Organic Gardening Blog

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 :)

6 Steps For Boosting Garden Health And Better Food

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.

Read more...

A Garden Tip We All Need To Remember This Year

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...

Organic Weed Control - Kill Weeds Naturally And Forever

Click for video transcription

Phil: Hey guys it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com. It’s actually getting warm at here, I think this might be the last video where I am wearing my faithful green sweater here. 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 am talking about organic weed control. Now for many of us organic weed control means we are down on our hands and knees for hours at a time pulling weeds, you can tell right now but I was down on my hands and knees and we really start to after a while to think that weeds are the enemies, especially weeds like bindweed and some of those grassy weeds which just keep putting up shoots all over the place. I am going to give you some tips on how to kill weeds naturally today but first I want to talk about the benefits of weeds some of us realized you know that can’t be just that simple that weeds are all bad, the truth is weeds are soil healers.

A number of weeds are nitrogen fixers like this is vetch and this is something I actually planted as a cover crop but it is helping to get more nitrogen into the soil, same with clover is a common weed, people would call the weed in the line even though it wasn’t long ago that it used to be included in lawn seed and it’s coming back a little bit today the people started to do a little bit of that but that is a nitrogen fixing plant. It’s working with bacteria to help improve the nitrogen in the soil, other than pulling weeds by hand there are number of things you can do. I am going to give you six of them today.

If you get cheap seed it’s going to have a lot of weed seeds in and you don’t want to do that, likewise when you are bringing in compost or when you are composting, you want to make sure you are creating a hot compost pile or buying really good compost for most of those weed seeds will have been killed because if you spread compost that has or top soil that has horse tiller or something like that you are bringing that into your garden. It’s not a great thing, so that’s number one as try to be clean. Second step is balancing your soil fertility and actually that’s what I was going to bring out my soil test for I remember now.

So I am not going to get in much detail here but when I look at this organic soil test result I can look especially at my main macronutrients here. I can see my calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium those are all a [indiscernible 02:02] which is certainly common but if we can balance those out based on the recommendations from a good organic soil lab, we will start to see our weed pressure go down, a trusty hope.

Now it’s not always going to kill the weeds but if you just keep doing it a few times, it’s going to weaken them and eventually they wouldn’t cause that much problem, but dandelion, it’s nice if you can pull up that by the tap root it takes so long, now for me personally I leave most of the dandelions in my soil because I know they are doing a lot of good work there but if I did want to get rid of them and this is one handed I would just take a whole and boom, I didn’t get rid of everything but I got rid of a lot, you know the worms like to hang up right in the root zone of a weed. So, that’s another reason weeds are good. Next, how I am going to stop that dandelion from coming up again, well dandelions happen to be pretty strong, they keep come in back otherwise you can weaken them over the time but the next step to controlling weeds is boom.

Throw a nice thick mulch in there leaves or straw or whatever you like to use for mulch, I talked about that before but that is going to stop most weeds from coming up. Let’s go have a look at okay. Let’s check out this new garden that I put in last fall, not a whole lot of weeds going on in here either and that’s because of mulch, does so much to stop weeds. I had a leaf mulching here over the fall and just actually in the last couple of days having lend on a little straw because some of the leaves blew over to that side of the garden, so now I am laying down straw, those are my two favorite kinds of mulch and I do not have any weed problems in this garden.

The next step is to plan very densely, plant poly cultures which are groups of different kinds of plants that all work together to help each other out and the shadow of the soil, now I don’t have much going on this year. Here is my little strawberry batch. It doesn’t have much weed problems because it’s pretty dense on it’s own when it gets going and plant other things in there and I smoldered it with leaves so that’s not a great example this time year and there is the last step right there if you are in a pinch in it vinegar, just regular household vinegar, it’s 5% ascetic acid by volume.

It’s going to get rid of some of those you know dandelions and those really strong perennials but they do a really good job on animals and it will weaken perennials too just like aa hoe does over the time. So, what you do here is you put this in a spray bottle and just spray it especially nice for sidewalks and patios, but even a little bit in the garden is not too big of a deal, now if you want something a little stronger, you can buy horticultural vinegar, it’s 10% to 30% ascetic acid now it’s pretty caustic stuff very ascetic. It can burn you, you got to be careful with it but it can be used with you know to kill more perennial weeds, so those are your six steps. So how to kill weeds naturally, the big thing here is to take a long review.

