Soil-First Gardening The Extended Edition By Anna Hess
Grow twice the fruits and vegetables in half the space when you turn your soil into black gold!
Have you noticed the extraordinary flavors and yields that come from even a small garden when the soil is just right? If you’ve ever been envious of your neighbor’s dirt or just curious about homesteading, then this course is the perfect fit for you.
Both raw beginners and gardeners who already boast a green thumb will benefit from this course's focus on hands-on techniques used to boost the quality of your soil on the small
scale. Contents include:
* Compost - why and how to buy or make and use the very best, including compost worms and black soldier flies
* No-till organic gardening - keep the fertility cycling in your soil with chemical-free, no-till techniques likes solarization and kill mulches
* Biochar - learn when charcoal boosts your soil and when it's a fairy tale as well as how to turn waste wood ashes into biochar
* Hugelkultur - use rotting wood for long-term soil improvement to please fungally-associated plants
* Cover crops - grow easy ground covers that build soil, attract pollinators, lower weeding pressure, and much more.
Bonus: The permies edition includes an extra half hour of deep-dive into cover crop use in the home garden!
Each video tells the how as well as the why to help you follow along easily at home. In addition, a printable fact sheet can come with you into the garden as a quick reminder of each step.
This course is brought to you by Anna Hess, author of The Weekend Homesteader and The Ultimate Guide to Soil. Based on 15 years of fruit and vegetable gardening in harmony with the natural environment, her books and courses take the guesswork out of beyond-organic and permaculture techniques.
If you've been playing with chickens for several years, you may remember my husband's automatic chicken waterer, the Avian Aqua Miser. We wandered off in other creative directions six years ago, but I thought it was bad karma not to share all of the data and images on constructing nipple-based chicken waterers with folks who want them. So I recently compiled everything we (and our customers) had learned into an ebook that I'd love you send you a free copy of!
We also have some gardening courses in the pipeline along with an expansion of our cover crop book and various other projects. All of these will go out for free to review-crew members before they go live.
Want to get in on the fun? Just drop a review on one or more of my books on any retailer(s) then email links or screenshots to firstname.lastname@example.org. (These two ebooks are free, so you don't have to spend cash to throw your name in the hat: https://books2read.com/u/bzPKGL and https://books2read.com/u/4jOYYb) I'll be filling a limited number of slots and preference will go to folks able to review on multiple sites.
Thank you so much in advance for considering joining my team!
I am not personally involved in chicken breeding because I do not have the multiple rooms and buildings I would need to start. I have read about the process of breeding selective hybrids on BYC forum. I engage in plant breeding in my garden and orchard. So if I had the opportunity I would probably try it!
I think the UK probably has a really good environment for this type of activity. It has a mild climate and is a real center for poultry breeders and exhibition events. It also must focus on adding value to its operations because it cannot succeed by trying to outproduce other regions.
Thank you so much for the lead! I'll contact them and see if I can learn more about what they've been up to.
Rene Poulin wrote:
Hybrids are really well developed in the UK where small breeders are keeping heirloom breeds alive by using them as parents to create new hybrids that all lay close to 300 eggs per year while consuming less feed. So in these times of crisis when grains are in tight supply and backyard chicken keepers are more numerous than ever, I can’t see why this is not a great trend. Heirloom breeds that are less efficient feed converters on their own, are conserved while creating unique hybrids that can meet modern standards of productivity. You are certainly welcome to use my comments.
Your setup sounds great! I was most intrigued, though, by your last paragraph about chicken keepers in the UK creating new hybrids. Is this something you're personally involved in or can you point me toward whoever is? Thank you so much in advance!
Kristine Keeney wrote:Howdy!
I'm vocal about my appreciation of Dorkings. I love 'em. Of all the different types of chickens we've had over the years, Dorkings have been the continuous thread.
I have had and appreciated most of the birds we ended up with. They are individuals, with interesting breed personalities and individual chickenalities.
Back, about 20 years ago, when we first moved back to Texas, we decided to take a flying leap into livestock with two of the easy choices - rabbits and chickens. I would probably do it differently, if I had it to do over, but ... we were young and full of energy. HA!
