Organic Gardening

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

Add to My MSN



Planting the seedlings you’ve raised carefully indoors is a proud moment. But be sure to acclimatize them to their new outdoor home first, or you’ll risk losing your plants and wasting all that hard work. This is a process known to gardeners as hardening off plants.

Start hardening off your seedlings about a week before the final frost date for your area. Our Garden Planner uses data from your nearest weather station to give an indication of when it’s safe to plant outside.

Choose a sheltered spot to harden off plants, and start hardening off on a still, cloudy day when temperatures are fairly steady. Water the seedlings before they go outside so there’s less risk of them drying out. Avoid placing plants on the ground where they can easily be knocked over by birds or nibbled on by slugs.

An unheated greenhouse or cold frame is a great tool for hardening off transplants. Place seedlings and plants into the structure for a couple of hours on the first day, then gradually increase the length of time they’re in place by two or more hours per day. After a week they can then be left there overnight, as long as there’s no danger of frost.

You can use shade cloth or row covers to protect seedlings from strong sunlight – just drape it over the top and tuck it in at the sides so it won’t blow off.

In regions with cold winters, plants will need to be prepared for the cooler nights experienced earlier in the growing season. This is especially important for tender plants such as peppers, which are easily damaged by low temperatures. Near the end of the hardening off period, use row covers to protect foliage from cool temperatures. Once crops have been planted into their final positions in the garden, be ready with crop protection if late cold snaps are forecast.

Grow more plants than you need so you can hold a few back, just in case. Purchased plants may need hardening off, too. Hardening off takes time but will give you stronger, more resilient plants that will ultimately be more productive.

Learn more about hardening off seedlings and plants in this video.

More 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.


 Biodynamic vineyard

Biodynamic winery

I have heard the term "biodynamic" and wondered what was involved. Some consider biodynamic gardening or farming as voodoo science and quackery — or simply a scam. Others feel it is holistic, natural way of gardening leveraging mystical forces. The description I like is defines it as organic permaculture with a spiritual twist.

Biodynamic Farming's Roots

Biodynamic farming is actually the precursor to organic and sustainable farming. It is from Dr. Steiner’s teaching of how to work with the earth and heavens to farm in harmony with nature. “Organic farming” was coined by those describing Dr. Steiner’s farming approach.

Biodynamic gardening was developed in Germany in the early 1920s by philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Dr. Steiner believed that the soil, plants, animals and everything in the solar system is interconnected.

The backbone of the method is the making of preparations used in minute amounts to enhance production. Biodynamic gardening results in much enhanced soil and veggie nutrition and increased top soil depth Biodynamic soil study.

Many gardeners feel that the approach is too complicated to implement in their gardens. However, you can purchase the preparations to add to your compost. I purchased mine from Malibu Compost.

There is a deep devotion to the soil’s health, animal welfare, and the cycles of the moon and stars. It is important that 10% of farmland is set aside as a biodiversity preserve. As with organic, farms have to be certified to claim their products are “biodynamic” by following the Demeter Processing Standard. Demeter-USA

Free Range Chickens For Pest Patrol (Control)

Free range chickens used for pest patrol (control)

As with organic gardening, biodynamic uses only all natural amendments, pest and weed control. As with permaculture, biodynamic gardening is self-contained with no outside inputs brought into the farm.

Cover crops are used routinely. The farm is considered a wholly connected organism. There is also significant emphasis on water conservation and companion planting. Planting and harvesting is done by the phases of the moon and astral conditions like those our grandparents followed using the Farmers Almanac.

The 9 Preparations of Biodynamic Agriculture

There are 9 “preparations” used in biodynamic (BD): BD#500 horn manure, BD#501 horn silica, BD#502 yarrow, BD#503 chamomile, BD#504 stinging nettle, BD#505 oak bark, BD#506 dandelion, BD#507 valerian, and BD#508 horsetail. BD#502-507 are collectively known as the compost preparations.

BD#500 is a cow horn packed with cow manure and buried in the ground for the winter.

BD#501 is silica packed in a cow horn buried in the ground for the summer.

BD#502 is yarrow blossoms sown into a stag bladder that is hung in the summer sun and buried for the winter.

BD#503 is chamomile blossoms stuffed in a bovine intestine and buried over winter.

BD#504 is the entire stinging nettle plant ground up and buried in the ground surrounded by peat moss for a full year.

