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Freeze/Frost Probability Tables for Each State

Planting-SeedsIt’s that time of the year again. I’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail and I’ve downloaded a few from seed company websites. If you are anything like me, you are just itching to plant something, ANYTHING.

I’ve had Sage, New Mexico Chili, and Jalapeno Peppers growing inside since last fall. In Charleston South Carolina that means they have really only been indoors since late November when it started to get cold. Here it is the beginning of February and I’ve been putting my plants outside for a little sunshine. Yesterday we had a gentle rain. I danced in it. It was 74 degrees here! Oh how I adore living in the South!

My living room has become a seedling nursery and I have been wondering when I may put everything outside permanently, or at least until the next fall.

Embedded in this post is a link to the USA National Climatic Data Center.

“Given are the dates of probable first and last occurrence, during the year beginning August 1 and ending July 31 of freeze related temperatures, probable duration where the temperature exceeds certain freeze related values; and the probability of experiencing a given temperature, or less, during the year period August 1 through July 31. For the fall and spring dates of occurrence, and freeze-free period, probabilities are given for three temperatures (36, 32, and 28 °f) at three probability levels (10, 50, and 90 percent).”

I saw my dates, I have a list of when I should start my seeds according to plant variety, and all of the necessary supplies are ready. Today I start my first veggie seeds and I am so excited!


Happy Planting Ya’ll J


Pallet Gardening

Great tutorial


If you are like me, you don’t have a ton of space for vegetable gardening.  So this summer, I’m going to work hard to bring innovative gardening to my yard.  My first experiment is with a pallet – so far, so good.  I’m excited to share my pallet gardening process with you here….

First things first, this project is about repurposing a product.  I’m excited to say the project is very inexpensive and is great for the environment.  If you see a company that has a pile of pallets sitting around, they will most likely give you one or two or ten of them.  They don’t want them, but you do, so just ask.  I was able to pick a few up from my favorite garden center, The Garden Supply Company in Cary, NC.   Special thanks to the folks over there.

Lets get started!

Supplies Needed:

  • Plants
  • Dirt
  • Pallet

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Best Planting Advice Ever






Milk Paint Recipe

Steve Tomlin Crafts

Blue spindle back dining chair

I’m a big fan of painted woodenware and have been experimenting for a while now with different recipes of homemade paint. The egg based tempera I used on my spindleback chair was lovely but takes several weeks to dry properly so I’ve been researching making milk paint. This is a soft paint that covers well and ages beautifully as the paint wears and develops a patina. Milk paint was traditionally made by souring the milk to separate out the curds which make the base for the paint however I’ve been looking for a simpler alternative which is easy to make up in small quantities. In the US powdered milk paint is available in various colours which are simply mixed up with water and this is what I want for my own work. I can then make up a dry batch with the colour I want and then mix up just…

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Cordwood Flooring

Really cool!

Cordwood Construction ™

Cordwood Flooring

My neighbor Steve called up the other day and asked if I’d like to come over to see his new floor. Steve is a contractor by trade, he does beautiful work, so I jumped at the chance. When I walked in the door my mouth fell open. He had built a cordwood floor! It was beautiful, warm and artistic. The colors were tan and brown and the floor was polished to a shine.

Here is the latest (with instructions) on the cordwood floor from an article we wrote for Backhome Magazine.
I asked Steve how he built this floor. He said he had bought some old hardwood barn beams at an auction and decided to use them for flooring. First he cut hundreds of 5/8″ “log end” slices on a bandsaw. Then he placed the slices onto a plywood subfloor. He kept them in place by using…

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Ground to Ground

Not sure what else to call it really – coffee grounds are crack for worms.

If you add coffee grounds into a worm farm they will go nuts for it, reducing the whole pile into luscious vermicast in no time.

Heh even better because it only does them good.

And now via the power of digital images, I bring you my earthworm drug of choice…

worm on crack

Plenty of fat worms, baby worms, and eggs.

worms in their castings

One of my YouTube videos on the combination of worms and coffee.

Now look at the condition of these large, flat bodied compost worms. In this case the worms were trying to escape the compost bin on a hot day, which had just been filled with coffee grounds and some quail manure. A case of them just saying no to drugs?

coffee grounds drug

Go collect some coffee grounds. On behalf of the worms I thank you!

