Travel Scenery as How-To Garden Instructions

When you travel, or are just out and about, pay attention to other people’s stuff.  Sounds kind of nosy doesn’t it?  Not so.  If it’s out in plain view, then you should be looking at it.  By looking at what other people are doing, you gain precious information about what you are doing right, or wrong.  Maybe you gain an idea about how to create something similar for your own home.  Or maybe you find a new way to use something that otherwise would be tossed out.  This is especially true for a garden.  Knowledge gained for free is free prepping.

Shutter box planter box for annual vegetable garden.For example, while traveling this week, we noticed this unique garden box.  Clearly it was not a flower garden.  We had to know more about it, but since we didn’t live in the community we didn’t’ know how well received we would be if we knocked on the door.  As luck would have it, the owner of the flower box just happened to stop by our host’s home to borrow a screw driver.

AHA!  The perfect opportunity to ask about the garden box.  As it turned out, Rachael was in the process of moving and had taken the rest of her garden to her new home.  She couldn’t take the box.

Rachael and Jerry used old window shutters that were going to be discarded to form the sides of the box.  They filled it with 100 fifty pound bags of compost dirt they got from the county landfill.  The first year they planted flowers, and every year after that they planted vegetable seeds staged for various harvest times.

Rachael was careful to plant according to space and time to harvest so that some plants would be harvesting while others were still growing.  This is important because they live in zone 6a as defined by the USDA plant hardiness map.  She harvested fast growing vegetables like peas, green  beans, and radishes while the slow growing vegetables like acorn squash, eggplant, and cucumbers were taking their time.  She did all of this in the same planting box at the same time.  As each vegetable was ready to harvest, they enjoyed them fresh and canned or froze the remaining produce.

Because they enjoyed the produce so much, Rachael and Jerry took their gardening another step further.  They decided You can grow almost anything in a bucket container garden using five gallon buckets and old wooden barrels.  In those containers they have several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, yellow corn and multi-color corn,  green and yellow watermelon varieties.

In the end, their garden is successful and has brought them happiness to see their labor return their favorite foods to eat for several years and will for many years to come.  To see more images of Rachael and Jerry’s garden go to the gallery.

Food Production Planning – Not Your Grandmother’s Garden

A bountiful garden can provide produce to last all winter.If you are like most of us, you have a day job.  For some people that makes gardening and livestock chores just a little more like work than fun.  After all, the number of days you have are limited and other demands such as family and friends consume your time, too.  Never mind about the unplanned or unexpected events that soak up that last free minute.

For these reasons, and even if you don’t have a job outside the home or farm, the most successful people plan their meat and produce production.  While the process is simple it’s also complicated.  Canning a year’s supply of tomatoes while you hear the noisy chickens in the backyard that need processed could add a little more stress than you need.

The most important things you need for planning your food supply are a good memory, a pencil with a good eraser and a calendar with large spaces for writing.

Keep your calendars from year to year, making notes on the results and what you do differently each year.  Did you run out of your favorite veggies last year? Was the bean yield worth the cost of production?  Did you end up giving away more produce than you wanted?  Could you have sold them instead of giving them all away?  How about chickens?  Did you have more or less than you wanted?  Could you have given to charity or needy people instead of employed people?

Once you have written down how much of each produce you will need, calculate the anticipated yield for each product and plant accordingly.  If you live in a climate that doesn’t allow you to stagger your planting, you might need to do it the old fashioned way and share your bounty with trusted friends who are willing to can for you in their kitchens.

While harvesting, keep track of how much you harvest daily.  When you grocery shop, check and record the grocery store price of the produce or meat. If the produce is not available locally, look up online ads for big chain grocery stores to help price those things.  It might seem like a chore, but do it anyway.

Pricing information is important for a few reasons.  First, it allows you to see the fruits of your labor in terms of dollars and cents.  That is important because you need to know that your efforts pay off.  Second, if you decide to sell your products, you will know how to set your prices.  Be sure to set prices higher than grocery stores because your products are a higher quality product.  Third, you will know the value of losses should a disaster destroy your crops.  This is most important if you register your farm stand business for tax purposes and buy insurance for this purpose.

Is this beginning to sound like a business?  Yep.  You bet it is.  Why?  Because if you look at it from a business perspective, even just a few times a year, you will quickly figure out what you need to change to get the most out of your livestock and garden with the least time and money investment.  People think you need many acres of land to grow produce to sell on the market.  It’s not true.  Both chain and independent grocery stores purchase produce from local growers.  It’s a win-win for them.  They get good will, freshest and highest quality produce and you get money and appreciation for your crops.

In my region, we only have two grocery stores to choose from in a 40 mile radius.  One of them, H.E.B., also has a woman-owned business policy to encourage women to become entrepreneurs.

