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!


  1. Thx for this article. I NEED to start gardening like my life depends on it!

  2. mom of three says:

    Oh yikes, I’m behind again but I do have a compost pile, I need to turn and move it and start again. I do save my seeds, each year and letting a few Red Raspberry, fall to the ground restarts for new one’s. Then you can unearth and pot them or move them it takes about 3 to 5 year’s, to get a good crop so don’t worry about not getting any. This year I was able to freeze 4 gallon size bags just pick and save in a gallon size bag, before you know it you’ll have enough for Jams. Look, for salvage wood and make raised bed’s, I need to jump start my beds, here soon before UGH fall arrives and we drown in rain. I know don’t whine and I’ll try not to many places would love the rain:) . I would also get rain barrels, or even a large garbage can and put the drain pipe into it and you can put a piece of nylon on the bottom of the pipe to keep big piece’s out. I don’t and never had anything big come out of it just make sure you add bleach to kill any larvae, and I use my canning water to dump in my garbage can, to kill larvae too.

    • mom of three,

      While netting is best, one of the things you can do to keep mosquitoes and their larvae out of your water barrels is to add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of olive, sunflower, canola or any other oil to the water.

      I have rain barrels attached to every downspout in the back of my house (sadly, my neighborhood does not allow them in the front). I highly recommend them!

      You can ship some of that rain to me! We went the entire month of June without any.

      • mom of three says:

        That is why I promise not to whine about rain, my mother in law, just returned from Northern California, she felt like her insides were cooking from all the non stop heat and very little rain. The sun, is beautiful but very brutal in many area’s.

  3. PlantLady says:

    I couldn’t agree more! There is so much to know, and gardening for survival is a whole different thing from what most folks consider gardening…You know, put in the garden Memorial Day weekend then harvest as thing mature. Nope, that isn’t going to work for survival. If you plan to eat all the time, you need to plant all the time. Most crops have about a two-week window for harvest. Preserving food takes time, energy and supplies, so the more you can eat fresh from the garden, the less preserving you will have to do. You need to get prepared to do succession planting, where you plant most crops more than once – in this northern tier state that would be about every two weeks. I usually plant green beans (well, green, yellow, purple and speckled) at least three times each year and sometimes four, two weeks apart. That way we can eat fresh green beans for 6-8 weeks instead of just two. This works for most crops except the long-season stuff like dry beans, pumpkins, etc. Another way to do this is to plant a few different varieties of the same crop with differing maturity dates. For instance, you can get corn that matures anywhere from 63 days to 110 days…most crops have this option.
    This brings up what I consider a most important topic…NEVER plant just one variety of anything, or plant all of a crop at one time. Bad things happen…but if you spread the risk by having different varieties of each crop, growing/maturing at different times, you stand a far greater chance that you will be able to harvest at least something.
    This also works for fruits – you can have different varieties of apples that ripen from July to November for a steady supply over 5 months. Or rather than just planting june-bearing strawberries, by also planting everbearing strawberries you can have strawberries until fall. Same with raspberries – there are summer and fall bearing varieties.
    And you like to eat in winter, too, don’t you? Me too! That is why I have been growing lettuces, greens, carrots, kales, green onions, etc. through the winter, even here in a northern tier state. And without an expensive greenhouse or hoophouse! I just make short (3′ or so) hoops from inexpensive black plastic water line and cover them with visqueen. When it gets real cold (below zero) I will put a tarp over the plastic on the hoops or shovel light fluffy snow over it. Been doing this for about 10 years now, and I will tell you there is nothing more fun than bundling up in a snowmobile suit, elmer fudd hat and pac boots, going outside and sticking my arm under the edge of the plastic and picking a fresh salad when the snow is 3′ deep! In a 4’x12′ bed right outside my front door, I can grow enough to keep me and my husband, my sis, her husband and daughter, 5 Nubian goats and 25 chickens well fed with fresh greens and other stuff all winter long. And if you put in some little seedlings, they will hold all winter and give you a headstart on those crops for planting out in spring, when the hoophouse crops are finishing up. You really, REALLY need to get Elliot Coleman’s book “The Winter Harvest Handbook” – it tells all you need to know about growing through winter, even in cold climates. He is in Maine, so it can be done.
    Growing takes a lot of practice to get it right. I decided to start trying to grow large quantities of food, enough to feed a few families (I have 6 younger siblings who have a few kids each, some with their own families) after my 6 years of elder care ended. This has quickly morphed into being able to sell the excess at the local farmers market. This forced me to keep better records, so now I am starting to know if I plant this size bed with this many seeds, in so many weeks I can harvest this amount. Priceless knowledge to have when the only food you will have to eat is what you can grow. And the money I make at market, I use to buy more fruit trees, berry bushes, nut trees, hand gardening equipment, etc. Up to nearly 50 fruit trees now!

    • PlantLady,

      Thank you for adding your knowledge to my article! I agree with everything you said!

      • PlantLady says:

        Thank you, Kate. I always enjoy your posts – just full of important practical info for everyone.
        I want to stress the absolute importance of using this gift of time we have been given to prepare by practice growing enough food to feed your family. There is so much you need to learn and do before you can even begin – there is not a moment to waste. Use this time of easy access to information through books, articles, the internet, experienced gardeners worldwide and other sources to find out all you need to know – because if you don’t you will be stuck learning by trial and error, if you even have the land, water, seed and equipment to do that. I am quite sure that will not work without a direct act by God.
        And make sure you have lots of good books on all the subjects of knowledge you will need. I read a lot, and use our local library to test drive books before I buy them. I have been gardening all my life and have quite a passion for it – but there is no way I can remember everything I need to know. It is critical to have a source on hand so I can just look up what I need to know at a moments notice.
        One excellent book we should all have is Carol Deppe’s ‘The Resilient Gardener’ – it totally changed how I choose what to grow for a survival garden. She explains why she considers the five crops essential to self-reliance to be potatoes, corn, beans, squash and eggs. They provide the most complete nutrition in the least space, with the least work and without outside input. And also are able to be stored without refrigeration or canning.
        And use this time wisely by getting as much ground as possible worked up and ready for gardening while we still have access to tractors and rototillers. Otherwise you are going to end up doing it with a shovel…oh, I shudder at that thought of turning over two acres of sod with a shovel!
        Also, start gathering garden equipment while you still can – lots of it, so you have enough for many people to help! I looked for two years for a wheel-hoe at auctions, garage and estate sales – finally gave up a bought a new Hoss. Then found another of a different type at an Amish auction and snapped it up – wonderful tools! Old tools are far better made than new, but it takes time to find good ones.
        And be aware that you not only need to grow enough food for your family for one year – but at least two or even three years. No matter how good a grower you are, there will be crop failures – too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry, insects, animals, diseases, hailstorms, lack of pollinators, soil deficiencies…or just plain bad luck.
        And not only do you have to learn to grow food, you have to learn how to best preserve or store it…and gather all the equipment and supplies needed to do so.
        Please start soon – time seems to be getting very short.

