Posted on October 1, 2013

Posted on October 1, 2013

Horticulture is a relaxing and fun hobby for many people around the world, but doing it organically is even more rewarding. If you lack experience as a gardener, it is perfectly natural to be somewhat intimidated by the thought of all that work. How can the beginning organic gardener get a handle on how to start out? All you have to do is read the following suggestions.

Digging in hard clay soil is made even more difficult because it sticks to the shovel. Coat the shovel with floor or car wax, and buff it with a clean rag to make the job a lot easier. The wax will enable the clay soil to simply slide off the shovel, and will also prevent the shovel from rusting.TIP! Digging in hard clay soil is made even more difficult because it sticks to the shovel. To make digging clay soil easier, try applying a light coating of wax, either car wax or floor wax, and then buff off and commence digging.

If you notice powdery mildew on your plants, do not buy an expensive chemical. Combine a bit of liquid soap and some baking soda with water. Use a spray bottle to apply to your plants weekly until the issue clears up. Baking soda will not damage your plants and treats the mildew gently but efficiently.

Climbing plants and vines are great for covering fences and wall structures. Plants that climb are extraordinarily versatile, and can help hide an unsightly wall or fence, usually within one season. They may grow up through some existing shrubs and trees, and can even be worked to grow around an arbor. Some require ties attaching them to supports, but others will attach themselves to any surface nearby. Climbing roses, honeysuckle, wisteria, clematis, and jasmine are some great plants to try out.TIP! A great gardening tip to use is to always select types of plants that are more likely to produce a high yield. It is quite common to find that hybrids, which are often able to resist disease and withstand cold climates, produce yields much larger than their conventional counterparts.

When winter arrives, you can save some plants by placing them in your home. This is especially useful if you have a particular plant that you love or was expensive. Always be careful when digging around the roots, and put the plant in a suitable pot.

Stink bugs can damage your garden, especially if you garden in the fall. They thrive on fruits, citrus, peppers and various beans. Proper measures should be taken in order to ensure minimal damage to your crops.TIP! Start your plants in containers, and then transplant the seedlings into the garden later on. This raises the chances of the plants growing until adulthood.

Before you start planting your garden, plan it out. It will be a while before things start to sprout and visually remind you of what was planted where, so a written record can be helpful. It can also keep you from planting any of your garden favorites too close to each other.

Take extra care of any fragile shrubs that are known to drop their leaves in the autumn. Shrubs in pots especially need special care in the colder weather. Connect the tops, and then place a sheet over the top of the wigwam. This method works better than covering your bushes in plastic, allowing air to circulate and preventing rotting.TIP! Beginning your garden with healthy soil is your first defense against pests! If you create healthy plants, they are going to be stronger and therefore, less likely to succumb to diseases and insects. For the most vigorous and healthy plants, start with high-quality soil, and stay away from chemicals.

Try and maintain daily aerated and dried plants. Moisture on the surfaces of your plants is an invitation to pests and illness. Fungi is the most common parasite for plants. You can control fungi with the application of fungicide sprays. However, the area should be treated before you see the onset of any problems.

A green garden needs to begin with seeds, not plants. When planting a garden, the best way is to initially start with seeds. It’s better for your garden, in particular, because transplants have high failure rates; whereas, sprouting a seed and growing a plant in the same conditions is better. Additionally, it’s better for the environment, because the plastic pots used by most greenhouses are generally not recycled and are cluttering landfills.TIP! Plant annuals and biennials to make your flower beds brighter. By utilizing quick-growing biennials and annuals, not only will you be brightening up your flower bed, you can also alter its look each season and each year.

Choose a plant to use for a focal point. Your focal point will be the main center of attention for anyone who sees your garden. The focal point should be a plant totally different from the others around it.

You should now realize how much fun and how enjoyable gardening can be. Cultivating your green thumb is a relaxing, engaging hobby that the whole family can enjoy. Use these tips to get your organic garden up and running in no time.TIP! While caring for your garden in the fall, you will want to keep a lookout for stinkbugs. These bugs like to eat beans, peppers, tomatoes, and many kinds of fruits.http://www.allselfsustained.com

Growing Guide: Fall-Planted Bulbs

Posted on September 30, 2013

Fall-planted bulbs produce the first blooms of next year’s season. The bulbs spend the winter making roots and come up early in the spring.

