Orchid Blooming Guide Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Growing the Best Orchids

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Orchid Blooming Guide – One of the most beloved and popular members of the flower family is the beautiful, exotic orchid.

This gorgeous, tropical plant is an all-time favorite in the botanical world with plant-pros and beginners alike.

The reason for its popularity may well be the fact that there are so many fabulous colors to choose from, and it can be grown indoors as well as outdoors.

Sometimes known for being a sensitive plant, orchids can get a bad rap for being difficult to take care of.

But as long as you’re willing to put in the work, you can enjoy beautiful orchid blossoms for years and years to come.

Growing orchids is not as difficult as some people make it seem.

As long as you do your research, adjust the lighting, pay attention to watering, and keep the temperature stable, your orchid should stay happy.

How difficult the plant is to maintain also depends on the variety of the orchid you have.

There are, believe it or not, over 28,000 different types of orchids in the world!

Not all of these have been domesticated, however, and most species are only found growing in the wild.

Best Greenhouses For Orchids

Orchid Blooming Guide Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
Orchid Blooming Guide Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Orchids in the Wild — From the Tropics to North America

Surprisingly, when in the wild, orchids don’t tend to grow in soil.

There are some terrestrial species, but most species prefer to be off the ground.

They can be found growing attached to other plants, such as on the branch of a tree.

The reason orchids do not like soil is their unique roots.

Their roots are covered with a coating of white, moisture-absorbing substance that requires exposure to air.

When growing on the ground, orchids tend to only grow on the topsoil, which is “airy,” not as dense, and humus-rich.

Although often associated with the tropics, there are also orchid species growing in the wild even in North America.

These are terrestrial types that can grow in forests and swamps, and unlike their tropical cousins, they can handle the cold temperatures.

Some species even require freezing cold temperatures to induce blooming, whereas the tropical types would not survive freezing temperatures at all.

The orchid family really is one of the most versatile in the world!

Sadly, many Native American orchid species are endangered.

Therefore, if you find them in the wild, you should never pluck them off the ground.

If you want a specific type of orchid that grows in the wild, you must obtain them from a nursery or a flower shop.

This is a much more ethical choice, as nurseries are usually dedicated to sustainability in their practice.

Some even rescue wild orchids if their habitat is in danger.

Other places where orchids are found growing in the wild include Hawaii, Peru, India, Japan, Mexico, Ecuador, and many more countries.

Nowadays they are found on every continent and virtually every country, but they originated from the tropical regions of Australia and Asia.

Different Types of Orchids

As there are over 28,000 different species of orchids, there is a wide variety in the types of orchids you may find.

The smallest orchid is only just over 2mm wide, and it’s petals are so thin they are transparent and only one cell thick!

This variety belongs to the Platystele genus and can be found growing in the wild tropics of Ecuador.

The largest orchid is the Grammatophyllum speciosum, also called the Queen of Orchids.

This species can grow to over 5 meters wide, weighs many pounds, and during a growth spurt, it can grow a whopping 15 cm per day!

It definitely deserves the crown.

Are Orchids Difficult to Grow Indoors?

There is a myth that orchids are very fragile and require extreme efforts to keep alive.

Orchids do require certain conditions to thrive and blossom.

But for a plant enthusiast, they require hardly any more work than some other common houseplants — plus they’re worth it.

The myth that orchids are fragile can be proven wrong by the fact that there are species of orchids found growing near the Arctic Circle, and even in the desert!

There are so many different types of orchids; some are tougher than others, and some are, in fact, fragile.

Having so many options to choose from, you should be able to find a good fit for your home by talking to some experts and doing your research before buying.

Why Do Orchids Get a Bad Rap?  The Root of the Problem

So after finding out that orchids can survive in extreme conditions, you might be wondering why they have gained a reputation as the diva of the plant world.

The most common problem that new orchid owners usually have is understanding the roots.

We are used to seeing plants that thrive with their roots buried deep in the soil.

Therefore, it can be confusing to see the weird grayish-white roots coming off to the surface.

Growers may be tempted to cut or trim these for better aesthetics, and this is where problems might start.

Although tempted, you should never cut the roots!

Happy roots equal happy plants.

The other common mistake growers make is over watering their plants.

Most types of orchids require less watering than other plants, and if not careful, it is easy to kill the plant by over watering it.

If someone owns a lot of plants, and waters them all at the same time, the orchid might be getting a lot more water than it can absorb.

This means the roots are left to sit in wet soil, and will most likely start to rot.

This can cause the plant to wilt and die.

Tips for a New Orchid Owner

We know you may have heard that orchids are extremely fragile and very difficult to grow, and we have explained that this isn’t the case.

But they require a bit more careful handling than some plants.

They may grow on some unique mediums, but they do not take much more effort than any other plant.

Especially for a plant lover, keeping orchids is definitely worth the effort.

Just make sure you choose an easy variety, to begin with.

If you simply walk into a flower shop and buy the first plant you see, you might not know what to expect.

Do your research, talk to the staff at the flower shop or nursery, and find out what type of orchid would best suit your home.

Some species are slightly easier to take care of, and thus well suited for beginners.

The two most common orchids recommended for beginners are the beautiful phalaenopsis — also known as the moth orchid — and the gorgeous cattleya.

These two are relatively easy to take care of, and thus a good choice for someone new to the world of orchids.

An orchid newbie should preferably start with an orchid that is in bloom, or just about to bloom.

A plant in this stage is easier to take care of than one that is in a resting stage.

Plus, you get to enjoy the gorgeous flower right away!

There are just a few things you need to keep in mind for making sure your plant stays happy, such as watering and lighting, which we will talk about.

If you buy an orchid that is potted and healthy, don’t change it into a new pot.

If the orchid is happy where it is, there is no need to change its environment.

If your plant is still thriving in a couple of years, you may consider re-potting, but don’t do it just yet.

The Life Cycle of an Orchid — The First Stages

Although orchids are such unique plants, their life cycle does not differ much from that of an ordinary flower.

They go through the same stages: seed production, germination, seedlings, maturation into a plant, flowering and reproduction, and finally producing seeds.

One of the differences to conventional plants is that some of the stages take a lot longer for orchids than other plants.

For a seed to grow into an orchid, it can take up to two years.

Then it may take anywhere from 9 to 14 months for an orchid to complete a full life cycle.

The first stage of the cycle is pollination.

A chemical process is triggered to start the reproduction cycle, which causes the orchid to develop seed pods.

It will take between 6 to 8 months for the seed pods to fully mature.

During this stage, the plant needs a lot of extra energy to develop the seeds.

This means some leaves may die and fall off.

Those new to owning orchids may get worried when they see leaves turning yellow and falling off.

But this is only a sign that your plant is healthy and ready to reproduce.

It usually takes about 3 months for an orchid to flower after developing seed pods.

After flowering, the plant will usually grow more roots so that it can absorb more nutrients for when it is time to bloom again.

Depending on the species, the flower of an orchid will usually bloom for several weeks or months at a time.

How Often Do Orchids Usually Bloom?

Some types of orchids only bloom once a year, others twice a year, and some several times a year.

It is common for orchids to bloom every 8 to 12 months, but this really depends on the species and the environment.

Once they are blooming, the flowers may last as little as days, but more commonly weeks or months at a time.

With some careful planning and effort, it is possible to have orchids blooming all year round.

For this to succeed, you need to do your research on the types of orchids to buy.

No one plant will last for a whole year, but you may purchase several if you are keen on enjoying the blooming all year long.

This way, you may always have at least one orchid in full blossom.

How to Get Orchids to Bloom? Let’s Start With the Basics First

To get your orchids to bloom, you need to create the optimal environment for blooming.

This is not as tricky as it may sound.

You need to be consistent with watering — once a week usually does the trick.

If you feel like watering your orchid just in case, or think the more you water, the quicker it will bloom — wrong!

The most common mistake people make with their orchid is over watering.

Although orchids grow in the tropics, they need a lot less water than you may think.

Depending on which watering method you use — ice cubes, submerging, or directly pouring water — you should only water your plant once or twice a week.

If you see any excess water pooling on top of the soil, try to get rid of it gently.

If the soil is too wet, the roots may easily rot and kill your beautiful plant.

How to Water Your Orchid — Three Methods to Choose From

You may think there is only one method of watering plants — simply pouring water on them.

Although this is a common and usually effective method, it may not be best suited for orchids.

With pouring, you need to know the correct amount of water your plant needs.

If your orchid sits in a pot without a drainage system, there is no way to get the excess water off, should you accidentally pour in too much.

Some safer methods are submerging or using ice cubes.

Submerging works if your plant sits in a planting pot, inside a “decorative” pot.

Simply take the planting pot out, submerge the plant in water for 10-15 minutes, then pour the unabsorbed water out.

Let the plant drain for an extra 5 minutes to make sure no excess water is left in the pot.

This method should be used once a week.

With ice cubes, simply pop one on top of the soil twice per week, and the plant will absorb it at its own pace.

Optimal Lighting — A Key Factor in the Success of Your Plant

Another important key factor in successful blooming is the light.

To bloom, your orchid needs a lot of indirect sunlight.

Indirect light means the sun is not directly shining to the plant, but the light “bounces” off a wall, or is filtered through something.

An easy way to test if the lighting is ideal is the shadow test.

During the brightest moment of the day, put your hand next to your plant and look at the shadow it creates.

Can you only barely see a shadow?

No shadow or a very light shadow indicates there is not enough light.

A dark, almost black shadow indicates that the light is too direct.

A soft grey shadow is ideal.

It may not seem like a big thing, but lighting is one of the most important aspects of keeping your orchid happy.

Too much direct sunlight can give your plant a burn, even in only a few hours.

So if you are not sure about the placement of your plant, keep a close eye on it on the first day.

What if My Orchid Isn’t Blooming? Check the Temperature

The first things to troubleshoot are optimal watering and lighting, as discussed above, but if you feel you’ve got these down, there are still a few things to look into.

The first one is temperature.

Different orchid species thrive in slightly different temperatures.

For example, one of the most popular house orchids, the phalaenopsis enjoys a comfortable temperature between 65° and 80° F.

Most house plants will be comfortable at this temperature.

But, to be sure, you will want to research your specific orchid species to determine their ideal temperature.

One thing most orchid species have in common is that they enjoy having a colder temperature at night.

Unlike most common houseplants, orchids are used to experiencing variation in their environment and respond well to a slight difference in temperatures between daytime and nighttime.

This does not mean you should sunbathe your orchid all day and then freeze it at night; the difference should only be about 10-15°.

A slightly colder night will help to trigger your orchid to rebloom.

Another trick you can use to stimulate reblooming is using fertilizer.

Fertilizing Your Orchids — Why is it So Important?

Did you know Charles Darwin wrote a book about fertilizing orchids?

This tells us a bit about the importance of fertilizing your beloved plant.

One of the reasons orchids require fertilization much more than other house plants is its roots.

As discussed before, orchids tend not to grow in soil, and the roots are thus not made for absorbing nutrients from the soil.

This is how most terrestrial plants absorb their nutrients.

Instead, orchids use their tangled roots to trap mineral flakes, animal matter, soil grains, and other nutrients blown by the wind.

The plant then absorbs these nutrients.

However, there are also terrestrial orchids growing in the wild, which can absorb nutrients from the soil.

The other reason orchids require fertilization, is that when we bring them into our homes, they are removed from their natural environment, and instead put into a pot.

We usually plant them into a mixture of bark and moss, maybe some gravel.

This is quite an unnatural environment for the orchid to be in, and these materials provide very little nutrition once they break down.