So all of these other lessons I am teaching you had a balance of your soil and get organic matter in there, all of that stuff is going to create a soil that doesn’t support weeds very well, they just wouldn’t be able to thrive there. So that’s the main one along with smoldering them out with a nice thick organic mulch with very dense plantings or plants with a very dense healthy line, it’s especially important to balance your soil and have a good healthy line to compete weeds there because in the garden we can put a thick mulch on and that can cover a lot.

So that allow me really need to make healthy and that’s what we gotta do that. So the question today is what are your main problem weeds. If you can post that down below I will try to give you some tips specifically on how to deal with those weeds or I will try to tell you if there are any fertility issues that those weeds point to, other than that you can read more detail in this article down below, you can subscribe to my free online course down below that, you can join me on facebook.com/smilinggardener and I will see you next week.

For many of us, organic weed control means many hours crouched in the garden pulling weeds.

And after a while, it’s easy for an organic gardener to begin to think of the buttercups or bindweed as the enemy.

So I’ll give some tips on how to kill weeds naturally in this article.

But at the same time, many of us may have an inkling that weeds aren’t simply the enemy, that it’s more complicated than that.

After all, many weeds are edible or have medicinal properties.

Read more...

Organic Garden Pest Control - Without Toxins

Click for video transcription

Phil: 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 am talking about organic garden pest control. Everything I talk about in these lessons I often bows down to three things, increasing organic matter in your soil, balancing out the fertility and improving your soil food web, doing all of that not only grows the nutrient dense food but it really prevents the pests from coming in and the diseases in the insects. So that’s the main thing, even when we are doing a good job of improving all that stuff, we are still going to have the occasional plant that isn’t healthy or group of plants that are healthy and so we are going to get some pests.

We are still going to have some of those and today I am talking a little bit about what you can do when you find you have but even before them it’s still is about prevention, just in terms of some smart practices. So when you are buying plants from the nursery inspect the leaves and even inspect the roots a little bit and see if there are pests problems. You don’t want to buy plants are diseased because that means they are unhealthy and they are going to have disease probably in the future. You don’t want plants with aphids or spider mites or anything like that.

So that’s the number one thing, if you are doing some pruning disinfect your secateurs or your bypass perennials or whatever you are using with some just some hydrogen peroxide, it’s kind like a natural bleach. Another thing you can do is plant aromatic plants that sometimes confuse some insects. So what I do all throughout the garden is I plant garlic, you can see there is not much going on in this garden yet but there are a few garlic that are coming up here and there just because I always tend to plant them around my various plants and I don’t always pick them all.

So that’s prevention, now let’s go on to a couple of short term organic pest control measures you can take. Now what I often do, if I have some plants that are really sick and so they are covered in insects or diseases. I let them die because I know that’s going to encourage the predators of those predators to come in set up shop and start eating them and they will be there for next year and also I just know that food isn’t healthy so I am not that interested in eating it anyway but if you are having a lot of problems, I know you don’t your whole crop to die so you want to do something about it in the short term. Once you know what the predator is then it’s a lot easier to choose what kind of control you are going to do to take care of it, of course you always want to go with at least toxic control and often they are very entirely non-toxic controls but then you know what you are dealing with.

One of the simplest controls for tomato harm worms because it was not that many of them, there is just a handful of them in my plants as I just took them often I squash them. So that’s no big deal. Another one is you can often use of hose to just wash them off so I don’t have my hose here but that works really well for washing a number of things on. One is insecticidal soap, you want to read the label and make sure that it works for the predator that you are dealing with and another one is horticultural oil.

Now these are not entirely benign they are much less toxic than you know a chemical pesticide but when I use something like this. I would like to come through a day later and spray some EM onto my leaves or some compost tea, something to repopulate the leaf surface because if you are using a soap on your leaves it’s going to wash of a lot of the beneficial microorganisms. So I want to repopulate those leaves with something healthy.