So if you think that autumn’s the time to stop gardening, think again! It’s bulb-planting time!

Tips for Planting Bulbs

  • In the fall, you’ll find bulbs to purchase everywhere! Make sure you buy your bulbs from a reputable nursery, garden center, or catalog. Second-rate bulbs product second-rate flowers or don’t sprout at all.
  • Plant anytime before the ground freezes. In the lower South, where you may not have hard freeze, early November is a good time to plant.
  • See the chart below for type of bulbs by hardiness zone. In the warmer South, note that some bulbs need to be treated as annuals instead of perennials (e.g., tulips); they’ll bloom once and then they’re done. Still, they are a beautiful sight to behold and worth it! Other bulbs (e.g., daffodils) will act as perennials and come up year after year.
  • Ideally, plant your bulbs soon after you purchase them.
  • Select a site with lots of sun and well-drained soil. Work a few inches of compost in the soil.
  • Plant bulbs generously in case some do not sprout. And plant them in random order and spacing for a more natural appearance. If you love groves of daffodils and blanketed landscapes of tulips, be prepared to buy and plant a large quantity of bulbs!
  • In general, plant bulbs at a depth of three times the width of the bulb.
  • After planting, apply fertilizer low in nitrogen, such as a 9-6-6 formulation.  If your soil’s sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • Water well after planting. Apply mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.
  • Do you have voles or chipmunks? Consider planting your bulbs in a “cage” fashioned with chicken wire.

Your Survival Garden’s Worst Enemy: Weeds

Posted on September 29, 2013 by Garden Prepper September 29, 2013

With so many Americans growing vegetable gardens for the first time, I thought it apropos to write a post concerning the one culprit that has caused my husband and I to want to throw up our hands in surrender when we started to grow our own organic food.  I am not speaking of rodents, varmints, or hungry neighbors.  This enemy is fierce.  This foe is the common weed.  An opponent like no other, one that will take over and suffocate your tomatoes while you go on vacation, one that grows faster than you can pull it from the ground.  If you dig up uncultivated ground in hopes of being self-sufficient, be prepared or this rival will defeat you before you can say “cucumber sandwich”.  Our family has fought the good fight for many years and learned from our mistakes and I want share what we have learned the hard way in hopes of saving fellow patriot of an empty wallet and an aching back.

Before you begin…

First of all, if you do not mind spraying your food with weed killer like the guy down the road from us, you will have a weed free garden with very little effort outside of filling your sprayer up and possibly receiving a pulled wrist muscle.  He sprays religiously and his garden is beautiful.  However, he also has a putrid complexion, thin hair, and all of his pets have extra legs.  Our family chooses to go the chemical-free route and I am sure he laughs at us when he sees us bent over in our garden getting dirt under our fingernails.

Secondly, if you are willing to invest the money required to create a square-foot gardening and a weed-free wonderland, go for it.  The downsides are not only cost, but lack of air circulation, need for more watering, and if wood is used to make the raised beds it will eventually rot and have to be replaced.

Also, do not assume that you can simply go outside, lay down something to kill your grass in a lovely rectangular pattern, and commence growing delicious fruits and veggies.  We had a friend come over with a back hoe and dig up a large square where our veggies would sprout and grow and feed our family.  We were optimistic and naive and discovered that when you dig up a plot of grass that has a variety of weeds thriving in it, you will have many years of weeding ahead of you.

Here is a brief list and description of the top ten weeds you will encounter in your veggie patch and ideas on eradication.  If you are looking for a quick and easy solution other than chemical annihilation, STOP reading at this point because it will take a determination and a will to succeed that cause most people to either cover their gardens with grass seed or put in that in-ground pool they thought they always needed.

