What To Do In Your Garden In April [Planting Guide]

What To Do In Your Garden In April [Planting Guide]

It’s April, and that means in most USDA gardening zones, there’s lots of work to be done!

 

Want the exact organic, non-GMO heirloom seeds we use on our homestead? We love Seeds Now!

 

We’re in Zone 7, so we’ve already set out our cool weather crops, and by the first week of April, we’ll be ready to start harvesting our first veggies of the season!

 

This article is broken down by zones to make it easier for you to know exactly what you should be doing in April in your garden.

 

If you’re not sure what zone you live in, you can check that here.

 

Here’s what you can do in your garden right now!

 

Zone 3

 

Zone 4

 

Zone 5

  • When the weather is mild and soil warm enough, transplant early tomatoes outdoors, inside hoop houses
  • Sow a second planting of lettuce, radishes, and spinach outdoors.
  • Continue to grow squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers cucumbers, and corn indoors and under lights.
  • Plant fruit trees.
  • Start herbs such as basil, thyme, and mint

 

Zone 6

 

Zone 7

  • Thin greens and radishes as needed.
  • Plant fruit trees.
  • If purchasing transplants, choose compact plants that have not begun to flower.
  • Remove row covers from peas as long as the weather is mild.
  • Transplant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • Mulch around cool-season crops to retain moisture and keep roots cool as weather warms.
  • Start cucumber, cantaloupe, summer squash, and watermelon indoors and under lights.
  • Now is the time to start luffa.
  • Set out transplants of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and sweet potatoes.
  • Set out culinary herbs
  • Prune peach trees.

 

Zone 8

 

Zone 9

  • Plant heat-loving pumpkins, squash, melons, peppers, sweet potatoes, and eggplants
  • Every 2 weeks, succession plant bush beans and corn.
  • Continue to plant cool weather crops until the end of the month
  • Transplant tomatoes and peppers.
  • Continue to plant culinary herbs

 

Zone 10

  • Harvest spinach, lettuce, and broccoli.
  • Plant heat-loving pumpkins, squash, melons, peppers, sweet potatoes, and eggplants
  • Be sure to add lots of compost to your soil if it’s sandy and lacking nutrients

 

I’d like to hear from you!

What do you think you’ll plant in April? Leave a comment below!

Pumpkin Seed, Cayenne, & Wormwood Deworming Treat For Backyard Chickens!

Pumpkin Seed, Cayenne, & Wormwood Deworming Treat For Backyard Chickens!

If your chickens have worms, it can seriously derail their egg laying.

 

Worms (aka freeloaders) rob your hens of vital nutrients while making it more difficult to pass manure, and generally just trash the insides of your chickens – so you gotta get rid of them (and it doesn’t hurt to be proactive).

 

Unfortunately, because chickens walk around without shoes and socks on, they’re likely to be exposed to parasites more than we like.

 

There’s not really a good wormer on the market for chickens, although Ivermectin is considered safe and it’s definitely effective against worms in dogs, horses, pigs, etc.

 

But the problem with wormers, aside from the fact that we don’t really have great dosages for chickens, is that they have withdrawal periods, meaning you can’t eat their eggs for about 30 days (unless you want to get a mouthful of Ivermectin. If that’s your thing, then by all means, go for it).


Have a hen that loves treats? (Who doesn’t?!)

Yes, my hens love mealworms!


For those trying to raise their chickens organically, then of course pharmaceutical wormers aren’t ideal.

 

That’s why I developed this fun treat with ingredients that might help your hens expel those nasty critters and hopefully prevent them in the future.

 

Now bear in mind that with many of these ingredients, their effectiveness is merely anecdotal; there’s not a TON of studies to show whether pumpkin seeds, pepper, or herbs will truly leave your hen’s insides squeaky clean of freeloaders.

 

But I put these things into the category of “can’t hurt, might help,” and at the bare minimum, your hens will have fun eating the seeds and gobbling down garlic.

 

And that’s always a good thing!

 

You should also remember that treats aren’t a meaningful replacement for a quality layer feed that’s formulated to ensure your fluffy butts get all the vitamins and minerals necessary.

