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

9 No-No’s in the Edible, Drinkable Landscape


Yucca. The beautiful flowers of a mature yucca plant may tower six feet. Beware: the root is tough and the spikes rough.

I’m a fanatic about the edible, drinkable landscape. Both parts: the challenge of creating a beautiful landscape in a city setting and that of getting maximum food production for year-round enjoyment. It has been exciting to be able to grow all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs even on a small city lot. And so satisfying to have enough to eat fresh and for canning, freezing, fermenting, and dehydrating!

But to be honest, as I look at the urban gardens all around me, mine included, what I see is overplanting. Over production. Too much plant material to be able to care for, let alone process in the kitchen.

Now that I’ve grown just about every edible plant available, here are some I would advise against planting, at least without some warning:

Elderberry. Fantastic plant for fast screening but then it keeps on going. Elderberry could take over the world. The flowers are wonderful, and the berries prolific, but a vigorous spreading habit takes a heavy hand to subdue in a city setting. Alternative: rhubarb.

Amaranth. Yeah, technically an edible grain, but also a terrible pest with its bossy self-seeding ways. A patch of this can choke out more useful plants and then spread. Alternative: okra.

Asian persimmon. Mild-mannered at first, bright green in spring, this tree can take off suddenly after a few years, splattering its many over-ripe fruits all around. It’s a hard fruit to preserve easily. Alternative: native American persimmon.

Yucca. Such an exotic edible and drinkable plant, an American native with spectacular (edible) flowers and roots that are usually deep-fried and served with creamy sauce. But…one established they are virtually impossible to move. The root goes deep and holds on, while the foliage just gets more aggressive. Alternative: rosemary.

Peach tree. Don’t bother. Nice folks in South Carolina and Georgia will grow them for you. Peach trees are notoriously short-lived, and plagued by diseases while alive. The only successful home peach tree I’ve known grew from a pit thrown into a compost pile…at 5,000 feet elevation, next to a pond. Go figure. Alternative: serviceberry.

Serviceberry ripe. Rather like blueberries, the berries of the serviceberry shrub, or tree, can be eaten raw, baked, juiced, canned, or fermented. Lovely in the landscape.

Rugosa rose. The so-called dog roses are known for their nutritious “hips,” the fruit of the rose and packed with vitamin C. True enough. But I’ve grown all kinds of roses, and mostly the other ones out-perform the Rugosas for consistency of hips. And the Rugosa roses run and take root all over the place. Alternative: mini-roses from the grocery store, cheap, hardy, and productive. Just plant outside.

Cherry tomatoes. If you must plant them, try doing it in containers. On the porch and close by, where you can pluck up all strays. Delicious though they are, the problem is that these little tomatoes have their seeds spread all over the place, and can overrun a landscape. Alternative: anything in the allium family, such as onion, garlic, shallot, leek, chive.

Onion flowers. Onions and their kin aren’t just delicious. Their flowers are beautiful and beckon to pollinators.

Plum tree, pear tree. Before you plant a plum tree, be clear about what you will do with the bushels of fruit that suddenly come ripe at once, and if you don’t pick and preserve them will fall to the ground and make a mess. Pear tree: opposite problem. Unless trained against a wall (espalier) or heavily pruned, the fruit soon gets out of reach, only falling to the ground when it is too ripe to use. Alternative: sweet crabapple.

Blueberry. Everyone’s favorite food, right? But the time and care it takes to get to the first harvested berry – wow, it’s a lot of work and expense. Proper siting and pruning, then netting against birds, with no guarantee of a good crop any particular year. Alternative: strawberries.

Strawberries. Take care of your strawberries and they will take care of you. Once established, and religiously groomed, strawberry plants will produce buckets of good eating.

I love all of those plants, but in downsizing my garden footprint I am sticking to the most useful and reliable: alliums of all kinds, perennial herbs, rhubarb, serviceberries, and some spinach and other greens in the shoulder seasons.

Nan K. Chase tends her edible, drinkable landscape in western North Carolina, concentrating these days on the allium family (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, chives), perennial herbs, rhubarb, serviceberry and crabapple trees, plus greens and carrots in the shoulder seasons. She is the author of Eat Your Yard! and co-author of Drink the Harvest, and her crabapple jelly has won a blue ribbon at the Mountain State Fair.

