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Cover Crops for the Smaller Vegetable Gardens

Inside: Cover crops are underutilized and misunderstood in the smaller vegetable garden. Understand what they are, which to choose and how to use them. Find more gardening articles in our Gardening Tips resource page.

I had a cover crop alright. A cover crop of charlie horse, that awful stinkweed, and a sticky, scratchy viney…weed thing…of some sort.

Oh, and grass. Grass, who’s roots weaved in and out and under every last bean, corn, and pea I had planted. That grass just knew that if I pulled them, it would pull up my plants too.

It was as if it were saying, “I dare you.”… [Read More]

Mulching: Why is it SO important?

Inside: Mulching just may be the saving grace of the gardening year. Find out mulching options, what it does for the soil and the best techniques. Find more gardening tips here!

What if gardening could be made easier by implementing one simple technique?

This technique would make your garden:

• Healthier

• Have fewer weeds

• Be more drought-resistant

And if done properly, your garden would allow you to:

• Spend less time watering

• Weeding

• And fighting pest problems

Seriously, it’s true!

And what would this one technique be?

MULCHING!

There are so many advantages of mulching!

My first years of gardening went like this: begging my husband to till, weeds, 5-foot tall quack grass. And trying desperately to find actual veggies that *really* were planted. Amazingly, I was able to get quite a bit of vegetables, despite my lack of knowledge.

But! There is a better way.

First off, I implemented the “no-till” gardening method. And what a difference! This difference was first noted when there wasn’t a nagging war to get the tilling done in the spring! 😉 But there are so many other benefits! I’ll let the no-till gardening post do all the explaining.

Worried that not tilling will increase your workload? Please keep reading. Fears will be squelched!

I also began to understand why my garden had weeds in the first place. If your garden has weeds, there are very good reasons they are taking root! And you need to know why: Why does my garden have weeds?

There is also a very important tool that all gardeners should implement: cover crops. It has made an amazing difference in my garden!

I also started mulching with straw. Deep straw.

Mulching just may be the saving grace of the gardening year. Find out your mulching options, what it does for the soil and the best techniques.

Several different types of mulching materials can be used.

• Organic mulches (formerly living material)

• Chopped leaves

• Straw or hay (weed free)

• Grass clippings

• Compost

• Wood chips

• Shredded bark

• Sawdust

• Pine needles

• Paper

•  Inorganic mulches

• Gravel

• Stones

• Black plastic

• Geotextiles (landscape fabrics)

Both of the options, organic or inorganic, will keep weeds subdued. And there would be different reasons to choose one or the other.

(The Three Cardinal Rules of mulching below!)

(Take a look at the free stuff first though 😉 )

Organic material

Advantages of organic mulch:

• Breaks down and decomposes

• Helps to enrich the soil

• Helps to retain moisture in the soil

• Encourages earthworm activity

• Prevents soil compaction

Cons: 

• Some mulches, like wood chips and sawdust, deplete nitrogen in the soil

• The mulch retains moisture and can slow the soil from warming up in the spring

• Left touching the stems or bark of a plant or tree, mulch will rot the base of plants and may also encourage rodents to nest in the material

• Mulch may also harbor slugs and snails

Know when to water your garden: The Finger Test

Inorganic material

Advantages of inorganic mulch:

• Black plastic, for instance, will help warm the soil and keep heat loving plants toasty, even during the night. In fact, the soil will be about 3 degrees warmer

• Keeps produce from rotting

• Keeps produce clean

• Helps to retain moisture in the soil

• With careful care and storage, it can be reused

Cons:

• Rain and water cannot permeate the material, so a soaker hose would be used for watering. Oxygen cannot penetrate through the plastic, so roots of plants and shrubs can be damaged long term as their roots grow closer to the surface. Shallow roots do not withstand drought or extreme temperatures well.

• Oxygen cannot penetrate through the plastic, so roots of plants and shrubs can be damaged long term as their roots grow closer to the surface. Shallow roots do not withstand drought or extreme temperatures well.

• Plastic is not biodegradable and is made from petroleum products

• Harder to find a place to recycle plastic

• Landscape fabric has some drawbacks as well. There are several things that can go wrong with these fabrics: roots from below can grow up into the fabric and weed seeds can germinate on top of the fabric. Both of these problems will cause the fabric to rip when weeds are pulled or the fabric is removed.

There are a few “cardinal rules” to mulching.

