For several years, we have been trialing eggplant varieties to find one better in hot weather than our favorite 'Nadia', which is great in temperate summer weather. We love the classic pear shape and glossy purple-black skin of 'Nadia', and we want something looking similar, but better at setting fruit in hot weather.
This is the sixth blog post in an alphabetically organized introduction to homesteading. It covers an understanding of what horticulture is and why it is important to homesteading. You'll find reading recommendations, information on plant selection, garden planning, plant propagation, seed saving, and food security.
Cowboy’s Toilet Paper, Our Lady’s Candle, Bunny’s Ear, Beggar’s Blanket, & Quaker’s Rouge are just a few nicknames for Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), a member of the snapdragon family. You will find this fuzzy, biennial plant growing on roadsides and in areas that have been disturbed in almost every state. A pioneer plant, it grows well in any type of soil, enhancing the soil as it grows (nitrogen fixer) which means it is a great plant to keep on your permaculture property for more than just an herbal remedy (or toilet paper emergency).
The Cranberry Glades are situated within the Monongahela National Forest, which comprises almost 1 million acres of land, making it the third largest national forest east of the Rocky Mountains. Within The Glades are many natural areas and attractions such as the “Cranberry Glades Botanical Area.” This 750-acre preserve is home to many unusual plants, and this is where you’ll find “the bogs.”
The harvest begins. Whatever happened to those wild and crazily overgrown potatoes (written about in a previous post)? Check out the bushels of newly dug potatoes that resulted from that botanical experiment started this spring.
These three underappreciated plants deserve their time in the sun, so to speak! Let’s dive into Local First Aid, learning about the edible and medicinal uses of these common wild plants: violets, plantain, and yellow dock.
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.
In the case of hops, Humulus lupulus, there is too much goodness to not consider this addition to the homestead. The quick answer? Hops provide excellent shade, prolific forage for animals, superb medicinal benefits and, of course, they are great for home brewing beer and cider.
Selective weeding can result in finding delightfully surprising volunteers in your garden. I’m sure most of you have heard some version of the old adage, “A weed is simply any plant growing in an unwanted place.” When combined with “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” you can sometimes have eye-opening conversations (especially with neighbors).
“Golden” will be the first word to enter your mind when you see the roots, rhizomes and dormant buds of Hydrastis canadensis. You’ll understand immediately why the common name is “Goldenseal.” This very useful native woodland plant will not only charm and entertain you spring, summer, and autumn — it can even heal you.
In spring, we plant several crops into hay mulch to help control weeds, including reducing the "weed seed bank". Few weeds other than perennial grasses will come up through a 4-inch layer of hay. Mulches of natural materials keep the soil damper, which can mean higher yields and less need to water. This method is quick and easy, and more effective than mulching around the plants after transplanting.
Polypodium virginianum aka the "Rock Polypody" is native to just about every state east of the Mississippi, Alaska, almost every province in Canada and all the way north up to Greenland and Iceland. To grow it requires no master's degree in gardening or landscape architecture or any particularly colored thumb. It's really quite simple! This is the perfect fern for any shade garden or along the path of any shade border.
What we know about the community of life in a healthy soil is that it is wildly diverse with a broad range of species. With so many members in the community, there is an answer for every problem. Every pest has a mortal foe waiting to attack it. There might be some occasional pest damage but very rarely a complete takeover by a particular pest or disease.
Cymophyllus fraserianus is the perfect Hosta replacement for any native plant garden or any shade garden, especially if you have a deer problem as this is one plant that isn't on Bambi's menu or wish list.
Native to 35 states and 3 provinces of Canada east of the Mississippi, Partridge Berry is rarely seen in the trade. I fail to see why, as it's very easy to propagate by rooting cuttings or from seed. In fact, it forms adventitious roots as it gently winds its way around the garden. It could never, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered aggressive or invasive.
A hybrid is simply two different plant varieties crossed for specific reasons. You can save the seeds produced by these, contrary to what you may have heard. It’s just more complicated than saving heirloom or open-pollinated seeds.
Increase your garden’s productivity with foliar spraying. Improve your success rate with cuttings by foliar feeding. Organic dilutions of lime juice, peppermint essential oil and kelp can each help your plant thrive. Reduce disease and pestilence by spraying weekly at sundown on your plant’s leaves and achieve larger harvests.
Now that this couple has moved into their new country home, they take time to plant garlic and a small fall garden in their “front yard.” One small step toward an established homestead, one giant leap for family morale!