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.

Devils Bits, Fairy Wands, False Unicorns


Sounds like a recipe for a witches brew doesn’t it? Quite the contrary though. What we have here are three of the many “Common Names” of a remarkable, ornamental, native, shade tolerant garden plant that shows some very interesting promise as a medicinal plant.

Chamaelirium luteum, a member of the Lily family, is a dioecious plant (Male & Female flowers are produced on separate plants), that can be found growing in moist thickets in just about every state east of the Mississippi and in several Eastern Canadian provinces. It grows from a Trillium-like rhizome and flowers for quite an extended period of time in the early spring.

Unlike many spring flowering wildflowers, this plant is not ephemeral. In fact, the basal rosette of foliage that produces the central flower stems is present year round. Male plants attain heights of 24” – 30” in flower, but I’ve seen female plants soar to heights of over 48”. The small, creamy white flowers are produced in abundance on the stiff, firm, erect stems and it’s no stretch of the imagination as to where the common name “Fairy Wand” comes from. Even the seed heads of this plant are attractive as is the foliage.

The name of the genus evolves from the Greek word Chamai, meaning dwarf and lirion meaning lily. Although in the wild you’ll find Chamaelirium luteum mostly in rich, moist soil, I’ve had great success growing it in average soils, even on weedy road banks, where I forgot that I had planted it and rediscovered the lost plants almost 10 years later. They hadn’t grown much, but were still hanging on and very happy to be rescued and transplanted to a richer, continually weeded section of the garden. These plants have rewarded me for the positive move with multiple new rosettes and several flower stems year after year.

Although “Devil’s Bit” has a wide range, it’s rare to see a very large colony in one place, you usually find them scattered about. Native Americans used the roots of the plants medicinally for a host of ailments, mostly centered around menstruation. They believed that it also prevented miscarriages and improved fertility. Nowadays, modern medicinal research is bearing these uses out and investigation has shown that it may have beneficial properties for treating pregnancy problems and ovarian cysts. Other medicinal uses focus on Chamaelirium’s anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties.

In the garden, Chamaelirium luteum makes an attractive statement along the front of a path or in a group setting and will be a welcome addition to any shade garden. Propagation is easy by rhizome division or by seed, although it can take 5-7 years for seed grown plants to reach maturity and flower.

Till our next horticultural excursion,

Peace out, Glickster

Barry Glick founded Sunshine Farm and Gardens in 1972 on 60 acres in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. His plant collection now numbers more than 10,000 taxa, many unknown to cultivation. Several of these plants have been introduced to gardening in recent years. Barry exchanges seeds and plants with people at arboretums, botanic gardens, nurseries and private gardens in virtually every country in the world. Peruse Barry’s speakers series here and read the rave reviews hereIf you have any questions, would like to chat about any plants that Barry offers, send an email to his personal email addressRead all of Barry’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.

Satsuma (Orange) Sally

 Bloom on Sally Satsuma

Among the first fruit trees I purchased was a smallish tree, less than four feet tall, with wide dark green leaves. I bought it at a local nursery and was told simply “it's a satsuma (orange-like) that, in the few years we've had it, didn't produce any flowers or fruit.” I was also told that it was self fertilizing and that it would survive in a big pot on the porch. (I live in USDA Zone 7b, meaning not a lot of citrus are supposed to live outside all winter here.) In late February, early March, I brought this little tree home and stuck it in the tiny lean-to “greenhouse” I had built from discarded pallets and corrugated clear plastic panels.

As daytime temperatures warmed, I brought Sally and friends out into the direct sunlight all day. As I later learned, this is not a good idea for some plants who will revolt by having their leaves turn brown and shrivel somewhat as they adjust to the instant access to the sun. Sally did great, however, and even started to sprout a ton of fantastic white blossoms all over her foliage! And if you've never smelled citrus blossoms in person, you are missing a true aromatic treat! Eventually, the wind was strong enough there to blow leaves off of some other plants. Sally's blooms, however, stayed in tact! A couple of moves around the land to find that perfect potted tree place, and Sally had developed little green baby fruits where her blossoms once grew - 13 baby fruits in all!

