Tag Archives: Herbs

The Homesteading Bucket List Part 1: 25 Practical Country Living Projects

The Country Living Bucket List Part 1If you love country living, you probably enjoy reading websites and magazines that regularly feed your interest and give you new ideas of things to try out. After all, there are always new skills to be learned, and you never know what will become your next favorite project, hobby, or venture!

While your homesteading bucket list can (and should) be unique, you may find that the following suggestions spark an interest that you didn’t even know you had. You’ll also find helpful resources for jumping into many of the projects. The projects are roughly organized with the idea that the skills will complement and build upon one another.

We will feature 25 projects this week and 25 more next week for an even 50.

Have fun!

1. Start a Country Living Library

The perfect starting point! Reading broadly is the key to knowledgeable country living, and therefore the key to success. Want to get the most bang for your book-buying buck? Start with a few classics with philosophies that appeal to you—those that provide inspiration and a broad feel of what you are aiming for in your country living adventure, whether that is a slower lifestyle, a farm that pays the bills, or just a source of healthier food. Also pick up a few beginner-friendly how-to books on projects that you intend to pursue in the near future, such as gardening, cooking, or chicken-keeping.

Helpful Resources

Top 10 Books for Beginning Farmers
This list includes titles on gardening, field crops, livestock, food preservation, starting a farm business, and more.

The Homestead Bookshelf
Our steadily growing selection of the best books on country living out there!

2. Learn About Five Alternative Agriculture Concepts, Practices, or Systems

Once you have a library, you’ll be ready to explore the many options available for those looking to farm a little differently. You will likely want to mix and match to adapt to your unique circumstances. However, each of the different systems has much to offer. Topics you might research include:

3. Create a Budget

Living within your means is a huge part of country living. Take some time to plan how you will pay off any and all debt, and then start saving!

4. Start a Vegetable Garden

No matter how little land you have, you almost certainly have enough room for a vegetable garden, even if it consists solely of a few pots on a porch. This is probably the most rewarding country living project you can tackle.

Helpful Resources

Starting a Garden or Orchard
This series walks you through the basics of water, workload, location, logistics, and plant selection.

How to Plan a Garden
A step-by-step guide to mapping out a successful first garden.

5. Plant an Herb Garden

And while you are working on your vegetable garden, be sure to make room for a few herbs! Your herb garden does not have to be a separate feature of your property. Many herbs can protect your vegetables from insect pests if grown as companion plants.

6. Plant an Apple Tree

A dwarf apple tree is fairly easy to care for compared to other fruits, and it will reward you for years to come.

Helpful Resource

Planning Your Fruit Garden
Just the basics from K-State.

7. Build a Small Shed, Coop, or Other Shelter for Livestock

Livestock require shelter, and many country handymen enjoy building their own. What you build will obviously depend on what you intend to raise. Just keep in mind that simple is often best.

Helpful Resources

HomeMadeHomeMade
Includes many basic projects that will come in handy on your new homestead! Read our full review.

Free LSU Building Plans
These structures tend to be larger and more involved, but there is still plenty of useful material here.

8. Start a Flock of Laying Hens

What homestead would be complete without laying hens? This rewarding project is truly a must—homegrown eggs are infinitely superior to commercial in appearance and peace of mind, not to mention nutritional value.

Helpful Resources

Choosing a Breed of Chicken
Tried-and-true tips for selecting breeds that will meet your needs.

How to Welcome Your Mail-Order Chicks
A step-by-step procedure for getting your baby chicks off to a good start.

Storey's Guide to Raising ChickensStorey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
An essential book for the beginning chicken-keeper! Read our full review.

9. Build a Birdhouse

A backyard full of birds is a place of beauty. Furthermore, these delightful creatures will do their part in keeping insect pests under control. Have a little extra time on your hands? Make a few more birdhouses than you need and give them away as Christmas gifts to those nature lovers on your list!

Helpful Resource

The Complete Book of Birdhouse ConstructionComplete Book of Birdhouse Construction
Very concise illustrated guide with detailed plans for homes for house finches, great crested flycatchers, purple martins, phoebes, downy woodpeckers, wood ducks, and bluebirds, as well as specifications for many more. Read our full review.

10. Use Native Plants for Landscaping

Native plants have a tremendous advantage when it comes to landscaping—they are exceptionally well adapted to your area! When setting about beautifying your place in the country, consider some of the hardy plants that are native to your soil and climate.

