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

DIY Watering System for Vegetable or Flower Gardens

One of the most important aspects of growing your own veggies is proper watering. On a recent trip to Virginia in March I met Scott and Susan Hill of Hill Farm. This retired couple turned retirement into a profitable farm venture. Susan is a master of the growing and accounting part of the operation and Scott is the architect, maintenance man, and everything else guy. Scott was a helicopter maintenance test pilot in the Army before retiring. His skills in fluid dynamics shine in Hill Farm’s dual watering systems.

 Hill Farm hi-tunnel

One of the high tunnel growing houses at Hill Farm

This low cost system design was inspired by the Israelis, and Scott Says, “If it’s designed by the Israelis, you know it’s going to work.” At Hill Farm these dual watering systems are used in the raised garden beds, as well as the in-ground beds. One part of the system is a soaker hose and the other part is drip irrigation. This dual system makes the best use of their well water and grows an amazing crop month-after-month, all year long.

 Hill Farm crops

Crops with only the soaker hose in use

To build a dual watering system for each growing bed is simple and affordable. The parts needed are:

120 feet of soaker hose (for 3 hoses in each 40’ bed)
3 end plugs for soaker hoses
1 end plug for regular hose
5 feet of pvc
2 pvc shut off valves
U clamps for attaching pvc and soaker hose to raised beds
1 four-way pvc joint
5 pvc elbow joints
4 female pvc hose fittings for soaker hoses and drip hose
4 male hose fittings for soaker hoses and the drip hose
1 male hose fitting to connect to a water source
10-20 drip lines with nipple and emitters
Pvc adhesive for cementing joints
Hole puncher for setting the soaker hose nipples

Your growing beds will determine exactly how many feet of hose, number of nipples and emitters needed. Most of us would have a smaller growing bed requiring less length of the soaker hose, drip hose, and number of drip lines.


Dual watering system with emitter lines installed

After you gather all of the supplies and have an idea of the length of hose needed and spacing of drip lines you can start laying it out alongside your growing bed to see how it fits before starting the cementing process for pvc and hose cutting.

1. Start by cutting your soaker and drip hose to the length you need. Cap off the ends and attach female fittings on opposite end where you connect to the pvc manifold.

soaker hose plugs

View of end plugs

2. Get out your pvc cement then glue all joints and fittings and let set per instructions on cement package.

3. While pvc cement is setting, use hole puncher and attach nipples to drip hose, then to raised garden bed wooden frame with U-shaped clamps. Or if using in-ground beds lay drip hose where it needs to be for the crops you are growing.

4. Attach the short emitter lines, with or without the stakes to drip hose nipples.

 Hill Farm tools for setting drip system parts(1)

Tools for emitter line installation

5. After the pvc has bonded properly it’s time to assemble the best watering system you ever had.

6. Test for leaks and position.

Then sit back and marvel how well this watering system waters your crops from below. Without spraying water on your plants leaves to water them you will save the plants from scorching in the hot sun. You will also be saving water once you determine how long to run the water based on the growing stage of your plants and the time of year.

Since all of this might still be intimidating I asked Scott a series of questions to further clarify the process.

How do you suggest readers purchase soaker hose, in large rolls and if so what sizes do the tools come in?

I would suggest buying in a comparative bulk quantity for individual needs, if you need 500 linear feet, buy the 500 foot roll. From various vendors they come in 100, 250, and 500 foot rolls. I would also hope you don't make the same mistake as me, DO NOT mix sizes, I am going to use only 3/4" hosing for all my needs, the male and female hose fittings only come in a 5/8"/3/4" size, NOT either-or, and when used on the 5/8" hoses, they tend to split at the coupling after about a month, spilling LOTS of water into your beds!

Hill Farm raised bed wide view

A long view of the soaker hose

What was your approximate cost for one-40 foot bed's dual watering system?

Depending on the quality of chosen materials (and the better the quality, the less repair required!) between $60 and $85 per bed. I use brass fittings any more, they last!

How long do you think it would take readers to construct their first dual watering system?

Loaded question,;~)  if you're NOT mechanically inclined, or know how to use and have tools, at least a month! I will also elaborate on recommended tools for the project at bottom of this page.

