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Work Smarter Not Harder – In The Garden

Sometimes in the preparedness folds, we really get wrapped around axles. We have so much that we’re learning and trying to do, and we’re regularly doing it on a budget – which is just one more thing that circles around our heads and beats us up.

We can limit some of the pains of preparedness by changing how we look at things, but also how we do things. Gardening and larger-scale growing is routinely on our to-do list. It’s something that’s going to come as a shock for those who don’t practice ahead of time, no matter how many tricks get applied. However, we can save some time and stress on our bodies with a few low-cost and low-skill tricks and tools, and see increased yields. Bigger yields means lower dinner costs and potentially some increased food storage, letting us expand our preparedness in other ways.

Here are a handful of quickie, usually highly inexpensive – easy garden hacks to save time, money and labor. As you read them, don’t forget: Paper products are compostable.

Mulch

Mulch makes life easier.

Mulch can be straw or wood chips, lightly soiled animal litter, mown or whole leaves, the tips of branches we’re pruning, or shredded white paper. Shredded paper will settle into a mat that makes it tough for weeds, but “loose” mulch routinely does better with a weed suppression barrier down first. We can use newsprint, cardboard, or phone book pages as a weed suppressor and to keep small plants free of dirt kicked up by rain. We won’t get the same moisture-holding and soil aeration improvements, we will still have to weed some, especially if we already have beds that are weed prone, but it lessens our time spent sitting or crouched and bent over.

Mulch lessens the pains of gardening. We don’t weed as much, our plants do better, and we don’t have to water as much.

In some forms of mulch gardening, the mulch stays right there year-round. Some styles use a mulch that in hot, damp climates rots enough during the off-season and is tilled in that winter or early in spring. In others, we scoot aside just enough to drop seeds or transplants in during succession plantings, add amendments like cured manure or compost or pH-raising pine by raking it just into or over the surface, and add mulch more slowly.

Plastic bottles

olla-drip-irrigators-easiest-way-to-do-it-plantcaretoday_com

Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

We don’t store water or foods in milk jugs because they’re porous and can leach previous content out slowly, but they have their place among soda and juice bottles in the garden.

Various bottles can be used to make mini-greenhouses, cloches, scoops, and seed spreaders, as well as mouse and rat traps (2Ls can work for small squirrels and chipmunks, too, or slow them down enough for the garden terriers to get there). They’re great for vertical strawberry and herb and lettuce towers. We can use them to keep cord from tangling, and punch various holes to use for spreading amendments and treatments. Whack them in half, use sourdough starter and water or beer, and they catch horrific numbers of slugs.

For time savers and back savers, though, bottles really excel at helping us water.

Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

Whether we grow in raised beds or tilled rows, mulched beds or multi-layered hugel or lasagna beds, we can use bottles as a spin on olla irrigation, too. We can drill holes all over, as shown in the graphic from http://plantcaretoday.com/soda-bottle-drip-feeder-for-vegetables.html, bury it near our plants, and use a hose to fill it quickly. A similar version plants the bottle cap-down, with holes drilled in the cap and the sloping neck, and the inverted bottom cut entirely or with just enough remaining to make a flap. Those are even easier and faster to fill, with less aim needed.

The water from those will then sink out slowly, watering deep at the roots and watering our plants, not the weeds or walkways. Less water is lost to evaporation, and we don’t have to deal with timers or hose connections, or PVC to avoid standing out there forever to slowly sink in water. We pour it in, fill it up, and move to the next. If it’s really hot and dry, we might need to repeat, but it’s a low-tech, low-expense way to work faster than standing there with a hose or moving hoses back and forth so we can mow.

Maybe that means less time on our feet overall, or maybe that lets us progress to our weeding and suckering or the next round of planting.

Seeding time – The Dibble

A dibble is basically just something that makes a hole for us. Usually, it’s a somewhat shallow hole and it’s usually intended for seeds but we can work with that. There are two general types, rolling or boards, although with leek dibbles (which work with any transplant), you walk around with a rake or double-handle tool poking your holes. Boards are typically set up with dowels that will poke holes, or come as cutouts and we use something to poke holes to our desired depths. Rolling dibbles tend to be drum or wheel style.

drum-or-rolling-dibbler-and-dibble-board-www_ncat_org

There are two general types, rolling or boards.

Plans are out there for dibblers that can run from almost nothing if you salvage parts or make minis out of coffee cans and 12” PVC or make a single, double- or triple row dibble wheel out of bikes from Craigslist. Drum styles can cost as much as $100-200 to make at home if you’re inclined to go that route instead. Some of the really fancy board dibblers even get marked in colors so one board can be used for spacings from 1” to 6”.

In no-till schemes where you drag a pointed hoe to clear a spot for seeds, dibble wheels tend to be handy. In tall raised beds and window boxes or trays, a board dibbler may be more beneficial.

Using dibbles at whatever scale we choose to lets us quickly mark the space for seeds and transplants. Even if we have to go back with a post hole digger for some of those transplants, time spent upright instead of crouched tends to make for happier backs.


Seeding time – Furrowing rake

A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed. It’s typically done so that the extensions are movable, letting us go as tight as the 1-1.5” gaps of the rake tines out to the full 1-2’ width of that rake.

We can get as complex as we like, adding marker lines to tell us how deep we’re aiming, or using multiple depths so we can plant cutting salad greens in the shallowest grooves and have deeper grooves for our peas. We can drag it both down and across a bed to create a grid, with seeds going at the cross points.

rake-with-hose-for-seed-spacing-1-themarthablog-dot-com

A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed.

Taking a few minutes to prep some moveable rods or pipes and lay out our grid – while standing – limits how much measuring we do while we’re bent or crouched, saving time and pain with a very quick and low-cost trick.

Seeding tubes or pipes

Dibbles and furrowing aren’t the only way to limit how much time we spend crouched over during seeding time. Even a congestion-planting scheme that calls for under-seeding doesn’t have to be done from a stool or our knees.

There are a couple of tiers of standing seeders for small plot growers, from this really simple version http://knowledgeweighsnothing.com/how-to-build-a-back-saving-pvc-corn-bean-seed-planter/ to this more advanced DIY https://thinmac.wordpress.com/a-homemade-seed-planter/.

Those aren’t really necessary, though. All you really need is a pipe smooth enough for seeds to roll through cleanly and sturdy enough to stand up straight.

If you want to work with tiny seeds as well as larger ones, maybe you lay on skinnier aquarium tubing to attach to a tool handle or yardstick (with rubber bands, even), and make yourself a pasteboard, tin-can or paper funnel and tape it in place. Use the back-end of a teaspoon or the little measuring spoon from somebody’s aquarium chemicals to fish out 2-5 seeds at a time.knowledgeweighsnothing-com-pvc-seed-hack

Seed tapes and mats

If we’re not digging the various seeding tubes, we can also use our rainy days or blistering hot days to make seed tapes out of strips of paper, or larger seed mats out of unfolded paper napkins and paper towels like these http://annieskitchengarden.blogspot.com/2009/09/september-22-2009-home-made-seed-mat.html & http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/2009/12/construct-your-own-seed-mats.html . We don’t have to mix up some kind of funky glue like with some of the DIY-ers show. The toothpick dab of white Elmer’s the first site shows is water-soluble and works just fine.

When we’re ready to plant, we just zoom along exposing our soil or following her mix, lay out our mats, and cover them again. We can work in fair-sized lengths that we roll up around an empty tube and then just nudge along using a broom or hoe, or use a square or two at a time that lets us stagger our planting for a staggered harvest or interspersed companion flowers.

Seed mats and strips can also be made out of a single thickness of newspaper pages for larger seeds like peas and beans as well, although we’ll want to make a small 1/8” slit or poke a pencil-tip hole through to give our seeds a head start on busting through the heavier paper.

Since we’re planting 3-6” or as much as 8-12” apart in those cases, whether we do rows or congestion beds, working with a larger paper size makes sense. The newspaper sheet will decay over the season, but being thicker, it does offer a nice head start for our seeds over the weed seeds that may be lurking below. Being thicker, it also does better if the seed gets that head start of a slit.

No more removing gloves. No more exposing seed packets to dirt and moisture, or unfolding and refolding and sticking them in a pocket as we try to keep track of where exactly the tiny black seeds landed in our bed. And since they’re evenly spaced instead of scattered in lines and areas, it’s minutely easier to tell which tiny baby dicot we should be plucking when the weeds start – at least we can work quickly in some of the gaps.

In the garden – Avoid the crouch-ouch

So why the focus on things that improve soils without hauling lots of bales, limiting all the bending, limiting the bending and time we spend watering (or pumping water), collecting trash to make all kinds of weird contraptions in the garden? It’s not just me being a greenie, I promise.

Especially for seniors and those with nagging pains and injuries, the ability to work standing upright or from a chair without leaning over or reaching far can not only increase the joy of gardening, but in some cases go as far as making gardening possible again.

Arthritic hands, shaking from an injury or age, and loss of full motor function from an accident can make it frustrating and painful even to fetch out and drop a lima or pea, let alone broccoli and spinach, and unless they’re willing to just punch some holes in a baggy and shake, just forget about iceberg and romaine and strawberry spinach.

The ability to work slowly over winter or summer to prepare for spring and autumn leaf and root crops, the ability to use a tube and funnel, then shake or scoop seeds using something they can actually grip is enormous.

Reexamine how you garden

Even for those in good health or who just like to be out there, some simple and inexpensive DIY projects and some trash collection and reuse can save a lot of time.

That might make a difference in garden size now, while we’re working and balancing families. It will definitely make a difference later, when we’re depending on those gardens to feed us or add a little forkability and crunch to our starvation-staving diet (I loved that article, BTW).

Saving backs and creating easy-to-use tools can also let us involve our parents and kids a little more in some cases, giving them independence and sharing the satisfaction that comes from a meal we procured for ourselves. There’s little better in life than seeing that pride returned to your parents and grandparents, or watching it bloom in your children.

