Raised Garden Beds

Posted on September 28, 2013 by Garden Prepper September 28, 2013

The Benefits of Raised Bed Gardening

Raised garden beds, also called garden boxes, are great for growing small plots of veggies and flowers. They keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails. The sides of the beds keep your valuable garden soil from being eroded or washed away during heavy rains. In many regions, gardeners are able to plant earlier in the season because the soil is warmer and better drained when it is above ground level.

By raising the soil level, raised garden beds also reduce back strain when bending over to tend the bed. This is especially helpful to older gardeners or people with bad backs. And if the beds are built well, the gardener can sit on the edge of the bed while weeding, and for some gardeners this is the biggest benefit of all.

Raised beds are not the same as garden planters. Planters are elevated containers which have bottoms to prevent the soil from falling out. Planter bottoms usually are slatted, with some type of semi-permeable cloth barrier which permits drainage. Raised beds, however, do not have bottoms; they are open to the ground, which offers the benefit of permitting plant roots to go further into the ground for available nutrients.

Raised garden beds are available in a variety of different materials, or they can be made with relative ease.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

Gardeners can build their own elevated garden beds with relative ease. You will need to decide what kind of wood to use, how tall you want the bed to be, and whether you want to build the entire bed yourself or use pre-made corner braces which simplify the construction process and provide a secure corner that won’t work loose over time.

What kind of wood to use?

In most cases, cedar is the best wood to use for garden beds because cedar is naturally rot resistant. Western red cedar is commonly used, but Vermont white cedar, Port Orford (yellow) cedar and Juniper are also great choices for outdoor construction projects. Redwood is another excellent rot-resistant wood, but redwood is a more limited resource. How long the wood will last depends on the type of cedar and your local weather conditions. In our garden, we use red cedar for building the beds, and some of these beds have lasted 15 years. In general, you should expect about 10 years from a cedar bed before it begins to deteriorate.

How tall should the bed be?

You can build the bed to any desired height up to 36″. The most common height is 11″, which is the height of two stacked 2″ x 6″ boards. If you have good soil beneath the bed, the roots will go down deeper as needed to access more soil and nutrients, so you can even have beds that are only 6″ high. If you want a taller bed, remember that as you go taller, the weight of the added soil will add pressure to the sides, and will bow them outward. This is easily prevented by including cross-supports. We recommend using cross-supports in any beds which are taller than 18″, or longer than 6′.

It is also important to consider the soil depth requirements for the roots of the vegetables you want to plant. Depending on the soil conditions beneath your bed, you may want to build the sides of your bed higher for certail crops. For more information, read our article Soil Depth Requirements for Popular Vegetables.

How wide and long should the bed be?

We recommend bed width to be no wider that 4′ across. This is because it is easy to reach the center of the bed from either side, and for people with long arms, to reach across the bed. It’s important to keep the width this narrow to avoid having to step on the bed since this would compress the soil. The bed can be any length as long as cross supports are installed every 4′ – 6′ along the length of the bed to prevent bowing. We think longer beds are best, if you have the garden space.

We have built many raised beds over the years, and our construction process has evolved. The method described here is, in our opinion, the simplest method of building a raised garden bed, and it requires no special tools or expertise. Using this method, you can build your bed to any desired length, width and height.

Tools & Materials:

LUMBER

Use cedar “2 x” boards for the sides. These are commonly 2″ x 6″, but you can use 2″ x 4″ or 2″ x 8″ boards if this is what you have available. (2″ boards bought at a lumber yard are actually 1.5″ thick..) For the corner posts, use 4″ x 4″’s, cut to 10″ longer than the desired height of the bed. If your bed is going to be longer than 8′, you’ll need extra posts to put in mid-span to prevent bowing and to provide a place to secure the cross-supports.

In the photos below, we used 2″ x 4″ boards for the posts instead of 4″ x 4″s. This is because the wood we had was full dimension, i.e., the 2″ thickness was a full 2″. If you get your wood from a mill, they can cut it full dimension for you.

FASTENINGS

Use 3.5″ #10 coated deck screws for the project. You’ll need six screws for each corner and two for each mid-span post. If you are using cross-supports, get a few 1″ stainless screws.

