Extreme Frugality – Using Eggshells as Seed Starter Containers

by Brian F – this is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest.

I think spring has arrived! Although I will be more certain once April has passed.  With all this warm weather I have stated my more intensive spring cleaning. I have been working the vacuum cleaner pretty hard the last few days.  Now having an inside dog and cat there is a lot of animal fur that gets shredded.

When I empty the vacuum, it’s a bagless model, the contents go to either my worm bin, or to my compost bin.  Also living in this area dust is a never ending battle. The contents of the vacuum contain dog and cat fur, my hair, as it seems I shed as much as they do plus the dust dirt and other small electronic pieces that hit the floor that I never find again.  I’ve notice that I always seem to have a good crop of wild mushrooms each spring in the two bins.  I’m seriously considering a button mushroom kit to see if I can keep it going year round continuously.

Also, the seed starting bug has bitten, checking prices of peat cups in the stores and I’m appalled by the scalping prices.  And peat is not really a renewable resource. So I feel back to a technique I read of years again.  Using eggshells for stater cups. This is not without a mishap or three. I selected some of the larger farm eggs I have, then I gently (not gently enough with the first couple ) tapped them against the bottom of a coffee cup. I wanted to break a hole in the large end, big enough to pour the egg out into a hot skillet. After a few try’s I achieved moderate success! Yea me! Afterward, I rinsed the inside of the shells and let them dry.

My favorite seed starting mix is age rabbit litter mixed with worm castings, and as I write this I think of Amanda’s reaction when she learned what casting are!  But on to the point, I’ll mixed in ratio about 3/4 to 1/4, fill the shells about halfway.  I’ll put a couple of seeds in each shall and spoon a bit of castings over the seeds to lightly cover them.  Then as they sprout and grow I can add more litter and castings to them.

I use an egg carton to hold the shells and place them in a East or southern window so they stay warmer and can get light as soon as they break through!  Once the last threat of cold weather is gone, the hardening off process starts. I put them out, first for short periods and gradually extend the time they are out till they are ready to go in a raised bed. When planting gently, and I do mean gently crush the shells and peel them back. Have the holes ready first and plant with liberal amounts of political promises, oops, I meant aged litter and castings!

The cost of this is really nothing, I recycled everything to start the seeds. The only cost would be the seeds themselves if you had to go buy them.  Most everyone I know saves seeds from season to season or trades for them.

I am often ask why I bother to plant my little garden, when it’s cheaper to buy at the super store, well lets back up, what did the garden cost me besides a bit of time that I did not spend in front of a TV, or monitor? Nothing! What does fresh veggies cost from the stores, quite a lot! Also, the veggies that are commercially farmed do not have the nutrient value as those grown at home and side dressed with your good compost.

Also, we can mulch with paper, cardboard, and grass clippings that over wise would go to some land fill.  And mulching draws in the best cultivator of all! Earthworms! They will till and aerate your garden, keeping the soil soft for the plants to grow.

The only expenditure we have is bits of time here and there. So compare the benefits of seed starting like this to the cost of nutrient deficient food, you, me, all make out. We make in so many ways!  I hope everyone has a good month!

What do you use as seed starting containers?

Prizes For This Round (Ends on June 7, 2017) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

First Prize a $999 value:

  1. Numanna Organic Family Pack Bucket a $399 value from LPC Survival Ltd.
  2. CampingSurvival Gear Pack a $400 value from Camping Survival.com.
  3. A $200 gift certificate of prepper books from Prepper Press.

Second Prize a $650+ value:

  1. A case of .308 ammo or $300 off Ammo selection of your choice from LuckyGunner.
  2. A Wonder Junior Deluxe Hand Mill with the Masa/Nut Butter Auger, Drill Bit Attachment, and Bicycle Sprocket Kit a $325 value from ChefBrad.com

Third Prize a $310+ value:

  1. $300 gift certificate from GunMag Warehouse.
  2. A copy of The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How

Want to Save Money from Excess Veggies? Here’s How

by Jennifer B

If you have a garden filled with vegetables, or you have decided to buy a lot because they’re on sale, then there’s a huge possibility that you’re thinking of what can be done to avoid your excess veggies from getting wasted.

For fruits, there are a lot of best juicers on the market, that it’s not that difficult to use them all because you can simply turn them into fruit juices. However, it’s a different case for veggies. Thankfully, there are a number of ways on how you can make good use of this, and here’s how.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
When you have excess veggies, then it won’t be bad if you’d let it lead your meal planning. For example, if there’s a big sale on pumpkins at the store, then be ready to experiment with pumpkins and see what you can make. Likewise, if there’s a great deal on carrots, then go prepare some meals that involve this.

Though, in order to successfully pull this off, you have to consider several things first. For on, you must have a broad sense of what kinds of things you can do to a specific vegetable. For example, aside from steaming your regular veggies, what else can be done to make them more exciting.
Don’t be afraid to experiment every now and then because you’ll never know what you might discover.

