With the end of summer drawing near many homesteaders and gardeners thoughts turn to fall and winter gardening to grow produce 365 days a year and being frugal at the same time! Whilst anyone can grow throughout the fall and winter, the most successful are those who are organized. Read on to find out how you can get organized in your homestead and garden.
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Being organized can do wonderful things for you including reduce stress! I have been working so much that the chores just piled up and nothing was getting done. In an effort to get back on track with the homestead I decided that we need to get organized before the greenhouse build starts and we begin converting the raised beds to mini hoop houses for fall and winter gardening.
ManBear and I spent the last couple of days canning like the dickens (there are soooo many things ripe and ready to harvest right now!) and putting together my sewing room/office. Once we finished these jobs came a great sense of accomplishment and a giant ability for me to seek refuge in the office and get stuff done including, my first task: organizing my seeds.
Start Organizing Seeds
Organizing your seeds is probably the easiest place to start! If you’ve been gardening a while, you are likely to have a stash of seeds all over the place or you just plain have a habit of buying all these wonderful varieties.
I can’t be trusted anymore when it comes to buying seeds or fabric. I once blew over $600 in Hancock Fabrics before they went out of business. In fairness to me I bought an embroidery sewing machine and fabric but still I spent a crazy amount of money on stuff that I have not used….*ahem glances around the office*.
After going through all my seeds I see I did the same thing! I have packets that haven’t even been opened!
I organized seeds by the biodynamic plant type; leaf, root, fruit and blossom. This makes it easier for me to grab the box according to the day of planting following the biodynamic calendar.
A biodynamic calendar is a planting schedule for the days certain plant types are to be sown, weeded, fed etc.
These containers held frozen cream puffs (yet another weakness of mine!) but work out great to keep my seeds together by type as a quick way to organize.
There are many ways you can organize your seeds to be able to see what you have a bit better, organize by type of vegetable, herb or fruit.
How about using a photo album to organize your seeds? You can see all of the packets like a laminated book of deliciousness at the turn of a page:
Photo used with permission, courtesy of Lisa at Fresh Eggs Daily
You can use stackable clear plastic storage boxes to see your seeds better and take up less space in the fridge/basement/garage/freezer/cupboard under the stairs/Narnia and for added protection from the elements and spoiling use self-sealing bags:
Photo used with permission, courtesy of Erica at Northwest Edible Life
If you have kids and you have one of those expanding folders to get them organized and the file isn’t the right color or cartoon or boy band anymore, you can repurpose it into your seed storage!
Speaking of repurposing how about making seed storage from a couple of shoe boxes? I have a few of those kicking about in various cupboards. You can cover them in nice paper or shelf liner from the dollar store if you want something pretty.
Image courtesy of Ananda at A Little Piece of Rainbow
Gardeners and homesteaders sure are a very innovative and creative bunch of people. You can even turn an old pill box into a seed organizer!
If you are artistically inclined or you love the feel and look of an apothecary then these adorable jars and gorgeous boxes are ideal!
Photo used with permission, courtesy of Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff
I love the sweet little jars and boxes. I started saving little jars and bottles I was finding in the thrift store to start my own seed saving kit!
These are just a few wonderful ways to organize your seeds. I’m moving to a clear plastic containerwith printed dividers that I can laminate at home to organize my seed packets I have purchased over the years.
Growers who produce food 365 days a year have a plan. They have mapped their garden and decided what they will grow in what area. They will also have a seed starting plan to be able to harvest crops throughout the cool weather and the rest of the season.
A garden journal is a great way to start planning your garden.
I pick up notebooks at the dollar store and use them to sketch layouts and make notes what I have growing where. A garden journal doesn’t need to be fancy but will help you get organized in the garden and maximize the use of what you have,
You can see in my layout I numbered the beds to make it easier when recording progress and comments throughout the season. I recorded the varieties planted wherever possible to keep track of what I had already planted this year.
A layout helps you to reduce pests and disease in the soil; by knowing what you planted in the bed, you can avoid the same type of plant in that same bed the next season. Growing the same crop year on year can deplete the soil.
Pests and diseases can build up in a bed if the same type of crop is planted in the bed year after year for example potato scab or club root in brassicas. Practice crop rotation to reduce the risk of pests and disease.
You will only truly save money gardening if you grow what you and your family eat or what you can sell.
Only grow the things you love and don’t grow too many. Are you really going to eat zucchini all summer long, everyday, every meal? It’s unlikely right? You really don;t need to sow all 10 seeds in the packet. Unless you want to make zucchini wine!
If you want to grow to sell, research! Research like a grad student the day before the paper is due! Not that I ever pulled a few nights with zero sleep before a paper was due *cough, cough*
Look into what other growers are selling; the varieties, pricing. Are you only wanting to sell to restaurants or do you prefer farmer’s markets? Are you wanting a to set up a CSA like I do?
Fruits and vegetables which are beautiful or unusual like the glass gem corn I grew this year above often do well at a farmer’s market but may not be what the local restaurants are willing to buy.
Plan the varieties you want to grow and pay attention to the Days to Maturity. You may be able to grow several varieties with successional sowing and careful planning on your garden plan for a continual harvest without a giant glut.