 

Treats should comprise about 10% of your flock’s diet, so feed treats just a few times a week, or daily in small amounts. I feed my hens the recipe below about once a month (and of course I feed other treats in between time!)

 

Pumpkin Seed, Cayenne, & Wormwood Deworming Treat For Backyard Chickens

 

Pumpkin Seed & Cranberry Deworming Treat For Backyard Chickens

 

Ingredients (per chicken)

½ c raw shelled pumpkin seeds

2-3 freeze dried or fresh cranberries

1 tsp cayenne pepper

½ cup kale

1 tsp fresh garlic

¼ cup wormwood (buy here)

¼ cup sunflower seeds (optional)

 

Directions

Multiply amounts of ingredients based off the amount of chickens you have. Mix all ingredients together and serve as a treat. Be sure to use raw, unsalted, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

 

Pumpkin seeds are a popular folk remedy for preventing and curing worms, although it’s not really been studied in chickens.

 

There was one study done in mice that showed extracts from pumpkin seeds reduced the worm load when fed in 8 grams of pumpkin per 1 kg of animal weight.  

 

There’s also been studies that showed pumpkin seed oil is good for the urinary tract in humans and might help against tapeworms.

 

At a bare minimum, chickens love pumpkin seeds, so they’ll enjoy gobbling them down. It’s also important to note that an all-seed diet can cause Vitamin A deficiency, which might cause bumblefoot, so don’t only feed your chickens seeds.

 

The other main ingredient in this recipe, the cayenne pepper, has long been purported to help humans and animals get rid of worms. The reasoning behind it is that the worms don’t like a chemical constituent in peppers – Capsaicin – and it causes them to detach from their hosts, and chickens can then poop the worms out. This breaks the lifecycle of the worms.

 

Again, evidence it works to expel worms in chickens is limited, although it has been studied in rats.

 

Wormwood has long been used as a remedy to prevent and treat worms since nearly as long as humans have been around.

 

During the middle ages, it was the go-to cure because worms find the herb bitter, and choose to not stick around.

 

It’s also the “active ingredient” in some herbal wormers you’ll find on the market.

 

Garlic is never a bad thing for chickens, and it’s been shown to help living creatures be healthier and have better immune systems. Parasites also object to the smell and spiciness of garlic, so it’s possible it’ll help your flock stay worm-free as well.

 

If you want to prevent worms in your chickens, making sure their surroundings are clean and moisture free is a good place to start. A healthy diet will help keep them in tip top condition so if they do get a parasite infestation, they have the energy to fight it off.

 

This treat is a great addition to any feeding plan out there, and you’re chickens will love it as much as mine do!


Have a hen who loves treats? (Who doesn’t?!)

Yes, my hens LOVE mealworms!


 

Here’s What To Buy At The Farmer’s Market This Month: July

Here’s What To Buy At The Farmer’s Market This Month: July

Throughout my experiences with gardening and working at a farm, I’ve learned that not everyone understands what fruits and vegetables are in season.

When I worked for a local farmer, I was asked many times if we had locally grown corn. In January. Now in somewhere that’s warm year round that might fly, but where I live it’s a little bit to cold for local corn in January;)

 

Each month I’m writing an article about what fruits and vegetables are in season during that month. Obviously this will vary depending on where you live, so this is a very general guide of what might be in season in your area and what you should look for when you head out to your local farmers market.

 

Eating locally grown food supports local farmers and it tastes SOOO GOOD!

Since this is a general guide, I recommend that you check out The Seasonal Food Guide. All you have to do is put in your zip code and the time of year and it will tell you exactly what foods are in season in your area! It’s an awesome resource that I use all of the time.

 

I always try to cook meals based around the foods that are season, so I’ve also included recipes for each fruit or vegetable that’s in season this month.

Alright so let’s get going! Here’s what you should buy at the farmer’s market in July!

 

July is one of my favorite months because of all of the fresh local food. In my area, July is when farmer’s markets really get going and there’s a farmer’s market going on somewhere almost every day. July is awesome because of all of the yummy fresh fruits and veggies are getting started! There’s nothing better than a locally grown watermelon on the Fourth of July (check out my favorite Fourth of July recipes here).

