Homestead Diary: The Heritage Apple Project

Over the last few years I have been building a generous collection of foraged apple seeds. I have a tradition of sprouting these seeds as early as New Year’s as a totally gratuitous mid-winter gardening activity. The first couple of years I only collected a handful of varieties, but over this last summer my little experiment turned into a full-on project. Here I’ll share the findings I’ve gathered on the topic of actually sprouting the apple seeds and the exciting (or disappointing) results I’ve gotten.

Over the last few years I have been building a generous collection of foraged apple seeds. I have a tradition of sprouting these seeds as early as New Year’s as a totally gratuitous mid-winter gardening activity. The first couple of years I only collected a handful of varieties, but over this last summer my little experiment turned into a full-on project. Here I’ll share the findings I’ve gathered on the topic of actually sprouting the apple seeds and the exciting (or disappointing) results I’ve gotten.

First of all, if you’re here to tell me what a waste it is to start an apple tree from seed, you may kindly take your leave. I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life! But in all seriousness, this has been surprisingly enjoyable little hobby that gives me something gardening-related to look forward to after the mania of the holidays is over and the relative boredom of the dead of winter creeps in – along with the sub-zero temperatures.

However, there are some things that should be noted about the particular type of apples I look for as sprouting material and why it’s different than those viral videos you see about propagating a supermarket apple, which I would never do for numerous reasons.

Apples often don’t come true to type via seed

Image courtesy of ResearchGate

Generally speaking, most apples won’t come true to seed. That means anything you get from the supermarket won’t grow into the same type of apple that it came from. Now why would that be?

Most commercial fruit, even if it’s from a local farmer’s market, will be from cultivars (or varieties) that are hybridized for production or disease resistance, among other things. This doesn’t mean that they’re GMO, but what it does mean is that any offspring from that fruit will likely revert to its original parentage and not be a viable seedling; that or it won’t produce desirable fruit. And given that it can take up to 7 years for an apple tree grown from seed to start producing it’s probably a good idea to choose types that will be as advertised! Surprisingly enough, more than 17,000 varieties of apples have been grown in the US, although less than 3,000 of them still exist today.

Apples have been part of the human experience since the beginning of human history. Apples have been found as a part of the diet of early humans in anthropological research and recorded in the story of Adam & Eve. Greek and Roman mythology refer to apples as symbols of love and beauty. And when the Romans conquered England about the first century B.C.E., they brought apples with them.

In the 1600s, apples made their way to North America, too. Crabapples preceded European colonists to America, but the fruit was not very edible. The Massachusetts Bay Colony requested seeds and cuttings from England, which were brought over on subsequent voyages to Boston. Other Europeans brought apple stock to Virginia and the Southwest, and a Massachusetts man, John Chapman, became famous for planting trees throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. You might know him by his nickname, “Johnny Appleseed.”

As the United States and Canada were settled, nearly every farm grew some apples. Although some of these apples were very good for eating and cooking, most of the early varieties would be considered poor quality today. Often, they were used for cider, and the ground-up apples were fed to livestock.

The Vermont Tree Grower’s Association,

Apples in the State of Idaho

Apples have a very rich history here in my own state of Idaho. In the late 1800s, Idaho pioneered the production and preservation of apple varieties imported from the Eastern territories. The first commercial orchard of the Northwest was opened in modern-day Lewiston, Idaho in 1863 at a respectable size of 15 acres, and produced pears as well as apples which were sold to nearby workers in mining camps. The town was to become known as Lewiston Orchards and remained a top agricultural center for many decades, until fruit production moved further downstate. It remains a focus of Idaho’s economy even today: apples are the state’s top fruit export.

It could easily be said that every farm and homestead in the 19th and 20th century grew some kind of apples. This elusive and somewhat mysterious local lore has inspired many to dive deeper into the discovery and preservation of antique or historic varieties, and groups such as the Idaho State Horticultural Society and the Idaho Apple Commission have made it their duty to manage and preserve the culture of apples in our great state. There are many other smaller projects, like the orchard at the Sandpoint Organic Agricultural Center, among others, that focus on gathering details on historical varieties and cultivating them for the public’s enjoyment.

The Apple That Started It All

“Sheena’s Pippin,” until further identified

My interest was at first piqued by a tree owned by a good friend of mine who invited me to pick from it when we first moved onto our homestead. Being a generational naturalist I immediately noticed its unkempt, naturalized splendor, as well as one very important detail: the tree was grown completely on its own root-stock, ungrafted. This is pretty impressive and quite a curiosity in the scheme of orcharding things, so I took to the internet to try and identify it. There are many varieties common to the area that may have even been cultivated by the university itself, dating back to the 1960’s; this particular tree produces absolutely beautiful freckled fruit, streaked with red and accented by a sunny yellow blush. Knowing I would absolutely need to have my own, I saved some seeds and successfully sprouted about a dozen trees the following winter, two of which now reside at my parents’ home in the Clearwater River Valley.

My parents’ area is also rich in apple history, being nearby the valleys of Lewiston Orchards fame; and in their neighborhood there are many wild, ungrafted apple trees to be studied and propagated free of charge. We became so interested in all the varying types of apples in the area that I amassed a collection of seeds and kept detailed notes of each variety for future reference. After the first year, however, my success at actually sprouting the seeds was fleeting.

Gathering Apple Seeds

Removing apple seeds intact is an art form

To harvest apple seeds I will usually look for specimens that are as bug- and blemish-free as possible. This will ensure the highest amount of viable seed per apple. I then slice the meat away from the core, and usually taste-test it and take notes of its characteristics. Don’t forget to take pictures of each variety if at all possible! This will help a lot with identification in the future.

Using a sharp knife I will carefully score a circle around the waist of the apple core, which is all that is left after slicing away the usable fruit. Then, grasping either end in each hand, snap the core at the score mark, exposing the seeds within the woody part of the core. I carefully pluck these seeds out and place them on a labeled paper plate to dry out for a week or so, then into a plastic bag for storage. Discard any seeds that have holes in them or seem hollow; they probably are not viable. You can use the apple cores, peels and other cutoff for making apple cider vinegar, or compost the remaining waste.

Germinating Apple Seeds

The first year that I tried sprouting seeds I had great success. I just had the one variety from Sheena’s yard, and I put them into the fridge wrapped in a damp paper towel, sealed in a baggie – and completely forgot about them. Three months later I spotted them in the fridge and not only had they stratified, they had germinated! I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I put about a dozen sproutlings into cell trays and nursed them for months before they were about four inches tall. Unfortunately my cat had the great idea to take the tops off of nearly all of them; I sent the remaining survivors to live at my mom’s in relative safety. My two cats have a bad habit of damaging my seedlings and other plants, and to my bitter chagrin, I have none of these first flush of apple trees for myself.

