Why Cover Crops are Important for Homesteaders

agriculture-87581_1280Preparing to live in a world that has been devastated by a natural disaster, war or an economic collapse means you need to be self-sustainable. Right now, you may have a good size survival garden and some livestock. You are probably feeling pretty good about your situation—and you should. You are almost there. If you have acres and acres of land available for your livestock to graze on, you probably aren’t too worried about feeding them when you can’t run to the feed store or to Farmer Joe down the road to buy hay. For those, who have limited land available, you need to grow food for your animals as well as your family.

One way you can keep food growing all year is by planting cover crops. Cover crops are a common practice for large farming operations because they help build up the soil. The roots are putting nutrients into the soil. This is an excellent way to help soil that isn’t quite ready for planting a full garden. Growing things alfalfa and clover will feed your livestock while preparing your soil for the following year’s garden. It is often referred to as green manure.clover-828698_1280

You will also help minimize weed growth over the fall and winter. This will save you a lot of time and trouble in the spring when you need to prepare your fields for planting. The soil will also be protected from hardening over the winter. Again, less work when it comes to spring planting.

What you grow is up to you. You will need to pick things that will survive the winter. If your goal is to feed livestock, stick with clover, which is very hardy. Throw out clover and alfalfa seeds in areas you will have your animals graze on as well. This will provide them with plenty of food the following year. Make sure you save seeds so you can start the process all over next fall.

What’s In Your Prepper Garden?

food-960070_960_720If you haven’t started your prepper garden, you still have time in most areas of the country. That means you still have time to think about what you want to grow. Unless you have acres and acres of fertile land to use for your garden, you need to use the space you do have wisely. While it may seem fun to plant this or that just because it seems like the thing to do, think about whether or not it is the best use of garden space along with your time and energy.

A prepper garden will ideally feed your family during harvest season and for months following the harvest. Not all foods are suitable for preservation that doesn’t require a freezer. While it is certainly okay to grow enough broccoli to have plenty of fresh, it isn’t a vegetable you can really can. You could dehydrate it, but the quality is going to be pretty funky. There are plenty of other veggies that are great fresh, but not so great for canning or drying. You have to assume you won’t have electricity, which means you won’t have a freezer.

Some prepper favorites for the garden are things like beans, corn, peas and carrots. Corn can be an issue if you have limited space. Each stalk will only give you a couple of ears. It takes several ears to get a single pint jar filled with corn.corn-fields-928380_960_720

Potatoes are an excellent option and can be a meal in themselves, but it is not wise to can potatoes. Drying potatoes is an option. If you have a root cellar, the potatoes you harvest at the end of summer will easily stay fresh until early spring. This applies to a number of other root crops as well and apples. As far as space goes, yes they can take up some serious space in the garden, but you don’t have to grow them in the garden. In fact, growing potatoes in a large garbage can is an excellent way to maximize space and save yourself the problem of weeds and pests.

Your prepper garden is what will keep your family alive after a disaster upsets the food supply chain. While you are thinking about the foods you like to eat fresh, also consider adding plants to the garden that you can preserve. Home food preservation is an ideal way to stock your pantry without costing a lot of money.

Take the Time to Plan Your Prepper Garden

vegetables-861363_960_720It is exciting when the sun starts to really shine in early spring. The promise of warmer weather and long days outside with your family and friends is alluring. You may already be dreaming of the succulent strawberries you will be picking from your garden in a matter of months. After the berries there will be plenty of fresh vegetables to snack on or throw into a salad. This is all very exciting and it can run away from you if you are not careful.

You need to spend some time planning your garden so you can maximize space. If you plan accordingly, you can use every inch of space and get the most out of your garden this year. This is important for every gardener, whether you have acres to plant in or just a small patch. With the smaller area, you need to make the most of your space so you can grow plenty of food for your family. With a bigger space, you want to be careful you don’t randomly plant here and there and end up wasting water and dealing with more weeds and pests than you can keep up with.food-960070_960_720

There are some programs you can find online that allow you to input what vegetables you want to grow and a rough diagram of your gardening space. The programs generate a plan for you that maximizes space and ensures you are planting companion plants together. The programs also help you avoid planting enemy plants together.

If you are not interested in using a computer, sit down and sketch it all out. This will help you figure out where to start planting when it is time. Don’t plant vegetables that you will not eat. You don’t have to plant broccoli if it isn’t something you and your family will not eat. It takes up space for nothing. If you live in a climate that makes it next to impossible for something like pinto beans or peppers to grow, consider using the space for something you know will grow and be ready for harvest before the weather turns.

Plant Your Garden with Heirloom Seeds This Year

seedsIt is already that time of year again to start planning your garden. A prepper needs a garden for several reasons. The food it provides will give your family something to eat today, while the extra produce that is common is preserved and put on the pantry shelves for the future. Gardening today also helps teach you the ins and outs of gardening so you are an expert when the garden is the only thing you have to feed your family.

While you are thinking about your garden this year, think about using heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are the only kind that will produce vegetables that you can harvest the seeds from to use next year. This means you always have new seeds to use for the following year. In fact, you will probably have more seeds than you can use, which means you can sell, trade or barter your heirloom seeds for different seeds or other things you need.