We were active with a historical recreationist group - the Society for Creative Anachronism and that probably guided us, due to a certain fascination with questions about how people managed things before electricity and processed sugar, and what livestock and plants did they raise and how did they do it?
That first order was for Silver-grey Dorkings (a historic breed, written about by the Roman, Columella, among others), and a handful of mixed birds soon turned up, too. The neighbors heard (small town gossip) that I was "doing" chickens and I had all the unwanted chicks and random roosters dumped into my yard. I learned quickly that I didn't care for the Leghorns and their relatives. The huge numbers of eggs were great, but their temperament and flighty nature left me cold. I had enjoyed them earlier in life (family of farmers), so it was learning that different breed groups could have different temperaments that threw me.
The Dorkings were the near opposite of the Leghorns. Chill and calm, given to lay smaller and more infrequently, but so easy! The two leghorn roosters nearly killed each other but the Dorking roos hated to be apart. They hung out together and were so funny about it!
Over the years, I have kept Dorkings. The rest of the birds came and went with predators, Sudden Chicken Death Syndrome, and old age or culling, but the Dorkings' numbers got refreshed every year no matter what.
Partridge Cochin was chill and a fun little fluffy butted bully to the younger birds. She laid well and died at 5 years.
My Easter Eggers are personable (chickenable?), smart, and funny. They don't have a broody bone in their bodies, but are so much fun to have around. My current last one (to be added to before the end of the year) likes to hang on the back porch and dart inside the house when I'm not paying attention. I've had them from two different mail order hatcheries and from TSC Spring chicks, and they've been as interesting, though the parentage has differed appreciably.
My Lavender Spotted Orpington is a Big Puffball of Attitude. She likes to be left alone to hang with the other flock matriarchs, mostly my older Silver-grey girls at this point, lays consistently but never frequently, and hasn't shown a bit of broodiness.
The Gold Penciled Wyandottes were a team until one got grabbed by a dog late last year. Beautiful big ladies, easy to see in the yard, opinionated without being stuffy. They were never broody, consistent layers. Good birds with a bit of heft to them. I still have one, who hangs with the rest of the older hens.
Dorkings lay a medium sized cream to light tan colored egg. They are known to have a meaty breast of sweet flavored meat. They taste good to me, and are a compact bird, so ... maybe?
I have the Silver-greys and will be starting a couple of smaller flocks for breeding purposes. Those will be the Single-combed Whites - a Delaware color pattern and strikingly attractive bird, and The Blacks. The roo I currently have is a beautiful Birchen, which isn't correct but I like the look and will be seeing if I can get some Birchen birds going since I have a pullet that matches. I also have some Colored Dorkings and hope to get into the Rose-combed Coloreds, eventually. I'll see if I can find some pictures for you.
I do have a bit of a landrace experiment going on. For the "colored" egg layers, the flock that supports my hobby (I sell eggs for feed money), all that matters is that the eggs be good sized and Not Supermarket Eggs, so I've been planning to hatch out whatever brown and colored eggs I get to see what happens.
I'm always willing to talk about chickens. I'm sure I have other hens and opinions that I've gathered over the years, but .. can't remember right now.
Hm. Can't upload right now. CRF errors and suchlike. Slow internets.
I loved reading about your Dorkings! Any chance you'd like to send a photo to go with your thoughts? If so, please send it/them to email@example.com and I'll likely use your experiences and send you a free copy of the book when it's done.,
Thanks for sharing, Trace and Matt and Steve! I hope everyone will keep these coming. I'm really enjoying reading everyone's chicken breed experiences and have another week or two before I need to compile my favorites to add to th ebook.
Juniper Zen wrote:Hi Anna! I used to read your blog back when I had more time to sit at the computer, and have several of your e-books, including the first edition of the breed selection book. You helped me dream big, and now I have 2 acres of my own!
That makes my day that I was involved near the beginning of your adventure!
If by chance you have a photo of your mixed flock to share, I'd love to have you email it to firstname.lastname@example.org (which will also make it easier to email your copy of the revised book when it's ready). That's such a good point that having every bird in your flock be different makes management simpler in a lot of ways.
Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I highly prefer barnyard mix, because they have fewer health problems, and more robustness, than birds that have undergone the intense inbreeding necessary to be called a breed.
Great answer! Do you by any chance have a photo you can share of your particular barnyard mix? If it's annoying to upload it here, you can email it to me at anna@kitenet (then I'll have your email address for sending over your free book. :-) )
(I'm totally posting this question with an ulterior motive --- I want to use your words/images in a reboot of one of my books! But you can always answer while telling me to keep my sticky fingers off your ideas. )
I'll answer my question first --- we've really enjoyed Australorps for pastured eggs and meat (even though you don't get nearly as much breast meat as from Cornish Cross). When we're only going for eggs, hybrids like Golden Comet had floated our boat.
But I know every homestead is a little different and I'd love to hear what your tried-and-true has turned out to be. If you're willing to let me excerpt from your post to include your data in the second edition of my chicken-breed-selection book (coming out this spring), please mention that. I'll send you a free copy of the ebook once it's ready if your words/pictures end up inside.
Hope you're enjoying the first signs of spring wherever you're at!
Mark and I are working on a video course about cover crops, due to launch this summer or fall. To that end, we're looking for a few enthusiasts who are willing to brainstorm the best cover crop for their garden/farm on recorded webcam as part of the course. Think of this as a free consulting call from the author of Homegrown Humus with bonus worksheets, perfect for the non-camera-shy!
Interested? Post below with the following info: your rough location (country and region), whether you're a home gardener or farmer, whether you live in a city/suburban/or rural area, whether you till, and the top problem you're trying to solve with cover crops.
Not interested but think your friends might be? Please share! I'd like to include very different perspectives, so it would be great if this request spread far and wide.
The Ultimate Guide to Soil:
The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops,
Compost, and a Healthier Home
by Anna Hess
Anna Hess is a homesteader, writer, and blogger whose first book, The Weekend Homesteader, helped thousands of homesteaders-to-be find ways to fit their dreams into the hours leftover from a full-time job.
Grow twice the fruits and vegetables in half the space on the farm, in the backyard, or in your window!
Have you noticed the extraordinary flavors and yields emanating from even a small garden when the soil is just right? If you’ve ever been envious of your neighbor’s dirt or just curious about homesteading, then The Ultimate Guide to Soil is perfect for you.
The book begins with a personality test for your soil, then uses that information to plan a course of action for revitalizing poor soil and turning good dirt into great earth. Next, you’ll learn to start and maintain a no-till garden, to balance nutrients with remineralization, and to boost organic matter with easy cover crops.
Don’t forget the encyclopedic overview of organic soil amendments at the end. Old standbys like manures and mulches are explained in depth along with less common additions such as bokashi compost and castings from worms and black soldier fly larvae. Learn when hugelkultur, biochar, paper, and cardboard do and don’t match your garden needs, then read about when and how to safely use urine and humanure around edible plantings.
With an emphasis on simple techniques suitable for the backyard gardener, The Ultimate Guide to Soil gives you the real dirt on good soil. Maybe next year your neighbor will be envious of you!
This ebook includes the complete text of Personality Tests for Your Soil, Small-Scale No-Till Gardening Basics, Balancing Soil Nutrients and Acidity, and Soil Amendments for the Organic Garden.
Cover crops are a simple, cheap way to boost your soil’s organic matter, to fight weeds, to prevent erosion, to attract pollinators, and to keep the ecosystem in balance. Unfortunately, most information on growing cover crops is written for people who plow their soil every year and are willing to spray herbicides. You can get all of the same benefits in a no-till garden, though, if you’re clever.
Homegrown Humus details five no-till winners in depth — buckwheat, sweet potatoes, oilseed radishes, rye, and oats. Profiles of other species suggest gardening conditions when you might want to try out sunflowers, annual ryegrass, barley, Austrian winter peas, crimson clover, cowpeas, or sunn hemp as well.
