COLDFRAMES: Small Cheap Coldframe

The second one was far more successful, and easier to build, and cheaper :) We took 1" PVC piping about 12' long, and made a hoophouse by sticking smaller pipes into the ground then placing the PVC over them to anchor them. The net result was a hoophouse about 4' tall. We ran a long piece of PVC down the top to give more support for the plastic and to hold the hoops in place. Then we simply draped it with rolled plastic sheeting, which was good for about one season. Next time though, I will make this one stronger. We had snow that year, and it weighed the hoophouse down almost to the ground. However, even with that, and no supplemental heat source, everything did fine inside. We did not even have to water it.

GREENHOUSES: Makeshift Greenhouses

Subject: another gardener suggestion
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
From: Tim S

For those of us with children or grandchildren

Toys R Us has children's play tents for about $20-$30. This is simply a plastic tent with a lightweight plastic collapsible frame. Remove the plastic tent, replace it clear plastic, and anchor the frame down (to keep it from blowing away) and you have an easy to create greenhouse. Another suggestion is to buy a lot a plastic and use your child's swingset or junglegym as a greenhouse. The hight is perfect for growing beans or peas. Just be sure to have some top-soil on hand just in case. The painting section of most hardware superstores carry clear plastic drop-cloths that are fairly large and reasonably priced.

All together, no one can blame you for already having these items on hand in case nothing happens, not to mention they have other uses besides Y2K.

One major suggestion for all who have made greenhouses.....keep a temperature gauge inside of it. These little wonders can overheat if too air-tight, even in temperatures below freezing. Check the temperature several times a day. 60-85 degrees F is ideal...the cooler temps are best for salad crops (I.e. lettuce, spinach, radishes, broccoli, and peas) while warmer temps are preferred for others (corn, tomatoes, beans). If you are a novice gardener, I suggest getting a simple book that tells you when (temp wise) certain crops do better.

NOTE: Edible crops are not limited to non-ornamentals. Nasturtiums, Roses, and Echinacea are all lovely and even more edible than dandelions. And, once again, no one will call you paranoid if you have them.

GREENHOUSES: Pop Bottle Greenhouse

You can cut some of your empty soda bottles in half, put dirt in the bottoms, plant wheat seeds, and put them on the dashboard of your vehicle, and park so that the windshield faces south and acts as a greenhouse; you can even push the bottoms back into the tops (with the caps off, for ventilation) to make individual greenhouses and put them on the roof or hood of your vehicle if you have no more room on your dashboard! Just make sure you secure them by surrounding them with rocks or tying them together so that the wind does not blow them over.

My own experience with greenhouses is that how cold your plants get at night is not nearly so critical as whether it gets warm enough during the day, and if the sun is shining, the interior of a vehicle is much warmer than outside. If growing some wheat for greens seems like a good idea, also store garden seeds and use the same method to plant Swiss Chard, a fast-growing leafy vegetable whose leaves you can keep harvesting over a period of months; Collard Greens are similar, and grow better in hot conditions (like behind a south-facing windshield in summer). But wouldn't it be a good idea to try this method out now? We all know that garlic cloves keep well for months; they will grow into plants when planted small end up; the green shoots are edible and garlic is beneficial for health. If these last two paragraphs on sprouting and growing inside a vehicle seem far-fetched, consider the psychological benefits of causing something to grow that can be eaten, instead of just living off dwindling stored supplies. And if you have to move your vehicle again, your sprouters and planters are portable!

I once heard a nutritionist on the radio say that when you eat white rice instead of brown rice, YOU THROW AWAY FORTY NUTRIENTS. I guess a good analogy would be eating white-flour products instead of whole-wheat products

GREENHOUSES: Greenhouses For Under $100

You can download instructions for building a greenhouse for under $100.

GREENHOUSES: Quick & Easy Greenhouse

You get 16' concrete rebar, stick one end into the ground, and bend it over and stick it into the ground 12' away... make these hoops until you have it long enough for the size greenhouse you want, cover with clear plastic, and VOILA! Instant greenhouse!