It also sucks to fail, especially when we have a lot of time invested in something.

Water reservoirs, reduced weed competition, proper seeding coverage, and workload-friendly seeding methods can help increase our rate of success, which encourages us to do it again.

Work Smarter Not Harder – In The Garden

As a child I grew up in a house named The Orchard and although the land had long since been sold off several large apple trees remained which gave us a reasonable harvest each year. I have fond memories of the delicious fruit pies and crumbles my mother used to prepare. Growing fruit is one of the most efficient forms of gardening – once the trees are established you can expect an abundant supply for decades with only a little pruning and mulching to keep them happy.

Without doubt, the cheapest way to start a mini-orchard is to buy bare-rooted plants: those sold without a pot and delivered while the weather is still cold and the plants are dormant. As well as saving money, you will often find a much wider selection of varieties and sizes available as bare-rooted trees. Many wonderful types of apples, pears, plums etc can be grown by the home gardener that are never available in supermarkets and the trees can be trained to fit the area you have.

However, bare-rooted trees need to be planted correctly and given careful treatment during the first year in order to establish healthy root systems and give a reliable harvest…

apple-harvest[1]

Timing

The biggest stresses on a new fruit tree are usually below ground. Getting sufficient water and nutrients in the first few months after planting is essential and that’s why the timing is crucial. The number one priority is helping your new tree establish a healthy root system. The best time to plant bare-rooted trees is towards the end of winter or the first half of spring – once the ground is no longer frozen so it can be easily dug but before new growth starts.

It’s usually worth consulting a tree nursery that know your area and can advise on the window of time when they lift the young plants and deliver them and when conditions are right for your area. In the mild maritime climate where I live, trees can be planted from November onwards and this gives them a few extra weeks for the roots to establish but in harsher areas you’ll want to wait until spring. You will need to plant them quickly once they arrive – usually within a couple of days, though it’s possible to pack the roots with moist earth to extend this period if conditions outside aren’t favourable.

If you miss the ideal window of time for your area but still want to plant this year, it’s worth paying more for container-grown plants. These will already have roots that have grown into the soil around them and as long as you don’t disturb these too much when planting, they’ll be ready to draw up moisture and nutrients during warmer weather.victoria-plum[1]

Location, Location, Location

Fruit trees don’t like to be moved so it is important to get the location right first time. Things to consider are:

  • Sun or Partial Shade: Nearly all fruit trees require plenty of sun but by carefully scouring catalogues you’ll find there are some less well-know varieties that are tolerant of partial shade. Don’t just consider the ground – it’s the leaves that need sun and this often opens up possibilities for otherwise unproductive areas.
  • Soil: Most will want free-draining soil, enriched with compost. Avoid areas that regularly flood or higher ground that dries out quickly.
  • Wind and Snow: Be aware of the direction of prevailing wind and any large buildings nearby. A wall or fence may create a sheltered environment perfect for heat-loving fruits, or it could funnel icy winds during winter. Roofs can dump a ton of snow on an unsuspecting tree below, snapping its branches. Observe your garden closely to choose the best spot.
  • Other Plants: Trees are remarkably good at drawing up nutrients and water from the surrounding area. Unless you’re using raised beds, remember that a nearby fruit tree or bush may compete with your other plants.

Planting Tips

Many good fruit-tree suppliers will sell reasonably priced kits that include a stake, tie, mulch mat etc and I think it’s a false economy to skip these items.

Follow these simple steps to give your tree the best start:planting-fruit-tree[1]

  1. Dig a hole about a spade’s depth and around 3ft (1m) wide. Although it’s natural to dig a round hole, a square one is better as it encourages the roots to push out into the surrounding ground. Keep the soil you have removed in a wheelbarrow or on a large plastic sheet.
  2. Add a few inches of good garden compost and work it into the base of the hole using a garden fork. Mixing is important so that the tree’s roots don’t meet a sudden boundary between compost and regular soil. Also, mix some compost into the soil you removed.
  3. Look for the slightly darker ‘watermark’ on the tree’s trunk that indicates where the soil level was when it was first grown. Place the bare-rooted tree in the centre of the hole and a cane across the hole so you can check that this line is level with the soil around your hole as trees shouldn’t be planted deeper or shallower than they were first grown. If necessary, add or remove soil to achieve this. Most fruit trees will be grafted onto a rootstock and the join should always be above ground.
  4. Remove the tree and put in a thick wooden stake a couple of inches from the centre of the hole and on the side where the prevailing wind comes from. Hammer this firmly into the ground using a mallet.
  5. Place the tree back in the hole, position it so the trunk is close to the stake and start to shovel the soil-and-compost mixture back around the roots. Gently firm this in with your boots, being careful not to damage the roots. When it’s half full, pull the tree up an inch and then let it drop again as this helps the soil to fill in around the roots.
  6. Once all the soil has been added and firmed, use the supplied strap to fix the tree to the stake, leaving enough room for the tree trunk to grow but not so much that it wobbles about. Also add a protective tube around the trunk if animals are a problem. At this stage I also sprinkle a little seaweed meal fertilizer around and cover it with a bio-degradable hemp mat to suppress weeds.
  7. Water the soil well to stop the roots drying out and to further settle the soil around them.

The First Year for Fruit Trees

fruit-tree-planted[1]Fruit trees always seem to be such strong, healthy plants that we forget how vulnerable they are when first planted. Yet during the first year, the tree can easily die from not getting enough water or nutrients. Until the root system is at least as large as the tree it supports, it is particularly vulnerable to environmental stress.

During the first year or two, keep the tree well watered, especially during dry weather. A good soaking once or twice a week is much better than surface watering daily, though during very hot weather it can be worth doing both. It’s also vital to keep the area around the tree completely free of weeds and grass as they will compete with the young tree, which is why mulch mats are very effective.

Finally, don’t forget to remove all blossom from the tree in the first year. Although it’s tempting to let some fruit develop, doing so will again place more stress on the tree as it establishes and forgoing the first year’s fruit will result in a much healthier tree and better harvest in years to come.

Source: Growveg.com

The cheapest way to start a mini-orchard is to buy bare-rooted plants: those sold without a pot and delivered while the weather is still cold and the plants are dormant.

When garden composting caught on in the early 1980s, I thought back to my mother sending us kids to the garden every night to bury the day’s apple cores, carrot tops and hickory nut shells. It seemed Mom was ahead of her time.

Or was she?

I’ve been reading in the “1881 Household Cyclopedia of General Information” about enriching soil. In the days before chemical fertilizers, making compost was vital for a successful harvest. Only a lazy farmer was not continually building up his soil. And to neglect the earth meant to have poor quality vegetables and crops.

“The best natural soils,” according to the book, “are those where the materials have been derived from the breaking up and decomposition, not of one stratum or layer, but of many divided minutely by air and water, and minutely blended together: and in improving soils by artificial additions, the farmer cannot do better than imitate the processes of nature.”

Although the 813-page book was published in 1881, it contains information from farming practices in use before the Civil War, according to the authors. My mother did not start gardening until the 1950s, but instinctively knew the old-time methods were best.

Linda’s Home Garden

Because we ate so much wild game when I was young, we had, or course, lots of animal innards, bones, skin and other parts to get rid of all winter. When the garden was too frozen for burying scraps, we chiseled up as much soil as possible and covered the stuff with snow until springtime. It grossed me out as a kid to put animal parts in the garden, but Mom had it right – we were imitating nature.

The book applies the term manure indiscriminately to all substances known from experience either to enrich the soil or contribute in any other way to render it more favorable to vegetation. Healing the soil is akin to healing a body.

“In an agricultural point of view, the subject of manures is of the first magnitude,” the book states. “To correct what is hurtful to vegetation in the different soils, and to restore what is lost by exhausting crops, are operations in agriculture which may be compared to the curing of diseases in the animal body, or supplying the waste occasioned by labor.”

Like other household hint books on the era, the Cyclopedia is compiled of 10,000 submissions by farmers and home gardeners on topics from agriculture to wine. The book states the following conclusions may be regarded as scientifically sustained, as well as confirmed by practical experience:

 

Organic Manures

1. Fresh human urine yields nitrogen in greater abundance to vegetation than any other material of easy acquisition. The urine of animals is valuable for the same purpose, but not equally so. Still, none should not be wasted.

2. The mixed excrements of man and animals yield (if carefully preserved from further decomposition), not only nitrogen, but other invaluable saline and earthy matters that have been already extracted in food from the soil.

3. Animal substances such as urine, flesh, and blood decompose rapidly and are fitted to operate immediately and powerfully on vegetation.

4. Dry animal substances (horn, hair, or woollen rags) decompose slowly and (weight for weight) contain a greater quantity of organized as well as unorganized materials. Their influence may be manifested for several seasons.

5. Finely crushed bones, acting like horns in so far as their animal matter is concerned, may ameliorate the soil by their earthy matter for a long period (even if the jelly they contain has been injuriously removed by the size maker), permanently improving the condition and adding to the natural capabilities of the land.

Using animal manures

“Dung is the mother of good crops; and it appears that no plan can be devised by which a large quantity can be so easily and cheaply gathered, or by which straw can be so effectually rotted and rendered beneficial to the occupier of a clay-land farm, as the soiling (feeding) of grass in the summer season.”

Any farmer can tell you that animal manure varies in potency by the animals’ diet. The book recommends not letting early springtime weeds go to waste as they pop up in fencerows or alongside buildings. Cut those nutritious weeds and feed them to your animals. You’ll be rewarded for your effort.

“In a word, the dung of animals fed upon green clover, may justly be reckoned the richest of all dung. It may, from the circumstances of the season, be rapidly prepared, and may be applied to the ground at a very early period, much earlier than any other sort of dung can be used with advantage.”

