6 Reasons Your Tomatoes Aren’t Ripening

Tomatoes are my arch nemesis. I work hard each year to plant enough tomato plants to provide the right amount of tomatoes I need for canning. Without fail, something goes wrong. Sometimes, my tomatoes don’t turn red. One day, blight infected my tomatoes. It’s always something.

For me, I like to find the answer to my questions. Why is something happening, or not happening in this case? In the case of tomatoes not turning red, there are some definite reasons.

Why Tomatoes Turn Red

There is a whole, scientific reason why tomatoes turn red, but let’s sum it up to make it easier to understand.

Lycopene is a chemical naturally found inside of fruits and vegetables that cause them to develop their color. Lycopene isn’t just found in tomatoes; it is in watermelons, apricots and more. Almost 80% of the lycopene you need in your diet is found in tomato products.

Believe it or not, your body processes lycopene better when it is heated. Sources such as ketchup and tomato sauce are perfect for getting lycopene into your diet!

Why do you need lycopene? It is valuable in the fight against heart disease, as well as some cancers (colon, pancreas, bladder, ovaries, and breast to name a few).

6 Reasons Why Your Tomatoes Aren’t Turning Red

One: Longer Time to Maturity

On each seed packet, you will find an average time for maturity for every vegetable you plant. You might be tempted to overlook this date, but I encourage you to pay attention! Certain varieties take less time to mature.

If you have a shorter growing season, you will want to select varieties with a shorter maturity time. It is a good idea also to plug in some longer growing varieties. You can rest assured knowing the shorter varieties will at least yield some fruits for you.

Two: Temperatures aren’t Hot Enough

Tomatoes love warm temperatures, which is why you can’t plant them until well after your final frost date for the season.

Unfortunately, our weather in Ohio has been rather unpredictable, and chilly summers are becoming an issue. As I write this, it is the beginning of August and the high for the day barely touched 80 degrees. That is insane!

Sometimes, you will notice your tomatoes turning pink but never reaching the redness needed to indicate ripeness. They lack in flavor, but they will typically ripen if you leave them on your countertops.

Three: Temperatures are TOO Hot

On the flip side, your tomatoes can be too hot for your tomatoes to ripen. High temperatures happened a few years ago, leaving my harvest in ruins. Yes, they love the heat, but they don’t want to roast on the vine.

The ideal temperatures for ripening are 70 to 75 degrees F. Once the temperatures go higher than 85 to 90 degrees F, the plant is unable to produce the correct amount of lycopene to create the right pigments. The green ones on your vine will stay green for a long time.

Four: You Picked Tomatoes That Aren’t Red

If you grow heirloom plants, there are a lot of varieties that aren’t red. You can buy tomatoes that ripen to pink, yellow, white, orange, purple, and green! They make great additions to the dinner table and farmer’s market stand.

It is easy to forget what varieties you plant. You need to mark each variety, so you know what to look for in ripeness. For example, we always grow Brandywine tomatoes. Brandywine ripens to a beautiful pink, but they never turn red. If I forgot, I would let the entire harvest go to waste waiting for red tomatoes to arrive.

Five: Blossom End Rot

Do your tomatoes have black lesions on them, small or big? If so, you have blossom end rot. It is a disease caused by low calcium in your soil. It is highly suggested that you add natural sources of calcium to your soil during the growing season.

Blossom end rot also forms from uneven watering. If you have frequent downpours of rain, blossom end rot can result.

Six: Plants Don’t Receive Enough Sunlight

Another possibility is that you selected a bad location for your tomato plants. Tomatoes love heat and sunlight. The plants need at least seven hours of direct sunlight per day.

You might have picked a great location, but planted them too close together. Tomato plants need at least 18 inches to two feet apart, depending on the variety. Large plants, like the Brandywine, need two feet apart to receive adequate sunlight.

 

If all else fails, you can take some of your green tomatoes and put them in a cardboard box with a few ripened tomatoes. It should encourage the tomatoes to turn red! I know how it feels to have dozens of plants full of green tomatoes and end up with a pitiful harvest.

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head in 30 Seconds

Cabbage isn’t a vegetable I always loved. When my parents made cabbage rolls, I gagged, internally and externally. Throughout most of my childhood, I turned my nose up to every cabbage dish that graced our kitchen table. As I grew older, cabbage didn’t seem so bad as it was when I was younger. Now, I love stuffed cabbage rolls or corned beef and cabbage.

