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Fall gardening for beginners

Fall Gardening for Beginners

Can you feel it? The cooler nights, crisper mornings? Well, it might be a little early for that yet. But that’s right, I’m already talking about fall! Not pumpkin spice lattes and scones, but fall gardening. The fall garden is every gardener’s last hurrah to get another harvest or two before winter.

Right now, I’m planning my fall garden. My soil is sandy clay, and the ground isn’t very fertile, so I’m planning to do a cover crop. I also want that cover crop to be useful in the short-term as well.

I have lots of animals to feed, so I want to grow some things that I can feed them with also, to lower the feed bill. This is my first fall garden, so I only hope that I’m not getting started too late. Our first frost (we’re in zone 7a) is just around the corner, on October 6th!

I ordered oats, Austrian Winter Peas, beets, and turnips from Baker Creek Seed Company, and they sent me a package of purple carrots as well. We get very intensely hot, dry summers, so there are a few things that we can’t grow very well in the heat of summer. They do better in the spring or fall garden.

Here is some helpful fall gardening tips to get what you need before winter sets in.

 

Benefits of fall gardening

Fall gardening can be such a blessing to the homestead gardener. The cooler weather is such a nice break from gardening in the blistering heat.

    • A strong fall garden can help make up for shortages from your main gardening season. I didn’t get my peas put in the garden before it got too hot this year, so I didn’t get any peas harvested. I plan to make up for that shortage by putting them in the fall garden.
    • Harvesting more into the fall will help you save money on food, and help you make sure you have enough veggies to get you through winter without paying ridiculous grocery store prices. You can even extend your growing season more by installing cold frames or tunnels and get even more food before winter really hits. The fall garden is actually really important in protecting your family’s food security.
    • You can usually save even more money on a fall garden, as plants, seeds, compost, and mulch are usually cheaper in the fall. Stores are usually trying to get rid of that year’s inventory, so they will offer most of these up at dramatic price drops. And if you grew some cool-season crops earlier in the year, you may have been able to save some of those seeds as well.
    • The typical fall veggie garden also takes up much less room, so it’s easier to keep the area tended to. Weeding around smaller rows of peas, beans, spinach, and lettuce is so much easier than weeding around those giant zucchini or pumpkin plants!
    • There are also typically fewer bugs to worry about in the fall. At that point, most of the main bugs have completed their life cycle, so they will be munching on your plants less.
    • A lot of plants taste sweeter when grown in the fall. And the more cool-loving plants are less likely to bolt when grown in the fall. Growing some of these in the fall results in healthier harvests and better vegetables.

Planning your fall garden

Just like your main vegetable garden, your fall garden needs planning too. Decide your needs based on what you weren’t able to grow during the main gardening season.

Did you not get enough spinach? How about your radishes and beets? You can get more of some of the things that didn’t produce as well, by planting in your fall garden.

Of course, you won’t be able to start a fall crop of long-season veggies like tomatoes (unless you live in the tropics!), but there should be some fast growing vegetables that you can harvest before the frost really sets in. Succession planting is great to do in a fall garden, as you can stagger your harvests and get the most out of your garden space.

What to plant, and when?

To determine what you can plant and when, check your desired veggie’s days to harvest from the seed packet. Check The Old Farmer’s Almanac for your first average frost date. Using a tool like Time And Date, put in your first frost date, then subtract however many days an average harvest takes of that vegetable (from the seed packet). This will tell you the latest date you should plant that veggie.

If you were able to grow all the veggies you need, start thinking outside the box!

Does your soil need amending after the hard work it did over the summer? Plant a cover crop. Peas, beans, and legumes are nitrogen fixers, and will help put nitrogen back into your soil.

Need some garlic or onions? Both of these are great to overwinter. Garlic actually needs the cold weather to perform its best, and you can dine on green onions first thing in the spring.

Are you wanting to be more self reliant with your animal feed? Grow winter wheat, peas, oats, cereal rye, rye grass, clover, radishes, or forage turnips. Depending on the animals you have, you might have a few options that you didn’t think about before.

Fall gardening crops

1. Cover crops.

Cover crops are crops that you plant to cover the soil. They protect the soil from erosion and aid in weed control. Then when they die off, you either till them into the soil or “chop and drop”, or mow the plants down and leave them as mulch. Normally they have nutrient-fixing properties or help break up hard ground so they benefit the soil.

a. Legumes.

Peas, clover, and beans are nitrogen-fixing. They have nodules of nitrogen on their roots, and these transfer back into the soil as the plant decomposes. As a bonus, you can still harvest the beans and peas for yourself or for your livestock.

Peas are a wonderful crop for the fall garden

b. Grasses and grains.

Grasses like oats, wheat, and rye prevent the soil from erosion and compaction. They have long roots that break up and aerate the soil.

Most of these can also be used to feed your animals to reduce your feed bill. Oats and wheat produce grains that you can thresh to give to your animals, or use yourself.

You could even put animals like pigs or chickens in the garden when your cover crops are winding down, so they can clear it up for you some. They will help themselves to any leftover goodies, as well as deposit some of their own fertilizer in the garden. And tilling these plants into the soil in the spring will help improve soil health.

Oats are a great cover crop to plant in the fall

Oats in the fall garden

2. Brassicas.

Brassicas, like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli do much better in the cooler weather than in the heat of the summer. These should be planted in the spring or fall in order to keep them from bolting (going to seed).

Keep in mind, some of these need quite a bit of time to mature, so just make sure you have enough time before winter really hits. In my area, these need to be planted in late July and August in order to get a crop.

Fall gardening brassicas will help give you food into the fall months, and also supplement as animal feed as well, when the veggies aren’t “pretty” enough for human consumption.

Fall gardening for beginners - what to plant in your garden in the fall

Brassicas in the fall garden

3. Root vegetables.

Lots of root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, radishes, and beets, do very well in the cooler weather. They actually get sweeter after a light frost, and it doesn’t seem to bother them as much if the leaves get a little frost damage. Above-ground plants, in comparison, usually die at the first hint of frost.

For example, with tomatoes, if you plant them just a little too early and they get a light frost at the end of spring, you will usually have to replace those plants. That happened to me last year. Root vegetables give plenty of greens to give to your animals (or eat yourself!), and they may even like the veggies too!

Beets are another great fall crop

4. Leafy greens.

As long as you choose a fast-growing variety, lettuce and spinach are great choices for the fall garden. These tend to bolt and get bitter in hot weather, so the cooler weather is just better for them.

Kale and collards taste much better after they get a little frost. Kale really likes cold weather, and is very tolerant of it. Mustard greens and arugula grow fast but die in hard frosts.

Carrots are another good option, and can be stored through the winter very well.

Kale is a wonderful choice in fall gardening

5. Onions and garlic.

Onions are very cold hardy, especially if you mulch around them. You can still harvest them in winter, even under snow, as long as they are not frozen solid into the ground. And garlic needs nearly a full year to grow, so it has to over-winter with a thick mulch. Both onions and garlic are used both in cooking and in medicinal home remedies, so they are great to grow.

Garlic is best overwintered


Fall gardening can be a very beneficial, last-ditch effort to get some good food growing. Although I’m sure you’re tired from the summer garden and all the accompanying summer chores, I hope you’ll take advantage of this last little bit of decent weather before winter hits. Have you done a fall garden? Are you going to this year?

 

Gimme more homestead goodies!

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This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog HopSimple Homestead Blog HopFarm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.

 

 

Dealing With Garden Failures

Dealing With Garden Failures

We’ve all had it happen. Bad weather, late planting, weed competition, bad soil. All these things can contribute to your garden just not producing enough. But if you were counting on that “free” food, what do you do? How can you deal with garden failures?

