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Benefits of Weeds - 6 Reasons You Should Keep Some Around

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Phil: Hey Guys! It's Phil from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about the benefits of weeds and if you haven't picked up the 15 Vital Lessons For Becoming A Better Organic Gardener, you can do that right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.

So, do you remember when I had a particularly weedy lawn of a client of mine and I had to get you to come and help me hand weed the lawn?

H: I do. I think I did it for free. No way. You still owe me.

Phil: I just remember that that – like there were – that was a small front lawn but there were more weeds there than grass, right?

H: Yes. Same at the backyard because I ended taking all of that job for you and the – it was just crazy. You could hardly even see the grass.

Phil: So it's the kind of thing where we knew that we could eventually, over the course of a number of years, improve the soil and help the plant to the point where the grass would win over the weeds but it was just in a short term because the client didn't like the weeds. We had to hand-pull them, right?

H: Yeah. Exactly. I guess that's the problem with trying to find the short term solution, right?

Phil: So. Today – I mean today we are just talking about the benefits of weeds which – I don't know if we ever got that across to hearing that but they are really – there was a reason the weeds were there which is because they were more suited for that soil than the grass.

So usually it means the soil is not in great shape. It's – it could be any number of nutritional imbalances or water issues or compaction issues. But today we are talking about what the weeds do for the lawn or the garden, right?

H: Yes. We are. We love talking about weeds.

Phil: So why don't you tell people something that the weeds that's good?

H: Okay. Well. Weeds bring mineral.

Phil: Don't lose it.

H: Weeds bring minerals and water up from deep in the soil and they make them available to microbes and neighboring plants.

Phil: Well, how you stress like every third word there.

H: Hey! There is a point to be made.

Phil: Yes. Weeds bring nutrients. I am certain weeds bring up nutrients from really deep in the soil because they have long tap roots. They are also – just a lot of them have extensive root systems. They break up hardpans and break up compaction. They are always dying back and growing, both above and below ground.

So they are adding organic matter to the soil. They are fixing-- like the really cool thing is weeds will come in and if you have a calcium deficiency, there is going to weeds to come in and fix that calcium deficiency. Now it may take decades or centuries but sometimes it will be really quick but that's what they do.

So actually we have a longer list on the Blog of what weeds do that's good for you. But I guess we just want to tell people to embrace their weeds. We get into it – I mean I get into a lot more in the academy and then probably in 2013, we will actually talk a little bit more about what you can do to improve soil condition like on the Blog, mostly we cannot talk a lot more detail in the academy.

So the question I want to ask today is what weeds are causing you guys problems. Yeah. I just want to hear like what kinds of weeds you have in abundance. So let me know in the comments down below. Is there anything else?

H: I cannot think of anything else particularly or just so about weeds.

Phil: Okay. That's good for today then.

Yes, weeds can be a bummer, but many gardeners don’t know there are a lot more benefits of weeds than downsides.

Besides, they’re easily controlled in the garden with mulch.

The lawn is definitely trickier. I had one client who’s front lawn had more weeds than grass.

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How To Use Mulch - Mulching Trees VS Mulching The Vegetable Garden

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Phil:Hey Guys! It's Phil from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about how to use mulch and a quick reminder if you haven't signed up for the 15 Vital Lessons For Becoming A Better Organic Gardener, you can do right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.

So H, do you remember when we used to mulch at aunt Tina and uncle George's?

H: I do. I think we have pictures somewhere of that.

Phil: Wow!

H: I don't know here.

Phil: I bet it's not digital though. I bet it's like a film picture.

H: Oh yeah. They are like – it's a film like 1986 or something like that.

Phil: So what did we do there?

H: Yeah. So I can remember just, you know, wrapping up use piles of leaves and jumping in them and playing in them and all that stuff. But we would, aunt Tina had us, like mow over them until they were really finely shredded and then put them on her veggie garden. She had a huge veggie garden. And I think we would turn them into the soil with like a pitch fork or something like that. So – I can remember that quite well.

