From Scratch Magazine http://www.fromscratchmag.com Sustainable Lifestyle Publication Thu, 28 May 2015 01:34:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Heirloom sweet potato in danger of extinctionhttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/heirloom-sweet-potato-in-danger-of-extinction/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/heirloom-sweet-potato-in-danger-of-extinction/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 22:08:01 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4227 Find out more about a fascinating heirloom sweet potato that may go extinct.

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Nancy Hall Sweet PotatoIt’s time to start growing sweet potatoes.

And if you’re a fan of heirloom varieties, Sow True seed has one that’s perfect for you. This variety is called The Nancy Hall Sweet Potato.

Light skinned and yellow fleshed, in the 1930s and 40s it was originally called the Yellow Yam.

It’s been nominated and accepted by the Ark of Taste. The Ark is a living catalog of distinctive foods facing extinction in the United States and the Yellow Yam/Nancy Hall is on the list.

Slow Food Asheville worked with Sow True to get the potato on the ark.

Since the 30s and 40s, Sow True said the variety has been kept alive through home growers and seed savers and they’re happy to offer it to gardeners and farmers.slow food asheville logo

In addition, the company is working with the Nancy Hall Sweet Potato Project to gather information about it. Nancy Hall growers are asked to fill out a survey during the growing season to collect stories as data on the variety as part of a citizen science project for the potato. If you buy the potatoes from Sow True, they’ll send you all the information you need to take part in this citizen science project with your order.

To find out more about this potato, check out the varieties page on Sow True here.

Check out the Nancy Hall Sweet Potato page on Slow Food.

Find out more about Slow Food Asheville here.

Find out more about the Ark of Taste here.

Check out all of Sow True’s other plant varieties here.

Don’t know how to grow sweet potatoes? Check out Sow True’s guide here.

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Organic solutions to the pesky potato beetlehttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/organic-solutions-to-the-pesky-potato-beetle/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/organic-solutions-to-the-pesky-potato-beetle/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 21:47:13 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4224 Find out how you can safely -- and organically -- fight off the Colorado Potato Beetle!

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Colorado Potato Beetle

If you grow potatoes, then you may have seen this little sucker. It’s the Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata).

This little devil will strip the leaves and fruits off your potato plants, resulting in massive damage. If left untreated, the heathens can kill potato plants.

There’s some argument over how much crop damage the beetle can do, since the part of the potato people partake of is underground, but they can eat a plant alive, thereby killing any tuber activity.

In addition, the damage they cause can let nasty little bacteria and fugi grow and do even more damage to your potatoes.

The first appearance of these pests won’t be like the stripey little pest show above. They’ll first show up as squishy, bright red nymphs. This is when they do the most damage to your plants, as their appetites are voracious as they put on weight and mature into hard-backed beetles.

Luckily, there’s a lot of different ways you can combat these things if you catch them early enough.

First, there’s finding them. Whenever you’re going through your plants, look for sickly orange clumps of insect eggs on the underside of your plants. These are the eggs. They’ll be tightly arranged, about two dozen per clump, in a fractal pattern.

Squish these whenever you find them. (If you’re so inclined, you can start spraying an organic pesticide now, more on this below).

As the nymphs emerge, hand pick them whenever you find them.

The same goes for any adult beetles you find. They breed fast, so preventing the adults from pairing off and mimicking the birds and the bees is paramount.

Speaking of birds, some farmers report success letting the birds take care of these pests. If you decide to let nature take it’s course, don’t hand pick the nymphs when you first find them. Birds will need to see the nymphs, at which point they’ll start hanging around looking for a free meal.

However, if you decide to start using pesticides, here’s a pretty short list of products that have proven to be effective (all of these are organic):

1.) Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is a dust that is derived from the fossilized remains of microscopic marine animals. There’s some variant theories floating around the web on how it works (dehydrates insects, damages their exoskeletons, etc.) but it does work. This product works best on the nymph form of the potato beetle, the adults seem to treat it as really fine sand. You should be aware, however, this product can damage and kill beneficial insects, like bees, so despite it being non-toxic to humans and animals, don’t use it lightly.