The next year I tried winter sowing the seeds I had gathered in milk jugs and had very little success with this method. All the growing conditions seemed right but out of the 50 or so seeds I planted, 2 came up. These two seedlings are wintering over at my mom’s, buried in their pots waiting to be transplanted this year, their second summer.

So this year I did some more research and came up with the same methods that I had read about before: cold stratifying in the fridge with either damp paper towels or peat moss, then waiting for them to sprout in storage or planting them after a 4-6 week chilling period. I opted to try both and got some really interesting results. As of right now, six weeks after placing them in cold storage, none have sprouted. I pulled one package and did some testing and they did germinate after being removed from the refrigerator, so I pulled all of my paper towel specimens and planted them in a 200-cell 1020 plug tray to germinate. One variety that I had a good number of got split off from the group and were broadcast sown into a 4″ tray to germinate under light, with no heat. The remaining 200 seeds I planted I placed onto a heat mat to try and aid germination. Rather than covering them with soil I covered with vermiculite to see if they will retain moisture a little better. I still have some dried seeds of each variety but this will be the largest test run of this year’s seed stock.

Apple seeds will usually have a germination rate of about 30%, so while this may seem like more trees than anyone would know what to do with, I will be lucky to get 50 seedlings sprouted, and then they will have to survive many other obstacles beyond that, including hardening off, wintering over, and planting out, a two- to three-year process. I am hoping to have a good variety of about 20 trees planted around our property and hopefully have some to share with others. I will update this post at the beginning of summer with the results of the 2023 planting-out.

The particular varieties I have gathered won’t mean anything to you, unless you’d like to try sprouting some in which case I’d be happy to share. Here are the varieties I currently have in my collection.

Sheena’s Red Pippin: Sagle, ID. From a friend’s apple tree that I have picked from since 2018. Late summer/early fall apple; yellow with a deep red blush and striping when ripe; soft flesh suitable for fresh eating and applesauce; does not preserve well. Great potential for cider.

Horse Apple: Kamiah, ID. From a horse pasture on Woodland Rd. Late fall/early winter apple; turns deep red and freckled when ripe; soft flesh suitable for fresh eating and applesauce. Will test potential for cider.

Pie Apple: Woodland, ID. Acquired during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing. Late summer/early fall apple; green with a red blush when fully ripe; firm flesh, tart and full of pectin. Great potential for baking, canning and preserving. Would store well.

Million Dollar Property Apple: Kamiah, ID. Taken from ground fall of a roadside apple tree outside of a ranch that was sold for nearly $1,000,000. Late fall/early winter apple; red when fully ripened; form flesh is scrisp and slightly tart; more like a crabapple. Very few seeds gathered.

Pink Lady: Woodland, ID. Collected during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing. Late summer/early fall; yellow with a pink blush, freckled when ripe; crisp, juicy, sweet table apple. Not sure of storage or cooking qualities. Few seeds collected.

Pond Apple: Kamiah, ID. Collected apples and seeds from this tree for two years – 2021 and 2022. Located near a public fishing pond, hence the name. Fall apple; somewhere between a Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, the flesh is slightly soft but still very crisp and juicy. Has amazing flavor. Best fresh pie apple I have foraged so far; yellow-green with a slight red blush and freckling when ripe; wouldn’t store well, but would be a good candidate for pressing.

Pappy Smith: Woodland, ID. Picked from Fred’s property during the Fall Festival of 2022; late summer,early fall apple; firm, tart, juicy green apple with lots of pectin, like a Granny Smith. Good for baking and storage.

Honeycrisp”: Woodland, ID. From Fred’s property, picked during the Fall Festival 2022. Late summer/early fall apple. He said they were a honeycrisp, and were of similar characteristics, although the tree was not grafted. Few seeds collected.

Green Apple: Possibly a duplicate of Pappy Smith; same characteristics, no red blush but could have been earlier in development. Acquired during the 2022 Fall Festival apple pressing.

Ott’s Basin Crabapple: Sagle, ID. Collected with owner’s permission from a roadside tree in my travels for raw milk. Green crabapple type with a red blush. Very tart and unpalatable but the tree wasn’t grafted or property cared for.

Cherry Lane Apple: Troy, ID. Collected from ground fall a roadside tree in a rural residential area between our house and Mom’s. Fall apple; eye-catching yellow apples almost overtaken by red blush; softer flesh, like a pippin, wouldn’t store well but would make great sauce and cider.

Celestial Apple: Kamiah, ID. Collected from a tree on public property that I used to pick from every year for Thanksgiving mulled cider, but was banished from picking by the neighbor for whatever reason after the fourth year. Late fall/early winter apple; a nice green apple with a red blush and smooth, shiny skin; good for cider and pies. Makes amazing canned pie filling.

Have you ever tried to start an apple tree from seed? Would you like to swap some seeds? Let me know in the comments!

Where to Get My Favorite Free Seed Catalogs

In the colder months when the wind blows snow flurries over our lifeless garden and the fire burns cozy in the living room, one of the most anticipated events in my house is the mid-winter arrival of the annual seed catalogs. There are few things more comforting than relaxing on the couch with a colorful magazine full of page after page of beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs. Even though I rarely purchase from more than one or two companies every year it’s a wonderfully cathartic way to ward off the chilly weather.

In the colder months when the wind blows snow flurries over our lifeless garden and the fire burns cozy in the living room one of the most anticipated events in my home is the mid-winter arrival of the annual seed catalogs. There are few things more comforting than relaxing on the couch with a colorful magazine full of page after page of beautiful vegetables, flowers and herbs. Even though I rarely purchase from more than one or two companies every year it’s a wonderfully cathartic way to ward off the chilly weather.

There is an undeniable joy that comes from leafing through an old-fashioned ink and paper catalog; however, I know that there’s a lot of benefit to shopping online, including the ability to use advanced product filters and check out quickly. Two of my favorite storefronts that provide amazing selections online but don’t offer a paper catalog are True Leaf Market and Renee’s Garden Seeds. I have ordered from these two companies for many years and I love to spread the word about quality, sustainable seed sources!

While the annual addition of fun and unique new varieties offer temptation in many forms (such as that new purple-striped beefsteak tomato, or a particularly fungus-free cucumber) what really draws me in are all the stories and valuable growing information peppered in with the products. Below I have listed a few of my favorite places to get free seed catalogs so you can enjoy them too!