                Our cabbage always reaches the scale of gigantic. Sometimes, the heads are larger than my kids’ heads. It is comical to watch them carry the heads into the house after harvesting.

                Most cabbage plants take 80 to 180 days to mature. If you planted them in March, you could expect to harvest between June and August, depending on the variety you selected. One year, I planted Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, which was ready around 65 days after planting!

How to Harvest a Cabbage Head

1.       Watch the tightness of the cabbage. When you are out in your garden, gently squeeze the heads. You’ll notice that they will gradually get firmer. A tight cabbage head is a sign that it is ready for harvest. It is important that you check your cabbage head frequently for readiness. Excessive rain or overwatering could cause mature heads to split; then you lost a harvest.

2.       Look at the size of the cabbage head. It is harder to use the size as an indicator of readiness. Some varieties are naturally smaller than others. It should be at least the size of a softball before you consider harvesting. The base should be at least four to ten inches wide.

·         Elongated Chinese, or Napa, cabbage should be harvest when the head is nine to 12 inches tall.

·         Leafy cabbage is better to harvest leaf-by-leaf because they will not form a tight head.

·         Leave two to four of the wrapper leaves around the head to prevent the cabbage head from drying out.

 

3.       Time to harvest. Once you think the cabbage head is ready, bring your knife out to the garden. Find the base of the cabbage head. Using your knife, cut through the stem. You should leave the stem and leaves underneath the head in place because there is a chance a second head will grow! However, if you planted cabbage in the fall, you’ll only get one head. Cabbage planted for a spring or summer harvest can grow two, three or even four heads!

4.       Store the cabbage. You can use it immediately; cabbage rolls anyone? You could make sauerkraut, freeze the cabbage head or store them in the refrigerator. Make sure the heads stay in a cool, moist location for longevity. If you do so, cabbage stores for three to four months.

Harvesting cabbage is extremely easy. All you need is 30 seconds, and you’re done! If you plant cabbage for the fall, there is plenty of ways to store it long term. Who doesn’t want fresh cabbage for the New Years? Tomorrow, we will talk about how to freeze fresh cabbage. It is one of the ways I preserve it for the long term!

What is your favorite way to eat cabbage? Let me know in the comments!

Hand Pollinating Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

As your zucchini plant grows, you’ll notice lovely orange and yellow flowers. These flowers are essential to produce the fruits you desire. For years, I had NO idea that each flower has a specific gender! Zucchini flowers are either male or female.

Hand pollating male and female zucchini plants

You might think this information is useless, but you’d be wrong. Pollination is ESSENTIAL for the formation of zucchini fruits. This story is the tame version of the birds and the bees.

Bees and other insects take the pollen from the male stamen and move it to the female stigma, pollinating the plant. Pollen sticks to the bees legs and, as he lands on the female flower, the pollen arrives. After pollination, the fruit starts to grow.

Aside from pollination purposes, the male serves little purpose. You can flour them up and deep fry for a delicious snack!

Distinguishing Male and Female Zucchini Flowers

The male flower has a single, long stamen in the middle of their blossom. It is covered with pollen. If you sneak up, you might find bees there. I found a bunch this morning on my zucchini plant!

The female flower is a bit different. Inside, she has multiple stigmas. The base of the blossom is wide, called the ovary. This area produces the zucchini after pollination.

The base of the male flower blossom is a long, slender stem. The long stem allows them to stand out on the plant more, attracting the bees faster.

Female zucchini flowers tend to stay closer to the base of the stem. Remember, they are going to produce the fruits soon. If they were high up in the area, the weight of the zucchini would cause the stem to break.

How to Hand Pollinate Zucchini Plants

Why does all of this information matter? It matters because you may notice that there is no fruit on your plant. If that happens, you may have a pollination issue. With the right information, you can hand pollinate zucchini flowers. Here are the simple steps.

1.       Identify the male flower. You need first to find a wide open male flower. I always check in the early or mid-morning.

2.      Identify the female flowers. Female flowers open for one day, so it is important for you to check daily! Once you find an open female flower, the fun needs to begin.

3.      Use a Q-Tip. Your first choice is to take a q-tip or cotton swab and rub it along the stamen. Doing so will collect the pollen. Then, go over to the female blossom and gently rub the swab inside of the stigmas at the inside base of the flower.