CROSS SUPPORTS

Buy several lengths of 1/2″ aluminum flat stock. This is available at most hardware stores, usually in 8′ lengths. It is very easy to cut with a hacksaw and to drill for the screws.

TOOLS

Hand saw, square, carpenter’s level, mallet (or sledge), screwdriver, hacksaw, drill.

Is treated lumber safe?

In 2003, the EPA banned the sale of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) for residential use. Two compounds, alkaline copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole (CA-B), have now replaced CCA wood in the residential market. Both contain copper and a fungicide but no arsenic. The copper keeps insects at bay, and the fungicide prevents soil fungus from attacking the wood. In ACQ, the fungicide is quat, which is also used in swimming-pool chemicals and as a disinfectant. The other compound, CA-B, uses copper and tebuconazole, a fungicide used on food crops. According to Miles McEvoy, who works in organic certification with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, no pressure-treated wood is allowed in soils used to grow organic food. If you want to meet this high standard, choose a different material.

Until the safety of treated wood is proven conclusively, we recommend you use a naturally rot-resistant wood like red cedar, black locust or redwood. Under most circumstances, these woods will last 10 – 20 years when used for raised beds. Recycled composite plastic lumber is another alternative, and is now available in a variety of sizes and colors.

Construction:

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1. Cut and assemble the basic frame, block it up to level

Clear the area where the bed will be located, because you will be building the bed “in place”.

Use a square to mark the ends and saw the boards to desired length. Put two screws in each corner to hold it together for now. Set a level on the frame and place blocks beneath it to keep it level. Do this for the ends and the sides.

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2. Drive in corner posts and screw the boards into them

Cut the post pieces longer than you will need. You can saw a point on the bottom of the posts, although is it not essential.

Set the first post into the corner of the frame and drive the post into the ground a few inches. Screw the frame into the post, using two screws per side. Set the other posts in place and screw them in the same way.

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3. Fill in boards to ground. Saw post tops flush to sides

Now add the bottom row of boards down to ground level, using the same method of simply screwing into the posts. You may have to dig into the ground in places to get the boards to fit.

Using a hand saw, cut the posts where they stick up, so that they are flush to the sides of the bed. Smooth the ground in the pathway and start filling the bed with soil.

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4. Add cross-bracing

If your bed is longer than 8′, or taller than 18″, it’s a good idea to use cross-bracing. This will prevent the bed from bowing outwards in the center of the span.

Use a hacksaw to cut the aluminum flat stock to the exact width of the bed. Drill a hole in each end, and use a 1″ stainless screw to attach the cross-brace to the posts at either side of the span.

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5. Top up the bed with soil and get gardening!

Use your best garden soil to top off the bed. If there are rocks, the soil can be screened through a piece of 1/2″ mesh. Or you can just pull out any rocks you come across.

Add soil amendments such as peat, lime, rock phosphate and organic fertilizer, as needed. Spray the soil with a fine spray, and top it off again because the water will lower the soil level a bit.

Now your bed is ready to plant!

Raised Bed Installation / Tips / Layout Suggestions

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Lay out the beds so they are horizontally facing south

It’s best if the long side of the bed faces south. This assures equal light exposure to all the plants growing in the bed. If your bed is aligned the other way (the ends facing south), you may have planting limitations because taller plants in front can block the sunlight to small plants in back.

Double-dig the bed area

If the ground has never been used for gardening, it should be ‘turned over’ (dug) to a depth of 16””. This gives you a chance to pull rocks, and to see the composition of your soil. Leave soil piled up in the center, away from the sides, so you can set the bed in place without obstructions.

Check for roots

As you dig the soil, keep an eye out for any roots which may be growing beneath your beds. If left to grow, these roots will steal the organic amendments you add to the soil. Pull any roots back towards their source, and pull the main root clump. If the source is a living tree, you may need to install a root barrier by digging a narrow trench outside the perimeter of the bed, and deeper than the roots, and then insert a barrier such as heavy plastic sheeting.

Level the bed

Use a level for this task. This may seem overly meticulous, but after several waterings the soil will settle to level, and you’’ll want the bed to be the same. Set a stiff board (2×4) on top of the bed sides, across the span, and set your level on this board. Tap down the sides as needed till you get a level reading. Be sure to check for level both along the length and across the width of your bed.

Burrowing pests?