BD#505 is ground oak bark packed in an empty skull with the membrane intact and buried in swamp like conditions for the winter.

BD#506 is dandelion blossoms stuffed into bovine mesentery or peritoneum membrane and buried for the winter.

BD#507 is the juice of valerian blossoms that is fermented for a few weeks.

BD#508 is a horsetail tea.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are important for soil retention, soil nutrition, and soil enhancement

Using Biodynamic Preparations to Build Soil

It is best if the preparations are made on the property that it will be used. Steiner believed burying the preparations in the ground gave cosmic and earth energy to them. If you are going to purchase the preparations, purchase them from a farm in the same region.

Spray applications of 501 and 507 raises the top level depth from shallow to a depth of 14 ubcges over several years, according to biodynamic wineries. Using cover crops and adding compost to the soil is the backbone of organic practices that have been shown to increase topsoil depth. Biodynamic farmers believe the spray applications enhance these practices to another level.

BD#508 spray is used to combat fungal conditions. I sprayed my garden with BD#508 this summer as I had lots of fungal pressure with all the rain we got last June and the rain is even greater this summer. So far, so good.

To try out the benefit of biodynamic in our garden without personally finding the ingredients and making the preparations, I purchased Bu’s Brews by Malibu Compost biodynamic compost tea bags. I add the compost tea bags to my water pail and water my pots and garden plants after aerating the biodynamic compost tea as recommended. I then compost the bags in my compost pile that I add back to the garden.

You can purchase wines and food products that are raised biodynamically. Here is a directory of biodynamic product: Biodynamic food directory

My Sister, Mom and I at Beckmen Vineyards

My sister, mom, and me at Beckman Vineyards

A Visit to a Biodynamic Winery

Over the holidays, my sister and mom wanted to know what “adventure” I was up for during my stay in the Los Angeles area. I wanted to visit a biodynamic farm to talk to the farmers to get a better understanding of what biodynamic is all about.

The most well-known biodynamic farms are likely wineries in the U.S.: Frey, Beckmen, Quivira, Bass Vineyards, and Benziger are a few wineries that raise their grapes following biodynamic practices.

Beckman Winery is within driving distance of LA. Beckmen Winery produces excellent wines. You can visit the winery, have a picnic, and try their wines in their tasting room. Beckmen Winery

I am a big fan of organic and working with and supporting nature. Biodynamic farming embodies this approach. The additional layer with biodynamic is the preparations used in small quantities in your compost piles to impart the energies of the earth and sky. Dr. Steiner believed all was connected together as a living organism.

Even though scientific proof of how the energies are imparted is a mystery, studies prove the soil and nutrition of plants in a biodynamic farm is higher than conventional. I think we find out more each year of how interconnected everything is.

Melodie Metje started her blog, Victory Garden on the Golf Course, to help guide her family's gardening efforts and to keep track of what was happening in her own garden. She named it after the victory gardens grown to help the WWII effort. Melodie thinks we are in a similar situation today: Our country needs our help in battling the war on ill health. Read all of her 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.


garden box

Growing vegetables at a high elevation can be very challenging. Over the years we have had to be flexible and creative in order to manage a small garden. We grow enough for our needs but not enough to put any vegetables up for future use.

This blog post outlines some of the challenges we have faced and how we overcame them.

Rodent Control Using Garden Boxes

One major factor that had to be overcome was dealing with rodents. We live in an area where there are chipmunks, ground squirrels, voles, mice, and moles. Just about the time our garden would reach maturity they would devastate it. By locating it adjacent to our home we wrongfully assumed that it would be less likely to be consumed by rodents.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. These little varmints have  absolutely no problem coming close to the house to get a free meal. We went to earth boxes and put them on the front deck, but again, they had no problem coming up onto our elevated deck to feast on our vegetables.

The solution was to build garden boxes that kept them out. Our soil is very rocky and we have limited space to grow vegetables to begin with. These boxes are portable and protect the vegetables from unwanted pests. As the photo depicts, they are made from wood and ½-inch hardware screen. They can be made to fit whatever area you have available and for the last 10 years have kept the rodents out.

We made them of untreated lumber that we milled ourselves. That means that they will rot or decay in time, but there are no chemicals transferred to the vegetables, and we do not use any sealer on them.

The hardware cloth covers top, bottom and all sides. We hinged the top for easy access, and it also allows us to water the vegetables without having to raise the top. We also get frequent hail storms with pea-sized or smaller hail, and the hardware screen tends to diffuse the hail and protect the plants.