Also, the practice of soiling or feeding horses or cattle in the barn or farmyard is eminently calculated to increase the quantity and quantity of manure on every farm. In the 1800s, feeding horses in the summer months on green clover and ryegrass was a common practice in grain districts where farm labor was available.

 

“The utility of the practice does not need the support of argument, for it is not only economical to the farmer, but saves much fatigue to the poor animal; besides, the quantity of dung thereby gathered is considerable.”

Positioning and management of the pile is also important to obtain the best quality compost in shortest amount of time.

“When driven out of the fold-yard, the dung should be laid up in a regular heap or pile not exceeding six quarters, or four feet and a half in height; and care should be taken not to put either horse or cart upon it, which is easily avoided by backing the cart to the pile, and laying the dung compactly together with a grape or fork.”

While you may not be using a horse to cart the manure, the message is the same – don’t smash the pile. Also cover the outer edges of the manure pile with soil to keep in the moisture and prevent the sun and wind from depleting nutrients. A small quantity of earth scattered on the top is also useful.

“Dung, when managed in this manner, generally ferments very rapidly; but if it is discovered to be in a backward state, a complete turn over, about the 1st of May, when the weather becomes warm, will quicken the process; and the better it is shaken asunder, the sooner will the object in view be accomplished.”

When starting the pile, select a secluded spot not exposed to wind or where water pools. The pile should also be downhill from and at least 100 feet from water sources to keep from polluting your freshwater.

To save trouble later, start the pile in the garden or field where it is to be used. It is also most convenient to have the manure pile near the homestead.

“There it is always under the farmer’s eye, and a greater quantity can be moved in a shorter time than when the situation is more distant. Besides, in wet weather (and this is generally the time chosen for such an operation), the roads are not only cut up by driving to a distance, but the field on which the heap is made may be poached and injured considerably.”


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When garden composting caught on in the early 1980s, I thought back to my mother sending us kids to the garden every night to bury the day’s apple cores, carrot

In preparing for what may come, big and small, we tend to focus on two things first: food and defense. Some of us do plan out our resupply and restocking – which means growing – but maybe we’re stuck in a rut because of the things we read about seeds, and maybe aren’t really and truly understanding seed types and some of the terms we see. I’d like to dig into some of those terms so we know what we do and don’t want to buy, and why.

Seed Terms

We see a few plant terms pretty commonly in our day-to-day life, especially if we’re of a certain mindset. The biggies we see when we’re researching and buying seeds are: hybrid, heirloom, OP (Open Pollinated), GMO (Genetically Modified Organism), and organic. So let’s look at them a little closer, because they’re pretty significant and tend to be rife with crazy advertising and misconceptions.

Organic

This isn’t actually a seed term. It speaks to the culture of plants, the way we treat a plant, how we grow it. States have differing requirements for what it takes to be labeled organic, but the upshot is that it limits the amount of chemicals used. GMO seeds are not considered organic, even when the modification is something that is considered an organic compound, like some of the cold-resistance genes from fish, Bt that is a naturally-occurring microbe, or genes that allow resistance to Roundup (AKA, RR-Roundup Ready). However, seeds do not have to be grown organically to be either heirloom or OP crops. Likewise, hybrid seeds can be grown organically.

The most comprehensive look at preventative medicine out there. Click on it for details.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Contain genes from something that did not start off in a particular genetic line. Genes that are implanted could be from another class of plant or algae, from a frog, or from a fish. Sometimes the modification is removing a gene that would normally suppress or create a reaction. It’s a wide field.

GMO plants are mostly capable of successfully breeding, just to clear up that myth. Plants are more resilient in the face of uneven chromosome matching than animals. That uneven number of chromosomes in offspring (seeds) are what make fertile mule mares newsworthy, but the ability to cope with genetic inequality is actually responsible for some varieties and eventually speciation within plants, totally naturally. However, since most GMO plants are hybrids, it’s like rolling a 10-sided die in hopes of a 6, just like breeding two mutt dogs to each other. Because of that – and because of contracts – farmers don’t collect seed from their GMO crops.

Another pervading myth is that you have to work hard to avoid GMO plants. Yes, in U.S. supermarkets. Unless otherwise marked, almost everything in the center aisles, dairy section, and meat department has likely been fed or contains GMO corn or soy.

You want to survive tomorrow? Start today.

However, GMO variants don’t exist for every type of crop, and few are readily available. Wheat, corn, squash, canola, beets, alfalfa, soybeans, and oil cotton are the most common GMO seeds sold by Monsanto, with sweet potatoes and papaya available in Asia. Tomatoes, rice and potatoes have been approved but are not yet available commercially. GMO seeds are actually pretty expensive, too, especially in small scale. It’s unlikely – unless we’re buying big bulk farm-cropping seeds from a supply store – that we will even see GMO products available to us.

So why do we see so many “GMO-free” and “organic” banners on seed packets? Because we’re more inclined to buy them – or pay more for them.

It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog – when we’re interested in something, companies strive to meet that interest. Even good sellers and producers need to eat and thus develop marketing strategies, but it’s something we can be aware of to save our own hard-earned cash. If we’re buying OP or heritage seeds, paying extra for a “GMO-free” label is like paying more for “cow-free” labeling on soy milk. How the seed parents were raised (organic or inorganic) is really only of political or moral interest. We’ll inhale more toxins in a day than that single seed will convey to the adult plant and its fruit. Therefore paying more for “organic” labels is more personal preference.

That’s not to say a certain pack of seeds is not worth more than another. I may be motivated to support independent farm-to-sale seed production, small companies, organic growing methods, landrace projects, or heirlooms. I might be paying for packaging, uniqueness, or to support some organization in conjunction with the supplier or retailer. Just be aware of what you’re really paying for.

Everything from the soil up. Seeds included. Click the book for details. 

Heirloom seeds

Also sold as heritage crops, have been around for a while, somewhat unchanged. I say “somewhat” because things change. Look up the evolution in AKC standards, especially for things like Airedales and German shepherds.

You can also look at vehicle tag standards. The 1991 F150 and the 1930 Model A are both older Ford pickups that qualify for the same classic or antique plate, but they’re very different vehicles with very different capabilities. Heirloom seeds are kind of like that. Some are fifty years old, some are centuries old. They may follow a basic form, but the 1850’s cultivar will likely demonstrate more changes from the original than the fifty-year-old seeds.

That’s okay. All our crops have changed significantly, usually for the milder and sweeter, sometimes getting bigger and sometimes yielding more fruit per plant. In other cases, plants have gotten smaller, like an heirloom wheat bred by human selection over about 300 years to produce seed at 2-3’ instead of taking half the season just to grow to 5-6’.

All heirloom is going to be open-pollinated, but not all OP seeds are heirloom, and that’s okay, too.

OP/Open-pollinated

This means that seeds will breed true, beagle + beagle = beagle, pepper to pepper.

Some plants (corn, wheat) use wind to pollinate them from another plant of the same species (two or more plants are necessary for pollination or for fertile seeds). Some plants (squash) need a thin paintbrush or a bug to get coated in pollen from a male flower and then coat the important parts of a female flower, but the flowers can be from a single plant. Peas could use wind or a bug, but will usually bear fruit just fine from the pollen and eggs within a single flower. Tomatoes could bear fruit from just one flower without any assistance, but will be more successful if the flower gets shaken by us or by insects, dropping more pollen onto the petioles.

Spacing-concepts-congestion-planting-marigolds-and-cabbage-www_welldonelandscaping

So long as our spaghetti squash does not begat-begat with acorn squash and our bantam sweet corn does not make time with our strawberry popcorn, all will be well. That’s how OP and breeding true impacts us: We can collect our seeds, plant them again, and make future generations of the same squashes and corns into infinity.

It does not require a particularly long genetic line to produce those results. OP seeds have regularly been refined over years, but they may only be a few years old, relatively, especially fast-growing plants that can produce multiple generations in a year.

OP’s are commonly tailored the same way hybrids are, breeding more and more for cold and heat and drought tolerance, expanding the range that a plant can be successfully grown in, or making it resistant to the introduced and stagnant-soil diseases we fight. We also breed for more produce per plant, either same-size plants or larger plants. Sometimes OP’s go the opposite way and are bred to be smaller and more compact, so they fit in more places, or so they spend less time on foliage and can be harvested earlier and easier.

OP’s can be had both determinate (most production in a narrow window) to aid in efficient harvest and succession or rotation cropping, or indeterminate (production spread out across a longer range) so that we can stagger harvest and processing.

OP is how all heirlooms start. They’re no less reliable than an heirloom or heritage crop seed. They’re just younger, 1991 F150 instead of 1948 F150.

Hybrids

Are what result from promiscuous plants or deliberate cross-pollination. The problem is that they don’t necessarily breed true to a parent hybrid.

Look at Labradoodles (Labrador + Poodle). If I breed Labradors for fifty years, I might get some slight variations but I’m getting Labs. However, if I breed two Labradoodles, I start gambling. I may get some pups that throw back to Labs, some pups that throw back to poodles, and some pups that do present as Labradoodles. There may also be some pups that look like maybe there was a milkman involved, because neither parents nor grandparents have upright, pointy ears or spots.

Genetics are funny that way. “Hybrid vigor” is awesome, I love my mutt livestock and pets, but it’s also a gambling game. When we want to eat, we don’t like to gamble on what’s going to show up with more than a year invested in the seeds.

Hybrids have their purposes, especially since a lot of heirlooms and some OP’s are indeterminate. A lot of hybrids are also faster than their heirloom fore-bearers. Although there are heirlooms and newer OP’s that are resistant to diseases, hybrids can usually be found already tailored for our exact growing conditions. They shouldn’t represent the whole stock for somebody worried about losing their supply line, but there are arguments that can be made for including them in planting and storage.