Orchids require a lot of nutrients, and this environment is not able to provide it.

This is why fertilizer is essential, especially when your plant is about to rebloom, as this requires extra energy

When to Fertilize Your Orchids and How?

Most experts agree that fertilizing once every two weeks is enough.

Sometimes even once a month can do the trick.

You should start thinking about using a fertilizer only after your orchid has dropped all of its blooms, and is in a dormant stage.

Find a solution that contains equal amounts of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen (the label should read 20-20-20).

Do not pour the fertilizer in as it is, but dilute it to half of the strength by mixing it with an equal amount of clean water.

Fertilizer should be applied carefully to avoid burning the orchid’s leaves.

You might want to use a small, narrow-spouted pitcher to do this.

Put the diluted mixture in the pitcher and gently pour the fertilizer into the pot, straight onto the soil.

Be very careful not to get any on the leaves, as they will be easily irritated by the fertilizer.

Make sure no extra fertilizer is left to pool on the pot — drain the pot if needed.

Keep in mind that you should not water your orchids in the weeks that you fertilize it.

My Orchid Looks Ill — What Should I Do?

After your orchid has bloomed and dropped its flowers, it may look a little bit sad.

The leaves might be turning yellow and falling off.

This is normal; it just means your plant is saving up energy for its next blooming.

Keep taking good care of it by watering once a week and making sure the light and temperature are ideal for your specific orchid type and start fertilizing.

Other than that, there is not much you can do but wait for a rebloom.

If your orchid is wilting, however, or turning completely yellow, you may have an issue.

This indicates that the orchid is not happy about something in its environment, and if you want to keep your plant healthy, you need to figure out the problem and fix it.

The most common issues are over watering or under watering, lack of light, or lack of fertilizer.

Check these first. If you manage to adjust the environment to match your orchid’s needs, it should perk up again and rebloom sooner or later.

Sometimes orchids can droop, and this can cause owners to become concerned.

It’s good to know that there are species of orchids that are naturally “droopy.”

If the blooms are heavy and the stem is not thick enough, this will cause the flowers to droop.

Unless the flower petals are falling off, or the flower is turning brown, there is nothing to worry about.

The drooping may well be completely normal.

If you think your flower should not be drooping, and the plant looks wilted, you may have an issue.

In this case, check the above instructions for troubleshooting — check your lighting, watering, and fertilizing habits.

If your orchid is turning red, you should be a little worried.

This is a sign that your orchid is getting way too much sunlight, and it’s possibly getting burned.

Move your orchid somewhere else, and keep a close eye on it.

Orchids are sensitive to direct sunlight and can quickly get burned, even in a couple of hours.

Do the shadow test with your hand — the optimal light should produce a soft, grey shadow.

Is My Orchid Dead or Just Dormant?

A common mistake some plant owners make is thinking their orchid is dead after it has dropped its flowers and gone into a dormant stage.

Sadly, some even throw their lovely plant away at this point.

The stem may be shriveled and turn gray or brown, but this is completely normal.

The leaves may lose their brightness and start looking dull or flat.

Although this stage of the life cycle may look bad, it is completely normal.

Nothing in nature blooms all year round, and your orchid is no exception.

You just need to be patient.

However, sometimes orchids do die, just like any other plant.

This may be due to lack of proper care, such as over- or under watering, or lack of fertilizer.

Sometimes people think they are looking after the plant, but are merely guessing their orchids’ watering needs instead of doing their research.

This can end up killing the plant.

Although orchids are not as difficult as their reputation says, they do have specific needs that should be met to keep them happy.

However, even if you do your best and follow the instructions for your particular species, sometimes the plant comes to the end of its life cycle and dies.

Hopefully, at this point, you will have had many happy years with your orchid friend, and have a lot of pictures to keep as memories.

However, with the appropriate care orchids are long-lived and can keep reblooming over and over again!

Guide to Orchid Blooming

So … Are you ready for the challenge?

Hopefully, by now, you are convinced that orchids are not impossible to take care of, and they can, in fact, be a delightful decoration in your home.

By now, you know the most important facts about keeping orchids, how to water them, how to optimize their light and temperature conditions, and how to use fertilizer.

With these basic instructions from our Orchid Blooming Guide, it should be easy enough to get started on your new hobby as an orchid grower!

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No-till Gardening: Your Complete Guide to An Easier Way to Grow

No-till Gardening

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No-till Gardening Guide – Advancements in the field of gardening have introduced different ways of preparing the soil and planting the crop.

These methods promote better crop growth and increased yield.

One of these impressive methods is no-till gardening.

This particular style of gardening does not require any kind of tilling.

Instead, you start planting the crop without exposing the dirt.

With this method, you put decomposable materials on top of the soil and leave the rest to nature.

Due to amazing outcomes, this type of gardening is gaining in popularity.

You can apply this style of gardening in small garden beds or in larger settings.

The basic idea that powers no-till gardening is to relieve you from the hard work of tilling.

Furthermore, plants grow much more easily in natural settings.

Therefore, theoretically, it helps to take care of your garden in a more organic and less expensive manner.

This usually tends to inspire a lot of people, and, if you are inclined to learn the basics of no-till gardening, here is a complete guide to assist you.

What Garden Plants Need Lime

What to Consider when Making a Transition

No-till Gardening

A lot of gardeners claim that no-till gardening saves more time, as there is no tilling involved.

Plus, you need to put in less effort, because there is less work to do. 

This may appear to be true in the long run, but, first, you need to make a successful transition.

This requires you to work a little bit extra at first, but as things settle down, you will start getting the benefits of no-till gardening.

You need to follow many new habits and shift your mindset while managing your land.

Garden Size

No doubt, if you want to convert a large area into a no-till garden, you have to work harder.

It also affects the method of gardening that you are trying to follow.

For example, if you own a small garden, you can simply gather and use several old newspapers on the desired patch of ground.

After that, you can purchase a small number of wood chips and mulch to spread on the area.

In addition, you can get the required amount of chicken fertilizer by raising a few chickens.

This will help fulfill the manure needs of your no-till garden.

However, things can be challenging if you have a large garden.

You have to gather more newspaper, wood chips, and mulch.

For this purpose, you may need to buy these items from the actual suppliers.

This will increase the overall cost of managing your no-till garden.

Therefore, prior to making a decision about the garden size, make sure to analyze the number of available resources and manpower.

Garden Supplies and Garden Materials

Once you have decided about the area of your no-till garden, the next step is to find the easiest ways to find essential materials.

If you are residing in a rural area of your town, you might find it difficult to access different suppliers.

These companies play a key role while dropping off items, such as wood chips, compost, and mulch.

If you don’t have easy access to those companies, you won’t be able to manage a large no-till garden.

However, you can continue with this method if your garden is small and most of the items are available to you.

On the contrary, if you live close to such facilities and can easily access the required items, that will be a positive sign that you can begin no till gardening on a large scale. How to Start Composting

How to Start a Garden on a Budget

When thinking about following the no-till gardening method, it is essential to designate a specific budget to such a venture.

If you need items for your land and free resources aren’t available, the cost of running a no-till garden tends to be higher.

Hence, you have to be wise when making such a transition.

For this purpose, you have to decide what amount of funds you have available when purchasing the essential items.

You have to analyze which method would be more feasible and budget-friendly.

If you find it less expensive to follow the tilling method, you can go with that, instead.

However, if you have sufficient funds to purchase the materials and items for your no till garden, it would be more appropriate for you to choose this method.

How to Build a Rain Garden Tips

Don’t Forget to Rotate the Crops

Crop rotation is a great way to strengthen the plants and increase the yields.

During the tilling method, you expose the pests to the air and lower their strength. This makes the plants less vulnerable to diseases.

When talking about no-till gardening, though, you don’t disturb the soil.

This results in the increased growth of pests and increased danger of your crops being destroyed.

To combat this, make sure to rotate your crops every year.

Cover Crops to Protect the Garden

In the winter, planting cover crops serves as a great way to protect the soil.

This helps preserve the mulch and offers continuous nutrients to the plants.

Moreover, nitrogen and other micro-nutrients also attract other soil organisms.

For this purpose, you need to select a non-grass type of cover crop.

This is necessary because grassy plants require tilled ground, so these plants are not well-suited to no-till gardening.

Avoid Walking in the Garden Beds

In the case of a tilled garden, you have to loosen the soil each year by using mechanical methods.

When you are dealing with no-till gardening, though, there is no need to loosen the soil.

However, you have to stop walking on the beds.

It causes compaction, which destroys the soil organisms and their tunnels.

Garden Mulch

Mulching is a viable method to create a perfect environment for the growth of beneficial soil organisms. 

Furthermore, it also minimizes the growth of weeds.

Try to mulch within the rows of plants, making sure not to disturb the plant stems.

Wood chips also serve as the perfect topping.

You have to keep in mind that the wood chips stay on top of the soil, and you need to avoid mixing them within the soil.

Instead, you need to allow the wood chips to decompose naturally.

During the winter, you may need to consider mulching with the help of shredded leaves.

Tips to Follow When Creating a No-Till Garden

Creating a No-Till Garden

Prior to creating your no-till garden, it is essential to keep in mind a few things.

The most important topics are discussed below.

Designating the Garden Space

The first step when starting a no-till garden is to select the perfect space.

Make sure to choose a place where there is an adequate amount of sunlight.

Furthermore, also consider the quality of the soil.

This is important to help you have less preparation to do when planting the crop.

Gather Materials for No Till Gardening

When you have decided to start no-till gardening, the most important thing to pay attention to is the collection of materials for this method of gardening.

A few of the things that you initially need include leaves, newspaper, chicken fertilizer, compost, and wood chips.

The newspaper is a great way to kill the grass.

You just need to lay it over the grass and wait.

It is biodegradable and provides some essential elements for the preparation of the ground.

After that, you need to add composting items.

You can add the chicken fertilizer and old leaves in the form of layers.

In the beginning, you have to put down several materials to provide a good foundation for the garden.

After that, you need to spread the wood chips in the form of a thick layer.

Layering the Garden

Once you have added all the items, it’s time to start the layering process.

The first step is to cover the required space with the newspapers.

After a few days, cover the area with some more newspapers.

This will stop the grass from sprouting in different places within your garden.

If you can’t find enough newspapers, cardboard also serves the purpose well.

In fact, you can use anything that blocks the light and decomposes over time.

After the first stage, the next step is to introduce the layer of old leaves.

If you place the leaves between the newspaper and compost, they will stay in place.

Therefore, after adding the leaves, create a thick layer of compost.

When you are working in a small garden, you can easily make enough compost for the area.

Nevertheless, for the larger area, you will need to buy compost from the supplier.

The price of the compost is quite reasonable, and you can order the required amount from a local nursery.

Before setting up for no-till gardening, make sure to buy the compost in advance.

The next step is to add chicken fertilizer.

If you are raising chickens on your farm, you will be able to get the required amount of chicken fertilizer without any extra effort.

To spread it evenly, you need to break down the chicken fertilizer into small particles.

After that, use the wheelbarrows to spread it evenly over the garden.

The final step is the addition of wood chips.

These chips are large in size and retain most of the moisture.

This material also composts over time and serves as a fertilizer.

The wood chips take a lot of time to decompose and are acidic, too.

Hence, prepare your garden almost 6 months before starting no-till gardening.

When to Plant My Garden

Once you have prepared your garden with all the necessary layers, there isn’t much you can do except to wait.

Normally, people add the materials at the start of the fall season and allow the materials to settle down over the winter.

This makes it possible to start planting in the spring.

When the right time arrives, just use the hoe to create some rows and start planting the crop.

