6 Common Seed Starting Mistakes

Starting seeds is one of my favorite times during the year. It means winter is finally coming to an end and the start of my favorite season – gardening season – is upon us. However, seed starting can be tricky for newbies. It can be tricky for me at times as well!

I’ve had many people tell me that they tried to start their seeds at home, but they always failed. There are several mistakes that people make all the time that can lead to failure. To increase your success rate, take a look at these common seed starting mistakes and avoid them!

6 Common Seed Starting Mistakes

  1. Starting Them at the Wrong Time: Every gardener needs to know their USDA Hardiness Zone and your average last frost date. Then, you need to know the best time to start each plant before that date. Every plant is different! Some need to start 10 to 12 weeks BEFORE your final frost date! The plants need to be old enough to transfer to their outdoor garden location.

If you start your seeds too early, they will too large for their pots or they might become root bound. Their growth could be stunted. Timing is crucial.

  1. Using the Incorrect Dirt: You can’t go outside and scoop out dirt from your garden. Seeds need special type of dirt because they are more prone to diseases and infections.

One of the most important factors is using a sterile soil. Otherwise, you risk passing a disease to your delicate seedlings. You also could bring insects in from outside. Who wants bugs in their home?

Don’t waste your time. Start your seeds in good potting soil! Your seeds need nutrients to start. You can buy high quality seed starting soil. For extra nutrients, add worm castings or compost.

  1. Failing to Keep The Correct Moisture Level: Dry soil won’t lead to healthy, sprouted seedlings. As your seeds are sprouting, you have to keep the soil moist at all times. If the soil dries out, you need to add moisture quickly.

At the same time, you don’t want to add too much water once your seeds are sprouted and under the grow light.

When you are germinating your seedlings, it is best to cover your pots with plastic. Doing so keeps the moisture and humidity levels higher, giving you a better chance of a high germination rate.

TIP: Don’t pour water over your seedlings. Instead, use a spray bottle to mist your plants. Doing so mimics natural rain and creates even moisture. You can also pour water directly onto the water around the seedlings rather than over top.

  1. Not Providing Enough Light: No matter what you think, you don’t have enough natural light in your house to correctly. Seedlings require a lot of light! You can purchase an artificial grow light or use a higher strength light bulb. Your lights should be kept close to your seedlings, ideally 2 to 3 inches, and gradually raised as your plants grow taller. You need to keep the lights on for 12 to 16 hours per day!
  2. Planting Too Deeply: Seeds are particular in how they want to be planted. Seed packets typically can give you all of the information you need, including how deep to plant in the soil. If the packet doesn’t tell you, you should be cautious and plant no deeper than two or three times as deep as the seeds are wide.
  3. Forgetting to Label: This mistake seems so simple, but most seedlings look very similar. Once you have raised seedlings for a few years, you might be able to tell them apart once they sprout. However, you won’t be able to tell the different pepper varieties apart. Labeling your seeds is important! One of the best methods is popsicle sticks. They are simple and readily available.

Everyone commits at least one of these mistakes when they first start seedlings. You might be making more than one! Fix your mistakes before you even start your seedlings this year.

Pan Fried Tortellini with Fresh Veggies

Do you want a simple, yet tasty, meal for your family? Do you need to use up some produce that is going bad? Pan fried tortellini with fresh veggies is a family and kid-friendly recipe!

Finding dinners that my kids all love is difficult. All of my kids tend to have different tastes. While I don’t make multiple dinners, I do ensure there is something for everyone. It seems like a rarity when I can find a dinner everyone enjoys, but this is one.

What I love about making it is that it takes less than 30 minutes – seriously. Start to finish, you can easily make this dinner in 20 minutes. On top of that, you can use whatever veggies your family loves or whatever is going bad in the produce drawer. Do you have broccoli that needs used? Add it! Mushrooms that look like they need used by tomorrow? Add them too!

Your entire family is going to love this. Oh, and the suggested amount of butter can be adjusted. More butter is always better. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, don’t listen. Who needs that negativity in life?!

Pan Fried Tortellini with Fresh Veggies

Do you want a dinner that takes less than 30 minutes to make? Pan fried tortellini with fresh veggies is a delicious and quick meal for your family! 

Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bag frozen tortellini
  • 4 to 6 TBSP butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups assorted fresh veggies
  • parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Melt half of the butter on one side of a griddle pan. Dump the entire bag of frozen tortellini, typically 15 ounces or 1 pound. 
  2. Chop up whatever fresh veggies you have on hand! We love broccoli, mushrooms, spinach, cauliflower, or whatever is going bad in the produce drawer.

  3. Toss the tortellini in the melted butter. 

  4. Melt the other half of the butter on the other side of the griddle. 
  5. Add all of your fresh veggies and garlic. Toss together and let cook.

  6. Continue cooking until the tortellini have a bit of a crisp to them, but don't let them burn! You might need to add more butter.

  7. Turn off the griddle and serve! Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese. 

Looking for another fast meal? Check out my fluffy pancakes!

Why You Should Plant Heirloom Seeds

Seed buying and gardening planning time are upon us. The two popular choices for seeds are either heirloom or hybrid. I prefer heirloom seeds, for several reasons. Many home gardeners aren’t sure what to pick.

Hybrid and GMO seeds work for many people. I know dozens of people who use these varieties for their small gardens at home. However, if your goal is to create a natural garden, heirloom seeds are the way to go. Several benefits make them superior to any other choice. Let’s take a look!

Handed Down from Generations

Many heirloom seeds carry a story with them. Some families save the same seeds for decades. Kids plant the seeds from the plants of their parents, and it continues down the line. Most heirloom seeds are at least 50 years old and have never been crossbred or altered in any manner. GMO seeds are altered.

Heirloom seeds are a way to preserve history. The plants our ancestors once grew are slowly disappearing. Using heirloom seeds, especially those with a rich past, allow you to embrace and remember our past.

Heirloom Seeds are Renewable

If you want to save money and homestead on a budget, heirloom seeds are a necessity. You might spend more in the beginning purchasing seeds, but heirloom seeds come with the ability to preserve and save the seeds from the crops you liked the most that year.

A renewable source of seeds allows you to become self-reliant for your crops. You don’t have to depend on any store for more seeds, even though I always purchase more every year. We love Baker’s Creek Seeds, and I always want to try new varieties. That isn’t a necessity though!

The Flavor is Better

Some might argue this point, but it is obvious to our family. Heirloom vegetables and herbs have a better, unique taste when compared the hybrid plants and seeds available in stores. Many of the plants have distinct flavors that are impossible to find in other plants.

The tomatoes in the store taste nothing like the tomatoes I grow in my garden. The tomatoes at a farmer’s market explode with flavor, while the ones at your local grocer tend to be less than amazing.

The Plants are More Reliable

So, you head to your local store and grab a few packs of seeds. These particular seeds originated in Spain, but you aren’t aware of that at the time. You are located in Kentucky! Now, you go home and plant rows and rows of green beans. Unfortunately, those seeds don’t produce the way you hoped because of an attack from local pests.

When you save your heirloom seeds year after year, they slowly adapt to your region. They can survive attacks by pests and diseases easier. At the end of the season, you pick seeds from the most successful plants in your garden. In the end, you get a better, locally adapted strain of veggies for your garden.

 

Our family has amazing success every year using all heirloom seeds. Do you use heirloom seeds? Let me know about your experience – good and bad!

10 Seeds to Start Directly in Your Garden

Seed starting is typically one of the right tasks a gardener begins with in the year, aside from order those seeds. I love starting seeds; it means that full gardening season isn’t very far off. I look forward to the time when I can prepare the trays and lights for my seedlings. At the same time, I am so glad that there are so many direct sow vegetables.

What is a direct sowing vegetable? It is simply a plant that you plant the seed directly into the ground outside rather than starting inside. That means you get to skip the first 8 weeks of pampering inside. It is a true win-win!

Technically, you can direct sow any seed, but it will delay your harvest and growth. If you direct sow tomato seeds in May rather than using a seedling plant, your harvest may not happen until September rather than August.

Luckily, there are several direct sow vegetables that I start each year. Here are my favorites!

Leaf Lettuce

Growing lettuce is simple, and there is no reason to start it in a pot inside. All you need to do is make shallow trenches and sprinkle the seeds in a row. As the seeds start to sprout, you’ll want to thin them out, allowing the plants plenty of space to grow.

Lettuce is a great choice for succession gardening. You can plant a row every two weeks, giving yourself a fresh supply of salads almost all season.