The next one is biological controls. Now what some people try to do is order some lady bugs and release them into the garden to take care of their aphids. that’s usually not going to work that well because the lady bugs will probably just go somewhere else, the reason there are not in your garden in the first place is probably because there is nothing really there for them, no reason for them to be there. It can work okay in a greenhouse setting but what I like to do instead is to in my vegetable garden among my vegetables is plant a bunch of different flowers that attract beneficial insects and so right now I don’t really have anything going on because it’s so early in the spring.

Here is a rudbeckia that hopefully attracts and beneficial once it gets growing again this year. Here is echinacea that will attract some beneficial insects. So that can work pretty well too it’s just that’s really what I focus on a lot is planting a bio-diverse garden full of different kinds of plants that are attracting in all these beneficial insects along the same lines you wanna provide water for insects that means a bird bath and not too tidy over bird bath, you want to have it so that parasitic waste and other little insects can get in there and drink, not only bird bath but watering the whole soil and having so then you have little potholes on the soil for them to drink from and providing them other kinds of habitat, water and habitat grasses, rock piles.

I will show you my rock pile. So here is a pile of rock. So it hopefully is a good place for some snakes and other little animals. Here we have just a little pond that has some frogs and toads and things like that. Now I know a lot of people don’t like snakes and spiders but I think we need to encourage them with rocks and other organic piles of debris and even just weedy parts in the corner of the garden. So the goal here is to have a healthy garden with lots of organic matter, minerals fertility with a healthy soil food web. You want to get into prevention by not bringing pets and disease in insects into the garden in the first place. We do have some short term controls.

We can try such as a few sprays we can make or buy but in the long run we are trying to just create a garden that doesn’t attract these predators in the first place but does attract many beneficial insects to take care of any predators that do setup shop. So below why don’t you let me know about your most important predator problem whether it be insect or disease that you have maybe this year, maybe you are already far enough into the season, you are having an issue or maybe last year you had something. If you want a little more detail read the article down below I always post more detail in the article below that you can sign up for my free online organic gardening course, you can join me over on Facebook at facebook.com/smilinggardener and over there I will get my sister to post some naked photos of...

Update: I now recommend neem oil instead of horticultural oil.

As I’ve discussed in other posts, the best organic garden pest control method is a healthy ecosystem.

This means creating the right conditions for thriving, healthy plants by doing things like caring for the soil, watering properly, and having the right plant in the right place.

Then our plants won’t attract diseases or plant-feeding insects.

Read more...

Natural Organic Fertilizers - How To Choose For Your Garden

Click for video transcription

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 home page of smilinggardener.com.

Today is a beautiful day to be talked about natural organic fertilizers. If you want to compare an organic fertilizer with a conventional chemical fertilizer. The organic often doesn’t look like that greater value because the NPK numbers are usually very low but organic has a number of benefits. Often it’s going to have many more nutrients than just NPK but more important to me is first of all it’s nontoxic which means it’s not going to kill your soil life which is a good thing.

Also it’s often better to apply lower doses of nutrients anyway like if you are applying a 20-20-20 that’s really hard on your soil and on your plants, so there are number of different benefits to organic first thing I really want to mention is what is organic in this context, it really just means anything that we are allowed to use in our organic garden, we often get these rules from organic farming because they have all these standards laid out and now for the last few years we have had the SOUL organic standard for urban gardens too. So, you can follow up the SOUL standard.

So, if you are looking for something, you really want something organic. If it says organic based that really probably means it’s mostly chemical. If it says natural or environmentally friendly those are not bad boards but they are not regulated, so they really don’t mean anything. So it’s okay if it says that but you don’t want them to pick as fertilizer based on that, when in doubt. If you really don’t know much about reading ingredients, you can go for something that’s only listed which is right there. Only listed and that says it’s allowed to be used in organic farming.

I often divide fertilizers in my head into two groupsand the first is mineral fertilizers that means rocks basically different kinds of rocks like calcytic lime stone or a glacial rock dust, these are what I think of is being the main soil builders. You put them in your soil over the course of many years they break down and they provide the essential nutrients for your soil and for your plants. Most of these need to be applied based on that soil test that we did, since most people don’t do soil test you really don’t want to apply many of them, for example I have one right here, that’s a beautiful product, it’s called rock phosphate.

