Tag Archives: food

Companion Planting for Your Garden

Spring is now here and it is time to start planting in your garden.  I want you to think about your garden as a whole system rather than individual plants.  When we think about it as a system we begin to understand how nature goes about planting plants.  Nature does not plant carrots in a row.  We have a bean plant growing up an apple tree.  Squash covering and holding moisture for corn.  Understanding the symbiotic nature of the plants will enable us to plant more plants in less space with fewer chemicals and less water.  How about them apples  for a lazy garden.

I (to the dismay of my wife) am a lazy gardener.  I want to plant and then harvest.  If I had my preference, I would not plant either, but I will take what I can get.  Therefore I am always trying to find ways to have plants compliment each other to get maximum yield.  I have found by succession planting and companion planting I am able to decrease my workload and pests and increase my belly.

Companion planting is one way to increase the food on my table.  The following are some good companion plantings.

  • Asparagus and Basil
  • Carrots and peas
  • Corn and squash
  • Cucumber and corn
  • Onions and carrots, lettuce
  • Radish and peas
  • Peppers and onions

Along with companion plantings there are plants which should not be planted by each other.

  • Beans and onion
  • Cabbage and Dill
  • Carrots and Dill
  • Corn and Tomatoes
  • Onions and peas
  • Irish potato and squash, tomato, cucumber

There are also plants which are beneficial to your garden pest control.

  • Onions and garlic are natural pest repellers.   Plant in the midst of your veggies
  • French Marigolds kill bad nematodes.
  • Mexican Marigold.  Do not plant near brascia.
  • Four o’clock for Japanese beetles.
  • Chrysanthemum for nematodes.  Also provide some shade
  • Mint repels moths, aphids and attracts beneficials.  Very invasive so please plant in a pot.  I speak from experience.

Herbs for culinary use, beneficial insect use, and they smell great.

  • Rosemary.  Best used dry.  Attracts beneficials.  Use in bread.
  • Oregano.  Takes forever to germinate and grow but once in the ground it spreads well.
  • Basil.  Wonderful smelling.  Dried basil reminds me of summer.
  • Cilantro.  Mine overwintered.  Great in mexican dishes.  I use mine to make fresh salsa.

It is always good to plant as many beneficial flowers as possible.  Salvia is great for bees.  Marigolds, Nasturtiums are also great flowers to put in the garden.  Nature has a system for everything.  Try to make your garden a system not just 5 veggies planted in rows.

Prepping 1o1

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother

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Planning your Suburban Homestead

When you read the title did you think ‘suburban homestead’, that’s an oxymoron.  This guy is crazy, homesteads are in the country, fool.  I believe anyone can make their home a homestead.  For some it is not an option to move to the country.  Instead lets focus on the positives of where we live and have our home become more of a producer.

The first thing you will need to do is evaluate your goals for your homestead.

  • What do you want it to do?  Provide food, income, security?  Give some thought on your overall goals.
  • Determine your landscape and limitations.  If you live on 1/4 acre like me, you can’t do cattle.  Do you want meat or would you rather have a larger garden?  Perennials or annuals?  Vines or bushes?  What about lawn? Do you have kids?  Do they need a place to run and play?  Are you on a hill or flat?  Sandy or loamy?  Lots of rain or no rain?  Where is there sun, shade, wind, high or low usage, easy to access?  Think of the external sources which contribute to your homestead.
  • Determine your wants and needs.  First decide what you like to eat.  Next find out what is easy and cheap to buy.  If it is easy and cheap to buy then you might not want to grow it.  If you can buy corn 12 ears for $1 then do not grow corn.  If you want to then by all means do so, but most of us have a space premium.  Next decide if it is expensive to buy or difficult to acquire locally or organically.  These will be good things to grow.  Most of all grow what you will eat.
  • Determine which crops you will grow.  Focus on heavy producers.  Beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas, squash.   Try to grow varieties not available locally or commercially.  Try lemon cucumbers or pole beans.  Pick perennials over annuals if possible.  They generate food year after year with very little input.  Also look for items which store well.  I often think of squash, potatoes, onions, and herbs.
  • Consider livestock.  I know you are thinking my spouse barely goes along with what is going on now and you want me to bring an animal on board?  I will confess the aforementioned question applies to me.  We do not have any livestock.  I would like some but it is one step at a time.  Think about chickens for eggs or you could raise broilers for the summer.  Rabbits have a small footprint, produce great manure and have excellent meat.  Something I am considering is aquaculture or aquaponics.  I am doing research this year on it.  I will let you know what I decide.
  • Extend your gardening season.  This fall I am going to put some hoops on my raised bed to try to get through November with some hardy veggies.  You could also make a cold frame.  Do you have a spot in your yard, maybe a corner, which get lots of sun?  Maybe you can grow something a zone higher by capitalizing on this micro-climate.
  • Increase your productivity through trellising and vertical spaces.  Plants like cucumbers, grapes, beans, kiwi, and even melons can be trellised.  I have about 100 feet of perimeter in my backyard where I grow raspberries, melons and other things.  Using trellises for beans and cucumbers can give better results since the veggie is not on the ground.  They are also easier to see and pick.