2. Whip Up a Hearty Vegetable Soup!
There are times that you’ll end up buying too many vegetables for your recipes, but you won’t be aware of this until it’s too late. Thus, they often end up inside the crisper and they start to get a little old.

You can chop these vegetables a bit and simply toss them in a freezer container that’s quite spacious. Then, once the container is almost full, you can proceed to make vegetable soup. Dump all of those frozen veggies, season with salt and pepper, and allow it cook slowly.

Another option that you can consider is making a ratatouille instead of soup. This one is quite easy to prepare as well. To ensure that you make the best dishes, you should also pay attention to what you’re going to use– always check the pots and pans reviews to see which one would work best for you.

3. Preserve Your Picking
No doubt, it takes a lot of time and effort to prep and process vegetables. However, you’ll be greatly rewarded once you see the results. You can put chopped or whole veggies in the can and they’ll last for several months. Aside from that, you can also freeze a number of items, such as tomatoes– these require lesser preparation time. Other food preservation options for you to consider includes fermenting, dehydrating, and quick pickling.

Pickling is one of the best ways to extend the shelf life of produce significantly. Thus, it’s a great way to use veggies that have already been numbered. Pickled vegetables are perfect in jazzing up salads, sandwiches, and many more.

Crunchy vegetables are perfect for pickling, and during cold winter months, you can pickle vegetables, such as beets, carrots, cauliflower, and onions. Then on warmer months, experiment with green beans, zucchini, bell peppers and the like.

4. Filling in Vegetable Turnovers
Saute whatever vegetable you like and use them as a filling for vegetable turnovers. You can try preparing spinach turnovers known as “spanakopita” and we’ll give you the assurance that everyone will love this.

Making a batch of these using excess vegetables is a great way to save some cash, because you can easily put the left over back in the freezer and consider using the, again the following day.

5. Veggie-filled Goodie Bags, Anyone?
If you’re having family or friends over, then you can consider this. Why not give them a bag filled with garden-fresh veggies? They would surely love a treat like this! Likewise, you can also send them your favorite recipes, or just print them out and include them in the bags that you’ll be giving away.

You can also consider donating your extra greens to a local pantry. However, do note that not all accept fresh produce. So, it would be better if you check your local first.

6. Have a Produce Stand in Your Frond Yard
You don’t have to be extravagant, but a simple “free” sign taped to a table or basket of tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers are actually a great way to put your excess veggies to great use. In case that you have a lockbox, you can also consider securing the table, then perhaps, solicit donations in exchange for the veggies and give the proceeds to a local pantry if that’s okay with you.

Additional Tip: You can also try asking your neighbors if they’d be interested in organizing a collaborative growing effort with you.

7. Make Stock and Compost
After everything has been done and you still have a few leftovers, don’t worry, there’s still something that you can do. You can chop up these vegetables until you end up with not perfect pieces, but still edible together with those that you won’t be interested in consuming. Basically, these would end back in the freezer to the point that they’re going to get freezer burn. What can be done once that happens?

If it seems like that vegetables are still a little edible, then you can consider turning them into vegetable stock. We advise that you put a container of remaining vegetable pieces in your freezer, and once the container is almost full, then put these vegetable scraps in a pot or slow cooker

What about the pieces that can’t be eaten?

This can help your garden the following year. Just have a barrel of composter behind your house, keep it moist, and roll the barrel once a week.

During the spring, you can empty out the composter then spread this material all over your garden. Believe it or not, this natural fertilizer can keep the soil in your garden rich. This would also help the plants grown abundantly.

There you have it. These are just some of the best ways to save money on excess vegetables. Give them a try and see which one works best for you.

Jennifer is a certified cook enthusiast and a legit photographer from Ohio, USA. She is a food lover and thus makes blogs about it at Imaddictedtocooking, which include her own photos for the demonstration of how the recipes are made.  Contact her at @jenniferimaddi1


by Andrew Skousen

American pioneers pushing westward had to save their own seeds for next year’s planting if they wanted to grow anything again. I applaud people who are learning to garden today, but if you don’t learn to save seeds and start your own seedlings from them next spring your gardening skills won’t help much in hard times when the cheap seeds and nursery plants sell out at the stores. Fortunately, many seeds are extremely easy to save if you just let them develop fully, watch for the right time to harvest and dry them out for next year.

Beans and peas are very easy to save seeds from. Legumes rarely cross pollinate so all you have to do is let a few seed pods stay on the plant until they grow to full maturity and dry out. Shell the beans or pea pods by hand and let the seeds dry further until you can’t make an imprint in the seeds with your fingernail, or until one shatters when hit with a hammer. This is dry enough to store in a jar in a cool, dry place out of the sun for a few years. Several plants produce seeds in pods that are harvested in the same way including radishes and collard greens.

You can store seeds in the freezer but be careful of water condensing on the seeds when you pull it out to plant a few. Moisture will activate your seeds (and ruin their shelf life), so keep them absolutely dry until you are ready to plant. Be sure to save more than the minimum number of seeds for next year. Some seeds don’t germinate, sometimes frost or a dry spell will kill off a planting. You may need to replant two or three times before you get a crop going so plan accordingly.

