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.

Canning Green Beans: Raw Pack Method

We are in the middle of prime green bean season, where our plants are overflowing. Canning green beans allows you to put them up for casseroles and easy side dishes later in the year.

Canning green beans is different than canning jams and jellies. You will need a pressure canner; a water bath canner cannot safely can green beans. Green beans are a low acid food, which means botulism can grow faster.

If you are new to pressure canning, canning green beans is a great introduction. I prefer the raw pack method. What is a raw pack method? It means you will put the raw veggies in clean jars to the indicated headspace and fill the rest of the jar with boiling water. The pressure canner does all of the cooking for you.

Sound simple? Well, it is! Let’s get to it!

How to Can Green Beans – Raw Pack Method

First, you want to snap your green beans. You have to do this whether you plan to freeze or can these veggies. Snapping green beans can feel like a never-ending task. Kids help make this job easier and quicker!

After the ends are snapped off, you will want to wash them thoroughly, removing any dirt. At this time, put a pot of water on the stove to boil. You also will want to clean your jars. When you use a pressure canner, there is no need to boil or sterilize the jars beforehand. Just clean them and inspect for cracks and chips.

Once cleaned, it is time to fill up your jars! The jars fill better when the green beans are between one and two inches long. Fill the jars up, leaving one inch headspace at the top. Headspace is important for pressure canning!

You will want to add salt to the jars. I tried no salt before and the beans were bland, consequently those beans were great for casseroles, but not side dishes. Try 3/4 to 1 TSP of canning salt per jar.

Now is the time to put the indicated amount of water into your canner (check your manual), and turn the canner on medium to start heating up the water. After you add the salt, ladle in the boiling water, leaving the one inch headspace! After filled with boiling water, use your included tool for checking headspace or a wooden skewer to move around the jar, popping air bubbles.

Wipe off the rim of the jar and put on the lid. Your jars are ready to go into the canner!

Processing the Green Beans

Put your jars into the canner and close the lids. At this point, it is best if you follow your canners instructions. However, most of them follow the same type of instructions. You need to allow the canner to gain heat, and it will push out steam until the lid is locked. You need to put the valve over on top, allowing it to gain pressure.

Green beans should be processed at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts. Your manual should have specific times; make sure that you double check! You need to process them for the correct amount of time to ensure any bacteria and spores are killed.

Once the jars are processed, turn off the heat and allow the canner to de-pressurize on its own. It can take up to 30 minutes for this to happen. Once unlocked, make sure that you open the lid AWAY from your face. The steam could burn you!

Lift the jars out of the canner and place them on a dry towel. Doing so helps to avoid breaking from the shock of the temperature change. Let the jars set for 24 hours.

Canning green beans couldn’t be easier! We had a small batch this time, but by the end of the season, our shelves will be lined with jars.

What do you prefer – frozen or canned green beans? Let me know in the comments.

 

Step-by-Step Guide: Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

For a long time, I avoided growing cabbage because I felt like I couldn’t use it fast enough. We love stuffed cabbage rolls and cabbage roll soup, but we can’t eat a whole garden of cabbage in a few weeks! Sauerkraut isn’t a family favorite. Then, one day I learned that you can freeze fresh cabbage heads, and my world changed.

Yes, it is possible! Learning how to freeze fresh cabbage heads is easy. It takes a few hours, so I suggest doing it on a day you aren’t super busy. However, most of the time is when the cabbage has to drain or soak.

Here are the steps! You aren’t going to believe how easy it is.

How to Freeze Fresh Cabbage Heads

First, you have to harvest the heads. That is very easy, taking 30 seconds per head at most! Then, I bring them inside. After they’re inside, I take off the four to five leaves. Then, they need to soak in water, typically for at least two to three hours.

Even if you think your cabbage was pest free, there is a good chance a few slugs or cabbage loppers found their way into your cabbage heads. I move the heads around in the water. Soaking kills the slugs inside of the heads. See this little buddy who thought catching a ride was a fun idea? He was wrong!

