We used Eggshells in Our Garden. It Took 2 minutes & Improved Our Tomatoes 100%

We used Eggshells in Our Garden. It Took 2 minutes & Improved Our Tomatoes 100%

Ever see a tomato plant with the leaves dying back, or with dark brown tinting on the leaves? Or, have you ever seen a plant full of tomatoes…except all those tomatoes have brown and black spots on the ends that just seem to get bigger?

 

These are symptoms of calcium deficiency – and your garden needs some serious first aid!

 

You CAN fix it – if you’re fast enough! That’s where your leftover eggshells come in. If you have chickens or eat a lot of eggs, you can repurpose your leftover eggshells to improve your garden!

 

Calcium is an essential mineral, and it aids plant development by helping them form healthy, strong cell walls. Without calcium, your plants will experience lags and slow growth, and could die in the long-run.

 

As you can imagine, since we have so many ducks and chickens, we have a LOT of eggshells, and it’s a shame to just throw them away.

 

Eggshells, which are mostly calcium, are a perfect way to improve your tomato harvest  – and in this article, I’m going to show you how to do just that!

 

Stopping Disease In Its Tracks

Tomatoes can develop blossom end rot – which is a symptom of not having enough calcium. Should your tomatoes develop this disease, you can add crushed eggshells directly to the soil to help your plants.

 

Stop tomato diseases in their tracks by using eggshells in your garden!

 

Despite common belief, you can help a plant that’s developed blossom end rot, and the plants can produce healthy fruit once they’re no longer calcium deficient.

 

Before adding them to your garden, grind the eggshells in a blender or with a mortar and pestle to make the calcium more bioavailable. You can then mix the powder with water or  add it directly to the soil.

 

Just note that adding eggshells to your garden before the planting season will help prevent blossom end rot, and it’s better to prevent than to fix it.

 

Preventative Measures: Adding Calcium to Your Compost With Eggshells

While you can add eggshells directly into your garden, taking the extra step to compost them is also a good idea. As they degrade, they’ll help neutralize the pH of your compost, as well as leave rich minerals behind.

 

Be sure to wash and crust them before adding them to your compost so they won’t attract insects and other animals and so they break down faster.

 

Starting Tomato Plants In Eggshells

Another idea, if you’re feeling creative or truly committed to making sure your tomatoes have enough calcium, is to start your tomato plant seedlings IN eggshells.

 

When you transplant them, you can transplant the seedling AND the eggshell (which you’ll bury directly into the soil).

 

Stop tomato diseases in their tracks by using eggshells in your garden!

 

Whenever you start your tomato plants, clean out eggshells, leaving most of the shell intact. Place potting soil in the shell, and then insert your tomato seed.

 

As it sprouts, it will get nutrients from the soil, and the shell will continue to feed it long after it’s been transplanted (you should still side dress with compost when it flowers, however).

 

Safeguarding Against Pests

Coarsely crushed eggshells have the ability to develop a strong and highly effective barrier against the incidence and occurrence of pests such as slugs and snails, which also happen to love chomping down on tomatoes.

 

Slugs and snails have soft bodies, and the sharp spiky shells can cause some deadly harm – so the pests avoid the ragged eggshells at all costs.

 

Simply arrange the crushed layer of the eggshells around your tomatoes, and you can rest easy that snails and slugs will find something else to eat for dinner.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you used eggshells to improve your tomato garden? Leave a comment below!

Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get The Most Out of Your Garden: Your Early Spring Planting Guide

Get out the compost and make those raised beds, because spring is almost here.

 

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My raised beds are ready for dirt and compost!

I’m starting my tomato and squash seedlings indoors, and even starting some crops outside (potatoes, anyone?). Now, before you think I’m jumping the gun, here’s the thing about me.

 

I love kale, and I’m not afraid to say it. 

 

Mix it with some homemade butter and straight-from-the-garden garlic, and I’m set. I start growing it as soon as I possibly can.

 

I can even get my husband to eat it on occasion.


Getting your garden started? Want to reap a better harvest?

YES, I WANT A GREAT HARVEST!


I’ve never been a big fan of radishes and arugula, but I’m starting them soon for the animals, with the hope it will even further reduce our grain expenditures.

 

I’m starting to get the winter blues, so focusing on spring is helping me beat them. And I’m increasing my self-sufficiency at the same time!

 

Here’s a starter guide to the crops you can grow in early spring, for both people and animals.

 

The most important thing I’m doing at this stage (aside from planting!) is using mulch to cover the garden. The last thing I want is late-winter scavengers to snap up the seeds I spent so much time planting!