Spinach 

Spinach is full of vital nutrients and antioxidants for your body. You can eat it raw in salads (with your fresh grown lettuce), or you can cook it in dishes. We love spinach cooked with tomatoes and bacon in our pasta. Yum!

Spinach needs full sun or part shade. You want to make sure that you water your spinach plants consistently. It tends to want to bolt during the summer, so try to pick heat-tolerant varieties. You can also plant it behind your trellis, ensuring the plant does get some shade each day.

Corn

Corn is an easy-to-grow plant that everyone loves, especially kids. It is best to plant corn in blocks or rows. Corn is a warm-season crop, which means you must wait until the final frost date has passed for your zone. Ideally, the soil temperatures should be around 60 degrees F. You may have to wait a few weeks after the final frost date to plant to ensure good germination rates.

Beans

I love green beans! They are one of my favorite veggies all year round. You get to pick between bush and pole beans. Pole beans grow from long vines and need a support system.  They are great if you are short on space.

Bush beans tend to produce their crop quicker, giving you the chance to get several harvesting if you use the succession planting method.

When you plant your beans, it is wise to soak them in a bowl of water a few hours beforehand. Doing so allows them to germinate quickly. Sow the first round in early spring, as soon as the dangers of frost is past.

Beets

I will be honest; I’m not the biggest fan of beets personally. However, they sell well at farmer’s markets and some of my family members enjoy them. So, I plant a small section each year. Beets are a cool weather crop, and it is important not to forget that. You should plant them early, as soon as the ground is workable.

Beets can be sown every three weeks for a continuous harvest. Just like beans, you can soak beets for a few hours in water before planting to encourage faster germination.

Carrots

Carrots can be tricky because they need fluffy, obstruction-free soil to grow larger, straight carrots. The seeds are small and difficult to space because of their size. However, they are worth the time investment. Who doesn’t want homegrown carrots in their fresh chicken soup?

Carrots are a cool-season crop, planted a few weeks before the final frost date. Make sure to water well after you plant. It is important to thin your seedlings as soon as they are two inches tall. Typically, you need to try to thin to three inches per carrot.

Cucumbers

Another plant you must include is cucumbers! Cucumbers scream summertime. They’re perfect with some tomatoes and olive oil for a tasty salad.

Cucumbers are warm temperature plants, so you do have to wait until the threat of frost passes. Cucumbers can grow in mounds or grow up a trellis. I always pick to grow mine up a support system to save space.

Zucchini

Some people like to start zucchini inside, but in my experience, they do better when directly sown in the garden. Zucchini plants don’t like to have their roots disrupted, and it can slow their growth when you transfer a seedling into the garden.

Zucchini typically grow in mounds, and they need at least three feet per mound. These plants are overproducers, so you might have zucchini coming out of your ears. Just like cucumbers, zucchini are warm-season plants, so wait until the final frost date passes before planting.

Peas

My kids love peas right off the vine, and so do I. They are such an easy crop to plant if you have little kids. Their little fingers are perfect for pushing pea seeds into the ground. Peas typically require a support system and produce tall vines.

Peas are a cool weather crop, so you want to plant them a few weeks before your final frost date. They also make a great fall crop because of their tolerance of cool weather. Peas should be planted about an inch deep. These are great for beginning gardeners!

Radishes

Radishes are such an underrated vegetable. People don’t know to use them, so they don’t grow them. Radishes are great, easy addition to your salads. You can also roast them with other veggies.

The best thing about radishes is that they grow super fast. Some varieties take less than three weeks to grow from seed to harvest! That is impressive. Kids get a kick out radishes, and it gives them the chance to see their hard work actually pay off.

Radishes are cool weather crops, and they need planted in the ground a few weeks before the final frost date. They also are great for a fall crop.

 

The list is far from exhaustive. There are other choices you can plant in the ground, such as different squashes and greens. However, if you are trying to minimize how many seeds you have to start inside, include all of these on your list for your garden!

Naturally Treating a Yeast Diaper Rash

A few days before Christmas, Connor and Caelyn came down with croup. Caelyn has croup each winter because of her asthma, but it was Connor’s first encounter with the joyous viral illness. At the same time, the doctor said his ears looked infected.

Yay! Just what any mother wants to have is two sick kids over Christmas break. Typically, I would try to treat an ear infection myself before turning to antibiotics, but desperate times, folks! I didn’t want a miserable baby over the holidays. So, she prescribed us some medications and off we went home.

