Mother Earth News Blogs >

Organic Gardening
Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Fibersheds: Regional Textile Systems

black walnut shirt and homegrown vest--BLOG

Food, clothing, and shelter are the three basic necessities of living. Sustainable food and shelter seem to get a lot of attention these days, but not so much for clothing. Unless you live in a nudist colony, you wear clothes every day. The choices you make when acquiring clothing support the textile system that made it available. Even if you buy used clothing, ultimately you are still supporting the system that produced it, but that’s another story.

What is a Fibershed?

Unfortunately, the textile industry could use an overhaul to make it friendlier to the environment and to provide better working conditions to its workers. We need to ask how the land and the workers that produced this clothing are compensated for their efforts when we spend our money, because each dollar spent is a vote for how we want our clothes produced.

In the above photo, you see my homegrown, handspun, handwoven, naturally-colored cotton vest with a shirt I made and dyed with black walnuts. I already had the skills to grow and sew the cotton for the vest and to sew the shirt. I had to learn to spin, weave, and work with natural dyes to complete the vest and shirt. It has been a fun journey, but to clothe a whole society I realize it is not realistic to expect it all to be done in the home. You can learn more about my fiber journey and purchases of fabric that I didn’t produce myself at Homeplace Earth.

How Big is Your Fibershed?

In 2010, Rebecca Burgess formed the nonprofit organization Fibershed. She was concerned about where her clothes came from and set out to see if she could develop a wardrobe that came from within 150 miles from her home. She didn’t go it alone; she had friends to help her. Fibershed has since moved on to more projects that you may be interested in. It takes a lot to transform an industry, or to build a new one from the ground up, but you have to start somewhere.

Just as you may have stopped buying prepared food in favor of cooking and maybe growing your own, you can work to move your textile consumption to a more local and/or sustainable level. Start asking where your clothes come from. How big is your fibershed?

Even if we could produce enough cotton, wool, and flax for linen in our regions, there are not enough textile mills to take it from fiber to cloth and on to garment. If you have a small flock of sheep you can send your fleeces off to wool mills to be cleaned and spun into yarn. However, if you have cotton from your own field, you would be hard-put to find somewhere to send it to get ginned (seeds removed) and spun into fiber. Not a problem if you are doing it all yourself for your own family’s consumption, but to clothe a society we have to think bigger.

Take Back Your Textiles (System)

There are many opportunities open to those who want to help develop regional fiber systems. Burgess’ Fibershed is taking the lead to identify the opportunities and to promote regional textile systems. Maybe you will find a niche in there that you can fill. I know two people who have ginned their own cotton, but cannot find a processor to spin it into fiber. Fibersheds developed to handle the needs of each region — wouldn’t that be great?

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth. Read all of Cindy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Answers to the Most Common Gardening Question

WholeBunchOfVegetables

As the Snarky Gardener, I’m asked gardening questions all the time. Before, during, and after gardening presentations, on Facebook, at work, at business meetings, and during evenings out with friends. Sometimes the questions come at the beginning of the season (“I started tomatoes from seeds and now they look bad. What’s wrong?”). Some are during the season (“My tomatoes have black spots on the end of them. What’s wrong?”). And other questions come after the season is over (“My tomatoes produced poorly this year. What’s wrong?”). Of course, people ask about vegetables other than tomatoes, but since they are the most popular, that’s what I generally get asked about.

What’s the Most Common Gardening Question?

What I have noticed over time is the questions I receive seem to be bunched up, meaning I hear the same question over and over again. It’s not the same question from year to year, but just the same for a specific season. For instance, this last fall, I had several people ask about their tomato production. Most either had only a few green unripe tomatoes by the first killing frost, or they had like one tomato all season. So in this instance, the question was, “Why didn’t my tomatoes produce?”

The Answer May Surprise You!

The answer I gave every time was, “Yea, it was a bad year for tomatoes. I think the drought and other weather conditions here in the area slowed growth down.” What I didn’t tell them (because it would sound like bragging and make them feel bad) is that while I had lowered production, my garden still produced plenty of tomatoes.