If piles of materials are going to be gathered, it only makes sense that the materials are used to the best of their ability. It makes no sense to put down mulch only to have weeds and grass keep poking their pesky heads up.

Rule #1: weed first. This can be done several ways. The weeds can be pulled or the tops cut off just below the surface. The tops (before they have gone to seed of course), would be used as mulch and the roots would add organic material to the soil as it breaks down.

My garden area was grass…5-foot tall quack grass to be exact…before I turned it into my garden area. If I don’t pull every last bit of grass roots from my planting areas, there will be 5-foot tall grass growing faster than you can say “summer!” It’s dense, fast growing and would choke out any vegetables planted. So I’ve chosen to remove those pesky roots as much as I can.

Rule #2: lay down 4-6 inches of mulch to discourage the growth of new weeds. Another option to consider: lay down cardboard as the first layer and then add mulch on top of the cardboard.

You may also find that many weeds and grass can grow…seemingly endlessly…under any mulch or cardboard. When the mulch is lifted up, the plant can be followed to its beginnings and usually pulled rather easily. But that fact right there shows how desperately weeds and grass want to live another day to see the sunlight one more time.

Rule #3: If there are seeds or perennial weeds or grass in the garden bed, put down a layer of newspaper over the first layer of mulch and then lay several more inches of mulch over the newspaper.

The thickness of the mulch will directly impact how many weeds are able to survive. They lose energy as they are pushing up through the mulch and usually die before they are able to reach the surface.

When using the no-till gardening method, mulching will be the saving grace of any garden. 

But it goes beyond just keeping a garden weed-free. Mulch feeds the microorganisms in the soil. And the more abundant life there is down there, the more “food” (mulch) they will need. But the vegetables and soil will be all the healthier from the abundant life, weed free, moist and cool soil during the hot summer months. 

 Mulch, and don’t be stingy about it! 🙂
Mulching just may be the saving grace of the gardening year. Find out your mulching options, what it does for the soil and the best techniques.

 

Cover crops are underutilized and misunderstood in the smaller vegetable garden. Understand what they are, which to choose and how to use them.
Mulching just may be the saving grace of the gardening year. Find out your mulching options, what it does for the soil and the best techniques.

Garden Watering: The “Finger Test”

Inside: Garden watering is the most important aspect of your productive year of produce. Learn how to know when to water your garden, the signs of overwatering and 6 tips for successful watering. Find more gardening tips here!

I yawned and twisted the spicket to turn off the water that had been spraying on the garden all night. I smiled as a robin danced in the sparkles and I heard my feet squish on the soil as I walked over to look at my growing jungle.

I watered once a week through the night with the idea that it was a deep watering that the plants needed, but I never checked to see if they actually NEEDED the water.

Seems like a pretty elementary thought though: water if the ground needs it and not on a schedule.

I’ve learned so much since then and now only water my garden after checking to see if there is a need for water.… [Read More]

Survival Tools: A Better Way to Prepare Than Bugging-Out when SHTF

“Come on! Let’s go! We have five minutes to get everything loaded!”

The inevitable catastrophe has happened. You saw it coming and prepared. Ready with your survival tools, you moved to a secure location with everything you needed.

Now what?

You live happily ever after and raise your family and never see another living soul again.

Or, you live in fear for the remainder of your life, always looking over your shoulder, waiting and wondering when the first and last looters will come and take away all you’ve so carefully put together.… [Read More]

Heirloom Seeds: Why You MUST Make the Switch


INSIDE: Heirloom seeds are the key to our future. Nine reasons you MUST plant heirloom seeds, the truth about how much they really cost. Recommendations where to buy.

Heirloom seeds are the key to our future.

There are several keys of course: bees, teaching our children how to grow and eat real food, learning how to effectively manage our gardens through no-till gardening and knowing how to eliminate weeds by giving the soil what it’s crying out for.

But without seeds, none of this is effective or entirely impossible!… [Read More]

Spring Vegetables: What, When & How to Prepare Your Garden

The years seems to go by so quickly but the winter months linger and sometimes the hope of spring comes in a tiny, green spark of perseverance from a newly planted seed that reminds us that new life is just around the corner.

After winter lingers, spring speeds by as the last snow melts, the flowers begin to break through the soil and the warmer breezes blow. And for garden lovers, our thoughts quickly turn to the coming summer days in the garden surrounded by homegrown goodness.… [Read More]

Why Does My Garden Have Weeds? Here’s Why and How To Fix It

Garden Weeds: Why? Your garden will thrive when you understanding WHY it has weeds. Eliminate them naturally while working with nature.Find more gardening articles in our Gardening Tips resource page.