If your garden has burrowing pests such as moles, a layer of 1/2″ or 1/4″ hardware cloth (galvanized mesh) can be laid across the bottom, before soil is added. The mesh should continue at least 3″ up along the insides of the bed and be stapled in place. If you plan to grow root crops, such as potatoes or carrots, you may want to set the mesh lower in the ground by digging deeper when you are setting up the bed. There are also raised garden planters available for above-ground gardening. These planters are designed to be easy on the back, but they also keep burrowing pests, rabbits, cats and other critters out of your garden.

Spread soil out evenly

Add any planned soil amendments, such as peat, compost or lime, and spread the soil evenly across the bed. Water the bed with an even, fine spray. This will settle the soil; add more soil to “top off”. (Over time the soil will settle an inch or two more.) Rake the bed once more to even out the soil and you’’re ready to plant. To learn more about developing the ideal soil for your raised beds, read our article 6 Tips for Building Soil in your Raised Beds and Planters.

Avoid stepping on the bed

Once the soil is added and the bed is planted, make it a policy to never step on the bed. Stepping on the bed will compact the soil, reduce aeration and impact root growth. Pets should also be trained to stay off the raised beds.

It’s very helpful to have a ‘spanner board’, a short sturdy board, like a 2 x 6, that’s just longer than the width of your beds. This board can be laid across the bed, setting on top of the bed sides, and can be used to set buckets on when weeding or adding amendments, and it can be used to step on if you must step on the bed. It also makes a handy seat when weeding or tending the bed.

Leave a generous width between beds for the pathways

It helps when pathways between raised beds are wide enough for a small wheelbarrow. For grass pathways, make sure they are at least wide enough for a weedeater or a small mower. (In our raised bed gardens the pathways are 22″ wide.)

Mulch the pathways between beds

Weeding pathways is a nuisance which you can avoid by putting a double layer of perforated landscape cloth over the pathway, and cover this with a 2- 3″ layer of bark mulch or coarse sawdust. When laying down the landscape cloth, allow it to come up 1″ against the bottom board of the bed, and staple this to the bed. This will not be visible because the mulch will cover it.

When buying mulch, ask the seller if they have had any complaints about weed seeds in the mulch. It is very common for bark mulch to have weed seeds which sprout in your pathways. Some weeds will still appear on your pathways regardless of the mulch. Wait until it rains before pulling them out, or you may rip the landscape cloth. The weeds will come out easily if the ground is wet.

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Add a trellis to your raised bed

Raised beds are sturdy enough to support a trellis, even one large enough for pole beans which grow to 8′ tall. Here is our favorite trellis design which won’t mark your raised bed with visible holes, yet is easy to disassemble for storage or to relocate to another raised bed.

6 Tips for Building Soil for Your Raised Garden Beds and Planters

Here are some tips for building productive soil for your garden beds and planters – while there are some differences based on locale, these tips pretty much apply anywhere…

When my wife and I first started gardening in earnest, the results were discouraging. The seeds we planted would sprout and begin to grow, but soon the rate of growth would slow and produce undersize vegetables. Some would succumb to damage from insect pests and slugs, and even when we purchased healthy seedlings for transplanting, they failed to grow to the size we expected.

During our first few seasons of gardening we spent more time weeding than anything else. Our undersize plants left much of the topsoil exposed, and local weeds took advantage of the sunlight and available ground space. Although we watered the beds regularly and applied mulch to supress the weeds, the harvest from our early vegetable gardens was pitiful.

Over time we learned what most successful gardeners know: building soil is what gardening is all about. Once we turned our attention to the condition of the soil, our garden began to grow. Today we enjoy bountiful harvests from all our garden beds, and we spend almost no time weeding or dealing with insect pests.

