Anna Hess

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since Sep 17, 2012
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You can read far more than you want to know about me and my husband on our blog, with the highlights at .  I learned about permaculture a few years ago and have been happily exploring the intersections of ecology, gardening, and chickens ever since.  I love to garden, read, and write, and my husband's invention of a POOP-free chicken waterer ( pays the bills so I can explore my passions.
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Southwest Virginia
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Recent posts by Anna Hess

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.

Thank you in advance for your help!
3 weeks ago
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.

1 month ago
Bug-Free Organic Gardening:
Controlling Pest Insects Without Chemicals
Anna Hess

Put down those harmful sprays and pick up the tricks of natural pest control!

Are you sick and tired of pesky insects in your garden? Do you want to stay away from pesticides and harmful poisons that could be hazardous to your garden and your health? If you answered yes to both of those questions, Bug-Free Organic Gardening has all the answers to your troubles.

This expanded third edition (previously entitled The Naturally Bug-Free Garden) shows how to bring your garden ecosystem into balance so that beneficial insects and larger animals do the work of pest control for you. With more than a decade's experience growing all of her family's vegetables, Hess sums her knowledge on topics such as:

-Succession planting
-Choosing resistant plant varieties
-Shielding plants with row covers
-Timing plantings to bypass bugs
-And so much more!

Get ready to grow beautiful, organic vegetables for yourself and your family. With the help of this photo-rich text, your garden can also be naturally bug-free.

1 month ago
Homegrown Humus
Anna Hess

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.

1 month ago
Thank you so much for giving my course a try and recommending it! As an additional inducement to try my course out, you can grab the course for 35% off by following this link until 11/9/22:

I really appreciate your support!
3 months ago
I'll take one too.
4 months ago
Thanks for the bump! I did get a few great entries, but I've now turned in the manuscript, so unfortunately there's no time for any more. Thanks to everyone for their help!
8 years ago
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 (Please only include one photo per email if the file are large --- otherwise your email will bounce.)

What's in it for you? You can win either the prizes mentioned in this post: or in this post: (your choice). Plus, you'll get to see your name in print, and I'll include the URL of your website if you want. I wish I could offer you cold, hard cash too, but small publishers don't give big advances.

Thanks in advance for your submissions!
8 years ago
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!
10 years ago
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.
10 years ago