The emergence of the long-lasting flowers of 'Uvularia grandiflora' is something I really anticipate every spring. And every spring, my robust stand of ‘Large-Flowered Bellwort’ slowly opens their large, pendulous, bright golden yellow flowers that resemble inverted flowing candle flames. Learn how to grow and where to find this ornamental native flower.
Twenty-five years ago, my daughter and I treated ourselves to New Orleans' famous Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. One dish impressed me so much, I begged for the recipe. Our server took my plea to the kitchen and the chef actually sent down a copy! I have made some minor changes and offer it here that you, too, can enjoy this comforting eggplant dish.
While building a house on rural property, this couple explores the native wildflowers and prairie grass on their land. They plan to nurture the native species already taking hold, and in future years, do all they can to spread their growth.
There are probably over 100 reasons that you should be growing shade-loving and native ‘Tasslerue’ Trautvetteria caroliniensis, but the main reason that you aren't growing it is because you've probably never heard of it, let alone had someone offer to share some with you. All that's about to change.
In the months before our move, I did extensive research to familiarize myself with gardening in Guam. I found Amot TaoTao Tano Farm and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a free tour of the farm to learn about native plants grown to educate the public about traditional healing practices of the Chamorro people. Here I share some of what I learned.
The commonly used name for our beloved early-spring, native wildflower Sanguinaria canadensis is "bloodroot." Bloodroot was once used as a dye and as an herbal remedy by early Native Americans. Sanguinaria canadensis is native to every state in the US and to every Canadian province east of the Rockies. Consequently, it's considered hardy down to Zone 3.
Planting seedlings from large garden centers often delays production as plants must overcome neonicotinoid insecticides, hormones, and chemical fertilizers when planted in your garden. Learn more about the toxins used by large growers and then support small producers for a healthy garden.
The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by groundbreaking garden writer Carol Deppe explores the practical methods as well as the deeper essence of gardening. She focuses on some of the most popular home garden vegetables—tomatoes, green beans, peas, and leafy greens—and through them illustrates the key principles and practices that gardeners need to know to successfully plant and grow just about any food crop.
"The Wild Wisdom of Weeds," by wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair, is the only book on foraging and wild edibles to focus on thirteen weeds found all over the world, which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit. Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic: If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.
Herbicide residue can linger in soil and ground water for years. Use these proven methods of strategic burning, grazing, cover crops, mowing and “frost interseeding” to establish your native prairie, and avoid harming wildlife.
Rice is the quintessential food plant around the world and it provides a significant amount of brown biomass for composting. Growing rice in the garden can be help you achieve food security but you need to pick the right variety for your region. There are a couple of important sub-categories of rice that need to be taken into consideration. Rice is either an upland type with a greater tolerance to dryer and cooler conditions or it is a lowland “paddy” type.
Tangible benefits of companion planting come from intercropping (also known as relay planting, interplanting or undersowing), which is when one crop (or cover crop) is sown or transplanted in the spaces between the standing crop before it’s finished. Here, I write about relay planting in the early spring, particularly interplanting peas in spinach beds.
Please don't let the common name mislead you. Virginia Bluebells are native to just about the entire eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, and there are 18 different species of “Mertensia” in the U.S. alone!
Before beginning construction on their new home, this couple is taking steps to prepare their land for their impending move-in by planting perennial natives, building some walking trails, cutting firewood to dry, and more. They’re having a blast!
If you think it's important to prevent Monsanto and other corporate giants from controlling the seed supply, you may want to consider donating to Organic Seed Alliance. Here is a short video about the work they do.
Every year gardens suffer from the "blight effect" on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. If left alone, the disease can prevent plants from flowering and maturing altogether. Here are 5 easy steps I encourage everyone to take before next year's garden even begins to sprout.
Hidden inside the stinky orange pulp of the fruits of the ginkgo tree is a delicious, pistachio colored edible seed. Here's how to identify and prepare ginkgo (without the stinky parts) by foraging for ginkgo nuts!
Ground cherries were once a popular staple in backyard gardens. Urbanization and lost space to grow our food led to ground cherries falling out of favor. Though older folks may remember eating ground cherry jam, they’ve only recently begun reappearing at farmers markets and in seed catalogs. Ground cherries are easy to grow and pack an unusual flavor punch in jams, pies, savory sauces.
The actual footprint of a garden is only one of many factors for how much food that can be produced there. With succession planting, good soil and some planning the same garden area can produce substantially more food.
Even as far north as Maine I can harvest produce from March to December with parsnips to dig from under the frost in February without the use of row covers or a greenhouse. In some beds I do two or more succession plantings that together with the root cellar keeps me with fresh produce all year.