Baker Creek (Rare Seeds)

Baker Creek, the leader in quality rare and heirloom seed selection, offers two different versions of their catalog; the free edition is the one I get every year and while I’ve never paid for the whole seed catalog, I’ve never been disappointed by the smaller counterpart. It’s chock full of gorgeous, high resolution photos of their unique and exotic varieties. As I’ve mentioned before I always find Baker Creek’s lack of growing information a little bothersome; however, I will continue to peruse their catalog and make small orders from them for years to come, I’m sure.

Botanical Interests

Another fan favorite, Botanical Interests is a serving of eye candy similar to Baker Creek but in a much more artistic way: each variety is hand-illustrated and they take great pride in including copious amounts of growing information. Kevin over at Epic Gardening has just acquired this company and I’m excited to see the direction he takes it.


I hardly ever order from Johnny’s because I grow exclusively heirloom varieties, and they are a company that focuses a lot on new and developing hybrid types; however, I do use them if I am looking for something very specific. I also am continuously impressed with the amount of useful growing information they pack into their catalog and in their online grower’s library as well.

Seed Savers Exchange

SSE is my favorite publication for light reading. They always include touching ancestral stories of seeds from the catalog as well as from the vault that are fascinating and enjoyable to read, and they even sprinkle in recipes throughout! Their mission is a valuable one to support and their selection of exclusively heirloom seeds can’t be beat.

Territorial Seed Company

My grandpa told me about Territorial a few years ago and since then I have made purchases from them here and there. I really enjoy thumbing through their newsprint catalog with oldschool feel and loads of fabulous growing info.

Chances are that after you get on some of these lists (or order from gardening suppliers, who knows) you will receive catalogs in the future that you haven’t even requested! I found one of my favorite seed companies, Pinetree Garden Seeds, this way. And that’s not a sponsored statement whatsoever!

For some quick info on how to start those garden seeds, see my post category on seed starting.

Do you have any favorite seed catalogs not listed here? Share them with me in the comments below!

How I Organize my Garden Seeds

Welcome (or welcome back) to the cabin! I’m sitting down with a cup of tea and my seed purchases for the 2023 season to chat with you about what I’m most excited to grow this year as well as how I organize my seed stash.

Welcome (or welcome back) to the cabin! I’m sitting down with a cup of tea and my seed purchases for the 2023 season to chat with you about what I’m most excited to grow this year as well as how I organize my seed stash.

I did do some hapless department store seed shopping, but this year I tried to stick to only what I needed to round out my vegetable garden as well as selecting some flowers to transform my patch into the cottage-inspired space I’d like it to be. The larger ticket items I was in need of this year were alliums, paste tomatoes, greens, and herbs. I went through a lot of these seeds in prior years and I needed to round out my stock for this year not just for my personal garden but for the seedlings that I sell around town in the spring.

I shop mainly for heirloom vegetable seeds, and I would love if you would visit our Affiliations page to see which brands we use and love here on the homestead, and which give back to us through referrals!

Photo Storage Full-Size Seed Organizer:

Photo Storage Half-Size Seed Boxes:

Renee’s Garden Seeds:

Seeds ‘n Such:

Seed Savers Exchange:



You can get 10% off your order using my code SAVE10NOW.

Sandhill Preservation Center:

Baker Creek Rare Seeds:

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe:

STRATCO Raised Garden Beds:

As an Amazon Associate I may earn a small commission from any purchase made from links that I share, at no additional cost to you. To find out more please view our privacy policy on our website.

Homestead Diary – My First Butchering Experience

I finally got the courage to cull my first hen after we adopted a few rescue chickens from a backyard chicken owner. They had been kept indoors pretty much all their lives and came to us with a number of problems, one of which being the dreaded egg-eating. This counterproductive problem got worse and worse until the straw that finally broke the camel’s back: I came into the coop to gather eggs one day and was literally fighting off hens hand-and-claw for the few precious eggs we were getting in the dead of winter. The one in particular that I could clearly identify was a hefty white hen, which I confirmed based on the egg yolk clearly covering her face and comb.

While I’ve been around home-grown meats pretty much all my life the closest I’ve personally come to butchering has been gutting fish. While this is great experience for a kid it didn’t prepare me much for culling my first chicken from our flock of free-range egg-layers! I had been very interested, especially since the onset of the “pandemic,” in butchering a chicken (or a few) just so I could gain the experience. I think for someone who lives the lifestyle that I do – country living, far away from town, fostering our food independence – it’s an important skill to practice even if you’re not trying to pack a freezer full of a year’s worth of poultry.

I finally got the courage to cull my first hen after we adopted a few rescue chickens from a backyard chicken owner. They had been kept indoors pretty much all their lives and came to us with a number of problems, one of which being the dreaded egg-eating. This counterproductive problem got worse and worse until the straw that finally broke the camel’s back: I came into the coop to gather eggs one day and was literally fighting off hens hand-and-claw for the few precious eggs we were getting in the dead of winter. The one in particular that I could clearly identify was a hefty white hen, which I confirmed based on the egg yolk clearly covering her face and comb.

Needless to say my rage overcame my trepidation and I planned to make chicken stock that very night. When I actually hiked down to the chicken pen and swiped her out of the coop that evening, however, I was overcome with a sort of sadness that often accompanies taking a life for food consumption. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have these feelings of remorse when butchering; in fact I think it’s healthy to have a real connection with the animals you raise for your family’s sustenance. I wasn’t dissuaded by these emotions however especially considering these troubling hens are defeating the purpose of keeping them in the first place, which is egg production.

I take great solace in knowing that the animal products I buy or harvest are from creatures who lived a good life and were lovingly cared for. To foster a connection to your food is to understand the modern economy of food production and why it’s important to be personally involved in your own food chain, as our ancestors have been until very recently in human history.

Ultimately I chose to dislocate the neck of this particular hen mostly because of her ample size. I knew after extending her neck with my dominant hand, holding her body with my left hand, that I may not be able to do the job properly if I attempted to do so manually. Given that this was after dark and I was holding her close to my body she was very calm, and so I implemented a technique I had seen a very thoughtful and considerate person carry out in a YouTube video I watched prior to the undertaking: I tilted her forward, slipped her head under a fallen branch, anchored the wood with my foot and pulled on her feet until the head was dislocated from the neck. This may seem like a gruesome description but it was very gentle and minimally invasive; far superior to bleeding out a chicken by the neck, in my opinion. I might feel differently if I had a whole flock to dispatch but this was an isolated case and I also wasn’t interested in making a bloody mess during the winter, a season of peak predator activity in our area.