 

Corn

 

Oh corn. It’s one of my absolute favorite things about summer. There’s nothing better than some delicious corn on the cob. I love corn on the cob so much that I actually freeze my corn on the cob (in the husk!) so I can still eat corn on the cob once it’s out of season!

I take my leftover corn on the cob and use it to make my own corn syrup. I know, I know, corn syrup isn’t great for you, but especially if you make your own candy sometimes it’s necessary. And making your own is way better than buying the processed stuff from the store. Check out my guide on how to make your own corn syrup.

 

Grilling corn on the cob tastes AMAZING! Check out this awesome recipe for the BEST grilled corn on the cob ever!

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers might be my favorite vegetable ever. They’re just SOO good! Now in my area cucumbers start showing up at the end of July or the beginning of August and that means it’s time to make some homemade pickles. I love pickling vegetables and you can check out some of my favorite recipes here. Also check out this quick and easy homemade pickles recipe!

 

Eggplants

 

Now eggplants are something that I don’t have a lot of experience with. But I’m dying to try them out! I’ll definitely be picking a couple up this month at the farmer’s market so I can try out this amazing baked eggplant parmesan recipe!

Plums

 

Plums are in season in July! I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with plums. I love eating them raw, but I’m dying to try this plum crisp recipe. It looks like the perfect dessert for a summer night!

 

Tomatoes

 

If you’re lucky, tomatoes should start popping up in your farmer’s market in July, usually later in the month. In my area they don’t start showing up until August, but I’ve found a farmer who grows early tomatoes in his greenhouse, so I can fulfil my fresh tomato cravings until the plants in my garden start producing;)

 

I LOVE tomatoes and I wish I could have them all year long! One great way to preserve some of your fresh tomatoes is to dry them! Dried tomatoes add an amazing burst of flavor to meals, so I love having them around. Check out my tips on how to dry your own tomatoes here!

I’m dreaming of eating fresh tomatoes right now, but come August I’ll probably be drowning in them. I love this Quinoa Stuffed Tomato Recipe because it’s DELICIOUS and it’s gluten-free.

 

And since I’m a tomato fanatic I also make my own homemade tomato sauce so that I can have tomatoes all year long.

 

Summer Squash

 

Summer squash is in season in July! Honestly, y’all probably don’t even need to buy these from the farmer’s market. Wait until yellow squash and zucchini are producing like crazy and your neighbors will be practically begging you to take some of their squash;) I love summer squash and it’s an easy plant to grow especially for busy people (because it doesn’t take a lot of work and it’s very productive).

 

Got more zucchini on your hands than you can handle? Try out this easy zucchini and parmesan soup. It’s so easy to make and it’s a great way to use up your extra zucchini.

 

Watermelon

 

Depending on your area, you might be able to get watermelon in late July! The second I see fresh watermelon at the farmers market I buy A LOT because my family can go through watermelon fast! I’m a huge watermelon fan and it’s the perfect treat for a hot summer day. Check out this amazing watermelon sherbet recipe that’s sure to help you cool off after a long day out in the heat.

 

Mint

 

I LOVE herbs and mint is one of my absolute favorite herbs to use for chickens. I use it with lavender to stimulate laying (I sell dried peppermint in the store here), and I use it as a natural fly repellant. I also use it for when I have an upset stomach. I chew on mint leaves or I’ll infuse it in my tea using my tea infuser. It works wonders at settling down an upset stomach!

Green Beans

 

I’ll admit I was never a fan of green beans growing up. We had the canned ones from the grocery store and honestly, they’re just gross. Then I tried fresh green beans and man they are so good!

 

This roasted green beans with parmesan recipe looks amazing! I’m so excited to try it out once green beans start showing up at my local farmers market!

 

Peppers

 

I LOVE peppers. Mostly because I love chips and salsa way more than I should. Homemade salsa is amazing and fresh, locally-grown peppers make it even better. Check out this quick and easy homemade salsa recipe for a yummy side dish for your next barbecue.

Do you eat locally grown food from the farmers market? I’d love to hear about it! Share what you bought at the farmer’s market this month in the comments below!