Onions are daylight sensitive and need to have plenty of time to put on top growth before the days start to get shorter and the plant pulls its energy into the bulb. If you like to start onions from seed, don’t wait! The best time is already closing in.
I’d like to introduce the words farmden and farmdener into the English language. I wonder if there are any other farmdeners out there. And just what is a farmden? It’s more than a garden, less than a farm. That’s my definition, but it also could be described as a site with more plants and/or land than one person can care for sanely. A gardener and garden gone wild, out of control.
Sorting through seed catalogs is one of the most entertaining tasks we have here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS. These garden seed catalogs come in handy when searching for just the right variety of heirloom veggies to grow, and they're fun to look at too!
Grow calcium in your garden with collards, kale, and parsley. Suggestions are given for including these crops in your meals. Learn about companions to plant among your collards and kale to deter harmful insects.
Deciding which vegetables to grow can be an important step for any gardener. It is efficient to fill the space that you have with vegetables that keep for the longest periods of time, which can also mean a lot to the bottom line of any garden.
Heirloom vegetables are multi-use crops that have been passed down from gardeners for decades, sometimes centuries. Respected author and gardener, William Woys Weaver, discusses his reasons for using heirloom plants and saving seed.
Giving your ornamental and vegetable garden a thorough cleaning in midsummer not only leaves the landscape looking better, but can help prevent damage from diseases and pests by removing the conditions in which they thrive.
It may be sweltering hot outside, but we're still busily sowing seeds at the Southern Exposure farms! Learn how to plant your bountiful fall and winter garden, with abundant harvests through Thanksgiving and beyond.
There are many logical reasons for adding flowers to your vegetable garden: attracting beneficials, crop diversity, companion-planting, barriers and healthy soil. But perhaps their beauty does not need to be rationalized at all!
Hints for harvests all summer long - don't just sow once! Ira helps you plan summer successions for your garden. Plus, discover culinary secrets of okra you never suspected - okra coffee and okra oil - and a recipe for a simple okra lunch.
So, what do you do if you neglected to start your veggies way back in January or February? You had good intentions but there always seemed to be something that stole your attention. Now it’s the planting season and you have nothing to plant...
Breaking down the last week of homesteading we've done over at WaldenEffect.org, and the Top Bar project we started as well as talk on Brix, biodynamics, and Plant Secondary Metabolites. Also have details on an external frame backpack modification.
Ira helps you get started using nature's signs to plan your garden. Don't just rely on planting dates — easy observations of what's blooming, buzzing, and singing in your garden will help you see changing patterns from year to year.
My first blog for MOTHER EARTH NEWS takes me back to a time when I didn't know I had a love of gardening. One of my first gardening experiences came during an unlikely encounter with my curmudgeon grandfather.
The mild winter has led to an earlier than usual spring growing season and plenty of surprises in the way of plants making it through the winter that normally would never survive the cold season. Here's a peek at what's growing in my spring garden.
The Garlic Gurus at Seeds from Italy give you the scoop on growing your own garlic. This post answers questions of when and where to grow garlic, what varieties to grow, how much to grow, where to buy garlic, and how much to plant.
On the eve of Southern Company (NYSE: SO) holding its annual meeting of stockholders in Pine Mountain, GA., the nonprofit Green America released a report ranking the major U.S. power producer as “the United States’ most irresponsible utility.”
Garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years, and ethnobotanist James Duke, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts in medicinal plants, places garlic among the best all-around plant medicines in the world. Learn about the host of ailments garlic can alleviate and prevent, and discover some of the added health perks of this flavorful, folklore-infused herb.
Herbs are versatile plants that enhance our lives by adding beauty, aroma, nutrition, seasoning, and a varied landscape. Because they can be grown indoors, or outdoors in pots, as part of landscaping or in the garden, everyone has room to grow herbs.
This posting discusses how deforestation increases global warming and ocean acidification. It also discusses the role of deforestation in triggering severe flooding,aquifer depletion, soil degradation and animal and plant extinction.
Thoreau, Rachel Carson, Bill McKibbon, Terry Tempest Williams. Do you have a favorite nature or environmental writer? A book or story you can get lost in, that inspires you to action, or simply reminds you of how incredible nature is? Post a comment to share the titles that invite you into the wonder of the natural world — or have maybe even changed your life.
To better accommodate the planting schedule of gardeners in the southern United States, California’s Natural Gardening Company will make a dozen varieties of tomato transplants available by mid-August.
Japanese beetles feed for six to eight weeks, and in that time, they are able to feed on over 300 plant species. Although collecting beetles may seem like an exhausting every day task, you're plants will appreciate it.