Welcome to my organic gardening blog. At certain times of year I post gardening tips weekly and other times much less frequently. Sign up for my ebook over to the right if you want to get my best stuff :)
I recently started selling my favorite organic liquid fertilizers, the same ones I use at home.
But I also like to make my own homemade liquid fertilizer when possible, and that’s what I’m excited to show you today.
Many of our best liquid fertilizers come from the ocean.
But there are ways you can approximate them, if like me, you don’t live near the ocean.
All of these can be used as a liquid lawn fertilizer, liquid plant fertilizer and liquid soil fertilizer.
You might even make enough for multiple applications (such as monthly or weekly).
For all of these homemade fertilizers, I suggest mixing with at least 10 parts water before you spray.
That will allow the fertilizer to cover more area, and will ensure we don’t burn our plants.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt to mix with even more water...
This is what my organic garden looks like today.
Not quite ready to start planting yet, haha, but I’m gearing up for spring.
I’ve been making sure I have my seeds and organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants all ready to rock when the soil warms up.
(Speaking of which, I’ll have an exciting new announcement at the bottom of this post.)
Time for an update!
I'm super excited!
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t post so much here come fall and winter.
That's because most people aren’t really thinking much about gardening anymore.
And that’s okay by me because it gives me time to get into other stuff.
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about this new project I’ve been working on.
I explain it in the video to the right, and then here's the link...
Click for video transcription
Phil: Check, check, check, one two. Check, check, check, one two.
Hey guys it's Phil from Smilinggardener.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 permaculture garden design. What conventional garden design often focuses on is the aesthetic of the garden and the functionality of the garden so just where things go and how the garden looks.
Which is fine for most people especially if you're a non-gardener you just want to have a tree that looks nice or a plant that looks nice. Like, I have a Redbud in the background here. It's not the best specimen which is why I actually took it and planted it.v
If the redbuds are in flower, people come out they want to buy that tree because they just want something that looks nice. That's entirely fine and that's a lot of what gardening is, just making something that looks nice.
What we're talking about today is making an ecological approach to garden design where of course we want it to look nice, we want it to work well, but we also want to look at nature and we want to think about it as a integrative kind of system where we're trying to improve biodiversity and clean up the soil and filter water, do a bunch of things that are just improving the health of our little space here.
And not only because we want to be good to the planet, because we want to have a garden that works really well and that doesn't always require our inputs that takes care of itself.
And so that's what we're getting into today with this permaculture design. Permaculture really got started or at least the term was coined in the 1970s and it was the combination of permanent and agriculture. So permanent is really talking about sustainability and something that can take care of itself sustainably and then agriculture is a lot about growing food.
The principles in permaculture are going to look different in every situation. Sometimes there's a probably that I see in permaculture is where solutions that have maybe worked elsewhere are imposed into our garden because we think we need them.
So an herb spiral is a way to grow a bunch of herbs in a small area and it's kind of a cool thing in the right situation but now a lot of people think they need an herb spiral because it's a permaculture thing, but with permaculture we really want to focus on the design, on the strategy and on thinking about the principles.
So, the principle is really trying to work with nature instead of trying to conquer nature we're trying to use the energies that are coming on our site, and trying to manipulate them just in such a way that it can help do some of the work for us.
A big thing with permaculture that we're trying to do is to observe and interact with our landscape. If we can somehow spend a few seasons looking at our landscape and observing it we can learn a lot and these are fairly common sense things.
It doesn't have to be difficult if I just look at my forest garden, this very young forest garden I'm putting in behind me, basically kind of a holistic orchard, I noticed observing, that there's a wet area down there seasonally during the spring and sometimes in the winter and so that's where I put - you can maybe see the white blossoms back there - my pear trees, my pear trees can take a little bit moisture whereas my apple trees aren't into that so I have an apple tree right here and another one off camera here, they're up on a high spot.