She prescribed a stronger antibiotic than I typically use for an ear infection, but I didn’t think much of it. However, two days later, I noticed a rash developing on Connor’s butt. Being a mom of three kids, I know my diaper rashes. Instantly, I told Andrew he had a yeast rash. I stopped giving him the antibiotics immediately and started treatment.

Yeast can be hard to kick! There are times when you will need a prescription cream. I’ve had to use those before as well. However, some yeast rashes will respond to natural treatment options. Here are some things to try!

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How to Naturally Treat a Yeast Diaper Rash

Lots of Diaper Free Time

First, you want to give your baby plenty of diaper free time. Connor is almost two years old; he loves to be naked. Yeast loves warm, moist environments, like your child’s diaper. Diaper free time dries their butt and helps get rid of that yeast-prone area.

Frequent Changes

Babies can’t be naked all the time. Connor wishes he could be, but that’s not practical a toddler not potty-trained. If you put a diaper on your baby, make sure you change him often! Every hour to hour and a half is ideal. You want to avoid that moist, warm location as much as possible. Cleanliness is crucial for ridding your baby of yeast.

Bleach Your Cloth Diapers

I know; I’m breaking some cardinal rule to cloth diapering. I’m a rebel, but hear me out. Yeast can live in cloth diapers. I’ve done it several times where I would treat the yeast rash and it would keep coming back. The diapers weren’t helping the issue. Add some bleach to your first rinse cycle to kick that yeast!

Reduce Sugars and Carbs

Yeast also loves sugar. Don’t we all? If your child is on solid foods, consider his diet. It is wise to reduce carbs and sugar for the next few days.

Probiotics

Your child will benefit from a probiotic. If you are breastfeeding and the child is not eating solids, you should take the probiotic! They sell gummy probiotics which make it even easier for your child to take them. Also, give your child some probiotic yogurt, just make sure the sugar content isn’t too high.

*You can also use yogurt, plain with probiotics, as a cream on your child’s butt! It might seem strange, but it’ll feel great.

Avoid Chemicals and Fragrances

Wipe your child with warm water and nothing else. It can lead to worse irritation. I made that mistake over Christmas and my son’s butt paid the price for my mistake.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is naturally anti-fungal, the best thing to get rid of yeast! You can use it plain as your child’s diaper cream. Another option is to mix a few drops of tea tree oil into the coconut oil, so long as your baby is over six months old and its very diluted! Tea tree oil is also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, a double whammy for the rash.

 

If your child’s yeast diaper rash isn’t going away within a few days, consider a call to the doctor. Sometimes, yeast is so persistent that you need a prescription cream. However, starting a regime of cleanliness, air time and coconut oil should kick it before it gets bad!

 

Fluffy Homemade Pancakes in 15 Minutes

Pancakes are one of my favorite breakfast foods. You can customize them with different toppings. Strawberries and chocolate chips happen to be my favorite. I never said I eat healthy all the time!

Purchasing pancakes from the store is far from budget friendly. A large bag of pancakes costs around $5 in the store. While you do get between two and three dozens, those pancakes are flatter than.. well.. a pancake. I don’t know about you, but I love fluffy pancakes.

For the longest time, I didn’t make pancakes often because none of the pancake recipes turned out wrong. Then, they took forever. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an hour each morning to make breakfast.

Finally, I found the perfect recipe over a year ago, and the pancake heaven doors opened. The pancake angels sang and I was finally able to make fluffy pancakes quickly for my kids. My recipe makes around 12, depending on the size you make your pancake. Large or small, these are amazing!

Fluffy, Homemade Pancakes

The perfect and easiest recipe for homemade pancakes! 

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 TBSP Sugar
  • 2 TBSP Baking Powder
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cup Milk (might need a bit more for consistency)
  • 1/4 Cup Cooking Oil

Instructions

  1. 1. Whisk together all of your dry ingredients. 

    2. Add in the eggs, milk and cooking oil. Whisk well. Don't worry too much about clumps, but ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.

    3. Heat up your pan or griddle and spray with a non-stick spray. Medium is perfect to avoid burning.

    4. Ladle the batter onto the griddle. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup because I think it makes great sized pancakes! 

