How to Grow a Better Crop of Potatoes

potato in garden
One little early potato can lead to many a summer meal

Container Planted Potatoes for Early Crop

A few years ago, I grew potatoes in buckets on my patio at my townhouse when I lived in Springfield.  I had mixed results. One of the reasons that I had problems was because I tried to grow what I later learned were indeterminant potatoes whereas what needed to grow were determinant varieties. The basic difference between indeterminant and determinant potatoes is that if indeterminant potatoes have good conditions, they will continue growing all season whereas determinant potatoes grow a short time and then die off leaving behind a specific crop to harvest immediately.

As I understand, determinant potatoes have a short growing season (as little as seventy days) and can be planted in succession throughout the growing season.  That is what I want to try to happen this year.

Another problem I had was that I put too many seed potatoes in my buckets. The buckets soon became crowded, so the potatoes stayed small. This year I am planting just one potato per bucket.

I want to try to grow potatoes so that I have a continuous crop coming in all summer long. The variety of determinant potato that I will be growing is Red Norland which has a growing season of just 70 days! I want to see how many buckets of potatoes I can grow during the summer and how many I need to keep myself supplied in potatoes for the entire growing season.

If I have more than enough Red Norland potatoes to supply me with potatoes throughout the growing season, and I have more than enough to sell at Farmer’s Market, I’ll take what extras I have and can some of them. I don’t think that will happen this year, because I only bought five pounds of this type of seed potatoes.

Because I only had three buckets available this year for the early determinant potato, I planted most of them in the ground in the main garden.

How to Plant a Bucket of Early Potatoes

To plant early potatoes in buckets, begin by putting holes in the bottom 1/3 of the bucket. I only put holes in the top of that bottom third of the bucket so that water would drain out only if it reached that part of the bucket. The lower part of that bottom third of the bucket would be used as a wicking bed of sorts. This way I wouldn’t have to water the buckets of potato plants quite as often.

I fill half of this bottom third of the bucket with sawdust, add a half shovel full of aged chicken manure and then cover that with more sawdust and filling that remaining bottom third of the bucket. Over the sawdust I put a one-inch layer of soil. In the center of the bucket on top of the soil, I set the potato or potato piece so that the rose end with the majority of the eyes was facing upwards in the bucket.

half filled buckets
I put in a layer of sawdust, a layer of chicken manure, another layer of sawdust, a layer of soil and set the potato in the bucket.

Once the potato piece was in place, I filled the remainder of the bucket with soil so that only two inches of the brim showed.

Once the potato plant surfaces above the soil line, I will fill the remaining space with grass clippings. I use grass clippings at this point because the grass clippings contain nitrogen so that if gives the potato plant’s leaves a little bit of a boost early in the growing process, but not so much to prevent the potatoes from producing the root vegetable.

Companion Planting for Potatoes

I am planting a companion plant with the potatoes in the garden. Because the potatoes take up a lot of growing space, I like to plant them with bush green beans. One reason, I like to use green bush beans is because bush green beans are a legume and while legumes are growing, they store nitrogen from the air in their roots that potatoes have access.

Another reason is that potatoes and bush green beans are harvested about the same time. I am able to harvest the potatoes and harvest the bush beans together and remove them both and replace them with a later crop like cabbage or spinach.

A final reason is that potatoes and bush green beans have a symbiotic relationship where they protect one another from insect pests. Green beans repel the Colorado potato beetle and potatoes protect green beans by repelling the Mexican beetle, a nasty pest that can quickly destroy a lush crop of green beans.

A Late Potato for Winter Storage

In addition to growing determinant potatoes for use during the gardening season, I am growing an indeterminant variety as well. The indeterminant potato variety that I will be growing will be White Russets. I know that they are good storing potatoes because I stored them in a cool place in my kitchen over the winter. I am experimenting with them as well. This experiment is that I planted some in the autumn and hope that they will start growing this spring. I also have some that I planted this spring. These potatoes are considered late-growing potatoes and should keep me supplied during the winter.

I have some idea about how many potatoes I will need this next winter because this past winter I bought 100 pounds of potatoes to use this past winter and there was enough in that my husband and I were sufficiently supplied with them throughout the winter. Therefore, if I can grow at least that many for the winter, it should be a sufficient supply for the upcoming winter.

How about you? Do you grow potatoes and if so, what do you find helps you improve your potato harvest?

Getting a Jump on the Spring Garden

lettuce plants
Lettuce is an early spring crop that can be either grown as transplants or directly from seed

This Season’s Garden Started Last Fall

My garden this year didn’t start when when I planted my first seed in the ground this spring. I started prepping the early vegetable garden last fall just after I finished harvesting the first rows in the first bed of the garden. I did this by digging up the ground and then putting grass clippings and then leaves on the beds. Also, I planted elephant garlic and regular garlic.

I also decided that I would experiment with starting indeterminant potatoes (Russets). I read that if I dug down two feet, laid a layer of leaves and grass clippings down, laid a potato on top of that, laid another layer of leaves and grass clippings on top of that and covered it with the rest of the soil and then covered that with another layer of leaves and grass clippings that it would insulate the potatoes enough to protect them until spring when they would sprout. I’ll let you know how that experiment works out.

After I planted the potatoes, I worked to finish digging that main part of the garden. Because I was doing the job exclusively by hand with a broad fork and I had to dig out Bermuda grass, the work took me until January twenty-sixth to complete.

Soil Preparation

Many people are not familiar with the broad fork. At first, I too was skeptical about getting one, especially when you consider that to buy one cost between $100-$200. Then someone explained to me how much better for the soil using a broad fork was than using a tiller.