Most Unwanted Weed List

1. Crab Grass

This weed is fast growing and sprouts seed heads quickly in warm weather.  So

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quickly in fact, that if you happen to miss it you will be fighting all of its numerous offspring the following year.  Even worse is that when you think you have caught it and are in full annihilation mode and pull it from the ground, you have probably left its rooted nodes behind that are thriving a couple of feet away.  Your best defense is to pull it the second you see and not let it sprout a seed head,  mulching helps as well.

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2. Dandelion

Yes, some people eat this in salads or brew tea with it, but truth be told, if you don’t control its population, you will be fighting a vigorous invader.  The best measure is to pull it out completely, being sure to remove the root as well.  Mulch is not very effective, however, but some gardeners swear by the dandelion puller.

3. Bermuda Grass

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This weed is especially irritating because of its extensive root system.  We have pulled this out thinking we got the root and all, set in a pile beside the garden, let it winter over and lo and behold it was still alive and thriving the following season.  This grass sprouts from rhizomes that break off when you try to dig it out.  I had a gardener tell me that the roots can be as deep as 15 feet underground.  The only way you can keep it from slithering into your home and stealing your children is to mulch HEAVILY.  And forget putting down black landscape fabric because it will grow through it.  Solarizing helps as well, if you are dealing with a large patch that is winning.  This involves spreading clear plastic down in your hottest months and let the sun bake it.  Digging a moat around the garden is also recommended to keep it from creeping so quickly into garden beds.

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4. Bindweed

Similar and a cousin to sweet potatoes this is called the “zombie plant” because it just keeps coming at you no matter what you do.  Do not let this hateful weed go to seed because its roots can go as deep as 30 feet underground.  Also, the seeds can stay viable for 50 years.  Unfortunately the best way to eradicate it is to pull it.  Do not till it or you will till the seeds into your soil, but use a fork after it rains to avoid leaving any fragments behind.

5. Chickweed

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Some people eat chickweed in a tasty salad and use it for its medicinal properties.  I personally want to kill it.  It is a winter weed and it grows quickly.  If it is pulled at the wrong time the seeds will sprout new little chick-weeds everywhere.  You must pull it in the early spring. One positive aspect of chickweed is that you can feed it to your ducks and chickens, they will love it.

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6. Ground Ivy

Pull it, it comes back.  Pull it, it comes back.  Pull it, it comes back.  Get the point?  This is best pulled out if you water the ground first before pulling by hand.  You must remove all the underground runners as well.  If you till it, it will sprout from root fragments and you might as well put in an in-ground pool over your garden.

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This perennial weed grows mainly by creeping underground rhizomes that release chemicals that poison other plants and keeps them from growing.  The runner roots must be removed, but be aware that the roots are very thin and it doesn’t take much for them to break off causing you to miss fragments that will become new “quackers”.  Again, do not till this weed, because you will spawn many more of its devil children.  Cover crops can help, such as field peas, buckwheat or crimson clover which will overcome the quack grass.  Many gardeners have reported that it is very common for it to crop up when buying composted manure or mulch so be sure you are not getting product full of quack grass.

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10. Johnson Grass

This noxious weed needs to be dug out in its entirety.  It is suggested that Johnson grass needs to be allowed to sit out of your garden for several months before tossing into the compost pile.  Cover crops can be helpful in suppression.

The following is from Mother Earth News:


Organic Weed Control: What Works, What Doesn’t

In our comprehensive Worst Garden Weeds Survey, gardeners rated several mulch types and organic herbicides based on their effectiveness in controlling weeds. Out of those who’d tried each type, here’s how the methods ranked, including the percentage of respondents who found each effective.

Top-Rated Mulch Types

1. Paper or newspaper (80 percent)
2. Black plastic (76 percent)
3. Straw or hay (69 percent)
4. Shredded wood or bark (65 percent)
5. Grass clippings (63 percent)
6. Living mulch (45 percent)
7. Clear plastic (21 percent)

Top-Rated Organic Herbicides

1. Vinegar (72 percent)
2. Herbicidal soap (68 percent)
3. Neem oil (57 percent)
4. BurnOut Weed & Grass Killer (42 percent)
5. Weed Prevention Plus (29 percent)
6. Weed Pharm Organic Weed Killer (23 percent)
7. Cinnamon bark crab grass killer (17 percent)

Seize the Sun. More gardeners reported success with mulches than with herbicides. As you evaluate your mulch options, keep in mind that clear plastic — the lowest-ranking mulch type — will only work to kill weeds if it’s used in summer and pulled tightly over soil, creating a hot environment weeds can’t tolerate. This method of capturing radiant heat from the sun under clear plastic is often called solarization. To solarize a bed, water areas of bare soil, and then cover the areas with clear plastic. Dig a trench and bury the edges of the tightly pulled plastic in the trench so the heat will build up, and keep the plastic cover on the garden bed for three to six weeks.

