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Category Archives: Gardening & Permaculture

All things “food production.”

Companion Gardening for the Intimidated

companion gardening for the intimidated

When I was a kid, I loved gardens. When we had one at our house, I loved weeding because it meant eventually I’d get to snack on yummy radishes. When teachers and grandparents wanted young labor to help in the gardens, I was always willing.

After college when I finally had a place that was really my own, I talked a lot about beginning a garden. But every time I started planning, I got overwhelmed. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to keep bugs away without using chemicals and pesticides, and I didn’t feel okay doing that.

It also felt like if I made the wrong decisions about what to plant, when to plant it, and what I planted next to each other, I would completely fail.

Of course, that’s not how gardening works. While a lot of plants to have specific needs for optimum growth, many will manage to grow no matter what nature (or your black thumb) throws at them. This year I bought a handful of herbs, pepper plants, kale, and tomatoes, and started a small row of container planters along my driveway. I realize now that as long as you water with consistency and pay attention to what the plants are telling you, complete failure is unlikely.

one plant thriving, one plant isn't

Sometimes even the same plant in the same soil will have a different outcome.

Sure, some harvests are disappointing — I have two habanero plants that are producing absolutely nothing (though they look healthy!), while the sweet red pepper plant next to them is thriving. But overall, you have to be ready to accept the bad with the good.

That being said, I’ve already learned a lot about companion gardening, and am outlining plans for a more fleshed out, actual garden next year. Gardening isn’t a magic process that guarantees success, but there are scientific reasons certain plants do better together.

Below are some uses and tips for companion gardening.


Keeping Pests Away Naturally

Problems with wildlife in the garden? Read more about that here..

Before there were pesticides, people managed bugs in a variety of ways. One main strategy actually led to the development of some pesticides. This involved planting plants that pests were attracted to next to plants that they avoided. Certain herbs repel pests because of their chemical makeup. This, of course, is an example of companion gardening to keep pests away.

Of course, there are other natural ways to keep pests out of your garden. Altering the PH of your lawn can help, as can natural solutions like vinegar. See more alternatives to lawn and garden pesticides here.

Maximizing Nutrients in the Soil

There are lots of reasons to grow your own food; self-sustainability, controlling the ingredients in your food, and affordability are just some of the top few. When it comes to controlling the contents of vegetables, most people focus on pesticides. But how vegetables are grown has a strong effect on the nutritional content. Blueberries thrive in acidic soil provided by oaks and pines. Some weeds like stinging nettle pull nutrients to the surface, making those nutrients available to nearby plants when the weeds decompose.

Basil and Parsley work well together, but the mint is planted separately because of a tendency to take over.

If you have too many plants on the same soil level, they will compete for nutrients. This is why planting

bush beans next to corn is ideal, because their roots are at different levels in the soil, meaning they don’t compete for water and nutrients. You have to be careful with herbs too, since some spread and will take over a whole space. I’ve got basil and parsley in a bin together working great, but when my husband bought me a mint plant, I knew I needed a separate container.

Companion gardening sounds scary and difficult, but it really comes down to paying attention to how your plants are doing and changing their environment to improve it. The Farmer’s Almanac is a great place to start for companion planting recommendations, or you could try the book “Carrots Love Tomatoes” available at Pantry Paratus.  Share your gardening experiences in the comments!

companion gardening for the intimidated

Jeriann IrelandJeriann Ireland blogs about figuring out how to live healthy, pay off student loans, and have tons of fun while doing it.   Read Making Healthy Food Decisions for Your Family” on Pantry Paratus, or you can find her articles on her blog,


Grow and Harvest Yarrow for Insect Bites and Stings

I started beekeeping with two hives, and one was very calm and docile.  The other? Uh, no, turns out they were Africanized and put me into the hospital.  That’s another story you can read about here.  But until we actually figured it out, we were finding ourselves with stings from just “more aggressive than normal” bees.  Of everything we tried to soothe our skin, our family found Yarrow to be the most effective non-drowsy option.   

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Off-Grid Micro-Hydro Homestead

Off-Grid Micro-Hydro homestead

Microhydro Electricity Unplugged



Microhydro, its simplicity is so attractive.  So, you have always wanted to do it . . . go off grid and be self-sufficient.   What does it actually take?  From everyone I have spoken to who actually has done it, the answer seems to be, “Take your estimated cost for time, energy and money and triple it.” 

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Homemade Chicken Feed Using The Chop Rite

Homemade Chicken Feed using the Chop Rite

My how the chickens love this.  It’s just what we do after fish night now. You can make homemade chicken feed from everyday scraps, but some scraps need to be broken down for them.

By grinding the parts that humans do not consume and feeding the chickens, we cut down on chicken feed and provide amazing nutrition to the girls.

We made this video five years ago when we first got our Chop Rite, and I don’t know why we never posted it.  With five years’ experience with owning a Chop Rite, I can speak with some authority when I say that it was an excellent investment for our homestead.

Oh, and it’s still Made in America.  The company used to be called “Enterprise” and once in awhile, you can still find an old Enterprise at an estate sale or in a dusty attic.  They haven’t changed the design since they came out well over 100 years ago, so if you need Enterprise replacement parts, we have those too.



Indoor Planters for Your Indoor Herb Garden

Indoor Planters for Indoor Herb Gardens

An important thing to consider when constructing your indoor herb garden, is figuring out what sort of indoor planters to use! This is where you can have a lot of fun actually, because your indoor planters don’t necessarily need to be typical planters. You can use anything that will hold dirt/water without making a mess – though you do need to consider drainage in many situations.

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Produce, Prepare, & Preserve.