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Bonus: Landrace

We sometimes see the term “landrace” in homesteading circles. That’s its own separate cookie, too. Landrace lines – plant or animal – represent the idea that regionally produced specimens are better than “generic” heirlooms and heritage crops.

They are being developed much the way our crops and livestock started and why we have so many breeds of chickens, pigs, goats and so many cultivars of plants: they stay in pockets. It’s not necessarily bottle-necking and inbreeding, although there is some – purposefully done and carefully controlled. It’s about a belief small, slow solutions, and in local products. It’s making a pig and a dent corn for Arizona that fits Arizona better than it does Alabama or Alaska. Some landrace programs are also working on livestock with native pasture and forage, to decrease the amount of reseeding and grain feeding we have to do.

We already apply some landrace principles when we give advice. I may suggest certain apple trees and chicken breeds for a pasture orchard, but I will also tell you to try to find a local nursery with a local or regional grower, and a local or regional breeder. The chances of you having success with something that’s intended for your area, that has come from healthy parents that are already thriving in your area, are much higher than if you order in a plant or livestock from two USDA growing zones away, even if it’s the same breed or cultivar.

Landrace initiatives are working to make those kinds of local-to-local sources more available, increasing local success.

Selecting Seeds

“One Size Fits All” is largely a myth. There are always exceptions. Needs and goals differ, so one specific seed type isn’t necessarily better or worse across the board.

Somebody might stock some 45-50 day hybrid squashes so that they can see returns if a tornado, rogue truck, fire, animal or torrential downpour takes out their garden 60 days before the average first frost. Somebody may want a hybrid cover that more effectively chokes out weeds for the first couple of years. Alternatively, some may be dedicated to saving towering heritage wheat, or may see good reason to cultivate tepary beans even though they don’t match their current climate.

That’s as it should be. We’re all different with different motivations, so we seek out our best fit.

Additionally, sometimes we can save a little money or increase our options by understanding how important a specific seed term is to us, and how important it is to us to have our heirloom or OP seeds also marked with the words “organic” or “GMO-free”.

The goal is to be aware of what those terms in seed descriptions really mean so that we can make the best purchasing decisions for our situations and expectations.


Other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)

Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)

Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)

Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)

The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)

The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)

In preparing for what may come, big and small, we tend to focus on two things first: food and defense. Some of us do plan out our resupply and restocking

Sometimes in the preparedness folds, we really get wrapped around axles. We have so much that we’re learning and trying to do, and we’re regularly doing it on a budget – which is just one more thing that circles around our heads and beats us up.

We can limit some of the pains of preparedness by changing how we look at things, but also how we do things. Gardening and larger-scale growing is routinely on our to-do list. It’s something that’s going to come as a shock for those who don’t practice ahead of time, no matter how many tricks get applied. However, we can save some time and stress on our bodies with a few low-cost and low-skill tricks and tools, and see increased yields. Bigger yields means lower dinner costs and potentially some increased food storage, letting us expand our preparedness in other ways.

Here are a handful of quickie, usually highly inexpensive – easy garden hacks to save time, money and labor. As you read them, don’t forget: paper products are compostable.

Mulch

Mulch makes life easier.

In some forms of mulch gardening, the mulch stays right there year-round. Some styles use a mulch that in hot, damp climates rots enough during the off-season and is tilled in that winter or early in spring. In others, we scoot aside just enough to drop seeds or transplants in during succession plantings, add amendments like cured manure or compost or pH-raising pine by raking it just into or over the surface, and add mulch more slowly.

Mulch can be straw or wood chips, lightly soiled animal litter, mown or whole leaves, the tips of branches we’re pruning, or shredded white paper. Shredded paper will settle into a mat that makes it tough for weeds, but “loose” mulch routinely does better with a weed suppression barrier down first.

We can use newsprint, cardboard, or phone book pages as a weed suppressor and to keep small plants free of dirt kicked up by rain. We won’t get the same moisture-holding and soil aeration improvements, we will still have to weed some, especially if we already have beds that are weed prone, but it lessens our time spent sitting or crouched and bent over.

Mulch lessens the pains of gardening. We don’t weed as much, our plants do better, and we don’t have to water as much.

Plastic bottles

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Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

We don’t store water or foods in milk jugs because they’re porous and can leach previous content out slowly, but they have their place among soda and juice bottles in the garden.

Various bottles can be used to make mini-greenhouses, cloches, scoops, and seed spreaders, as well as mouse and rat traps (2Ls can work for small squirrels and chipmunks, too, or slow them down enough for the garden terriers to get there). They’re great for vertical strawberry and herb and lettuce towers. We can use them to keep cord from tangling, and punch various holes to use for spreading amendments and treatments. Whack them in half, use sourdough starter and water or beer, and they catch horrific numbers of slugs.

For time savers and back savers, though, bottles really excel at helping us water.

Sub-irrigated planters for buckets and storage tubs and conventional planters can be made using bottles for the tubes instead of aquarium or garden hoses or PVC.

Whether we grow in raised beds or tilled rows, mulched beds or lasagna beds, we can use bottles as a spin on irrigation, too. We can drill holes all over, bury it near our plants, and use a hose to fill it quickly.

A similar version plants the bottle cap-down, with holes drilled in the cap and the sloping neck, and the inverted bottom cut entirely or with just enough remaining to make a flap. Those are even easier and faster to fill, with less aim needed.

The water from those will then sink out slowly, watering deep at the roots and watering our plants, not the weeds or walkways. Less water is lost to evaporation, and we don’t have to deal with timers or hose connections, or PVC to avoid standing out there forever to slowly sink in water. We pour it in, fill it up, and move to the next. If it’s really hot and dry, we might need to repeat, but it’s a low-tech, low-expense way to work faster than standing there with a hose or moving hoses back and forth so we can mow.

Maybe that means less time on our feet overall, or maybe that lets us progress to our weeding and suckering or the next round of planting.

Seeding time – The Dibble

A dibble is basically just something that makes a hole for us. Usually, it’s a somewhat shallow hole and it’s usually intended for seeds but we can work with that. There are two general types, rolling or boards, although with leek dibbles (which work with any transplant), you walk around with a rake or double-handle tool poking your holes. Boards are typically set up with dowels that will poke holes, or come as cutouts and we use something to poke holes to our desired depths. Rolling dibbles tend to be drum or wheel style.

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There are two general types, rolling or boards.

Plans are out there for dibblers that can run from almost nothing if you salvage parts or make minis out of coffee cans and 12” PVC or make a single, double- or triple row dibble wheel out of bikes from Craigslist. Drum styles can cost as much as $100-200 to make at home if you’re inclined to go that route instead. Some of the really fancy board dibblers even get marked in colors so one board can be used for spacings from 1” to 6”.

In no-till schemes where you drag a pointed hoe to clear a spot for seeds, dibble wheels tend to be handy. In tall raised beds and window boxes or trays, a board dibbler may be more beneficial.

Using dibbles at whatever scale we choose to lets us quickly mark the space for seeds and transplants. Even if we have to go back with a post hole digger for some of those transplants, time spent upright instead of crouched tends to make for happier backs.

Seeding time – Furrowing rake

A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed. It’s typically done so that the extensions are movable, letting us go as tight as the 1-1.5” gaps of the rake tines out to the full 1-2’ width of that rake.

We can get as complex as we like, adding marker lines to tell us how deep we’re aiming, or using multiple depths so we can plant cutting salad greens in the shallowest grooves and have deeper grooves for our peas. We can drag it both down and across a bed to create a grid, with seeds going at the cross points.

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A furrowing rake is the simple DIY result of adding tight, relatively stiff hose or PVC to an ordinary hay or garden rake, and using it to drag lines along a prepared bed.

Taking a few minutes to prep some moveable rods or pipes and lay out our grid – while standing – limits how much measuring we do while we’re bent or crouched, saving time and pain with a very quick and low-cost trick.

Seeding tubes or pipes

Dibbles and furrowing aren’t the only way to limit how much time we spend crouched over during seeding time. Even a congestion-planting scheme that calls for under-seeding doesn’t have to be done from a stool or our knees.

All you really need is a pipe smooth enough for seeds to roll through cleanly and sturdy enough to stand up straight.

If you want to work with tiny seeds as well as larger ones, maybe you lay on skinnier aquarium tubing to attach to a tool handle or yardstick (with rubber bands, even), and make yourself a pasteboard, tin-can or paper funnel and tape it in place. Use the back-end of a teaspoon or the little measuring spoon from somebody’s aquarium chemicals to fish out 2-5 seeds at a time.

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Seed tapes and mats

If we’re not digging the various seeding tubes, we can also use our rainy days or blistering hot days to make seed tapes out of strips of paper, or larger seed mats out of unfolded paper napkins and paper towels. We don’t have to mix up some kind of funky glue like with some of the DIY-ers show. The toothpick dab of white Elmer’s the first site shows is water-soluble and works just fine.

When we’re ready to plant, we just zoom along exposing our soil or following her mix, lay out our mats, and cover them again. We can work in fair-sized lengths that we roll up around an empty tube and then just nudge along using a broom or hoe, or use a square or two at a time that lets us stagger our planting for a staggered harvest or interspersed companion flowers.

Seed mats and strips can also be made out of a single thickness of newspaper pages for larger seeds like peas and beans as well, although we’ll want to make a small 1/8” slit or poke a pencil-tip hole through to give our seeds a head start on busting through the heavier paper.

Since we’re planting 3-6” or as much as 8-12” apart in those cases, whether we do rows or congestion beds, working with a larger paper size makes sense. The newspaper sheet will decay over the season, but being thicker, it does offer a nice head start for our seeds over the weed seeds that may be lurking below. Being thicker, it also does better if the seed gets that head start of a slit.

No more removing gloves. No more exposing seed packets to dirt and moisture, or unfolding and refolding and sticking them in a pocket as we try to keep track of where exactly the tiny black seeds landed in our bed. And since they’re evenly spaced instead of scattered in lines and areas, it’s minutely easier to tell which tiny baby dicot we should be plucking when the weeds start – at least we can work quickly in some of the gaps.