I myself haven’t had much of a harvest from my garden this year. We had a very late wet spring, so we were forced to plant later than we had hoped. My plan for controlling weeds hasn’t worked on this large of a scale. Combine all that with too much heat and too little help, and you get a garden that is sub-par at best.

Let’s go over some of the ways to combat a lackluster harvest from the garden.

 

 

 

Start a fall garden

If you still have time, you can plant a fall garden. As of right now, my area still has about 60 days until our first average fall frost, so I’m actually planting some green beans for my fall garden tomorrow. The green beans I planted in our main garden didn’t germinate properly, so I’ve gotten pretty much no harvest from them. And I want to can some green beans this year!

Find out your first frost date, and count backwards to make sure you still have time to grow some veggies before the frost really sets in. Lots of veggies actually enjoy the cooler temperatures in the fall, and some even get sweeter after a frost or two. So find a few fast growing vegetables that you still have time to plant, and get to it!

Combat garden failures by doing a fall garden

 

Use season extenders

You can also use season extenders like greenhouses, cold frames, high tunnels, or row covers to extend your harvest. If you are planting a little too late to get a good harvest before frost, using any one of these can allow you to still get a harvest in before it gets too cold. You may even be able to extend your fall garden a little more into the winter.

In milder climates, some people garden year-round using season extenders. I’m in Zone 7, and we get bitter cold winters, so I can’t garden year-round. But I could possibly get a few more harvests of fast-growing vegetables after frost comes if I use season extenders.

Use greenhouses to get another harvest after garden failures

 

Visit the farmers market

Farmers markets are a great place to find lots of fresh, close-to-organic produce. If your garden didn’t produce enough of a particular item and you need more of it for canning or preserving, why not try it? You can get what you need, and help a local farmer in the process.

Corn takes up a lot of space in the garden. I know a lot of people who don’t grow corn in their garden, and instead choose to buy it since it’s pretty cheap. Potatoes are another thing that a lot of people choose to buy rather than grow.

Farmers markets are a great way to make up for food shortages in the garden

 

Shop at roadside stands

A lot of people set up roadside stands during the growing season to get rid of some of their extra produce. You can find these at people’s homes, with an “honor box” type setup.

I also see a lot of people setting up a temporary “shop” on busy intersections with a truck load of produce to sell. These are a great way to get a lot of produce for relatively cheap. Corn is big in these types of shops, as are cherries and peaches around here.

 

Join a local gleaning group on Facebook

I am an admin for a local gleaning group on Facebook. Gleaning is taking what is left after a harvest. Whenever anyone has extra produce to share, they post it there for people to come and glean it.

Here in Idaho, there is a big annual potato gleaning event. The owners of a big potato field harvest their potatoes, then make a big announcement for people to come and glean the leftovers. Big commercial potato harvesters often don’t pick up the smaller potatoes. The field owners don’t want to be out there harvesting the leftovers by hand, but don’t want them to rot in the fields. So they “share the wealth”, so to speak.

People come from all over and pay a very small family admission fee to glean these potatoes. It is a huge help for those wanting to get fresh produce without growing it themselves, especially if they had garden failures.

 

Look online for excess produce

Look online, through Craigslist or Facebook, for produce that people are giving away or selling for cheap. A lot of people have fruit trees that produce more than they can reasonably use. They are usually more than willing to share.

I regularly look online for excess produce that people are giving away. Last year, The Hubs and I gleaned some free apricots from a family that couldn’t pick all of their fruit. We got a big box of apricots, probably about 30 pounds worth, for free!

I made some apricot jam, and dehydrated some. It might not seem like a lot, but every little bit of food that you can get for free should be considered a win!

 

Look for sales

Sometimes you can find great deals on fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits at the grocery store. These are a good opportunity to get a lot to can or preserve. Frozen vegetables can be canned if you don’t have enough freezer space. Fresh berries and fruit can be made into amazing jam.

If you think you will use it, buy lots when it’s on sale. It might be a bit of work, but it will be worth it in the long run. And if you can find canned vegetables for a great price, stock up on those! That way, you get the long shelf life without the work.

Look for grocery sales to stock up on food when you have garden failures.

 

Reach out to friends and family

Do you have friends or family who garden or have fruit trees or bushes? There’s no harm in reaching out to them to see if they have excess. They will probably be willing to share, and you might even be able to visit and catch up while you pick!

I recently scored a bunch of sour cherries from my sister-in-law’s tree. They already had more than they needed, and wanted to share the abundance. I made some cherry jam and cherry pie filling and canned it. We haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure it will be delicious!

 

 

Visit a food pantry

If you are in a bad place after experiencing garden failures, you may consider going to a food pantry. They may have income limits, and a lot of people feel shame about going to them. But they are there if you need them!

Food pantries usually get a lot of produce from people in the area with too much. A lot of the stuff they have is close to the expiration date, so make sure you have a plan for what to do with the food. If it’s shelf-stable, it will likely be good for much longer than the expiration date. And the produce is usually pretty fresh.

 

 

Go foraging

Foraging is one of my favorite ways of dealing with garden failures. And believe me, I’ve had a few! I don’t have any berry bushes on my property, so we try to go berry picking at least a couple times a year in the mountains.

Huckleberries are a big favorite at our house, and they grow pretty prolifically here in our mountains. And it’s not too far of a drive for us to get to them. I actually just went huckleberry picking 2 days ago with my daughter-in-law and her friends. We didn’t get a lot of berries, as it’s about the end of the season for them. But I need to figure out what to do with the couple of cups that I got.

Our area also has a lot of wild blackberry bushes that we often pick from. They make a delicious jelly that is so nice to have around. It brings a taste of summer to any dreary winter day.

You can even use weeds as replacements for some of your garden produce. Purslane is a great addition to a salad, and lambsquarters can be made into a delicious lambsquarters pesto sauce. Dandelion blossoms can be fried and made into a nice side dish. And if you’re lucky, you might even find Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot).

Foraging can help you overcome garden failures.

 

Visit your local feed mill

Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Well, at the beginning of this pandemic, I went to the feed mill and bought 50 pound bags of wheat, corn, and peas. I decided that these could have more than one use, and be good to store. And each bag was only $9-11, so it was very economical!

We have a wheat grinder, so the wheat could be ground into flour. Or sprouted for wheat grass. Wheat is easily sprouted for fodder for the animals as well. I know most people don’t actually grow wheat for flour, but at the beginning of the pandemic, flour was hard to find on grocery store shelves. So this could be a saving grace at some point!

The corn is feed corn, so it might not be good to eat on its own (even after rehydrating). But it may make a good corn meal if I’m in a pinch. The wheat grinder can make corn meal too. I’ll have to try it sometime to make sure it’s a viable option.

The peas aren’t going to be like the sweet peas that you buy at the store, but after rehydrating, they should be edible at least. I’m not totally sure on that one, I’ll have to try it out myself. But they can also be planted to grow new peas in a pretty short time period.

Oats would be another good option to buy from the feed store. These oats should be the same as the old-fashioned oats that you buy at the grocery store. You could also grind them to make oat flour.

These staples will go a long ways toward replenishing your food supply after garden failures.

Buying bulk feed from the feed mill will help you deal with garden failures.

 

Plan better for next year

To combat garden failures, just apply what you’ve learned to get a better harvest next year. You can always learn from the experience to make it better in the future. Identify what went wrong, and do your best to plan for doing it better.