    5. Cook each side until golden brown, which is usually a few minutes for each day. 

    6. Serve and enjoy with syrup and all of the toppings of your dreams! 

Looking for some other great recipes? Check out amazing banana muffin recipe. The kids love these for breakfast too!

7 Veggies Beginning Gardeners Should Grow

When you first start gardening, you might wonder what vegetables are the easiest to grow. My first year, I assumed everything was easy. Soon, I realized that I was wrong. Many plants have different requirements that I wasn’t ready or prepared to give to them. In fact, I had no idea plants could require anything other than sun and water.

There are seven veggies that I recommend for all beginning gardeners. These plants are easy! Most of the time, they grow abundantly and will help you feel more confident to expand your choices during your second year of gardening.

Here are my top picks for Veggies Beginners Must Grow!

Peas

I love growing peas. They made the cut my first year gardening, and I’ve been growing them every year since. Peas tend to be hard to mess up, at least in my experience.

Peas are a cooler-weather crop, so you will plant them two to three weeks before your final frost date. They can handle the cooler temperatures. Peas also make a great choice for a fall garden! Kids can learn how to plant peas as well. I line the peas up for my kids in the area I want, then watch as they push them into the ground with their fingers and cover back up with soil. Weeks later, I find my kids picking the peas off the vine and eating them fresh!

Lettuce

Do you love salads? If so, don’t skip the opportunity to grow your own lettuce. Lettuce is an ideal choice if you want to learn how to use succession planting, which will give you a fresh, continuous harvest throughout the growing season.

Most lettuce and greens grow very easily. The hardest part is thinning out the seedling – those seeds are small! Also, lettuce prefers cooler temperatures, so they can go to bolt during hot weather. The ground has to stay moist.

Lettuce is another plant that you will plant prior to the final frost. Plant a new row or two every two weeks to give yourself a continuous supply of fresh greens!

Radishes

Radishes tend to be an underrated choice for gardeners. Many people don’t like them unfortunately. Radishes are delicious baked or shredded into a salad with that fresh batch of lettuce.

Depending on the variety you pick, radishes can be ready to harvest in less than three weeks. That’s impressive! They make an awesome choice for kids who are impatient to see a harvest.

Just like peas and lettuce, radishes are a cooler-weather crop that you can start before the final frost.

Green Beans

Finally, a warm weather crop! I love green beans. My kids don’t love when I have pots of fresh green beans that need the ends snapped off. Little hands help lighten my load for sure.

When growing green beans, you can select between pole and bush beans. Pole beans are fantastic for those who need to save space. However, in my experience, bush beans produce a better harvest. I dedicate an entire garden bed just to green beans.

As soon as the final frost date has passed, you can plant your green bean seeds. There is no reason to start the seeds ahead of time; just plant them right into your garden. Read the packet to ensure you are spacing them appropriately. Some people plant a row week to stagger the harvest, allowing them to better preserve the green beans.

Zucchini

I’ve never had a bad zucchini harvest. In fact, it seems as if I always end up with too much zucchini on my hands.  I end up having to give away zucchini to everyone who will take some off of my hands. There is only so much zucchini bread, chips, and boats I can create! Plus, I can only freeze so much shredded zucchini before my husband tells me to stop.

Some people like to start to their zucchini seeds inside. You can do so if you want a seedling ready for planting by the final frost date. Start them two weeks before that time. You don’t want to start them any earlier because zucchini become root-bound easily. I prefer to start the seeds right in the ground!

Cucumbers

Do you love pickles? Cucumbers are your go-to choice them! Cucumbers should be planted right into the ground once the danger of a frost passes. I love vining cucumber plants. All you need is a trellis or a make-shift fence that allows your cucumbers to grow upwards. Cucumbers grow very well vertically!

Tomatoes

My last pick for beginning gardeners is tomatoes! Yes, tomatoes can be a bit finicky at times. They don’t like standing water. They don’t like too much water. They don’t like cooler temperatures. However, if you have a hot summer with normal amounts of rain, you should have a successful tomato harvest.

Tomatoes, to me, can be a bit tricky starting from seeds, so I typically tell my friends to first try started seedlings from a trusted nursery. After that, you can dive into starting them from seeds. If you have a successful tomato harvest, you will have tomatoes coming out of your ears! Tomato sauce, salsa and diced tomatoes are in your future.

