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A Garden Tip We All Need To Remember This Year

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Hey guys it's Phil from Smilinggardener.com and I have a couple of things for you today. The first is that I want to let you know that the Smiling Gardener Academy that's my very comprehensive, online organic gardening course.

The fee for that course is going up on Tuesday night at 9:00pm, up to full price it's been discounted right now. And so if you have any interest in taking this course about learning how to grow nutrient-dense food, and getting rid of pests organically and all that stuff I talk about a little bit on my blog but I go into much more detail, you want to check that out soon before the price goes up because you can save a whole lot of money.

I'll put a link down below if you want to check that out. Now the other thing is, over the next few days I'm putting out a series of articles and short little videos for free for everyone based on what I feel are really the three main questions I get asked a lot in comments and in emails. And the first question is really just a general question about how can I grow a better garden this year?

Often its because people tried gardening last year, it didn't work out very well and then found it very frustrating and they just want to know what am I doing wrong? How can I do better? So that's what I'm going to talk a little bit about today.

Then the next one is going to be about the thing that I get asked a lot because it's kind of my area of expertise - which is: How can I grow really nutritious foods? How can I fertilize and improve my soil and really get nutrient-dense food? because that's what I really like to talk about.

So that's coming up in a couple of days and then in a few days I'll be talking about controlling pests organically and kind of an interesting perspective on that I hope! So today, I'm not going to go through all this in the video because it's going to be kind of long so I'm just going to point you to the blog post below to read what I want to talk about. But the main thing is I get this question about What am I doing wrong in the garden it's just so difficult?

and I was thinking about how it's kind of the same in life as you guys who follow me know I've been going through a pretty challenging situation in my life for the past couple of months. I haven't really talked about what that is much and I don't really plant to but it has been really difficult at times and so I've gone to get some help.

I've seen a therapist a couple of times which is awesome. I went and studied vipassana meditation, did this 10 day silent meditation course that I told you guys about in a blog post recently. And I've been studying buddhism a little bit and just reading a whole lot of books. A whole lots of - I don't know- self-help books and stuff and it's been really wonderful.

So the last couple of months at times it felt like life is just so hard sometimes like I don't know what to do. And at times, and that's kind of where I'm heading now, is life is just so easy, life is so wonderful at times.

And so this kind of happens to us in our life, right? Sometimes it feels so easy and sometimes it feels so hard. In the garden it's the same kind of thing sometimes in a garden you can just literally just throw down some seeds and give them some water and they grow up and they become plants and you can even get food from them. It just seems so easy.

But gardening is not always that easy sometimes it seems so hard. Like you plant stuff and it gets infested by pests or it just doesn't grow - like it doesn't produce fruit. I talk a lot about food which I'm going to do here. Like it doesn't produce fruit or vegetables and you're like What's going on?!

And so, I talk more about it in the blog post below about why that happens but mostly it comes down to the fact that gardening - unless you're just blessed with beautiful soil - gardening takes some knowledge and some practice and the main thing I want to share today is what I want to help you with.

So if you really want to get into detail about growing a really awesome garden, nutrient-dense food, that's where the academy comes in and that's what you should check out before the price goes up.

But even if you don't want to do that if you want to follow my free videos and blog posts then that's what I want to help you with. There's always a place where you can leave me comments and I try to answer those comments starting in June and for the rest of the year I usually don't do as much posting on gardening I get into other tasks - other hobbies of mine.

But in the spring that's when I do a lot that's when you can follow me and check stuff out. I can go on forever about this but I really just hope you'll read the blogpost down below where i've shared some more details on all this stuff. And if you're on my email list or if you follow me on youtube or facebook or something like that I'll be sharing this series of posts over the next few days.

Oh ya! I do have a question for you! Really what I want to know from you is What is your most challenging situation in your garden right now? or, if you're kind of in the North like me and you're just getting started in the gardening season right now, tell me what happened last year - What did you find very challenging and frustrating in your garden?

If you tell me that I can well maybe offer you some advice but it can also help me figure out what kind of lessons to put together for you guys over the next little while. So that would be great if you would go and ask me that question down below. And if you think you might be interested in the Academy, go click the link and go check that out, too.

We'll see you soon!  

Sometimes gardening seems so easy, and yet sometimes so hard.

And sometimes LIFE seems so easy, and yet sometimes so hard.

Today I’d like to weed through both of ‘em.

Before I get into it today, I’ll mention that the introductory fee on my online organic gardening course - the Smiling Gardener Academy - is going up on Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern Time.

If you sign up before then, you’ll end up saving a lot of money, so if you’ve been thinking about it, be sure to check it out.

It’s definitely worthwhile if you’re looking for a comprehensive video-based course on growing an organic garden.

Read more...

How NOT To Control Pests In An Organic Garden

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Hey guys it's Phil from Smilinggardener.com, today I'm talking about pests in the garden. Before that I want to announce for the last time that the fee for my Smiling Gardener Academy which is my very comprehensive online organic gardening course, the fee is going up tomorrow night, Tuesday night, at 9:00pm eastern time.

So if you've been thinking about that you might want to check that out so you can save a lot of money. And basically that course is a twelve month course, all online, home study, video based where I into a lot of detail about how to grow a really nutritious garden, how to get rid of pests, how to grow food - a whole bunch of stuff! You can read about it down below. I have a really great guarantee so if you just want to try it out and see if it's for you, if it's not for you, you get your money back so I just encourage everyone to check it out.