 

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

3 Square Foot Gardening Layouts That Are Genius Time Savers

Longing for the days when people used to grow their own vegetables through traditional sweat and dirt…..but don’t have the time? Well, it’s time to get off your butt. Consider this your call to action: a beginner’s guide to square foot gardening layouts.

 

(This article is an excerpt from my best selling gardening book, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide to Backyard Gardening. You can get the entire book including more layouts on Amazon or directly from me, which will save you 10% and includes shipping.

Click here to get it from me and save 20% plus get free shipping

Click here to get it on Amazon)

 

Say hello to a newer and easier type of gardening.

 

In case you’ve never heard about or aren’t sure what square foot gardening is, this technique (some say it’s a way of life) lets you harvest more veggies in a smaller space while decreasing your workload.

 

If you’ve never tried it, then you’ll want to print out this article and grab my book above, which is a step-by-step guide to implementing these layouts.

 

The square foot gardening layouts I’ll show you make adopting this style of growing really easy.

 

So easy, you’ll write me love letters (well….maybe a like letter. I’m married….and don’t want the drama from receiving random love letters. Although an argument might spice up a Friday night here in the country where nothing ever happens.)

 

The bottom line is that cultivating plants in square foot boxes optimizes the use of your garden space and minimizes your effort while maximizing production – pretty nifty stuff.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

 Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

Planning your square foot gardening layouts

Like any other growing technique out there, success with square foot gardening layouts requires a bit of planning so you can get a great harvest.

 

You can grow what you like – but you’ll do better making sure all your plants “play” well together. Layouts like the ones in this article will make it super easy for you.

 

A square foot gardening planting guide (like my companion planting guide you can download right here) also will help you be successful with any layouts you design yourself, especially since not all vegetable plants play well together.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Three square foot gardening layout guides you can use this spring

Three square foot gardening layouts I personally love are a salsa garden, a greens garden, and an all-tomato garden. Because who doesn’t love tomatoes?

 

(Well, I know a few people….but they’re not friends. Friends don’t let friends be friends with people who don’t like tomatoes. ← Gardening haiku)

 

These are three square foot gardening layouts I use every year (and I start them indoors in my warm greenhouse), and some of my tried-and-true hacks you can use to have a great harvest!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Salsa Garden

This one is probably my favorite square foot gardening layouts because….well….salsa.

 

Salsa garden layouts can be fancy or simple. This one includes just a few veggies and herbs: tomatoes, scallions, peppers, and herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil, and cilantro.

 

Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

 

(Salsa generally includes onions, but they take up a LOT of room and have a long growing season – your better layouts include more tomatoes or herbs. You can buy your onions or plant them elsewhere on your yard.)

 

How you arrange the plants in your raised bed will depend on certain factors such as growing size.

 

For example. tomato plants need an entire square, and it’s best to plant them one or two feet away from each other.

 

You CAN plant herbs near tomatoes, however, and they’re supposed to improve the flavor of the our red fruity friends.

 

A pepper plant needs as much nutrients and sunlight as a tomato plant, but consumes less space. You can place pepper plants 12 inches away from another.

 

For the most part, these vegetables and herbs mature at the same time, particularly if you grow indeterminate tomatoes. If your herbs start flowering, pinch them off to extend their life.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Greens Garden

If you are a fan of fresh salads (or have a lot of rabbits), a square foot gardening planting guide for a greens garden is gonna be your jam.

 

Like the other square foot gardening layouts in this article, you need to be conscious of the space between each plant, but you’re totally free to grow any type of greens your healthy heart desires.

 

Here's 3 genius square foot gardening layouts that are perfect for raised beds. Square foot gardening for beginners just got easier!

 

Some of my favorite layouts include spicy mustard greens, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula (I grow the arugula for my rabbits though – personally, I can’t stand the stuff).

 

Mustard greens and kale must be planted three inches away from each other. Spinach, on the other hand, should have at least 14-inch spacing. Green lettuce and arugula need 4 inches.

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

All Tomato Garden

Now, I know when you think about vegetable gardens, you’re dreaming of tomatoes. Since tomatoes are my specialty, I love using all tomato square foot gardening layouts.