You should try to tuck the mulch back and cover the area around your plants. This will help keep the weeds down.

Soil Organisms

Taking care of Soil Organisms

When it comes to tilling it is a method to break up and loosen the soil.

As a result, the weeds are buried in the soil and nutrients come to the surface for easy access by the plants.

The basic thinking behind this concept is to keep the soil free from weeds, as long as you are planting your crop at the place.

However, tilling tends to destroy fungal networks, which are the sticky exudates that consist of different soil organisms.

These organisms help to hold the soil and its nutrients together.

In addition, tilling also reduces the humus, which is the organic component of soil.

This element plays a great role in the growth of the plant.

As a result, in no-till gardening, you have to add more soil amendments to compensate for the humus soil.

Most of the people that have made a successful transition to the no-till method are enjoying its advantages.

The presence of microorganisms benefits the soil, and no-till gardening provides the best environment for the growth of such microorganisms.

Furthermore, these soil organisms are also beneficial, as they keep the soil loose, healthy, and full of nutrients.

If you want to encourage the soil microorganisms to thrive in your garden, make sure to follow these steps.

Use Weeds as Fertilizer

Increasing the presence of soil organisms in your garden isn’t an overnight phenomenon.

In fact, it may involve years of hard work that pays off in the end.

Initially, you have to struggle a little while making the transition from regular gardening to no-till gardening.

You may have to face the issue of uncontrolled growth of weeds, which turns out to be challenging for the newcomers.

In some cases, people may leave the idea of no-till gardening and switch back to regular methods.

As a matter of fact, weeds are simply doing their job for which nature has created them.

They are essential for providing the relevant nutrients to the soil.

You must keep in mind that you will always come across the issue of weeds to some extent.

Even if you are looking at a healthier garden, you can spot some of the weeds growing in some places.

However, an abundance of weeds is the issue that you need to tackle.

This is an indication that the soil is lacking organic matter and requires proper nutrition.

If you have time, let the soil stay as it is for a year or so.

This will help you to take advantage of nature’s ability to create such an environment, which is essential to generate organic matter.

However, you have to visit the garden once a week to chop and drop the weeds.

This step is essential, as the weeds will bear seeds and disperse them everywhere if you don’t chop them.

This procedure fertilizes the soil through the decomposition of chopped weeds. 

The decaying roots will serve as easy food for beneficial soil organisms.

How to Plant Your Garden

When it’s time to plant, you should use the digging fork to create holes in the soil.

It will also help to improve drainage and loosen the soil.

While doing so, excavate the weeds softly without tilling the soil.

This type of method is less difficult than some other ways of getting rid of weeds.

In fact, you must try to keep the soil intact while planting the crop.

Just dig a few inches while planting the crop and disturbing the weeds.

Follow the same procedure when harvesting, where you need to put all the foliage back to the soil.

Digging up to only a few inches provides some fresh air to the soil without disturbing soil organisms and their habitat.

As a result, your no-till garden plants will grow strong and yield more.

Moreover, it will also help to regulate water usage, which helps the plant while dealing with extremely dry or wet periods.

Advantages and Disadvantages of No-Till Gardening

Advantages and Disadvantages of No-Till Gardening
summer private garden with blooming Hydrangea Annabelle. Curvy lawn edge, beautiful pathway. Landscape design in English cottage style.

Just like any other type of gardening, no-till gardening has its pros and cons.

If you can handle the cons well and continue with this method, you can obtain more benefits for your garden than you would normally get.

Given below are some of the most prominent advantages and disadvantages of no-till gardening.

No Till Garden Advantages

There are numerous benefits of no-till gardening.

However, here we will try to explain only a few of the most obvious ones.

Natural Method of Gardening

Going against nature has its own repercussions.

However, when you are taking assistance from nature, everything goes smoothly.

The method of no-till gardening is exactly the same, as it happens in a natural environment.

Therefore, if you see the forest and observe a variety of plants thriving there, you will realize that no-tilling was done at all in that area.

In fact, the growth of plants and trees is the result of natural composting, which is a continuous process in a natural environment.

Hence, no-till gardening is a way to follow the footsteps of nature and develop a strong bond with it.

It helps you grow organic food, which is more nutritious and healthy than farm products.

Simple method to Start Organic Gardening

When you continue with no-till gardening for a long time, it will allow you to plant your crop organically and yield an organic harvest.

Theoretically, the process of no-till gardening is a lot easier than any other type of gardening.

For example, when you till your garden, you often have to purchase various types of organic fertilizers.

With the help of this particular method, the garden generates the required material on its own.

You just need to prepare the ground, and the rest of the job is done by nature.

Hence, with the availability of nutrients, organic gardening becomes much more feasible.

Especially if you can’t afford to buy organic fertilizers, no-till gardening is the best way to consider.

More Harvest for your No Till Garden

When following this method on a long-term basis, you can get more yield from the same area.

There are numerous examples of no-till gardening where the gardens are completely flourishing.

These types of gardens offer maximum harvests, which you don’t see in other types of gardens.

If you want your plants to grow in a natural environment, you need to follow the natural methods.

At present, you won’t find any other method more natural than no-till gardening.

Therefore, the results you get are also promising.

No Till Gardening Disadvantages

Given below are some of the cons of no till gardening.

It is better to know about the disadvantages of this type of gardening before actually starting the work.

No Till Requires a Lot of Effort

No till gardening requires a lot of preparation work, which means you have to spend more time in the garden.

Before you actually start working on no-till gardening, you need to gather a lot of materials.

This requires your time and effort. Initially, you may find it hectic to collect the materials for your garden.

Things may become even more difficult if you have a large garden.

For instance, if you have to place the first layer of the newspaper, it may take a whole day.

Furthermore, you need to track down the wood chips every year to use the required amount in the garden.

Similar is the case with chicken fertilizer, which you need to gather and spread over the layers of other materials.

Below is a short video about the list of pros and cons of till vs no-till gardening:

Need to Put Thick Layers

Putting down thick layers is necessary for successful no-till gardening.

The layers of composting materials should be adequately thick, which means you have to collect more material.

If you have a large garden, gathering the required amount of material won’t be an easy task.

You need to work constantly with the purpose of collecting the materials for your garden.

Also, even if you are working diligently, failure to follow the right procedure may ruin all your efforts.

For example, if you fail to make your layers thick enough, you can’t destroy the grass and other weeds.

Related Content: Gardening Mistakes, Could Be Costly And How To Fix Them?

No Till Gardening Pros and Cons

Initially, managing a no-till garden appears to be a difficult task, but, with the passage of time, you will be in a position to enjoy its numerous benefits.

By following the path of nature, you are helping the environment around you by utilizing nontoxic elements.

Furthermore, you can also feel the satisfaction and joy of learning the natural way of creating fertilizers and supporting the growth of beneficial soil organisms.

5 Ways To Maximize The Space In Your Garden

Maximize The Space In Your Garden

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Maximize Space In Your Garden – Even for green-fingered garden enthusiasts, a small space can seem restrictive.

When you don’t have a lot of room to play with in your garden, you might assume that you’ll be limited on what you can grow, or the kind of landscaping you can do.

You don’t even need to be living in a house with a small garden to face this challenge.

People with rural properties need to make the most out of every inch of space – particularly if they’re growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The good news is that thanks to innovations in the gardening space, there are plenty of ways to put your skills to work where you can also get environmental benefits in even the smallest gardening spaces according to bestspy.co.uk/7-ways-gardening-helps-environment.

With limited space to work with, you might need to be more creative, but you’ll be able to achieve amazing things if you’re willing to work with shapes, colors, and a few other tricks.

Here we’re going to cover five of the best ways that you can maximize the space in your garden without having to start over from scratch.

Beginner’s Guide To Greenhouse Reviews How To Get Started

Mix Up Your Garden with Color

In a home, people will often tell you that light colors like white can help a space to appear bigger.

The same sort of strategy can work in a garden too.

Brighter colors like red and yellows are fantastic to make your garden more intimate and attractive when you have a large space to work with.

However, when you’re managing a smaller garden, lighter pastel colors like whites and soft purples are great for giving the effect of an expanded space.

When you’re choosing flowers to plant in your new yard, remember to consider species carefully too.

Lilies and lavender are great for giving the impression of larger garden.

What’s more, arranging a variety of smaller plants in specific areas also helps your garden to stand out with unique focal points.

assorted garden vegetables
garden vegetables

Look for New Ways to Grow

You don’t just have to make use of the floor space in a garden, you can enjoy extra freedom by growing upwards too.

No matter how small your garden might be, you can always look for new ways to expand vertically, by using hanging containers and pots that you dangle from the walls of your home, and the fences around your property.

There are plenty of beautiful crawling and clinging plants out there that green-fingered individuals can work with across their fences and walls.

Star jasmine, for instance is a particularly beautiful choice, while geraniums tumbling out of pots and hanging baskets around your home will give another incredible effect to draw the eye too.

If you’re interested in growing food, you can try things like climbing beans and vining tomatoes too.

Strawberry plants also grow well across different vertical structures.

Play with Scale

If you want to make the most out of a small garden, then you’ll need to be cautious when it comes to scaling.

Choosing the wrong plants could mean that your garden quickly gets swallowed up as those plants grow.

On the other hand, choosing the right plant species and arranging them properly will help to create the illusion that your garden is bigger than it is.

Think about how much space you have to work with and avoid planting anything that’s overly large.

Tall breeds should be kept to a minimum, and you should instead be focusing on medium and shrub-like flowering plants that make your property appear more expansive.

Don’t just use a single size of plant or flower either.

Playing with different styles and breeds will also give more depth to your garden and allow for the illusion of texture too.

Related Content: No-till Gardening, find out different ways of preparing the soil and planting the crop!

Raised Garden Beds
Raised Garden Beds

Try Raised Garden Beds

We already mentioned that you can move beyond the floor if you want to expand your garden space to include more vertical options.

Planting in raised beds is one of the other ways that you can expand your growing space without using hanging baskets or trellis options.

Your plants will grow out of the raised platforms and usually cascade slightly down the sides, which will mean that you need to consider the kinds of plants you’re going to use carefully.

The best option for you when it comes to raised bed planting will depend on the look and feel that you want to create for your outdoor space.

Some people even use recycled items from around the house like milk crates and wood planks to give them more room to plant with.

If you’re short on seating, you can also extend your raised beds a little to give people a place to rest when they’re in your garden.

Work with Geometric Design

Geometric patterns and other bold shapes in a garden can really give depth to the space.

Using cleaner angles for your patio spaces, pathways and flower beds is a great way to make sure that any garden looks tidy and crisp.

What’s more, although it may be appealing to use softer curves and edges – like those that you see in many gardens, curves can often make smaller spaces appear crowded.

The angles of geometric shapes will be naturally softened by flowers and plants too – so you don’t have to worry about your garden seeming too harsh.

The right contrast of organic shapes and angles in your smaller garden is a surprisingly good way to draw the eye around the space and give it more depth.

Even simple steps like paving your garden path diagonally can make it seem as though you have longer and wider spaces to work with, when you’re only using a few square feet instead.

Additionally, lighter paving stones that are pale in color will add to your light colored plants to make your garden look bigger too.

Working in a small garden might seem restrictive at first. However, the more creative you get, the more you’ll begin to see just how much you can really do with a small space.

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Natural Lawn Care Tips and Hacks to Save Time and Money

green trees and grasses

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Natural Lawn Care tips – Last weekend, we mowed our lawn for the first time this year.

From the sound of it (and the smell of freshly cut grass), the neighbors are in the full swing of lawn care as well.