So today I'm talking about pests in the garden and I wrote a really long blogpost again so I'm not going to summarize it all here, I encourage you to go read it down below because there's a lot of great tips in here. But I was writing, I was thinking about cancer and I read this stat about how 1 out of 2.5 people are going to get cancer in their lives. I was thinking about how we deal with cancer in the medical community very similarly to how we deal with pests in our gardens.

And so I'm not really here to talk about cancer today I'm here to talk about gardening because that's what I know about. But with cancer, we tend to try to cut it out through surgery or burn it out through radiation or poison it out through chemotherapy and we do similar things in the garden, and so I want to talk about that today. When I'm trying to get rid of a predator in the garden I have two main things I want to think about which is: Does it actually get rid of the predator? Does this task, whatever I'm going to do, does it actually get rid of the predator? And two, does it make the soil and especially the plant healthier?

Because as I've talked about before - a plant that is optimally healthy is not going to get consumed by diseases and insects because they can't digest that, they really go for a plant that is nutritionally stressed, that's their role in nature is to eat those plants. And so if we can make our plants healthier it's not going to be an issue and so that's one of our goals in the garden. So, I don't want to make this video too long so I'm just going to briefly summarize my points and I hope you'll go read them down below.

The first is: pruning, which is cutting, pruning, surgery. If we do that to our plants: two questions - does it get rid of the pest? You'd think it would if we prune all the branches that have the pest but it really doesn't because lets say aphids, or let's say a disease like blight. They're all over our garden. They're not necessarily causing any problems but they're all over our garden and our neighbors gardens, they're everywhere!

So if we just prune the branches that have them they're still going to come and find the plant if they think that plant is food for them. So pruning really doesn't help get rid of pests: does it make the plant healthier? No it doesn't - and I'm going to explain that down below why it doesn't, but it actually makes the plant less healthy when we prune. Two is burning or radiation, or in the garden like literally burning diseased leaves and diseased plants.

Similar kind of thing to plants, or to pruning. Again to keep this video short I'm going to ask you to read down below, but does it get rid of the pests? It doesn't really! You'd think it would but it doesn't really. Does it make the plants healthier? No, it doesn't make the plants healthier. So read that down below. I know I keep sending you down below but I'm trying to keep the video short.Third, okay, third is like, and for cancer it's chemotherapy, for the garden it's pesticides!

So insecticides, fungicides, herbicides. So, do they get rd of the pests? Well, sometimes they do. It's actually getting to the point where pests, well insects, diseases are getting more and more resistant to them and more able to handle them so we have to get more toxic poisons, or use different poisons or combinations of poisons, so it doesn't work as well as it used to. But if you intelligently use them sure, they do get rid of them in the short term. But, does it make the plant healthier? The answer is no!

It makes the plant actually sicker, so that it invites more pests, it does this in a very interesting way which I kind of explain a little bit down below. But, a long term goal of getting rid of pests, if we're spraying pesticides it just invites more pests. Okay, let's go to four the one that I use which is creating health. Creating health, first is does it get rid of the pests? You know sometimes in the short term it does. If we bring in some effective microorganisms, which is a microbial inoculant and combine that with some, like something like some liquid seaweed which is really great at helping plants boost their health really quickly.

Sometimes if we do that once or twice or three times over the course of a couple of weeks the pests will go away. Sometimes it won't because of if our plants are really sick then they need more help than that, but it can be a short term control. But does it make the plants healthier? Yes! Absolutely! When we encourage plant health which is what I really wrote about a couple of days ago in that blog post and I made a short video about it so I'll point you to that. When we do that we get, in the long run, we get rid of pests and so in my garden occasionally I'm still going to have issues but I hardly think about it anymore and that's the goal.

So creating health is the long term goal. Now, I know some people are going to say, "well, okay I agree with you but I have aphids! I need to get rid of aphids right now!". So I've written down a couple of my favorite recipes for getting rid of insects and diseases. I've written them down below - I'm not going to share them with you right now, I just hope you go read them. And so that's pretty much what I wanted to share today. A couple of things. One is the Academy.

If you think you might be interesting in this comprehensive online gardening course go check it out before the price goes up tomorrow night. Two is: just ask me your questions about pests in general about all these things I've been writing about. I'm curious to hear your thoughts and I'd just like to get into a conversation with you, and that's all for today! See you soon! 

About 1 out of 2.5 people in North America will get cancer at some point in their lives.

I notice an interesting parallel between how we treat cancer and how we treat pests in our gardens.

The main ways our medical system tries to get rid of cancer are to cut it out (surgery), burn it out (radiation) and poison it out (chemotherapy).

I’m not here to discuss the merit of these practices, but I think most of my readers would agree that there are at least some additional strategies that would be nice to consider if we’re interested in taking more of a holistic approach.

Certainly the cut/burn/poison methods don’t do anything to address the root cause of disease, nor do they leave our bodies in a healthier state, so it’s pretty clear that also incorporating some methods of improving our health could play a tremendous role in treating many types of disease.

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6 Steps For Boosting Garden Health To Grow Healthier Organic Food

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Phil: Hey guys it's Phil from Smilinggardener.com and I've written on big blog post for you today on organic fertilizing that I'm going to summarize for you here. I'll just quickly mention something that I mentioned a couple of days ago which is that my Smiling Gardener Academy which is my online organic gardening course.

The fee for that course is going up on Tuesday night at 9:00pm so if you've ever looked at that and thought about getting in or if you just want to get into more detail about how to grow nutrient-dense food and get rid of pests organically and just improve your garden and improve your soil. All that kind of stuff - go to the link below and check it out, just see if it might be something that's for you.

