Category Archives: Gardening

Getting Started with Container Gardening

Our food supply becomes a little less stable and more expensive each day because of drought and flooding, transportation costs and world issues. Everyone can grow at least a little bit of their own food. It’s simple to do, doesn’t cost a lot of money, takes little time, and can take up little space. Let’s get started.

Containers can be small clay pots, large wooden planters, plastic saved from your kitchen, and everything in between. Short term, we like to start with recycled containers. Any plastic container you can poke drainage holes in should work.

Container Gardening, salad container

Salad container used for leaf lettuce.

This is a container from mixed greens purchased in the grocery store. A few inches of seed starting medium mixed with a cup of worm castings is all it takes to support this cut-and-come-again salad mix. Notice the tomato seedling in the left corner? It will be transplanted into its own pot.

Container Gardening, Coral Shell Pea

Coral Shell Pea

This is a Coral shell pea. It’s a small plant that with vines only two feet long, perfect for a six inch clay pot. It will stand up straight until it’s seven or eight inches tall then lean over and hang over the edge. Choose a short vine variety for small containers.

Do you have extra coffee mugs cluttering your cupboard? As long as you avoid over watering or can drill a hole through the bottom they make great containers. This mug holds store bought celery. It will develop roots and continue to grow.

Container Gardening, Coffee Mug

This coffee mug holds celery.

Transplant seedlings into containers with the same guidelines as if you were planting them into the garden. Each plant must have enough room for its roots to spread. The container should be heavy enough with soil and plants to keep it from tipping over if you move it outside.

Look in your seed catalogs for a note or other indication marking varieties suitable for containers. It’s become such a popular way to grow vegetables now that many companies point these out to us. These are some of our favorites:

  • Cucumber – Salad Bush, Space Master. Two plants per one gallon container. Look for words like Bush and Space in their name.
  • Bush Beans – Tendercrop, Derby. Three plants per one gallon container.
  • Tomatoes – Determinate varieties stop growing when they reach their maximum height. A five gallon container will hold one tomato plant. Super Bush is an excellent choice. It maxes out at three feet tall, is very frost hardy, and has three inch tomatoes. The stem is dense and keeps the plant upright with little or no staking. Tomatoes love the additional warmth containers offer.
  • Peppers – Probably the least picky plants we’ve grown in containers. Provide a minimum of a two gallon container. Pepper plants have large roots when they have enough roots and might be more than four feet tall in good soil. Jalepeno and Ace bell varieties do very well.
  • Swiss chard – Peppermint and Bright Lights are tasty and attractive. Two plants fit well in a one gallon container. You can choose a container that is wider than it is deep. Avoid over heating these cool weather plants.
  • Tatsoi and Boc Choi do well in containers. Choose a “baby” variety of Boc Choi such as Purple or Shuko. You can combine tatsoi and boc choi together in one container to add a variety of color and make the container attractive. Avoid over heating.
  • Cabbage – Little Jade or other Napa varieties do well in container gardens. Be sure to place them toward the back or in a partly shady area so their roots don’t over heat.
  • Zucchini – who knew! Astia zucchini has performed well in an 18″ container every year for us. Hand pollinating is recommended for good production.
  • Leaf Lettuce does well in containers. For variety, choose different colors and leaf textures. Leaf lettuce can be cut and left to grow again for another harvest. Salad Bowl, Red Sails, and Black Seeded Simpson do well with container gardening.
Leaf lettuce in a hanging basket

Leaf lettuce in a hanging basket

Container gardening outdoors requires some attention. Soil can dry out quickly in the heat and wind, or become flooded in heavy rain. Check them now and then to be sure roots haven’t grown out of or soil hasn’t blocked drainage holes.

Use a soilless mix or part soil mix for your containers. Avoid using 100% garden soil as it will compact over time, blocking good drainage and make it difficult for roots to spread. Your garden center will be able to show you what they offer and explain which brand might be best for your particular containers. It will contain vermiculite or perlite, and have a fertilizer such as composted cow manure in its mix. If you live in a hot and/or windy area you’ll want a mix with soil because it retains moisture better than soilless mixes.

