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Bees Love Brassicas

Wed, 01/19/2022 - 05:22

Even if we’re not saving seed, I like to let brassicas go to bloom so they can feed the bees during winter:

Broccoli, radishes, pak choi – let ’em bolt and bloom if you don’t need the space and you may be surprised by how many pollinators show up. The cool months are a hungry season for bees and those little bright yellow flowers are irresistible.

Incidentally, the brassica and bee photos are by my son RP Good.

RP on the right, taking the photos in this post

I think he has a good eye. He’s always out in nature, spotting something interesting. Now that he has a camera (a used Canon 30D), he is taking his creature spotting to the next level.

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What Do I Do With with Diseased Plants?

Tue, 01/18/2022 - 05:39

JulieT asks advice on dealing with diseased plants:

“I purchased longevity spinach online a couple years ago advise from your book. It is wonderful and grows like crazy. Unfortunately my spinach recently became covered with black spots. What do you recommend? I pulled it out of that garden spot as I have other places that have not been affected as much.”

Some years are worse than others for disease issues. My general assumption is that the plants got too flooded or the air is too humid, or they are lacking in good nutrition.

Plants that are well-fed and less stressed seem to sail through disease. But plants that are weakened by stress do not. The disease organisms seem to work like clean-up crews, attacking plants that are already missing something or which are under stress.

The black spots are common – especially later in the year and in winter when plants are winding down and the weather is cool. When it’s warm and growth is active, they often outgrow problems. Later in the year, they tend to have issues.

Instead of trying to treat the problem by the elimination of a single disease-causing organism (i.e., whatever is causing the black spots), I would try to add /more/ organisms to the system. In the past I have treated sick squash vines by spraying them with a solution of unchlorinated water with a little yogurt or kefir in it, coating the leaves in the evening. The addition of the bacteria in the yogurt often wipes out the infection. Brewing and applying compost teas or adding more compost/humus to the soil around the plant may help as well.

The other prong of defense is nutrition. If I have plants that seem to suffer from spots or mold or weak growth, I will use a mineral solution as a drench to add nutrients fast. A good way to do this non-organically is with Peter’s plant food, Miracle-Gro, or, my main go-to, Dyna-Gro. Organically, just try compost tea.

There may also be an imbalance in the nutrients already in the soil. If nitrogen levels are too high, you get rank growth which is then attacked by insects and/or disease.

Just a few thoughts. I wouldn’t worry about trying to remove or destroy them. I would just add some life and see what happens. Even ignoring them might work. As the soil and weather conditions change in the spring, they may just grow back fine.

If they die, then that might just have been the wrong spot for them. Sometimes these things happen. I don’t fight them too much. Especially when we’re dealing with tropical plants during a cooler time of year.

As I write in Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, I believe in growing the stuff that lives and letting Nature knock down the weaklings, unless I really, really, care about that particular plant.

I also just go ahead and compost them without worrying about the pathogen. Nature tends to balance things out just fine.

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The Best Film We Ever Made

Mon, 01/17/2022 - 09:20

Behold!

I was getting tired of doing normal stuff and decided to dive fully into making something funny, creepy and cinematic.

This is the best film we ever made. It took almost a week to create, from writing the script to getting the location to acting, editing, etc. My daughter Daisy did the makeup and acted as one of the pigs, my son PT played the other pig. Rachel filmed half of it and CJ filmed the other half, with me directing the shots (mostly while tied to a chair).

The views aren’t up to my normal range but I don’t think that matters. It’s art!

Wait until I release my next short film in a week or so (Lord willing). It’s titled “These Are The Birds of North America” and is going to be similarly high production.

I bought a new camera and a few new lenses. Gotta really give them a test, right?

I’m sure we scared a few people with this video. I lost 9 subscribers, then gained three new ones so far. BUT IT’S ART!

Every frame a painting. Of a scary kid in a pig mask!

What do you think?

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Landrace Pok Choi and a Variegated English Pea

Fri, 01/14/2022 - 05:04

Last year I planted some hybrid pok choi and they did poorly, bolting rapidly and being generally worthless.

Some of them went to seed before I tilled the area to make way for a pumpkin patch.

The pumpkins grew through summer, and then in the fall I tilled again and put in my row gardens.

Then, lo and behold, some pok choi seedlings showed up in the rows.

Curious, I let them grow. Most of them were small, but one plant was a real monster.

Unlike the previous pok choi, this one did not bolt quickly and made some very large leaves.

My guess is that there is some genetic component to this. It’s going to seed now and I will save the seeds and re-plant them. Perhaps we’ll get a Lofthouse-style landrace.

Speaking of weird genetics, a variegated English pea plant showed up in the garden:

The leaves are yellow, white and green and quite attractive. Unfortunately, variegation seems to be a chimeric trait that isn’t passed on through seed. Since I doubt it would be worth attempting to vegetatively propagate English peas, when this plant is done, the variegation will be done as well.

I’ll save seeds anyhow, though. Just in case.

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Humus Is What We Need

Thu, 01/13/2022 - 04:37

When the soil is poor, the most important thing to add is humus.

It helps sand hold onto nutrients, it helps clay drain, it retains water in the ground when it’s dry – and it has a profound effect on the health of your garden plants, allowing fungal connections to take place while making diseases and pests vanish.

We finally got a hard freeze here in Lower Alabama which took out our remaining pepper plants:

In this recent video – which was filmed right before the frost – you can see me chopping and dropping pepper plants to feed to the soil in my Grocery Row Gardens.

I threw down a lot of mulch and I’m still throwing mulch around.

Getting enough organic matter in the soil here isn’t easy. We’ve grown cover crops, chopped and dropped, gathered manure and have considered getting a trailer load of “gin trash” from the local cotton processing plant.

Look at this:

That’s reindeer moss, a classic sign of poor soil. It’s a beautiful lichen, but doesn’t bode well for the turnips growing nearby.

They look pretty lousy, actually:

These turnips were planted by scattering seed and 13-13-13 over an area of bad soil and tilling it in.

It’s better than nothing, but it’s not impressive. The plants definitely show signs of mineral deficiency:

Compare that to how good these row gardens look:

Those plants had alfalfa pellets tilled into the area and were also fed with Steve Solomon’s Mix, which also contains cottonseed meal.

The minerals are important – but so is the humus provided by the cottonseed meal and the alfalfa. Additionally, we tilled under cover crops in that area, and tilled under the weeds and remnants of our summer pumpkin patch.

Still, getting enough humus is a problem. I am reading An Agricultural Testament by Sir Albert Howard right now and he emphatically restates the value of compost. Getting good compost takes time, however, especially with the problem of toxic herbicides.

Later today I am going to go manure hunting in the neighbor’s cow field. I know the farmer doesn’t spray Grazon, so we should be fine. It’s just a constant job getting compost, especially when we don’t have a farm integrated herds of animals with our vegetable gardens.

Expanding quickly, as we have, comes with some downsides. It would be better to build up a small space to a high level of fertility and then move out, but the pandemic of 2020 really threw us for a loop. After moving, we put in gardens right away, lousy soil be darned, and now we’re playing catch up.

