Cool Weather & Companion Planting: Give It A Try!

Broccoli seedlings in soil cubes. Make seed starters with a Soil Cube Tool

I can hardly believe it’s time to start preparing for my Spring garden! I’ll be getting my warm weather seedlings started indoors in the next few weeks, and I’ll direct sow most cool weather crops outdoors when the snow has thawed and melted away. My main objective right now is to get a jump start on the season by starting a few cool weather crops and herbs indoors in soil cubes.

This winter has been extra crazy for most of the US, so it’s a little harder for me to know exactly when it’ll be safe to plant and what to expect this year.  Worst case scenario, I’ll plant my cool weather crops in the raised beds, and cover them with old windows to create a cold frame if I fear them freezing. Continue reading

Rethinking Livestock As Gardening Season Comes Closer

Wire Compost Bin

Wire Compost Bin

Just the word “livestock” can conjure up scary images of raging bulls, recalcitrant Billy goats and fragile lambs. You can’t help but think of the expenses of barns and fences, the necessity of acres of pastures and the tether of twice daily chores. But before you give up the notion of raising livestock, think outside the livestock box.

Our most productive livestock are probably our bees. In an area not quite as large as our children’s swing set we have enough hives to keep us in far more honey than we can consume. The extra honey sells for more than enough to pay all of our bee expenses each year.

Our second most productive livestock is our worms. Now that may seem downright silly. You can’t eat them. Worms don’t provide eggs or fleece or any of the other things one thinks of when considering livestock but they are still a valuable resource. And they produce material that will give any garden or flower bed a kick in the pants. Continue reading

Garden 2014: Plan To Preserve!

Put 'Em Up is in stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio and at Lehmans.com.

Put ‘Em Up is in stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio and at Lehmans.com.

Sure, we all plan to plant. But how many of us plan to preserve?

For instance, when do you figure your supplies for your jars, bands, lids, freezer boxes and other preservation supplies? And what recipes do you use? Do you stick with the tried and true because it’s the last minute? After all, the harvest isn’t predicatable, right?

Well, that may be true. But this is the year you change, because Sherri Brooks Vinton has published Put ‘Em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook and Put ‘Em Up! Fruit: A Preserving Guide and Cookbook, two fantastic collections that share some great ways to dry, freeze, can and preserve your garden’s and orchard’s harvest. Continue reading

Save Seeds, Plan Ahead: How B. Girard Does Garden 2014

Tasty fall harvest!

Tasty fall harvest!

Our seed order has been placed and major braggathon on the frugal me. This is the end of the fourth year of gardening for us, and in true form I have gone big already for year five!

And by go big I don’t mean that I am growing a garden that would feed the masses, since I don’t, and don’t intend to. This is about us, after all and about being frugal and sustainable, which I am learning are two things that are so completely intertwined in so many ways that they are practically impossible to separate. Continue reading

Plan Now To Plant For Fall: Southwest, South, Southeast

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener Book

Learn how to grow your own food all year long. No matter where you live or what season it is (even winter), you can enjoy fresh produce right from your garden with this helpful book.

One of our bloggers, Kendra, has the luck to live in a very temperate zone (according to the USDA Plant Hardiness map). She’s currently working on harvesting her summer garden, and planning/planting her fall garden. When Country Life asked about her fall garden plans, she sent back a great comprehensive answer! See what she’s doing–and if you’re in Zones 6b or warmer, you may find it works for you too!
 
CL: What are you planning for your fall garden?
 
This year I’m going to focus on planting root crops throughout my fall garden. Carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, turnips, and radishes are on my list of things to plant. I’ll also probably throw in some spinach as well. My children have asked for more peas, so as soon as our cucumbers are finished with these last few cukes hanging on the vines, I’ll pull them out and replant more Purple Podded peas for them.
 
CL: Have you planted fall crops before, or is this your first time? (If you’ve done it before, feel free to explain in detail! If it’s your first time, what are your concerns?)
Usually my garden sits pretty bare through the winter. This year I’m hoping to make the most of our growing space. Our winters are very mild here, so hopefully I won’t have too much trouble with stuff freezing. We’ll see!
 
All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at Lehmans.com.

All you need to know! Click to find out more about Root Cellaring at Lehmans.com.

CL: How will you preserve the crops that can be harvested before cold weather?
Since we don’t have a root cellar yet, I’ll most likely can whatever we don’t eat fresh. I’d also like to try storing root crops straight in the ground and using them as needed throughout the cold months. I’m a little afraid they might rot, or bugs will get to them before I do. If I have enough of a harvest to experiment with, I’ll try mulching them with straw and seeing how they do. One of these days we’ll have a proper root cellar!!

 
Kendra’s promised to stay in touch, and let us know how the ground storage and mulching program works. Stay tuned for updates here!

Know Your Zone! USDA Plant Hardiness Primer

Moving from one zone to another can be quite the shock. If that's you, embrace the change and garden accordingly.

Moving from one zone to another can be quite the shock. If you’ve changed zones recently, embrace the change and garden accordingly.

Where do you fall on the map? And do you know why it’s important?

It’s important because you can see the cold temperature ranges over time in your geographic area. Just this one piece of information can help you make several decisions, no matter if you’re running a small farm or an urban homestead. You can start to plan what to plant, and when to plant it.

When you review at the average temperatures over time for your zone at the National Climatic Data Center, you can then know even more, and plan further ahead: when to get your peeper chicks next spring, for instance, or the best time to cull livestock for the freezer. (Believe me, it’s not something you want to do on a steaming hot day.)

Want to put in a second-season garden? Depending on your hardiness zone, you may want to get started right away.

Gorgeous...and practical. And in stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH. Supplies limited!

Gorgeous…and practical. And in stock NOW at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH. Supplies limited!

Folks in the far Northwest, Great Lakes and Northeastern regions know that once summer’s heat starts to fade, the first frost won’t be too far behind. They’re planting now, and it’s sturdy stuff. Kale, in all its permutations, leads the pack, but you’ll see the odd broccoli and carrots too. Harvested at fingerling size, there’s nothing sweeter than a carrot that’s had a bit of frost.

Lucky folks living in the Southwest, South and Southeast regions have a little bit more time, and can often squeeze out some more delicate fall crops: lettuces, peas and radishes.

As we’re all building a simpler lifestyle, we should use all the resources at our disposal to do it efficiently. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great start, but if you want hard data, it’s out there. And it’s free for the taking from many federal, state and county government sources. Get digging–and get all the facts you need!