Pole beans in a container garden

Pole beans need a trellis to attach themselves to.

Carrots are a great vegetable for kids. Seeds placed around the outer edge of the container will be able to be seen before they reach maturity and are pulled. Choose a container at least 12 inches deep, or grow a miniature variety.

You can avoid poor soil and space issues and still grow a lot of food by grouping containers together. Keep like plants together, such as tomatoes or peppers, to aid in pollination. Place containers wherever you have room. They don’t have all have to be together. Is there room for pots at the base of your mailbox? How about on your steps?

Do you have questions? Suggestions? Something to add? Comments are open!


Cool Weather Gardening

What a winter. It seems like it might never end in many areas. It’s nice to day dream about cool weather gardening while the garden is still covered in snow and weeks away from thawing.

Cool Weather Gardening

Homesteader Supply has a long list of cool weather gardening seeds. You can wait until the ground is ready to plant, and you can start some of your seeds indoors to get a jump start on the growing season. Seeds started six to eight weeks before the soil is ready for transplants gives you plenty of time for germination, transplanting into containers, and growth. You want your seedlings to be well developed without being root bound. Transplant shock is minimized when the roots aren’t too heavily disturbed.

Detroit Dark Red Beet, cool weather gardening

Beets are a good choice for cool weather gardening.

Beets can be seeded a few weeks before your average last frost date. There are multiple seeds in each cluster so be sure to plant them at least two inches apart, and be ready to thin when the time comes.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Pac Choi, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach and turnip are cool weather plants. If a seed package says “sow as soon as the ground can be worked,” take that to heart. The ground can be worked when you squeeze a fistful of soil and it crumbles when you let go. If water drips from the soil or it forms a mud ball rather than crumbling it needs a bit more time to drain. Planting in soil that’s too wet can cause a loss of seeds by rotting in the cold soil, and by crusting. If the soil crusts as it dries the cotyledons will have a hard time breaking through. Better to wait a bit longer than lose seeds and have to replant.

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Pac Choi and kale are great seeds to start indoors to have ready for transplanting. Cauliflower isn’t quite as cold hardy as the others in this list and should be started indoors for early spring transplanting. Start cauliflower seeds two to three weeks later than the others to give the ground more time to warm. When plants are stressed by cold or heat the heads might take on a pink to purple tinge.

Snow Crown cauliflower seedling, cool weather gardening

Snow Crown cauliflower seedling

Cool weather plants don’t have to be grown only in cool weather. When your peas are spent you can toss the plants into a compost bin, amend the soil, and plant again. You’ll want to time this so that plants blossom after the hottest part of summer. Most cool hardy plants won’t be affected by a light frost, and for some, like peas, a day under the late fall snow will be just fine.

Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables?

Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables?

Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables?


Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables? The concept makes sense if you remember that vegetables are living entity. But what about after they are harvested… are they still able to change their nutritive dependent upon the time of the day, lighting, darkness, and other factors?

I decided to search for more information on the topic of the timing of when to harvest and eat vegetables based on the best nutritive value and found there really is limited information.  And this most likely is because the research is really just beginning.  Here is what I found on recent research by Janet Braam.    If you know of more information, please comment and share with us.

Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables?

Is there a best time to harvest and consume your vegetables?

Vegetables Respond to a Daily Clock, Even After Harvest

Interview by Ira Flatow on NPR  June 21, 2013

“Vegetables plucked from grocery store shelves can be made to respond to patterns of light and darkness, according to a report in the journal Current Biology. Janet Braam and colleagues found that cabbages change their levels of phytonutrients throughout a daily cycle.  Read More…

A Homestead Must Have… Squeezo!