Out by the lousy turnip patch the county has been dumping piles of tree limbs for us:

If I had time to let them rot down (like 5 year), that would give us a lot of humus. Instead, though, I’m going to burn them into biochar and till that in. It mimics some of the effects of humus and lasts longer. Maybe if I tilled in the char along with gin trash! There’s a thought.

Anyhow – gotta run. I need to go get that manure.

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A Homemade DIY Wheel Hoe

Wed, 01/12/2022 - 05:25

This is really cool:

The blade on this wheel hoe doesn’t have the ability to oscillate, which makes it less efficient – but you can’t beat the guy on ingenuity!

Not to mention frugality. Wheel hoes are expensive.

I bought three vintage Planet Jr. wheel hoes off ebay and that wasn’t cheap. The best morden wheel hoe maker is probably Hoss, and they copy the Planet Jr. design. In fact, their implements will fit on a Planet Jr., which reminds me… I’ve been eyeing their disc harrow.

Though the three-prong cultivator tool on my Planet Jr. is pretty impressive.

Happy hoeing.

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Five Ways to Keep Gardening Simple

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 04:50

Sometimes I think the Minimalists are right. There are times I just want to pack up everything and send it off to the thrift store, leaving only a potted plant, a laptop and an antique vase.

Simplicity sounds good in a complicated world. One good book on the bedside table, one coffee mug, and just one wife – perfect!

Are you overwhelmed when you look at your garden? Do you have raised beds to fix, a compost tea bubbler that isn’t getting used, a shed full of gardening junk and a broken tiller that is begging for repair?

In a world that wants to sell you stuff, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of what you really need to get a job done. Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Today I’ll share five ways to keep gardening simple – maybe you’ll find it inspiring.

1. Keep Irrigation Simple

There’s nothing wrong with liking drip irrigation – but I don’t use it. I don’t like having to pick up drip tapes, I don’t like dealing with leaks, and I don’t like hoeing around things. I’ve gut through drip lines before, and I’ve had squirrels chew holes in the hoses.

If you need irrigation, it’s hard to go wrong with simple overhead irrigation on stand pipes. We buried some PVC in the garden with Rainbird sprinkler heads on tops of PVC pipes hose-clamped to re-bar and – voila – we could turn a handle and make it rain.

Alternately, use wide plant spacing and you can mostly garden with the rainfall. Rainfall is the minimalist approach to gardening and I highly recommend learning to use it well.

2. Use Simple Tools

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned hoe, especially one that’s sharp and angled correctly. I buy used old hoe heads from ebay and put them on new handles, then press them back into service in the garden. Other simple tools for the garden include a spade, a digging fork, and, of course, a machete. My wheel hoes are much-loved.

But you only “need” a wheel hoe if you have a larger garden. For a little backyard plot, a good old-fashioned hoe can’t be beat.

3. Make Simple Garden Beds

No wood, no problem! Just make beds in the ground, like this.

Or, if you have more space, just make simple row gardens.

It’s really easy and you don’t have to feed or water much.

I don’t bother mulching my rows, as gathering mulch and throwing it around takes a lot of time and effort. Keep it simple!

4. Use Simple Old-Fashioned Amendments

Like I share in my long-form demonstration film 7 Ways to Feed Your Garden for Free, you don’t have to get complicated with your fertilizers. Ashes, compost, manure, compost tea… it can be simple.

Compost is the very best thing you can add to your garden. I wrote an entire book on simple composting.

5. Put Your Garden Nearby

This is something we often overlook. If possible, put your garden where you’ll see it and spend time in it. Out of sight = out of mind. It’s much simpler to walk right out your door into the garden, rather than trekking to the back corner of your yard. If you’re near the garden, you’ll take better care of it.

These are just a few thoughts. Our garden is a serious family food garden and we have to keep it simple. Buying earthboxes or building aquaponics systems or trying to garden in barrels or horse troughs or whatever just doesn’t fit normal family homesteading life. Keep it simple, give your plants what they need and harvest lots of food.

If simple backyard Victory Gardens in the dirt were good enough to get America through WWII, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Keep it simple!

Minimalist, even.

Soil, water, a few tools and some labor is all you need.

Keep this in mind: more food/less work.

One of these days I hope to write a book on Minimalist Gardening. Stay tuned.

Minimalist interior design image at top by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

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Tracking Yields in 2022

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 05:34

In my 2022 Goals post, I resolved to properly track our 2022 yields.

To that effect, my sons Ezekiel and CJ helped me build a new produce weighing station:

We made it from an old blue workbench a friend got for me from Goodwill for $20, along with some pallet wood, an aluminum bowl and some random hardware.

Adding a new oak plywood top to the bench and spray painting the frame black made it look sharp. The blackboard was framed with pallet wood, and the blackboard itself was made from a piece of scrap luann plywood.

Here’s the build video:

2022 produce total so far: 15lbs of turnips!

I think we should have a good year on yields, as we’re getting better on working this poor Alabama dirt.

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Gardening Cults

Sun, 01/09/2022 - 05:52

Last week I posted a video where I was throwing mulch around the Grocery Row Gardens.

I titled it “WHY ARE YOU USING WOOD CHIPS??? HAVE YOU JOINED THE CULT???”

I know it sounds crazy to call a gardening method a “cult,” and I did use the title tongue-in-cheek; however, the no-till people sure get close to being cultish. Rather like vegans, come to think of it.

During the premiere, EcoCentric Homestead commented:

“Using woodchips is not a cult. Most humans are followers. They need someone to give them direction. When a charismatic person comes along s/he will always get a following.”

To which I responded:

“It’s a joke, EcoCentric Homestead. When I have bare ground, the mulchers go after me.”

People freak out about tilling now, because deep mulch and no-till are the current flavor du jour.

This too will pass.

EcoCentric Homestead further posted:

“I realized yours was a joke. Mine wasn’t. It’s illogical, IMO, for someone to go looking for the same resources their favorite YouTuber has instead of using the resources they have.”

This is a good point. You should use what you have available to you. Up North, you might use alfalfa hay. In the South, peanut hay might be better. Down here gardeners use “gin trash” on their gardens, which is the leftovers after the cotton harvest. Importing gin trash to Canada would make no sense. There you would use something else.

If you find something on YouTube, it may or may not work for you. Try, experiment, seek knowledge and GO AND DO! Does tilling work for you? Raised beds? Deep mulch? Roll with it. But know this: what works for Charles Dowding may not work for David The Good, and what works for David The Good may not work for Paul Wheaton. We have different talents, different experiences, different climates, different crops, different time constraints, different resources, etc.

It makes sense to get back to the basics now and again and look at our main focus.

Is your main focus growing food? Then concentrate on growing the most you can.

Do you have a secondary goal of growing nutrient dense food? I do, and I add minerals accordingly.

Are you also attempting to build up the soil on your homestead to leave a generational legacy? Then plan for that.