It felt like I was surrounded by sand and mirages as I looked down my nose, past the bead of sweat reaching its tip.

My head and thick red-hair were stuffed into a straw hat, protecting me from the sun but making me hot, itchy and somewhat delusional.

I glared at the dandelion at my feet. The one of many that had protruded between my beans, corn, peas…anywhere they felt comfortable. Which must have been everywhere. I was surrounded. And this must be the year of all years for Canadian Thistle, I thought. Where do they all come from? One day out of the garden, meant a takeover of weeds.

… [Read More]

Why You Absolutely MUST Do A No-Till Garden

This last year I was told, rather bluntly, “Forget everything you know about gardening and start over” and I haven’t forgotten those words.

It wasn’t only that those words sent a spike of curiosity up my spine, but the reasoning behind them.

I was learning about a new method of gardening: the no-till method.

Now, my husband jumped right in on the idea, “No tilling? OK! You don’t have to convince me!” His job each spring was to till my garden and my job was to…nag him…until it was done. 😉 There is only a limited amount of time in Montana before summer is in full heat and snow is just around the corner, you know? So if tilling was in the plans, it had to be done…without delay.

Before I continue, I must stop to encourage you to read this article: Why Does My Garden Have Weeds? Here’s Why and How to Fix it. It’s the missing link to this article and to truly understand what is happening in your soil, you need to understand why there are weeds in the first place. But carry on with the article below…and then come back 😉

… [Read More]

Homesteading With No Money

I groaned and rubbed my hands down my face in exasperation.

“Where does it all go?”

This “It” being money.

Having any money is like:

…sand running through your fingers.

…or like laying out dollar bills on the picnic table in a gale force wind.

…or like having a wad of cash fall out of your back pocket into the toilet before you realize it…and flushing.

“It” comes and goes so quickly, doesn’t it? And when you desire a homestead you need money to get started. If you are already homesteading, you need money to keep going.… [Read More]

Planning Out a Profitable Homesteading Year

It’s that time of year…

Well…it’s that time of year all year long, isn’t it? The time to sit down, find an old envelope to scribble on and figure out how to make your property, small or large, profitable.

Keep scrolling! Below you will find access to FREE “Projected Cost” and “Profitable Homestead” Worksheets with over 90 Ideas to help make your homestead profitable! ↓

Sometimes the chicken scratch on that old envelope makes complete sense and works out perfectly…wait, when has that ever happened?

And many times it’s back to the drawing board.

It can’t be that hard to get this homesteading thing figured out, can it?

 

… [Read More]

How to Get Your Bees Through Cold, Wet Winters: Moisture Quilt, Candy Board and Insulation

According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. It’s wings are far too small to lift its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway. Because bees don’t care what humans think is impossible.~Bee Movie

It’s troubled me that bees work so hard and live such a short life. But maybe my perspective is slightly skewed. My bees cruise over the beautiful Montana landscape and sniff flowers all day, and then go home to a huge family that works insanely well together and they.make.HONEY! For the love of honey…

Honey is so delicious and they spend their entire lives focused on honey! … [Read More]

7 Things I Wish I Had Known BEFORE Owning Bees

Inside: 7 things to consider and two things you need adequate of before owning bees. Here is the "class schedule" of what you can expect to learn in the first years. Enjoy more articles in our beekeeping resources page.

I carefully and craftily came up with some beeautiful, honey-laced pleadings to convince my husband we needed bees and we got two hives of bees with the help of my bee mentor.

It has been such a wonderful experience but looking back, there were a few things my husband wished he knew about bees before owning them and now I realize that I have my own list.

I’ve kept bees through two summers, one mild winter and one winter that was exceptionally cold. It has been wonderful and completely worth the effort, but there has been a steep learning curve and quite a few lessons learned that I had no idea were in the class schedule.

So here is the class schedule 😉 of what you can expect to learn in the first years of bee ownership:… [Read More]

What You Need to Know When Working with Pallets

I can not hide it. And I’m not ashamed. I love pallets. 

If you walked into our very…rustic (that’s a good word for a dilapidated farm-house, right?) … house, your eyes would first see the built-in cabinet made with pallets and old barn wood. It has been a great addition in helping the chaos of our affectionately named “dog porch”. 