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_134455.jpgArugula – Sow in the garden as soon as your soil can be worked. They’ll germinate in about 7 days, and ready to harvest in about a month.

 

For a continual supply, succession plant every 2 weeks until high temps will cause the arugula to bolt.

 

Beets – Sow seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant in well-drained, sandy soil. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers as this will encourage top growth at the expense of root development.

 

Aerate your soil for uniform, healthy development. Keep consistently moist. Mulch to suppress weeds.

 

Broccoli – Sow broccoli directly in the garden 4 weeks before your last frost date. You can set out transplants 2 weeks before the last frost date when day time temperatures are between 65 and 80 degrees.

 

Give your plants a boost 3 weeks after transplanting.

 

CabbageSauerkraut anyone? Direct sow in the garden immediately after your last frost date, or plant transplants in the garden 2 weeks before your last front date.

 

Start seeds 6 to 8 weeks indoors before your last front date. Cabbage plants require soil rich in organic matter and consistent moisture.

 

Carrots – Plant seeds about 2 weeks before your last frost date. Carrots need deep, loose soil to form a strong, straight root. Keep the bed mulched to avoid competition from other plants.

 

Avoid forked roots by limiting nitrogen and keeping the bed stone-free. When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin them so there’s 1″ to 4″ gaps between them.

 

You can also use alternate planting to increase your harvest and cut down on thinning. I use pre-planted seeds I created over winter to cut down on thinning.

 

Collards – Collard transplants can be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Soil rich in organic matter will encourage tender leaves, great for microgreens.

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_133242.jpgKale – A favorite here! You can plant kale about 3 to 5 weeks before the last frost date. Plant in soil rich in organic matter, and cover with cold frames during hard freezes. Great for flavorful microgreens!

 

Kohlrabi – Put out transplants of this funky looking plant 4 weeks before your last frost date. Kohlrabi is related to the cabbage, and can be eaten in similar ways.

 

Mulch or use protection against severe temperatures, and the cool temps will enhance the flavor.

 

Lettuce – The ideal day time temps for lettuce are between 60 and 70 degrees. Lettuce is more sensitive to cold than other cool season vegetables, so be sure to cover during freezing temps.  

 

Fertilize with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Lettuce will grow in partial shade, and does better sheltered from the hot afternoon sun. Romaine is a favorite here (I finally steered my husband away from iceberg!)

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_133359.jpgOnions – Onions can be grown from sets, seeds, or transplants. This year I’m trying both sets and seeds.

 

Plant in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.

 

Peas – Direct sow in the garden 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area. They will germinate in soil temperatures as low as 40 degrees F.

 

Seedlings will survive a late snow and short periods of temperatures down to 25* F.

 

Potatoes – Plant potatoes when temps rise (if you want a permaculture indicator, plant your seed potatoes when grass begins to grow).

 

I cut my potatoes into 1” pieces with 2 to 3 eyes, you can also plant the whole potato. Soil should be loose, fertile and well drained. Mulch to protect from hungry critters and freezing temperatures.

 

Radishes – This year, I’m doing daikon, french  breakfast, and regular radishes. Sow radish seeds in the garden about 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

 

They are ready to harvest as soon as they are of edible size. Succession plant for a continual supply until temps are too high. Try one more than one variety, and see which does best in your garden.

 

wpid-cymera_20150210_134258.jpgSpinach – You can transplant spinach 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area, or you can sow seeds into frozen ground. They will germinate as the soil thaws.

 

Transplants can be set out 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Spinach prefers very fertile soil, so plant in soil enriched with compost, or fertilize when the plants are about 4 inches tall.

 

Swiss Chard – There’s nothing better than the gorgeous colors swiss chard brings to your garden. Direct sow seeds 2 weeks before your last frost date.

 

Use pre-made seed tapes, or thin to 6-inches apart when seedlings are 3-inches tall. Water regularly and mulch to protect.

 

Tatsoi – Extremely cold hardy, tatsoi can withstand temperatures down to -15 degrees F. Tatsoi likes rich soil and plenty of moisture all through the growing season, so mulching is best.

 

It’s a very pretty ornamental, so consider growing it in your landscape. Space the initial planting very densely, then harvest entire plants for baby greens, but leave the final survivors to grow to maturity at about 12″ spacing.

 

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Turnips – Plant 2 weeks before the last frost date. Any well-drained soil will do.