Another technique we have used is to grow plants that we don’t use ourselves on the perimeter of our garden area. They intercept the rodents before they can get to the vegetable boxes and keep them occupied so they don’t chew through the lumber. We planted currant and gooseberry bushes and these continue to produce long enough that the rodents stay occupied with them and not other things like our raspberry plants — however, the birds feast on those to a limited extent.

Vegetables for a Limited Growing Season

Our growing season is very limited at 9,800 feet, so we have to choose vegetables that grow quickly. We tried many vegetables but through the process of elimination discovered that many would not grow to maturity.

Our most successful crops are peas, kale, spinach, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, raspberries and carrots. Occasionally, we will reap a few zucchini, but those are our most successful crops. I do keep a potato bin that will provide us a few small potatoes as well.

This year, we planted seeds in early April, because it appeared we were going to have an early spring. Then, we received another 5 feet of snow and freezing weather which destroyed the seedlings. We planted again at the end of April, assuming that it was safe, because the aspen trees were starting to leaf out. Again, we were wrong, and we received more snow and freezing temperatures that destroyed the seedlings. Our final planting in mid-May was successful, as the above photo reflects.

We try to plant in intervals so we will have vegetables all summer. We, therefore, harvest one box and replant in that box vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and kale that are quick to produce. Our sunlight, even during summer, is limited as the sun sets on the other side of our mountain, so vegetables only get morning and mid-day sun and, coupled with the short growing season, we are limited in what we can grow.

Consistent vegetables are those that are named above. Rhubarb plants actually start growing under the snow and produce enough rhubarb for several pies throughout the summer with enough to freeze and have later in the year.

Our small raspberry patch is pretty much devastated by voles throughout the winter when we have 5 to 6 feet of snow and ice on the ground. They are able to tunnel to the base of the raspberry plants where they feast on the base of the plants. Hence the raspberry bushes have to start afresh each year from the roots.

With regard to our rodents and weather conditions, we have found they each vary year-to-year and some years the predators like owls, hawks, and weasels keep the rodent population to a minimum, but when they move on, the rodents repopulate quickly. Also, some years we may actually have 4 to 5 months of growing season, but that is always iffy and doesn’t occur often.


Living at higher elevation presents its own unique challenges for growing vegetables, and in order to have any harvest whatsoever, it is necessary to be flexible, creative and persistent. It can successfully be done but it requires more effort than having a garden at a lower elevation where growing conditions are more ideal. Our semi-arid environment also means more watering is required. We have not had any significant problem with insects, but when we do, we use diatomaceous earth to remedy that problem.

Bruce McElummary lives remotely with his wife, Carol, in an 880-square-foot cabin along with their three dogs. They implemented many of the things they learned from MOTHER since its inception as a magazine. For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to Read all of Bruce'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.


The cool, rainy spring we had this year has set our garden back a bit and now we're trying to catch up. Unfortunately, summer has proved to be abnormally rainy also. Seems like it's either feast or famine since last year was unusually dry. We had a good 7 feet of beautiful sandy beach last year, and today, there is none. In fact, the dock is almost under water.

Being above the 56th parallel, we have a short growing season with potential for frost at any time throughout the summer months. Winter has a nasty habit of sticking with us even though the calendar may say "spring."

Start Early with Hoop Houses

One of the ways we get an early start to the gardening season is by setting up hoop houses. All planted seedlings get a fabric cover of N-Sulate Frost Fabric, a medium-weight, permeable, UV-treated cloth which raises the temperature beneath it by 6 to 8 degrees. We have found this product to be far superior to Reemay both in its durability (our sheets are going on 10 years old) and for its greater frost protection.

Even if you live in the milder climes of the United States, using N-Sulate will allow you to get your garden off to a much earlier start with earlier harvests. We suspend this material over wire hoops so it's not laying directly on the plants.

Finally, over the growing beds, we set up hoops of PVC pipe which are covered with greenhouse plastic to give a few more degrees of protection. A few years we've had the hoop houses partially collapsing from the weight of late spring snows and yet our plants, including tender corn seedlings, survived just fine.

Snowy Garden Hoop House

Hoop Setup

Season Extension with Greenhouses

The greenhouse, as always, is doing very well. Our tomatoes, peppers and melons are growing like weeds. Here again, we do a few things to get an early season jump.