What type of hose should we suggest they buy for the drip hose?

Unequivocally, must be plastic irrigation system hosing, which is usually less flexible than rubber soaker hosing. The connectors are slightly different than rubber fittings nd usually can be found at Lowe's or Home Depot locations. I suggest all hose fittings be secured using pipe clamps.

What type of clamps to connect to the wooden frame of the raised bed?

See below, I use one inch PVC and use standard inexpensive "C" clamps also found at almost any hardware or plumbing provider.

If watering an in-ground bed do you recommend attaching the drip hose to the ground with some sort of U clamp?

No, it's not necessary.

What diameter is the pvc?

I use one inch PVC, it's suited to the standard submerged well pump captive pressure on my tanks of 35-45 PSI.

What's the best tool for safely cutting both types of hose?

For the PVC, use any standard hack saw, the rubber hoses should be cut with a standard razor knife used for scoring drywall.

Are you okay with me saying you are willing to answer emailed questions? If so what email address do I give the readers.

I have no problem answering questions via e-mail @ <>  I would only ask that the SUBJECT LINE of the email specifically say "MOTHER EARTH", otherwise not probably recognizing the sender, I would delete without opening.


Scott Hill with watering system manifold

Scott and Susan grow some of the finest looking produce this chef and writer has ever seen. They are so committed to seeing you succeed too they have graciously agreed to answer questions submitted by email. Imagine how much easier watering will be once you have this system in place. That will free up more time for weeding, picking, and preparing your lovely crops all growing season long. How cool is that!

 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.

Beginning Your Medicinal Herb Garden, Part 2

I’m continuing my three-part series on starting your herbal garden. I need to mention here that my assumption, again, is that you’ve done your research and have prepared your soil for planting. So many problems with plants can be avoided by feeding your soil and ensuring drainage is adequate and biological soil life is thriving!

Truthfully I have a really tough time narrowing it down to just 9 because so many plants are useful to have in your medicinal arsenal. However, one of the criteria I am looking for is ease of growing, which does slim down the list, and the ones I believe are most helpful for family medical care.

Last time I covered Lemon balm, Chamomile, and Echinacea. This time I will cover calendula, Garlic, and Arnica. Three very different plants but all great for a home medical kit.

Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold)

This sunny, happy, orange or yellow flowered plant is part of the Asteraceae family. Not to be mistaken for the marigold in the Tagetes family. Sadly, it is an annual (I always prefer perennials), but with all its many benefits I still think it earns a place in every medicinal garden.


Calendula does best when direct sown into the soil once the last chance of frost has past. You can start them inside and transplant but there is more chance of harming the taproot. Make sure your soil allows for adequate drainage and oxygen, especially during the beginning stages, to avoid “damping off.”Calendula will tolerate a wide range of soils but prefers full sun.

A little tip

If you pick the mature flowers regularly in the spring and summer it may continue producing more flowers, even into the fall. Picking flowers also reduces the chance of pests (blister beetles, cucumber beetles, and aphids). Never let the flowers go to seed or you will greatly decrease your harvest.


The best time to pick is in the heat of the day when the water content is the lowest. Dry the flowers as soon as possible. The petals dry quickly but the receptacle does not so you can expect a total drying time of 10 days or more at 90 degrees or so. Let them cool and sort them carefully when they finish drying, as they reabsorb moisture readily.


Calendula is a wonderful anti-inflammatory for the skin and is used in many lotions, creams and salves. Apply topically for skin irritation: dry skin, cracked nipples, eczema, wounds.

Taken internally it will help the digestive system: colitis, peptic ulcers, gastritis (infusion) and is cleansing for the liver and gall bladder (tincture). It also helps reduce menstrual pain and regulate bleeding (infusion).

Preparations: tincture, infusion, salve, cream, compress

TYPE: Annual

SOIL: Well-drained, aerated soil

SUN: Prefers full sun, will tolerate partial shade

WATER: Water well 1-2 times a week

Allium (garlic)

You can’t go wrong with garlic. It adds a wonderful, flavorful explosion to any fare and, if used correctly, can add nutritional benefits. Garlic is also a wonderful addition to your garden as a pest repellant.


