Tag Archives: gardening

  • Aquaponics 

    Photo Courtesy of Backyard Aquaponics

    What is Aquaponics and why should you incorporate it into your preparedness plans?

    Aquaponics is the practice of raising fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic relationship. In other words, it is the practice of raising fish in a tank and using the fish waste to fertilize the plants. The way it works is the water from the fish tank is pumped through the grow beds, where the beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia from the fish water into nitrites and then into nitrates that the plants feed on. The plants, in turn, filter out the ammonia, which is harmful to the fish; the water is then pumped back into the tank as clean, aerated water.

    Aquaponics can be done on any scale from a small aquarium with just a few goldfish and herbs for one person, to a large commercial greenhouse producing enough fish and vegetables for an entire community. So whether you are in a small apartment or a greenhouse setting, Aquaponics can be done.

    Why would I consider Aquaponics?

    It is very simple; any additional FRESH food you can put into your diet—now or in an emergency—will help your mood, provide great nutrition, and give you a feeling of accomplishment. Don't get me wrong—having a supply of storage foods is your best bet to survive an emergency. But in an extended emergency, not having to use up all of your supplies, or accidentally running out of them, is crucial.What do you do when they are gone? Being self-sufficient in growing your own food and supplying your own meat is an excellent back up plan. Preserving food that you have grown yourself is also a great way to know exactly what is in your meals. And, I might add, it is a wonderful activity to get the whole family involved in.

    Most Aquaponics setups are very simple and fairly low-cost to make. With a simple greenhouse or indoor unit, you can grow fresh vegetables and fish for your table year round in even the harshest environments. The great thing about Aquaponics systems is that they are essentially self-sustaining. Other than an occasional topping off with water to replace what’s lost through evaporation, you don't have a lot of upkeep. Also, depending on the type of fish you use you can feed some of the vegetable waste to them. Most materials for construction can be salvaged practically free (if not completely free).

    I will be building a mid-size system in the following weeks to demonstrate how Aquaponics works. I will provide photos and construction techniques to help you along if you choose to try your hand at it. Mind you, I am just starting out myself, so what mistakes I make will be documented so you don't do the same. I will take this from construction to first harvest of a crop.

     

    --Kevin, OK (Guest Blogger and EE Customer)

     

    Sources & Additional Information:

    http://www.backyardaquaponics.com/guide-to-aquaponics/what-is-aquaponics/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: gardening, preserving

  • Your Drought-Year Garden

    If you’re like me, a sunny afternoon in March finds you tearing through your Territorial seed catalogue and poring over cryptic drawings of garden plots. It’s like I can hear my backyard’s biological clock ticking and I can’t wait another minute to get outside!

    As part of your preparations for your 2014 garden, you’re probably checking out seed calendars and companion planting charts. Here’s one more graphic you might want to consider from the U.S. Drought Monitor:

    How will your garden do in your area during this drought?

    Experts are calling the current western dry spell one of the “worst droughts in 500 years”, severely affecting the supply of drinking water, as well as that for crop irrigation. In fact, one of the most far-reaching effects of even a localized drought in an agricultural state like California is rising produce prices across the country (read about food storage and drought here).

    In that light, gardening may seem like a smart way to beat the heat. However, if you live in any of the highlighted areas on the map above, there are some serious considerations for the home gardener. Some Californians have already been required to restrict water use. Your neighborhood may not be in quite such dire straights, but there are ways all of us can garden a little more conservatively in a dry year.

    Check out these tips and tricks for gardening in lean times:

    Water conservation is a good idea any time, but this year seems to be providing us a compelling reason to conserve. Read about California’s challenges and some solutions you can implement at home and in the garden. Then get outside and get those peas in the ground!