    • Plant Lady,

      If you plan on sustainable gardening you have to save seed, which means planting heirloom or open pollinated seed, then allowing some of your crop to go to seed. If you plant several different varieties of the same crop you need to be certain they are far enough apart–either in space or time–to prevent cross-pollination. If you plant different varieties of the same crop too close together they will cross-pollinate and their seeds will be worthless next year (hybridized, so they won’t breed true).

      Since the physical space I have for gardening is limited to the raised beds I build, I do this by succession planting different varieties at different times–at least three weeks between plantings. I live in an area where I can grow food outside year-round, which makes this easier.

      Once I find a variety that does well in my area I tend to stick to it and just succession plant the same type to maintain a continuous supply during the growing season for that crop.

      In late spring/summer/early fall I also plant lots of potatoes, squash, beans and tomatoes as they are reliable, productive and highly nutritious.

      Carrots, turnips, beets, broccoli, peas, snow peas, lettuce, spinach and kale make up the bulk of my fall/winter/early spring crops.

      • Ray White,

        Thank you for the additional info you have contributed to my post!

      • PlantLady says:

        Ray: You are so right, you must save seeds to assure a constant supply. I thought Kate had covered that so didn’t mention it.
        While most people think open-pollinated seeds are all they should have, at least half of the seeds I store are hybrids. I want that wide range of genetic material on hand to work with. Decades of advances in disease resistance, yield, storage ability, nutrient load and flavor improvement are stored in the genetic material of those hybrid seeds – and I want to be able to take advantage of it to improve my own crops, and ensure that I am growing something different from everyone around me…improving my chances of not succumbing to a widespread problem. Seeds fall into the same category as all other preps…I don’t rely on “one” of anything!
        Open pollinated seeds mostly produce almost exactly the same as their parent plants – this can be good…or it can be very, VERY bad. This is evidenced by the Irish Potato Famine…at that time most all folks planted 1-3 varieties of potato, because it was the best variety for the area with the greatest production. When a disease came along that those few varieties were susceptible to, untold numbers starved or were forced to emigrate.
        I am lucky to have land, so I can separate varieties by up to 450′ just in the yard…or up to 1/4 mile on the property. Right now I have lettuce plants all over the place – in the gardens, in the orchards, in the ornamental beds, out along the road. I also hedge my bets by growing differing varieties with differing blooming/harvest dates so there is a lesser chance of cross-pollination. And I never grow all of a crop, even of different varieties, in the same area. I try to separate them as much as I can – so bugs and disease can’t easily transfer from one bed to another. My current main garden is only 75’x65′ with a 40’x40′ annex. The larger area is twenty 4’x25′ and five 4’x11′ raised beds. The smaller area is for row crops of corn, beans, tobacco, field peas, etc. or hills for squashes, cukes, etc. And I also grow in a couple strips in the aisles of the new orchard. Then there is the new 220’x50′ area we are improving this summer to move all the berries to – this is where a few plants are stuck to produce seed this year well away from anything similar. Gives me room to keep things at least a ways apart from the same crop or same crop family.
        And I am breeding my own varieties, to best suit our microclimate, flavor preference and storage ability. Sure, I don’t get “exactly” the same thing…but I don’t want that – I want something better! I want to grow up to be Luther Burbank!

  4. Loved the article. It makes me think outside the box.

  5. PrepperDoc says:

    We are getting better and better every year. We certainly can’t sustain ourselves right now (have DAY JOBS that make it tough to really do well) but we’re in our 4th season and doing much much better and learning how to grow more and more tings. Your article was full of great things for us to learn from!!!

  6. Curley Bull says:

    Well written and informative article!! I shall print it out and present to a neighbor . . .

    Thank you,

  7. Sriracha says:

    Brilliant article, thank you!

  8. ladyhawthorne says:

    Excellent article, thank you!

  9. Ladyhawthorne,

    Thank you for your comment!

  10. Almost There says:

    Excellent article Kate.

    As PD says, it is difficult to garden while working a day job and, for me, being by myself, not having the equipment or know how to either till a garden in the HARD AS A ROCK, CLAY dirt or haul materials to make raised beds, amend the soil, etc…. Trying to be self-sufficient as fast as I can… Working on correcting these deficiencies as I can get to them… Lots of analyzing going on these days.

    Being older (and wiser, of course) and not growing up learning about how/what makes gardens work makes for a huge learning curve for me. Although I’m a “hog for knowledge” (Thank you Debbie Reynolds), it’s hard to work on/learn about multiple things at one time and then put what I’ve learned into action. I have to concentrate on one thing, put it into practice and then move to another. Not whining, just reality. I’m a visual/hands on learner. I know my limits and I can only take so much learnin’ at one time…, but I do try hard. 🙂

    Everything we need/use/want, we need to be able to produce, trade for or purchase by having a skill that brings in income or that someone can use and we barter for it. Think 3rd world country…

    • Curley Bull says:

      A T, you sound like me. My DW has a multitask brain and I’m kinda simple in that I can only screw up one thing at the time as opposed to three. Works for me as I can concentrate on ONE thing at the time and get it right/finished before starting something else.

      • Almost There says:

        CB. I am a perfectionist, and it always takes me longer. And I have to study things. Learn why something is the way it is…

        I am learning that I can let some things go and it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time and there is more than one way to do something. It’s hard road to hoe for a Type A personality… who has a job that has to worry about the details, cuz the details, if screwed up, can get one and someone else in a world of hurt.