With hopes of sparing you the mistakes we made, here are some tips for building productive soil for your garden beds and planters. And while there are some differences based on locale, these tips pretty much apply anywhere. Continue reading 6 Tips for Building Soil for Your Raised Garden Beds and Planters

The #1 thing a prepper should grow

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

Less than a year ago I was watching a YouTube video on gardening and agriculture and I came across the plant known as the Moringa Tree. Found primarily in the foothills of the Himalayas, this plant is a true “Super-food” and is slowly becoming described by some medical professionals as “the Miracle Tree.” This tree has been used in Indian and Malaysian medicine for years and it’s nutritional qualities are almost unbelievable

!  One serving of Moringa leaves contains:

–       125% daily value of Calcium

–       61% daily value of Magnesium

–       41% daily value of Potassium

–       71% daily value of Iron

–       272% daily value of Vitamin A

–       22% daily value of Vitamin C

–       2 times more protein than a serving of milk

  In total, there are over 92 different vitamins, minerals or other nutrients inside the Moringa plant, 46 antioxidants and 36 anti-inflamitories. No other food on the planet boasts this many positive nutrients. And on top of that, there are no side-effects to eating Moringa.   Many experts in alternative medicine have also seen Moringa benefits like: –       Lower Blood Pressure –       Improved Mood –       Improved Digestion –       Improved Immune System –       Protected Stomach lining –       Soothing Ulcers –       Boosting energy levels   I could go on, and on about this incredible plant, but instead I want to end by talking just a little bit about growing it.  The Moringa is incredibly easy to grow, which is a plus for busy preppers like you and me. All that is required is some good dirt mixed with compost and sand, water and light. Moringa love loose sandy dirt so keep that in mind when planting. I highly suggest you grow this indoors (unless you’re in a warm or tropical climate) seeing that Moringa is drought resistant but NOT tolerant to cold. One bad frost and your plant is done. So look into some indoor grow lights for a garage or basement project.       I’d love to hear what you have to say about Moringa or survival gardening in general. So join the conversation and leave your comment below. Happy Prepping!     – Skip Tanner.

How Much Land To Survive?

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

Hey Prepper Nation,Have you ever wondered how likely it is that you’ll be able to produce all the calories you’ll need on the piece of land you have?  How much land for livestock?  How about those solar panels you were thinking about?  How many square feet of panels will provide you with the electricity you’ll need?  The folks at one block off the grid, that’s 1bog.org have figured this out for you.Let’s start by talking power.  In a collapse situation, you’ll probably be able to rely on the sun and wind and not much else, unless you’ve built a watermill.   The best answer might be installing some solar panels on your roof. This is a commonly available option that many people are considering nowadays.  Let’s say part of your roof is facing South (the best place for a solar panel) and you get 7 hours or so of sunlight, on average.  To get the amount of power that an average home uses in a year, you’ll need 375 square feet of panels.  These things aren’t cheap, and that much hardware is going to be beyond the average family’s financial reach.  This means that you’ll have to make decisions regarding how to ration the power you ARE able to produce.  Look around the house, and you’ll probably see lots of things that are plugged in that you can eliminate if the you-know-what ever hits the fan.  This is part of the planning you’ll need to do now, so that you’ll be better prepared for times of trouble.

How about food?  If you have a family of four, you’ll want to provide at least 2000 or so calories per adult, more if you’re a big guy, maybe a little less for kids.  The formula is simple:  At least 30 calories per kilogram of body weight.  One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so an 80 kilogram adult would weigh 176 pounds.  30 x 80 = 2400 calories/day.  Less for kids, of course. You’ll need to provide 8000-9000 calories a day to maintain your family’s weight. One block off the grid separates your garden out in three categories:  fruits, berries and vegetables, then wheat, then corn.  If you went totally vegetarian, you would need a little less than half an acre per person to provide all of those calories.  That means a family of 4 needs almost 2 acres of farmable land!  If you stock up on wheatberries and use your handy dandy wondermill, you can cut that down a bit.  Corn isn’t a very land-efficient crop, but you might need it for your livestock.  An alternative if you need to trim that acreage more is to stock up on bushels of corn feed; that’s about 56 pounds of feed for about $8-10.  This is a good idea, but you’ll use a lot of it.  It takes 10 bushels of corn to get a hog from weaning to slaughter.  Btw, corn prices are going higher, they were less than 5 dollars a couple of years ago.

Don’t forget, you’ll need some land for hog wallows, goats, rabbits and chickens.  All of these animals can be raised in relatively small amounts of space.  A good 200 square feet for 3 hogs, more if they have piglets, less for each of the other animals.  You might have to forget about cows, they aren’t land-efficient.   If you want milk, think about goats, especially Nubian Goats.  This variety can produce 1800 lbs. of milk a year, according to 1 block off the grid.  That’s a lot of milk!  How about eggs?  The average family of four will eat 1000 eggs a year or so.  To reliably get this quantity, you’ll need about 13-15 birds in your henhouse, depends a lot on the breed.