Hopefully these have been some helpful hints to improve your gardening for this year.

Prepping 101

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother

Ten Gardening Skills for the Survivalist

There are two skills I constantly write on this site, debt and gardening.  I think between the two it will relieve about 90% of your preparedness problems.  With spring upon us I want to give some more gardening tips to help you have a successful garden this year.

The ten things are

  • Succession planting
  • Composting
  • Companion planting
  • Container gardening
  • Mulching
  • Guerrilla gardening
  • Water harvesting
  • Wildlife identification
  • Trellising
  • Seed starting

Succession Planting

Succession planting is planting one plant after another in the same spot.  We plant lettuce in the spring and tomatoes in the summer than spinach in the fall.  Succession planting allows us to grow more crops in the same space.   Combining in succession varieties of plants allows us to maintain soil fertility.  If we plant legumes last we will get some nitrogen back in the soil.

Composting

Using our food waste as garden material is a something we can all do for a variety of reasons.  I do it so I won’t have as much garbage to haul out to the curb.  Composting creates new soil.  If you haven’t started one you can do it just like I did by putting my clipping in the corner and letting nature take its course.  There is a science some use.  I prefer to just let nature do it all by herself and then at the beginning of the year I take last years compost and put it on the garden.

Companion planting

Some plants compliment each other.  Basil and tomatoes. Cucumbers and corn.  One plant may have a deep tap root and the other will give shade.  One may fix nitrogen while the other is a heavy nitrogen user.

Container gardening

Container gardening will allow you to grow things you might not be able to grow otherwise.  Think blueberries.  If you have alkaline soil it is hard to grow blueberries since they like acidic soil.  What to do?  Put them into a container.  Can’t grow citrus where you are?  Put them in a container and when it gets cold outside and you have a nice sunny spot inside put them there.  If you live in a condo or apartment, containers allow you to grow where there is no dirt.

Mulching

Mulching helps you save on water and cuts down on weeds.  It makes gardening easier.  With continuous mulch weeds are kept at bay and you are supplying new soil all the time.

Guerrilla gardening

This is a stealth type of gardening.  You plant where there typically is not a garden.  Usually perennial seeds are put into a ball of dirt and this ball of seeds is placed in and empty lot, public park, canal dirt road, in a forest.  You are allowing nature to produce more food.   This is a great way to have a bigger garden without you actually having a garden of your own.  These spots then become places where you can continue to cultivate.

Water harvesting

Since water is essential to all living things, gathering and retaining water is a great skill to have.  Just retaining the water from your roof will water your garden all year.  With water wars springing up all over the arid western states, having a method of harvesting the water on your own lot may prove valuable

Wildlife identification

Knowing what is eating you tomatoes is important.  Knowing what to plant to attract the animal that eats the thing eating your tomato is even more important.  Make it part of your continuing education to learn about the wildlife in your yard.  What attracts bees?  What eats cutworms?  All of your gardening questions should have an answer not containing the word ending in ‘cide’.

Trellising

Trellising is the method of allowing your plants to grow upward.  This saves on space and makes it easier on your back.  Cucumbers, grapes, beans, melons can all be trellised.

Seed starting

The benefits to seed starting are almost too many to write down.  The main one for me is season extension.  I am able to start earlier in the spring and continue in the fall.  By starting indoors in the spring, I can plant when ready rather than direct sowing when ready.  Same goes for the fall.  It is hard to start lettuce with the hot soil of the summer, but if I start indoors I can plant in the fall when the days are not quite as warm and my lettuce flourishes.

 

Any skills I forgot?  Email at prepping101@gmail.com

Prepping 101

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother

Gardening- Getting Ready for Spring

Hey Spring is around the corner.  Are you ready to start your garden?

Today officially marks the start of gardening season for me.  I will start planting my indoor seeds for spring planting.  I usually start with spring planting on April 1.  Today I wanted to talk about starting your seeds indoors and what are some good plants for this.