11. Make Compost

Composting is not as difficult or mysterious as many books would lead you to believe. While there are many advantages to a precisely controlled hot compost pile, cold composting is a forgiving method that can have you looking like a pro in no time!

Helpful Resource

The Complete Compost Gardening GuideThe Complete Compost Gardening Guide
This friendly book makes composting easy! Read our full review.

12. Raise Earthworms

Earthworms are a gardener’s best friend! If you just want to introduce the children to these fun and fascinating animals, keep it simple and house some worms from your backyard in a clear jar with some garden soil and kitchen scraps for a while. Serious about raising earthworms? Try vermicomposting!

13. Identify the Plants in Your Pasture

What’s the best pasture grass to start with? Often it’s whatever is already occupying the place! Learn what plants, useful and toxic, are on your land, and use that information to find out how to manage your native pastures to advantage.

Helpful Resource

Grasses of Kansas
Our own guide to Kansas grasses, their characteristics, life cycles, ecology, uses, and hazards.

Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses
A very useful website with concise information and photos galore!

14. Press Flowers

While you’re in the pasture, collect some plants to press and store in a nature journal. Not only is this a fun craft, it will help you master plant identification over time.

15. Dry Herbs

Many gardeners believe that the flavor of homegrown herbs dried in small batches and stored for short periods of time is far superior to that of dried herbs that have sat on the grocery store shelf for a while. Fortunately, the skill of drying herbs is not a difficult one to acquire, and these days there are many methods, ranging from hanging up bundles of herbs in an airy place to using sophisticated solar dehydrators.

16. Save Heirloom Seeds

The practice of saving seeds to plant and to share is a time-honored one. Some old vegetable varieties are only around today because one dedicated gardener thought they were worth preserving. Make sure your favorite heirloom plants are still around for future generations by saving the seeds!

Helpful Resource

Vegetables
Our guide to growing vegetables includes step-by-step instructions for saving seeds.

Basic Principles of Breeding Heirloom Vegetables
Information on ensuring a healthy gene pool when saving heirloom plants, for the truly dedicated seed-saver.

17. Start an Indoor Container Garden

Even if you have space for a large outdoor garden, there are still advantages to growing a few plants in pots indoors. Herbs are often more convenient when placed within arm’s reach of the cook. Indoor container gardening can be a simple way to extend the growing season. Also, container gardening makes growing some plants, such as citrus trees, possible regardless of your climate.

18. Make Your Own Mulch

There are many types of mulch that can easily be made at home. Shredding discarded newspapers and collecting lawn clippings are two options within reach of nearly every homesteader. With the right equipment, you may also be able to cut your own straw or chip your own wood mulch.

Helpful Resource

A Brief Guide to 13 Common Garden Mulches
Learn about the pros, cons, and best applications of over a dozen mulches, some of which are easy to make yourself.

19. Build a Cold Frame

There’s a reason homesteaders love cold frames—they are easy to build and highly effective at extending the growing season. Don’t neglect this valuable addition to your country lifestyle!

Helpful Resource

HomeMade
Includes plans for a cold frame. Read our full review.

20. Put Up a Bird Feeder

Bring some cheer to your place during those cold winter months (and enjoy the satisfaction of doing a good deed while you’re at it!). Bird feeders can be surprisingly easy to make.

Helpful Resource

The Backyard Bird Feeder's BibleThe Backyard Bird Feeder’s Bible
This fun and friendly book includes numerous do-it-yourself bird feeder projects, and it will even tell you what your favorite birds prefer to eat! Read our full review.

21. Cut and Use Firewood from Your Own Property

Many find cutting firewood to be a very satisfying way to heat their own homes. Keep in mind that not all firewoods are created equal. Hardwoods are much more efficient than softwoods, and seasoned wood is highly recommended for a nice, clean burn.

22. Mend a Garment

Clothing mishaps are inevitable on a small farm, so it’s best to be prepared. Learning these simple skills can extend the life of your clothes considerably:

  • Sewing on a button.
  • Stitching a tear in fabric.
  • Patching blue jeans.
  • Darning socks.

23. Make a Piece of Furniture

Here’s a winter project that can quickly make you very popular with your relatives! Furthermore, making your own furniture can provide you with the satisfaction of owning one-of-a-kind pieces that fit perfectly into your home.