You could probably squeeze this all in with an acre and a half of land.  If you don’t have that much property, now you know you’ll need that much more food storage to make up for the difference.  This is information I thought was important for me to know, and now you know it too.https://www.thegardenprepper.com

Source and credits: Dr. Bones

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!

qwq

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

How to Break a Broody Hen – Backyard Chickens

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Garden Prepper August 20, 2015

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A broody hen is something every chicken owner will encounter at some point. The first time you come across one it can be a puzzling experience.

But why do chickens and hens go broody? What actually is a broody hen? In this week’s tutorial we will be taking a look at broodiness in hens, and learning more about the them.

So if you would like some broody hen advice to help with your hen keeping, read on.

What is a Broody Chicken?

What does it mean when a chicken goes broody? Well, a broody hen is a chicken that wants to hatch her eggs. Often they can be found attempting to incubate a clutch of eggs. Although a broody bird will attempt to hatch a single egg, or a fake egg, if given the chance.

Broodiness in hens attributed to hormonal change. A hormone called Prolactine is secreted and this starts the first stages of broodiness. The hormonal trigger can be started by various factors including: change in temperature or climate, diet, season, and even the occurrence of other broody hens.

When Prolactine is created by the chicken it results in the bird stopping laying eggs. After a few days the bird then becomes broody, and then you’ll see the typical changes in their behavior that’s associated with broodiness.

Some breeds of chicken are more susceptible to broodiness than others. The modern dayhybrid chickens, broilers breeds (meat birds), and the older commercial breeds, have had the maternal behavior bred out of them over generations.

Broodiness isn’t a commercial desirable behavior as it prevents egg laying and weight gain. If a hen isn’t laying eggs, or gaining weight (in the case of meat birds), they are not producing money. Therefore, there was a financial incentive to remove broody behavior from the commercial breeds that are used in the egg and meat chicken industries.

This is part of the reasons that some breeds have stronger broody instinct than others. It’s also worth bearing this in mind if you plan to use your own chickens to hatch and raise your own chicks. That’s not to say the commercial breeds don’t ever go broody, they can. But it is significantly less than other breeds of chicken.

Broody hen behavior

Broodiness tends only to happen in hens that are of laying age. This can be anything from 6-12 months old depending on breed.

Their broody behavior generally lasts around 21 days – although it can last a lot longer.

There is a noticeable change in a chickens behavior when they becomes broody. They will want to stay with their eggs: if you attempt to remove them from their nest they can become aggressive.

Broody behavior in hens occurs during the egg laying season. If you live in a warm climate, and your chickens lay all year round, there is a possibility of your chickens becoming broody at any time of the year. In temperate climates broody behavior is often isolated to the warmer parts of the year.

How do you tell if a hen is broody?

Initial signs of broodiness include a hen that seems quiet, and has a tendency to keep away from the rest of her flock.
The mains signs of broodiness in hens become apparent once they have a clutch of eggs to sit on. You should see a few (or all) of the following signs:

  1. Reluctant to get off the nest
  2. Squawking or making deep clucks when you approach the nest
  3. Puff’s up her feather in attempt to make her look menacing and bigger than she is
  4. Tries to defend her nest. Will peck you and generally be aggressive if you try to go for her eggs.
  5. Bald patches on her front

A broody hen will try to sit on eggs that aren’t fertile. Therefore, even flock without roosters (or Cockerel in the UK) will still suffer from broody hens.

Besides trying to sit on her own eggs, a broody hen will be happy to incubate eggs laid by other hens. This is how, in part, a clutch of eggs is built up in a nesting spot. A clutch of egg is often the result of a few individuals laying eggs in a particular spot; it is not usually the work of a single chicken.

A broody chicken will often try to sit in the same spot, even after you have removed her eggs, and thrown her off the nest. In fact, a great test for broodiness is try this. Try removing your broody chickens’ eggs, and then removing her from her nest. Then wait for around 20 minutes: if she’s back in the same spot trying to nest, there’s a good chance you have a broody hen.