4.      Remove the Male Flower. Another choice is to cut one of the male flowers from your plant. Then, rub the male flower stamen inside of the female flower.  You can see an easy video here.

Now you successfully hand pollinated a zucchini flower. For years, I had no idea that there was a gender of flowers! It wasn’t until I watched an episode of Alaska: The Last Frontier did I realize that there was something I missed. Eve, one of the main people on the show, had to hand pollinate her zucchini plants. Now, I know what to do if my plants aren’t producing the fruit needed!

Have you ever hand pollinated a zucchini plant?

 

Step-by-Step Guide: Freezing Fresh Green Beans

It’s July, and my green beans plants are exploding. We left for three days to spend time at a cabin near our favorite lake. In that short period, my plants blossomed. I came home to an entire harvest ready for picking. I love this time of year!

How to freeze green beans

Green beans are one of our favorite vegetables. We prepare them in a variety of ways, but my favorite is how my husband makes them. He simply cooks them with fingerling potatoes, butter, and pieces of bacon. It is divine, so flavorful. Green beans soak up all of the delicious flavors of the bacon. If you’ve yet to try it, you must!

While I do can some of my green beans, I prefer to freeze them. Frozen beans seem to do better for our frequent method of cooking. Let’s take a look at how to freeze fresh green beans, with plenty of pictures!

Steps to Freeze Fresh Green Beans

1.       Pick them off of the vine. This step is pretty self-explanatory! You need them off of the bush or vines before you can freeze them.

2.      Snap off the ends. If you have little kids at home, now is the time to get them involved. I gather my little kids and have them help snap all of the beans. While you are snapping the ends, check for any imperfections or parts that may need to be removed. You want only the good ones ending up in your freezer!

3.      Wash the beans. Put them under water and move the water around to remove the dirt. I also sometimes spray them inside of a colander to allow the water to drain away. At the same time, I get a pot of water boil in preparation.

4.      Soon, your pot of water will come to a rolling boil. Before you put your green beans in the pot, prepare a pot of cold water with ice. You want the water to be as cold as possible. You are going to blanch the beans. Blanching is the process of abruptly stopping the cooking process by submerging the vegetables in an ice bath.

5.      Put your green beans into the boiling water. As soon as you do, the boiling will stop. In about three minutes, the boiling will start again. Once it starts, take the beans out of the water and immediately plunge them into ice water.

6.      After the beans are cool, I lay them out on a towel and pat them dry. You could opt for two choices here. You can pat them dry, put them directly into the storage bags and then into the freezer. Done. Or, you can lay them on a baking sheet and flash freeze them before you put them into a storage bag. The reason you might want that step is because it makes it easier to store in larger bags and just scoop out what you want to use that night.

7.      I opted, this time, to just put them right into bags because I was short on time. Make sure you label the date so you can eat them in order of harvest.

 

Freezing fresh green beans is so easy! With a summer and fall planting, I will have plenty of harvests ahead of me. While I could can all of them, freezing is another variation of preservation I like to use throughout our small homestead.

How do you store your fresh green beans? Let me know in the comments!

 

6 Medicinal Herbs to Grow in Your Backyard

Our family relies on medicinal herbs to heal a variety of ailments and illnesses. I believe that modern medicine has its place in this world; it has done some miraculous things! I also believe that we can heal many things without turning to modern medicine.

If I feel a cold coming on, I prefer not to turn to over-the-counter medicine. Instead, I pick out one of my several dried herbs I keep in our home. Along with dried herbs, we keep infused oils, herbal teas and herbal bath satchels prepared and ready to go.

You could dedicate a huge space in your garden to medicinal herbs. We grow around ten, but some double as medicinal and herbal, such as basil. I can use rosemary for medicinal and culinary purposes.

I want to pick six of my favorite medicinal herbs and tell you how we use them! You might decide you want to give a few of these a try.

6 Medicinal Herbs for Your Backyard Garden

  1. Chamomile
    Everyone has heard of chamomile. It is a famed herb, known for helping adults and children get a peaceful night’s sleep. The reputation is true; chamomile is perfect as a sleep aid. There are other medicinal purposes such as:
  • Fever reducer
  • Treating colds
  • Stomach illnesses and morning sickness
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Antibacterial and antifungal
  • Relieve teething problems
  • Reduce colic
  • Stress reliever

There are several ways to use chamomile! Most of all, I use chamomile as an herbal tea, but you can create salves, vapors and as a wash or compress. You could also add dried chamomile to your bath water. That is an easy way to use the benefits for children.

