves space in a small garden
  • Mulch the kale plants lightly when the plants are about 6 inches tall to keep the soil moist and maintain an even soil temperature. Mulch also keeps weeds in check and prevents mud from sticking to the leaves.
  • Provide 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week, unless it rains.
  • Feed the plants about halfway through the growing season, using a balanced commercial fertilizer, diluted solution of fish emulsion, or manure tea.
  • Control aphids or flea beetles with an insecticidal soap spray. Never spray plants on hot, sunny days, or if you notice bees, ladybugs or other beneficial insects on the plant.
  • Hand-pick larger pests such as cabbage worms, cutworms or cabbage loopers. You can also spray the pests with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural, bacterial pesticide that kills pests without harming beneficial insects.
  • Harvest kale after one or two light frosts, as kale needs frosty nights to convert the starches into natural sugar. You can even harvest kale when the plants are covered with snow!
  • Pick leaves around the outer edge of the plant. Leave the terminal bud at the top, center of the plant if you intend to continue harvesting. Be sure to pick kale before the leaves get old and tough. If this happens, toss them on the compost heap.

Kale is a vegetable that gardeners even in the harshest climates enjoy. Get planting!

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

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

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

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

Image source: Flickr

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

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

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

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

Benefits of Perennials

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

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

Disadvantages of Perennials

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Crimson clover. Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Buckwheat. Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

8 Fast-Growing Cover Crops That Will Transform Your Garden

Hairy vetch. Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arugula. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Gardening Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Harvest

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Lots of people are planting their fall gardens right now, so it seems like a good time to talk about gardening mistakes–the kind that could ruin your harvest and make all that digging and planting feel like a total waste of time. Of course, a failed garden isn’t the end of the world–you can just […]

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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.

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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.

The Dirt-Free, Space-Saving Way To Grow Indoor Tomatoes

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Image source: Amber Bogdanowicz

Image source: Amber Bogdanowicz

Growing herbs and vegetables in the home sounds like a great idea until you think about all the mess, dirt and constant watering that must be done to grow and keep them alive.

Avoid all of this by growing them in a jar of water – without dirt! This process is a more convenient set-up that takes up little space in comparison to growing in soil. You even can grow tomatoes.

Growing vegetables and herbs in a jar has a number of benefits:

  • Enhanced aesthetic quality.
  • Can observe the roots growing.
  • Preserved flavor.
  • Less mess.
  • Saves space.
  • Easy to grow.
  • Little watering.
  • You start with cuttings, not seeds.

You will need a few things to start your plants in a jar:

  1. Water (rainwater or tap water left to air overnight — not chlorinated water).
  2. Containers (Mason jars, any glass bottles, plastic bottles). Narrow-mouthed containers are great for support.
  3. Plant cuttings (6-inch tips).
  4. Organic fertilizer

Step 1: Prep plant cuttings.

Start by removing the lower leaves from cuttings and trim the lower tips close to where the roots arise. Rinse.

Step 2: Prep container.

Clean your container well, making sure there are no chemicals in there or anything dangerous.

Step 3: Get some water.

Get some clean, fresh water. Tap water isn’t good for plants because of the trace metals and other chemicals found in it. In general, the plants will respond to it negatively. Fresh rainwater is preferred. Add organic fertilizer.

Image source: Amber Bogdanowicz

Image source: Amber Bogdanowicz

Step 4: Assemble.

  1. Add your cuttings to your container.
  2. Take your container and add your freshwater up to around the neck of the jar. The main idea is to fill it up to cover most of the stem, but you do not want to fill it up so much that it soaks the leaves. Your cuttings will rot if the leaves sit stagnant in water.
  3. Sit your jar in an area that either receives sun or doesn’t, depending on the sun requirements unique to your plant. Example: If you are growing mint in a jar with water, make sure to place it somewhere that receives plenty of sun!

Step 5: Maintenance.

Once you’ve assembled your plant in a jar, change the water once a week without disturbing the cuttings too much.

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Within 2-6 weeks, the cuttings will generally begin to grow; however, woody plants do take longer.

Herbs and Vegetables to Grow in the Water

I would argue that you can grow almost anything this way. I have even grown a succulent plant successfully in water from a tip that fell off one of my larger plants. However, you can expect higher success rates from these vegetables and herbs below.

  1. Mint
  2. Oregano
  3. Basil
  4. Sage
  5. Stevia
  6. Lemon Balm
  7. Thyme
  8. Rosemary
  9. Tarragon
  10. Lettuce
  11. Spinach
  12. Tomatoes
  13. Peppers
  14. Cucumbers
  15. Celery

It is so easy to grow herbs and vegetables in a simple jar of water.  It’s cheap, attractive for any household, and a great source of year-round produce!

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

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

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

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

Image source: Wikipedia

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

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

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

1. Give your garden a final weeding.

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

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

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

2. Get rid of dead plants and debris.

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

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

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

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

3. Till your soil.

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

Image source: Wikimedia

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

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

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

4. Amend your garden if necessary.

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

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

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

5. Start planning your spring garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: dnr.wi.gov

 

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

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

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

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

Eating Carp

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

This New All-Natural Fertilizer Doubles Garden Production!

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

Carp in Your Garden

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

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

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

How to Fish for Carp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

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

1. Tomatoes

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

2. Zucchini

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

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

3. Lettuce

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

4. Carrots

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

5. Beets

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

6. Brussels sprouts

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

7. Broccoli

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

Image source: Pixabay.com

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

8. Cauliflower

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

9. Peppers

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

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

10. Sweet corn

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

11. Watermelon

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

12. Winter squash

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

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

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

10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

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10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

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It’s August, and the window of opportunity has passed for planting tomatoes, peppers and most types of beans. However, if you have an empty space in your garden and you’re itchin’ to fill it, there are several veggies that will do just fine.

Your growing zone does matter, however, and you face a challenge if winter comes early in your area. Read seed packets carefully to determine if you can harvest a crop before Jack Frost makes his first appearance.

Look for quick-maturing varieties with shorter growing seasons. The cultivar name will often give you a clue, and may include words such as “early” or “winter.”

1. Cucumbers have plenty of time to produce an abundance of fruit when planted in August. Look for fast-growing varieties, either bushes or vines.

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2. Kale is a cool weather crop that can be planted now for harvest in fall and winter.

3. Lettuce planted in early- to mid-August provides a delicious fall crop. In late August, plant varieties such as “winter gem” or “arctic king” for harvest in late autumn or early winter. Plant lettuce in a shady location if days are still hot. Mulch plants or protect them with a row cover in the event of cold snaps.

4. Spinach is ready to harvest in about 45 days, but you often can enjoy tender, flavor-rich, baby leaves in less time than that. Harvest the leaves at the base of the plant and the smaller leaves will continue to grow. You can enjoy spinach this way for several weeks, or until the plants are nipped by frost. Although spinach prefers cool temperatures and light shade, it will tolerate sun when daytime temps are cooler.

5. Baby arugula is ready to eat in 21 to 40 days. Toss the tender leaves in salad, sprinkle them lightly with vinaigrette and grated parmesan, or chop a few for your favorite pizza. The flavor is more mild and delicate than mature, full-size arugula.

10 Quick-Growing Vegetables You Can STILL Plant In August From Seed

Radishes. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Radishes are good eating in about a month, and some types are ready to harvest as soon as three weeks. Look for standard spring radishes like “cherry bomb” or “crimson Giant,” or try winter radishes such as “black Spanish,” or “winter China rose” for a very different flavor experience. You can always add the tiny radish greens to salads.

7. Endive is a frilly salad essential that loves cool weather. Most varieties need at least 45 days, and some may require a couple of months, so check those seed packets.

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8. Beets love cool weather and tend to do well when planted six to eight weeks before the first average frost date in your area. If you’re short on time and cold weather comes early, harvest the beets when they’re as small as an inch in diameter. Keep in mind you can always harvest beet greens even sooner. For a change of pace, try a beet with maroon or blood red leaves, such as “bull’s blood.” The leaves are tender and juicy, and the color adds real zing to your salads.

9. Collards generally take 60 days to gain maturity, but the tender baby greens are ready much sooner. Similarly, mustard greens are ready for salads in about 45 days or less.

10. Turnips may sound like an unlikely success story for August planting, but varieties such as “Tokyo cross” and “market express” are big enough to eat in just 35 to 38 days. If frosty weather looms, grab a few of the tender greens. Turnips may be bitter and less than perfect in hot weather, but cooler temperatures mean sweet, mild turnips.

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

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

Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

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Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

Goji berry. Image source: aoma.edu

Homesteaders are always on the lookout for ways to be sustainable – and if possible, make some money. One great way to do this is to sell perennials and biennials.

Selling plants is one step up from just saving your own. In today’s world, we should feel a duty to help continue the succession of heirloom plants for our future generations.

First off, let’s look at the basics.

Perennials are plants that will regrow year after year and last for long periods of time – perhaps decades. Biennials are plants that take two years to complete their life cycle. You can plant them one year and collect seeds on the second year.

The Internet is my weapon of choice for selling or bartering plants. Recently, I discovered that goji berry plants are a hot item. If you have ever grown them, then you know they spread quickly. They also root and are pulled easily. I wait until the customer comes to my house, and I pull the bare root starts for them. Each start is $5, and I want them to be successful so I give extras for returning customers.

I also keep a wide selection of berry bushes and create new plants from cuttings—air layering or just covering branches with mulch to root. Most common is probably the strawberry plants. Each plant sends out shoots to grow new plants. You can either use small pots to start these shoots or let them root in the ground and pot them in the fall.