So that's pretty common sense but it's just things like that. Maybe you can see behind my redbud which has the nice purple flowers right now, there's a cherry tree.
It's kind of right behind there, but it's a little bit marginal in this area and so I have in the sheltered part of the garden where it's protected from wind it's kind of nice and warm in there, so it's just a fragile tree and that's going to help with that.
So it's really just common sense all the time but it gives us a lot of clues as to how we can work with the landscape and it really can minimize our labor and the inputs we need to bring in and then the problems we encounter if we do this kind of working with the energies and all the things that are going on in our site.
So in nature nothing is lost and that's what we're trying to mimic in our landscapes, too. If we can look at all of the elements in our landscape and figure out how we can provide for them then we can do a lot of good.
And what I mean by elements are things like fruit trees like an apple tree or a veggie garden or my compost pile or a pond or a greenhouse or any kind of major part of the garden. That's an element and that element needs some things in order to be optimal and that element can give a lot of things to us, too, if we can learn how to use them.
So that could be so many different things it can mean that under my fruit trees I'm trying to plant herbs and other beneficial plants that are going to help that fruit tree and we call that guilding a fruit tree, we call that a guild.
It could be that I put my compost bin somewhere where I can take the heat from that compost and do something with that heat - maybe it helps to heat a greenhouse - or maybe on the other hand maybe the greenhouse...if I put the compost bin in the greenhouse maybe the greenhouse helps to keep the compost bin warm throughout the winter.
So what we want to do is just keep looking at all these elements and on and on and on with the greenhouse I should be capturing water off that greenhouse maybe down in some plants that need a lot of water.
And so on and on we try to think about all these integrations. So what you really want to do is think about all the things you need in your garden all the products you want to get from it, all the things you need and also list all the major elements.
So fruit trees, greenhouses, all the things I've listed...compost...and think about how those things can all integrate with each other and provide for each other.
[Phil's mom shouting] Hey Phil, how's it going?
Phil: Great, just filming!
This was just a brief introduction to permaculture today what it means is observing your site, working with nature, trying to learn from nature. How can we mimic nature in our garden so that our garden takes care of itself? So we don't have to do so much work and spend so much money and then we can go and start and permaculture somewhere else.
If you have any questions for me ask them down below and I will answer them. If you haven't signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below. You can join me over on Facebook with my sister at Facebook.com/smilinggardener.
Before we even get to these permaculture principles today, it’s a good idea to take some time to choose your goals.
You may want fresh, healthy food, a space to relax and be inspired, impressive flowers to brighten up the street, a play zone for kids – the potential benefits are as diverse as people.
Conventional landscape design tends to look at gardens mostly in terms of aesthetics (e.g. bright fall color) and function (e.g. a privacy screen).
But this approach often doesn’t do a great job of designing the garden as a living ecosystem.
Phil: [singing] Oh when the sun beats down oh on the...something, something...ya....
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 soil inoculants. Using a soil inoculant might seem kind of strange so I want to start with why you might want to do it. Now I talk about my two favorites are compost tea and effective micro-organisms.
I talk about them elsewhere and they're good soil inoculants but I primarily think of them as plant inoculants. Like a foliar feed that you spray onto your plants. Today I want to talk about soil inoculants.
The reason your soil may be lacking in biological diversity is just some of the things we've done over the years to it. It could be tilling, or past chemical fertilizer use, or pesticide use, or general landscaping practices.
Or it could be just the generally toxic environment we live in with air pollution and water pollution. Some of these things that make their way into your soil. Today I'm going to introduce you to two of my favorite soil microbial and the first is mycorrhizal fungi.
And I remember when I was in the amazon jungle making some videos for you I was talking briefly about the fungi and how when we're standing in a jungle all of the trees, or most of the trees, are going to be connected but this network of fungi underground.
It's the same in our vegetable garden. And what these guys do is they effectively extend the root system of some of our plants so that they're bringing up nutrients and water, far from in the soil up to the plants and they're protecting the plants from plant predators.