Being an experienced gardener means you have gardened for multiple seasons, enough to know that each year is unique. The novice has no past to recall as a reference and believes it’s just their bad gardening skills. But you are probably wondering, “Why did the Snarky Gardener’s garden produce so much more?” Are his mad gardening skills that much better?

Here’s the Actual Answer

Because I have all this experience, I’ve learned much through the school of hard knocks. The lesson I’ve been taught above all else is that if you want a certain level of production, plant more than you think you should. The gardening philosophy I have developed is what I like to refer to as “Prepare for the Worst. Hope for the Best.”

As a gardener, losses are pretty much guaranteed. Weather, bugs, errant lawn mowers, and groundhogs are all gunning for your produce. Building these losses into your expectations will go a long way to keeping your sanity.

The Secret to a Productive Garden

Taking the extra production idea and building on it, your next step should be to plan an overarching design to your garden. This should include a wide variety of vegetables from all (or most) of the plant families. Don’t be one of those gardeners who just plants tomatoes and peppers. I know, those both taste great fresh out of the backyard garden, but tomatoes and peppers are from the same plant family, the Nightshades. They both like the same conditions (hot and relatively dry) and have the same pests (like the tomato hornworm).

In case you didn’t know, some common vegetable families are: nightshades, alliums (onions), brassicas (cabbage), legumes (peas and beans), spinach, mints (oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary, basic), grass (corn), and carrot (including parsley and dill).  

Add on One More Layer

So now you have all kinds of families planned for your garden. It’s the time to think about timing. Many people believe (or care to believe) that gardening starts around Memorial Day and ends after the first frost near or into fall (at least that’s how it is in my part of the world here in Northeastern Ohio). You till up the garden, plant everything at once, then sit back and watch the vegetables pour in during July, August, and September.

What happens if you get a frost after you plant? Or a deluge of rain in June? Or little to no rain during the summer than a whole bunch in September? Again, you need to build this into your plan. You should be planting something every month from spring to fall. I start my planting in March (peas, onions, and potatoes) and stop around September (spinach, lettuce, and turnips).

The Spice of Life

They say variety is the spice of life. For the garden, varieties are the spice of life. Different varieties of the same vegetables help to spread to risk. The second reason my tomato production was better than others was I utilized many different varieties.

I grew four different types of cherry tomatoes (Snarky Orange, 'Sweet 100,' 'Husky Cherry Red,' and 'Chocolate'). I also mixed in hybrid tomatoes with my open-pollinated ones, including one called 'Fourth of July' from Burpee that was developed to produce early and often. In total I had a dozen tomato varieties. Some did better than others, but most importantly, I had plenty of tomatoes to eat.

Takeaways

There are two takeaways here. One is don’t think your gardening problems are necessarily caused by your lack of experience. Ask people who are close to you physically, like your neighbors or local experts. If others are having the same issue, then you know you are not alone. And if you find someone who is not having the same problem, ask questions to find out what they did different. Gardening is certainly a learning experience.

The second takeaway is plant much and often. The more you mix things up, the better your overall results will be, both in gardening and in life.  

Don Abbott (aka The Snarky Gardener) is a gardener, blogger, author, educator, speaker, reluctant activist, and permaculture practitioner from Kent, Ohio. Professionally, he's a software developer but spends his spare time producing food at Snarky Acres, his rented 0.91-acre urban farm. Don is the author of The Snarky Gardener’s Veggie Growing Guide: Create Organic Abundance By Embracing Your Garden’s Wild Side. He is also the founder of the Kent, Ohio, chapter of Food Not Lawns and received his Permaculture Design Certification from Cleveland-based Green Triangle. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

How to Make a Cold Frame Step by Step

 

Cold frames are easy to make at home using salvaged windows, wood, strong hinges, some wood screws, and handles if you wish. The only tools required are a drill and a screwdriver.

How to Build a Cold Frame

First source your lid (or lids). An old window or even a shower door will work well. Then cut lengths of lumber to size to match your lid. You can choose how tall you’d like your cold frame to be, but make sure it’s one board higher at the back than at the front to enable the frame to soak up maximum sunlight.