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Seeds from rare plants can bring in some additional income. Biennials take a second season to give seeds, and most people are not patient enough to wait. When your neighbors see what you offer, they will be more than happy to buy.

Here are some favorite perennials:

1. Garlic (usually grown as an annual)

2. Globe artichokes

3. Gogi berries

4. Kale (usually grown as an annual)

Homestead Cash: 23 Perennials & Biennials You Can Raise For Profit

Radicchio. Image source: Pixabay.com

5. Radicchio (usually grown as an annual)

6. Raspberries, blueberries, straberries and other berry bushes

7. Rhubarb

Here are some favorite biennials:

8. Beets

9. Brussel sprouts

10. Cabbage

11. Carrots

12. Cauliflower

13. Celery

14. Chard

15. Kale

16. Kohlrabi

17. Leek

18. Onion

19. Parsley

20. Parsnip

21. Rutabaga

22. Salsify

23. Turnip

With so many ways to propagate and perpetuate your seeds, you just have to find interest in what you offer. It doesn’t matter that you have a small plot of land or large one. Really, the only thing to do is to look up how to propagate the plants you have and follow the directions. By next spring, you will be able to put up a sign or list on local websites what you have. Facebook is usually a great option for educating friends on plants.

Homesteaders can benefit immensely from selling perennials and biennials – and their neighbors can, too!

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

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

10 Tricks For Blue-Ribbon Container Vegetables (No. 4 is a MUST)

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10 Tricks For Blue-Ribbon Container Vegetables

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We all know that growing vegetables in containers is a great way to provide you and your family with fresh fruit and vegetables all year long – and it is especially useful for those who don’t have the space or who might otherwise have difficulty managing a full-size garden.

If you’ve decided to try your hand at container gardening, you’ll be happy to know that there are many tricks and tactics you can use to simplify the process and get better results.

Here are a few ideas for your next container garden:

1. Use a soilless mix.

Many people are surprised to learn that a bag of potting soil actually does not contain any field soil. Instead, it is a mix of organic and inorganic matter that is lighter than actual soil, thus making it easier for plants to grow inside a container.

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There are many commercial potting soils, but it is also possible to make your own. For most container garden plants, the ideal mix is comprised of peat moss (about 40 percent), pine bark (20 percent), sand (20 percent) and vermiculite (20 percent).

2. Keep plants sheltered from wind and excessive rain.

Plants grown in containers are not typically the strongest of plants, and you may need to baby them a bit more than ones planted directly in the ground. Find a place for your containers that is sheltered from strong wind.

And if you get a summer thunderstorm or downpour, you’ll most likely want to pull them inside a shelter to avoid damage. And while we’re on the topic of downpours, make sure your containers aren’t left sitting in a puddle of water, either.

3. Place herbs around your vegetables.

Most herbs have strong scents and flavors that are wonderful for keeping bugs away. Use this to your advantage and surround more vulnerable plants such as lettuce, peppers, etc., with herbs.

4. Have proper drainage.

One of the trickier aspects of container gardening is to make sure that that roots are not sitting in water. Make sure that the containers you use have proper drainage holes, or if not, provide another means, such as adding pebbles to the bottom of the container or lining it with sheet moss.

5. Plant quick-growing vegetables.

Any vegetable that you can grow in the ground also can be grown in containers. But it’s usually best to steer clear of anything that has a long maturation period – such as corn.

6. Practice succession planting.

10 Tricks For Blue-Ribbon Container Vegetables

Image souce: Flickr

Many of the principles that apply to a regular garden also apply to container gardens. It’s still a good idea to plan your vegetables in succession.

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For example, quick-growing crops, such as lettuce, radishes or snow peas, should be planted a little at a time so you don’t end up with more than your family can reasonably eat.

7. Make use of hanging baskets.

Container gardens are a favorite with many gardeners because of their compact nature. But remember that you can make them even more space-efficient by including hanging baskets. Plants like tomatoes and strawberries make good choices for hanging baskets.

8. Stake at the start.

If you are planting something that is going to need a little extra support, be sure to stake it at the beginning. Trying to stake it later could end up damaging the roots.

9. Give plants plenty of water.

Container plants can dry out quickly during dry, hot summers. While most of the time daily watering is sufficient, consider watering twice a day when the temperatures climb higher.

10. Pick off dead leaves.

Removing dead and dying leaves from your plants doesn’t only make them look better, but it also helps protect them from bugs.

Remember these useful strategies and you will be well on your way to having a beautiful and thriving container garden.

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

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

Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

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Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

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One of the first things people notice about garlic is that it marches to its own tune. During autumn when the rest of the garden is being put to bed, garlic is ready for planting. And while other crops are just beginning to stretch their spring legs, garlic plants shoot into the air with surprising vigor—and then a twist!

Summer garlic looks a little crazy. A single stalk on each plant, about the diameter of a pencil with an arrow-shaped false flower on the end, curls around until it forms nearly a complete circle, looking as if nature were a calligrapher practicing her letter “Ps.”

These curls are called scapes. They develop on the garlic type known as “stiffneck” or “hardneck,” which is frequently grown in northern climates—as opposed to the “softneck” varieties usually sold in grocery stores and more suitable for southern climates—about a month into the growing season. The emergence of garlic scapes presents the gardener with a dilemma which must be addressed: What should be done about them?

Many experienced gardeners say the scapes should be snipped. Conventional wisdom instructs that removing the scapes redirects the plant’s energy to the bulbs, thereby resulting in larger bulbs and a greater yield. Some growers even maintain that removing the scapes affects the longevity of the bulb, allowing it to be stored longer than those which grew with scapes intact.

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To remove the scape, just snap it off with your fingers just below the first bend. Scissors can be used, as well. Scapes can be snipped as soon as the stalk begins to curl, or as late as after it has formed a full circle, but the general rule of thumb is that earlier is better.

One of the reasons that it is a good idea to do scape-snipping earlier is for reasons of palatability. Like most vegetables, they start out tender and grow more tough and woody as time passes.

Another question which must be answered about garlic scapes is that of what to do with them once they are snipped. They can easily be composted or fed to livestock—although it may be wise to avoid giving them to milk-producing animals and running the risk of ending up with garlic-flavored milk—but scapes are becoming increasingly popular as human food.

Garlic Scapes: Should You Cut Them … Or Leave Them?

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Garlic scapes can be used in just about any recipe suitable for regular garlic. Soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, skillet dinners and casseroles are all great candidates. They can be thinly sliced or chopped and added to pasta or mashed potato or eggs. The flavor of scapes is generally a little milder than bulbs, especially if they are young and tender, and can even be left whole and eaten as a vegetable. Pan-fried in olive oil, braised or roasted, stand-alone or mixed into other ingredients—the sky is the limit for garlic scapes! If you get them early, you can use them more like chives or scallions, and later on they can be minced.

One very popular method of using garlic scapes is using them to make pesto. Most recipes I have found look similar to pestos made of basil or other herbs. To try making garlic scape pesto, try starting with your favorite recipe and tweak it with scapes, or do an Internet search for more tried-and-true recipes.

They can also be frozen for use later. Although the fresh texture will not hold enough to be enjoyed raw when thawed, scapes that are sliced or minced before freezing will still be a great addition to cooked foods and an easy shortcut when limited time does not allow peeling and mincing a bulb.

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But what if you do not clip them at all? Around my place, summer zooms by fast. Even though there is a fairly wide window of time when the scapes can be snipped off in time to possibly affect the bulb, sometimes it can slide past and slam shut before I know it.

The good news is that for home gardening purposes, it probably will not make a lot of difference. There could even be a few advantages to purposely leaving them on. In addition to saving time and energy, leaving garlic scapes on is aesthetically pleasing. Many people appreciate the art and beauty of gardening as well as the practicality, and enjoying the gracefulness of garlic scapes can be worth the sacrifice of a few ounces of garlic bulbs.

Garlic scapes provide a natural chronometer, as well. When the curls straighten, it is time to harvest the bulbs.

Fortunately, there is no wrong answer for backyard garlic growers. The balancing of larger yields and busy season tasks and summer beauty means there is always a win. It is probably important for market gardeners to use no-nonsense methods to maximize income, such as selling cut garlic scapes in spring and harvesting larger bulbs in summer. But the rest of us have the luxury of being a little more laid-back with our garlic scape decisions. And after all, that is part of the beauty of raising our own food.

Do you cut scapes, or leave them? Share your advice in the section below:

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

The 3-Ingredient Natural Herbicide That Will Kill ANYTHING

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Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

 

I have a certain detest for poison ivy. Years of attempting to “work it out” with this plant have only left me feeling itchy and ill at ease whenever I see a plant with three leaves. So imagine to my chagrin when I came across a three-leafed plant on my property with all the nasty characteristics of poison ivy! Well, it had to go.

In my own garden and on my own property, I tend to shy away from chemicals due to my own hesitance to introduce something like this to the place that delivers my drinking water (well water).

I wanted to use a spray so as to avoid getting close to it and having any accidental contact with this dastardly plant.

Here is what I used:

  • 1 gallon of white vinegar
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid

The basic recipe is to mix the vinegar with the salt. Then, put this mixture into a pump sprayer and add a couple tablespoons of dishwashing liquid.

The 3-Ingredient Natural Herbicide That Will Kill ANYTHING

Image source: Pixabay

Find the offending plants you want to remove from existence and spray away. It is best to do this on a bright sunny day when there is little chance of rain. You may need to apply this several times in order to get the full effect of an all-natural herbicide, but it really does work. A word of warning, though: Only plan to use this method if you do not intend on having any plants in this area for the foreseeable future.