While most of us know we don’t garden or raise livestock for business purposes, we also know we need to be as efficient with our resources as possible.  It would be nice to know if we could make a living doing what we love.  By running your garden plot and barnyard as a small business, registering it as a D.B.A., and getting a tax number, you can also take advantage of buying some items wholesale which will drive down your costs and increase profit.  Everything from seed to livestock feed may become less expensive. Business expenses are deductible too.  Sure, there are some extra pieces of paper to file here and there, but the benefits could far outweigh the effort.

To make it easier to plan your garden both Johnny Seeds and Veseys provide assistance.


Sourcing and Saving Seeds for Your Prepper Garden; Protecting Against Infestation

It’s the last thing a gardener wants to see.  Some foreign body growing in there with your tomatoes or other garden plants.  Unfortunately, there is always a chance of local life forms finding its way into your garden.  It blows in with the wind or washes in with the rain.   There isn’t anything you can do to prevent it from getting in there.  But what if only a certain plant variety has mushrooms growing right up next to it?

While every care is given to make sure seeds you purchase are free of spores, bacteria, molds and such, it can happen.  For instance, this picture shows only  beefsteak tomato plants suddenly sprouting mushrooms.  Since the person is container gardening, and since all the soil was purchased in bags and produced by a reputable producer, it is fair to assume that the contamination came from the seeds.  Or is it?

Upon examination of the remaining seeds, likely the unskilled eye could not tell if they were contaminated.  There in lies the crux of the problem.  As seed buyers, we rely on the seller to guarantee seeds are free of all manner of disease and infestations.  This problem was the beginning of commercial seed companies research into how to prevent these issues.

There are regulations requiring testing of seed lots for contamination, but even if there weren’t, producers would probably test seed lots because their reputation is their business.  Testing a  seed lot does not guarantee seeds are free of contamination, but it is helpful. If seeds test positive for infestations, the entire lot is usually destroyed and an investigation as to where the contaminated seeds were produced.  Which leads to the grower taking the necessary action to eradicate the contamination from the soil.

Not all seeds are sold by large producers.  There are many other seed suppliers who offer seed catalogs online and by mail.  Considering the amount of work that goes into producing seeds to harvest, and that they rely on return customers for their livelihood, it is doubtful sellers would knowingly sell bad seeds.  Good intentions do not always lead to good results.  Therefore it is important to pay attention when purchasing or ordering seeds.

Choosing organic seeds over “regular” commercial seeds.  The only “organic” seeds planted this year were the beefsteak tomato seeds.  They came from a national reputable grower whose seeds are sold in places like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.  Since this is a large company, it seems likely they tested the seed lots before packaging.  None-the-less, we still have a contamination problem.

Purchasing seeds from a seed saver can be a way to get rare seeds.  It can also be a way of importing any number of diseases and infestations.  If you decide to take this risk take precautions with the seeds before and when you use them. Inspect the seeds carefully under a bright light.  Compare them to commercially produced seed.  There shouldn’t be a visible difference.  Improper seed saving is evidenced by left over plant residue attached to them.  They should not be discolored or misshapen.  If you find any of these issues, ask for a refund.  Or, if you decide to plant them anyway, choose a location far away from the rest of the garden to minimize the chance of contaminating your whole garden.  (Remember contaminants can be carried a long way by insects and wind.)

When saving seeds from year to year, it is important to be sure you follow rigid standards and processes to insure the quality of your seeds.  Make certain to remove all plant particles from the seeds and dry them according to best practices for that seed variety.  Store them carefully.  Seeds, as with everything else, can become contaminated while sitting on the picnic table uncovered.

In the event your garden is contaminated, depending on the type of contamination, you may be able to finish the growing season and harvest crops. It might be a bit more work.  If you do this, it could be best not to save your seeds for that harvest.  Instead rely on reserved seeds for the next season.

Fixing a contaminated garden can be accomplished by composting which allows the temperature to rise above 110 degrees.  That should kill off anything you don’t want.  This will likely mean you will lose whatever plant is in the section of garden since it is already contaminated.  

This particular infestation is a mushroom found in the potting soil purchased by the gardener.  The choice of seeds was not the culprit.  The potting soil was produced by a national company that promises bigger plants guaranteed.  The mushrooms are not harmful to the tomato plants, but could interfere with plant growth if they get too big.

Saving Seeds may also preserve infestations.

If an entire garden plot needs treatment, perhaps the black plastic method will work for you.  In this method you cover the entire area with heavy black plastic and weight it down.  During the summer the heat intensifies and kills everything under the plastic from heat and lack of light.  After removing the plastic, check for infestations and molds.  Prepare the garden with treatments of mulch, fertilizer and so on as you would a new garden.  This method is popular in arid and semi-arid climates and may not work for everyone in some climate zones.

Prevention is easier than fixing.  Don’t use new mulch in the garden.  Inspect compost before putting it on the garden for mold or other unwanted things.  Only apply about two inches of compost to the top of your garden.  Hopefully these methods will work for you.

Happy Prepping!

Greenhouse or Garden Plot?