 

Consistent moisture is key for healthy root development. Although it is not necessary, the greens will be the most tender if you plant in a fertile soil.

 

Wheat – We’re going to try wheat for the first time this spring. Be sure to use a spring variety (winter wheat won’t produce without some hard freezes) so check that label.

 

Plant when the ground can be worked and after your last frost date. It’s best to use a seed drill, but if you can’t, you can broadcast the seeds and rake them into the ground, making sure to cover with hay or mulch to keep critters away.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which of these cold weather crops will you plant? Leave a comment below!

Worm Compost Bins: Here’s How We Used Worms To Get The Best Free Garden Fertilizer We’ve Ever Seen

Worm Compost Bins: Here’s How We Used Worms To Get The Best Free Garden Fertilizer We’ve Ever Seen

Got a garden that’s not quite flush with healthy green veggies? So did we – so we created garden fertilizer with a worm compost bin!

 

And we now have a healthy, consistent source of fertilizer – totally free.

 

(This article is an excerpt from my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening which is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Organic Gardening! Grab a copy here!)

 

This is a fun activity (especially for kids who are into creepy crawlies) if you want to create compost for your garden, but don’t have room for (or aren’t allowed to have) a compost pile.

 

Back in the day, we enjoyed doing this in our condo before we got our homestead, and believe it or not, we were able to grow cherry tomatoes and cucumbers even though our only source of sunlight faced North.

 

Yes, worm poop is really that powerful. Here’s how to start a worm compost bin – you can keep it indoors or outdoors, whichever you prefer.

 

Where to source worms for your compost bin

The worms you want to use are red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida). You can either purchase them online, go digging for some, or if you have friends with green thumbs, see if they will let you adopt some worms.

Build a worm compost bin for free garden fertilizer!

How to build a worm compost bin

While you CAN do this in a pile outside, keeping your worms in a composting bin makes it easier to keep them in one place and to ensure contaminants or pests don’t invade your healthy garden fertilizer.

 

To start your composting bin, you will need two containers for your worms. We used food-safe plastic bins like these. Dark is better!

 

The idea is the worms eat kitchen scraps in one bin. When the first bin is full of healthy compost and worm castings, you allow them to travel to the second bin (positioned below the first bin) using holes you drilled into the bottom of each bin.

 

The process then starts over again as you use the compost in your garden.

 

Tools needed:

  • 2 small food-safe plastic bins with lids
  • Drill with ¼-inch bit
  • Newspaper torn into strips
  • A handful of soil
  • Kitchen scraps
  • Red wrigglers (I like these)

 

First, drill several holes on the bottom of each bin. The worms will crawl through these holes once the bin is no longer habitable and it’s time to harvest the castings for your garden.

 

Next, layer strips of newspaper lightly until the bins are full. You can spray down the newspaper, but it’s not strictly necessary.

 

Be sure to toss a handful of dirt into one of the bins, as well as kitchen scraps. This will start the composting process and provide beneficial nutrients and microorganisms for each worm.

 

Good options are apples, carrots, tomatoes, and leafy greens. We noticed that citrus scraps weren’t a big hit. Test with your worms, but don’t be surprised if your orange peels need to find a different resting place.

 

Don’t use dairy or meat products in your worm bin; stick to vegetable, fruit, and egg kitchen scraps. The diary and meat will start to smell eventually, attract pests, and produce less-than-optimal fertilizer.

 

Finally, place your new worm friends in the bin, covering the with some of the newspaper scraps. They like the dark!

 

Stack the bins on top of each other.

 

Each worm will naturally start gravitating towards the food, consume it, and leave healthy castings and compost for you to use in your garden.

 

They will also start breeding, and soon your worm count will multiply.

 

How to feed red wigglers in your compost bin

Replace the kitchen scraps every few days, or when your worms have eaten them all. Keep a close eye on this – you don’t let them go without food, or you will have no compost!

 

Also be sure to not put TOO many food scraps in there – this will attract fruit flies and other pests. It’s a bit of a test, but if you look in the bin every other day or so, you’ll soon figure out when it’s time to give more food.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you tried creating a worm compost bin? What’s your best advice? Leave a comment below!

3 Ways To Use Rabbit Manure To Improve Your Garden!

3 Ways To Use Rabbit Manure To Improve Your Garden!

As you probably know, we raise rabbits on our homestead, which means we have a LOT of rabbit manure.

 

What you may not know is that rabbit manure is one of the easiest to use, yet super healthy, fertilizers for your garden. In this article, I’m going to show you how to use rabbit poop to improve your harvest.