  1. Calendula

Calendula produces a beautiful orange flower that will brighten up your flower garden. I grow calendula right amongst my flowers; it blends in perfectly. The petals are edible; toss some in your salads!

 

For centuries, people used calendula for a variety of purposes. You can use it to treat:

  • minor wounds
  • cuts and scrapes
  • bruises
  • heal burn
  • bee stings,
  • Soothe rashes or skin irritation

If you want to have a medicinal herb around to use for your kids, calendula is perfect. Trust me; you will find ways to use it! Calendula is versatile, and you can use it in several methods.

My favorite way is to make homemade diaper rash creams, but you can use calendula in your bath water, as a cream or salve, compresses or washes, ointments, massage oils, teas, tinctures and more! Best of all, calendula is so gentle, perfect for children.

  1. Echinacea

If there is one herb you want to have in your garden for flu, it has to be Echinacea. Native Americans first discovered the medicinal benefits of Echinacea. It is a coneflower that is native to many areas in the continental United States. There are several ailments that Echinacea will treat, such as:

  • Heals wounds
  • Kills off infections
  • Treatment for the flu
  • Reduces upper respiratory infections
  • Kills the common cold

Echinacea is a powerful, immune-boosting herb that you need to grow. Don’t be afraid of its strength; Echinacea is truly easy to grow. The plant grows to 36 inches tall and is often an ornamental flower in gardens, attracting bees and butterflies. Try planting Echinacea near other plants that require pollination.

You can use Echinacea in several ways. Infusions, decoctions, herbal teas and capsules are a few of the common ways. If you go into the herbal supplement section in any supermarket, you will find Echinacea pills. Why buy it if you can grow in yourself?

  1. Feverfew

If you are lucky, Feverfew might grow wild near to your home. Originally from the Balkan Peninsula, Feverfew now grows wild and in flower gardens around the world. The plant produces dozens of small, daisy-like flowers with white petals and yellow centers. You might confuse it with chamomile.

 

Historically, Feverfew treats several ailments. While the most obvious might be reducing fevers (due to the name), you can use Feverfew to treat:

  • Most noteworthy – treat headaches
  • Relieve toothaches
  • Helps with menstruation and labor during childbirth
  • Treats digestive problems
  • Heals insect bites
  • Treats arthritis pain

You can use Feverfew in a variety of ways. Our favorite method is to make an herbal bath. We fill a satchel with dried flowers and leaves. Then, I place it directly into their bath water. It is a fantastic way to help reduce a child’s fever (when necessary; fevers aren’t always evil).

  1. Lemon Balm

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is a famed essential oil and medicinal herb. While it is not native to North America, you can find lemon balm in most nurseries and backyard gardens. Herbalists rely on lemon balm to treat a variety of illnesses and ailments, such as:

  • Reduce fevers
  • Treat colds
  • Reduce stomach aches
  • Cure headaches
  • Calm anxiety

Growing lemon balm is easy! You can start the plants with seeds indoors, or you can sow seeds late in the fall for a spring sprouting. The plant can spread out, reaching almost two feet tall. However, it doesn’t prefer full sun so keep it in an area that reduces shade, especially during the summer.

How can you use lemon balm? There are so many ways! One of my favorite ways is to make an herbal tea by pouring boiling water on top of fresh leaves. You can use dried lemon balm, but it does lose its scent faster. Just like other herbs, you can make herbal baths, tinctures and more!

  1. Rosemary

Finally, my last favorite medicinal herb is rosemary, a sweet-scented shrub with pretty, pale blue flowers. The leaves look like little pine needles. Rosemary is a culinary and medicinal herb. We love to cook lemon and rosemary chicken or rosemary garlic bread! Delicious!

 

There are plenty of medicinal properties to rosemary as well. Here are the most noted.