        • Curley Bull says:

          That’s what I’m talking bout . . .

        • Almost There,

          While I agree with you that working full time makes growing a large garden difficult, it doesn’t mean growing any garden is impossible. It also doesn’t have to require a lots of equipment or time. My gardening tools consists of: two rakes, two pruners, a shovel, a hoe,a wheelbarrow and a hand held trowel. That is it. No fancy equipment that needs gas or a knowledge of working engines. No turning of heavy clay soil either. I garden by myself, with no help from anyone. My husband isn’t interested. While I am not yet ready to retire, I am not THAT far away from it either. Yet, I do everything in my garden by hand.

          You can still start gardening with a full time job. I am assuming that you don’t work anywhere near 80 – 100 hours I put in each week for the last two years, so if your hours average closer to 40 – 45, here are a few things you will have time for.

          First, change your mindset. If you think that your life depends on your garden, you will be motivated to read more books on gardening, thereby gaining more knowledge to succeed.

          Second, I will show you how you do have time to garden! Start with the suggestions I am listing below. I am assuming here that you do get time off, holidays, weekends, and such? If you have time to watch a couple of movies each year over weekends and holidays, you have time to garden.

          Labor day weekend, go to a local nursery. Purchase a blueberry bush. (Actually, purchase two or three if you can.) Instructions for planting it are on the label attached to the bush. All you need is a shovel. Ask one of the people working there for recommendations on where to plant it. (FYI – blueberries can take quite a bit of shade – mine don’t get sun until 1:00 pm.) You should also purchase some garden soil while you are there to mix into the soil in the hole you will dig. Plant the bushes. You are now a gardener.

          Blueberries grow almost everywhere – with a few exceptions for the southwest. (Although they will grow in higher elevations in the SW.) The best part of growing blueberries is they require very little care! (A bit more west of the Mississippi since the soil is more alkaline there.) Each fall, rake up some leaves around your yard and use them to mulch the bushes. Do it again in the spring to get the last bit of leaves that fell after your fall clean up. You are are now composting. You may also want to purchase a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer and spread a few cups around each bush, each spring. I do realize this is not sustainable long term, but that bag of fertilizer should last 4 – 5 years. That is sustainable enough for a new gardener.

          Next, also on labor day weekend or the weekend after, go to the home improvement store and purchase 3 pine boards measuring 2″ x 6″ that are 6 feet long. Ask the store to cut one in half. If they won’t fit in your trunk, ask the store to cut all of them in half so they fit. Then, go to the hardware section and purchase ‘L’ brackets. At a minimum you will 4, one for each corner of the new raised bed you are making. However, for long term stability, two brackets per corner is better. If you need to cut the wood in half to fit it in your car, then buy some straight brackets to fit the boards back together as well. Set the boards up and put the brackets on. Pine boards will not requiring pre-drilling holes. I have severe arthritis in my shoulders, elbows and fingers and I don’t pre-drill any holes, I just apply a bit of pressure and the screws turn into the wood nicely. That raised bed will last 7 years or more depending on where you live.

          Where do you grocery shop? If it isn’t Walmart, may I suggest you start going to Walmart (or any other low priced store that sells gardening supplies). While you are grocery shopping, pick up a bag of potting soil. Get the biggest bag you can carry without help. For the rest of the year, every time you shop at Walmart, pick up a bag of potting soil. When you get home, empty into the new raised bed you just build. By next spring, you will have a raised bed ready to plant. Very little extra work, no help needed from anyone.

          Next spring, plant peas in your new raised bed. Peas are very easy to grow. But the best part is you can take the entire plant (minus the peas you picked) and turn it into the soil (use your shovel or trowel – if you didn’t step in/on the soil at all, it takes very little effort). Do that and you are composting.

          If you want to place your new raised bed in an area that currently has grass, lay out a few sheets of black plastic this summer to kill the grass underneath. That way the bed will be ready to fill when you purchase your wood. Don’t have any sheets of black plastic? Use some black garbage bags.

          Now, you are a true gardener with no more time invested then the time it would take to watch a few movies! Welcome to the club, gardening is addictive!

          • Almost There says:

            Thanks for taking the time to plan this out in little steps… Working on too much prepping stuff at one time can be overwhelming….

            I have a couple blueberry and blackberry plants from 2 years ago still in their original bucket… UGH!!! They are still alive though…

            I also have been collecting a few good sized cardboard boxes for laying down in the raised bed to block the weeds. Is black plastic better? Does the dirt go on top on the plastic? or kill grass, remove plastic and then place the dirt in?

            I have NO shade, it is very hot and humid where I live and is why the dirt is hard as a rock… Most of the time, the ground is like concrete. I do work long hours at times, and sometimes no day off for 2 weeks. And I live 1 1/2 hrs from work because I like living in the country, so that’s another 3 hours out of my day….

            I don’t like to shop at WM, but I certainly can pick up a bag of dirt when I do go either to WM or Lowe’s. And those boards… I have an cordless drill. I have a shovel, hoe and rakes, no trowel or wheelbarrow yet….

            Thanks again for breaking it down. I can do it!!!

            • Almost There,

              You are welcome!

              And cardboard is just fine if you don’t want to use black plastic. The only difference is the plastic kills the grass faster and then you can remove it before you start the raised bed. The cardboard can stay and just dump the dirt on top of it.

  11. midnight1st says:

    Really good article. I am in the deep south and have had no trouble growing woad or indigo. We do have laws about growing cotton, however. There are laws preventing it unless you have inspections due to the dreaded weevil that almost wiped it out at one time.

    While we have warm weather for most of the year, our gardens are really susceptible to all kinds of fungi and pests. Many things really don’t survive the heat. I am going to a spring, fall, and winter garden situation except for things like okra. I don’t think that I will be able to beat back the bugs in the summer without more chemicals than I am willing to use. Now, if I could just get rid of the deer (rats on hooves).

    Love that you are growing weeds. I have added some lambs quarters and wild lettuce to my garden as well as put in some camellia sinensis to grow my own tea (can’t be a real southerner without sweet tea).