Heirloom seeds do cost a bit more. However, you only have to buy them one time. You will save money in the long run by paying a little more up front and not ever have to worry about buying seeds again. The investment can pay off once you learn how to harvest, dry and preserve the seeds to sell or trade.Seed-Packets-IMG_0879

When you are shopping for heirloom seeds, keep in mind you are going to be getting vegetables that are very natural. They haven’t been crossbred or genetically modified to be disease resistant, have shorter growing times or produce larger than life crops. You will have to learn how to garden without the benefit of these traits, which isn’t all that hard. And, you will LOVE the delicious produce you harvest.

Start shopping for your heirloom seeds today so they are ready to put in the ground when planting season arrives. If you can’t afford to buy all heirloom, start with a few packs and slowly build up your supply.

Prepper Gardening During a Drought

self-sufficient gardensWith droughts gripping a large portion of the nation, preppers are struggling to keep their gardens green and growing. A prepper garden plays a pivotal role in establishing a food storage. Without a garden, you are forced to rely on the grocery stores and pay ridiculous prices. It is only going to get worse considering many of the farms that supply that grocery stores are caught in the nasty droughts as well.

Preppers can keep their garden going by changing up the way they do things. Even the oldest dogs (preppers) can learn new tricks. These tricks will come in handy when the tap is dry and watering your survival garden isn’t as easy as turning on the faucet.

1-Put in a serious effort to keep the weeds down and away from your plant base. Weeds are water hogs and the little water your garden does get will be stolen by the weeds who are just as thirst as your plants.

2-Use pine needles, dead leaves, compost and even old newspaper around the base of your plants to keep the ground moist. The sun bakes the earth and evaporates the water quicker than your plant roots’ can absorb it.

3-Use soaker hoses or make your own out of an old garden hose. Poke a few holes along the defunct hose and lay it on the ground. The water will go right to the roots and not spray out and evaporate before it ever hits the ground.

4-Don’t waste water by over-watering. Set a timer or pay attention to the clock. Typically, 15 to 20 minutes is plenty of water for your veggies.drought-84611_640

5-Obviously, only water during the early morning hours or late at night. If you are a night owl, water throughout the night. Take advantage of the sun being down and it’s evaporating rays put away for the night.

Keeping your garden watered will help you control the bug population as well. When your plants are weak and thirsty, they are prone to disease and pests. Have you ever seen a lot of grasshoppers in a lush, green area? Not so much. They thrive in the dry areas.

Getting the Kids Gardening Today

gardening with kidsPreppers know the importance of having a garden. It is one way to supplement your food supply in today’s world and it is teaching you the valuable skill of growing your own food. After a major disaster, you are only going to be able to rely on yourself to provide your family with the food they need to survive. Gardening isn’t going to be your only job. You are going to be busy taking care of plenty of other things, which is why you need to get your kids involved in the gardening hobby today.

Kids are not going to have all the luxuries they do today. They are not going to be spending time watching television, surfing the internet or playing video games. Kids are going to be a huge part of helping the family survive. Every available hand will be appreciated when your days are spent carting water, repairing your shelter and looking for food.

Teaching kids gardening basics today, will make survival much easier in the future.container gardening ideas

Some things you can help teach them today are as follows;

Identifying weeds and vegetable plants
The art of watering plants without drowning them
Knowing when to harvest fruits and veggies
Understanding why we garden
Getting first-hand experience harvesting and eating food they helped grow
Starting them early means they will be able to take care of their own gardens at a much younger age
Participating in the gardening duties also helps teach children responsibility. They will learn early on what happens if they don’t weed or tend their plants.

It is no secret our kids spend a little too much time indoors and not enough time outside getting their hands dirty. By spending some time with the kids outside and teaching them by example, you are teaching them lifeskills that will carry them through a survival situation. These are skills they can pass along to their children as well.

Preparing to Garden During Extreme Heat and Drought

drought-84611_640There are plenty of states and regions all around the world that are expecting the worse this summer. Whether anybody wants to name the problem, it is no secret our world’s weather is drastically changing. With many regions light on snowfall over the previous winter and the winter we are just coming out of, drought is inevitable. Places like California were banking on a wet winter to bring them out of the drought they were in last year. It didn’t happen.

It is time to prepare for droughts and exorbitant food prices due to those droughts. As a prepper, you should be learning how to grow your own food. As a prepared prepper (is that redundant), you need to know how to conserve and save as much water as you can in order to keep your garden thriving throughout what is predicted to be a very hot summer.

*Mulch will be your friend. Pile it around the roots of the plants to help keep the ground moist. You don’t want the hot sun baking the earth and evaporating the water before your plant’s roots get a chance to absorb it.

*Invest in rain barrels—if your city ordinance allows. Put the barrels up now and catch as much rainwater as possible to prepare for a dry July and August.rainbarrel

*Use irrigation style watering instead of sprinklers. Sprinklers waste a great deal of water that could be used to water the roots directly. Sprinklers are also to blame for some leaf spotting.

*Set a timer to avoid over watering. It is easy to forget you have the water on and you could be harming your plants by giving them too much water.