Cut one of the side boards diagonally along its length to give you two triangular boards, one for each side, to match the slope from back to front.

Screw all of the boards to four corner posts that match the height of the front and back boards. You’ll also need two battens to use as props for venting the cold frame on sunny days.

Screw the side boards to their corner posts, using two screws at each end of every board. Drilling pilot holes before screwing the boards into place makes this easier. Screw the narrow end of the triangular top board on each side down into the board below to fix it into place. Then screw the front and side boards to their battens in exactly the same way.

Carefully line up the lid or lids with the back of the frame, and screw on your hinges. Longer lids may need several hinges along their length.

Screw the props that will support the lid into place, making sure they’re just loose enough to swivel up easily. You’ll need a short one on the front and a longer one on the side. You can also screw on some handles if you wish.

Using a Cold Frame

Cold frames can be sited on soil or on any level surface. They’re great for keeping salads going throughout winter, starting off tender crops, or hardening off indoor-sown plants.

When you click on the selection bar drop-down box in our Garden Planner and select ‘Structures,’ you can choose a cold frame to add to your plan. You can then drop the cold frame over your crops, and their growing season will be automatically adjusted to take into account the protected environment within the cold frame. You can also add other season extenders you may be using such as greenhouses and row covers to your plan.

See how to build your own cold frame in this video:

Get More Tips With These Great Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.

Choosing the Right Fruit Trees for Your Home

Whether you have just moved into a new home or have lived there for decades, it’s always the right time to plant fruit trees. A small investment of time and money will reap delicious, chemical-free fruit in only two to five years. Most fruit trees cost between $30 and $40, but can contribute to a life-time of health and enjoyment. Begin now by deciding what fruit trees you will plant.

Which Fruit Tree is Right for You?

Before heading to a local nursery or perusing a catalog, do a bit of daydreaming to figure out what fruit trees you will enjoy long-term. First of all, what fruits do you relish--apples, cherries, peaches, pears, nectarines? Living where there’s frost may mean we have to forego banana and citrus trees, but we still have lots of fruit trees to choose from.

After deciding what fruits are your favorites, it’s time to figure out which variety, or “cultivar,” of fruit would be best for you, based on what you would like to do with your fruit. Do you envision canning or freezing it for winter consumption? Or perhaps your mouth is watering for a slice of warm cherry pie? What about drying your own fruit for nutritious, chemical-free snacks? Does pressing apples for cider sound like a fun, autumn activity?

Chris and Roz

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with just eating fruit right off the tree. Imagine plucking a fully-ripe peach, soft enough to barely indent with your thumb. When you take a bite and have its warm, sweet-tart juice fill your mouth, your efforts will have been rewarded!

After matching specific fruits and then varieties to your needs, it’s time explore what fruit trees are practical for you to plant. That means choosing varieties that will grow well in your geological location, how much room you have and what varieties are available to you.

What to Consider when Choosing Fruit Trees

Hardiness Zone is the term used to tell what plants can grow in your area based on average minimal winter temperatures. For example, I used the online site, planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/ to discover that Ohio is now Zone 6. Catalogs or online sites will tell you which varieties of fruit trees will thrive in your hardiness zone.

Size of fruit trees makes a difference to what will “fit” at your home. The size a tree grows to — dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard — depends on its rootstock, but also how you prune it. All trees grow full-size fruit and most will produce fruit in two to five years from when you plant it.

tree-sizes

If a small, front yard is the only potential site for a fruit tree, plant a dwarf fruit tree and be the envy of your neighbors. You can keep it pruned to a beautiful “vase-shape” or a space-saving “central leader” (see my blog, Fruit Tree Pruning Basics.)

If your backyard could use a tree for shade, then plant a semi-dwarf fruit tree or a standard fruit tree. If you have a lawn, turn it into an orchard! By caring for fruit trees instead of mowing grass, you’ll be investing in your own health while providing habitat for other species.