Make sure you start with heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds may produce earlier, bigger or sweeter crops, but they won’t stay true to seed in subsequent generations. Save seeds from the best, healthiest plants to help the best traits get passed on to the next year’s crop. Over time you will eventually develop a slightly stronger variety that is accustomed to your area and climate.

Lettuce is another self-pollinating plant that is easy to harvest seed from. As it gets hot most lettuce leaves turn bitter and the plant “bolts”—it grows a long stalk very quickly and puts out flowers on top. Rather than pulling out all these bitter plants, leave one or two of the best to finish forming seeds. The flowers will produce a fuzzy dandelion-like tuff on top. Just before this blows away pinch it off and save the lettuce seeds at the bottom—they should look like what came in the seed packet. Each lettuce plant will produce hundreds of seeds, but leave two plants to flower just in case. Some people set aside a bed for lettuces and let it reseed itself every year—now that is easy gardening!

In a previous tip on saving seeds I recommended Seed to Seed, a well-known guide to saving seeds and avoiding cross-pollination. But it is written like a textbook and has little practical advice or description of hands-on experience. A better book for beginner and intermediate seed savers is Seed Sowing and Saving by Carole Turner. It is much easier to read and is full of useful charts, drawings and diagrams. It also has decent descriptions of how to start seeds indoors.

These are just some of the easiest seeds to harvest. More advanced seed saving involves fermenting the seeds with pulp, or in letting biennial plants overwinter and produce seeds during the second year. I will cover some of those techniques in a future tip. Take the time to learn the gratifying practice of saving your seeds to keep your garden growing indefinitely when hard times hit.

Most important thing to stock for WROL or for the collapse.

Unusual Plants for The Survival Garden and Yard

pic of gardening tools

by AZ Rookie Prepper

I thought I would offer some suggestions for those who enjoy and use gardening as part of their preps. I don’t have a huge garden; as a matter of fact, it is fairly small in terms of square feet.

I did produce a tremendous amount of food out of that space last year as I concentrated on growing plants that produced a lot of food for the space involved. Here are my thoughts on plants that give best production for the space.

Roma Tomatoes – I chose Roma’s due to their versatility and taste and lack of waste. Roma’s have a lot of flesh per tomato, much less open space inside the tomato fruit. I eat them raw, with a good amount of taste per bite. I cook with them, making a great dish called Pasta Capri (ask me for the recipe).

They can be canned, with so much flesh they don’t need as many to fill a canning jar. They are excellent as canned salsa or spaghetti sauce. The plants don’t get too big here in Arizona, but do produce quite a bit of fruit, thus saving me water.

I produced about 20 pints and 8 quarts of canned tomatoes, salsa and spaghetti sauce last year from just three Roma plants, not to mention eating some for dinner right off the vine.

Cherry Tomatoes – I planted two sweet cherry tomato plants last year and was very pleased with my production. Most mornings when I would do my watering, I picked a handful of cherry tomatoes to take with me for lunch. This lasted for several weeks (at least 5-6 weeks, don’t remember exactly). I grew these two plants in containers on my patio.

Asian Long Beans (Asparagus Beans) – These are not common in the U.S., but I feel should be in every garden of every prepper. This is a climbing type bean that produces a huge quantity of bean pods per plant. The bean pods are thinner than your standard green bean, but get about 12-14 inches long (rumor has it that they get bitter and nasty tasting if you let them get much longer than that).

When you pick them at about pencil size diameter, they have a slight nutty flavor mixed with a mild green bean. I had four plants and canned over 20 pints of beans, in addition to eating them fresh and giving a lot away. Seeds can be ordered from Kitazawa Seed company.

Jalapeno Peppers – I found a variety that isn’t too spicy, but does have a tang to it. These plants are a must if you want to make salsa from your tomatoes and add a bit of zip to anything else you chose to add them to.

Here in the southwest, peppers are easy to grow and love the sunshine and heat. I was giving these away as I just could not keep up with the production from just four plants. I used them in my salsa and also pickled/canned four pints.

Bell Peppers – Can’t live without these great plants. Unfortunately, for some reason my bell peppers did not produce so well last year. I did have some good meals using my fresh picked ones that did grow, but my four plants only produced about 10 or so peppers.

Perilla – Also called the beefsteak plant, it is another plant from Asia, a member of the mint family. This one self seeds and apparently is considered a pest in some areas. Has a strong flavor and is used throughout Asia in a variety of dishes. I pickle the leaves with sesame oil and lots of pepper powder for a side dish (salad). Grows easily but needs lots of water. Caution !!! Do not let cows or horses eat this as it has some level of toxicity to them.

Russian Mammoth Sunflowers – Last year, I grew three of these, and the giant flower heads each produced enough seeds to fill a small peanut butter jar. After the flowers die out, cut off the heads, let them dry for a couple of days, peel out the seeds and soak them in saltwater overnight, then dry the seeds in an oven set on 200 degrees for 2-3 hours. Who doesn’t like sunflower seeds?