2.) Spinosad

Spinosad is a biological pesticide, similar to the more well-known Bt. Spinosad is derived from naturally occurring bacteria (Saccharopolyspora spinosa). Spinosad is an insect neuro-toxin produced by the bacteria. The insects feed on the leaves sprayed with the material and die. It must be applied regularly (about once a week for three weeks), but it’s the most effective thing I’ve found to use against the insects. Spray the spinosad according to the instructions on the container, late in the afternoon, preferably at dusk. This prevents sun damage and the lack of sunlight means the product is more active, longer.

3.) Bt

Bt is another biological pesticide. Also derived from a bacteria, Bt disrupts the digestive system of insects, in effect, starving them to death after they consume it. Some garderners report limited success with Bt against potato beetles (I’ve never had any success with it on potato beetles at all). So your mileage may vary.

If you’re interested in companion planting to fight off potato beetles, check out this great piece by the Rodale institute on the problem. 

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What’s the buzz? From Scratch magazine beekeeping issue coming soon!http://www.fromscratchmag.com/whats-the-buzz-from-scratch-magazine-beekeeping-issue-coming-soon/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/whats-the-buzz-from-scratch-magazine-beekeeping-issue-coming-soon/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 21:08:06 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4221 Interested in Beekeeping? Well, don't miss the next issue of From Scratch magazine.

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photo from  Amber Bradshaw from the Coastal Homestead

photo from Amber Bradshaw from the Coastal Homestead

Interested in Beekeeping? Well, don’t miss the next issue of From Scratch magazine.

We’ve got an entire issue devoted to apiarists (beekeepers for those not in the know) coming out in June.

Make sure you don’t miss it! Subscribe below to have the issue delivered to your email inbox.

The issue will include articles on Beekeeping for Kids, a guide to get started keeping bees, honey extraction without equipment and more.

Don’t miss it! Subscribe now!

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Win a $250 shopping spree from Thrive Markethttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/win-a-250-shopping-spree-from-thrive-market/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/win-a-250-shopping-spree-from-thrive-market/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 23:30:19 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4217 Find out how you can win $250 in food from Thrive Market!

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thrive

We recently told you about Thrive Market here.

 

Thrive Market is an online service devoted to providing you with all those all natural, vegan, gluten free, fair trade, organic, rainforest safe, paleo, GMO-free, raw, etc., etc. products you might not be able to get at a nearby big box store that shall not be named.

It’s not just limited to tasty goodies. You can also purchase cleaning products, health and beauty items and pretty much anything non-perishable that’s made as naturally as possible. They carry 3,500 of the most popular natural, organic foods and products at 25-50% below retail!

Thrive Market, like Costco, charges a low annual membership of $59.95 (basically $5/month!) and for every paid membership they give a membership away to a low income family, school teacher or military veteran.

Now, as we previously hinted at, From Scratch magazine has partnered with Thrive Market to provide our readers with$250 in free food. Simply go to this link, put in your email and sign up. It’s that easy.

While you’re their, you can enjoy your complimentary subscription to Thrive Market and start shopping for all those wonderful items you just have to try out and all those favorites you can’t find anywhere else.

Good luck!

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3 Tiered Planter – Container Planting Ideashttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/3-tiered-planter-container-planting-ideas/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/3-tiered-planter-container-planting-ideas/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 15:29:19 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4206 Do you have a spot in your garden that could use a dramatic focal point, or does your entryway need a bit of a pick-me-up? Or perhaps you’re short on space, and you need to plant “up” instead of “out.” No worries — whatever your garden needs or challenges, this project is for you.

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OCT

Do you have a spot in your garden that could use a dramatic focal point, or does your entryway need a bit of a pick-me-up? Or perhaps you’re short on space, and you need to plant “up” instead of “out.” No worries — whatever your garden needs or challenges, this project is for you. I’ve been creating these triple decker planters for both myself and my landscape clients for years now, and it never fails to pack a punch in a small footprint. And the best part? You’re likely to have everything you need, aside from the plants, right at your fingertips.

