5 Mistakes You’re Making in the Garden


5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for better gardening Gardening may seem pretty straightforward: plant your seeds, water regularly and watch them grow into beautiful, strong, lush plants. Unfortunately it’s not always that simple.

Growing a successful garden means you need to pay attention to the soil you’re using, the climate and temperature and the way certain plants interact with one another. Gardening is not always a “set it and forget it” endeavour. However, if you follow a few basic rules, you can take your garden from ho-hum to hot damn! 

Maybe you’ve tried growing a garden in the past with limited success. Perhaps you’ve never grown anything at all and have no idea what to pay attention to. Or maybe you’ve just accepted the “fact” that you’ re a brown thumb and are incapable of growing or keeping any plants alive.

If any of this sounds like you, read on to discover five common mistakes that might be standing in the way of you and a healthy, high-yielding garden.

 

1) You treat your soil like dirt

 

Green thumbs know that good, balanced soil, rich in organic matter is the first key to success in the garden. Plants get their nutrients from the soil, so naturally the soil needs to be full of nutrition. 

Rich, dark soil -the type with earthworms munching their way through it- is the good stuff. Dirt, on the other hand, is void of nutrients and tends to be dustier, lighter in colour and “dead,” meaning no signs of worms or other insects.

Planting in good, nutrient-rich soil gives your plants everything they need to grow strong and healthy. Planting in dirt is like feeding your plants a diet of white bread and crackers: it might be enough to survive on but not to thrive on.

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for better gardening

You should also fertilize at regular intervals to feed your soil the nutrients it needs. This, in turn, feeds your fruits and veggies the nutrients they need. This, of course, is also super important because your fruits and veggies will someday feed those nutrients to you and your family. See how that works?

Soil also needs to be balanced, meaning it needs to be at the right pH level for the plant’s preferences. The pH level determines how acidic or alkaline the soil is. The pH (potential Hydrogen) level of soil is measured on a 14-point scale. A low pH (anything under 7.0) is considered acidic. 7.0 is neutral and anything over 7.0 is considered alkaline.

Certain plants prefer more acidic or more alkaline soil. For example, blueberries prefer more acidic soil, so adding a little vinegar or some coffee grounds (highly acidic) to the soil can boost your blueberry production. But many other plants -including broccoli, beans and garlic- can tolerate a higher PH level, meaning a more alkaline soil. 

While you could test your soil with a special kit, the easiest way to know if you need to fertilize or amend your soil is by watching your plants grow and seeing if they look full and healthy or if they’re small, stunted or weak and wilted. You can also check out this DIY soil test from lifehacker.com. You can then amend your soil with different natural fertilizers and organic matter, like vinegar and coffee grounds for acidity or wood ash for alkalinity.

 

2) You’re planting the wrong things at the wrong times

Depending on your growing zone, different seeds and plants need to go in the ground at different times of the year. Some do better if they’re started indoors and transplanted to the garden as seedlings. Others do better if you direct sow the seeds.

Knowing what to plant when, and how to do it the right way can make all the difference when trying to get seeds to germinate, seedlings to survive and plants to reach their full potential in the garden.

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for gardening success

To know when and how to plant in your area, you need to know when your average first and last frost dates are. In colder climates the last frost comes later in the year and the first frost comes earlier, making for a shorter growing season. In warmer climates it is the opposite (and in some, no frost at all) making for a longer and even year-round growing season. 

Different plants need to go in the ground at different times in relation to the first and last frost dates in your growing region. If planted too early, the ground may still be too cold and seeds won’t germinate. If planted too late, it may not have time to grow to its full potential or for fruits and vegetables to ripen before it gets too cold again.

To find out when your first and last frost dates are, check out these frost charts for popular regions in the US (US Frost Chart) and Canada (Canadian Frost Chart). You can also just Google “your region or municipality” + “average frost dates” to find out when to expect the first and last frost in your area.

 

3) You’re not growing the right plants together

Just like certain types of people get along better than others, certain types of plants get along better than others as well. You should always consider which plants will benefit from being planted together and which ones you should separate (much the same way as you would separate siblings who aren’t getting along).

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for better gardening

Tomatoes and basil are great companion plants. Basil is said to repel pests and enhance the flavour of tomatoes.