Prickly Pear Cactus – Easy to grow, just cut off one of the pads, let the cut area dry for a couple of days, then bury the pad slightly more than halfway with the cut at the bottom. These will grow, sometimes quite large “bushes” that can be a defensive barrier against unwanted intruders.

Additionally, the pear (or tuna as its sometimes called) is eaten like a fruit and the pads (nopal in Spanish) can be diced and used like bell pepper, battered and fried or mixed into salsa or chili. The obvious holds very true, be very careful when handling both the fruit and the pads, both have spines and glochids (little hairy spines that hurt like the dickens).

When cleaning either the pads or fruit, wear thick gloves and very carefully scrape away the spines and glochids. The pads in particular are kind of slimy,like okra, so if you don’t like boiled okra….you probably wont like prickly pear nopals.

Jujube trees – These fruit producing trees grow quickly, and produce a ton of fruit within a couple of years of planting. I live in a very dry region and I NEVER have to water these trees, yet each one (roughly 15 feet tall) produce 6-7 gallon containers worth of fruit.

They will tolerate heat and cold, only blossoming after the last frost here (late April) and the birds and bugs don’t seem to bother them much. The fruit is about the size of a fresh date, eaten fresh they have the texture of a crisp apple with a slight nutty and sweet flavor.

I made pickled preserves from them, but it’s a lot of work due to the fairly small size of the fruit. The fruit can also be dried and used to make a tea that is high in vitamin C or reconstituted in Asian soups, they really accent the flavor of chicken.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas to augment your gardening preps, I would be interested to hear what other unusual or different plants the readers of M.D.’s great survival blog grow for high volume production.

If you have other ideas, please share with us in the comments below…

Combatting Fungus Problems on Fruit trees

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Kate in GA

While this technique will work with all perennial plants, my focus for this article is really on the perennials in the garden. I will specifically talk about fruit trees. However, this will work on all perennial plants that may be giving you problems.

Let me start by saying that I have never seen this technique mentioned in any book or anywhere on the web. If you ask a master gardener in your county, they will probably say they never heard of it – and may even add that too much fertilizer can be harmful. However, I can honestly say this technique does work, and with more success than I ever imagined. This technique has come from my own personal experience and has managed to let my apple trees live less than 20 feet from my (and my neighbor’s) evergreen trees. All trees are playing well together and are happy.

Let’s start with a comparison in the human vitamin world. The government gives us minimum daily values for nearly all vitamins. However, manufacturing companies sell vitamins in much higher doses then the minimum recommend by the government because taking the higher amount makes people feel better. Vitamin E comes to mind for me. I take 400 mg every day because it helps me with pain but the government states the daily value needed is only 15 – 30 mg. (Not sure these numbers are correct, I looked up the daily value stat up on the web and found many different values. I combined them all in the range I displayed here.)

The same holds true for your plants. I first learned of this fact when we moved to our house 16 years ago. After the first year, I noticed that my grass always had fungus problems, but my neighbors didn’t. (Mostly I had dollar spot and fairy rings.) I just wanted my yard to look like my neighbors (also required by my HOA or I would have been fined). I put down all kinds of fungicide that I purchased in the home improvement centers. They worked for a short time, but the problem always came back. So I had my soil tested. I found out that I had no phosphorus and very little pot ash (potassium) in my soil. I did know that my neighborhood used to be a farm. I believe that my plot probably had the chicken house on it. Keeping chickens in one spot for many years will drain the phosphorus from the soil. I went to the local feed and seed store and purchased two fertilizers: one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60. I spread both (in both the front and back yard) and two weeks later, my lot looked like the rest of the neighborhood! And it stayed that way for 2 years.

My neighborhood has changed quite a bit in the years I have lived here. We have quite a few Leyland Cyprus trees on our property, as well as Arborvitae Emerald Green trees. My neighbors have them as well. Both of these trees carry the Cedar Apple Rust fungus as well as many others. I got the evergreen trees long before I got the apple trees. Knowing that I might have problems with fungus on the apple trees, we planted three trees anyway. I thought that with a spray management program, I could make it work.

My apple trees are now in their 5th year at our house. We bought two year old trees, so I am guessing at the end of this summer, they will be 7 years old. It has not always been an easy co-existence for my apple trees & evergreens. The apple trees told me the second year they were here that they didn’t like living at my house and showed me that by picking up both Cedar Apple Rust and Fire Blight.

I thought, no problem, I will spray! Well, spraying didn’t work! It worked when sprayed right after a rain storm, but the dew is so heavy here in the summer, that each morning I got up I had more fire blight! That year, I cut off so many dead branches I thought I was going to lose the trees. We managed to scrape by that year, but I didn’t know if we should pull the trees and forget about growing apples or not. We decided to keep the trees and I thought I would try again in year number 3. I followed the spray recommendations from the University of Georgia and thought that would make the difference. Nope, it didn’t! After a lot of rain in April and May, I thought my trees would die.

