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“Isn’t that a weed?” I asked my friend.

I pointed to the pale green, hairy stem rising from the flannel-textured center rosette.

“It grows tall, you know. I pulled one last week that was taller than me — at least 7 feet!”

“No, it’s called mullein,” my friend replied. It’s actually a heritage plant, brought over from Europe by the early settlers and cultivated for its multiple medicinal properties. Every part of the plant has its purpose and is used for a wide range of ailments from ear infections to bursitis. It even helps heal hemorrhoids and gout.”

Swallowtail Garden Seeds / Flickr (Creative Commons)

“Really!” I hadn’t realized the huge plant with tiny yellow flowers could be anything more than a weed. “I’ll have to reconsider pulling it up next time it appears in my garden.”

“It does make an interesting backdrop to a cottage garden,” my friend added. “But be careful. It is invasive.”

Related Post: English Garden Inspiration For Your Yard

Once again encouraged by a friend’s garden, I launched into my research. It was definitely a pretty plant. With its soft textured, furry foliage, I learned both the English and Latin names make sense.

BBBWIN / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mullein is derived from the Middle English word moleyn, meaning soft. Verbascum thapsus is a modification of the Latin word barbascum, meaning bearded.

As a plant with a long history in Europe, it’s had even more names, including the Greek names of fuma and fuego: to set fire. This refers to its use when dried and rolled as wicks in oil lamps, and the use of its tall stalks (the plant is known to grow as high as 10 feet) to light funeral processions.

Plant Description

As well as the tall stalks and hairy foliage, the plant sports yellow flowers thickly clustered around the stem. It blooms from June to September with a few flowers at a time, but the best bloom is in July. Mullein is biennial and can grow in a wide variety of habitats but prefers plenty of sun.

My friend was right to warn me of mullein’s invasive nature. It’s very prolific in its seed production, though it does require an open ground space for the seeds to germinate. Once established, it’s time-intensive to abolish the mullein as the only sure way to get rid of the plant is to pull it one at a time, roots and all.

Related Post: Purslane: Weed Or Delicacy?

But why abolish a plant that displays well as a border plant? And is beneficial not only to humans but also to other forms of life? For instance, mullein provides a home for many insects that are destructive to other plants. With the exception of spider mites, which invade the plant in extremely hot conditions, the plant tolerates these invasive insects that may be detrimental to other plants.

Uses for Mullein

Mullein has been used as an herbal remedy since ancient times. Each part of the plant has specific medicinal uses. Dried, soaked, and chewed, the various parts of the plant could be considered a cure-all for just about any common ailment from respiratory conditions to diarrhea and from infant teething to treating wounds.

The most common conditions mullein is used for include:

  • Colds and coughs – a sweet mullein leaf tea works as an anti-inflammatory and an expectorant.
  • Ear infections – the infused oil of mullein flowers, when applied to the outer ear canal, can reduce the infection and discomfort. Combine it with infused garlic oil (which is antibacterial and antiviral) for added effect against infection.
  • Diarrhea – mullein leaf tea is also useful in reducing bowel irritation, sensitivity to gastric acids in the digestive system, and digestive muscle spasms. In short, it helps prevent diarrhea.
  • Teething for infants – the root, when dried, can be made into teething charms to soothe infants.
  • Renal and bladder problems – an infusion of the mullein root can be helpful when treating renal problems.
  • Water retention issues in the lower body – the root can be helpful in creating a soothing leg bath that assists swelling and water retention issues in the lower body.
  • Infections – extracts and herbal tea from the infused root are good for treating infections.
  • Athlete’s foot – extracts and herbal tea from the infused root is good for treating athlete’s foot
  • Sprains and bruises, swelling and pain, rheumatism – mullein leaf poultices applied to the affected area will assist the healing process and reduce pain.
  • Swollen glands – leaves soaked well in warm water when applied to swollen glands will help reduce the swelling.
  • Spinal injuries – an infusion of mullein root strengthens the spine and reduces swelling and pain.

Why is mullein so beneficial and full of healing powers? The plant is a great source of multiple vitamins including B2, B5, B12, and D. On top of that, it contains even more beneficial properties such as mucilage, flavonoids, iridoids, sterols, and sugars as well as choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, and saponins.

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#mullein #verbascumthapsus

A post shared by Tim (@tim.530) on Jul 6, 2019 at 12:55pm PDT

It’s really what some might describe as a natural wonder drug, a natural way to treat just about anything. At the very least, it’s a calming herbal remedy due to its narcotic and sedative properties.

A Note on the Potential Toxicity of Mullein

However, beware of mullein’s potential toxicity. Like any other remedy, there is always a long list of potential side effects. The mullein seed is high in rotenone which is potentially harmful and toxic. Adverse effects can include the very symptoms the mullein tea is meant to heal, like abdominal cramps, diarrhea, convulsions, and vomiting.

To avoid this, make sure there are NO SEEDS in the mullein plant flowers being used in the infusion. Expectant women and those breastfeeding should avoid using mullein tea.

While the use of mullein leaves in tea is deemed safe, extensive use on a regular basis can lead to skin irritation: rashes, redness, and other severe skin problems. Although mullein tea is supposed to help with respiratory ailments, in some individuals it can have the opposite effect, making it difficult to inhale air, constricting the chest, causing tightness in the throat, and inflammation of the chest wall.

Additionally, if consumed regularly, mullein tea can cause unusual bouts of fatigue, lethargy, inflammation of the lungs or skin, and confusion, all due to the hypnotic attributes of mullein.

Since mullein tea contains coumarin, it can heighten the chance of bleeding when consumed with drugs such as heparin, aspirin, warfarin, anti-platelets like clopidogrel, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen.

Of particular concern is mullein growing wild in parking lots or along highways as it can be potentially toxic.

Dluogs / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Use caution when harvesting the mullein as skin contact with the fresh leaves can result in contact dermatitis, a reddened, irritating skin condition similar to the result of coming in contact with poison ivy. WEAR GLOVES!

Children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should not take mullein without first consulting the family physician. In fact, like anything else consumed medicinally, one should consult the doctor and/or pharmacist to ensure that it is safe to do so. There are potential side effects to anything one consumes.

How to Make Mullein Tea

To make mullein tea, steep seven fresh or dried mullein leaves and some flowers (without the seeds) in 5 cups of boiling water for about 10 minutes. Strain the tea through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter to remove the leaf hairs that can irritate the throat. The addition of the mullein flowers in the tea gives it a slightly sweet taste. Milk and/or honey can also be added to sweeten the taste.

In short, mullein is an extremely beneficial medicinal herb. Use it carefully and be sure to consult medical professionals before giving it a try. Like any other medicine, at the first sign of any serious side effect, stop using it immediately and consult a professional. While this plant may be easy to grow and seemingly easy to use as a cure-all, it can have its adverse effects like anything else.

As I write this, I’m marveling at the border of tall mullein plants that are lining the stone wall along my property line. They are tall plants, yet to flower. I look forward to seeing them bloom.

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Radishes come in several shapes, sizes, and colors, all with their own unique flavor. The radish is an easy to grow vegetable that is great for beginning gardeners.

This cool weather root vegetable is hardy, grows quickly, and can be planted multiple times within a growing season. Radishes can be enjoyed raw or cooked. There are a lot of amazing recipes that elevate the typical radish, and personally, I love the spicy flavor that they add to stir-fry.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Some radishes are spicy and peppery while others have a milder, sweeter flavor. Regardless of what radish flavor you prefer, they have to be stored properly if you want to keep them fresh for more than a couple of days.

Related Post: Canning

After a few days in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter, radishes start to get soft, and lose not only their amazing crispiness but their flavor, too. Whether you bought too many radishes at the store or you have a large harvest you want to last for months to come, here are some of the best ways to store your radishes both short and long-term.

Short-Term Storage

There are a few different ways you can store radishes for short-term use. The amount of time they will stay fresh depends on the method you use to store them.

Related Post: How To Store Potatoes

Radishes can be stored on the kitchen counter in a cool spot, but they only last a few days before they start losing their crispy texture. Here are alternatives to counter top storage that are quick and easy.

Cold Canning Jar Method

The cold canning method will keep your radishes crisp and fresh for about a week.

