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Grow a Garden with Healing Herbs and Plants

Plant healing herbs and plants to find good health just outside your door.

By K.C. Compton February/March 2012

(The Herb Companion) Imagine for a moment the processes that take place in our bodies as soon as we encounter even a tiny breach of the skin. A miniscule scrape draws a little blood, fends off infection and eventually heals over, involving so many processes and encapsulating so many minor miracles—none of them conscious, willed or even noticed—that the mind simply boggles.

Now imagine these processes on a scale much larger and more complex: wounds, burns, sore throats, fevers, queasy stomachs. For the seemingly endless things that can go wrong with our bodies, each of us carries an arsenal of weapons, tools and front-line soldiers ready to protect and defend against invaders, interlopers or the simple imbalances that can set us on a rocky path. If the complexity and wonder of that don’t just knock you out, what would it take to impress you?

How about the amazing fact that much of what you need to promote these processes is available in the plant world, and that you can grow these plants and turn them into not just good food, but good medicine, for pennies and without side effects?

This article isn’t intended to take the place of medical advice, but for many routine physical complaints, the garden can provide much relief. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Besides the beauty and bounty of the garden—and the exertion involved in creating and maintaining it—our bodies have been interacting with plants for millennia and know what to do with plant medicines. Herbs interact with our bodies as recognizable nourishment that helps them do what they’re cut out to do: get better. With that as a place to start—that our bodies are designed to heal and actually want to do so—we can plant a garden that gives them fuel for that endeavor.

The rest of this article:

http://www.herbcompanion.com/grow/gardening/healing-herbs-and-plants-zm0z12fmzdeb.aspx

Webmaster's Comment:

Be sure to include children near and dear to you in your gardening activities to give them a natural head start on life and an early appreciation for nature and gardening.  See:

Teaching Children Gardening Boosts Their Development and Health

Got Leaves? Put 'Em to Work

By Barbara Pleasant

(Mother Earth News) 'Tis the season for harvesting leaves, the most abundant free source of organic matter available to most gardeners. Microorganisms in soil and compost transform leaves into bits of organic matter, which helps the soil retain nutrients and moisture.  By themselves, leaves contain small amounts of 16 plant nutrients.

You can stockpile leaves in a bin or pen to use later as compost or mulch, but you don't have to wait until leaves decompose to put them to work. With some shredding assistance from your lawn mower, you can give your leaves useful jobs right now.

1. Turn lawn into garden. Prepare sections of lawn you want to develop into garden beds by smothering them with leaves. First scalp the grass by mowing as close to the surface as possible. Then cover the space with several thicknesses of cardboard, and cover the base layer with two inches (or more) or compost or manure. Top with 3 to 4 inches of shredded leaves. 

2. Winterize hardy vegetables. Use shredded leaves to limit winter injury to kale, leeks, carrots and other hardy vegetables. Surround the planting with a low fence or burlap enclosure and fill it with up to 12 inches of shredded leaves. Mulch garlic and perennial onions with up to 6 inches of shredded leaves mixed with the season's last grass clippings.

3. Bury them in a trench. Improve the drainage and organic matter content in garden beds by digging narrow trenches, filling them with shredded leaves, and then covering them up. By late spring, the leaves will be sufficiently decomposed to mix into the soil, or you can plant right into the enriched trenches.

4. Mulch-mow them into your grass. Research done at Michigan State University reveals that when rather thick layers of leaves (to 12 inches) are shredded with a mower and allowed to rot where they fall, the grass greens up faster in spring and grows better the following summer. Just don't expect the leaves to disappear from view until the grass starts growing next year.

5. Mulch your trees. Stockpile shredded leaves until early winter, and then tuck in trees, shrubs, and perennial beds with 3 to 4 inches of shredded leaf mulch. A thick leaf mulch helps moderate soil temperatures in winter, reducing cold-related injuries to shallow roots. Beneficial soil-dwelling fungi are also abundant beneath shredded leaf mulch – one reason why Colorado State University lists mulching among its Ten Commandments of Planting Trees.

There is one precaution: Be careful with black walnut leaves, which can cause reduced growth in many plants, including tomatoes. According to Iowa State University, the juglone in black walnut leaves is usually neutralized by 4 to 6 months of composting.

