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Lessons from a Wartime Victory Garden


Victory Gardens inspired millions of Americans that had never gardened to grow food to feed their families. Everyday people learned to garden on a homesteading scale. And my family was no exception. My maternal grandparent’s Victory Garden taught them to fend for themselves and eat well when wartime rations were most limited.

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Five Steps to Creating a No-Till Vegetable Garden

The author’s no-till garden in early spring after compost and straw have been applied. (Image by Jessie Keith)
To till or not to till? Why ask this question? Tilling does good things for the soil. It increases needed aeration and porosity, allows the easy incorporation of organic amendments, and it makes all the little green weeds at the top of the soil go away. But it […]

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Rosemary Is For Winter and Gifting

Fill pretty, recycled jars with freshly-dried rosemary for holiday gifts for foodies (and pet lovers too, see below).
When I first came to the Southern California desert, I was shocked at how well traditional rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10) shrubs survived through 120ᵒ F summer days. When provided good drainage and some water, these plants thrive in dry, mild-winter locations and reach mammoth […]

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Herb Crafting: Three Herbs to Grow and Ways to Use Them


You don’t need a huge garden to make an abundance of herb crafts to benefit your home, garden, and artistic inclinations. Starting with just a few common and versatile herbs is an easy way to get your hands dirty and feel the magic of plants. I’ve chosen three herbs that are perfect for herb crafting because you can turn them into all sorts of […]

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Southwestern Sustainable Farmscaping: Planting for Home Livestock

 
The right plants can provide needed cover for livestock, repel insects, and serve as forage.
Everywhere across the American Southwest, folks are raising chickens, milking goats, horses, and grazing their own cattle. The rural way of life is evolving towards animal care and organic gardening. Dependence on livestock is creeping into the suburbs, too, where clean, efficient animal keeping is bumping up against the traditional backyard. […]

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Edible Landscaping

Pots of lettuce look great in spring or fall gardens.

As I visit gardens, it is a delight to see more and more gardeners incorporating edible plants into their landscape. It has not been that many years ago that vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs would be grown in their own […]

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Grow an Apothecary Garden: Flowers and Herbs for Healing

Apothecary or physic gardens contain medicinal plants used to treat all kinds of infirmities. (Image taken at The Met Cloisters by Jessie Keith)
During the Medieval period in Europe, monasteries almost always contained an apothecary garden or “physic garden” that grew medicinal plants used to treat all kinds of infirmities. This age-old tradition of cultivating a garden specifically with healing in mind is easy to replicate […]

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10 Essential Indian Herbs and Spices for Gardens

Chiles, ginger, lemongrass, curry leaf, and other traditional herbs and spices can be grown at home. (Citrus can even be grown at home.)
American gardeners can grow many Indian herbs and spices. Sure, the classic spice blends of India contain tropical ingredients (cardamom, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) that most American gardeners cannot grow, but it does not end there. A long list of distinctly Indian […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Seed Packets (Part 1 of 6)

Read the back of your seed packet to find details essential to successful germination.
Starting seed indoors is the best way to get your garden off to an early start. It also provides for earlier and longer harvest by extending the growing season. Not all plants are suitable to start indoors–these include large-seeded or fast-growing vegetables that produce quickly, such as beets, radishes, squash, and melons […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Damping Off Prevention (Part 2 of 6):


You wouldn’t put your newborn child into dirty blankets for fear of dangerous germs in the bedding, so don’t germinate your garden seed in anything but fresh, soilless seed starting mix. Used or natural soil is riddled with fungal microbes, called Pythium and Phytophthora fungi, which are fatal to seedlings. They quickly cause roots and tender stems to rot.
Under warm, wet conditions ideal for […]

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