This practice is called companion planting, and it can have a big impact on your garden. For example, planting basil with tomatoes is a good idea because they are great companions, both in the garden and on your dinner plate! Basil helps to repel all sorts of pests from tomato plants, including white flies, mosquitoes and aphids. It is also said to enhance the flavour of tomatoes as they grow.

Planting nasturtiums or marigolds in the veggie garden is also a great choice as these flowers are well-known for their pest-repelling properties. They make great companions for most fruits and vegetables.

On the other hand, plants that make poor companions can be a recipe for disaster when grown close together. Beans, for instance, should not be planted alongside members of the allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks, etc.) These plants can stunt the growth of beans and other legumes such as peas. Likewise, brassicas (including broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts) don’t grow well when planted next to members of the nightshade family (such as tomatoes and peppers). Nightshades can negatively affect the growth and even the taste of brassicas.

Don’t get too caught up with following all the rules of companion planting, otherwise planning your garden beds might turn into a way more stressful process than it needs to be. Lots of gardeners report having success growing plants together that shouldn’t get along. But keeping companion planting in mind can help to ensure a successful garden.

Try to stick to the basic rules of companion planting: DON’T plant certain plants that are well-known for not getting along (like those mentioned above), and DO plant a variety of plants that work together to improve the soil, repel unwanted pests and enhance each other’s flavour. 

 

4) You’re not rotating your crops

Just as it’s important to use soil rich in all the right nutrients to feed your plants, it’s equally important to rotate your crops each year to make sure they are getting all that they need from the soil and are giving back as well. 

Rotating crops simply means that you do not plant the exact same thing in the exact same spot two years in a row. You want to move them (rotate them) around the garden and grow plants from different families in different areas. This helps to minimize pests and diseases that may be lurking in the soil and will attack certain plants from the same family. It also helps to ensure that the soil in a certain area is not depleted of specific nutrients. 

Since members of the same plant family tend to feed on the same nutrients, planting them in the same spot year after year will only deplete the soil of those nutrients which, in turn, will make for a weaker crop. For example, broccoli and other members of the brassica family are heavy feeders, meaning they suck up a lot of nutrients from the soil. Brassicas need to be rotated every year into soil that is rich in nutrients and so that the soil where they grew the previous year has a chance to replenish.

Beans and legumes are considered light feeders, and are beneficial to soil. In fact, they feed the soil and their leaves should actually be mulched into the soil when they die off as they will put tons of nutrients back into the soil where they were planted. 

Again, don’t get too caught up in the nitty gritty of crop rotation as it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where everything should go. This is especially true if you are planting more than one member of each plant family or are working with a small space.

Again, try to stick to the basic rules of crop rotation: DON’T plant the same exact thing in the same exact spot as the previous year, and try to avoid planting members of the same plant family in the same spot two years in a row. DO rotate your crops to some degree every year and try your best to plant heavy feeders where light feeders previously grew and visa versa. 

 

5) You’re not planting with pollinators in mind

While you may be making every effort to repel pests both large and small from your garden, you may be overlooking the importance of attracting beneficial insects and pollinators.

Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and even wasps are all considered pollinators or predatory insects and are especially important for plants that rely on pollinators for crop production.

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for gardening success

Apples, cucumbers, blueberries, and squash all need to be cross-pollinated in order to bear fruit. This means they rely on pollinators to carry pollen from the stamen (male reproductive organ) of one flower to the pistil (female reproductive organ) of another flower.

Much the same as humans cannot impregnate themselves, plant species that depend on pollinators need them to carry pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part of another flower in order to “impregnate” that flower and cause it to produce fruit.

Members of the squash family, for example, have male and female flowers and the females will not produce fruit without cross-pollination. Apple blossoms, on the other hand, have both male and female parts, but they rely on cross-pollination from a different variety of nearby apple tree in order to bear fruit!

Some plants are self-pollinating, however, and will bear fruit without the help of pollinators. Such plants include tomatoes, peas and beans. But by and large you will do yourself a world of good if you take a few simple steps to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden.

Don’t worry about trying to wrap your head around how pollination works or which plants require what type of pollination. All you need to worry about is attracting pollinators in the first place and nature will pretty much take care of the rest. 

Consider taking the following steps to attract beneficial pollinators to your garden:

 

Hang a hummingbird feeder 

Pick up a hummingbird feeder for less than $20 at most garden and hardware stores. Then make the nectar for pennies instead of buying it pre-made. Just mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring to a boil in a saucepan. Turn the heat off, mix well and let cool. Then transfer to your feeder and watch the hummingbirds flock to your garden!

