Month: February 2024

5 Tips to Prepare for Baby Chicks

two chicks in the grass | Tips to Prepare for Baby Chicks

Bringing baby chicks onto the homestead is always exciting whether you are a chicken newbie or a seasoned chicken keeper. Don’t let the excitement get you too far ahead of yourself, though. Before you bring your first (or next) batch of birds home, be sure to take a few steps to prepare for baby chicks so you can make the most out of your time, effort, and energy and take the best care of your animals possible. 

What to Do to Prepare for Baby Chicks

1. Choose the Right Breed

Before you bring chicks onto your homestead, take some time to research and choose the chicken breed that suits your homestead the best. 

  • Are you looking for high-production egg layers? 
  • Do you need meat for the freezer? 
  • Do you want a breed that can give you both meat & eggs?
  • Do you want to be able to hatch your own chicks year after year?
  • Does egg color matter to you?

Consider these questions to narrow down the decision to one of these categories:

Meat Breeds

Meat birds are exactly what they sound like- breeds that are known for heavy meat production. If you only want meat, this is the breed category for you. 

The most popular meat chicken breed is the Cornish Cross with a butcher age of 8 weeks and an average carcass weight of 5-6 pounds. The issue with this breed is that it is almost impossible to hatch your own Cornish Cross chicks so they are not totally sustainable.

Red rangers are another common meat specific breed that yields a large carcass, but their growout time is a little longer (12+ weeks as opposed to 8).

If you want a sustainable breed that you can breed and hatch each year, you should look into heritage meat chickens.

Egg Breeds

If you only need eggs, then you should look at high-production egg layers. Some of the most prolific heritage chicken breeds for eggs are White Leghorns, Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, Wyandottes, and Orpingtons. 

A chicken and a basket of brown eggs
Dual-Purpose Breeds

Dual-Purpose breeds are a great sustainable option if you want a breed that offers both meat and eggs. You can purchase or hatch straight run chicks, keep the females for eggs, and process the roos for meat. The caveat of using dual-purpose chickens is that they don’t produce as much meat as chickens that are bred specifically for meat and they take a lot longer to reach butcher age (usually 16-22 weeks).

2. Decide if You Will Purchase or Hatch Chicks

After you have chosen your chicken breed, you need to decide if you will be hatching your own chicks or purchasing them. 

Hatching Chicks

The most sustainable option for replacing or adding to your flock is to hatch your own chicks. 

You can hatch chicks by letting a broody hen sit on a clutch of eggs to hatch them naturally OR you can hatch them in an incubator. In order to do this, you will need to keep a rooster with your flock, borrow a rooster from another farm when you are ready to breed (consider biosecurity measures if this is the route you take), or purchase fertilized eggs from another farmer. 

Purchasing Chicks

If you prefer to purchase chicks, you will need to decide whether you will use a local breeder, a hatchery, or your local feed store. 

Keep in mind that when purchasing breeds like Cornish Cross, it will be necessary to purchase from a hatchery. 

Buying Chicks from a Hatchery

You will typically find that using a hatchery for mail order chicks will give you more breed options and a broader range of hatch dates. However, you will need to carefully plan when chicks are delivered to you. If they are delivered when it is too hot, they can overheat and die in transit. If they are delivered when it is too cold, they can also die before or shortly after you receive them. 

Buying Chicks from Local Breeders

Before placing a hatchery order, check to see if there are any breeders in your area who raise the chicken breed that you are looking for. Utilizing a local breeder is a great way to support the local economy and build relationships with other people who have similar goals in your community. 

Buying Chicks from Local Feed Stores

Many feed stores like Tractor Supply and Rural King sell chicks each Spring. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with obtaining chicks this way, however, you should be aware that sometimes chicks are in mislabelled bins so you may end up with a breed that you didn’t intend to purchase. 

3. Prepare the Brooder for Baby Chicks

I cannot stress this enough- set up the chick brooder BEFORE you bring chicks home. On so many occasions, new (and seasoned) chicken owners get excited and buy chicks without having a proper setup for them. While they don’t need anything fancy, they do need a safe, warm, safe space to live for the first 6-10 weeks of their lives. 

What to Use as a Brooder Container

A brooder container can be made out of many different materials. As long as the container has enough space for the chicks (½ square foot of space per chick), air is able to flow through freely, and the sides are high enough that they can’t fly out, then it should work just fine. 

A simple large cardboard box with high sides can serve as a budget-friendly single-season brooder. Be cautious that you do not use a heat lamp with cardboard or other flammable materials. See the ‘heat source’ section below for other safe brooder heating options

Other ideas for DIY chicken brooders include large plastic storage bins, playpen, and even a tent. I opted to make my brooder box out of 4 sheets of wood fitted into each other. I am able to take it apart for storage and easily put it back together each spring. 

a brooder box made of wood

You can also purchase a plastic brooder like this for a quick and easy setup.

Brooder Bedding

The bottom of the brooder will need to be lined with a soft & safe bedding. This bedding will need to be changed and/or cleaned frequently so choose wisely.  

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings are a common material used for brooder bedding. Opt for Aspen shavings or kiln-dried pine shavings. Avoid using cedar or treated wood as these can be toxic to chickens. 

Wood Pellets

This is my brooder bedding of choice. These pellets are made of compacted kiln-dried pine that break down into an extremely absorbent sawdust when wet. This helps to reduce smell and excess moisture that can cause respiratory issues in chicks. 

Sand

Construction grade sand is also used as a brooder bedding. The sand coats the chick waste in a similar way that cat litter would. Be sure that you are choosing construction-grade course sand and not a fine play sand as this can cause respiratory issues. 

Do not use cedar shavings, treated wood, fine sand, cat litter, or newspapers as brooder bedding. 

Heat Source

Chicks need a temperature of 95° F during the first week of life. This can be decreased 5° F each week. There are several different ways that you can add supplement heat to your brooder.

Heat Lamps

This is a controversial one. Many people love their heat lamps, but I have been through 2 house fires in my life and I do not want to risk a third by using a heat lamp when I have other safe brooder heating options available. 

If you do opt for a heat lamp in your brooder, please be certain that it is secured very well (with more than just the built-in clamp), that it is nowhere near a flammable material, that the chicks cannot reach it, and that water cannot be splashed on it. I also suggest keeping a camera or baby monitor on it so you can keep a check on it no matter where you are.

Radiant Heat Plates

Brooder heat plates produce a radiant heat that poses a significantly lower fire risk than heat lamps and they use much less electricity. Heat plates mimic the mother hen by providing heat directly above the chick as the chick needs it. 

chicks under a heat plate

The chicks can come and go in and out of the heat plate as they wish so they are less likely to go cold or to overheat. 