I am not, as I am just renting. Making amazing, awesome, incredible soil through massive amounts of labor, biochar, chop-and-drop, etc., isn’t really in the cards for me. I’m making decent soil through what I’m doing, but my primary goal is to reap a harvest. The owners of this land don’t care much about the soil. Before we were here it was patchy grass and weeds with lots of scrub oaks and pine. It will return to that after we leave. In the interim, we are growing what we can and making the soil better, but planting a great abundant food forest and doing lots of clearing and burning and soil improvements and adding clay and hugelkultur, etc., just doesn’t make sense.

I am not going to make a massive no-till garden, either. Single row gardens work great for us. Our smaller no-till Grocery Row Gardens also work great. Throwing down a thousand tons of wood chips just isn’t in the cards.

But there is a tendency to cultishness in the human spirit. We do want to follow something.

So, in conclusion, buy my book on Grocery Row Gardening and follow that.

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African Melon Pits?

Sat, 01/08/2022 - 04:39

I haven’t heard of “peace gardens” before, but it sounds like the melon pit method I describe in Compost Everything.

Etienne Louw comments on my Terra Preta video:

“Over here in Africa we do “peace gardens”. We dig a hole 3 feet deep and dump newspaper cardboard and veggie scraps in the hole and keep covering it with the removed soil as we go along until we have a small heap. We also till it over along the way to get it mixed up. After a bit of time (about a month) we plant on the heap, very productive.”

Veggies and cardboard. I bet that rots down nicely as well as brings in the worms.

I like to add meat, bones and ashes as well.

Often good ideas end up coming around again and again in different places. I got the melon pit idea from Gardening When it Counts, where Steve Solomon mentions hearing about how the Indians would fill up refuse pits and plant on them.

You can see me make one here:

It works. “Peace garden” sounds more pleasant, though.

If you bury a pet – or one of your enemies – you could also call it the “Rest in Peace” garden.

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Single Row Gardening: Memories, Usefulness and Criticisms

Fri, 01/07/2022 - 05:07

At the end of 2020 I put in a decent-sized set of single row gardens. We had lost our gardens in Grenada during the pandemic and were forced to move back to the states, so it was imperative to get food growing quickly. I never like to be without a big garden, and with how bad our soil was here I thought single rows were the best tool for getting a fast yield.

It worked. And not only did it work, I’ve found it to work better than most of my other beds.

So much so that I did a video on the method a year after we started growing in simple single rows:

It’s refreshing to go back to something simple and effective. Weeding, watering, planting and harvesting are all simple. I didn’t have to build beds, make tons of compost, or throw down tons of mulch and cardboard.

I can basically just sit around and watch the turnips grow.

This video on the topic of single row gardening has racked up around 40,000 views so far, and its garnered some good comments. Sometimes we need to go back to basics!

Let’s look at what people have to say about single row gardening:

My Parents Used Row Gardening!

Many people noted that this method of gardening brought them back to their childhood.

A M writes:

“I lost my Papaw 2 days after Thanksgiving… he was 80 years old and raised on a farm in Arkansas. He would till every spring (red clay soil), made his own compost, and grew in rows. He had a wonderful garden and taught me to love growing things.”

Susan Huggins writes:

“Man, I am so glad you made this vlog. I’m in my 60’s and have been gardening, well, most of my life. Grew up helping my mom in the garden. I garden just like she did. Which is exactly the way you are explaining today with minimal tilling. All I ever hear, in most vlogs, is DO NOT TILL, and I get it, but how I’ve been doing it with amending my beds with old leaves and manure and never ever any chemicals. All organic. And my gardens are very abundant. I love my row garden. I love being old fashion on purpose.”

Charles DeVier writes:

“Single row is the way that my parents taught me ; and I have mainly used it every year – I’m now 78. I have grown a lot of food during my life.”

Kathleen Sanderson writes:

“Growing up, we gardened in rows. When I had my own garden as an adult, I’d been reading all the ‘garden in beds’ stuff, and that’s what we did, for the most part. It’s fine for small spaces, but if you have a large garden and need to produce a lot of food, beds are a lot of extra work. They have to be weeded by hand because the plants are too close together to weed with a hoe, or with a wheel-hoe. They take extra water and extra fertilizer, because, as you keep saying, the plants are too close together. I’ll still use beds if I only have a small garden, but if I’m trying to produce a large percentage of our diet? Plus possibly growing some feed for our chickens and goats (and feeding the livestock guardian dog)? It’s going to be mostly row gardening.”

I remember my Great Grandpa Greene’s huge garden in Upstate New York. It was also a row garden, and it was very productive.

Single Row Gardening Should Be in Your Toolkit

Though it’s not the only way to garden, I mention in the video that row gardening is an excellent way to grow food which we should not rule out, especially if we’re just prejudiced against it because it’s “old fashioned.”

Mj K notes:

“David brings up an excellent point. All systems have pros and cons. Using wood mulch and leaves, I find it almost impossible to do direct seeding (which is why I only plant perennials). If I had less clay and more time for bigger gardens, I would definetly do single row. Find the system that matches your time, knowledge and interest and try it out! The worst thing that can happen is you learn some things and pass that knowledge on to others in your area. We learn more from our failures than our successes. We grow through trying.”

Dylan Lemay writes:

“The idea of it being a toolkit, is really an important point. It’s great to learn all the different methods and see what works and what doesn’t for you and your area. My father did and till, single row garden, but at the end of the season in upstate NY, he’d throw mulched leaves (free local resource) over his entire garden area. Come spring, it would be completely broken down and he had the darkest, super nutrient rich soil I’ve ever saw. Then he’d till his rows and plant transplants and seed. It’s basically a mix and match of different concepts. It’s great to know them all if your growing for survival, and practice makes perfect!”

 

 

Spells of Truth writes:

“I was one of those edgelords that thought the straight line garden beds was outdated and in need of a ‘better and more natural’ method. So I tilled a little 30x40ft plot of land and used one of those ‘fertilizer/salt spreaders’ to mix together about 20 different species of plants. I did this pretty late into August so that is a massive factor. By late October I had decent sized turnips in patchy sections, about 20 cherry tree saplings spread evenly throughout the plot of land, 1 or 2 pumpkin patches that never got to fruit and thats about it. I couldn’t tell what was weeds, or what was vegetable/fruit and I stepped on a few turnips without noticing they were even there(meaning I prolly stepped all over other plants). Now that its December everything is ‘mostly dead'(like Wesley from Princess Bride…) except the turnips keep truckin. Im sure the result would be different if I did the same in April but just the not knowing what plant is which, and the absence of any ways to walk thru the plot of land without damaging what was growing makes me want to go back to the straight line garden beds.”

Timothy Pollard writes:

“I do a lot of single rows too and surface tilling… Because like you food was more important than the method and this works.”

Ellen Davis is saving money on lumber:

“Thanks for saving me a lot of money. I will not do my 4 4 by 2 by 12 foot beds. I’ll just up my game on single rows.”

jabba0975 jj writes:

“Wait….you want me to use critical thinking skills about gardening? Are those even legal? Can I buy them on Amazon?”

Criticisms and Questions About Single Row Gardening

My single row gardens are tilled, and that has brought some push-back.