In the garden – Avoid the crouch-ouch

So why the focus on things that improve soils without hauling lots of bales, limiting all the bending, limiting the bending and time we spend watering (or pumping water), collecting trash to make all kinds of weird contraptions in the garden?

Especially for seniors and those with nagging pains and injuries, the ability to work standing upright or from a chair without leaning over or reaching far can not only increase the joy of gardening, but in some cases go as far as making gardening possible again.

Arthritic hands, shaking from an injury or age, and loss of full motor function from an accident can make it frustrating and painful even to fetch out and drop a lima or pea, let alone broccoli and spinach, and unless they’re willing to just punch some holes in a baggy and shake, just forget about iceberg and romaine and strawberry spinach.

The ability to work slowly over winter or summer to prepare for spring and autumn leaf and root crops, the ability to use a tube and funnel, then shake or scoop seeds using something they can actually grip is enormous.

Reexamine how you garden

Even for those in good health or who just like to be out there, some simple and inexpensive DIY projects and some trash collection and reuse can save a lot of time.

That might make a difference in garden size now, while we’re working and balancing families. It will definitely make a difference later, when we’re depending on those gardens to feed us or add a little forkability and crunch to our starvation-staving diet.

Saving backs and creating easy-to-use tools can also let us involve our parents and kids a little more in some cases, giving them independence and sharing the satisfaction that comes from a meal we procured for ourselves. There’s little better in life than seeing that pride returned to your parents and grandparents, or watching it bloom in your children.

It also sucks to fail, especially when we have a lot of time invested in something.

Water reservoirs, reduced weed competition, proper seeding coverage, and workload-friendly seeding methods can help increase our rate of success, which encourages us to do it again.

Saving backs and creating easy-to-use tools can also let us involve our parents and kids a little more in some cases, giving them independence.

There’s nothing aspirin can’t solve. Headache? Take an aspirin. Fever? Take an aspirin. For everything else, there’s MasterCard. Joke aside, this little pharmacological jewel is not only a great remedy for all sorts of pains and pangs but also a great helper around the house. Last I heard, some people use common aspirin to make pot plants stay green for a long amount of time.

And, quite recently, I’ve discovered that this wonder pill can really do amazing thing around the veggie garden. Not only that, but it also works on life stock (my father-in-law uses aspirin to treat whooping cough in cows and sheet).

Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, aspirin’s really great for your veggie and flower gardens. Wouldn’t have believed that the same thing used to cure anything from fevers to hangovers could do them plants so much good. So, after getting some kickass results with my cabbage patch, I thought that the most sensible thing to do would be to share some of the reasons why I’ve decided to use the stuff in the first place.

So, without further ado, here are 4 reasons why you should stockpile and use aspirin in your veggie garden.

  1. No more fungus

No, I was talking about foot or nail fungus, but about that greenish stuff that chokes plants and makes gardeners cry. I’ve literally tried every damned anti-fungal solution on the market, but nothing seemed to work. That’s when a good friend of mine, who’s also a pharmacist, told me that I should add one or two aspirin tablets to the watering can. Apparently, salicylic acid is fungi’s number one enemy (has something to do with how the acid disrupts cells inside the fungal growth).

Anywho, if you want to get rid of all the fungus from your veggie garden, use aspirin in conjunction with water. Do keep in mind that the results are not instantaneous – in my case, I had to wait around two and a half weeks to see the results.

  1. Cut flowers will last even longer

I have to admit that I have a thing for freshly-picked flowers. Ever since I can remember, our family always had at least one vase with pretty flowers around the house – mom likes roses, just like my grandma. Still, the only trouble with cut flowers is that whatever you do, they will eventually wilt and day. And this happens faster than most of us realize.

Even that Valentine’s Day bouquet doesn’t last longer that one, maybe two days, provided that you don’t drown it. I read somewhere that flower dealers (yes, I know exactly how it sounds), use a sugar and salt combo to prevent wildflowers from wilting too fast.

I think that’s a load of crap – I’ve tried on many different types of flowers: roses, orchids, tulips, lilies. It doesn’t work. And no, it’s not about balancing the ingredients. Sure, among other things plants take from the soil is salt and glucose. But they also need plenty of other stuff to survive and thrive.

In searching for a better alternative, I tried adding a tablet of aspirin to a vase halfway filled with water. This time, my flowers of choice were Carson roses.  One week later, lo and behold, the roses were still clinging to life, more alive and greener and red than ever before.

  1. More veggies in the garden

In my opinion, starting your own garden is a gamble – you’ll never know what that land will yield or if anything will grow at all. Yes, I know that there are some veggies like potatoes or onions that can be grown anywhere, but this is not always the case.

After harvesting my very first crop, I’ve discovered, much to my dissatisfaction, that I ended up with a basket filled to the brim with nice and round onions, and another with some things that looked like Area 51 experiments. However, the thing that puzzled me the most is that the crops were two weeks late, although I followed the instructions to the letter.

The main issue was, of course, the soil. It needed a little bit of help to yield a better crop. After doing a little bit of online research, I’ve discovered that a surefire way to turn any kind of soil into a veggie-making mean machine was to add some aspirin. So, if you’re having the same problems, try this nifty little trick: dissolve four aspirin tablets in approximately four gallons of water.

Use this mixture to water your plants daily for at least two weeks. It may strike you as a little odd, but apparently, aspirin has a way of encouraging plant growth better than any chemical or organic fertilizer. According to the big and scary book of science, salicylic acids stimulate the soil to generate more vitamin C. And, wouldn’t you know it, even plants like a vitamin C infusion, not only human bones.

  1. Makes for stronger roots

Roots are everything to plants – strong and long one means that the plant will go to get all moisture and nutrients it needs in order to survive and thrive. Unfortunately, with all the chemicals used to stimulate plant growth, roots have become brittle, weak, and unable to properly feed the plant. And that’s bad news for you if decided to ditch supermarket veggies.

Apart from using only organic stuff, you can try and give those roots a little nudge. Yup, you’ve guessed it – aspirin is that swift kick in the keister each plant needs to develop stronger roots. Here’s what you will need to do. Head to the drug store and get some uncoated aspirin (the variety that doesn’t offer gastric protection). Before planting the seeds, dissolve one tablet in one gallon of water and pour the mixture into the hole. Allow the soil to absorb the mix. After that, you can plant whatever your heart desires.

So, what are your thoughts on using aspirin in the garden? Hit the comments section and let me know.

There’s nothing aspirin can’t solve. Headache? Take an aspirin. Fever? Take an aspirin. For everything else, there’s aspirin.

Food will always be king and the reason we have enjoyed the prosperity we have is because of easy access to food. In America, we waste 50% of the food we produce. That is astounding and gross. To those who survived the great depression of the 30’s the idea that any food could be wasted would be unbelievable.

So, how do we go from food being wasted to experiencing something like a global famine?

We have pressed the soil, resources, and planet itself, to a point where all are ready to break. The breadbasket of America and other massive agricultural areas are operating on soils depleted of nutrients and as the worlds, demand continues to grow there is massive pressure to achieve big yields year over year.

Let’s look at 4 factors that are going to affect a famine that starves billions.

Disease

There are some dangerous diseases affecting crops all over the world. UG99 Wheat Rust is a disease with no known cure that is affecting grain populations in America and Mexico. This disease could affect nearly 20% of all wheat crop is in danger of being infected but nearly all wheat crops could be infected by the disease.

There are other’s out there like Mad Soy Disease which is affecting soy crops in Brazil but has been isolated to the northern regions of the nation. We live in a world where people and commodities spread and diseases with them.

It would seem like its only a matter of time before big cash crops are leveled by disease

Soil Quality

The condition of the Earth’s topsoil is abysmal. It is estimated that 1/3 of all growing areas are losing topsoil faster than it can be reproduced. This means that every year farmers must pump loads of fertilizer and other nutrients into the soil in hopes that the plants will have enough to survive.

This drastically affects the quality of the produce and grains that are grown each year. Ideally, you want soil that is full of nutrition and it will impart that nutrition into your food. Instead, we are left with food that is mass produced but exponentially less nutritious than the food being produced in the past.

Before long, our foods will be more chemical and less nutrient or, worse yet, the crop yields will suffer dramatically.

This will lead to worldwide malnutrition and human disease.

Natural Disasters

We pull hundreds of millions of gallons of water from the ground to water these crops. Around the farmland, we decimate the trees and wild-lands. This land is then paved and is no longer capable of absorbing water.

Massive flooding is the outcome and it’s now affecting our growing areas. Without expansive wild areas to absorb the water from large storms, the water rushed to agricultural areas and worst of all it stays there.

The Earth’s natural disasters and our drainage limitations are putting us at a huge risk. The last bomb cyclone in Nebraska left 1,000,000 acres of land underwater and killed almost the same amount of calves.

With spring rains coming this could have lasting and devastating effects on food production. It only takes a few of these large-scale agricultural areas to be disrupted, plantings reduced or eliminated altogether, before the world has to tighten up on supply and people start going hungry.

Personal Food Security

With these three issues potentially having drastic effects on the food system, its safe to say you need a backup. In fact, you need a few. You want to buy, store and grow your way to personal food security. Of course, this is going to take planning and knowledge.

  • Gardening

Whether you go the route of building a food forest, hydroponically growing food, green housing or traditional food growing.

  • Livestock

From things as complicated and as expensive as raising cattle to simply raising chickens for eggs, you need to consider what you can do in terms of raising food-producing animals

  • Food Storage

Food storage is all about planning and rotation. In order to excel at this, you need to know the basics and remember, store what you eat!

  • Preservation

From dehydrating to canning, you will also want to know the majority of these skills and use them to both extend your harvest in the garden and build food storage

  • Foraging

There are food growing all around us, but you need to understand when and where to find them. These will be ancillary calories, but they will help.

