Tag Archives: gardening

  • 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

  • One of our customers, Walt, shared his experience with sprouting 10 year old sprouting seeds. We thought you might be interested to hear how it went.

    “(I) purchased (sprouting seeds) in 1999 just in case Y2K took a dive. I opened the alfalfa seeds to see if they were still good after ten years and had more sprouts then I needed. To sprout the seeds I soaked them for 8 hours - then used the kitchen sprouter (3/4 of a pound of seeds) in two trays on the counter top. I found out when they sprouted it was too much - had more then I could handle, the rest went into a friends garden and they sprouted. I would say about 90% to 95% of the seeds sprouted. As far as storage, that varied over the ten years; put in a box marked food storage with the temperature from 40 degrees to 90 degrees.”

    Remember to store seeds in as cool a location as possible (even the refrigerator or freezer if possible). This can greatly increase the shelf life.

    We love to hear success stories like this one! Send your experience to blog@beprepared.com, so we can share it with everyone else (don’t forget photos if you have any).

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, gardening, Sprouts, Sprouting, Shelf Life

  • We have encountered a lot of recent discussions about Heirloom and non-hybrid garden seeds. One of the most important characteristics of Heirloom seeds is that they are open-pollinating non-hybrid seeds. What does this mean, and why is this so important in relation to emergency preparedness?

    Typical seeds you purchase in local stores are generally a hybrid of different plants. This is done to produce higher yields, to help the plants be more resistant to disease, to create specific tastes and colors, etc. The downside to hybrid seeds is that the seeds of the grown vegetables generally cannot be harvested and replanted the next year. Conversely, open-pollinating non-hybrid seeds can be harvested and planted year after year, making them an important addition to any food storage plan!

    After researching various suppliers of non-hybrid open-pollinating seeds, Emergency Essentials, Inc. settled on a great product called "Canned Garden Seeds." The can includes 16 popular and easy to grow non-hybrid garden vegetables that are hermetically sealed in E-Z lock reusable bags. The bags are triple-layered foil packets that are sealed in the can. A very helpful Gardening-Made-Easy Instructional Guide is also included.

    One tip we would recommend is storing the seeds as cool as possible - your refrigerator or freezer would work best if you have the room. According to the manufacturer, the seeds can be safely stored for 4 years at 65-70 degrees and much longer at lower temperatures. Each 6 degree drop in storage temperature may double the storage life of most seeds. Good planting!

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, Emergency plan, heirloom seeds, non-hybrid seeds, garden, gardening, emergency preparedness

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