Phil: And then, it's kind of funny because we – when we became landscapers, we were using like cedar mulch for many years and then when we got into organic gardening, we were back to leaves mostly now, right?

H: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, how many yards of mulch did both of us shovel onto people' gardens?

Phil: That was always fun though because that was lighter than like stones.

H: I loved mulching. It was like the most stratifying job, but leaves is way funnier, super easy to do.

Phil: Okay. So what I am going to talk about really quickly and there is more detail on the blog. What I want to talk about today is how to choose a mulch depending on if you are growing more like trees and shrubs, maybe an orchard fruit trees or more like a vegetable gardener annual plants. So I guess I am just going to talk, right H?

H: Sounds good.

Phil: Okay. So okay. So just quickly, this is the main point I wanted to talk about today.

Trees and shrubs like more of a fungal dominated soil food web. They really want a lot more fungi than bacteria. In order to get that, you want to definitely leave the mulch on the surface of the soil and use some woody material, some wood chips, not bark mulch. And definitely you want the wood chips from the same kind of tree. So if you are planting fruit trees or other deciduous trees, you want deciduous mulch. If you planting conifers you want more conifer mulch because if you use it with the wrong one, it promotes the wrong fungi and there is other issues. So that's an important one.

Still leaves are always the most important part. But if you want to promote fungi, getting a little woody material in there, especially early on when you are trying to establish the fungal soil food web, that's what you want.

Over to your vegetable garden, that's when we definitely don't want woody material because we want more of a balance between bacteria and fungi. So we want – that's really leaves and maybe straw, maybe you consider turning it into the soil, just the top of the soil because you don't want to disturb too much but just to promote more bacteria. Or even, if you leave it on the surface. You just want a very think kind of, mulch of leaves and straws and I think I carved it a little more elegantly in the blog but that's the main thing I wanted to talk about today.Hey, what have you been eating earlier?

H: Oh! I got these little fruits from the supermarket. Actually, I already posted a picture of them on the Facebook and ask people about it. But they are like these little berry that I never had before. You know, it's cool to be in the different country and like try something that you have never saw before but like, they are so confusing. It's like a citricy melon and blue berry but it looks like a tomato. They are super interesting though.

Phil: What’s it called? Do you know in English?

H: No. But I put it on – asked people on Facebook. So. I am sure somebody will know what they are. I cannot translate it from Dutch. It doesn't look like anything that I know.

Phil: So that's facebook.com/smilinggardner, right?

H: Yeah.

Phil: And do we had question for people today?

H: Yeah. We are going to ask people, like us, when you got into organic gardening, did your practices change too, did you change the type of mulch you were using, or if you have any other questions about types of mulch or how to use mulch, that would be a good place to ask it down below the blog.

Phil: It sounds good to me.

H: Cool.

Phil: That's all for today.

H: Yeah. Bye for now.

There are a couple of important things I want to share about how to use mulch in your organic garden.

When we were kids we would help our aunt and uncle put their vegetable garden to rest for the winter, using leaves for mulch.

We’d collect them into a pile, jump into them and play a while, mow over them with the lawnmower, then pile the mulched pieces onto the soil.

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Medicinal Plants List From My Organic Garden That I Used Last Week

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Phil: Hey guys, it’s is Phil from SmilingGardener.com and today we have a medicinal plants list that we put together for you, and my sister is going to tell you why we started thinking about this.

H: Well, okay, I started thinking about this yesterday because I went for a walk in the park right beside my house and I sat down on a bench to take a rest and this woman, an older woman, had sat down beside me and she had a little -- her grandson with her.

And this little guy was just covered in sickness, like runny nose and eyes and all this kind of stuff. He looked like he had a cold or a flu and this grandmother, she was so sweet, she was just totally ready to tackle this and she had like a little bag of candies and she was kind of sorting through these candies, try to pick the right one and she found one. She says to me "it’s Echinacea."