If you are beginning gardener, what do you plan to plant this year? Experienced gardeners, what do you recommend for newbies? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Homestead Tasks Month-by-Month

The new year has arrived, and it is time to start preparing! I know I am ready for 2018; 2017 brought a lot of pain for us. We ended our year with a small house fire that displaced us for almost a month. We are ready for the new year.

Part of the new year involves making plans for our small homestead. Each year, we try to find ways to expand and grow. Something that keeps me sane is creating a month-by-month plan with the tasks I know need completed then or rather soon. Your task list will look different than mine, based on the animals or things on your homestead.

Right now, we have large garden, a small fruit patch, herb gardens, maple trees to tap and chicken flock. If you have other animals, your list will look different.

So, let’s take a look at the tasks you may want to complete each month if your small homestead looks like mine!

January

January is a month of renewal for us. We are in the dead of winter right now with temperatures reaching into the negatives. This month is a time of relaxation after the crazy holidays.

  • Look at seed catalogs and make selections
  • Make sowing and succession calendar
  • Create a transplanting schedule
  • Try your hand at indoor sprouts
  • Turn your deep litter method
  • Continue upkeep of compost
  • Work on your crafts
  • Pick up a new skill such as cheese making or baking bread!

February

February brings us closer to gardening season, which makes me happy! The tasks list will start to grow soon and I know it.

  • Make sure you ordered your seeds!
  • Depending on your gardening zone, you might start some seedlings.
  • Prepare your greenhouse
  • Try some indoor herbs!
  • Keep working on your crafts while you have extra time!
  • Pick another skill to develop this month.
  • Purchase baby chicks or make plans
  • Prepare brooder
  • Prepare to tap maple trees

March

March begins the mad dash to start the garden in our zone! March is also when we are going to have a new baby this year, so it should be a fun year!

  • Sow in greenhouses or under heavy-duty hoops
  • Start a majority of your seeds inside
  • Build your new garden beds
  • Get more baby chicks because you never can have too many!
  • Might be able to clean chicken coop if weather if warm.
  • work in compost to soil if workable!
  • Tap maple trees and boil down sap.
  • Plant fruit trees!

April

For people in zone 5, April really starts gardening season. Finally, things can be planted outside, and it feels amazing. Here are some tasks.

  • Sow spring crops such as lettuce, peas, carrots, and more.
  • Plant potatoes
  • Continue taking care of your chicks and introduce to existing flock
  • Start any seeds left based on your calendar you made in January!
  • Dandelions and violets tend to pop up. Time to make dandelion infused oil, dandelion jelly and violet jelly!
  • Clean out your old compost and start new.
  • Consider what organic mulch you want to use.
  • Harden seedlings that will be planted in May.

May

May is when most of your warmer weather crops can go into the ground. I love May! You can typically ditch your hoodie and catch some nice sun rays.

  • Start squash, pumpkin, and melon seeds.
  • Sow more greens based on your succession planting plans!
  • Make sure you get most of your seedlings into the ground including warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, corn and more!
  • Integrate chicks if you’ve yet to do so.
  • Develop a watering schedule.
  • Create a weeding schedule that works for you.

June

June typically brings the first harvests of your work. Nothing is better than the first time you can bring crops inside from what you planted. I love that feeling!

  • Harvest crops that come up such as carrots, peas, beets, and lettuce.
  • Preserve the harvest!
  • Preserve strawberries – time to make some strawberry jam!
  • Continue succession planting certain crops.
  • Start fall garden seedlings inside.

July

July is such a fun month. Our son’s birthday falls on the 4th of July, and there are several birthdays this month, including mine!

  • Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries may be ripening. Time to make jam!
  • Give zucchini to everyone you know, because it overproduces every single year!
  • Continue to harvest as often as you can, especially green beans!
  • Harvest some of your herbs and dry.
  • Remove your pea vines. Plant lettuce, spinach or another fall crop there.
  • Put your fall brassica crops outside. It may be too hot, so consider hoops for shade. Keep the ground moist.
  • Preserve as much of the harvest as possible!
  • Sow fall root crops

August

August is the final month of summer, in my eyes, even though we know it doesn’t technically end until September. That might be because of all the years I dreaded returning to school in August.

  • Transplant all of your fall crops into the garden beds.
  • Continue to harvest and preserve like a crazy person!
  • Stop watering those dry beans so they actually dry up.
  • Tomatoes will eat up your time this month.
  • Harvest, dry and preserve herbs.