Do you have other leaf-handling methods that work great at your place? Be sure to share them in the Comments section below.

Source: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Grow-It/Harvesting-Leaves-For-Mulch-And-Compost.aspx

How to grow turnipsHow to Grow Turnips

These oft-overlooked vegetables have a lot to offer nutritionally, including fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

By Stephanie Rogers

(Mother Nature Network) They may not be colorful, vibrant, or particularly interesting vegetables, but learn how to grow turnips and you'll find that these often-overlooked vegetables have a lot to offer.

A popular staple since ancient times, turnips have tender potato-like roots that are mild when cooked and can be mashed, baked, boiled, and added to soups and stews. They're rich in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin B6 and help promote colon and lung health.

In addition to the edible roots, turnip greens are a nutritious and zesty treat packed with calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K and folate. Sprinkle turnip greens with lemon juice and let them sit for five minutes before cooking to activate beneficial enzymes that are thought to fight cancer, provide cardiovascular and digestive support and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Turnips can be planted in the spring for an early summer harvest, or in late summer for harvest before the first frost. Like most other root vegetables, turnips do well when planted with carrots and radishes as well as onions and peas. Turnips thrive in cool weather but prefer soil temperatures to be 60 degrees or above. In the fall, a light frost makes them taste sweeter.

Types of turnips

Summer turnips, as turnips are often called to distinguish them from rutabagas, have squat, purple bulbs and white flesh with frilly greens. Varieties include Golden Ball, Royal Crown, Scarlet Queen and White Knight. They can be grown either in spring or fall.

Rutabagas are technically a different vegetable altogether, but they are so similar to turnips that they are often referred to as "winter turnips" and are used interchangeably in recipes. These root vegetables have large, firm beige to yellow bulbs and the greens are rounder and more blue than those of the summer turnip. Rutabagas can withstand a freeze and store well over the winter into spring. Some varieties include Altasweet, American Purple Top, Laurentian and Pike.

How to plant turnips

  • Choose a sunny location with loose, well-drained, rich soil and and create rows in the soil 2 feet apart.

  • Plant turnip seeds ½ inch deep, 4 to 6 inches apart. If sowing only for the greens, sprinkle as many as 20 seeds per foot into the soil. Seeds germinate in 2 to 5 days.

  • Water the soil after planting and keep moist, but not waterlogged. Turnip plants that don't get enough water will become tough and woody.

  • Feed turnip plants with natural fertilizer containing potassium and phosphorous, such as compost tea, for good root development. Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers like manure, which can give turnips an unpleasant flavor.

  • Keep the soil pH above 6.0 to avoid fungus problems like club root. If it falls below 6.0, add more fertilizer. Soil pH test kits can be purchased at most home improvement stores and nurseries, or at your local university extension office.

How to harvest turnips

  • Harvest turnip greens when they're young, before the root is mature, by snipping a few from each plant. Don't remove all the greens from any single plant.

  • 45 days after planting, pull up one of your turnips to check for maturity — 2 to 3 inches in diameter is ideal. Some varieties can take up to 70 days to mature; check your seed packet. Turnips grown in spring tend to be smaller and softer, while fall turnips are hardier and more suitable for long-term storage.

Source: http://www.mnn.com/food/organic-farming/stories/how-to-grow-turnips

Photo: pink_fish13/Flickr

To see more articles on gardening and natural living, click HERE

Teaching Children Gardening Boosts Their Development and Health

by Tony Isaacs

A new study conducted for Britain's Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has found that encouraging children to learn gardening boosts their development by helping them become happier, more confident, and more resilient. In addition, gardening also helps teach children patience and the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The study was conducted by researchers at the National Foundation for Children, who surveyed 1,300 teachers and 10 schools. Teachers who used gardening as part of their learning experience reported that it improved children's readiness to learn. The teachers also reported that gardening encouraged pupils to become more active in solving problems, as well as boosted literacy and numeracy skills. Now the society is urging that gardening should be incorporated as a key teaching tool in schools regular curriculum instead of being an optional extra-curricular activity.