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for better gardening

 

Build a bee hotel

Honey bees aren’t the only pollinating bees around. Mason bees are lesser known and can even be mistaken for flies. They are excellent pollinators, however, and they don’t sting!

You can attract Mason bees to your garden by building a bee hotel for them. Follow these plans from Burt’s Bees to build your own bee hotel

You might also be able to buy a pre-made “hotel” from a local Mason bee supplier in your area and have it set up in your garden with Mason bee larvae already in the holes of the bee box. A quick Google search should tell you if there are any such suppliers in your area.

 

Add a water feature to your garden

Butterflies, birds and bees all need water as well. Consider adding a birdbath or other water feature to your garden to attract them. Adding water to your garden will also help attract dragonflies. While dragonflies aren’t pollinators, they are considered to be very beneficial bugs as they prey on pests such as gnats, flies and mosquitoes. 

5 Mistakes You're Making in the Garden | Tips and tricks for better gardening

Plant a flower garden

Pollinators are attracted to the bright colours of flowers, so don’t forget to add in some flowers when you’re planning your veggie garden!

Lavender is always a nice addition to the garden as it looks pretty and smells great, has healing and medicinal properties (and certain types are edible), plus it’s a major attractant for honey bees.

Scarlett Runner beans are another great addition to your veggie garden as they produce bright red flowers that attract loads of hummingbirds, and also produce beans to eat!

 

Gardening success is simple science

Planting and growing a successful garden does involve a little science, but it’s not rocket science. Anyone is capable of turning a handful of seeds into a bumper crop if they follow a few basic gardening rules. Even then, some rules can be broken. 

If you’re not sure how two plants will do side-by-side, plant them together and see! If you’re not sure how good your soil is, plant some seeds in it and watch how they grow (or don’t grow).

Remember there are no failures in the garden, only learning experiences. Even the most experienced gardeners face challenges and setbacks from year to year. But that is how we learn and grow as gardeners ourselves. Don’t get too hung up on how successful your garden is. Look at it like a science experiment and resolve to learn from it to become a better gardener year after year.

Perhaps you’ve had little success in the garden before or you’ve never even tried growing anything because you have no idea what to do. The best thing you can do is to take some time to plan your garden before actually planting anything. When planning what will go where, take the common mistakes listed above into account and try to avoid them. 

Whatever you do, don’t stress about it too much! Growing a garden can be a beautiful, bountiful, rewarding experience, but not if all it does is stress you out. If some things don’t grow as planned, do your best to figure out why and then try doing things differently the following year. It’s not the end of the world. That is, after all, the beauty of gardening: There’s always a new season to begin again.

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2 Comments

  1. Lynda Lu Gibb

    Great tips.. looking forward to the bountiful harvest and the time to put it all away into jars and freezer for the winter..

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Me too! That’s why we have 10 tomato plants this year. Planning on making lots of tomato sauce:) Brian thought I was crazy when I told him we had 10 plants!

      Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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I don't know about where you're from, but around here the Christmas decorations have been on store shelves since August and the first carton of eggnog I saw at the grocery store was in September! ⁣

I'm all for celebrating the season, but I think it loses something when it becomes Christmas all year long (or at least when it spans 2 or even 3 seasons!)⁣

I like waiting until December to decorate and put on Christmas tunes, and I definitely won't take my first sip of eggnog until the advent calendar comes out!⁣

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Yesterday I was in my Stories sharing a bit about emergency preparedness and what I’m doing to get prepared for whatever the future holds.

I also asked YOU what emergency skills or supplies you recommend having in your back pocket “just in case,” and one of the responses I got was to have a bug out bag packed and ready to go.

This got me thinking it was high time to pull out my bug out bag and go through it because it’s been a couple years since I last did so. I decided to share it with you here and show you what I keep packed and ready to go and go through what needs updating and what I’m missing.

If the concept of a bug out bag is new to you, have a watch through this video and check out this article on 15 Emergency Preparedness Items You Need to Have Packed and Ready to Go: https://thehouseandhomestead.com/15-emergency-preparedness-items-you-need-packed-ready-to-go/

Also, if getting more prepared for anything and everything from a power outage to a natural disaster to a medical emergency to a man made disaster like a war or a cyber attack is a goal of yours, be sure to check out the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, which is packed with great advice on emergency preparedness for any situation. (Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit modernhomesteadingmagazine.com)

I’d also love to hear from you!