  • Aids indigestion
  • Helps digest starchy food
  • Relieves mental fatigue and forgetfulness
  • Cures colds and chills
  • Relieves flatulence
  • Heart stimulant
  • Reduces dandruff
  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

I typically drink rosemary tea if I notice I have indigestion. Most of all, rosemary shampoo is wonderful for your scalp health! If you feel as if you are in a daze and need more clarity, rosemary is for you

These are just six of my favorite medicinal herbs. There are so much more that you can grow and dozens of ways to use them. I would love to know what is your favorite medicinal herb to grow in your backyard. Let me know in the comments!

 

 

6 Homesteading Skills that Save You Money

When the homesteading whim hits you, there is a chance you won’t be in the prime location for it. Perhaps you are stuck in an apartment in a large city. Or, you might live in the country but are lacking the financial means to create a homestead.

That’s ok! You can practice homesteading skills ANYWHERE. The best thing about developing homesteading skills is that they can save you money. Who doesn’t LOVE to save money, right? Most homesteading skills lead you towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle, no matter your location.

I could list over a hundred homesteading skills, because I want to learn them all. We still in the suburbs! There are so many skills I want to learn like how to milk a cow and how to raise goats. I don’t know those skills yet, but it might happen one day.

Instead, I focused on skills that you can do no matter your location that will start leading you towards the homesteading life. Remember, these skills typically take practice. You won’t try it once time and master the skills. Everything takes practicing.

6 Homesteading Skills that Save You Money 

  1. Bake Your Own Bread

If your purchase bread, you might not know the amazing taste of homemade read. Nothing beats it. When you put the loaf of bread in the oven, the smell fills your house. It’s intoxicating.

Beyond the taste,  baking your own bread is more economical. I can easily bake loaves for under $1. Plus you can sell your own bread at farmer’s market, priced easily at $3 to $4 per loaf.

2. Grow a Vegetable Garden

There is nothing like growing your very own vegetable garden! It is a major step towards self-sufficiency. Gardening reduces how much you need to rely on the supermarkets.

At first, you might want to start buy purchasing seedlings at the store. Over time, you will want to switch to starting the seeds at home. Then, you can learn how to save seeds at home. There are so many gardening skills to work on developing. I think that’s why I love gardening; it is a never-ending learning experience.

3. Learn How to Can Produce

Once you start gardening, you want to learn how to can produce. You don’t even need a garden to start canning! Head to a local u-pick fruit patch, pick a huge bundle of strawberries, then make a batch of easy strawberry jam.

At first, you will want to start by using a water bath canner for easy things such as pickles, jellies and jams, and tomato sauces. Once you feel confident, learning how to use a pressure canner allows you to preserve your other harvests like green beans and potato soup.

4. Using Medicinal Herbs

Homesteading means using the things that you have around you. Growing herbs is typically easier than growing vegetables. You can grow herbs on your window  sill or in the middle of your kitchen table.

Pick a few medicinal herbs to grow for homemade herbal remedies. Some of my favorite choices are:

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Echinacea
  • Feverfew
  • Sage
  • Calendula

Once you start growing your own herbs, you can learn how to make infused oils and salves. We love making homemade salves for sore muscles or abrasions.

5. Basic Sewing Skills

When you have a hole in your shirt, what do you do? The answer isn’t to get rid of it. The answer is learn how to sew and mend your own clothing. You don’t need to create an entire wardrobe yourself! Instead, learning basic stitches so you can close holes or add patches to your clothes is a great skill because not only does it save money, but it also is a means of making money! People will pay for a seamstress!

6. Make Your Own Soft Cheeses

Cheese is a favorite food group in your house! The kids think cheese is comparable to candy. Try diving into learning how to make soft cheeses such as mozzarella or ricotta cheese. You can learn how to make your own cream cheese and sour cream as well. This skill doesn’t seem important, but once you have your own cow or goat, it is necessary!

I could include several more homesteading skills that can save you money, but it is best to start small! Many of the skills start in the kitchen, which is the heart of the home.

Do you have skills you are working on as a new homesteader? I would love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments!

7 Veggies You Must Grow in Your Fall Garden

Even though it just turned summer (officially), it is time to think about a fall garden! To have a great fall garden, you have to start planning right now. The first step is to think about vegetables for a fall garden. There are quite a few that grow well.

Before you make your selection, you have to think about what veggies your family eats the most. Another consideration is what veggies may have not done so well in your spring and summer garden. Many of those can grow again in the fall, giving you an extra chance to harvest more produce.