Mulches Are Strong Medicine. Several gardeners said the most successful mulch strategy was to use newspapers and/or cardboard under a thick layer of organic mulch, such as grass clippings, shredded leaves, straw, hay or a combination of these (wet your newspapers so they don’t fly around as you try to lay them down).

The tips most often cited were to do a couple of good hand weeding sessions early in the growing season before laying down mulch, and to keep reapplying organic mulches as they decompose throughout the season. Grass clippings will block weed growth better than the same thickness of hay or straw, but will usually not last as long. Grass also releases more beneficial nitrogen than hay, straw or leaves. Start your mulching regimen early, before weeds get a foothold, and don’t be shy about applying a lot — if you can, mulch 6 to 8 inches deep with hay, straw or leaves, or 2 to 3 inches deep with grass clippings. Organic mulches are a quadruple win because they suppress weeds, build fertility, retain moisture and are often free. Simply gather grass clippings and leaves from your property, or get them from friends or neighbors who don’t use lawn herbicides.

Many respondents commented that black plastic mulch is effective because it blocks light from weeds, but it can leave a mess of fragments in your garden when it eventually deteriorates. Others noted the usefulness of landscape fabric laid beneath a layer of straw for keeping weeds out of paths.

Organic Herbicides. Almost all of the gardeners who commented on organic herbicides said the ones that work only offer a temporary fix. Many said store-bought options aren’t worth the money. Many gardeners considered vinegar an effective herbicide option if applied directly to weeds on a sunny day. If you’re cautious about protecting the soil food web in your garden, note that vinegar can do minor harm to soil microorganisms.

In conclusion, weeds are not our friends.  They will invade every inch of your garden if you allow it.  New gardeners should plan on spending the summer months at home working in the garden upon digging their new garden.  Make it a family affair.  We have given our children sections of the garden that they have to keep weed free.  Neglecting your renewable source of food is not wise.  The reward for all your hard work is that your family will be growing food for the table and pantry and eventually, after years of waging war on weeds, you will win.  If you can practice eradicating diligently and removing weeds upon sight, you will eventually have fewer weeds invading your garden and more food in your belly.

Source and credits: CORNELIA ADAMS

Planning Your Survival Garden

Posted on September 27, 2013 by Garden Prepper September 27, 2013

Hopefully, you are already in full swing on your own garden, but if you have been putting it off, or are still conducting research on how to start your own garden, this article is for you. If you’re a beginner vegetable gardener, here are basics on vegetable garden planning: site selection, plot size, which vegetables to grow, and other gardening tips.

Remember this: It’s better to be proud of a small garden than to be frustrated by a big one!

One of the common errors for beginners is planting too much too soon and way more than anybody could eat or want. Unless you want to have zucchini taking up residence in your attic, plan carefully. Start small.

The Very Basics

First, here are some very basic concepts on topics you’ll want to explore further as you become a vegetable gardener extraordinaire:

  • Do you have enough sun exposure? Vegetables love the sun. They need at least 6 hours of full sun every day, and preferably 8.
  • Know your soil. Most soil can be enriched with compost and be fine for planting, but some soil needs more help. Vegetables must have good, loamy, well-drained soil. Check with your local nursery or local cooperative extension office about free soil test kits so that you can assess your soil type. See our article on preparing soil for planting.
  • Placement is everything. Avoid planting too near a tree, which will steal nutrients and shade the garden. In addition, a garden too close to the house will help to discourage wild animals from nibbling away your potential harvest.
  • Decide between tilling and a raised bed.  If you have poor soil or a bad back, a raised bed built with nonpressure-treated wood offers many benefits. See more about raised garden beds and how to build them.
  • Vegetables need lots of water, at least 1 inch of water a week. See more about when to water vegetables.
  • You’ll need some basic planting tools.  These are the essentials: spade, garden fork, soaking hose, hoe, hand weeder, and wheelbarrow (or bucket) for moving around mulch or soil. It’s worth paying a bit extra for quality tools.
  • Study those seed catalogs and order early.
  • Check your frost dates. Find first and last frost dates in your area and be alert to your local conditions.