For me, I’ve been trying to garden in too big of a space. I need to take my own advice and try to make gardening enjoyable again. In the past, I’ve had wonderful gardens and huge harvests from a smaller area. So my thinking was that I could produce more food and get a bigger harvest out of a bigger area. But that’s not always true! Just take a smaller area, that will be easier to deal with, and maximize your garden space more efficiently.

 


I hope this post has given you some ideas on dealing with garden failures. I know that I will be using some of these, since my garden hasn’t produced nearly what it should have this year. Do you have any more tips for us? Be sure to share them in the comments!


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How to start homesteading no matter where you live

How To Start Homesteading, No Matter Where You Live

Right now, this world is in some very turbulent times. More and more people are turning toward wanting to live more self sufficiently. And this, for most people, means homesteading. But what if you don’t have a lot of land? That’s not necessarily a deal breaker. You can start homesteading, no matter where you live.

Sure, it’s much easier to start homesteading if you have at least a couple acres, but it’s not impossible. Homesteading is about honing skills so you can be more self reliant. Self reliance is reliance on one’s own efforts and abilitiesaccording to Merriam-Webster.

Let’s start with what anyone can do to start homesteading.

Simplify your life

Everyone can take steps to simplify their lives. This is a great way to move slowly into the wonderful world of homesteading. Do what you can to cut down on expenses now. That way, you will be able to have more money saved for if and when you decide to move to that acreage.

Learn to enjoy the simple things in life. The hustle and bustle of the modern world is not good for the soul. Find ways of eliminating the “extra” stuff in your life that doesn’t matter, and focus on what does. If you want more tips, read my post on living a simple life.

Learn to preserve foods

You can learn to preserve a wide variety of foods. And it doesn’t have to be foods that you grow yourself! If you find a good deal on some great produce, can it up. Maybe someone gives you a handful of herbs? Learn to dry and store them for future use.

If you live in an agricultural area, try to find some opportunities to glean. Gleaning is a collective effort to help gather the “leftovers” from the harvest. I’m actually part of a Facebook gleaning group in my county. Here in Idaho, several farmers allow big parties to come help glean their potato fields. This gives locals the opportunity to harvest some of the smaller potatoes that don’t get harvested by their machinery. Free food for the locals, free cleanup for the farmers!

 

Canning and preserving is important skill to learn to start homesteading

 

Build a stockpile of food

Homesteaders seem to always be prepared. You can start homesteading by building up a stockpile of food to help you get through the lean times. Store what you eat, and eat what you store. Keep your food stock rotated to ensure it’s fresh.

Don’t be tempted to run out and buy a huge supply of food at once. Your food storage should be built upon gradually. Take advantage of sales, store food from your garden, to get a good, inexpensive base for your food storage.

Learn to forage

Another tool in the homesteader’s toolbox is foraging. Whether it’s foraging for DIY herbal remedies, or foraging for “free” food, a clever homesteader learns to use what nature has to offer them. Even weeds can be useful to the thrifty homesteader.

I love foraging for both food and medicine. You can check out my beginner’s guide to foraging for more information on what nature has to offer us.

Reduce energy usage

Reducing our energy usage is helpful both for our pocketbook and the environment. Energy savings help homesteaders save money and reduce their dependence on the power grid.

Turn off unnecessary lights, hang clothes on a clothesline to dry, or consider heating with a wood stove. You can even take it further by installing solar panels or wind turbines. You don’t have to be off-grid, but every bit of energy savings can add up to a big savings.

 

Installing solar panels to help save energy while you start homesteading

 

Set up a water catchment system

Harvesting rain water may not be feasible for everyone, as some states have restrictions on water catchment. But if it’s allowed, you should consider setting up a water catchment system. It helps you use rain more efficiently by directing it to where you need it most.

Whether you use the rain water for watering your garden, watering your animals, or using it for water storage, rain water catchment can help you cut costs on water. Why not take full advantage of nature’s gift of free water?

 

Raising chickens is one of the best ways to start homesteading

 

Steps to start homesteading

1. Make sure this is really what you want.

A lot of people think that they want to start homesteading, without thinking about the work involved. Homesteading is a serious time commitment, especially when you add gardens and animals. Don’t fall for the glamorized picture of homesteading!

2. Prioritize and set goals.

Sit down as a family and find out what is really important to you. Decide what you want to accomplish by running a homestead. Do you want to raise all your own vegetables? Or do you want to raise a years supply of meat?

If this is too ambitious or unfeasible on your size of property, maybe just plan on raising a small amount of your own food. This is fine too! The important thing here is to set realistic expectations and set goals that will help you accomplish them. I have a Homestead Goal Planner in my Subscribers Only Resource Page. Just sign up with the link below to get a password to access all of my freebies!

3. Cut expenses and make a budget.

In order to make your homestead dreams a reality, you may need to cut expenses. Setting a budget is helpful so you know how much money you can put into this lifestyle. If you decide you need to move to make your dreams come true, you’ll need some money set aside.

 

Budgets are crucial for successful homesteading

 

4. Baby steps.

Don’t take on too much at once, and try not to set unrealistic expectations. Realize that you may be limited by the amount of space you have. The important thing is to do what you can, with what you have. Start with one project, then move onto the next. Jumping into too much at a time will leave you frustrated and ready to give up.

5. Find like-minded people.

When you start homesteading, it’s a good idea to find like-minded people to learn from. Not many people understand this homestead life, and you may start to feel alienated from your “city friends”. Plus, if you have homesteading friends, you might have someone to help farmsit while you go on vacation.

6. Start a garden.

Gardening is very important to homesteaders. What better way to use the land that you have, to grow food for your family? Gardening can be very inexpensive, and can get you some organic vegetables and fruits. And if you learn to can and preserve those foods, it will help lower the cost of building your food stockpile.

Even if it’s just in pots, I encourage everyone to try to grow at least some of their own food. Like the Victory Garden movement during both World Wars, I think there is a definite need for each of us to share some responsibility for our food needs.

 

Start homesteading by growing some of your own food

 

7. Raise animals.

If at all possible, raise some animals for eggs, meat, milk, or income. Of course, this won’t work for some on small properties. But try to get creative and find out what might work where you are at.

Chickens should be a first choice for those with enough room to raise them. They are easy to care for, and provide an ongoing supply of eggs. If you need pointers, I have an e-book with all the information you need to start raising chickens.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, or quail can be raised in very small spaces, and can provide you with meat for your family. Start with a breeding trio, and you can harvest their offspring within a fairly short amount of time.

8. Learn to can and preserve.

If you are growing a garden, you will likely want to learn to can and preserve your harvest. This will allow you to not waste those vegetables and fruits you put so much work into growing. And it will help you build up your food stockpile.

You can water bath can anything that has a higher acidity level, but you’ll need to pressure can lower-acid foods. Consider investing in a canning course so you know you’re doing it safely.

9. Learn to repair, mend, sew, and build.

Many homesteaders go along with the old adage, “Use it UpWear it Out Make it Do or Do Without”. This mindset helps save lots of money. Learning to sew, repair, mend, and build helps develop useful skills and can help keep your budget under control.

 

Sewing, mending, and building are good skills when you start homesteading

 

10. Continuously hone new skills.

Homesteading is a lifestyle in which you are constantly learning. Every new venture you take on is a learning experience. And most of this knowledge is easily transferable. You may even be able to seek a new career using some of the skills you have learned by starting to homestead. Or you can make an income on your homestead.

My Subscribers Only Resource Page also has a download with 70 homesteading skills that you’ll want to master if you want to homestead. Subscribe below to get your copy!

 

Have you decided that you truly want to start homesteading? I hope I have given you some helpful tips to get into this way of life. It is truly rewarding, both financially and for peace of mind. I started on this journey 3 years ago, and I don’t know if I could ever leave this behind.