    Sources:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/us/severe-drought-has-us-west-fearing-worst.html

    Photo Courtesy of U.S. Drought Monitor

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, preparedness, water, Emergency, Survival, water storage, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, drought, produce

  • Composting: The Other Black Gold pt 2

    You’ve read the first part of our composting series, Composting: The Other Black Gold, now you’re ready for some more details.

     iStock_000018789046XSmall_Dunghill

    A Note on Using Manure or Feces

    Is all poop created equal? Technically any fecal matter can eventually be used as a fertilizer, but should be composted first. However, when incorporating brown organic matter into your compost don’t use human, dog, cat, or pig feces because these types of fecal matter frequently carry pathogens and parasites. When you’re making compost to use in growing edibles, it’s best to stick with waste from herbivores like rabbits, sheep, goat, horse, or cow manure. Here’s a simple explanation of why.

    Turning your compost pile

    When you’re building your compost pile, keep in mind that you’ll have to turn that stuff over. You’ll also want to be rotating out the finished compost. Don’t build it bigger than you can manage. The best height for your compost pile(s) is between 3 to 5 cubic feet. It all depends a lot on what you’ll be able to turn – don’t make it too big! We recommend making multiple piles; that’ll make your timing and turning a lot easier.

    When you’re turning compost, remember that the point is to bring stuff from the outside (edges) in. It will decompose without you turning it, but it will take a lot longer – often up to a year! Turning the compost introduces oxygen, which helps it break down.

    Don’t turn your compost pile more than every two weeks. When organic matter decomposes, it builds up heat, which is part of the breaking-down process. If you turn the pile too frequently, this heat is lost and the whole composting process takes a lot longer. Since the point is to get compost onto your garden as soon as possible, turning every two to four weeks is ideal.

    If you're looking to speed up the composting process, consider adding composting activators. Many are manufactured, and a few you can make or grow yourself. If you're putting in the right balance of green and brown organic matter (ie nitrogen and carbon), and building the pile correctly, then you don't really need a composting activator.  But if you do want to hurry up the decomposition go ahead and use one, with this caution: because you're adding nitrogen you'll probably notice an increase in odor.

    iStock_000014570870XSmall_Compost or Fresh Soil

    How do you know when your compost is ready?

    According to this article by the University of Illinois, “compost is ready to use when it is dark brown, crumbly and has an earthy odor. Compost should be fluffy, but not powdery. The original materials that were put into the compost pile should not be recognizable, except for small pieces of stems.” This should take about three months, depending on what kind of composting you’re doing.

    Composting is a wonderful way to cut down on waste, create your own fertilizer, and increase your garden’s production. Come harvest time you’ll find that your table scraps were worth their weight in gold!

    Happy composting!

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food insurance, gardening, Composting

  •  

     iStock_000006128428XSmall_Compost_bin

    Think gardening is okay but composting just isn't for you?  Here are some basics to get you drawing on the other black gold – compost that is, not Texas tea. This information was compiled from books we offer at Emergency Essentials, The Sense of Survival and The Encyclopedia of Country Living, as well as from informative websites (links included in article).

    Tips for Beginners

    • Wait until your organic material is composted (decomposed) before you put it in/on your garden. Table scraps are great, but don’t chuck them right into your garden. You’ll learn why below.
    • Cutting your organic material into smaller pieces will speed up their breakdown. For example, instead of leaving the entire banana peel, tear it into fourths (or smaller if you have time).
    Compost should be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

     

    Four Basics

    To compost, you need four basics: organic matter, moisture, oxygen, and bacteria. You provide the organic matter (and occasionally a little water as needed) and Mother Nature provides the rest. If you’re building your composting piles on the ground, Mother Nature will also provide worms which are the best composters ever. They will help speed up the composting process by breaking down organic material, aerating, and fertilizing so don’t get rid of them!

    But you don’t just have to build your pile right on the ground. You can also keep your compost in a bin, and there are lots of different types of composting bins to choose from. If you do start your compost in a bin, layer it like lasagna. Make sure you add a bottom layer of soil, and a little water to keep the organic matter moist.  Add your organic matter, and a little more soil on top.  Turn it every two weeks. Also important – the bin should not be air or watertight. You definitely want oxygen to get in there and do its job. Add a few earthworms to your bin and voila!