There was a tremendous amount of flapping (an unconscious, postmortem result of the nervous system discharging any residual energy) and then it was over: I had my first ever farm-fresh product to stuff in the stew pot. This was the easiest part of the job, believe it or not. Dressing a whole chicken by hand is a much bigger undertaking that you’d think!

I have to say that the plucking was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal. It was very tedious to do by hand and even if we did have a chicken plucker I probably wouldn’t have set it up just for one bird. Before I went out to cull the hen I had gotten my canning pot up to 150° on the stove, ready for scalding, which I did immediately upon reentering the house. It took two or three dunks to loosen the flight feathers so I could proceed with the tedious job of disrobing the bird. I found that keeping one side of the sink plugged with a trickle of cold water running worked best for rinsing the feathers from my dominant hand. When I was finished I just scooped them out into the compost.

My #1 tip for first-time hen butchering is YouTube. I watched countless videos detailing the entire act in gory detail, an unpleasant but necessary preparation for the task at hand. There are so many little things to pay attention to from start to finish that it can be quite daunting when you actually have the bird in hand. I periodically referred to a particular video during the process because I wanted to do the best job possible of removing the entrails and avoid contaminating the meat. Overall it went very well and I was quickly chopping vegetables to nest into my Instant Pot along with the chicken.

I’m not sure if this is typical of an older laying hen but I noticed both when I was dressing the carcass and after cooking it down that it was excessively fatty. There was a copious amount of fat underneath the skin as well as surrounding the organs, and this was all floating in a half-inch thick layer after the stock was done. I scooped most of it out to keep for the dogs along with the skin and some of the less desirable pieces of meat. After stripping and shredding all the good meat from the bones I strained the stock, squeezed the remaining juices from the vegetables using cheesecloth, and put everything in the fridge to wait for dinner the next night. To see what I included in the soup base see my recipe Whole Chicken Stock.

Using my Rotisserie Chicken Noodle recipe I prepped the stew just like any other. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the final product especially considering how old and fatty the chicken ended up being. While the meat wasn’t the most tender it had good flavor and thanks to the Instant Pot, it was absolutely as delicious as it was possibly going to get. Overall I’m very happy with the result and the experience I gained in the process.

One thing I found very surprising was how quickly the soup spoiled, but this was to be expected given that the only preservative of any kind was a few teaspoons of salt which was mostly for flavor. After dinner I had immediately packed a thermos of soup and placed it in the fridge for my husband to take to work the next day. He happened to take a working lunch that day and wasn’t able to reheat and enjoy the soup, so nearly 16 hours after he had first removed the thermos from the fridge and tossed it in his lunchbox he opened it back up to finish it for dinner. Unfortunately for him it had literally begun to sour and had a terribly unpleasant odor and taste. Now if this had been a can of Campbell’s Chunky it probably would have been fine, and I wouldn’t have given a second thought to reheating that type of product at the end of the day. This was a valuable demonstration of the perish-ability of whole foods and the quality of the standard American’s diet nowadays.

Unfortunately, as I found out the next day, I was correct in assuming she was not the only hen who was predating our egg supply. We still have at least one hen who is eating eggs that I will need to butcher very soon. Because I was very focused on the task at hand I wasn’t able to get any pictures or video this time but I definitely will be sure to update this post when I find out who the remaining culprits are.

Is there something you’ve wanted to try on the homestead but have been dragging your feet about? I’d love to know what skills you want to practice. Leave me a comment below!

Weather Reporting on the Homestead: AcuRite Products That We Couldn’t Live Without

I hope those of you who are familiar with the “quality” of AcuRite products don’t scoff at the title of this post. While the entire line of products leaves a lot to be desired, they have a monopoly on the weather reporting market, so therefore they can charge an outlandish amount of money for items that oftentimes have subpar performance. However, the modules that we have around our property provide data and reliability that make our life much easier. I’d like to take a moment and share some of those products with you as well as what purpose they serve and how they help us on the homestead.

I hope those of you who are familiar with the “quality” of AcuRite products don’t scoff at the title of this post. While the entire line of products leaves a lot to be desired, they have a monopoly on the weather reporting market, so therefore they can charge an outlandish amount of money for items that oftentimes have subpar performance. However, the modules that we have around our property provide data and reliability that make our life much easier. I’d like to take a moment and share some of those products with you as well as what purpose they serve and how they help us on the homestead.

Acurite 5-in-1 Weather Station

I can safely say that our weather station is the unit in our Acurite collection that sees the most use. While it was very spendy to get up and running and required additional equipment to function as advertised (more on that below) it serves its purpose well and now that we’ve had it for a while provides more accurate weather forecasting than anything we’ve had access to before. With our property being tucked into a canyon on the south side of a mountain we experience quite the little microclimate, even compared to the houses at the bottom of our road that are just half a mile away. In the past this had made forecasting very difficult. But since we’ve installed our weather station and it’s had some time to learn our climate we can now accurately forecast up to a week away as well as monitor our outdoor weather and temps remotely. With firewood to be sourced, roads to be plowed, and animals to be cared for in the winter months, this helps us a lot in planning and utilizing resources like additional heat, water, and food sources in freezing temperatures.

We use a number of sensors in various locations that help us monitor temperatures in key areas such as outbuildings and animal shelters. We have an outdoor guardian dog, Jackson, who we’ve tried to bring into the house a number of times during extreme weather events but has disliked being indoors greatly. He has lived his entire life, even before coming into our care, out of doors and watching over animals and property. He has a very comfortable setup inside our enclosed porch, but even then the temperatures can dip below freezing in the dead of winter. Installing a sensor inside his heated, insulated doghouse has enabled us far more control over his environment to ensure his comfort in more ways than one: on the coldest days, we keep his blanket turned on high, which on average keeps his house about 30 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature. However, when it starts warming up at night, it can get far too warm inside his little house and he will be in and out of it all night. We want him to be as comfortable as possible and this helps us be the best pet parents!

In the case of our own resources in the cabin it also helps us avoid disaster, and that’s no exaggeration. Being able to remotely check on the indoor temperature of the house enables us freedom during the winter that we hadn’t had previously. The plumbing in our vintage log cabin is subpar to say the least, and before we had set up the Acurite Access we had no idea whether the auxiliary heaters were keeping the house up to temp in our absence. During our Christmas vacation in 2019 the electric heaters hadn’t quite cut it, causing our water main in the laundry room to freeze solid. Luckily the pipe didn’t burst but it was this mishap that finally encouraged me to pull the trigger on a weather station and access point.