So it got me thinking that even across the ocean, there are a lot of plants that medicinally offer the same properties. So we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of them.

Phil: Yeah and so we started talking about it and what it really reminded me of - and this is kind of the most important part of the blog we put together I think -that what got me really excited when I started studying organic gardening was the idea of growing really nutrient dense food and growing any kind of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and mushrooms, whatever you do, if you can learn to create really good soil and grow that really nutrient dense food, then you are going to be getting just natural pharmaceuticals really; the same kind of stuff that are used in things like aspirin, anti-inflammatory things, all kinds of natural drugs really that will prevent disease and just help you be overall healthy.

So I got really excited about that, but then we were talking about today and we were talking about how there are some plants that are especially medicinal. So what we did is we put together a list of five, we just picked five really that I have in my garden and that I have used in the last week or so.

And to keep this video short, we are just going to cover one of them in the video and the other five will be on the blog. So if you are watching this on YouTube, I’ll put a link below and you can go, check it out. So many other ones are pretty cool; we have like a -- we have a leafy green, we have a flower, we have a bulb, we have a weed. So we have some cool ones.

But we are just going to about another one today. So H, you picked one that you really liked, right?

H: Yeah, I thought it would be cool to mention fennel because fennel is really awesome for relaxing the tummy. It helps aid in digestion. So if you have fennel tea or phenol seeds, it’s really good to maybe, for example, get a cup of tea, have that before a meal or after meal, especially if you have something heavy, it’s really good to help settle the tummy.

So if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably seen that they have little dishes of seeds for you after dinner maybe covered in like a sugary coating, something like that. Well, those are fennel seeds and it’s a practice in India to eat them after a heavy meal to help aid in digestion.

Phil: Yeah and yet the thing I like about fennel too is in the garden, it’s just a great plant for attracting beneficial insects, it may be a perennial where you live so it comes back every year or even if you live in a cold climate, it will self seed quite readily and same with dill, it’s related to dill.

So I actually tend to grow more dill because I like it a little bit better in cooking but more of a medicinal plant is the fennel and yeah, I think that’s the one we wanted to cover.

So we had a question we were going to ask people?

H: Yeah, we were going to ask you guys -- why do I always forget these questions?

Phil: I don’t know why you forget this one because all we are asking people is what medicinal plants they like to grow and --

H: Yes, I think I even wrote it down.

Phil: You know like what’s medicinal about it and just tell us whatever they want about it because obviously there are tens of thousands of these; we just took five. So we’d like to hear what plants, yeah, people like to grow.

H: Yeah.

Phil: Yeah, so if you are not on the blog, check it out because one weed that we wrote about is one that I sometimes use in this ice cream that I make. So I have a little recipe for that on the website too.

H: Cool! All right, see you guys.

Yesterday morning, my sister had an interesting encounter with a sniffling boy and his grandmother.

It prompted us to put together a short medicinal plants list of 5 plants you may want to consider for your own organic garden.

From her:

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Fall Bulb Planting - 7 Tips For The Biggest, Healthiest Flowers

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Phil: Okay, so Heather, can you say, it’s fall bulb planting time?

Heather: It’s fall bulb planting time!

Phil: That’s perfect. Hey guys, it’s fall bulb planting time, it’s Phil here from smilinggardener.com and my sister and I have teamed up to write this article for you. What we did is we wrote an article on my website. I’ll put, if you are not on my website right now, I’ll put a link down below and that’s the full article. What we are going to do with this video is just really quickly share a few points from that article. So, why don’t you remind people where you live?

H: I live in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Phil: So that’s why we started thinking about this bulb thing, right?

H: Yeah, the home of the tulip.

Phil: Right. So that’s why we started thinking about this and because it’s fall and it’s time to think about planting, we want to talk about it. So I will ask you first, when should people plant their bulbs, when in the fall?