Other Brooder Equipment & Supplies

You will also need chick-sized feeders & waterers for your new baby birds. 

Feeders

A chick feeder can be purchased from your local feed store. You can choose from a jar/bottle feeder with a saucer base, a trough feeder, or an open shallow pan. 

baby chicks eating from a trough feeder
Waterers

Chick waterers come in a few different types:

1) A saucer base with a jar or bottle top 

2) A nipple water system 

3) Chick cups

All of these chick waterer options work well. If you want your chicks to use nipple waterers when they are grown, definitely start with the nipple waterers. Otherwise the choice can be left up to personal preference. 

4. What to Feed Baby Chicks

Proper nutrition is vital for growing a healthy flock of chickens. Research feed options before you bring the first chick home. You can always make adjustments to their diet as you go, but make sure that you aren’t running into chicken ownership with no knowledge of their nutritional needs. 

If you are hatching your own chicks, be aware that they do not have to eat until about 24 hours after they hatch. They will still be absorbing the yolk on their first day out of the shell so you don’t have to offer feed immediately.

Chick Starter Feed

Choose a high-quality 20% protein chick starter crumble. You can choose whether to offer a medicated or non-medicated feed based on your own preference. It is recommended to not use a medicated feed if your birds have received a Coccidiosis vaccination. 

Chick Grit

Chick grit can help chicks digest the feed that they are consuming. 

Electrolytes

Adding electrolytes to chick waterers can help to keep them properly hydrated especially during hot weather or when they have been stressed (like when they are first moved into the brooder).

5. Prepare to Keep Baby Chicks Healthy

Research the basics of raising chickens before buying your first batch of chicks (you are clearly already doing this so good job!). Reading about raising chickens won’t teach you everything that you need to know, but it will set you off on a good start. 

Familiarize Yourself with Common Chicken Health Issues

Make sure that you know about common chicken illnesses, especially those that affect young chicks. This way you will know what symptoms to look for in case your birds get sick and you will be prepared to bring them back to health. 

baby chicks in a box

Learn Proper Chick Hygeine & Health Practices

When you have your chicks in the brooder, observe them and perform health checks daily. Keep an eye on their behavior, their appetite, and the consistency of their waste. Make sure that they are clean & dry and that they don’t seem lethargic or distressed. 

Keep the brooder clean by changing out bedding regularly. You can remove the soiled pieces of bedding and add fresh on top instead of dumping the entirety of the bedding if it is only messy in spots. Wipe down the feeders, waterers, and the heat plate to keep bacterial growth to a minimum. 

5 Tips for Adding Baby Chicks to the Homestead

When To Plant Your Vegetable Garden

image of flowers growing in a garden

Knowing the right time to plant seeds and seedlings in your vegetable garden is important if you’re trying to grow as much food as possible in your homestead garden. Let’s dive deep and learn about how you can know when is the perfect time to plant your garden using our Homesteaders of America Growing Guides!

There are backyard gardeners and then there are homestead gardeners. 

Want to know the difference? A backyard gardener is a person who plants vegetables in their garden each spring and happily gets some fresh produce out their doorstep for a couple of months each year. They’re content with the occasional harvest and if life gets in the way, no big deal. They garden as a hobby for the simple pleasure of it. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but these gardeners tend to take a more laid-back approach.

Homestead gardeners on the other hand are hardcore. We take our food production very seriously and aim to maximize every opportunity to grow as much food for our families in the space we’re given as possible. Homestead gardeners take gardening to a whole new level and over time realize they’re just as much of a botanist and biologist as they are a gardener. 

garden row with greens

Why Do You Need to Know When to Plant Your Garden?

If you’re growing your own vegetables for reasons of self-sufficiency, decreasing your dependency on the grocery store (and our broken food system), getting access to the freshest and most organic produce possible, and/or putting up food for the winter, then getting the timing of when to plant your garden is critical. 

If you plant your seeds too early they may rot in soggy soil before the soil warms enough for them to germinate. You may risk exposing tender seedlings to an unexpected late frost or even freeze. Or even if they don’t have quite as catastrophic a beginning, a slow start in a poorly timed sowing will leave young plants struggling to hang on instead of growing big beautiful plants. Along with inadequate nutrients, this makes them more susceptible to insect pests and disease later in the growing season.

If you plant your seeds too late, the growing season will be shortened and you may not reap and produce before the seasons change again. 

To maximize the potential of your garden and reap an abundant harvest, it is important to understand what factors affect planting times for your specific geographical location.

plants growing in rows through the snow

So my best advice to new gardeners in their first season is to learn when to plant your garden and then keep homesteading records so you can make adjustments over time based on the microclimate in your backyard. 

How to Determine When to Plant Your Vegetable Garden

There are several things you can do to help decide when & how to plant your garden. These tips and planning methods will allow you to grow more food successfully and reduce a significant amount of frustration and waste. 

1. Know Your USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides North America into growing zones that correspond to a specific range of minimum winter temperatures. 

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map can be a helpful tool for generalizations in knowing the best vegetables to grow in your area. For example, don’t bother planning to plant an orange tree in your Zone 6a orchard. They do best in Zone 8 or warmer. 

But when it comes to the wide variety of vegetable plants that can be grown throughout the entire continental United States, we can do better than broad generalizations. Let’s be realistic. Even though coastal Maine and southern Nebraska are both Zone 5b, they are very different growing climates for your garden. Or let’s look at two Zone 6a cities, Flagstaff Arizona and Columbus Ohio. According to the Hardiness Zone calculator, Flagstaff has the last frost date of 6/11 and Columbus has the last frost date of 4/28. That’s quite the range! 

View the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Many gardening resources recommend using the Hardiness Zone maps alone to plan the growing season. While using the Hardiness Zones will give you a one-month window of when to plant, as we’ve seen that can be risky business. We take growing food way too seriously to mess with that! 

Use the hardiness zone map, but not by itself. In addition to the map, consider the estimated last frost date for your area and the soil temperature before you begin to plant. 

**Recheck your zone this year even if you think you know which one you are in as the hardiness zones changed in 2023.

peas growing in vegetable garden

2. Know Your Frost Dates

At Homesteaders of America, we prefer to use “Last Frost Dates” as the best guide to know when to plant in early spring. The last frost date for your zip code is a statistical average that tells you when your chance of frost drops below 30% after a date.

Typically, it is safe to start planting after this date has passed. 

For a late summer or fall garden, you can use the first fall frost date to count back from. You will want your harvest date to land before the first frost date. 

Using frost dates is simply a more targeted approach to knowing when to plant your garden. 

Learn what your last frost date is by location

3. Pay Attention to Soil Temperature

Another consideration for knowing when to plant is your garden soil temperature. Certain seeds, such as corn, cucumbers, and beans, simply will not germinate until the soil reaches a certain temperature. 