I would encourage you to do that before the price goes up because you could save a lot of money over the twelve month program by getting it now. So today, organic fertilizing! There a couple of reasons why I think fertilizing is really important for us. The first is that we really want to dictate what plants grow in our garden and if we were just happy to let the weeds grow then some weeds (we call them weeds but they're just plants really), some plants would come up and they would be happy there.

But if we're trying to grow very specific plants we need to make sure they have the right growing conditions and a lot of the plants that we're trying to grow, especially vegetables, often really need a lot of nutrition that our soil isn't ready to provide. So that's the first reason. And the other reason is just that we're trying to grow...like if we plant a tomato we want to get a lot of tomatoes from it and we want them to be really tasty and really nutritious.

So in that case we're willing to put in a little more work to improve our soil and improve the nutrition in our tomatoes and so that's why I think fertilizing is really important for us. So there's six steps. I'm just going to summarize them here, there's way more detail in the blog post below.

The first step is going to be soil testing and I know this is one that a lot of people skip and it's okay if you skip it but just in the long run if you're really, whenever you decide okay I really want to get into this nutrient-dense food growing and I really want to make my soil healthier, getting a soil test from a  good organic soil lab is going to kind of help you because it's going to tell you what to do. So that's step one, more detail in the blog post below.

Step two is fertilizing and without having done a soil test there's not a whole lot of specific nutrients we can apply because we can't just guess that we need magnesium or potassium because we might cause a problem by applying say, dolomite lime or say green sand which supplies potassium. So that's why we need a soil test. If you're not going to soil test, glacial rock dust as I've mentioned before is a, glacial rock dust or volcanic rock dust or basalt rock dust, any of these rock dusts that have a bunch of different minerals in them but not too much of any one mineral you can put onto your soil without a soil test because it's not going to imbalance the soil.

Again, more detail down below on how I would fertilize if I didn't have a soil test. Three is organic matter and especially that's going to be compost and if you make a really good compost or buy a really good compost that's going to provide many benefits for the garden. So that's my main source of organic matter along with a  mulch such as leaves and cover crops.

So again, more detail down below I'm just trying to keep this video short. Getting organic matter into our soil brings many different benefits, many just like dozens of benefits. Four is plant fertilizing, so we've taken care of soil fertilizing but sometimes we want to fertilize our plants directly with liquids and there's a few liquids I use for that but my favorites come from the ocean especially a seaweed you can turn into a liquid and you can make it yourself if you live by some seaweed by the ocean or you can buy it in a bottle and I sell it or you can buy it online or from your local fertilizer supplier.

Another one comes from ocean water which is a great product that's concentrated ocean water. More detail down below again. Step five is bringing beneficial biology into our soil and this isn't really called fertilizing, because fertilizing is more like chemistry and biology is different but it's really an important part of fertilizing because its the biology in our soil, the micro-organisms that make nutrients available to plants.

And so that's where that compost comes in again [machine noise] excuse the saw in the background! That's where the compost comes in again because it provides beneficial organisms but there's also these other things that maybe you've heard me talk about before that are microbial inoculants like effective micro-organisms and mycorrhizzal fungi and compost tea. So I've written a little bit about that below. And then step six actually step six I'm going to save for Facebook.

I'm going to post it up on Facebook for a couple of reasons, one is that this blog post is getting way too long as it is and two is that I want people to come and hang out with me on Facebook. So I'm going to post step six up there. And so if you read on down below towards the bottom of this article I talk to you about why all these steps are important and how they all play off each other and if we just do one then it's not going to have as big of an impact as if we do all of them or at least several of them because they all help each other out.

And so that's all for today I guess there are a couple of things one, go check out the academy if you think you might be interested in it before the price goes up and two if you have any questions about any of this because this is a big topic today about organic fertilizing really how to improve the nutrition in your garden and in your soil ask me down below and I will get back to you! So we'll talk to you soon.  

I talk a lot about how to improve garden health because it’s obviously a vital step for growing nutrient-dense organic food.

That’s why the first 6 months of The Academy - my members-only online organic gardening course - are largely about how to optimize the health of your soil and plants.

(The course discount is ending on Tuesday night, so be sure to join before then if it’s something you’re interested in).

The reason the following steps are so important is because we’re trying to grow plants that probably wouldn’t be growing in our gardens on their own, plants that often need quite a lot of nutrition, as is the case for a majority of our most common vegetables.

And also because we really want them to produce big yields, and to be healthy and nutritious.

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What I Learned From Masanobu Fukuoka's One-Straw Revolution

Masanobu FukuokaMasanobu Fukuoka (Photo credit)

Every so often I read Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution to remind myself I sometimes have very little idea of what I’m doing in my garden - and my life.

In some ways it’s a troubling reminder while in other ways it’s quite freeing.

Troubling because I teach gardening so I’m supposed to know some things about that, and because I live my own life so I’m supposed to know some things about that, too.

But freeing because I see that it’s okay to not have the answers to most of life’s questions, to admit that at times I have no idea what I'm doing.

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Forest Gardening - How To Grow A Food Forest (Even In The City)

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Phil: Did I forget anything?

Hey guys It's Phil from Smilinggardener.com if you haven't picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.

Today I'm talking about forest gardening. When we combine those two ideas of a garden and a forest we get kind of a forest-like ecosystem that really takes care of itself but can provide many of the benefits that we would want from our regular gardens.

One of the main concepts in forest gardening is the use of layers, the use of different sized plants to fill up all of the vertical space and to perform various ecological functions in the garden. What we often think about is about 6 basic layers. The first one is tall trees what we call canopy trees, then there's small trees or what we might call understory trees, then there's shrubs that might go under that, which can be pretty tall - you know they can be 10-15ft or they can be a little bit smaller.

