Growing Tobacco Again


If you’ve been watching my YouTube channel, you’ve probably seen my last couple of videos on starting a new round of tobacco plants:

I was given some seeds by a friend I met at a local rum shack. You can get a good stiff drink of local bootleg stuff for a couple of bucks. It’s like molasses and gasoline.

One of the rules of “winning friends and influencing people,” if I recall correctly, is “sit and sip high-proof homemade liquor while watching people play incomprehensible card games as incomprehensible music blasts through a large cracked speaker.”

I’m pretty sure that’s the quote from Carnegie.

Anyhow, it worked for me, as I met a very nice local guy who told me he had tobacco growing wild in his yard. I walked with him to his place and was amazed to see large, lush, self-planted tobacco plants growing here and there. He gave me a fistful of seed pods and I’m now growing my own again.

In Related News

In my older post on growing tobacco, I got a new comment this morning from Krampus:

“Hello sir! Fellow piper here!
I have tried to quit nicotine for some time and have realized, by growing tobacco you will

A: get nicotine in you

B:get a sense for how much work is behind supporting your drug use.

I have sworn never to inhale again! thus, picking the pipe up again ^^. I have fermented my first leaves for some time(3 weeks) and today is the day I shall taste the fruit of all my labour :), they just have to reach proper moisture content.

I want to tell you something about american chew… its bad for your teeth, all that sugar + fermentation bacteria = bad………………………..

Look into the swedish snus, its it very simple to make, a monkey could do it, but it can take years to make a “perfect” swedish snus. It is black and slightly corrosive but also pasturesized with added salty flavours, trying to avoid sugar to spare your teeth (eating sugary diet + sugary tobacco all the time = kiss your teeth goodbye)

Nice information you have here thou! I enjoyd reading it! Puff on fellow Dragon!”

He’s right on American chewing tobacco: it IS loaded with sugar.

Better to find alternatives, if you really want to keep using tobacco.

As for “snus,” I’ll have to look that up. I’ve heard of it but haven’t looked into making it.

I prefer a pipe, but it’s good to know the alternatives, especially since I’m the author of a booklet on how to grow tobacco!


Tobacco isn’t hard to grow but it does have some rather unique care requirements, particularly for germination and raising it to a size large enough to plant out in the field.

You can learn about all that in my booklet, or, if you’re a cheapskate, just keep watching on YouTube as I post new installments.


Yam Trellis Systems: Grow ’em high from Florida to Dominica!


Kevin wrote last week and shared some pictures of the yam trellis system a friend uses on the island of Dominica:

“My good friend in Dominica grows alot of yams and only uses a trellis system. It looks like a good clothes line. One #9 wire. A post about every 16ft. Short stake 5 ft from end post. To tie off wire to. The yams climb up plastic bailing twine, or banana cord. So called there. To keep the tree that is heavy with bunch from falling.”

Yam trellising system Yam trellis system Yam-trellising-system-3

I would love to visit Dominica some day – it’s supposed to be a wonderfully beautiful place with unique topography, vegetation and wildlife.

My current yam trellis system isn’t much of a system – it’s just sticks stuck into the ground for the yams to climb. I’ve had to cut a lot of sticks.

I’m probably going to do something like Kevin’s friend did. I am tired of cutting sticks and I still have a lot more yams to stake.

Yams are very easy to grow but they really need some decent support or they’ll sprawl all over the ground and fail to set good roots.

Fencing is good for them, if you have it.

This is my friend Mart’s yam trellis system:

Mart's yam trellis system

Those are cattle panels.

I’ve done that too and they’re really good.

Cattle panels are really useful all around.

I used to buy them in 16′ lengths, then cut them in half and use them in an “A” shape for yams, cucumbers, beans and other climbers. The thick wire is quite strong.

Those are mostly yard-long beans, but note the yam in the foreground.

I grew a lotta alata on those.

Huge_Yams from my yam trellis

Simple and cheap is the way to go, in my opinion. I’ve seen some serious long-term trellises made from pressure treated wood with cemented posts… but I rarely do anything all that serious.

Heck, I move every few years anyhow. Might as well use stakes and twine.