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Free Garden Seed Catalogs – USA

Heirloom-Seed-CatalogsThis is a post reblogged from a fantastic site, as well as a search via Bing.  Enjoy:)


Town & Country Gardening

I didn’t make this up! Plucked from world news headlines. ‘Really’

hang-over-cureScientists believe asparagus could be ward off the effects of a hangover. Scientists have found chemicals in the vegetable also protect liver cells against toxins.
Experiments on human cells found the minerals and amino acids in asparagus can replacing those lost through drinking which can often lead to a headache. They also relieve stress on the liver.
Scientists at the Jeju National University in South Korea recommend serving the leaves as well as the tender shoots.
Researcher B Y Kim, said: “These results provide evidence of how the biological functions of asparagus can help alleviate alcohol hangover and protect liver cells.”
The study was published in the Journal of Food Science.

elephant-coffeeElephant dung coffee: In the lush hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants is excreting some of the world’s most expensive coffee. Trumpeted as earthy in…

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The Harmony of Permaculture

Permaculture_Garden“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of landscape and people. The philosophy behind it is one of, working with, rather than working against, nature. The ethical basis of permaculture is: to take care of the earth; the people, and to set limits on consumption and population.” Bill Mollison, 2002

I disagree with his assessment because on some level I believe each person has the right to decide how many children one has. It’s a very personal decision that I will fight to uphold. Reproductive Rights. Yes, I have opinions and I’m not afraid to state them. You have them, too. And I stand on your right to have them. Personal Responsibility.

Initially, permaculture is a technique to design systems with better energy efficiency. The question is asked, “why is the forest so abundant, but agricultural systems are not?”  Permaculture has an ethic that follows three principles:

  1. Take Care of the Earth. She is your Mother, so instead of saying, “the earth belongs to us, rather say. We belong to the Earth.”
  2. Take Care of the People; the social permaculture
  3. Share the Surplus, which is also connected to economical sustainability, because we are not here to live a life of consumerism, but one of simplicity

Sounds a bit Socialist and religious in its approach to me, but hey, whatever works 🙂

The way we have been farming for the past few generations is aggressive for all involved; nature, agriculture, and tradesmen, making permaculture more an issue of economics. Permaculture has sustainable a dimension. It takes us to a logic in which we interfere less, save energy, and get more in return. Nature has its own speed and I respect that.

The question I most have about permaculture is how is it going to change our current farming methodology? While I can easily see using this on urban lots that lie fallow and on to small acreage farms, I have trouble envisioning this on farms that encompass hundreds & thousands of acres. So far a comprehensive study has not been completed. I saw a post by a doctorate student endeavoring to study permaculture from a scientific stand point. He is in fundraising mode so he can do this work. Sure hope it works out for him.

There will be more on this topic as I research, learn, & put into practice what I learn. Stay Tuned 🙂

Potatoes: Nearly A Half-Bushel Per Foot


I LOVE discovering ways to increase my yield of produce. I stumbled upon this post via a Pinterest pal. I love technology as much as I love gardening, farming, & homesteading. Wonderful stuff!

Although it’s late in the season to start growing much, we can read what others are doing and begin to formulate our own plans for next years planting season. I enjoy the “downtime” of fall & winter after the hectic growing season & preservation flurry of activity. When January rolls around and seed catalogs start coming in the mail I am like a kid at Christmas!

I like  Fred’s Garden Gate instructions for increasing the potato yield with wire fencing and filling it with compost. Much more attractive than the old tire route 🙂

Enjoy the post. I know I do!

by Fred Davis, MG, Hill Gardens of Maine

Welcome through Fred’s Garden Gate! Well, it’s too late for this season—at least in Central Maine—but there’s still time to prepare and plan a very different way to grow potatoes next season. 

Early this Spring (2000), I ordered my Dark Red Norland potatoes from Johnny’s and decided I’d had enough of rows and rows of spuds taking up most of the prime space in our veggie patch. So….I borrowed a concept from a distant friend, highly refined it, and now grow them vertically! The up-side: where 5 pounds of spud “seed” formerly planted about 40 feet of row, now the same plants occupy a circular space 2-1/2 feet across by 36″ tall. And considering the harvest rate, that cooks down to just short of a bushel and a half for the space used! The only down-side that I can see: the planting tends to dry out quicker than if planted directly in the ground.  Here’s the deal: 

Find  yourself about ten feet of 36″ wide “hog wire” that has wire spacing of 1″ by 2″, then roll it into a vertical “cylinder” (now 3-feet tall) and lace it together with either wire or synthetic cord.