Choosing between heirloom and disease-resistant fruit tree is next. Some believe that growing disease-resistant varieties is necessary to grow beautiful fruit without chemicals. After growing both heirloom and disease-resistant fruit trees, I’ve found that both can result in healthy trees and beautiful fruit. I’ll describe the holistic methods that make this possible in later blogs.

I’ve found that the down-side of the newer apple varieties is that they lack the flavor of the treasured heirlooms like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Cortland. Newer varieties of fruit trees may be bred for disease-resistance, but are also designed to meet the demands of commercial growers for easier shipping and appearance, rather than flavor.

Find out if your fruit tree needs another tree as a pollinator before making your final decisions. Not all fruit trees do, but as someone who has waited seven years for our first pear, I wish we realized sooner that it needed a pollinator tree!

Apple trees often need specific pollinator trees too, but interestingly, crab apples will pollinate most other apple trees. If you don’t have a specific pollinator for your apple tree, plant a crab apple tree within 100 feet or graft a branch from a crab apple tree to it. This will keep your apple trees bearing well.

It’s important where you buy your fruit trees because getting the right fruit tree in excellent condition from a knowledgeable source is essential to get off to a healthy start and have long-term success. You may live with your trees for decades, so your original choice is important.

Resist the convenience of buying potted fruit trees from a chain store. A bare-root tree from a reputable nursery will grow faster and have a better chance of success. I have no local fruit tree nursery but have had decades of success from StarkBro’s (www.StarkBros.com). If you hear of a smaller nursery that sells healthy, bare-root trees that also have known rootstock and are knowledgeable of what will thrive in your area, buy from them!

Planting and caring for fruit trees require so little effort compared to the decades of pleasure and fruit they provide. My next blog will discuss how to plant and care for your new fruit trees.

Mary Lou Shaw, a retired physician who emphasized preventive medicine, is now homesteading with her husband in Ohio. Besides growing their own food, the pair help preserve genetics and knowledge needed by others to foster rare breeds. They have a large garden and orchard, Dorking chickens, Narragansett turkeys, Dutch Belted cows and bees. Buy Mary Lou's book, Growing Local Food, through Carlisle Press at 800-852-4482. Read all of Mary Lou's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Mid-America Organic Association Conference

Mid America Organic Association Conference

With the influx of interest in permaculture, regenerative growing, soil building, sustainable farming and gardening, there comes a growing number of conferences that are held in the U.S. and worldwide which provide up-to date information and techniques within the organic growing world. One of my favorite conferences to attend is the Mid-America Organic Association Conference which is holding its eighth annual organic and sustainable farming conference on January 25-28, 2017, at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City, MO.

Nationally recognized speakers include world-renowned gardener Eliot Coleman, Botanical Explorer Joseph Simcox, Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt, permaculture expert Matt Powers, NRCS Conservation Economist as well as Chef Sean Sherman (who recently launched the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date for his project, The Sioux Chef), and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Greg Kiger.

eliot coleman

sean sherman

With more than 70 informative educational sessions and hands-on workshops, chefs, farmers, educators, gardeners, and consumers have a diverse array of educational tracks to choose from including Health and Regeneration of the Soil, Vegetable and Fruit Production, Native Perennial Crops, Super Foods for Healthy Land and Bodies, Sustainable Living, Tools for Success, and Sustainable Livestock Production.

Chef Showcase

The Chef Showcase will feature some of the best chefs in the Midwest. St. Louis chefs Cassy Vires of Companion Baking School and Jason Tilford of Mission Taco Joint and Milagro Modern Mexican, Ben Edison of Delta Queen. Kansas City Chefs include Brandon Winn of Webster House and Calvin Davis of Freshwater. Columbia Chefs include Walker Claridge of Broadway Bistro and Benjamin Randoloh of Eleven Eleven. Additional chefs include Joey Vaughn of Jolly Rogers in Rocky Mount, MO and Chef Robert Koeller of Culinary Concepts in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Educational and Networking Opportunity for Organic Growers

Per Executive Director Sue Baird, “The 2017 MOA Conference will be providing education and networking opportunities for our producers, retailers, brokers, and consumers about organic and ecological production methods, to our consumers about the health benefits of consuming organically and ecologically prepared foods. Over the past few years, we have grown from a small organization headquartered in Missouri to a large regional organization with members primarily centered in eight Mid-America states — MO, KS, IL, NE, IA, TN, OK and KY — but we have regular attendees at our conference from all the U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines.