While out and about one day in mid- May, I pulled into my driveway and noticed that I had dollar spot on my lawn. I looked at my neighbor’s yards and they did not have dollar spot. I thought, “Has it been 2 ears since I put down phosphorus?” I called up my feed and seed store to order more. Then I thought, if this works for grass, would it work for my apple trees as well? I ordered 100lbs. of 0-45-0 and 0-0-60 that year. I put 50lbs. out for the grass, (spread in both the front and back yard) and then put the other 50lbs. of each concentrating on the 1/6 acre were my trees were located (the trees are in my backyard and also got some of the initial 50lbs. that I put down for the grass.) I added it a bit heavy to the drip line but spread the rest evenly over the 1/6 acre. I watered it in immediately. I had to use a drip line because the sprinkler would have caused more fire blight on the trees. 1 week later, the episodes of fire blight and new evidence of cedar apple rust stopped!

This has now been made part of the routine care of my apple trees! I add one 50lb. bag of 0-45-0 and one 50lb. bag of 0-0-60 to the 1/6 acre were my trees are located each year. And, as I mentioned earlier, they are now almost 7 years old and much happier trees. I still used an integrated spray management program, but my emphasis concentrates on the early sprays needed in the spring. I only spray for fungus now about every 4 – 6 weeks during the summer months and apply the spray with a focus on the new growth. It is a bit of a challenge to know when to spray because the fungicide can damage the trees if it is over 90 degrees when you spray. (That is all summer long for me!) So I try to time it with a rain storm so the temps are lower. This is something I am willing to accept for the blessing of having my own apples.

I should also state that the phosphorus and pot ash fertilizers will not stop all incidences of fungus problems with the trees. However, it so greatly reduces the number of times fungus appears as well as greatly reducing the severity of the problem that I now find it completely manageable. I have only had to cut off a few small branches from fire blight on my apple trees this year. And, it has been over 3 years since I have even seen evidence of cedar apple rust. (I do understand that Cedar Apple Rust is a bi-annual problem, not an annual problem.)

Also, just so you know, I store this fertilizer so I always have 2 years’ worth on hand. When the world ends, I will still be able to manage my fungus problems with the apple trees for a while.

Now, if I can just get the squirrels to stop sampling the apples to see if they are ripe yet! I see covering those trees in netting in my future next year!

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Saving Seeds: A Different Point of View

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Kate in GA

All ‘preppers’ or ‘survivalist’ know that the only seeds you should be saving are from heirloom plants. But is that really accurate? I have a different point of view. There may come a time when you are faced with a barter opportunity and the only thing offered to you is hybrid seed. They may be carrots, green beans, squash or tomatoes or something else entirely. Do you turn down the barter because they are hybrid seeds? What if you no longer have any seeds from that vegetable?

My answer is “it depends.” The simple fact is some seeds saved from hybrid plants make very acceptable second generation plants able to produce good quality vegetables/fruit. The trick is if you don’t practice saving seeds from hybrid plants now, you won’t know which ones are viable and which aren’t.

While I will give you my point of view, different growing environments can bring different results. I would never recommend going out and purchase hybrid seeds for everything in the garden. However, it is very doable to select one hybrid variety of one vegetable/fruit and try saving seeds from it. Do this each year and you will soon have a very good knowledge of which hybrid seeds will produce acceptable second generation plants and which won’t.

Let me start with a common mistake many people make. Hybrid seeds are not necessarily GMO seeds. The word ‘hybrid’ means two plants have been crossed to make a new plant that has some of the traits of each parent plant. Hybrid seeds work well for novice gardeners to grow plants that are resistant to common diseases they would otherwise experience. Sometimes, it is also advantageous to grow hybrids plants in areas of the country where heirloom plants would not normally do well. Growing carrots in the South comes to mind here. In the South, gardeners can be much more successful growing hybrid varieties that are heat tolerant.

So what hybrid seeds have I had the most success with? Peppers and tomatoes. It makes sense that these both do well since they are cousins. The first time I grew chili peppers (a long time ago) I went to a big box store and bought hybrids. At the time, I was experimenting with making my own insecticide and wanted to try it before I started storing seeds. The peppers produced extremely well. When I sliced them to dry, I noticed that each pepper had a prolific amount of seed as well. (I don’t eat them so I didn’t know this.) I took some and placed them in an envelope and threw them in the back of my kitchen closet. (This is my standard process for saving all seed. I don’t do anything fancy – dry them on a paper towel for a day or so and put them in an envelope. No soaking or removal of pulp or anything ‘special’. In my experience, it isn’t necessary.)