  1.  First, it is more cost-effective. A broad fork costs hundreds of dollars less than a tiller.
  2. It easier to use than a regular garden fork because it covers more ground, it takes less time.
  3. Using a broad fork is good exercise.
  4. A broad fork doesn’t require gasoline or oil and it won’t break down.
  5. Most importantly, a broad fork doesn’t turn over the soil, but simply loosens it and allows air to penetrate deep into the ground without causing soil impaction as tilling does. Besides, it doesn’t destroy soil tilth. nor does it disrupt the healthy microbial environment as much as tilling does.

After digging, because our woodstove was in operation, we took the ashes leftover from heating our house and spread it on the dug-up ground. I then added some composted chicken manure to the beds. I made sure that I didn’t add too much though. Too much manure gives the plants too much nitrogen which would produce too many leaves and not enough fruit.

Making Permanent Garden Beds

After January twenty-sixth, the weather turned cold and rainy for a while so I didn’t start building garden beds until early March. I planted the garden in beds last year, but this year I intend to make them more permanent. This means that I am building each bed in the same location with pathways between the beds will be in the same place too. This way I can avoid walking on the beds and can continue to improve the soil on the beds without wasting amendments in the pathways.

To make the beds I dug the good soil out of the pathways and onto the beds. Then I took sawdust and put them in the pathways to keep weeds down between the beds. The garden is now ready to plant with my early garden vegetables.

Planting the Early Vegetables

The first thing that went into the ground was to plant the next round of potatoes. Because I have planned to compare potato planting methods later, so I’ll go into how I did this in a later blog.

Next, I planted small onion sets. This is easy enough to do. I marked the rows and pressed the onions into the loose soil covering them just enough to allow the tops of the onions above the surface of the soil.

After the onions, I planted two short rows of carrots mixed with radishes, a row of beets, and a half a row of spinach and a half row of lettuce. I just marked the rows and barely covered the seeds with loose potting soil and watered the rows well.

Finally, I planted peas, but not in the garden, not yet anyway.  Instead, I soaked the seeds overnight. In the morning, I filled a garden flat half full of soil then scattered the soaked peas over the soil.  I covered the peas with another layer of soil and watered it the flat well. I allowed the peas to germinate before putting them in the garden and covering them with an inch of good garden soil.

How about you? What are you doing to start a garden this year?

Planting Perennial Vegetables

asparagus plant
It takes at least three years to produce a decent asparagus plant, but you’ll have perennial growth for about 20 years

A garden is good insurance for making sure that nutritious, delectable vegetables are available throughout the year, wouldn’t it be nice if you could plant a vegetable that you plant once but it keeps offering you its produce year after year. Well, you can do this with perennial vegetables.

Perennial vegetables like asparagus, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, and horseradish among other vegetables can be planted once and with little care offers a crop year after year.


Native to Western Europe, but a hardy perennial here in the US, asparagus, is probably the most popular perennial vegetable. With good reason, asparagus plants are viable for up to twenty years and nothing compares to the taste of homegrown fresh asparagus.

I grew my asparagus last year from seed. Growing from seed takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth the wait. However, if you don’t want to wait, you can also buy two to three old crowns.

I started my asparagus plants in January 2020.  I put the seed in the refrigerator for a couple of months so that the seed would chill. I soaked the seeds overnight and then when I was ready, I planted them indoors in flats. This way I was able to control their growing conditions. Also, the asparagus didn’t need to combat weeds just to get started. (It takes anywhere from 2-8 weeks for asparagus seed to germinate).

I planted the seedlings in the garden bed behind the shed in April last year and kept them reasonably weed-free so that they could grow. Their roots are well established now, but it will still be a year or more until I am able to get a harvest.


rhubarb crown
The black blob in the middle of the photo is of a rhubarb crown. In a few days it will green up and begin to grow.

Pioneers called this perennial “pie plant” because rhubarb pie was a favorite among them. Though used like a fruit in pies, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. I planted my rhubarb in the part of the herb garden where I had grown kale, greens and late corn last year. I planted it here for a couple of reasons. One, the garden had been deeply dug and lots of organic material had been added and perennial grasses had been removed. It is a sunny enough location (more than 6 hours of sun per day).

I have two plants so I planted them on opposite sides of the four foot long bed. To plant them I dug a hole and positioned the bare root rhubarb plant so that the crown was 2-3 inches below the surface. I tamped the soil down lightly over the rhubarb and watered it thoroughly.  

Jerusalem Artichokes

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Also called sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes grow wild where I live, but I decided to grow them in my yard, because I love to use them in stir fries in place of water chestnuts. They can also be used in place of potatoes. The tubers look like ginger root and provide a starch (inulin) that converts to fructose in the digestive tract and is better tolerated by diabetics than the potatoes would be. The flowers look like sunflowers and produce edible sunflower like seeds. (the seeds are smaller than sunflower seeds.)Also called sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes grow wild where I live, but I decided to grow them in my yard, because I love to use them in stir fries in place of water chestnuts. They can also be used in place of potatoes. The tubers look like ginger root and provide a starch (inulin) that converts to fructose in the digestive tract and is better tolerated by diabetics than the potatoes would be. The flowers look like sunflowers and produce edible sunflower like seeds. (the seeds are smaller than sunflower seeds.)

This hardy perennial prefers cool weather and grows best in poor soil. I planted mine in the yard across the driveway from my perennial herb garden. They will flower during mid-summer. I planted it in the late winter just after the really cold weather. I added wood ashes and planted the tubers 12 inches apart and covered them with 3 inches of soil. I then added sawdust around the outside edge of the bed and placed rocks on top of the sawdust to ensure that I knew where the plants were when I mowed the lawn later in the season.