    • midnight1st,

      Thank you for your comments!

      As you can see from my name, I am in GA. If there is a law about growing cotton here, I don’t know about it. There isn’t a law about purchasing seed or the company I originally bought it from would not have sold it to me. At least, there wasn’t a law when I purchased it. Mine is heirloom so I save the seeds each year. (Also grew it in VA – next to a state highway. Even got the seed from the local feed and seed store.) The only time I ever saw a weevil was in a picture in a book. I have never had weevils.

      I do agree that gardening in the south is a bit harder then further north. Many times we have two cycles of insects per summer as opposed to only one in states more north – squash vine borer comes to mind here. However, I get lots of stuff to grow in the heat without chemicals. Tomatoes, green beans, sunflowers & squash just to name a few. If you want to grow something to eat that just loves the heat and humidity, grow Seminole pumpkins. They were discovered growing wild in the Everglades. The Indians dried and ate them. (They are not really a pumpkin in the sense that we know it but more like a winter squash.) They have amazing storing qualities as well. I have kept them in a basket by my front door – for decoration – for about 10 months as we slowly ate them.

      As for the deer, the best (and cheapest) defense against them is a liquid fence. It works because you are telling them in terms they understand that this is yours and they can’t have it. When people tell me they tried it and it didn’t work – I tell them it is because they didn’t try it, they are just saying they did. The Indians never had a problem with deer eating their gardens and they didn’t build fences either. If you don’t want to upset the neighbors, go out at night and do it. Once or twice a day should do it and not leave any smell that you will notice. My suggestion it to go all around the edge of your garden.

      Good for you for growing weeds! While I married a southern boy, my family roots are in the Bronx. No sweet tea for me!

      • midnight 1st,

        I forgot to add that I am going to try growing indigo again. If you can get it to grow, I should be able to as well. The last time I grew it all the plants died. I assumed it was the humidity and too much rain.

        I will try again next year!

        • midnight1st says:

          I know that the large indigo plantations in our early American history were located in South Carolina. I visited one outside of Charleston. Humidity had to be large there. I don’t know how the closeness to the ocean would have affected it.

      • midnight1st says:

        Kate – I am in the next state over where we even have a statue to the famous weevil. When I taught science, I wanted to plant some cotton for the kids and was not allowed to buy the seed. When our MG association wanted to plant some at the office, we were told that we could not. Oh, well. Perhaps I should visit some GA friends and get some. The poison that they treat the seeds with is just awful though,

        Thanks for the liquid fence suggestion. I will try it as they have totally eaten my garden twice this year!

      • OhioPrepper says:

        Liquid fence. I love it and it does work well against deer. Our only problem here are the danged raccoons; but, the traps and .22 rifle are finally thinning them out.

        • Ohio Prepper,

          It is a whole lot nicer than saying “go pee in your back yard.”

          Try some chili pepper powder to help keep the raccoons away. My experience is the tea won’t work on them, you need to use powder directly to upset their sense of smell.

          You use it to divert them – then they don’t eat their way to the trap you have set!

          • How about squirrels? I watched one haul off one of my Roma tomatoes last night.

            • GA Red,
              Chili Pepper Powder will rescue those tomatoes! Only need to dust the ones that are ripening

              I have also had success with wrapping the tomatoes that are just about to turn red with row cover cloth. (Way too time consuming when you have a lot of plants.) In addition, I have wrapped tomato cages in bird netting and had good luck with that as well.

              However I have also had a stubborn squirrel chew through bird netting.

              • 18 plants – no row cover or netting.

                Chili Pepper Powder will be a good start. I also need to get rid of some blossom end rot but we haven’t had enough rain to get the Tums in the soil well enough yet.

            • OhioPrepper says:

              GA Red,
              The next time watch it through the sight of your rifle. A .22 RF works find unless you’re in the city limits, then a more stealthy tool like a good air rifle can do the trick. The other benefit is meat for the pot.

              • While not actually within city limits, I have too many neighbors who are too close to take target practice. However, the DH has unloaded on a couple of opossums in the yard (with something much bigger than a .22) and no neighbor has ever even noticed, which is odd now since so many neighbors “hear” gun shots that actually turn out to be firecrackers.

      • What is a liquid fence?

        • 123pieguy says:


          • OhioPrepper says:

            One of the benefits of living in the country beyond city limits, is the ability to place the liquid fence nearly anywhere you need it, AND shoot a gun for practice, or to permanently discourage varmints.

    • Goatlover says:

      I’m in the DEEP south, too…..central Florida to be exact. In addition to okra, I am able to grow Seminole Pumpkins, Chinese long beans, sweet potatoes, bananas, papaya, grapes, and sugar cane in the summer heat. My big garden of most vegetables gets planted in October and November. Spring gardening starts in February! After 8 years of gardening, I’ve figured out what grows when and can basically grow SOMETHING year round.

      • Goatlover,

        I keep thinking I want to live in Central Florida too! You can grow so many different things all year long. The Vanilla orchid does quite well out side in central Florida climbing in a tree. Plus all the citrus fruits! Soap nuts too! Imagine, never need to make soap again!

        I keep thinking this until Summer comes around and then I want to live in Maine!

      • midnight1st says:

        I can grow the sweet potatoes also, but the hooved rats keep eating them!

  12. Chuck Findlay says:

    I have gotten into gardening over the last 2-years and have had maybe 75% success with it. Haven’t suffered any catastrophic gardening events that caused a die-off or failure of things to grow. But I live in a part of the country that has a lot of rain, doesn’t have bad weather events to speak of so plants have a good chance of growing.

    For people that live in The West where the only water is grid-tied and haven’t the rainfall to support much of a garden I see it as a much harder time if we do have a collapse. I water new plants when first starting them, but once established I let nature take care of them. But if my life depended on them, then yes I would be more attentive to watering them. I would also increase my rain barrel storage, it’s something I need to do and it’s on the to-do-list, but it’s a LONG LIST…

    As far as buying seeds or finding them or having to live with the ones you now have without the chance of re-supply. I don’t think there is going to be a time where you won’t be able to buy seeds from someone.

    I go to a homesteading event every Summer and there is always a seed exchange. If we do get a depression like or worst then the 1930’s one I see people trading / selling seeds.