"It is a great honor for us to have the support and trust of so many people across the region. As we continue providing information and resource support to those interested in organic agriculture, we are also focusing on networking and serving as a liaison between individuals and businesses with similar principles when it comes to food.”

Funds raised during the conference support the Mid-America Organic Association and its goals of educating farmers, chefs and consumers in organic and sustainable agriculture. 

 la vista share

Crystal Stevens is the author of Grow Create Inspire (published by New Society Publishers). She is a an eco-farmer, educator, permaculture enthusiast and artist along the Mighty Mississippi River near St. Louis Missouri. Follow Crystals adventures at Grow Create Inspire and follow her on Instagram @growcreateinspire. Read all of Crystal's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Earth-Dance Farms Plants the Way for Future Farmers

A catalyst for positive environmental, social, and economic change in the community, EarthDance Farms is an epi-center for ecological farming, gardening, ecological awareness, soil health and living an eco-lifestyle in the mid-western United States.

earthdance5

Photo by Monica Pless

Founder Molly Rockamann has had a long affinity with the land after visiting the farm at age 15 with her father to meet the original farmers, Al and Caroline Mueller. Rockamann fell in love with sustainable farming and preserving wild spaces after spending time abroad working with farmers in the Fiji Islands, Ghana and Thailand. In 2005, she had an apprenticeship at the U-Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems.

Upon her return to her hometown of St. Louis Missouri, Rockamann founded EarthDance as a way of continuing the Mueller’s legacy and preserving the heritage of the land. They received 501c3 status with the help from The Open Space Council as their fiscal sponsor. Since 2009, EarthDance has operated an extensive training program for beginning farmers.

earthdance2

Photo by Monica Pless

Their mission is “to grow food, farmers, and community, one small farm at a time, through hands-on education and delicious experiences.” Their vision: “Organic farmers feeding the world. Communities caring for the land. Farms inspiring creativity.”

They certainly prove their values in the community as they provide access to fresh food and education to the surrounding neighborhood. EarthDance is in the heart of Ferguson, MO and has remained a space of diversity, inclusion and communication. Through the Practicing Peace Initiative “EarthDance is working to highlight the many ways in which food justice can translate into holistic peace-building and wider social justice movements. Programs include free Yoga Classes, Nonviolent Communication Trainings and Stress & Trauma Relief Workshops”.

This year, with permaculture at the heart of their new endeavor, EarthDance is transitioning to a permanent bed system. They are scaling down from 4 acres to 1 acre using intensive no-till management practices. According to Farm Manager Mateo Lebon, “Permanent beds will change our production practices significantly. Rather than tilling the soil after each round of crops, our permanent beds and their adjacent pathways will remain in the exact same spot. We are very excited about this change because there are so many benefits to shifting to a permanent bed system.  The benefits are:

1. Reduced compaction. With permanent beds we can remove the heavy tractor from our growing fields and thus lower compaction on the land
2. Lower weed pressure. By maintaining the same beds each year, we reduce our need to turn over the soil. The less we disturb the soil, the less weed pressure we should have as the years pass.
3. Better soil health. Allowing the soil ecosystem of worms, mycelium, and diverse bacteria to build structure with minimal disturbance = happy soil = happy plants!

It will be a steep learning curve as we adjust to this new system but we are really excited about the potential for positive change. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year on how things are turning out with our new crop mix and permanent beds.”

 earthdance

Photo by Monica Pless

EarthDance Farms is an amazing example of permaculture in action. According to Lebon, “Their farm site is a 6-acre site with 7,980 square feet of high tunnels, a 30-by-96 greenhouse, farmhouse office, a 36-by-40 harvest house, a 200-tree mixed perennial orchard planted on berms and swales with annual crops alley cropped between, along with pastured poultry, mushrooms, herbs, cut flowers, a small pasture, prairie, and mixed woodlot.”