After the heads soak, take them out and let them drain for a bit. Next, you need to cut them into quarters. It is important that you keep the core inside of the cabbage. Without the core, your leaves are going to fall off in the water. You don’t want that to happen; trust me.

While you are cutting up the heads of fresh cabbage, you need to get a large pot of water boiling on your stove. Also, full up a side of your sink with ice cold water. You are going to blanch the heads by moving them from the boiling water right into ice water, which abruptly stops the cooking process.

Once the water is at a rolling boil, put the cabbage heads in. My pot fits three to four at a time. Let each head come to a boil for 3 minutes then move them directly to the ice bath. Continue this process until all of the heads are blanched.

After blanching, make sure all of the cabbage heads are cool to the touch. I drain out all of the water and let them sit in the sink or a colander for a few minutes. It helps drain out all of that excess water! I give each of the cabbage heads a bit of a squeeze to help get out the water.

Now it is time to get them into their freezer bags. If you have a food saver, this task is perfect for it. We don’t, so I stick three in each bag. Make sure to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible. Then, add a label with the date you froze them!

 

Freezing fresh cabbage heads is easy! If you want to have fresh cabbage later in the year, this is the perfect way to preserve it. We use the heads throughout the winter for hearty dinner meals and soups.

How do you preserve fresh cabbage?

Zucchini Shrimp Pasta

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My garden is overflowing with zucchini. I harvested three today. We tend to eat so much zucchini that we get sick of it by the end of the summer. There is only so much you can eat fried zucchini.

I recently purchased a vegetable spiralizer. Why did I wait so long to invest in this amazingness? Zucchini makes a wonderful substitution for pasta noodles, with way less carbs. While I don’t abide by any diet that is too low-carb, I know that it is better for my blood sugar. Plus, it’s green noodles – isn’t that fun?

I have trouble getting my kids to eat vegetables. I know I’m not the only parent who struggles with this! My middle child loves shrimp, and he was willing to sample the zucchini. That is a win for this mom! Next, I want to try it with regular spaghetti sauce.

Print

Zucchini Shrimp Pasta

An easy and healthy dinner (or lunch) dish!

Course Main Course
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 20-30 tail-off devined shrimp
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Unthaw your shrimp in warm water.
  2. Using your spiralizer, create noodles from your two medium sized zucchinis. You can use more or less, depending on how many people you are feeding. If the zucchini is too large, you may want to peel it first because it tends to have firmer skin as the fruit gets larger.
  3. Put the butter into the pan and let it melt. Add in your zucchini and let it cook for two minutes, stirring. Season with the garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the shrimp and let cook for three minutes. You don't want to overcook the shrimp; it will become too chewy!
  5. After the shrimp and zucchini noodles are cooked thoroughly, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

 

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!

 

Brussel Sprouts Growing Guide

My husband and I are huge fans of brussel sprouts. We frequently make them as a side dish for dinners throughout the week. While our kids may not love brussel sprouts as much as we do, they are an essential part of our garden.

The first year that I grew brussel sprouts, I was confused. It doesn’t look or grow like any other plant. Brussel sprout plants are unique. As you watch the sprouts grow up the stem, it is an amazing plant. The stem becomes shockingly thick, and it rarely needs staking. That is shocking, considering our plants reach three to four feet tall!

Years later, I learned how to grow brussel sprouts. They aren’t as hard as I once thought. Here is what you need to know!

Growing Brussel Sprouts from Seeds

One of the disadvantages of brussel sprouts is they are a slow-maturing plant. It can take 120+ days for a plant to mature. Consequently, gardeners typically are not advised to sow seeds directly into the garden. You will want to start seeds indoors.