    During the 1930’s there was always seeds, it’s very likely to be the same way if we get (when we get) the next depression / ecnomic event.

    I know JWR’s Patriots book and Mad Max is exciting reading or watching, but it’s just not realistic to expect it.

    PS: My comfree seed packages came in, I ordered 4-packages of 100 seeds. I’m going to start a few in pots and then transfer them to the beds with the other comfree (Bocking-14) is growing. It’s growing well, getting bigger leaves every day. The seeds spread from seeds, the Bbocking-14 spreads from root cutting and the root spreading. I figure having both is a good idea. I know it is said it can get out of hand, I don’t see this as bad.

    I kinda see the chance of the US at some point outlawing comfree like it did Ephedra (sp?) back in 2006 or so. People having been using comfree internally and externally for 5,000 years, it has a good track record. But over the last few years the USA, Canada and UK governments have all decided internal use is bad for people and have devoted a smear campaign on it’s use. Every other government on the planet hasn’t seen the need to demonize it.

    So being that it’s a useful medical plant I took steps to make sure I have it if they take action against it.

    • Chuck,

      My only concern about exchanging seeds is people today are not like they were in the 1930’s. God has been removed from our culture and people today are not honest or ethical. I would hesitate exchanging seeds with people I don’t know, unless the seeds came in an original, unopened packet.

      Now, if you are exchanging seeds with friends, members of your church family or other people in your community that you know, then I think it is a wonderful idea!

      When it comes to saving and using seeds that are ‘outlawed’ my response is passive resistance. Unless the county, state or feds can give me a good reason NOT to keep, grow and save seed from a specific plant, I am going to do it. Neighbors are so ignorant of where food comes from, most people can’t tell one plant from another.

      I consider saving seeds of ALL different plants/varieties a form of patriotism. Besides, if we should not have them, why did God make them in the first place?

      Thank you for your comment!

      • Almost There says:

        We have a seed exchange a few times a year through our local library. They have strict rules for the exchange. I have some seeds from these events.

        • Almost There,

          That sounds like a wonderful way to meet seed savers you can trust in your local community!

          • Chuck Findlay says:

            What are seed savers / sellers / seed trades can’t you trust? What issues concern you?

            • Chuck,

              My concern is you get handed a few seeds with no information about them. How old are they? Are they really heirloom?
              I am NOT concern about a seed saver group. What I am concerned about is after the world ends, someone trades something for seeds knowing that they can trade them for something they want later. That person knows nothing about the seeds, and didn’t grow them. How can you trust those seeds?

  13. Hubby and I have been trying to garden off and on for 20 years. Sometimes we have been moderately successful, other years have been a complete waste of time and money. This is our 4th year to garden in this space. We have been rotating crops within our space in our backyard. We grow more and more weeds (ie, unwanted plants that we do not know the identity of) although we have been trying to pull weeds, kill weeds with vinegar mix, till between rows, etc. What are we doing incorrectly? It is very frustrating! So far this year we have onky been able to harvest 4 med-small heads of broccoli and a large handful of large grape tomatoes. We planted peppers, lots of tomatoes, corn, zucs, yellow squash, sweet potatoes (we think are still growing), onions, broccoli, rattlesnake beans, and sunflowers. We have been row gardening as my Hubby does not see the point of raised beds, and the only time he tried them, he built the bed 4 inches high — didn’t help. By the way, we also have deer, so any suggestions to prevent the deer from feasting on,our garden would be appreciated.

    • Susy,

      Without seeing pictures of your garden, (you can send me some to my email address – click on the link to my blog and you will find my email address.) my first guess is you don’t have enough compost in your soil.

      Second, to help address the weeds, mulch the plants. You can use leaves, straw or hay (however, sometimes these two have a LOT of weed seeds in them) or pine straw. Also, consider grass clippings from your yard if you don’t use weed killer on your grass. Don’t till in between the rows. Turning over the soil brings up old weed seeds that have just been waiting for the chance to germinate when they got some sunshine! Till once and then put mulch down and walk on that. Start with newspaper, then add the mulch on top of that. Weed seeds won’t germinate through the newspaper. I usually use two (or sometimes three) layers.

      2013 was an extremely bad year for weeds for me, not sure why. Could be something my neighbors were doing. I wrote an article on my blog about it that may help you:

      May I say that I think you should try raised beds again? Don’t make it too overwhelming at first. Try a 3′ x 3′ area. Make the raised beds at least 6″ deep – not 4″. A small area will show your husband that raised beds truly work miracles! He might even be agreeable to add more! (See my note above to Almost There on how to make a raised bed garden without husband help.)

      May I ask what part of the country you are in? In the north, I can see all of the above veggies you mentioned growing at the same time. Further south, not so much. Onions must match your area. Either long day or short day but not both together. There are some very nice hybrids that are day neutral, but you can’t save seed from them. (Well, you can save the seeds but they will be sterile.)

      The best way to keep deer out of your garden is with a liquid fence. As I mentioned in my reply to midnight 1st, it is free and easy. Works 100% of the time it is tried. You need to speak to the deer in a language 4-legged creatures understand, urine. If you are afraid your husband will upset the neighbors, have him do it at night. For thousands of years, this is how the Indians have kept animals away from their gardens. A couple of times in a 24 hour period is enough for the deer, but not enough for you to smell it. Be sure to ‘mark’ completely around the perimeter of your garden.

      Send me some pictures of your garden and I can give more specific help. Stand back and take an overall picture so I can see all around the garden. Then take one or two of specific plants that are having problems. Third, take a picture of your soil. If you can’t find my email address on my blog, ask MD for it. He has my permission to give it to you.

      • Newspaper with grass clippings or straw is a wonderful seed barrier. We use it whenever we can and this year I did the best job with coverage – we have had very few weeds.

      • Thanks Kate. I will try to find your email via your blog tomorrow. It just began pouring here. I am in west central Alabama, so heavy clay soil and hot,,humid days. The broccoli was ready to pick in early June. The onions we purchased as sets from the local feed store,,so they should be ok, sweet yellow, but I cannot tell you the exact variety. I will see abt pictures tomorrow. I like your idea abt filling a raised bed. I have an area that I am starting to put cardboard down now.