    Bits of vegetable, fruits and paper ready for composting.

    Choosing your Organic Matter

    What NOT to put in your compost:

    meat, bones, dairy, and oil.

    So your part of the composting partnership is to add organic matter. What can you put in and what should stay out? In general there are two types of organic matter; green and brown. Green organic matter would be table scraps (like your vegetables, egg shells, or coffee grounds) and lawn clippings. Brown organic matter would be stuff like manure, leaves, and twigs.

     

    Surprising things you can compost:

    hair, paper, and dryer lint.

    Keep a 1:1 ratio of green to brown organic matter. That balances the nitrogen (from green organic matter) and carbon (from brown organic matter). If your compost stinks, you probably have too much green matter. Add more brown organic matter to balance it out. And make sure that you always top your compost with a carbon (brown organic) layer, or a layer of dirt. Read more here.

    There are a lot of items that you probably didn't think could be added to the pile but that actually can be composted. Here’s an interesting post on composting hair. Dog and cat hair compost more quickly than human hair. If you are going to add hair make sure you spread it out – don’t let it clump in one spot.

    We have a lot more information on composting for you, check back tomorrow to read The Other Black Gold part 2.

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food insurance, gardening, Composting

  • Garden seeds probably aren't the first thing most of us think of buying for our long-term food storage supply. But if you’re thinking ahead, or you’re working on becoming more self-sufficient, then seeds should be on your list. You can’t just throw any old pack of seeds into your storage room or freezer and expect them to last, though. When you’re planning to store seeds, look at the seeds themselves, how they’re prepped for storage, and the packaging they come in.

    Heirloom Garden Seeds (canned)

    Heirloom seeds are the way to go when adding seeds to your long-term food storage. Emergency Essentials offers non-GMO (not genetically modified) Heirloom seeds that are non-hybrid and open-pollinated. That means these seeds will breed true or that they will produce a plant with the same characteristics, not just once, but over and over. You’ll be able to harvest seeds and replenish your storage. It’s a perpetual storage program! (Learn more about non-hybrid, open-pollinated plants on Granny Miller’s blog.)

    Our supplier tests each seed variety personally and on a regular basis to make sure that we get the best non-GMO seeds on the market. Here’s what they test for:

    • adaptability to a variety of growing conditions
    • ease of growing, so even a first-timer can successfully grow a garden
    • nutritional density so you’ll get as much nutrition per square foot as possible

    Now let’s talk about how they prepare the seeds for storage. In order to preserve seeds for long-term storage, you have to get the right balance of moisture. Too much moisture means the seeds will rot over time or, if frozen, will burst. Too little moisture means the seeds will die. Emergency Essentials’ Boxed and Canned Heirloom Seeds are prepared to ensure optimum moisture content. You’ll be able to store these seeds in a storeroom or freezer with the confidence that they’ll sprout when you plant them years later.

    How long will your seeds last? Let’s assume a base storage temperature at 70° F (storing your seeds at temperatures above 70° F will reduce their longevity). We generally say that seeds stored at 70° F will sprout for up to 4 years. But, if you refrigerate or freeze your seeds they’ll last even longer. We estimate that every 6° drop in temperature will double the life of your seeds. You could really extend the life of your seeds and turn them into a true family heirloom! Our supplier’s tests show that these seeds will successfully germinate even after 13 years of storage! (We don’t know at which temperature they stored the seeds for this test.) However, because seeds are living organisms we suggest that you rotate your stock at least every four years.

    Grandfather teaching his grandkids about gardening.

    Much of the longevity of our Heirloom Seeds is due to packaging. The seeds are heat-sealed into triple-layered foil bags before being packed into a box or #10 can. Each bag has an E-Z Lock seal so the bag is reusable – you can return the seeds to storage in the same bag—even after you’ve opened it.

