Mint rust and basil mildew

The mint plant in the garden that’s been let to grow wild, plus two that were re-potted, had yellow marks all over it. I figured it might be over watering, and pulled off the worst leaves while I researched it. Turns out it is a horrible fungus called mint rust, that spreads to other herbs, contaminates soil,etc. Some sites suggest that there is no treatment, total scorched earth policy, toss the plants and soil, etc. Others say there are fungicides that might help. I do think that MOST of my soil is likely contaminated by a lot of different fungi, so I need to figure something out. I can’t just dig up the whole yard.

In the meantime, I’ve checked out other plants. The basil has yellow spots on it too, and yes it can jump to basil. The marks look a little bit different on it, though, so I plucked a few leaves and did some research. My dad used to be a landscaper/gardener and he looked at the leaves and think’s it might be aphids. I used a non organic insecticide on it, because I want to be sure it’s aphids and not a fungal infection. If it’s bugs, the plant will recover. If it’s fungus I will throw it out and go over the garden frequently to prevent the spread as much as possible.

In a few days, when it is less overcast, and the area isn’t so wet, I am going to use a neem and other natural products spray on the whole garden. It’s an organic/natural spray that is supposed to treat aphids, fungi and other issues. The sprinklers over watered today as usual so I shut them down until I can redirect the flow into buckets and make a ground level drip that doesn’t get on the leaves. I also need to let the area dry out two or three days before I spray them down with Neem, because that adds water too. Then I will let it rest a few more days, and just manually check over everything to make sure all the plants are as happy as can be.

In the meantime, I will keep researching sites to get more opinions about what to do if my entire yard is suffering from a lot of fungal infections.

Brown soil, brown thumbs..

Today I worked on my backyard garden. It’s mostly containers, though a few things will be transplanted into a raised bed when they’re larger. Hopefully I will have built one by then as it’s a lot of labor for me. I have two flat pieces of wood that aren’t being used and could maybe be side pieces, as well as some 1″ x 2″ x 36″ wood scraps I am hoping to convert into a trellis of some sort, to go over the container area. My “direct sun” patch can be a little too much sun, I learned last season when everything died from heat. Leaves sizzled and turned crispy and brown where they touched brick edging. All of my squash blossoms fell off and never became squash. (Apparently, they have a heat threshold at which point that happens, around 80 degrees I believe.)

The prep work I have done for the garden this past week hasn’t been worth photographing, just dull and back breaking. All the pots with dead and dying plants in them needed to be evaluated. Recycle the soil and the container? Or figure out why the plant is dead and try to save it. It was a messy job, but I finally sorted my work bench and prioritized the plants in a triage sort of way. I am highly doubtful the blueberry twigs will recover. I also ripped up 10 ft tall radish plants. (I was curious about what happens when you don’t harvest them. They flower, then pod, then seed.) And I pulled up weeds, noting what they were first so I could cross check any information they would give me about the soil health. A few extremely stubby carrots made it obvious that anything below 8″ deep was such crap that a carrot wouldn’t venture forth. The rest of the soil was fairly well mixed, drained well but slowly, and the home Low Budget Soil pH Test revealed that my soil was neither acidic nor basic. Well, maybe slightly acidic, but only enough that I knew to stop adding coffee grounds to my mulch.

I tried microwaving some of the soil to get rid of disease or living weed roots, but that soil was primarily for seedlings as I can’t realistically microwave the whole yard (yet). Not to mention, I found quite a few worms and didn’t want to kill them off by accident. The majority of the soil was sifted and poured into my largest pot. I added water, covered it with a black trash bag and left it in the sun to cook and compost. If you’re trying to do this for your whole property, and I attempted last year but I think I failed, you turn all the soil, leave anything that can mulch, add water, cover tightly with plastic sheeting and let the sun cook it for 4-6 weeks. I do not have the patience to wait more than a week for anything, sorry. I think that advice is a lot better for people in zones under 6, where you actually have a few months with nothing growing anyhow. In zones 7 through 9, you can grow year round. Of course.. I didn’t realize that until last month when I decided to make attempt #2 at this whole gardening thing. Oh yeah, did I mention I haven’t had a garden ever? Except for last year. Brown thumb like you wouldn’t believe and I have the wild idea I that want to be a homesteader.