Meanwhile, the book delves into finding cover-crop seeds, planting cover crops in a no-till garden, and easily killing cover crops without tilling or herbicide use. Understanding the C:N ratio of cover crops helps determine how long to wait between killing cover crops and planting vegetables, as well as how to maximize the amount of humus you’re adding to your soil.
Cover crops are an advanced gardening technique bound to increase your vegetable yields, but are simple enough for beginners. Give your garden a treat — grow some buckwheat!
This second edition is updated with three new chapters and contains a total of 54 photos. 102 pages.
Some of you may be familiar with my book, The Weekend Homesteader, which came out a couple of years ago. I'm currently putting the finishing touches on The Naturally Bug-Free Garden, which will be published by Skyhorse in spring 2015, and I'm looking for some first-hand accounts to expand the book's reach.
First-hand accounts of your experience with controlling pest insects in the garden without chemicals, combined with print-resolution photos, are most likely to fit the bill. I'm especially keen on hearing from folks who use livestock for pest control in the garden and from folks who have to deal with pests like slugs and grasshoppers that aren't much of a problem on our farm. So far, I've accepted submissions from folks who attract salamanders and toads with hugelkultur, who bring mantises into the garden with ragweed, and who use an array of flowers to attract pollinators. You can email your submissions to email@example.com. (Please only include one photo per email if the file are large --- otherwise your email will bounce.)
Lauren --- I recommend working on your skills and learning the region. Even though you might not want to put too much energy into long-term fertility building in a rental situation, if they let you use part of the yard, it's worth trying your hand at a small garden and even a fruit tree to start your learning curve. You might be able to keep chickens and/or honeybees in a rental situation, and can definitely work on your skills about cooking with and preserving real food in season. Good luck!
Alex --- Sorry, didn't see your followup question until just now....
We have a Chesapeake Bay retriever, and so far we just feed her dog food. (Well, and scraps from the deer we hunt and sometimes livers from the chickens we kill.) Definitely not all that sustainable, but she does pull her weight on the homestead.
Our girls sometimes split up, but we've got 10 of them. With just a few hens, I'd think they'd all stay together, especially if they don't feel entirely safe.
Usually, our hens split up for one of two reasons. Either someone needs to go back to the coop to lay an egg (which you could prevent by waiting to let them out until everyone has laid), or we have subflocks happening. Subflocks are never good, but are hard to prevent if you're trying to add new chickens to an existing flock --- they don't integrate right away. If you get all your chickens from the same place, they should be nice to each other and stick together.
With a good rooster, your flock might make it. I used to think our rooster was worthless until we started free ranging the hens in the winter, but now I think he's worth his weight in gold. I'm not sure even a tough cat could beat a good rooster.
Deb --- You might try soaking the ground and then the components as you put down kill mulches and hugelkultur. That's what folks seem to recommend in dry climates, and it can't hurt (if you have the water on hand).
Darrin --- I hear that question a lot about getting a spouse on board. My husband is thinking of adding a weekly relationship advice column to our blog --- maybe I'll add that in as one of the starter questions.
Henrica --- I actually have an ebook on amazon about incubation --- http://www.amazon.com/Permaculture-Chicken-Incubation-Handbook-ebook/dp/B007QF1UME/ --- and have another one in the works about pasturing chickens. I got sidetracked with the one I'm in the middle of about living in a trailer, but should be back to work on my pasture book by winter and maybe have it out by spring if there aren't too many farm catastrophes in between.
NJ --- I've written a lot about my insect control philosophy above. The book doesn't have in-depth information about bugs, but does help you build a diverse ecosystem so they're much less of a problem.
Patricia --- Your question might get moved to its own thread, but I'll answer it anyway. We haven't experimented with algae, but did try duckweed, which is reputed to be a great chicken feed. Unfortunately, our birds turned up their snooty beaks.... On the other hand, those same birds also ignored comfrey, but some broiler chicks this spring found tender comfrey leaves growing under the peach and scarfed them down, so it might be worth another try on the duckweed.
Deb --- Gooseberries and currants are perfect for northerners. I prefer the former because I'm a fresh fruit fanatic, but jelly eaters love currants. As a bonus, I've read (but haven't tried myself) that both gooseberries and currants will fruit in partial shade, which makes them a good fit for forest gardens.