We have dogs, children, and a desire to be good stewards of our immediate environment, so this year, we’re looking for ways to practice natural spring lawn care.

Turns out, there are surprisingly easy and cheap ways to have a natural lawn.

Natural Lawn Care Tips and Hacks

Starting and Growing Your Lawn Care Business

How Often Should I Water My Vegetable Garden

Natural Weed Control: Let it Grow

Instead of spraying pesticides on the weeds in your lawn, simply set your lawnmower on the highest cut setting (3-4 inches).


Because whether it be your grass or the weeds in your grass, whichever plant gets the most sunlight is going to thrive.

Want to choke out the weeds?

Simply help the grass ‘win.’

It’s really as simple as that, and you’ll enjoy thicker, more plush grass in your yard as well.

Mowing high has other benefits: you’ll offer more shade to the soil, which means it will need less watering, and have thicker turf, which in turn will leave less room for weeds.

Note: According to The Daily Green, clover is not a weed, and should be welcome in your lawn.
Natural Lawn Care Tips and Hacks

Water Savings: Deprive the Weeds

Many people — myself included for some time — believe having a lawn necessitates using a lot of water.

This is not so.

In fact, experts recommend watering less frequently to have a well-cared for lawn.

The reason: if you water less frequently with Gilmour garden sprinklers, it forces grass roots to dig down deeper (deeper than the weed roots.)

Then when the top soil becomes dry, the weeds die while the grass continues to thrive.

Water only when you start to see signs of need in your lawn, and then water thoroughly.

Tip: Place a measuring cup in your watering zone, and make sure it fills with one cup of water during your watering session.

Organic Fertilizing: Less is More

You want to use natural organic fertilizer, but which kind?

First, don’t over think it.

For starters, leave grass clippings on your lawn.

When you bag them and take them away, you leave the top soil exposed.

Eventually, it will be dirt, not soil.

When you do fertilize with a natural organic fertilizer, use 1/3 of the amount recommended on the package. Combine this with compost in spring and fall.

As for what fertilizer you need, this depends on the problem in your yard.

Get the pH balance of your lawn professionally tested, and then use a fertilizer guide to find the correct natural fertilizer for the job.

The key to using less fertilizer is to use the exact type you need, and to use it moderately.

How to Use Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden: Protecting Your Yard

What Garden Plants Need Lime

Lawn Alternatives: Who Needs Grass?

Do you really need a lawn of green grass?

How about a Greenhouse?

If you live in an area of water shortages or intense summer heat, you may have already switched to a lawn alternative.

If not, consider the following:

Rock or cactus garden:

Done well, a rock garden can be beautiful, and very peaceful to overlook while sitting on an outdoor deck or sun porch.

Plus you’re saving even more than a natural lawn care gardener on water usage and upkeep.

Natural meadow:

I’ve been hearing more and more about converting lawns to meadows lately.

Should you create a backyard meadow?

Your cost will include wildflower and wild grass seed (one-time only), then light watering and only once-annual mowing.

The result is a tranquil space that attracts butterflies, honey bees and birds, is lovely to see, and easy to maintain.

It’s important to consider how you use and enjoy your lawn.

Think about what yard care do you actually enjoy doing?

Green natural lawn

Easy ways to have a natural lawn

The good news: whether you practice organic gardening, organic lawn care or opt for a lawn alternative, you’ll save time, money, and effort over those struggling to maintain a lawn in synthetic or un-eco-friendly ways.

There are many time-saving and money-saving ways to have a natural lawn.

At my house, we’ll be putting more emphasis on making our yard more environmentally friendly and on enjoying our yard space than on maintaining how it looks!

5 Gardening Mistakes that Could be Costly and How to Fix Them

Beautiful purple flowers

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There are several gardening mistakes that could be costly.

However, if you do your research and come up with a good plan, gardening is pretty straightforward.

Know that by neglecting even a single part of the initial garden planning research, you could end up wasting your money instead of ending up with the garden of your dreams.

Great pruning shears is a must to take care of your garden.

Gardening Mistakes that Could be Costly

Best LED Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Planting Plants in the Wrong Zone

Everyone lives in a specific garden zone.

Just about every plant and seed from a reputable company will include this information on their website or packaging, indicating where a plant grows best.

These USDA gardening zones are as good as gardening law.

Plants used in the gardens near condos for sale in CT will not be the same as those planted in your backyard in FL.

Plant for your zone and any perennials are virtually guaranteed to survive the freezing winter or the scorching heat of summer.

Related Content: Maximize The Space In Your Garden, what kind of landscaping you can do!

Choosing Plants that Are Illegal or Invasive

Some plants are illegal.

It varies from state to state, but even a few “attractive varieties” are considered “noxious weeds.”

Never plant these.

Though you may not be reported for doing so, they are not suitable for the local environment, and many times they make your garden and the surrounding area incredibly unpleasant for allergy sufferers.

Then there are invasive plants.

These spread more quickly than they can typically be controlled, like crabgrass.

They grow well, but your neighbors will not thank you.

You’ll also spend much more time cutting them back and weeding them from your flowerbeds and lawn than you may want to.

Once an invasive plant is established, however, they take time, effort, and money to get rid of.

Maximize The Space In Your Garden
Maximize The Space In Your Garden

Not Taking Care of Your Investment

Once you’ve planted all of your plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs, you need to have a plan in place to maintain them.

The first few weeks are critical to their establishment and long-term health.

In most cases, no matter what you do, you will lose a plant or two, especially if you’ve overhauled an entire garden.

Keep your records, plant tags, and receipts.

Most garden centers and plant nurseries know this fact and will replace your plant at no charge if it dies within a year.

For some, that pledge extends up to two years.

Root cellars can help store for year-round access.

Not Being Aware of the Pests in Your Area

If you’re wondering if a specific plant would work well in your area, ask your neighbors first.

Or look online or ring up a local master gardener or gardening society.

Some areas are more prone to specific types of pests, namely insects.

These will attack any plant of a particular kind on site, never giving it the chance to grow or establish.

If you would like to avoid taking those risks, and limiting your gardening mistakes, think twice before importing a plant not offered by a local nursery.

If you’re dead set on having something, gather information.

If things still don’t look right, see if any companion plants might ward off the pests.

Not Paying Attention to Sun Requirements

Never plant hostas or columbines in direct sun.

Don’t expect peppers to thrive in dark areas with damp soil.

On nearly every plant’s tag or given planting instructions, you will see sun requirements.

These can be somewhat flexible, most plants work reasonably well in “part sun” and “part shade” but for the few that say “full sun” or “shade” exclusively, follow that rule.

Best Pruning Shears For Roses & Orchids (With Hacks!)

Pruning sheers cutting stem

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Best Pruning Shears – Many gardening enthusiasts find that roses and orchids are some of the most difficult flowering plants to cultivate.

But when you’re armed with the correct gardening arsenal and top growing tips, you too can have a garden full of blooms.

When it comes to tending your precious roses and orchids, only the right tools will cut it.

To get the best growth and the most beautiful flowers, you need gardening tools you can trust.

Whether you’re investing in tools for your own garden, or looking to sell gardening tools on to gardening enthusiasts, you should buy the best quality you can afford.

One of the most important tools in your collection is a pair of quality pruning shears.

If you take pride in your garden and want to work those green fingers, keep reading to learn how to choose the best pruners for roses and orchids.

I shop for gardening pruning shears and other gardening tools primarily online at ToolBarn.com and Amazon.com

5 Tips for Pretty Roses

Find a Sunny Spot

Roses need lots of sunshine to grow well, so make sure they get at least 6 hours of sun a day.

Plant Them in Soil That Drains Well

Once you’ve put your rose bush in the soil, add organic material like manure, compost or tree bark to your displaced soil, before backfilling.

Water Them Liberally During Growth Season

The soil around your roses needs to be damp throughout the spring months.

They’ll need around an inch of water each week – feel the soil with your fingertips.

It needs to be damp, but not waterlogged.

Mulch Your Roses

Add 2-3 layers of organic matter like cedar mulch, chopped banana peels, grass or even wood chippings around your roses.

This’ll help keep the water in and deter weed growth.

Prune Your Rose Bush

Using pruning shears, carefully prune your roses to achieve the shape of bush you want, beautiful flowers and a healthy plant.

Your roses need to be pruned to promote growth and channel essential nutrients to the blooms.

How to Prune Roses

Your roses should be pruned while they’re still growing slowly – the cold weather before springtime is best.

With high-quality pruning shears, make diagonal cuts around 1/4 inch above a new bud.

You can shape your roses by placing the cut in the direction you want the new growth to form.

If you see any branches that look woody or dead, prune those out, too.

The more you prune, you’ll get larger roses and fewer of them.

Prune less, and the opposite will be true – smaller flowers but in greater abundance.

5 Tips for Exotic Orchids

Choose the Right Spot

Your orchid’s parents started life in the tropics, so only a warm environment will do.

Choose a spot that’s indoors, out of direct sunlight but still with a lot of sun exposure.

Control the Temperature

As in tip #1, your orchid will need a warmer environment to survive and thrive.

Make sure you maintain an indoor temperature of between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit to give them the warmth they need.

Allow Air Flow to the Roots

In their natural habitat, orchids are more likely to be found clinging to trees and other plants, rather than being planted in soil.

Mix a liberal amount of organic matter, like tree bark, into the soil around your orchid.

Don’t be shy.

This will allow air to get to the roots of the plant and promote healthy growth.

Give Them Monsoon Rains

Because of their tropical roots, orchids benefit from a shower of water, the way they would in the wild.

Saturate the soil around your orchid, and then leave it to dry.

This could take days.

Once the soil is beginning to dry out, repeat the process – your orchids will feel right at home.

Prune Your Orchids

For your orchid to bloom, you need to drive the essential nutrients from water and sunlight to the young buds of your plant.

To do that, pruning is essential.

It’ll remove any greedy old branches and ensure your flowers are getting the nourishment and energy they need.

How to Prune Orchids

When a new nodule forms on an orchid, that signifies a possible new branch that could sprout with several flowers.

The potential is locked inside the nodule, and you’ll need to prune it to release this potential.

On a green stem, look for a nodule beneath your lowest growing flower.

Now, with good quality pruning shears, trim 1 inch above it.

Brown or yellow stems are sucking nutrients from the plant, and you’ll need to trim these off at the base.

Related Content: Natural Lawn Care Tips and Hacks

Best Pruning Shears for Roses and Orchids

Aside from their perceived delicate constitutions, roses and orchids have something else in common.

Both of these flowering plants are best-pruned with bypass pruning shears.

Unlike other types of pruners, bypass pruners have a curved blade.

This curvature allows for closer and more precise cuts.

Bypass pruners also avoid the unpleasant issue that comes with flat-blade shears, which is potentially mashing up the stem when cutting.

Pruning shears are perfect for stems that are 3/4 inch thick, or less.

For more mature plants with thicker stems, you’ll need to use different tools, like loppers or a pruning saw.

Pruning shears will be ineffective at that stage.

Adapt According to Preference

When it comes to choosing your ideal shears, it isn’t a matter of ‘one size fits all’.

Rather, there is a range of options to choose from, according to your individual needs.

For example, if you’re left- rather than right-handed, there are shears with specially formed grips to fit comfortably in your hand.

For those with weak wrists, there are shears that rotate.

And if you have a weak grip, there are pruners with a ratcheting mechanism that do a lot of the work for you.

If you’re thinking of selling pruners to fellow gardeners via eBay auctions, you’ll want to showcase a variety of pruners that cater to the various needs of today’s gardener.