24. Learn to Tie Basic Knots

Knot-tying is a very useful skill for those who spend time working outdoors. Even if gardening is your only country living project, you would be amazed at how useful a good knot can be.

25. Prune Cane Fruits

To maximize the health and productivity of your cane fruits, such as blackberries and raspberries, regular pruning is recommended. Fortunately, it is also quite an easy skill to learn.

Helpful Resource

How to Prune Blackberries
Step-by-step instructions for both winter and post-harvest pruning.

Top 10 Plants for Beginning Kitchen Gardeners

Top 10 Plants for Beginning Kitchen Gardeners
Egyptian walking onions

Growing your very first kitchen garden this year? Congratulations!

You are probably already aware that it’s best to start small. But if you are starting small, one of the questions you may have is what to grow in that limited space. The first and most important rule of thumb is to grow things that you enjoy eating. Once you have a list of favorites, however, you may decide to pare it back still further this first year based on what is easiest to grow.

While the easy-to-grow list will depend largely on your climate, soil, and local pest population, there are some staples that belong in every garden. There are also a few plants that are particularly adapted to the vagaries of the Kansas climate, and still others that recommend themselves everywhere due to their minimal maintenance requirements.

Here are 10 favorites that may be worth a try in your first year’s garden, along with a few tips for success.

10. Asparagus

Asparagus may seem daunting to beginners at first, since it is a perennial, is frequently started from crowns rather than seeds, and cannot be harvested the first year.

But even with these limitations, asparagus is still an excellent plant for beginners—once it is established it requires relatively little care. Weeding, watering, and cutting down the old tops annually are all that is required. As an extra bonus, asparagus will be one of the first things you will get to harvest each spring!

9. Carrots

Carrots are not as difficult to grow as many gardening guides would leave you to think. The two main keys to growing long, straight carrots are loosening the soil before planting and using a generous layer of mulch to keep soil moisture levels even. The rest is purely patience.

As a final note, for best flavor, select a variety bred for fresh eating rather than storage.

8. Tomatoes

No garden would be complete without tomatoes, and with hundreds of varieties to choose from there is definitely a variety bound to grow well in your area. One choice you will have to make is between determinate (bush) and indeterminate (vine) varieties, depending on whether you want to support the plants with a cage or a trellis. Another decision you will need to make is whether to grow only slicing tomatoes or to plant a few of the extremely easy-to-grow saucing varieties for homemade salsa and the like.

Three tips for successful tomato growing—strictly observe the recommended indoor planting and transplanting dates for your area (see our vegetable guide), use plenty of mulch, and water the plants deeply in hot weather.

Top 10 Plants for Beginning Kitchen Gardeners7. Radishes

Radishes are famous for being easy to grow. Furthermore, they are ready to harvest quickly—you should be able to grow multiple crops of radishes every spring and a few more in the fall!

There is very little to say about the minimal maintenance requirements of the radish. About all it needs is regular watering.

6. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes grow more or less like weeds once they are established. The easiest way to get started with sweet potatoes is to buy slips, or young plants. If you keep them watered well during the first few critical weeks, they will require relatively little attention thereafter.

One final tip for harvesting sweet potatoes successfully—dig away from the base of the plant to avoid hitting the delicious sweet potatoes. If you damage the potatoes with a fork or shovel, they will not keep.

5. Arugula

Arugula is actually much hardier than lettuce, and the fact that it is a gourmet specialty green makes it particularly appealing. Arugula is a guaranteed confidence-booster for the novice gardener!

This plant is quite cold-hardy, but it will tend to become bitter as the growing season progresses. Err on the side of planting it a little too early rather than too late.

Top 10 Plants for Beginnign Kitchen Gardeners4. Jalapeños

Jalapeños are arguably the easiest of the peppers to grow. They love hot summers and are tolerant of neglect.

No major growing recommendations are in order here. Just be careful when working with the peppers and their spicy oils in the kitchen. Wear clean plastic gloves when cutting jalapeños, and do not touch your face when handling them!

3. Lima Beans

Lima beans are known for thriving in all but the coldest, wettest climates. They are also more versatile than they are typically given credit for. If you don’t enjoy old-fashioned butter beans, try letting the pods mature and harvesting the seeds to use as dry beans. They cook much quicker than black, kidney, or pinto beans.

There really isn’t much to say when it comes to lima bean maintenance. Bear in mind that watering too much is far more harmful to lima beans than watering too little.