Gimme more homestead goodies!

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This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog HopSimple Homestead Blog HopFarm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.  

How to maximize your garden space

How To Maximize Your Garden Space

In these troubling times, more and more people are turning elsewhere for their food supply – their own backyards. The Victory Garden is making a comeback. Since we are all focusing on providing more and more of our own food sources, it’s important to know how to maximize our garden space.

Whether you have a small raised bed, or a sprawling 1 acre garden, if you want to provide more of your own food, you need to know how to maximize that space. This is very important to protect your family’s food security.

My goal for this year is to grow almost all of the vegetables that my family needs for the year. Maybe this is your goal too?

There are a few ways to maximize your garden space. Let’s go over those today, shall we?

 

Make sure your garden soil has enough nutrients

Before you start planting, you need to test and amend your garden soil. The soil should be light and fluffy, and rich in organic matter. Compost is a fabulous addition to the garden area.

If your garden space is lacking in the proper nutrients, your plants won’t be very productive. This can really “put a wrench in the works” if you’re wanting to maximize your garden space.

Throughout the growing season, you will also want to fertilize regularly. Different plants will have different fertilizing requirements, so you will need to do a little research on your particular plants.

You should try to use organic fertilizers if at all possible. Keeping chemicals out of your food is part of the reason why we grow our own food, right?

 

Succession planting to maximize your garden space

In my opinion, succession planting is the best way to maximize your garden space. Succession planting is necessary to get more harvests in a small area. And there is a couple of ways you can succession plant, as well.

Sow the same plant a few times

I love this method! For the plants that are best eaten fresh, this is the best way to stretch the time that you can enjoy them. Some great examples of this are radishes, spinach, lettuce, beets, and turnips. You just sow enough seeds to get enough plants for your family to eat within a 2-week period. Two weeks later, you sow the same amount. Keep going with this rotation until you’ve reached the latest recommended planting date.

This is best done with the cooler season crops that have a fast growth rate. You can then start sowing them again when summer begins to wane. Just make sure you count backwards from your first average frost date, and compare this to the days to harvest listed on the seed packet. This way, you can make sure your plants will have enough time to give you another harvest.

You will need to know whether a plant is a cool-season or a warm-season crop. The cool-season crops like spinach and lettuce will likely only be good to plant a few times at the beginning of the season, then again at the end of the season. If you plant a cool-season crop when it’s too hot out, the plant will bolt, and the vegetable will be bitter or woody.

Planting the same plant several times allows you to eat fresh from that harvest for two weeks, then the next harvest for two weeks. Imagine having a fresh lettuce supply throughout the growing season!

 

Sow different crops at different times in the same space

Sowing different crops in the same space, but at different times, has many advantages as well. This is typically where you plant a cool-season crop, harvest it, then plant a warm-season crop afterwards. Radishes and carrots are great to plant before something like tomatoes. They help break up the soil, aerating the soil for the tomatoes to thrive.

At the end of the season, when a plant is done producing, the plant can be pulled up and another short-growing, cooler-season crop can be planted. Again, you could go with another root crop, or do some leafy greens.

With this method, you should do a short-growing crop first, then you can do one longer-growing crop, then another short-growing crop. Don’t try this with more than one longer-growing crop unless you have an extremely long growing season.

In my area, the last average spring frost date is May 15. But I am already putting cool-season crops in the ground. I have started radishes, spinach, lettuce, and onions in my raised bed. When these are ready to harvest, I will pull them, then plant sweet potatoes in their place.

In my 100’x100′ garden, I am planting more radishes, spinach, carrots, and beets in a small section off to the side. These will be ready to harvest by the time I can plant my tomatoes. So this 10 foot wide section will be able to provide several harvests of different vegetables.

 

Intercropping to maximize your garden space

Another good way to maximize your garden space is to intercrop. Intercropping means to put a few different types of plants in one general area. This is a little like square foot gardening.

To make this work properly, you will need to know the basics of companion planting. You don’t want to plant green beans right next to onions, for example. Or plant your zucchini near potatoes.

A classic example of intercropping is called the Three Sisters gardening. This involved planting corn in slightly wider rows. When the corn is a few inches high, you plant beans to grow up the corn stalks. Finally, you plant squash among them all to shade the roots and hold in moisture.

Another good example of intercropping would be to plant basil plants directly around tomatoes. The basil helps to sweeten the tomatoes and deter pests, and the tomatoes help to shade the basil from getting too much sun and bolting. You could also plant a row of spinach on the north side of vertically-grown cucumbers, to give the spinach some shade.

With a little research and ingenuity, you should be able to find crops that grow well together, that you can successfully intercrop to get the most out of your garden area.

 

Grow vertically to maximize your garden space

Growing vertically is a wonderful way to maximize your garden space. Most vining plants will do great growing up a trellis or other structure, to save garden space. Cucumbers, for example, grow very long vines that tend to take up a lot of room in the garden. If you grow them vertically, on a trellis, they take up much less room.

Growing vertically has other advantages as well. It keeps vines and vegetation off the ground, where it can harbor disease and fungus. It also allows the vegetables to grow in a hanging manner, so they can have a more uniform shape and coloring. And it also makes the vegetables easier to harvest.

Peas are perfect for growing vertically, as they are an excellent climbing plant and appreciate being off the ground. They shoot out little tendrils that will wrap around virtually any structure. This allows the plant to grab on as it grows taller and taller.

Squash and pumpkins can be done in much the same way, but you may need to give some additional support for the individual fruits as they get heavier.

Your trellises don’t have to be fancy or expensive, either. Many people use cattle panels, lattice, or even poles or branches with wire strung between. Use your imagination, and reuse what you already have laying around.

 

Grow vertically to maximize your garden space

Harvest at the right time, and discard unproductive plants

Harvesting at the right time is important to maximize your garden space. You’re growing food to consume, not to waste, right? Then you need to know when to harvest your vegetables.

Leaving your veggies on the plant too long can cause the plant to produce less, or even stop producing. Regular harvests will help keep your plants their most productive. Plants have the innate drive to produce seeds, so you can stimulate that by harvesting as the plants produce them.

Waiting too long to harvest also often results in undesirable results. Zucchini and squash get woody, cucumbers get bitter. Do your best to harvest the vegetables at their peak.

If your plants are done producing, don’t be afraid to pull them out and plant another crop in its place. If you are limited on garden space, it just doesn’t make any sense to keep plants around that aren’t being productive.

 

Use season extenders to maximize your garden space

There are all sorts of season extenders that you can use in the garden to extend your growing season. Greenhouses, hoop houses, floating row covers, water walls, or even cloches can help greatly.

A good greenhouse can allow you to plant even warm-weather varieties long before your last spring frost date. It can give you a good jumpstart on your growing season. I love to start seeds in my greenhouse, as I have limited room inside for starting seeds. Plants like tomatoes and peppers, which need to be pretty warm in order to germinate, are very good to start in a greenhouse. Greenhouses also keep a more steady temperature and protect against frosts.

Floating row covers are great to keep the in-ground plants at a more steady temperature. They will also hold in moisture, to help minimize water usage. Row covers will help protect plants from unexpected frosts at the beginning or end of the season.

I love using water walls around my tomatoes. The water helps hold in the day’s heat, so the plants will stay warm much longer through the night. They also help protect the delicate, heat-loving tomatoes against frost.

Cloches can be used to protect delicate seedlings from random frosts. If you don’t have the fancy glass cloches, you can use something like a milk jug to cover the plants. These can also be used for winter sowing. When it gets warm outside, however, you will need to remove the cloches.