September

September is when things slowly, and I said slowly, start to slow down. School is in full swing around our house and we can enjoy some cooler evenings.

  • Create herbal teas and tinctures with the dried herbs you’ve harvested.
  • You can direct sow some fast growing crops, like lettuce or radishes.
  • Build some cold frames to keep growing lettuce longer.
  • Plant your cover crops.
  • Cure and store your harvested pumpkins. Get ready for Halloween!

October

October brings the first frost for many areas of the United States. That means a lot of your crops are going to be done and things start to slow down. You might be singing hallelujah and that’s ok!

  • Use row covers as needed for crops still growing.
  • Sow in your cold frames.
  • Now is the time to make homemade vanilla extract!
  • Prepare and plant your garlic. Mulch the beds.
  • Prepare your beds for the upcoming winter. Lay leaves or other mulch that will decompose over time.
  • Prepare the deep litter method for your chickens while it is still warm.

November

By November, all of your plants will be out of the ground, unless you have lettuce growing in those awesome cold frames.

  • Time to relax. You’ve been at it for awhile. Enjoy those jars of canned goods!
  • Reflect on your gardening season.
  • Make sure everything is harvested including kale and brussel sprouts.
  • Manage your chickens. Remember to watch temperatures and freezing water.
  • Start crafts and projects for Christmas.

December

We made it! The end of the year. December is a beloved month for us. Advent is close to our hearts.

  • Make crafts with the family.
  • Create your own Christmas ornaments and gifts.
  • Pick veggies from cold frames.
  • Start your garden plans for the following year. It’s never too soon to plan!

Where I Have Been

I have been absent for over three months. That was never in my plans! I love writing, and I cannot wait to get back into the swing of things. My plans are extensive. However, we had a bit of a surprise….

Our family is welcoming another addition coming in March 2018! To say that we are over the moon is a simple understatement.

We discovered that we were expecting shortly after July 4th after we returned from our cabin trip to the lake. Shock gave way to excitement. Some of you might know that we lost a sweet baby in March of 2017!

So, the first few weeks of the pregnancy were scary for us. We told no one, even our parents, that we were expecting. The thought of experiencing another miscarriage shook me to the core. It was truly horrible.

In early August, we had a wonderful ultrasound that showed a healthy growing baby. We waited until the end of August to announce to outside friends.

The first trimester and a majority of the second trimester has been difficult for me. The first trimester was mostly full of extreme nausea, food aversions and extreme exhaustion. Exhaustion isn’t a great thing for a mother with three other kids underfoot.

The second trimester has been slightly better, but I can say I’ve never been this tired during a pregnancy ever. Plus, I still have the worse gag reflex and bouts of nausea.

Did I mention we know what we are having? Oh I didn’t? Let me show you!

Baby #4 is a GIRL! Bring on dresses, sweet bonnets and flowers. Mama has another girl. That means we will have even teams – girl, boy, boy, girl! Chances are this sweet baby will be the final addition, so we are so excited (and surprised as you might tell from my husband’s face in the picture above).

Anyway, I have plans for the horizon. We have around 16 weeks until sweet girl makes her debut. Keep an eye out for some great things coming your way!

9 Reasons Why Your Hen Stopped Laying Eggs

Raising chickens is a huge learning experience. My husband and I thought we had it all figured out. They’re just chickens after all! Then, one day, the nesting boxes were almost empty. We thought it was strange but figured it was a fluke. The next day proved it wasn’t a one-time event.

I was pretty baffled. Why did my dependable girls suddenly stop laying eggs? We needed those eggs, so we had to figure it out quickly. What did I do? First, I called my grandma who raised chickens on a farm for half of her life.

Then, I turned to Google. Google is everyone’s friend. There were the answers I needed. I was surprised that there are multiple reasons a hen stops laying eggs! Let’s take a look so we can solve the problem fast!

Reason 1 – Winter Causes Lack of Light

So, if it is wintertime, you’ve already figured out your issue. Many breeds continue to lay through the winter, but the production slows down greatly.

A hen needs 14 to 16 hours of daylight to lay a single egg. In the dead of winter, she may be lucky if she receives 10 hours. It is a natural period of slowing down. Many people like to add supplemental light, but I also pick not to do so. I believe that chickens are designed to have this decrease. Ultimately, not supplementing with light allows the chicken’s egg laying to span over more years.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if you want to supplement. Just keep in mind that changes in weather and light can lead to a decrease in egg production.