The next year, the seeds germinated quite quickly. They also produced very well. They only difference I noticed from the parent plant was the peppers were smaller in size. This fact didn’t bother me at all. All these years later, I consider the seed stable because they now produce consistently – year after year.
For the tomatoes, I saved seeds from a grape tomato hybrid. I bought the seeds in a big box store. They were from Burpee. The second generation plants produced well and produced good flavor. While I didn’t grow any third or fourth generation, a friend from church did. (I gave her a tomato plant the first year I grew them. She let the ones that fell off the plant stay in the raised bed all winter (she didn’t do fall cleanup) and they germinated the next year. This continued for four years.) She is not an expert at gardening; I usually must help diagnose problems with her garden one to two times each year. I told her that the original seeds were hybrids and the flavor of the tomatoes would probably diminish each year they grew. However this tomato had no problems with disease or bugs and produced in abundance! She told me the tomatoes had wonderful flavor from year to year.

The last success I would like to mention is with Honey Bear Squash seeds. This year, I have 3rd generation plants growing. The plants are producing decent size acorn squash. I haven’t grown these long enough to state if the seed is stable or not, but all signs with the plants in the garden this year point to a stable seed. If they also produce well next year, I will call them stable. Of course, the final test is the taste.

Let me mention some hybrid seed failures I have had. The first one that comes to mind is carrots. I had a heat tolerant variety. I let the plant overwinter in the garden and nurtured it through the second summer. I was quite excited to see the flower stalks start growing in July and waited with anticipation to save the seed. This was a total failure. The seeds were sterile. Nothing germinated. I had a similar experience with a few different hybrid green bean varieties as well.

Next year, I am going to try saving seeds from hybrid broccoli. I am going to plant some this fall and see what happens. Currently, I have growing one row of second generation cotton plants from hybrid seeds. I am excited to see if the second generation plants will actually produce useable cotton!

To conclude, let’s go back to the barter scenario I mentioned. Would I accept the hybrid carrot seeds as barter? They would need to be in the unopened original package with a seed harvest date within 3 years of the current date. If the package looked good and did not look like it was tampered with, then yes, I would – even knowing that seeds saved from them would be sterile. The barter price will be the equivalent for only one year’s worth of carrots, since I know they will not produce additional generations. If they did not meet all of these criteria, I would not accept them.

Try expanding your gardening horizons by experimenting with saving seeds from hybrid plants. This knowledge could help to keep your garden producing during times of trouble!

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Practicing Survival Gardening

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – By Kate

Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)

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Everyone knows that you need to practice your gardening skills now, before the world ends.  However, how are you implementing that practice?  Did you purchase your seedlings from a store? If you have bugs in your garden, do you reach for the Seven? If a plant dies, do you run to the store to get another one? Did you purchase commercial manure or garden soil to ‘plus up’ your soil this year?

As we all know, this isn’t sustainable. My idea of survival gardening is to take all necessary actions needed to overcome the need/desire to run to the store when I have a gardening problem. Running to the store won’t be possible when the world as we know it ends.  Survival or sustainable gardening takes work (and planning), a bit of knowledge you may not currently have, and a different mindset.  I propose a four prong approach for you to consider implementing.

I have been a Master Gardener for 26 years and I still have failures.  It is natural. For example, my tarragon seedlings all died this year.  My answer to that is to start them again or live without tarragon until next year.

So, the first thing I would like to suggest is to garden like your life depends on it. Someday it will!  If you change your mindset and act like your life depends on your actions – NOW, you will have the experience to do what is necessary to make your garden at least moderately successful when you are depending on it to produce.  Any vegetable or fruit I can’t produce myself, we don’t eat.  I do not run to the store to ‘make up’ for what the garden doesn’t produce.

Second, start your plants from seeds. Every year.  No need for peat pots, seed starting kits or anything that requires money.  I use a soda can as a ‘mold’ and make my own pots with newspaper.  I don’t even purchase the newspaper; I get the local biweekly newspaper for free at the end of my driveway.  (While I don’t consider this sustainable, I have a huge plastic storage bin filled with rolled up newspaper.  I probably have 20 years’ worth of newspaper pots stored in that bin.)  Seedlings can be fussy.  If you don’t have any experience starting them now, how do you think you will do it when your life depends on them?  Don’t forget the herbs and spices you need to cook with as well.

In addition to all the ‘usual’ fruit, vegetable and herbs found in most gardens, here `is a list of some other things I grow to improve the sustainability of the things I use:

Stinging nettle – Ok, so this is a weed and readily available most places.  I can’t find any near me!  I have read that you can cook it and eat it like spinach but I have not tried it.  I use it to make cheese.  It adds a different flavor to the cheese so it is something that you need to try now to get used to it.  (It isn’t THAT different, but different enough to notice.)

Luffa sponges – Eventually, all the sponges you have stored will wear out.  Try growing your own. In addition to using them while you bathe, they work well on laundry stains. (For counter/table clean ups, use cloth wipes.)

Peanuts – I grow peanuts every year.  They can be grown anywhere! They grow beautifully in tires (needed if growing in the north) or in pots.  There is even a fairly new variety that grows in clay soil!  I use them for cooking oil, roast some for snacking and make a small amount of peanut butter (for the dog to take her allergy medicine).

Sun flowers – While many people grow sunflowers, I grow varieties that are specifically used for oil.  (You will eventually run out of all the olive oil you have stored.)