  • Hunting

Though season dependent, hunting and trapping can both be impressive ways to put meat on the table or in the freezer.

Getting Started

There is a bit of a knowledge barrier and a lot of practice that goes into all of these. You need a trusted resource that will offer you information on these topics. You could peruse the internet and read various websites to get information on these topics.

A better move is to have a tangible resource that has all of this information in it. This puts a reference tool at your fingertips whether the lights are out or not!

Wouldn’t it be great if something like this existed? Well, you may want to look for The Doomsday Book Of Medicine. This book includes information about the above info and all the info you will need to reach a level of personal food security.

Oh yea, this is also packed with other information about prepping beyond food. You can find it all HERE.

I am not saying it’s the only resource but it’s damn sure a good one!

Conclusion

As the population grows, we are going to face a greater strain on the food system. Nature is hitting back against our modified mono-cultured crop systems and things like wheat, corn and soy production will be disrupted.

This time of excess cannot go on forever. We simply cannot pull out naturally occurring nutrients and replace them with chemicals as a long-term solution. Its time to take control of your own food production. You can do this.

With the right resource, you will find yourself escaping the coming famine and building your own personal food security. The Doomsday Book Of Medicine helps you all the way.

 

In America we waste 50% of the food we produce. That is astounding and gross. To those who survived the great depression of the 30’s the idea that any food

A couple of days ago, my nephew, who’s 8 years old, asked me what do I do for a living. Of course, my answer to him was that I’m a prepper and that I write about it. Cute, I know, but try explaining to a toddler what the Hell is that supposed to mean. Tried to give him the prepping talk with Smokey the Bear and Ivan the gas mask-wearing city denizen.

Dunno if I managed to get through to him – barely convinced my teen daughter and son to help me move some stuff to the family’s mountain cabin, but here’s the thing – in talking to the tyke I got around to realizing how much BS’s floating around our prepping world.

Hell, even the word itself sounds like a cheap millennial knockoff when in fact it’s something as old as time itself. Our grandparents used to call it “common-sense” or just survival. I sometimes wonder – could it be that in prepping for disaster, we actually welcome it in our lives?

Today’s topic will somewhat different. Perhaps you have friends or close acquaintances who wish to become preppers themselves. That’s great, but we really mustn’t lose track of the fact that, in most cases, prepping is far more than buying a nifty gadget or stockpiling food and water in case shit hits the proverbial fan.

The truth of the matter is, not all of us are NBPs (natural-born preppers). Sure, there is such a thing as survival instinct or, as my dad likes to call it, knowing how to guard your royal keister, but that is, more or less, case-dependent. Prepping is not. You do it around the clock, and, most importantly, you never stop.

Sure, for some, it’s a way of life, but for most of us, it’s one of those nagging thoughts nesting at the backs of our heads, keeping us awake at night: “But what if Katrina strikes again? What will happen to me or my family if North Korea declares war on the United States?” Okay, I’m going to stop right here with my end of the world train of thought.

Now, in wanting to show my fellow preppers that this lifestyle choice is no bed of roses, I’ve thought long and hard and finally managed to jot down a small list of reasons why prepping’s more challenging in reality than it is on paper. Call it my way of letting the skeletons out of the cupboard.

Yard Sales or Thrift Shops Are Not the Answer to Everything

I can give you a ton of reasons why you should check out garage sales and thrift shops more often (be sure to check out my article on SHTF items you can find at yard sales for 20 bucks or less). Most items can be repaired and reused. For instance, a while back I found this great garden solar lamp at a Montana flea market.

The owner wanted only 10 cents for it because it was broken and he couldn’t be bothered with the repairs. One new bulb later, the thing was up and running in my garden, giving off the most enchanting glow you’ll ever see. That’s my tiny slice of Heaven or hygge, as the Danish like to call it.

So, if you ever find yourself at a garage sale, spare a couple of moments and look around. You’ll never know what you’re going to find.

Unfortunately, this is where the fun part ends. With a couple of minor exceptions, prepping for every contingency is very expensive. Even if you’re not yet fully ready to drop off the grid, making your house safe, even a small one at that, can run into hundreds of bucks if not more.

Of course, smoke alarms are not that expensive but consider the rest – surveillance system, safety room, sprinkler system, which is a must for any respectable yard owner, garage, keeping your bug out vehicle up to speed, tools, keeping those food and water stocks up to speed, medical checkups, and the list goes on and on.

Prepping’s not the kind of thing you want to rush into or to do it, as the Brits like to say, half-heartedly. You either do it, or you don’t.

Many years ago, before settling down, I lived in a cramped apartment on the 12th floor of this new and shiny glass building. Rent was awfully expensive, but hey, at least I have my own place now.

So, instead of doing what’s right – setting some money aside, making an emergency food and water supply, I went ahead and bought every pack of instant noodle soup I could find. Long story short, city power grid failed one day, and I had to go without electricity for two weeks. Guess what I had to eat all this time? Noodle soup! All day, every day for two whole weeks because I was stupid enough to burn all my money on stupid things like beer and movies and computer games and another crud.

Of course, it’s way cheaper to have a pantry stocked with ready-to-eat noodle soup, but it’s not exactly healthy nor nutritious.

Another harsh reality of prepping is the need vs. afford dilemma. Any like-minded prepper will tell you that in an SHTF situation, dropping off the grid and starting anew is the best option. Regrettably with today’s real-estate market, you can’t even afford to buy a parking spot, let alone a parcel of land.

You may get lucky and find someone willing to part with such a property, but I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on that if I were you. Moreover, buying a piece of land means nothing if you can’t build a shack or something on it. I don’t want to sound like the lovechild of Richie-Rich or something, but I could’ve bought two new hybrid vans and refurbish my city house two times over with the money I’ve spent on my off-grid location.

More than Money

As William Ernest Henley so eloquently put it: “beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the Horror of the shade.” You know what Henley’s shade is? Loneliness. Sheer, mind-wrecking, solitude. A prepper’s life can be a lonely one, especially if he’s surrounded by ‘pals’ who gift him tinfoil hats for his birthday.

I had a rough time convincing my wife to join me on my prepping merry-go-round. Although she’s as much into prepping as most of you are, I still can’t shake the feeling that she sometimes gives me the stink eye. Can’t say I blame her considering that I spend most of my off days working on our hunting cabin garden.

Anyway, the loneliness part becomes even more apparent when you decide to drop off the grid. And it’s not just about being in a relationship or hanging out with your buds on a Saturday night. I’m talking here about the absolute lack of human contact.

Sure, every wide-eyed lad toiling for a big-shot corporation dreams of living everything behind and going to live in seclusion. It’s not like in the movies – you don’t get to discover the true meaning or purpose of life, and you don’t get to be a sultry, ax-wielding Paul Bunyan ersatz. It’s wild, hauntingly quiet, and, most importantly, not the kind of gig you would want to get yourself into unless the shit really hits the fan.

Solitude aside, piecing together such a project takes a lot of work, dedication, and energy. Of course, I’m talking about good, old manual labor. Yup, off-grid living mostly means that you will need to get off your couch and put that shoulder to the wheel if you want to build something that’s abiding.

Most of the challenges you’ll face will be mostly due to your mindset. Growing veggies may be a quaint and probably soothing endeavor for someone who never held a hoe in his hands, but it’s really not that amusing. I threw my back a couple of times before I was able to plant all of my wife’s herbs and veggies.

Sure, it’s nice to snuggle next to a cozy little fireplace, but it becomes a nightmare when you have to clean out the damn thing. One of the most nerve-wracking parts of setting up an off-grid place is how you choose to deal with things like electricity, water, heat, and, of course, the Internet.

Certainly, you need to have electricity for a couple of appliances, but you also need to think about a backup – a gas-powered generator or something (thinking on doing a piece of how I managed to whip up a water-powered generator for my hunting cabin). Everything has to be thought thoroughly. Otherwise you wind up with another house that’s just as vulnerable during an SHTF situation like any city location.

And probably, the most daunting aspect of prepping is knowing that everything you do is a gamble. There’s no guarantee for anything – nobody can tell you for certain if your crops will yield something or if the home you’ve to build won’t fall on your head in case of a disaster.

Yes, I consider myself to be a gambler of the sort, but the only difference, in this case, is that I know when to cash out. That’s probably the most important aspect – trying to do a lot of stuff at the same time can end in disaster.

A couple of years after I bought the hunting cabin, I was faced with a big dilemma. The mortgage on our city house went up big time. I was the only one who was bringing enough money into the house.

So, there I was, all alone with my thoughts, and forced into making a choice: either keep the hunting cabin and live pay-check to pay-check until I can find a better-paying job or sell the blasted thing. Naturally, I went with option A.

It’s not hard to imagine how this kind of thing ends – arguments after arguments, she threatening to give everything out for Lent and move away. Fortunately, this story had a happy end.

See, when you’re a prepper, natural disasters are only a small part of the equation. You still need to find a way to deal with your fellow man. And let me tell you, convincing someone about dropping off the grid is just as difficult as starting a fire with an ice lens.

Bottom Line

I can’t help to think that, in some regards, preppers are superheroes. Sure, we don’t have capes or X-Ray vision, but we do have this knack to counter every possible problem long before it comes into being.

In rereading T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, I realized that A Game of Chess, the title of the poem’s second canto, is the best prepping description anyone could come up it. Most of the times, it’s exactly like that – you make a move Mother Nature, and I’ll play my gambit. Crown me not for getting to the edge of the board, but for finding the resolution to survive.