Directions
  1. Wash the entire radish, removing the tops and root strands.
  2. Toss the prepped radishes into a clean glass canning jar. Be careful not to over pack the jar.
  3. Fill the jar with enough cool water to keep all of the radishes fully submerged.
  4. Close the lid tight and store it in the fridge.

Check your radishes periodically throughout the week to be sure they are all submerged and still crisp. Remove any soft or squishy radishes.

Hydrocooling Method woodleywonderworks / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Hydrocooling will prolong the freshness of your radishes for up to three days when stored on the counter and for 5 to 7 days if stored in the refrigerator.

Directions
  1. Fill a bowl with about 2 inches of cool water. Use an appropriate size bowl so your radishes aren’t packed tight.
  2. Rinse the radishes leaving both the tops and roots intact. This way, you can use the tops for other uses.
  3. Place the radishes in the bowl making sure they’re partially submerged.
  4. Avoid having the greens in the water.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If the leaves start to go limp or change color, it’s a sign that the freshness is fading, and you should use your radishes as soon as possible.

Plastic Storage Bag Method

This method can keep your radishes fresh for a week or more.

Directions
  1. Clean and cut the radishes removing the leaves and roots.
  2. Slice the radishes into 1/4-inch-thick uniform pieces.
  3. Add a damp paper towel to the bottom of a plastic storage bag.
  4. Add a thin layer of radishes on top of the damp paper towel, and cover it with another piece of damp paper towel.
  5. Continue to layer radishes and damp paper towels until the storage bag is full.
  6. Make sure the top layer is towels and not radishes or they will dry out.
  7. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How to Store Radishes in a Root Cellar Chris Penny / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Luckily, radishes are one of the produce items that store well long term. Radishes, similar to potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables, store well in a root cellar or basement for up to three months! Here’s how it works:

Directions
  1. Remove the radish tops and use them later or discard them to your compost pile or bin.*
  2. Fill a box or crate with cool, damp sand. Make sure your crate or box has enough space so the radishes can be placed comfortably without crowding.
  3. Place the unwashed radishes in the sandbox. It is important that you don’t allow the roots to touch the sand because this can cause root rot.
  4. Cover the radishes completely with the damp sand.

Check your produce at least once a week. You might have to wet the soil again to be sure it remains damp and cool. However, avoid adding too much water or your radishes will rot.

*Do not wash the radishes before storing them in a root cellar as this will cause them to grow mold and rot.

How to Freeze Radishes

I have never actually frozen fresh radishes myself because I eat them too fast! But I do know the process and there’s a little more to this method than simple cold storage.

Jeremy Bronson / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Radishes have a high water content so it isn’t wise to just toss them in the freezer. You’ll end up with mushy soft radishes when it’s time to use them. Though you can certainly freeze radishes, keep in mind that the texture and the taste are slightly different.

Directions
  1. Clean and trim the tops and roots off of the radishes.
  2. Slice the radishes into medallion shapes, leaving the skin on.
  3. Blanch the radish medallions for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the blanched radishes from the hot water and place them into a bowl of ice water. Make sure all of the radish medallions are fully submerged.
  5. Drain the radishes well and store in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to three months.

Don’t forget about the radish tops. They are edible and tasty! You can eat them raw in salads, sandwiches, and mixed with other greens. Or, you can cook them as you would spinach or collard greens.

Related Post: Growing Spinach

Radishes are an amazing root vegetable. You can enjoy them as a snack, add them to hot or cold dishes, and cook them as a side. However, you choose to enjoy this awesome root vegetable is up to you and your taste buds.

Having knowledge about how to store them properly is great because it means you can harvest or purchase extra and not have to be in a hurry to use them.

Let us know in the comments some of your favorite ways to enjoy radishes. We’re eager to hear about them. Happy Homesteading!

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Horseradish, a member of the mustard family and a close cousin of both cauliflower and the common radish, deserves a place in the homestead garden.

Cultivated for its thick, creamy white or yellowish roots, horseradish derives its heat from isothiocyanate, a unique volatile compound oxidized when exposed to air and saliva. The spicy taste, pungent aroma, and hot taste sensation make horseradish one of America’s favorite condiments.

Edsel Little / Flickr (Creative Commons)

A 3,000-year-old plant long valued for its medicinal and gastronomic merits, horseradish is an herbaceous perennial root vegetable that earned its horsey name to set it apart from the ordinary garden radish used in salads and slaws.

Horseradish Growing Conditions

Native to eastern Europe, horseradish is an herbaceous perennial herb sporting large, deep green to yellowish elongated leaves. The hardy plant reaches a height of 2 to 4 feet at maturity and does well in a sunny location along a wall or fence line.

Related Post: 5 Perennial Herbs For Fresh Garden Flavor All Year Long

Plant horseradish in a sunny spot and well-composted soil where it will receive plenty of moisture. Horseradish requires 1 to 2 inches of water a week. Make sure to water liberally during periods of extended drought. Horseradish thrives in USDA zones 3 to 7 and does best in regions where cold winters that provide the required root dormancy are offset by long, hot summers for root development.

Edsel Little / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Horseradish grows almost anywhere with little care. However, the roots will be larger, thicker, tastier, and less branched when given proper tending, plenty of water, and organic fertilization. Although horseradish is drought-tolerant, the roots grow tough and woody when deprived of water.

Horseradish plants can be somewhat invasive. Reserve a spot in the homestead garden for horseradish only. The tiniest root, left at harvest time, will develop into a sizeable plant. Once horseradish is planted, you will have an endless supply to share with friends and family.

Planting Horseradish Root

Although you can start horseradish from seeds, the easiest way to establish horseradish in the homestead garden is to buy a couple of plants online or get a cutting from a local gardener. In late spring, turn the soil, and break up any large clods and clumps.

Add organic garden compost and aged herbivore manure (cow, horse, pig, sheep, chicken, or goat) and work it into the soil. Water well to saturate.

Related Post: How To Make Compost Tea

Although horseradish grows in most any nutrient-rich soil, it thrives when cultivated in soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Because your horseradish plants suck up the nutrients from the soil, they will benefit from a regular top dressing of aged organic garden compost.

Plan to plant your horseradish transplants at least 12 to 18 inches deep. Space horseradish plants one to two feet apart. In the spring, the tender new leaves are a tasty treat so add them to a salad or slaw, or use a few sprigs to add flavor to a soup or stew.

To create a flavor-packed vinaigrette dressing to complement spring greens, put a couple of fresh horseradish leaves in a vinegar curette and fill it with organic rice wine vinegar. Add a touch of honey to enhance the flavor with a bit of sweetness.

Harvesting Horseradish

Plan to harvest horseradish in the fall before the first frost. Dig up the roots and shake off excess soil.

Store horseradish root in your root cellar in damp sand or use a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Grate the root as needed.

Recommended Horseradish Varieties

If you are looking for the most tenacious, fastest-growing plants with the largest roots, choose Maliner Kren, a German variety popular with commercial growers.

Variegata is a hardy cultivar presenting creamy variegated leaves. It’s an excellent landscape plant for shaded areas against a wall. Variegata is noninvasive and also tolerates shade.

Talk to your local county extension office. If white rust or mosaic is a common problem, choose the horseradish variety New Bohemian. It’s easy to grow, known to produce thick, white roots, and resistant to mosaic and white rust.

Few garden centers or nurseries stock horseradish roots. Look for them online or obtain a root cutting from a friend or local gardener who cultivates the plant.

How To Preserve Horseradish

When it comes to preserving horseradish, add vinegar immediately to the ground root for a more mellow batch. If you want a hotter batch that’s guaranteed to clear your sinuses, wait a bit longer before adding vinegar.

Caution: When grating fresh horseradish, wear protective rubber gloves, and handle the root the same way you would when chopping fresh hot peppers. Don’t be surprised if prepping horseradish brings tears to your eyes and volatile airborne oils burn your nostrils (like a fresh hot pepper or onion).

Related Post: Fire Cider

Should you have an abundance of horseradish root, grind and pickle it with organic apple cider vinegar, a sprig or two of fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary.