7 Veggie Plants to Grow in Your Fall Garden

Most of these plants do very well, even if you experience a light frost. If you need to take extra precautions against frosting, I noted that for you.

  1. Broccoli: While broccoli might need some precautions against frost, it is one of the top choices for a fall garden. It is important that you start broccoli seeds in the end of June, in preparation for a July/August planting.
  2. Carrots: I might be biased, but I feel as if you can never have enough carrots. They freeze so well. We dice and flash freeze our carrots for easy soup making. Most carrot varieties need 10 to 12 weeks to grow. Count back from your first frost date to discover when you need to sow the seeds for a fall harvest.
  3. Brussel Sprouts: Many people think brussel sprouts are gross, but they couldn’t be further from wrong. When grown and cooked correctly, brussel sprouts are tender and delicious. It is one of our favorite veggies. Like broccoli, you must start your brussel sprout seeds inside if you intend to have a fall harvest. You should count back 12 to 14 weeks from your first frost date to discover when to start the seeds.
  4. Radishes: If you are a lover of radishes, you can grow them right into the fall. Depending on the variety you select, you may be able to grow them directly through the entire growing season. I sow a new planting of radishes each month because the variety I use matures in 18 to 20 days.
  5. Lettuce: In the right conditions, you may be able to have a year-round supply of fresh lettuce. Lettuce is an ideal choice for a fall garden. You should directly sow the lettuce 10 to 12 weeks before your first frost. You can also plan to sow lettuce 8 to 10 weeks and 6 to 8 weeks prior to the frost, ensuring you have a great supply leading up to cold weather.
  6. Spinach: One of the best fall crops is spinach. All you need to do is directly sow it in the ground 8 to 10 weeks before your first frost. You could also start spinach inside a few weeks earlier. I tend to have better luck with spinach when I start it inside.
  7. Peas: Typically, peas are planted two weeks prior to the last frost, during the spring. Peas also make a fantastic choice for a fall vegetable. You will want to make sure it is an earlier variety. I pick an heirloom pea variety that produces within 60 days. Plant peas 10 to 12 weeks before the first hard frost.

Fall gardening is a great way to extend your harvest, along with succession planting. While there are plenty of other choices for veggie crops, these seven are my absolute favorite. If this is your first time having a fall garden, you can guarantee success with these seven crops.

Do you have a favorite fall veggie for your garden? Let me know in the comments.

 

Maximize Your Harvest with Succession Planting

It is a mistake we all make a first. You know you want lettuce for salads this summer. So, you plant the entire seed packet. A few weeks later, you have so much lettuce you can’t eat it all. Some of it goes bad. Was there a way to solve this problem? It is called succession planting.

What is Succession Planting?

Often called succession sowing, this practice involves planting a crop several times throughout the season rather than just once. Doing so spreads out your harvest time. Instead of harvesting 500 carrots at one time, you can harvest 50 to 100 multiple times throughout the season.

Succession planting makes preserving much easier. It also is essential for those who sell crops at farmer’s markets.

I’ve made the mistake before of sowing a whole bed of carrots. I then spent hours trying to preserve them. If I had known about succession planting at that time, it would’ve been much easier to ensure everything was preserved successfully.

Tips for Maximizing Harvest with Succession Planting

  1. Pick the Right Crops: Some crops aren’t meant for succession plantings, such as tomatoes or peppers. Instead, there are some crops that are ideal. Let’s take a look
  • Crops that grow fast, within 1 to 3 months, are perfect for succession planting. Examples are radishes, leaf lettuce, baby turnips, baby kale greens, and spinach.
  • If you need to harvest your crops quickly, those plants may work for succession planting as well. Examples are bush peas, bush beans, and baby greens.
  • I sow carrots multiple times throughout the season, but it isn’t necessary. They keep growing larger if I leave them in the ground. However, beans will go bad if I forget to harvest.
  • Pick varieties that harvest faster. For example, my radishes harvest typically in 18 to 25 days. Some radishes take 30 days. While that doesn’t seem very long, you can get an extra harvest this year by selecting earlier varieties.

radishes

  1. Group Similar Crops Together: To make it easier for yourself, you should dedicate each bed to a certain family type of crop. It makes it easier to rotate your beds each season when there was only one type of family in that bed. Each plant type has different watering and fertilizing needs.