This vegetable is a hardy perennial and grows in all planting zones except the hottest desert regions. For perennial planting, I gave mine plenty of space and planted it at the edge of my herb garden next to the frost-free faucet. Because I have three plants, I planted them in a triangle and planted them 3 feet apart. It thrives best in sandy soil, but since I have clay soil, I amended it with plenty of organic material. Because it loves potassium, I dusted the area with wood ashes. It does not like too much nitrogen, so I did not add composted chicken manure.  I buried the horseradish so that the crown was placed in the hole at an angle, not straight up and down with the top two inches below the soil level and backfilled the remaining hole. I then covered the horseradish bed with sawdust for mulch and so that I knew where the horseradish was planted.

So, what is your favorite perennial vegetable? Is it similar to what I am growing or do you have something else that you like to grow year after year?

Planting Berries

early spring strawberry plant
The June-bearing strawberries are coming to life after a fall planting

So far, my perpetual homestead has the start of a perpetual garden. In addition, it has an orchard that will produce peaches, pears, and apples but those will not bear for a few more years. What I have that will all begin bearing in the next couple of years is the berry patch.

There are, of course, many other berries that could be planted, but I decided not to over-extend myself this first year. One berry, you might notice, isn’t included on my list is blackberries. The reason for this is that I am able to get out and pick wild ones that are growing nearby. I hope, next year, to get some elderberries. They not only are good in pie baking, but they have excellent medicinal properties as well. I would also like to add currants, gooseberries, and goji berries. For now, though, I am growing June-bearing and everbearing strawberries, blueberries, and yellow raspberries.  

June-Bearing and Everbearing Strawberries

The first berries that I started growing were the June-bearing strawberries. The reason that they are called June-bearing is that they put on one crop of berries in a short period. They generally produce one large harvest in late spring or early summer. I started growing these in a container garden while I still lived in Springfield. Last spring, I moved them out here with me, planted them in a temporary location in the garden. In September I finally transplanted them into a more permanent location where I am able to give them more room. I should be getting some berries from them this year because they had all winter to develop their root systems.

To plant the June-bearing strawberries, I planted them so that they were planted 12 inches apart in staggered rows twelve inches apart. After harvesting the berries, the strawberry plants will produce runners. Instead of allowing these runners to develop roots in the ground where they want, I am going to be putting pots under each of them and coaxing the roots to develop in the pots. That way I can move them and keep their roots more intact when I transplant them. My plan is to sell some of the plants and to plant the rest between the trees in the orchard to create a fruitful ground cover for the trees.

Just planted everbearing strawberry plant
Doesn’t look like much but this strawberry plant will be producing strawberries late this summer.

A second type of strawberry are everbearing strawberries. These produce two to three crops over the course of the summer and into the fall, with the larger crop coming in the summer. The berries on the everbearing strawberries are smaller and sweeter that the June-bearing plants and produce fewer runners. Like with the June-bearing, I planted the everbearing in two rows, with staggered plantings twelve inches apart. I planted them so that the strawberries roots are completely covered, but the crown remains above the soil line.

I planted the strawberries in late winter, so I spread a thin layer of partially decomposed chicken manure on top of the soil around the strawberry plants. This way, the manure will filter down to the roots during the spring rains and help nourish the plants’ roots. If I would have planted them in the spring after things started growing, I would have watered the plants with compost tea.

Next, I used sawdust to mulch the patch to reduce weed growth, hold in moisture and keep the manure from washing away or dissipating into the air. I have heard of people using plastic for mulch around the strawberries but because it can facilitate diseases such as leaf spot and anthracnose, I don’t recommend it.

Once things start growing in the spring, I will give the patch one inch of water per week if the soil is dry. It is important that strawberries get enough water until they are established. During production, Strawberries may have up to 2 inches of water a week.

If I would have planted the June-bearing strawberries in the spring, I would have removed blossoms and runners in the first year. However, because I planted them last fall, I don’t have to do that. For everbearers, I will remove blossoms and runners only until July 1. This will enhance strawberry plant growth and production.



newly planted blueberry plant
A freshly planted blueberry plant.

I planted my blueberries in the ground where I grew potatoes last year. This way the soil was loosened with the broad fork several times and rocks and weeds were removed as well. Because I had mulched the area heavily with leaves and grass clippings, the ground was light and highly organic. Because blue berries prefer much more acidic types of soil, measuring a little closer to 4.5 to 5.0., I am continually adding coffee grounds to quickly increase soil acidity.

I planted two kinds of blueberries. One was Patriot and the other was Jersey. Blueberries should be planted during the early springtime or just when the winter season is about to come to an end. Choose a part of your garden where your blueberry plants get access to sunlight for most of the day, but without it being harsh and full sunlight.  Companion plant with strawberries and thyme. I planted the blueberries to the depth that they grew when they were at the nursery.

Yellow Raspberries

Yellow Raspberry plants
Don’t let their appearance fool you. Those sticks poking out of the ground are raspberry plants.

I decided to grow Fall Gold raspberries. I may grow red and black raspberries in the future, but for now, I’ll stick to the yellow ones. One reason is that (I am told) that the birds are less likely to eat them than they would the red or black raspberries. 

These berries are a primocane type which means they bloom and fruit on first-year wood. Sometimes people refer to the primocane varieties as “everbearing” because they produce two crops on each biennial cane (unless pruned otherwise). The fall crop comes on current-season canes, at the top 1/3 of the canes. After overwintering, and if not pruned, a second crop will be produced in late spring to early summer at the bottom 2/3 of the canes. If I wanted a single heavier crop, I would prune all the canes to the ground every year before growth started in the spring. This way the new cans would produce fruit in late summer or fall that same year.

To plant yellow raspberries, I Choose a planting spot for my raspberries where they had plenty of room to grow and lots of sunlight. I only have three plants right now, but that number will grow every season, so I planted them on the south side of the garden. Plants tend to grow toward the sun so by putting them south of the garden, they will grow away from the garden and not toward it.