Do you keep a bug out bag packed?

What do you keep in it?

What types of emergency situations are you preparing for in your area?

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Do you have what you need on hand to take care of yourself and your family in the event of a worst case scenario?

With everything going on in the world these days, we’re getting more and more serious about equipping ourselves with the tools, supplies and skills needed to handle emergency situations if the need arises.

Between growing nuclear tensions, the ongoing threat of pandemics, cyber attacks and a looming energy crisis, medical staff and supply shortages, and general “everyday” medical, financial and other miscellaneous emergencies, we’d all be wise to be prepared BEFORE the next emergency happens.

One of our neighbours passed away very suddenly last week (just 50 years old 😔) and it reminded me of just how quickly things can go sideways. As far as we know he suffered a heart attack, and while his wife did everything she could to save him, by the time the ambulance arrived it was too late. It was a wake up call for me, that not only do we need to be prepared with supplies on hand, but with knowledge and skills too. I’m definitely looking into booking a refresher First Aid course and highly recommend everyone reading this do the same if this is a skill you need to brush up on!

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My hubby @ryan.sakawsky covered many emergency scenarios and how to prepare for them in detail in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, you can subscribe and read the latest issue via the link in my bio, or by visiting https://modernhomesteadingmagazine.com/subscribe/

I’d also love to hear from you! What are you doing to prepare and/or what skills and resources would you recommend that everyone acquire now before it’s too late?

Comment below 👇
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31 3

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To read the full story, click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky or go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe or log in and read the latest issue 🍁

(Quote in the reel by Mike Fitzgerald, “Rolling With the Punches,” Modern Homesteading Magazine | Issue 29 | Fall 2022).

#homesteading #homesteadersofinstagram #selfreliance #gardenersofinstagram #humanswhogrowfood #modernhomesteading
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The world is changing faster than ever.

We’ve barely had time to adapt to the “new normal” and still things are continuing to shift, change, and in some cases spiral more each day.

From rising inflation and persistent supply chain issues, to a looming recession and food shortages that are expected to get worse after a very tough farming year, to a war on European soil and the threat of cyber attacks and (God forbid) a nuclear attack, to the future of digital IDs and increasingly pervasive government control over every aspect of our lives, it’s no wonder more people are looking for ways to escape the matrix and “opt out” of the system.

I consider myself an optimistic realist: I hope for the best and I live fully and freely in the moment, but I prepare for the future accordingly based on what I can see unfolding in our world. And honestly, I find this “sweet spot” to be incredibly empowering.

This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reopening the Society doors for a limited time starting next week, and wanted to give you the heads up NOW so that you can get on the waitlist and make sure you don’t miss out when enrollment opens.

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Ann and her husband Justin recently moved from their two-acre homestead outside of Seattle, Washington to a 40-acre homestead in rural Tennessee. Ann and I sat down to talk about the realities of buying and selling a homestead, moving across the country to pursue your homesteading dream, what to look for when you’re searching for your next property, pitfalls to avoid (if you can!), and what you can do if you’re not ready or in a position to make your move just yet.

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This is why people don’t trust our medical system!!!

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My husband and I each got an Amber Alert on our phones the other night along with millions of other British Columbians, informing us of a child abduction in Vancouver. It made the suspect sound like a dangerous kidnapper and said “do not approach. Call 911.”

As it turns out, it was the mother of the child (a 3-year-old boy), who had refused medical treatment without getting a second opinion and follow up blood tests, so the Ministry of Child and Family Services was called, she was arrested and her son was taken from her and was administered medical treatment in the hospital without consent and without a guardian present.

There’s a lot more to this story than I’m able to share in this video or this caption, so I’ll post some links below where you can hear directly from the mom what happened, and check out other IG accounts that have been in direct contact with her and the father. But the point is this was a GROSS misuse of our Amber Alert system, a GROSS abuse of power (turns out the boy wasn’t sick in the end anyway), and has now traumatized this family for life.

Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

This hits close to home for me because I too have been through the medical system and had my concerns dismissed, was misdiagnosed and given wrong information, and was treated with obvious contempt when I got a second opinion.