Then there's herbaceous plants which don't really get woody but they're kind of like the same size/shape as a shrub. Then there's ground covers that hug the ground and crawl around. And then there's root vegetables that go underground. When you're in a temperate climate like I am you have to spread things out further, you're probably not going to be growing tomatoes up through your trees, but in the tropics you can plant things a lot more densely and get a lot more going on in there.

As we zoom out here you can start to see this is my forest garden in here. It's just a little mini-garden that I had installed. I started to install last fall. I'm taking my time installing it I really think of it as a teaching garden for you guys and its just very small - a couple thousand square feet can easily fit on most urban properties. I'm having some fruits trees, I'm having some shrubs and herbs and all kinds of things that are going in here.

So let's get talking about some of these beneficial plants and I'll start with the fruit trees because when you're designing your garden you want to start with your trees. This is really my canopy these fruit trees and so you really want to go with trees that make sense for your area I have cherries, pears and apples they're all really good in this area.

This is a self-fruiting cherry that's already producing cherries in my first year, so that's really nice. Once we have the fruit trees designed in we can start to think about designing plants around those fruit trees to create a guild which is a group of plants that are going to support that fruit tree and provide benefits for us.

Nutrient-accumulators which are plants that send their roots deep into the soil and can bring up nutrients and then when they die back those nutrients are returned to more the top of the soil where the rest of the plants can access them.

So this borage here and its relative comfrey are both really nice nutrient-accumulators, yarrow is a really nice nutrient-accumulators, so these are really beneficial plants. in a new forest garden I'm going to plant as much as 25% of my plants will be nitrogen fixers. all I really have right now is this nice red-bed right in the middle.

Another tree that's very popular is a black locust a really nice nitrogen affixer. But what i'm going to do in here once this sheep mulch is broken down is I'm going to have a cover crop of clover or vetch or maybe both. Really get some nitrogen going on in this soil.

Then, around the base of the tree I have various things that are going to benefit me and the tree, I have garlic which of course is very medicinal and good for me. But also, a really beneficial to have in the garden.

I have daffodil bulbs which are going to help keep the grass from growing into the fruit trees, I kind of have a wall of garlic and daffodils here.  And then you can't really see them yet but I'm starting to transplant form my vegetable garden: herbs, just all over the place. Herbs are so beneficial for many reasons so I'm transplanting a dozen different kind of herbs.

Many of them are very good at bringing in beneficial insects such as - what's in bloom right now? - cilantro or coriander, really has nice flowers. Sage has nice flowers right now, the yarrow, my bee balm should be flowering soon, and then all kinds of herbs that flower throughout the year.

Eventually you can have hundreds of different species of plants in your forest garden. What you want to focus on is perennial plants - that means, plants that you plant once and they just grow and they come back every year. So fruit trees, fruit shrubs, and all the other kinds of different layers try to find perennial versions of these plants.

Or, you can also use self-seeding plants. So I really like to eat a lot of dill, I plant a lot of dill in the garden - it's a very beneficial thing to have for the ecosystem, but also it self seeds so i don't have to go planting it every year. So a forest garden is a very dynamic, complex environment there are many things we can talk about today.

If you have any questions about any of this just ask them down below and I will answer. If you haven't signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below. You can also join me on Facebook at Facebook.com/smilinggardener.

On youtube at youtube.com/gardenersmiling. and i'm on pinterest now where I can share photos with you I don't know what my domain name is there though.  

I love digging in a garden and I also love walking through a forest.

Most people think of forests and gardens as two separate things, but forest gardening combines the best of both worlds.

In this video, I show you the mini forest garden I'm developing that's only about 2000 square feet (you can do this in a small area).

Feel free to ask your questions down below...

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Want To Grow Organic Food For Yourself? Here Are Some Tips For You

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Phil: Back from Amsterdam!

Hey guys it's Phil from Smilinggardener.com, if you haven't picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the home page of Smilinggardener.com. Today I'm talking about growing organic food. Just kind of some odds and end tips on how to set up your food gardens.

I've kind of been talking about it throughout this series, but now I just want to share a few other things. Here I have part of my food garden right behind me. A quick first tip is grown the things you want to eat. You might notice here I have a bunch of brassicas: cabbages and broccolis.

A lot of people don't like eating that, I do so I plant a lot of that. But if you don't - save that room for something else! So just start with what you want to eat. Another tip is on the size and I always suggest that people start with very small ones when they're just starting.

Even if you just have a hundred square feet which is perhaps what I'm showing on camera here. You can grow - I probably have 20 different kinds of plants here: many different herbs, different brassicas, different - I even have a few tomatoes right here, lots of different flowering plants that are bringing in different beneficial insects, strawberries - I have a whole bunch going on in a very small area.

And what that means is that you can really do a good job if you just take 10-15 different species of plants, plant them in a small area, really take care of it well you'll do a good job.

The next tip is to plant some annual plant, that means most of our vegetables especially in a temperate climate are going to be annuals so potatoes, and tomatoes and cucumbers and a lot of these vegetables we really love to use.

Go ahead and plant them. Now, the other tip though is - the one thing I don't love about annuals is you have to plant them every year. The other side of that is to plant perennial plants which means you just plant them once and they come back every year like this cherry tree here. I'm standing here in my forest garden - my very young, very new forest garden, I'm going to make a video for you about that shortly.