Being on a once-abandoned property that is surrounded by other abandoned properties means that nature has forgotten to forage here. However, as time has passed, some critters have discovered us and the edibles we are growing. By late summer, I had become overrun by what are either grasshoppers or locusts. (Internet friends are great when you want to be confused about things you didn't used to question.) Regardless of the name, the pest is the same – these things LOVE my food as much as I have enjoyed growing it. They aren't munching on the baby fruits but rather feast on the leaves. Sally has started to look as I imagine a tree's leaves look if you ask a small child to draw her interpretation of tree leaves. For now, Sally and friends are squeezed into a sad construction meant to deter the bugs, with only small gains; we attached 8-foot clear plastic corrugated siding panels onto the sides of an old metal gazebo frame with no roof.

The next step is learning when to eat Sally's fruit. They look like smallish roundish oranges, slightly squished on the top and bottom so that they are no longer perfectly round. It has been many months since the fruit babies first appeared, and here I am in mid October, wondering if the fruit will ever ripen to orange. Turning to the internet, I learned that the word “satsuma” has been applied to many things, from a type of pottery to a city in Florida. Narrowing the search, satsuma fruit trees are also named “citrus unshiu” or “satsuma mandarin”. They likely arrived in the U.S. in the 1870's from Japan but were mentioned in Japan as many as six centuries prior to that. Without knowing exactly which variety of satsuma Sally is, anything more is really a guess. She could grow to 6-8 feet tall in a pot, or she could grow more than 12 feet tall in the ground. She could survive winter in the mid-20's and may even survive outside here in Zone 7b if she's wrapped up for winter. Or she may die at the mere thought of a chill. (I went back and bought their only other satsuma tree, Samantha, who decided to drop all of her leaves on our first mild day all year. Stay tuned for a later blog entry on what I think happened to her.) This part will just be a work-in-progress experience. But WHEN CAN I EAT ONE??

Sally's fruit on her branch

Again, the internet is full of inconsistent assistance. A few sources said that, especially in humid areas such as mine, the fruit may never turn orange, so try to eat a fruit in late August. If it's not ripe, try again in mid-September. I found the biggest baby fruit, apologized to Sally for stealing her baby, and brought it inside the house to eat. The skin is super easy to peel, and to my surprise, there are NO SEEDS! (If you can't tell, I had never eaten a satsuma before.) It was super juicy and pretty tart. In sharing my experience with some friends, one pointed out that he thought satsumas are super sweet. So, I got back on the interwebs and read sources that say not to bother picking until October. *sigh*

Comparison of Sally's fruit

After writing all of the above, I set it aside a bit for an experiment. Some fruits like to finish ripening on a shelf (or in the back of a truck, which is how the produce industry has survived), so I took another of Sally's babies and left it on my desk for three weeks. As you can see from the photo, the peeling thinned out quite a bit. It was also harder to peel by hand, but a fresh satsuma peel practically peels itself once you get it started. (Ignore that the newer fruit is more ovalish. Home grown will never be entirely consistent.) The juice and flesh tasted about the same on them both, and the color really only hinted at a shade of maybe brown under the green on the older one. All in all, an exciting fruit to grow!

Ann B. operates Poison Ivy Soap Company, the business founded 24 years ago by her parents as a hobby. The company focuses on creating holistic products to help ease life's discomforts. Ann is building an Arkansas homestead from the ground up. Follow the company on Facebook and Instagram, and follow Ann on Facebook. 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.

How Growing a Garden Can Help Save the World


You've heard it all before; the earth is warming and temperatures are increasing.  But in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released an alarming report indicating that the rate of global warming is heading at 3 degrees Celsius not at the 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

A warmer world has some devastating consequences for every single species who call the Earth home.  The IPCC report urges for people to make changes to their everyday lifestyle like walk or bicycle for short distances, using public transport, eat less beef, cheese and dairy, insulating your home and turning the heating down to help keep the rate of warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But, if those things are just not your jam, here are some ways you can help reduce your impact on emissions and the climate change in your garden right now.