Reason 2 – Temperature

Temperature, just like the light, is a huge factor in your hens’ egg production. If you have a sudden spike in temperature, hens can stop laying eggs. Our girls tended to dislike anything about 90 degrees really. I don’t blame them!

Likewise, really cold days can cause a decrease in egg production. Your hens have to adjust to the temperature.

Reason 3 – Diet Issues

If it isn’t wintering time, your next step should be to consider your feedings and supplemental choices. Chickens need a steady diet of fresh food and water. If you forgot to feed your chickens for a day or two (humans do these things), hens can stop laying altogether.

If your feeding schedule wasn’t disrupted, another good step is to make sure that your hens are eating quality food. They also need to have regular access to greens and foraging for bugs. Even though it is fun, avoid giving too many treats. It can stop them from eating their healthy food. Instead, send the kids to pull weeds to feed to the chickens. That’s being productive!

Chickens need a balanced diet, just like you and I! They need to have appropriate amounts of protein, calcium, and salt. Remember, fresh water is crucial for egg production.

Reason 4 – Broody Hens

I love a broody hen, but that broodiness stops egg production. Instead of laying eggs, your hen is now focused on defending and hatching those eggs for the next 21 days or more.

You can try to break a hen of her broodiness, but I prefer just to let her go. Broodiness is a great way to create a self-sustaining flock. Also, it can take days or a week to break the broodiness. Letting her hatch the eggs is less work for you!

Reason 5 – Molting Time

Do your girls suddenly look just plain ugly? It might be time for molting. Molting is normal, but they often look as if they had hard few days. It isn’t a time when your chicken flock looks the best.

Molting is when your chickens shed their old feathers and grow new ones. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of energy and time for a hen to grow new feathers. Sometimes, to compensate for the energy sucker, hens will stop laying eggs.

Don’t worry; molting will be over soon, and eggs will start again soon! Molting often goes along with season changes. Our chickens tend to molt around fall or late summer.

Reason 6  – Age of Your Hens

Hens won’t steadily lay eggs for their entire life. At some point, they enter chicken retirement, or so I call it. Hens lay steadily between six to nine months (depends on breed) up to 2 years old.

Don’t worry; chickens do lay eggs after they are two years old, but it does tend to slow down. It isn’t abnormal for chickens to lay up to 7 years old. We have chickens that are four and five years old still laying steadily, but not daily.

It is up to you whether you want to keep chickens who entered egg-laying retirement. If you only have room for a small flock, it can be hard to keep a chicken that isn’t productive. It is an individual decision; there is no right and wrong answer!

Reason 7 – Pests and Diseases Invade

Another major reason that your hens stopped laying eggs is that there is a pest or disease bother your flock. The two most common issues are lice and mites. A really bad infestation can stop a flock from laying regularly.

There are some signs that your flock is sick. Here are some things to identify:

  • Abnormal poop
  • Not laying eggs
  • Coughing or making strange noises
  • Quits eating or drinking
  • Chickens are unable to stand up

Colds in chickens often produce slim in their nose area. Chickens will breathe with their mouth open due to nose blockage. You might notice their combs turning pale or constant itching.

Reason 8 – Changes in Routine and Life

Chickens are like kids; they love routine and habits. If you change their routine, egg production could change. Changing or redesigning their coop can disrupt production. We added an addition and moved their run; our chickens didn’t like that for a few days!

Another change could be when you introduce new chickens to the flock. Sometimes, hens will go on a strike and stop laying eggs. How dare you add new chickens! Luckily, chickens will adapt if you give them a few days or week.

Reason 9 – Predators

There is a chance your girls are laying eggs, but a predator is eating them. Predators love fresh eggs as much as we do. Snakes are famous for eating eggs. It can give you a startle to find a snake in your nesting box.

If you think this is your issue, the best step is to figure out how predator-proof your coop. Try to add more hardware cloth, extra netting and close up any holes where they might enter. These predators are small and smart!

For us, our issue was that we disrupted their routine. We changed their coop design and added new members within days of each other. Our girls apparently were protesting all of the changes! They started laying again within days. Our breakfast table was thankful for the start up again!