The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #8: Small-Scale Grain Raising

gardening books

I quit eating almost all grain some years back. I used to have heartburn, sore joints and lethargy during the day – not to mention a gut – and then I discovered the “paleo diet” thanks to this guy and his book.

I lost thirty pounds in about a month and a half, gained muscle, and so long as I stick somewhat close to the diet, I never get heartburn anymore. It’s truly amazing.

But… today we’ll throw that all out because we “Good Gardeners” love all plants, even the ones that make us fat, dull-witted and dyspeptic.

And because growing and utilizing grains really is a marvelous challenge and a link to the past.

In Touch with the Past

Rye… barley… wheat… corn… these are the storable foods that built great civilizations.

Joseph stored away bushels of wheat for Pharaoh in Egypt as he prepared for famine:

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.


53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses[h] and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

A much nastier tale relates to the deities of corn in Aztec culture:

“The fourth month of the Aztec calendar called Huei Tozoztli (“the Big Sleep”) was dedicated to the maize gods Centeotl and Chicomecoátl. Different ceremonies dedicated to green maize and grass took place in this month, which began around April 30th. To honor the maize gods, people carried out self-sacrifices through blood-letting rituals, and sprinkling their houses with blood. Furthermore, young women adorned themselves with necklaces of corn seeds. Maize ears and seeds were brought back from the field, the former placed in front of the gods’ images, whereas the latter were stored for planting in the next season.

As the son of the earth goddess Toci, Centeotl was also worshipped during the 11th month of Ochpaniztli, which begins September 27th on our calendar, and along with Chicomecoati and Xilonen. During this month, a woman was sacrificed and her skin was used to make a mask for Centeotl’s priest.”

Let’s call that reason #182993829 why we should be glad Christian missionaries traveled around the globe.

On a lighter note, don’t forget the marvelous uses of barley:

“Now the grain of the barley is mostly starch, but before the barley can grow this starch must be turned by chemicals called enzymes into sugar. The malster and brewer take the starch of barley, turn it into sugar, and then ‘ferment’ this sugar (as eating it with yeast is called) into alcohol.”

And we call the final product… BEER!

Small-Scale Grain Raising

Small-Scale Grain RaisingGene Logsdon’s book makes grains interesting for the home gardener, not just for the big factory farms that grow almost all of the wheat, corn, rice and other grains most of us use on a daily basis. I own the book and have planted patches of rye, corn, barley, wheat, amaranth, buckwheat and even sorghum.

As the description states:

“More and more Americans are seeking out locally grown foods, yet one of the real stumbling blocks to their efforts has been finding local sources for grains, which are grown mainly on large, distant corporate farms. At the same time, commodity prices for grains—and the products made from them—have skyrocketed due to rising energy costs and increased demand. In this book, Gene Logsdon proves that anyone who has access to a large garden or small farm can (and should) think outside the agribusiness box and learn to grow healthy whole grains or beans—the base of our culinary food pyramid—alongside their fruits and vegetables.

Starting from the simple but revolutionary concept of the garden “pancake patch,” Logsdon opens up our eyes to a whole world of plants that we wrongly assume only the agricultural “big boys” can grow. He succinctly covers all the basics, from planting and dealing with pests, weeds, and diseases to harvesting, processing, storing, and using whole grains. There are even a few recipes sprinkled throughout, along with more than a little wit and wisdom.”

Small-Scale Grain Raising is quite a good book and well-illustrated. I quite enjoyed the read and the ideas.

Get your copy here.


A Novel Method for Propagating Yams


Happy Independence Day to my American readers.

I am a direct descendant of John Howland, crew member on the Mayflower. I’m still not sure we should have left the British Empire, honestly, but any holiday that consists of barbecues and blowing things up is okay by me. I also think the Constitution was a bad idea and that the War of Northern Aggression was won by the wrong side, so I know my views are in the minority… and I’d better get to today’s post before one of you reports me to the SJW firing squad or something.

On to the yams. Curtiss shared a video with me on a novel method for propagating yams, from aeroponics to cuttings to the field:

In the video he states that cuttings from yams not grown in aeroponics systems don’t behave the same, implying that cuttings don’t take as easily.


I’m not sure why that would be the case. I am wondering if you could skip the expensive aeroponics setup altogether.

Sure, it looks cool – but I hate plumbing.