This one is granulated, you could see it there, it contains mainly calcium and phosphorus, wonderful stuff but only if you need calcium and phosphorus, now lot of us do but if you don’t it’s not going to be something you want to add. So most mineral fertilizers, we don’t want to be adding. If you can find a glacial rock dust that’s the one you can add without doing any of these testing because it has a broad range of nutrients. So that’s alright, another issue with the mineral fertilizer is they can be pretty hard to find.

If you are hard core organic gardener like me and you don’t mind look in forming, finding a store, tracking him down that’s alright but they are too expensive to shift from long distances and sometimes it takes some work to find them so that’s a little bit of an issue and that’s why I love the other group of fertilizers which I call the biological fertilizers. With the mineral fertilizers are the rocks, the biological is basically anything that was once alive and it’s now being turned into some kind of a fertilizer. So very briefly I have mentioned that a lot of biological fertilizers we are use to using organic gardening, I don’t use anymore because they are being derived from genetically modified plants, that’s like cotton seed meal and canola meal and all kinds of things like that.

Now I am very strict on this compared to a lot of organic gardening experts. A lot of peoples still advocated the organic standards don’t allow it, so I just I don’t use it and I don’t want to support the genetic modification movement so I use other things. So, I will tell you what I do use if you are wondering why I dance around so much on my videos it’s because I drink a lot of tea that’s a cool product, wonderful full of nutrients, full of natural growth hormones, really wonderful stuff for feeding your plants, along the same line is a fish fertilizer, I don’t tend to use that anymore because if there are sustainability issues around it but it is a really great fertilizer especially for nitrogen and phosphorus.

Other ones right from your own home is molasses, it’s a wonderful for your fertilizers, it’s brings all kind of vitamins and sugars for your microbes. My favorite one, I am going to talk about this stuff more in the future but my favorite one is ocean water, this happens to be a product, it’s very concentrated ocean water where most of the sodium chloride has been removed but it am going to talk about these more another time but there all these products, a lot of them come from the ocean.

You know the see minerals technically isn’t a biological but I kind of lump it in with the biological that you can use without any kind of a soil test, they bring in dozens sometimes 80 plus nutrients. They are not going to cause any imbalances, they are great to use, you can sign up from my free online course that’s smilinggardener.com. If you are on YouTube, you can subscribe to get more videos, if you are Facebook, you can like me, if you are somewhere else you can high five me whatever it is you do all these different social media sites, I will see you next time.

There are a handful of very useful natural organic fertilizers for you to choose from, especially if you look online.

The hard part is knowing which ones to choose, but I’ll give you a few things to look for.

Natural organic fertilizers don’t look like much of a bargain compared with the high nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium numbers on chemical fertilizers, but they’re so much more valuable.

They often provide many more nutrients than just N-P-K, they don’t hurt soil life, and it’s generally better to add lower doses of fertilizers anyway.

Read more...

Heather And I Are Splitting Up After 10 Wonderful Years

Heather And Phil

I mention my wife Heather here from time to time, and she certainly mentions me regularly on her website because I’m so involved with it.

So I think it’s fitting to let you guys know we’re splitting up after 10 years together, nearly 3 of those in marriage.

The good news is that so far, about 10 days since the decision was made, we’re still hoping to continue as distant friends and virtual business partners from our respective cities (wherever those may be).

Read more...

Soil Sample Testing - How To Take A Soil Sample And Get It Tested

Click for video transcription

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 home page of smilinggardener.com.

Today we are moving onto soil sample testing through a soil lab. This is a step that most people don’t do that is so important if you want to grow really healthy nutrient dense mineralized food or if you want to have all your plants be free of pests and ever have to spray anything ever again. This is a very important step to doing that and here is why it’s important. What most gardeners will do is they will get, they will use a lot of composed if they are specially, if they are organic gardeners, get a lot of composed on there. It certainly does have some nutrients and if it’s a good composed and then they will also use some fertilizers, especially NPK fertilizers, nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium or maybe some kind of more of a broad spectrum fertilizer but really when you are doing that you are guessing as to what your soil needs and the chances are extremely good that you are putting some minerals on there, your soil already has too much of and that maybe you are not adding certain minerals that your soil really needs.