Matthew King writes:

“I grew up gardening that way with my grandparents. While I think the initial results are great I do think long term results maybe different We can also learn from the past about the erosion from cultivation washing or blowing away the hummus your working to create and cultivation bringing weed seeds to surface. Here in Georgia some six inches of top soil is gone from share cropping and erosion from having bare soil. I would think cultivation would also not be very productive to soil biology. It would seem counter productive to add a food source for biology by growing a cover crop but cultivating it in and disrupting the biology. It would seem better to chop, drop and tarp or chop gather and compost. While I have nothing against using rows, I used rows of compost and use compost as a mulch. Dowding has years of comparisons that his no dig beds always produce more than his dug bed experiment. I put Dowding’s cardboard and compost method to the test here in Georgia and was surprised by the results and being cost effective. While being mostly a gardener and new to mushroom cultivation I find what I thought and knew about fungi as a gardener was not all correct. I think there is a gap between these two worlds. How some fungi have bacteria living within the mycelium and they live in a symbiotic relationship. Then some fungi consume bacteria, nematodes and insects. Then you have primary and secondary decomposers and they can grow on all types of things like straw, wood, grains, alfalfa, soy, manures, worm castings, compost, sucralose, fish hydrolysate and they seem to thrive with a added source of nitrogen. I thought fungi preferred acidic conditions and that’s not always true 6.5-7 and in cultivation you can add lime to raise the ph to 8 to keep contaminates from growing in the substrate. I didn’t know fungi breathe air and produce Co2. I do think most soils are bacterially dominate because they can reproduce much quicker than fungi can grow. It is somewhat difficult to culture mushrooms without some type of airborne bacteria or fungi growing and taking over. I do agree with the pest issue with deep mulch like slugs and wood lice but the ability to grow edible mushrooms like wine cap or almond blazei along with my veggies as another food source while improving soil heath out weighs the pest. Their just doing there part to brake things down. In experiments growing wine cap mushrooms with veggies showed great results with providing plant health, mulch binder and breaking down matter. I do know a Youtuber that is converting some of there row plots to no till plots by adding a layer of compost every year and have good results. I focuses on making good compost and providing good biology. I have heard someone say before if you focus on being a microbe farmer you will produced good plants and good food.”

Yes – tilling can definitely wreck an area, and building up the soil life is certainly a good practice.

Janet Robison writes:

“I use single row gardens and I put grass clippings from my lawn on the bare ground to keep the weeds out and the moisture in. It breaks down and feed the plants too.”

 

Benny Walsh asks:

“You touched on a subject that has me lost. I’m fascinated by Johnson Su and Dr Elaine Ingham; sites about no till, regenerative growing and deep mulching. BUT, I’m in Georgia zone 8b by about ten miles and very few, if any southerners practice or have faith in woodchips, deep mulch etc. You mentioned pests. Do you think our humid climate and awesome critters make these methods too difficult or unnatural to try here?”

 

 

I responded to this with:

“I had bad problems with deep mulch in the south. It builds great humus, but the insects in the south are amazing.”

jax I writes:

“i bag all my grass clippings and put it down in my rows i till it in in early fall and plant clover and mustard over the winter for cover crop i started with basically beach sand and now over the years bult the soil up to where i dont really have to do much during the summer months. everyone in the area comes to me and asks what i done to be able to grow a garden.”

Humus is key!

ManofInterests responds to my threat to write a new book on single row gardening with:

“”The book” has already been written. “Joy of Gardening” by Dick Raymond from Garden Way press.”

Good reminder. I own that book and enjoyed reading it some years ago.

 

Back when Raymond wrote his book, Troybilt tillers were still well-made…

jcmustian writes:

“In a drier climate, do you think you would just increase spacing?”

Yes, definitely.

Robin Lillian notes:

“Old time farmers had plenty of land. The majority of modern people in America only have a small backyard, if they even have that luxury. Raised beds and other techniques that maximize productivity in small spaces work better if you have a small backyard. If you have acres of land, you can afford to spread out your garden more.”

This is a good point, though you don’t lose as much productivity as you think by spacing wider.

If you have very tight space, it is vitally important to maximize soil fertility and irrigation so you can maintain a crowded population of plants. Widely spaced plants need very little care. If you plant close, you need to baby them. Sometimes that is the only option.

Charl Heynike asks:

“How is it game changing when all the farmers use rows already?”

To which I responded:

“Good question. Most backyard gardeners are not currently growing like farmers and have only tried raised beds. Many have the idea that single rows are outdated or bad in some way. I believe this is a failing.”

 

And finally, Cody Edison Tate has a name for the system:

“David The Good’s Grandpa Gardening”

I like it!

Thank you all for the input. We’ll be putting in more single row gardens in spring, so stay tuned.

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A Former Dairy Farmer Comments on my “Deer Plot Method” of Fixing Bad Soil

Thu, 01/06/2022 - 05:05

Leo Scheibelhut shares some additional thoughts on fixing bad soil with “deer food plot” style seeding:

“I’m a former grazing dairy farmer and former Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines. I have faced cogon grass in the Philippines, didn’t realize it was here in America in the South. The only organic control for cogon that I know of is to fence in pigs or chickens over it and feed them grain, etc. so they eat every tiny blade of cogon as it comes up during the brief period while it is still tender.

As a teacher in Japan, I brought life to some fertile volcanic sandy soil that was completely compacted and sterile. It had been removed as spoil from the construction of the foundations for the small apartment building I lived in and mashed down by the builders’ equipment. I dug holes and planted flowers, peppers and tomato plants, then spot mulched with all my vegetable waste [carrot peelings, onion skins, pepper seeds and whites, citrus peels, etc. and the occasional bag of yard clippings from the neighbor’s house stolen out of the trash.] Planting daikon radish and leaving it to rot really helped break up the compacted soil. After two years I had a fine productive garden.

As a dairy farmer, I had outstanding success with rye and hairy vetch for early grazing every year. After grazing the rye and vetch out, I’d plant a summer grazing crop, sometimes a complex mix of millet, sudan grass, turnips, and grazing soybeans[hay beans] but often just grazing corn. I used the recommended fertilizer on the summer crop but none on the rye/vetch crop. I think that grazing the green manure crop out is easier and better for the soil if you have enough animals to do it. Their manure adds biolife to the soil.

In your extremely poor soil I’d go heavy on rye, hairy vetch, daikon radish, turnips over the winter, then fertilize with triple 13 for a summer crop of sudan grass, millet, buckwheat, one or more summer beans, and whatever summer brassicas do well and root deep in your area.

PROTIP: feed stores and grain mills often have old unsold bags of some crop seeds they are willing to sell cheap to get rid off. Those make cheap green manures. Untreated seeds are best and I’d never use any that were treated with any mercury or mercury compounds.

I think artificial fertilizers are a completely reasonable way to jump start some green growth in the beginning. I agree that vegetables grow with artificial fertilizers lack the flavor and health of organic.

Btw, I enjoy your channel because while I know a lot about grazing and a bit about repairing soils, I learn new things in every video especially about growing vegetables. Thank you so much.”

Lots of good info in here – thank you, Leo.