Unfortunately, soil temperature will vary drastically from year to year depending on the weather so there is no handy reference that can help you with this. Thankfully, it’s easy to check with a thermometer! 

A good rule of thumb is that the soil temperature should be at least 50° F before planting.

You can use solarization methods such as black tarps to warm the soil more quickly in the season. But if you can’t afford to use those methods, those seeds will do best if you hold off for a week (or even two if you’ve had a late spring) after your last frost date. 

seeds & seedlings started in plastic pots

4. Look at Planting Calendars

There are many planting calendars available online and in gardening books. You can find calendars in different layouts that are tailored to your growing climate. Check out the planting calendars below to see which one suits you the best. Some are interactive and color-coded (Seedtime is my favorite and it is free) and some are basic guides with seed starting dates and transplant dates. 

5. Keep Detailed Garden Records

  • Keeping a homesteading journal and studying your own microclimate is the ultimate way to know your last frost dates. Write down weather patterns during this growing season so you can look back on it when planning the garden for next year. 

In addition to keeping a garden journal, you should create a written garden plan as well. Your garden plan can be on pen & paper, in a printed planner, or on a spreadsheet. The method doesn’t matter so much as long as you are keeping track of the vegetables that you want to plant, their planting dates, and estimated harvest dates. 

Vegetable Garden Planning Tools

Homesteaders of America wants you to get your garden off to the best start possible so we’ve created several tools to help you know when to plant this year!

Vegetable Gardening Growing Guides

At the beginning of each month this year, we will be helping you along your gardening journey with our Homesteaders of America Growing Guides! We’ll help you keep on track to getting your garden off on the right foot this growing season so you can grow as much food as possible for your family! 

How to Use the Vegetable Growing Guides

In the Growing Guides, you will learn what to plant each month according to when your last frost date. 

The Growing Guides will be targeted for the continental United States, which also includes some of the warmer areas of our country such as southern extremes Texas and Florida. It’s hard for some of us northern folks to imagine starting our gardens in January, but believe it or not, that’s the time for them to start their tomatoes! 

Be sure to follow us on social media, read our newsletter, or check back on the blog for updates throughout the year! 

Homesteaders of America Growing Guides By Month

What to Plant in January
What to Plant in February
What to Plant in March
What to Plant in April
What to Plant in May
What to Plant in June
What to Plant in July
What to Plant in August
What to Plant in September
What to Plant in October
What to Plant in November
What to Plant in December

When to Plant a Vegetable Garden with Month-to-Month Guides

E31: Building a Successful Business as a Homesteader | Emilie of Toups and Co Organics

I hear from many homesteading families who have the dream of sustaining their families by making an income right from their homesteads.  This is the American dream, right?  In today’s episode, Emilie is sharing with us the story of how she and her family did just that.  What began as a quest to overcome health issues in her own family became a thriving skincare business that helps families all across the globe.  Join us for this inspiring conversation all about entrepreneurship, homesteading, skincare, health, and more!

In this episode, we cover:

  • What inspired Emilie to create skincare products that are actually beneficial to the skin
  • How the homesteading lifestyle led Emilie to start her business
  • A few key factors in the success of Toups and Co
  • Day in the life of a homesteading, homeschooling, business owning wife and mother
  • How a business owner’s role changes as the business grows
  • What it looked like for Emilie’s husband to leave his full-time job to work for the family business
  • How to organically market your business when you don’t have a marketing budget
  • Making decisions about selling online, opening a storefront, expanding your space
  • How Emilie maintains the quality of her products by carefully sourcing ingredients
  • Why it matters what we put on our skin and the importance of educating those around us

E31: Building a Successful Business as a Homesteader | Emilie of Toups and Co Organics Homesteaders of America

Thank you to our sponsor!

McMurray Hatchery offers a wide selection of poultry breeds and supplies to assist you with raising your flock. Find what you need at McMurrayHatchery.com!

About Emilie

Emilie Toups is the founder of Toups and Co Organics, a company dedicated to clean and natural skin care and makeup. She began Toups and Co right in her own kitchen with a passion for products with recognizable ingredients. Emilie also has a passion for teaching holistic skin care practices and other women how to be entrepreneurs and own their own businesses. 

Emilie lives on a small farm in south Alabama with her husband and five children. She enjoys gardening, cooking nourishing food and baking sourdough bread.

Connect

Emilie Toups of Toups and Co Organics | Website | Instagram | Instagram | Facebook

Homesteaders of America | Website | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube | Pinterest

Building a Successful Business as a Homesteader Transcript

Amy Fewell Welcome to the Homesteaders of America Podcast, where we encourage simple living, hard work, natural healthcare, real food, and building an agrarian society. If you’re pioneering your way through modern noise and conveniences, and you’re an advocate for living a more sustainable and quiet life, this podcast is for you. Welcome to this week’s podcast. I’m your host, Amy Fewell, and I’m the founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and annual events. If you’re not familiar with us, we are a resource for homesteading education and online support. And we even host a couple of in-person events each year with our biggest annual event happening right outside the nation’s capital here in Virginia every October. Check us out online at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. Follow us on all of our social media platforms and subscribe to our newsletter so that you can be the first to know about all things HOA (that’s short for Homesteaders of America). Don’t forget that we have an online membership that gives you access to thousands—yes, literally thousands—of hours worth of information and videos. It also gets you discount codes, an HOA decal sticker when you sign up, and access to event tickets before anyone else. All right. Let’s dive into this week’s episode. 

Amy Fewell Welcome back to this week’s episode of the Homesteaders of America podcast. This week I am happy to have Emilie Toups with us from Toups and Co Organics. She is the founder of this wonderful company, and it’s dedicated to clean and natural skincare and makeup. She began Toups and Co right in her own kitchen. So ladies, you’re definitely going to want to listen to this podcast. She has a passion for products with recognizable ingredients. And that is the homesteader way, isn’t it? She also loves teaching other women on how to run a successful business. And so welcome to the podcast this week, Emilie. 

Emilie Toups Thanks for having me, Amy. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, so fun fact: Emilie and I actually used to be in like a little mastermind group together, and she’s very inspiring. She runs her business like a boss because she is the boss. And so I wanted to have Emilie on because this is a question… Emilie knows. Emilie has spoken at some of our events before. And specifically, you gave a business talk at our women’s event last year. You were telling women, basically, how do you do this? And I remember people coming back and saying, “My favorite talk was Emilie’s talk. It was amazing. And I feel like I can actually do this now.” And so, Emilie, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you do and about your company before we dive in? 