 

Season extenders help maximize your garden space

Pay attention to production and yield

If you are really trying to maximize your garden space, it is important to pay close attention to the production and yield of the plants you want to grow.

Corn, for example, takes up quite a bit of space in the garden. And for each stalk, you only get 2-3 ears of corn. So if you are tight on garden space, you might not want to grow corn. Potatoes can also take up quite a bit of space, but can be grown more vertically in a potato tower.

Indeterminate tomatoes typically produce more tomatoes, but they are staggered throughout the season. Determinates are smaller plants and will therefore usually produce fewer tomatoes, but they will all be ripe for harvest at the same time.

Cherry tomatoes, for example, will give you lots of bite-sized tomatoes. You will most likely get a lot of tomatoes, but since they are small, they aren’t really the most productive tomato plant to maximize your harvest.

When buying your desired seeds, do some research to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. Look up the desired variety, and other varieties, to make sure you’re getting a variety that is the most productive.

 

High-yield tomatoes to maximize your garden space

Consider the ability for long-term storage

If you want to really maximize your garden space, there is another thing you will want to take into consideration. Long-term storage of your vegetables. For example, lettuce and spinach don’t store well. These are crops that are best eaten fresh. So you will really only be eating them during the normal growing season. If you are trying to grow food for your family’s yearly needs, you won’t want to plant a lot of lettuce and spinach.

Root crops, like potatoes, beets, turnips, and parsnips are good ones to grow a lot of. They are filling, but they also store very well. Same thing goes for winter squash. You can easily eat these all year-round, so you can plant more of these and less of the more tender greens.

Having crops that you can store long-term is a good way to maximize your garden space. You will be able to feed your family from the garden for much longer if you have long-storing vegetables.

 

Long-storing vegetables to maximize your garden space

Grow plants that have more than one edible part

Another way to maximize your garden space is to grow vegetables that have more than one edible part. There are a food good options for this. Radishes, beets, and turnips grow fabulous greens that you can harvest without damaging the main root. Just don’t take the whole top off. Be sure to leave at least the center most part of the greens to allow the plant to still grow its bulbous root.

Sweet potatoes grow very big vines, and the leaves are edible like spinach. The smaller, more tender leaves are the best, as they get older they tend to turn bitter. You can also eat the flowers off a squash plant, but removing too many will decrease your yield.

Many leaves from vegetable plants are edible, though that is not a common use for them. Young cucumber leaves, bean leaves, and pea leaves are edible. Young leaves and immature ears of corn are edible, and corn silk is medicinal (excellent for bladder infections) and makes a refreshing tea.

 

Use fall gardening to squeeze another harvest in

It is important to use as many seasons as you can if you want to maximize your garden space. Fall gardening is your last chance to get another harvest in.

There are many crops that will give you a decent harvest when fall hits, and sometimes even taste better when touched by some early frosts. Kale is an excellent example of this. Kale thrives in cooler weather, and gets a sweeter taste after a frost or two.

Many other shorter-growing vegetables can be planted in the fall and still get a good crop before, or right after, frost hits. Just count backwards from your first average fall frost date to ensure your vegetables will be ready before a hard frost comes to your area.

If you have gotten as much food as you need for your family during the normal growing season, you can plant other things. If you have chickens or other livestock, why not grow some crops for them?

Austrian winter peas are a fabulous cover crop to plant after your vegetable harvest. Peas are a legume, and legumes are nitrogen-fixing. This means that they take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. This type of cover crop helps to improve the soil, as well as provide a valuable food source for your animals.

Winter wheat is another good cover crop that you can grow for your animals. It is planted in early fall, and can be harvested in early summer. Winter wheat is a great food source for many animals. Just be a little wary of winter wheat, as it may interfere with your early planting next year.

Oats may be a better option for a winter cover crop to use for your animals. Oats can be grazed on into the winter, but will usually die at some point throughout harsh winters. This will free up your garden space for even the earliest of plantings.

 

Fall gardening to maximize your garden space

How are you going to maximize your garden space?

With our “new normal”, I am going to be focusing much, much more on growing our own food. Are you growing a Victory Garden this year? This is the one thing that I can control. I can protect my family’s food security by growing as much of my family’s food as possible. While my garden area is not at all small, my goal for this year is to grow the majority of the food that my family will eat.

How are YOU going to grow the most food possible in your garden space?

 


If you’d like more help with gardening and sustainability, you need to check out Ultimate Bundle’s Gardening and Sustainable Living Bundle. It has 6 courses, 21 ebooks, and 5 planners and printables, for ONLY $29.99!

 

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This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog HopSimple Homestead Blog HopFarm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.

 

Choosing the best seeds for your garden

Choosing The Best Garden Seeds

Spring is almost here. Have you been dreaming of planting your vegetable garden, but overwhelmed with what garden seeds you should get? I don’t know about you, but with the rows and rows of seeds in the store, I could honestly spend HOURS searching for just the right one. And browsing a seed catalog? Forget about it!

Choosing the best garden seeds

Picking out your seeds shouldn’t be difficult, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can be very confusing. Heirloom or hybrid? Determinate or indeterminate? Pole or bush? What’s my hardiness zone? And is my growing season long enough to grow these?

Well, my friend, if choosing your garden seeds seems more difficult than it should be, I’m here to help!

Determine your hardiness zone and growing season

Before you even THINK about browsing for your garden seeds, you need to determine a few things. You need to know your hardiness zone, and your last spring and first fall frost date.

In this age of technology, it’s easier than it’s ever been to find out both of these. In the “good ole days”, we had to ask local farmers and gardeners, or try to find our spot on the Hardiness Zone map. Now, you can simply enter your zip code here to find what zone you live in.

To find your first and last frost dates, almanac.com is a good resource. Again, just enter your zip code to learn your last and first average frost date. This website also gives you the number of days in your average growing season.

For me, here in southwest Idaho, I am in Hardiness Zone 7a. My last average spring frost date is May 9th, and my first average fall frost date is Oct. 6th. This means that I have a growing season of 149 days.

Seed packets normally list the number of days to maturity. Knowing the length of your growing season will help you make sure you have enough time to grow that vegetable.

Decide if you want heirloom or hybrid garden seeds

This has always been a tough one for me. How do you decide between heirloom and hybrid? Well, let’s first talk about the differences.

 

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Heirloom seeds

Heirloom plants are grown from seed that has been saved and passed down for generations. These seeds are open-pollinated, which means that they self-pollinate without the help of humans. Heirloom plants also grow true to seed. This means that the “daughter” plant will be just like the “mother”, as long as it hasn’t been cross-pollinated with another variety. Heirloom seeds are the only types of seeds that you should save for future planting.

The fruit from heirloom plants tend to be a little “erratic”. Heirloom tomatoes, for example, have unusual colors and shapes that you won’t find in most grocery stores. Most people find, however, is that the taste is so much better than the ones at the mainstream grocery.

 

Hybrid tomatoes

Hybrid seeds

Hybrid plants are simply crosses of two or more compatible plants. Hybridization is done to combine the desirable qualities of one variety, with the desirable qualities of another variety. Hybrid seeds don’t usually grow true to seed. Seeds saved from hybrid plants will most likely not result in the same variety, although they may after several generations.

The fruit from hybrid plants are usually very uniform. With tomatoes as an example, these will be your perfectly round, red fruits. Lots of hybrid plants are actually patented, so the “average Joe” is not legally allowed to reproduce those hybrids. It should be noted that hybrid plants are NOT the same as GMO plants, where some chemical and genetic alterations have been done.