The Acurite Access Hub

With the MyAcurite app as long as you have an Access set up in your household, you can set custom notifications for minimum and maximum temperatures as well as other features like water sensors for flooding. In our case, if the temperature in the ballast shed (where our water main is located) reaches below 37 degrees my husband and I will get both a text and an email letting us know any time of the day or night. We will also receive a notification if our weather station is ever offline which is a good indication that the power is probably out and we should head home to check on things.

When I purchased the 5-in-1 weather station and display package it was advertised as having real time access from the app. Unfortunately they did not disclose that this comes only with the additional purchase of the Acurite Access, which acts as a base and uploads your weather station stats to a live feed via your wifi router. You then can review these stats within a limited time frame via the MyAcurite app, an outdated and clunky interface which, like most other products by the company, are about as useful as they are well thought-out – which is minimally at best. However, being the sole representative of home weather reporting with any notoriety on the market, we are left begging rather than choosing.

The Bottom Line

All that being said we still couldn’t live without the freedom that our weather station affords us. Since building our greenhouse and my parents’ studio cabin we have added an additional three sensors to our array and would be greatly inconvenienced if we didn’t have them. One of my new favorites is a soil temperature and humidity monitor that I leave in the garden year-round. Now that I have my fence repaired and my greenhouse very close to being done I can keep an eye on soil temps and plant out my earliest crops as soon as possible thanks to this temperature monitor.

Speaking of gardening, have you checked out my seed starting posts? I use a temperature and humidity sensor in my germination station as well!

How To Shop For Nursery Seedlings

veggie starts may look herculean compared to humble home-grown seedlings, looks can be absolutely deceiving. Read on for my best tips on how to shop for nursery-grown plant starts.

There is so much more to plant shopping than you think! While those department store veggie starts may look herculean compared to humble home-grown seedlings, looks can be absolutely deceiving. Read on for my best tips on how to shop for nursery-grown plant starts.

Look For Signs of Stress

Your first indicators of a seedling that’s best left for the bargain bin are obvious signs of stress. These can include wilt, discoloration, legginess, dry or cracked soil, or dropped leaves. Many of these signs are related to poor watering, fertilizing, and accommodations – many nurseries send out seedlings in prime condition, but by the time they make it to the garden center in your area they can be outgrowing their pot and in desperate need of some attention. For best results try to find the perkiest, greenest looking one of the bunch, and not necessarily the largest! We’ll talk specifically about size in a moment.

Avoid Flowering

While it may be intriguing to see flowers on seedlings they’re the last thing you want on a plant before you take it home. A seedling that is setting flowers usually means it’s reached a point in its lifespan that any further growth will be stunted, because something has signaled the poor little thing to be fruitful and multiply! This can mean it’s outgrown its container, has not been getting enough water or nutrients, or has come in and out of dormancy too many times. If you must take home a plant that has begun flowering (or even worse, fruiting) go ahead and pinch those babies off until it’s planted in its permanent location and has some time to settle in.

Check on Root Development

I promise you won’t get yelled at by the clerk if you check a plant’s roots before putting it in your basket! Go ahead and pop that sucker out of the cup and check out the root situation underneath. If you see a lot of spiraling or “balling” of the roots, pass on that one. More root problems can be indicated by dryness, discoloration, or even mold and mush. Healthy roots will be relatively straight, firm and light colored.

Be Mindful of Size

While you may be tempted to go for the tomato that towers above the rest, be careful! Don’t spend a cent of your precious garden budget on a seedling that won’t get any bigger once you plant it out. When shopping for starts younger is usually better and while this may surprise you it’ll soon be evident in the garden. Seedlings that have outgrown their environment will be quickly surpassed by their more petite companions for the simple reason that they peaked too soon. If you see a larger plant that isn’t suffering from any of other the signs above, lucky you! However, I’m willing to bet that gargantuan plant is root-bound as can be, already flowering, in need of a fertilizing and won’t see much success no matter how well you care for it after you bring it home.

Beware Pests or Disease

While this is uncommon for nursery-grown plants it’s not unheard of. If you see any kind of pest damage like holes or chewing, beware! You wouldn’t want to bring that pest home and introduce it to your own garden plot. For the same reason you should be on the lookout for any kind of black, brown or white spots, or a powdery residue on the leaves or soil. These are good indicators that there is disease present in the nursery and that you probably shouldn’t spend your money there. You may even want to notify an employee if you see something suspicious – there’s a chance they may not know yet that there’s a problem.

Strive to Shop Local

Last but definitely not least (this may be the most important item on the list!) please do your best to support local businesses and keep your hard earned money in your community. There are many hometown nurseries to visit in your area and they will be forever grateful for your patronage. Their plants are often started from seed right there on the property and you can ask for specialized advice, which they are often more than happy to share. This will translate directly to your garden through healthier plants and better production! The benefits from shopping small for your seedlings are endless, so do your part to stimulate the local economy and visit a small farm or greenhouse for your gardening needs this season!

I frequently buy herbs like rosemary, sage, and lavender from my local nursery because they’re hard to germinate and will do much better in my climate as started plants. However, if you haven’t tried your hand at seed starting, I highly encourage you to take the leap. You can read my Home Gardener’s Guide to Seed Starting for more information.

What are the veggies that you just can’t live without? Let me know what you pick up from the nursery in the comments below!

3 Reasons Why You Should Be Saving Your Own Garden Seeds

Did you know that with proper selection and care you can grow your own seed stock right in your home garden? Planting heirloom fruits, vegetables, and herbs can provide you with an unlimited supply of garden seeds for generations to come. Read on for my top reasons why you should start saving seeds this season.

It Will Reduce The Overall Cost of Gardening

Saving your own seeds can be a very economical way to garden! Aside from purchasing online, seeds can be found in all sorts of places from swaps to public seed libraries and even in the wild. Whether you begin with purchased, gifted, or foraged seed, it will soon become the gift that keeps on giving. With isolated or open-pollination practices you can continue to harvest seed year after year and never have to purchase that variety again!

Your Plants Will Adapt to Your Environment

When you save seeds from the healthiest fruits that your garden produces you’re taking the genetics from that very plant and passing them on to the next generation. That means that as seasons pass you’ll be preserving the most desirable traits of that plant as well as the hardiness it’s developed from living in your particular patch of dirt! Amazingly, these adaptations include but are not limited to: pest and disease resistance, cold or heat tolerance, soil condition, and sun exposure. It’s pretty mind-blowing the difference you will notice from a plant that was grown in an industrial greenhouse from commercial seed stock versus one that you’ve been planting at home for years.