While the mid-west was battling the worst drought since the 1950’s, Arizona was catching the missing moisture! Jerri had a wonderful garden and a bumper crop of tomatoes. She really wanted to make some tomato sauce. We sell Squeezo’s on our website, so Jerri placed an order (she knows people)… She hooked it up on the counter with the built in clamp (as seen on the left) and set up a dish for the sauce and a bowl for the peels and seeds. To say she was thrilled is an understatement! The Squeezo couldn’t have done a more amazing job at creating the best tomato sauce Jerri had ever made! No seeds, no bits of skin, just amazing tomato sauce! In fact, everything she used it for reinforced the decision to purchase a Squeezo!

I know the garden season has wound down and time for putting up vegetables is over for the majority of the country. The Squeezo would make a great birthday gift, holiday gift or maybe just something you might want before the next gardening season gets into full swing. I certainly know that based on her raving reviews, it will be a must have for me before the garden starts producing! Squeezo is manufactured right here in the USA by some homesteading friends of ours… Homestead Helpers and Best Products. Like many other companies we work with, we’ve agreed long ago that companies with similar product lines can work together and even become friends!! Check out the history of the Squeezo at the link above!

Enjoy the pictures of Jerri’s sauce making venture with the last of her garden tomatoes. (Yes, I begged for pictures since she wouldn’t stop bragging about the Squeezo!!!)

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and as always… Happy Homesteading!!


New Book on Fermenting Foods

Homesteader’s Supply has often given a “shout out” to Wardeh Harmon because we believe so strongly in what she does! The education she provides folks on the benefits of natural raw foods as well as the heath benefits of fermentation! And to continue our tradition… It’s our pleasure to carry and feature her newest book…

Fermenting Foods!
by Wardeh Harmon
2012  304 pages

Wardeh’s newest book about Fermenting Foods on the market today! Just published!

This book offers advice on the process of fermenting foods, providing information on how it works and the equipment required, and includes step-by-step instructions for making pickles, salsa, condiments, hummus, yogurt, and cheese.

This is the first series book to discuss the wonderful health benefits of live-culture foods and the techniques for preparing them.

Includes over 100 delicious recipes for all types of fermentation.

Check out her online class on fermenting and tell her jerri at Homesteaders Supply sent you!


Wardeh (‘Wardee’) Harmon lives in Southwest Oregon with her husband, Jeff, and their three children, Haniya, Naomi and Mikah. They raise a dairy cow, chickens and goats, and garden co-operatively with friends.

Besides homeschooling her children, making cheese, old-fashioned pickles and lots of other fermented foods, Wardeh teaches online classes in the fundamentals of traditional cooking, sourdough, cultured dairy, cheesemaking and lacto-fermentation at GNOWFGLINS eCourse ( She blogs at GNOWFGLINS ( sharing recipes, videos and anecdotes of her family’s life.

GNOWFGLINS is an acronym to show how Wardeh and her family enjoy “God’s Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season.” 

Prepping the garden in the early winter

Winter’s chill is upon us. Arizona had the first hard freeze the week. The tomato plants that were lush and green last week are now wilted, the leaves curled into themselves burnt from the hard freeze. Half grown green tomatoes fill the vines. The greens of the sweet onions are also wilted and drooping. The freeze has killed off the last of the summer’s growth and now it’s time to prep the garden for next year.

I have livestock. A Jersey dairy cow and her calf and an old quarter horse who’s retirement is to hang with the cows. I also have a small flock of chickens and a breeding pair of emu. The pens and pasture are raked weekly and the compost pile has been cooking all summer. Now that the garden has been hit by the freeze, it’s time to pull up the dead plants, seek out the few onions that remain in the dirt and prep it for winter. And in prepping for winter, for me I mean prepping for next spring. I’ll move the compost pile that has been cooking all summer over the garden beds and that have lost dirt to digging chickens, dust storms and the great Arizona winds. I’m hoping to double the depth of the beds this year because some of my plants struggled with root depth and the hard Arizona clay at the bottom of the beds.

Come December, it will be garlic planting time. If I can get the compost moved and keep it watered on the warmer days it should be ready to host garlic in a couple of months. I plan to create an herb section this coming spring, eager for fresh basil and rosemary to cook with.

How do you prep your garden for winter? Do any of you grow garlic? Eager for comments and good conversation!