I like this part, though:


Also, this part:


I have actually started Dioscorea alata via cuttings. I didn’t realize you could get them to work so well from just a single node, though.

My common method of yam propagation is this:

But what if you don’t have roots? Or what if you want a LOT more yams? The method in the video Curtiss shared is tantalizing in its abundance – you can make a LOT of yam plants via cuttings.

My experiment with growing yams from cuttings was like this: I just took a few little cuttings with a couple of nodes each, then put them in pots and stuck them in a mist house that a friend with a nursery owned. A month or so later, I had rooted yams ready for planting.

No aeroponics required. However, it did have the benefit of regular misting. I’m not sure how yams would root if I just stuck them in pots.

Worth continuing to research, for sure. And I’m sure Curtiss will be experimenting and sharing results. He’s definitely better at building complicated systems than I am.


Beautiful Moringa Trees


Karl has been having excellent success with his moringa trees.

Last week he sent me some great pictures.

First, look at these huge pods:

moringa trees pods

And what do you do when your moringa tree makes lots of pods? Why, save the seeds and plant more moringa of course:


And man, they are really making pods:


Even if you aren’t trying to plant them on purpose, moringas have a way of growing themselves:


I had the same thing happen with some moringa I cut back here in the tropics. The tree had some pods on it but was shading the garden. I chopped it back severely, but in doing so, some of the pods shattered.

A few weeks later, I started finding seedlings scattered around my garden beds.

Why Grow Moringa Trees?

Moringa is a good food, a good medicine and even a good fertilizer.

I wouldn’t be without this tree. we put the leaves in soups, in scrambled eggs and even in spaghetti sauce. They’re loaded with nutrition. Though in India, the young green pods are eaten regularly, most of my trees have failed to bear enough to make that worthwhile. So, leaves it is.

Moringa trees are easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings. They have very week wood and can be chopped and dropped to feed the soil in food forests. I also use the leaves in my liquid teas, treating moringa much the way permaculture enthusiasts up north treat comfrey – as a cut and come again perennial that feeds the soil as it decays. Comfrew never did well for me in Florida but moringa did great. I’m not sure how comfrey would perform here in the tropics, but I’m sure moringa would have it beaten here as well.

You can read more on germinating moringa seeds here.

And check out my survival plant profile here.

And, of course, I cover moringa trees in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.


Sprouting Moringa Seeds (No Luck? Maybe You Missed a Step!)

sprouting moringa seeds

Retired Senior Chief asks “can you lend any advice on sprouting moringa seeds? I have about a 3% germination rate right now and very frustrated.”

My answer:


Sprouting moringa seeds is really easy – you just need to know a few things first.

Fresh seeds are needed

Moringa seeds lose viability rapidly in storage.

Make sure you get fresh ones.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to wait until the pods brown on the tree before picking them. A pod picked green may not have finished maturing the seeds – let nature work, then harvest when mature.

Sprouting Moringa Seeds Like Warm Temperatures

Moringa seeds like it warm to hot. Sprouting moringa seeds in a cool winter or spring is a losing proposition. I found this out when I ran my plant nursery. I wanted to get a bunch of seedlings started early so I’d be ready for the early summer plant shows, so in February put a bunch of pots out in the nursery and planted them all with good moringa seed.

Nothing happened for a couple of months. Then, a few seedlings emerged. Most of the seed failed.

This made me get smart.

The next time I planted moringa, I started them in pots on top of a heat mat (like this one).

Even in February, they came up fine and grew well. 80 degree weather is good for germination… 60s and low 70s, not so much.

Watch the Water

Too much water can kill young moringa seeds and trees. Don’t soak them. Plant your seeds, water them well, then water them again when the soil almost dries out.

Sprouting seeds and young seedlings have a high tendency to rot. Overwatering seedlings will often kill them. The trees can take a lot of water once they get taller, but when the wood is still green – watch out.

Moringa seeds take a week or two to sprout. I believe sprouting moringa seeds right in a good-sized pot or in the ground will give you stronger trees than starting them in little trays, as the roots are quite vigorous and like to move downwards.

You’ll find more on moringa in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening: The Secret to Growing Piles of Food in the Sunshine State.