You might try hugelkultur donuts around plain soil. I use that method to expand my tree mounds, which gives the wood time to rot before the plant roots reach it. I don't put soil in mine either, since I don't need immediate decomposition, just mulch it heavily and wait. I'd put down your logs first, then the wood chips and bark over top. That'll be high in carbon, but if you get enough water to it, I'd think the plant roots could start using it in one or two years.
Jason --- I'd recommend a lot of organic matter in there. Hugelkultur is great, or you can grow cover crops for a few years before planting trees. The more organic matter you have in your soil, the better!
I can't speak to the larger question, but do recommend that you start small if you haven't grown anything on the land before. When we first moved to our farm, I spent a couple of hundred bucks on fruit trees...and every single one died. In the process, I learned that we had a major deer problem, that the topsoil in certain areas was eroded away, and that the water table in another area was so high I had to plant on raised mounds. If I'd planted one or two test trees, I could have learned all this and not lost quite so much money.... Good luck!
Deb --- We battled deer like crazy in our early years. While a fence is awesome (try a chicken moat for effective, low cost deer deterring: http://avianaquamiser.com/posts/Chicken_moat/), my husband did come up with a crazy solution that mostly worked. If you live in suburbia, this won't work, but he used a drill to turn a chain which made a golf ball clang against metal at intervals: http://www.backyarddeer.com/freeplans/. Five of these around our one acre core homestead kept out deer 98% of the time, but when a power outage let the deer creep in, they were no longer deterred. The trick is to make sure the deer never get a taste for those strawberry and sweet potato leaves or you'll have to work very, very hard to keep them out.
Justin --- Chickens would be number one, but since you have them and want more, I'd move on to honeybees, then rabbits. If you like birds, maybe pigeons next? None of those need extensive pastures or too much care, but if you have a big grassy area, you might choose differently.
Justin --- Chickens would be number one, but since you have them and want more, I'd move on to honeybees, then rabbits. If you like birds, maybe pigeons next? None of those need extensive pastures or too much care, but if you have a big grassy area, you might choose differently.
Burra --- Sorry to let all the questions build up on this post. I know that's just what you were trying to avoid!
Alex --- Although I'm pretty sure a rat killed some baby chicks last year, we've barely seen rats on our farm. I suspect the reason is our hard-working farm dog, and maybe our lazy couch cats.
Are you sure they're rats, though? I could be wrong, but I haven't heard about burrowing rats, while voles do adore digging in the garden. Of course, my answer to voles is the same as above, so it might not make much difference....
Tim --- I used to use organic chemicals for pest control, but have since found that 80% of the problems go away if you maintain a natural habitat (lots of beneficial insects) and keep the plants stress-free with no-till techniques (mulching, compost, etc.) For 80% of the remaining pest problems, I simply pick the bugs right when they're getting started --- in season, I go through once a day (or at least three times a week if things are busy) squashing cabbage worms and dropping Japanese beetles into a container of water to go to the chickens.
I figure that the remaining pest problems are a result of mismanagement on my part, so I research as much as I can and use the biology of the insect against it. One example was asparagus beetles --- they used to defoliate my plants until I started raking the mulch off the beds and cutting down the asparagus tops to add to the deep bedding in the chicken coop over the winter. The chickens ate any overwintering beetles that tried to fly back to my asparagus beds, and the next spring I only saw one beetle (who I squashed.) Ever since, we haven't seen any.
We can't seem to eradicate the vine borers, but have minimized their damage with a two-prong attack. First, we tested a bunch of different squash varieties until we found ones the borers don't like as much (butternuts for winter squash and yellow crookneck for summer squash.) That completely solves the problem for winter squash, but the summer squash are still bored to some extent, so I succession plant them throughout the early summer, with a new bed of squash going in every two weeks or so. That way, when one bed is succumbing to the borers, another is just starting to bear.
Luckily for us, stink bugs aren't a problem. (The new invasive hasn't made it down to us yet.)