If you can, pick some beds to use for succession planting and mark others for crops that take all summer to grow, like potatoes or peppers. You can sow these beds and harvest crops at one time. Then, add compost and amend the soil. Next, you’ll sow more seeds. This process continues throughout the season growing.

carrots

  1. Plant transplants: While some crops don’t transplant well, such as carrots or radishes, you can start lettuce or spinach ahead of time in containers. As your lettuce grows in the garden beds outside, start some inside for the next sowing.Some plants struggle to germinate and grow correctly if the temperatures are too hot. Starting inside in controlled temperatures and slowly introducing them to the weather outside (called hardening off) gives you the best chance at a large harvest.

peas

The first year that you garden, you may not be ready to practice succession planting. It does require more planning and thought process. However, those of us who spend each year gardening and preserving our harvest greatly benefit from succession planting. You can easily double or triple your harvest with succession planting. It is worth the effort.

So, tell me. Do you use succession planting? If so, do you have a successful harvest? Let me know in the comments.

9 Super Cheap Fertilizers You Have at Home

*This post contains affiliate links. They come at no extra costs to you, but it helps the cost of running the site.

fertilizers

Once your plants are in the ground, the work has just started. Gardens need cheap fertilizers. Yes, you can run out and purchase your own fertilizers, but then you are spending unnecessary money. There are plenty of ways to save money while gardening!

Many of the things you have in your own home can be used as fertilizers. The first thing that you need to know is plants need three essential nutrients to grow: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).

  • Nitrogen is essential for leaf and green plant growth.
  • Phosphorus is necessary for flower and fruit bearing.
  • Potassium is necessary for the growth of the entire plant.

Of course, your plants depend on other important micronutrients for their growth. Calcium, magnesium and sulfur are just a few other ones.

It is important to remember that plants are also affected by the acidity of soil. Some fertilizers can increase the acidity in soil. While some plants enjoy extra acid, many don’t. You will need to ensure you don’t increase the acid too much. You can use a soil tester that determines the pH balance of your soil. They’re relatively cheap.

Cheap Fertilizers for Your Garden

coffeegrounds

  • Coffee Grounds
    If you’re like me, you have no issues gathering coffee grounds. Instead of tossing out the k-cups or coffee filters, put the grounds into a bowl. Coffee grounds are an awesome sort of nitrogen.However, coffee grounds do add acid to your soil. You must be careful not to add too much. Some flowers, such as roses or magnolias, love extra nitrogen. There are veggies that thrive in soil with additional acid such as radishes, sweet potatoes, peppers, rhubarb and parsley.
  • Banana Peels
    If you have kids, you probably have a plethora of banana peels in your compost or trash can. Banana peels are rich in calcium, phosphorus and potassium, making them excellent for plants that flower, such as zucchinis.There are a few ways for you to use banana peels. You can chop them up and bury them in the dirt surrounding your plant. As they decompose, all of the nutrients leech into the soil.If you want to make a banana spray fertilizer, soak banana peels in water for two to three days. The water absorbs the nutrients.
  • Epsom Salt
    I love to soak in a tub with Epsom salt, so I typically have a bag laying around the house. Bags of Epsom salt are less than $5, super cheap! Epsom salt provides magnesium and sulfur to your plants. I typically sprinkle Epsom salt around my tomatoes; they love it!You can water your plants with Epsom salt. Simply mix one tablespoon of the salt with a gallon of water. I just put it in my watering can. Plants love it and it helps to increase their greenness.eggshells
  • Egg Shells
    Whether you have chickens or not, you probably have egg shells laying around at times. Instead of tossing them away, you can add them to your compost OR use them directly in your garden!Egg shells are rich in calcium, promoting cellular growth in your plants. Tomatoes love and need calcium for proper growth. If you bury them around your tomato plants, you help to reduce blossom end rot.Another way to use egg shells in your garden is to make a spray but boiling 20 egg shells in a gallon of water.
  • Grass Clippings
    Chances are you cut grass each week. You have tons of grass clippings, either left behind the mower or in the bag. Grass clippings are high in nitrogen. They also make a great mulch!There are a few ways to use grass clippings! Try mixing the clippings into your soil. You can just sprinkle them around the base of your plants. Another method is to fill a five gallon bucket of grass clippings then fill with water. This mixture has to sit for three to five days. Strain and spray!
  • Compost
    Without a doubt, compost is one of the best ways to fertilize your garden for free. Once you have a compost set up, you can put all of your brown materials, such as leaves, weeds and grass clippings, and green materials from your kitchen. You can add egg shells, fruit scraps and veggie scraps.You should mix your compost with your soil as you plant your veggies. You can also make a compost tea by soaking compost in water and then straining it. Compost is free, and it helps to reduce the amount of trash your family outputs.clay-knight-185433
  • Fish
    When the Pilgrims arrived in North America, they struggled to grow food in the soil. The soil near the coast lacked vital nutrients. Once the Native Americans, such as Squanto, decided to help the pilgrims, they survived and thrived.One trick the Native Americans taught the pilgrims was to bury a fish with their seeds. While you don’t have to bury fish with your plants, you can take a similar approach.Fishermen can keep the scraps of their fish and blend them with water and milk. If your aquarium needs emptied, be sure to use that water on your plants. It provides multiple different vitamins and nutrients to your plants.
  • Milk
    Do you have milk, or powdered milk, in your kitchen that is nearing expiration date? Instead of tossing it away, use it on your garden. Milk is a source of calcium, along with protein, sugar and vitamin B, which aids the overall growth of the plant.You mix milk with four parts water. It helps with blossom end rot, commonly experienced in tomatoes and zucchini.
  • Fireplace Ash
    Ash contains calcium carbonate and potassium. You can add the ash directly to the soil and mix it with your hands. Be careful with fireplace ash because it will boost the acidity in the soil.