His comment was posted below this video:

The turnip patch that I show in this video is looking much worse now as the winter stretches on. The soil is so poor that now that the 13-13-13 has washed through, the plants are looking brown and yellow around the edges and seemed to have ceased growing. Hairy vetch would be a very good addition – I think they need that extra nitrogen.

It’s sad when even turnips don’t like to grow because the soil is so terrible.

However, that area is now a dumping ground for piles and piles of tree limbs, which we hope to use to help repair the ground.

I do wish we could fence the area, plant it with cover crops, then mob graze some cows through it. We may just settle for chickens instead. And some goats. Or perhaps the biochar, ashes and some cover crops will be enough to kick the area into production.

We shall see.

The post A Former Dairy Farmer Comments on my “Deer Plot Method” of Fixing Bad Soil appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

The Foundations for Farming Tenets: Too Narrow?

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 05:03

Tilhana comments on my post about the Foundations for Farming methods compared to David The Good methods:

“I was cringing a little as I was reading their tenets. The more I learn about squishy topics like gardening, nutrition, and parenting, the more I feel like you just can’t lay down universal edicts and expect it to work for everybody. Like most important things in life, these principles are applied at the individual level, and every individual (or family or household) is different, and needs to tailor their approach to fit their situation and needs and priorities.

Granted, I can see the benefit of promoting some advice about “best practices,” even if they’re not always best but might be better than what most people receiving the message are currently doing. But then I also wonder about the people who will distrust the whole message because they can see that some of the principles are flawed.

I’m inclined to think that if you’re trying to influence a lot of people and convince them to do things better, maybe it’s best to keep your advice as conservative as possible. Stick to the most basic, universal principles, and focus on those, and then feel free to offer suggestions about the more nuanced stuff. So instead of “Never plough!” You could say, “Try ploughing less often; here are some great ways to break up the soil without ploughing…” and then you’re offering options, instead of issuing commands and judgements.

Not that they’re asking me. But as an irredeemable contrarian I know nothing makes me want to be non-compliant like being told I have to do a certain thing in a certain way.”

I agree.

There is no “one size fits all” method of agriculture. Even tightening it down to saying things like “the ground should always be covered!” is too narrow for my tastes.

At least it’s no longer called Farming God’s Way

The post The Foundations for Farming Tenets: Too Narrow? appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Goals for 2022

Tue, 01/04/2022 - 05:02

For some reason, I keep posting my goals here each year and then not meeting all of them. It’s a tradition, so we’re stuck with it now.

As I wrote in my last post, I met 2 out of the 5 main goals I set last year, along with a couple of secondary ones.

Life has a way of rearranging things.

As James says:

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

Yes, if the Lord wills we meet our goals. And we do our best, knowing that our lives can be changed in an instant. I had no idea two years ago that I would end up failing to build my house in the tropics and be dropped in the state of Alabama.

Two years ago I was planning to build a house on this slab we paid to have cast:

And I was planting bananas alongside the little cabin I’d built:

That all came to nothing with the great plandemic pandemic of 2020.

So, with that in mind, I will say “Lord willing!” on this list and we’ll see how things pan out.

Here are my goals for 2022.

I. Create A New Weighing Station and Start Logging Yields Again

I miss my old chalkboard setup, and tracking my yields like I used to.

Like I did from 2012-2015.

I even managed to track yields for a few years in Grenada:

I really just need a good place for a scale, a nice big basket, a table and a chalkboard.

That needs to get fixed ASAP! I just harvested some turnips that need weighing!

II. Plant Two Acres of Pumpkins to Breed a Landrace

Last year we did great on pumpkins, planting seeds I had gotten from a Walmart pumpkin at the end of 2020. That gave us a wide selection of strange Curcurbita maxima vines, many of which bore well. I also interplanted a bunch of Seminole pumpkin seed lines, including seeds from Mark Akin, Karen Hill and others.

2021 Maximas and Moschatas

I hope to have one acre for the C. maximas and another for the C. moschatas. I may grow them with no irrigation and no fertilizer, just to see if we can breed a pumpkin super race.

III. Start a Corn Landrace

I don’t like the so-so yields of grain corn I’m getting, and I don’t like the low productivity of my Hickory King corn. So, like the pumpkins, I plan to intermix a bunch of dent corns and then select the best survivors.

Maybe we’ll do an acre of corn, just like the pumpkins, and may the best genes win.

IV. Make a Second Chicken Coop in the Garden

I like the idea of putting chickens in tractors, but it’s really getting time-consuming to move them around. Keeping them in one spot is easier and I think the best spot for a new chicken coop is in the middle of the gardens where they can eat overflow produce and weeds.

We can also harvest chicken run dirt/compost for the garden with minimal handling, as well as feeding scraps and culled vegetables right to the birds.

V. Hit 250,000 Subscribers on YouTube

In 2021 I added 41,832 subscribers to the channel.

Right now my subscriber count is 154,020.

I think we can hit 250k, especially if I keep posting 5 videos per week.

VI: Release Four New Books

The second edition of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest is just waiting on my layout guy, so that should be out within a couple of months.

I have also almost finished the text of The South Florida Gardening Survival Guide and am waiting on the final illustrations.

Noah Sanders has agreed to help me with Alabama Survival Gardening, and I hope to work on that after TSFGSG is done. Then, if I am really ambitious, I will write a final book in the fall. I have ideas for a foraging guide and a book on Minimalist Gardening. In 2021 my “surprise” book was Grocery Row Gardening, as that almost wrote itself as I got inspired by the idea.

I would also like to finish a science fiction novel I’ve been working on, as well as start on Jack Broccoli III (Slow to Bolt).

And, along with all that, I expect more books from John Moody and Steve Solomon will be published by Good Books Publishing in 2022.

VII: Put in (at least) Two More Grocery Row Gardens

I have a bunch of trees that need to get planted. Since it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to afford our own homestead any time soon, I’ll keep renting here and I’ll just go ahead and plant trees. If the Lord decides to send us a few acres we can own and plant long-term trees on, I won’t complain, but He is good and already takes care of us much more than we deserve. For now, I want to keep expanding the Grocery Row Gardens with a medicinal herb row and with more space for birds, frogs and other beneficials.

I love how the rows grew in 2021 and must plant more!

VIII: Post Every Weekday on This Blog

As my YouTube channel has grown, this blog has suffered. And really, I miss posting here every weekday. I’m going to get back on that schedule in 2022. I like being on my own platform and having a great archive of gardening thoughts and photos I can look back on, rather than having everything in video form on someone else’s platform.

Also, I will keep going to the gym regularly and pushing myself to stay in good shape. It would be nice to be SUPER SWOLE.

But I think that’s enough for one year.

What about you? Any goals for 2022?

The post Goals for 2022 appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Happy Anniversary

Mon, 01/03/2022 - 05:10

We fell in love when you were 18 and I was 20.

Your smile had me from the beginning. I knew I wanted to share my life with you, but I didn’t know if you were already taken.

You weren’t, thank God.

And you fell for me as hard as I had fallen for you.

Today our marriage is a legal adult… 18 years!