 

This plan will show you how to grow an near-unlimited supply of tender tomatoes in the summer (as long as you grow indeterminate varieties).

 

An all-tomato layout can have as many varieties of tomatoes as you would like to plant – try some heirloom varieties for fuller flavor.

 

You can get husky red cherry tomatoes or golden jubilees to name a few. Although different, they still have the same needs, like an adequate amount of sunlight and enough space between each other.

 

The bottom line, regardless of the types of vegetables you grow, is that planning your square foot garden is the key to a healthy harvest.

 

Factors such as distance, amount of sunlight, moisture, nutrient amount, and maturity length must also be considered when planning your layout.

 

If you want very detailed gardening advice, then get Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening, and refer to it as you plan out your own garden.

 

Do have favorite square foot gardening layouts? Send them to me, and I might feature them in an upcoming article!

 

square foot gardening plant spacing

Save Seeds From Tomatoes, Beans, & Peas For A Self-Sufficient Garden!

Save Seeds From Tomatoes, Beans, & Peas For A Self-Sufficient Garden!

If you’re a new gardener, chances are you’re wondering how to save seeds.

 

Maybe you want a self-sufficient backyard farm, or loved the taste of this year’s tomatoes and want to try to grow them again next year.

 

On our farm, we try to save seeds so we can have a consistent harvest year to year – I like predictable plants, and over time, we’ve been able to develop varieties that are well-suited to our particular micro environment.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to save seeds so you can have the same!

 

What Seeds Should You Save?

Although you can save seeds from any vegetable you want, you’ll have a more consistent crop if you save seeds from self-pollinating vegetables. If vegetables have cross pollinated (so the seeds would be hybrids), they might not carry the same genetic traits as their parents.

 

Self-pollinating vegetables include:

 

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Peas

 

However, if you do end up saving seeds that are potential hybrids, all isn’t lost – you might enjoy the next year’s vegetables even more.

 

Only save seeds from fully ripe vegetables. Choose the best, healthiest vegetables to harvest from.

Beans, Peas, & Greens (Lettuce, Mustard, etc)

You have a couple choices. You can harvest the pods when they’re mature and slightly dry, and allow to fully dry indoors for 4 or so weeks.

 

A second option I’ve seen farmers use successfully is to allow the pods to completely dry on plant.

 

The downside to this is there’s a chance of mold if it gets rainy or animals can scavenge them before you can harvest them. They could also pop open, spilling seeds on the ground or allowing them to mold.

 

Whichever method you use, be sure to choose healthy, unbroken pods to harvest.

 

Once completely dry, gently rub pods between your hands to reveal the dry beans or peas. Separate the seeds from the chaff and allow to continue to fry for another 2 weeks.

 

Store in an airtight, rodent-safe container.

 

Peppers

Cut open a fully-ripe pepper (if it changes color, wait until after the it’s finished) and remove the seeds.

 

Place on a paper towel and allow to dry for 2 weeks. Store in an airtight container in a cool area, out of direct light.

.

Tomatoes

Tomato seeds need to be treated differently than the other seeds in this article (this process can also be used for cucumber, squash, and melon seeds).

 

They’re covered with a natural germination inhibitor (the “gel” around a tomato seed) and need to go through a fermenting process to remove it once you harvest the fruit.

 

In nature, the fruit rots and falls to the ground, and the rotting process removes the gel surrounding the seed.

 

Since none of us want rotting fruit hanging around in our house attracting fruit flies, we need to ferment the seeds in a shorter timespan, about 5 – 7 days.

 

After choosing the tomato you want to save seeds from, slice it open and scoop the seeds and pulp into a mason jar. Fill with water and let sit for about a week.

 

It will probably smell, and might give an off-smell. That’s ok (you can loosely cover the jar to keep pests away). As you’re waiting for the fermenting process to complete, check to see if any of the seeds have started to float.

 

If so, remove them and toss. They won’t produce strong seedlings, if they sprout at all.

 

Once fermented, strain out the viable seeds and clean them thoroughly with fresh water. Lay them on a paper towel to dry for a few days. Store in an airtight container in a cool area out of the sun.