Grow Your Own Food

Starting a garden and growing your own organic food cuts down emissions and fuel used in importing, exporting and transport of produce.  Start growing your vegetables, herbs and fruit in your own backyard and learn to eat seasonally and preserve your excess to eat later. Learn about intensive gardening methods so you can maximize the food you can grow in the space you have available.

An organic garden is the best way to grow your own food but if you can't grow it, try finding it locally at a farmer's market or the local produce section in a store.

If your local regulations allow, consider raising chickens, rabbits or quail for meat or eggs and make the most of what they produce by composting bedding and manure to feed your garden soil and grow healthy, nutritious food.

Compost Green Waste

Make the most of recycling facilities available in your town and make compost from your green waste.  You can compost paper, veggie scraps, fruit peels and other food waste. Learn how to compost even more kitchen waste like meat or fish using Bokashi and start turning your waste into food for your garden.

Compost helps to capture carbon and is the best way to fertilize your garden because it helps to improve the soil structure, add more beneficial microorganisms, retain water and can help reduce soil erosion.

Planting Trees

Planting more trees will help to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the air.  Trees do this by capturing carbon dioxide in the air during daylight hours in a process called photosynthesis. Planting trees doesn’t mean that you are going to lose space to grow food in your backyard. Even planting fruit trees will help tackle climate change and help you to grow even more food!

Consider planting fruit trees on small or dwarfing rootstocks and training them to stay manageable in your garden and try growing multi-grafted varieties of fruit trees which will produce more than one variety on different branches.  Plant your trees using the permaculture technique of guilds and grow other edible or medicinal plants around your tree.

Saving Seeds

Building your own seed banks and saving seeds from your garden will not only help your wallet but will help you to grow plants which are adapting to your local climate.  In a changing world we need to be saving seeds from plants which grew well in our gardens. By saving seeds you are also helping to preserve the diversity of produce and flowers which we grow and enjoy.

Participate in a local seed swap to share seeds which you have saved and try growing something new.  Growing a diverse garden of food crops and flowers also helps to support native pollinators and honeybees.

These 4 steps are easy ways for you to not only help to reduce your impact on climate change but also to be more self reliant and in control of how your food is grown or raised.  This is a great time to get started growing your own food so what’s keeping you from saving the world?

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.

5 Reasons You Should Grow Garlic

5 Reasons to Grow Garlic

When you first start a vegetable garden its easy to think about what you want to grow – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce – the basics for a summer salad.  But as you get more into gardening, you’ll begin to look around the grocery store and realize there is so much more you could grow at home to provide for yourself!   

You’ll also realize that your garden isn’t just a one-season opportunity.  You can add row covers for season extension and even plant crops in the fall that will over-winter and provide for you the next spring and summer.  Garlic is one of those season-crossing opportunities, and it’s a crop that is a must-do for anyone who has a year-round garden space available.   

Why grow garlic?  I can’t really think of a reason why NOT to, but here are five reasons to add it to your rotation:

Timing – garlic is planted in the fall after most of your other veggies have been harvested (depending on your growing season, with some exceptions for warmer climates). Balance out your to-do list by getting this task done when you don’t have a ton of other seeds and seedlings to plant.  You’ll be happy come spring when the garlic pops up all by itself and you don’t have to put it on your spring to-do list! 

Check out this garlic growing guide from Charlie Nardozzi for more tips on planting.

Variety – did you know that there are actually thousands of varieties of garlic? When you buy it at the grocery store you’re just picking up a head of “garlic” but when you’re shopping for seed garlic you might be buying varieties like “music,” “carpathean,” or “german white.”  You can also choose between hardneck and softneck varieties, making it possible to envision one of those gorgeous garlic braids hanging in your kitchen! 

Check out this guide to garlic varieties from Storey Publishing.

Ease – I promise you, garlic is not that hard to grow. Pick a nice sunny location with well-drained soil, give it a little mulching in the fall then organic fertilizer in the spring.  Keep it pretty well-weeded and watch it do its thing!  Harvesting garlic and getting it ready to store is also not too complicated.  It can take a bit of work when you harvest but once your garlic is cured and trimmed it is easy to store for long-lasting use. 

For a tutorial on harvesting, curing, and storing garlic, visit The Happy Hive Homestead.