And when you climb the stairs and enter the kitchen, your eyes will fall upon the fridge, oh, and the cabinets built to fit the area next to the fridge

And soon, I will have redone all my kitchen cabinet doors to match, and I have an exciting plan for my desk that will also be a window seat area that will keep contained our future home schooling and business items. 

See? You can’t just stop with one! 🙂

But there are a few things to know when working with pallets before you dive in. … [Read More]

Weight Calculator for Goats: How to Weigh My Goat?

Inside: Have you ever ask the question: How to weigh my goat? Here are four ways to weigh your goat and a FREE weight calculator will help you! This is one of many posts in our Raising Goats series. 

You have goats, and you’re trying to figure out how much hay you need for the year and the silly equation asks for the total body weight of your goats!

How in the world do you figure out how much your goats weigh??

There are several ways you can go about figuring this out.

… [Read More]

Goat Feed: How Much Hay Do I Need For My Goat

Inside: Do you know enough about goat feed? Use this FREE Hay Cost Calculator for Goats. How much hay do I need for my goat? This will help you make a plan and know how much hay to buy a year. This is one post of many from our Raising Goats resources.


I hope you are fortunate enough to own goats (presently or in the near future)! They are such a blessing! Not only are they good friends, but they provide delicious milk and the cutest kids! 

But that doesn’t mean they don’t come without cost.

Although I haven’t done a thorough research on this for our own family, my suspicion is that we actually would save money if we bought milk from the store.

But I have a firm belief it is worth it in every way to own goats!

But first! Goat feed is an important first step to have in place before you own your first goats!

And if you already own goats, this calculator will help you figure out how many ton of hay you will need to get your goats through the year. 

And if you already own goats, this calculator will help you figure out how many ton of hay you will need to get your goats through the year. … [Read More]

Kidding Kit: A Complete List for Goat Birth

Inside: You need a well thought out kidding kit for your goat birth to make sure that you are prepared for anything. You will be glad you are prepared when an issue arises. This is one post of many in our Raising Goats series. 


When I was pregnant with my first, it never occurred to me that there would be complications and that I would end up having a cesarean. I’m strong. I’m healthy. I ate healthily and only gained baby weight. No problemo! Push that baby right out! 

Nope. Didn’t happen. 

And several years later, as I rushed to help my panting, laboring doe, I realized that we had a kid who was backward and quite large, and thought, “Oh, girl! Push that baby right out!” But we ended up pulling two out of three of her kids. The first and last kids were backwards. 

In all the years we’ve kidded, we’ve never had any problems. But it only takes one problem to realize how unprepared you are, right?… [Read More]

Ketosis in Goats: What is It and How to Prevent It?

Inside: Ketosis in goats: how to prevent this condition, the symptoms and the treatment. It is preventable and you can help your goat avoid it. This is one post in our Raising Goats series. 


Although I worked in an Alzheimer home in Boise when I was going to school, I can’t say that I had or gained a passion for the medical side of life. Truly, it was a wonderful experience working with and helping the residents but it wouldn’t become a long-term profession.

So, when I first heard the word “ketosis”, I said, “huh??”

But it is an important term to know when you are dealing with goats who have recently kidded and their health.

As a goat owner, it is your primary responsibility to provide your goats with adequate nutrition so that you never have to work on the treatment side of these problematic conditions.  

Let’s start off by answering the question:

What is ketosis in goats?… [Read More]

What is Hypocalcemia in Goats?

Inside: Hypocalcemia in goats is very serious. It can be prevented. A goat owner should do everything in their power to give their goat everything they need. This is one post in our Raising Goats series. 

If you’ve read these articles:

Treatment for “Pregnancy Toxemia”

 

What You Need to Know About Nutrition During all the Stages of a Goat’s Pregnancy

 

What you need to know about “Ketosis” in Goat’s

 

then you know that a goat’s pregnancy will generally go smoothly. If proper nutrition isn’t available to your doe, however, complications can arise. And when they do, it can get complicated and downright scary…fast!

… [Read More]

CD&T Vaccination for Goats: What is it?

Inside: The CD&T vaccination for goats: should you give it? Learn what it means, what it’s for and what can happen if you don’t give it each year. You can find more information in our Raising Goats Series.


In my first years of goat ownership, I didn’t vaccinate my goats. But it is recommended for several reasons. 

It would be a good idea for all goat owners to take the time to understand what vaccinations are needed and why.

Let’s dive in and look at what the CD/T or CD&T vaccination for goats is all about.

 

… [Read More]