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5 Things To Do For A Massive Harvest of Beans

Beans are a staple crop in home gardens around the world. They are robust, easy to start, and a delicious garden vegetable that can be canned and preserved for later enjoyment. But have you ever wondered if there was anything that you could do to maximize your bean plant’s performance and increase your yield? In fact, there are some really easy, time-tested tricks that can help you have a huge harvest of your favorite beans.

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This “CLEAN” Compost Trick Will Make Your Veggies Grow Huge

It’s spring, and for many gardeners around the country, it is time to prepare garden beds and start planting. One of the best things you can do for your plants is to supercharge your soil with rich, nutrient-dense compost. Don’t have time for composting? Don’t fret; there is one really neat compost trick that takes little time and effort but pays off big – building up the soil and making nutrients available to hungry plants and beneficial critters deep inside the soil.

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Should I Pee in My Garden? Recognizing the Value in Human Urine

Believe it or not, you are flushing valuable, nutrient-rich liquid down the toilet every time you urinate. We don’t think twice about putting cow manure, chicken droppings, and various other animal excrements in our garden, so why is the thought of using your own urine in the garden so appalling? Instead of immediately dismissing the idea as some all-natural, health nut hoax, take a look at these research-backed reasons to add human urine to your garden.

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7 Ways to Use Cardboard for a Bigger and Longer Harvest

Are you ready for a staggering statistic? In the United States of America, over 850 tons of paper and cardboard are thrown out each year. Sadly, this is equal to about 1 billion trees! Pretty horrifying, right?  Over 80% of the packaging used in America contains some form of cardboard. An average household can toss as much as 13,000 separate pieces of cardboard each year.

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7 Ways to Use Sugar in Your Garden

It’s a new year; perhaps the year you will cut all refined sugar from your diet, which is a great thing to do. Your resolution to be healthier, however, may leave you with a few extra bags of white sugar – you know the kind that you loved (past tense) to put in your favorite cookies? No worries, that same sugar that you are trying to nix out of your diet is the very thing your garden needs. 

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7 Ways to Feed Your Backyard Chickens for Free

You got backyard chickens to become more self-reliant – because isn’t growing your own food supposed to save you money? Unfortunately, those backyard chickens can quickly become an expensive hobby. Plus, if you’re relying on store-bought feed to keep your little egg farm running, then you’re still tied to mainstream supply chains.

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8 Great Uses for Wood Chips in Your Yard and Garden

Wood chips are a versatile material that you can often get for free. They have many uses for your yard and garden, from the aesthetic to the practical. Read on for some creative ways to use wood chips to improve your property.

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The Ultimate Guide to Growing Organic

Leaping from traditional gardening methods to organic ones may seem daunting at best. However, there are many little tricks that you can employ without much effort to help you get started on your organic gardening journey. Here are just a few of the most important areas to focus on as you transition to organic growing.

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Top 11 Homemade Fertilizers

How you feed your plants makes a tremendous difference to the quality and quantity of your harvest. Organic fertilizer can provide your plants with the nutrition that they need to grow and thrive, defend pests, and resist disease.

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What You Need to Know About Buying Bulk Compost

The generous and consistent use of compost is what makes a yard and garden beautiful. It is nature’s superfood for huge blooms, beautiful shrubs, trees, fruits, vegetables, and herbs. When people ask me how I get my yard to look so beautiful and vibrant, I tell them that I have a secret weapon…compost. 

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Urban Homesteading: How to be Self Sufficient in the City

Living sustainably is no longer limited to the size of the land you own. Although you might not have enough space in your garden to grow large crops like wheat and corn, you can still grow fruits, vegetables, and trees in a city garden — or even containers. There’s a growing number of urban dwellers looking to become self-sufficient while reconnecting with nature. So, if you’re a big city dweller and dream of becoming a modern-day homesteader one day, why wait? Here’s how to be self-sufficient in the city.

Know your limitations

Maybe you were born in the city, came to be educated, or simply arrived looking for work. Whatever your situation, you’re here now and quite enjoy everything the city has to offer. But even with all those modern-day conveniences, you still dream of living off the land and creating a self-sustaining lifestyle. That’s where an urban homestead garden fits in.