So, it’s just like in the human body, we need to get a certain balance of all the minerals in the soil in order to have healthy food and in order that’s the two main things I always think of, healthy food pest free plants. So here is how I take a sample, first I clear off any organic debris any mulch and then I want to take a sample starting at the surface and going down 6 or 7 inches.

So, I do that with a very clean shovel, I don’t want to have a rusty shovel just like I don’t want to have a rusty pale that I put this in because that will influence the soil results. So I go down in there and you are sometimes what I do mix a little easier is I will pick that first shovel and kind of throw it aside, in that way it makes it much easier to take just a slice because I really want to get the full depth of soil down to 6 or so inches, then when I have that I put it into my very clean pale and that pale didn’t have any fertilizer or salt of anything in it because that would also affect the results.

One really important part of this year is to take samples from a few different spots in your garden. If you have a really weird spot in your garden you would I either leave that out or test it separately but for all your garden parts, parts of your garden that are the same, take a few samples and mix them together, that way you are going to get a more representative sample of your garden. Mix them together in here, they you just take a couple of cups put it into a zip lock bag, send that off to the lab.

When it comes to soil labs, you can go with your local lab and may even have some local knowledge but what I found is that there are almost always chemically minded, they are coming at soil from a very conventional way which is very different than organic.

So what I do is I ship soil sample to an organic lab, the two I often recommend are crop services international and international egg labs but there are a lot more. It’s a little harder you know in the US you can find a lot. It can be a little more difficult in other parts of the world including Canada to find a good lab but if you can find them where they are giving organic results that’s wonderful. I have a little bit written, more written in the article below about some other things I look forward in a lab so you can read that help you find a really good lab.

If you have any questions or doubt about soil testing, you can ask them down below and I will answer them. If you are on my website and you haven’t subscribed to my free online course here you can do that down below. If you are on Facebook, you can click the like button that is of course if you like and if you are on YouTube you can subscribe up above and I will see you next time.

If you’re not getting the results you’d hoped for from all areas of your organic garden, it may be time to do some soil sample testing.

I’ve talked about simple home soil tests before - there really is a lot you can see with your eyes or smell with your nose or feel with your fingers.

But sometimes the only way to get the real goods on your soil’s nutrient profile is to do some soil sample testing and send it to the experts.

Read more...

How To Prepare Soil For A Garden - 2 Very Different Ways

Click for video transcription

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 home page of smilinggardener.com.

Today I am talking about how to prepare for a garden and specifically behind me here, I am gonna show you the two main methods I use when I am preparing a new garden bed to really create nice soil. Method 1, so the first method is tilling or digging or double digging, rototilling. There is a lot of debate about whether or not you should do this but I can tell you that sometimes it’s a great idea and in my opinion sometimes we shouldn’t be doing it. In the long run if you are always digging and tilling your soil it really hurt soil structure and it’s hard on the soil food web, your fungi, your earth worms, insects even the bacteria.

It throws them out where they want to be in the soil. So there are methods like bio-intensive methods wherever your are dull, put on more composed and double dig it deeply and it works okay but it’s a lot of work. It’s not all that sustainable and it’s you know it burns up organic matter, there is a lot of reasons I don’t like doing it long term. In the short term I really do like it because it helps to, if you have a compacted soil or a hardpan you can break that up and if you need to incorporate composed and fertilizers into your soil, this is a great way of doing it so, I don’t really use a tiller much anymore.

I really like using a fork, so here is how this goes, you can maybe tell that I have laid down some composed, not much point in doing this if you are not adding more things to the soil in my opinion, so I have my compose. I have my fertilizers in here based on the soil test I have done, now I want to dig them in. So I basically start and you want to use a fork for this, it’s not too wide. I like using one of my four or five comb and you dig it up and dig it, you go along in a trench now I am going to do this very quickly just to keep the video brief and, then the shovel is great for getting this stuff out.

So that’s kind of like a single dig right there, a very quick one, a double dig is to you go down further and so if you are doing a good job on this, the first dig might go down a foot, the second dig might go down as much as another foot, maybe 18 inches in total and you are just loosening the soil and your trench. I come along and do it here basically throw this soil from this new trench into the old trench, break it up a little bit, so that’s like my single did. I am thrown it in and then I go deeper and have loosened the soil up in the new trench.