Garlic can be planted in the spring but you will likely deal with smaller bulbs when harvesting. I recommend planting in the fall, so put this on your list as something to do as you move into fall. You’ll want to plant garlic about a month before frost hits. Simply break apart the bulb a few days before planting but keep the husk on the individual cloves. Plant them with the pointy end up about 2” deep and 4” apart. Heavily cover with mulch. In the spring green shoots will begin emerging. As threat of frost is gone, feel free to remove mulch.

A little tip

Do NOT use garlic bought at the store, use garlic from a previous harvest or buy them from a local garden shop. Be aware that you need to pick a variety that is good for your zone. Garlic flowers are lovely but if you are looking for larger bulbs, clip back any flower shoots. Because garlic likes extra nitrogen fertilizing with rabbit manure or manure tea would give it that added boost. Water well about every 3-5 days during the drier season.


Harvest when you see the tops begin to yellow and get droopy (usually late summer in my area). Pull them from the soil gently, using a spade, brush off the dirt and hang in a shady spot with plenty of air flow. You can bunch them together but make sure every side gets air. It is ready to use when the wrappers are dry and papery. You can either “braid” them (yes, even hardneck garlic which is what grows best here) or clip off the tops and store in a dry, cool area.


Garlic is one of those things that mainstream medicine has recognized. There’s really no way you can go wrong adding garlic to your life on a daily basis.

Reduce risk of certain cancers
Positive effects on the cardiovascular system
Lower cholesterol

The key to achieving the highest health benefits from this powerhouse is  to make sure you don’t cook it, yes, add it to dishes, but try to add it near the end of cooking, it will provide the most intense flavor and won’t destroy all the enzymes (allicin). Press the garlic through a garlic press (this is the one I use)  and let it stand for 5-10 minutes, this activates the allicin. At this point you can add it to your dish, blend it with some honey and spread it on toast, add it to a batch of elderberry syrup (already prepared) for an extra immune boost, or, get crazy and just eat it straight up. Warning – you will have garlic breath J

Preparations: capsules, food, infused oil, powder

TYPE: Annual

SOIL: Well-drained, aerated soil

SUN: Prefers full sun

WATER: Water well every 3-5 days during the hot, dry months


Because garlic is such a warming food, it can be aggravating to people with a warm constitution. In high doses, it may irritate the digestive system, causing gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and burning of the mouth. In normal and moderate doses garlic acts as a pre-biotic, food for the good micro flora in the gut. People with a known allergy to Allium plants should avoid garlic.


A daisy-like flower with a happy, sunny disposition also part of the Asteraceae family. This is a beautiful and helpful addition to any medicinal herb garden.


If you are fortunate enough to know someone that has arnica in their garden, ask if you can have a cutting or if they are ready to divide their plant. If not, starting with seeds isn’t that difficult but germination can be tricky taking one month up to two years so patience will come into play here! Sprinkle the seeds and lightly cover with soil. Keep moist. The other option is to start them indoors with plenty of light (preferably a grow light) you can transplant these in the spring after threat of frost is gone.


analgesic (reduces pain)
vulnerary (wound-healing: fractures, sprains, contusions, muscular pain, varicose veins)
rubifacient (increases blood flow to an area helping speed healing)

Arnica should only be used topically on unbroken skin. It is quite effective when used as a poultice, in a carrier oil or salve.


Harvest blooming flower heads in summer, June through August.

Preparations: poultice, salve, infused oil, wash ( Steep 2 teaspoons arnica in 1 cup boiling water, let cool and use)

TYPE: Perennial

SOIL: Prefers sandy, slightly alkaline

SUN: Prefers full sun, will tolerate shade in very hot areas

WATER: Not drought tolerant until established, keep soil moist but not soaked – a good weekly watering should suffice except during very dry, hot months.

This is for educational purposes only, it is NOT medical advice.

Check out our online community for ways to help in your local food movement, learn about more medicinal herbs and much more. 

Sean and Monica are available for consulting work regarding property analysis & design, and speaking engagements. 