9 Best Pruners for Roses and Orchids

Without further ado, let’s get down to our recommendations.

Fiskars All Steel Bypass Pruners

These pruners from Fiskars are a good basic model for those on a budget.

They’re great for young plants and can cut to a diameter of 5/8 inch.

They have a low-friction coating to protect your orchids and roses during the pruning process, and a lifetime warranty for peace of mind.

Doolini Nature Professional Shears

These stunning professional pruners from Doolini have been made with the pro gardener in mind.

They have precision-sharpened blades and a cushioned comfort grip for prolonged use, so you can prune with heightened efficiency and care.

Pexio Premium Titanium Bypass Shears

These pruners from Pexio feature an ergonomic handle and grip and are both comfortable to hold, and powerful in execution.

These Pexio shears have an added sap groove feature, which channels sap away from the blades to avoid them gumming up.

Garden Elite Bypass Shears

These razor sharp shears from Garden Elite are not only elegant to behold, but they’re crafted from Japanese steel – the hardest steel on the market.

With this technology in place, these pruners are strong and sharp and have a lifetime warranty, too.

Gardena 8905 Vario Bypass Shears

These shears by Gardenia have a strong blade that can cut thicker than normal branches.

The blade has a non-slip coating, for both safety and precision.

They include stoppers so the stress on your wrist is reduced while pruning, and feature a sturdy reinforced fiberglass handle.

The Jaw Bypass Pruning Shears

With the Jaw’s high-carbon-coated steel blade, there are no more fears about your blade bending or snapping.

The shears have been designed to stay sharp for longer than standard pruners.

The grip is designed to be kinder on joints and minimize injury.

PrecisionPRO Titanium Pruners

These heavy-duty shears from PrecisionPRO have an inclined titanium-coated Japanese steel cutting blade for faster and quicker pruning.

The pruners have an ergonomic grip to suit larger and smaller hands, so are great for male and female gardeners alike.

Corona ClassicCUT Forged Bypass Pruner

The Corona ClassicCut pruners will cut through branches up to 1 inch in diameter – perfect for maturing bushes and plants.

With safety in mind, the manufacturer has also built in a notching tool when the pruner isn’t being used, to avoid accidents and injury to the user.

Garrett Wade Bypass Pruner

We’ll end with the most stylish pruner on our list – a stylish pair of shears from Garrett Wade.

The pruner is made from finely forged steel, and its powerful blades can prune and trim in an instant.

This set of shears comes with its own leather holster, too, for that dapper touch.

Best Garden Hose Nozzles

The Takeaway on Pruners for Roses and Orchids

Roses and orchids require care when it comes to pruning, and to do that you need the right set of pruners for the job.

Bypass pruners are the best shears for roses and orchids because of their capacity for precise and clean cuts, leading to healthy growth.

Are you looking to share your knowledge and sell the best pruning shears?

Then check out our FAQ section and see how we can help.

Recycle Christmas lights to Make a Heat Mat for Seed Starting

Heat Mat for Seed

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Now that we know how to build a grow rack, let’s see how to make inexpensive Heat Mat for Seed from Christmas lights!

How to Make a Heat Mat for Seed Starting

This is a “readers’ favorite” post our how-to site.

When you are learning to grow from seeds, often you might see reference to a heat mat for seedlings.

Heat mats can really help speed up germination for many seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers.

You can buy them, but here I will show you how to MAKE one.

How to Build a Grow Rack for Seed Starting

How to Build a Grow Rack for Seed Starting

Thinking of starting some seeds?

In this post, us how to build a simple grow rack and create an environment to raise healthy seedlings.

It’s perfect timing, since many of us are starting seeds this spring.

And it’s not too late to give your warm-season plants a head start!

At some point in your gardening career you either have or will come to a point where you want to learn how to grow from seeds.

Building a grow rack is a common first step because having a dedicated setup to grow your new plant starts will significantly help in the quality of your starts.

This is not a necessary step, but will go far to avoid leggy, weak seedlings.
Heat Mat for Seed
Now that we know how to build a grow rack, let’s see how to make inexpensive heat mats…from Christmas lights!

Other Uses for Recycle Christmas lights

Soon it will be the festive season again and that time of the year where everyone will put up their Christmas lights.

The ‘green’ among us cringe at the extra electricity that this modern day display of Christmas requires.

Putting up Christmas lights has become a part of the entire Christmas experience.

That is not going to change any time soon.

What we can do is to recycle Christmas lights for as many years as possible.
Recycle Christmas lights
There is some amount of breakage that will happen every time you put up and take down the Christmas lights but the large majority of them should be in a good enough condition to be reused next year again.

Surprisingly, this seemingly commonsense decision is not that common as you might believe.

Very seldom do people take the time to store the lights in a proper manner.

Instead, they end up just buying more lights next time Christmas comes around.

Green living is to reuse and recycle

One of the tenets of green living is to reuse and recycle whatever you can.

This includes your Christmas lights too.

There are now artificial Christmas trees available quite easily and while it may not inspire the same emotion in traditionalists.

It is time for common sense and responsibility towards your environment to win out over emotion.

Christmas has a deep impact on our culture and we should look at it as an opportunity to imbibe some good core values among the citizens.

Festive messages which encourage people to reuse and recycle Christmas lights, using faux Christmas trees and other such things will really have a lasting effect.

Most of the young children are trying to be ‘good’ during this time and maybe Santa will give them extra credit if they love their environment a little more too!

The Christmas tree decorations are something that have just taken off to another level over the last few years.

The lights and decorations have become very innovative and with the Facebook-culture of posting pictures of everything, the competition to outdo everyone else is intense.

Be sensible and use recycled Christmas decorations this year.

They are very pretty and will make you feel a little better about not polluting the environment.

You can also exchange Christmas decorations with your neighbors so you do not have to have the same Christmas decorations but still avoid wasting older decorations.

There are also a number of people who have much lesser than you on Christmas.

The spirit of Christmas is being lost in the excessive commercialization of the holiday.

We can get real meaning back into Christmas and make it more than just mall fights and traffic jams by trying to celebrate it in a responsible and aware manner.

Related Articles:

Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens How to

Hydroponics garden

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Series of posts on fall and winter vegetable gardens.

We included lots of info on planting, structures, great pruning shears review and winter garden care.

Many of you were inspired to keep your summer gardens going longer or to plant seeds just for fall and winter harvesting. 

Again this fall there has been a lot of interest in extended-season gardening.

Rural Living Today’s Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens

Part 1: Intro to Fall and Winter Gardening

Part 2: Protective Materials and Structures

Part 3: Getting Ready for Fall and Winter

Part 4: Frost Protection

Find all of our extended season gardening links on one page here.

Growing Fresh Vegetables in Fall and Winter

Many of us grow vegetables during the summer growing season.

But did you know that with a little extra TLC you can harvest fresh food throughout a chilly fall and winter?

Where do you live?

Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens
Fall and Winter Vegetable Gardens

In areas with moderate winters, many plants can be grown year round out in the open garden.

In fact, summer may be too hot for the cool-season greens and other veggies.

You may be able to put in a fall crop of heat-loving plants like tomatoes, okra, peppers, and squash for harvest in the mild days of winter.

On the flip side, where winters are cold and frosts are inevitable, fall signals the end of life for those warm-season plants.

But that doesn’t mean the fresh veggie season has to end!

With special care, we can extend the harvest of summer crops.

And what’s more, many greens and other veggies can be grown through the fall and winter, providing fresh produce even on the snowiest of days.

Four keys to success:

Selecting the right plants and varieties

Starting with mature plants

Planting in a sunny, accessible site

Protecting plants from the elements

Which plants to grow

For the most part, the focus is on leafy greens and root vegetables.

See our list of suggested plants below.

Within each plant group, some varieties thrive better than others in frigid temps.

Here are some general guidelines.

Many root crops may be left in the ground, mulched well, and harvested as need throughout the winter.

Hardy vegetables such as carrots, kale, leeks, and mâche may need nothing more than poly hoops.

Less hardy vegetables and herbs may require a cold frame to continue providing fresh greens for several weeks or months.

Perennial herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) may remain green longer in this environment, delaying dormancy.

Fruiting warm-season plants like beans, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes may continue to bear or ripen fruit in a heated greenhouse.

When selecting varieties, look for words such as “cold tolerant” and “cold hardy.”

The resources listed at the end of this post indicate some preferred varieties for fall and winter gardening.

When to start seeds

All plants should reach maturity before cold weather sets in.

Some will continue to grow in protective structures; others will be in a “holding pattern,” maintaining their freshness until harvest.

Seeds should be planted well before the average date of first frost.

In many Northern Hemisphere areas, ideal sowing dates fall between July and September.

When time is short, select varieties that mature quickly.

Some seeds may be sown outdoors during hot summer weather; others prefer to germinate at cooler temps and can be started under lights in a room that remains in the 70s F./low 20s C.

Ideal last sowing date for a specific vegetable:

If you don’t already know it, find the average date of first autumn frost in your area.

Note the number of “days to maturity” listed on the seed packet or catalog info.

Add an extra 10-14 days to account for fewer hours of daylight in late summer and fall (seed packet info is based on spring/summer planting).

On a calendar, start with the average date of first frost in your area and count backward to reach the optimal planting date.

Example: My packet of mesclun (mixed greens) seeds indicates the plants are ready to harvest in 28 days.

I add on 14 days because I’m planting them in the late summer.

Starting with our average first frost date of September 15, I count back 42 days and land at August 4, the ideal planting date.

I may plant a little later than that, knowing that the seedlings will be nearly mature when the first frost hits.

I can cover them with a protective material as that time approaches.

Where to plant

Accessibility is the first factor to consider, as winter veggies will do you no good if you can’t reach them!

Many people like to site their structures near the house or a path that is well-used even in winter.

Root crops buried under deep mulch can be placed anywhere, but plants growing above ground should be located where the sun will warm them on bright winter days.

A south-facing slope is ideal.

The sun’s rays will reach through clear and opaque row cover, polyethylene, plastic, and glass coverings.

Water should also be accessible nearby.

Though your plants won’t need much water during the winter, they’ll need to be nurtured as they mature in late summer and early fall.

How to protect plants

Several types of materials and structures provide protection from frigid air and frost.

Plastic or glass cloches (jars, jugs, bowls placed over individual plants for light frosts)

Mulch (straw, leaves, pine needles)

Row cover fabric (flat or hooped)

Plastic or polyethylene hoops (film placed over rigid hoops)

Cold frame (protective sides with clear glass or plastic lid)

Greenhouse (unheated or heated)

Using two or more materials together will increase the protection.

For instance, cover mulch with row cover fabric.

Place a poly hoop over row cover.

Put a cold frame or poly hoop inside a greenhouse.

vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons
vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons

Vegetables and herbs grown or harvested during fall and winter seasons

The vegetables and herbs in the following list can usually be grown or harvested during the fall and winter seasons.

Whenever possible, select a quick-maturing variety.

Also consider your growing structure and the height of each plant, selecting a more compact variety for a short cold frame.

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Bok Choi
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Chervil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Claytonia
  • Collards
  • Endive
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Kohlrabi
  • Leaf Lettuce/Mesclun
  • Mâche/corn salad
  • Mibuna
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Pak Choi
  • Parsley
  • Parsnip
  • Peas
  • Radicchio
  • Radishes (especially Diakon type)
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Scallions/Green onions
  • Spinach
  • Thyme
  • Turnips

Most of the plants listed above can be directly sown outdoors or started indoors.

However, some prefer a cool germination period.