The 5 Best Inspirational Homesteading Books

*This post may include affiliate links where I would receive compensation from items purchased. My reviews are honest and my own. I have read all of these books. You are not charged because of the affiliate links.

booksread

Homesteading is a way of life. You never stop learning, and that is an appealing part of homesteading for the educator inside of me. Skill development is just part of your daily life.

Years ago, I had no idea how to tend a garden. I had no idea how to grow radishes or how to prune brussel sprouts. I learned. My husband, Andrew, learned how to tend to a flock of chickens and enhance his woodworking skills.

Learning skills can come from personal experience or mentorship with someone more experienced. Andrew fixes our vehicles almost exclusively after years of working alongside his father.

The other way to learn skills is through reading books. I am a book fanatic. If I could fulfill one dream, it would be to have a complete, personal library with every book I could want to read. You probably can imagine I have read quite a few homesteading books, whether on an e-Reader or a book in my hands. Here are my 5 best and inspirational homesteading books.

backyard homestead

  1. The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
    Years ago, I needed inspiration. We only live on one acre. What could I possibly do on ONE acre that would make a difference for our family? Carleen convinced me that I can do more than I ever imagined. She gives plans for people who only have 1/4 of an acre! There is no reason why you can’t find ways to homestead on any sized land.

    encyclo

  2. The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
    Everyone needs a resource that they can use to find answers. Because we believe in being prepared, I prefer to have a resource in my hands. Carla Emery answers every question you probably could have. From canning to butchering, you can find answers in The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Plus, it is budget friendly and HUGE. The size was surprising to me when it arrived.

    weekendhomestead

  3. The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess
    Many of us have real jobs outside of homesteading. Anna Hess gives real, applicable tips for every month of the year. She talks about skills like choosing mushrooms and growing a no-till garden. I like books that are divided by months. It gives you tasks to think about and focus on during that time period. I find that I am more driven and inspired.

    madefromscratch

  4. The Made-from-Scratch Life by Melissa Norris
    I recently finished reading the Made-from-Scratch Life and I loved it! I am a long time listener to her podcast and the book was fantastic. First, it is Christian based and I loved how Melissa incorporates her faith throughout her book. She has excellent recipes and advice, especially about preserving and gardening. If you pair the book with her podcasts, you will gain a lot of knowledge. I sure have.

    handbook

  5. The Homesteading Handbook by Abigail Gehring
    I purchased The Homesteading Handbook on my kindle. It is a fantastic resource! There are hundreds of ideas, from building doghouses to learning about solar energy. Homesteaders need these types of research and resources so we can make the best decisions. Abigail even includes a fantastic chapter about making candles that I found very helpful.

If you take a look online, you’ll see that there are dozens of books about homesteading, along with hundreds of e-books and websites. There is more information out there about homesteading than ever before.

Do you have a favorite homesteading book? Let me know about it. I need no excuses to add more books to my shelves.