Read more on this topic:

Beginning Your Medicinal Herb Garden: Part 1
Growing Your Medicinal Herb Garden, Part 3

Sean and Monica Mitzel are the proprieters of Huckleberry Mountain Homestead & Breakfast a Bed & Breakfast with a homestead twist! They live with their family on 40 acres and are using permaculture techniques and methods for the property. The homestead is a demonstration and education site where they teach workshops and raise goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and ducks. The Mitzels have planted food forests, guilds and enjoy wildcrafting and propagating plants. To learn more about the Mitzels, visit The Prepared Homestead. Read all of their 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.

Seed to Garment: Spinning Cotton

tahkli and cotton--green-brown-bolls and skeins - BLOG

If you are growing cotton this year you will need to learn how to spin it. Even if you are not growing cotton yourself, you can learn to spin fiber you have acquired elsewhere. Spinning fiber to make your own clothes opens up many opportunities you probably never knew existed. If your fiber is not homegrown, you can source it from projects that take care in how they treat the people and the soil that are involved with the growing. The textile industry does not have a good record doing that. You can use naturally colored cotton or learn to dye your own fiber with plants. Of course, then there is the weaving or knitting to learn, but I’ll only deal with the spinning here.

Cotton is a very short fiber and needs to be spun at a high rate of speed to put in sufficient twist. The spindle needs to be lighter weight than the spindles you may see used with wool. I use a tahkli spindle, which is made of metal and weighs about a half ounce. Since the fiber is so short, even a lightweight spindle needs to be supported. When I bought my tahkli from it came with a small dish specifically made to be used with spindles. I usually prefer to rest the bottom of my spindle in a personal-sized wooden salad bowl (straight from my kitchen cabinet) because it is larger and does not slip around on my lap as much.

Homegrown cotton can often be spun right off the seed. If you want to take the seeds out first, it can easily be done by hand. I had heard of using a pasta machine to take out cotton seeds, so I borrowed one from a friend and tried it. It was slow going, not all the seeds came out easily, and the cotton was getting compressed. I decided it was better to do it by hand.

Whether I am spinning it off the seed or taking the seeds out first, I am spinning with rather loose fiber. If it becomes compacted, I will use cotton cards to card it before spinning. Dog brushes work just as well and that is what I used when I first started working with cotton. I found some at the pet store that had a button on the back that pushed the fiber forward to the edge of the bristles. How handy!

A spinning wheel for cotton is the charkha. One charkha design is called a book charkha because it comes in a wooden box that folds up like a book. When I was ready to move beyond the spindle I bought a book charkha from Eileen Hallman of New World Textiles at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, North Carolina where she had a booth. I had met her there in 2014 and by 2015 I was ready to make the move. Even though I had gotten pretty good with the spindle, learning to use the charkha took some concentration at first.

The thread or yarn that you will produce from your spindle or charkha is known as singles. Most likely you will need to ply two singles together to make a 2-ply yarn, which is stronger. You can learn more about spinning cotton and some hints about plying at HomeplaceEarth. Learn to spin your homegrown cotton and join the seed to garment movement.

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.

 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 Start Seeds For Next To Nothing

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to save money at the grocery store on fresh, organic produce but did you know that you can save money gardening too?

One of the easiest ways to save cash is to reuse containers to start seeds in. Seed starting trays can be made inexpensively from plastic salad boxes, milk cartons and even cereal boxes.

Recycled Seed Starting Containers

Yogurt pots and coffee cups make easy seed starting containers.

To use containers such as these, carefully make drainage holes in the bottom to allow water to flow through and prevent over-watering.

Plastic trays, lids and old cookie sheets make great free drip trays to place plant pots on to hold the water.  

cookie sheet

Cookie sheets make great water catchers when watering seedlings.

Other great seed starting containers include yogurt pots, cottage cheese pots, sour cream containers and plastic fruit trays.

toilet paper tubes

Toilet paper tubes are great seed starters for beans.

I like to use salad containers as holders for toilet paper tubes, paper towel cardboard tubes.  Plastic salad containers, cookie or cake boxes can be used as a homemade mini greenhouses to warm the soil and get your seeds starting earlier.  If you don't have any hard plastic containers, a simple clear plastic bag can be placed over a pot to increase humidity and temperature.

newspaper pots

Newspaper pots can be made for free!

