The Garden of Eden your backyard is not but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to turn your garden into your own piece of paradise. Check out a few homesteading hacks that will definitely help you successfully grow herbs, vegetables, and even fruit trees.
Jar Test Your Soil
Before starting your garden, you need to check first if the soil is up to the challenge. You need to determine the soil’s quality to know what improvements it requires to successfully grow your garden. Luckily, soil testing is no rocket science. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t require any fancy equipment.
The traditional way of soil testing requires a Mason jar or any clear glass jar. Use a garden trowel like the Bend-Proof one form Edward Tools to scoop soil from different areas of your garden. Then dump them in the glass jar. Fill the jar halfway through with the soil then pour water until almost full. Make sure to leave a couple of inches of space for shaking.
Close the lid tightly and shake for a number of minutes making sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Once the contents are suspended, set the jar aside. Wait for a few hours or until the particles have completely settled.
You should see three layers. The darker layer at the bottom is made of rocks and sand. The middle layer is silt while the top light colored layer is made of clay. The ideal loam combination is made up of 40% sand and rocks, 40% silt, and 20% clay.
If there is more silt, say 10% clay, 70% silt and 20% sand, add more organic matter to your Silty Soil. A Silty Clay Soil, about 30% clay, 60% silt and 10% sand, needs more water. Sandy Soil, which is 15% clay, 20% silt, and 65% sand, is balanced by adding organic matter, too. Adjust the balance of your soil accordingly.
Make Your Own Fertilizer
Most homesteaders are probably aware of this already but you can make your own organic fertilizer. Greedy corporations have long been saying that chemical fertilizers are necessary. Spoiler alert: They’re not.
Making your own organic fertilizer is simple though you need a bit of patience. You’ll need organic matter and a compost bin. Examples of organic materials include kitchen scraps, grass clippings, animal manure, coffee grounds, and boil meal.
For your composting needs, you can simply make a pit by digging a 3 x 3 feet hole on a spot in your yard that gets lots of sun. Pack the sides then fill the hole with layers of organic materials and soil. Soak the materials with water. Turn the compost and add water once a week. The compost will eventually turn brown and become crumbly.
If digging is not your thing, the FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter is a popular choice on Amazon. The octagonal compost bin comes with two chambers so you can do two batches at a time. Allow one chamber to turn into compost while adding all your fresh scraps in the other one. This should give you a continuous supply of organic compost.
You can’t always head out to dump your kitchen scraps in your compost pit. It’s also pretty messy if you leave it on the counter. Get something like the Oversized 1.3 Gallon Kitchen Compost Bin with EZ-No Lock Lid from Cooler Kitchen Store. It’s a compost bin that’s small enough to be in the kitchen while bug enough to hold more than a gallon of compost materials. Its EZ-No Lock Lid prevents the smell from seeping out while also keeping flies and other critters away. Once it’s full, you can dump the compost into the bin or pit outside.
Chicken Run Composting
Chickens are a homesteader’s best friends. They lay eggs, provide poultry meat, clean the yard, and get rid of some insects and weeds. Chickens also make great organic fertilizers. Not just because chicken manure is rich in nutrients but also because they can fertilize compost by themselves.
Well… not exactly by themselves. You still have to dump and spread your compost pile inside the chicken run. The chickens will munch on the kitchen scraps while also leaving their valuable manure on the compost. Plus, their constant scratching will help aerate the compost pile.
As seen in the video above, you need to jumpstart your compost pile by spreading the materials in the chicken run. A pitchfork will definitely come in handy. Try the Truper Handle 30331 Tru Tough 54-Inch Manure/Bedding Fork. This hay pitchfork has 10 tine bedding forks and a 54-inch lacquered handle making it a whole lot easier to use.
Make Planters From Old Wooden Pallets
Homesteaders love wooden pallets. They’re cheap, durable, and versatile. Plus, you help dear ol’ Mother Earth by reusing them. Wood pallets are the perfect materials for many a DIY project. You can turn them into chairs, tables, bedframes, shelves, and fences. Just make sure to use the ones that were not chemically treated. Here’s how to tell if your pallet is safe to use.
Repurposing wooden pallets into a vertical garden is one of the brilliant homesteading hacks you can do for your herbs and vegetables. Basically, you’ll be turning the pallet into a planter.
You need to cover the back and sides of the pallet with a landscape fabric. The AHG Garden Weeds 20 Year Premium Series Landscape Fabric measures 3 feet by 300 feet. It may seem too much but homesteaders with enough land will want one for their garden or farm. In case weed control fabric is not readily available, there are alternatives such as cardboard, newspaper, and burlap.
Use a staple gun such as WETOLS Heavy Duty Staple Gun to attach the fabric to the back of the pallet. Next, fill the pallet with garden soil making sure the bottom is well packed. Finally, stick your plants onto the soil through the space between the slats.
Use Recycled Planters
Aside from wooden pallets, you can also use other recyclables as planters. If you have the budget, why not get something like this set of 2 Reclaimed Wood Medallion Planter Boxes from Antique Farm House. The planters are made of reclaimed wood with a one-of-a-kind medallion design. These are perfect for growing flowers and small trees.
Another option is to use empty plastic bottles. Instead of throwing them away, use these plastic bottles to grow more herbs, vegetables and even flowers. There are plenty of plastic bottle planter designs you can choose from.
Look for Flowering Potted Fruit Plants
If you’re planning on growing fruit trees, you could use some homesteading hacks just to make sure you’re doing the right thing. One such gardening hack is choosing potted fruit plants that are already flowering.
The Bartlett Pear Tree is a good choice for those residing in Growing Zones 4 to 9. Aside from the sweet and juicy pears, the tree itself will give more life to your garden thanks to its beauty. Apples are always popular. Try the Gala Apple Tree from Nature Hills if you live in Zones 4 to 10. The fruits can be stored for up to 6 months though you can preserve apples by turning them into dried chips or jam.
A plant or seedling that hasn’t started flowering yet isn’t mature enough to set fruit. Keep the plant in its pot. If you take it out of its pot immediately, the plant will possibly experience transplant shock and cause fruit loss. Take care of the plant while it’s still in it pot and ask the gardener or plant vendor for tips.
The fruits will be ready for harvesting come fall. After gathering them, transplant the tree to your garden. It is less stressful for plants during this period.
Make sure you have the right materials for transplanting and that you actually know how to transplant fruit trees. Use a transplanting spade such as the Radius Garden 22011 Root Slayer Shovel to dig a 2-feet deep hole. That should be deep enough for the major roots of the fruit tree.
You need more than a green thumb to have the perfect garden. You also need to be familiar with the many homesteading hacks that will keep your garden in tip-top shape. Find out more gardening hacks and tips by heading over to Gentleman Pirate Club. You’ll also learn a lot about homesteading just by browsing.