A common questions asked by new chicken keepers is: do broody hens lay eggs? The answer is no. Prolactine (the hormone that triggers a chickens maternal behavior) inhibits their egg production, resulting in them stopping laying.

Another question asked is: how long does a hen stay broody? Usually broodiness will last around 21 days or more – which is about the length of time it takes a chicken to hatch a clutch of fertile eggs.

Some people worry about their broody hens when they find they have bald patches on their fronts. This is perfectly normal. These are called brood-patches. Broody chickens pull out some of their front feathering to line their nest; the bare patches of skin improve the heat transfer between them and their eggs.

Broody hens are dedicated animals. They will only get off their nest once or twice a day; this will be to eat and drink, and to defecate. They will perform these tasks away from their eggs in order to keep their nests clean.

If a broody chicken breaks any eggs she’s sitting on, she will usually eat them. This helps keep her nest clean and helps deter predators. However, sometimes this doesn’t work out: it can be necessary to manually remove her from the nest, and remove any broken or crushed eggs. This will help promote a cleaner and healthier nest.

Broody Chickens Breeds

Here’s a list of broody chicken breeds (source Wikipedia) :
• Delaware
• Booted Bantam
• New Hampshire
• Pekin
• Dutch Bantam
• Cornish Indian Game
• Cochin
• Manx Rumpy
• Plymouth Rock
• Silkie
• Saipan Jungle Fowl
• Orpington
• Kraienköppe
• Belgian Bearded d’Anvers
• Icelandic
• Java
• Philippine Native
• Belgian Bearded d’Uccle
• Iowa Blue
• Nankin

How long are chickens broody for?

The hatching cycle of a chicken is around 21 days. After this period of time, the chicken usually gets sick of sitting on the eggs, and returns back to their normal behavior. However, don’t be surprised to find hens that stay broody for a lot longer. I have a known chickens that have gone broody for up to three months in one sitting.

Some breeds of chickens may only stay broody for a few days. This can happen with hens that are not considered to be a broody breed (like hybrids and broiler breeds); it’s also common with point of lay pullets.

As a rule, some hens are better sitters than others. And some chickens are better mothers than others. If you want to use hens to hatch and rear some chicks, make sure you pick the right chicken breed for the job. And hens that prove to be good sitters and mothers are to be treasured.

Can you make a chicken go broody?

There are no injections, or treatments, that can make a chicken go broody. However, there are things you can do to encourage broody behavior if you want it. These are:

  • Make sure your hens are well fed and have a good body condition. Chickens that are in poor condition tend to broody less than those in good physical condition.
  • Leave a clutch of eggs in their nest box or laying area. Broodiness is triggered usually when there is a clutch of eggs for the bird to sit on.
  • Leave your hen with other broody hens. Broodiness is contagious. Once one hen decides to go broody, it’s not uncommon for other hens follow.

Rather than let the eggs build up manually, I personally recommend that you remove the eggs and replace them with fake, or pot eggs. You can end up with lots of broken eggs when trying to let your hens build up a clutch. This in turn will make your nest boxes messy and unhygienic.

A group of hens tends to lay at the same point during the day. It’s common to have one, or two chickens jamming themselves in a nest box at the same time, all trying to lay their eggs. It should come as no surprise that this causes eggs in the clutch to be broken. That’s why it’s easier to remove the real eggs, store them at room temperature, and replace with fake ones.

What to do when a chicken goes broody?

You have three options when it comes to dealing with broody hens. They are:

  1. Leave them, and remove any eggs that are laid underneath her every day
  2. Let her sit and hatch her eggs
  3. Break and try to cure her broodiness

The first point is pretty self explanatory. You simply remove any egg that your other hens lay in the broody birds nest box/area. You will want to do this daily to prevent eggs from building up and becoming cracked or broken.

The other two points will be covered in depth in another chickens tutorial on this website. So make sure you join our mailing list (click here) so you don’t miss any of them.

What are your thought on broody hen behavior. Share them below in the comments.

How To Cook The Best Food Possible

Posted on November 5, 2013

Cooking is one of those activities that anyone can participate in. You can shop for ingredients, and follow a recipe’s instructions, right? Are you able to get your hands on basic cooking equipment? If you can do these things, cooking is easy. Make use of the tips below to make excellent food that anyone would envy and add a star to your chef ranking.