    All in all, storing a few seeds now means more independence later. Emergency Essentials’ Heirloom Seeds will allow you to oversee your own food production. You’ll be able to plant a garden on your own time. You’ll have fresh produce during a time when you might not be able to get it from the grocery store. Best of all, you may just create a family heirloom for the next generation to inherit.

     

     

     

    Sources:

    http://www.garden.org/subchannels/care/seeds?q=show&id=293

    http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/site_main.htm?modecode=54-02-05-00

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, gardening, garden seeds

  • Flowers in an old boot

    “If you feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash,” the Internet recently told me, “you live in Washington.” As a native Northwesterner, I can personally vouch for this. Yes, we wear sandals with socks; yes, we assume you’re a tourist if you’re carrying an umbrella; and yes, we can be a little fanatical when it comes to the environment. Which is why this Seattle times article from a few years ago, titled “Turn your old junk into garden treasures,” struck a chord in my rainy little heart. Recycling? Gardening?! And DIY?! Swoon!

    Of course, the trend of repurposing rubbish for use in container gardening is hardly brand new. Home and garden magazines have been telling us for years how cute our herbs would look peeking out of old bathtubs and galvanized watering cans. And using containers you already have on hand both reduces waste and saves money. But before you go ransacking the woodshed, here are a few points to consider.

    Materials. Growing food in containers requires some extra diligence. According to the University of Louisville’s Center for Environmental Policy & Management, one major consideration in safe container gardening is chemical leaching. Fantastic flea market furniture could contain lead paint; galvanized metals may contain zinc or cadmium; and even salvaged lumber has sometimes been treated with creosote or asbestos. Additionally, the container’s color can affect soil temperature (darker = hotter), which might harm small shoots. And materials not meant for outdoor use could break, rot, or dry out.

    Succulents growing in rusty oil can

    Size. Yes, your husband’s collection of Scooby Doo lunch boxes could be put to better use than taking up space in the coat closet. However, a tall tomato or deep carrot won’t really thrive in something so shallow. Consider the size and depth of the container in relation to plants’ needs. The University of Maryland’s Home & Garden Information Center offers a handy set of recommendations by plant. (P.S. They also have an ingenious how-to for a self-watering container out of a five gallon bucket!)

    Drainage. No matter what container you find, be sure it will stand up to a quarter inch drill bit. Proper drainage is crucial and can get tricky with containers not originally meant for garden use. Drill, poke, or punch enough holes to allow for quick drainage; consider lining the bottom of the container with gravel; and, if possible, mount the container on blocks—even one or two inches is better than setting it flush on flat ground.

    So, even if you’re not the sock-with-sandals, guilt-ridden-because-you-threw-paper-away type, think carefully before making that next dump run. And if you think that “reduce, reuse, recycle” needs to be your new gardening mantra, here are a few other ideas to make your greens even greener. Look for later posts on these!

    • Seed harvesting
    • Natural pest deterrents
    • Foraging for mushrooms and edible weeds
    • Sprouting beans and seeds
    • Re-growing from kitchen scraps

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: skills, garden, gardening, recycling, DIY

  • If you’ve been following our Baby Steps series, you should be ready to plant your garden. You can start with seeds or seedlings and these baby steps will tell you how.

    Lot of seedlings in pots ecological farm

    Plant seeds. Many gardeners in the US started their seeds indoors to maximize the growing season. If the ground is warm enough you can start your seeds in the ground. Now is a great time to plant peas if your ground temperature is at least 40° F/4°C. Other plants like squash need warmer ground of at least 60°/18° C. A garden thermometer can determine the ground temperature for you.

    Smaller seeds can be planted in bunches. Not all the seeds will sprout so don’t worry about “overpopulation”. You’ll thin them out after their first true leaves have grown. (See the images below.) Larger seeds, like corn, should be planted individually. Dig about 1.5 to 2 times deeper than the size of the seed, and cover with soil, then with a board until the seedlings come up. If you’re planting corn, make sure to plant the seeds deeply enough. Click here to read more in an article by North Carolina State University.