  14. This is certainly an important skill to practise and try to ‘master’. I am in my fifth year of this experiment and see a little more produce each year. My one immediate addition for everyone is to start now and plant what fruit trees/bushes you can. They take years (some a decade or more) to bear fruit but are virtually self-sustaining. We are just starting to see apples on our 12-15 year old Macintosh trees, strawberries took almost five years, and am still waiting for our four year old hardy kiwi plants to even flower. Raspberry and blueberry started producing right away but took several years to provide regular harvests. Here in southern Ontario, I’ve found peas and beans to be my most productive crops and no longer require store-bought seeds.
    Good luck to all.

  15. Momturtle says:

    Been working for 25 years on gardening and growing food in central VA. Be aware of your weeds! Poke, purslane, lampsquarters, dandelions, chickory, sow thistle, milkweed, day lilies (around here they grow wild), and chickweed are all very nutritious and handy to have in many ways. I strew the seeds everywhere! Don’t forget to grow grains if you like bread/pancakes/flatbread/bannock, etc. It is not hard to grow and can be planted all over the place in little clumps. Sure the deer will come to eat it but, he he he, that is eating out of the garden too in a way. If you make a list of what you eat, what you use, and how to go about it, then just start. Make allowances for mother nature playing games (no stone fruit this year because of a very late hard freeze) so you can store up extra and look for alternative sources (acorns) for staple foods. It can be done and it can be fun if you make it fun. And plant a lot of different perennial herb and fruit plants in as many places as you can (apple trees in the woods or along an open trail, lemon balm at the edge of the woods with the day lilies) They help the pollinators, they provide food and medicine for you and it can make your area look like a wild jungle that nobody lives in. This can enable you to gather food from a variety of sources, at different times of the year and the more variety you have, the better a chance that at least some of it will bear edible food for you!

    • Momturtle,

      Thank you so much for your comments and suggestions!

    • OhioPrepper says:

      And if you happen to have cattails around, they can provide food also. The root contains a tuber that can be eaten raw, boiled like a potato, or roasted and ground into flour. The pollen is also a nutritious additional. When I was a kid back in PA,we mixed the pollen and the roasted and ground tuber flour with some of the raw tuber which has a lot of starch together and baked it as a flat bread which is actually not bad.
      My only warning is that if you have cattails along county or state highways, be careful that the witches are not being sprayed with chemicals that ou might not want to ingest.

  16. Kate,

    I really like this article–especially the parts on building your own soil, insecticide and growing cooking oil crops like sunflowers and peanuts. Good stuff.

  17. Hi Kate – Excellent article. I finally think I’m rid of my Mexican Bean Beetle Larvae. Each year, once spotted, I have sprayed. As much as I hate using chemicals, it was our best option. We only saw a few this year and once sprayed, not again. The hubby has quit using weed killer in the back yard, so we have all kinds of edible weeds back there now.

    The last few years, we haven’t been as vigilant about using grass clippings to deter weeds in the garden so our soil has suffered. Our garden just hasn’t done well this year, but I have had enough to put some back without getting too over-worked on weekends. We need to get back to what I call garden composting by putting the clippings directly in during the main growing season though. Next year will be a better garden.

    • GA Red,

      I am sorry your garden isn’t doing well this year. Have you been suffering the dry spell? We didn’t have rain the entire month of June!

      Don’t forget to rotate where you put the green beans each year, that will help to keep the Mexican Bean beetle down as well. Also, to keep the need for grass clippings down, don’t forget that you can put down newspapers before using the clippings for mulch. Both the newspaper and grass clippings can be turned under to improve the soil.

      You can plant peas this fall for a crop that doesn’t need lots of soil amendments to help it grow. Turn that under as well to improve the soil.

      Also, don’t forget that vegetables prefer neutral soil. I know you have been gardening for a few years now, so if you haven’t done it, it is time to adjust the PH of your soil.

      That is sustainable if you use wood ashes to do so. It takes about twice as much wood ashes to raise the PH as compared to commercial lime. This past year, I didn’t save any wood ashes to make soap – I put them all in my garden. The wood ashes also help to keep bugs out of the soil.

      I do wish you a better garden next year!

      • The dry spell definitely isn’t helping. We didn’t plant any beans this year and didn’t burn as much wood over the winter last year. Half the garden is covered in newspaper with wheat straw and the other half is just wheat straw without the newspapers. I still need to clean out the fireplace and put the ashes in the garden. Our biggest issue is that we haven’t been amending the soil as well. Gotta get back to it.

  18. JP in MT says:

    We are doing what we can. Mine waste soil, one city lot, and buildings shading 40% of the back yard, make things difficult. We are having some luck with potatoes, squash, and tomatoes in pots in the back.

    We are preparing a patch of space in the front yard for blueberries.

  19. Wonderful article. I learned “stealth” gardening before we moved to our new homestead in another part of the country. Old neighborhood homeowners associations did not like vegetable gardening, so we gardened in the flower beds. Also, I would replace all landscaping plants with edibles a few at a time. All bushes were raspberry, blackberry, currants, etc. Even a few grapevines in the back against the deck stairs. Here the insects are killing me. Just tore out three beds this morning of wasted foods. I determined that perhaps gardening under row covers would be beneficial in the midwest during the summer. Best decision we made so far: Greenhouses in the winter and to start seedlings. I think we will also build a few cold frames. I already bought some old windows at a resale store for 5 bucks each. I am also trying to save all of our seed, but these darn bugs! I can’t get anything TO the seed stage! Anyone else use row covers against insects? This is a very helpful article. Pleas write more!

    Blessings to all

    • DJ5280,

      I have a suggestion for keeping the bugs down for next year. Afraid it won’t help this year as it is too late.

      This is what you do: on a nice warm day in the middle of winter (or towards the end of winter) when you KNOW there will be another cold snap, turn over the soil in your garden. This will bring up all the bug eggs from last year and expose them to the freezing air – and kill them. Many bugs overwinter about 6 inches down, and stay warm all winter only to reappear in the spring and summer to cause havoc!