And then the plants are giving them carbohydrates and other food in return, so it's this bartering system and this real cooperation that goes on. And not only that but then all the plants are connected through the same fungal network plants share nutrients and other products and even information.
What I could do to get this fungi is go into a forest and dig up a little soil and then put that soil wherever I want the fungi to be and that can work okay but what I prefer to do is to buy an inoculant online you can even get them on amazon.com or other places online or in some garden centers and that way I know exactly what I'm getting, I know I'm getting the right fungi for my needs.
And so I'm going to show you what this fungi looks like, it's kind of windy out so I hope it doesn't all blow. There it is, this one is really micronized into a powder form and it will be on some kind of a carrier like humates or rock dust or something like that.
And then this is nice because I can really get it down right around the seed or the plant roots because you don't want to apply this to the leaves - there's no benefit to that - this relationship occurs at the root level. So that's why the best time to apply it is when you're seeding or when you're planting or when you're growing.
Even in the nursery! If the nursery applied it that way it'd be great, too. So what I'm going to do - I'll show you - here's a tomato plant. And all I need to do is just take a tiny bit of this fungi, this is plenty, all I need really is half a teaspoon or less for this.
And just put it on the roots, I don't have to get all the roots even if I just do one side that's probably fine - and that way that relationship can happen now.
Next I'm onto legume inoculants. So legumes are peas and beans and clover and vetch and these are really important plants in the garden because they partner up, we call them nitrogen-fixing plants, but really what they do is they partner up with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
So they help these bacteria create these little homes on their roots, and then the bacteria can go taking nitrogen out of the air, and turning it into a form that plants can use. And that process is the basis for other other life on earth really because it's these bacteria that get the nitrogen that allow us and animals and plants to build proteins and amino acids, enzymes things like that.
So a really important process. If your legumes can't find the perfect bacteria in the soil to work with they'll try to work with other bacteria and if they can find some kind of nitrogen bacteria they can make it work okay, but it's not going to be optimal.
Now you may just be thinking, well, maybe my beans and peas won't be that great - it's just one crop it won't be that big a deal, but to me it's a big deal because just because of the importance of legumes in improving the soil in our garden.
It's especially a big deal because in every fall I like to seed a cover crop that includes legumes, so I really want them to have their perfect nitrogen-fixing bacteria partners at that point.
And so here I have some black beans as you can see and then some pole beans that are more beige. And what I can do with this inoculant - you can buy an inoculant again in a garden center or online especially online it's easy to find.
You can get it in liquid or more of a dry form. I have the dry form here and it's...there it is...and I just rub it on to all of my seeds at the same time and that's the fastest way to do it. If I were applying a mycorrhizzal inoculant to these seeds I'd do the same thing just sprinkle it right on there and now I have the inoculant on there and I can plant these.
So those are my favorite two soil inoculants: mycorrhizzal fungi and a legume inoculant. There are others that are becoming more popular like trichoderma fungi and there are other nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live freely in the soil not on plant roots and they're interesting but these are still the tried and true ones, so these are the ones I always recommend starting with.
If you have any questions about soil inoculants ask them down below and I'll answer them. If you haven't signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below. And if you haven't joined me and my sister over on Facebook you can do that at Facebook.com/holy-cow-life's-so-awesome-and-I-just-love-gardening....dot...net.
Using a soil inoculant may seem kind of unnatural, so let’s start with why it might be a good idea.
The most important life forms in your garden are too small to see.
Microbes cover every soil surface and even inhabit the insides of all larger organisms.
They have a dramatic effect on plant health and nutrition, as well as our own.
In most gardens, the microbiome has been thrown out of balance by things like tilling, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
And also the generally toxic environment we live in with pollution, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals in our air and fresh water.
I don’t usually create many videos and articles once summer rolls around.