Spring is a great time of year.  We are starting to see the end of winter coming soon.  The days are longer.  So this transition into summer is a wonderful time to get your garden ready for planting.  So instead of just direct sowing the seed when the time is right you want to start some seeds.  Why would we do this?

  • We don’t want to buy from our local nursery.  Local nurseries are great, but we have decided we want to learn how to plant indoors and transplant when the time is right.
  • We can get many more varieties of seed than what’s available at the nursery.
  • We like to grow things.

There are many variables in starting your own seed.  To get the best result we need to understand how a seed germinates.

Seeds are usually part of the dying process of the plant.  In the fall as the plant dies back it releases seed.  Usually many hundreds of seeds are in each plant.  Why so many seeds?  It is the law of averages.  When the seeds fall to the ground some are not able to germinate.  Why?  Many reasons.  Bad soil condition, food for other animals, not enough water, etc.  So a plant release many more seeds than it needs to survive.  As this seed falls to the ground it gets covered by other organic matter.  This matter forms a layer above and around the seed, protecting it somewhat during the cold winter. You see the conditions for each type of seed are different.  A lettuce may need cooler conditions than a squash seed.

So spring comes and this seed in buried under all of this organic matter.  As the days get longer and the sun becomes higher in the sky, the seed “senses” this.  You see, inside the seed are all the things it needs to become a beautiful vegetable.  So you are thinking how harsh the conditions for a seed are, and you would be wrong.  Under this organic matter is water, soil, nutrients.  The seed is protected from the elements.  When the time is right the seed sprouts.  It goes up looking for what?  The sun.  You see in order for the seed to become a plant it has to convert the suns energy into growing tall.  Then spring comes and the rains come to water this little plant. It grows taller and taller until it can sustain itself.  Seeds have a inherent “intelligence”.  They know what they are to do.  So when you plant a seed you have to consider the things it needs.

Planting seeds requires good soil, good light and good water.  Neglecting one of them will put the plant in jeopardy.    We start our seeds indoor to give it the best chance of success.  We can give it the proper light, right amount of water, and good soil.  In my experience there have been two issues.  One is having the light too close.  I had my lights too close and it was too hot for the plants and they thought it was summer and the spinach started to bolt.  The second is having the light too far away.  If you are having spindly plants then the light is too far away.  Best to start over.

Light is a very important part of seed starting.  Plants need about 12-16 hours of light.  For this reason it is very hard to start plants in a  window sill here in the United States.  We just do not have enough light in the spring during the day.  I have a timer set up for the lights to come on and off at a certain time.

In the initial stages of growth your seeds will need constant watering(misted) until they develop the proper root structure.  Once the root structure develops then I usually just poor some water in the bottom of the pan.

As your seedlings get somewhat larger you will be able to keep the best one (you did plant more than one seed in each?).  By cutting the best one (usually with a knife)  you will have the strongest plant.

As they get larger you will want to start hardening off the plants.  Hardening off is the process of taking the plant from its indoor state to outdoor state.  When the plants are all nice and cozy inside and go outside they will go through shock.  This shock may kill the plant.  I harden off by taking the plant outside for about a week before I put them in the ground.  Start with about 1-2 hrs a day and increase every day by 1-2 hrs.  By the end of the week your plants should be ready to put into the ground.

What if the weather does not cooperate?  Then you can pot up the plant.  This is the process of increase the amount of soil around the plant.  It will then grow stronger and be ready to go outside when the weather allows.

Remember no matter where you live you can grow some of your own food.  Apartment dwellers can always put a few pots outside and grow almost anything a person with a backyard can grow.  Be creative, have fun and enjoy your food.

Come summer you will be glad you planted your little/big garden.  Nothing tastes better than food you have grown yourself.  Once the hook is in, you will be ready to be reeled into the wonderful world of feeding yourself.  I started with no garden 3 years ago and now I have 5 raised beds and the whole perimeter of my backyard is filled with wonderful food.  We just ate this week our last winter squash.

Happy Gardening.  What are you going to plant this year?

Prepping 101

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother

Eating Healthier for a Better Life

How do you eat healthier?

There was an article at nwitimes.com about eating healthier.  Let me sum up.

DON’T EAT CRAP!!!

How about them apples.  It goes on to chide the Western diet with all of its processed food.  In the end you will need to eat things that are good for you.

Here is my theory on what to eat.  I think you should eat things you would grow or eat which taste good raw.  Here is a list.