Because the raspberries are at the edge of the garden, I didn’t have to worry about breaking up hard ground. I worked some aged chicken manure into the top couple of inches the soil for a nitrogen boost. If I were limited on space, I would have put the raspberries on trellises, but since I am just growing a patch right now, I will let the raspberries grow naturally.

I dug a wide shallow hole for each bare root raspberry plant. If they would have been potted raspberries, I would have dug a hole big enough to accommodate the entire contents of the pot. Each raspberry plant was planted about 2 ½ feet apart.

I trimmed off damaged roots from the bare roots and spread them out. I would removed the plant from the pot and would have left the soil intact if I planted a potted plant. Prepare the raspberries for planting. Trim any damaged roots from bare root plants. Spread the roots out. Remove potted plants from the pots, leaving the soil intact around the roots.

I set each plant in a hole, bare roots spread out, into the soil. I didn’t plant the roots deep put left them less than two inches below the ground. I buried the roots and firmly pressed the soil to remove any air pockets. Potted plants should be planted so that the plant is buried no deeper than the surface of the soil in the pot.

I cut the canes to about six inches tall. I watered the raspberry plants just enough to settle the soil and mulched them to suppress weeds, hold in moisture and keep soil cool from the heat of the sun.

Now I have several berries that will soon offer me fruit from June until late summer and with a little maintenance work, they will do so year after year.

Now its your turn. Are you growing berries where you live? If so, what’s your favorite?

Starting the Orchard

the beginnings of an orchard
The orchard doesn’t look like much, but if I properly planted it and maintain it, it should do fine.

This past week I finally planted the trees in my permaculture orchard. I decided to plant semi-dwarf trees because they tend to be heartier and live longer than dwarf trees but produce in a smaller area and produce more quickly than standard trees.

I bought bare-rooted trees from for my mini-orchard. Bare rooted fruit trees are those sold without a pot and the type purchased by tree nurseries, but they can be purchased by individuals too. Bare-rooted trees will save me money and are available in a much wider selection of varieties and sizes than those sold in pots. Also, they are less expensive to ship. Because bare-rooted trees don’t have an extensive root system, they do require proper planting and careful treatment during the first year to establish healthy root systems and provide a reliable harvest.

I bought three apple trees, a pear tree, and a peach tree and I purchased them so that I would have tree fruit from mid-July to November.  

First, we have the Red Baron Peach. This tree is the earliest of all the trees in the orchard. It is self-pollinating. It blooms early to mid-season and harvest from the middle of July to August first. It produces a rich juicy, large yellow freestone fruit. It is a vigorous tree that needs fertile, well-drained soil and regular pruning and thinning.

The pear is the Pontiac Pear. It is self-pollinating and has a superior resistance to fire blight with good-quality fruit. This fruit harvests in August-September.

The first apple that I chose was the Golden Delicious. The reason I chose it, is that it is not only self-pollinating, but it also pollinates other apple trees too. It resists woolly apple aphids and collar rot.  This is the earliest of the apples that I chose and produces ripe apples in early September and is a sweet eating apple.  

I chose the Braeburn apple because it can be kept in long term storage and I like the fact that it was grown from a “wild-seedling”. It doesn’t hurt that it originated in New Zealand too. This apple is harvested in mid-autumn.

Finally, I picked the Liberty apple because this apple is low maintenance. It has a natural disease resistance to apple scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, and fire blight. Its fruit has a crisp white flesh, yellow with red overtones, a crisp white flesh, and a tart but sweet taste. It harvests in late autumn.

Properly planted peach tree
The Red Baron peach tree was properly planted, staked, and mulched.

Where I Planted My Trees

I put a lot of thought into where to plant these trees because once they are in the ground, they can’t be moved. Our land is on a south facing slope which is great for gardening, but not so good for orchards. South facing slopes heat more quickly than north facing ones which wouldn’t be a problem, but late spring frosts can destroy the tender buds on those south facing trees. Therefore, it is necessary to protect the trees from a direct southern exposure, but how do I do this on a south facing slope?

I made the use of a microclimate created by the buildings on our place. I planted these trees along the western boundary of the property on the north side of the trailer just north of the hen house. This way, sun shining on a frosty morning won’t cause sunscald. There’re large trees on the western side of the yard so the trees are protected from westerly winds. Also, the north side of the yard will stay cooler than the south side of the yard and will prevent the trees from budding too early. The fruit trees will bud later, preventing late frosts from destroying the flowers and therefore future fruit.

How I Planted My Trees

Here in this part of Missouri, we are able to plant trees any time that we can work the soil during the late winter.  In more northerly climates, trees would need to be planted later in the season either late winter or early spring but definitely before the trees bud.

For each tree I dug a hole about a shovel’s depth and at least three times the side of the bare-root stock. I made the holes square because a square hole is better than a round one as it encourages the roots to push out into the surrounding ground. I kept the soil I removed on a tarp.

I added a few inches of good garden compost and worked it into the soil around the hole.  I mixed the compost into the top two inches of the soil out to what would be the tree’s dripline.  I placed the tree in the center of the hole and spread out the roots. As I put the soil back around the tree, I made sure to mix some compost into the soil as I replaced it around the tree. I made sure that I planted just to the slightly darker junction on the tree’s trunk that indicated where the soil level was when it was first grown. I made sure that the soil around the hole wasn’t planted deeper or shallower than when the trees were first grown. Since my fruit trees were grafted onto rootstock, I made certain that the joint was above ground.

Before I buried the tree roots, I put a thick wooden stake a few inches from the center of the hole and on the side of the north wind (As I said earlier, I have trees for a windbreak.) I hammered this firmly into the ground using a mallet. I firmly pressed the tree and post into the ground with my heel, careful not to damage the roots. When the hole was half full, I pulled the tree up an inch and then let it drop to help the soil fill in around the roots.