Stacked Containers

Materials

  • 3 planters in graduated sizes (One should be able to fit into the next larger size. I’ve used 24”, 16” and 8” terra cotta pots.)
  • Sturdy, empty black nursery pots (bricks or cinderblocks can be substituted)
  • Potting soil appropriate to the type of plants you are using
  • A variety of 4” plants, with one larger plant (quart or gallon size) for the top planter
  • A variety of topdressings appropriate for your plants (bagged decorative moss, pea gravel or smooth river rocks)

Stacked pots for 3-tiered planter

Directions

  1. Place the largest container in its permanent spot — when it’s completed, this project can be a heavy one, so you won’t want to move it.
  2. Take your inverted black plastic nursery pot and place it inside the largest container, then place your medium-sized container upright on top of that. This not only raises the 2nd container to its desired height and provides support, but takes up space so you are not forced to use expensive potting soil to fill up your largest container. Remember, you can also use stacked bricks or cinderblocks here.
  3. Fill both the large and medium containers up with soil, stopping 4” below the rims.
  4. Place the smallest container on the soil surface of the 2nd container, and halfway fill it with soil.
  5. Now start planting in the rings that were created in the large and medium containers — 4” nursery sizes work well. Simply remove the plant from the nursery pot and pop it into the rings, and fill with soil in between the root balls. I like to push each root ball up against the next one for a tight fit, and for an instantly full and lush look. For the top planter, plant one larger specimen plant, or use a decorative element like a gazing ball or a seasonal pumpkin.
  6. Now finish up by tucking in small handfuls of decorative moss, gravel or river rock in between the plants, completely covering the soil surface. This conserves soil moisture and provides a professional finishing touch.

Seasonal Ideas:

  • Fall combo: fall annuals for your area, with a pumpkin resting on a bed of moss in top container
  • Winter combo: cool season annuals with a rosemary cone topiary and tiny Christmas ornaments in top container
  • Spring/Summer combo: warm season cascading annuals with a smaller ornamental grass in the top container

indoorplantdecor

 

Article by Jenny Peterson. Want some more great ideas? Check out this book from Kylee Baumle and Jenny Peterson.

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Spring Foraging: Edible Flowershttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/spring-foraging-edible-flowers/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/spring-foraging-edible-flowers/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 17:19:57 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4145 Sitting down to a salad is one of springs greatest joys […]

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10 edible flowers

Sitting down to a salad is one of springs greatest joys. After a long winter of heavy root vegetables a fresh, cool salad is a welcome treat. Salads have for years followed the same recipe; lettuce or spinach, tomatoes, carrots, onions and croutons. Salads in many restaurants lack even some of those basic ingredients. Have you ever sat down to eat and thought, isn’t there a more vibrant option?

Have you even considered flower petals? Your flower garden may be just the ticket to livening up your salads, ice cream, teas and cooking.

When it comes to harvesting flowers for consumption some caution is in order. Flowers and formal flower gardens are one of the most heavily treated garden types. As a precaution do not harvest petals from public gardens, along roads or from anywhere soil quality is questionable. The safest way is to find a trusted gardener or friend, or to start your own flower garden with some of the varieties. When harvesting only collect the petals and discard the pistils and stamens. Be careful consuming flowers if you have severe pollen allergies. While some varieties are safe in small amounts others may cause severe reactions. If you have allergies start with small amounts spaced a few days apart and monitor for any reactions.

Keeping petals fresh is easy, simply wrap in a moist paper towel, place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to ten days. You can also dry most varieties to be added to teas or cooking as a spice.

There are hundreds of edible flowers, many exotic and not well known.

Here are ten that are common:

Allium

Allium

Allium: The name may not sound familiar but this family of flowers include leeks, chives and garlic. All of the blossoms from this family are edible and have similar flavors to the more commonly used parts.

Chicory

Chicory

Chicory: These beautiful blue flowers have graced our roadways for years but they also make a

wonderfully colorful addition to our flower gardens and plates. The petals and buds are both edible and have a mildly bitter flavor that compliments overly sweet dressings. Dried chicory roots has also been ground and used as a coffee substitute for centuries.

Carnation

Carnation

Carnations: Carnations are for more than just prom gowns. The petals are sweet and make a good addition to sherberts and ice creams.

Clover

Clover

Clover: All of the clover plant is edible including the leaves, but the flowers are particularly sweet  with a slight taste of licorice. They can be dried and ground to add flavor to homemade ice creams or wilted into salads along with the leaves.