Once laced securely, it’s time to cut the openings through which your potato “seed” will be inserted. Each hole will be approximately 3″ by 4″ – just large enough to push the “seed” through, and for the plant to grow through. I arranged mine so there were four openings tall on the cylinder, and 10 openings on each of the four tiers.

Stand this now completed cylinder on one end in the full sun, and drive a stout stake outside on each side (at “9 O’clock” and “3 O’clock”) to keep it standing on end.


The next step involves a wheelbarrow and some elbow-grease: fill this wire enclosure right to the top with the freshest compost or very high organic matter soil— not the usual stuff (“dirt”) you usually grow your potatoes in!—you can get your hands on, and slightly shake the cage a little to settle it down. I used 100% compost—a biologically hot-rot product using my own 21-day, no-turn composting method (see the article in archives: Fast Composting! (use your Back-Button to return directly to this page). Moisten thoroughly and then let it sit for a couple of hours to drain out.

Note: Another system similar to this uses, instead of wire, a relatively rigid recycled plastic sheet with convenient holes drilled for the plants, which you’re supposed to roll into a cylinder, fasten, and plant as you fill. In my experience, planting in layers from the bottom up inside the enclosure is fraught with an annoying handicap: by the time planting has reached the top, the bottom layers have compressed, forcing the already planted potato seed down and away from the hole. As it sprouts, more often than not it misses the hole and spends the entire season trying to get to the top rather than expending all that wasted energy producing a good crop.

When you fill and settle first—especially when using wire—the seed is pushed through the openings, where they stay put…and can “see” daylight so they know which way is “out”! 

OK, all filled up, settled down and ready to plant! But first, you should have cut your potato “seed” into smaller pieces about 24-hours ago so the cut surfaces have a chance to “heal”. Most seed potatoes can be cut into thirds or fourths (+/-)…just be dead certain each piece has at least one “eye” or growing point. After cutting, spread them out on a clean surface (an elevated screen will allow good air circulation) in an airy, dry place out of the sun.

Actual planting is pure simplicity. Gently press each piece through each hole in your compost filled and moistened wire cylinder so that just the slightest bit remains visible.

You should end up with several pieces left over….nudge them into the top surface about 6″ apart and a couple inches deep. If you still have a couple pieces left, keep them in a cool, dark place because one or two of the ones planted may turn out to be “duds”, and you’ll have replacements (I didn’t keep any in reserve and, consequently, there are a couple of gaps in my y2k vertical potato “field”. Oh, well….there’s always next year!). Here’s what it should look like about 3 weeks after planting (some seed-pieces may be a bit slower than others, so have patience:

Now comes the boring part: Maintain moisture throughout the remainder of the season – remember that it’ll dry out faster than if planted directly in ground-level soil – and, after about 5 or 6 weeks, you may enjoy “stealing” a few little, 1-inch “baby” spuds from the top layer…to put into soups or stews, or just wash off and crunch down on the spot.

At the end of the season, after the tops have wearied, turned yellow-green and have obviously done their duty, remove all the external plant parts, push it over, give it a good shake to liberate the wire cage (or untie the lacings and remove wire that way)…and harvest your potato crop without the necessity of digging up 40 or 50 feet of row! The photo at the right shows a few of the 45 pounds of spuds retrieved at harvest…nice size and almost totally devoid of distortions and scab. We’ll be doing this again!

All that’s left to do is retrieve the wire, clean it off a bit and store it for next years’ crop. Spread the compost around the rest of the garden and till it in to improve your soil. Oh, I almost forgot: don’t  use any kind of manure as part of the mix….chances are you’ll end up with scabby spuds. And you might also consider moving the planting around to a different – possibly distant – spot each year to make it more difficult for the Colorado Potato Beetles to find your crop (they spend the winter in the ground very near where they were originally hatched….but if there aren’t any potatoes there the next season, that should help keep their numbers down).

An alternative method:

Some years back, customers of ours recommended this also-very-effective (but not quite as space-saving) method of growing spuds: they made foot-tall raised beds out of old planks, filled them with high-organic-matter (probably compost), laid out their seed potatoes and covered them with straw—lots of it, apparently. Their potato plants grew up through the straw, looked magnificent, entertained no beetles, and harvesting involved little more than removing the straw and picking up spuds.


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