When all the soil was added and firmed, I attached the tree to the stake with a soft tie and left enough room for the tree trunk to grow. I plan to add a protective fence around the trunk of each tree.  At this stage I  covered the area which would be the dripline with sawdust to suppress weeds.

I watered the soil well to stop the roots drying out and to further settle the soil around them.

Further Care During the Spring/Summer/Fall

Until the root system is at least as large as the tree it supports, the trees are particularly vulnerable to environmental stress. During this first year, the trees can easily die from not getting enough water or nutrients. I will need to keep the trees well-watered, especially during dry weather. A good soaking once or twice a week is much better than surface watering daily, though during extreme heat it can be worth doing both. It’s also vital to keep the area around the tree completely free of weeds and grass as they will compete with the young tree, which is why the sawdust mulch will be highly effective.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">I will also have to remember to remove any and all blossoms from the trees this first year and not let any fruit develop. By keeping the trees from bearing the first year, the trees will have less stress and become healthier and produce greater bounty in the future.I will also have to remember to remove any and all blossoms from the trees this first year and not let any fruit develop. By keeping the trees from bearing the first year, the trees will have less stress and become healthier and produce greater bounty in the future.

I am looking forward to sharing more about this orchard in the future. If you have any questions about growing your own home orchard, please let me know by commenting below.

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">If you have anything you would like to add, feel free to add it in the comments below as well!If you have anything you would like to add, feel free to add it in the comments below as well!

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?

side-by-side incubator and brooder
This setup has an incubator and a brooder side by side. It’s not a bad system for just a handful of chicks.

On my homestead, the answer to that question was the chicken. However, hatching eggs is part of the perpetual equation. On July 9, 2020, my chicks arrived from The Cackle Hatchery of Lebanon, Missouri. I chose The Cackle Hatchery because I listened to some advice Dad gave me some advice about purchasing chickens when I was growing up. He said to always buy my chickens from the reputable hatchery nearest my home. This way the chicks don’t have far to travel and will have less stress on them. I found that to be true. Out of the 50 chickens that I ordered, I received 55. Of that 55, I had 53 survive to adulthood. I have butchered (with help) a few of the roosters (with more to harvest) and still have a large flock. This past week we added five more.

On December 21, 2020, the shortest day of the year, my hens started laying their first eggs. From then on, all winter, the hens have been laying like it was summer.

On February first, just before the coldest weather so far this winter (and hopefully the coldest overall) I started incubating eggs. To incubate eggs, of course, I needed fertile eggs. Hens can lay eggs without a rooster, but they cannot get fertilized eggs without one. Because I had my chickens and oodles of roosters with them, I am certain that I had fertilized eggs.

I chose other criteria for the eggs I chose. One criterion is that I needed eggs that were as clean as possible. I chose the cleanest because eggs have a natural coating on them that protects the embryos in the egg from bacteria so I don’t want to wash them.

Also I like to choose eggs that are as round as possible. According to my Dad, his mother used to do this and 80% of the eggs that hatched were hens. I don’t know how true this will be for me, but I believe it is an experiment worth trying.

 For what should be obvious reasons, I didn’t refrigerate the eggs I used for hatching.  However, I needed to keep the eggs more than 24 hours before incubating, and I turned them from side to side every twelve hours until I was able to get them into the incubator. This will keep the yolk from being stuck to one side for too long. I also made sure the eggs were stored pointed end down. The pointed end should be down at all times during storage and also while in the incubator. The reason is that the chick inside will need the air pocket that is on the rounded side.

In the past, I had an incubator that did not have an egg turner with it. I had a large mortality rate with the chicks because I had to manually turn them and sometimes, I would forget.  I set up the incubator in a quiet location and then plugged it in, ready for the eggs, but I ran my incubator for a few days to make certain that everything was working properly. I kept tabs on my humidity levels and be certain that the humidity levels don’t go below 50%. Next, I put the eggs in the incubator pointed end down. I put an “x” on one side and an “o” on the other so that as it turns automatically, I’d be able to tell if the turner was working properly. I kept this up until the eggs had been incubated for 18 days. Also, I checked humidity and temperature levels daily.


On day eight, I carefully took out each egg and used the candling light on the incubator in a dark room to check to see if a chicken embryo was growing. If I saw a large mass inside the egg, it meant that an embryo was growing if I saw air pockets through the egg, there was no embryo, and I discarded that egg. Also, I removed any broken or cracked eggs.


chick in incubator
Chick recently hatched and still in the incubator.

On day 18, I stopped turning the eggs and around day 21 I started hearing some peeping inside the eggs.  However, I knew that I did not want to open the incubator anymore for any reason. I didn’t lift the incubator hood because I didn’t want to get any cold air or any bacteria in it and I didn’t want to bother the chick either.

I left the chicks alone and knew not to try to help the chick peck its way out of the shell. I knew that it won’t survive if I did. In some cases, hours pass before a chick busts through its egg completely. I allowed them to dry completely before I put them in the brooder box.

I wasn’t worried about keeping the chicks in the incubator too long, especially since the weather had been so cold lately. Chicks can remain in the incubator for up to 48 hours. I, however, kept them in there only about 24 hours after hatching.


chicks in brooder
A mason jar waterer and a homemade feeder and a heat lamp create a comfy environment for these chicks.

On day 18, I set up the brooder in a packing box next to the incubator. I put several layers of newspaper at the bottom of the box and set up a heat lamp. I filled the chick waterer and had it at room temperature before moving chicks into the box. I also filled the feeder with food in it ready for the chicks.