We have lived together in three different states, two different countries, and in 11 different houses. We have ten children together, and you are an amazing mom. Thanks for all the beautiful babies. And all cups of coffee. And for figuring out what to do with all the weird produce.

I loved you from the first and will love you until the end.

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” – Proverbs 18:22

Happy Anniversary, beloved.

The post Happy Anniversary appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

2021: The Year in Review

Fri, 12/31/2021 - 05:30

2021 was a blessing from the Lord. We continued to grow our homestead, we relaunched the Grocery Row Gardening project I had begun in 2020, we managed to grow some very scrappy pumpkins as we chase a new land race, and, best of all, right before Christmas the Lord sent us Good Baby #10:

It was also a year of loss. We lost our friend Sue and my friend Weatherly. Both are sorely missed.

As is my usual practice, I wrap up the year with a post considering what we accomplished and how well we did meeting the goals we set at the beginning of the year.

My goals for the previous year were as follows:

GOAL I: Get the 2nd edition of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest in print

At the beginning of the year my sister Christi took over organizing the illustrators and the illustrations. We ended up with 200 illustrations from 54 artists, so it was quite a process. Unfortunately, my book layout guy ended up quite ill this year so the book is not yet in print, though it’s close. We hope to see it finished in 2022.

GOAL II: Create an Epic Spring Garden

I wrote at the beginning of the year:

“What I plan to do is to adapt the system (I created in Grenada) to a temperate climate and use different species for the high vertical portions. Instead of bananas and papaya, we’ll have Japanese persimmons, rabbiteye blueberries, hazelnuts and other temperate species. I also plan to space my 4′ beds as much as 3′ apart to give the system more space and sunlight.

We need a name for this system, though. It’s almost like food forestry in strips. Fedges with veggies. Not the same as Syntropic Agriculture as it isn’t based on bananas and meticulous timing, but it’s similar.  Anyhow, I’ll come up with a cool name. I’m excited about the concept and I’m working on getting a bunch of berry varieties, small trees, shrubs, chop and drop, vegetables and blooms to mix in.”

I ended up naming my gardening system Grocery Row Gardening, and we did indeed build an epic garden over the course of the year.

We went from this:

To this:

This was a recreation of the work that I lost when we left Grenada, redesigned for a mild temperate climate.

I also did a lot of experimenting with single row gardening:

And we grew a lot of pumpkins, which I really enjoyed.

We blew the “create an epic spring garden” goal out of the water!

GOAL III: Re-Launch A Plant Nursery

I ended up not launching the nursery this year because I was busy with writing, YouTube and gardening. It just wasn’t worth finishing, though I did create a small propagation and plant nursery area. However, I did help my daughter launch her Good Gardens seed store on Etsy.

GOAL IV: Become Proficient at Painting Portraits in Oil

Nope. I gave up on this once my gardens started growing in spring. I start to get back into painting almost every winter, and then when the weather warms up I have to go back to work on my gardens and my writing and I drop the painting. As much as I want to be an artist, I must face the sad reality that I am a garden writer first. Maybe one day.

I actually still owe my brother-in-law and his wife a wedding portrait which I was supposed to paint months and months ago…

GOAL V: Get Back Into Shape

Yes. I did this. I have been attending the gym regularly since March and am now in much better shape than I was at the beginning of the year.

Me at this time last year:

Me now:

I cut back on carbs and never stopped going to the gym. It’s now a habit, and I don’t want to go back to being the way I was. Goal hit! In 2022 I will continue going to the gym three times a week. We’ll see what I look like this time next year!

And that is the LAST bathroom mirror flexing selfie I will post here.

Goals Achieved: 2/5

2 out of 5 is a better record than Al Gore has on his predictions. I’m satisfied.

I also had some smaller goals at the beginning of the year. As I wrote:

“I am working on reading through the entire Bible this year, plus I would like to see Jack Broccoli II in print and I’d also like to hit a goal of 2,000lbs of food again.”

I am half-way through Revelation right now, so it looks like I’ll make my Bible-reading goal. We also saw Jack Broccoli II released. As for the food goal, we probably hit it – or got close – but I gave up on weighing everything. I know we had 400lbs of pumpkins and over 300lbs of potatoes, and that was just a piece of what we harvested.

I should make a 2022 goal of setting up a better weighing station for recording my harvests.

Stats: 2021 Blog Posts (156)

In 2020 I created 167 posts here. That was my worst year of posting since this blog began.

Yet in 2021, I only wrote 156 posts – my NEW worst year!

The breakdown by month:

January: 19
February: 20
March: 18
April: 14
May: 16
June: 14
July: 7
August: 9
September: 6
October: 8
November: 12
December: 13

This blog doesn’t bring me a huge income, so it has been pushed aside somewhat in favor of writing books and posting videos. That said, I LIKE this blog and intend to post regularly again this year. 156 posts is better than most, but it’s nothing compared to what I could have posted. I should start posting every weekday again. YouTube has taken up some of the time I used to spend working on this site. And speaking of YouTube…

2021 YouTube Videos (190)

Of this number, 145 were normal videos and 45 were livestreams. In 2020 I only posted 118 videos, so this was a marked improvement.

I’m trying to post a new video every weekday now – we’ll see if I can keep that up in 2022.

We started the year with 112,000 subscribers and are ending the year with 153,832 subscribers.

We also got our YouTube silver play button in the spring of this year, which was wonderful.

Thank you for watching.

Books Published

In 2021 I left my previous publisher and launched Good Books Publishing. Now I own an honest-to-goodness publishing house, and not only am I publishing my own books, I’m publishing books by other authors.

This year we published John Moody’s excellent book Winning the War on Weeds:

Along with my little book Grocery Row Gardening:

And, most importantly, GARDEN HEAT: A Jack Broccoli Novel:

In this new year we should release Water-Wise Gardening by Steve Solomon, along with my new book The South Florida Gardening Survival Guide and the long-awaited second edition of Create Your Own Florida Food Forest. I also hope to write and release Alabama Survival Gardening, and publish The Organic Gardener’s Composting Guide by Steve Solomon. There may be another couple of John Moody books in the works as well. He has some excellent ideas.

This fall we BLEW the launch of Garden Heat, due to my layout guy’s trip to the hospital and me getting overwhelmed. There were 127 pre-orders that got cancelled because I didn’t post the final ebook version in time. That was frustrating, but it’s life. I’m really glad my layout guy recovered, so I can continue to work him to death.

Other Stories

This year we got lots of chickens plus two cats, two goats and two sheep. One of the sheep died and we gave the other one back. So far the cats and chickens and goats are alive, though I am tempted to feed the cats to a mulberry tree.

The egg supply from the henhouse has been consistently good, even through winter, and it’s great to have fresh eggs for breakfast every day. The goats don’t pull their weight yet, though, as they are not producing kids or dairy at this point. Sometime this new year we hope to have them bred and then they can become productive for us. At least they clear brush.

We have meat birds that should be sent to freezer camp in a few weeks, which will be good. There are about 70 birds there, which will keep our family supplied with meat for a few months. If we’re lucky, we’ll also get a couple hundred pounds of venison from our neighbors.