In the beginning..

jill111 / Pixabay

Not wanting to go into the details of how I found myself in my current unfortunate living situation, the facts of my life will definitely color everything I am attempting, so here’s the lowdown.  At 43, I am back with my parents, in a small room, with no income, no car of my own, and very few belongings. Everything I do in the garden has to be approved by them, because after all, it is actually THEIR garden. That means I won’t be getting money to improve it and set things up, unless it’s something they want. It also means that they’re limiting my scavenging, because they don’t want their yard to be “messy”.  When it comes to prepping, it means I am VERY unprepared, because I own next to nothing of my own. I also have fibromyalgia, which means chronic pain, fatigue and depression get in the way of everything I am trying to do.

This is the reality of my start.

First things first, I need to be generating an income. I am a full time college student, primarily as a way to postpone my student loans, but also to gain skills that will help me in the future. It’s not a degree I need; I have several of those. It’s a lot of knowledge, skills, stamina and savings. So, I have chosen to do this in three steps.

MartinStr / Pixabay

Step 1) Vanliving. I am one step away from being homeless right now, and the best I can do next is to take a step sideways, and live in a converted van or rv while continuing to prep and save money. Until then, I have joined meetup groups and focused on researching and practicing with whatever I have on hand.

Step 2) If I don’t want to live in a van for years, I need to start out with mortgage that doesn’t cost more than living in a van would. Considering the areas I am looking at, that puts me between 50k-100K for a LIVABLE place, not empty land. It also means I will probably be upgrading to a backyard garden in a semi-rural area without the privacy and space I long for. I’d rather put money into a mortgage, and keep saving, because renting a place would be a waste of time and money. I wouldn’t even be able to save up, paying a thousand per month in rent. Since I don’t intend to stay long, I am more likely to spend my time and money on portable projects that can go with me when I move. I won’t be planting any trees or buying another dog. A few chickens, maybe?

Step 3) Dream home? To know where to start, I need to visualize what I ultimately hope to achieve. Here’s what I have so far: 5 Acres Minimum, but 20 would be nice. Pacific Northwest, from Northern California to Washington. I love the ocean, but a source of fresh water and fishing is going to be more important. If I buy a place with a house already on it, I won’t have to worry about zoning, permits, installing plumbing, etc. Just starting out, I wouldn’t mind at all if I still have utilities, as long as the ability to live without them will be possible. Hopefully I can find flat land and soil that’s good for farming, but there are ways to work around such things. With my limitations, I am probably going to hire someone to help me set up and run the homestead. Who knows? Maybe I will meet someone to share my life with, and all its joys and hardships.

2554813 / Pixabay

After a lot of consideration, meat animals are going to be more responsibility that I don’t want, so I am hoping to have neighbors to trade with or buy meet from once or twice a year. I have a 6 yr old small dog right now, and I will probably be getting egg laying chickens, so some type of guard animal is definitely a consideration. Dog breeds and alternative options, like donkeys and Alpacas, will be discussed elsewhere on the blog but for now I am inclined toward getting a large herding dog or two. Even peacocks are a possibility! Pyrenees are probably the most frequently recommended dog breed, but I want something that can scare off or fend off any human intruders too, and a Pyrenees is NOT the dog for that. (They’re cute, fluffy and all around friendly.) I haven’t ruled out fish for aquaponics (Tilapia, Trout, Perch or Koi). And I have considered an “emergency pig.” (Juliana Spotted Mini?) Maybe I will name her “Lucky”, because if everything goes well she will only be a pet. I definitely want honeybees!

Why am I set on the Pacific Northwest when land is so much more expensive, my options are so much more limited, and I am subject to a lot more zoning restrictions? Not only that, but if the U.S. ever does get attacked, the West Coast is the easiest target and there are many important military sites and bases. I HAVE taken that last one into consideration, and won’t be living within 100 miles of a major target city.

I have lived in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. I also have relatives in Alaska. The Pacific Ocean is my heart. Also, weather in these areas permits for year round farming, or close to it. There are still State and National Forests all over here. But for me, the most important part is that I am much more likely to be around accepting people, who share my religious and political views. It’s something everyone might want to consider, themselves, when looking for their dream homestead. No matter how isolated you go, there will always be people around, and you need to get along with them.