INSECTS: If Your Garden Has Had Serious Bug Problems

For the bugs boring into the stems, they may be one of the two types I had. They may be cutworms, which are easily controlled by placing a little sleeve around the plant at ground level, or they may be a bug like a squash borer. Those you can't control from the soil, you have to apply something to the plant itself. The reason is that they fly in, not crawl in.

As far as what to apply...a good mixture of onion, garlic, and marigold blended down to a liquid in water then applied to the plants may well help. It wont kill the bugs, but will make the plants less appealing in the first place.

If you have them available, you can wrap the stems in leek leaves, which fools the bug into thinking it’s a leek! Of course, a good population of insect-eating birds will help tremendously. too.

If you've been WIPED OUT by bugs, try treating the ground by solarizing the soil in midsummer. Till, wet the ground, cover with clear plastic for a couple of weeks. Kills destructive nematodes and other pests, as well as many diseases. Also, try treating the soil with *beneficial* nematodes to kill larvae of many pests

MULCH: Mulch Gardening

I have never had access to that much cheap or free hay. What I do is try to always lay newspapers(which are free) or pieces of cardboard down around the plants and then put grass clippings as I get them, on top of the paper.

I put rocks or hunks of dirt on top of the papers so they don't blow away. Don't try this on a windy day! Put at least 6 or 7 layers - I usually use a thick section of newspaper. I make new beds by sheet composting, which the above is too. Just lay down papers or cardboard on top of the grass or weeds the year, before, and shovel manure, hay, grass, or what have you, on top to about 10" thick.(no firm rules here). Then the next spring, make little holes in the stuff and put your plants in with a little dirt tucked around their roots. This is my version of bio-intensive/Ruth stout/whatever else I've read A lot easier than digging, double-digging, or tilling! I have lupus and fibromyalgia too and it's amazing what we've accomplished!

MULCH: Mulching With Hay

We have been mulching ALL garden beds with hay for approximately 3 years now. The hay we use is old and partly rotten, as it had been sitting on a neighboring farmers land, in bales, for some time.

This has been very successful in retaining moisture, stifling weeds and -dah dah - encouraging earthworms!

What we do is lay thick newspapers (not glossy prints) over the area for the bed, add manure of any kind (chicken is good - TURKEY is better!), or, if you don't have manure, (we have not always had chickens) - we use blood and bone, then we add the hay.

We lay the hay in 'biscuits' across the area, carefully overlapping each other, somewhat like a shingled roof. We break the biscuits up around existing plants.

So far - so good. Perhaps the seed is dead when we lay the hay? We have, in the past, used 'commercial', finely chopped hay for mulching. However, we have experienced weed seeds in this and prefer the plain, semi-rotted bales for this reason. Furthermore, it is far easier to spread in "biscuits."

MULCH: Planting In Leaf Mulch

I read this book not long ago about a man who owns a shredder, and instead of shredding Little Rock papers, he shreds leaves. And instead of merely using the shredded leaves for mulch, he uses them for his soil. That's right. He makes them about a foot deep and uses no dirt. He lets the leaves rot into a soil-like product. Each year he adds a new layer of leaves. He says he gets fantastic results because the moisture is retained very well by this method. He furthermore states that he gets no weeds, diseases, and/or bugs. He had a screen on top, to keep the leaves from blowing away. I think the idea has merit because the last thing you want in an emergency situation is a failed garden due to bugs or disease.

ONIONS: Wild Onions

In regards to those wild onions....I use to use the greens all the time in TN. Sometimes they were all over our yard. I even transplanted them in a patch close to the house for cutting so dear hubby didn't mow over my ready supply. The bulb is quite strong in flavor but great for soups, stews and chilies....a little bulb goes a long way

PLANTERS: Cutting Barrels For Planters

Here's what I've learned about cutting 55-gal barrels in half, for used as container planters. (We get these barrels for free from the local Pepsi bottler: they are used to ship flavored syrups for soft drinks.)