And what that is, is we focus on nut trees and fruit trees and shrubs and other plants that just come back every year. Including some vegetables, I'm excited to get some asparagus going in here at some point, some lovage and then also self-seeding plants like dill (actually you saw in that garden) there's dill in flower right now, there's cilantro, those are going to come back every year from seed.

So this is kind of a permaculture concept, this idea of just planting for the longer time. Planting more sustainably so that the garden eventually just takes care of itself by just growing every year as a perennial plant or as self seeding annual plants.What you can do in the meantime is another principle which is get a yield.

You want to have food this year, that's where the annuals come in and it's fine to do some of them. You're back into your potatoes, tomatoes  and those thing we were talking about. And I'm doing that in this garden as well for now, while there's lots of sun in this garden.

I can...you may be able to see in the background there's trellis' I can grow tomatoes, and cucumbers, I have a bunch of little things I'm sticking in here, and then gradually the perennials will take over and this garden will become very hand off for me. Back talking about vegetable garden, because I know that makes sense for a lot of you, I have a few tips on that and the first one is about crop rotation.

Here's this bed that I planted about 3 weeks ago (I'm going to talk about that in a second), it's corn, beans and squash in here. Last year: different plants. Last year I had mostly tomatoes in here. Rotating your crops is a good idea.

What that means is planting each plant family in different beds each year and maybe you have like a 3-year rotation or could be much more like a 7-year rotation where they're not going in the same spot every year. Primarily what that's good for is it's going to kind of confuse pests so that if your pests...if the predators of your tomatoes set up shop in the soil over winter and they come up and those tomatoes are elsewhere - that's really going to confuse them a little bit.

Also there can be some benefits to different plants taking up different nutrients from the soil, especially important when we have these kind of imbalanced soils that so many of us have. Another one is companion planting and that's when you plant different plants together.

So instead of you know - one of the big problems with industrial agriculture is we have these huge monoculture crops of corn and soy beans. In the garden, we can plant different plants together and they're going to often provide benefits for each other, or at least just take up different niches in the garden.

Mostly what I often like to do is what's called more of a polyculture. Whereas what I showed you at the beginning of the video that bed probably had 20 different species of plants all really mingling together, all interplanted, and that's going to be a huge amount of biodiversity it's going to confuse pests, it's going to really use the garden efficiently by having different heights.

This is a meso-American tradition of planting corn, beans and squash together. There are various different ways of doing it depending on the geography and things like that but here's how I've done it. I plant little clusters 3 feet apart throughout the garden so there's lots of space in between them.

In each cluster goes corn. You can seed corn direct, that's fine. You wait until it gets about 4 inches tall. I put 4 corn in here. Then, you come and plant a bean by each corn. And what happens is, the corn is going to act as a trellis for these beans. So here's the corn, here's the beans.

So, the corn gets tall, the beans (these are climbing beans) "pole beans". They'll climb up the corn, so that acts as a trellis. There's other benefits. The corn actually exudes through its roots food, for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that reside on the beans. Of course the beans also house this nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

The thing that's cool about this is corn needs a lot of nitrogen, so there's a trade going on here between these two. I planted a squash, the big thing about the squash is it's going to spread out.

Now I think this one happens to be more of a bush-type squash, but I have other squash in here that are vining squash so they crawl throughout the garden, they stop....they decrease evaporation from the soil, they control weeds by having these big leaves that spread throughout the garden. So they're helping too. So they all kind of help each other.

So read on down below, I usually put a little bit more detail in the article and you can ask questions down below about anything having to do with setting up a food garden, just designing your food garden, crop rotations, companion planting, polycultures, annuals vs. perennials, things like that. Also, you can pick up my free online course down below or you can go over to Facebook.com/smilinggardener to come out there.

We post stuff over there every day, and I will see you next time!!

If you’re interested in learning how to grow organic food, I have some tips today.

Admittedly this post is a little bit all over the place, but hopefully there’s something in here that will be useful to you.

The video is worth watching, and at minute 3:57 I explain the ‘3 sisters’ that I was planting in the video last week.

(At the beginning of the video, I say ‘Back from Amsterdam!’ - that’s because I shot this video last year when I had just returned from my trip there where my sister and I had made a bunch of videos on container gardening.)

Feel free to ask your questions down below...

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How To: Seedbed Preparation, Sowing Seed, And Planting Vegetables

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Phil: Do-do-do-do-do (singing)

Hey guys this is Phil Smilinggardener.com, if you haven't picked up my free online organic gardening course you ca do that right on the homepage of Smilinggardener.com.

Today I'm going to be doing some planting and seeding so I'm going  to show you 3 things. I'm going to show you seed bed preparation to make the soil ready, I'm going to show you sowing seeds, how to plant seeds, and planting vegetables and just planting flowers and other small herbs and things like that. So 3 things today.

What I will be using today is a hoe just to get those last weeds that have come up in the last couple of weeks. You can see behind me I have some members of the allium family, a few onions, a few garlic that I could take out, it would make for a nice clean bed, but I'd rather leave them in there because then I have just more biodiversity in the garden.

The next important step here is to take the hard rake and level everything out and the cool thing about doing that is when you do it it's almost like your tilling half and inch because you're just kind of lightly using the rake and it makes a really nice place to put your seeds into. So that's what I'm going to do now, making everything nice and level.

The mulch is on now and you can see I actually put a reasonably thick layer I just have to make sure wherever I put seeds that I don't have too thick of a layer of straw. Another thing I was going to mention is I like to water the garden before I plant. Not right before because you don't want to be working in really mucky soil.