2. Garlic

Garlic really belongs in every garden, as it is so easy to grow and so essential in cooking. There almost isn’t a way to mess up garlic. You can plant it in the spring and pull it during onion harvest, or you can plant it in the fall and let it overwinter in the garden for nice big bulbs in the spring. If you do decide to overwinter it, you can grow it in a cold frame or polytunnel for an earlier harvest. But this is not necessary for success—garlic will grow just fine out in the ground under a layer of straw mulch.

The easiest way to start growing garlic is just to buy a generous-sized, healthy-looking bulb at the grocery store and plant the individual cloves. After harvest, save one or two of your best homegrown bulbs for future planting.

As for watering, err on the side of drier soil. Garlic will rot if overwatered, while the worst effect of underwatering is usually just smaller cloves. Always give the surface of the soil time to dry out between waterings.

1. Egyptian Walking Onions

This plant can make the worst gardener look like a seasoned green thumb! It propagates itself, it requires almost no attention, and it tastes delicious. It will satisfy your green onion needs without all the hassle of dealing with seeds or sets. And, with a healthy, generous patch, you should be able to harvest onions in all but the hottest summer and coldest winter weather.

The main requirement of Egyptian onions is a periodic hand weeding. An occasional watering will encourage growth. Harvest is simple—just snip off a few branches with scissors, or pinch between your thumb and index finger. Always leave each plant a couple of healthy branches to promote vigor and propagation.

While Egyptian onions do a fine job of spreading all on their own, you can expand your patch even more quickly by collecting the mature bulbs from the tops of dry plants and planting them yourself.

Helpful Resource

VegetablesVegetables
More information on growing popular garden vegetables, including planting, care, and harvesting instructions.

A Rainbow of Natural Dyes

A Rainbow of Natural DyesCraftsy folks frequently share a do-it-yourself ethic. While it’s always easier just to buy cheap, pretty yarn at the craft store, some (particularly homesteaders) prefer to create their own dyes. In fact, if you own sheep or other fiber animals, this may be a logical next step to adding value to your products.

You can even take the dye-it-yourself project a step further by harvesting the materials for your own homemade dye! Many dye materials can be grown in the garden or collected on a nature walk.

Looking for a specific color? Here’s where to find it. You will notice that some colors are altered by the mordant used. A mordant is a substance used to fix a dye onto a fabric.

Red

  • Avocado skin and seed: Light pink.
  • Roses: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
  • Lavender: Brilliant pink with mint and lemon juice to activate alkaloids.
  • Pink or red camellia blooms: Strong pink to magenta with salt and lemon.
  • Fresh dandelions: Magenta.
  • Sumac fruit: Light red.
  • Pokeweed fruit: Rust with chrome as a mordant.
  • Bamboo: Turkey red.
  • Madder root: Garnet red with chrome as a mordant.
  • Beets: Deep red.

Orange

  • Giant coreopsis: Bright orange.
  • Yellow onion skin: Bright orange with tin as a mordant; burnt orange with alum.
  • Butternut bark or seed husks: Light yellow-orange.
  • Lilac twigs and bark: Yellowish orange.
  • Shredded carrots: Rich orange.
  • Red onion skin: Reddish orange with alum as a mordant.

Yellow

  • White mulberry bark: Cream with with alum as a mordant.
  • Osage orange wood: Pale yellow.
  • St. John’s wort tops: Bright yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Goldenrod flowers: Bright yellow with tin as a mordant.
  • Tumeric: Very bright, vibrant yellow.
  • Dandelion flowers: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Elderberry leaves: Soft yellow with alum as a mordant; deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Plantain: Dull yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Fennel flowers and leaves: Mustard yellow with alum as a mordant.
  • Coneflower leaves and stems: Gold.
  • Red clover: Gold with alum as a mordant.
  • Marigold flowers: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
  • Red onion skins: Gold with chrome as a mordant.
  • Sage tops: Deep yellow with chrome as a mordant.
  • Dock roots: Deep yellow with alum as a mordant.

Green

  • Foxglove flowers: Apple green.
  • Peony flowers: Pale lime green.
  • Queen Anne’s lace: Pale green.
  • Hydrangea flowers: Celery green with alum as a mordant plus copper.
  • Fresh sage tops: Green-gray with iron as a mordant.
  • Fresh yarrow: Olive green with iron as a mordant.
  • Marjoram tops: Olive green with chrome as a mordant.
  • Coneflower blooms: Brownish green.
  • Peppermint: Dark khaki green.
  • Sorrel roots: Dark green.
  • Bayberry plant: Dark green with iron as a mordant.
  • Fresh dock leaves: Dark green with iron as a mordant.