H: Okay, well, that obviously depends on where people live. You want to leave about four to six weeks of above freezing temperatures so that the roots can get established and that is so that in the spring, the root system is already established and they can go right into pretty soon big flowers.

Phil: Did you say established twice.

H: Aye, twice, really established.

Phil: Okay, so I’ll talk just quickly about choosing bulbs. So obviously, when we are talking about planting fall bulbs that means these are bulbs that are going to flower in the spring. So we plant those in the fall. All there is to choosing your bulbs, you want to buy them now in the fall. You don’t want to buy them in the spring and then store them until then. So buy them now, get the biggest bulbs you can. So whatever varieties you are planting, choose the biggest ones from the shelf and just get ones that are healthy and not diseased. That’s basically all there is to it. Then when we get into actually planting them, why don’t you tell them about the location? Why don’t you try to say in Dutch here, a little Dutch saying?

H: I am so sorry to anybody who speaks or understands that. Okay, there is a Dutch saying and it’s something like this, it’s like, “bollen houden niet van natte voeten”. I think I am saying that more or less correct. It means bulbs don’t like wet feet. So you want to pick a location that is sunny and most of the time sunny and that has good drainage so you don’t have puddling water beneath them.

Phil: And then when it comes to preparing the area, you don’t need -- in fact, if you are on my website, I’ll link to a couple of articles. You don’t need bone meal, you don’t need 10-10-10; all you need is to loosening up the soil. If you have some well done compost that’s wonderful to work that in there and then you can either loosen the whole area or just dig your holes where you are going to find your bulbs and you can even dig a little deeper than the bulb is going to go in order to loosen the soil below that.

Phil: Speaking of depth, why don’t you tell people how deep to plant them?

H: So you want to plant something like three to five times the height of the bulb. So big bulbs need to generally go a little bit deeper and what you might want to do so that you get kind of a layering effect of blooming is plant some deeper and some more shallow because deeper bulbs are going to bloom later and so that should prolong the flowering time of whatever cropping plant it is.

Phil: Why don’t you say maintenance too because there’s not much to do for maintenance, right, after you plant them?

H: Yes, there’s really not too much to do. Yeah, after you plant, you give them a good water and Phil, I have a question actually to ask you.

Phil: Okay.

H: When you are planting garlic, are you supposed to take off the tunic?

Phil: No.

H: So you break up the cloves and...

Phil: Yup.

H: Okay.

Phil: Okay, I did have one other point about keeping squirrels away. So if some people have squirrels or little critters that like to come and steal your freshly planted bulbs, there is a couple of things you can do. One is you can put mulch, sometimes just a couple of inches of mulch will help or if the leaves are all falling, just pile the mulch on top there. And actually, I’ll let people to go to the blog for the other things because I know this video is getting a little bit long. There is a couple of other little things you can do so I’ll leave them hanging. We had a question we want to ask people, right?

H: Yes. I was wondering where does everybody live, what’s your climate like and if it’s time for you guys to plant now or do you still have a little bit to wait.

Phil: Yeah, because we plant in September, but other people might plant in different months because it’s a different climate, right?

H: Yup.

Phil: Okay, that is all for today.

It’s fall bulb planting time!

We’ve been especially aware of that this week because my sister has been living in Amsterdam during the last few years.

And of course you can hardly think of the Netherlands without images of bountiful tulip bulbs bursting out of the ground.

I visited her in 2010, and surprisingly, the plant life is quite similar to back home.

In Amsterdam, they have mild winters and (generally) cool summers leaving plenty of lush green around the city year round.

And since it’s getting cooler, now’s the time to start considering your fall bulb planting.

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Meet My Sister!

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Phil: Hey guys, it’s Phil from SmilingGardener.com and for those of you who follow me, you may know that I spend almost all of my time filming videos that go into my online gardening course and it just has turned out so far that I rarely have enough time to film videos to put out for free on YouTube or on my public website. So what I am going to do, what I’ve done is I’ve hired someone to help me just get my butt in gear, like filming a few more videos and she’s going to help me with a little bit of editing, a little bit of writing here and there and just odds and ends stuff. So this video is just to introduce her. So why don’t you introduce yourself.