First, I decided the way to go is to cut them in half widthwise ("around the equator") because this yields 2 planters, each 17 inches high, which is a nice height for keeping out rabbits, and thus we won't have to fence the container garden. Cutting lengthwise turns out to be the WRONG idea, partly because that way the barrel-halves tip too easily; also the depth of the soil would be very shallow around the edges.

Second, DON'T plan on cutting through them with a sharp knife. I tried, and it produced PLUMES of acrid smoke--- and I'm sure that vaporized plastic isn't the best material for pulmonary health!

Third, you can, however, START your cut with a hot knife. One or two initial strokes. Then, after it's started, you can finish it up with a regular sawblade, provided you have a strong 8-year-old boy to do the job, like I do.

No doubt the best way is to cut it with a circular saw: fast, neat, no sweat, no fumes. But I don't happen to have one (though my neighbor does.) Bottom line: borrow saw from neighbor, or employ Number One Son.


We have bought new plastic milk jugs directly from the Borden milk plant in Austin, TX. We remove the cap and cut off the bottom. In the spring when we transplant our tender garden plant we put these "Mini-domes" over the just planted seedlings and leave them in place until the little plants poke their heads through the top. This will keep them from light frost and shock. The plastic jugs do degrade in the sun but if taken up and stored in a garden shed right after removal they will last for many years (4 to 5 years) Just another use for used milk jugs.:o)


There is an article about poison oak and poison ivy in the latest issue of Countryside Magazine, Vol. 82, No. 4, July/August, 1998, p 87. It recommends "digging roots out with a shovel, wearing gloves," then throwing the gloves away and washing with lye soap or Fels Naptha. Then clean your tools with a solvent to break down the oil--Pine Sol or Simple Green, ammonia, paint thinner, or acetone. Remember that the oils will be on your boots, too, and your clothes. Wash immediately (Bethann). The article also says that if you repeatedly cut it down "with a mower or weedeater the roots will eventually starve and die." DON'T burn it! You will send the oils airborne in the smoke!

POTATOES: Bury Potato Stem

In the Feb. '96 issue of Organic Gardening Mel B. suggests a method of growing potatoes, i.e. digging a foot down and "hilling" in the hole as the plant grows in order to produce a long stem and a high yield.

I tried that this year and was somewhat too successful!

I planted remnants from last year's Yukon Gold crop in the following pattern:

where the X's are potatoes and the O's are something else, in this case a mix of salad vegetables.

The vines got *enormous*, so much so that I put in welded wire fencing to get the growth headed upward instead of all over everything else in the bed and in neighboring beds.

The size of the vines surprised me, since here in the Skagit Valley (Northwest Washington State) commercially-grown potatoes (and there are a *lot* of them!) display a much more compact growth habit. They are, I believe, Red Nakotas (sp.?) and Cascade Whites. Previously, I let the vines sprawl on the ground, and their height (if directed upward) wasn't immediately apparent.

In desperation, I cut the vines at ground level on 7 Aug. although the plants still had plenty of growing to do. By that date almost all of the commercial fields had either been harvested or vine-killed.

I harvested on 21 Aug. The yield was good: much greater percentage of tubers were good-sized with not many "marbles" at all. As usual, among eight plants, there were two tubers which were gooey. I think this may be bacterial soft rot, but I'm not sure.

I may have self-inflicted this problem by planting the entire potato instead of cutting out an eye, treating the cut edges and planting that. Next year I'll experiment by doing that, and perhaps by devoting one entire bed to potatoes, using welded wire fencing again if required.

POTATOES: Grow Potatoes Vertically!!

In North Carolina, potatoes can be planted in the Fall with this method: loosen the soil; .....lay a car tire on top of it.... put a layer of leaf mulch down on the ground inside the tire, then lay your potato 'seed' on top. Then apply another layer of leaf or straw mulch, and then a layer of soil.

Roots will begin to grow before it gets too cold because the mulch breaking down, producing heat, plus the black rubber of the tire absorbs the sun's heat and protects the 'seed.' .