Lavender

Lavender

Lavender: Lavender is used for more than just a potpourri. Its flowers are sweet and perfumed but many people find them a bit spicy.

Lilac

Lilac

Lilac: Lilacs are very aromatic and their petals have a pungent citrus flavor. They compliment sea food dishes well and add a note of spring to salads.

marigolds

Marigolds

Marigolds: It has been well known for years in the agricultural community that marigolds are good for feathered livestock like chickens, guineas and ducks. The flowers are peppery, tangy and mildly spicy in flavor and are a great addition to many Mexican dishes. Mexican cooks have been using marigolds for decades.

Rose

Rose

Rose: All varieties of rose are edible with more pronounced flavors in the darker colored varieties. Be sure to remove the bitter white base of the petal before using. They are excellent in desserts like ice creams and pies.

squashflower

Squash Flower

Squash and Pumpkin: These huge blossoms are excellent for stuffing, just be sure to remove the stamens and pistils before eating. They are often served in high-end restaurants. They have a similar, but milder, flavor to the variety of squash that they will go on to produce.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Sunflowers: We all love roasted sunflower seeds but the petals of this wonderful plant are also edible. The bud can also be harvested and steamed like an artichoke to add dimension to a meal.

The next time you walk through your flower garden be sure to stop and eat the roses.


 

Magnolia

Magnolia

Magnolia Flower Vinegar

Ingredients:

  • 1 Jam jar with a tight fitting, rust-proof lid
  • 1 Bottle of white rice wine vinegar
  • Plenty of fresh magnolia flowers. (Nibble on a few petals to find the sweetest varieties)
  1. Stuff as many magnolia flowers and buds as possible into the jar, pushing down with a spoon to remove as much air space as possible.
  2. Pour the vinegar over the flowers to the top of the jar.
  3. Close the lid tight and shake lightly. Place the jar in a cool dark cupboard for minimum a week before use. The longer the steeping time the stronger the flavor. The vinegar will turn a pretty pink color.
  4. Use as a salad dressing or a dressing over fish or vegetables.

Article by Susie Deer. This article was originally published in the June/July 2015 Issue of From Scratch Magazine.

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Finishing The Herbal Academy of New England Intermediate Herbal Coursehttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/finishing-the-herbal-academy-of-new-england-intermediate-herbal-course/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/finishing-the-herbal-academy-of-new-england-intermediate-herbal-course/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 15:41:27 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4181 Hello, my name is Melissa and I am addicted to all thin […]

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MelissaYellowScarf

Hello, my name is Melissa and I am addicted to all things herbal. Tinctures. Salves. Teas. Essential Oils. Natural Remedies. I LOVE my herb garden. I have herbs growing all over the place. I have my medicinal herbs. Culinary herbs. Smell good herbs. I use diffusers in just about every room in my house. If there is an herbal book – I have read it or it is on my wish list. I always have some concoction brewing, so it wasn’t a big leap for me to take The Herbal Academy of New England’s Intermediate Class.  And guess what? I graduated. It took over a year, but I finally did it!

HANE Certificate

Botanical-flower-half-2-copy (1)

I truly believe there is an herbalist in all of us – but some of use need some mentorship. So, I started attending conferences like the South East Wise Woman Herbal Conference and then I started really diving into my herbal studies and joined The Herbal Academy of New England. It was life changing. I can’t recommend these programs enough if you are wanting to learn more about herbalism. AND exclusive to From Scratch Readers is a 10% off promo code – just use SCRATCH10 at checkout. YES – you can become a herbalist! And you can do it online on your own timetable.

Online-Herbal-Course-Access-on-Mobile-Devices

The mission of the Herbal Academy of New England is so inspiring:

The mission of the Herbal Academy of New England is to teach the art and science of plant medicine honoring our intrinsic connection to nature. We are dedicated to teaching and promoting a lifestyle of wellness and vitality through the use of herbs, sound nutrition, and optimal health practices.

Herbal-Academy-education (1)

There are currently 2 courses available: The Online Introductory Herbal Course and The Online Intermediate Herbal Course.