Emilie Toups Oh, Amy, I love that. So, sure. So I own a natural skincare and makeup company. We have been in business now… and I actually went back on social media to our very first post because I think I was a little fuzzy on, like, when did we actually start? So I went all the way back to the very beginning, and it was in 2015. So at that time I had just had or was about to have my third child and we got started making tallow balms, and that’s kind of how we started Toups and Co. So we hand make our products in-house. We have a manufacturing shop down here in South Alabama where we’re projecting, making, and shipping out our products all over— I would like to say just the US, but now kind of some other countries, too, which is really exciting. And so in addition to making the tallow balms, which is what a lot of people know us for, we’ve moved and ventured into other skincare products, deodorant, and color cosmetics, which is really exciting because as we were making these really clean products and I was looking in my own makeup bag at the things that I was using. And I was like, I am being super picky and strict about what I want to put on my daughter’s super sensitive skin, and here she is wanting to use some of the makeup in my makeup bag and I’m like, oh no. But as you know, and as moms know, we often make sure that we have the very best for our kids, but when it comes to ourselves, we’re like, mm, you know, you’re still hanging on to that lip gloss that you bought at Walmart ten years ago. And so that’s when we kind of decided to go in the direction, add color cosmetics to our line, which has been really, really fun coming up with all the different products and things. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, I really enjoy your makeup, and I think I’m using like two year old makeup from Toups, and it still works just as good. Because I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so my thing was, I wonder if it’s going to last as long? And it absolutely has lasted as long as over-the-counter type makeup. And so I really enjoy it. My face doesn’t break out when I use it. It’s just really good. So Emilie was a homesteader first. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your homestead journey and what you do now and what kind of got you on that. 

Emilie Toups So we really just started homesteading for our health. So I had watched some documentaries early in our marriage and we had some things going on. I had some thyroid issues and things, and we were just looking to be healthier. So we started obviously looking at our food first. And when we decided to clean up our food and we were looking around back then, you know, homesteading wasn’t as popular. There weren’t a lot of people homesteading and selling the things that they were growing. And so we just decided to sell everything, our home, any kind of things that we own that would prohibit us from homesteading. And we bought a 20-acre farm with literally zero knowledge and no experience. And so people often ask us and say, “Oh, well, did you grow up milking a cow? Did you grow up raising chickens?” And we were like, “Absolutely not. We did not.” But, we learned first hand for our health and for the health of our family. So we jumped in and we bought this farm. My husband likes to tell people that we—or I—bought a milk cow before we closed on our house. And that is sort of true. I put a deposit down on a family milk cow a few weeks before we closed, just because I was super excited to get started homesteading. That was one of the first things that we did, and that was about ten years ago. And so we started homesteading with milk cows and chickens and some meat for our family, gardening, and things like that. And as we started to see improved health, the next thing on the list was looking at the products that we were using on our bodies. We were already very in tune with what we were putting in our bodies, and so very naturally next step was what we were putting on our bodies. And as I was turning over some products and looking at ingredients and just really doing a lot of research and looking at what we were using, I was like, you know, I could probably make that. And so we started off, you know, I was researching tallow for my daughter’s eczema. She was really struggling. So I had kind of quit using everything on her, really started on changing her diet, and just kind of using water and doing a lot of research. When I came across tallow and just its anti-inflammatory properties and all of the vitamins and nutrients that were in it, I was kind of sold. So I called up a local farm that was doing grass fed beef, and I was like, “Hey, can I buy some tallow?” And the sweet lady from middle Mississippi called me back, and she was like, “I’m not sure if I can get the fat back. We don’t get any of that back, and we don’t have it for sale.” So she’s like, “Look, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will give you a call back. Let me talk to the butcher.” And so, I don’t know, a week or so later we met on the side of the road. I got some beef fat from her. And that was the very first tallow balms that we made. And that was kind of solving an issue that we had. And a lot of great businesses start that way is like a pain point or solving an issue for yourself. And then you realize that you can actually solve that for other people as well. And so we started making tallow balms. I was giving them away to friends and family and decided to—also as some great businesses do—is get our start on Etsy. So I opened a little Etsy shop with our tallow balms back in 2015, and started selling them there, which as and as that took off and we added more product lines, we decided to go on our own website. But that’s how we got started. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, and like from humble beginnings, right? You started this homesteading journey, and then it led you into a product that people needed. And now you’re like the go-to product in the homestead world, it seems, for natural skincare. And so what do you think contributed to that? You know, watching your success… I’ve been able to watch you grow for years. 

Emilie Toups Right from the very beginning. 

Amy Fewell That’s so cool, right? Like to see this and how big it is now and just how many people you’re helping with such natural skincare because most women, they probably wouldn’t think that that would go anywhere. Right? Most women who want to do a business, they just don’t realize it could take off overnight. And so I wonder if you might tell us a few tips? What do you think contributed to that success so quickly?

Emilie Toups For sure I would say just not giving up, one. And two, especially in the homesteading world, a lot of homesteaders are homesteading for their health. And so they are also looking at the products they’re putting on their bodies. And we are really committed to using very minimal ingredients, as small as possible we can get that ingredient list, because if you’re using really high quality ingredients, and they’re the best that there are out there and they’re providing nutrients to the skin, they’re not upsetting people’s skin, you know, pretty much the performance of the products. I’m going to say that that’s probably one of the main factors in our growth. People loved it. It was word of mouth. But we also worked really hard on marketing the products and really aligning with people that aligned with us. So I’d say that yes, we grew pretty fast, but we’ve been hard at it now for a good eight years. And how many times we wanted to give up, I probably couldn’t even count on both hands. People and women, especially in business, when they’re also homesteading and homeschooling their kids and having babies and things, it can get to the point where you’re like, you know what? I don’t want to do it anymore. Is it worth it? But my husband has been very encouraging from the very beginning. So having someone there that’s willing to pick up your slack and whenever you can’t get things done, willing to do those things for you was very integral in the success for Toups and Co. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. So let’s talk about that a little bit. What does a normal day look like for you as an entrepreneur, mom, and homesteader? 