Ingredients
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Fresh basil
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Honey (optional)
Directions
  1. Grate enough horseradish root for a standard-size canning jar.
  2. Add a sprig or two of fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary.
  3. Add organic honey to taste.
  4. Bring mixture to a mild boil. Simmer until thick and translucent.
  5. Pack in sterile hot glass jars, allowing one-half inch of headroom.
  6. Wipe off the rim of the jar with a clean cloth dipped in boiling water.
  7. Center lids, and seal finger tight.
  8. Place in a water bath, covering jars with 2 inches of water.
  9. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Use tongs to carefully remove jars from the canner, placing them on a dry towel or wood rack to cool.
  11. Store for enjoyment during the winter.

A great gift, homemade horseradish sauce is a worthy condiment to serve with country ham or cold roast beef.

Horseradish History

Historical records note horses are fond of horseradish leaves. Some folks trusted horseradish syrup to clear nasal congestion while others believed the pungent root contained the cure for everything from tonsillitis to tuberculosis. Because of horseradish’s exceptionally high vitamin C content, the white root acts as a centuries-old remedy for skin sores and scurvy.

In Germany, the pungent root is known as a sea radish (meerrettich) because it grows in sandy grasslands close to the sea. By the mid-1600s, the British discovered horseradish, and proclaimed the pickled preserve a necessary flavor accompaniment to oysters and beef.

Because the condiments became so popular with both laborers and the upper class, the English actively cultivated the perennial plant in both urban and rural gardens.

References:
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Generally, a succulent refers to a plant with chubby, fleshy greenery. The word on its own evokes a particular image, so if you think it’s a succulent, it probably is. The thick leaves are often plump because they’re designed to retain moisture for these drought-tolerant plants.

Most succulents are fairly low maintenance and produce flowers at some point in their life cycle. They’re a popular indoor plant type because they don’t need a lot of watering and adapt well to cramped environments. Low light, however, will limit blooming and if space is too tight, certain plants may suffer.

Give your succulent babies plenty of light, and you’ll be rewarded with plants that otherwise don’t need much attention thanks to their ability to store moisture in their leaves.

Related Post: How To Make A Succulent Terrarium

Whether you’re interested in adding a few succulents to your houseplant collection or you’re looking for a few drought-tolerant plants for your outdoor rock garden, there’s a succulent to match your needs. Read on to discover 20 types of succulents to consider for your garden.

1. Aloe Vera Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  • Genus: Aloe
  • Zone: 8 to 11

The aloe lotion you slather on after a sunburn is derived from this succulent. Avoid overwatering aloe at all costs and keep it in a spot that receives plenty of indirect sunlight.

2. Echeveria Silver Spoons Forest and Kim Starr / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  • Genus: Echeveria
  • Zone: 8 to 10

A distinct looking succulent with long, spoon-shaped leaves, this plant (also known as Topsy Turvy) has a greyish, green hue and requires at least six hours of light exposure. Prefers warm temperatures and hates over watering.

3. Aeonium Kiwi cultivar413 / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  • Genus: Aeonium
  • Zone: 9 to 11

This type of succulent is made up of thick rosettes tinged with a reddish color at its edges. Avoid putting in an overly warm spot (e.g. near a heater). Water only if the soil has dried out sufficiently. Spotting flowers? That means it’s the end of the road for this succulent.

4. Donkey’s Tail Forest and Kim Starr / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  • Genus: Sedum
  • Zone: 9 to 11

A pretty trailing succulent with miniature circular-shaped leaves, Donkey’s Tail (Sedum morganianum) prefers bright light and requires infrequent watering. Often, it’s not necessary to water for weeks, and in the winter, a break in watering is recommended. A perfect plant for a hanging container.

5. String Of Pearls Maja Dumat / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  • Genus: Senecio
  • Zone: 9 to 12
6. Sempervivum Royanum

If you’re seeking a low-maintenance plant for a hanging pot, look no further. Perfect for a spot that only receives indirect sunlight, the string of pearls succulent requires only occasional watering. Watch out, this plant is toxic, so make sure it’s well out of reach of pets and kids.

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When I used to watch TV shows like Modern Family I often wondered how the writers came up with crazy storylines and situation. And then I became a parent. Case in point, last tonight, as I was trying to get both boys into the tub, Emmett decided to turn the toilet into his personal splash pad. Owen was standing between Emmett and me, and I had stuff in my hands, so the only thing I could think to do was yell, “Nooooo!!!” Emmett immediately ceased his splashing but started to cry and his clenched toilet water hand went to his face, and he started to rub his eye— his signature “I was just told no” move. The good news is I haven’t seen any signs of pink eye. #twotwentyoneoutdoor #twotwentyonegarden . . . . #bhghome #bhgstylemaker #bhggarden #betterhomesandgardens #hensandchicks #sempervivumtectorum #sempervivum #sempervivums #succulentsofinstagram #succulentslove #indyblogsociety #zionsvilleindiana #carmelindiana #brownsburgindiana #indyblogger #indiana #indianagarden #containergardening #containersucculents

A post shared by Chelsea | two twenty one (@twotwentyone) on Jul 3, 2019 at 5:07pm PDT

  • Genus: Sempervivum
  • Zone: Any

Also known as the houseleek, this variety of hens and chicks produces rosettes up to 5 inches in diameter. This succulent has red-tipped leaves and likes warm temperatures. Plant in well-drained soil and only water when the soil has completely dried out. Sempervivum royanum requires at least six hours of sun per day. In general, Sempervivum succulents are very cold hardy and perfect for outdoor gardens in cold regions.

7. Bear’s Paw
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25-06-19 « ❂ »⠀⠀ Bear's Paw grow in bright shaded areas where they rarely receive direct sunlight. Potted plants require a container with at least one bottom drainage hole. Regular deep watering in the summer months, when the plant is actively growing, keeps the Bear's Paw healthy.⠀ .⁣⠀⠀⠀ .⁣⠀⠀⠀ .⁣⠀⠀⠀ . ⁣⠀⠀⠀ #bearspaw #bearspawsucculent #Cotyledontomentosa #plantsmakepeoplehappy #instagardeners #urbangarden #tropicalplants #tropicalgarden #tropicaljungle #garden #gardening #plantaddict #planthoarder #instagarden #gardening #instagarden #plantsofinstagram #succulentcity #succulents #secretsofgreen #succulentlove #succulents #succulentsofinstagram #plantladyisthenewcatlady #plantstagram #plantstrong #plantspo #plantnerd #plantscout #planttherapy

A post shared by A N D Y (@grandygolddigga) on Jun 25, 2019 at 12:06pm PDT

  • Genus: Cotyledon
  • Zone: 9 to 10

The fleshy round ‘clawed’ leaves are what gives this plant its name. Reaching a maximum height of 20 inches, Bear’s Paw (Cotyledon tomentosa) needs plenty of sunlight to produce its orange-red flowers. Water only when the soil has completely dried out and keep away from pets and kids.

8. Kingcup Cactus The Greater Southwestern Exploration Company / Flickr (Creative Commons)
  • Genus: Echinocereus
  • Zone: 5 to 9

Did you know that cacti are a type of succulent? This cactus is one that grows in the shape of a mound and grows up to 24 inches in height. It likes full sun and needs to be watered regularly during the hot season. It’s also a very hardy cactus, so it can be grown outdoors even in colder regions.

9. Aeonium Arboreum
  • Genus: Aeonium
  • Zone: 10 to 13

Aeonium arboreum has little tree-like red leaves and can grow up to 3 feet high. This succulent is native to North Africa and needs lots of light and warmth to thrive. Water it occasionally and plant in pots that drain well.

10. Jade Plant Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  • Genus: Crassula
  • Zone: 10 to 11

The squishy round leaves of this plant are easy to spot and make it a beautiful houseplant. Jade plants grow up to 30 inches tall and produce white flowers when in bloom. They need less light than other succulents, but won’t do well in a room that’s too shady. Water plants from the bottom to prevent disease and pests.

11. Haworthia Aloe Leigha Staffenhagen / Insteading
  • Genus: Aloe
  • Zone: 9 to 13

An attractive spiky plant that produces pretty orange flowers. Needs bright light to thrive and prefers a warm environment.