The education I have received from HANE has completely transformed my practice.When you enroll in HANE you are immersed in a first class herbal education. Whether you are just wanting to learn more about herbs or start a new career – this course is perfect for you.

introductory herbal class

In the The Online Introductory Herbal Course you will receive:

  • 6 in-depth units
  • Content-rich lessons
  • Printable handouts and charts
  • Recipes throughout every unit
  • Over 50 herbal monographs
  • Educational video demonstrations
  • Multiple choice quizzes!
  • Easy access to course instructors

juniper berries

You will learn why herbs are important and how to use them in healing teas, tinctures, and body care products. 

The Introductory Herbal Course: 6 Unit Outline

Unit 1: Herbal Basics
Choosing Herbs; Storing Herbs; Herbal Teas and Tinctures; Syrups and Topical Applications; Herbal Actions; Anatomy Overview

Unit 2: Common Discomforts
The Immune System; Prevention; Detoxifying and Cleansing; Colds and Flu; Respiratory System; Herbs for Kids; Materia Medica

Unit 3: Kitchen Remedies
What’s In Your Cupboard; Spices; Kitchen Materia Medica; Making Kitchen Remedies; Wildcrafting and Foraging;

Unit 4: Nervous System
Overview of the Nervous System; Stress; Headaches and Migraines; Essential Oils; Sleep and Insomnia

Unit 5: Body Care
Introduction to the Skin; Body Care Recipes; External Health, Internal Health; Salves, Balms, and Butters; Topical Oils; Scrubs; Cleansers; Herbal Baths; Moisturizers; Toners; Hair Care

Unit 6: The Holistic Approach
History; Conventional Medicine; The Holistic Model; The Holistic Body; Herbalism Is More Than Just Herbs; Placebo Response; Holistic Approaches

school table

 In the The Intermediate Herbal Course you will receive: 

  • Printable Intermediate Herbal Certification upon completion
  • 10 outstanding units
  • 40 in-depth lessons
  • Over 100 herbal recipes
  • Interactive ebooks
  • Printable handouts and charts
  • Videos throughout every unit
  • Online forums open for discussion and questions
  • Quizzes!
  • Easy access to a team of herbalists and medical professionals
  • A community of herbalists on the same path towards wellness

Learn-herbalism-Intermediate-Course-250-static

 

The Intermediate Herbal Course: 10 Unit Outline

Unit 1: Why Herbs And How They Work
History; Herbal Healing Philosophies; Homeostasis; Overview of Body Systems; Systems of Energetics, Actions and Constitutions; Medicine Making Review; Side Effects and Safety; Creating Formulations

Unit 2: Food is Medicine
Kitchen Cupboard Herbs; Vinegars; Oils; Honey; Edible and Medicinal Plants; Foraging; Wild crafting; Plant Savers; Gratitude and Ceremony

Unit 3: Digestive System
Alimentary System Overview; Digestive Health as Foundation of Health; Imbalances of the Digestive System and Herbal Remedies

Unit 4: Immune System
Building Immune Health; Prevention; Common Disharmonies; Creating a Materia Medica

Unit 5: Nervous System
The Central Nervous System; The Peripheral Nervous System; The Enteric Nervous System; Stress; Headaches; Sleep; Herbs

Unit 6: Cardiovascular
Anatomy of the Heart; Blood Pressure; Cholesterol; Heart Strong/Heart Health; Herbal Therapeutics; Diet; Glycosides; The Energetic Heart

Unit 7: The Liver
Anatomical Overview; Liver Health; Liver Imbalances; Herbal Treatments; Bitters

Unit 8: Respiratory
Breathing; Asthma; Lung Imbalances; Herbal Tonics; Natural Remedies

Unit 9: Urinary System
Kidney and Urinary Health; UTI; Herbs

Unit 10: Children
Common Discomforts; Formulas and Recipes; Which Herbs are Safe; Dosing

Just a note: HANE offers the Intermediate Herbal Course with a very generous payment plan (3 monthly payments).  And don’t forget From Scratch readers get a 10% off discount! Just enter SCRATCH10 and receive 10% off the HANE online courses.

Plus they recently launced The Herbarium – it is truly awe inspiring. It is a visual virtual encylopedia of a ton of herbs. It gives you all the information you need to dive into a fulfilling herbal practice.