Emilie Toups That’s a really great question. So I used to wake up before my kids, and now we’ve kind of changed our rhythm, and I just wake up when they wake up. We get up around like 6:30. And obviously the first thing always is milking that cow. So, right now kind of what we have going on is my husband milks and I process the milk. That’s our agreement. So, I had a baby about six months ago. So Vivian is six months old. And so since she’s been born, he milks, and I stay in with the baby, nurse her, and process milk. And so we do breakfast, and we are ready to start working and or homeschooling at 8:00. So by 8:00, I am getting my older ones situated on homeschool, and I’m coming to sit at my computer to get my day started, check emails, make sure that everyone has showed up to work and there’s nothing crazy going on over there. And then, my husband, who works full-time for Toups as well, goes into our home shop and gets anything that the girls need for the Toups and Co shop, and he’ll make a drive over there, bring what they need and they get started. And so I’m usually on the computer till around lunch and after lunch. Anything that the kids need my help with homeschool wise, after lunch I will get that done. And then we’re kind of done for the day. And then obviously things pop up all day long and I have my phone on me. But hey, that Do Not Disturb is super important because I can check… It helps me check it when I have the time instead of constantly being in response mode every time I get a notification. So that’s kind of a typical day for us. Obviously we have music lessons and other things that the kids are involved in that I schedule around, but basically I’m able to run Toups and Co around the schedule of our homesteading/homeschool life. And, that’s been also a huge blessing to me. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. Now, that probably isn’t the way it looks like in the beginning, is it? I’m sure when you first got started, it was a lot different. Why don’t you talk about that a little bit? 

Emilie Toups So obviously when you first get started, you are wearing all the hats. You’re the customer service, you’re making, you’re production, you’re shipping, you’re all the things. And you’re doing the business side of things in the background. You’re budgeting and ordering and making sure you have all the things that you need. And that can be a difficult hat to wear, yes. But really understanding each part of your business and being so ingrained in all of it in the beginning helped me to really flesh out those roles for other people as we’ve added on other staff and things like that. And I still have a pretty heavy hand in all of the departments. I’m still helping make any kind of big decisions that are going on and really making sure that our values, what we want and how we want the customer to receive their product, customer service, etc., really still is coming from us so that our heart and our vision for Toups and Co is still there in all of the day-to-day decisions.

Amy Fewell Yeah. So I know somebody is going to ask because you just mentioned it. You said that your husband works for you full-time. And so at what point in your company did that happen? And how did you guys get to that point? Because a lot of moms and wives really want to get their husbands back on the farm. So I’m sure they’d love to hear how that happened for you. 

Emilie Toups So Trent actually worked either out of the home or away from us for most of this journey. He’s been home for about the past two years. But he worked as an inspector for a different power company. So a lot of times he wouldn’t even come home in the afternoons. Sometimes on big projects, he would be gone 2 or 3 months. And so I think that that gave me a lot of motivation to keep going because of the kind of job that he had. He wasn’t home in the evenings, and we were home alone and he was on the road. And so it was very difficult. I often have a teenager or somebody else in our homeschool community come and help me some days, help me with either the kids or the business, both, you know, packing orders and things. And that was really helpful in those really beginning years. But him being gone and on the road was a constant motivation for me to keep going. And so, I remember just writing down in my prayer journal like, Lord, if I can get to this many orders per month, he can come home and I prayed and prayed and just continued to work really hard. And when we finally hit that number, he had finally gotten a job with his company that he had wanted for the longest time, for years. He wanted something that was here in Mobile that was close to where we lived, that he could work and come home permanently instead of working on projects around the state. And right when we were like, I think that we are doing enough orders per month that you could actually come home and work full-time. I’m telling you, Amy, he got that job offer like a week later and he initially said yes to it. Right? Because it’s security. And we went home that night and we prayed, and the very next day he was like, “You know what? I think I’m going to call back and say I’m actually not going to take it. I’m going  to take a step of faith. I’m going to commit to Toups and Co.” Because I could not grow Toups and Co any more than where it was without his help. And I really needed him home doing a lot of homesteading and other things and working for Toups and Co to help us kind of get to that next step. So we really took a step of faith, and he came home about two years ago. And we’ve grown so much since then because having two people at the very top is just so important. And it was so great for us because there’s a lot of work to be done. We were able to split that up and pay attention both to our home life, with our kids and our homesteading, but also to our business. And that was a big step that we made. And we’ve made a lot of growth since then. And for sure, I couldn’t have done it without him. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. That’s amazing. That’s awesome. Isn’t that how it always works, though? There’s that test of faith where you’ve decided to do this thing and then something else comes up. And, you know, I have this conversation a lot with people recently talking about their work and how they feel so secure with the job that they’re doing for a corporate company, not like a homegrown corporate company, but a job out in the world somewhere and they feel so secure in that. But the reality is that as we’re facing this as a country, there’s more security and working from home and building something that can sustain your family. So that’s a really amazing testimony that you shared that he’s at home now. 

Amy Fewell Hey, guys. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode. We’re going to take a quick break and bring you a word from one of our amazing sponsors. McMurray Hatchery officially started in 1917. Murray McMurray had always been interested in poultry as a young man and particularly enjoyed showing birds at the local and state fairs. Nowadays, the hatchery is still completely through mail order, but they offer way more than ever before. From meat chicks and layer hens to waterfowl, ducklings, goslings, turkeys, game birds, juvenile birds, they even have hatching eggs and a whole lot of chicken equipment. Make sure you check out our Homesteader of America sponsor McMurray Hatchery at McMurrayHatchery.com and get your orders in today. And don’t forget to stop by their booth at the 2023 HOA event. 

Amy Fewell Okay. So let’s switch hats a little bit. So let’s talk a little bit about marketing. So you were saying that you contribute a lot of the success to marketing. And a lot of people that are listening, they probably already have a homestead business or they’re just getting their feet wet into that. So you and I are probably the same in how we grew our businesses. You know, we did it all from the beginning for the first year or two. And then we started hiring out people. So let’s talk a little bit about marketing. Did you hire somebody for that? Did you do it on your own? And then at what point did you start bringing people on to help you work? 

Emilie Toups So I’m a real firm believer in partnering with people who have the same values as you first and doing that kind of organic marketing, because you can do all the paid marketing in the world, and that can literally just drain a budget, a company budget. And I still say it today to our marketing team. I was like, “If we overspend in marketing, we can lose profitability immediately.” It’s probably our biggest expense. And with that comes the ease of quickly losing profitability very, very quickly. So in the beginning stages, we did not do a lot of paid marketing. I reached out with other homesteaders, other businesses that I saw and anyone that was kind of in that… I guess “crunchy granola” is an old way of saying it. I don’t know what people call it now. Clean, organic, green. But, you know, really any kind of natural-minded businesses that I met through networking. I networked at homestead events like Homesteaders of America. I met a lot of great other businesses and then people that I became friends with over the years. And we were able to just kind of market for each other and kind of network together. And so a huge proponent of aligning yourself with other businesses that have the same common goal as you. And that’s basically how we marketed in the beginning. Reached out to some blogs and people. Now I guess it’s Instagram, but other ways where I can help you and you can help me, and that doesn’t cost a lot of money in the beginning. And really, that’s just how we started with brand awareness, was reaching out to people who had common goals, and it worked really well for us. And when you build your business that way and it’s all starting from the ground, really grassroots, when you get to the point where you have the money in your business to pay for marketing, that marketing, that paid marketing actually works much better because you’ve already built brand awareness. And I literally was just talking to a family member of mine who is starting a new business right now, and I’m  kind of coaching and helping a little bit with getting this business off the ground. And because it’s in the clean and wellness space, I have a lot of comments to make and kind of giving some critique there. But they wanted to start with paid marketing right now. And I’m like, the first thing you need to do is build brand awareness. Have that product that you made and send to everybody you know that wants to try it in the clean and wellness space. And then when you get some feedback and you have some buzz happening around your brand and around this product that you’ve created and you’re making some sales—that’s really important—then you can step into paid marketing because the power is at Meta, Facebook, Instagram. They are willing to take all of your money. And really, having a much more solid base of organic reach in the beginning, to me, is just so important when you are getting your business off the ground. 