*Only water in the early hours of the morning or late at night. This ensures the sun is not evaporating the water as quick as it is hitting the ground.

Keeping plants partly shaded can also help if the temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees or more. On extremely hot days, your plants are going to wilt and need more water to survive. Container planting is another way to conserve water. The water is not absorbed as quickly and you will be able to move the plants out of the heat of the sun when it becomes too much.

Planning Your Prepper Garden

starting seedsWhile spring is still a couple of months away for most people, it is the time of year you need to start planning your prepper garden. Growing your own food is an essential part of the food pantry process. You will not only save money by growing your own food and preserving it, but you will also have an established food supply source if and when things do get crazy.

It is important you spend some time planning your garden so you can take advantage of every inch of space. This is especially important if you have limited space. Many gardeners make the mistake of picking up a bunch of seeds and planting them simply because it seems like the thing to do. Those gardeners usually end up with a bunch of food they won’t eat and either give it away or let it go to waste. You can’t afford to do that when your garden is what feeds your family.

You need to learn about companion planning. One common method that has been around for centuries is planting corn with pea plants in between stalks. The corn shades the peas (which like cooler temps) and provides the pea vines with a trellis. This is an excellent way to maximize your space. Another option is to plant a root crop with a shallow-rooted crop on top. Herbs are excellent for planting over a root crop. Both plants will get the sun they need and will not fight for nutrients. Read up on this because some herbs should not be planted near certain plants. Garlic for one is not a plant you want next to your peas.seeds

Another trick you will want to learn is succession planning. Depending on where you live and your growing season, you may be able to get several crops of potatoes, corn and other veggies. If you start early enough, you can typically get at least 2 crops of vegetables with short growing cycles.

Lastly, invest in heirloom seeds. These seeds produce fruit and vegetables with seeds that can be saved and used for the next season. This is absolutely essential to your prepper garden. You want to be self-sustainable. In a SHTF scenario, you won’t be able to run to the store and buy new seeds every year. You have to produce your own. In many areas, you will need to order your heirloom seeds. They are not usually readily available in most stores. Order now so they are in your hands when it is time to start your plants indoors in preparation for the spring.

Heirloom Seeds: Why You Should Grow Them

organic emergency foodGrowing your own garden is becoming increasingly popular today due to the fundamental need for a vibrant food and a healthy lifestyle. It is essential that what we eat are free from chemical fertilizers, pesticides and contaminants that might put a risk on our health. Choosing the seeds to plant are one of the main factors to consider in gardening. It can be a little daunting, especially with the many choices of seeds, and choosing between modern hybrids or heirloom varieties. Heirloom seeds, or as gardeners often refer to as “Grandmother’s Seed”, are now the latest rage, thanks to its wide benefits.

 What is an Heirloom Seed? 

From the name itself, an Heirloom Seed is a plant variety (a cultivar) that has been nurtured, selected and carried down from one family member to another for many generations. It is genetically stable and will produce offspring with identical characteristics to the parent plant, meaning it is true to type. Hybrids, on the other hand, are created by crossing two selected varieties, sometimes resulting in vigorous plants that yield more than heirlooms. Heirlooms cost less than hybrid seeds but there are more reasons to choose these seeds than just the prices.

Seed-Packets-IMG_0879People grow heirloom seeds for a variety of reasons and for different motivations. While most are just interested in traditional organic gardening, some do it for historical interest, and others want to increase the available gene pool for a particular plant for future generations. Growing heirloom seeds is a great and effective way of growing, tasting and enjoying a variety of fruits and flowers from the past.

Advantages of growing heirloom seeds:

  • Greater Variety
  • Better Taste and Nutrition
  • Preserved Heritage
  • Sustainable
  • Renewable
  • Safer to the Environment & Eco-system
  • No Chemical Fertilizers
  • Open – Pollinated
  • Cost Less

Cultivating heirloom seeds in your home garden is a great idea to add exquisite taste, good nutrition and variety to your daily diet, while saving plant species. Creating an heirloom that is perfectly suited for your particular garden can take years of seed saving and planting out. If you want immediate gratification, you can do a little legwork before selecting the variety of heirlooms you want to use. Dig into your family or community tree to see if any of your elders can recall names of varieties that grew well in the region or were particularly memorable. You may stumble across a gardener still growing a family heirloom.

Where to get Heirloom Seeds?

Seed-Savers_ExchangeThe easiest and most traditional way to get heirloom seeds is from a friend or family member. If you don’t know anyone who has these seeds, you may obtain them from our heirloom seed store here or from the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. They are one of the largest organizations that preserve, collect, grow, and distribute Heirloom Seed. These groups store heirloom seeds for future generations. For finding local heirloom seed resources, you may contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture extension office.


Making Your Own Greenhouse – Video Tutorial

For those of you looking to make your own greenhouse we just found this great tutorial. It’s a full 18 minute video on ideas for making a greenhouse. This is a great way to prepare your family for emergency by growing your own food. The ability to survive the extremes of life through growing your own food is very important to the modern-day prepper.

As you watch this video, here are two quick questions to think about: Continue reading