Blue

  • Geranium: Blue-gray.
  • Fresh elderberries: Blue-gray with tin as a mordant.
  • Dogwood fruit: Greenish blue.
  • Indigo: Deep true blue.

Purple

  • Basil: Purplish gray.
  • Huckleberries: Lavender.
  • Elderberries: Lavender.
  • Red or black mulberries: Royal purple.
  • Red cabbage leaves: Rich purple.
  • Dark red or purple hibiscus flowers: Reddish purple.
  • Pokeweed berries: Deep reddish purple.
  • Very dark purple iris blooms: Dark bluish purple with alum as a mordant.
  • Blackberries: Strong purple.

Brown, Gray, and Black

  • Tea: Ecru.
  • Dried fennel seeds: Very pale brown.
  • Birch bark: Light brown to buff.
  • Tea bags: Light brown or tan.
  • Weeping willow wood and bark: Peachy brown.
  • Plantain: Camel with chrome as a mordant.
  • Pine tree bark: Medium-light brown.
  • Dandelion roots: Warm brown.
  • Broom sedge: Golden brown.
  • Fennel leaves: Golden brown with chrome as a mordant.
  • Yellow onion skins: Brass with chrome as a mordant.
  • Yellow coneflower head: Brass to greenish brass with chrome as a mordant.
  • Wild plum root: Rusty brown.
  • Red onion skins: Dark tan with chrome as a mordant.
  • Goldenrod shoots: Deep brown.
  • Beets: Deep brown with ferrous sulfate as a mordant.
  • Butternut bark: Dark brown when thoroughly boiled down.
  • Dried oregano stalks: Deep brown to black.
  • Black walnut hulls: Deep brown to black.
  • Carob pods: Dark gray.
  • Iris roots: Black.
  • Sumac leaves: Black.
  • Oak galls: Strong black.

Conclusion

This is a very small sampling of the natural dyes that exist, but it is sufficient to demonstrate that the plant kingdom offers an entire rainbow of colors just waiting for harvest. If you are willing to dye your own fiber, you will never run out of new options for achieving your favorite colors.

How to Test Seed Germination Rates

 

How to Test Seed Germination Rates

Spring is only a month away, and with spring comes gardening season. Now is a good time to check the germination rates of those seeds you have stashed away in the basement—before you need to plant them!

You Will Need

  • Seeds.
  • Paper towel.
  • Large Ziploc bag.

 

Instructions

  1. Lightly moisten a square of paper towel. (Take care that it doesn’t get soggy.)
  2. Line up 10 seeds from the same packet on the paper towel, close to the edge but not so close that they are likely to roll off.
  3. Fold the paper towel over the seeds.
  4. Carefully slide the paper towel into the Ziploc bag without dislodging the seeds.
  5. Seal the Ziploc and set it in a warm location where it won’t be disturbed.
  6. Check on the seeds daily to watch for germination and to moisten the paper towel if it starts to dry out.
  7. Once all the seeds have stopped germinating (maybe after a few days for fast-growing plants like beans or up to two weeks for slow-growing plants like carrots), count how many sprouted. You now have a germination rate.
  8. For a more accurate test, follow these instructions using 100 seeds. You will need more paper towel and a larger Ziploc bag to do this.

 

How to Use This Information

If your germination rate was 70% or more, you’re in luck! Your seeds are still fresh and vigorous. You should be able to plant one seed for every hole and avoid wasting seeds through needless thinning.

If your rate was more along the lines of 50% to 70%, your seeds are still quite usable. In fact, these lower rates may even be normal for some vegetables, such as carrots. However, you will want to compensate by planting two to three seeds in every hole.

If your rate was below 50%, you will have to decide if you want to bother with that particular seed packet or not. You may be able to get a little more use out of it by planting four or five seeds per hole. However, you may decide, particularly if they sprout in a tardy fashion, that it’s more worthwhile just to buy new seeds.

Family Garden Journal Introductory Price Ends January 2017

The Family Garden JournalThe new compact edition of The Family Garden Journal, published by Homestead on the Range, is currently available for $19.99 at Amazon.  This offer will end at the beginning of the new year!