So which one should you choose? There is nothing wrong with either one. It all depends on your intentions with the plants you are going to grow. If you are growing plants to sell at a Farmer’s Market, heirlooms are very popular. If you want to save seeds from the plants you grow (so you don’t have to buy more next year), you should grow heirlooms. On the other hand, if you have a lot of disease problems, hybrids might be the best choice for you, as some are crossed to resist particular diseases.

Decide between determinate and indeterminate

Determinate and indeterminate are terms usually used to describe tomatoes, but can also be used to distinguish other types of vegetables. Cucumbers, potatoes, peas, beans, and strawberries can also be classified as either determinate or indeterminate.

In a nutshell, production on indeterminate plants doesn’t stop during the normal growing season. They will continue to grow and produce as long as they are able to. A plant that is labeled “vining” would be an indeterminate. Indeterminate plants can get very large, so keep this in mind if you’re short on space.

Determinate plants typically produce fruits that are all ready at about the same time. Once the fruit is mature, the plant can then just focus on staying healthy, but will no longer produce. A plant labeled as a “bush” plant is actually a determinate. Determinate plants tend to stay more compact, so they fit into a small garden better.

If you enjoy eating tomatoes fresh out of the garden throughout the season, you will want an indeterminate variety. However, if you intend to can or preserve your produce, you should stick with determinates so you have a lot ready to harvest at the same time.

 

garden seedlings

Purchase your seeds

Now comes the fun part – start shopping for those seeds! You should start choosing your seeds in early spring. Make sure you get the seeds started at the ideal time. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought seeds too late and thought – “I’ll just plant them anyways and hope for the best”. Just FYI, it doesn’t usually work!

If you plant your seeds too late, your growing season might not be long enough to grow mature vegetables from them. Or, if you try to plant a “cool season” crop too late and it’s already too warm, your plants will suffer and you might get no harvest at all from them. Try to follow the instructions on the seed packets to time your seeds properly.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether the plant can be direct sown or if it should be transplanted. The seed packets will tell you whether to sow directly outside, or to start seed indoors. Tomatoes usually need to be started inside prior to the last frost, due to them needing a long growing season. Corn, beans, and peas typically can just be direct sown.

Make sure you test and amend your garden soil before putting plants in the ground. A good garden needs a good foundation!

 

Starting garden seeds

So, what are the best seeds for the garden?

I am definitely not a purist, I love variety in my garden. But since I am a self reliance advocate, I tend to shoot mostly for heirloom seeds, since you can save the seeds to perpetuate your garden. And I definitely try to stay away from GMO garden seeds!

If you’re looking for a good seed company that has a wide variety of heirloom seeds, be sure to check out Seeds For Generations. They are a family-owned company with a commitment to supplying people with the finest quality, organic, heirloom seeds, from plants they grow themselves.

If you want more gardening inspiration, be sure to follow my Gardening for Beginners board on Pinterest!


If you’d like more help with gardening and sustainability, you need to check out Ultimate Bundle’s Gardening and Sustainable Living Bundle. It has 6 courses, 21 ebooks, and 5 planners and printables, for ONLY $24.99!

 

Gimme more homestead goodies!

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This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog HopSimple Homestead Blog HopFarm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.  

 

 

Snowy cabin - How to prepare for winter on the homestead

How to Prepare For Winter on the Homestead

As much as I hate to admit that summer is gone, it is. Fall is here. It’s time to prepare for winter on the homestead. Leaves are changing, the nights are getting colder, and there’s been lots of rain.

Winter is fast approaching. Are you ready for it? Here are some things you can do to prepare for winter on the homestead, to make life easier through the coming cold months! #winter #homesteading

How to Prepare for Winter On the Homestead

I enjoy fall, it’s really my favorite season, but it also means that the days are getting so much shorter. When I get home from work I only have about an hour and a half of daylight left. I have to do my farm chores right away if I want to do them without using a flashlight.

Watching the leaves turn to gold makes me realize that winter is not too far behind. That’s what makes fall a very busy season for homesteaders. There is so much that needs to be done in the fall before the weather turns bad.

Here are some of the things that really need to be done to prepare for winter on the homestead.

 

Clean out the coop in preparation for deep litter.

I use the deep litter method in my chicken coop. About twice a year, in the spring and in the fall the coop gets a thorough cleaning, with some natural disinfectant, and a sprinkling of DE. Then I layer pine shavings all over the coop. About once a week or so, I remove excessive droppings, then fluff up and turn the wood shavings. Then I add another layer of new pine shavings over the top.

You can read my post on the deep litter method here. Deep litter is pretty low-maintenance, and is great for the cooler months. You want to get the litter deep to prepare for winter.

 

Chicken coop | Winter on the homestead | Grow your own | www.homegrownselfreliance.com

Chickens in coop

 

Making sure all of the animals have shelter from the cold.

Don’t leave your animals out in the cold! Make sure they have adequate housing too. Our goats had a nice 3-sided wood shelter last winter, but we moved them this spring to a larger area. It is attached to a large shed.

Really soon I’m going to have the hubs turn this into a barn. I’ll have him open a doorway into that side of the shed, and put a door on it. I want to allow the goats to go in there when they want, or when I want them to. I will give them half of this shed, and put plywood or something similar in about the middle of the shed. The other half is going to be my indoor rabbit colony.

Right now, I have a big outdoor colony where the rabbits can dig and burrow, but I think I will want to put some in the barn area, with access to a fenced-in dog run. This will give them a good mix of shelter and open run. This shed/barn has concrete floors, so I will do a variation of the deep litter method for the rabbits and goats as well.

 

Buy or DIY freeze-resistant animal waterers.

Get ready for the freezing temperatures of winter by investing in or making freeze-resistant animal waterers. Right now for the rabbits, we have those small pet rabbit waterers. These have been a pain ever since we got the rabbits, filling one at a time and hanging them by those cheap wire hangers.

I recently wised up a little and put in a 3 gallon chicken waterer in with them. Now we can go a couple days without giving them more water. This waterer will be a little more freeze-resistant, but I’ll probably figure out something even better.

Last winter for our chickens, we built a little wood frame on the floor and mounted a light socket in the center of it. We put a regular light bulb in it, and kept the plastic waterer sitting on the frame just a few inches above the light bulb.

The light was on pretty much the whole winter, there was no problems with it and the water never froze. I’m thinking we might do something similar for the rabbit waterer, or maybe a drop-in water heater with a 5-gallon bucket and nipple waterers. Have to have my brilliant hubs figure out something that will work good.

 

Purchase and haul the hay that you will need.

Trust me on this one, you need to buy your hay early in the season. Hay prices are already going up, but I promise you it will be cheaper right now than in the winter. You might need to do some calculating based on how many bales you need per day or per week, multiplied by how many days or weeks of winter and spring you normally have until hay is back in season. While it may be a bit of an investment all at once, it really is the cheapest way to do it (besides growing your own!).

Take advantage of the lower hay prices now to prepare for winter. Make sure you have your hay up off the wet ground (pallets work great for this), and try to protect it from the rain and snow with a heavy-duty tarp. You don’t want your hay to get moldy and ruin your investment.

 

Plant a fall garden.

If you didn’t get enough gardening throughout the summer, why don’t you try gardening in the fall? Depending on your gardening zone, you may be able to get a couple more harvests of cold-hardy vegetables before winter really hits. Or you can start plants to move inside, or keep in a cold frame.

You may want to consider growing a cover crop or two to improve your garden soil. It’s a great way to supplement a little animal feed, plus improve your soil for your own garden in the spring. And last but not least, get your garlic planted in the fall, to be grown until next summer. You can read my post about fall gardening here.

 

If you don’t do a fall garden, put the garden to bed.