H: I am H and I am Phil’s younger sister.

Phil: Yeah, everybody thinks you are older, because maybe you are more mature or something, but you are four years younger, right?

H: Yup, I am.

Phil: So let’s tell people just where you learned about gardening and that kind of stuff.

H: So I basically had the same start that Phil had growing up, working in my parents' garden center and quite fell in love with that. So after that, I ended up going to college and studying horticulture there.

Phil: What kind of classes that you take there?

H: I did a lot of different plant identification classes, soils, greenhouse management, turf management, arboriculture, things like that.

Phil: It was like, that was a two-year degree, right?

H: Yeah, two years, yeah.

Phil: And that wasn’t organic. So neither you or I were organic when we were younger but I started an organic gardening business and then you eventually took that over when I moved to the West Coast, right?

H: Yeah, I mean basically, I didn’t start learning about organic gardening until Phil did and then he kind of passed that torch over to me when I took over his business.

Phil: So the other thing is where are you right now?

H: Now I am in Amsterdam, I am in the Netherlands, and I am back in school, doing another degree over here.

Phil: So what are you studying?

H: I am studying psychology.

Phil: Yeah, cool, so not gardening but you are still -- like whenever you are back home, you are always doing gardening jobs.

H: Inevitably, right?

Phil: So that’s just a quick video today. So you guys could do me a big favor and welcome my sister down in the comments below, maybe tell us where you’re gardening, where you are from and just welcome my sister to the gardening group here.

H: Yeah!

As you may know, I’ve been rather busy for the past 2 years filming videos for the Academy.

It's been loads of fun, but it means I rarely get around to doing free videos, and sometimes it's 3 or more weeks between blog posts.

So I've finally decided to get a bit of help. I'm still doing everything around here, just with a bit of help from... my sister! I’ll let her introduce herself:

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Hobbit Garden: 2 Organic Gardening Tips I Picked Up From Hobbits

I went hiking in the mountains on Tuesday.

My surroundings got me thinking we could learn a thing or two about organic gardening by a good old-fashioned hobbit garden.

Did you know they just wrapped up filming for the new hobbit movies in New Zealand?

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My Home Vegetable Garden - Video Walk-through With A Few Tips

Yesterday, I was recording a video in my home vegetable garden that will serve as an introduction to the growing food section of the Academy...

(Note to Academy members, that section will be ready this fall)

...and I decided to take a walk through my vegetable garden with the video camera, and also post the video here.

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Growing A Vegetable Garden (And Skipping The Doctor)

Phil Growing A Vegetable Garden

We had a family get together a couple of weeks ago.

It's always fun trying to explain to family or friends who I haven't seen for awhile about what I do for a "living."

"I have a website where I teach people about growing a vegetable garden, and organic gardening in general."

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Intensive Gardening VS Permaculture Gardening VS Biological Gardening

Intensive Gardening With Permaculture/Biological Gardening Principles

The scope of this topic probably calls for at least a few thousand words.

But this isn't meant to be an authoritative or conclusive comparison on these organic gardening topics.

It's just a few thoughts I've been having this week that I figured I'd pass on to you.

First, a few notes:

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Companion Planting Chart - Boost Your Garden With Companion Plants

Companion Planting With Lettuces
Even a mesclun mix is a better than a monoculture

Today, I have an incredible companion planting chart to share with you for FREE!

But first, let's briefly get into what companion planting is and why it's important.

Companion gardening involves pairing plants that work well together. I'll use the 3 sister guild as an example, which are 3 plants that were originally combined by Native Americans in such a way that the plants all helped each other out (I'll get a photo when I get back to my garden next week).

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Organic Gardening Ebook "The Holistic Gardening Handbook: Condensed Version"
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