It’s Fun and Easy

Seed saving for the most part is a hobby more than a chore, and is pretty easy to figure out! There’s one thing that Mother Nature designed fruits and vegetables to do and that’s procreate, which is great for us hunter gatherers. Just you wait – soon you’ll be eyeballing flowers and herbs in a whole new way, and searching on the internet for how to propagate apple seeds from your neighbor’s tree. You’ll want to pick your bounty when it’s far past its prime, normally at the end of its peak season and way beyond the point of edibility. The seeds from these fruit will be fully mature and will have the best chance of germination come the next season. Seed Savers Exchange has a wonderful chart for seed saving which can be found on their website here.

With all these fantastic reasons I’m sure you’ll be anxious to start collecting seeds this season! Let me know in the comments below what fruit, vegetable, flower or herb you’d most like to try harvesting.

How to Shop for Garden Seeds Like a Pro

Hybrid, heirloom, non-GMO? Oh my! What do all these things mean for a gardener when shopping for seeds? I’ll tell all in this lengthy post and I’ll also share some of my favorite vendors (and coupon codes!) with y’all. If you’re ready to dive into my best practices for seed shopping, grab a hot drink and let’s get going! First, we’ll start with the different types of seed that are (and aren’t) available to home gardeners.

Hybrid vs. Heirloom vs. Non-GMO Seeds

I want to preface this section with the statement that hybrid seeds are not bad seeds! Hybrid seeds also are not GMO seeds. This may sound confusing but it can be broken down as such: a hybrid seed is a lot like a dog who is purebred. You must breed these pure hybrid seeds only with other pure hybrid seeds in order to get a descendant true to their type. They aren’t genetically modified – they’re really only cross-pollinated! How simple is that? And the benefits we can reap from growing hybrid seeds in our home gardens are very high – they can boast qualities such as pest and disease resistance, earlier harvests, and premium taste as a result of careful and precise breeding by the companies who develop them.

One of the downsides of purchasing hybrid seeds is that you essentially won’t be able to save seed from your harvest for next year’s planting. If you find a hybrid that you really like, such as the Early Girl tomato, you could continue buying seed from Burpee for years to come. But should any unforeseen circumstances arise(such as what we’ve experienced in the years since COVID came about) there can be problems with stock and supply chain that may prevent you from having those plants some seasons.

Consequently there has been a huge jump in demand for heirloom seeds in the past few years. Heirlooms are rich with history and flavor, as well as being reliable and most importantly, saveable. By definition a plant must be considered stable for at least 50 years to be labeled as an heirloom, meaning you will always get the same product as the very first parent plant you started with as long as it’s been pure in pollination. Sometimes this can take a little extra effort in a home garden but it’s absolutely doable! This means you can purchase a packet of seeds your first year, harvest some of your own seed from a fruit you grew in your garden, and use that new seed you’ve saved to build your very own collection of heirloom seed stock tailored to your growing climate and conditions. Not only does this save money in the long run but it creates an incredibly hardy variety of plant that over the years becomes genetically adapted to your individual plot. To read more about the benefits of saving your own seed see my post detailing the 3 Reasons Why You Should Save Your Own Garden Seed.

Fairly recently (within the last decade or so) many heirloom and organic seed companies have also started labeling their seed stock as non-GMO. While it’s true that their seed is absolutely free of modified genetics, it’s a bit of a misnomer for the home gardener. Unbeknownst to the general public, GMO seeds aren’t available to anyone who isn’t a large-scale farmer buying wholesale seeds. We’re talking the corn and tomato farmers of Central California – they’re really the only ones who are able to purchase such costly seeds for the purpose of food supply agriculture. So in essence, your seeds being non-GMO is guaranteed whether they’re hybrid, heirloom, organic, or anything else under the sun. Southern Living wrote a great article on the non-GMO trend that can be found here.

Start Small (and keep track of what you have)

When seed shopping it’s easy to go overboard (go ahead, ask me how I know!). So when it comes to buying seed, especially as a beginner seed starter, stick with varieties that are easy to grow and keep it simple with one or two types of each vegetable or herb. Instead of buying every type of tomato on the rack, try one each of a cherry, paste and beefsteak. This way you don’t end up spending a fortune when you’re trying to save money in the first place by growing your own food!

It’s also a good idea to keep track of what seeds you’ve purchased even if they haven’t arrived yet. It may seem like overkill but I keep a spreadsheet inventory of my seed collection so that I won’t order duplicates, as well as to keep myself in check – while it’s easy to pick up a packet here or there while browsing online or at the hardware store, if I don’t have a need for it as determined by my list, I try not to buy it. Obviously there are exceptions but as my seed collection has grown I’ve tried to reign it in a bit. So when I’m ordering seeds, especially from multiple vendors, I’ll enter what I’ve purchased onto my spreadsheet to avoid getting too many duplicates in my stash. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get to this point if you are at all serious about gardening!

Store Wisely

Storage is also an important factor of seed collecting especially if you’re wanting long term viability from your seed investments. Whether you’re purchasing or foraging your seed (or both) you will need somewhere appropriate to store them in order to keep them healthy – a seed is alive, after all, and they require relatively specific conditions in order to get the best use out of them. A shoebox in the garden shed would probably be fine but don’t you want to maximize your efforts and store them properly? They need a generally stable temperature to stay viable if they’re not being refrigerated, and dryness is imperative for long-term storage. I use a 4×6 photo storage suitcase for my seed collection and I’m very happy with the organization and ease of use this provides especially during indoor growing season. If you’d like a glimpse of my personal collection of heirloom seeds you can check out my post here!

So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are my top recommendations for seed suppliers!

Renee’s Garden Seeds

Renee’s is a wonderful resource for seeds online and in-store. They’re one of the first companies I ordered from and I still get a few things from them every year. The owner curates beautiful artwork for their packaging as well as their publications, which are a joy to read; and they’ve published a handful of garden-focused cookbooks which I can’t wait to read (I’m impatiently waiting for their arrival in the mail!)

They don’t necessarily focus on heirlooms but their selection contains many open-pollinated and organic vegetable and herb seeds as well as a gorgeous selection of cut flowers. Their products can be found online but I’ve found them at my local co-op as well.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek is a very popular and successful seed company, and for good reason. They have a selection that could be considered excessive but is amazingly diverse and obscure. They specialize in heirlooms and they have beautifully curated packet and catalog photography. They are widely praised by many home gardeners and are often the first vendor recommended on forums and videos.

Personally, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Baker Creek. Often I will order a handful of items from them just because they have rare items that are fun and colorful (their web address is, after all, However, they don’t offer a ton of information on growing these varieties and sometimes there is some trial and error when you are raising seedlings of these more obscure types. Namely, the (inconveniently large) packets contain only the most concise growing instructions.