The report said: "Fundamental to the success of school gardens in stimulating a love of learning was their ability to translate sometimes dry academic subjects into practical, real world experiences. Children were encouraged to get their hands dirty, in every sense. Teachers involved in the research said the result was a more active, inquisitive approach to learning. The changeable nature of gardening projects - where anything from the weather to plant disease can affect the outcome - forced children to become more flexible and better able to think on their feet and solve problems."

Dr Simon Thornton Wood, director of science and learning at the RHS, said: "Schools which integrate gardens into the curriculum are developing children who are much more responsive to the challenges of adult life."

Sadly, gardening has become a lost natural endeavor in much of today’s urbanized societies. As a result, modern man is losing out on a wealth of natural physical and mental health benefits. Gardening provides aerobic, isotonic and isometric exercise, which benefits muscles and bones as well as respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Such benefits help prevent health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. Strength, endurance and flexibility are also improved by gardening, which makes it one of the best all-round exercises.

Physical exercise such as one gets from gardening releases endorphins, which are natural compounds that alleviate stress and its many negative health consequences. Studies have shown that simply being in a garden lowers blood pressure. Gardening also fosters a good night’s sleep and exposes people to beneficial soil microorganisms which many believe help boost the immune system.

Gardeners are more likely to eat a wide range of fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs than non-gardeners, even if they don't cultivate the produce themselves. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is essential to a healthy diet.

In addition to the benefits of physical activity, gardening helps people reconnect with the natural world from whence they sprang. It provides a calm oasis where one is lost in the moment and can be a natural form of meditation that quiets the conscious mind. It can also be a form of self-expression; enabling one to develop creativity and build confidence while allowing a healthy outlet for emotions.

Furthermore, gardening helps develop a sense of achievement where we are able to step back and see the differences we have made and discover the small, important things in life. Gardeners tend to be hopeful and philosophical people who look forward to future seasons, enjoy the present and respect the past and be more accepting when things are not perfect.

Clearly, teaching our children to garden, both at home and at school, gives them a head start at living and appreciating a more natural and healthy life.

Sources included:

http://www.optimistworld.com/Children-gardening-happier-confident-Royal-Horticultural-Society-study/
http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/News/Feeds/2010/05/sections-academia-news-could-gardening-help-children-eat-more-greens-/
http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/10427338.stm
http://www.helium.com/items/910565-health-benefits-of-gardening
http://www.raysahelian.com/soilorganisms.html

Watering the sizzling hot summer garden


Water, water, and water some more... 

Here in the Philadelphia region; it’s hot, fry an egg on the sidewalk hot!  Usually, whether it's by fog, frost, rain, sleet, hail, ice, or snow, the Earth gets watered without the help of humans; but in between nature’s self-watering process, the garden may need a little assistance, especially this week. In the spring and fall, with an increase in rainfall and cooler temperatures, there’s not much a gardener needs to water in the established garden and landscape; but during the growing season of summer, watering is essential in many cases. 

Watering Containers

First and foremost, let’s talk annuals, perennials, and vegetables planted in planters. A common mistake gardeners make is not watering planters enough.  Water your container plants in full sun each morning for the next few days. Plants in containers, pots, urns, hanging baskets or flower boxes need to be watered more frequently, and almost everyday if the planter is in full sun. During the hot summer, planters heat up and dry out much quicker because the soil is shallow and the roots are not anchored in the ground. Water pots when the soil surface feels dry to the touch. Any potted plant that uses a lot of water such as a Fuschia, as well as, any root bound plants may have to be watered twice a day.

Important Rules for Container Watering 

  1. When watering large planters, pots and urns, remember to water in the center of the pot not on the sides. 

  2. Water the containers until the water flows from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Too much shallow watering will lead to shallow roots; and shallow roots lead to the plant drying out much sooner in hot or drought conditions. 

  3. Once the water escapes from the planter, continue to water for at least another minute or two so that the pot will be drench completely, which includes the outer circumference were roots also travel. Many times a quick hit of the hose doesn’t saturate the sides all the way to the bottom. 

