Natural Fertilizer, Food Preservation Methods, and Other Wisdom From Helen and Scott Nearing

Veteran homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing offer their advice on natural fertilizer and food preservation methods in this installment of their regular column.

| January/February 1979

  • 055 Helen and Scott Nearing.jpg
    Scott Nearing, seen here meeting with a visitor, used a natural fertilizer of compost, crushed limestone, and crushed phosphate.

  • 055 Helen and Scott Nearing.jpg
The following are questions readers submitted to Helen and Scott Nearing in their regular column on homesteading.

Natural Fertilizer

Q: I really enjoyed reading Living the Good Life, but it did raise one question: Since you keep no animals, does this mean you also use no manure on your garden? If so, what do you substitute for this fine, natural fertilizer? Also, do you have any system to make use of your "gray water" from laundry, etc.? 

A: During the 25 years that we've been gardening in Maine, we've used no animal manures or animal derivatives (such as bone meal, dried blood, or other slaughterhouse products) on our land.

Instead of that, all our fertilizer is made from compost, with the followIng ingredients either added to the compost pile or scattered in the garden: cottonseed, linseed, or soybean oil (preferably the last), finely ground limestone, ground phosphate rock, and granite dust. Every one of these, of course, is a natural product.

And no, we have no system which uses "gray water." It simply goes into a septic tank.

Food Preservation Methods

Q: My husband and I have enjoyed your books very much. We'd like to know how much of your "off season" food supply is made up of canned, dried, or frozen produce, and which—if any—of these home food preservation methods you find most satisfactory? 

A: During the "off season", our sunheated greenhouse provides us with such green vegetables as leeks, parsley, and hardy lettuces. (See our book, Building and Using Our Sun-Heated Greenhouse.) We also eat kale, broccoli, and spinach out of the open garden when it's not heavily iced or snowed under.


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Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


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