Related Post: How To Grow Healthy Aloe Vera

Water thoroughly when needed, but let the soil dry out accordingly between watering.

12. Echeveria Elegans
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My best Home Depot purchase. Started as just a single succulent.

A post shared by Sandi Ragusa (@california_succulents) on Jun 11, 2019 at 1:14pm PDT

  • Genus: Echeveria 
  • Zone: 9 to 11

This succulent is also known as the Mexican Snowball. The rosettes grow close together and low to the ground. These plants prefer full sunlight and thrive in very warm conditions. Water infrequently to prevent root rot.

13. Crassula Capitella
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Among goat owners, there’s a well-known saying: “A fence that won’t hold water won’t hold a goat.” And though that hyperbole may seem extreme … it’s certainly proven true by the generations of goat-escapees that have tested the patience of their fence-builders.

I think it’s also safe to say there is no one perfect solution for comfortably containing goats. It depends on your land, the breeds you keep, the weather of your area, and the resources and philosophy of your homestead. But there are many, many options.

Wren Everett / Insteading

Whether you decide to break the bank with an entire pasture of chain-link fence, choose electric wire to (hopefully) keep your herd in place, go for old-fashioned wooden fences and their associated upkeep, or create some sort of hybrid system, you will find upsides and downsides to every decision.

Related Post: Raising Goats

There will always be that too-smart doe who will find a way to outsmart the fence, but when you find yourself chasing her down, you can at least know that you are not alone. Goats certainly add a bit of clever spice to daily homestead life, and in the end, as long as you and your goats are safe, happy, and healthy, what more could you ask for?

Goat Fencing Basic Considerations

There are many considerations to keep in mind when choosing and constructing your goat fencing, but there are some universal bases to cover, no matter what material and method you use.

Area

A goat can manage on 250 square feet of outdoor space per animal. Since you shouldn’t have one lonely goat, you need to plan to have (at the bare minimum) 500 square feet fenced outside.

Mike Baird / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Other sources say that you can keep up to 12 goats per acre. The more space available, the happier your goats will be, but the more they’ll have to forage, the more you’ll have to fence.

Height

Many sources recommend making fencing at least 4 feet high. Goats can and will jump over any fence that’s shorter. For more active breeds like miniatures and tall Nubians, increase the height to 5 feet.

Just because the fence needs to be tall, however, doesn’t mean you can leave gaps along the bottom. Goats can flatten themselves in unexpected contortions and can crawl under fences even more readily than they jump them.

Head Gaps

Goats love shoving their curious faces between things. It’s adorable! But if they are horned, this can often be a deadly mistake. Be sure that any gaps, whether they are formed by the spaces between posts, cross-braces, or the squares of a wire panel, are no larger than 4-by-4 inches.

Feline DaCat / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Even then, and especially when you have small, active kids, keep a daily watch on your goats and fenceline. If a goat gets stuck, the clock is ticking to get it free before a coyote takes advantage of the prone meal.

Obstacles

Providing toys, raised platforms, construction spools, and logs for your fun-loving caprines is a wonderful idea, and watching these sure-footed creatures prance, leap, and balance is a joy every goat keeper should experience.

Related Post: Raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats

However, be sure that any raised surface is at least 5 or so feet away from the fence. This includes low-hanging tree branches so that they can’t make a running leap and clear the fence.

Fence Attachments

Attach the wire panels to the inner surface of the fence post — not the outer surface. This way, when goats inevitably push against it, they will be pushing the hardware into the post, and not slowly but surely out of it. In the same way, hinge gates so they open toward the goat yard, not swinging outward into freedom.

Daniel Hartwig / Flickr (Creative Commons)

That way, even if goats somehow release the latch (it’s strongly recommended to get a two-action latch to avoid this), they’ll be pushing the gate closed as they lean against it, rather than pushing it open.

Walk Your Fenceline

Make it a habit to walk the fenceline of your property often to inspect its soundness, and check for potential problems like sagging, chewing, or gaps formed from goats pushing against weak points. Sometimes, the best way to stop a tragedy is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Goat Fencing Options

For every option, I will list the basic information, the pros, and the cons. I have organized the options in order of cost from cheapest to most expensive, but it really is difficult to give hard numbers.

Material cost ranges from store to store, installation cost may be a huge factor if you don’t do it yourself, and the amount of area to fence will obviously multiply the cost exponentially. If you feel overwhelmed by all the options and don’t know how to estimate the cost, consider this helpful chart here. Even though these are 2011 prices, it gives you an idea of the factors to consider.

Wooden Fence

Wooden fences look appropriately rustic and can be made from materials you have on site at the homestead. Be prepared to work hard, though. Driving posts is not a job for the faint hearted, and maintenance will be constant. Also, you’ll need to use a lot of material.

Particularly in a buck’s area, consider constructing the fence stockade-style, not picket style. Goat hooves or knees can be trapped when they stand on their hind legs to look over the fence. Want a trendy, recycled means of fencing? This homestead made a goat yard from pallets!

Pros And Cons Of A Wooden Fence

Pros: Unlike electrified fences, you never need doubt your wooden fence is working. If it’s standing, it’s “on” and materials are relatively easy to replace.

Cons: If you live in an area with lots of snowpack in the winter, you need to make sure your fence is high enough to still be a protection when a few feet of snow have lowered it. Goats can also chew on wood, and weaken posts easily. Weathering, rotting, and termites can also wear away the strength of a fence, and goats are excellent at exploiting any weak area they can find.

Wooden Fence Cost

Wooden fences are potentially low-cost if you mill the timber yourself, or if you already have an existing fence. Getting a service to pound posts into the ground for you will increase the price quite a bit.

Electric Fence

About as “instant” as a fence can get, electrified fencing hedges in animals using a psychological rather than a physical barrier. Unlike many types of livestock, however, you’ll need to put the fence’s charge higher than you may expect –somewhere from 4,500 to 9,000 volts at all times.

Goats are pretty smart. If they know there’s a time when the fence is off, they may figure out how to use it to their advantage. And even if you have a fence at lightning-bolt strength, you may find that it’s not a strong enough deterrent to a determined, stubborn animal. As a remedy, many goat dairy operations use high-tensile wire in combination with electric fencing to keep their goats safe.

Pros And Cons Of An Electric Fence

Pros: Easy setup, affordable, and easy to move if you want to try a rotational grazing method or brush control in different areas.

Cons: There’s a lot that can short out an electric fence. Regular weed maintenance is a must to keep tall grass from rendering it useless. Additionally, electric fences require training. Goats need to learn to respect the fence in order for it to rein them in mentally. Check out this article for some really helpful tips on training.

Electric Fence Cost

Electric fencing is a cheaper option for people who want to try a rotational grazing system but haven’t been able to put a wooden perimeter fence in place. It requires a lot of maintenance to keep it running, so that time invested in fence-clearing is another “cost” to add to the monetary cost.

Woven Goat Wire and Field Fence

Woven wire is a great option for permanent fencing solutions, but be sure to get the goat-specific version with 4-by-4 holes, rather than the typical 6-by-6, 6-by-9, and 6-by-12 weaves used for larger livestock. It will be more expensive — there’s a lot more wire used in the denser weave of goat wire — but it will save you from dealing with the hassle of horned goats getting their heads stuck.

Related Post: What Do Goats Eat?

Field fence is a close cousin to woven wire, and may work with your goats with some caveats. Field fence is really designed for horses and is often constructed of a finer gauge wire. While that makes it cheaper, it also makes it more liable to stretch and be bent out of a safe shape.

Remember, goats are climbers, and they can balance on surprisingly small surfaces. Field fence usually has a much wider weave. It’s a goat head trap waiting to happen.

Note: Install this fence nice and tight. I would recommend having the wire attached to strong posts cemented in the ground. Check out this video of a clever goat defeating a mobile fence with little effort.

If you have inherited a property with a decent field fence and want to keep goats, you may need to install some adaptations to make it as safe as possible. Consider adding electric wire or reinforcing it with some sort of additional layers.

Pros And Cons Of A Woven Goat Wire And Field Fence

Pros: Dependable, strong, and one of the more often-recommended methods for fencing goats.

Cons: The standard size of 4 feet tall may be too short for some breeds. This can be amended by stringing a line of electric wire above the top of the fence or using it in combination with a higher, wooden frame.