Watering New Plantings

Watering should only be done for reasons such as drought, which usually occurs in the summertime; after newly planted bulbs, lawns, shrubs, trees, and perennials are installed,  which could take a few weeks until they are established; after dividing and transplanting; and immediately after applying fertilizing to any plant, which includes the lawn. Of course, in spring, seeds, seedlings and vegetables should be watered until established.

Watering the garden too much can increase the garden’s need for water. It also kills the plants from lack of oxygen to the roots which causes root rot. Drowning the roots is a common reason why many plants die. 

Watering Trees and Shrubs

Never let newly planted trees or shrubs dry out. Trees and shrubs can be very unforgiving if left to dry out, and will not rejuvenate when finally watered; whereas most perennials and annuals that dry out will bounce back if watered within a day or so. Once established in a month or so; they should be fine unless a drought occurs. 

  1. Water in the early morning, if possible, because watering plants in the evening can invite plant mold and mildew; especially on perennials like monarda or mums. Plants that are susceptible to flower blight or leaf spot must be watered earlier than later, so the sun has a chance to dry the leaves, which prevents disease. 

  2. Don’t water the foliage of any plant in the hot afternoon sun because it will burn the leaves. 

  3. Always water plants, shrubs and trees at the drip line.

Watering the Lawn

If you hear your grass crunching when you walk on it, ike when you're eating Captain Crunch, or if it's turning brown, water it.  No cutting the lawn until we get some rain. Call the lawn service off this week.

Watering Foundation Plantings

Foundation plantings along a stone or brick wall of the house must be watered, especially in full sun, because the sun reflects off the stone and also holds in heat. You can use a soaker hose or sprinkler if the area is large. If any of the foundation plants are located under a gutter, awning, or the part of the roof that hangs over the house, then gardeners must keep an eye on them because only sprays of rain will reach the plant. If possible, avoid planting directly against the house for these reasons. 

Watering on Hills, Banks, and Berms

Remember when planting on hills, banks, and berms that the water will run off before it sinks down into the plant.  Water plants on slopes by applying water for a few seconds, then remove the hose until that water sinks in, then re-apply water, then remove, and then continue on and off until you feel the water has reached the roots.   Many shrubs and trees die on slopes because the water immediately runs off and never gets to the roots. The water speed at which the gardener waters the plant can also result in run off instead of penetration; so don’t water using a hose on a full force setting. 

Watering Gadgets

Nowadays, there are self-watering gadgets for watering houseplants, sprinkling systems for gardens and landscapes, and irrigations systems for farms; all of which make watering a no-brainer and can be performed without the human touch. But for the die-hard gardener and nature enthusiast, watering is part of the fun.  Gardeners must remember that conserving water for the planet is critical. Although watering can be fun and therapeutic; if there’s no need to water, don’t.  And don't forget to water yourself, keep hydrated by drinking lots of water if you do have to go outside.

Click the subscribe button above, it’s free; and I’ll take you through the entire year with up-to-date gardening news, plant information, and gardening “to do’s,” all in “real time” gardening for every month of the year. From the first sprouts, to what will bloom each week/month, to container and urban gardening, to vegetable gardening, and more; you’ll learn all you need to grow. Subscribe today! Stay in touch at  www.joannetaylor.org. I'd love to hear from you. 

Source:  http://www.examiner.com/x-18980-Philadelphia-Gardening-Examiner~y2010m7d6-Watering-the-Hot-Summer-Garden

Grow Great Lettuce

By Roger Doiron

(Mother Earth News) Imagine that extraterrestrials have invaded and commandeered earthlings’ home gardens in order to produce energy for their fleet of veggie-powered flying saucers. Armed with hoes and digging forks and with determination in their eyes, gardeners take to the streets. To quell the insurrection, the aliens announce they will allow gardeners to grow one vegetable for their own consumption. Which crop would you choose? For me, the choice would be as easy as this scenario is far-fetched: lettuce.

You could make a good case for growing other things instead: a highly caloric crop such as potatoes, a more flavorful one such as tomatoes, or a better keeper such as carrots. I recommend growing lettuce because it’s easy, reliable, requires little space and enjoys a long growing season, allowing for multiple and continuous harvests. Lettuce is also one of the best vegetables to grow because it offers a nice mix of nutrients in a compact package, including iron, folate, and vitamins A and C. It’s for all these reasons that new gardeners should choose growing lettuce as their first step in their journey to delicious, homegrown self-reliance. For a chart with lettuce variety details, see Great Lettuce Varieties.