The free newspaper or circulars which arrive in the mail are a great resource to the gardener!  You can use newspaper as sheet mulch to block weeds, shred it and add it to the compost heap or make free newspaper pots.

Newspaper pots are ideal for free biodegradable plant pots and are made by rolling newspaper around a solid container such as a jam jar and folding newspaper around the bottom and pulling the container out and filling with soil.  

Seedlings which do well in these pots include those which don't like having the roots disturbed like carrots, beans, peas, squashes and pumpkins. 

If you don't like the idea of using empty food containers, waiting until the sales at the end of the season mean you can pick up plant pots, seed trays, mini greenhouses and even seeds, plants and crowns like asparagus, rhubarb and artichokes can be picked up super cheap.

To get the best out of your seed containers, clean them first with hot soapy water if they have food residues in them.  Ensure the compost is kept moist like a wrung out sponge and give your seeds plenty of light to help them grow strong.

 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.

Bok Choy Sprouting into Broccoli

The high tunnel hoop house at our farm is full of tomato plants all summer. In late fall, we plant it with winter greens. Collards, kale, bok choy, arugula, turnips, Napa cabbage and lettuce fill the hoop. This cold hardy garden feeds our family and volunteers through the winter and early spring. By March something magical starts happening. Just when my interest in kale and collards starts to wane, the Brassicas start bolting into…broccoli!  


By March, the Brassicas—Napa cabbage, kale, collards, arugula, bok choy--sprout up shoots like broccoli. I discovered this by accident, when I left some bok choy to grow too long. It started to bolt, blossoming into succulent shoots that are delicious raw or lightly sautéed. Catch them before they flower into yellow flowers. The flowers are edible as well, but its best to catch the shoots with their more tender leafy stems before they flower. Once the plants flower, they slow down their leafy growth. Clipping the shoots regularly will force the plant to create more shoots for you to harvest.

Now I intentionally save some of my winter bok choy plants for the sprouts. The kale and Napa cabbage shoots are also tasty. They come to the garden in early spring, March and April at my Maryland farm, when the weather starts to warm up and the plants begin to bolt. I don’t have a chance to eat the sprouts in my summer garden, because the heat of the season bolts the plants into flowers more quickly. And there is so much more to eat in the summertime. But in the winter garden, the sprouts add a bit of variety that is much appreciated. Brassica sprouts are a delicious surprise harvest.

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene'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.

How to Plan a Bigger, Better Vegetable Garden


Spending time planning before you start sowing helps you to maximize your harvests. Taking time to observe where sun and shade fall in your garden will help you to pick the right plant for the right place. Tender crops such as tomatoes, peppers and squashes grow best in a sunny part of the garden, while leafy greens, salads, and some herbs such as parsley and chives prefer partial shade, particularly in hotter climates. If necessary, lower-growing plants can be grown behind taller ones (e.g. sunflowers or tomatoes) so that they benefit from the shade cast.

Make sure you know which direction the wind comes from and where the more sheltered areas in your garden are so you can best choose what to grow where. For instance, high winds can damage pole beans so they are best suited to a sheltered spot, but corn needs light winds for pollination and is better in a more open position.

Crop Rotation

Rotating crops from the same family to a new bed each year makes it harder for soil-borne pests and diseases to thrive. It also helps to keep the soil in great condition, because different crops place different demands on the soil.

Our Garden Planner makes crop rotation simple. When you select a plant, your plan will flash red in areas that were previously occupied by plants from the same crop rotation family.

What to Sow When

Once you’ve chosen what you’d like to grow, it’s time to work out key dates for sowing, planting, and harvesting each crop.

Our Garden Planner takes the hard work out of this job. Once you’ve added the plants you want to grow to your plan, click on the Plant List button to view your recommended dates for sowing indoors, sowing/transplanting outdoors, and harvesting in your location. The Garden Planner will send you sowing and planting reminders twice per month, so nothing gets forgotten.