In this day and age of rampant medical coercion and the erosion of bodily autonomy over our own bodies and over those of our children, this story highlights the dangers of the very slippery slope we’re on.

As parents who only have the best interests of our children at heart, this could happen to any one of us. We can’t let this be normalized. Remember “first they came for (fill in the blank), and I said nothing. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Check out my stories for the full video that the mom, Wiloh made explaining the details of what happened or check out the comments for links to learn more & support this family.
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95 27

I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

I used to consider myself a lifelong leftist and have supported the liberal government and Trudeau over the years, but after what I’ve witnessed over the past few months; After how he has spoken about Canadians who have made a different medical choice or who have protested mandates (which have done nothing to stop the spread of you-know-what anyway); After the hate and division that has trickled down from the top and infiltrated our communities, I can no longer stand silently by.

While I am 💉, a few months ago when I voiced my support for those who stood up against mandates and against the division being pushed on us by our leadership, I suddenly found myself among what our prime minister called the “small fringe minority” of citizens with “unacceptable views.”

I lost followers, friends and even a couple family members. I was told I’d been “radicalized,” although my views have never changed.

So today I’m adding my voice to the chorus of real, everyday Canadians who are taking a stand against tyranny and division in this country. As the saying goes, if we do not stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. I stand for freedom & autonomy, and against division & tyranny.

#trudeaumustgo

(Special thanks to fellow 🇨🇦 homesteader @meggarlandd for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this:)
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284 59

What would you do if the grid went down?

Imagine not just the lights going out, but all power, all digital communication and information. Would you be prepared?

A lot of us THINK we’re prepared for a grid down situation, but unless you’re already living off grid, you might not realize how dependent on technology we really are!

In the fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, contributor Ashley Constance of @dirtypawshomestead and @alittleselfreliant shares her experience voluntarily going without power for the day, and what she and her husband, Shawn learned from their grid down experiment.

You might be surprised at the things they discovered and missed on their prep list, and it might prompt you to reevaluate whether you’re ready in case the grid goes down, or even just Google 😱

Check out the full story in the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine!

Link in bio @anna.sakawsky or visit www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com

#modernhomesteadingmagazine #homesteadersofinstagram #homesteading #modernhomesteading #prepping #nationalpreparednessmonth
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The other day when I had a few minutes to spare, I was out in the garden doing a little work when my neighbour said hi over the fence.

I lamented to her about how busy we’ve been and how hard it’s been to keep on top of this year. Very sincerely, she replied “wait until you have another one,” referring to our baby on the way.

“You’ll be moving back to the suburbs so quick, mark my words,” she said.

Now, I don’t for a second think there was any ill intent behind her statement, but still, it took me aback.

“We’ll never move back to the city or the suburbs,” I replied with a laugh. “This may be hard work but we love it.”

She then repeated her statement and followed it up with “just you wait and see.”

I decided not to continue the back and forth. After all, I told myself, it doesn’t matter if she or anyone else knows what’s truly in your heart. It doesn’t matter if she understands that there’s no amount of difficulty that would make me run back to the suburbs and leave this life behind. In fact, our dream is to upgrade to a bigger property someday where we can grow an even bigger garden and add more livestock to our homestead!

Likewise, I visited the city last weekend for a family event and as always, I had at least a couple people ask me “so when are you moving back to the city?”

Seven years later, and still we have friends and family members who think this is just a phase we’re going through, and eventually we’ll come to our senses and move back.

I used to get offended by these questions because I felt unseen; I felt like nobody took this life that I’m so passionate about seriously, and thought it was “cute” that I was “playing farmer” for a bit, but eventually I had to grow up and become part of the “real world” once again.

Now I just smile and reply “never:)”

Can you relate? How do you (politely) respond when someone questions your lifestyle choices or implies that you’ll eventually come to your senses and come back to “reality”?

Let me know below 👇
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The fall issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine just dropped!

In this issue you’ll find:

• Preparedness tips, tricks and advice to help you be ready for anything on the homestead (and in life!)
•The ultimate guide to growing garlic at home and it as both food and medicine
• Drool-worthy recipes that feature garlic as the star!
• Expert advice from A Farmgirl in the Making’s Ann Accetta-Scott on what to look for (and look out for) when buying or selling a homestead property
• Advice on how to learn and grow from perceived homesteading “failures”

And more!!!

Go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com or click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or login to the library and read the latest issue if you’re already subscribed!
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