     

    Tomato seedlings in a greenhouse  Close up Don't pull these cotyledons out! Wait until the seedlings have sent out true leaves.

    new tomato sprout in soil with water drops, gardening, shallow DOF Thin seedlings if there are multiple seedlings bunched together and they have true leaves.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Plant (or transplant) seedlings. Has the last frost date passed? If so, it’s time to transplant your seedlings!

    First, you’ll need to harden off the seedlings. This technique takes about a week and acclimatizes seedlings that have been grown indoors in a consistent temperature and light exposure. Put your tray of seedlings outside in the shade, but bring them inside if it’s still cold at night. Then gradually work them into half sun/half shade, then full sun, and then plant them in your garden. This keeps your seedlings from going into shock, which would cause early plant failure.

    When you’re ready to plant the seedlings, loosen the soil and prepare the plant rows or holes. Let’s use tomatoes as an example. Dig a horizontal hole if you have space (watch this video). Or stick with the more common vertical hole. Carefully take the whole root system out of box – don’t loosen the roots too much. Leave it in tact and bury up to the leaves. Sprinkle with water.

    senior woman  planting a tomato seedling

    Nurture seedlings. Your transplanted seedlings need a little TLC so keep an eye on them for the first couple of days. Make sure that their soil is moist, but not mushy, and keep them shaded from the hot sun.

    You can further strengthen the seedlings by gently running your hands across them. Thanks Gardening Life for the tip!

    We're glad you've started gardening. With a garden you’re well on your way to providing delicious food storage, not to mention being more self-sufficient.

    If you’d like more detailed information click on any of the links below.

    Let us know how your seeds and seedlings do, and happy gardening!

    Planting Seeds

    Planting Vegetables from Seeds and Seedlings

    Seed Starting

    Nurture Seedlings on a Tiered Growing Stand

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: baby steps, gardening, seeds, seedlings

  • Believe it or not, building a raised garden bed is pretty easy. As a quick intro, the benefits of using garden beds are:

    -  You don’t have to pull rocks out of the ground (unless you need to create a flat area). Just build on top.

    -  Raised garden beds make for tidy, manageable plots. They’re easy to walk between so you can tend the plants easily. Generally there will be fewer weeds which means less weeding!

    -  A raised garden bed gives your plants better drainage, which usually results in more produce.

    -  More produce means more food for your food storage and emergency supplies!

    iStock_000021278514XSmall_urbanCommunity_Garden_RaisedBeds

    Another great thing about building your own raised garden beds is that you can customize the look and shape to fit the area you have. Do you want a long rectangle, a square, or maybe even a triangle? Are you going to bury them in the ground a few inches, bury posts at each end, or just set them on top of the soil? You decide what works best for you!

    As usual, Popular Mechanics has an informative post on building a raised bed garden. Here’s a video from Patti Moreno, of Garden Girl TV. Following her step by step instructions will make building raised garden beds so easy! Even better, she includes these two tips, just in time for Earth Day.

    1. Use untreated wood. Pressure treated wood has chemicals that you definitely don’t want transferring to your vegetables.
    2. When possible, use recycled materials like wood from that old barn or shed you’re pulling down. Using recycled materials helps the earth by keeping stuff out of landfills and processing plants. And it lends your garden a sense of history.

    Sunset also has a comprehensive article that gives you a step-by-step guide and offers specific style ideas, including some that use unexpected styles and materials.

    Speaking of alternative styles and materials, have you ever considered building a raised garden bed out of concrete construction blocks? Doreen G. Howard at The Old Farmer’s Almanac says that using cinder blocks,

    … [has] a big bonus. Their holes can be filled with soil mix and planted with herbs or strawberries.