Come spring your above ground growing takes place and you have an early, well-established plant. THEN: you keep adding soil and mulch around the bottom of the plant as it gets taller, covering the bottom inches of the plant but always leaving 7 - 8 inches of green potato leaves growing up top; and you keep stacking more tires on top. Eventually you have a modest

"tower of tires" with the green part of the plant still growing out the top one.

To harvest: just knock over the tire tower. You'll find many dozens of beautiful big potatoes.

POTATOES: Planting Potatoes In Straw

First-time experiment: mixed results.

Many of the potatoes rotted. We did get a lot of wet weather right away, and with the straw covering the potatoes, I think it created too much humidity. It was always wet (not just damp/cool) under the straw. Next year I would bury the seed potatoes and only begin covering with straw only as the plants grew.

The potatoes took a long time to root. Until the roots found the soil, they were just hanging off the potato. Again, had I planted them in the dirt, I think they'd have gotten a faster start.

Animals got a bunch of seed potatoes. Don't know if this is directly related to the straw method or to the fact that the electric fence wasn't up yet :-). If they were buried, they'd smell less, and attract fewer animals?

The straw packed down with time. This is a good thing, but means you need to get out there and replenish the straw. I had 5 3x10 beds, and used about 3 bales. I didn't have "seed free straw" - is there such a thing, really? - but the wheat seeds that took were easy to pull out, since the soil under the straw was quite moist.

Harvesting is really easy. Just lift the straw. Potatoes are just sitting on top of the soil, or halfway embedded in the ground. You don't even need tools. We just pulled out the potatoes and left them age a day or two on top of the straw. This, IMO, is the best part about the straw method. You don't go slicing up your crop with a shovel or fork.

Production for each plant was not much different for us than the standard growing method, though the late start had some negative impact.

Oh, and home grown potatoes are Really Good. But you already knew that.

Learned: plant earlier, plant in the dirt, lay straw later, and keep that electric fence on!

POTATOES: Potatoes In The Mulch

Years and years ago (I've just dated myself) in the old Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine, there were many articles about Ruth Stout's method of no-till gardening. For years, she'd placed heavy mulch of hay over her garden area, then just pulled aside the mulch in a narrow row or area and planted her seed.

I tried this with potatoes by laying the sprouted pieces on the surface of soil I'd loosened and was free of weeds. I covered the potatoes with 6 to 12 inches of hay. The potato sprouts came up through the hay and it seemed there was less trouble with the Colorado Potato Beetle. Handpicking took care of those few.

As summer progressed, I'd pull aside the hay and scrounge the largest potatoes from the clump for eating, then re-cover with mulch and water heavily so they'd continue to grow and the small potatoes would enlarge. When the vines either had dried completely or there was a frost to kill the still-living vines, I'd remove the mulch and harvest all the remaining potatoes.

I'd think in a 9 sq. ft.. bed = 3'x3', you could plant 5 potato seed:

      x     x
      x     x

The vines would overrun the bed, but this would be of maximum utilization.

POTATOES: Square Foot Potatoes

We did potatoes by using a 2 ft. x 2 ft. area and 2 plants at the opposing corners:

We placed the sprouting potato just at the soil level and covered with a 3 inch thick layer of mulch. When the plant was @ 8 inches tall. We then used rose collars(2 connected to make a circle @1 1/2 ft diameter) to surround each plant. Then as the plants grew I filled in the collars with shredded bark mulch (leaving at least 4 inches of the plant exposed). When it grew up, I added another collar and more mulch.When this 2nd level was reached I just let the plant grow. After the plant dies back just open the collars. Push out the mulch and the potatoes will tumble loose...We got @ 12 potatoes from each plant.

SEEDS: Non-Hybrid Seeds

I've recently ordered from the following two places for non-hybrid seeds, and received my order within 7-10 days. Pinetree has many seeds for shorter growing season in addition to their regular seeds. R.H. Shumway has seeds for southern states and others. PineTree Garden Seeds, Box 300, New Gloucester, Maine 04260 207-926-3400 email orders website orders superseeds, com fax 1-888-52-seeds(73337) The entire catalogue is available on the website; send your credit number in two separate messages. Almost every seed packet is under a dollar!

