“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.” -Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been looking for some plant labels that add an extra pop to my vegetable and herb raised beds. I do not like to spend money and would much rather reuse, recycle, or DIY my own. Of course I checked out Pinterest and saw some chalk painted painter-stir sticks that I fell in love with. As I thought about their size and shape a bit more, I decided I liked a square shaped rod if I could find something….but I would use the paint sticks if they were cheaper. I had already decided NOT to use a chalk paint since I did not have it on hand, and I saw no need to break the piggy bank just for plant labels, no matter how cool they looked. I already had some matte black acrylic paint that would do but I ended up doing something different. Now, I just needed a white pen that would not wash off in the weather.
On my next run to Walmart, I found a white paint pen that looked promising for $2.24.
Also, I found some nice 5 ft tomato stakes at $3.26 for a 4-pack. I figured I could cut each one into foot long sections, making 20 markers, and I did just that.
But then I thought about doing the Shou Sugi Ban burn method instead of painting them black, which would seal the wood while keeping paint out of the garden. A nice trade. I used my weed torch to burn the wood and was surprised how easy it was. Watch out…. I have some more plans for the Shou Sugi Ban.
Next, I wrote my plant names using the white paint pen. I practiced first, to find the lettering I wanted. I went with block lettering.
What do you think? I really like how they turned out.
There has been much discussion about crop rotation. Most gardeners know about its usefulness as well as the negative impacts traditional monocultural systems have had; perpetuating disease and pests thereby decreasing yields.
Crop rotating is when numerous plant species are used in cooperation with each other. For example, growing a field of corn one year then following it the next year by beans. This adds biodiversity for the entire system and helps to accumulate beneficial biomass in the soil. It also discourages pests and diseases by introducing new plants that those pests have no use for thereby disrupting their ability to survive. Also, soils need the variety in root material and nutrients each plant provides as it grows and decays. Beneficial insects, pollinators, and worms also need the same diversity for their health and longevity. This spider ate many harmful squash bugs last year so I kept her around to do her thing. I hope to see her babies this year. I also had a couple of Preying Mantis’s last year and I have seen several of their eggs while prepping this season’s beds. Invite the healthy insects to keep the damaging insects under control. Crop rotation is a great way to bring variation into the ecosystem.
I have to put a plug in here about companion planting. It goes hand-in-hand with crop rotating in that it uses the beneficial traits of plants to increase yields. A good example of companion planting is when corn and cucumbers are grown together. Corn is tall whereas cucumbers are low and vining which means corn utilizes a lot of overhead space while cucumbers vine on the ground or grow up the corn stalks. Another example would be growing root crops like carrots with bushy or vining plants such as peas or beans since they have different spacial needs; one needs more room above ground and the other below ground. Companion planting also suggests plants that are attracted to each other and some that repel each other as well as plants that offer insect protection. There has been a number of books written about companion planting. One that I have used for many years is “Carrots Love Tomatoes,” written by Louise Riotte. There are a number of companion planting charts you can refer to online if you google it.
Rotating your garden beds takes just a little bit of planning and is not hard to do. If you have four or five beds, or even three, just assign them a number and rotate them each year. You can make it more complicated, like I do, by researching the needs of each plant and pairing beneficials together. But I have all winter to sit around waiting for spring so I don’t mind researching the varieties and their needs.
Start with a list of plants you would like to grow.
Then determine how many of each plant you need.
Referring to the seed packet, follow their recommended spacing between plants to help define how much space you will need to allow for that particular variety.
Now, look to the companion planting chart to see what can be grown together.
Next, draw a map of your garden beds. I like to use graph paper where each square can equal 1 square foot, but it is easy enough to use plain paper.
Most likely, your beds do not move from year to year so label each one: 1, 2, 3, and so on or any naming system that suits your fancy.
You’ll need to keep your garden map for future reference, so date it. Start a garden journal to help you track your rotations. Journals are also a great way to track the varieties that you chose, which were successful, and which plants were dismal. This is my Microsoft Word Garden Journal for this season.
I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. I love learning new things and many of you have unique ideas that can benefit others so please share.
The Donation Land Act of 1850, set in place prior to the Homestead Act, focused on settling the Oregon Territory of modern-day Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and a small portion of Wyoming. The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into existence by the Lincoln Administration. It provided up to 160 acres per person over the age of 21 if they could live and work the land for 5 consecutive years. Several additional Acts were passed that provided for different kinds of environmental constraints, such as the Desert Land Act of 1877.
These courageous people were the first settlers to work the land. Some came to mine for elusive gold, but many came for the opportunity to establish farms and create homes for their families. The land varied from climate to climate, from extreme winters to blistering summers to lengthy droughts. Often, they were unprepared for what they had to work with, such as rocky, sandy, or hard-clay soil. Only half of the initial homesteaders remained after five years, indicating the harshness of the conditions.
Today, there is momentum for a new breed of homesteader. Not unlike our ancestors who sought a better way of life away from the industrialized urban spaces that choked the air with smoke and fetid odors, today’s homesteader looks to escape their urban confinements and burdensome laws for sweet alfalfa fields and cock-a-doodle-doos. Homesteading can mean many things. One person’s passion for herbaceous gardens and frolicking pygmy goats can diverge from another’s love of everything bovine. Creating a homestead is not dissimilar to creating a home, which you can do no matter if you reside in an urban or rural context. Plainly there are urban constraints that may limit your grander goals but homesteading is completely possible on a smaller scale. Regardless of your location, no two homesteads will choose the same journey. Each is a reflection of the people who create it, and all are beautiful in their own unique way. Off-grid or on, animals or none, urban or rural, we are a community that grows and learns together. Tell me in the comments below, in what ways do you homestead?
“Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.” -John Burroughs