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The reason I picked these three ingredients is for their potential to do just what I want them to do. The soap will help whatever spray you are applying to adhere to the plants. The vinegar will kill all living material above ground, but won’t do anything to the material below the surface. The salt will penetrate the soil and will raise the salinity too high for it to support plant life.

If you want to kill off a ground cover while leaving the soil able to grow life, then just leave the salt out.

I have only used this mixture on the poison ivy I have on my property, although I do intend on using it on a larger scale around my driveway and in the other areas where I want to limit the growth of weeds and other plant matter.

Some claim that a mixture of vinegar and dishwashing liquid is a good way to remove weeds from a garden bed prior to working with the soil. The great draw is that it will kill all the offending material without harming the soil itself. I am personally a fan of weed-retardant paper when it comes to gardening, although I would be willing to try this mixture in a small quantity on a new space next year.

If you are like me and consider poison ivy (or any other plant) to be among your enemies, then consider eradicating it with these household ingredients. They are easy to get and readily affordable.

What all-natural herbicide have you used? Share your tips in the section below:

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

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

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If you live in a city or geographical region where water is scarce or expensive, you probably already do your best to use it wisely.

There is plenty of water where I live. Freshwater lakes and streams abound, and we generally get all the rain and snow we need.

We did have one particularly dry summer about five years ago which really made the gardeners in my area begin to worry about crops. Good wells that rarely run dry were beginning to turn out water with an off color and odor, and nobody dared to use what limited water might be left on gardens. People began to consider creative alternatives. One of my neighbors used a small gas-powered pump to fill barrels of water at the nearby lake and haul it home in his pickup truck. Others scooped up water out of the river by hand, using five-gallon buckets and pouring it over into larger containers. Some folks set up rainwater collection barrels, but rain didn’t come.

I made it through that season unscathed, as did most of my neighbors, but it changed my way of thinking about the abundance of water. The very next spring, I leapt at the opportunity to purchase a large food grade IBC tote, and used a flexible plastic hose to hook it up to the house gutter and collect roof runoff for garden water.

I have changed other practices with respect to water, as well. I try to collect, use and conserve water as if it is the most precious resource on the planet.

During seasons of adequate precipitation, like most are in my area, it can be difficult to be proactive about saving water. Wasteful habits are so ingrained in most of us today that conservation needs to be an intentional act.

But Why?

Why should I worry about it at all?

Water is a finite commodity. While it’s true there is roughly the same amount of water on the planet as there has always been—what little amount of water vapor that escapes into space every year notwithstanding—the quality of the water remaining may not be the same. Fresh water becomes salinized when glaciers melt into the oceans, and water can become irredeemably contaminated when exposed to fracking or pollutants.

While the supply of arable water dwindles, the demands upon it are increasing exponentially. Not only are there more humans in need of water today than ever before, but the amount of water used by people in developed countries exceeds that of our predecessors. We shower more, wash our cars more, change our clothes more, and consume manufactured products which entail excess water during production.

The bottom line is this: Sooner or later, most people are going to have to conserve water. Homesteads relocate, and conditions change and needs fluctuate. If not on a wide scale or long term, then at least for a season or two.

The time to develop good water-saving habits is now, before it becomes imperative. If you are on “city water,” there’s a great bonus: You will save money!

Easy Ways to Do it

As with any habit, it is easier to cling to old ones than develop new. Here are suggestions of painless ways to start conserving water ahead of time in your home, lawn and garden, and farmyard.

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There are a lot of changes that can be made in the house, and none of them are drastic measures. But doing simple things now might help mitigate the chances of dramatic changes later.

For example, it is wise to limit time in baths and showers—take them to get clean and only as needed, rather than as a routine. Wash full loads in the clothes washer and dishwasher. Run water from the faucets only as needed; shut it off while brushing teeth, between dish rinsing, and other times during which you are not actively using it. And when cleaning house, wash only that which is dirty and needs cleaning—clean clothes can be hung back up, and try spot-cleaning first on rugs and furniture.

Little things like emptying the dog dish into a house plant instead of down the drain before refilling, or pouring the teakettle water into the humidifier, can add up to make real differences in consumption.

The bottom line here is to use water intentionally. Before you open a faucet, ask yourself if doing so is the best option.

There are things you can do outdoors, as well.

If you find you are having to water your lawn a lot to keep it green, consider a smaller lawn. It may be that your particular region’s rainfall amount does not support the idea of a massive expanse of lawn. A smaller, lush lawn for playing and relaxing might be just enough, and the rest could be converted to native wildflowers or shade trees.

Drought-tolerate vegetable choices make more sense in arid areas than do water-hungry plants like lettuces, celery and fruits. For these types of vegetables, consider keeping their numbers to a minimum so that they can be well-watered and worth your time and space to grow.

Use other practices to minimize garden water use, as well. Mulches of any kind—grass clippings, garden waste, cardboard or plastic—help retain groundwater. Techniques such as hugelkultur are water-savers as well. In addition, soaker hoses are generally better options than hand-watering.

Washing cars at home is often not as good an idea as using a commercial car wash. Recycled water and higher pressure sprayers can reduce water volume while maintaining effectiveness. If feasible where you live, try collecting rainwater. Just a few inches of rain runoff from the roof of an ordinary size house can fill two or three 50-gallon barrels. My 325-gallon IBC tote fills up in as few as two good rainstorms and is easy to use for garden watering.

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By using only what is needed in the yard and avoiding waste now, it will be easy to adopt water-saving practices if necessary in the future.

Farmyard water conservation is also important.

Conserving Water When You Don’t Have To

Image source: Pixabay.com

Change animals’ water only as needed. And when you do dump buckets, use them for dual duty when possible. Pour them onto vegetable beds or over top of something that needs to be rinsed—like calf milk pails or soiled walkways and fences—instead of into a patch of weeds or mud.

Adequate shade for animals can help reduce their water consumption, and placing waterers in areas where they will get soiled and spilled less often can reduce the frequency of changing them out.

Certain animals love to waste water, and pigs are some of the worst offenders. One way to work around that is to teach free-range swine to drink out of a spicket attachment—pigs are smart enough to learn quickly that biting down will yield them a drink.

By conserving water before it is truly necessary, we can do two things. First, we can help avoid water overuse that can contribute to its eventual scarcity.  And second, when the time comes to take conservation seriously, it will already be second nature. Although many in our culture are unaccustomed to being careful about water use, it is a good practice to begin using less as soon as possible and be ready for whatever happens.

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

Clean Water Is Becoming More Rare Than Oil. Read More Here.

3 Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Grown Vertically (Yep, We Were Surprised, Too)

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3 Vegetables You Didn’t Know Could Be Grown Vertically (Yep, We Were Surprised, Too)

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Jack may have followed a beanstalk up into the clouds, but beans aren’t the only vegetables that love an excuse to reach heavenwards.

Vertical gardening offers a number of benefits compared to traditional gardening, and is a technique which lends itself well to a surprising number of common plants. This sort of approach is especially helpful when space is at a premium, allowing even a compact section of soil to nurture multiple large plants supported by a trellis or other structure.

Not only does vertical gardening save space, but it also tends to produce healthier plants. The increased air circulation helps reduce problems with pests and diseases, and, because vertical plants are generally easier to access for the gardener, the arrangement tends to result in better watering and fertilizing.

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Let’s take a look at three plants you might be surprised can be grown vertically.

1. Squash

Squash are notorious space hogs, but by sending them skyward they’ll be less likely to overwhelm your garden.  For best results, seek out smaller varieties, like zucchini, pie pumpkins, or acorn squash, that will be easier to shore up. Note, though, that because of their weight, even relatively small squash will require sturdy supports, so consider constructing a trellis with a metal frame to prevent mid-season tragedy.

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2. Cucumbers

While many people are accustomed to seeing bush cucumber plants, several varieties (especially heirloom varieties) are available that embrace the vertical lifestyle and can grow upwards of five feet high if carefully supported. This distance from the dirt is especially helpful in preventing fungal infections and other diseases from overwhelming cucumber plants.

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3. Melons

Like squash, small melons can readily be trained to climb trellises rather than sprawl across the garden. To prevent damaging tender vines, avoid using string to attach the plant to the structure. Instead, consider using surveyor’s tape, strips of fabric, or even pieces of nylon to coax the growing plant along. Once the fruit starts to weigh more than a pound or two, create a sling for it (mesh vegetable bags or cut up nylons work great) to shift the weight of it to the support structure rather than having it pulling entirely on the vine.

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Some gardeners grow these three vegetables near a fence, which can provide even more support.

Vertical gardening is a great way to increase both the yield and the appearance of vegetable plants grown at home. Consider incorporating the different plants listed above in your next garden plan and discover that, when it comes to growing food at home, the sky really is the limit.

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

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

The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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Creating a homestead that is self-sufficient is challenging enough — and one of the most challenging aspects is trying to grow enough food to sustain both humans and livestock each year.

As difficult as that may seem, it is possible with careful planning and a bit of creativity. Choosing what you grow for your family and livestock will make a big impact, especially for those with fewer acres with which to work.

What to raise for livestock fodder may seem like an easy question to answer. We all know that grains and grasses are primary sources for most commercial feeds and many homesteaders, but there are many other choices available if you plan on growing your own feed. One such alternative crop is the mangel beet.

Mangel beets, known as forage beets or mangel-wurzel beets, were a staple crop on many homesteads until the advent of modern day farming equipment and the rise of big agriculture. Their use is recorded in writings dating back to the 1400s, and many modern homesteaders are reviving the popularity of this type of beet.