A couple of days ago, my nephew, who’s 8 years old, asked me what do I do for a living. Of course, my answer to him was that I’m a

Surviving in cold geographical areas can be challenging even to plants. No season is as harsh to both indoor and outdoor plants and flowers as winter. The biting cold temperatures and extreme weather conditions can take toll on our once healthy garden plants. Without taking care of your plants during winter, you could risk losing all your favorite blooms.
I bet no gardener would appreciate starting anew each year. Fortunately, you can do a few simple things to help your lovely plants make it through the winter and maintain their best health. Let us learn about a few tips that can help save your plants in the harsh winter weather.

Caring For Indoor Plants During Winter

Winter conditions are never better for indoor plants. Even with the protection from certain environmental elements, the cold weather and relatively shorter days during winter months can interfere a lot with the life of indoor plants. Here a few things you can do to care for your in-house plants during winter

Provide Light

The amount of daytime light during the middle months of winter may be too little for plants to survive healthily. The problem is compounded if your house is not situated to receive the most light. Move your plants close to windows and areas that get adequate sunlight during winter. To promote the entry of more light, ensure you clean the windows thoroughly. Clean off any dust that might have settled on the leaves of the plants to maximize their light absorption.

Change Watering Routine

People make a mistake of soaking their indoor plants with water during winter. This can damage your plants during the cold months. This is because water loss due to evaporation is nearly nonexistent. Besides, plants tend to grow slower during winter. Combined, these factors demand that you reduce the watering routine of your plants. A golden rule to determine when to water the plants involves sticking your finger about two inches into the soil. If it results in a dry finger then you need to water.

Mist Your Plants

If yours are indoor tropical plants, it would be wise to spray them with a light mist a couple of times a day – preferably twice or thrice a day. This is because tropical plants thrive in humid conditions. Alternatively, you can place the plants in a humid environment such as the bathroom or where there is a water feature.

Dilute or Avoid Fertilizer

As we mentioned previously, all plants have reduced growth rate during winter. This means their nutritional need will also reduce. In case your plants are healthy, there is no need to fertilize them. If you really need to then you can dilute the fertilizer by at least 50 percent before applying. A better time to fertilize is during the fall.

 

Caring For Outdoor Plants During Winter

For obvious reasons, outdoor plants need much more attention during winter. Also the cold temperatures and extreme weather conditions can rein terror on these plants. Here are the most important things you can do to care for your outdoor plants during winter:

Remove Any Debris from the Plants

Summer plants are usually vegetative and bushy in response to the higher temperatures. As the temperatures start to plummet, they begin to die in preparation for what we call floral hibernation. You cannot prevent this process from happening. However, you can help the plants by clearing away any debris. You must also shield the delicate parts of the plant to protect them from biting cold.

Spread a New Layer of Mulch

The extreme winter temperatures can take a toll on your garden soil causing it to crack. The frost caused by cold temperatures can harden the ground especially the soil type in your garden. Such cracks are bad news, especially for bulb beds. This is because the cracks in the soil can cause the bulbs to rise to the surface. The result will be catastrophic to your plants. A good tip is to spread new mulch (I’d preferably evergreen boughs) on the garden to protect the soil and the plants. The mulch will also prove help in the coming spring.

Trim Your Plants Back

Trimming is an important practice when it comes to taking care of your plants during winter. This is especially true with annual flowers, vegetables, and plants. While trimming, remove blackened stems and withering foliage completely. Such dying stems and foliage provide hiding grounds for pest and diseases that could compromise the health of your plants.

Do Not Fertilize Outdoor Plants During Winter

As with all plants, growth rate reduces considerably during the cold temperatures of winter. Overgrowth will predispose them to frost vulnerability. An important tip in taking care of your outdoor plants during winter is to avoid applying fertilizer completely in order to minimize foliage growth. In fact, you should stop fertilizing them from midsummer. However, you can water them regularly but ensure you do not over water them. Test the amount of water in the soil with your finger.

General Tip

Transfer outdoor plants indoors to mitigate the effects of winter whenever possible. Indoors, the plants will be closer to you and therefore you can take better care of them. Besides, the conditions indoors are much better and your plants will most likely survive.

If you have tender plants then you will do well by moving them to a frost-free location such as a garage, a shed, indoors or in a greenhouse prior to the first frost. This is especially true for outdoor potted plants since frost can pierce the exposed sides of the pot thus damaging plant roots. Temper this with regular and extended exposure to sunlight.

Final Verdict

That’s all we have for you today. If you love your plants then you will deal with the burden of taking care of them. If you care well for them, you will not have to start anew when spring finally comes. It does not matter whether your plants are outdoor or indoor. We believe these are the most valuable tips you can ever find online on how to care for your plants during winter.

Surviving in cold geographical areas can be challenging even to plants. No season is as harsh to both indoor and outdoor plants and flowers as winter. The biting cold temperatures

As the temperatures begin to fall, now’s the perfect time to garden. Yes, you read that right. Winter gardening is feasible and simple to achieve!

In fact, most farms have their tractors running year-round. Keeping a garden in optimal shape during the winter season helps both gardeners and the surrounding environment.
If you’re not keen on the idea of sowing your land during the winter season, you might want to change your mind. Maintaining a functioning and productive garden throughout the year — winter included — gives your soil the attention it needs to flourish during the warmer spring and summer days.

How You Can Benefit From Harvesting Your Own Food

You don’t have to be a farmer to reap the benefits of harvesting your own food. In fact, any individual with a small plot of land can transform their soil into a haven full of greens and fauna. Preppers and survivalists will enjoy having easy access to fruits and vegetables they can pick straight from their garden. Plus, it saves a trip to the supermarket on extra cold days, too.

Throughout the winter season, you’re likely to find yourself wrapped up in your blanket in front of the television or computer. Gardening provides you with the incentive to get out and exercise without actually having to go to the gym. Best of all, the reward of growing your food makes the activity you put into your garden seem less like work and more like fun instead.

As the snow begins to pile up outside, you might long for warm and sun-filled days. Don’t forget to enjoy the natural world around you. Getting outdoors uplifts your mood and prevents you from feeling cabin-fever, too.

Kick Your Green-Thumb Up a Notch With a Few Simple Guidelines

Even though the temperature continues to drop, that doesn’t mean you have to wait until the summer season to enjoy a garden full of greens. In fact, there’s no better way to wrap up the year than with a few seeds sprouting outside your house that lay the foundation for the warmer days ahead.

You can transform any everyday plot of land into a thriving terrain bursting with fauna with a few of these winter gardening tips in mind.

1. Grow Winter Friendly Crops

You should never plant a vegetable or fruit that needs excessive sunlight and warmth during the winter season with the hopes that it will grow even with the proper TLC. Unfortunately, many plants must be planted within their relative season to thrive. You should use vegetable growing guidelines  as a reference for when to plant seeds for optimal results.

If you think only the best crops can grow in the summer, you’ll happily discover some of your favorite greens to enjoy throughout the winter season as well. Vegetables such as peas, garlic, and onions flourish even when planted on colder days.

2. Don’t Plant Too Early

You might be excited to plant your seeds early. In fact, it might seem that doing so allows you to enjoy your winter harvest sooner. Well, not exactly.

Planting crops too early during the fall season can actually be counter-intuitive to your desired outcome. This is especially true for crops you might plant to supplement your garden. Sowing oats earlier than necessary can result in an overgrowth of the crop which might deplete your garden’s nutrients and moisture prematurely.

For optimal results, always familiarize yourself with a crop’s planting guidelines before sowing.

3. Take Your Flora Indoors

If you’re not one for the cold and brisk air that defines the winter season, you can transfer your gardening indoors.

Many crops can benefit from the temperature-controlled conditions provided by your home. If you have supplemental UV lighting or a south-facing window, even better! When you transfer your greens and crops indoors, you can provide them extra protection against the unpredictable winter season.

Make sure to use artificial light to help your plants grow strong and healthy. Invest in lightbulbs that provide the optimal brightness for each of your plant species to help them receive the light they require.

4. Create a Mound for Added Protective

Farmers and avid gardeners alike watch the forecast with hopes of the weatherman not mentioning one dreaded word — snow. While snowfall doesn’t provide the ideal harvesting conditions, you don’t have to fear snowy conditions.

Use your garden’s surrounding leaves to create a mound on top of sturdier crops such as carrots and shallots. Even when flurries begin to trickle onto your land, the added layer of leaves offers your garden an insulated barrier against freezing conditions.

5. Enlist the Help of Machinery

While snow is a beautiful sight to see, it doesn’t last forever. When snow begins to melt, you might find yourself dealing with a watery mess in your garden. To produce the optimal results in your garden and to help your plants thrive, it’s essential to drain any excess water as it melts throughout the season.

Whenever you need a hand to help you lift massive plots or to transfer your fauna, you can turn to machinery for added assistance.

Whether you decide to make a raised bed or transfer your crops to another portion of your land, enlisting the assistance of forklifts prevents you from depleting your energy so you have more get-up-and-go power to give to your plants instead.

How You Can Become a Savvy Saver Through Gardening

Gardeners and farmers aren’t the only ones who benefit from gardening during the winter season. In fact, you can turn your plot into a haven full of savings.

Going to the supermarket can be expensive — especially during the winter season. It typically costs more to buy the very same fruit and vegetables you can purchase at a fraction of the cost in June or July. That’s because areas suffering from frost and blizzards rely more on imported crops to fulfill their vegetable and fruit demands.

You can save money by putting a little-added effort into the plot of land that lines your backyard. Not only that, but you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment knowing your food grew to perfection through the assistance of your very own hands.

Use Your Time Wisely for the Ultimate Outcome

Don’t wait until the first frost sets in to turn your soil into a lush array of veggies and greens — start your gardening today!

Familiarize yourself with the conditions and climate that defines your area. Nothing is quite as essential as planning when it comes to gardening. Plant your seeds before the first anticipated frost days to give your plants plenty of time to grow and mature.

Once you have a few of these basic and easy to follow tips in mind, you’ll find your garden full of beautiful fauna — even during the winter season.