Amy Fewell Yeah, I agree. That’s how we built HOA. I mean, a lot of people ask us about HOA and how did the word get out so quickly? And it’s because we literally had no money when we got started. 

Emilie Toups Same. 

Amy Fewell And we we partnered with people like Emilie and Anna Acetta-Scott and Janet Garman and some people who aren’t even in the blog and business world anymore, but they’re still homesteading and said, “Hey, come to our event for free. We’ll give you tickets.” You know? Or, “We’ll do this. We’ll give you publicity.” You know, we bartered for so many things. That’s the homesteader way, right? And then people actually got to experience it. And it works like that for every business. I had a company just reach out to me day before yesterday, I guess it was, a seed company on Instagram saying, “Hey, we want to send you seeds to try.” Just to try them, like there was no strings attached, right? “Here. Just have these. Tell me how you like them, and then if you feel led to share it, that’s great.” And so a lot of people do think you need money to begin a business. And the reality is that most of the people who have very successful businesses, it’s not because they started with any kind of money, it’s because they built a community and a brand around their product. And so I think that’s such an important point. And now everyone, you know, Toups and Co is like a staple and it’s a well-known name in the homesteading community especially because you’ve been coming to HOA for a few years. You interact with people who use the products. And so it just really shows that the product that you’re offering to people is something that you really value. And we appreciate that about you for sure. 

Emilie Toups Yeah. I really think that it’s so important to maintain those relationships, and especially people that are just getting started in business. Something that’s been really important to me was to continue to maintain those relationships. Now, last year, I actually took an entire year break of all events and I was pregnant and had a baby and enjoyed that so much. I am so excited to get back into meeting all of our customers face-to-face, continuing to come to HOA. My husband and I are going this year. We’re really excited because we get to put a face with the name, especially people who have been buying for years, and they come and they give us testimonials and it’s so fun and it’s so important. And when you say things like Toups and Co is a household name, it’s so surreal. And when I hear it, I almost still don’t believe it, but it is so amazing, especially hearing it from people like you, Amy. You know, definitely a lot of hard work and perseverance has gone into that. But, really looking forward to continuing to get into some events this year. There’s a couple that we’ll be at, and seeing everybody’s faces and meeting them because that’s kind of where we got our start. And you can’t look back on where you got your start and think that you’re past that now because that is what got you where you are. And so I think it’s so important to continue to do those things because it’s all about relationships and community. And that is something that is important to us, was important to us then, and it continues to be very important to us now. 

Amy Fewell Okay. So let’s talk about your new building. Is it still new? I don’t know, I feel like it’s still new to me because I’ve kind of watched you build this. 

Emilie Toups It’s so new. It’s so new. Every day I drive up and I’m just so blessed and so thankful. But yes. What questions do you have? 

Amy Fewell Yeah. So I remember when we were in this mastermind group together, you were talking about this like you wanted to… You were actually looking at storefronts, right? Or maybe you had even opened a storefront. Is that right? Why don’t you talk a little bit about that and then how the building came along. 

Emilie Toups So let’s say… I think it’s in 2019, we decided to open a storefront in our hometown. And obviously that’s the year of Covid. 

Amy Fewell The horrible, horrible disease. 

Emilie Toups Yeah, all the things. And so as quick as we opened up, we got shut down. And we spent a lot of time and money on that storefront. And that’s when we kind of realized… We put a lot of focus on our online business at that time and realized that that was the direction that we wanted to go. So definitely a huge learning experience with opening that storefront and the cost and all the things that we had put into it just to kind of be shut down. But it was such a great… And I’m very thankful for it now. Maybe I wasn’t at the time. But, thankful that it turned us into the direction that we are now, which is online and really more needing a manufacturing and a shipping space more than we needed a storefront. So we quickly outgrew the space that we were in. We were renting kind of in a strip mall area, but we didn’t have a storefront there, and we were in less probably… I think it was 1000 sq. ft. or less. And the amount of product that our employees pumped out of that building still is blowing my mind. But at that time we were like, we need another space. So we purchased a piece of land and immediately started these plans for our building, and we moved in officially in October of last year. And so we’ve got it separated into two, like a manufacturing and a shipping area. And then we are almost at the completion of our second building, which is right behind that one for warehousing, which, when you’re starting a business and you don’t know all the ins and outs of business, it’s really hard to imagine what you will need or what you actually need in advance of needing it. It’s not till you actually already need it that you’re like, oh my goodness, we need warehousing space so that we can hold all these products and unfinished parts. So yeah, we’re working on that second building. Hopefully we’ll be in in the next month or so. But it’s been another area where we’re finally in, and so now we can actually grow because really we’re halted by not having enough space for different things that we needed to speed up production and things like that, because it’s really important for us to still be making the product by hand the same way we did before. We might be making it in bigger batches, but it’s still made the exact same way we did when we started, which means that we’re still rendering all the tallow ourselves, which is a huge task for one person. And I have to really give a shout out to my husband here because he’s still rendering all the tallow himself. He’s so about quality control. And that was his job before he came here was a quality control manager. And so he’s the QC on all the tallow. And he actually helps engineer these buildings so that we had the space and the area to be able to do that. So yeah I’m really excited about the buildings. 

Amy Fewell Okay. So now are you guys using your own tallow? Are you outsourcing from other farms? How does that work? 

Emilie Toups So we started with just one farm that we were getting tallow from. And I think now—and Trent is in charge, he’s the tallow man—but I think we’re at five farms now that we get tallow from. And we have exclusivity with these farms, which is really awesome. We buy all the tallow they can produce, and it helps these local farmers who are… some of them are selling online and in person, but that are doing grass fed beef to continue to do grass fed beef. And it’s another stream of revenue for them. So if you’re listening out there and you’re a grass fed beef farmer and you’re in the southeast and you’re looking to sell your tallow, send us an e-mail. 