This is such an exciting time to be a part of the good foods movement. There is a network of growers from around the world who are connecting via social media to provide a sounding board, a support system, a wealth of resource, all with the common ground of caring where food comes from and how it is grown. Now, more than ever, this network is growing as the need and desire for local fresh food is getting stronger.

This generation of eco-growers holds reverence for the father of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, as well as all of the permaculture educators that are making great ripples of change within their own communities. The presence of permaculture is becoming more and more prevalent in communities around the world as we have seen an influx in community gardens, farmers markets, food forests, urban farms, rooftop farms, and CSA farms painted throughout the landscape of cities and tucked away in the terrain of rural areas. Permaculture Magazine is a wonderful resource for stories of real change.

We rely on innovative farming practices being spearheaded by Rodale Institute and are continually being inspired by some of the legends in gardening such as Eliot Coleman, Will Allen Vandana Shiva, Winona LaDuke, John Jeavons, Joel Salatin and Louise Riotte. Mother Earth News is the mother-ship for all things sustainable and continues to provide endless resources for those who seek out wiser living.

Young farmers now have a network of support thanks to The National Young Farmers Coalition. At the forefront of the young farmer’s ecological farming movement are authors and farmers Jean-Martin Fortier and Curtis Stone.

Crystal Stevens is the author of Grow Create Inspire (published by New Society Publishers). She is a an eco-farmer, educator, permaculture enthusiast and artist along the Mighty Mississippi River near St. Louis Missouri. Follow Crystals adventures at Grow Create Inspire and follow her on Instagram @growcreateinspire. Read all of Crystal's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Keep a Seed Inventory

forms-Seed_Inventory

The new seed catalogs have arrived and you finally have time to look at them! There are so many things you would like to try, but you have seeds left from last year and the year before. What is a person to do? Take inventory, of course. Before you spend your hard-earned money on more seeds, learn what you already have and determine if they are still good.

The photo shows the heading of the seed inventory form that I use. At the minimum you could use a sheet of notebook paper to record the seed varieties, where the seeds are from, and when you received them. I have been gardening for a long time and realized that having a place to record more information than that is helpful. So, my form has space to add the germination rate, if necessary, or the days to maturity for each variety. That is what the column with no heading is for.

It is your inventory and can you do what you like with it. Sometimes I actually count the number of seeds to record there and other times I weigh the seeds. Sometimes I record that it is a packet or indicate less than a packet for the amount or I might write in “enough” or “plenty.”  Whatever it takes so you will know if you have enough to get through the gardening year.

The right-hand side of the form is for your shopping list. You could identify seeds you need to buy as you do your inventory and check the Do Buy column. When you are browsing the catalogs you can put in where you plan to buy the new seed, the amount to buy, and the cost.

It might be time to purge old seed from your inventory. If your seed is in the original packaging there will be a date on it that shows the sell-by date. The seed company has checked the germination for that lot of seeds and, unless indicated otherwise, it met the minimum germination rate required by law for the year it was sold. However, seeds don’t stay viable forever, especially if you store them in a not-so optimum location. On the other hand, the seeds in that packet you bought for this past season, or even a few years ago, may still have good, or at least acceptable, germination. To be sure, do a germination test on questionable seeds. If the germination rate is low, you could still plant heavily to compensate. Your inventory is the first step to deciding what to do with all your seeds. Get some more tips about seed inventories at Homeplace Earth.

Once you have done your seed inventory you can sit back and really enjoy those seed catalogs. You’ve identified what you need and what you don’t. However, buying seeds costs money and shipping costs are always increasing. By spending time assessing your seed stash you might consider saving your own seeds this year. You could start with a variety or two. It is one way of assuring fresh seed coming into your inventory and it will open up a whole new gardening adventure for you if you are not already a seed saver.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth. Read all of Cindy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.