      By turning the soil during a warm spell in the winter, you will bring up all those bug eggs waiting for spring and kill them before they get the chance to hatch. It should significantly reduce the number of bugs you have next year.

      For the rest of this year, you may have no choice but to call ‘Broken Arrow’ and spray with Seven or Malathion to help eliminate the bugs.

      You may really like using row covers. I have tried them and think they are too much work. Also, I like to look at my garden and row covers make it look like all I have are crops of white sheets! However, if you can’t keep the bugs away, they may be the answer for you. Turning the soil over in winter won’t help if the bugs are invading from your neighbors’ yard.

      I wish you better luck with your garden next year.

      • Yep. I do turn my soil a few times in the late fall and early winter. Even once before the last frost I also use my roto tiller if the ground hasn’t frozen yet. And at this point I am not worried how my garden looks, I need food production (and seed saving). I understand you should remove the covers when plants are blossoming, but I am not sure about putting them back on after that? I may have to spray. I do find it helpful to keep a few toads in the garden! Had barely a dozen squash bugs the whole season.

        • …the whole season last year.

          • DJ5280,

            Try turning the soil again a little later in the winter (or super early in the spring). I think you are turning it too soon.

            Do you have any close neighbors that garden? If so, the bugs could be coming from them. You may want to try to get them to turn the soil over too to reduce their bugs.

  20. Selu Corn Mother says:

    I am so glad you are such an experienced Master Gardener. Can you please explain how, given the same growing conditions, same soil, light and water, that the weeds grow at least 4 times the rate of the vegetables????

  21. Great Article! DH and I started more serious gardening in 2012. We have raised beds because of the rocky clay soil. My beds are made out of 2″x 10″s. The first 4 were 4’x12′ and we decided those are too wide so the rest are 3’x12′.

    We have planted standard pear and apple trees. In the dwarf size we have apple, pear peach, lemon, lime and orange trees. Oh yeah we have a fig tree too. We bought the dwarf ones but the others were given to us. We also have blueberry, blackberry and strawberries. I look for perennials as much as possible. I need to get more serious about seed saving. I don’t save nearly enough.

    • Brenda,

      Perennial gardening is wonderful, so little care needed! I am all for it. You may want to try your hand at asparagus too! Mine was so sweet this year, no need to dress it up in butter or anything else. Ate it right from the steamer!

  22. OhioPrepper says:

    We don’t have to wear deer skin if we have wool available. Sheep, Goats, or Alpaca can provide these. The lanolin in the sheep wool can be messy; but, can be boiled out and saved for other purposes. The hair from most critters can be worked into a felt material, which is a reasonable cloth for some items. If however, you have deer hide available, tanning them into nice leather is easy; but, a little labor intensive. The book I recommend on the subject is “Deerskins into Buckskins: How to Tan with Brains, Soap or Eggs”. I’ve not used the soap or eggs; but as it turns out, a deer head contains exactly enough brains to tan its own hide.
    Dandelions grow here like a weed, LOL. Between the bees and the animals, it gets used even when we don’t use it. When my DD was young, she loved to go out to pick those white flower balls and blow on them. This propagated them all over the place, and we don’t weed or feed but only pick and mow.
    I don’t know about Woad; but, we have lots of Black Walnut on the property, and the coating on the nuts in the fall makes a great light brown stain. In fact, it stains everything it touches.
    Tobacco is not something I’ve grown; but, have bought some to make a tea, that does indeed work as a great insecticide. Perhaps it’s time to try growing a small amount; although it’s something I know very little about. Hot peppers might be something to add to the garden here. We’re not big into hot and spicy (especially the DW) but as a critter repellent that could work well.
    Marigold can also be used to defend against some pests and there are a host of other plants that can be beneficial, and some are even edible. Check these Pest Control Plants out @
    As for compost, we have horse, goat, chicken, and cow manure available that makes great additions to the pile.

    BTW Kate, this was a nice article and there are definitely things I will look into.

    • Ohio Prepper,

      I have a spinning wheel and can turn sheep’s wool into yarn. And, while I can definitely seen the need for wool and felt to keep warm, unlike the civil war soldiers, I will NOT be wearing it in the summer time here! 🙂

      Thank you for posting the link to the pest control plants. My experience has only been so-so with using them.
      For example, the Mexican marigolds are a favorite of the bunnies that roam my neighborhood this year. I have some in my front yard (I should say I had some in my front yard.) I even had to resort to putting chili pepper powder on them! The bunny ate all pieces of leaves that didn’t specifically have the chili pepper powder! A few days later it rained in the middle of the night and by the time I got up, the marigolds were history!

      However, I have never heard of sprinkling dill on the squash plants to repeal squash bugs, I am going to try that!

      Thank you for your comment!

  23. Which variety of sunflowers does one use for oil?

    • Linda W,

      Two years ago I planted Sunseed. They produced an OK amount of oil.

      This year I purchased some new ones. They are from Russia. I am hoping for more oil from them! They are called Peredovik.

      Both are heirloom so you can save the seeds.

      • OhioPrepper says:

        Great information. I’ll have to find some for next year. Some questions for you:
        1. What do you use OR how do you press them to extract the oil?
        2. What kind of yield should we expect, as in cups of oil per pound of seed, etc.
        3. Do you press them raw or are they roasted first?
        4. Do you recommend any books, websites, etc. to learn about the process.
        Thanks a bunch.

        • Ohio Prepper,

          I use a Piteba oil press to extract oil out of both the peanuts and sunflowers.

          I am not sure I am qualified to state how much oil you ‘should’ get from a pound of seeds.

          The reason I say this is because each variety of sunflower has a different amount of oil in it – and I am not an expert on sunflowers. Also, I have never grown Peredovik before. It is supposed to be one of the highest in oil content, but right now that doesn’t mean anything because I haven’t harvested any yet.

          Also, I can use my Piteba one day and only get a little oil and the next day with the same amount of peanuts, get a lot of oil! I haven’t used my oil press in 2 years (while I was working – I didn’t have any time) and I am NOT an expert on using this press either!

          I can tell you this press has a long learning curve to get a consistent amount of oil from it. So, although I have had it 4 years, I only have 2 years extraction experience. I purchased some new lamp oil to use with it that is supposed to burn with a hotter flame. This oil press says it is a cold extraction process, but the press needs to get pretty hot to work correctly.