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Meat

Things you would not grow to eat

  • Grain
  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Soda or other sweetened drinks
  • Anything processed- Processed not mixed together.  Salad-GOOD,  Twinkie-BAD

I know this may be a little contradictory to conventional memes, but  I have given this some thought.  I think if I had to provide for myself(and I currently do not provide everything for myself),  those are the things I would eat.  You may think why are grains on the do not eat list?  Grains take lots of energy without much result.  You grow, cut head off, thresh, winnow, all of the other things to get not much in return.  Where as an animal does a great job of converting the things you can not eat into something you can.

I think eating more fresh food will do the body good.  It is important to get a varied diet of all the above great things.  By the way I lost 30 lbs. just eating veggies, fruit and meat in 3 months.

I know some may be saying what about exercise.  I say go get some.  Do somethings humans were supposed to do.  Move around, garden, walk, hike.  Just avoid repetitive motions (i.e. push-ups or something similar).  By the way I did not exercise.  I have a herniated disc pressing on my sciatic nerve which makes it hard to walk much less work out.  If I can, you can.  Just try for 30 days.

Prepping 101

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother.

Starting a Garden

So you want to start a garden?  Where do you start?

Gardening has become one of my favorite things to do at home or any where.  To start a seed, nourish it and have something wonderful to eat from it is just a miracle to me.  Gardening allows you to be in touch with something greater than yourself.  The knowledge we do not know about the soil would fill a whole library.  We do know that plants need sun, water and nutrients.  There is not much we can do about the sun other than to have the plants have access to it.  Water is an easy one.  Just turn on the hose and away you go.  Soil is the big one.  No matter how you get started you will need to have good soil.  I am not an expert on soil building so I went down to the nursery and bought some soil and put it in my raised beds.

If you are hesitant about starting a garden  and do not want to make a raised bed then you can use containers.  Just buy a couple of containers and put in some potting soil and add the plant and away you go.  I would encourage you to start some sort of raised bed.  A 4 x 4 is a good size to start.  Fill the bed with soil and start planting.  You can either plant seedlings or seed, whichever you prefer.  Do not worry about if you fail, because you will.  Sometimes things just do not work out.  The plant could be int the wrong place, too much sun, not enough sun, disease, frost, all types of variables will come into play.  It is important you start and learn from your experience.

Deutsch: Bundesgartenschau 2009 - Hochbeete vo...

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The food you raise will be of much higher nutrition and taste better.  We love to grow lettuce.  We found when we cut lettuce it keeps about three to four weeks in the fridge where store-bought lettuce keeps about a week.

Taking control of your food is the most empowering thing you can doo.  Do not become overwhelmed.  Start small.  Increase when you have either more time or more knowledge.  Join a CSA(community supported agriculture) if you don’t not have enough time.  You can go and see their operation.  Visit farmers markets.  You may not be able to grow a cow on your land but you can sure buy the benefit of grass-fed beef.

Try to plant some perennials rather than just annuals.  With perennials you do the work up front for a greater pay off down the road.  We have a pear tree that produces a 55 gallon drum worth of pears every year.  We have to give away most of them since we can’t use them all.  By having extra we are also forming community.  You will be amazed how many of your neighbor will become or are interested in gardening if you just talk about it or give some of your extra to them, even zucchini.

What are you planting this year?

Prepping 101

Making Life’s Road a Little Smoother

The myth of fried food

I wanted to comment on an article in The Telegraph entitled “Fried food heart risk a myth”.

“Victoria Taylor, senior heart health dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Before we all reach for the frying pan it’s important to remember that this was a study of a Mediterranean diet, rather than British fish and chips.”

Of course it is about diet.  The title is misleading.  It is always about diet.  The fact that they use olive or sunflower oil is of less consequence than their overall diet.  Olive and sunflower oils are probably cheaper or more available due to the climate they live in.

“A well-balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and veg and only a small amount of high fat foods, is best for a healthy heart.”

What about some meat in there lady.  Have you ever tried to eat only fruits and vegetables.  I am hungry in about twenty minutes.  Mix in a nice piece of chicken or a steak.   Protein and fat lead to a feeling of satiety.  Look if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, it is the body’s ability to convert all those extra carbs into fat that is the problem.  Decrease all the crap you are eating and eat more natural food.  I believe we should treat food as if we grew it or our neighbors grew it.  It should be minimally processed and be as natural as possible.  It should taste good without adding much of anything to it.

I plan on doing a post in the future about what I see as optimal nutrition.  But for the time being I will say according to Michael Pollan, “eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables’”  We need to start eating more like humans and less like feed cattle.