As the temperatures begin to fall, now’s the perfect time to garden. Yes, you read that right. Winter gardening is feasible and simple to achieve! In fact, most farms have their

This guide will walk you through the basics of some simple ingredients you can add that will help take your compost to the next level.

But first, it’s important to eat a healthy meal before you get started. Let’s start with a healthy breakfast. Load up the coffee maker – a whole pot sounds just fine. Like tea instead? OK, make some tea then. Crack a few eggs and cook them up in any style you want, then put some whole wheat bread in the toaster. Serve that up on a paper plate, with paper napkins, since there’s no time for doing dishes – we’re composting today. Remember how your doctor always wants you eating your fruits and veggies? Go the extra mile! Peel a banana, de-stem some kale, and chop the tops off a few strawberries, put them in your blender and make a smoothie. Eat that up, and then we’ll get started.

Or have we already started? All of the items we just discussed in our healthy breakfast are also a part of a healthy compost pile. No, you don’t need to serve up those microorganisms with an omelet, but they would like those egg shells, and they’ll break down any leftover bread from your toast. In fact, if the loaf goes stale or moldy, you can throw the whole thing in your compost pile, turn it a few times, and you’ll have that to add to your garden. Coffee grounds, and the leftover coffee you didn’t drink, are also good food for them, as is tea (with or without the bag), and any leftover veggie products, like the kale stems or strawberry heads. You can add any paper goods, including your paper plate and your napkin (although you’ll want to start using the kind of paper plates that are not coated in a plasticc substance, as it will break down very slowly, if at all).

Compost is, essentially, a dirt and a fertilizer. All fertilizers in the US are rated using an NPK (nitrogen – phosphorus – potassium) scale. These are the three basic ingredients that help our plants to grow, and so it is essential that your soil has them – plants will use them up as they grow. Banana peels are extremely heavy in potassium, just as bananas themselves are full of potassium for humans. Coffee grounds contain significant amounts of nitrogen, and while egg shells are also nitrogen heavy, they contain a lot of calcium, which is as important for plants as it is for human bones. Speaking of bones, bone meal is the primary way of introducing phosphorus to your garden, although it is not recommended that you add too many to your compost, as residual meat attached to the bones will attract critters. You could add some manure to your compost, particularly horse manure, especially if you are already raising animals on your property.

Here are some additional tips for working items into your compost pile:

– My compost pile is not so much a compost “pile” as a compost bin collection. I have a pile for items that break down very slowly (woody plants, rotted planks of wood, cardboard, etc.), but my usual compost bin is a black garbage can I bought from the hardware store. With this, I don’t need to spend an hour digging in and turning my compost – I can simply ensure that the lid is on tight, turn my can sideways, and roll it around on my lawn a few times, and it will be well-mixed. The black color also ensures that my compost heats up quickly (all compost will get warm as things break down, but maintaining that heat makes it go quickly).

– Many gardeners like to sift their compost prior to using it. With a simple rectangular frame and a medium grain mesh material, you can create a sifter that will allow only the fully decomposed materials to fall out, while items that are not entirely done decomposing can be caught by the mesh and added back into your pile. Alternatively, you could just add the non-decomposed material to your garden and allow it to break down in place (there’s no magic to the pile, it just tends to be faster). The best method, in my opinion, is just to maintain multiple bins or piles, and allow the material to decompose over a longer period of time.

– When disposing of hard items, like those egg shells, if you blend them first in your blender with a little water, that will chop them up into little bits, which is ideal – the smaller the individual pieces of trash are, the faster they will decompose.

– Water, coffee, or tea is essential for a compost. It shouldn’t be drowning, but it should never be left dry. Coffee is a dessicant, so the liquid will not last long.

– If you’re tired of waiting around for your compost to decompose, and you feel like you need it quicker, bag the grass when you mow the lawn. Grass clippings make quick work of even the most durable and hardest-to-compost material. Don’t have grass? Add a bit of good garden soil, as it already contains many microorganisms, or a bit of compost from a bagged source. This will jump start your new pile. Many hardware stores offer a “quick start” powder you can add to your compost ingredients, and while it does work, it can be difficult to maintain the acceleration if your compost isn’t already balanced. Grass clippings are a much better alternative, because they are still quick, but they wear out over time instead of expiring quickly, and they’re free.

– Bugs are A-OK. Animals…not so much. Usually, animals will not be attracted to a compost pile unless there’s something in there that there probably shouldn’t be. Dairy products, like milk, eggs or cheese are fine in limited quantities, but if used in excess, will cause your compost to smell, which does tend to attract more bugs and animals. Meat products, while they will decompose and add some beneficial nutrients to soil, will attract raccoons and skunks, as well as other undesirable animals. That’s never a good idea.

– In the fall, instead of bagging the leaves that fall from the trees on your property, add them to a compost bin or pile. Leaves are slow to compost, but if added to a bin with heavy items inside, a simple rotation will break them apart. By mid-summer, these will be ready for use.

– Finally, like a balanced diet, you want a variety of items in your compost pile. Lettuces, grasses, cardboard, wood chips or shavings, sawdust, coffee grounds, dirt, fruit peels or leftovers, breads, knobby ends of zucchinis or other squashes, tomato stems, weeds, expired blossoms, and pretty much any other organic (once-living) landscape material are good additions.

This guide will walk you through the basics of some simple ingredients you can add that will help take your compost to the next level. But first, it’s important to eat

Whether you want to make money from your yard, save money on groceries, enjoy foods you can’t easily buy, or simply get more out of the experience of gardening, growing your own food is a great choice, and it’s easier than you might think. As long as you have a spade or fork, a rake and a hoe, and a sturdy trowel, you can make a go of it – additional tools help but aren’t essential. These handy tips will help you to get started.

Caring for the soil

All sustainable gardening begins with taking care of the soil because plants need nutrients in the growing medium almost as much as water and sunlight. Investing in fertilizer will let you enrich the soil easily but it can be expensive, so if you want to save money you can create your own compost from garden waste and leftover food scraps. If you know someone who keeps cattle or horses, there’s nothing like well-rotted dung for nourishing your plants. You can also bind nitrogen into the soil by growing peas or beans, or if you have a fish pond – or even an aquarium – you can use the nitrate-rich wastewater from that for irrigation.

Choosing the right crops

The right crops for your garden will depend on how acidic or alkaline the soil is, how much rainfall you get at different times of year, and what you actually want to eat. Don’t grow food in quantities that overwhelm you, and bear in mind that having a lot of variety in your yard reduces the risk of losing everything to pests. Choose crops that fit around one another over the course of the year, so you can be ready to plant one as soon as you harvest another. Keep moving your crops around within the yard because they will take up different nutrients from the soil, so this will help to avoid exhausting it.

Extending your growing space

Composting is a simple way to enrich your garden soil and reduce trash.

If you have limited room for growing crops in your yard, ask yourself if you’re making the most of all your options. If there are paved areas you don’t want to dig up, you can still grow things in pots on top of them. Running trellises along your walls or fences will enable you to grow things vertically. You can also bring plants indoors – south facing windows act like greenhouses and are great places to grow tomatoes or bell peppers.

Extending the season

Setting up a proper greenhouse with some heating in winter will allow you to grow food all year round. Simpler devices like cold frames can also make a big difference; you can get plants started earlier in the year. Not every crop takes a full season to grow, so with good planning you can fit in multiple harvests. Potatoes, for instance, can produce three crops a year, and you can harvest radishes monthly.

There are thousands of DIY Greenhouse plans on the internet.

Preserving your post-harvest crops

Experts predict that the world is heading for a food shortage in the years ahead so post harvest food preservation is now a vital area of scientific research. Population growth, increasing demand from emerging economies and the adverse effects of global warming will be the main causes of the problem. This might be hard to believe now with food from all over the world currently displayed for sale in supermarkets, however, the growth in crop production won’t continue forever, and waste must be reduced.

Scientists all over the world are addressing the problems of food supply sustainability with some urgency, and agriculture executives such as Jai Shroff, who is CEO of UPL Ltd, have worked hard to provide more support for small-scale farmers and gardeners. Shroff’s initiatives have seen the development of practical preservation solutions for those with limited harvesting options. The company has also developed affordable fertilizer products to fit with a sustainable approach and they are a more practical choice for growers who don’t have sufficient land to let areas lie fallow for extended periods. Shroff’s LinkedIn page states: “By providing the agriculture sector with quality seeds, plant nutrition, and post-harvest preservation products, he aims to strengthen food security in over 120 countries.”

An effectively planned kitchen garden can work well in even a small area and should produce an abundance of fruit, salad crops and vegetables.

Food security is already a worry for many of those countries that are striving to meet today’s demands, and the development of new preservation methods that will play an important role in the future is becoming essential. Until those new methods become available the conventional methods of preservation will continue to be used. Storing fruit and root vegetables in temperature-controlled conditions or freezing as soon as possible after cropping are still the favored options to prolong the life of foods and reduce waste.

Keeping a kitchen garden

An effectively planned kitchen garden can work well in even a small area and should produce an abundance of fruit, salad crops and vegetables. If you’re a keen cook you’ll need herbs as well as fruits and vegetables. Herbs can be grown in all sorts of little niches where other plants won’t fit, such as hanging baskets or well-secured mini-beds running along the tops of your walls. This will help you to use up every bit of space and will give you many more flavor options when it comes to making use of the things you grow. Just bear in mind that some – especially mint – grow like weeds, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on them (best in containers). Choosing flowering herbs is a great way to give an extra boost to everybody’s favorite garden helpers, bees.

Growing your own food requires some manual work. You’ll need to weed your yard at least weekly, turn over the soil after harvesting and pay careful attention to draining and irrigation. When you sit down to enjoy a hearty meal of home-grown food, however, that work definitely feels worthwhile.

Whether you want to make money from your yard, save money on groceries, enjoy foods you can’t easily buy, or simply get more out of the experience of gardening, growing