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As a writer, I spend a lot of time on my computer. Between writing and doing research for my writing, I log at least five hours each day. So, the idea of spending more computer time reading personal blogs (on any subject) rarely appeals to me. However, over the years, I’ve found a few gardening blogs and websites that I’ve bookmarked and return to again and again. These resources range in tone and theme from extreme homesteading to hip urban gardening to the aesthetically pleasing gardens of a New England garden writer. Although the topics are different, my favorite sites all offer something more than an amusing anecdote. When I visit a gardening blog, I’m looking for education and inspiration. I want to come away knowing something I didn’t know before. If I’m feeling tired and discouraged about my Rocky Mountain garden, the best blogs renew my enthusiasm and send me back out into the garden to try again. Below are a few of my favorite sites. I hope you enjoy them, too.
Diary of an Organic Gardener, by Colleen Vanderlinden. Check out this blog at Mother Earth News for hundreds of tips on organic gardening. Colleen offers advice on organic insect control and talks candidly about her successes and failures. She discusses heirloom tomatoes and gives ideas on the best seed companies for organic gardeners.
Grow It! There are dozens of gardening blogs out there that feature charming photos and personal anecdotes, but for a blog to be really valuable, it has to be instructive as well as entertaining. Grow It by Mother Earth News is just such a blog. Here you’ll find unusual and interesting articles on everything from Native American corn varieties to growing artichokes.
When to Plant. And while we’re talking about Mother Earth News, the company offers an app worth considering. The When to Plant app, available at iTunes, gives accurate planting times for hundreds of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. The makers of this handy app take data from over 5,000 weather stations across North America to determine last and first frost dates for more specific information than the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones.
Urban Homestead. At first glance, I thought the Urban Homestead blog was sort of glossy and commercialized. Fortunately, I dug a little deeper. Here I found an inspiring account of one family living in the low-income suburbs of Los Angeles who decided to reclaim their independence and embrace the homesteading life. Since 1985, the Dervaes family of four has homesteaded on a mere tenth of an acre. They grow over 6,000 pounds of produce annually, producing 99 percent of their family’s food needs. They keep bees, rabbits, chickens, ducks, and goats and have reduced their energy consumption by 50 percent through the use of solar panels and other energy-efficient strategies. The family homeschools and seeks to maintain a simple lifestyle. They offer tithes and observe the Sabbath. The recipients of several awards from the City of Pasadena, the Dervaes family offers workshops and classes to teach others about the homesteading lifestyle. They sell honey, produce, and hand crafted goods through their front porch store. Whether you live in the city or on a rural homestead, you’ll find inspiration and instruction at the Urban Homestead blog.
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Prairie Homestead is the place to go for lots of homesteading odds and ends. Here you’ll find tips on everything from natural deodorant to homemade paper pots for starting seeds. The site features hundreds of recipes, as well.
From Backwoods Home Magazine comes one of my favorite homesteading blogs, Jackie’s Tips for Hardcore Homesteading. Jackie is the real deal, and her blog is full of practical advice that you won’t find other places, such as how to can nuts or make Amish coleslaw.
A Way to Garden is not your typical homesteader blog. In fact, it’s not written by a homesteader at all. A Way to Garden chronicles the journey of Margaret Roach, a former editorial director for Martha Stewart, to a quieter, simpler life on her two-acre garden in Massachusetts. I appreciate Margaret’s humor, charm, and warmth, as well as her considerable gardening experience. Here you’ll find information on growing vegetables, as well as ornamentals and trees. Margaret also offers advice on tools, resources, and books.
Homegrown.org is the offspring of Farm Aid, an organization dedicated to restoring healthy agriculture and food practices. The site is eclectic, featuring recipes, gardening tips, stories, and lore. Here you’ll find a lively discussion group, as well as the latest books and resources.
Culinate is technically a food website, but I’ve included it here for a very good reason. Anyone who understands the value of farming and vegetable gardening generally appreciates food, too. Gardening and cooking go hand in hand. I like Culinate because, in addition to great recipes and lively discussions about cooking, it also explores topics, such as sustainable agriculture, root vegetables, and organic growing techniques. The site features interviews with lots of people in the know – farmers, gardeners, restaurant owners, and chefs – who all share their unique perspectives and passion for food. I don’t always agree with every opinion voiced here, but I always come away with something to think about.
Cold Climate Gardening. If, like me, you live in a region with a short growing season and unpredictable springs and falls, you’ll appreciate Cold Climate Gardening. This site offers detailed information on choosing plants for cold climates, such as bulbs, perennials, and berries. It also covers the basics of extending the growing season through hoop tunnels and floating row covers.
Homestead Gardening by Catholic Relief Services. This is not a blog, but rather a manual based on the experience and findings of organized homesteaders’ efforts in undeveloped countries, such as Lesotho. I found the manual intriguing because it offers gardening solutions unheard of to most American gardeners. These homesteaders developed unusual strategies as they established gardens in remote, harsh areas with little water or resources. In this manual, you’ll find keyhole gardens, trench gardens, and potholing. The point of this manual is to conserve labor and natural resources, while producing as much food as possible in lands where food scarcity is a constant problem. Read this manual and you’ll come away with both inspiration for new ideas and an appreciation for the abundance of food available in our country and in your own backyard.
Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead, by John Seymour of Mother Earth News. This comprehensive article takes a look at the pros and cons of common homesteading dilemmas, such as investing in livestock, and offers practical tips for starting and achieving your dream of self-sufficiency.