Herbal Academy of New England Promo Code

 

Monographs---Herbarium-at-HANE

Herbarium-at-HANE

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What people are saying:

“You have no idea the paths this counsel has led me on, literally and figuratively. I have discovered Solomon’s Seal in my backyard, Indian pipe near a waterfall, and wood sorrel in the garden. I thought I would be taking a course to learn about herbs and I have had the world around me open up with gifts I never knew existed. Thank you.”

– Cynthia, Student 

Just want to say how much I am enjoying your herbalist course online and to tell you that your heart, sensitivity and good will come through in everything you are producing. I am very impressed and feel blessed to be a part of your social and educational world.

– J.S., Student

“Wonderful lessons, well paced, and very detailed. I think this is a beautiful, professionally done, and very well laid out course that everyone should do!”
– A.P., Student

“I thank you for all your hard work in pulling it together – that you know, and care about, what you teach is very evident in the course materials. Nicely done!”
– C., Student

“For about 7 years my husband and I were looking for the right herbal school for us. We ended up traveling and researching on our own until we found the Herbal Academy of New England. I am literally blown away by how in depth their intermediate course is, as well as the very professional design savvy layout. I will enroll in every online course this school provides and hope to eventually visit it in person one day!” 
– EK Bradley, Holistic Families

 

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Top five ways to make your garden soil the besthttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/top-five-ways-to-make-your-garden-soil-the-best/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/top-five-ways-to-make-your-garden-soil-the-best/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 00:26:14 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4159 Here's our favorite way to fill up your raised bed and create the best garden soil.

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soil

Recently, we published a piece on creating raised beds. And hopefully, a whole buncha people jumped right out their seats, ran outside, got some wood and started building.

Well, now that you have your raised bed built, now what?

You have to fill it with something. I suggest soil (if you have any other ideas on what to put in your raised bed, I’d love to hear it, out side of mulch to grow potatoes in, I got nothing).

So, where do you get this mythical soil from. Obviously, if you want to grow veggies or flowers, you’ll want beautiful, black, healthy, nutrient-rich soil, teeming with life to put in your raised bed.

Any old dirt isn’t going to do.

So, while you can actually buy gardening soil from feed and seed stores, usually loaded with chemical fertilizers, I promise that creating your own garden soil will be a much more satisfying, rewarding and healthier experience that just dumping a half dozen bags of whatever you get from the store into your bed.

But how do you do it?

Here’s what I do.

1-Get a load of fill dirt

If your raised bed is of any size, you’ll need something to start with. I always contact local companies about their fill dirt. This material is essentially top soil, usually mined from construction sites. It’s composition will vary, depending on your location (for example, where I live, in Eastern NC, the fill dirt is usually about 90 percent sand with a little clay mixed in). It doesn’t matter though, it’s just a starting point. Usually you can get a dump truck load for relatively cheap. But you’ll have to be sure you’ve got enough raised beds to use a dump truck load of earth. For us, it took about 1,000 square feet or so of space to use up that much material. If you’re not planning on using that much space for your raised beds, you can purchase bags of “top soil” at feed and seed stores. Or you can find a place in your homestead or back yard that you need to dig a hole in (drainage ditches, etc.) and move that material into your raised beds.

Note: If you want, you can do a soil test at this point. It’s not entirely necessary, but you can use the information from your soil test to determine how you treat your soil in regards to cover crops and amendments. The process I describe from here on, however, is generic and will help with just about any soil type. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Office to find out more about soil testing.

2-Solarize it

This is the only “unnatural” step I’ll describe in this process. Essentially, you take a sheet of clear plastic, put it over the raised bed and let the sun cook it for as long as you can stand. I suggest at least four weeks. This process tends to work best in the summer months for obvious reasons. Make sure the edges of the plastic are completely buried in the earth to prevent heat and radiation from escaping. The idea is the radiation from the sun destroys weed seeds, bacterial and fungal infections, insects and their eggs and more. It doesn’t completely sterilize the soil and it kills any beneficial microbial activity. It does prevent a lot of problems with weeds and pests, however, and the microbe activity in the soil recovers quickly, especially if you follow the next steps. After you’ve solarized your soil, pull up your clear plastic. If it’s thick enough (four mils or more) then you can clean it off and save it for next season. Or upcycle or recycle it into another use (cold frame maybe?).