If your daytime outdoor temperature is above 80 degrees F./ 26 degrees C.

What Garden Plants Need Lime and What Doesn’t

Start the following seedlings indoors

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Chives
  • Claytonia
  • Kale
  • Mâche/corn salad
  • Mibuna
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Radishes
  • Sage
  • Spinach
  • Thyme

Favorites of experienced winter gardeners

Niki Jabbour’s Top Ten*

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Mâche
  • Carrots
  • Leeks/scallions
  • Winter lettuce
  • Beets
  • Tatsoi
  • Asian greens

Home Garden Seed Association’s Top Ten**

  • Beets
  • Calendula
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Salad greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Helpful resources

**“Sow Seeds for Fall Garden” from National Garden Bureau at GRIT Magazine

Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter
Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter

“Cold Frame Gardening” at Kitchen Gardener Magazine

Protective Materials and Structures

In Part 1 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter, we talked about the basics.

Here’s more information on the main types of frost protectors and links to some sources to get you started.

Cloches – How Cloches work:

Protect individual plants from light frosts; raise temperature slightly

How to use Cloches:

Place over individual plants when frost is expected, remove when temps are above freezing.

Usually placed in the evening and removed in the morning.

Can also be used with early spring plant starts.

Sources of Cloches:

Clean glass jars and bowls; plastic jugs and bottles with bottoms removed; manufactured cloches

Mulches – How mulch works:

Insulate plants in ground from freezing temps; maintain moisture in soil

How to use mulch

Layer thickly on top of mature root and bulb crops.

Sources of Mulch

Compost, straw, deciduous leaves, evergreen needles

How row cover fabrics work:

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature slightly; protect from insect and bird damage.

Water and sunlight pass through them.

How to use row cover fabrics

Lay over plants (flat over small seedlings, loosely over tall plants); use over hoop frame.

Since they “breathe” they may be used day and night—no need to remove when temps are warm.

Poly low tunnels and hoops
Poly low tunnels and hoops

Can also be used during spring and summer seasons.

Poly low tunnels and hoops

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature; maintain humidity

How to use hoops and tunnels

Install hoop supports and secure poly film over hoops; use drip irrigation on soil or lift cover to water plants.

Leave ends open during cool weather, close ends during frigid weather.

Poly tunnels may be used day and night—no need to remove when temps are warm.

DIY Garden Covers

Extend Your Growing Season by Barbara Pleasant at Mother Earth News

Use Low Tunnels to Grow Veggies in Winter:

Quick Hoops by Eliot Coleman at Mother Earth News

How cold frames work:

Insulate plants and soil from frost; raise temperature; maintain humidity

How to use cold frames

Construct or purchase cold frame with solid sides and clear glass or plastic cover that can be propped open for temperature and humidity control.

DIY cold frames
DIY cold frames

DIY cold frames

Can easily be made with wood, straw bales, other materials and a window or shower door cover.

Make a Cold Frame for Herbs (great cold frame info for veggies too) by Barbara Pleasant at The Herb Companion

Cold Frame Plans (wood) by Betsy Matheson Symanietz at Mother Earth News

A Cold Frame to Build (straw bales) by Paul Gardener at GRIT

Cold Frame Gardening at KitchenGardenerMagazine 

How greenhouse high tunnels work:

Sun shines through clear glass, plastic or polycarbonate walls, creating a warm and humid environment for plants.

May be heated or unheated.

How to use greenhouse high tunnels

Start seedlings, harden off seedlings started in warmer room, extend production of warm-season plants, overwinter hardy plants.

DIY greenhouse high tunnels

Planning and Building a Greenhouse from Maryland and West Virginia Cooperative Extensions

Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening
Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening

The Benefits of Building a High Tunnel by George Devault at GRIT

Getting Ready for Fall and Winter Gardening

In Part 1 of this series we talked about the basics of growing veggies in cool fall and cold winter temps.

Part 2 was an overview of the materials and structures that protect plants from cold-weather damage.

Today we’re moving toward the planting stage with some more steps to take.

Prepare your soil before planting

If you’re using an existing garden bed for fall and winter plants, it’s a good idea to add some compost before planting.

The summer growing season saps nutrients from the soil and may affect the texture of the soil as well.

Compost will improve the texture and add some nutrients without overloading the soil with fertilizer or requiring decomposition.

When using fresh topsoil or planting mix in a new bed or cold frame, amend as you would for a spring or summer planting season.

This will vary according to the texture and nutrient content of the soil or mix.

If you’d like to test your soil first, use a home kit, local test lab, or a mail-in service such as University of Massachusetts Soil Lab (our favorite–fast and reasonably priced).

Wherever legumes (beans and peas) have grown the previous season, the soil is probably rich in nitrogen, as legume plants actually instill nitrogen in the soil.

Start seedlings indoors or outdoors
Start seedlings indoors or outdoors

This is a good location to plant leafy greens.

Start seedlings indoors or outdoors

While local stores may not carry seeds in late summer, mail order seed companies usually maintain their ordering and shipping processes throughout the year.

Some seeds are slow to germinate—or won’t sprout at all—when soil is hot.

If your late summer brings heat and scorching sun, it might be easier to start those seeds indoors in a room that’s cooler than the outdoor temps.

Greens and other seeds typically planted in spring fall into this category.

Warmth-loving seeds can be directly sown even in a hot July and August.

Short-season plants may be sown in September as long as the plants will be near maturity by the time cold weather sets in.

Plan protection strategy and get structures ready

In Part 2 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter we talked about several ways to protect plants from frost and cold.

Using two or more together creates opportunity for many combinations as the temperature changes.

Here’s one example of a strategy for plants to be grown through the winter.

Direct sow or transplant into garden bed during late summer.

Leave in garden with row covers during light frosts.

Add poly hoops for heavier frosts.

Move to cold frame or greenhouse to withstand frigid winter temps.

Late summer and early fall are great times to decide how to protect your plants and gather, purchase, or build whatever you need.

Then when a frost is in the forecast, you’ll be ready to cover those plants and keep them alive and happy through the coming months.

See Part 2 for more info and resources.

Mulch root crops

Before heavy frosts arrive, cover mature root crops like carrots and radishes with a thick layer of mulch such as straw, deciduous leaves, or compost.

A layer of row cover cloth over the mulch adds a few more degrees of protection and may prevent mulch from blowing away in the wind.

This is also a good way to winter over perennial herbs and vegetables that will sprout in spring.

In many areas fall is the best time to plant garlic cloves for harvest the following summer.

Garlic likes some time to establish roots and rest for a few months before a growth spurt in the spring.

Build a high tunnel or greenhouse
Build a high tunnel or greenhouse

Mulch as for root crops to protect the garlic bulbs from frost damage and disruption from soil heaving during freeze/thaw cycles.

Lay out row cover

Use row cover to protect plants from frost, birds, and insects.

The fabric allows air, water, and light to penetrate.

Row cover may be laid over or under drip irrigation tubes.

Leave fabric slack to allow for plant growth.

Secure at edges and between plants with staples, U-pins, or weights such as rocks or pieces of lumber.

Set up poly hoops

Hoops may be put over row cover for extra insulation.

Secure hoops and poly covers as needed to withstand wind.

Leave ends of poly covering free to be opened on sunny days.

Plan for accessibility for harvest by opening one or both sides of cover.

Clothes pins or heavy clips can be used to attach poly covering to hoops.

Build a high tunnel or greenhouse

Many style and material options are available.

An Internet search for “build high tunnel” or “greenhouse plans” will result in lots of different ideas and schematics.

If locating a structure away from garden, make sure water is easily accessed for watering plants until heavy frosts hit.

A high tunnel or greenhouse normally used in summer may need to be winterized with additional material, doors, or window coverings.

Inside a high tunnel or greenhouse, plants may be grown directly in the ground or in containers.

For extra insulation over plants or around containers, row cover, poly hoops, and cold frames may be used inside high tunnels and greenhouses.

Fall frosts are just around the corner
Fall frosts are just around the corner

In Part 4 of Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter, we’ll tell you about our own plans and planting processes for our fall and winter garden.

Fall frosts are just around the corner

In some, they have already made an appearance.

Time to get those vegetable plants tucked in for the winter!  

If you’re just joining our discussion of fall and winter veggies, you might want to start with Growing Fresh Veggies in Fall and Winter Part 1.

Take a few minutes to read Part 2 and Part 3 while you’re at it.

Once you’ve figured out how to protect your plants from the cold, get your system in place.

The next steps depend on your own plans, but here are some ideas.

Put mulch over root vegetables.

Several inches of straw or leaves works great.

A layer of row cover or other porous sheeting over the mulch will prevent the material from blowing away while allowing sun and rain to warm and water the soil.

Place row cover over garden plants for defense against light frosts.

Lay it directly over the plants and anchor edges with pins, stones, or pieces of lumber.

Or support the row cover with hoops or another type of framework.

Clothespins, metal binder clips, and other types of clamps will keep the material secure but allow you to open the sides to harvest veggies.

Erect hoops or low tunnels over planted beds and cover with plastic or polyethylene for protection from harder frosts.

Again, clips and clamps are helpful for open-and-close weather protection and harvest access.

Transplant existing plants and seedlings from your garden bed to a cold frame or greenhouse.

This includes herbs and veggies left from summer planting as well as new salad greens started for fall and winter use.

Row cover drapes and hooped plastic can also extend the season for some tender plants that aren’t quite finished producing or ripening by fall.

earliest spring plantings
earliest spring plantings

This includes melons and squashes as well as peppers and tomatoes.

Don’t forget to protect your garden from possums and other pest.

Remember these tips

You can quickly build an inexpensive cold frame with four bales of straw and a glass window.

Most plants should be mature by the time heavy frosts arrive.

However, the magic mâche (also known as corn salad) will grow in cold weather as long as it has germinated and gotten a good start in warm soil.

There’s still time to start mâche seeds indoors and transplant them to a cold frame later.

Here’s an idea of what we’re trying out at our farm this fall.

We’re using our main raised bed, which has four sections divided by cross supports.

In two sections, plastic-covered hoops will be put over mature herb plants and some fresh starts of salad greens.

A third section of the raised bed, planted with carrots and radishes, will be mulched with straw and topped with row cover.

The last section of the raised bed contains a fall crop of green peas.

They’ll be covered with hooped row cover and then plastic until the harvest is over.

Then we’ll turn under the pea vines and that area will go fallow for winter, waiting for our earliest spring plantings next year.

Some potted plants will be kept in our new small greenhouse.

It’s unheated but has electricity if we choose to use it.

We’ll keep an eye on things and see how things go this first year.

We want some fresh veggies growing near the kitchen door for easy access, so we’ll use an old storm window and straw bales for a simple cold frame.

We’ll plant a few types of salad greens and herbs there, easy to grab without trudging through the snow.

Grow Your Own: Winter Lettuce and Micro-greens; 11Herbs for Indoor Container Growing; Fall crop schedule and other tips

Using Winter Downtime to Plan for Spring and Summer

The calm before the storm, life on a farm has a rhythm that flows with the seasons.

It’s no surprise that summer is the busiest time of the year.

Demands for tending fields, crops, gardens, and livestock are at their highest in the summer.

Springtime is a transition into that season, and in the fall, those chores begin to wane.

That’s not to say that winter isn’t busy, though.

During the shorter, darker, colder days, livestock that overwinter still need tending.

There is time to plan and repair machinery, clean out barns and sheds, and inventory equipment and supplies.

Of course some of us have other winter employment or year-round jobs that continue like clockwork.