Harvest all of your leftover vegetables. Remove the dead plants or turn them in to the garden if they’re not diseased (the plants breaking down into the soil actually helps the soil). Give the garden area a good cleaning and raking.

It’s also very beneficial to put compost and mulch down on the garden before winter. Compost helps amend the soil, and mulch protects the soil from erosion and nutrient loss. They both also help with weed control and will help with your spring gardening.

While you’re putting the garden to bed, think about what you’re going to do with the compost throughout the winter. If you haven’t used all of it on the garden, you can keep your pile going into the winter as well. In the fall I’m usually starting a new compost pile with the deep litter that I cleaned from the chicken coop and rabbit colony.

 

Mow the lawn for the last time, and do a thorough outside cleanup.

There is always clutter on the homestead. Make sure you take the opportunity while it’s still nice out to clean up the yard and sheds. I love to do an outside fall cleaning, as well as an inside. Put up the summer toys, lawn chairs, and the pool. Move all the random tools to storage. Chair cushions should go in the shed so they stay dry (you can still pull them out when you need to use them).

 

Prepare your homestead before snow hits

Snowy cabin

 

Winterize your house.

Take the window air conditioners out, close up the windows and make sure there are no drafts coming in through them. You may need caulking, weatherstripping, or even plastic over the windows. The door needs to be done as well.

Give all heaters a good cleaning and make sure they’re in good working order. You don’t want to run into a heating emergency when it’s really cold out. If you’re lucky enough to have central air, you may want to consider duct cleaning in the fall.

Since we are inside so much more when it’s cold, it makes sense to clean the air ducts so we’re breathing cleaner air. Winterizing the house to prepare for winter will result in lower power bills and a warmer, cozier home.

 

Get the firewood ready.

If you have a wood stove, hopefully you got all of your firewood this spring and summer, and it’s been drying for a few months. Make sure you get it all split and ready to use.

We always have ours stacked in a metal storage shed. About once a week or so, we load up the wheelbarrow with wood and take it to a dry area on our front porch. This way we can reach out really easily to get more wood whenever it’s needed.

I also make sure we have plenty of newspaper nearby, and firestarters. I make our own firestarters (post coming soon!) and keep them in a box near the stove. That way they’re organized and readily available.

 

Cozy up your home before winter comes

Cozy home

Cozy up the house.

Fall is the perfect time for any home, on the homestead or not, to cozy up the house. Put down some rugs. Add lots of blankets. Put flannel sheets on your bed.

Diffuse fall-blend essential oils (or candles if you must) to bring in the ambiance of fall. Essential oils smell fabulous and have medicinal qualities, such as immune boosting, germ killing, or congestion busting. A lot of the fall blends, especially, help ward off the inevitable cold and flu bugs.

 

Stock up on medicines, or make your own.

Fall is a great season to beef up your medicine chest. With cold and flu season looming, it is a great idea to be prepared with common medicines so you don’t have to go to the store when you’re sick. You definitely don’t want to have to make your own medicine when you’re sick, either, so try to prepare those beforehand as well. It is a great idea to boost your immune system to prepare for winter, as well.

Try to find herbs that grow in your area that you can forage (it’s free!) for your own medicine. Use this little time left in decent weather to gather those herbs.

 

Gather wild medicines before wintertime

Rose hips in winter

One herb that I always forage to prepare for winter is elderberry. Elderberry syrup is a great immune booster, and it’s anti-viral. Not many medicines work on viruses, but elderberry does. That means it is great for colds and flus. It may even help keep you from getting sick.

As the knowledge of elderberry’s powers spreads, elderberry has gotten in high demand. Last winter, and I think the winter before that, herbal shops ran out of elderberry. Commercial versions like Sambucol were flying off the shelves. There just wasn’t enough for the increased demand.

That’s why I’m so glad that I have this amazing natural resource readily available to me. You can read my post here about a few other of my favorite home remedies.

 


Whatever size homestead you have, you will inevitably have a big list of chores to do to prepare for winter. It may be helpful to make a checklist so you don’t forget the important chores.

What do you do in the fall to prepare for winter on the homestead? Please share in the comments!

This post has been updated and is done in collaboration with other amazing homestead and natural living bloggers. I would greatly appreciate if you would check out their fall posts as well, and let them know you found them from me!

Annie @ 15 Acre Homestead

Julia @ Julias Daily Tips

Kristi @ The Stone Family Farmstead

Marla @ Organic 4 Green Livings

Frank @ My Green Terra

Candy @ Candys Farmhouse Pantry

Rosie @ A Green and Rosie Life

Valerie @ Living My Dream Life On The Farm

Chelsea @ The Green Acre Homestead

Joyce @ Natural Bliss Podcast Blog

Joy @ Bean Post Farmstead

Kathryn @ Farming My Backyard

 

 

Grow your own food – 10 great reasons why you should!

Growing your own food is a big venture that usually takes quite a lot of effort. So why do people do it?

While I can’t answer for everyone, I know why we do it. We want to get to the point on our homestead that we are growing over half of our own food. While that’s a lofty goal, it’s achievable! Here are 10 good reasons why you should grow your own food.

1. To eat healthier.

Homegrown food, especially when you grow your own organic food, is always fresher and more nutritious. Too many people don’t eat as many vegetables as they should.

But I promise you, when people take the time to grow their own, they will ALWAYS try to get the most out of it, and will most certainly eat it! Try to focus on foods that you like to eat, or know you should eat, and learn new ways to make them even better.

2. To save money.

Growing your own food usually results in saving a lot of money. Yes, it is more time-intensive, but you get paid back with cheaper, more natural, food. Gardening can actually be a cheap hobby that provides you with loads of healthy food, if you are resourceful with your materials.

Seeds to grow your own vegetables are very cheap. Scour websites like Craigslist or Freecycle to get cheap or free building materials for raised beds or garden fences. I have even found cheap or free garden plants on Craigslist. Take your time, plan, and be resourceful to save lots of money on your food.

On the same token, buying baby animals to raise yourself is an inexpensive way to get started raising meat. We bought Jersey calves one year ago for $20 each, and they are now big, beautiful cows that are ready to butcher. Each one should provide our family with about 400 pounds of meat.

Of course, you have to factor in the cost of the feed that you put into them, and it will also cost money to butcher them, but I still think that is an awesome price for homegrown beef!

 

Vegetable gardening for beginners - Gardening - Grow your own | www.homegrownselfreliance.com

Save money by growing your own

3. To make sure the food you eat is safe.

Too many times I’ve seen recalls on different types of food. From e-coli outbreaks in spinach or lettuce, to mad cow disease, there is just too much that can go wrong when we don’t really know how our food is grown. Have you ever wondered what chemicals have been sprayed on and around the food you eat? I have, and that’s one of the big reasons I choose to grow my own food.

 

Starting a Homestead - Raising beef cattle - Grow your own food - Homegrown beef

Jersey calf

I have complete control. My garden gets only natural fertilizers and bug sprays. My cows, goats, chickens, and rabbits are very healthy, have never had antibiotics or steroids, and I don’t use chemical fly sprays or dewormers, so I know that my meat, dairy, and eggs are safe for me and my family.

 

4. To get more variety.

Growing your own food can give you more variety. Most stores don’t sell heirloom variety vegetables, so if you want any “specialty” varieties, you’ll need to grow them yourself (or buy them at the farmers market).

There are delicious and beautiful heirloom vegetables, like yellow tomatoes and purple carrots. I have never seen these varieties at the grocery store, and I’m willing to bet you haven’t either. These vegetables have a different flavor than the “standard” varieties.

If you like them (or would like to try them), chances are you’ll need to grow them yourself. Check out Mary’s Heirloom Seeds for a great selection of open-pollinated, non-GMO, non-hybrid heirloom seeds.