Mangel beets, also known as fodder beets, contain a wide variety of nutrients in both the root and the greens. The root of the red mammoth mangel beet and the giant yellow eckendorf beet will grow to an average of 15 to 20 pounds apiece, thus providing a sizable amount of feed — up to 50 tons per acre. The greens also can be used as feed, adding even more value to this beet as a crop for sustainable homesteads.

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The 20-Pound Plant Your Ancestors Grew To Feed Livestock

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These beets prefer neutral soil and are capable of thriving in less-than-ideal soil conditions. Full sun, however, is a necessity. Sow seeds directly into the prepared soil one month before the final frost date for early harvest, 10 to 12 weeks before the fall frost date for a late harvest. Seeds should be placed two inches apart and seedlings must be thinned out early. Rows should be spaced no less than 12 inches apart. A moderate amount of rainfall or irrigation is necessary for optimal growth to facilitate this, and a light covering of mulch may be necessary to retain moisture in drier climates.

The greens can be harvested at any time. Plucking a few leaves from each plant will not stress the root and will allow you or your livestock to enjoy nutrient-rich greens for many weeks. Carefully monitored and controlled grazing may be acceptable in the last few weeks before harvest.

The roots can be harvested anywhere from 70 to 100 days after planting. It is important to protect the roots from drying out. In warmer climates, the beets may be stored in the field and dug up as needed. In colder climates, store mangel beets in a root cellar or other cool, dry area. Farmers, in days gone by, would dig a pit to bury the beets in, near their livestock. Lining the pit with straw, the farmers would add alternate layers of beets and straw, finally covering the pit with a wood lid to limit the loss of fodder to rot or mold. In Europe, it was common to create what is known as a clamp, a protected pile of mangel-wurzel beets above ground.

Traditionally, mangel beets are not used as livestock fodder until January. During the time between harvest and January, certain components begin to break down in the root, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause digestive issues in your livestock.

To supplement your poultry feed and provide a pecking distraction, simply hang a beetroot in the coop. Greens can be fed to the poultry, as well. For other livestock, including cattle, horses, pigs and goats, beets are best sliced or cut into chunks before adding them in the daily ration of feed.

Have you ever grown mangel beets? Share your advice on them in the section below:

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8 ‘Magical’ Vegetables You Can Regrow From Scraps (With A Little Help)

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8 ‘Magical’ Vegetables You Can Regrow From Scraps (With A Little Help)

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Vegetables typically get one go-round in the kitchen, and then we toss the carrot tops, sprouted garlic or celery bottoms in the compost bin or garbage can without giving it a second thought. Who would imagine that many kitchen scraps actually have the potential to regrow into usable vegetables?

Most vegetables won’t regrow indefinitely, and they probably won’t grow enough to feed your family for very long. However, re-growing vegetables can save you money and in the meantime, many are attractive, decorative plants that bring a bit of the outdoors into your kitchen. If you’re looking for fun gardening projects to inspire kids, this one is sure to be a hit.

Try these vegetables:

1. Celery, bok choy and romaine lettuce – Slice the bottom from the bunch and put it in a bowl of warm water with the cut side facing up and just the root end submerged. Watch for leaves to emerge from the center as the outer section gradually turns yellow and deteriorates. Once the celery bottom has several healthy leaves, plant it in a container filled with potting mix, with only the leaf tips showing above the soil.

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2. Avocado – This is an old trick that kids love. Unfortunately, the plant isn’t likely to bear fruit unless you’re patient and willing to wait a dozen years or so. In the meantime, enjoy the lush, green plant.

To grow an avocado plant, just use toothpicks to suspend a cleaned seed, wide end facing down, over a glass of water so only the bottom half of the seed is submerged. Place the glass in a warm spot where the avocado is exposed to indirect sunlight. Check the water every day and add more as needed.

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Once the stem grows to about 6 inches, cut it down to about 3 inches. When you notice new leaves, plant the avocado in potting mix with about half the seed above the surface of the soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

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3. Potatoes – Cut potato peels into 2-inch chunks, each with at least two eyes. Set the chunks on the countertop to dry for a day or two, and then plant them in a large, deep container with the eyes facing up. Cover the potato chunks with 4 inches of soil, and then as the plant grows, add an extra 4 inches of soil. The new, tender potatoes will be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

4. Onions – Slice the root end from the onion, along with about a half-inch of the onion. Plant the onion in potting mix, root side down, and water as needed to keep the soil moist. The onion should be ready to harvest in several weeks. At that time, cut off the root end and grow yet another onion.

5. Ginger root – Plant a small chunk of ginger root in potting mix, with the buds facing up. Water as needed to keep the soil moist, and then harvest the entire plant, roots and all, in a few months. Grow ginger root indefinitely by saving a small chunk from the new root.

6. Garlic – If you’ve left a garlic clove a little too long and it’s sprouted, don’t throw it away. Just plant the clove in a pot with the root end facing down. When the clove is well-established and displays new growth, trim the shoots so that energy is concentrated on the clove. You can grow garlic this way indefinitely; just start a new garlic clove from the newly grown bulb.

7. Carrots – Unfortunately, you can’t grow new carrots with carrot tops, but you can use the lacy tops as an attractive garnish. Put the carrot tops in a tray or dish with a little water, cut sides down, and place the dish in bright sunlight. Check the carrot tops daily and replenish the water as needed. Snip off small amounts as often as needed.

8. Cilantro – It’s easy to start this pungent culinary herb by placing a few stems in a jar of water. When the stems root, plant them in a pot. The new plant will be ready to use in a few months.

What advice would you add? What vegetables would you have placed on our list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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

The 3 Best Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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The 3 Best Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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Have you been preparing your soil for growing vegetables and other crops in your garden, only to see it washed away in storms? The valuable time and energy you spend – and the compost and manure you are layering into your garden beds — should be protected from rain and wind. What are the best ways to stop soil erosion from taking its cut of your land?

First, discover where the erosion is coming from. If the plot is in an exposed area, wind may be to blame. Check the soil for telltale signs that it is blowing in the direction of the prevailing wind. If you see evidence of this, such as dust blowing in the wind, or trails of soil leading away from the bed and perhaps even drifting against something nearby, you should combat the soil erosion by blocking the wind. In the short term, a fence or wall can keep the wind from plucking away at your soil; over the long term, it makes a lot of sense to reduce the overall wind on your property by growing trees to act as a windbreak. Small plantings near your garden can also be beneficial for blocking the wind at ground level.

The flow of water is often the culprit, especially on slopes. Water erosion can happen very quickly; a single rainstorm can wash away an entire bed. Signs of erosion caused by water could be trails left as water streamed through the soil, carrying it away, and piles of soil left in lower areas of your property, carried there by the flow.

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Each property has its own characteristics, and you will have to assess the source of problems like soil erosion thoroughly to ensure you’re not putting a Band-Aid on a large wound. However, minor soil erosion can be stopped quite easily, protecting your garden. Try one or more of these techniques to keep your soil in place:

1. Mulching

A mulch is a layer of plant material spread across the soil to help it retain moisture, protect it from weeds, and to combat erosion. It is one of the most effective techniques to preserve your soil from the onslaught of both wind and rain. Mulch can be composed of plant material, wood chips, straw, grass clippings or any other spare plant material generated by the homestead. You can spread it across an area of soil before planting, as well as heap it around existing plantings to protect their base and the surrounding topsoil. The mulch acts as a buffer between the earth and the elements.

3 Ways To Protect Your Garden Soil From Storm Erosion

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If a plot will not be used for a season, consider planting a cover crop to act as living mulch. In addition to protecting the soil, the right cover crops can improve the soil nutrients. For winter coverage, try oats, barley or rye in the fall; the dying grains will protect the soil through the fallow season. In summer, buckwheat, clover and wildflowers can attract pollinators while protecting the soil.

2. Edging

Areas that are being affected by water runoff can often be resolved with blocking the flow of water in and out of the bed. Build a retaining wall around small beds and larger plants. Usually, you will place the retaining wall a few inches into the ground and a few inches above it. They will shield your garden from surface water and keep rainwater in the bed.

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On a slope, terracing will keep the soil from running downslope during storms. Ensure you measure the contour of the slope before building the terraces, so you will be able to prevent terraces from losing soil to one another.

3. Controlling the water

If rain runoff or other flowing water is affecting your property, consider diverting the flow. There are a few techniques to consider that will stop the water before it reaches your soil beds. One of these is rain barrels: Catch water in barrels placed upslope for later use in the garden. You could also create a rain garden upslope from your main plot by planting across the flow of runoff; the plantings will absorb and divert water. For a more involved version of the same idea, you can build a berm (or small hill) covered with plantings in the path of the water, using the raised area to shield your soil beds. Lastly, consider controlling the flow of water with a swale running downslope or buried rocks or gravel channeling water away from your garden.

No matter what methods you use, the work will not be wasted. Your soil is a valuable commodity, and your effort will ensure the viability of your garden.

How have you stopped erosion? Share your tips in the section below:

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

The Insect That Pollinates 200 Times BETTER Than Honeybees

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The Homestead Insect That Pollinates 200 Times BETTER Than Honeybees

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When you think of attracting a super-pollinating machine to your backyard garden, you probably don’t instantly think of the mason bee. Most people think of the honeybee instead. But there is good reason for making your property attractive to the mason bee.