Deciding How Big

A good-size beginner vegetable garden is about 16×10 feet and features crops that are easy to grow. A plot this size, planted as suggested below, can feed a family of four for one summer, with a little extra for canning and freezing (or giving away).

Make your garden 11 rows wide, with each row 10 feet long. The rows should run north and south to take full advantage of the sun.

Vegetables that may yield more than one crop per season are beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Suggested Plants for 11 Rows

The vegetables suggested below are common, productive plants but you’ll also want to contract your local cooperative extension to determine what plants grow best in your local area. Think about what you like to eat as well as what’s difficult to find in a grocery store or farmers’ market.

(Note: Link from each vegetable to a free planting and growing guide.)

(Note: If this garden is too large for your needs, you do not have to plant all 11 rows, and you can also make the rows shorter. You can choose the veggies that you’d like to grow!)

Now Design Your Best Garden Ever!

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The best way to plan a successful veggie garden is to look at what similar gardeners have planned and see what works for them.

The above garden plot plan was created by one of our readers!

Happy gardening!

Source: The Old Farmer’s Almanac which has a ton of useful content for gardeners and there are links to additional content throughout this post.

Three Ways To Garden Without Land

Posted on September 27, 2013

How many cans of beans or bags of rice are enough? How many MREs? Jars of olives? Artichoke hearts?

Feeding oneself in a crisis is a top priority; hence, preppers focus a lot on food, and by extension, growing it. Yet many of us don’t have the space – or aren’t allowed – to grow where we are.

At one point, my wife and I were in between locations and tight on finances and spent some time renting. Though we knew we needed to prepare and had stockpiled what we could, digging a large garden or planting anything long-term was impossible. However, we found that there were more ways to garden – and harvest fresh foods – than we thought. Are you in a similar situation? Then this post is for you. Today I’m going to share three ways you can keep food rolling in even if you don’t have space to grow on your own land.

Growing In Containers

This is probably the most obvious method of getting around land restrictions. If you’re in an apartment or, God forbid, a regulated community, containers are your friends. I’ve grown tobacco and peppers in pots, spinach and beans in big plastic bins from Walmart, kept tomatoes going in 5-gallon buckets and even planted a water garden in a discarded bathtub. The downside to most containers is that they are subject to drying out or flooding; plus, their limited capacity doesn’t allow you to pull off some plants with big root systems. With some tweaking, however, you can often make containers that are “self-watering.” Look that up and you’ll be amazed by the innovations created by clever gardeners dealing with tight spaces.

One problem some people face with containers is a lack of good soil. Not all potting soils are created equal. When I first started fiddling around with gardening, I bought the cheapest dirt I could find… and had terrible results. Yellow plants, stunted growth and soppy drainage were the norm. Some of the so-called “soil” for sale is little more than sand and wood chips in a bag. Worthless. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get around your need for potting mix. If you simply dig up your local dirt and garden in that, it often doesn’t drain well enough for most plants in a pot. What works in the ground may be death in a pot. You need something that will retain air and moisture without getting soppy. That’s why most good potting soils contain a mix of vermiculite or perlite with peat moss and some compost. Light and airy is key.

Another thing to consider when growing in containers: cultivate plants that last a while and yield well for the space. For example, if you have a choice between bush and pole beans, choose the latter. Bush beans are nice in long rows, but have a stupidly small yield in a pot. Waiting 60 days for eight beans is rather silly. If you put up a trellis, however, and plant something productive – like snake beans or other pole beans – you’ll be picking for a longer season and eating a lot more for the space. This raises another good point on gardening in small spaces: by going vertical, you gain a lot of space. Cucumbers are excellent for patios. You can even pull off cantaloupes if you’re clever.