          I will be happy to tell you how much oil I DO get per pound this fall.

          • OhioPrepper says:

            You’ve already given me the type of sunflower and the name of the press. I suspect Google will help answer my questions for the time being.
            Sometimes this is enough to get someone started.
            However, your reply left me with another question. Other than Sunflowers and now peanuts, have you or do you currently press any other seeds for oil, such as corn, soybean, etc? One can never have too many options, and on my stored food, the oils are currently the ones with the least options.

            • Ohio Prepper,

              I have not tried to press any other type of seeds. However, before I purchased my piteba, I saw a few YouTube videos of someone pressing lots of different types of seeds with this press.

              Sunflowers and peanuts are super easy to grow here so I haven’t explored trying others.

              • OhioPrepper says:

                Thanks. I’ll definitely check out the press. We have grown sunflowers in the past; but, here in farm country some of the locals get a little excited when we do, so we end up covering the seed heads (flowers) with fine mesh before they are completely ripe. The problem with the locals who primarily grow soybean, wheat, and corn, is that birds will drop an errant seed into a field and a plant will appear in the middle of a field. These things can cause havoc when sucked up into a combine that’s harvesting other grains.

          • Curley Bull says:

            Hey Fellas,

            There’s an ole boy South of Shreveport, Louisiana that grows multiple acres of sunflowers and has a HUGE press. He uses the entire head and even a little bit of the stem. The oil that comes out is used to fuel his diesel truck and tractor, minus a couple of gallons for cooking. The “cake” that is left over comes out about two inches thick and is a great cattle food. What he doesn’t use for his stock, he sells to a neighbor. I had just about forgotten him. I think now I will try to get hold of him and see what a gallon (or so) would cost me.

  24. Great article Kate. We are in our 2nd year of raised beds, 5 4×12 beds. 1st year was good, this year the bugs have been a learning experience. Squash vine borer got us but now I know what to look for.

    I’m definitely interested in your apple tree fungus information.


    • Randy S,

      I haven’t submitted the article on apple fungus yet but will soon!

      I have two ideas that will keep out squash vine borers. What part of the country do you live in? If it is in the north, this idea works great! If you live in the south, it will work great for the first half of the summer, then the leaves crowd out the sun and it stops working. However, I do realize it isn’t sustainable.

      The second idea is to dust the squash plants with diatomaceous earth. Dust carefully. If you miss a spot, they will bore into the plant where you missed. Repeat after rain and watering.

      While this really isn’t sustainable either (unless you live in an area where they mine this stuff) it is super cheap to purchase in large bags and it never goes bad (as long as it doesn’t get wet). I purchase 50 lb. bags of the food grade version from my local feed and seed store.

      150 lbs can last for years and years. However, you may find it so useful, you find you are reaching for it all the time!

      • Kate,

        We live in Nashville.

        I read another article that said to wrap the stem with aluminum foil. The squash vine borer wont lay its eggs on the foil.

        I like your idea as it wouldn’t be that had to cover the whole bed.

        Got some diatomaceous earth for our chickens so we can try that as well.

        Thank you for the information and replying!


  25. Kate
    Really liked your article. I especially liked the sustainability advice.
    I have been working on that here for 12 years. Living on the gulf coast, there are a lot of things that don’t make it past the heat and humidity in July and August. I have to grow some herbs as annuals. I have been following a couple of blog and you-tube posters from Florida and discovered that I can grow some sub-tropical perennial plants here. At this time, I have Okinawa spinach, longevity spinach, Jewels of Opar, ginger, turmeric, shampoo ginger, cassava, yacon, moringa, eatable leaf hibiscus and taro. There are annuals that do well in the heat also, cranberry hibiscus, okra, sweet potato and the only pumpkin I can grow here without pesticides, Seminole pumpkin.
    Cardboard and newspaper with mulch is the only way I can deal with weeds. Even then, I can never keep ahead of them. When its cooler in the fall, I just pull them and use them as sheet mulch. The fruit trees love that.

  26. Kate,
    Great article. I can’t do much with gardening with the dog I have in the back yard. And my back yard is 1/4 acre. He’s a big bad boy, trained by his handler to be like that. I’ve been teaching him manners for three years so nothing is going in the back yard until he passes onto the Rainbow Bridge.

    Ya know, I get that you are Mormon. Half my family is Mormon. I belong to the heathen other half. My cousin is the Bishop of his Ward. He’s a good looking guy and should be a politician. He’s kind of a dick though. And that’s got nothing to do with his faith. He’s just an asshole. I’m glad you’re growing tobacco. Nicotine is one of the best, most potent poisons on the planet. So is caffeine. I don’t know how that will work in a garden but it helps with the critters around here. I’m in Southern California.

    I actually blew off the WDYDTPTW article to read yours. And the comments.

    What I’m doing right now, given my yard handicaps, is growing Aloe Vera and Agave. Aloe can be used as food and medicine and agave can be made (fermented) into Mezcal. I have two oak trees in the back yard that I harvest acorns from and some bush roses that I get Rose Hips from that I dehydrate.

    I’m looking to get some of that Prickly Pair cactus. It grows really well in my valley. I want that in front of my windows too. Not only can you eat the pairs, but if you shave the spines off the cactus, you can fry it in a pan for a very tasty vegetable. Just slice it in half first.

    I did Compost for a while. This was my bright idea. I got one of those Rubermaid storage bins, added grass clippings and shredded wood. I have an electric wood chipper from Harbor Freight. If the power goes out, I can always do the same thing with a hatchet. But until then, I’ll use the chipper. I just punched holes in the top of the bin (Dark color of course) and use one of those three prong tools to stir up the stuff every week or so, then throw it in a black plastic garbage bag. Compost in two months.

    I did this regularly until Marco decided the bin was “Mocking Him” and he ate it. Hence, no gardening in the back yard.

    Oh, if you want some Agave, let me know. I’ll put them in a box and send them to you. I have more Agave than I know what to do with. What I need is more Aloe.

    Great Article Kate! I’m saving this one. “You Done Good!”


  27. Steve,

    Thank you so much!

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