This beautiful paperback journal can help you or a loved one develop a green thumb while creating a keepsake:

  • Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
  • Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
  • Mark each plant’s place on your garden map.
  • Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
  • Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
  • Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
  • Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.

The Family Garden Journal makes a great gift, so take advantage of the introductory pricing and order a copy or two before Christmas.  Don’t forget to buy one for your own family!

Sample pages are available for preview here.

New Compact Family Garden Journal Available

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal published by Homestead on the Range is now better than ever!

We have released a new compact edition that is easier to carry, but still contains plenty of room for logging your family’s daily plans, observations, and harvests.

Develop your green thumb while creating a keepsake:

  • Start by planning for success with our Step-by-Step Gardening Guide.
  • Check items off of your shopping list as you collect seeds for the growing season.
  • Mark each plant’s space on your garden map.
  • Build a customized schedule to ensure that each seed makes it into the ground at the proper time.
  • Divide the work among several family members with one handy table.
  • Build your own gardening manual with attractive reference pages and a 366-day journal—now in a handy, compact size.
  • Find out with the turn of a page which plant varieties were your favorites, which pest control methods worked best, and how much produce you harvested.

Along the way, you will enjoy inspiring quotes, practical gardening tips, and beautiful black-and-white nature photography.  And there’s still room for your family’s sketches, photos, and pressed flowers!

By the end of the year, you will have created an invaluable reference book, tailored to your unique needs and growing conditions.  But that’s not all—your family will be able to look back on a year of shared gardening memories.  Your completed journal will become not just a book, but a cherished keepsake.

Learn more here.

Pros and Cons of Gardening in Kansas

Pros and Cons of Gardening in KansasGardening in Kansas is quite a bit different than gardening in most other states—and that can be both good and bad. The Kansas climate is unique, which presents challenges and opportunities found nowhere else in America.

So what exactly is different about gardening in Kansas, and how do we adapt?

 

Pros

  • Long growing season. Most of Kansas has a long growing season, giving you plenty of time to enjoy your plants. The Glaciated Region enjoys the longest season (about 200 days), but all except the northwest corner of the state can take advantage of a generous gardening year. You won’t have to sit inside dreaming of growing plants for very long in the winter!
  • Fewer wet-weather problems. Wet weather and cloudy days tend to foster plant disease, as well as a few water-loving insect pests like slugs. While some years are exceptions (2015 and 2016 come to mind), most of Kansas in most years will not have to battle fungus to harvest a good vegetable crop.
  • Fertile soil (usually). A good portion of Kansas is blessed with deep, fertile soil. If you live in the spacious Glaciated Region or High Plains, you are in luck. Even in other regions there are pockets of soil just right for gardening, particularly along streams. Generally, you can find good soil across the state except in hilly terrain or in the wet, leached far southeast corner.
  • Spectacular natives. If you are a fan of landscaping with native plants, you will love the selection you get to choose from in Kansas! Our state offers us a particularly colorful variety of wildflowers and grasses, many of which attract equally beautiful butterflies.

 

Cons

  • Variable climate. One never knows just what to expect from Kansas weather. A late frost can come when least expected, a hailstorm can damage ripening fruit, or a sudden deluge can break a drought and turn a garden into a bog. Forecasters usually struggle to provide accurate information on upcoming conditions, so it’s best to keep an eye on the sky and learn how to read the clouds ourselves to minimize plant stress caused by dramatic changes in weather.
  • Dry summers. Most of Kansas does not receive enough precipitation during the growing season to keep garden plants healthy (exceptions include the Glaciated Region and the Ozark Plateau). Your fruits and vegetables will depend on you to water them throughout the summer, increasing your gardening workload. As long as you have time and live over an abundant aquifer, this should not be too much of a problem. However, you will have to match the size of your garden to your time resources, and you will have to make sure that you have the water supply to accommodate the needs of your plants.
  • Wind. Yes, it’s pretty windy in Kansas. Give tall garden plants like tomatoes and peppers a little help with a support cage to keep them from getting whipped around and blown over. Also, use plenty of mulch to keep that hot summer breeze from stealing the moisture out of the ground.
  • Marketing woes. A good portion of Kansas has a small population base, which does not make market gardening easy. There is a reason that most of the state’s farmers’ markets and market gardeners are concentrated around Wichita, Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City.