So this way I can get down as much as two feet, really loosing that soil up. Get the composed and fertilizers incorporated down in there. The soil from the first trench is going to end up in my last trench or often just spread over top of everything and it’s a great way to loosen the soil. So that’s double digging. Method 2, method 3 no method; now we are on to method 2 which is another favorite way of mine to build a new garden and it’s called sheet mulching or lasagna gardening. It’s definitely less work physically, it’s not really as hard. It is a lot of work to get the materials but it’s not as much physical work.

Another thing I really love about as you can put it on, you can do it right on top of the grass, without having to take the grass off and taking the grass off is quite a pain. You either have to rent a side cutter or do with a spade and it’s a lot of work especially on a big area.

Another nice thing about leaving the grass is you get to the organic matter right there. It will become nice organic matter in your soil and you are not hurting soil structure with this method and I guess, the down side of it is it takes first of all you are not incorporating organic matter and fertilizers into the soil which is the nice thing about the double digging and also it takes probably a year for it to become productive.

You can’t seed into it right away. You can kind of plant into it but it takes a year for it to really work well. First thing we often do is wet the area a little bit and then you want to get some newspaper or card board and now what this is gonna do is stop the grass. It’s gonna kill the grass basically, so you lay it down, now how many sheets of newspaper, kind of depends on how much newspaper you have, how big of an area you do but more than one sheet. I kind of do it like this and I overlap them a little bit, so that the grass can be true.

You want to do this on a calm dig because the newspaper will blow away and even then you want to water it, there is a help start to break down process by the microbes and then we were basically building a composed pile right on the soil but it’s called a sheet mulch and we build it anywhere from 6, 12, 18 inches tall and we are using the same kind of materials, we might use in a composed pile. One of the first things I would like to put on is either maneuver or composed, now of course I am just doing a tiny area here to show but you would do this through the whole garden.

So I would lay a little later at that time, I would like to using leaves as kind of more of a carbon source whereas maneuver is more of my nitrogen source. A thicker layer of leaves than that but this is just an example. It doesn’t have to be complicate, it can be as simple as maneuver and some leaves straw but if you have other things like grass clippings, there are nice incorporated in there. I have some weeks and I am gonna put in there but you don’t want to use weeks like bind the weed or anything that’s gonna travel because you will travel right through your whole sheet mulch. You don’t want to use probably you don’t to use weeks that have a seed, have gotten the seed but if you have other weeks which is grass clippings from mowing the lawn, if you incorporate hay in there as well but for the top layer, it’s nice to have straw because it doesn’t have as many weed seed and so it keeps all the weeds from the maneuver and from the grass clippings and from the foods perhaps.

It keeps them from germinating, so I often mix a lot of stuff together. I will even mix the straw of kind of together with the other things but I make sure I end of top which is a nice layer of straw and so that’s kind of a mini sheet mulch right there. Now if you haven’t signed up for my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on my home page of smilinggardener.com, you can also come hitting out on Facebook at facebook.com/smilinggardener. If you want to know which one you should do the tilling or the double digging, where the sheet mulching side of things, you can read about that down at the bottom of my blog post. I wrote about it there.

There are a couple of different methods of preparing soil for a garden bed, both of which have their uses.

Once you’ve dug a hole, played around with your soil a bit, and learned about your soil texture, it’s now time to start making your garden.

The first thing I want to briefly mention about how to prepare soil for a garden is what to do if you have a very extreme soil texture, i.e. very sandy or clayey.

Read more...

Home Soil Testing - No Need For A Soil Test Kit To Do This

Click for video transcription

Phil: Hey guys this is Phil from smilinggardener.com, if you haven’t checked out my free online organic gardening course, you can do that right on the home page of smilinggardener.com. Today I am talking about soils again, what I am going to do is get into a little bit of a home soil testing process, you can easily do and don’t worry I know you guys want to learn about how to control pests and get rid of weeds and how to grow really delicious tomatoes and how to get you know into fertilizing and which fertilizers to use and I am really excited to teach all that stuff I love talking about that stuff but the thing is here is the thing; hey, are you filming this out of order, when we start with the soil we are actually working on all of that stuff already.