Have you ever needed to throw away moldy fruit and felt guilty about it? Should you cut of the rotten part to save the rest? Sadly, there is really no safe method for using fruit that is partially rotten. Throw this fruit away because of the deep mold growth which you cannot see, and it would make you sick if you ate it.

It is essential that you are prepared before you start to cook a meal to serve to your loved ones. Gather all the ingredients beforehand. Put everything you need to cook the dish out the night before. Make sure you have all the cooking equipment and ingredients required. If you have everything ready, you won’t be as worried about preparing the meal, and it’s more likely to turn out well.

Crispier fries come from potatoes that have been left to soak in ice cold water for about 30 minutes. Cold water will allow the sliced potato to retain its internal fibers, meaning that they are less likely to completely break down when cooked at a high heat.

It is not always easy to remember the proper grilling times for all meats. You need to use a good meat thermometer so that you can be sure that the inside of the meat is cooked properly. If the meat is greater than 1.5 inches in thickness, you should close the lid of the grill in order to decrease your grilling time.

Always keep your spices away from light in a cool place. When spices are exposed to light and heat, they lose their flavor and it reduces their storage life. If you store your spices in dark place with relatively low temperatures like a pantry, the spices will retain their taste and take longer to spoil. Fresh spices offer better taste profiles than stale ones.

Don’t throw a huge helping of seasoning in all at once. Try to spread it out, and taste after each application. This will allow your dish to become more flavorful.

Leave the bone inside the roast if you want to cook it faster. The reason this cooks your roast faster is because the bone pulls the heat to the center of the roast. Once the roast has finished cooking, it is easy to go in there and remove the bone.

To easily slice meat thinly, place it in the freezer until firm but not frozen. This is great for various Oriental meals, such as Thai or Chinese dishes. Partially freezing meat keep the fibers in meat from stretching and tearing resulting in perfectly sliced strips. For even cooking, let the strips of meat thaw completely before you start to cook.

If your a fan of cooking with spices and herbs, make sure they are stored in a dark and cool area in order to keep their flavors. You should never store herbs and spices above a stove or in any other warm location because that will cause them to lose their flavor, and of course you will be out the money.

Cooking Supplies

Leave raw potatoes in cold water for at least 30 minutes before frying them to make crispier French fries. Allowing the sliced potatoes to soak up more cold fluids helps to reinforce the fibers that are in the vegetable, that way when they are deep fried, they are better able to stand up to the heat and won’t completely break down.

Every cook knows how important it is to organize their cooking supplies. If you refuse to organize your cooking supplies, you’ll take longer to find the utensils you need. Save time searching by keeping similar items stored together. For instance, put all your spices in one cabinet.

Always make sure that the cooking utensils you are about to use are clean before starting any cooking. This is a basic but very important rule for any cook. Leftover food could really screw up your next dish. Another concern is the potential cost to your health, as you could possibly be exposed to bacteria.

You can sprinkle it on many other foods besides meat. Add this savory seasoning to snack foods like Chex mix, or use it to spice up your omelet. It will be hard for people to guess where the flavor is coming from!

To avoid burning your food, stay organized. A well-organized cooking area is conducive to great results. Unorganized cooks can easily make mistakes, lose or overlook buying important ingredients, and waste good money and food that could be used.

When you are cooking pasta, use a fair amount of salt in the water. This will help season the pasta as it cooks. Salting pasta after cooking it results in a less flavorful pasta dish.

Much like a sponge, the mushrooms will absorb the water. Get a wet cloth instead, and wipe off each mushroom by hand.

To make your pasta sauce a little better, use some of the water that you cooked your noodles in. Take about a quarter cup of the water and set aside. When you are getting ready to mix the pasta and sauce together, pour in some of the water. The pasta water contains starch, which will give your sauce a thick creaminess.

You can cook as a hobby, skill, and as a profession. There are millions of ways to prepare food, and the best way to learn new cooking skills is to take advice from people who are good at what they do. In the meantime, however, you can use some of the cooking tips presented above the next time you are responsible for preparing a family meal.

Before purchasing items to prepare any type of dish, it is important that you read the labels of the item. Many of the most common ingredients can contain unhealthy and unnecessary additives. Some things to check for include high levels of sugar or sodium, as both are common contributors to many health problems.