But while summer is the most physically demanding season for a farm family, winter may well be the most taxing on the brain.

In winter, the mail carrier begins to deliver new catalogs and flyers from companies selling seed, equipment, and livestock.

The long evenings allow us to wade through stacks of magazines and books in search of new information and techniques as well as answers to troubling questions.

Plan for Spring and Summer
Plan for Spring and Summer

A Time for Everything

One of my favorite Bible passages is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

I first began to contemplate its words as a young teenager when I found The Byrds’ rendition of “Turn, Turn, Turn” to be a very catchy song.

I just learned from Wikipedia that it was Pete Seeger who actually put the words to music.

So thanks to you too, Pete!

I can still sing a rendition of that song, and I still marvel at how they squeezed in all the syllables about refraining from embracing.

Since then I have read the verses in the Bible numerous times, always nodding my head at how relevant they are to many facets of my life.

But I think raising animals and plants is the most effective illustration of this concept in my life.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Using Winter Downtime to Plan for Spring and Summer

Yes, winter is, among other things, a time for planning.

Right now at our house we are deep in that planning phase.

We have the seed, poultry, and farm supply catalogs out.

Our favorite farming books are next to the recliner.

Our computers are humming as we search websites, read publications, and watch webinars.

We’ve attended a few seminars and workshops sponsored by our local extension office and agricultural center.

We are like sponges soaking up information, yet we also have to step away sometimes and clear our heads.

And for that, there’s nothing like a walk in the crisp cool air with beautiful vistas to enjoy.

For the past two years we have been developing our garden, orchard, and chicken systems.

This year we plan to expand on all of those and add pigs to the mix.

We need to consider our animals in the summer heat as well as in the cold.

We debate whether to start our beef cattle or wait one more year.

Where do we fit in the other infrastructure projects as we continue to develop our acreage?

In addition to what projects to work on, there are personal and ethical decisions to make.

What are our standards and preferences?

Will we focus on heritage livestock breeds and plants, or raise hybrids?

How can we avoid GMO (genetically modified organisms) in our seeds and livestock feeds?

Given our property and resources, what is the best way for us to raise various livestock species and plants?

Yes, it’s a busy time, but we know it’s kind of the calm before the storm.

We won’t be totally ready for it; we never seem to be.

But one thing is for certain:

We’re up for the challenge. Are you?

The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days A Year No Matter Where You Live

Fresh salads from the garden in December?

Even in our four-season climate, where snow often covers the frozen soil all winter long?

Yes—it’s true—we can have our lettuce and eat it too!

We have never tried growing veggies all year round—but we are going to give it a go!

During the next two months we’ll be featuring some blog posts about fall and winter vegetable gardening.

To introduce the topic, here’s a review of an awesome book that we were glad to discover.

Author Niki Jabbour is a seasoned (no pun intended) gardener who not only raises food for her family but also loves to encourage others to do so.

She has written articles for numerous gardening magazines and currently hosts a radio show called “The Weekend Gardener.”

Click here to purchase your own copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener By Niki JabbourThe Year-Round Vegetable Gardener<

As its title implies, this book is about gardening year-round, not just fall and winter gardening.

There is some great general info on gardening basics, including garden design, soil building, and succession planting.

Profiles of 43 different vegetables and 10 herbs

Provide growing and harvesting guidelines as well as Niki’s Picks—lists of the author’s favorite tried and true varieties.

A planting calendar for each plant indicates when to start seedlings indoors and sow directly outdoors, including multiple sowing times for successive and year-round crops.

Did you think your area had just one growing season?

“Stretching the Seasons” introduces us to the three growing seasons

Cool (spring and autumn), warm (summer) and cold (winter).

The author shares the keys to nonstop crops, among them soil amendments, cover crops, succession sowing, and interplanting.

We learn how changing day lengths and frost dates affect the growing seasons throughout the year.

In “Designing Productive Gardens,” the author explains how to select a site and plan out a garden that will span the seasons.

Both perpetual patches and crop rotations are discussed.

Several year-round garden designs are described and delightfully sketched (kudos to illustrator Elara Tanguy).

Throughout the book are sidebars and highlight pages featuring interesting gardeners and growing techniques.

Colorful photos, diagrams, and charts provide bright illustrations of the information and techniques featured in the text.

This book does double duty as a gardener’s reference manual and a coffee table book for dreaming and feasting with the eyes.

As you may have gathered, we were especially intrigued by the concept of raising fresh vegetables even under a blanket of snow.

The book’s cover indicates right off that this is a possibility.

The author is photographed bundled in a parka, kneeling in the snow at her cold frames with a harvest of very fresh goodness for her kitchen.

Niki Jabbour lives in Nova Scotia, so she knows true winters.

And she raises fresh vegetables all year long, so she knows it can be done.

What’s more, she guides us through the process so we too can eat garden salads in the midst of winter.

A chapter titled “Growing into Winter” suggests numerous micro-environments for growing fresh vegetables in fall and winter.

Mulches, row covers, hoops, cloches and hot caps will extend the harvest of summer crops into fall or winter.

Cold frames, heated greenhouses, and poly tunnels can protect plants even in the middle of winter, sometimes yielding fresh vegetables all the way into spring.

A combination of two or more of these will provide even more insulation from the frigid temps of winter.

Wondering what all those materials and structures are?

Just peruse the pages of this book and you’ll see descriptions, options, and construction details.

All accompanied by those wonderful photos and sketches.

Our detailed research for fall and winter gardening included some time spent in Part 2, “Growing the Right Crops.”

That’s where all those wonderful plant profiles are found.

A snowflake symbol indicates which veggies and herbs are good candidates for winter gardening.

Growing descriptions also detail those summer crops that can be extended into fall.

Our conclusion: The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener delivers what its title suggests, guiding the reader through a full year of growing, harvesting, and enjoying fresh veggies.

No Matter Where You Live, you’ll learn How to Grow Your Own Food 365 Days a Year.

A warning from author Niki:

“In this book, I’ll walk you through the process of creating a year-round vegetable garden.

But it’s only fair to warn you that the ability to harvest fresh, organic vegetables year-round from your own garden is potentially addictive.

It’s extremely satisfying, though, and easier than you might think. Interested?”

We sure are!

And we’re feeling ready to jump in.

How about you?

Click here to purchase your own copy of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener

Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs By Tammi Hartung

For many years we’ve grown veggies with only a few herb plants scattered in the garden.

Last year we made a point of planting several of our favorite herbs.

We really enjoyed having our own fresh and dried herbs available for cooking for much of the year.

So from now on, we’ll be planting more varieties and larger quantities of flavorful and fragrant herbs to enjoy fresh, frozen, dehydrated, and canned with other foods.

We discovered a treasure chest of information, not only on growing herbs but also about using them in the home and kitchen.

Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs

First off we noticed that the book is not just about herbs.

With its general gardening info, Homegrown Herbs could actually serve as a basic gardening handbook.

Concepts and techniques such as plant selection, soil amendment, propagation, and control of pests and diseases are covered.

Specific culture of plenty of herbs is included.

All one would need is additional details on vegetables, flowers, and fruit.

Garden design suggestions are illustrated by sketches of herb gardens from a formal knot to a chef’s retreat to an apothecary garden.

Ideas for herb theme collections include culinary, children’s, tea, medicinal, and wildlife gardens.

Get the most Flavor from Your Garden with Herb and Spices to Plant with Vegetables.

But speaking of herbs…

We found lots of details about culture, harvest, seed saving, and processing of herbs.

Kitchen and household use includes some luscious-looking recipes for meals, snacks and beverages using both cultivated and wild herbs.

But that’s not all—there are recipes for pest control preparations, health and personal care products, and herbal vinegars.

A wonderful “personality” section covering the characteristics and need of 100 individual herbs goes beyond the basic parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Though the most common herbs are included, also featured are some herbs we’d never even heard of before.

Costmary, skullcap, and yerba mansa are all new to us!

Also included are some plants we’d never considered to be herbs: ginger, hops, and sunflowers for instance. Who knew?

For the experienced and the new gardener

Though we’ve been gardening for years, we learned some new concepts from the basic info in Homegrown Herbs.

What’s more, as relative newcomers to the joys of wild and garden herbs, we feel this guide is all we need in order to select, grow, and use all the herbs we enjoy and many we’ve never tried before.

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards to Supply Food

Fresh Garden Cherries

Last Updated on

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards – We’ve been talking about various steps along the path to sustainability.

That is, practices that will carry us over from year to year, even if our outside resources fail us.

Like sustainable production of livestock, ongoing success growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs depends on a few specific factors.

We can keep gardens and orchards going year after year without outside resources by establishing perennial plants, saving seeds for annuals, providing us a wellness sanctuary and providing an ongoing supply of good soil amendments.

On our farm we’ve started using all of these methods and we’re learning more and more about them each year.

We’re still buying trees, plants, and seeds, but we feel that we have a good start on being sustainable with our gardens and orchard.

Path to Sustainability is Gardens and Orchards

Most orchard trees and bushes are perennials — plants that live for years without reseeding or replanting.

There are also a number of perennial garden vegetable plants that will keep on producing for many years.

Some require nothing more than mulching, while others depend on pruning for healthy growth year after year.

Fruit and nut trees

Can be planted as saplings of varying sizes.

The larger the sapling, the faster the tree will become established and the sooner it will bear a substantial amount of fruit.

There are some tricks to planting fruit trees, including attention to planting season, protection from animal browse, and watering.

Pruning from year to year is also important.

Berry bushes and grape vines

Are perennial, and usually produce sooner after planting than fruit and nut trees.

Most bramble bushes and grape vines grow best with support, ample water during establishment, and some pruning.

An excellent source of information on growing fruits, nuts, berries, and grapes is The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill.

Also see Planting and Caring for Fruit Trees at Sunset Magazine and Growing Berries in Your Backyard at Mother Earth News.

Garden perennials

Including asparagus, rhubarb, lovage, and Jerusalem artichokes will also produce for many years.

A number of herbs including sage and rosemary are perennials in some or all climates.

Most perennial vegetables and herbs are planted once and just maintained, while others such as asparagus need some special attention for the first few years.

Some perennial vegetables with spreading root systems–like rhubarb–can be propagated by root division, while other plants including some perennial herbs adapt well to rooting of stem cuttings.

This way you can increase the number of plants for yourself or to share, and replace weak plants with more vigorous young plants.

Generally, plants that yield in spring and summer are best divided in fall so the root systems will be well established by spring.

Allium (garlic, chives) heads may be divided in fall; each planted clove has the potential to grow a new plant the following summer.

A super introduction is a Perennial Vegetables: Grow More Food With Less Work at Mother Earth News.

Author Eric Toensmeier has included 100 perennial vegetables in his book Perennial Vegetables.

Tools of the trade

Part of preparing for sustainable food production is amassing all the tools and equipment you might need.

This can range from small hand garden tools (great pruning shears review) to larger pieces of equipment to tractors and other vehicles, fuel to operate them, and the means to repair them.

One way to get a good idea of what you’ll need is to take notes for an entire year:

what you use, how you use it, how to keep it in good repair.

Then gradually add to your collection of tools and equipment.

Building a Raised Garden Bed Cheaply

Saving seeds for annuals

Most vegetables must be planted each year, and that requires viable seeds.

Today, vegetable seeds may be purchased in many local retail establishments from grocery stores to big box stores to garden shops and nurseries.

There are also many online sources of garden seeds.

One day, it may not be so easy to find seeds.

And frankly, many of us would like to cut the cost of seeds now anyway.

Saving seeds from garden production is fairly simple and yields good results with a supply of seeds for the following year…at no cost!