For starters, they are much better pollinators than the honeybee. For example, an orchard can be pollinated by only 250 mason bees – compared to needing 50,000 honeybees. And, because mason bees have a limited range of only about 300 feet, they are ideal for backyard gardens.

Mason bees, in fact, are about 200 times more efficient in pollinating than honeybees.

So, What Is a Mason Bee?

The mason bee is a solitary bee that is slightly smaller than the honeybee, and it commonly has a blue-black sheen that can make it mistakable for a housefly. There are 140 species of this insect which are native to North America, as well as about 70 species native to Europe and Asia.

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Also called orchard bees, mud bees or twig bees, these insects do not build their own nests but rather search out narrow tunnels left behind by wood boring insects in the bark of trees or hollow stems in which they can lay their eggs. They then seal the eggs inside the hole with mud. They also can live in homemade mason bee houses (which will be discussed in a moment).

Although they do not live in colonies like honeybees do, mason bees do like to make their nests in clusters. And while they do have the ability to sting like any other bee, the absence of a queen to protect makes them a gentle and non-aggressive insect.

The Secret of Their (Pollinating) Success

So perhaps you are wondering what makes the humble mason bee such a powerhouse when it comes to pollinating. The answer lies in its lack of precision.

When a honeybee visits blossoms, it does so in a very methodical way, going from one flower to the next. It is so precise in filling up its pollen sacks that very little if any pollen comes into contact with the sides of the flower. By some estimates, a single honeybee will only pollinate about 5 percent of the blooms it comes in contact with.

The Homestead Insect That Pollinates 200 Times BETTER Than Honeybees

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By contrast, mason bees tend to be much messier in collecting their pollen. They do not have pollen sacks but rather, they make use of special hairs on their abdomen called scopa. These insects crawl over ever part of the flower, dropping quite a bit of pollen in the process. Their flight patterns are also more erratic. Instead of moving from one blossom to the next in an organized fashion, they will zigzag back and forth from tree to tree, meaning a much better chance for cross pollination. An individual mason bee can visit as many as 2,400 blossoms in a single day and pollinate 90 percent of them!

How to Attract Mason Bees

Although there are companies that sell mason bee cocoons, attracting these insects to your property is fairly simple.

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Check out the tips below to get started:

  • Have a place for them to nest. Since mason bees do not build their own nests, they need to be provided with tunnels. This can be done by leaving dead trees standing or by creating your own mason bee house. The simplest way to make your bee house is to take a block of untreated wood and drill a series of one-fourth-inch holes, but you can also use several small rolls of cardboard or paper as well, which will allow you to harvest the cocoons at the end of the season. Place the house in an area that gets morning sun.
  • Provide them with clay. Mason bees make mud walls in their nests, but typical garden soil has very little clay and too much organic matter for them to use. If you don’t have an area on your property with access to moist clay soil, you can provide “mud pies” for mason bees looking to move in. In fact, making mud pies with your children is a great lead-in to teach them about these gentle bees.
  • Give them water. Having easily accessible water helps mason bees to lay more eggs. A shallow dish of water filled with a few rocks (for the bees to land) placed outside is all that that is needed. Eggs are laid in early spring, so if you do it then you won’t have to be concerned about mosquitoes.
  • Give them food. Mason bees require pollen, so it’s important to make sure that you have enough pollen-producing plants on your property — plenty of flowers, blossoming fruits and vegetable plants.
  • Give them protection. If you have decided to build a bee house and are successful in attracting mason bees, the holes in your bee house will become plugged up by mud. Young bees will hibernate through the winter but will be very vulnerable to predators such as woodpeckers, squirrels and ants. By late fall, you should gently move the bee house into an unheated garage or shed. If you have a style of house that can be cleaned, then gently harvest the cocoons and get rid of any mites. Harvested bees can be kept in a Ziploc bag in an unheated area until it is time for them to be released (in early spring when blossoms are about 25 percent out).
  • Don’t poison them! If you are trying to attract mason bees, don’t use pesticides!

Keeping mason bees can provide incredible benefits for your yard and garden. Why not give it a try this season?

Do you have experience with mason bees? Share your advice in the section below:

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Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

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Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

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The cultivation of potatoes originated in South America, where the Incas of Peru grew them for food some 10,000 years ago.

The original potato, though, bore little resemblance to today’s enormous, oblong, white-fleshed tuber. Instead, they were round, smaller than a golf ball, and dark blue in color.

When the Conquistadors conquered the Andes region of South America in the 16th century, they brought potatoes back to Europe. Basques in northern Spain immediately began growing them, and over the next 50 years cultivation spread throughout Europe. Potatoes were filled with vitamins and easy to grow, and many Europeans began growing them instead of the traditional crops of wheat and oats.

Today, the potato is the world’s fourth most grown crop, trailing only rice, wheat and corn. But potatoes are not restricted to large-scale farming — they are also an ideal crop for your garden because they are easy to grow, provide many calories per acre, and are adaptable to a variety of climates.

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But to maximize success, you should choose the right potato for your needs and growing conditions.

Cooking

Although there are potatoes for general use, different cultivars generally are better for a specific type of cooking. Some are good for boiling and mashing, others are good for baking, and still others are best fried.

The color of the potato flesh can be a good indicator which cooking method is best. For example, red or pink potatoes are often lower in starch, and therefore lend themselves to boiling or steaming. Common cultivars include red LaSoda and red gold.

Russet potatoes and those with blue flesh have higher starch. This makes them a good choice for baking or mashing. Potatoes with a thin white skin make great French fries (with the skin left on).

Yellow-fleshed potatoes tend generally to have intermediate amounts of starch and are good for all uses. Common cultivars include Cal white, Yukon gold, and Yukon gem.

Storage

Potatoes: Which Varieties Store The Longest, Cook The Best, And Grow Just About Anywhere

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For generations, Americans in cold areas have grown potatoes and stored them through much of the long winter. If your goal is to grow potatoes during a short summer season and then store the harvest in a cellar over the winter, then remember that not all potatoes store well. So look for cultivars that excel in long-term storage. Examples include Cal white, defender, red Gold and the russet varieties.

Heat Tolerance

Potatoes are a cool-weather crop, first proliferating in the high-altitude of the Andes and then excelling in the cool climates of Ireland and northern Europe. However, over time, much hard work and research has resulted in a few cultivars that can be successfully grown in hot climates. These include bake king, defender, red LaSoda, Viking purple and yellow Finn.

Maturity

Potatoes vary greatly in the time it takes to grow to maturity, from early to medium to late to extra-late. Based on your climate and needs, select the right maturity time. For example, on my homestead I grow an early cultivar and an extra-late cultivar.

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I consume the small, poor storage, early maturing potatoes during the late summer and early fall. I harvest the late cultivars and use and store them over most of the winter.

Caging

Many potatoes can be grown vertically in containers or boxes. The potato seeds are planted about three inches deep. Then, when the plants emerge to a height of several inches, they are buried halfway with soil. After several more inches of growth, the plants are buried halfway again. This continues until the original potato seed is two or three feet deep, allowing potatoes to grow in all the additional soil.

However, caging works better with some cultivars than others. It works well for Butterfinger, defender, purple Peruvian and many others. Caging does not work well with some popular cultivars like bake king, French fingerling or Yukon gold. So if you plan on growing potatoes vertically, choose a cultivar amenable to this growing method.

Final thoughts

Potatoes are a mainstay on the homestead, and can be grown in most parts of the United States. However, based on your cooking methods, storage conditions and other factors, make sure and select the cultivars that best suit your needs and that will be successful in your garden.

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

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The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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While long rows of evenly spaced plants may appeal to a classic sense of what gardening is “supposed to look like,” it isn’t the only way to go … or grow. Row-less gardening offers a number of advantages, especially for small-scale gardeners.

Row-less gardening is a general term for any garden arrangement that doesn’t follow the traditional pattern of planting in continuous lines. While row gardening is great for large farming operations that have lots of land and use heavy equipment to care for it, it isn’t necessarily the best solution for home gardens.

There are several alternatives to row gardening, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of these options include:

  • Biointensive gardening. Companion plants are grown together, typically in a tight hexagonal pattern after the soil has been double-dug and well-composted, for a remarkably plant-dense gardening space.
  • Square foot gardening. Raised beds no larger than 4-feet across are divided into individual square-foot sections, each home to a different kind of crop. One square foot might be home to a single tomato plant right next door to another square foot filled with four lettuce plants.
  • Container gardening. Vegetables and other crops are planted in movable containers, making it an ideal solution for apartment dwellers or others who appreciate the convenience and beauty of patio gardens.

No matter which row-less approach you take, deciding not to “tow the line” when it comes to your garden offers a number of benefits.

1. Provides better use of space.

Row gardening leaves lots of room equipment to maneuver through acres of crops, which also means it leaves lots of potential growing areas unused. Especially if you’re strapped for space, switching to a row-less format is an easy way to get more out of the ground by planting things closer together and by avoiding all the empty space between rows.

2. Avoids compaction.

Plants love loose soil. When the ground is light and friable, water is able to move through it freely, transporting nutrients and preventing the roots from becoming waterlogged. Loose soil also allows atmospheric gases to flow back and forth to the roots and is generally easier for new roots to maneuver through. With row gardening, we walk often on large stretches of ground — the area between the rows.

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This continual compression of the ground leads to compacted soil, which is difficult to grow in, which is especially problematic as the row sizes and spacing change each year.

3. Allows complete control over the soil.

The Row-Less Garden: The Better Way To Grow Your Food

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Not only does row-less gardening avoid soil compaction, but – depending on which method you choose — it can give you greater control of the soil. Rather than settling for whatever kind of soil is endemic to your backyard, by using raised beds, containers or double-digging, you’re in a position to completely customize the kind of soil your plants encounter. Great soil means great harvests.