Cotton – I am an avid quilter and store quite a bit of fabric.  However, that will run out someday.  If you live in the south, you should grow a bit of cotton. It is very hard to grow and has a long learning curve.  But, long term it is a very necessary crop. If someone doesn’t grow it, eventually we will all be wearing deer skin.

Woad – This is an invasive weed in the west, but it doesn’t grow near me in the hot, humid, acid soil south. It makes a lovely blue die for the cotton. Also, it makes a nice ‘bluing’ to get white clothes white in the wash (something that will be hard to do when everything is washed in a bucket).  It was a very popular herb grown in Europe in the middle ages.  In the 19th century, indigo replaced woad worldwide because it was readily available and makes for a darker blue dye.  Indigo doesn’t grow here; woad will grow quite well in pots, in neutral soil.

Dandelion – You may think I am certifiable crazy by growing dandelion.  Well, right now, it is not available wild anywhere near me.  I expect that eventually it will be when the county stops putting weed killer everywhere. I only have a tiny section and when it is ready to go to seed, I cover it so it only stays in that section.  I don’t use it now, but someday I may need it to make a mixed green salad with my spinach and lettuce crop.

Vanilla –Your stores of vanilla flavoring will eventually run out.  Then, your only other choice will be rose water.  Rose water was popular during colonial times because vanilla was not yet introduced in the colonies.  Thomas Jefferson brought vanilla to America (he was introduced to it while living in France). Personally, I have tried rose water and don’t like it.  However, getting the vanilla orchid to flower is very difficult. (Growing orchids in general isn’t easy.)  Practice now while you can afford to have failures.  If you can get the plant to flower – pollinate it by hand. Making vanilla flavoring is easier than making rose water, IMHO.

Tobacco – I grow wild tobacco. It is supposed to be stronger than cultivated types (I read that somewhere. Personally I would not know, I am a Mormon and do not smoke.) Nicotine is the best insecticide God ever made.

Think about what you use on a daily basis and try growing your own version from seed. And, after you grow it the first year, save seeds from it for future years.  It is the only way you will keep your supplies sustainable.

Third, you will need a way to keep the bugs off your plants.  Storing Seven or Malathion is fine, but what do you do when it runs out?  My suggestion is to definitely store some, but keep it for when you really need it.  Try growing your own insecticide instead.  It is much more sustainable and saves the chemicals for when you need them to save a crop from being a total failure.  How do you grow your own insecticide?  It is easy!  Grow red hot chili peppers!  Have you ever noticed that bugs don’t bother chili pepper plants?  Peppers are quite easy to grow and don’t require much work.  Dry the chili peppers and grind into a powder.  (I have a hand crank grinder and also use a mortar & pestle to make the powder.)  Then boil some water to make a ‘tea’.  The stronger the better.  Filter out any pieces before placing in your sprayer.  I have successfully used this on almost everything I grow such as green beans, strawberries, cotton and grapes.  If you have rabbits that eat your flowers or other garden plants, they won’t eat anything that is sprayed with this tea.  When I plant corn, peanuts and sunflowers, I sprinkle the powder directly on the soil. This will keep squirrels and chipmunks from eating the seeds before they get a chance to germinate.  Repeat after it rains.

Also, as mentioned above, tobacco makes a nice insecticide tea as well.  I only use tobacco on things that I don’t eat (for example, white flies on gardenias – if you don’t take care of problems like this, they will eventually infest your garden. Ask me how I know this!) and/or plants that don’t currently have any fruit on them.

If you are having a summer with frequent rain, you may have a fungus problem such as powdery mildew. Spray with diluted milk.  Use about 20% milk to 80% water.  Add a few tablespoons of baking soda per gallon of spray for extra help.  This does NOT work on fruit trees with fungus problems.  If you have apple trees (peach and plum too) with evergreen trees close by, I have a few other suggestions to keep your trees fungus free. That is information for anther post.


Lastly, make your own garden soil.  It is so easy and very necessary!  If you want your garden to feed you, it needs compost.  If you want to reduce the amount and type of bugs you must fight off during the growing season, you need compost. If you want the soil to retain moisture during dry spells, you need compost.  If you want to grow plants that have different soil requirements from your area, you need compost.  I can’t say enough about making your own. There is lots of information on the internet about how to make it so I won’t go into that here.  However, there are some things that most people don’t think about putting in the compost pile.  Things like dog/cat hair, paper (shredded), dryer lint, all pulled weeds (that are not in flower), freezer burned vegetables, cooked rice or pasta, crumbs you clean off the table after eating,  stale crackers/cereal, oatmeal, wine corks, pencil shavings, contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, and dead houseplants and their soil.  All of this stuff makes wonderful compost.  (While dryer lint and the content of the vacuum cleaner bag are not sustainable without electricity, the contents of your carpet sweeper is. You do have a carpet sweeper, don’t you?) Before you throw something out, ask yourself, “Can this go into the compost pile? “  Google it if you don’t know the answer.