 

Garden compost made from animal manure does two amazing things for your garden. First, it’s a free byproduct of your animals, so it’ll save money on topsoil and fertilizer. Second, it is a nutrient rich way to help your garden grow and thrive.

 

Why Rabbit Manure?

 

Great question! Unlike other manures which have to be well composted before you can even think of using it in your garden, rabbit poop can be immediately applied to your soil. It won’t burn crops, and can be used as a stand-alone planting medium or mixed with topsoil (although your best bet is to mix it with soil.)

 

As rabbit manure decomposes, it helps build up the structure of the soil, and injects valuable nutrients and organisms into your garden that will promote strong, speedy plant growth.

 

Rabbit manure, in particular, is rich in potassium, nitrogen, zinc, and calcium, and it’s one of the most nitrogen-rich manures out there – so you’ll get lush, green, well-fertilized growth. The potassium will also improve the quality of the fruit your vegetable plant sets.

 

Finally, unlike cow, horse, or pig poop, rabbit manure is odorless – so as you collect it and incorporate it into your garden, your nose (and your neighbors!) will thank you.


Want more awesome gardening tips? Check out my book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening.

Organic by Choice


How to Use Rabbit Manure In Your Garden

 

First decide on the source of your rabbit manure. If your kids have pet rabbits, have them collect the rabbit’s waste each day. If you already raise bunnies on your homestead, then what are you waiting for? Go start collecting rabbit manure for the garden!

 

Collecting it is relatively easy, and everyone has their own “system.” One of the simplest methods is to place plastic tubs under your rabbits’ cages and dump them out every day (don’t wait on this – flies WILL lay eggs which will hatch into maggots – GROSS.)

 

You can dump them into a compost pile, or directly into your garden. If you haven’t planted anything in your garden yet, then till the rabbit manure to a 2-inch depth.

 

If your garden is already established, then side dress your plants with the manure – it’s usually best to do this as your plants are flowering and setting fruit. They’ll need all the nutrients they can get during that time!

 

If you just got your rabbits, or don’t want to raise any but definitely want to use bunny poop in your garden, then you might also be able to find rabbit manure to buy. Check with neighbors or even Craigslist in your area.

 

How to Make Rabbit Manure Compost

Not everyone is enchanted with the idea of directly applying manure to their garden. That’s ok – you can compost the rabbit poop.

 

To make rabbit manure compost, mix the poop with other compost ingredients that will decompose, such as fruit peelings (like bananas), bits of leftover food, coffee grounds, and grass clippings, and leaves.

 

Add equal parts of wood shavings and straw, then blend all these things (and other kitchen waste) thoroughly, then add enough water to moisten. Be very careful not to completely saturate the compost pile.

 

Cover with a protective tarp and turn every two weeks. If you’re hot composting (which is unlikely with rabbit poop but, hey, stranger things have happened!), then water regularly to maintain heat and humidity levels. Keep adding to the pile and turning and blending it until it fully composts.

 

If you’re cold composting, then simply turn the pile until the manure and other ingredients have turned to sweet-smelling soil.

 

Making Rabbit Manure Tea for A Larger Garden Harvest

 

A third option, other than putting rabbit manure on your garden directly or composting it, is to make a tea fertilizer. Luckily, this is pretty simple.

 

In a 5 gallon bucket, place a burlap bag. Fill the bag about half way with rabbit manure (or however much manure you have on hand), and close it tight with string.

 

Add water to the bucket until the burlap bag is full submerged. Allow your tea to “brew” for 5-7 days, stirring daily. Once the allotted time has passed, simply remove the bag of manure from the bucket.

 

You can use the tea directly on your garden, and compost the rabbit manure, or use it on your garden as well.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you use rabbit manure in your garden? Leave a comment below!

Check Out My Other Rabbit Articles:


Do you love gardening, herbs, natural remedies, self sufficiency, and/or homesteading? Learn how to grow 30 different herbs in this encyclopedia! Herbs In Your Backyard is a digital book, delivered to you INSTANTLY!

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10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

Spring is here….and like everyone, we’re not just planting vegetables, but we’re looking to establish permanent flower beds to liven up duller parts of the homestead.

 

I don’t exactly have the greenest thumb out there, and perennials certainly aren’t my area of expertise, so I’ve invited my friend Valerie of Aspiring Homemaker to tell us how to choose perennials that are best for our gardens!

10 Strategic Tips for Choosing the Best Perennial Plants for Your Garden

 

Pouring over the pages of a nursery garden catalog, looking for the best perennial plant is one of my favorite things to do.  I believe most gardeners enjoy this dreaming and planning stage.