That's because you guys seem to stop tuning in as much this time of year and I often get into other projects of mine as well.
Of course I don’t stop gardening, but that doesn’t take much work once you have a garden that’s functioning pretty well, especially when you're focusing on perennial plants...
Hey guys, I have a free article for you to download today about organic fertilizing with biostimulants!
Ongoing fertilizing throughout the summer can really help boost plant health/nutrition/yields.
But first, I haven’t posted here for 4 weeks, and I thought I’d catch you up on what’s been going on.
Phil: New location, it got cold again. Hey guys, it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. If you haven’t picked up my free online gardening course, you could do that right on the Home page of smilinggardener.com. Today we’re talking about cover crops for garden.
The least expensive organic fertilizer in the world is cover crops because just for a little bit of seed, which costs hardly anything you can do your whole garden and there are a lot of fertility benefits to cover cropping.
So what a cover crop is, is when you plant some seed out into your garden, usually during the offseason when you don’t have any vegetables or anything else growing and you're doing for various reasons but usually to improve the health of the soil and of the garden in general.
Cover crops have a lot of benefits. One of the main ones I often think about is with fertility. If you were to leave your bed without any plants in it over the winter, it will lose a lot of nutrition especially if you get a lot of rain during fall, winter, spring, but if you have a cover crop in there, it’s going to retain those nutrients up into itself and then we’re going to return that cover crop to the soil in some way and so those nutrients are going to stay there. Likewise, it’s also increasing fertility by getting nutrients out of the soil.
The next one is weed and pet control, which I was talking about a couple of weeks ago. With weed control, just by having a crop there that densely covers your soil, it’s going to shade out and crowd out a lot of weeds from starting in the fall and again in the spring, but also many cover crops exude these compounds, we call them allelopathic compounds; basically these toxins that stop other seeds from germinating, so it controls weeds that way. Then with predators, there are many different ways, probably through some compounds that it exudes, they're going to control some predators but also by attracting beneficial insects into your garden and the last one is with organic matter.
A cover crop is photosynthesizing and becoming big and taking in carbon and we’re going to return that carbon to the soil, it’s going to be organic matter. So there’s a lot of fertility increases with cover cropping. So there are many benefits of cover crops. I just listed some of the main ones there and really, they just are about improving our soil and improving plant health, improving garden health.
What I want to do now is list the two different main kinds of cover crops which are legumes and grasses. So legumes are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means, they house these little bacteria on their roots and those bacteria can take nitrogen out of the air and turn it into nitrogen that can be taken up by plants. So they will use a lot of that nitrogen on their own. They may give a little bit up to the soil while they're growing, but mostly it’s when we turn those cover crops in or do something with them before they’ve gone to seed that that nitrogen gets put back into the soil.
One of my favorites is called vetch, which you can kind of see over here and which I’ll hold up to the camera. It’s like this and it grows kind of like almost like a vine. It really grows around and it will grow up any kind of trellis or any kind of other grass that might be around it and it’s a really good nitrogen producer. It’s one of the best in terms of making a lot of nitrogen. This is a red clover, an annual clover that is another good nitrogen producer. A white clover is often a perennial clover and it will be used – it could be used in a lawn or it could be used in an orchard, as a crop it’s going to come back every year and continue to produce nitrogen.
It’s starting to rain here a little bit. Now we’re on to grasses. What I really like about grasses is that they grow big and fast. They create a lot of organic matter for the soil, they control weeds really well because they grow really big and fast and also because they exude these allelopathic compounds into the soil and they also are really good at holding nitrogen and other nutrients in the soil, whereas clover is about creating the nitrogen, the grasses more are really good at holding that nitrogen and keeping it from leaching out.
Two of the main grasses are cereal rye and annual ryegrass. And they’re both know for having these toxins that are really good at controlling weeds and they're just very commonly used throughout much of North America. There are others, I really enjoy oats. I really love oats. They're great for climate like mine, it’s colder and wetter. There are many others.