Good luck and happy gardening!


Easy Lasagna Gardening the FREE Way

Patricia Lanza’s book Lasagna Gardening inspired a lot of people, including myself.

I was reminded of the sheet-mulching / lasagna gardening method a couple of weeks ago when I re-watched Geoff Lawton’s excellent film Permaculture Soils.

There’s a spot out back near our gardens that often gets soppy wet in the rainy season. It also has hard clay and rocks beneath the grass. Yet I wanted to do some gardening there.

The solution? A quick bamboo-sided “lasagna gardening” raised bed.

lasagna gardening

Easy Lasagna Gardening on the Cheap

Lasagna gardening is all about making lots of layers – here’s my latest video demonstrating this easy way to build a garden fast!

Are you ready to build your own lasagna garden?

It’s all about the layers… let’s get layering!

Layer 1: Manure and Seaweed

I started with a thin layer of cow manure and seaweed to encourage the soil life to eat up the grass and start loosening things, plus to provide nutrition.

lasagna gardening manure

Geoff Lawton throws down just manure, but I have lots of seaweed available here and it’s loaded with good stuff.

For those of you in the states… watch out when using manure. It can destroy all your hard work!

Layer 2: Cardboard Weed Block

I bought Rachel a chest freezer… and it came in a great big cardboard box!

Naturally, I had to find a way to use that in the garden. Weedblock it is!

First, I laid the cardboard over the bed to get a rough size:


Then I stomped it into place. I wanted it all the way to the edges of the bed so pesky grasses won’t come through.


Layer 3: The Random “STUFF IT” Layer

After the cardboard was in place, it was time to start throwing down some biomass.

I used pigeon pea bushes and heliconia leaves.

lasagna gardening pigeon-peas-layer

You can also use whatever brush you have lying around. Leaves, shredded paper, chunks of wood, whatever.

Layer 4: Kitchen Scraps

lasagna gardening kitchen scraps layer

Why not?

Layer 5: Kitchen Scraps

The next layer was a thin one, made from sifted soil from my chicken coop.


This is manure and compost-rich dirt with bits of biochar in it. You can see this composting method here.

There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason to these layers so don’t overthink things. Just throw in the compostable material you currently have available and let nature do the rest.

Layer 6: The Final Compost Planting Layer

And, to top it all off, I added a bunch of mostly-finished compost:


You really don’t need to fill the whole top layer with compost, though. You could just mulch with grass clippings or leaves over the whole top, then fill some pockets with good compost and plant transplants in those… which reminds me, that’s what I did next. Transplanted!

Transplanting into the New Lasagna Garden Bed

I had some bird peppers and a single tomato seedling ready to go… so they went in!

lasagna gardening

And then they were nicely watered in to settle the roots:


I watered them with compost tea for a little extra “juice” to ease the shock of transplanting, but that’s not really necessary.

If you have lousy soil, a poorly drained area, a lot of pesky grass you want to cover without digging, or if you’re just interested in the idea, give lasagna gardening a try. It works and the area where you throw down cardboard and organic matter like this will become one of the richest areas in your entire yard.

Everything in this bed was free. Granted, I did have to buy a chest freezer to get the cardboard, but hey – you can get cardboard anywhere!

Finally, I have more on this and other methods of composting in my book Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

Get your copy here.

And if you’ve done the lasagna gardening / sheet mulching thing in your own gardens, how did it work for you?

Let me know in the comments.


Enjoy this post? Put it on Pinterest!

lasagna gardening


Virginia Gardening Inspiration


My brother Brian the Firefighter and his family live up in Virginia.

Over the last few years he’s been restoring a lovely older wood home located on a little less than an acre of land near the coast. His wife Danielle is a talented gardener with an artistic flair and my brother is good at building and getting things done. He also has an eye for detail so they make a great team.

My parents are visiting them right now and Mom sent me some photos of their gardens to share here.

First… my brother!


And the house (with one of my cute nieces in front):


The soil in this area of Virginia is rich and loamy.

They’ve had great luck growing everything from Seminole pumpkins to peaches, raspberries, strawberries, herbs and sunflowers. vines-climbing-virginia-garden Virginia-garden-flowers

Towards the front corner of the yard, there is a peach tree surrounded by other edibles:


Rosemary, raspberries, lilies…

And some years ago I gave Danielle a potted strawberry plant. Not only did she keep it alive, she’s multiplied it.