 

But wait.  Before you go out and buy, or order that perennial plant that seems to be calling your name, there are some things to consider.  

 

Rushing into it without thought, mostly likely will not get you the best perennial plant for your garden situation.  At best, you won’t be thrilled with your purchase, and worst case it might die, thus wasting your money.

What should I consider when buying a perennial plant?

 

Grab a notepad and pencil, or whatever you prefer to take some notes.  Answer the following questions on your notes.  Your answers will help guide you to find that perfect perennial plant for your garden.  One that you’ll love and that works with the overall landscape.

 

  1.  Do you have a specific location in mind, that you plan to grow your perennial plant?  

If you don’t, then you need to find a place that you desire to plant.  That is your number 1 question to answer.  It’ll be difficult to proceed without knowing that.

 

  1.  Is your location in full sun, shade or partial sun?

Pay attention to the sun pattern as well.  Will there be morning sun, or afternoon? Are there any trees that when leaved out, will block the sun.

 

Sometimes this can throw a gardener off in the planning.  An area will technically be in full sun, but as deciduous trees grow the condition turns to full shade.

 

  1.  Is the area near a southern exposure wall or other structure?  

This could make this area especially hot.  Some plants will not be able to successfully endure there.

 

  1.  Is there any other special conditions that might cause potential problems?  

Look around the location again.  If so, write it in your notes.

 

  1.  What is your soil type?  Do you have clay, sand, rich loamy soil?  

Before you plant your perennial, you’ll want to amend the soil to its ideal condition.  Nearly all plants need well drained soil.

 

  1. Is your potential plant location in the front of a bedding area, middle ground, or towards the back?  

You don’t want to place a low growing plant in the back of a flower bed.  It won’t be seem.  Similarly, you wouldn’t want (in most situations) to plant a large perennial in the front of the area.

 

The general pattern for best viewing is the largest plants in the back, creating a beautiful dramatic backdrop.  Your middle sized plants throughout the center areas.  Lastly the low growing plants in the front where they will be seen.

 

  1.  What plants are closest to the planting area?  

Write those down, and if they are blooming perennials, jot down the color of the flowers.  Make notes of everything to keep in mind regarding design.

 

  1.  What time of year do you want your perennial plant to bloom?   

Too often, this is sorely overlooked when planning perennial gardens. There will tend to be a rush of color when everything is in bloom for a short period of time; then nothing the rest of the year.  Write in your notes when the majority of your plants will be in bloom, particularly those nearest your planting location.

 

The exception to this would be if you intentionally want that big blast of color when everything is blooming at once.  Some gardeners will plant in a mono-color themed garden.  These are examples of intentional garden design, which can be very beautiful.  

 

  1.  Do you have spring bulbs planted in the area that are forgotten about?  

Many times when we think of an area we’d like to add a perennial to, the spot looks bare.  However, it might not truly be.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this.  I’ve dug the hole to plant my new plant, only to realize I had spring flowering bulbs already there.

 

In this case, perhaps a decorative short, ground cover would be a good option.  It would fill the barren look, yet the spring bulbs can easily grow up through it.

 

  1.  What is your plant hardiness zone?  

This will tell you which plants can survive the climate you live in.

 

Summarize your perennial plant notes

 

Look carefully at the data you’ve written down.  There should be some key answers popping out to you.  Some of this information might actually be quite enlightening to you.

 

It may help your plant shopping process to briefly summarize your bottom line notes.  For instance, you may realize you need a tall perennial plant that needs full sun or at least afternoon sun.  It would need to be able to grow in sandy soil.  You decide that you need a plant to bloom in April, or at least have interest at that time of year.  You know your plant hardiness zone.

 

Now you can shop.  Look for plants that fall into your parameters.  You might discover perennials you had never considered before.  Consider plants that are perennial in nature, but perhaps you hadn’t really considered them in that light before.  Examples might be ornamental grasses, bulbs, small bushes, plants in which the foliage is the main attraction.

 

By shopping for perennials in this way, you are sure to find the best perennial plant for your garden.  It’ll be one that works for your situation, and your plant will have the best chance of thriving.

 

By Valerie Garner.  Check out my lifestyle blog at Aspiring Homemaker, you might enjoy the post Poisonous Plants and Children – Symptoms and Tips to Stay Safe.  You might consider following me on Pinterest.  Happy gardening!

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Which perennials are your favorite? Leave a comment below!