Beyond annual crops, containers are excellent for growing perennial species and plants that don’t normally grow in your climate. Right now I have a coffee plant in a pot on my back porch. It’s loaded with about 150 fruits. If I planted it in the ground, it would die during the first winter – but because I have it in a pot, I can grow coffee (albeit in a limited manner) way outside its range. Great patio plants include citrus, dwarf papaya, hot peppers (they’ll live for years with proper care), strawberries, blueberries, aloe and a wide variety of herbs like rosemary, oregano and mint. (For more on wild herbs you don’t have to grow… check this out.)

Even if you just want a source of fresh greens and aren’t willing to tend long-term plants… a half-barrel planter filled with kale, lettuce and spinach is a good way to add to your health during an extended downturn.

Gleaning

During loquat season here in North Florida, there are many thousands of trees that go unpicked. The same is true during citrus season. And don’t get me started on pecans, pears, mulberries and persimmons…

A lot of people aren’t interested in preserving their harvests or even in doing more than eating the occasional fresh fruit off their trees. Plenty of great trees were planted by long-dead homeowners and ended up an unappreciated denizen of another owner’s landscape. I’ve seen great pecans growing behind a Taco Bell… sampled kumquats in a commercial property by the highway… and visited a venerable old fig tree growing untended at the edge of a church parking lot.

Sometimes you can simply show up and harvest, as in the case of foreclosure properties or trees on public land. Most of the time, however, you need to get permission. Walking around the neighborhood and making friends is a great way to start. I’ve had baskets of pears and bushels of citrus just for the asking. The former were turned into brandy… the latter, juice and marmalade.

Another form of modern gleaning is dumpster diving. A lot of produce hits the dumpster in perfect shape. If there’s one bad potato in a bag, the whole bag is tossed. The same is true of apples and other fruit. When I lived in the city, a friend and I had a couple of regular routes worked out and we ate better than we had any right to. Plus, if you know how to can or dehydrate, you’ll be able to eat year-round without ever digging a hole.

Borrowing Land

Just like fruit, sometimes land can be had for the asking. If you dress nicely, speak well and promise to share a little of what you grow, there’s often a landowner who will be more than happy to let you plant a patch of earth on their property. In my neighborhood, there’s a farmer who grows crops across quite a few acres – and he only owns a few of them. Most of the land he farms is lent to him for free just so the property owners can enjoy lower taxes by getting an “agricultural” exemption on their bill. They save thousands and the farmer makes thousands. It’s a perfect match, there for the asking. Though most of us won’t be growing on that scale, it goes to show that there are often workarounds for being landless. I’m currently gardening on my property, on a friend’s property, on my parents’ property and in the expansive backyard of my uncle’s property. I originally took this route so I could keep my heirloom corn varieties from cross-pollinating, but now it’s expanded into a way for me to feed my chickens and my family without having to purchase more land beyond our modest one-acre plot.

Recently I gave a talk to a survivalist group about an hour from my home. They met at a local church and brought in a variety of experts to talk about different aspects of prepping. While there, the pastor’s wife took me around back of the building and showed me the community gardens her congregation (and friends from the neighborhood) had built. There, on a small patch of land, they’d constructed a greenhouse, multiple handicapped accessible tall raised beds, done some work with hydroponics and were planning to start adding trees and other long-term perennials. Not only were they growing food, they were growing relationships. There’s a benefit to that thinking that runs far beyond food production. It means you can share ideas, keep an eye on your fellow gardener’s crops when he or she is away, split fertilizer and compost expenses while pooling your time to attack larger projects.

Though the ideal situation is to farm your own acreage, we don’t live in an ideal world. Containers, gleaning and borrowed land provide a few options for those of us who want to bring forth energy and nutrition from the soil but don’t have the space. Don’t let your situation keep you from growing or harvesting food. Keep your ears open for land opportunities, buy a few buckets and watch for overloaded trees going untended.

Unless you’d rather eat olive-garnished MREs.

Source and credits: David Goodman