A holistic, healthy lifestyle in your own backyard.


5 Steps to a Mosquito Free Backyard

enjoy a mosquito free backyardIf I took a straw poll with just this one question, I bet I could predict the outcome: “What bug do you want out of your life forever?”

For city-folk, it’s probably the dreaded bed bug. For my New England friends, it’s Lyme disease carrying ticks. But for most of the world, South Carolina included, it’s definitely the mosquito.

Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal family in the world. They spread disease and discomfort wherever they go, and there is a multi-billion dollar industry that’s flourishing on the world’s justified fear and loathing of this tiny creature. So let’s discuss 5 easy ways to utterly and completely rid your backyard homestead of this vampiric scourge. I’m serious – zero mosquitos.

A bat-friendly backyard is a mosquito free backyard.

The Little Brown Bat is, in short, your new best friend. A single brown bat can eat up to 600 mosquitoes per hour. Hosting a colony of these unique and fascinating hunters is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to ensure a mosquito free backyard. Best of all, brown bats are fairly easy to attract. All you need is a quality bat house and some planning. Brown bats are particular about where they roost, so going out of your way to cater to their likes and dislikes will definitely speed up the colony attracting process. We will write more about bats in the future, but bookmark these links to get started:

Don’t let water stand in your yard.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, and something as innocuous as a bucket left out in the rain can become a major source of mosquitoes in your yard. Make it a habit to keep a tidy homestead, and always keep anything that might retain water out of the rain (or turned upside down).

Another good idea is to tour your property after a big rain and search for places where water collects – large puddles, buckets, clogged gutters, etc. – and take steps to correct any drainage issues.

Protect your rain barrels, troughs, and other water storage units

Sometimes, however, we need to collect water, but that doesn’t mean we also need to give mosquitoes an ideal breeding ground. Here are three excellent ways to keep your water storage and still have a mosquito free backyard:

  • Install mosquito netting over rain barrels.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar for every gallon of water to your rain barrels, water troughs, and other water storage units. As a bonus, this will also help prevent the growth of algae and green slime!
  • Add a few tablespoons of regular cooking oil to any rain barrel or water storage unit to create a mosquito-proof barrier on the water’s surface.

Plant mosquito repelling plants

There are many plants that do a great job of repelling mosquitoes. Here are five excellent choices for any garden or landscape:

  • Citronella Grass
  • Catnip
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Lavender

Use safe and natural bug sprays and repellents.

When all else fails, it’s nice to have a natural bug repellent with you. Rather than spraying yourself down with the chemicals found in most commercial bug sprays, look for sprays and repellents that advertise “DEET FREE” or “CHEMICAL FREE”. The best natural bug sprays will take advantage of the repellent nature of plants rather than chemicals – lavender, mint, cedar, citrus, geranium, and lemongrass. These sprays can be extremely effective at keeping the bugs away without causing you worry over the ingredients you’re rubbing into your skin.

We hope this gives you some ideas about how to eradicate the awful mosquito from your homestead. Any one of these five suggestions on its own might be enough to significantly decrease the mosquito population in your yard, but all of them taken together can ensure a completely mosquito free backyard for you and your family.

By Sam
June 12, 2016

The Amazing, Spectacular Sprouting Seeds

sproutsIf you’re like I was not too long ago, you probably have no idea about the wonderful world of sprouting seeds. The closest you’ve come to enjoying sprouts is ordering authentic pad thai and having a taste of the bean sprouts that usually tag along. Sprouting seeds might seem a little earthy, or even “weird”, but when you recognize the potential of this incredibly simple and cheap practice, you might never look back.

There is really no mystery to this concept, which makes it all the more shocking that more people aren’t already doing it. Put a couple of spoonfuls of seeds and some water in a mason jar with a screened lid, turn them and rinse them a few times, and in a few days have several cups of delicious, nutritious, organic sprouts to add to just about anything you already eat – salads, stir-fries, sandwiches, etc. This process can take place at any time of year and requires almost no effort. Best of all, it’s incredibly cheap. The only equipment you need is a jar, a screened lid, and the seeds. For less than $10 you can be sprouting seeds in your kitchen right now!

The Many Benefits of Sprouting Seeds

If you want to know the cheapest and easiest way to provide fresh, healthy, delicious food for your family year-round, look no further. I give you. . . sprouting seeds!

By Sam
June 01, 2016

If you chase a lucid butterfly. . .

flowers-purple-flower-bokeh“If you chase a lucid butterfly, it will keep on flying. If you stop, it’ll turn and land on your shoulder.”  

Do you have a lucid butterfly in your life? I recently discovered that mine has been homesteading. Throughout my teen years, I longed to be a farmer. I wanted to wear the overalls, own a cow, and rise each day with my sprouting stalks of corn. I hated our computer, scoffed at our dishwasher, and scoured my friend’s Lehman’s catalog with questionable zeal. The closest I came to fulfilling my dream was joining 4-H and raising a few sheep for a couple of years.

My family thought I was crazy. I would be a writer, they said. I would raise a family. I didn’t have the gumption to take on any form of farming. Seriously, I couldn’t even keep a potted plant alive, let alone grow an entire garden.

I knew they were right and eventually quit dreaming, absorbed myself in the world of office supplies, and relinquished all hope of marrying someone who shared this silly little passion of mine. I stopped chasing my butterfly.