4. Wastes less water.

Growing plants in denser configurations makes it easier to deliver necessary moisture and nutrients directly to them without a lot of waste. Unless careful consideration is given to drip irrigation or other custom solutions, row gardening is notoriously inefficient when it comes to water consumption, wasting gallons on the empty spaces between the crops.

5. Is simply beautiful.

While gardening is fundamentally about providing food, it also can be an incredibly satisfying and even artistic endeavor. Freeing yourself from the assumption that gardens are supposed to be planted in rows will allow you to create a garden that perfectly matches your aesthetic interests. With row-less gardening, there’s no reason not to have a square of sunflowers surrounded by readily-ripening tomatoes, or a container of cosmos next to a box of carrots. By letting go of strict rows, you’re in a position to design the type of garden that will maximize your enjoyment while minimizing wasted space.

Row-less gardening is an increasingly popular approach to backyard growing. Especially if you don’t have a lot of extra room to work with, pursuing a less-conventional layout can be a great way to get the garden you really want in a way that makes the best possible use of resources like water, soil and space.

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

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11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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Drought is a serious concern for gardeners. As water supplies dwindle across much of the country, we are left wondering how long we can continue to provide a healthy supply of food for ourselves and our families during such difficult conditions.

You can still grow a garden, but the days of free-wheeling water use may be over. Gardening in drought conditions requires careful planning and wise water-usage strategies, such as the following:

1. Create healthy growing conditions. Add plenty of compost or other organic material. Healthy soil retains moisture longer and helps plants build deep roots. You also can use manure, but be sure it’s well composted. Add manure four months ahead of planting time, or wait until the season is over and use the rich stuff to improve soil quality for the coming year.

2. Mulch, mulch, and still more mulch. Gardening pros estimate that three to four inches of mulch can reduce watering requirements by half. A layer of mulch, such as chopped bark, dried leaves, straw or pine needles, keeps the soil moist and helps keeps weeds in check. You can also use dry grass clippings applied in thin layers, but never use grass clippings in your vegetable garden if your lawn has been treated with herbicides or pesticides during the last month.

3. Plant a cover crop in fall. “Green manure” such as alfalfa, vetch or clover improves water retention, adds nutrients to the soil, prevents erosion and discourages weeds from coming through. Till the dead plant material into the soil in early spring. (Be sure to mow if the cover crops flower before they are killed by frost; otherwise you’ll be faced with a weedy challenge in a few short months.)

4. Plant vegetables close together to prevent evaporation. By planting closely, you can also take advantage of companion planting to enhance growth and control pests.

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Similarly, plant in blocks instead of rows, with plants grouped according to their water requirements. Some plants are relatively drought-tolerant, while others, including all the cruciferous vegetables, tend to be notorious water hogs.

5. Go easy on the fertilizer. While fertilized plants are lush and green, they require considerably more water. Additionally, fertilizing in drought conditions always presents a risk of burning the roots.

6. Weed your vegetable garden regularly. Pull or hoe when the plants are small. Weeds are greedy plants that draw water and nutrients from your vegetables.

11 Clever Ways To Grow Vegetables In A Drought (No. 5 Always Trips Up People)

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7. Plant your garden in a sheltered area so winds can’t dry the soil as quickly. Take advantage of a spot next to a building, fence or adjacent to tall plants. For example, sunflowers serve as attractive natural windbreaks, and once established, require very little water.

8. Consider a smaller garden. Plant only what you can use.

9. Create a no-till garden and avoid cultivating the soil whenever possible, as tilling breaks down soil structure, disturbs beneficial microorganisms that process organic matter, and affects the soil’s capability to retain moisture for longer periods of time. (Read about alternatives here.)

10. Install a rain barrel to take advantage of any rainfall. Many gardeners also use a rain barrel to store “grey” water from household use.

11. Plant drought-tolerant vegetables. If you aren’t sure about the best choices, ask at a reputable greenhouse or call your local Cooperative Extension office. One tip: Consider heirloom plants originating from Mediterranean or desert climates, which tend to be naturally more drought-tolerant.

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Finally follow these tips for watering in drought conditions:

  • Water in the morning; moisture evaporates rapidly when temperatures are higher later in the day. A timer or automatic shut-off is a tremendous benefit if you work or need to be away from home for long periods of time.
  • Swap your inefficient hose and sprinkler for a drip irrigation system or a good quality soaker hose that places water exactly where it’s needed – at the roots. Place the hose under mulch if you’re concerned about the appearance.
  • If you aren’t sure how much water to provide, use a soil probe to determine how long it takes to soak the top six inches of soil. Another tip: A handful of soil should stick together when squeezed. If it crumbles, it’s time to water.
  • Avoid overwatering; most vegetable plants require less water once established. Others, such as relatively drought-tolerant plants such as melons, cucumbers and squash, require generous irrigation during fruiting, but only light watering otherwise.

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

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I’m Going On Vacation – Is My Garden Doomed?

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I’m Going On Vacation – Is My Garden Doomed?

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Summer is a time when backyard gardeners can enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it’s also a time when many of us enjoy going on vacation and seeing another part of the country or the world.

Unfortunately, gardening and vacationing are not the most compatible of activities. A garden requires care, and being away for a couple of weeks can mean coming back to a garden that is dried up, ravaged by pests or overrun with weeds.

Fortunately, having a healthy vegetable garden and taking some much deserved time off don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It does, however, require some planning ahead.

Plan and Care for Your Crops

If it’s early spring and you already know that you’ll be taking a two-week excursion in July, then you can plan your crops so that you won’t have too many vegetables maturing while you’re away. Although some plants do need to be planted in early spring, certain types of seeds, like carrots and beans, can be planted a little later. You can time them so that they’ll be maturing soon after you arrive back home.

Be sure to care for your crops and water them deeply early in the season. This will help a good, healthy root system get established, and you will have stronger plants that will be able to cope with less watering while you are away.

What About Watering?

Watering can be a challenge, especially if the summer happens to be a hot and dry one. Be sure to give your garden a good, deep watering before you go away, and use a mulch to help prevent evaporation. Consider placing long planks of wood between your vegetables after you water. This will help to ensure that the soil underneath them remains damp for as long as possible.

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It is not recommended that you use plastic, as you want your plants to be able to take advantage of any rainfall during your absence.

Watering devices also can help keep your plants hydrated. Local garden centers often sell beautiful glass globes that allow gradual watering, but a wine bottle works just as well if you’d rather save your money for your upcoming vacation! (Watch the video below.)

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A Little Support Goes a Long Way

Before you head off for your vacation, make sure that any plants that will need support are properly caged or staked. That little tomato plant may not look like much now, but you’d be amazed at how much it can shoot up in just a few weeks.

Early Harvest

If you have plants starting to bear fruit and vegetables before you go, it is advisable to do some early harvesting. Lighten the load of tomato and strawberry plants by picking early. Even if these are not fully ripe yet, it is better to let them ripen indoors (even in the fridge can work!) or give them to a friend or neighbor rather than leaving them outside to rot.

It is especially important to harvest plants like peas and zucchini – which if allowed to mature, will cause your plant to stop fruiting.

Greens such as lettuce are the most vulnerable when you’re away. You can try protecting these by setting up a shade barrier.

Garden With a Friend

Of course, the most ideal solution to caring for your garden while you are away is having a garden buddy. If you have a trusted friend or neighbor who is willing to help, consider yourself fortunate – but don’t assume their thumb is as green as yours. And don’t expect perfection.

Before you go away, take them on a tour of your garden and make sure they know what needs to be watered, and which plants are vegetables vs. weeds. Consider a bit of extra signage to help with their comfort level and be sure they know where to find things like gloves and hoses.

You should also let them know that they are welcome to any of the harvest that ripens while you are away. This will not only be a bonus for them, but it will help to keep your garden healthier, as well.

Finally, be sure to show your appreciation for their efforts. Consider bringing your garden buddy a small gift on your vacation and be ready to return the favor when the opportunity presents itself.

Bon Voyage!

Now that you have done everything you can to ensure that your garden is cared for, it is time to enjoy your vacation. While your vegetables may not get the same kind of attention that they would if you were home, they are not doomed.

You can go away knowing that your garden will still be there when you return.

What advice would you add for keeping a garden healthy while on vacation? Share it in the section below:

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

10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

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10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Swiss chard. Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Growing vegetables in containers is touted as something you do if you’re an urbanite without space for a “real” garden. People often turn to container gardening when back or knee pain make bending and digging too difficult, or when the soil is so poor that it’s incapable of supporting life.

How about growing vegetables in containers because it’s a rewarding, enjoyable activity? No excuse is required. More and more people are discovering that container gardening is a perfectly viable method for growing vegetable crops.

Container gardening is so popular these days that growers have created dwarf versions of even super-size plants (like watermelons).

In fact, some vegetables actually thrive in smaller accommodations.

1. Tomatoes are a little on the fussy side, and thus, they’re perfectly suited for containers. Growing tomatoes in containers makes it easier to monitor and control soil moisture, and it’s easy to move the plants to take advantage of warmth and sunlight. Cherry or grape varieties are ideal, but most types of tomatoes, including standard sizes, do well in pots measuring a minimum of 22 inches in diameter.

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2. Lettuce has shallow roots and tends to grow best in containers that are not too deep. A small container on a front step is handy for easy snipping, while a larger container can accommodate a seed mix for colorful, flavorful salads. Move the pot to a shady spot on sunny afternoons.