Woven Goat Wire And Field Fence Cost

The cost of woven goat wire is the middle of the road — not the priciest, not the cheapest. You can install it yourself, or have it professionally installed. Websites like these will give you a quote to help you make a decision.

Cattle Panels/Stock Panels/Goat Panels Javcon117* / Flickr (Creative Commons)

These solid, metal panels are a great option for creating a strong barrier. Even if they are too expensive to use as fencing, consider them for making quick work of sectioning your barn for different uses — especially during kidding season!

Pros And Cons Of Cattle Panels/Stock Panels/Goat Panels

Pros: About as solid and bend-proof as you can get. These 16-foot sections of panel will make a fantastic perimeter that won’t rot and won’t warp out of shape.

Cons: Expensive! Also, kids will escape from these “as is.” Prevent runaway babies by installing an extra line of something like chicken wire or hardware along the bottom portion of each panel.

Cattle Panels/Stock Panels/Goat Panels Cost

Cattle panels are strong but expensive. A 16-foot feedlot panel will run somewhere around $20 apiece, and this price does not include any of the wooden posts that would be used to install it. The problem is, panels have spaces that are designed for cows, not slippery goats. They’ll require some augmentation to work. Specifically-designed goat panels will run you upwards of $60 apiece.

Chain Link liebeslakritze / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Though chain link fence may be among the most goat-proof of fencing materials, it is probably the most expensive option — so expensive that many resources won’t even list it.

If you have a very small herd, however, and the luxury of being able to afford it, chain link is worth considering for long-term, permanent goat housing. Even if you can’t afford it for the whole herd, it may be a viable option for containing your bucks.

Pros And Cons Of Chain Link Fences

Pros: Solid, sturdy, long lasting, and good for keeping out predators.

Cons: Stinking expensive.

Chain Link Fence Costs

This website estimates 200 feet of fencing (with installation) will run you somewhere around $3,000.

Special Notes About Bucks in Rut

I’ve not yet had to deal with this directly, but I have visited several farms with breeding bucks and..

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Grown for decades by farmers and gardeners across the mid-western United States, Osage orange trees are incredibly versatile and can serve all sorts of purposes on the homestead. The wood from the Osage tree has been used to make tool handles, fence posts, livestock stockades, and furniture with a stable, durable wood that can withstand rot for many years.

karen_hine / Flickr (Creative Commons)

In some places, 50-year-old fence posts still stand strong and sturdy as new. Did you know that Osage orange is the hardest wood grown in North America?

Also known as hedge-apple, horse-apple, Naranjo chino hedge, or bois d’arc, the Osage orange tree (Maclura pomifera) has a short, sturdy trunk and a large rounded canopy.

Osage Orange Tree Characteristics

A small to medium-sized deciduous tree, the Osage orange tree reaches a mature height of 30 to 40 feet tall with a 40-foot broad, arching crown. A vigorous, fast-growing tree, Osage orange can even become invasive in ideal growing conditions. During summer, the oval-shaped, 5- to 7-inch leaves are a brilliant green, turning golden yellow in autumn. The branches tend to be thorny.

Arlington National Cemetery / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The leather-like solid leaves do not wilt or turn brown in the hot, dry days of summer. As a landscape focal point, Osage orange trees offer a vibrant, bright pop of color, when most other foliage has turned brown and withered.

Related Post: Planting, Growing, And Maintaining Chestnut Trees

Female trees produce large globular greenish-yellow fruit; hence the name Osage orange or hedge-apples. The ball-shaped fruit reaches sizes from 5 to 7 inches in diameter. The hard-skinned fruit has a surface texture that resembles a green brain: warty, bumpy, and covered with fine hairs.

Kristine Paulus / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Osage orange is especially prevalent throughout the Great Plains region of the United States, and adapts to a diverse range of soil conditions: rocky, sandy, organic, clay, acidic, or alkaline. Tolerant of heavy moisture or drought conditions, the hardy tree flourishes far beyond its native range.

Osage Orange Trees as Ornamentals

As settlers migrated west, establishing homesteads and frontier farms, Osage orange was a highly prized timber source valued for the sturdiness of the wood. Osage orange trees planted 3 to 4 feet apart, grew quickly within three or four years to form an impenetrable vegetative fence.

To add additional strength to the green barrier, many homesteaders wove the branches of adjoining trees together to make extra strong livestock enclosures.

As an ornamental specimen, the Osage orange tree offers year-round visual interest with spring flowers and bold gold color in the fall. Both the male and female tree produce small creamy white flowers, but only the female tree produces fruit. The height and arching form of the tree, complemented by its unique shape and unusual textured orange-colored bark, provides winter interest.

Dan Keck / Flickr (Creative Commons)

A member of the mulberry family and a close cousin of the fig and breadfruit tree, Osage orange is especially tough. It’s tolerant of periodic drought or flooding, disease, insects, and is able to survive in almost any soil. Osage orange flourishes in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9 and does best in a full sun location with good drainage. Osage orange does not do well in swampy areas with standing water.

Osage Oranges: Food for Wildlife

Although humans find the fruit inedible, the citric scented orbs are a favorite of small wildlife that tear apart the sweet and sticky fruit to access the highly nutritious seeds. The ugly fruit of the Osage orange tree is an aggregate fruit, much like its cousin the mulberry. It’s composed of numerous one-seed drupes.

Dan Keck / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The fruit of the Osage orange tree is not poisonous to livestock though horses and cattle tend to ignore it, deeming the fruit inedible due to its large size and unpalatable dry, hard texture.

Squirrels scamper through its branches, tearing apart the fruit to harvest the seed — which they enjoy as a special treat. Songbirds sing in its branches while upland game birds find food and shelter beneath its low hanging branches.

Osage Orange Gains New Popularity Among Homesteaders

Across the mid-western United States, Osage orange trees flourish along neglected and overgrown edges of fields, pastures, and old homesteads as scrub vegetation forgotten in the “far corners of the back-40.” Osage orange is also an excellent source of firewood.

Related Post: Fast-Growing Shade Trees For Your Homestead

Homesteaders of today, reclaiming old farms and homesteads, are cutting, clearing, burning, and pruning stands of hedge-apple or Osage orange to restore the trees original function and utility. Trimmings are retained for firewood, and many homesteaders wishing to embrace traditional ways, establish fences woven from Osage orange along property lines.

The sharp thorns of the Osage orange tree provide a deterrent to intrusion, and homesteaders never have to spend time mending fences. Osage orange presents a distinctive growth with its dense crown of thorny, interlacing branches that drape down and touch the soil, then root and send up vertical shoots. Homesteaders planting Osage orange to build a windbreak or livestock stockades note the tree’s ability to grow quickly is its greatest attribute.

Potential Pests and Problems

When first cut, Osage orange trees bleed a white, milky sap that serves as a glue or sealant. When handling cut pieces of the orange-colored wood, it is best to wear gloves as some people have an allergic skin reaction when exposed to the sap. Properties of the sap protect the wood from decay by killing soil-born organisms.

Osage orange trees are fast growing, drought tolerant, and virtually disease and pest free. However, interior branches of the tree tend to die, and persist in the interior of the canopy due to self-shading. Because the wood is impervious to rot, the branches do not deteriorate and fall.

Related Post: How To Get Rid Of Aphids

When utilized as a landscape tree, it is necessary to annually prune and remove dead wood to maintain the tree’s attractive form. The Osage orange tree also makes a bit of a mess with the accumulation of fruit that falls and rots beneath the tree in early autumn, and the hardy tree is quite thorny in its early development.

Osage Orange: A Part of U.S. History

Commonly used as a tree row windbreak across the prairies of America, the Osage orange served as a primary tree in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s ambitious plan to construct the Great Plains Shelterbelt. This plan was a WPA project launched in 1934 to prevent soil erosion.

By 1942, WPA constructed 30,233 shelterbelts planted with more than 220 million trees that stretched for 18,600 miles. Planted in tight rows, Osage orange trees with their sharp thorns, served as cattle-proof fences before the invention of barbed wire.