Long before the last frost, young seedlings are planted in the greenhouse and covered with Reemay. Recycled gallon milk jugs filled with water are randomly placed around plants to absorb heat throughout the day which radiates back during the night. I place a small kerosene heater in the greenhouse and it is my mission and job to run the heater on any night approaching freezing or colder. That makes for a poor nights sleep since I monitor temperatures diligently.

For me to blithely sleep through the night while our young, carefully nurtured seedlings keel over and die from freezing would be an unrecoverable disaster. I would get a serious spanking for that misdeed!

In some past years, the stems of a few tomato plants got a stem rot which we believe to be fungal in nature. We're trying something new to eliminate that. We cut old plastic one gallon milk jugs into plastic collars and placed them around the base of the plants at planting time. We are careful not to water inside the collar.

In other words, we are careful that the stem never gets wet and soil residue is never splattered on to the stem. We think that will go a long way to solving that problem. We'll know in another month.

Strawberries are in full bloom and we should have a decent crop this year. It won't be a record-setter but should keep us satisfied. Hard to believe one could get sick of eating strawberries but it happens. My record harvest in a previous year was 130 quarts. That's a lot of berries in a narrow picking window. Of course, we froze bags of them and made jam, but still, 32 gallons of strawberries was a lot to pick and consume. Not that I'm complaining. It was a nice problem to have.

Part of the strawberry success is making sure any runners are pinched off so the plant can devote all its energy to fruit production. The only other thing I do is lightly fertilize each spring just as the plants are leafing out and then cover the patch with a layer of N-Sulate fabric until warm weather settles in for good.

Video: My Path to the Wilderness

I'd like to share a video with my readers which took me forever to create. I have about 300 hours in it. Let's just say, the movie making didn't go real smooth. But I persevered and I'm very pleased with the results. It visually reinforces my previous blog posts for MOTHER EARTH NEWS and ties some things together. It gives you a better sense of who we are, how we got started, and how we ended up in the wilderness.

The video is broken into four segments: I start with homesteading in Maine. Then, for those adventurers among us, we'll go for a winter's thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail followed by a cross country bicycle trip and finally, the last segment is about our life in the Canadian wilderness.

I've been blessed to have lived an unconventional life for the last 36 years. I'm eager to share my experiences and help others. I hope my story gives a measure of confidence and inspiration to those contemplating a life change, be it homesteading or another dream of some kind. When I set out to homestead in Maine so long ago, I had no idea where that adventure would ultimately take me. It's been quite the journey!

Ron Melchiore and his wife Johanna currently live alone 100 miles in the wilderness of Northern Saskatchewan. Ron is the author of Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness published by Moon Willow Press and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with Ron at In the Wilderness and on Facebook and Pinterest . 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.


While shade presents a challenge, it needn’t stop you from growing your own fruit and vegetables. In this video we’ll suggest what you can grow in shade and share a few tricks of the trade to maximize the light your garden does receive.


Unless your climate is very hot, you should use the sunniest areas of the garden to start seeds, and then transplant them once they are bigger and better able to cope with shade. Use grow lights indoors to give early-sown seedlings a boost.

Paint walls and fences white, or use mirrors and other reflective surfaces such as shiny metal or foil to reflect any available light into shadier parts of the garden.

Shady areas are often colder and damper, so use cold frames or row covers to warm up the soil earlier and extend the growing season later. Use beer traps and delay laying mulches until the weather warms up to help deter slugs.

Space plants widely to help maximize light penetration.

Examples of Shade-Loving Vegetables

• 3 to 4 hours of sunshine a day: lettuce, arugula, chard, kale
• Morning sun and afternoon shade: celery, carrots, bush beans
• Morning shade and afternoon sun: climbing vegetables such as beans, climbing peas, and outdoor cucumbers
• Fruits: sour cherries, currants, gooseberries, blackberries, raspberries

Our Garden Planner makes it simple to choose shade-loving vegetables. Click on the Custom Filter button, select the ‘Partial Shade Tolerant’ option and click OK. The selection bar will then display only plants that are suitable for growing in these conditions.

Learn more about growing shade-tolerant fruits and vegetables in this video.

More 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.


Sow Bugs On Apple 

As a child, I thought the common pill bug, Armadillidium vulgare, was cute, even fun. No teeth. No stinger. No creepy-crawly long legs. Perfect bug for a child, right? They do seem very docile. When disturbed, they either scatter like crazy or roll up in a tiny gray defensive ball. That is, if it is the actual pill bug and not the sow bug.