But like an hour before or the night before it really makes planting a lot easier. I'm kind of doing like a modified 3 sisters guild here, where I'm planting corn and beans and squash. It's a native-American method of planting these together for all the benefits that they bring each other. And there's actually a 4th sister called cleome so I'm going to plant a few cleomes today.

As I mentioned in my video last week this corn is not ready to plant it really needs another week or so to get a better root system, so I'm a little concerned it's going to fall apart when I plant and well I hope it doesn't! The reason I'm planting today (as I've said before as well) is I'm heading out of town tomorrow for nearly 3 weeks so I really have to get these things in today. I have to seed today and I have to hope that when I get back that this stuff is all going to be alive.

To prepare the planting hole here you could use  a little trowel. One thing  often like to use is a fork, and I just kind of dig up the hole's soil, not too deep but just deep enough to loosen everything. And that gives a nice planting bed and it makes it really easy to plant with just my hands.

You always want to remove the pot when you plant. I think that's pretty obvious for plastic but even if you have any kind of burlap or fiber pot or even like a biodegradable pot as they call it, you always want to remove it because it really doesn't want to be in there with the plant. And I spray them with effective microorganisms and kelp and see minerals - all these kind of biostimulants I've talked about. On the root ball. you can spray the leaves too.

And while I'm at it, I take a little bit of my mycorrhizal fungal powder, I just rub the on the roots doesn't have to go everywhere. To plant it now I can just dig with my hands basically, kind of remove the clumps. Put it down in there and with something like this you just want the top of this to be level with the top of your soil.

And then you want to fill it back in with the same soil that's already there. It doesn't look like that exciting of soil but I know that I amended it with compost about a month ago, so I know that it's in good shape. And same with the fertilizers that I put in there. I really want to press it down - not that I want to compact the soil but it needs to have good soil around it.  I'm going to plant 4 corns per whole about 6 inches apart just in a diamond shape and that's one of the ways that the three sisters are put together like that.

Gently, very gently kind of squeeze on the bottom of the container and push the plant out and you try not to pull on the stem other than just guiding it with the stem. Especially today I have to be very careful. Yay!!

So we have a plant here, now this was one of the taller ones so it's probably going to having a better root system but at least that came out in one piece. I don't need to spray this with any of my liquid or mycorrhizal fungi because I did that when I seeded and I've been watering with the liquid throughout the week so it's all ready to go. One corn down 47 more to go! Now we're onto sewing seeds!

And the first thing that I do before I sew seeds is, as I've said before, is I soak them first for about 6-12 hours in - it could be just water - but I usually include some liquid kelp and/or some liquid sea minerals and that's going to give the seeds some minerals for when they sprout, so they have all these trace minerals they need and the kelp gives them some natural plant growth hormones that really help with that early germination and growing process.

Here I have my pole bean seeds, these are what are going to climb up the corn and use the corn as a trellis and these are my squash seeds these big guys here, legumes like beans and peas do really well if they have their nitrogen-fixing inoculant on them. There may be some of those bacteria in the soil but there may not be.

So if I just take a little bit of this inoculant and sprinkle it on, as I've shown you before. And the next one I can put on ALL the seeds is my mycorrhizal inoculant which again is in a powder form so I just sprinkle it on. I can put that on the cucumbers and squash as well. And now these are inoculated and they're going to be that much happier.

So I can dig a little hole with my finger here to plant the seed, place it down in there and just cover it up with nice powdery soil so you almost want to rub your soil between your fingers to make sure it's really nice and powdery. I could water these in now but since I watered the garden before I don't have to.

So I'll actually water tomorrow. And then I'll be watering every day until these seeds germinate and then it'll slowly decrease in the amount of watering I need to do. So if you have any questions about preparing a seed bed, or planting vegetables or flowers or sowing seeds, ask them in the questions down below.

If you haven't picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below and you can come and join me and my sister over on Facebook at facebook/com/smilinggardener.

Are you ready to do some planting yet?

Most of us plant between March and May.

I'm towards the end of that time frame, but I think today's a good day to give you some tips anyway.

I’m doing some seedbed preparation, then sowing seed, then planting vegetables and flowers.

You can learn more about the organic fertilizers and inoculants I use in this video right here.

Feel free to ask questions down at the bottom of this page...

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Guess What I’m Doing Right Now!

Phil And SisMy sis took this photo late last summer while we were digging up some potatoes.

If you have any questions this week about my:

...my sister is going to do her best to answer them for you.

That’s because I’m currently in the middle of a 10 day Vipassana course.

As some of you will know, what that means is that I’m in a place with no access to phone or internet or even a pen and paper.

And I’m meditating.

I actually wrote this post early last week, a couple of days before leaving, and scheduled it to go out to you today, so by the time you’re reading this, I’m probably sitting as still as possible, trying to not let my mind wander.

Read more...

How To Plan A Landscape Design - 6 Steps To A Well-Designed Garden

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You can join me and my sister over on Sm.....(laughing).

Hey guys its Phil from Smilingardener.com. If you haven't checkout out my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the homepage of Smilinggardener.com.

Today we're talking about home landscape design. If you're designing your own landscape one thing that a lot of people will do is just go to the garden center and buy all the plants that look nice and then get back home and start placing them and hope that it works out okay.

A much better process is to figure out your goals and do some designing first and a whole bunch of things are going to work out better if you do that. So I'm going to give you about 6 steps today. First very important step is to set some goals, and it doesn't have to be a big process you could do it in 5 or 10 minutes if you're in a rush, but there are 3 parts to this and the first part is the look and feel.