I've have good seed viability for the last 5 years or so.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (804)973-4703 this is an expensive catalog but it has some incredible stuff you won’t find anywhere else: non-hybrid, open-pollinated, heirloom 18th century European, American, and Indian-era (Hopi, Cherokee) seeds

Shumway Seedsman, PO Box 1, Graniteville, South Carolina 29829-0001 1-803-663-9771 fax 1-888-437-2733 They sell in bulk and wholesale. Also, they carry seed corn etc., hay seed, and the normal items for a gardener. I still haven't found a non-hybrid sweet corn but may have over-looked it. If you plan on saving the seeds from these non-hybrid, remember carrots are biennial, and also plant certain specie of a plant at a certain distant so they do not cross-pollinate on their own. I think like field corn is 700 feet depending on wind.

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by William Woys Weaver is probably one of the best books out on preserving your own seed and concern for old varieties that I have seen. It would be very helpful in getting started. It has a lot of wonderful addresses in the back.

I wouldn't count on being able to go somewhere and buy seeds anytime soon after Y2k. It will be just as important to know how to preserve your seeds as to buy non-hybrid seeds.

SEEDS: Store Your Seeds Underground!

Most of these companies that sell seeds for emergency storage are packaging them in sealed cans to lengthen storage time. You can put them in sealed plastic bags and store them for long periods of time in the freezer or refrigerator. Basically the cooler and dryer you can keep them the better.

I don't have a basement and I don't want to be dependent on an electric refrigerator so until I have enough money for a gas fridge, here's what a survivalist told me for storing things. It makes good sense especially since I have a hill and woods right behind my house (on my property). You can package seeds in sealed plastic bags and put the bags into one of those insulated water jugs like you get from WalMart for $2.50. Seal the lid with flexible caulking (hard caulking is too hard to remove) Dig down in the ground until the earth feels cool (about 45 degrees.) Even on the hottest days, it's cool underground. Then bury your coolers and make sure you make a record of where you've put things. You can also seal things in wide diameter PVC pipe and cap the ends. Things will stay dry and cool.

TIRES: ReUsing Tires Safely

We just bought this place and are discovering the previous owner left several tires of different types. We have several tractor tires, car tires and a couple of tires we coldn’t identify, about the size of a car tire but much narrower, but bigger that a bike tire.

Some of these tires are cracked about an inch or two from the edge. Right now we are trying to collect them all and stack them in one place: I need to at least cover them after getting any standing water out of them, so they don't provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

I'm trying to use tires for planters that have not had the “seal” damaged. The hermetic seal is actually the normal outside edge of the tire, whether it is the edge that was sealed at the factory by the manufacturing process (inner surface and sides) or the edge that was sealed due to actual friction during road usage (the tread section)

Now, of course, using them as planters you would only be concerned with the inside surface anyway. The outside would not be exposed to water long enough for leaching to EVER become a factor.

If you chip or grind the tires up, as was done for "rubberized asphalt", you are creating much more surface area, most of which is a freshly cut edge.That edge will not be heat sealed, so has a possibility of leaching chemicals into the soil. In our tests, this is STILL virtually undetectable, if at all. But personally, I would not use ground or chipped tire as, say, a soil amendment. That is just a personal opinion though. They ARE used now in septic drainage systems, and work well in that use.

The steel belting and fiber is a different matter altogether. Those DO cause leachates to appear in soil if they are exposed and buried/submerged. Again, they will be harmless on the outside of a tire if you plant stuff inside of it.

TOMATOES: Flowers But No Tomatoes

You might try mulching heavy or find some way to keep them cooler. Tomato pollen won't work right over about 92 degrees so you get no tomatoes. If you want a real good crop, just go out and occasionally "thump" the plants when they are blooming. Not hard, just enough to make the pollen dislodge. (Maybe "tapping" is a better word :)

When I do this, the tomatoes line up like grapes in a bunch.