God has taken wonderful care of us this year, giving us a new baby, a great garden, a healthy family, and even a new (used) van, plus a nice borrowed diesel truck, along with two pianos so the kids can learn to play we can record background music for YouTube.

Thanks for joining us. May God bless you and keep you in 2022. In my next post, I’ll share our goals for 2022.

The post 2021: The Year in Review appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

3 Totally Crazy Easy Fruit Trees for Southern Gardeners

Thu, 12/30/2021 - 10:36

If you wanted to grow the easiest fruit trees for the South, what would you plant? Today I recommend my top three favorite Southern fruit trees along with some additional orchard options.

Three Totally Crazy Easy Fruit Trees for Southern Gardeners

I got a comment the other day from Rhonda. She writes:

“I would love to know what trees, especially fruit trees you have planted. I live about 7 miles north of Interstate 10 on the MS gulf coast. I figure we must be in the same zone as you and want to plant some trees too. We have blueberries, blackberries and strawberries but want fruit trees too.”

This is a question that I get asked moderately often. What fruit trees grow here? What should I plant?

In the deep south my favorite three trees for sheer ease of growth, productivity, and sheer ease of growth, are sand pears, mulberries and Japanese persimmons.

Sand Pears

Sand pears are the classic hard storage pear. A lot of people don’t necessarily like them. They say, “Oh man – those things are so hard! They’re not like those pears we had up north!”

That’s because you’re not treating them properly. They are a hard pear that is made for processing: you can make pear sauce (like applesauce), pear cider, sliced pears in syrup and that sort of thing. And pear pie? That’s awesome! But they are not a great fresh-eating pear.

And don’t forget that pear salsa!

Mulberries

My number two tree is the mulberry. The mulberry is the most productive, amazing tree. We’re talking buckets of organic berries with almost no work, year after year after year!

If you’ve tried to grow all those small berries, like blueberries and strawberries and raspberries and blackberries, those take some work! They need support or they need weeding, they take some care.

“Illinois Everbearing” mulberry fruit

It’s not like that with a mulberry tree. If you plant a mulberry tree, you get buckets and buckets of mulberries. Buckets and buckets of fruit, and they produce very, very quickly. I highly recommend mulberries.

There are native mulberries called the red mulberries which vary in flavor. Some of them are kind of okay, and some of them are not great and some of them are fantastic. There are varieties that have been bred to have better flavors and I recommend those. Some of the black mulberries and some of the white mulberries are very good, too.

A white-fruited mulberry cultivar

The taxonomy of mulberries is really confusing. Morus rubra, Morus alba, Morus… well just don’t get into all that, but when you say that it’s a “white mulberry” tree it doesn’t necessarily mean that the fruit are white; it means that it’s a Morus alba. And if you say it’s a “red mulberry,” it doesn’t mean that the fruit are actually red, it means that it is a Morus rubra, the native, but whatever – forget it! Just plant mulberries.

Japanese Persimmons

Tree number three is the Japanese persimmon, most specifically, the “Fuyu” cultivar. You can get Japanese persimmons in astringent and non-astringent versions. Astringent varieties of fruit turn your mouth to cotton if you eat it a little bit early.

It’s like trying to swallow cotton balls.

Super, super astringent and not a pleasant experience. However, if those astringent varieties reach full maturity, so they’re soft, almost like pudding, the flavor is very complex. Almost spiced, and delicious!

An astringent “Hachiya” persimmon fruit

They’re really great but not as forgiving as the Fuyu persimmon, which is why it’s the most commonly planted of the Japanese persimmons.

The Fuyu is the beginner tree that I recommend, as you can eat the fruit when they’re still a little crisp and not fully ripe and they’re still good. You can eat them like apples, or you can wait until they get softer and eat them when they’re soft.

More Fruit Tree Recommendations for the South

Those three trees right there are your basis of a great backyard orchard in the Deep South.

Now if you are down in zone 9 or 10, the loquat becomes a very productive and useful tree. I definitely recommend loquats but I would try to get cultivated varieties. Some of the seedling varieties are pretty good but the loquat has been used extensively in the landscape industry as a pretty ornamental rather than a fruit tree.

This is because it takes no work, it’s evergreen and it’s beautiful, but sometimes the fruit are more tart and unpleasant or the pit is very large. A well-bred cultivated variety of loquat is a different ball game. The fruit is larger, the pit is much smaller, and they are much sweeter. It’s a much better experience off the tree.

An improved loquat variety

I’ve used a lot of seedling loquats in the past. I’ve eaten them and preserved them and made liqueurs out of them and that sort of thing. They’re good, they’re useful but they’re not up to the quality of a cultivated variety.

Smaller unimproved seedling loquat fruit

If you are going to plant fruit trees I highly recommend that you plant the easiest ones first. Plant the encouraging trees!

My book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening was based on this idea of planting a scaffold of super easy-to-grow plants and making them the backbone of your gardening and of your food supply. First, plant super easy stuff. Don’t plant the harder stuff to begin with! You can play with those tougher varieties, but make sure that you have secured that backbone of something easy. The super easy crops will keep you fed! These three trees are the super easy fruit trees that will keep you fed.

That said, there are many many other trees that grow in our area. If you want to get into growing some nuts, pecans and chestnuts are both very good. Try to get the “Dunstan” chestnut if you can, because it is blight resistant with a large sweet nut. It’s a very good tree.

Dunstan chestnut trees growing at Chestnut Hill Tree Farm

If you want to get into other fruit trees of course you can grow apples. Apples are a little touchy and are not great in this area. You can also grow peaches. Peaches are touchy. Peaches are like growing a vegetable; they need a lot of care, they need pruning, they need feeding, or else you tend to end up with a big, ratty, bushy peach tree and they don’t tend to last very long either.

Peaches are wonderful but touchy

It’s not a long-lived generational tree. Sand pears are likely to last for decades and decades and decades even if you ignore them, whereas peach trees are not. They tend to get rot issues, they have plum curculio issues, they have trunk borers and all kinds of stuff that make it difficult. Plus the squirrels are really, really good at stealing peaches for some reason.

Don’t not grow them because you’re scared of them, though. Sure, go ahead and grow them but if you want easy-to-grow tree they’re not it.

Plums are a little easier than peaches in my experience but they also tend to have issues with getting borers and with getting the fruit damaged by various things. It’s a spectrum, right? You start with the really easy stuff first, then you plant some other things.

Fig Trees in the South

I’m gonna give you a bonus easy tree right now, and that is the fig. I didn’t put it as one of my top three because there are figs and there are figs! There are fig varieties that grow really well in California and make a lot of fruit which don’t really like the Deep South.

“Texas Everbearing” figs

For the Deep South your two classic figs are “Celeste” and “Brown Turkey.” The LSU breeding program has released multiple other ones as well. I was talking to Florabama Homestead yesterday when we were visiting and he said that they used the Celeste fig as the basis of their breeding program because the Celeste is already a proven variety for the area.