There are a few tricks to saving seeds, and some basic understanding of plant varieties is helpful.

First of all, there are several ways to collect seeds, depending on the type of plant.

Secondly, common hybrid plants yield seeds that are not reliable for consistent reproduction, so it’s important to save seeds from heirloom plants.

Collecting seeds

Can be as simple as pulling seeds off a mature plant or a bit more complicated, like removing seeds from a pepper or bean pod.

Some seeds are ready for saving right off the plant, while others, such as tomato seeds, must be soaked or otherwise treated.

Learn more at Saving Seed from the Garden and Seed Saving Tips.

Hybrid vs. heirloom

Do you know the difference? Hybrid plants are developed for increased stamina, production, or eye appeal.

However, their seeds do not produce consistently, and a gardener could end up with weak or fruitless plants, odd produce, and other unexpected results.

Heirloom plants reproduce plants and fruits like the parent plant; in other words, you know what you’ll get at harvest time.

Open pollinated?

Books and online resources have caused confusion over the definition of the term “open pollination.”

Some sources consider heirloom seeds equivalent to open pollinated seeds.

Others define open pollination as natural pollination by insects, wind, etc. as opposed to self-pollination of plants.

In any case, if you plan to save seeds, it’s important to avoid cross-pollination of heirloom plants by planting different varieties far enough apart.

Seeds can be collected from regular garden rows or patches or from a specified seed saving bed

Designating an area just for saving seeds may make it easier to reserve seeds from each plant and also allow for full maturity of those plants that go to seed late in the season.

Just plant one or two of each vegetable in the seed saving bed and make sure no one harvests the produce for the kitchen.

Another type of “seed”

Is actually the fruit of a plant.

You can save small potatoes to plant next year and garlic cloves to plant in the fall.

Store in a cool, dry location.

Sprouting during storage does not necessarily render them useless; sprouting potatoes and garlic can still be planted.

Storing seeds

Properly is also important.

Seeds should be stored in dry containers in a cool, dry location.

Too much moisture, heat or freezing can damage or kill some seeds.

A warm, moist environment can invite premature germination during the fall or winter, and the sprouts will die before planting time.

That means less seed for the gardening season.

Read more about seed saving at Seed Savers and at Mother Earth News.

Starting seeds

Can be as simple as pressing beans into the soil and waiting.

Or a little more time-consuming, like planting tomato seeds indoors and nurturing small seedlings till they’re ready to go out to the garden.

Just for fun, to save money, or to provide for yourself when you can’t find seedlings to buy, you can be prepared to raise your own seedlings with an assortment of seed starting containers, heat mats, lights, grow racks, and perhaps even a cold frame or greenhouse.

Providing soil amendments

We have three words to say about this: compost, compost, compost!

One of the basic ways to create a rich soil amendment is to compost waste products from the kitchen and yard.

Added to the garden from year to year, compost will improve the texture of your garden soil while contributing food for your plants.

Large quantities of compost can be spread over the entire garden bed; if your supply is smaller, compost can be added directly to planting holes.

Compost tea is simple to make and a great way to spot-feed individual plants.

We encourage everyone to learn how to compost and use as much of their household, garden, backyard, and barnyard waste as they can.

While simply piling materials will yield some sort of compost, it’s far better to mix materials for a balance of carbon and nitrogen inputs.

This is a science, but it can be simplified.

Canine, feline, and human feces and urine should not be used in a compost pile intended for food production use.

Aside from compost, there are other efficient ways to provide nutrients to your garden and orchard.

If your soil is lacking specific nutrients

There are ways to add them, too.

A simple soil analysis will tell you about the composition of your soil.

Then you can supplement your compost with specific materials such as egg shells for calcium or banana peels for potassium.

Find some ideas at Ten Natural Fertilizer Recipes from Home Grown Fun.

Livestock manure

Valuable additive to the garden.

If you have access to large amounts of livestock manure from your own place or a neighbor, this can add bulk and nutrients to the compost you create from your own home and yard waste.

Another form, DIY manure tea, is valuable for individual plant feeding.

Green manures

Can also be planted to improve garden soil during fallow months.

While often used in large agricultural fields, green manure crops are also very effective in small home garden plots.

Ask your local extension or agriculture agent about the preferred green manure plants for your area.


With deciduous leaves, evergreen needles, straw, and other materials helps plants and trees throughout the year.

Mulches help retain moisture and proper temperature while adding nutrients to the soil as they decompose.

Be aware that some materials such as evergreen needles may contribute too much acid or other element for certain plants.

And don’t forget that most vegetable garden plants and orchard trees need water

If you’re in a climate with dry phases and are on a public water system or rely on electricity to run a well pump, consider a rain catchment system or another source of water for your garden and orchard.

Food for other senses

Vegetable gardens and orchards provide a feast for the taste buds.

But don’t forget about enjoyment for the eyes and noses as well!

All of the concepts mentioned above are also effective with flower gardens and landscaped areas.

In closing, just a warning: Raising your own food can become addictive!

Enjoy the path to sustainable food production!

Please add your ideas for garden and orchard sustainability in the comments section.

Obviously some critter that shall remain nameless has pulled up the base of the bin, causing an orange to roll down from the top of the pile.

The problem of Building a Compost Pile

We’ve had a compost problem…but we’ve found a compost solution.

Our compost pile was started two years ago in a location that has now become the middle of a through-way in our garden area.

Our two wonderful dogs, our chickens, and the local magpies can’t seem to resist the buffet.

You’ll see why we want a better setup when you look at this picture of our scrappy patchy system that temporarily protects the pile from dogs that dig at ground level and birds that land right on the pile.

The solution Building a Compost Pile

We decided to move the compost pile, fence it in with wood pallets, and cover it with a screened lid.

Compost For Sale

Just when we were getting our plans in gear, we started reading about Compost-Along.

We decided to join the party, exchange experiences with other composters, and learn some new composting tips along the way.

One of the culprits caught in the act, trying to figure out how to get in that bin.

Our existing compost system

A few years ago I attended a local compost fair and received two of the cool rigid plastic compost bins seen in the photos above.

They’re tall, adjustable, and well-ventilated.

Normally they even stand up straight.

I have composted in these bins for two years now.

We put in all our kitchen and garden food waste that the chickens don’t get, including coffee grounds/filters, paper scraps, onions, citrus, and raw potato peelings.

Once in a while we rake up stalks, rinds, and other leftovers from the chicken pen.

We’ve added garden weeds that have not gone to seed, as well as various leaves and other vegetation we have.

We planted red worms in the pile to speed up decomposition.

Earthworms can also enter the pile from the dirt floor.

We avoid putting meat or animal manure in this pile, as we want it to create compost safe for all our food crops.

We’ve never been sure how hot our pile gets and how many microorganisms might remain in the compost.

So we either put the chicken coop litter directly on the garden in the fall or compost it in a different pile.

Building a Compost Pile
We pulled this straw off the garlic this spring, so it can be composted now.

Composting along

Our Compost-Along project will be our kitchen/garden scrap compost pile.

We got busy planting our garden and thoughts of composting were set aside for a time…so today we’ll cover weeks 1 and 2.

Decide on a type of compost bin.

Decide how to get compost ingredients.

For extra credit, get a bin and start collecting compost materials.

We’ll use our plastic bins enclosed by wood pallets, with potential to have two piles going at the same time.

We’ll continue to use our kitchen and garden scraps, and will collect more ingredients like leaves, sawdust, wood ashes, straw, and grass clippings around the farm.

We also got some new ideas from the LHITS compost ingredients list: dryer lint and dog hair!

At times we have an abundance of both around here.

Extra credit: We already have the bin and some materials to compost.

This wood ash will be great in the compost pile.

Week 2 Composting

Get or make a bin.

Collect compost materials.

For extra credit, gather up some natural compost activators, like alfalfa meal, blood or bone meal, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, comfrey, stale dog food, seaweed, and urine.

Composting results

We have an empty bin, though we haven’t yet made the wood pallet frame.

We have a few buckets containing kitchen scraps, yard clippings, wood ashes, dryer lint, and dog hair.

Ready to roll when we hear “Ready, Set, Go!”

I learned something new this week too: I didn’t know about all those compost activators!

I’ll plant some comfrey this year and collect any dog food that might go stale.

Extra credit: We have fish emulsion, which we use as a garden fertilizer.

Should we just pour some in the compost pile?

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Creating and Building Root Cellars for Year-Round Storage

Creating and Building Root Cellars

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Creating and Building Root Cellars – We have done some research though, and to answer your questions, we’ll share what we’ve learned.

In some climates, root vegetables can winter in place in the garden, well-mulched before the first freeze.

If frozen ground prevents harvest, the vegetables will usually be edible in the spring as long as they haven’t been devoured or damaged by rodents.

But for storage of other produce, root cellars can be a vital part of a family’s food preservation system.

Creating and Building Root Cellars

Root cellars are basically locations with fairly stable temperature and humidity where fruits, vegetables, and other foods can be stored for several months.

While root vegetables—like carrots, turnips, and parsnips—are among the best keepers, many other types of produce can be stored in root cellars for anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

As long as they are prevented from freezing, jars of home canned goods will also keep well in a root cellar.

On almost every property there’s a place where a root cellar could be established.

The key is to find a spot that will not freeze or become too hot, is neither bone dry nor wet, and gets some ventilation.

Some locations provide suitable conditions for all produce to keep well.

Others are good for some but not for others.

Root vegetables and tubers like it cold and damp.

Cool and dry is ideal for garlic and onions.

Pumpkins and squash need a dry spot that’s not too cold.

Many people store various items in more than one place.

Others store everything in a “happy medium” location.

Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips and onions
Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, and parsnips and onions

With a large root cellar it is possible to find or create a different atmosphere in each corner.

Building a Raised Garden Bed Cheaply

Root vegetables and tubers like potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and onions

Cave dug into a hill or bank

Hole dug in the ground outdoors or in basement or garage

Corner of cool basement, framed in or not

Crawlspace under house

Unheated room or closet

Enclosed porch

Insulated shed or barn

Plastic storage bin, trash can, or barrel buried in the ground

Old refrigerator or freezer buried in the ground or surrounded by straw bales

Stacked hay or straw bales forming sides and top of a box shape

The root cellar walls, floor, and ceiling can be made of almost any material.

Finished interiors are nice, but dirt, concrete, bricks, blocks, stone, and straw bales will do the job.

Sand can be used for flooring.

Some containers, such as refrigerators and barrels, are completely lined.

Little equipment is required in a root cellar, but here are a few helpful items:

Temperature/humidity gauge for monitoring environment

Baskets, boxes, or crates for storage

Wood pallets for raised flooring

Pipes or tubes for ventilation

Wall or overhead racks and hooks for hanging mesh bags of produce, garlic and onion braids

Sand and straw for insulating in and around containers and separating layers of produce

Lights and fans, if electricity is available

root cellar apples
root cellar apples

So now take a walk around your home, barn, and property.

Think about creative ways to find existing root cellar options or locations for construction or burying.

Be on the lookout for large containers that might be suitable for burying or embedding.

The possibilities are endless.

We’ve even seen photos of an old bus partly buried in a hillside, with the front door exposed for easy access.

Now that’s creative repurposing!

As we’re planning our own root cellar, we’ve gotten a lot of our info and ideas from a book called Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel.

Another helpful guide is the booklet Build Your Own Underground Root Cellar by Phyllis Hobson.

We have not read The Complete Root Cellar Book: Building Plans, Uses and 100 Recipes but it looks good and has favorable reviews on Amazon.

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