First, make sure you realize your limitations on your homesteading journey. Chicken coops, livestock, and making your own cheese may be out of the question — for now. But, even if you don’t have a large garden at your disposal, you can certainly create a sustainable garden in your small city space. If you have the desire to create a sustainable lifestyle and reconnect with the environment and the food you eat, then you can apply homesteading principles to your urban garden.

Utilize your space

The traditional homesteads tend to have a lot of land ready to grow on and harvest food year-round. In urban settings, you likely don’t have that kind of space. So, you’ll need to create as much garden or growing space as you can. Balconies, patios, and even concrete walkways are ideal for containers and raised beds. In fact, you can even remove sod from a small backyard to create your vegetable and herb garden. And if you are space-challenged horizontally, then there’s only one way to go…up.

Discover vegetables and fruits that climb vertically or can be guided to climb with a little persuasion. Climbing vegetables include Vine tomatoes, Malabar spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, Indian and runner beans, peas, pumpkins, gourds, and more. Raspberries and blackberries also naturally climb. Don’t forget to utilize the borders of your property with trained fruit trees, bushes, and climbing vegetables.   

Create a living wall

Living walls or green walls are vertical gardens that attach to exterior or interior structures. Unlike ivy walls that root to the side of fences or buildings, living walls root in structural supports that are fastened to the wall. They can be as large or small as you like. So they can be tailored to suit the size of your space. You can invest in stackable planters fastened to a fence or structure from the ground up. You can even create your own with painted, recycled containers and holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Additionally, you can use window boxes secured one above the other.

Water collection

A great garden relies heavily on its water source. Rainwater collection is an inexpensive way to feed your crops. By installing a water collection system, you can utilize the earth’s hydrological cycle. This reduces the demand from water facilities, which in turn improves conservation efforts. Keep in mind, while it is not entirely illegal to collect rainwater in any of the 50 states, some states currently have restrictions on the amount of rainwater that can be collected and the method by which it is collected.

Create your own compost

Compost is great for the environment because it reduces food wastage. Scrap food and plants decompose over several months before turning into nutrient-rich soil (or hummus.) If space permits, why not create your own compost for your garden?

  • Select a container for your compost and set it in a grassy, reasonably shady part of your garden. Make sure that the container doesn’t have a bottom. Compost should be directly touching the ground.  
  • To help aerate the compost, lay a few inches of branches and twigs at the bottom.
  • Balance your compost with nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Nitrogen comes from the green materials you scrap, and carbons comes from the brown material.
  • Include: Dried leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, peelings, coffee grounds, and tea leaves, dust from sweeping and vacuuming, shredded newspaper, human and pet hair.
  • Don’t include: Meat, dairy, and bread, which rot and attract pests. You should also omit processed foods, since they take a long time to decompose.  
  • With a spade or shovel, aerate once a week, and water when the compost gets too dry.
  • After a few months, your compost is ready to use.

Preserving your harvest

The more skills you acquire, the more self-reliant you’ll become. And that means relying less on grocery stores and more on your ability to grow and create. As you become more familiar with the homesteading lifestyle, you can certainly up your skill level and begin to make, sell, and even barter your hand-made goods. The purpose of homesteading, after all, is to create a frugal lifestyle that allows you to grow your own food while reducing your carbon footprint. But to get there, you’ll need a certain skill set.

Learning to preserve your harvest is a must. When practiced properly, canning is a safe and important method of food preservation. It will keep you well-fed during the cold, winter months. There are three safe methods of canning according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC):

The boiling water bath method — Food is preserved in jars completely covered by boiling water. Safe for jarring tomatoes, pickles, and fruits, as well as jams, jellies, and other preserves.

The atmospheric steam canner method — In steam canners, jars are set in a rack above a reservoir of water. Steam created from boiling the water provides the thermal treatment to the jars. The advantages of using a steam canner include using less water than a boiling water bath. It also reaches processing temperatures faster and requires less energy. However, this method is not suited for low-acid foods like vegetables. The steam canner is useful for naturally acidic foods that have a pH less than 4.6 like pickled veggies, fruits, and preserves.

The pressure canner method — Filled jars are placed in two to three inches of water and then heated in the pressure canner to 240° F. The pressure canner method is only safe for canning low-acid foods or those with a pH over 4.6 such as vegetables.

If you’re a big city dweller, you might have thought homesteading wasn’t for you. But thanks to space-saving items like containers, vertical planters, and living walls, you can have an urban garden that provides sustenance throughout the year. Enjoy!

-Katherine Marko