    The extra gathered heat from concrete is perfect for Mediterranean-type herbs such as rosemary and lavender. Strawberry plants grow huge and fruit fast in the holes. Each block is 16 inches long by 8 inches high; I purchase mine at big box stores as I find the price most reasonable. Beds of 13 feet or longer by 4 feet wide are cheaper to build using blocks than with cedar boards.

    iStock_000021748468XSmall_Kale_Seedling_CinderBlock

    Whatever you choose use for building your raised garden bed,  any of the articles above will tell you what you need to know to get the job done.

    Happy gardening!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, gardening

  • Preparing the Soil in Your Garden

    Now that spring is in the air and the days are longer, I’m getting the itch to start working on my garden. Now is the perfect time to go over some garden preparation basics.

    The main reasons we grow gardens are to provide our families with healthy food, become more self-sufficient, and maybe even to store some of our harvest for future use. Sometimes beginning gardeners fear their inexperience will cause them to be disappointed by poor crop performance. Not to worry, even someone with the worst “brown thumb” can grow a productive garden. So where is the best place to start?  A little patience and good soil preparation will help assure a bountiful harvest from a healthy garden. Here are some baby steps to help you along:

    Placement

    The first order of business would be to decide where to place your garden. Choose an area that receives sun for most or all of the day. You also want to orient your garden from North to South so that the sun reaches through the rows to all of your plants.  Most of us have heard that you should start preparing your garden “as soon as the ground can be worked”.  But what does that really mean? You don’t want to start too early.

    Soil Moisture Content

    If the ground still has melting snow or is soggy then it’s definitely too soon to begin. I use the very reliable “old farmer’s” trick to test the moisture content in my soil and it has never let me down. I just pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If it breaks apart easily when tapped or dropped then your soil is ready. If it dents or stays mostly in a lump when dropped it is too wet to be worked.

    Soil Density

    Garden plants grow best in loose soil that retains small pockets of air. Large clumps or clods of dirt will trap large pockets of air around plant roots and prevent them from getting nutrients. Large air pockets will also allow water to pool and drown seeds and small plants. I use the “double digging” method to get good loose soil down to about 1 foot. Remove about 6 inches of topsoil and loosen the soil underneath then return the topsoil and turn or till again.

    Nutrients and pH Balance

    Once you have the soil to the right consistency, it’s time to amend the soil, which simply means to add nutrients such as compost and/or PH balancing components, and till again. Now your soil should be fine, loose and healthy enough for planting seeds or seedlings.

    Basket of Garden Vegetables

    Baby Steps, Remember?

    You don’t have to do this all at once. I usually plan to prepare my garden over a couple of weekends. Planting a garden, watching it grow, and producing healthy food for my family has become one of the most rewarding and comforting projects I undertake each year. With these simple steps I know that you will also be able to enjoy the benefits and pleasures of your own garden.

    --Dawn

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: baby steps, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness, home food production

  • Interested in gardening but feel like a complete novice? Today’s Baby Steps will give you three ways to start off on the right foot.

    1. Find out what climate zone you’re in.Know your climate zone for gardening will help you decide what to grow. This link from the National Garden Association will take you right to climate maps and other helpful information.

    2. Decide what you want to grow. Grow your favorite veggies and herbs, or grow the ingredients to some of your favorite foods.

    3. Buy seeds.The Emergency Essentials Heirloom Seeds are a great way to get started. These heirloom seeds are non-hybrid and open pollinating. That means you’ll be able to harvest your own unique seeds for next year! Available in a large can with 17 varieties, or the boxed combo shown below, which includes 10 varieties. Click here to make your selection.

    Here’s a great post from GardenWeb with more information on starting your garden right. 

    For all you Master Gardeners out there, please leave tips and ideas below in the comment section. We’d love to have your input!

     

    Each Friday for the next month Baby Steps will feature gardening tips; our goal is to get you gardening. We’ll post Baby Steps on skills like composting and building garden boxes, so be sure to come back every Friday.

     

    Happy Gardening!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, baby steps, heirloom seeds, gardening, climate zone

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