For the rest of this article, click HERE.

The Many Rewards of Rabbits

How to choose and care for these beautiful, furry creatures.

By Nancy Smith and Heidi Hunt

(Mother Earth News) If rabbits turn your head—whether your fancy runs to whoppers like the gentle Flemish Giants, to gorgeous and easygoing Angoras or to the soft and cuddly Mini Rex—you'll find plenty of these critters for sale, at reasonable prices, all across the country. And if you decide to go a-rabbiting, keeping as few as two or three bunnies lets you tap some of the "green" contributions these versatile little animals can make to your homestead.

For the rest of the article click HERE.

Want Milk? Get Goats

By Kris Wetherbee 

Whether your property is one acre or several hundred, sloping or flat, crowded with brush or completely forested, you can still raise dairy goats for milk. Two goats will produce enough quality fresh milk—with each doe averaging 3 quarts a day for 10 months—to feed your family all year. Add a few more goats and you'll have enough milk for making cheese, yogurt or even ice cream.

(Mother Earth News) Goat milk ice cream? Some of you might he raising your eyebrows right now because you've heard goat milk tastes funny. We could blame the funny-taste fallacy on a conspiracy concocted by those comical Far Side cows. But more likely it is because someone kept the buck among the herd, especially at milking time. A buck can be quite odoriferous, and his strong, musky scent can permeate the milk. The fact is, properly collected goat milk tastes just as good as cow milk. Some people believe it tastes better.

"I have a friend whose brother refused to drink goat milk because he knew he wouldn't like it," says 20-year goat veteran Gail Damerow, editor of Rural Heritage magazine and author of Your Goats and Raising Milk Goats Successfully. Gail's friend bought a carton of cow's milk from the store for her visiting brother. After he emptied the carton, his sister refilled it with fresh goat milk. The scenario continued until a week later, when he noticed the carton looked a bit worn around the edges. She admitted he'd been drinking goat milk all week. He became an instant convert.

More of the world's people consume goat milk than cow milk. Goats are hardy animals: They adapt well to heat and cold, productively forage and graze, require little space and are inexpensive to keep. Since mature does (females) usually weigh between 120 to 135 pounds (dwarf breeds can weigh between 35 to 85 pounds), they're much easier to handle than hefty cows, which can weigh 1,000 pounds each. Goats may surprise you in other ways, as well. They're highly intelligent, remarkably friendly creatures. And, since they're active, extremely agile and very curious, their antics can amuse you for hours. With all that in mind, it's easy to see why dairy goats can he the ideal addition to today's family farm or homestead.

For the rest of the article click Here.

Best Chicken Breeds for Backyard Flocks

Our latest survey results can help you choose the best chickens for eggs, meat, temperament and more.

By Troy Griepentrog 

(Mother Earth News) Chickens are the perfect starter livestock for your homestead — whether you have a small backyard in an urban area or 20 acres in the boondocks. Chickens provide eggs, meat and fertilizer, plus they’re small and easy to manage. Several chicken breed charts are available online and in books, but their information is often based on old data. So, to get current information on the best chicken breeds, we developed a survey of our readers who have lots of experience with various breeds. (Many thanks to more than 1,000 readers who participated in the survey.) The summaries below include only results from people who have more than three years’ experience raising chickens. And we only included breeds or hybrids if at least three people responded to questions about them.

Our survey didn’t ask which chicken breeds are prettiest. That’s important, too, but it’s subjective. If you’d like to see what each breed looks like, check out Feathersite.com or get a copy of Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius. It’s an excellent book with outstanding photos.

Pick Your Chicks

Before you decide which chicken breeds to raise, you’ll want to decide which attributes are most important to you: egg production, meat production, temperament or other qualities. If you try a breed for a year or two and decide it isn’t quite what you were  looking for, try another — or try two or three breeds each year to find out which one best suits your needs.

