If you are new to gardening, you definitely need to give mulch some consideration. There are good reasons that many experienced gardeners use mulch. In short, mulch is good for both you and your plants. Here’s why. Read More
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! Read More
Christmas is just around the corner! If you are looking for a few ideas to bring a smile to the face of that gardener in the family this year, allow us to make a few recommendations.
- The Family Garden Journal. Our garden journal is a great way for a gardener to celebrate a year of growing plants. It features 366 pages with room for to-do lists, observations, harvest records, and other notes, and it even includes a shopping list, a map, a planting table, and other useful tools for planning a garden. Makes a great keepsake. Read more.
- Heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds are sure to delight! Choose varieties with a compelling story and an attractive appearance. If the seeds come from your own heirloom garden, that makes them even more special.
- The Christian Kids’ Gardening Guide. Looking for a gift for a budding green thumb? This delightful little book offers both practical growing tips and fun activities to foster a love of gardening. Read our full review.
- All New Square Foot Gardening. If your fellow gardener does not already have a copy of this revolutionary book on gardening, do him a favor and get him one. Even those committed to traditional row gardening can pick up many useful tips for making the garden more productive and attractive. Read our full review.
- Oxo Good Grips trowel. Every gardener needs a trowel. If the trowel has a comfortable handle, a sharp stainless-steel blade, and handy measuring marks, so much the better.
- Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Another classic work on gardening that deserves a place on every gardener’s bookshelf. This one is an indispensable reference for those who garden naturally. Read our full review.
- Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit. Does your gardening friend know how to test his soil for pH and NPK? If not, this kit will make it easy for him. Read our full review.
- Gardening gloves. Even a gardener who already has a pair probably won’t mind an extra pair.
- Seed packets. This is another good choice for an heirloom gardener. These seed packets seal to protect their contents, and they can be used with a home inkjet or laser printer.
- Sweet potato beetle. This hilarious craft is a great way to use that overgrown sweet potato! Warning: The laughter will be heard for miles around!
Looking for the right cover crop? Give this Cover Crop Decision Tool from the Midwest Cover Crop Council a try.
First select from one of the following states:
Then choose options that take into account your growing conditions:
- County (for frost/freeze date estimate).
- Planting and harvest dates.
- Drainage situation.
Finally, fine-tune your choices by noting your goals:
- Increasing nitrogen levels.
- Building soil.
- Fighting erosion.
- Fighting weeds.
- Creating a new source of forage for grazing or harvest.
- And more!
Once you’ve found a cover crop or two that meets your needs, click on the name of the crop to learn more about about its pros and cons, as well as its planting and termination requirements.
An easy-to-use way to choose the right cover crop for your unique growing conditions!
In some years, onion harvest time is troubleshooting time.
There are many things that can go wrong when growing onions, especially when growing them in irregular weather patterns. Identifying the various problems can be quite difficult, as they tend to manifest themselves in the same way—rot.
This onion disease guide offers a thorough and well-photographed look at the many problems that plague onions. However, it is also brief and concise, going straight to the most important points of each disease.
For each onion disease, you will learn:
- Conditions for disease development.
- Control methods.
While the recommended treatments tend toward chemical control, there is still plenty of useful information here for organic and home growers, particularly when it comes to disease identification and prevention.
Preserving the food we grow at home or buy in bulk from a local farmer can seem daunting to the beginner. We know that food safety is important, but how do we achieve it?
This food preservation site from K-State has the answers. Many resources have been combined into one convenient location.
Learn more about:
- Curing and smoking.
- Food business.
- Jams and jellies.
- Special diets.
On each of these topics, choose from an extensive list of resources, including PDFs, videos, and external links.
Just to give you a sampling of the questions you can find answers to:
- What special methods do I need to use to can low-acid fruits?
- How do I build my own smokehouse?
- How do I make beef jerky safely?
- How long can I store frozen foods?
- Is it safe to use a pickle recipe written before 1994?
- Where can I find good jelly recipes?
- How do I make my own horseradish sauce?
- Where can I find canning instructions that are safe to use?
- What is the science behind canning?
- How do I adjust canning times for my altitude? (No, Kansas is not flat!)
- What are the regulations on selling home-preserved foods at the local farmers market?
Also, every other month you will find a new issue of the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe newsletter—two pages of seasonally relevant advice and sometimes a recipe.
A great resource for the dedicated home canner, with plenty of other information for those looking for simple but safe ways to preserve the harvest.
For things like tomatoes, apples, and peaches, just spray the fruit and rub it clean under running water.