If you’re starting this process in the winter time, and the sun’s not on your side, you can still treat the earth, at least the first couple of inches, with fire, using a flame weeder. The flame weeder will kill weed seed and pests in those first couple of inches of soil. And it’s kinda fun to use (but it’s fire, so you know, be safe).

3-Add organic matter

I add a mixture of manure (usually rabbit or goat) and compost to the soil. You can also add hay or grass clippings (but make sure they don’t have many seeds). I put the mixture right on the top of the soil and work it in with a cultivator or a broadfork. If you use another type of manure, make sure it’s well composted, as “hot” manures (like chicken litter) can have too much nitrogen which will burn your plants (rabbit and goat manure can be placed directly on the plants at any time). At this point, if you’ve done a soil test, you can add different materials based on your soil’s specific needs or your growing demands (for example, bone meal provides phosphorous and calcium, which can be helpful to tomato production).

4-Cover crop it

Cover crops are popular with large scale farmers, because they help out with all sorts of issues and provide a method of reinvigorating soil for future planting, prevent weeds from overtaking a piece of land and a way to add extra organic material during crop rotations. There’s no reason you can’t use the same method for your raised beds, however, and it’s a great way to have greenery growing in your raised beds in the Fall and Winter months, when you might not be using your beds. You can, however, grow cover crops any time of year. It’s the most time-consuming process of prepping your soil, so if you’re in the middle of your growing season, then you might want to wait until the “off” months to take this step. Essentially, when you cover crop a bed, you grow beneficial plants on the bed. At the end of the cover crop “season” you disk or plow the crop under. Since you’re using a raised bed, at the end of your cover crop season (at least three months, depending on the crop), you can use a small tiller, broadfork, a shovel or even a pick to turn the plant material under the soil.

Here’s my go to recipe for cover crops. It tends to provide for a “general” list of soil nutrition needs.

  • Rye grass (for weed prevention and a small amount of nitrogen)-50 percent
  • Red clover (for nitrogen)-20 percent
  • Buckwheat (for potassium)-10 percent
  • Mustard (to prevent and combat nematode infections)-10 percent
  • Icicle radish (for phosphorus and to break up impacted soils)-10 precent

Here’s some more information about cover crops and their uses. Note: Cover crops don’t “add” nutrition to the soil, they simply “mine” the soil for nutrients, allowing your plants to access those necessary nutrients. That’s why adding compost and manure are so important to your soil health.

5-Mulch it

Now that you’ve cared for your soils nutritional needs, it’s time to mulch it. Mulch has all sorts of benefits. It prevents weeds, retains moisture and honestly, just makes a garden bed look really fine.

While some people swear by inorganic mulches, like black plastic and landscaping cloth, I favor organic mulches. Organic mulches add organic content to the soil at the end of the season and it’s a lot easier to turn them under than it is to have to pull up plastic at the end of every season.

The best method of mulching, suggest by Associate Editor Chris McLaughlin and field tested by yours truly, is pretty straightforward and kind of cheap. Just take newspaper, spread it out on your bed (at least a layer’s worth, but I find two or more is better) wet it to hold it in place and then cover it with whatever mulch you have available. While you can buy bags of pine bark and other mulches at your feed and seed store, you can also rake up pine straw, tree leaves and more to use as mulch. I actually got all my mulch from my local electric co-op. They’re always trimming tree branches from away from the power lines and grinding the remains up. To avoid a trip to the landfill with it, they’re willing to dump a load of it anytime they’re in the area in front of our house. They did it for free! Bless them. Contact your local provider, and see if you can work out something similar. You can also contact landfills for mulch material, as many of them have piles of it gathered from curbsides during the fall. Or you can drive up and down residential neighborhoods during the Fall and snatch up bags of leaves, like a lot of our friends do.

If you’re direct seeding your plants into your bed, you’ll probably want to do that after putting down your newsprint, but before putting your mulch. The same goes for any irrigation system you may want to install. If you’re planting transplants in your bed, then you can do that after you cover it with mulch. Just clear the mulch away, drop in your transplants and have fun!

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Thrive Market: Get healthy food wherever you arehttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/thrive-market-get-healthy-food-wherever-you-are/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/thrive-market-get-healthy-food-wherever-you-are/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 23:16:53 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4156 Thrive Market gives everyone access to great, healthy products no matter where you're located.