So the cover crop usually goes into the soil late in the summer or early fall, gives a little bit of time to establish before winter and then it will really grow a lot in the spring before we deal with it in the spring. When it comes the time to decide what you're going to plant, there’s often going to be some local knowledge for your area. The farmers will know, but really what you need to do is just go to your – do a little research online or go to your local garden center and they're going to have crops that are appropriate hopefully. It doesn’t matter that much. That’s why I always say – just pick something and get some kind of crop always covering your soil. What I like to do is mix a legume and a grass and then I get the benefits of both.
So I might do a rye with a vetch, or a clover with an oats, and when spring time comes, those crops are going to start growing again and you want to figure out when you’re going to be planting into your soil which you should always wait for that because we get these late cold spells like we’re having right now and I'm glad I haven’t planted anything in here yet, but what I would do is figure – and we’re going to work backwards and if I'm going to be seeding directly into the soil, a few weeks before that, I want to take out the cover crop.
Now farmers will use herbicides for this if they're conventional farmers. Organic farmers will use some kind of a plough and what organic gardeners will use is this trusty old thing we used to get weeds to, which is a hoe and what you do is just hoe them down – hoe down, hoe them down just like you would a weed, maybe lightly incorporate them into the soil.
I'm not a fan of tilling too much, but if I just lightly incorporate them into the top of the soil, they're going to break down faster and they're going to retain more nutrition, especially nitrogen as less of it is going to be leached if I can lightly incorporate it. Some of it can be left as a mulch too and if you have too much or for some reason you don’t want it to be a mulch, you can move it over into a compost pit and that’s fine too. So it’s just like this. And even just by hoeing it kind of incorporates a fair amount; gets a little soil on top of it.
If you have any questions about cover crops for your garden, you can ask me down below and I’ll 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. Phil out.
The least expensive organic fertilizer in the world is - cover crops!
Cover crops for gardens are simply plants that are planted to cover your soil, especially during the off season.
And they can also be used during the growing season, interplanted with food crops or even in ornamental beds.
But they do much more than just cover the soil. Garden cover crops:
Holy smokes, I’m in Amsterdam! I'm here visiting my sister!
We’re going on some little organic gardening adventures while I'm here, to get everything we need to do some organic container gardening.
And we’re going to take you with us. I’m super excited!
I'll be posting a new short video every day for 12 or so days, to give you some useful container gardening ideas.
Please share this on facebook, twitter, etc. by using the buttons up above the photo. I really want people to join us!
Phil:Hey guys it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. If you haven’t checked out my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.
Today I am talking about homemade fertilizer, now I don’t mind buying the occasional fertilizer for my garden if I know it’s gonna really help and prove garden health but I also really like to use fertilizers that I can make or scrounge from around my property because it’s a lot more sustainable and it’s free and so today I am, what I am gonna be doing is sharing just two, there are many different things you can use but what I want to do is focus on two that pretty much everyone can use in their garden.
The first one is urine and I know it sounds kind of crazy but this is a really important one, so here is some of my urine which I know is really gross for a lot of people but I want to make an important point here, by the way molasses is also really good in the garden, but today I am talking about urine. Urine is nontoxic, and actually urine is not really all that yellow, may because of the sun yellow today but if you are drinking enough liquids urine becomes much more clear but I really want to get across is that if you are reasonably healthy person, urine is not toxic and I am gonna show you that by pouring some on my hands which probably gross some people out and I apologize for that but what I want to show you, you can drink urine if you have to, not something I am really interested in doing but urine is not toxic, it’s not a place where all of your toxins go in your body.
Urine is such wonderful stuff, I have read that it basically has on an average I am sure varies a lot but somewhere around 11 g of nitrogen, 1 g of phosphorus, 2.5 g or potassium and I am sure has other nutrients that your body didn’t use as well especially if you take supplements and multivitamins, you may have heard someone say you are just peeing all of that money into the toilet, that’s not entirely true, you get some of it but you do pee some of it, so that’s gonna be in here too.