Try to limit yourself to 2 or 3 different varieties when you are starting out so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Own Seed Starting, Like A Boss
Next to having your garden layout plan and your seeds is to plan when to sow the seeds and your expected harvest dates.
Most seed packets contain information on when to sow the seeds and how long it will take for the plant to mature, written as Days To Maturity. These are often averages of where the plant is grown and it it helpful to make notes of this in your garden journal of how quickly seeds mature in your garden.
By using the number of days it will take for a plant to mature, you can estimate when to plant and when to harvest!
For example, the packet of carrots, Parisenne variety I have in front of me says that the plant will be mature in 50 to 68 days. If I wanted to be harvesting carrots by 01 August, I would need to plant them 50 to 68 days earlier. I would need to be sowing my carrot seeds from 25 May to 12 June for a harvest on 01 August.
If this seems daunting to you have no fear! You can get my seed starting planting schedule spreadsheet for free in the Urban Homesteading Resource Library! All you need to do is put in your frost dates!
Many urban farmers use a spreadsheet system or a diary which they write in the seeds they will be starting, plants to transplant and likely harvest dates and they are a crucial tool for them to be successful. They also can get fancy with factoring row covers and seed starting timings!
If you aren’t into the spreadsheet thing how about a shoe organizer? You can peg or clip planting dates and information to the pocket and it hangs so it can easily be put up on a potting bench or in the shed!
A printed calendar or whiteboard calendar make a great visual for planting schedules and dates. You will forget when you planted your seeds so mark it down on the calendar or in your garden journal!
Seed starting need not be expensive either. Take a look at Erica’s post How To Start Your Seeds On The Cheap – Owning Burton Farm. This lady blows me away with what you can start seeds in. Seriously!
So you have your seeds organized and you know what you are planting in the next few weeks, what’s next so you can grow like a pro?#
Most backyard farms and urban homesteaders try lots of varieties of plants in the garden. Let’s take tomatoes for example, I know many gardeners who grow a cherry variety, a roma or paste variety and a big slicing variety. I also know many gardeners who grow all cherry tomatoes in different colors so that things look more exciting on the plate!
Hands up if you’re guilty of not labelling seed trays then forgetting what they were? Both of my hands are up.
I have forgotten to label seedlings repeatedly and now I have seeds from a great variety of vegetables which I no longer know what they are. My apple seedlings (or are they rose seedlings?) are a perfect example!
No more I say, no more!
This year, things will be labeled and I will be keeping better track of how the varieties grow in my garden journal.
Labeling your plants will help you remember what you planted where and the variety. The great thing about labeling your seed rows and transplants is that you can keep better tabs on them as they grow.
Your garden journal is a great place to write the information about how great (or bad) each variety is doing! Is one variety riddled with pests or disease but another is growing like a champ? This information will help you in your garden plan for the next season.
Do you want to grow the variety which didn’t grow well this year? Probably not so labeling will help you remember the variety for your notes.
Photo courtesy of Erica at Owning Burton Farm
Plant labels can be free or really, really cheap and you might have already seen the post if you have been following our Frugal Gardening Series this season. Erica from Owning Burton Farm did a great post all about plant labels without breaking the bank!
If you don’t want to label the plants or even the rows, I recommend making notes in your garden journal what variety you planted where so you have a reference to go back to later in the season.
Homestead and Garden Organization Tips
By making small changes in getting your garden and homestead organized you can start saving time. Looking for seeds or tools can take a long time putting your projects and what you want to accomplish in the day further behind.
As a family who homesteads, works full-time jobs, has chores, social engagements and house renovations to do; being organized helps us to get things done. Especially at this time of the year when the harvests start coming in. If you have been following me on Instagram, you will see the amount of food we have been getting this year and it has to take priority over what else is going on to be sure that we don’t waste any food.
This year we have had an amazing number of peaches. We had about 80 lbs of peaches this year from one tree and being frugal homesteaders, we needed to be sure we preserved them to get the best bang for our buck.
And this isn’t taking into account the peach wine and peach mead we’re brewing or the pounds and pounds we gave away to our foraging friends!
Being able to prioritize the tasks which need to be done over the nice to have will help make sure you don’t lose out.
Some quick organization tips
Use some of the organization tips below to make little changes in your garden or homestead to free you up to do more of what you love:
- Tool Organization – hang garden tools up on racks, hooks or nails out of the elements after you are finished with them. Taking care of your tools will prolong their life as well as not having to hunt them down!
- Group Similar Tasks Together – this is also known as batching and helps you keep your focus by grouping similar tasks together. It can also help you to complete a task or project you are working on.
- Make A List – the Honey-Do list never ends in this house but don’t be afraid to re-prioritize projects as necessary. For example fixing the chicken coop may be needed quicker if a predator gets to your birds or the paths need building because the weeds are taking over.
Be sure to take a break to avoid burn out. Enjoy a beer or two in the garden after accomplishing your goal, make time for yourself to relax and recuperate.
Homesteading is a great way to learn skills which can save you money and gardening is a real joy for many people. Staying on top of tasks such as weeding can be made much easier with mulch and no-dig gardening methods which help to save time.
If you have any tips to share with me or other readers please share them in the comments or at the Misfit Gardening Community Forum, we would love to hear your ideas and tips.
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