Amy Fewell You might regret that. 

Emilie Toups Well, I’m not because as we grow, our increased need for tallow is a lot. And I think what I’ve seen in some other tallow companies is you can buy tallow, you can buy it pre-rendered, and you can get it from New Zealand and all these places. And I’ve even explored samples of a lot of this. And I’m telling you, the quality of the tallow is so poor because it’s probably extracted or rendered at such high temperatures, it’s deodorized. And really the only way just to keep making those tallow balms that are Toups tallow balms is to render it ourselves and to work with local farmers. And because that’s how we got our start, we’re committed to continuing to do that. So, if you see tallow balms out of stock, that’s just because we’re looking for more tallow that we have to render on our own.

Amy Fewell That’s amazing. That’s really cool, though, that your company is… I just love how grassroots it is. You know, you homesteaded and then you started this company, and now you’re still—even as big as it is—you’re still supporting other farms and other homesteaders with your product. You haven’t been bought out, right? Like you’re not doing all of the big corporate things that other companies are doing when it comes to ingredients. And that’s what’s really important to people. It’s just staying true to, like you said, those simple ingredients.

Emilie Toups For sure. And we’ve hired a consultant, you know, to come help us and streamline things. And what they all say is, “Well, we can get you this supplier, we can do this with this ingredient or this ingredient works the same as this.” And honestly, that’s what makes products just the same as everything else that’s out there on the market. And continuing with the suppliers that we had, even when they run into supply chain issues, because you’ll see things on our website out of stock sometimes, and almost always is because we’re lacking an ingredient that we’re waiting on for someone to produce for us. But it’s worth it. Sign up for our restock notification. It’s coming. Because keeping true to really high quality ingredients is super important. And that’s why the products work so well. And so to someone else out there that’s starting a business and they are solving a pain point for themselves, continue with a product that works because the second you change it or you reformulate or, you know, there’s so many different things that you can do to cut costs. Immediately your customers know. They will know immediately. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. And that’s really good because, you know, we talk about breaking out of the food system and breaking out of the healthcare system. But you know, Emilie, you have this thing of breaking out of the store skincare system. Right? Like there is a better way. We don’t have to use the lotions and the balms and the makeup that’s a dollar a pack or something. It’s truly a next step to freedom. You’re supporting other farms. You’re basically living the American dream on your own farm. You’ve brought your husband home. You’re creating natural products, and you’re helping other people, especially homesteaders, break away from that system. Right? And so it’s just one step closer to being healthy. So okay, a couple more things and then I’ll let you go. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about why is it so important for people to use the ingredients that you use in your products? You know, what is the difference? What are some of the testimonies you’re seeing? 

Emilie Toups Yeah, that’s definitely a great question. So you know the ethos behind Toups and Co is better ingredients. And when we’re constantly putting all these conventional products on our skin every day… I think I spoke about this at the last HOA was that, yes, you know, exposure one time from a certain product or a deodorant… Let’s use aluminum, for example. When we’re putting aluminum on our armpits, we’re doing this 365 days a year. And in addition to that one product, that deodorant, we’re using shampoo, we’re using conditioner, we’re using body wash, soap, we’re washing our hands and our dishes with soap. There’s so many products that we’re exposed to, and so when we’re putting all of the exposure from all of those products and the toxic load that comes with that every single day, 365 days a year, it really adds up. And so especially we’re seeing a lot of hormone imbalance and endocrine disruptors and those kind of things in products. Our health is reflected in… You know, as a nation, Amy, you can see that health has been declining rapidly over the last 20 or so years and the introduction of all of these new chemicals and plastics and just synthetics, and they’re in everything that we’re using. Coming back to the basics and just using really minimal ingredient products, even if you’re making them yourself, if you’re buying Toups and Co, if it’s another company where there are minimal ingredients, you know, it’s really just important for me to see people making that change for their health, for their kids especially. In an article that I read recently, the exposure in the 14 to 18 year olds product wise in females specifically was 3 to 5 times higher than the average adult because these young girls are wanting to use all these new products. They’re being marketed to from every social media avenue there is. They’re seeing influencers using these products and they want them. And so they’re using so many more products than an average adult, and their toxic exposure is so much more. And they’re coming into their fertility years. So for me, especially for my daughter, it’s so important for me to educate her on those products and not just give her Toups and Co and say, you know, “This is what you can use and that’s it,” or whatever. But really, to break down the ingredient list on what she might see her friends using and explain to her why I don’t want her to use those products or I’d rather she not gives her the education and the knowledge to say no when something new comes out and I haven’t had a conversation about it with her. And just that education as she grows, becomes an adult because people say, “Oh, you know, you can shelter your kids while they’re in your home, but when they leave, they’re going to try all the things that they couldn’t have.” And really approaching it from a not “you can’t have it, but this is why you shouldn’t” attitude and that education for our children, for our family members and just approaching it from education period helps them make better choices in the future for their health. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. And you made such a valid point. You know, a lot of girls are marketed to on Instagram and Facebook, and it is right at the time they’re coming into those years as a young woman thinking about getting married, having kids as a young adult, 20s, even in your 30s. I mean, I see so many women, even in their 30s just using horrible ingredients. And so those things make a difference, especially if you’re using them every day. I was having a conversation the other day with one of our raw herdshare owners, and she was talking about Alzheimer’s. And, you know, you and I are in the health industry, right? And so when we hear things like that, we automatically think, “Oh, yeah, deodorant has aluminum in it, and it’s led to Alzheimer’s.” Like there’s studies about this. And so I mentioned this to her and she goes, “What?” She’s like, “Wait a second. I didn’t know that.” And I’m like, oh, you know, these are things that…

Emilie Toups You forget that not everyone knows that information. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. You forget. And so, you know, sharing that with people. You’re right. Educating people as to why these simple ingredients are so important and just breaking away from mass produced bad ingredients is really just as important as breaking away from the food system and the health system, because all of it contributes to your body and whether you’re healthy or not. And so your body, you know, it can take months for stuff to get out of your system that you’re putting on your body every day, on your skin, or under your arms or whatever. So we appreciate those products. 

Emilie Toups Yes. And there’s really a misconception that if it’s on the shelf, then it must be safe. And, you know, in the food, just because it’s on the shelf does not mean that it’s good for our bodies to consume. And same thing with personal care products. Just because it’s on this shelf doesn’t mean that it’s safe. And when you really start to just educate yourself on ingredients and be accountable to what you’re putting on your body, you know, know better, do better. And I never really… I never look at what someone’s using or the information and knowledge that they have and judge them for it because everyone is on their own journey. They’re all on their own journey to health, and like you said, they just don’t know. And that’s almost 99% of the time they just don’t have the knowledge or they weren’t told, they didn’t hear. And so that’s why education is super important. And I love what Homesteaders of America does with education, because there’s so many different facets of education coming and so many different awesome speakers that are there. And yeah, it’s really just all about education. 