Yes, five chicks hatched from this first batch. The youngest didn’t hatch out until day 24 and unfortunately he did not survive. This first batch I am keeping for our use, but from here on out, I hope to hatch chicks to sell as well.

I have the second batch of eggs in the incubator right now. My ability to raise chickens perpetually has now been made possible.

the incubator
Now that the first batch has been removed, the incubator has been fumigated and the second batch started.

The Perpetual Homestead Series

As mentioned in my first post Becoming a Perpetual Homesteader, one of the books that I will be writing for The Perpetual Homesteader series is The Perpetual Chicken House. Feel free to ask any questions because I would love to help! Ask your questions in the comments below.

Planting Tomato Seeds on a Snowy Day

Tomato plants in the womb
Grow tomatoes from seed for better selection and cost savings.

The cold and snow from the past few days has got me thinking even more about starting my garden. I have a lot of other things that I would like to do. For instance, I have to get my fruit trees in their permanent locations, and I have perennial plants that need to be put in the ground as well however, with more than six inches of snow still on the ground, those projects will have to wait until the snow is melted. That should be happening this coming week, but until then, planting indoors seems to be on the agenda.

I am Wanting Lots and Lots of Tomatoes

That’s why I am planting tomatoes from seed. Tomatoes are very versatile. Tomatoes can be eaten raw in salads, on sandwiches and just eaten right off the vine. They can be canned into tomato sauce, tomato juice, tomato paste, salsa, with peppers and onions, and plain canned tomatoes. Green, tomatoes can be made into relishes and pickles.  I never seem to be able to grow enough tomatoes.

Last year, planted several varieties of tomatoes from seed and bought some others as plants. The plants I purchased had thick stems and were about 8-10 inches tall. Because I had moved to my new location, many of the taller plants that I had grown from seed had died and all I had were small tomato plants that were only a couple inches tall. I thought that there was no way that they would ever grow. However, they did. Actually, what surprised me was that the small tomato plants took off in my garden almost immediately whereas the taller, store-bought plants did not do as well, and the homegrown plants actually overtook the other ones.

 I didn’t do as well with my tomatoes as I would have liked, but this year I plan to do a better job with them. More on that later when I plant them in the garden. For now, though, let’s go over planting seeds for growing transplants.

What Tomato Seeds to Plant

Planting tomato transplants from seeds to plant in my garden later will save me money and lets me choose varieties that are not often found at plant nurseries.  Because I save seeds from tomato plants that I grew last year, I use only heirloom or open pollinated seeds. This way the tomatoes that I grow will grow true to the variety. I have several types of tomatoes that I will be growing this year. This first batch of tomatoes is the Beefsteak variety. This variety is an indeterminant which means that the plant will grow and produce throughout the season.

Preparing the Soil

Next, I mixed my soil. My soil mix is primarily garden soil and vermiculite. The reason I am using the vermiculite was because a friend gave it to me, and I never like wasting anything.

I put this soil into growing trays or small containers: Recycled or biodegradable trays are best. I use a plastic recycled planting tray and place recycled pots inside them. Later I will transplant the plants into individual containers so that I simply place the whole thing into the soil. As an alternative, you can use an egg carton. For the later transplants, I like using Dixie cups.

Some people like to use a glass or metal spray bottle for watering the seeds, but you can repurpose an empty household bottle. Just make sure to pick one that never contained harsh chemicals, as the residue can damage your delicate plants. I personally use a one cup measuring cup and pour small amounts of water over the soil after planting.

Popsicle sticks make handy plant markers and that is what I am using here. These markers are like name tags for your plants, which comes in handy when you’re planting different varieties. Of course, if you’re only planting one type of seed, they’re not necessary. I have a supply of them so I will definitely be using them.

Putting Seeds in the Soil

I start my tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost date indoors. Doing so allows my plants to go through the whole germination and into the growth process and be ready to bear fruit when warm weather arrives. If you’re planning to keep your tomato plants indoors or in a greenhouse, this is not an issue, so you can start any time.

I placed 2-3 seeds per container to make up for any that may not germinate. I spaced them with equal distance between each other.

I then sprinkled a little extra potting soil on top of the seeds and gently patted the surface to make it smooth.

Next, I sprayed my seeds using my spray bottle until the soil is moist but not soaked. This requires about 4-5 squirts. Once my seeds turn into plants, I’ll be able to use a small watering can.

 I mark one of the popsicle sticks and write the names of the tomato varieties on the stick and note the dated sown on my gardening calendar.

Finally, I cover the planting tray with the plastic and place them onto the growing shelf.


Tomatoes love warmth, so I placed the planting containers in the sunny window in my living room. During the germination process, I will keep the tomatoes warm and moist. That is why I cover the plants with plastic to ensure the soil stays moist and the seeds stay warm. Keep lights above and a heat mat under tomatoes until they germinated.

Grow lights are highly recommended. Because the lights can be placed only a couple of inches above the seedlings, it prevents the leggedness (long, skinny stems caused from insufficient sunlight of a window). The lights help tomatoes develop stockier stems and bushy leaves.

In addition to lights, rotating my plants so that they get equal amounts of sunlight will prevent them from leaning in one direction.

Growing the Seedlings

When the first true leaves appear, gently brush I’ll gently brush my hands over their leaves a few times per day. This action simulates wind and helps to strengthen the plant’s stems. (If you smoke, be sure to wash your hands before doing this as tobacco mosaic can disease your tomatoes.)

Once your tomato plants have at least three or four sets of true leaves, they’re ready to be hardened off. More about planting tomatoes in the garden later. I will probably be transplanting these tomatoes into larger containers before putting them permanently in the garden, however because this way I can develop a better root system before planting outdoors.

I planted eight varieties of herbs this week too. More about herbs later! I hope you’re having a good week! Do you plant your own seeds for transplants? I would love to hear about it!