 

Conclusion

Obviously, we are dealing with sweeping generalizations here, and Kansas is not a state that is easily generalized. Still, there are certain challenges that most Kansas gardeners will be faced with. There are also opportunities that they can take advantage of.

These are probably the most important steps we can take to ensure the success of our gardens in Kansas:

  • Prepare the soil. Choose a prime location for your garden. Almost every property offers more than one potential garden site, so choose the best—one that drains well and receives plenty of sunshine. Then take measures to make it even better. Add plenty of organic matter and natural fertilizer to enhance soil fertility, texture, and drainage.
  • Assume the weather will be dry. While gardeners in the far southeast corner of Kansas probably won’t have to worry about a lack of rain, the rest of us should be ready to water our plants all summer long. Practice water-conserving measures in the garden, such as using thick mulch and growing drought-hardy plants. Also develop an alternative source of water. If your groundwater supply is inadequate, find ways to store rainwater. When it rains in Kansas, it frequently pours—make the most of it!
  • Do your homework. Do not jump into a market gardening enterprise without a plan. Make sure your business will have a solid customer base to rely on.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of learning how to garden in Kansas is gaining experience. Find good resources to guide you, but be prepared to learn as you go. Be observant of changing conditions, keep a garden journal, and be prepared to adapt. Good luck!

 

Helpful Resources

The Garden
Find tips and resources for successful gardening, handpicked just for the Sunflower State!

K-State Horticulture Newsletter
Timely advice for every Kansas gardener. And it’s free!

Prairie Star Flowers
This K-State site showcases ornamental plants that have proven their ability to thrive on whatever the Kansas climate sends their way.

Garden & Orchard Books
See the latest additions to our Homestead Bookshelf.

Starting a Garden or Orchard
Important factors to consider before diving in.

The Family Garden JournalThe Family Garden Journal
Here’s an easy way to learn from experience! Collect your own observations on gardening in Kansas.  Learn more.

Kansas Regions
Take a look at the challenges and opportunities unique to your part of the state.

Kansas State University Weather Data Library
Learn more about the Kansas climate and current conditions. See our review for helpful links.

Weather
Find out how to read the sky and adapt to changing conditions across the state.

Water
Learn more about water-conserving tricks and techniques.

The Business
Need a little help on the marketing end of things? Browse our posts and recommended resources.

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

This old classic just keeps on going! Fruits, vegetables, herbs, ornamental plants—it’s all here, along with a diverse array of natural gardening tips and techniques.

The current edition of Rodale’s well-known work is Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, and it still contains a wealth of knowledge.

Continue reading Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

10 Resources for Beginning Gardeners…and a Bonus!

10 Resources for Beginning Gardeners...and a Bonus!Spring is in the air at last! Are you ready to start gardening?

If you have never planted a garden before, you may still be doing your research, hunting for resources that will get you off to a good start. We’ve pulled together a short list of posts, links, and books to help you out from start to finish:

  1. Starting a Garden or Orchard
    Our own series on how to start your very first garden. Covers water, workload, location, logistics, and plant selection.
  2. All New Square Foot Gardening
    Gardening in a small space? Just looking for a simple alternative to the traditional row garden? Give this unique method a try. Read our full review.
  3. How to Plan a Garden
    Step by step suggestions for getting the growing season off to a good start.
  4. Zone and Frost Maps
    Information that every gardener needs to know.
  5. Vegetable Garden Planting Guide
    Planting basics from K-State. Available as a free PDF download.
  6. Home Vegetable Gardening
    A public domain work rich in gardening wisdom. Contains advice on every step of the gardening journey. Read our full review.
  7. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
    This classic covers relevant gardening topics from A to Z. Here is the current edition. Read our full review.
  8. Vegetables
    Our own guide to growing vegetables from planting to storage. Also includes kitchen tips and instructions for saving seeds.
  9. 5 Tips for Deterring Garden Bugs
    Bugs are inevitable in gardening, but they don’t have to confiscate the harvest. Here are our suggestions for keeping insects at bay—naturally!
  10. All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook
    Once you start bringing in the harvest, you may be interested in looking for new ways to cook it. This cookbook is organized by vegetable for easy reference. Read our full review.
  11. Bonus: The Family Garden Journal
    Want to keep a record of those gardening memories and learning experiences? Try out our own 366-day journal, complete with additional planning and reference pages. Learn more.