“Celeste” figs

We’ve also had good luck with “Texas Everbearing” figs. Figs are easy to grow. Just don’t put them in a real wet spot as they like it kind of dry. They also like to be around rocks. I’m guessing because they’re a Mediterranean plant. If you put them near the rocks they put their roots down and they feel nice and anchored and happy. If you grow them alongside a wall or alongside a building, they love that and they thrive.

Conclusion

For a great start on growing fruit trees in the South, start with the easy stuff! Check out my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening for more details on growing in Florida in particular; and of course, you can follow my YouTube channel for advice for Lower Alabama and all the way through the Gulf Coast area.

I am in USDA zone 8, so I know what it’s like to be in a zone between the tropical and the temperate. You can certainly grow a lot here. Start with the easy stuff put that backbone together and then plant all the crazy fruit trees you want to plant, knowing that you have secured a food supply for decades into the future.

Thanks for joining me. Catch y’all next time and until then, may your thumbs always be green.

The post 3 Totally Crazy Easy Fruit Trees for Southern Gardeners appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

Keeping Tropical Roots Alive Through Winter

Wed, 12/29/2021 - 08:09

H shares a grocery store haul and asks about keeping tropical roots alive through winter:

“Found these today at a local grocery store (Food Lion). Any suggestions for keeping until it’s warm enough to plant? Augusta, GA. Zone 8a.”

“I plan on putting the sweet potatoes in a pot to get some slips sometime in March. Not sure what to do with the rest. I just put out a cover crop where I plan on planting the sugar cane so I’m scared to plant them and then forget about them when I till under the cover crop. Also got calabasa, yautia, and ñame.”

I usually store dormant yam roots in a bucket with some slightly moist leaves, straw or hay over them through the winter, as I do in this video:

I have potted up taro/malanga roots before and they did fine. I’ve also put sugar cane in pots through the winter and had it do just fine.

The trick with roots (and canes like sugarcane) is pretty simple.

Keep them from drying out. Keep them from rotting. Keep them from freezing.

Tropical plants usually won’t grow much, if at all, when the temperatures are low – or even cool.

A bucket with roots and leaves in it is usually quite sufficient to keep them alive. If you pot them, do not water much. When it’s cool they just can’t take wet conditions and will often rot.

Good haul and happy planting.

The post Keeping Tropical Roots Alive Through Winter appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

The Watermelon Landrace Project (And Corn, and Pumpkins!)

Tue, 12/28/2021 - 06:44

Two days ago a neighbor agreed to loan us eight acres of unused pasture for a watermelon landrace breeding project.

My son Ezekiel has been growing watermelons for about five years now, and recently read Joseph Lofthouse’s book Landrace Gardening

Ezekiel’s 2021 patch of watermelons contained multiple varieties, including Crimson Sweet, Moon and Stars, Orangeglo, Garden Leader Monster, Carolina Cross, Sugar Baby, Congo and more. It was a rough year, with alternating cold, drought, heat, and bouts of torrential rain. Many of the plants failed, but some did very well. He saved seeds from the best survivors to replant in 2022.

This year he will plant those, along with multiple new varieties, and allow them to interbreed.

Yesterday afternoon we filmed this video together:

Then, yesterday evening, we bought more seeds for the project, including these from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

And these from Baker Creek Seeds:

In spring, Ezekiel and I will plant all these varieties together with the seeds from the 2021 patch and allow them to interbreed, and may the best melons win.

After a few years of crossing melons, we should have a hearty landrace variety that can handle our weather, bugs, poor soil, heat and humidity. We’re already one year in, thanks to Ezekiel’s 2021 garden.

Last year I grow a good mix of pumpkins and am on the way to making a landrace of C. moschata types and a second landrace of C. maximas. The moschatas are based heavily on Seminole pumpkins, and the maximas come from a Walmart pumpkin I bought at the end of 2020. We saved the seeds and grew them in our 2021 garden, discovering that the pumpkin must have been a cross, as there were a wide range of types that came from that one grey-green pumpkin.

Finally, I grew a patch of Hickory King corn this year. It did okay, but not awesome, and the productivity was so-so. Some of those seeds were saved, and I will be mixing them up with a variety of different corns to make a landrace for this area. You’ll see some corn in my purchase from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. All of those will get mixed together and we’ll see what we get.

With all the space we’ve just acquired, we have a lot of room to plant. I am tempted to not bother irrigating or fertilizing or even liming, and just to till and plant and let the strongest survive, as Lofthouse does. Maybe an acre of melons, an acre of corn, an acre of moschatas and an acre of maximas. Those that produce, produce – and get to go on to round two. Those that die, die.

I like this method of gardening much more than trying to keep seed lines separate and pure. May the best genetics win!

The post The Watermelon Landrace Project (And Corn, and Pumpkins!) appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

In Memory of Weatherly

Mon, 12/27/2021 - 12:05

I just lost one of my best friends.

His heart stopped and he is now with his Lord.

His name was Weatherly. I think we’ve had our last baby, but if I had another son, Weatherly would be a good name for him.

We met online years ago because we were reading some of the same blogs and found each other’s sites online and would trade comments. We met in person for the first time around fifteen years ago when I was living in Tennessee. Weatherly was in Nashville working a convention, and I lived in Smyrna, about a half-hour out of town.

He wrote and asked me if I wanted to meet up for sushi.

I had no idea what to expect, and it was a little strange to meet a stranger off the internet, but I said yes.

Weatherly looked rather like Humpty Dumpty, short, with a bald head and a broad smile. We hit it off immediately and thus began a great friendship. He ran a screenprinting company, and I worked in radio as a writer, audio editor and producer. He had some ideas for ads, so we co-created a series of highly entertaining radio spots over the years.

They were just one-minute spots for the local market in his Alabama small town, but they were amazing. Weatherly had a madcap sense of humor and a voice you couldn’t miss. He was influenced by anime, old sci-fi shows with puppets, like Captain Scarlett, conspiracy and paranormal radio broadcasts, and campy old radio ads. His t-shirts were often hilarious and very esoteric in their humor.

Over the years, many of my children received custom onesies at their births, courtesy of Weatherly and his wife.

When someone on my youTube channel said we should print a “Compost Your Enemies” t-shirt, Weatherly did it, and it’s been a hit even since, with its campy font and terrible green color.

Weatherly came from a Church of Christ background and did not have the easiest life. There was pain in his past, but he pressed through and raised four children. He adored his wife. He was beloved of his friends. He was honest, caring, sweet, and had a laugh that was infectious. I only have one picture of him, and that is from a convention where he is wearing his purple camo and selling t-shirts to a girl with pink hair. He loved the outcasts and the odd people, which is maybe why he loved me.

He was like my brother, and in Christ, he is my true spiritual brother.

One year I traveled to a Godzilla convention in Chicago with him and we spent a weekend together selling t-shirts. That Sunday, we had to work the convention hall and were unable to attend church, so we prayed and shared communion together with crackers and wine in our hotel room. That is the hope we share, that we have a Savior who was not stopped by death.

I love you, brother. We will meet again. I can’t keep writing because of the tears. I miss you.

The post In Memory of Weatherly appeared first on The Survival Gardener.

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