3. Spinach needs rich soil, easy to provide in containers filled with a lightweight, compost-based potting mix. Locate the container where it’s sunny during the day and cool at night, and then harvest the power-packed leaves as needed.

4. Swiss chard is a durable, heat-tolerant plant that grows like crazy in containers. Harvest when the leaves are young and tender for the best flavor.

5. Potatoes are easy to plant and even easier to dig in containers, and you may be surprised how many spuds you can harvest. Try smaller varieties like Yukon gold or red Pontiac.

10 Vegetables That Just Might Grow Better In Containers

Eggplant. Image source: Pixabay.com

6. Eggplant is an attractive plant that thrives in containers, but you’ll probably have the best luck with compact varieties like Patio Baby, which produces plenty of mild-flavored, miniature fruit. Little Fingers, with clusters of three to six, long, narrow, deep purple eggplants, is yummy when harvested at finger-size.

7. Carrots do well in containers with a depth of at least 12 inches, or try short, round carrots for shallower pots. Thin the plants as they develop and enjoy the tender, finger-sized carrots. Varieties worth trying include Thumbelina or Short ‘N Sweet.

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8. Cucumbers don’t tolerate cold and should be planted in early summer in most climates. Dwarf plants with compact vines are best suited for containers, but you’ll still need a trellis to support the vines. Consider Arkansas Little Leaf, Spacemaster, Fanfare or Patio King, or try your hand at small “lemon” cucumbers.

9. Radishes, dwarf veggies by their very nature, are easy to grow in containers. Their speedy growth and colorful appearance makes them the perfect vegetable for young gardeners.

10. Summer squash is one of those vegetables that seem ill-suited for containers, but compact varieties like Spacemiser zucchini or Sunburst scalloped squash perform amazingly well in pots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening

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9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening

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The traditional garden is a thing of beauty indeed — a well-tended patch of cultivated ground with neat, straight rows of lush, green vegetables. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that image, and many gardeners would have it no other way. In recent years, however, alternative techniques, such as square-foot or raised beds, have come to the forefront.

Container gardening is one alternative that has amassed a dedicated following of space-challenged gardeners. While lack of acreage for a traditional garden is one reason for the popularity of container gardening, it’s only scratching the surface when it comes to the many benefits of growing vegetables in pots:

1. No weeding necessary – Any gardener who has ever planted a traditional garden is familiar with the arduous labor involved in frequent weed pulling and hoeing under the hot summer sun. Vegetables in containers, on the other hand, are generally grown in sterile potting medium. It isn’t impossible that a stray weed may occasionally find its way to the container, but weeds are rare and easily dispatched.

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2. Easy on the back – If your back complains every time you grab a shovel or hoe, then give yourself a break; container gardening is easy on the back, (and the knees, too). While container gardening is helpful for folks with a few aches and pains, it’s often the answer for people who have had to give up the pleasure of gardening due to various physical limitations. Even a wheelchair-bound person can enjoy container gardening.

3. Decreased chance of disease – Container-grown vegetables certainly aren’t immune from disease, but plants in a well-drained container filled with lightweight potting mix tend to be less susceptible than those grown in the ground. Proper watering is a factor, as soggy soil may result in root rot, which is nearly always fatal.

4. Reign in aggressive plants – If you’re concerned that a plant is beautiful and useful but just too much of a pest to grow in the garden, then a container will control rambunctious growth. Mint and lemon balm are prime examples of lovely, aromatic herbs that will take over your entire landscape very quickly if they aren’t contained.

9 Ways Container Gardening Is Just Plain Better Than Traditional Gardening5. Control the weather! (Sort of) – Moving containers from one spot to another allows you to take advantage of sunlight or shade, or to provide shelter in case of an unexpected cold snap, which in turn, means a longer growing season. Place a large container on a rolling platform to simplify relocation.

6. Fresh and convenient – Containers on a patio, deck or balcony are typically handy to the kitchen. Snip a few fresh herbs for dinner or harvest leafy lettuce or spinach and a juicy, ripe tomato for an unbelievably delicious salad. What could be better (or fresher)?

7. A no-till garden – Tilling isn’t only back-breaking work, but loosening the soil can unleash a monstrous amount of dormant weed seeds, meaning more back-breaking work throughout the season. Additionally, many gardening pros agree that cultivation actually disturbs important soil organisms, thus upsetting the natural balance of life in the garden.

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8. Containers are pretty – Containers may be as utilitarian as an old washtub or a row of terracotta pots, but for gardeners with a creative bent, pots are available in nearly every color under the rainbow. Look for containers made of wood, glazed ceramic, plastic or concrete, each with their own set of advantages and a few drawbacks, too. Have fun, but do your homework and consider your budget before investing in containers for your vegetable crop.

9. Vegetables are pretty, too – It’s all about practicality when it comes to growing vegetables in containers, but it’s a nice bonus that many vegetables are also highly decorative. Bright purple kale may be the queen of ornamental vegetables, but colorful veggies like chili peppers, bold rainbow chard, or bright purple eggplant add a real spark to the container garden. Don’t forget irresistible red tomatoes; frilly parsley or carrot plants; spiky, upright onions and chives; bright green basil; purple green beans on a trellis; or a cucumber vine draped gracefully over the side of the container.

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

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

VIDEO: It’s Been 44 Years Since He Watered This ‘Garden In A Bottle’ — And It’s STILL Growing

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Many gardeners enjoy trying to grow plants in a bottle, but it’s likely that no one has had the success that David Latimer of the United Kingdom has.

Latimer planted spiderworts in his 10-gallon glass bottle in 1960, and he last watered it in … 1972. In the 44 years since then, the plant, sealed in the bottle, has created its own ecosystem. Latimer does place it by a window, allowing it to get light.

“It grows towards the light so it gets turned round every so often so it grows evenly,” he told the Daily Mail. “Otherwise, it’s the definition of low-maintenance. I’ve never pruned it, it just seems to have grown to the limits of the bottle.”

To learn more, watched the videos below:

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

7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors … No Matter Where You Live

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7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors ... No Matter Where You Live

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When skies hang low and gray, few things brighten an indoor corner quite like a citrus tree. Laden with camouflaged limes or unignorable lemons, modern dwarf varieties mean that growing citrus is no longer the exclusive purview of the fortunate few who make their homes in places like Florida.

Of course, while it’s possible to grow citrus almost anywhere assuming you have a warm, well-lit, place for it, coaxing indoor versions of these outdoor staples to thrive and fruit requires special attention. Here are some helpful tips for growing citrus in containers.

1. Opt for acidic

If your goal is to grow actual fruit, rather than simply a lovely flowering tree, then picking the right variety to start with will greatly improve your odds of success. For best results, stick with fruits that are decidedly acidic, such as improved Meyers lemons, kumquats, and ponderosa limes and avoid the sweeter citrus options like sweet oranges and grapefruits.

2. Pick the right pot

Even dwarf variety trees intended for growing in containers require a decent amount of room in order to thrive. Plants that are 2-3 years old will do OK in 12-inch diameter (5-gallon) pots. Four- to five-year-old plants will need something closer to a 24-inch diameter (15-gallon) pot.

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Although pots can be made of almost any material, note that plastic ones do tend to warm the roots more than other materials, potentially damaging them, while wood ones are more prone to rot.

3. Not all dirt is created equal

While at first glance soils may look similar, it’s important to give your new container-bound best friend a good place to put down roots by using quality potting soil. Potting soil is formulated to handle the increased demands of container plants, and it drains significantly better than even good caliber gardening soil.

When planting, keep the root crown just above the surface of the soil and the top of the leggy root mass just below the surface.

4. Keep dish soap around

7 Steps To Growing Citrus Indoors ... No Matter Where You Live

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Few things are as important to your growing citrus tree as appropriate moisture. Make sure the bottom of the pot allows for good drainage, and then wait for the surface of the soil to dry out between watering. When watering, thoroughly soak the root ball.

Sometimes, you may notice that the water seems to go straight through the soil without actually soaking the root ball. This happens because, as it dries out, the root ball shrinks and pulls away from the edges of the container, allowing water to sneak through in the gaps. To remedy the situation, simply add a few drops of mild dish soap to the exposed root crowns before watering — it will help the water adhere enough to re-soak the root ball.

5. Fertilizer it, slow and steady

Citrus plants are strikingly susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, especially when it comes to iron, manganese and zinc. These deficiencies will cause leaves to yellow and the plant to suffer.

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Potting increases the stress on citrus soils because the necessary amount of drainage can flush away soil nutrients even faster. To counteract these effects, select slow-release, chelated fertilizers to help keep your indoor citrus well-nourished.

6. Watch the lighting

Most homes are darker, warmer and drier (especially in the winter) when compared to a citrus tree’s natural surroundings. Keep your plant feeling right at home by upping the light levels and the humidity. Cool, well-lit spaces, like a partially heated sunroom, are especially well-suited for growing indoor citrus. Grow lights are another possible addition sure to be loved by lemons, limes and all their bright-flavored buddies.

7. Watch out for suckers!

Finally, keep an eye out for suckers. Most dwarf citrus varieties have been grafted onto borrowed root stock. Often, the root stock will try and send up growth of its own. Known as “suckers,” these little branches will steal away nutrients and energy from the rest of the tree and should be removed as soon as spotted. To preserve the health of the tree, carefully cut away any branches that appear below the graft scar, typically located just a few inches above the crown roots.