After you’ve selected a breed, use our Hatchery Finder to find mail-order sources near you, or our Directory of Hatcheries and Poultry Breeders to find a chicken hatchery or poultry breeders. Then, ask a few questions before you place your order. Breeders and hatcheries select for different traits. For example, some breeders may select Orpingtons for egg production; others, to meet a certain “type” described in a standard for shows. All birds of a certain breed won’t have identical characteristics. Some people who took our survey said Javas lay dark brown eggs; others said Javas lay tinted eggs. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone is wrong — certain flocks may have been bred to produce darker eggs than others.

For the rest of the article click Here.

Grow Hearty Tomatoes Using your Bladder and Fireplace

by Tony Isaacs

Gardeners who want to grow hearty tomatoes may be surprised to find that they can turn to an unusual and free source of fertilizer no further away than fireplaces and their own bladders. Scientists from the University of Kuopio in Finland recently found that wood ash and human urine perform equally as well as more expensive mineral fertilizers for tomatoes and some other crops, while being more environmentally friendly.

For the rest of this article, click HERE.

Maintain Healthy Garden Soil with Crop Rotations

by Barbara Pleasant

Healthy garden
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You can plan your crop rotations by using a paper template to simulate your crops and growing areas. There’s ample research showing that crop rotation results in better harvests for potatoes, tomatoes, beans and many other crops.

ELAYNE SEARS

You can increase soil fertility in your garden soils and cut down on plant disease by rotating the vegetables in your garden plots on a three-year crop rotation cycle.

(Mother Earth News) One of the rules of good organic gardening is to rotate plant families from one season to the next, as best you can, so related crops are not planted in the same spot more often than every three years or so. The purpose of crop rotation is to help the soil maintain a healthy balance of nutrients, organic matter and microorganisms. Of these three, the invisible world of soil-dwelling micro-creatures is the one that most benefits from crop rotations.

For the rest of this article, click HERE.

In Organic Cover Crops, More Seeds Means Fewer Weeds

Research on seeding rates of winter cover crops shows a correlation to healthy soil.
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Horticulturist Eric Brennan records data on weed seedling growth between rows of a young cover crop at USDA's 17-acre certified organic research plot in Salinas, California.

Agricultural Research Service/Scott Bauer

Research finds higher seeding rates improve biomass production of winter cover crops, thus adding more organic matter to help improve soil quality.

(Grit) Farmers cultivating organic produce often use winter cover crops to add soil organic matter, improve nutrient cycling and suppress weeds. Now these producers can optimize cover crop use by refining seeding strategies, thanks to work by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist.

In moderate climates, suppressing weeds in winter cover crops is important because weeds that grow throughout the year produce seed that can increase weeding costs in subsequent vegetable crops. ARS horticulturist Eric Brennan, at the U.S. Agricultural Research Station in Salinas, California, conducted studies comparing winter cover crop planting protocols in organic systems along California’s central coast.

Brennan looked at how seeding rates and planting patterns affected cover crop performance. He planted rye using three seeding rates: 80 pounds per acre, 160 pounds per acre and 240 pounds per acre. The seeds were either planted in a grid pattern that required driving a grain drill across fields twice, or in traditional rows. All seeding was carried out in October.

For the rest of this article, click HERE.

Anyone Can Raise Chickens

You can start baby chicks off right by following this expert advice.

(Mother Earth News) Raising baby poultry is easy and a great deal of fun. Many people start with chickens, but you might also consider ducks, guineas, turkeys or geese. You can order chicks from a hatchery, buy them at a local farm store, or allow a hen to hatch eggs and raise the chicks for you. Raising purchased chicks is easy, but remember that they rely on you for their every need.

The Chicks are in the Mail

Just before hatching, a chick absorbs and stores the last of the egg yolk it’s been feeding on throughout incubation. This last bit of yolk can sustain the chick for several days before its first drink or meal, providing a window of opportunity for shipping chicks from a hatchery to your front door.

When your chicks arrive, open the box in the presence of the postal clerk or carrier. Shipments from a reputable hatchery are insured, and the hatchery will likely replace losses if there are a large number of fatalities. That sounds scary, but I’ve rarely had problems. It is not unusual, however, to have a couple of losses (either in transit or within the first day or two) of weaker chicks that just didn’t have a good start. Even in the best of circumstances, transit through the postal system is stressful for chicks. Provide them with warmth, water and feed immediately.