The name Osage orange originated from the Osage Native American tribe that utilized the fine-grained hardwood for bows and tool handles. The tree is abundant in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, and for many years, the Osage Nation controlled the trade market for the much-desired bow wood.

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Pergolas, arbors, and trellises look mighty boring without a plant wrapped around their nooks and crannies. But why should you bother finding a trellis plant to cover your garden structure? It might be to provide privacy, add a decorative element, or save space in a small area. And if you’ve run out of room on the ground, you can utilize walls, pergolas, and arbors as a support to grow vining food vertically.

A Cautionary Tale Of Climbing Vines

Careful, though. Not all vining plants are ideal for every garden space. Educate yourself on the best species for your area. While quick-growing vines seem like an attractive option now, a vigorous plant can quickly become troublesome and invasive.

I know from experience. When we moved into our home nearly five years ago, we noticed the previous owners had planted a wonderful vining plant to add extra privacy to the yard area. The vine has quickly grown out of hand, and we’re currently fighting it every summer as it attempts to creep into our garden beds and up our home’s brick wall.

A Sturdy Support

Before adding a trellis plant to your garden, be sure to check that the support itself is sturdy enough to hold a plant. This is especially important if you plan to grow vegetables vertically. Will your arbor or trellis be able to support the weight of mature squash or cucumber? Your structure should be properly mounted or installed so that it doesn’t wobble or waver.

Related Post: 30 Lovely Garden Trellises

Our list includes a combination of flowering vines and vining vegetables, so you can pick between an attractive decorative element or one that will offer plenty of produce during the summer season. Read on to learn more about some trellis plants that deserve a place in your garden.

Runner Beans Amanda Slater / Flickr (Creative Commons)

These pretty beans are unlike pole and bush beans because they climb by way of vining. Another distinguishing feature is that they produce gorgeous, vibrant red flowers, so they’re not only an excellent food source, they also provide a beautiful display. Some varieties produce different colored flowers.

Related Post: Canning Green Beans

Keep your eyes open though. Japanese beetles love to munch on runner bean foliage. Keep a close eye on your newly planted crop to check for an infestation. Plant them in full sun and be sure to mulch to conserve moisture for the plant’s shallow roots. Grow runner beans in zones 3 to 10.

Summer And Winter Squash Maja Dumat / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Squash plants are typically easy to grow, but they require a fair bit of space in the garden. Instead of sacrificing precious ground area, try your hand at growing squash vertically. For vertical growing, pick vining varieties as opposed to bush varieties.

Related Post: Companion Planting For Summer Squash

You’ll need to train the vines to climb the support structure, but it shouldn’t be long before the plant is climbing on its own. The structure should be solid enough to handle the weight of full grown squash. Underneath your squash trellis, plant shade-tolerant plants like spinach and lettuce. Water well and position in full sun for a prolific harvest. There’s a squash variety suitable for every zone.

Peas Doug Beckers / Flickr (Creative Commons)

An early crop for many gardeners, peas like cool weather and enjoy a supportive structure as they grow. Without support, peas sprawl onto the ground and are more susceptible to picking up disease. Peas enjoy full sun but can be grown in the shade. The delicate tendrils and small blossoms look quite attractive weaving around a support structure. Peas prefer slightly acidic soil and should be watered sparingly. You can grow them with success in zones 2 to 9.

Cucumbers Jessie Pearl / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Cucumbers are fast growers with pretty yellow blossoms that make them an ideal summer trellis plant. You’ll have to search through the foliage to find ripe cucumbers for picking because once a cucumber is in full growth mode, it spreads quickly and creates a lush canopy of foliage.

Related Post: Growing Cucumbers

This cucurbit family plant enjoys long days in the sun but requires plenty of water to survive — cucumbers are mainly made up of water, after all. Soil should be fertile, and the plant can be grown in zones 4 to 11 without trouble.

Grapes Liz West / Flickr (Creative Commons)

You don’t need to be a wine fanatic to think about adding a grapevine to your gardenscape. These vigorous vines offer a tasty treat and plenty of foliage for privacy. Plant in soil that’s neutral or slightly acidic and keep in full sun. This tasty and ornamental fruit plant should be pruned regularly and mulched to conserve moisture. Grow in zones 2 to 10.

Melon frankieleon / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Melon is a slightly trickier plant to grow, regardless of whether it’s grown vertical or not. The reason? The plant is sensitive to temperature fluctuations which can affect the resulting taste of the fruit.

Related Post: Companion Planting For Melons

Watering should be done in the morning, and care should be taken not to over water melon plants, as this can lead to bland tasting fruit. Plant in full sun in zones 3 to 11. Extra attention will likely need to be taken in cooler zones.

Malabar Spinach Forest and Kim Starr / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Malabar spinach isn’t actually a true spinach, but it definitely tastes similar. Where it differs is in its growing habits. The vining plant is actually a perennial (in areas that don’t experience frost — zones 10 and above) and features attractive red stems with succulent-like foliage.

In colder regions, the plant thrives as an annual even in the heat of the summer and can be grown for food or as an ornamental. Unlike regular spinach, it thrives in full sun, but don’t forget to water frequently.

Morning Glory Rodney / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Morning glory is a flowering vine that’s bound to attract pollinators to your garden. Blooms appear in the fall and summer, and the vine grows well in almost any type of soil. Pick a spot with full sun, though, for best results. Caution: Morning glory has a doppelganger called field bindweed which is an invasive weed. It’s often labeled as a perennial variety of morning glory, but don’t be fooled! Water when it hasn’t rained in a while and mulch to repress weeds. Morning glory grows in zones 3 to 10.

Clematis kitchenerd / Flickr (Creative Commons)

The star-shaped flowers of this vining plant make for a tropical-esque ornamental display. You can choose from a variety of clematis vines with different colored flowers. Clematis vines usually take some time to get established, but the result is well worth it. Plant in the sun, but if you’re limited to a partly shaded area, some varieties will grow in the shade. Avoid acidic soils and water frequently during the early days of planting. Clematis vines will thrive in zones 4 to 9.

Sweet Pea F_A_F / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Sweat peas are delicate flowers that look like they’re straight out of a fairy tale. These vining plants look lovely anywhere in the garden but are truly a standout if trained along a trellis or arbor. Plant in alkaline soil and in full sun. The hardy annual plants grow well in almost any region, but germination does take a while if growing from seed. Water in the morning if it hasn’t rained recently.

Climbing Rose Chris Gladis / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is there anything more romantic than the sight of a climbing rose vine? Climbing roses are hardier than bush varieties, and because of their popularity, there are a wide range of climbing rose plants to choose.

Related Post: Growing Roses

Full sun is required for thriving roses. Choose a location with well-drained, fertile soil and water regularly, but avoid overdoing it. The hardiness of the plant depends on the variety, but there’s undoubtedly a rose variety for nearly every garden.

American Wisteria
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With their clawed feet, bizarre-looking caruncles, mohawk-like crest, and lack of quack, Muscovy ducks don’t quite fit the “bill” (if you pardon the pun) for what you might consider a “normal” duck. But on our homestead, these are the only ducks we want to keep because they have won our hearts with both their utility and downright personable natures.

After keeping Runners, Cayugas, and Pekins, I’ve become convinced that Muscovy ducks are the perfect homestead duck. Let me share why, and just see if you don’t agree. If you are willing to look past a warty face or two, you may find that these ducks are a wonderful fit for your property as well.

Muscovy Duck Characteristics

Muscovy ducks are a large breed of waterfowl. With their bright red face mask, they stand out from other domesticated ducks almost immediately. The red, rather warty-looking growths are called caruncles — you’ve seen these before on the necks of turkeys, if the term seems totally unfamiliar.

Males will often sport what some would call a hideous array of caruncles around their bills, eyes, and even extending down their necks. I think of them as endearingly ugly.

Our male–note how much more pronounced the mask is. Wren Everett / Insteading

Females are usually a lot more subdued with what looks more like a masquerade mask encircling their eyes. They can come in a wonderfully wide range of colors, like iridescent brown, soft fawn, white, lilac gray, and any color in between.

Typical female Muscovy face. Wren Everett / Insteading

Both sexes can raise an unexpected crest of feathers anytime they are excited by something. The males’ crests are much more pronounced, however. Mature males are huge, usually reaching around 10 to 15 pounds, and as a result, are typically unable to fly. Females are usually half that size at a more petite 5 to 6 pounds and can take to the air as easily as a wild duck.