Bounty – guess what, garlic cloves aren’t the only part of the plant you’ll enjoy when you plant garlic! Garlic scapes are another delicious bonus – they’re the curly stalk that pops up early in the garden season.  You simply chop off the scape and use it in stir fries or pestos.  In addition, garlic is one of those crops that can supply you with a year-round bounty.  Growing a year-round supply, plus seed garlic for your next crop, just takes a little bit of planning.  You’ll never have to buy seed garlic again! 

You’ll find tips for planning for a year-round supply on Homestead How-To.

Taste – I don’t know any herb or spice that is more widely used than garlic (other than perhaps salt and pepper). And if you grow a bunch of different varieties you’ll be able to see how each of them adds flavor to different dishes.  In addition to using fresh garlic, you can also roast garlic and store it in your freezer in oil for easy access. 

Cooking with garlic is pretty straightforward, but if you’re looking for some ideas check out Mmm, Garlic – a site dedicated entirely to this amazing allium!

Carrie Williams Howe is a blogger at The Happy Hive Homestead and an Editor at Homestead How-To.  She is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston,Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about learning collaboratively. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’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.

Much Ado about (early) Winter

photo by Darlene Hitchcock, snow in Show Low 

When I tell people around the country that I live and garden in Arizona, the first thing they say is, "it must be nice to be able to garden year-round. I don't even know what I would do if I had 12 months to grow instead of 5!"Well, as you know from my first post, this area where I live is NOT typical "Arizona". We have freezing temperatures longer than we don't have freezing temperatures, and snow lasts into May at some of the higher elevations around us.

Here in St. Johns (zone 6), the average first frost of the season is between October 11 and October 20 (according to Plant Maps), which I have found to be true. Often, we have a small frost that can be protected against with row covers or blankets, then two more weeks of good weather to get the harvest in and let those last tomatoes finish up with their ripening. Because we know and usually rely on these averages, we have blankets by the doors come October 10. However, as sometimes happens in the White Mountains, the weather man predicts rain and cool temperatures but the weather delivers frost and snow.

Early snows, particularly heavy, wet snows like this area gets sometimes, damage plants and trees,and sometimes break power lines. The photo below, taken by Darlene Hitchcock, shows how a heavy, wet snow early in the season (October 7).

But early snows aren't all bad, even for the garden. A thick blanket of "warm" snow helps to insulate plants from colder temperatures, allowing the gardener to have an extra day or two of harvest time.

In colder areas, like Vernon, when snow falls, temperature plummets. Paula Johnson, long-term resident of Vernon, took this picture at 8 a.m. when temperatures had already raised to a balmy 33º. The frost was light last night, but gardeners were discussing how many green tomatoes they pulled into garages and barns, to ripen there because of the cold.

Snow in Vernon, taken by Paula Johnson

 Photo by Paula Johnson

While hard freezes and even light frost often end the life of tomatoes, peppers, and corn, a light frost does great things for brussels sprouts, sweetens carrots and beets, tenderizes kale, and even adds a nice crispiness to salad greens like lettuce.

Taken by Hazel Wolfe

Photo by Hazel Wolf

Higher up in the mountains, gardeners have already put their gardens to bed. Eagar, Alpine, Nutrioso, and Greer have shorter gardening seasons than any map or almanac would be able to differentiate, but the picture above shows how much more snow falls higher up, even when unexpected. Hazel Wolfe, who is an avid hiker and local dinosaur expert, took the above picture in Eagar. It shows how much more snow fell there than in lower elevations even a few miles away.

To handle unexpected weather, seasoned gardeners have lots of tips and tricks. If tomatoes are picked before the water inside them freezes, they often will ripen in a cool garage or unheated laundry room over the next couple months. It is important to pick them as early as possible and assess damage right away. If the tomatoes did freeze, you may not be able to tell until they thaw and they will be mushy and gross.

Potatoes, carrots, beets, and parsnips can be left in the ground after an unexpected snow with little, if any damage. The same can be said for many of the cabbage family, and brussels sprouts in particular, benefit greatly from a nice little frost. It makes them sweeter and can help get rid of some late-season aphids.