How you want it to feel, how you want the aesthetic of your garden to look like. So that could be certain flowers, certain plants, certain design features. Maybe if you want to have more of a relaxing garden you're going to use more curvy kind of plants and designs which is what I do in a lot of my gardens.

If you want more of an invigorating kind of party garden you might go more formal, straight edges, diamond shapes and you know, brighter colors - things like that. So you want to think about what kind of a garden you want to be in. I'm just working on a very small section of the garden for this little video today. So what I'm going to do here is put it what's called the three sisters guild.

I'm not going to talk about it too much today but it's basically a Native-American way of planting corn and beans and squash together. I'm going to put that in here and I'm going to make it a little more interesting with some other parts that maybe they would have used too like sunflowers and cleome - if I can find them and if I have the time. Maybe I'll talk about that a little more in another video.

But that's really my main goal here is putting together that aesthetic of that 3 sisters guild. The second part is usage - how you want to use your garden. So you may need a big area for playing sports or maybe you need a big area for having parties for dining outside, maybe a big area for actually gardening, potting and things like that.

And then you also need to think about paths through the garden because a lot of times, you know the paths don't work you can't get wheelbarrows in and out and things like that. So it's really the layout of the garden based on what your goals are and the goals are of everyone in the house.

Again, for me right here my main use I'm trying to put in this very cool kind of food garden. It's, you know it's a way to grow food and actually grow kind of a balanced diet all in one little space. The third part of this which isn't talked about as much in conventional garden design is the ecosystem. How can we really improve our ecosystem here and create a healthy environment.

For me, what that means is a lot of the things I've been talking about in other videos like composting, mulching, using microbial inoculants - all these are ways of really improving my soil and improving my ecosystem health. I'm also doing crop rotation by bringing the corn and squash in here because last year I had tomatoes in here and peppers so I'm doing a different plant family this year. So that's another thing.

And then I also at the very back of the bed I have some English Ivy that I really need to keep at bay because it can become kind of invasive. So those are just some, a few ecosystem goals. You might need to control erosion, or you might want to be capturing rainwater in a certain part of the garden or attracting beneficial insects, butterflies, pollinators.

You know we have many goals that we can think of to improve our ecosystem but it's a really important part of planning your garden. Step 2 is to actually draw the site and I'll show you because I've done it here. This one's obviously very simple which is good for this example. So you can see what we're looking at here, the house.

And here's my drawing. Here's the house, I have this little 240 square feet. parcel that we're looking at today. Off to the left is a Burning Bush standard which you can see over there. There's a Rose of Sharon which I've drawn right here and there are a few other shrubs here and the English Ivy is back here.

So what you want to do when you do this is use graph paper. And because this is such a small garden and I could make it so that one square is one sq. ft. but often one square would be 3 feet by 3 feet. So 9 square feet. In this case I didn't need that. So the key here is to draw everything to scale as much as possible. So I measure everything with a tape measurer or pacing off is a little bit easier way of doing it, but not quite as accurate.

And then that's going to become important when I'm choosing plants because then I know exactly how big a plant or approximately how big a plant is going to get - I can design appropriately.

Other than that it's basically you know, even if you just had a lawn here you just want to draw it to scale and anything there like the buildings, pathways, whatever is already there or plants, and utilities too you could put utilities on here if you have an irrigation line, a gas line, hydro wires over head.

So that's the site plan and when you're done with that you want to make some photocopies because we're going to be doing a few different things with it. Step 3 is to do a site analysis and that's when we look at the different energies that are coming onto your site and I guess again I'll just show you. This time I'll show you a different drawing.

This is the forest garden area that I ended up putting in last year. But before I put anything in I had to see what was going on. The main thing I often look at is the sun so I wanted to see where the full sun was in this area because I was going to plant fruit trees.

I saw down here was shady, up here was shady, and so that's a really you know, we really need to know where the full sun is and the part sun and the shade is because that's going to be really important for the health of our plants. Putting them in the right spot! I looked at the wind, I saw the wind was coming from up here - that's important because you don't want to put fragile things in a wind break and things like that.

It's really important to...or maybe you want to block the wind, or maybe you want to harness the wind. So we really want to know where the wind is coming from. We want to know where the slopes are. This was a slope down here which resulted in a seasonally wet area. So that was really important for how I ended up planting.

We want to know where the good views are. In this case it didn't matter that much to me but there might be a view you want to block or there might be a view you want to accentuate. So all those different kind of things that you might want to think about that are happening on your site this is where you want to put them on there and that's really going to inform the design.

Step 4 gets to be really fun and we call it functional diagrams. It's where to get to start dreaming about what you might want to do but there's really no pressure there's really a fast way to do it. And that's using bubble diagrams. So I'm going to show you yet another part of my garden because again, for a spot like this right here I don't really need to do too much bubble diagramming because it's just a little area.

But for something that's bigger you can do this and it's just a lot less work then trying to get too detailed too fast. So what I do is I look at my site plan that I already did first and my site analysis, I'm looking at those and I'm making decisions based off that. So I'm just roughing in things - where might I want a cistern?

Where obviously coming off the house I capture the rainwater, throw it into a cistern. Near the cistern I want things that need that water occasionally like herbs. So I have herbs in containers on my patio right outside my kitchen door.  So that I can harvest them daily, because you use herbs often.

I have a dining area over here, herbs over here, and so you just starting to dream with kind of bubble diagrams and then you're not having to get freaked out about measuring and using rulers. Here's the full sun down here so I put a lot of food plants and flowers down there.