Their seeds also come in quantities that are much more than I will ever need or use, but admittedly are fun for sharing if you have the opportunity to do so. This comes at the cost of more seed – you end up paying sometimes twice as much for their seed than other companies. If it’s a specialty item, I’m totally fine with that! However, I’ll usually save my money for a company who can give me a smaller amount that can get me started building my own heirloom seed stock.


I like to play with new cultivars in my garden and SeedsNow is my favorite way to accomplish just that! The greatest benefit and one of my favorite reasons to shop their store is they have seeds available in smaller quantities at discount prices. This means you can try something new without spending the whole $3-$4 on a pack of seeds you may not end up liking. For me, this includes things that I’m not sure my family would eat a lot of, as well as plants that are harder to germinate that I want to experiment with. Thanks to SeedsNow I am able to purchase new items in a small and very affordable quantity.

I have been ordering from SeedsNow for nearly five years and I have nothing but great things to say about them. I have always had amazing germination and results from the seeds I purchase from them and I am never disappointed by their heirloom selection. They may not have many super-obscure types like Baker Creek, but they have all the tried and true varieties of fruits, veg, and herbs that a beginner seed starter could ever want!

Luckily for you, my dear reader, Whistling Rooster Homestead is an affiliate with SeedsNow! Click here to shop and receive a 10% discount on your entire order, and click this link to receive free shipping!

Territorial Seed

I first ordered from Territorial on the recommendation of my dear grandfather, an avid gardener, when we moved to the homestead in 2019. They have a wonderful selection of all kinds of seeds and they also publish a very informative newsletter that I enjoy reading on a regular basis. I love when companies promote education alongside their products and Territorial Seed is the best of the best. I enjoy reading their print catalog every year because there’s information to be gleaned from every page. They also have a library of growing guides and other resources on their website that are absolutely amazing!


If you’re anything like me and you’d like to go strictly heirloom MIgardener is going to be your BFF! I have been watching Luke’s educational YouTube channel since 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed his book The Autopilot Garden. In 2018 he opened a brick and mortar shop in Port Huron, MI and sells a wide variety of 100% heirloom seed stock as well as merchandise. Not only do they carry a good variety, they are also priced to sell at just $2 a packet for most products. If you’d like to gain a reliable source for tried and true heirlooms head over to their site.

Snake River Seed Cooperative

Allow me to introduce one of my absolute favorite seed companies – Snake River Seed Cooperative! They are local to my home state of Idaho and they provide a wide selection of heirloom and localized seeds that I have yet to see from another company. I love that the seeds they provide will be tailored to my zone, and as such they offer varieties that are fare better in the short and cool growing season of our region.

Snake River is a collective, which means their inventory is supplied by family-owned and operated farms which have taken the Safe Seed Pledge to ensure a better seed supply in our nation. They began as a seed library and expanded to supply high quality, home-grown seeds to gardeners everywhere. They’re my kind of company!

Seed Savers Exchange

SSE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds. They’ve been around since the 70’s and as their name states, they host an online exchange website that’s free to join and browse. They also list a selection of their voluminous library for public sale, offering hundreds of lovely heirloom varieties for purchase. I love that they’re especially focused on the origin of their seeds and they share the story behind each cultivar whenever possible.

Alongside their extensive inventory they offer a variety of programs and resources for home gardeners nationwide. Visit their website here.

BONUS – TomatoFest

Click here to shop TomatoFest

I’ve included TomatoFest as a bonus vendor on this list because they deal solely in heirloom tomatoes. They are my favorite supplier for tomato seeds and I’ve always had fantastic results from their product! Whistling Rooster Homestead is an affiliate with TomatoFest and I’m happy to refer you to their website for superior selection, prices, and customer service.

There you have it! I hope you enjoy perusing my favorite seed suppliers in preparation for your next growing season. If this is your first time starting your garden from seed you can check out my comprehensive guide to seed starting.

I would love to hear what your top varieties are. Please feel free to share your favorites and where you got them in the comments below!

Grow your Own: A Gardener’s Year

In my quest to find a comprehensive gardening calendar that fits any growing season (and sadly coming up short) I’ve compiled this collection of resources to fit any gardener in any region and any climate. Just a few supplies are needed to put together your ultimate gardening guide and can be found for very cheap, or even free!

Planning – let alone executing – a vegetable garden can seem like a daunting task, but if you take it one season at a time you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much food you can grow for your family. For this program I chose to start the year on the most unlikely day – the day that Mother Nature kills all that is green and tender! This is the day that preparations begin for the next growing season, even though you may not be finished enjoying the harvest you’ve just picked, stored, and probably thrown at anyone who will eat summer squash. Especially in colder northern climates it is a wonderful time to amend beds for their annual hibernation period.

While this is your planning period, don’t forget that it’s a time for rest and relaxation for the gardener as well. Depending on the length of your growing season this off-time may be shorter than not. Count your blessings because this means your fruitful season is longer than mine! Though winter can seem dead and dreary it is a wonderful time to curl up in front of the fire with a tablet and pencil out your allotment for the coming growing season. One of my favorite and most valuable tools in my garden is my notebook – a free download of all my printouts can be found in our online store here. A three-ring binder and some dividers are all you need to put together your very own gardening handbook.

So take the opportunity during this period of rest (for you and your garden) to prepare for the coming year and all the work it holds for you. Yes, it’s a ton of hard labor – sometimes backbreaking – but when you taste that first tomato of the season or prepare a basket of fresh veg to share with your neighbor it fills you with such incomparable joy that by the end of winter you may even be itching to wrestle with bags of soil and cart seedlings in and out of the greenhouse.

To begin, enter your zip code on the farmer’s almanac website below.

The First Season – Planning (FDOF)

Now that you’ve marked your first and last frost dates on your calendar it’s time to block out Season 1 of your Gardener’s Year – the season I call Preparation. Beginning on the day of your first fall frost, this is the time to prep (or build) your garden beds, compost the dying foliage that has been overtaken by frost, amend the soil for their winter vacation, and straighten out your shopping list for spring: take inventory of your tools and materials, order what is needed, and peruse seed catalogs. Use the seeds worksheet from my printout package to take inventory and make a wish list of varieties you’d like to try.

This is also prime time to improve the infrastructure of your garden and surrounding areas. Take this opportunity to reorganize the tool shed, shore up your fences, and do some hardscaping if needed. This will make the spring much easier when you’re trying to juggle timing, and everything is already in its proper place and in tip-top shape.

Now, make sure you leave enough time in late winter to start your seeds indoors if you’re going to go that route. In most parts of North America you’ll want to start sowing indoors at least 8 weeks prior to your last day of frost in the spring.