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thrive

When we first decided to homestead, we headed out to the boonies — nobody told us about urban homesteading and apartment homesteading at the time.

Land is cheaper, code restrictions aren’t as strict and there’s space so all the animals you might want to raise won’t cause problems with the neighbors.

And while we love all the benefits of living in a rural area, we have to admit there are certain things we miss.

Like being able to do a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s run.

Sure, we love our homemade kale chips, but sometimes it would be nice if we could just crack a bag of them open and dig in.

We also miss the chance to just browse things we might like to order and try out on our own (like ranch flavored kale chips. Or these amazing coconut/cacao things we just found).

That’s why we just about flipped out when we found Thrive Market.

Thrive Market is an online service devoted to providing you with all those all natural, vegan, gluten free, fair trade, organic, rainforest safe, paleo, GMO-free, raw, etc., etc. products you might not be able to get at a nearby big box store that shall not be named.

You know, all those products your crunchy, hippy friends in the bigger cities down the road can just hit the co-op and grab (I’m looking at you Wilmington, NC).

It’s not just limited to tasty goodies. You can also purchase cleaning products, health and beauty items and pretty much anything non-perishable that’s made as naturally as possible. They carry 3,500 of the most popular natural, organic foods and products at 25-50% below retail!

It’d be great if we could all make our own soap at a moment’s notice (and some of us do), but as homesteaders everywhere know, time is in short supply. And while you could cook up a batch of handcrafted goat milk soap in your backyard, sometimes it’s a little more efficient to click a mouse and get something really great sent to your house especially when there’s free shipping!

Thrive Market, like Costco, charges a low annual membership of $59.95 (basically $5/month!) and for every paid membership they give a membership away to a low income family, school teacher or military veteran.

Want to try it out? We’ve partnered with Thrive to provide From Scratch readers with a 2-month trial membership and $10 off the first order.

Check it out here.

You’ll get a chance to try out a great service, save yourself a little time and support fantastic companies that are devoted to providing goods while still caring about the environment and our global community.

And let us know what you think of all those products in the comments below, we’d love to hear about some great products you discover and love.

Keep an eye on this blog for the next couple of weeks, as we’re working with Thrive Market to put together a great contest for all our readers (which totally means free stuff guys, really).

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We have to tell you about this amazing deal from The Herbal Homesteadhttp://www.fromscratchmag.com/we-have-to-tell-you-about-this-amazing-deal-from-the-herbal-homestead/ http://www.fromscratchmag.com/we-have-to-tell-you-about-this-amazing-deal-from-the-herbal-homestead/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 20:56:07 +0000 http://www.fromscratchmag.com/?p=4152 Choose from the Home Essentials Kit or the Natural Solu […]

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Choose from the Home Essentials Kit

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or the Natural Solutions Kit

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These are HUGE savings! PLUS you get this beautiful Mother’s Day diffuser Necklace.

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Click here to buy now!

Essential oils are the extracted oils of plants are part of an herbal healing tradition which goes back thousands of years. They are called “essential” because they present a strong scent of the original plant, the “essence.”

The oils are used in much the same way their herbal counterparts are, but because of the processes used to produce them, they are often concentrated, which means they pack a lot more bang for their size.

essential-oils-interesting-facts (1)

 

You may be wondering how you can incorporate Essential Oils into your own life and how you can purchase them. I use essential oils every day and so does my family and I want to help you learn how to use them to promote your family’s health and well being!

When you purchase your essential oils from me you receive:

  • Personal support from me
  • A FREE book that tells you exactly how to use the oils
  • A FREE getting started kit to accompany your kit
  • An invitation to a private Facebook community where you can ask questions and make friends
  • The satisfaction that you are on your way to becoming a Healer in your own Home!

I sincerely want to help you on your essential oil journey. I would love to speak with you on the phone and get to know you and your needs! Please feel free to email me at melissa.nelson.jones @gmail.com and I will be happy to set up a call to go over all of this information.

Are you ready to purchase an essential oil kit? Click here for instructions on how to order. Below are some of my favorite kits!

natural solutions kitLearn More

home essentials kitLearn More

physician kitLearn More

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