Few things taste better than fresh citrus, and a potted citrus tree is sure to add beauty and interest to any home. Use these tips to help get started growing container fruit that will make the grocer’s produce aisle jealous.

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

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The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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We live in troubled economic times. A raging debt, stagnant wages, severe unemployment and underemployment, and an unsteady housing market are all signs that the economy could collapse.

Many off-gridders and homesteaders are preparing and stockpiling for an unknown future, but one often-overlooked area is examining what grows in the garden. If society collapses, it may be necessary to change what we plant.

When considering the right vegetables to grow when planning for an economic or societal collapse, there are many factors to consider.

Long-Term Storage

An economic or societal collapse may disrupt the electric grid, or at the very least make power unaffordable. With the exception of those living completely off the grid with no need for fuel, many homesteads will have to turn to traditional storage methods for preserving vegetables. Therefore, vegetables that can be stored long-term in a cellar or cold room should be part of the garden. Even in the hotter climates in the United States, cellars can be dug underground.

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Good choices for long-term storage are potatoes, onions, carrots and similar root vegetables, as well as dry beans, dry corn and winter squash.

Appropriate to Your Climate

Americans love to grow a wonderful array of vegetables that are not native to their particular climates. For example, tomatoes are the favorite vegetable to grow, even though they are perennials native to the tropics. We start them in early spring and grow them as annuals. We also do this with peppers and eggplant.

The Vegetables You Gotta Grow If Society Collapses

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However, if no electricity is available, grow lights are out of the question, and many households in the north may not have enough sunlight or heat to start the plants.

So for those Americans in cold climates with short summers, opt for vegetables that thrive in those conditions. Potatoes, Cole crops, root vegetables and peas are good choices. Those in the south with long growing seasons have more choices.

Spring and Fall Crops

In most areas of the country, vegetables can be grown to maturity in the spring, summer and fall. Without refrigeration, a variety of fresh vegetables throughout as much of the year as possible is desirable. So in a typical American garden, you can get lettuce and peas in the spring, summer vegetables in the summer, and Cole crops in the fall.

Perennial Vegetables

Starting a garden is hard work — especially getting the soil right. With perennials, you can do all the hard prep work one time and then let the perennials like asparagus and artichokes reward you, year after year.

Barter

With economic or societal collapse, Americans would likely turn to the old way of buying and selling items — bartering. So look around you and your community and see if there are vegetables you could grow to barter. For example, if your neighbors raise rabbits and feed them pellets from the feed store, they would likely be happy to trade for fresh food when the economy forces feed stores to close. Or perhaps your neighbors have a few pigs, and would appreciate root vegetables to supplement their feed.

Many neighbors likely will be desperate for fresh food when the grocery stores close and the power goes out. Long-term vegetables, discussed above, would be a good idea because you could trade them through the fall and winter.

Fruits and Nuts

Many homesteaders focus on annual vegetables because they mature quickly within a few months. However, if you have the space, soil, sunlight and water, consider longer-term investments like fruit vines, fruit trees and nut trees. Once established, these can provide a bounty of fresh fruits during the summer and fall, as well as preserves throughout the year.

Conclusion

Whatever vegetables you decide to grow, learn how to do it now. It will take a few years of practice to find reliable cultivars for your area, and learn the skills of seed saving and long-term storage.

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

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

7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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Companion planting — the practice of intentionally planting two or more species in close proximity to each other — has many advantages.

Paired properly, companion plants can help each other grow, deter pests, reduce weeds and even improve flavor. Unfortunately, not all plants are ready to link leaves and sing “Kumbaya” together. In this post, we’ll look at vegetable pairs that should be kept far apart from one another.

1. Corn and tomatoes

While you’d think a common enemy would make for good friends, in the garden it’s usually a recipe for disaster. Both corn and tomato are vulnerable to the same worm and the same fungal infections and if planted too close together, it makes it easy for invaders to conquer both at once.

2. Cucumber and sage

It sounds like it should be the name of an enticing new lotion fragrance, but as friendly as they may seem in the cosmetics aisle, cucumber and sage have no business being together in the garden. In fact, cucumbers and almost all aromatic herbs have an antagonistic relationship. The strong scent of sage and other herbs are likely to affect the final flavor of the cucumber, resulting in an unpleasant off-taste.

3. Radishes and hyssop

Another herb-vegetable combination to avoid is radishes and hyssop. Hyssop is a fragrant flowering herb used to scent potpourri and prepare teas, but it also tends to wreak havoc with radishes. Don’t write off hyssop entirely, though — it’s great for luring away cabbage moths and is said to help make grapes grow.

4. Onions and peas

Mom may have spent a lot of time trying to talk you into eating the onions and peas hidden together in a casserole dish, but out in the garden you can keep them as far away from each other as you’d like.

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In fact, the entire legume family and the entire allium family tend to “go Godfather” on each other, likely because onion (and its many relatives like shallots, leeks and garlic) set up root systems with large radii that have a tendency to hoard needed nutrients from beans and peas.

5. Tomatoes and potatoes

7 Vegetable Pairs You Should NEVER Plant Together (No. 5 Is Where Everyone Messes Up)

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While it may be fun to say their names together, tomatoes and potatoes don’t belong together in the garden. Both are subject to the same early and late blights, making it easy for a problem with one to quickly become a problem for both.

6. Dill and carrots

Dill participates in some of the most complicated companion planting relationships you’re likely to find in the vegetable garden. Loved for its small yellow blossoms and bright perky flavor, dill will do great things for asparagus plants, broccoli plants and a wide range of others. On the other hand, it seriously inhibits carrots. Both part of the Umbelliferae family, dill can cross-pollinate with carrots to a disastrous end. Even more confusing? The relationship between dill and tomatoes. Planting dill and tomato together will benefit the tomato … at least until the dill reaches maturity, at which point it will start to stunt the growth of tomatoes and should be moved.

7. Strawberries and cabbage

Save any combination of strawberries and cabbage (and other brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower) for the salad bar. While strawberries appreciate the presence of onions, thyme, bean, and sage planted nearby, they get tired of having to call the cops on their pest-prone cabbage neighbors.

Although far from an exact science, keeping these neighbor no-nos in mind when planning your garden will help you get the most out of your garden space.

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

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7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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I remember being devastated one spring when, as a new homeowner and a new gardener, I found all my carefully planted tulip bulbs unearthed and eaten. Squirrels were the culprits. Those furry, chattering creatures were not content with the plentiful supply of acorns from nearby trees, and they went after my new bulbs instead.

Squirrels certainly can be a nuisance to the gardener. They are avid foragers. In fact, they spend most of their time gathering food and either eating it or storing it for the future.

Squirrels are also quite persistent and will dig holes and chew through almost anything that gets in the way of their pursuit of a tasty meal. Instead of nibbling on flowers or shoots as deer and rabbits do, squirrels will dig down to pull up and devour bulbs.

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However, there are some bulb plants and other plants that squirrels usually avoid. Here are seven garden plants that repel squirrels.

1. Daffodils

Daffodils and other members of the Narcissi family can deter not only squirrels but also deer and rabbits. Squirrels do not like their taste or their smell.

Although I am a fan of the bright sunny yellow daffodil, these blooms come in orange, white and combinations of bright colors as well. Daffodils are hardy in a range of climates. They are lovely border plants and can provide an early spring burst of color between your shrubs or around your trees.

2. Alliums

7 Garden Plants That (Really Do) Repel Squirrels

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Squirrels also are not fond of alliums, which are relatives of the onion family. The ornamental varieties of these plants have large, round flowers that come in white, purple, pink, yellow and blue. Edible alliums include garlic, scallions and onions. These varieties produce a strong odor that repels squirrels. Alliums are hardy perennials in many climates.

3. Fritillaries

In addition to the interesting colors and patterns of their blooms, fritillaries, which are part of the Liliaceae family, have a strong scent that squirrels avoid. Fritillaries are hardy in zones 5 through 9.

These plants do well in rock gardens or as border plantings. Look for Fritillaria meleagris, which has single or double blooms in a checkboard maroon and or a red-purple or red-white pattern.

4. Galanthus

The strong scent from Galanthus bulbs may keep squirrels from foraging in your garden. There are many species of Galanthus, including perennial bulb varieties that bloom from spring well into fall.

The giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) variety has large statement flowers that add drama to your garden.

5. Hyacinth

Although I love the deep blue hyacinths best, these plants come in many shades of reds, purples and whites, too. These spring-flowering bulbs look impressive when planted in groups of 10 or more plants.

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Hyacinths have fragrant flowers that bloom in dense clusters, and squirrels do not like them.

6. Lily-of-the-Valley

What’s great about these pretty plants is that they can thrive in shady areas of your garden. The plant stems are covered with dainty bell-shaped flowers that have a strong scent that squirrels dislike, as well as bright green, sword-shaped leaves.

These plants are easy to grow and they thrive as perennials in many zones.

7. Geraniums

I know I can count on geraniums to withstand cool temperatures of spring and fall as well as plenty of hot sun in the summer. In addition, these workhorses of the flower garden have a scent that repels squirrels.

Geraniums like moist, well-drained soil. Pinch spent blooms for more color.

In conclusion, it’s a good idea to think with your nose when trying to keep squirrels away from your garden. You also might want to try sprinkling hot spices, such as chili powder or cayenne pepper, around areas they frequent in your flower or vegetable beds.

Peppermint is another natural squirrel repellent. You can plant peppermint plants or spray a mist of water with a few drops of pure peppermint oil added to it.

Good luck!

How do you keep squirrels out of your garden? Share your tips in the section below:

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