Since compost takes time to make, you need to be making it now – before you need it.  Even the commercially available compost tumblers take time to decompose everything you put in it. Start making compost now and it will be available for the garden next summer.  You will need much more than you think.

Don’t just grow a garden, practice survival/sustainable gardening.  Someday your life will depend on it!  I will be happy to answer any questions in the comment section below!

How A Garden May Put Meat On Your Table

guest post by Kim B

For months, I have been wondering, just how in the world am I going to put meat on the table if, at some point, I have no attractants for deer or other creatures. I spent hours trying to figure out how I was going to do it and I thought that it was going to be impossible.

That is until I was in the garden the other day and I began to think about the deer that, when I do not put out Irish Spring and other soaps to repel them, come through my land. My mind kept focusing on the fact that when they are not repelled and therefore find a reason to hang around, such as foraging through my garden to eat every tasty thing in sight, they become the pest that I most do not want to have around.

My thoughts also went through a series of information that I have learned from them through watching and having some form of interaction with them, in my yard and their natural environment away from my location.

I was nearly ready to give up trying to figure out how I could do what all of my friends do not know how to do, without a salt lick or other sneaky and/or underhanded tactics to get deer to come to them such as using sex-driving substances and mimicked calls. It’s not that I have minded that their use of commercial methods and unfair trickeries but I have wanted a better, simpler way of doing things.

My only desire has been to be able to go anywhere in the great outdoors, without carrying around a lot of extra weight, and to use more natural means of plucking off meat as I need it.

Feeling hopeless, the solution suddenly hit me. I felt a bit awkward because what I realized was so obvious, staring me right in the face, and because I have been working so hard at keeping the deer away I could not see the answer I was looking for. One that had been sitting in my wonderful garden all along. What I had was a special plant that has always attracted every deer around, as they love its leaves and I knew it was certain that it would help me as I had seen them go after it every year.

Now, I no longer sit around, wondering how I am going to put meat on the table. Because I will naturally attract them by planting things that deer love.

The plant that would solve my problem was peas and I have no doubt because without scented soap they show up and devour every leaf in sight.

When I have to survive for the long-term, I will have fresh vegetables not only for myself but deer as well. I know that although peas are a favorite food item of the deer living in my area, there are other plants that I can use in their place should I run out or something happen to the supply that I have on hand.

I will not worry because a garden will help to put meat on the table.

Is treated lumber safe for building raised bed vegetable gardens?

The following post is from 2013 – but since it’s nearing planting time everywhere in the U.S. I thought now would be a good time to repost it.

After posting a photo of my new raised bed garden frames in last weeks “what did you do to prep this week” post, I received several emails from readers asking if I had built my frames using treated lumber and they then proceeded to inform me of the health risks involved with  the use of treated wood in my garden.

One readers email gave a dire warning to the effect that I would surely die from the first bite of produce taken from the garden if treated lumber was used to construct the frames because arsenic would leach into the surrounding soil and into my food, then kill me when I ate it…

I would like to thank you for your concern, it is appreciated and noted. And to answer the question, yes, my new raised garden bed frames were built using treated lumber but I’m not concerned about it… not even a little bit.

Years ago many folks including several national magazines and agencies suggested that it was “possible” for small amounts of chemicals to leach into the soil from treated wood when that wood was used to build frames for a raised bed vegetable garden. The main health worry was arsenic because treated lumber at the time contained arsenic that was used in the treating process.

According to this article from University of Missouri Extension Office:

“Pressure-treated lumber uses CCA (chromated copper arsenate) or ACA (ammoniacal copper arsenate) as a preservative. However, studies done by Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service showed insignificant movement of these compounds into surrounding soil. Pressure-treated lumber has no proven effect on plant growth or food safety.”

But, this is all a moot point because arsenic has not been used to treat lumber for residential use (with the exception of some woods for marine purposes) since December 31 2003.

So the admittedly small risk, associated with using treated wood before that date to construct raised vegetable garden beds and frames have been further removed with the elimination of  arsenic in the treating process.

According to Becky Wern, Master Gardener with the Duvall County Agricultural Extension Service and the University of Florida:

Today’s pressure treated lumber “is safe to use around children and animals and for gardens with edibles.”

Also according to The National Gardening Association:

There\’s still a lot of controvery about using treated wood for vegetable gardens. There was a time when pressure treated lumber contained arsenic (CCA) and was not considered safe for use in raised vegetable gardens because the arsenic leached out into the soil. The newest method for treating wood is Micronized Copper Quaternary (MCQ).

It is chemically different than the old CCA treatments. It is made of tiny (micro) particles of copper. These particles are forced into the wood cells or pores during the pressure cycle. Once in, they stay in, also forming a barrier keeping in the quaternary. The leaching of chemicals out of MCQ is practically non-existent and using the treated lumber for a vegetable bed is safe because the chemicals do not leach out into the soil.

However if you’re still worried then don’t use treated wood to frame your raised vegetable gardens, it’s that simple. Or line the inside with heavy plastic (but then I’m sure some will worry about the plastic “leaching” stuff  into the soil) or line the sides with rock or some other material.