 

5. To get outside.

When the weather is nice, I like to spend all the time I can outside. That’s the beauty of gardening for me. It gets me out there during nice weather! Just the act of watering, weeding, or just watching the veggies grow is very therapeutic.

Getting lots of sunshine is one of the best things you can do for your health. Your body absorbs Vitamin D from the sun’s rays. Vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium and promotes bone growth. It also helps regulate the immune system, and even helps boost your mood.

A few years ago, our doctor told me that me and my teenage son were both low on Vitamin D, and suggested we take a supplement and get more sunshine. I then told my son that he needed to spend an hour outside every day. I didn’t care what he did, I just wanted him outside! We started feeling better when we spent time outside. Sunshine is so important!

 

Farm fresh carrots

6. To get some physical activity.

Growing your own food forces you to be active. From tilling to weeding, there is never a lack of physical work to be done in the garden. Experts suggest that everyone needs to spend 3-5 hours per week doing physical activity. Gardening easily gives you that amount of work, and it’s enjoyable! Who needs a treadmill??

The fresh air, the sunlight, the sounds of the birds chirping, the smell of the dirt, all build a greater connection to the world around us. Gardening is especially valuable for older people, since it is a great low-impact activity and gets them outside to get the benefits of the sun.

 

7. To cater to food intolerances.

When you grow your own food, you can avoid things that your family has intolerances to. For example, if your family is gluten-free, you can grow barley or amaranth to replace the wheat (ugh, don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t have gluten!). If your family has dairy intolerances, you can try other alternatives, such as goat’s milk. Goat’s milk is more easily digestible and causes less issues in lactose-intolerant folks than cow’s milk.

Luckily most of my family doesn’t have any food allergies, but my son is lactose-intolerant. Even though goat’s milk DOES have lactose, he can handle goat’s milk. And we can also make other dairy products that are just as easily digestible for him. Yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream made from goat’s milk has the same gentle form of lactose in it.

 

Fresh milk - Goats milk - Raise your own - Grow your own | www.homegrownselfreliance.com

Fresh homegrown milk

8. To be more self reliant.

How amazing would it feel to walk into your backyard and gather all of the food you need for many of your meals? That’s how it can be when you diversify our food growing. Our little farm provides us with vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy.

My vegetable garden has been a little sparse due to not weeding enough, and we don’t have any fruit right now, but that is something that I will change next year. Raspberries are at the top of my list!

With the right planning and effort, you can provide a good amount of your family’s food supply, and not have to rely on the grocery store as much. What a relief that is when there is an emergency, or there’s just too much month left at the end of the money!

 

9. To help protect your family’s food security.

In these uncertain times, many people are beginning to question our food supply chain. I’m one of those too! During a pandemic, or any widespread crisis really, the food supply can be limited due to issues with distribution. We each need to take steps to protect our food security.

What will you feed your family if you can’t go to the store, or if you still can but there is limited food on the shelves? This is a question that can be answered easily if you make an effort to grow at least some of your own food.

I firmly believe that during this unprecedented time, everyone should be growing a Victory Garden. Did you know that during both World Wars, the humble backyard Victory Gardens grew the majority of the food that was needed, for the whole country?

 

growing food is fun

10. It’s easy and fun!

While some foods have a learning curve in growing a good quality product, for the most part, gardening is easy and fun. It only takes a little bit of internet research, or talking to seasoned gardeners to get all the info you need on growing a particular food.

I love to work in the dirt, and watering by hand is my favorite (and cheapest) therapy! If you haven’t gardened before, you should definitely try it! If you are starting a garden and need some help, you should check out my Facebook group, The Homegrown Food Movement. It’s for gardeners of all experience levels, working together to grow more food!

Growing your own food is fun, rewarding, healthy, and a great thing to do in the warmer months. As you get a little practice, you can even extend your gardening season by fall gardening and experimenting with earlier-season crops. I hope you will put some effort into growing your own food. You won’t regret it!

 


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Homestead Fails Into Homestead Wins

I’ll admit it, I feel like a failure at homesteading sometimes. I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind a few times as well. Certainly you’ve had homestead fails too. Things don’t always go as planned.
Do you feel like a failure on the homestead sometimes? Don't get discouraged, read these great tips on overcoming discouragement! #homesteading #farmlife #selfreliance

Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes weather thwarts your plans. Sometimes animals die. And that’s okay, it truly happens to the best of us! That is, unfortunately, part of farm life.

But how do you move beyond the feelings of failure? How do you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and push forward?

Since I have been in this frame of mind a time or two, I want to tell you some ways that we can all move on from homestead fails. Turn those homestead failures into homestead wins!

 

 

Realize that you did the best you could.

Most of the time, you really have done the best that you could, with what you have to work with. And yet sometimes things still fail. Some things you just don’t have control over. It might be weather, bugs, disease, or many other reasons why something fails. Just tell yourself that you did the best you could. And then move on!

 

Research the failures to fix them.

This is the most important thing. If something fails, you should research into WHY it was a failure. Then research some more, to see how you can improve on it.

Turn your homestead fails into wins! Sometimes what worked before, no longer works. That just means you have to tweak it so that it works again.

 

Keep a positive mindset.

Don’t blame yourself, and don’t just think you are a failure and give up. Keep your chin up, keep on learning, and keep on truckin!

Don’t let the homestead fails deter you from future attempts. Just start over and refine your practice. Use it as a learning opportunity!

 

Ask for help.

If you are unsure of something, ask for help. You will find that your fellow homesteaders have so much knowledge to share! If you are on Facebook, join homesteading groups. Many of these are so valuable for learning new or better ways of doing things! I myself am a member of about 5 homesteading groups, and I ask questions in them frequently.

Local homesteaders are very helpful to learn tips on dealing with local conditions as well. Lean on the knowledge of more experienced homesteaders to turn homestead fails into homestead wins!

Some failures are due to lack of time or lack of help. If this is you, ask for help! You probably have family, friends, or fellow church members who would be willing to help you. Accept that help!

This was totally me this year with my garden. I haven’t had time to do my normal gardening chores due to a 40-hour work week, blogging, household chores, and just being a mom and grandma. My family had it in their heads that the garden was “Mom’s thing”. So I didn’t get a lot of help in that area.

My garden was so overgrown with weeds, a few of my crops were complete failures. But you know what? I still told The Hubs that I wanted to do a fall garden! It has to go in really soon, but I’m going to mulch more to control the weeds, and pick just a few varieties of fast-growing plants. Wish me luck!

 

 

Take pride in your wins.

No matter how small, be proud of your wins! If you focus on the failures, it will consume you. Make sure you cherish the things that go well.

It was hard when we lost a few of our calves, but I am so proud now of the beautiful cows that we will be butchering soon! They are big and healthy. We’ll have delicious grass-fed beef with no drugs, no hormones. We know exactly what went into that beef. And that is a feeling that can’t be beat!

 

Use your failures to teach others.

I know, most of us don’t like to admit our failures. But homestead fails are such valuable lessons, we should use them to others’ benefits as well! Don’t be afraid to tell your story. It does not make you any less of a person, or any less of a homesteader, because we all make mistakes!

Let your failures teach others. Let people see that you have failed and yet still pressed on. You will be viewed as a stronger person, someone who has knowledge to share. Be THAT kind of friend!

Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. -Winston Churchill

Do you have additional tips on dealing with homestead fails? Please share in the comments!


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This post may be shared on Family Homesteading and Off The Grid Blog HopSimple Homestead Blog HopFarm Fresh Tuesday, and Old Paths to New Homesteading & Self-Reliant Living.