As the Snow Flies–Planting Early Indoors

Right now, as I am writing this in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, I am sitting here watching the snow fall. Just because it is cold and snowy, doesn’t mean that now’s not the time to begin preparing for this year’s garden. I have started a number of projects. Here is what I have done so far this winter.

Sweet Potatoes

sweet potato plants on a snowy day
By the time they are ready to plant, these sweet potato plants are going to be producing a massive number of sweet potato slips.

I mentioned in my previous post that I am raising sweet potatoes from roots of last year’s sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are tropical, perennial vines that may have originated in India, although until recently, scientists thought sweet potatoes were a South American native. The plants produce edible leaves as well as tubers.

Last year when I started the original plants, I planted a single sweet potato just after Thanksgiving in soil in a pot and kept it watered. I had to wait patiently for several weeks before the first leaves showed above the surface. From the plants that grew, I secured several slips (plants with leaves and roots) and planted them in an area of the garden.

Because my garden was just starting, and I didn’t have a bed ready to plant them, I piled a bunch of leaves in a ditch where it had good sunlight and then topped them off with soil I found in an old tractor tire. I then planted the four surviving sweet potato slips in the new bed. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I kept it watered and somewhat weeded. The plants started growing slow, but as the weather heated up, the plants not only took over the bed, but took over the lawn around it. Because I couldn’t mow the lawn around the sweet potatoes, I piled grass clippings around the plants though this didn’t keep all weeds down, having the mulch there did make it easier to pull the weeds that did come up.  

I harvested before the first frost of the year. I harvested about twenty-five pounds of potatoes.

After harvesting the sweet potatoes, I harvested the roots. Because sweet potatoes are perennials, the roots, if kept from freezing will produce the next year. I planted them in a long low recycled planting container. As you can see, here it is January and I have a good start on these plants.


Early onion starts
Onions under grow lights on a snowy February afternoon.

Though I will be planting onion sets in the garden, I planted onions from seeds. I will be putting them in the ground about the same time I put the onion sets into the ground as well. One advantage to growing from seed is that I can plant different types of onions and do it at a lower cost than with onion sets.


Chives belong to the onion family and can be sown directly outdoors in a garden bed, but if you’d like to get a head start, start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last spring frost.

Cabbages and Broccoli

Cabbage and broccoli are such close relatives that they can be planted in the same way for transplanting. Sow two cabbage seeds about ½ inch apart and ¼ inch deep in each cell. Spritz the soil surface with water from a plastic spray bottle to evenly moisten the surface. Do not water enough to make the soil soggy or wet. Close the flat up in a clear plastic bag. Poke a few holes in it with a toothpick to allow for proper air circulation. Set it in a warm, brightly lit room out of direct sun. The top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater are ideal locations. Your cabbage seeds will sprout in about three to four days if the soil temperature remains between 80 to 85 F. Cooler soil temperatures may slow germination time to as long as two weeks.

Check the soil every day to make sure it never dries out. Spritz with water as necessary to keep the soil surface evenly moist but not soggy or wet.

Feed the seedlings a water-soluble 15-30-15 houseplant fertilizer about three days after germination. Dilute the product to half-strength. Repeat applications every two weeks. Follow the packaging instructions.

Cut the weakest seedling in each cell off at the soil line with clean, sharp scissors when the plants each develop one set of true leaves.

Harden seedlings off one week prior to planting in the garden. Set them in the shade during the first two or three days and bring them in at night. Place the seedlings in a sunny spot during morning hours for the next three or four days. Move them to shade during afternoons and bring them in at night for the next few days. Allow them to spend all day in the sun and bring them indoors overnight for several days. Set them outside for good thereafter.


pepper starts getting a headstart
Peppers and herbs growing under grow lights.

I sowed my pepper seeds 10-12 weeks prior to transplanting. I planted them ¼” deep in a fine-textured soil mixed with vermiculite to provide good drainage. I planted two kinds of hot peppers and two kinds of sweet peppers. I made sure that I had each one carefully labeled because I would hate to mix them up. Because they are growing in my living room window, I didn’t worry that the bottom heat needed to be between 80–90°F/27–32°C. Seeds will germinate in 7–8 days at that temperature; at lower temps, germination is slower, erratic, and percentage germination is reduced.

In about 2 weeks, when the first true leaves begin to form, carefully separate the seedlings and transplant them into cell trays or pots.

Pepper seedlings should be grown for 10-12 weeks before being transplanted outdoors.

Egg Plant

Growing eggplants in containers will allow you to grow these veggies earlier since the soil in containers warms up faster. Growing in containers will also help you deal with weeds and pests conveniently. In fact, these troubles are less likely to bug you when growing eggplants in containers.

I started the eggplant seeds indoors. I filled the pot with vermiculite and soil and planted the seeds so that I could thin them later. Eggplant seeds will germinate in about ten days and will be ready for transplanting in 6 to 8 weeks.

Other Herbs to Begin Early

Some plants are slow germinating but do best when they are first treated with cold for 30-90 days. I start these seeds by putting some vermiculite in a plastic bag and dampened with water and then putting the bags in the freezer for one to three months. Afterwards, I bring the seeds back up to room temperature and plant as recommended. Here are the herbs that I treated with this method. These are parsley, lavender, echinacea, and true comfrey

In addition, other herbs, particularly perennials need more time to get started so that they can be planted later out in the garden with better results. These are hyssop, oregano, and Russian tarragon-I used the same vermiculite and soil mix that I used for the other seeds. Because the seeds were so small, I just pressed them into the soil and watered as usual.