For berries and lettuce, fill the sink with cold water, add the produce, and spray with Veggie Wash. After a brief soak, rinse and drain the produce.
Do you still buy fruits and vegetables from the grocery store? Try using Veggie Wash to remove that wax coating—it really works!
Many gardeners know that cool, dry, dark places are ideal for long-term seed storage. Many gardeners cite the seeds found in ancient Egyptian pyramids as evidence. According to the popular story, these seeds, after lying dormant for thousands of years, sprouted when planted.
While most scientists would agree on the perfect conditions for storing seeds, most deny that seeds found in Egyptian tombs have ever germinated Read More
Gardening season is finally upon us! If you’re like most gardeners, you are looking forward to planting seeds with the full expectation of making this the best gardening year yet.
While much of gardening comes down to experience, diligence, and creativity, having the right tools makes a big difference. One handy tool is the garden journal.
Advantages of Keeping a Garden Journal
- Permanent record. While you can keep gardening notes on loose sheets of paper or sticky notes, the chances of you finding and referring to these notes in the future are slim to none. When your notes are in one place, whether that is a binder or a real journal, you have access to valuable information.
- Memory aid. Really, are you going to remember what’s going on in your garden from one year to the next? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably not. Write down important information. It will save you a few headaches.
- Simplicity. Writing in a garden journal gives you an opportunity to condense your thoughts and observations into key information that you can use.
- Learning tool. By noting our successes and mistakes, we have a road map to use in future years. This helps us build expertise quickly, since we are not wasting time repeating mistakes.
- Sharpen observation skills. Part of becoming a green thumb is observation. If you have a journal that invites you to note your observations, you might just find yourself looking for new ways to fill the pages. Your powers of observation improve, and so does your understanding of your unique garden.
- Proof of progress. You really are developing a green thumb, and your garden journal contains proof. A review of past journals can keep you motivated and spark ideas for overcoming current challenges.
- Gardening memories. If you have gardened long enough, you have undoubtedly made some great memories. A glance through an old journal can bring recollections back as though the events happened yesterday.
What to Write in a Garden Journal
- Garden plans. Did you know that a garden journal can double as a planning tool? You can use your journal to keep track of seed lists, garden maps, and planting dates. This is an especially good use of a journal, since it keeps all of your gardening information in one place.
- Frost dates. While you can find average first and last frost dates for your area easily enough, you will have much better results if you track the frost dates in your own garden. After several years, calculate the average. Does your garden tend to be warmer or cooler than the surrounding area? It makes a difference!
- Signs of the seasons. Let nature be your guide. Every spring comes a little earlier or later than the last one. With practice, you can learn to plant in sync with the seasons. A journal can help you keep track of signs to look for.
- Crop rotations. Don’t let diseases or nutrient deficiencies build up in your soil! Hang onto your map and planting records. Having access to last year’s information is a big help. Having access to the last three years’ information is even better.
- To-dos. Keep track of gardening chores and how often they need to be done. While you’re writing down what you observed today, jot notes on what you need to do tomorrow or in a week. Staying organized is suddenly quite easy!
- Experiments and their results. Are you trying something new this year? Write it down, and be sure to note the results as they arise. Not only does the process of writing cement information in our heads, but even if we do forget we have a permanent record to refer to.
- Notes on favorite plants. Need to remember when to cultivate the asparagus bed? How to prune the blackberries? Where to plant nasturtiums to take advantage of their pest-repelling properties? Keep pages in your journal specifically for notes on plants that you grow every year. Now you don’t just have a journal—you have a personalized reference book!
- Favorite varieties. Likewise, keep track of your favorite plant varieties. Note which tomatoes were the easiest to grow and which lettuce tasted the best. When it’s time to buy seeds again, you’ll already know what kinds to get.
- Pests and diseases. Every gardener (particularly every organic gardener) has a list of “bad guys” that they count on battling every year. Improve your warfare strategy by recording the habits and preferences of the bug or fungus in question, then list ways to deter or destroy it.
A Final Tip
The most important thing to remember about keeping a garden journal is that it should be simple. If wrestling with a bulky binder feels complicated to you, you may very well give up on your journal before the season ends. If writing a detailed essay on your garden every day feels complicated to you, you probably will avoid the task like the plague.
Find a journal that invites you to jot down your thoughts. Then write down only what you are interested in remembering.
The Family Garden Journal
Our 466-page journal offers room for both planning and observing, featuring a shopping list, a planting schedule, a garden map, a maintenance page, a daily journal, and pages for notes on plants, pests, and diseases. Preview sample pages and more information here.