Setting up a Brooder

A brooder is a warm, draft-free environment to replace a mother hen’s body heat. You can buy a commercial brooder, but it is cheap and easy to assemble one from materials on hand (a large cardboard box will work for a few chicks).

The brooder must have a heat source. Any lamp with 100- to 250-watt bulbs will work for about a dozen chicks. Or you can buy a special brooder heat lamp or use small electric heating elements. For temperature control, lamps can be raised or lowered. The closer the lamp is to the floor, the warmer the air at the chicks’ level. Secure the lamp or heater so it’s not too close to combustible surfaces (litter, cardboard or wood sides) — usually 18 inches or so, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Another option is a “hover,” a boxlike structure of metal or plywood, suspended a few inches above the brooder floor and containing a heat source. The chicks retreat under the hover to warm up, or range for feed, water and exercise in the cooler area outside.

The standard recommendation is that brooder temperature be maintained at 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week and reduced by 5 degrees each week until the chicks’ bodies are completely covered with feathers. Just observe the behavior of the chicks: If they huddle up under the heat, the brooder is too chilly. If they retreat to the perimeters of the brooder, the heat source is too intense. If they are scooting about like water bugs, the temperature is “just right.” Of course, like all babies, they need to sleep a lot, so don’t worry if you see individuals immobile on the litter.

For the rest of this story, click HERE.

Rabbits in Your Garden, or a Garden for Your Rabbits

Bennett headshot(Grit Magazine) I can’t blame it all on wild rabbits. There were raccoons, woodchucks, possums, skunks, mice, moles, voles, deer, crows and who knows what else, but my garden last year fed critters more than me, and I am fed up. So this year my garden is going to help feed my domestic rabbits and cut my feed costs. You can grow feed for your domestic rabbits, too, and here are some ways to do it.

First, and very easy, there are mangel beets. I have grown the large red roots in the past but a friend says the Golden Eckendorf variety is even better. You plant them early in the spring. About 110 days later you can dig them out and store them for winter feed. Rabbits love them, especially if their water freezes up in winter.

Storey Guide to Rabbits

Also a cinch to grow is oats – and boy, do rabbits love oats. Back before there were rabbit pellets, oats made up the majority of many rabbits’ diets. One feed mixture included six quarts of oats to a quart each of wheat, sunflower seeds, barley and corn. You can grow them all.

Plant oats in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked in a preferably loamy soil. They will germinate even if the soil is cold. Try broadcasting them like grass seed in broad bands, a foot or so wide. Just rake the seeds in a couple of inches deep. You can get the seed from a seed catalog (Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Jung’s are good ones) or from a farm supply store. At harvest time, cut the oats with a sickle and if you wish you can thresh them by flailing inside a large metal garbage can, or you can just dry the straw, seed heads and all, and feed it that way. You can do just about the same thing with wheat, but it’s easy to just pick the seed heads and feed them that way.

Barley, buckwheat and rye are easy to grow, too, and of course there is alfalfa.

Alfalfa is high in protein, and in some places, such as my area, it is difficult to buy it baled because the farmers chop it and put in the silo. Rabbits love the stuff and you can grow it just as easily as planting grass. The same goes for red clover; again, plant it in the spring and let it grow until the red blossoms appear. Cut it down and dry it and your rabbits will love the clover hay.

I like to feed dried corn, right on the cob. There is always some that “goes by” when you grow sweet corn, and that’s great for rabbits.

Those giant or mammoth Russian sunflowers are terrific for rabbits, too, but you have to watch out for birds. I keep an eye on the heads when they get close to ripening and put a plastic bag on them for protection.

So I’m going to have a small garden for me this year and a big one for MY rabbits and not those cottontails that invade my premises. The feeds that I grow for my rabbits are not as tempting to those wild ones. They prefer the lettuce, carrots and beets, but I’m going to have a good fence around them. It better be good.

Bob Bennett is the author of Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, available for purchase here. 

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