Related Post: Raising Cayuga Ducks

They also have a back claw on their webbed feet — a unique feature, in the duck world — that allows them to perch on branches (and anything else they are so inclined) like a chicken. If you don’t clip their wings, you’ll find your Muscovy hens hanging out everywhere: the roof, the top of the cars, the edges of buckets, and the branches of trees!

This is something important to keep in mind when handling Muscovy ducks. If they are tame and familiar with you, gently scooping them up around the belly and pinning their wings is no problem. If you’re a stranger to them, however, they may claw at you.

The “Quackless” Duck

Another distinguishing feature with this breed is the sounds they make … or rather, the lack thereof. Though they’re sometimes called “quackless” ducks (and indeed, they are very quiet for waterfowl) the term can be misleading, as they are not silent.

Muscovy Ducks Socializing - YouTube

Females usually make a quiet, musical trill when walking about. When broody, they peep and chirp. I think it’s supposed to be intimidating, but it is adorable. The males make somewhat bizarre, heavy-breathing, huffy sounds. When scared, they can honk like a goose, but that’s pretty rare. Usually, you can’t hear these birds unless you’re beside them.

So, if you have nosey neighbors complaining about how you need to mow your lawn-turned-prairie, or saying your beautiful clothesline is an eyesore, at least you can rest easy that they can’t complain about the noises your ducks are making.

Wait … Are These Even Ducks?

Technically, not really. These unique waterfowl don’t come from mallard stock like all other domesticated duck breeds do. Their scientific name should tip you off. Muscovies are derived from Cairina moschata, a South American native bird, whereas all other ducks are bred from Anas platyrhynchos, the mallard duck (with the contested exemption of the Cayuga which may have some black duck origins).

Some think they are actually closer in character to a goose than a duck. You can think of it this way: Muscovies are to ducks as donkeys are to horses. They are similar and can crossbreed, but they’re not the same animal.

Related Post: Raising Pekin Ducks

And like donkeys and horses, the mixed offspring of a Muscovy and mallard-domestic duck will be a “mule” that is unable to produce offspring. The mule ducks or mulards, are often used for meat production as they grow quickly and robustly.

Getting Started With Muscovy Ducks

Before you bring your first batch of peeping Muscovy ducklings home, you need to prepare for them. No animal should ever be an impulse buy! Always take the time to set up what they need before you take responsibility for their lives.

When you do make your purchase, be sure to get more than one bird as they are social animals and most content with friends. I recommend getting at least six, just in case you lose a few. A trio or quad of one male to several females is ideal for the small backyard starter flock.

Wren Everett / Insteading

The first consideration should be the time of year that you bring them home. Since Muscovy ducks originated in warmer climates, they are especially sensitive to the cold when young — and if there’s no mama duck to keep them warm, they’ll need to be kept in a warm place at night during the early days.

We handled this by raising our first batch of ducklings in the summer so they could benefit from being outdoors all their lives. You may choose to brood them in the garage with a UV lamp or in the bathtub in the house (if you are alright with cleaning poop out of your house every day).

Once the weather is warm enough at night, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or once they are over 8 weeks old, they can stay outside. The big thing to watch for with ducklings is them getting too wet and chilled. Without a mother to clean and waterproof them, they are especially susceptible to getting soaked and dying.

Muscovy Duck Housing

The next thing to have prepared is their housing. Ducklings need good protection from predators, especially at night, but they don’t need anything fancy. I’ve heard of people using a straw-lined dog house with a door, cutting a hole out of a large tub and flipping it upside down, or even just having a safe, penned-in area with a tarp-covered crate to use at night.

If you have a pond, free-ranging ducks may put themselves to bed on logs sticking out of the water or low-hanging branches. Our first Muscovy was not tame in the beginning, wouldn’t come when I called, and spent an entire year sleeping on a tire propped up by the edge of the pond no matter what the weather! She has since gotten used to me, but she showed me just how hardy these ducks can be.

Wren Everett / Insteading

On our homestead, we have a dedicated duck house. As you see in the photo, it is a totally enclosed pen with an overhang shelter on the northern side because that is where most of the bad weather blows. We have problems with roving stray dogs in our area, so having a safe place to shut up our birds gives us peace of mind at night.

We raised our ducklings in this closed space until we decided they were big enough to free range, and then trained them to come back at night. I call them with a special sound just for them and give them seeds as a reward when they return. It may take some herding to get them to get used to the idea, but once they figure out that returning to the duck house means food, they won’t be able to waddle back to you fast enough!

During the summer, they spend most of the long daylight roaming and eating, and I make sure to provide them with clean straw in the covered part of the duck house. As a bonus, this straw doubles as super-fertile garden mulch. In the winter, I layer the straw very deeply in the duck house so that they can nuzzle in and protect their feet from frostbite.

Their warm, protective down takes care of the rest of them. Our Ozark winters often have just a few weeks around the single digits, so I’d be curious to hear the experience from Muscovy-keepers in northern places like Canada!

Food And Water Requirements

When it comes to food and water, Muscovy ducks are relatively simple. You can reference my earlier article on how to feed ducks here, but keep in mind that the needs of Muscovies are even more simple.

Related Post: What Do Ducks Eat?

Our small flock feeds itself entirely from our land. We have a pond teeming with larvae, fields full of clover, mice, and bugs, grit in abundance, and worms and slugs after every rainstorm. On the rare days when we travel and I have to keep them cooped up while we’re gone, I provide a pan full of whole seeds and a huge bucket full of grass and weeds torn up from the surrounding area.

cuatrok77 / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Muscovy ducks aren’t nearly as wild about water as mallard-derived breeds, but they still need plenty of clean water daily. Give them a pan deep enough that they can clean their whole face in it, but rest easy that they’ll leave it a lot cleaner than a Pekin or Appleyard duck. They will absolutely delight in a pond if you have one, but a kiddie pool where they can clean themselves and play is also sufficient.

How To Sex Muscovy Ducks

As they grow, you will find that there are some subtle ways to sex your growing ducks. In my experience, the females grow their adult wing feathers much faster than the males, even though the males may grow larger, body-wise, than the females. Though the male caruncles are much more prominent than the females, they take some time to develop.

Related Post: Raising Baby Chicks: A Guide For First-Time “Parents”

I have found the most surefire way of sexing Muscovy ducks is to listen to the sounds they make. At some point, they’ll stop their cute baby peeps and start making more adult sounds — the females will make those sweet musical trills, and your males will suddenly declare themselves by inexplicably huffing and puffing.

Potential Problems And Diseases

Muscovy ducks aren’t very disease prone. I suspect it is because they are a little closer to their wild roots than other domesticated ducks. The biggest problems I’ve ever faced with our flock have always been cold related.

I learned the hard way about motherless ducklings getting chilled. We once lost two ducklings after a hard rainstorm because I didn’t dry them off in time, and I’m much more careful now!

6 Reasons Why I Love Muscovy Ducks

Once you get your ducklings raised, I think you’ll be amazed by how useful and hilarious these ducks can be. Every duck breed has its fans, and I am unabashedly in Team Muscovy. These are the pros to this breed that have unendingly benefited my homestead.

1. Pest Control

The first night you let your ducklings out, you may notice that they are bug-hunting machines. Muscovy ducks are superb hunters, able to nab flies and mosquitoes straight from the air, constantly ruffling through the grass for crickets and other bugs, and even taking out any mouse they find. I would keep this breed for its fly-controlling abilities alone!

2. Good For Free Ranging

The main reason we got rid of our first mallard-derived flock was because they developed a bad habit of wandering far and wide. With a pretty high-use road bordering our land and neighbors that we really wanted to respect, ducks that weren’t content to stay on our 12 acres just weren’t an option. Our Muscovy ducks have been far more content to stay home, and we’ve never had a problem with them leaving.

3. Less Mess

I find that they create far less mud-mess than mallard-derived ducks. My earlier flock of Pekins, Runners, and Cayugas would create boggy puddles in the yard after every rain — destroying patches of ground — but my Muscovies politely sip up the water that they find and then move on.