Then I met Sam. At first, he didn’t let on just how much he enjoyed homesteading. He owned a flourishing garden and a few quirky hens, but I never thought his farming roots ran so deep until one day, he said he wanted to open this store, and I knew he would.

As I realized that my old dream was finally blossoming into reality, I became giddy inside. Finally! I shall be a homesteader’s wife! My butterfly had lighted on my shoulder at last.

Then it dawned on me: if I’m going to be the homesteading wife of the Backyard Homestead Supply Co. guy, I’m going to need to learn how to homestead. For real.

And so, the journey begins!

Although I’d love to be perfect at EVERYTHING right off the bat, raising a five year old and an infant has taught me that lessons are best learned in baby steps. So, I’ve begun a mission. I will master one new skill each month (or as many months as it takes!) and let you all in on my progress.

This is big for me. I’d love to pretend I’m already an expert at this homesteading business, that I am the quintessential homesteader’s wife. But if I put up that facade, I’ll be back to chasing my butterfly, never making any progress.

And that’s not what homesteading is about. It’s about being real, rolling up your sleeves and digging in. It’s about learning to live in new ways and loving the process as much as the product. It’s about stopping and letting that butterfly land on your shoulder. My chasing days are over. Are yours?  

May 24, 2016

A Free Lifetime Supply of Organic Fertilizer in Your Backyard

free-fertilizerYou heard right! We’re offering everyone the opportunity to fertilize their garden with the best organic fertilizer for free, for life.

Too good to be true? Hardly. If you want your garden to grow bigger, greener, and healthier this year, we have one word for you: Rainwater.

It’s all about that nitrogen.

The University of Hawaii writes, “Of all the essential nutrients, nitrogen is required by plants in the largest quantity and is most frequently the limiting factor in crop productivity. . . Proper management of nitrogen is important because it is often the most limiting nutrient in crop production and easily lost from the soil system.”

Nitrogen is what makes plants look green and vibrant. Have you ever noticed how your garden perks up after a good summer thunderstorm – even when you’ve been watering with the garden hose every day? It’s not the water your plants were craving – it’s the nitrogen!

As rain forms in clouds and falls through our atmosphere, it picks up nitrogen compounds (nitrates) and other trace nutrients from the air. When that rainwater hits your garden, those nutrients are quickly picked up by your plants’ roots. Rainwater from a thunderstorm is particularly good for your plants because lightning converts nitrogen gas in the air into a usable nitrate. That city water is keeping your plants alive, but with rainwater they can thrive.

Rainwater collection is easy!

BHSC Rain BarrelOnce you’re ready to give your plants a constant diet of the best organic fertilizer, it’s time to set things up – but don’t worry about expensive irrigation systems or tools. All you need is a downspout and a rain barrel. Installation is as easy as diverting your downspout into the barrel! If you’re curious about exactly how much rainwater we’re talking about, the formula goes something like this:

For every 1000 sq. ft. of catchment area (that’s your roof), one inch of rain equals 600 gallons of water!

To give an example, we collect rainwater for our garden in a 250 gallon plastic tote (one of those white cubes with the metal cage). The roof of our garage serves as the catchment area – approximately 600 sq. How much rain needs to fall for us to collect 250 gallons of water? The answer is ¾ of an inch. That’s enough water to feed my garden for two weeks from a single afternoon shower!

The number of barrels you need and the size of your catchment area will depend on your watering needs and the average rainfall in your area. In Greenville, we can depend on a fair amount of rain throughout the spring and summer, and in our garden we use clay pot irrigation to further reduce the volume of water we use. Chances are, if you live in an area like ours, one rain barrel may very well be all you need.

Ready to get your free organic fertilizer?

Planting time is just around the corner. If you think you could benefit from free organic fertilizer for life in the form of nutrient-rich rainwater, contact us today and we’ll help you get started however we can. And don’t forget, we offer high-quality 60-gallon rain barrels as well as clay pot irrigation to give you the best irrigation plan for you and your plants!

By Sam
March 18, 2016

Preventing Garden Diseases: Burn Old Plants

backyard-fireWhether or not you plan on planting a fall garden this year, it is important to clean out your garden beds as soon as you are finished harvesting. There is no sense in allowing plants that aren’t producing fruit to continue soaking up those valuable nutrients from the soil! Besides this, old plants attract disease, and the sooner you can remove them, the better.

A popular topic among gardeners is whether or not you should compost your old plants and root systems once you’ve finished digging them up. My answer will always be N-O. The reality is that disease-free plants are perfectly fine for a compost heap, and even diseased plants would be acceptable if you could guarantee the heaps temperature at 140 degrees for a number of days, but most people cannot guarantee either of these factors. Considering the risk and reward, it is much better to play it safe – burn those old plants and be done with it! (more…)

By Sam
August 15, 2015

Are you planting a fall garden?

Yvx30If your garden looks like mine, it’s time to start thinking about getting those fall veggies in the ground! One of the many blessings of living in Greenville, South Carolina (zone 7b, to be exact) is that the well-prepared gardener can grow an abundance of food nearly the whole year long.

Since I write for the benefit of urban gardeners like myself, I’m assuming you’re working with limited space. The beauty of fall gardening is that you can grow twice as much food in the same amount of space by doubling the length of your growing season. The first time I tried to grow brussel sprouts, the July heat and cabbage worms won and I learned a valuable lesson: Plant those cold weather veggies in August and use that garden bed for something more accustomed to the heat in the summer. (more…)

By Sam
August 08, 2015