The Farmer’s Almanac has a comprehensive planting calendar available by your zone here.

When it’s finally time to tear open the first packet, visit my seed starting post here. It’s chock full of information I’ve gathered over the years starting my own seeds, and I’d love it if I could help you start the gardening-from-seed journey by sharing what I’ve learned.

When your seeds are started and cooking in their little plugs it’s a waiting game for the next 2 months or so. Take good care of your seedlings, read a book or two and savor the quiet and calm that is the season of snow. If you don’t get snow in your area, head for the mountains and go sledding or snowshoeing! This resting period of your year will soon be over so have your cozy winter fun while you can.

The Second Season – Execution

No, not death. Copious and abundant life is about to explode from your fingertips! I don’t mean a tangled jungle of a vegetable patch. Just a few squash or a bucket of thriving strawberry plants are a success to be boasted about. When you fail (and you will, we all do – every. single. year.) remember that each plant is a lesson and the garden is a classroom no matter how seasoned you are.

Now is the time to execute the cautiously laid plans that filled your handbook with goals and dreams. Harden off your starts according to your planting calculator – see my post about hardening off here – and in no time some of the tougher crops like kale, radishes and others can go out into the world even before your last day of spring frost. Direct sow what you can directly into the garden and watch the magic of cold-hardy germination unfold, and say your last goodbyes to the passel of tomato plants that have been vying for space (if you’re like me, in your already crowded laundry room.) As soon as the soil is warm enough they’re out on their own!

When you’ve finished prodding, digging, and generally violating your garden beds there’s a quiet period while things get settled in. I like to savor this time before the heat of summer waves in by taking my toddler into the garden and reading a book while he wanders around, babbling to the beans and peas he’s discovered are of the early maturing variety. Keep an eye on your calendar though, because things like legumes, greens and other early harvests can quickly get out of hand before you think much of anything is going on behind the lush greenery of spring.

As you wait for the first blossoms to form on your cherry tomatoes you might discover that gardening is a generous (if sometimes torturous) exercise in patience. Revel in the unfettered grace of mother nature, who blooms for no one. By the end of this journey you will find, along with horticulture, there are life lessons to be learned in the garden.

Water, mulch and prune as needed until you see miniature green replicas of your favorite fruits hanging from their vines. If you are inclined to do so, keep track in your notebook of which varieties set fruit and when (if you’re a northerner like me you may be hunting for cultivars that do particularly well in colder climates.)

I beg you, resist the urge to pull up a carrot or radish every day to see if they’re ready! Their eager shoulders will bare themselves when they want to be picked. The time of harvest will soon be upon you, so set reminders in your phone to keep yourself in check if you must – before you know it you’ll be swimming in more food than you know what to do with. Trust me.

The Third Season – Peak

It’s here, it’s finally here! You’ve got a basket (or a bushel) of veg that you have no idea what to do with. Browse the internet for garden fresh recipes and make the most of the early crops you get from your precious plot. The first months of summer are for fresh eating, while the later months you should reserve for putting away in the pantry what you can – more on that later.

Remember to implement healthy practices when harvesting your fruit so you can prolong the production period of each plant. Keep up on pruning and preventive treatments like neem oil and BT, and you will have a much easier time later in the season when plants get a little out of control.

Make sure your watering is sufficient and timely. The heat of summer is the hardest on your plants, so set your drip or sprinklers on timers so nothing goes thirsty. If you water by hand, enlist some help when you have a heat wave. During the peak of August just 24 hours without water can stunt even the most heavily mulched plants.

Most of all, enjoy this time of great abundance in your garden! Check your cucumbers, okras, and beans every morning, lest they grow large and become chicken fodder. As you pull the cold-hardy, spring weather crops out of your beds, succession sow them with some extra summer veggies that will produce a bumper crop in the fall. While you’re waiting for long-term crops to come to maturity, take shelter from the beating sun and clean out your pantry or root cellar; stock up on canning supplies; and frequent your local farmer’s market to round out your garden-fresh cuisine.

The Fourth Season – Retreat

The fourth and final season of a gardener’s year offers some respite from the dog days of summer and preps the garden for cold-weather survival mode. Soon you will be harvesting winter squash, cabbages, onions, and corn before the threat of frost knocks them back. Don’t forget to use the Farmer’s Almanac calendar for your late summer plantings and seed starting.

Didn’t we already do our seed starting for the year? But wait, there’s more! If you’d like to reap the reward of a succession planting, set aside time and mark your calendar for later plantings that will peak during the final weeks of frost-free weather. Some hardy crops may even keep producing far beyond when frost touches down – things like kale, carrots and radishes are even sweeter when harvested from beneath a dusting of snow! In an area like ours that has cold, snowy winters and moderately hot summers, crops like broccoli don’t perform well in spring and early summer, but rather should be saved for fall planting when they’ll finish off in the colder weather, which is their preference. There are many opportunities to extend your food production into the later part of the year, and if you want to maximize the time and energy you put into your pantry, carefully timed succession planting can be a huge asset to your food independence.

Otherwise be sure to keep up on preventive maintenance (whether your methods be organic or not) during this high season for pest and disease pressure. Keep tucking away those tomatoes and put up some food for the winter! Crisp fall days are the best time to prep and cook your lovingly grown produce into something delicious for canning, freezing, or dehydrating. Check out local farms and cooperatives to complement your pantry with things like apples, nuts, and berries that you may not have established in your home garden quite yet.

When the first fall frost is finally predicted you’ll find yourself running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying desperately to gather up every last morsel off the vine before chilly weather renders it useless. Tomatoes can be brought indoors, still on the vine, to slowly ripen in your pantry or cellar; similarly, winter squash will grow out of their green tint with some time to themselves in a cool, dark area. When you’ve brought in as much produce as you can manage it’s time to take a short rest before putting your beds to sleep for the winter, and this is when the gardeners year begins anew. When the leaves have finished falling (hopefully you’re scooping them up and into your compost bins!) you can chop and drop your mangled, dejected plants and cover them with compost and mulch to marinate for the winter season – and begin making notes and lists for the next growing season.

I hope this picture of my year as a gardener can help you follow through the dreams you’ve always had of growing an abundant vegetable garden. Oftentimes making the decision to garden can be harder than the actual gardening, so don’t be scared to get your hands dirty. You might find, like many of us, you prefer to forego the gloves and nurture your connection to the Earth in a more personal manner.

For more tips and zone-specific growing instructions check out my lessons page here. You can sign up for private lessons or group seminars through Takelessons, or shoot me an email with a question you’re just dying to get answered – and don’t forget to download the free printables package from our web store!