Pill Bugs vs Sow Bugs

Sow bugs are incapable of rolling into a ball. The child in me prefers the pill bug. The adult in me could care less which kind it is — I no longer find them cute or fun. Adult gardening has a way of changing one’s view of the world.

Sow bugs really are amazing and if the little buggers would leave my strawberries and tender new seedlings alone, I would not give them another thought. Did you know these little bugs are really not insects at all but crustaceans?

I kid you not, they are members of the subphylum Crustacea. (Subphylum is the rank below phylum in zoological taxonomy. Although I find it fascinating, not everyone shares my geekyness, so I will refrain from further elucidation lest I make this my first and last blog post).

Other members of this subphylum are crabs, shrimp, lobsters, krill, and even barnacles – all marine arthropods. Which explains why these guys are dependent upon a moist environment to breathe through their gill-like structures. However, if submerged in water they will drown (note to self).

Identifying Pests in the Strawberry Patch

This whole foray into potato bug bedlam* started recently when I went to glean some tasty treats from my strawberry patch. I have the plants situated along a southernish-facing retaining wall that makes picking very easy. All except for one ripe strawberry had been maimed by these little crustacean tanks.

The first time I noticed any blemishes on my beautiful red bites of heaven was only a few days before when they first started coming on. I assumed it was birds, because the few marred berries were right up front and in plain view.

I soon found out my assumption was completely wrong. Each berry I went to pick had a divot that was occupied with at least one potato bug (the colloquialism I grew up with). More often than not, multiple adult invaders were there with their little baby destroyer tanks.

Now, I don’t mind sharing a little of my garden’s bounty with the fauna of our beautiful earth, but when they start taking advantage of my kind heart, I take great offense. In the meantime, I also figured out they were eating holes in the bases of emerging vegetable stems, especially my poor cukes.

My mood became dark. I was on a mission.

Strawberry With Pest Damage 

Natural Strawberry Pest Management

Sure it is easy to just buy chemicals and kill them (but then it becomes more than just my annoyances, aka collateral damage). I, however, prefer to use natural means for pest control. Off to the Internet and Google search, where I found many informative pieces telling me how these evolved marine arthropods only consumed decaying vegetation and controlling them simply required removing mulch.

What?! That is crazy talk. Mulch helps me keep weeds down, retain soil moisture, and maintain a more even soil temperature. Not. Helpful. Plus, I knew they were missing the boat on the other things on the tater-bug menu. I kept searching and reading.

Some said bury tuna cans or similar so the rim was level with the soil level and then fill with cheap beer (one of my English Springer Spaniels would make a quick business of emptying them all, rendering this mode useless).

Another suggested a thoroughly dampened, rolled-up newspaper. I finally settled on trying the newspaper and putting some pieces of fruit out that I normally would give to my worm bin. I chose an apple that I quartered and laid the pieces flesh-side-down amongst my strawberry plants. I did this just before dusk.

The next morning, I pretty much ran out the back door with a girlish anticipation while my coffee was brewing to check on my interventions. Newspaper: Zero. Apple pieces: Eureka!

Now, this method requires a quick hand to deliver a death blow of some kind, but it works. Each morning since, I have found fewer and fewer tater bugs.

I do have to say there was one point where I hesitated killing those cute little babies, but one look at another ruined strawberry bolstered my mission. I reminded myself that I am only trying to eradicate them in areas they cause damage. They are more than welcome to inhabit my compost pile or the mulch under my rhododendrons, viburnums, hostas, azaleas, and other shrubs.

They and their slug buddies are prohibited from any strawberry, new seedling zones, any veggies or flowers (and slugs are most definitely banned from anywhere near my hostas). It’s like I tell the spiders how they are outside-only friends. Once inside the house, the gloves come off.

Facts about Pill Bugs

Funny things I learned while researching how to control my tater bug problems:

Pillbugs don’t pee. They can easily tolerate ammonia gas created from waste conversion and actually can pass this gas through their exoskeleton. I am so grateful this is limited to tater bugs.

Not only can they drink through their anus, they eat their own poop. Pill bugs can literally drink through both ends. Yes, you read that correctly, they eat their own poop but unlike you dog, their reason is pretty legit.