Additionally, they don’t gunk up their waterers either — I only have to fill it once a day. I sometimes replaced my mallard flock’s water four times a day because it was so filthy. When you get all your water from rain catchment or a hand-pump like we do on our off-grid homestead, saving that much water really makes a difference.

4. Super-Jumbo Eggs

Muscovies don’t lay year-round, but when they get going in the spring, they can provide you with dozens of absolutely huge eggs. One healthy, well-fed hen can usually produce 150 eggs a year.

The eggs are..

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Just because your yard, porch, or plot of land is permanently sitting in dappled shade, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on gardening or providing your family with homegrown goodness. Plenty of vegetables are perfectly capable of growing in partial shade. You’d be surprised at just what you CAN grow!

Full Sun, Partial Shade, Or Full Shade?

How much shade? That’s the first question to address. There are two types of shade: full and partial. Full shade refers to a piece of land that receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight during a 24-hour period. Usually, this means that there’s a structure — natural or otherwise — that’s blocking sunlight for a portion of the day.

Partial shade, on the other hand, refers to an area that gets direct sunlight for between 4 and 6 hours per day. Full sun, which is desirable for many fruiting crops (e.g., tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) is more than 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Thankfully, many plants prefer partial shade, especially during the height of the summer months when the heat can be unbearable.

What You Should Expect With Partial Shade Areas

Adjust your expectations when growing in partial shade areas. Plants that prefer full sunlight hours will grow slower in shady locations. Even plants that tolerate shade may have slower growth rates than if they were grown in bright sunny spots.

I used to have a garden that received very few hours of full sunlight per day. My plants might receive at most 5 or 6 hours of direct sun. Exposure would mostly be in the morning which was excellent for growing greens since a break from the hot afternoon sun was welcome. When I moved and began gardening on the land where I live today, I quickly noticed a difference in the growth rate of my crops.

My plants were suddenly bursting forth with lush foliage. Carrots had frilly green foliage, tomato plants grew seemingly overnight, and seedlings sprouted incredibly fast. What had changed? It was, of course, the sun. I went from a garden space with an average of 4 hours of bright daylight exposure to an area where the sun shone brightly nearly all day long from sun up to sun down.

Whether you’re gardening in partial shade or full sun, you’ll meet different challenges. In the sun, you may deal with leaf burn, premature bolting, and rapid moisture loss. In shady areas, you may encounter slower growth, excess moisture, and unexpected cool spots.

Regardless, you can indeed grow vegetables in a spot with partial sunshine. Here are a few suggestions.

Kale Kat Shereko / Insteading

Every garden should be growing kale. It’s nutritious, tasty, and handles a range of temperatures with ease. While it prefers full sun, it’s perfectly capable of leafing out in partial shade. This plant requires fertile soil with a loamy consistency. Water regularly, but don’t overdo it and drown your kale. Suitable for all zones.

Lettuce Kat Shereko / Insteading

Avoid paying for overpriced gourmet lettuce at the supermarket and grow your own. Lettuce thrives in cool weather and does better in the shade, especially when temperatures start to rise. Full sun can increase the chances of premature bolting, so choosing a semi-shaded spot is ideal for summer lettuce.

Related Post: Growing Lettuce

Lettuce is shallow-rooted, so it doesn’t require a deep pot or planting area, but it does like loamy soil. Soil should be consistently moist. Drought may cause lettuce to bolt early. Lettuce grows best in zones 4 to 9.

Carrots Kat Shereko / Insteading

Carrots never taste better than when they’re pulled straight out of the earth. I love root crops because you never quite know what’s hiding beneath the soil. While carrots grow quickest in full sun, they’ll do fine in partial shade — just adjust your expectations.

Related Post: Growing Carrots

Days to maturity in partial shade will be different than what’s mentioned on the seed packet. Grow carrots in sandy soil with a neutral pH, and avoid soil that’s rocky and full of debris. Water evenly to prevent craggy growth. Carrots are suitable for zones 3 to 10.

Chard Kat Shereko / Insteading

Like kale, chard has staying power in the garden. Choose varieties with colored stalks to add interest and dimension to your garden plot. Plant this leafy green vegetable in fertile soil and mulch to conserve moisture. Chard will grow well in either full sun or partial shade. It’s suitable for zones 3 to 10.

Peas Peter Hellberg / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Peas are one of the first spring veggies to be sown in many gardens, and they grow in full sun or partial shade. Plant in soil that’s been amended with compost and water occasionally. Peas grow in zones 2 to 9.

Beets Kat Shereko / Insteading

An underrated root crop, beets grow well even with fewer hours exposed to full sun. Harvest the whole beet, but don’t forget to use the leaves — they’re also edible and incredibly nutritious.

Related Post: Companion Planting For Beets

You’ll experience slightly slower growth rates in the shade, but roots will indeed form just the same. Choose a spot with fertile, sandy soil, and water regularly since beets need lots of moisture to grow. They grow well in a range of zones from 2 to 10.

Arugula Tim Sackton / Flickr (Creative Commons)

For salad greens that are almost effortless to grow, choose arugula. The spicy leaves grow rapidly, even in the shade. Too much sun contributes to early bolting in hot weather. Arugula tolerates nearly any type of soil but requires frequent watering to maintain even moisture levels. Grow this zingy salad green in zones 3 to 11.

Spinach Ciarán Mooney / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Exposure to full sun will often slow spinach growth to a crawl and encourage super-premature bolting. This cool season vegetable grows best in loamy soil with a neutral pH. It enjoys a bit of shade, especially when it begins to heat up outside. Water consistently and avoid letting the soil dry out. Grow spinach in zones 2 to 9.

Mustard Greens Tim Sackton / Flickr (Creative Commons)

A lesser-known cool weather green that’s an excellent addition to salads and stir-fry, mustard greens are nutrient dense and grow just fine in partial shade. Grow them in nearly any zone, but in zones 7 plus, a bit of protection will keep your mustard plants alive all year round. Regular watering is necessary to prevent bolting. Many varieties tend to go to seed when the weather heats up.

Potatoes Kat Shereko / Insteading

While full sun is recommended for growing potatoes, I’ve successfully harvested tubers after a season of growing in partial shade. Grow taters in acidic, sandy soil, and ensure they receive regular watering. Potatoes do best in zones 1 to 7. For warmer climates, sweet potatoes are a worthy alternative.

Radishes Damien Creatz / Unsplash

Radishes are one of the fastest growing vegetable crops. In the shade, they’ll grow a little slower, but they’ll grow all the same. Add them to salads or pickle them as a side dish for an Asian-style dinner. Plant in loose, fertile soil with a neutral pH, and don’t forget to water this thirsty root crop. Grow radishes in zones 2 to 10.

Tomatoes Kat Shereko / Insteading

You didn’t think you’d find tomatoes on this list, did you? While tomatoes are definitely tailor-made for basking in the sun, they will grow in partial shade. I have successfully grown tomato plants in very shady conditions. The caveat? They grow very slowly and..

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Pumpkin vs Red Wigglers 62-day time-lapse - FAST PLAYBACK - worm vermicomposting - YouTube

Vermiculture is pretty magical. Think about it, you put your kitchen scraps in a bin with some wiggly worms and before you know it, everything has decomposed into a beautiful soil additive for your garden.

While you’re probably used to putting small little scraps of food in your vermicompost, in the video above, someone decided to see what would happen to a whole pumpkin if you let the worms have at it.

A V on YouTube

In less than 100 seconds, this pumpkin transforms from a beautiful Halloween-worthy gourd into well, dust.

When the hallowed out pumpkin was loaded into this tray, half of the worms were placed inside the pumpkin and the other half were left in the tray. The idea being that the pumpkin would disintegrate from not only the bottom but the inside too.

A V on YouTube

This video is a sped up 62-day time lapse, and all the movement is from both the worms and other beneficial insects like pill bugs. Something fascinating to note is that while it took this pumpkin 62 days to decompose, it takes nearly twice as long to grow it.

A V on YouTube

This gives you a good perspective to keep in mind as you’re growing your garden. Harvest and store your vegetables and fruits properly, because all that hard work can decompose quickly, right before your eyes.

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