Most gardeners have a plot of land, small or large, to raise garden vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  Depending on where you live, you may wish to have a greenhouse to lengthen your growing season.  Both types of gardening have advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s talk about the advantages of the time honored plot of ground.  In a perfect world, this is the best way to grow produce.  Rain sprinkles down at just the right time, the sun shines 13.7 hours a day on average, and the dirt provides all the nutrients plants need to grow strong and healthy.

Except, drought is expected every few years, or sometimes several years in a row.  Local wild life eat your produce before you can pick it.  Weeds are constantly encroaching on your plants.  That is if the bugs, molds and diseases don’t kill them off first.  Just to throw in a little excitement, moles and gophers uproot your garden, causing your plants to die.

A properly set up greenhouse can provide a growing environment, the right amount of sunlight, moisture, and the weeds don’t get in so easily.  The downside of greenhouses mostly depend on latitude.  They need heat in the winter and appropriate ventilation in the summer.  In the subtropic latitudes over heating the greenhouse must be guarded against.

If you live in a region that gets snow, you will need a more expensive greenhouse that can tolerate the added weight.  In the southern regions you will have to install cooling systems to protect your fragile plants.

Placing garden cloth and mulch on the floor of your greenhouse keeps out weeds and stuff just like it does in the garden plot.

Greenhouses come in all sorts of construction, sizes and prices.  It is important to plan your choices based on what Tunnel Greenhouse
your greenhouse is going to endure.  Snow in the winter, high winds year around, searing heat all determine how long your greenhouse will last.

Greenhouses change the way you garden.  Containers instead of in the ground, usually.  Consider the amount of space you will need and how you will use it.  Will you also hang baskets overhead?  If so, plan for that extra strength.  Maybe you will experiment with growing plants in water only.  Greenhouses allow you to produce more produce with less soil.

Maybe a greenhouse would be great, but the additional heating expenses during winter months will be excessive.  For those regions, converting a room of the house into a plant room could serve as a greenhouse.  Installing grow lights in strategic locations will provide the hours of light needed in winter when daylight is in short supply.

No matter what type of gardening you prefer, one thing is for sure, when there is a world-changing event, having the ability to grow produce year around can make all the difference in the world.

Water Conservation and Gardening

Remember all the drought talk?  People living in drought areas know we need to save as much water as we can, even while gardening.  Installing a drip system is one way to easily control the water supply to your garden while making sure you get the highest possible yield from your produce.  Enjoy the video!

Is Your Heart Ready for the Unthinkable to Happen?

Are you prepared?We can prepare all we want, but it is just as important (or more) to think through how you will react when the unthinkable happens.  People who are preparing usually have all the bases covered.  Food, seeds, gardening tools, canning jars, lids, medical supplies, you name it and we’re collecting it.  Many have gone back to basics, becoming or are self-reliant.  But I would venture to say, not many have thought about actually defending themselves or their family.  I’m sure most of you have guns and ammo, but having them and using them are very different things.

In all your preparations for difficult times ahead, how much have you prepared your heart?  What happens when your neighbor comes to take what he can at gun point?  Or a stranger?  How do you deal with the idea of shooting someone to prevent them from killing you and taking your food stocks?  If they ask nicely would it make a difference?  What about the family members you warned numerous times?  The ones who thought you were crazy.  What do you do about them?

What if all the stores close down?  Now you are dependent on what you have stored along with what you can grow.  Will you share?  What are you going to do to protect yourself and your family?  Can you protect them?

Do you have a circle of family or friends who are like-minded and can band together with you?  If you do, can you trust them with your life?

No one wants to think about these things. In a recent conversation, my husband was put on the spot when another man asked him if he would actually shoot someone who came to steal from him.  His answer was yes.  The other man was shocked.  This was his response:

“The Bible tells me I’m responsible for my family first. So if I have excess, I will share. However, if what I have is all I’ll be able to get, I’d have to say no. If they wouldn’t take no for an answer, I’d have to defend myself and my family.”

I have written Flee to the Mountain a fictional story of a community of people who see difficult times ahead and prepare for them. They establish a small ranch completely self-sufficient and off grid. When chaos reigns and terrorist strike, they must pull together to survive.

Right now, this seems extreme, but it wouldn’t take much for it to become reality.  All of the questions raised above need to be settled in your heart (and your spouse’s) before the situation arises.  It is especially important where family is involved.  These are life and death decisions.  Your survival, and that of your family, might come down to the determinations you make right now.  You are preparing because you believe something is on the horizon.  I urge you to at least consider your options and discuss them with your loved ones.  Don’t wait until a split second decision might put you or a loved one in grave danger.


Frost Free Date Fast Approaching

By Joshua Livengood

While the new year is only 19 days old, the frost free date is fast approaching.  Early to mid March will be upon us soon.  Those of us planting gardens as a major part of prepping need to plant our seeds indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the thaw if we want to have a successful growing season.

Living at this latitude requires long term planning because the growing season is short but the winters are long.   Since the actual frost free date changes from year to year, it is important to have your plants ready to go in the ground
Source: Illinois Prepper Network