Watching the weather patterns is very important to keeping your garden going until the last possible second, but here on the southern Colorado River Plateau and the White Mountains, mother nature tends to throw some curves that even seasoned veteran gardeners don't see coming. In this case, we just take some gorgeous pictures of the snow, gather in what we can, and hope for the best.

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.

Bang for Your Buck(eye): Sprouting Tree Seeds

Ohio buckeyes are easy to sprout. 

Last Sunday, the family went down to my father-in-law’s house for a visit. He has a couple Ohio buckeye trees by the driveway, and my six-year-old made a beeline for the grass to search for fallen nuts. After filling her hands with, oh, I don’t know, like, four buckeyes, Emery insisted that she needed a bag so she could pick up more from the yard.

My father-in-law told her where the bags were in the drawer, and said, “I ain’t gonna pick ‘em up. I hit them with the mower, so the hulls are off.”

Needless to say, we came home with a gallon zipper bag full of buckeyes. And they really are quite beautiful. Named for resembling a deer’s eye, the buckeye is a glossy, deep brown nut that is perfect for fall displays and jewelry (can I get an O-H?). However, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really know what to do with a gallon bag of buckeyes, since they are poisonous and I’m not really a crafter.

But after thinking about it, I decided that every good Ohioan ought to have a buckeye tree and looked up tips on how to sprout buckeyes. Most of the instructions seem straight-forward and not too laborious that I would get tired of the whole ordeal.

The first tip I read was that buckeyes need to be planted relatively quickly after falling because they can lose viability and may not germinate, so I got right to work. I was advised to try to sprout more buckeyes than I needed. So I put eight buckeyes in an old plastic superhero cup that my kids no longer used and soaked them in water for 24 hours. I read that any floating buckeyes would not sprout, and to chuck them into the trash. I had one rise to the top, and pitched it.

After 24 hours, I drained the buckeyes while I went to the greenhouse to find a few medium pots to fill with garden soil. I found six, so I headed up to the garden to dig up some soil, filling the pots about halfway. Next, I selected the best-looking buckeyes for planting (I doubt this makes any difference if there are no insect holes. You the eye of the beholder and whatnot). I covered the buckeyes, pressing them slightly to firm the soil. Water and voila! The pots were seeded.

Then I selected a protected southern spot in a flowerbed to plant the pots. Now, you might be wondering why I just didn’t direct sow the buckeyes into the garden. Well, Ohio buckeye trees have very long taproots that can make transplanting difficult. When (and if) they sprout and grow into seedlings, I want to be able to remove the whole root to minimize damage to the tree. Plus, Matt can be a bit reckless with the mower, and on numerous occasions, little trees (and toys or kids’ shoes) have gotten whacked in half.

I did read that you can put buckeyes in the fridge if you don’t want to go to the trouble now. Just place your buckeyes in a plastic bag along with some soil for moisture and pop it into the crisper drawer (to impress your friends, the fancy-pantsy term here is cold stratification). Then when you’re ready to sow them in the spring, simply remove your buckeyes from the fridge and seed in pots or directly into the soil and wait for germination. After about three weeks, you should know if your buckeyes have sprouted. Keep an eye on the pots to insure they have not become rootbound, which can stunt your trees.

Now, remember that buckeyes are poisonous to most mammals. According to the USDA, buckeye trees are toxic to humans if any part is ingested, including leaves, bark, and seeds. And, if you’re worried about handling buckeyes, you can wear gloves to protect your skin. But, a good, thorough hand-washing should be good enough to remove any toxins.

Once my seedlings have a set of true leaves, I plan to relocate them to their permanent, partially shaded spot on the property. I’d like to have two trees, and need to place them at least 20 feet apart. Considered slow-growing trees, buckeyes will grow about a foot or two a year, depending on the variety. If you’re unsure about which variety you have, look at the hull. I’m fairly confident that I have Ohio buckeyes because the hulls are spiked and not smooth. There are six species of buckeye trees, growing in zones 4 - 7, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

So, if all goes well, I hope to have a few free buckeye trees to plant next summer. I always love to experiment with sprouting seeds that I collect along the way in order to maintain a sense of frugality in the garden. If you have any tips that I should know about with regard to sprouting buckeyes, leave me a comment below.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.

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.

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