I drew in a retaining wall that I never built and I knew I wasn't going to build it anytime soon but that's where the slope is. Compost bin is uphill that means I'm always bringing the compost downhill when I need it. Here's a windscreen which means that this is a nice protected zone if I need it.

And I draw in the water source so I know these food plants here are going to be able to get water very easily. I ended up building a raised bed over here because I have to water that thing regularly. It's nice to have a water source right there, So the nice thing about doing it like this is that you can - and I know I'm flying through this guys, but I have to keep these videos short for youtube.

You can do a few different entirely different options when you're just doing bubble diagrams and you don't want to get too detailed. That's what I really like about that, just start dreaming. You don't have to draw plants when you're just doing these bubble diagrams because that gets way too detailed.

What you want to do is just say Hey, where might my compost pile go? Where...is this is place for a hedge? Is this a place for a pond? Is this a place for some annuals? Just, you know, the dining area? You don't have to grow an exact table yet just really think fast and it's really a fun way to do it.

The other thing about the bubble diagrams is that's really when you're...last time I was talking about permaculture design and so the bubble diagrams are when you're looking at all these elements like pond, greenhouse, compost pile and you're trying to get the integrations between them and kind of draw them out, figure out how they can related to each other and help each other out so bubble diagrams are great for that.

The fifth step and this may be optional for you is called a concept plan. And what this is, is where you're taking those bubble diagrams and you're starting to draw them a little more accurately. You're not necessarily going in and choosing every individual plant yet.

This is especially done by landscape designers when they want to present something to the client but they don't want to go in and draw dozens or hundreds of plants in detail until they've seen that the client really likes the overall concept.  So you can see what I've done here. Again this was that other part of the garden. I'm drawing the beds in more detail.

I'm drawing things that I know, for example this dining table - I measured the size of it and I drew it. But I'm not drawing individual plants yet. This might be a case where some of the main plants could be drawn in and drawn to size. Or maybe, there's kind of a lot of ways to do it but you really don't have to draw in all the individual plants. Now you might not need to do this, you might go right to the last step which I'll talk about in a minute.

I actually like to do this in my vegetable garden because I like to work from this as my final plan. Because if I'm planting forty different kinds of vegetables throughout the garden I like to have a lot of flexibility. I just like to know in general where I'm thinking of putting things. So that's kind of what the concept plan is.

The sixth step, the last step is the planting plan and that's when you're designing exactly which plants you're going to be using and you're drawing them in to size. And what happens with a  lot of gardens in they're planted way too densely because you buy these little plants that are one or two or three gallons and you plant them and the garden looks so sparse so things get planted too close together.

But what happens is these plants get a lot bigger. So what you do, on a planting plan is you draw them the full size they're going to get to, or at least the size they're going to get to in say ten years. It kind of depends people have different methods but really I like to draw them to the full size they're going to get to.

And what that means is I plant things far enough apart. So, in a vegetable garden I don't necessarily go to this step but in my orchard, my forest garden, I did because those are perennial plants they're going to stay there I want to make sure I give them enough space. So you can see I've drawn them the full circumference of how big they're going to get.

And I've obviously used everything that I've already been looking at - my bubble diagrams and my concept plan and I'm just drawing them in here and the nice thing then is when I go to the garden center I have a planting list - however you want to do it there's many ways you could do it - but I have a planting list.

So you can see from this particular garden that I put in last fall the sun is coming from the south down here shining like this. Down here I'm keeping some of these trees a little more dwarf and some of these fruit trees I'm letting to grow a little bit bigger, kind of how nature intended.

Down here where the wet area is, is where I planted my pears as I mentioned in the permaculture video because they can take more wet feet whereas up here my apple trees don't like the wet feet so much so that's where they are. And then here's a Stella Cherry, it's happy to be in this little bit more of a sheltered spot in my area. So many different...I can't get into too much detail in these videos because I want to keep it short but I try to think of many different things by the time you get to this point that are really going to make for a good design.

And I guess I'll briefly show you my little "design" for this garden here even though its not really a design so much as laying out the three sisters. The corn and the beans go where the "C"s are, the squash goes all in between them. So that's it for home landscape design.

If you have any questions at all ask them down below and I'll be sure to answer them. If you haven't signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below and you can also come and join me and my sister over on Facebook at Facebook.com/smilinggardener. 

For many people, it’s getting to be time to figure out how to plan a landscape design for your organic garden.

I show you how in the video below - and I’d love to get your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Your landscape design plans might mean putting in new gardens entirely, or maybe just coming up with a planting plan for this year.

You could just go out, buy a bunch of plants, and then decide where to plant them when you get home.

But doing some good old fashioned proper landscaping design planning will result in a much better garden.

Here are 6-ish steps to getting it done...

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Dry Fertilizer - For Supplying Soil With These 3 Important Minerals

Dry Fertilizer

I’m a big fan of organic liquid fertilizer.

But there’s also an important use for organic dry fertilizer.

I use liquid fertilizers mainly to provide small amounts of 80+ nutrients directly as a plant fertilizer, and also as a soil fertilizer.

Doing this plays a big part in helping me grow nutrient-dense food.

And yet some nutrients we need in the soil more than others, the big three in the organic world being calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

We need to have enough of them in the soil, but not too much.

(I know that npk fertilizer is stressed in the conventional world, and yes, nitrogen fertilizer is sometimes useful too, but it’s really not all that hard to get enough nitrogen - calcium is much more important to get right, so that’s my focus today).

The benefits we get when we move those three minerals in our soil towards the ideal amounts are many: healthier plants, fewer pests and weeds, better soil structure, etc.

That’s where dry fertilizer comes in...

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