I know it's a complicated answer, but I think it's a complicated problem with no single right answer. Each bug has its own Achilles heel.
John --- We just had some wild oyster mushrooms for lunch today --- delicious! The other main thing we wildcraft is venison, but I've gathered some herbs from time to time. Although it's not really wildcrafting, gathering apples and pears from abandoned trees was a family tradition when I was younger, but you have to know the spots and who doesn't mind having their fruits picked off the ground --- we haven't learned that in our new location yet.
I used to pick wild blackberries and raspberries as a kid too, but since we have the space, I've found that it's actually less time intensive to grow improved varieties --- much less scratchy picking time. Pawpaws grow all over, but only fruit in full sun, so they're actually tough to find in our area. (The trees are often an understory plant in floodplain woods.) Persimmons can also be a bit tricky to find --- we've planted an Asian persimmon and have some American seedlings ready to go in the ground this year to fill up that gap.
My favorite way of preserving fruit is in fruit leather. We started out dehydrating in an old car, but have upgraded to an electric dehyrater since we like the fruit leather so much!
I haven't had any experience with locust beans...yet. That and a lot of other plants are still on my experimental list.
William --- I think that's the toughest part of homesteading. I wrote a lunchtime series about our techniques on our blog --- http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Coping_with_paradise/ (and the other pages linked at the bottom of that one.) The book also has some more polished information along the same lines. I hope it helps!
Jennifer --- That's related to my answer to William above. For us, a schedule really helps. We split up the day into segments and spend one three hour segment every day Monday through Friday on farm work. Of course, that's much harder to do if you don't work at home....
Vidad --- We've been focusing most of our protein energy so far on chickens/eggs. We might try fattening two pigs next year as a way of clearing a bit more area that can turn into good pasture. In my opinion, the most ecologically sound way to grow protein is pastured herbivores (sheep, cows), but we just don't have grass to grow them on at the moment. Shooting deer as they try to eat the garden is a stopgap measure....
Alex --- Feel free to throw out any more questions you think of!
We've done a bit of experimentation with grain, but it all came to a halt a year or so ago when we decided to boost the protein levels in our diet. That has largely cut grain out of our meals, and made it a much lower priority in the garden.
I had great yields from amaranth the one year I grew it --- http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/How_to_thresh_amaranth/. The only really tricky part was getting it to sprout --- if I tried again, I might try starting it inside. Amaranth isn't a grass like the true grains, and there are even ornamental versions, so I wouldn't be surprised if your neighbors didn't know what you were growing. The downside of that is that you don't get the same straw-like mulch you do from the true grains.
Buckwheat is another not-really-grain that's awfully easy to grow. We use it as a cover crop, and occasionally I've let it go to seed and harvested the whole plants to put in the chicken coop (refreshing the deep bedding and feeding them at the same time.) If I were harvesting the seeds, though, it might be tougher than a traditional grain since you mostly just strip the seeds by hand.
Of the traditional grains, the only ones I've tried were hull-less oats (much less hardy than the hulled oats I've grown as a cover crop) and wheat (tough to grow in our area because you have to plant late to skip the Hessian fly.)
On the other hand, root crops tend to be very easy (in my area, at least) and give you just as much food per acre as grains. Sweet potatoes do wonderfully for us, and although their vines aren't straw-like, they do make a top-notch mulch for trees.
Starting off with the hard questions already. I'll pretend you asked about the grapes first, even though you didn't, because they're easier. Grapes are a wonderful plant to start learning to root because they take nearly no work. You can see my technique here: http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Starting_grapes_from_hardwood_cuttings/. If you do everything properly, it's a plant-it-and-forget-it cutting, and you'll get at least 50% success without using rooting hormone.
Now, to answer your real question --- I haven't decided about the figs yet! I got lucky and found three partially rooted cuttings when I was cutting back my fig so I could protect it for the winter. Those I planted straight out in their final locations with a bag of leaves tied around them. Hopefully they'll survive and grow.
I've read a bunch of different techniques for the unrooted cuttings, and am still making up my mind. Maybe someone else will chime in who's successfully rooted figs?