So, it’s a very nutritious thing, of course it’s a little easier for guys to sprinkle a little bit of urine around in the garden here or there or maybe talked away in a private spot. One reason why it’s really nice to put a compost pile maybe in a corner somewhere and you can go and pee in there because it’s really great to do in the compost pile but otherwise what you can do is, I mean you can pee right in the garden too, otherwise you can pee in something like this and then you can go and use that to water your plant.
Now if you are watering your plants directly, you want to mix it with 20 parts of water, so yeah 20 times as much water as urine but otherwise you can go pee right in your soil and on your mulch around your plants without too much trouble. The best thing to do would be to flush your toilet out into your compost pile or into a wet land you have created to handle all of that and to recycle all of that. One of the main problems there is that many bylaws don’t allow for that but if you live in a place where you do it’s a great way to just recycle all of that stuff and bring that nutrition into your garden instead of sending it into the sewer system.
I did some math once and I am not sure how accurate it was but I figure that if you just peed or applied urine to 10 square feet of garden twice a year, you are applying a lot of the nitrogen needs of the garden. I am not sure exactly how accurate that is but I figure I mean if I pee on each of these trees one a month that’s plenty of nitrogen for those trees. So that’s urine, it’s not gross, it’s totally awesome, so start peeing in your garden.
The next thing on my list that pretty much, anyone can do as long as long as you have some grass clippings and some weeds around, it’s great something called a herbal tea and what you do is you take all these herbaceous plants and put them in a bucket with water and ferment them for a few days to a couple of weeks. Any kind of weeds and grass clippings will do, it’s specially nice if you have some nutrient accumulating weeds such as dandelions are pretty good, comfrey, yarrow, stinging nettle. I don’t have most of those though so I just use whatever I have.
I do have a couple of legumes, vetch, and clover, which I also like to include but I have, something I have most is just this garlic mustered which I don’t think is the most nutritious weed but of course it has nutrition in it. I have grass clippings, they have nutrition in it. so all of those can go in there and what this does is it gets the nutrients off the weeds. It also gets the beneficial microorganisms off the weeds. We put in here, we ferment them and so it becomes this kind of fermentation like you to ferment yogurt or beer or something like that and it becomes this kind of nice tea, we can apply to our plants.
Now it’s entirely optional but if you happen to have any kind of microbial inoculants like EM which is what I use often and bio-stimulants like rock dust, some kelp, sea minerals, any of that stuff I often talk about, you can put them in there and you don’t have to because I am trying to make this a homemade video, you don’t need that stuff, but it just makes them even better tea, dandelions and some oats, some garlic mustered, a bit of vetch and clover, a bit of grass clippings, water, water, now that is full of water I need to cover it because this is more of a fermentation that I want to do without air. I don’t have a lid but this is actually kind of cool because if I put it in here I can push down, it will spill some of the water but I am making sure there is really no air in there now and I am just going to let this ferment for a couple of weeks.
It might smell a little bit but if I keep it covered it should be okay. If you have a lot of weeds, you can do this in a much bigger bucket too and then when are done after a couple of weeks, you can just water your plants to give them a nice amount of broad spectrum nutrition and some beneficial fermenting microorganisms. So those are two of my favorite simple, everyone can make a homemade fertilizers. If you have any questions about homemade fertilizers you can ask them down below, if you haven’t signed up for my free online organic gardening course, you can do that down below and you can also join me and my sister over on Facebook at facebook.com/smilinggardener.
I don’t mind buying the occasional organic fertilizer to improve the health of my garden.
But I’m also a big fan of making a homemade fertilizer for plants.
There are a bunch of possibilities, but today I want to keep it simple with 2 homemade fertilizers everyone can “make”...
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