Amy Fewell Yeah. All right. So last thing, and I ask this for all of my people that come on here. And I just love it because sometimes I get a lot of crazy things. And then other times it’s so inspirational. So as a mom, as an entrepreneur, as a homesteader, as a skincare advocate, what do you have to say to our community of people? You know, what is something that you’re really passionate about, that you really just want to say and inspire others in the homesteading community? 

Emilie Toups Well, first I want to say that, living this life and this lifestyle, it can be hard. I think that people get the idea that—especially on Instagram—it just looks so easy and you’re out there milking the cow and it’s so fun. And, you know, Emilie, it’s so easy for our family. We have all these skincare products. We don’t have to think about it or whatnot, but really putting in the hard work and just getting up day after day and going after it, what we do and the lifestyle that we live as homesteaders, as homeschoolers, as entrepreneurs, and in every facet of what we do in our life is hard. And so my husband and I often talk about, like, wouldn’t it be so easy if we didn’t have any animals and we could just leave our house and we didn’t have to worry about an animal dying or a garden shriveling up? Wouldn’t it be so easy if we could just send our kids to school and we didn’t have to worry about their education? Wouldn’t it be so easy if we just worked for someone and they gave us a paycheck, and we didn’t have to do the millions of things that entrepreneurs do? And the answer is yes, it would be easier, but is it worth it? And so to us, the hard is worth it. We would rather put in the extra labor that it takes to run this homestead because we’re providing nutrition for our children. We would rather homeschool them because we are providing their education and we know what they’re being educated and what their minds are absorbing. And we would rather be entrepreneurs because, one, we’re able to create an amazing place for people to work. Yes, I’m biased. And two, because we’re controlling the ingredients that are going in these products and we’re able to offer these amazing products to other people, and it affects other people’s lives in a great way. Sometimes we forget that. But when I get one or two or these reviews that come in and they’re talking about their kid’s eczema or their own rosacea or just other issues that they’re coming with, and they’re just like, “Thank you so much for creating these products.” That gives me the gumption to get up the next day and continuing on and to make better products because it’s worth it.

Amy Fewell Absolutely. Here, here on that one. I mean, we’ve had that conversation too, right? Like, wouldn’t it be easy? But would it be worth it? And I think that’s such a great thing to carry us through to the next day. Right? All right, guys. Well, thank you for joining us for this week’s episode of the HOA podcast. Emilie, thank you for joining us. We have really enjoyed having you with us today. And thank you again for being a sponsor this year. If you guys are coming, check out Emilie’s vendor spot that she has and she’ll be there to talk to you and have fun. All right, we’ll see you again next time. Happy homesteading. 

Amy Fewell Hey, thanks for taking the time to listen to this week’s Homesteaders of America episode. We really enjoyed having you here. We welcome questions and you can find the transcript and all the show notes below or on our Homesteaders of America blog post that we have up for this podcast episode. Don’t forget to join us online with a membership or just to read blog posts and find out more information about our events at HomesteadersofAmerica.com. We also have a YouTube channel and follow us on all of our social media accounts to find out more about homesteading during this time in American history. All right, have a great day and happy homesteading. 


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Learn what to plant in February with Homesteaders of America Vegetable Garden Growing Guides!

While most of the gardens in the United States are still resting, perhaps even insulated under a thick blanket of snow, there are a few southern areas beginning to warm up and will be ready to grow vegetables soon!

What to Plant in February: Vegetable Garden Growing Guide

How to Use the Growing Guides

In the Growing Guides, you will learn what to plant each month according to when your last frost date. 

  • Look up your last frost date by zip code if you don’t know it already.
  • Choose the Growing Guide for this month
  • Find which month your last frost date is in
  • Follow the seed starting suggestions on the graphic

The Growing Guides will be targeted for the continental United States, which also includes some of the warmer areas of our country such as southern extremes Texas and Florida. Though we may be buried in snow folks, in February it’s time for folks in the deep south to get growing!

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What to Plant in February: Vegetable Growing Guide

Last Frost Date in January

While most of your garden is in and the growing season is well underway, you can maximize your growing efforts through succession planting! Early crops or quick-growing ones will be ready to go into the ground again so you can make good use of your garden space and harvest even more.

Direct Seed

  • Radishes
  • Lettuce
  • Greens
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots, depending on variety

Start Indoors

For succession planting next month plant these indoors:

  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumbers

Last Frost Date in February

Even though a huge portion of the United States was hit by a snowstorm last week, a few extreme southern regions of the United States are warm enough to start their growing season!

If your last frost date is this month, your garden may already be well on its way with plants that can tolerate more chilly weather. February is the time for you to plant all of your direct started seeds in the ground. Tender seedlings can be transplanted now as well!

Start Indoors

  • Nothing here! It’s time to move the sowing outdoors!

Direct Seed

  • Beans
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Warm Weather Herbs, such as Basil, Chamomile, Nasturtiums and more

Transplant

  • Brassicas, if not done already
  • Eggplant
  • Onions, if not done already
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Herb Seedlings

Last Frost Date in March

If your last frost date will be in March, there is much that can be done in the garden already! Once your soil is able to be worked you can get many cold hardy vegetables in the ground a month before your last frost.

Start Indoors

  • Want a second (or third) succession of greens? Start a round of lettuce indoors to transplant next month.
  • Brassicas

Direct Seed

  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Turnips

Transplant

  • Brassicas
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Cold Tolerant Herbs, such as Fennel

Last Frost Date in April

Last frost date in April? It won’t be long now! And thankfully, there is still much gardening that can be done even though the weather in your neck of the woods is still pretty chilly.

Start Indoors

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Onions, if not done already
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Slow-Growing Herbs (see seed packets for details)

Direct Seed

  • It may be possible for you to plant peas.

Transplant

  • It’s still too cold to plant anything directly in the soil without using season extension though by the end of the month you may be able to transplant onion seedlings or sets.

Last Frost Date in May

A large portion of the United States has their last frost date in May. If you’re one of these folks it’s still to early to get out and work in the garden, but there is plenty to do indoors!

Start Indoors

  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Slow-Growing Herbs (see seed packets for details)

Last Frost Date in June

Still plenty of time for folks with a last frost date in June before you’re going to get busy in the garden. Make sure your indoor seed starting area is ready, your grow light bulbs aren’t burned out, find your timer, and get potting soil on hand because next month…. you get to crack a packet of seeds!

Make sure you start your garden on time! Learn what to plant in February with Homesteaders of America Vegetable Garden Growing Guides!