Check out this little strawberry patch, all from that one hanging basket:


Having a green thumb plus the right climate = happy strawberries.

As my parents were visiting, Brian was able to get a local tree-trimming company to dump a load of mulch in the yard:


It’s hard to beat free mulch.

By the way: if you have access to shredded wood chips and would like to use them for more than just mulch, it’s easy to make them into lots of compost. Just layer chips with some hot manure – like chicken manure – or soak the pile of mulch multiple times in diluted urine. Get some nitrogen in there and the pile will break down nicely into high-quality compost for your garden.

Or, just have your wife and daughter help you spread it as mulch. It feeds the ground that way, too.


Beyond gardening, my brother’s family also keeps chickens and ducks for eggs:

Ducks-in-virgina-garden virginia-garden-backyard-chickens virginia-garden-chicken-coop

My brother is very good at building things. I once watched him build a playhouse from an old wooden fence in about four hours.

We’re talking framing, floor, roof… Brian is good.

No matter where you look, there’s some of his handicraft, plus something growing.

container-garden-virginia-gardening grapes-in-virginia

Good work!


Happy Front Yard Seminole Pumpkins


Danny shares some photos of his front-yard Seminole pumpkin vines:

front-yard-seminole-pumpkins-vines Seminole-pumpkin-vines-2 seminole-pumpkin-vines-front-yard

Seminole pumpkins are one of the vegetables I highly recommend in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

You can almost plant them and walk away. The only reason you DON’T want to do that is they grow so fast it’s not safe to turn your back on them.

I gotta give Danny props for front yard gardening. #HOAResist!


Pineapple Cultivation in Britain


Did you know pineapples were once grown commercially in both the Netherlands and Britain?


“European pineapple cultivation was pioneered in the Netherlands. The early success of Dutch growers was a reflection of the trade monopoly the Netherlands enjoyed in the Caribbean in the form of the Dutch West India Company, established in 1621. As a result, plant stock could be imported directly from the West Indies in the form of seeds, suckers and crowns, from which the first plants were propagated.

Agnes Block is believed to be the first person to fruit a pineapple in Europe, on her estate at Vijerhof near Leiden. Many eminent Dutch growers joined the challenge, including Jan Commelin, at the Amsterdam Hortus botanical garden between 1688 and 1689, and Caspar Fagel at his seat De Leeuwenhorst in Noordwijkerhout. Pieter de la Court, a wealthy cloth merchant at Driehoek near Leiden, devised his own system for growing pineapples and many British gardeners were sent to his estate to learn about his cultivation techniques.

Dutch methods of pineapple growing became the blueprint for cultivation in Britain, undoubtedly endorsed after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 cemented Anglo-Dutch relations. William Bentinck, close adviser of William III, is thought to have shipped the entire stock of Caspar Fagel’s pineapple plants over to Hampton Court in 1692. The fruits were, however, ripened from this stock of mature plants and therefore did not count as British-grown pineapples. Pineapples had been ripened in this way before, as commemorated in Hendrik Danckerts’ painting of 1675 depicting Charles II being presented with a pineapple by John Rose, gardener to the Duchess of Cleveland. Danckerts’ painting led to the common misconception that Rose was the first to grow a pineapple in Britain.

19th century drawing showing hothouse and pinery-vinery in section
Illustration of hothouse and pinery-vinery from Loudon’s An Encyclopedia of Gardening


The first reliable crop of pineapples in Britain was in fact achieved by a Dutch grower, Henry Telende, gardener to Matthew Decker, at his seat in Richmond between 1714 and 1716. Decker commissioned a painting in 1720 to celebrate this feat and this time the pineapple takes pride of place as the sole object of admiration. From this point on the craze for growing them developed into a full-blown pineapple mania. The list of gentlemen engaged in this rarefied horticultural activity reads like a who’s who of Georgian society and includes the poets William Cowper and Alexander Pope and the architect Lord Burlington…”


It’s a fascinating article. Even if you don’t have a Victorian hothouse, you can Push the Zone, especially with pineapples. They’re not hard at all.

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