Why I Am Not Using a Tiller

Last week, I said that I would tell you why I am using a broad fork rather than tilling. There are two basic reasons. The first one is that it enables me to dig out the Bermuda grass that invaded the garden. The second reason is because I don’t turn the soil with the broad fork. The tiller destroys tilth and causes hard pan to develop below the ground that is turned. Instead, it simply loosens and aerates the soil which is especially good to do with clay soil like I have.  

If you enjoyed my post, I would love to hear what you think of this post! If you have any questions about growing transplants from seeds, please feel free to ask them down in the comments below.

The Homestead Today

winter time garden
It doesn’t look like much, but this is where next year’s main garden will be planted.

I learned. a while back, that in order get where I want to go, I first have to know where I am.  So today, I would like to share where I am right now on my homestead.

Today the ground is covered with snow, but a lot is sitting under that snow on this one and a half acre piece of ground.

My Writing

The books that I am writing will be based on my actual experience, not just on a bunch of research. This year has been about foundational preparations. A lot has happened since my last post in June. Here are a few of the highlights. Currently I am working on the first book of The Perpetual Homesteader, The Perpetual Vegetable Gardener and I am working on a couple of smaller books that I plan to share for free as e-books. These books will be called The Seasonal Garden and The Ultimate Survival Garden. I doubt I will be able to publish The Perpetual Vegetable Gardener until later this year, but considering how things are going in this country right now, I want to get the two smaller books into the hands of as many people as possible and before the spring planting season.

The Garden

In September I planted elephant garlic, regular hard stem garlic and Russet potatoes in preparation for next year. The garlic will definitely produce. The potatoes? They are an experiment. In the spring I am going to plant another planting of the same. I’ll show the comparisons in how they grow as the season progresses.

I also have sweet potato slips started from roots saved from last year’s crop from which I got about twenty-five pounds.

I am not using a rototiller but am using a broad fork to dig up the garden. Part of the reason is that I want to see if I can produce a majority of my own food using only hand tools. I’ll explain more about why I am using this tool in my next post.

The Chickens

Chickens in winter
The chickens are making the most of their home this winter

I ordered my chickens last spring, but they didn’t arrive until July eighth. We moved them out to their outdoor pen when they were four days old. Within three weeks we put up a portable electric fence. This made it possible to raise most of them to adulthood even though foxes lived just outside the fence. Feeding the foxes helped too. The hens started laying December twenty-first, the shortest day of the year. I am thinking that I will be sure to get replacement chickens at different times of the year now that I have fresh eggs every day. I have a dozen eggs in the incubator right now. We’ll see how they do.

The Perennials

Not much to see here. I just transplanted some June bearing strawberries last fall. I hope to have some strawberries from them this year. I also ordered some other perennials and other berries including everbearing Ozark Beauty strawberries. They should be arriving later today (2/8/2021).

The Herb Gardens

Medicinal Garden in the Wintertime
Not much to see here, but this will have a variety of plants come spring.

Here’s the beginnings of the medicinal herb garden. I have a few echinacea plants and a few lavender plants. What you see are the kale plants that I grew last fall. The chickens really enjoyed the last of the greens when they were free-ranging. Last year I started growing basil, oregano, lemon mint, and thyme from seed. I saved seeds from the basil. Again, more culinary and medicinal herbs to come.

The Orchard

Five Small dormant fruit trees
These trees were temporarily planted here while I wait for the weather to get good enough to plant them in their permanent location.

I have these five fruit trees to plant when this weather warms up again. I have three apple trees—Liberty, Yellow Delicious, and Braeburn—, a peach tree, and a pear tree. There’s not much to see right now, but they will (hopefully) grow. More to this story later.

The Pantry

The pantry currently consists of one small freezer, some home-canned and store-bought canned and packaged goods, and a few plastic buckets and metal containers filled with rice, sugar, white flour, salt, and the like.

Canned Sweet Potatoes
After eating some fresh sweet potatoes, I decided to can a few and add to my pantry.
potatoes in buckets in the kitchen
I don’t have a root cellar yet, but i have found some success in storing potatoes in a cool, dry place in my kitchen.

Potatoes keep well for several months without any kind of special care. I just bought 100 pounds last fall and still eating on them now. I believe I have enough to last the two of us until I get a potato crop from my own garden.

So what will the next season bring? Stick with me and continue with me on my homesteading journey.

Do you have plants for producing your own food this year? If so, I would love to hear about your plans!

Becoming a Perpetual Homesteader

Just like every plant starts from a seed, a book series starts with a single idea.

Back in January 2019, I started looking at what if an EMP occurred and we were without power for a lot time.

This exercise led me to start a patio container garden at our townhouse in Springfield, Missouri. I grew tomatoes, potatoes, strawberry plants, onions, lettuce, and a few Lima beans. My husband said that all I needed were a few chickens to round out my patio homestead. Over the next several months, we stuck with this theme and my husband suggested that if we could find a place in the country (again) that we could start over. Our goal was to get a place that we could pay cash for. In August 2019, we closed on that place. We had a place with water and electricity on it.  A few months later we closed on an old trailer that my eldest son and wife had with it came an outdoor wood furnace. Our homestead was ready to become a reality.

In November 2019 I started Matt Power’s The Advanced Permaculture Online course. I spent the next several months immersing myself into permaculture ideology. Once I finish my permaculture design and create a permaculture project, I will receive my certification as a permaculture designer and instructor.

In March 2020, COVID-19 entered the picture. My job as a substitute teacher was put on hold and I was laid off for the rest of the school year. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to move to our new home. During the spring and summer and into the fall I worked on getting the place established.  I now have a large vegetable garden space, chickens that are laying eggs, my wood stove is heating our home, and we are in the process of planting a fruit orchard.

Today I am starting my permaculture project which I call The Perpetual Homesteader book series. In this series I will demonstrate how we can create perpetual food, health, and energy systems at our own homes to improve our lifestyles.