When a pill bug poos, it loses copper, something essential to its existence. In fact, their blood has hemocyanin (copper ions, unlike our hemoglobin, which contains iron ions). Because of this hemocyanin, they are true blue bloods. Eating its own poo provides a source of this element. Who knew pill bugs were little royal recyclers?

I am very interested in hearing how others deal with this problem, so please share in the Comments section below.

* The meaning here is that of a scene of uproar and confusion. Equally apropos is the archaic definition, meaning an institution for the care of mentally ill people.

Susan Slape-Hoysagk is a registered nurse who moved her family to the northern Oregon coast in order to live a more self-reliant life. She gardens and cans and enjoys backpacking, hiking, camping, skiing and swimming in the nearby lake. Connect with Susan on her Dreaming in a Sleepless World Blog and on Facebook.
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.


Rumored to have 14 to 18 ears per stalk and grow over 12 feet tall, 'Hastings’ Prolific' is a white heirloom dent corn that has brought questions from quite a few gardeners over the past few years. It can be difficult to find true facts about this corn, because the original company that developed it no longer exists, and internet searches don’t yield many results either.

H.G. Hastings & Co. was a seed dealer out of Atlanta, Georgia that sold this particular variety, and boasted that it yielded more per acre than any variety planted in the South for three out of four years in a 1914 news article (it allegedly held records in Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia). In one of their catalogs from 1935, they tell their potential customers that it makes wonderful corn meal and roasting ears.

In this same catalog, we can learn a little bit about the true nature of how this corn was intended to mature- “Hastings’ Prolific is a late-season corn, maturing hard corn in 120 to 130 days. Stalk is large, 8 to 12 feet tall, blades wide and vigorous, giving plenty of forage. Ears small to medium size, anywhere from 2 to 7 ears per stalk, according to land quality, fertilizing and distance in the row.”

1914 news article

We are thankful to have been presented with the opportunity to grow Hasting’s Prolific this year in our garden, and there has been great excitement from our plant date until now. We have been keeping record of its growth and taking photographs to back it, so we wanted to share our experiences with you in a two part article.

This first part will cover the beginning half of the corn’s development through Day 72. Expect Part 2 of this article to come out in late August, as we harvest the corn and dry it for seed and meal.

kernels and cobs

We planted our corn on April 21st, 2016, and had about a 93 percent germination rate by May, which equaled 280 plants growing. This particular variety was grown heavily in the South, so we knew that it would be a good fit for our temperatures/growing conditions.

Because it in as open-pollinated variety, we took careful measures to ensure it was not cross-pollinated by having only one variety growing, and ensuring that natural barriers/distance separate it as well from any possible outside source.

By Day 43, the corn was still thriving and already had a maximum height of 6ft tall. On Day 63 the average height per stalk was 8 feet tall and the strongest one measured 10ft. Tassels were beginning to develop by this point, and the honeybees were very active amongst them. A rough storm system came through shortly after we recorded this, and we lost about 10 of the stalks due to high winds, which caused the top half of the stalk to break.

From Day 66 and beyond (up until this point, Day 72) we have seen ears developing as the silks appear. Most of the stalks have developed two ears per, but we are hoping to see more as they are still growing.

The strongest stalk now is 13 feet tall, but the average height is around 11 feet. Because there is so much uncertainty about the height of the corn and the number of ears that develop, as mentioned, we have been taking photographs and journaling during this time to help get rid of the rumors and state actual facts. Just because the company has closed does not mean the legacy of this corn has to disappear.

day 69 hastings

We are growing here at Wolf Branch, and want to do our part to protect heirloom varieties like Hastings’ Prolific. In closing, we want to encourage those raising heirloom plants to keep record of their growth and the fruit/vegetables they may bear, for the benefit of yourself and others who may be interested in raising the same plant.

We also want to encourage those who do not currently raise heirlooms to consider doing so, and to research the many benefits they offer. So many clubs, exchanges, and farms work to preserve these plants for a variety of reasons- genetic diversity, the ability to save seed for next year, to feed yourselves and/or animals, to continue a business/family legacy, and to sell. Will you join us in raising heirloom plants next Spring?

Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. This year, they are raising a large crop of heirloom Hastings' Prolific corn that they will be selling seed from, along with making their own cornmeal. They are currently building a small cabin using lumber they have milled themselves, along with raising chickens, ducks, and goats. Read all of Fala'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.

Subscribe Today!

Pay Now & Save 67% Off the Cover Price

(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here