The Plant List also shows how many plants you’ll need for the space you have available, so you know how many you need to raise and can have the right amount of potting soil, seed containers, and plant supports on hand when you need them.

Make the Most of Your Garden Space

Careful succession planting will enable you to keep your plot productive for as much of the year as possible.

The Garden Planner’s Succession Planting tool makes planning this easy. Double-click on the plant in your plan and select the months that each plant will be growing in your garden. You can then view your plan during a specific month to see where gaps appear as crops are harvested. Use the filter button next to the selection bar to show only plants suitable for setting out during that month. That simple bit of planning doubles the number of harvests you’ll get from the same piece of ground.

Learn more about planning your garden 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.

Getting Started in the Garden

Spring is here and thoughts are turning towards the garden. In northern areas, many think that it is necessary to wait for Memorial Day Weekend before the seeds can be sown. While that is true of the tender crops like tomatoes, peppers and squash, there are lots of vegetables that don't mind a bit of frost. I always begin with these individuals and by the time it has really warmed up, I'm ready to plant the sensitive ones.

I prepare the ground by first removing any sticks and leaves that came down over the fall and winter. Next, I dust some kelp meal and organic alfalfa meal over the surface. An inch or two of compost or well-rotted manure is added to that. Then, I loosen the soil by forking it up with a broad fork or a pitchfork. I never turn it over. In nature, leaves fall to the ground and decompose from the top down. Trees don't rototill their leaves above their roots. This allows the worms, micro-organisms, bacteria, fungi and other soil creatures to maintain their domains and pathways. I then gently rake it flat.

Peas and Snow Peas Love Cold Weather

pea plant with peas

I broadcast them meaning that I throw them all over the ground not just in rows. James Crockett used to say, “If you are stingy with your peas, they will be stingy with you.” So I throw down lots of peas. I then use my fingers to push them down an inch or so into the soil, dusting some neighboring soil over them. Peas need something to climb on so it's best to set up some tomato cages, trellises, chicken wire or sticks right in the bed.

Lettuce Comes Next

broadcast lettuce

I prepare a whole bed, but I only plant a couple of feet at a time. Lettuce gets bitter and goes to seed, so I plant it every ten days to two weeks all summer long. I also broadcast these seeds. The early thinnings go to the chickens, but once they are the size of a tablespoon, I bring them in and eat them.

Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts Follow

broccoli with lemon gem marigold underneath

I like to make hills with a depression in the top (like a volcano) about two feet apart for most, a bit closer for the kale. I always leave room at both ends of these beds to plant marigolds later. This greatly keeps the cabbage moth away. The “gem” series (shown) are adorable as well as edible. I will plant several seeds in each hill even though it will eventually get thinned to the heartiest one.

Swiss chard, turnips and beets can all be planted before the frost is done. I plant these in rows. While I leave a good bit of room between the rows, I sow them fairly thickly. It's not hard to thin them, but difficult to replant if the germination is not good. The Swiss chard and beets are not really “seeds” at all, but small fruit. They will send up many shoots which definitely need to be thinned.

Potatoes can be planted when the dandelions start to sprout. Plant them as deep as you can because the new ones will grow only above where the seed one was planted. If frost threatens once the leaves are out, hoe a bit of dirt over them for protection.

Onions and leeks can be planted early as well. For best results, buy plants. They don't mind being crowded in their pots before being set out in their beds.


The carrot rust fly lays its eggs around May 21st in our area. This turns into a maggot which burrows into the vegetable making it impossible to keep in the root cellar. So I generally wait until after this date to plant my carrots. They can be planted sooner if they are covered with some protection like Remay.

One year, we had a cold spring and I dutifully waited until May 22nd to plant the carrots. No sooner did I have the seeds in the ground, then dozens of flies began flying in and landing just on that bed! I quickly covered it and smushed the ones already there.

Pansies Are Another Fine Spring Tradition

happy faced pansies

These “happy faces” bring smiles to the people who find them in their salads.

While it is not summer yet, it is definitely time to start planting. Happy gardening!

I am offering gardening, canning, freezing and other workshops out of my home this summer. Go to my web site to check it out:

Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and 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.