To grow brussel sprouts from seeds, you first have to determine your USDA Hardiness Zone and find your final frost date for the year. In Zone 5B, my last frost date is typically around May 10-15. Brussel sprouts can go outside two weeks before the final frost date. You want to plant your seedlings four to six weeks before the date you want to put them outside. So, six to eight weeks before your last frost, start your seeds!

Tips for Planting Brussel Sprouts Outside

Before long, the time to transplant your seedlings outside will arrive. By now, your seedlings should be four to six weeks old, and you spent a week hardening the plants off. Hardening is the process of slowly introducing your plants to the weather outside. I start by placing my plants outside for two to four hours in the shade or a cloudy day. The next day, I leave them outside for another hour long, more in the sun. Over the next days, I allow the plants to stay outside for a long time and in more direct sunlight.

Once you finish hardening your seedlings, here are some tips for a smooth sailing transplant for your brussel sprouts.

  • I add fertilizer to the soil before planting them outside. Compost is ideal because it gives a nutrient boost to the soil, which increases the plants’ growth. Brussel sprouts love nitrogen, so ensure you pick a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. You can also add natural fertilizers like manure or grass clippings with additional nitrogen.
  • Scope out your planned location before planting. How much sun does the area receive each day? Brussel sprouts require at least six hours of sunlight each day. At the same time, the plants will appreciate some shade, especially during hot weather.
  • You will need to plant each brussel sprouts 12 to 24 inches apart. By the end of the season, you will be surprised at the size of your plants. They easily reach two to three feet!
  • Add mulch around the base of your plants. Organic mulch is an ideal choice because it helps to retain moisture, control soil temperature and add nutrients back into the soil as it decomposes.
  • The soil should have a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8, which is more acidic than average.

Caring for Brussel Sprout Plants

As I mentioned before, brussel sprout plants are slow-growing, slow-to-mature plant. It can be frustrating. You might think you did something wrong. Why is nothing growing? I know I felt that way a few times, but just have patience with your plant!

  • Fertilize your plant twice a season – once when the plant is close to a foot high and before harvesting. The second application may not be necessary! Slow-release fertilizers are a popular choice among gardeners, lasting an entire season.
  • If your plant becomes top-heavy, add stakes for additional support or mound dirt around the stem. If a brussel sprout plant falls over, it will break.
  • Your plant will slowly form sprouts, starting from the bottom and working upwards. As the sprouts form, break off the lower branches. This practice allows the plant to focus its energy on growing taller and forming the sprouts. Don’t toss out these stalks! They are edible and can be cooked down like any green.
  • Always remove any yellowing leaves that appear on your plant. The yellowing typically appears at the bottom of the plant as the sprouts mature.
  • If you need to extend the season due to unexpected colder temperatures, mulch around the base to protect the plant from the frost. Brussel sprouts are frost hardy, but you don’t want to leave them in temperatures too low, below 28 degrees F, for an extended time.

When and How to Harvest  

       

You’ll know that it is time to harvest your sprouts when they are two inches in diameter. Some people prefer to harvest them when they are one inch in diameter. The sprouts feel tender and are bright green. Most sprouts are ready 120 to 180 days after planting. That requires a lot of patience on your end!

Harvesting sprouts are easy! You can twist or cut them off. You need to remove the outer leaves and then store the sprouts. They do great when stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Don’t wash the sprouts after you harvest them. The best time to wash them is right before you eat, cook or freeze them!

Brussel sprouts are a fantastic fall crop. You will want to harvest them after a light frost. The sprouts have an amazing flavor after a frost! You might notice a second crop developing at the base of the stem. That is normal, and those sprouts are edible!

 

Brussel sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables to grow. I love the look of the plant as it grows, with dozens of sprouts dotting the stems. Brussel sprouts are a unique plant, making them an awesome addition to your vegetable garden. Just remember they are slow growing, but also heavy producing! Each plant produces, on average, a quart of sprouts. You will have plenty for the months to come!

Do you grow brussel sprouts? If so, leave some advice for other gardeners!

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.