So I am already teaching you that when we have really good healthy soil, we have healthy plants. We don’t have pest problems, we have delicious tomatoes and other plants and nutritious plants. So starting with the soil really takes care of any kind of problems you might encounter and it really addresses to love the goals you may have such as growing food. So that’s why start there and the cool thing is within a few years you are going to be growing this really healthy food, it is really beautiful flowers and I say a few years because it actually does take time to get the soil to a level of nutrition that you can really sure, you going to have hardly any pest problems, you can be more sure, you are going to have higher nutrition in your food.

It doesn’t mean this year wouldn’t be good. You can still have a great success in your first and second season, maybe second season but as you get further and further that’s when it really starts to click and it starts with this hole I have dug right here. Now this is a simple process, we are going to get into more detailed soil testing through a lab eventually but this is a simple thing that you can do in less than half an hour and I even do it every year to just to see how I am doing so what you do is you dig a hole, you dig a hole that’s about a foot wide and long and deep and you start to look into that hole and you figure a few things out about your soil.

The first thing I look at is how easy was it to dig and you want to keep notes on all of these stuff because one of the main reasons we do is just to see how we progress year to year. Last year when I dug in here, it was reasonably difficult to dig. It’s a pretty heavy clay soil, it came out in big clumps but last year I double dug this which I am going to show you eventually and I 2:21 melted it which I am going to show you eventually as well and so digging this year took about one minute to dig this hole. I put it in here into a wheelbarrow, you can put onto a trapper garbage bag, you want to look at it and see how dark the soil is, here this has pretty nice organic matter because I have mended quite a lot last year but when I started it was a much lighter color, now it’s pretty dark.

I guess you can see because I am kind of stranded in the shadows and you know what, it’s going to a get a lot darker over the years, if it will really light page color, if I knew I had sand; then I can kind of keep track as am mending it with organic matter, if I am improving that. You know if were like a grey color I may just be a little concerned about if it’s maybe a really heavy clay again I am going to be mending it, so I am just trying to pay attention. I also put it in here and I look at the soil in the wheelbarrow. One thing I do is I kind of drop it in there and clumps and I see how some of those clumps break a part, look at how beautifully this has broken apart.

It still has nice kind of aggregates, it’s not like sand but it also has a nice kind of looseness to it. So it kind of clumps a little but those clumps fall apart very easily that’s just because I have working on for a year but you know your year is the hardest because that’s when you got to start doing some heavy work but eventually it becomes like this and mine is doing really nice. Also I can do the ribbon test I showed you last time which is taken a third of a cup and trying to squeeze it into a ball and into a ribbon to see if I have clay or sand, that tells me a lot as talked about last time, oh and there is another thing to look for, earthworms.

So if you go through your square foot of soil and you find ten earthworms and you are doing pretty good. I am happy to have ten earthworms. I am really happy if I can find more like 30 earthworms which I am sure I could find in there because of all the work I have been doing, another I like to look for and this is especially if I do in a lawn which I did today but if you in a place where there is roots. If you see how far down the roots go, you can keep track of that, if you see the roots, kind of stop at a certain point and start going sideways, that probably means you have a hard pan layers there and you might wanted the first year double dig through that with a fork with a garden fork and also do some of mending when we get into the soil testing stuff because we want the roots to be able to go much deeper than that, also you can look to see if there are fine root here is on your roofs that indicate there is plenty of oxygen in the soil or maybe if there is not a lot of fine root here, that’s a pointing though lack of oxygen.

There are a few things you can do right now. If you have a question for me about how to improve your soil you can ask it down below and I will get back to you. If you haven’t signed up on my free online organic gardening course, you can do that at smilinggardener.com. If you are on Facebook, you can like my page there and we hang out there and my sister posts stuff there everyday too, she posts a lot of cool stuff. On YouTube you can subscribe and I will see next time.

Today I have a very simple home soil testing process for you.

You may be more interested in learning about topics such as:

  • How to get rid of insect and disease pests, and
  • How to grow the best-tasting tomatoes ever, and
  • Which fertilizers to apply to improve your soil

And I'm looking forward to teaching you these topics.

Read more...

What Is Soil Made Of And How Does Soil Form?

Click for video transcription

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 and this is the first lesson of this new series. There is not a whole lot of plants going on behind me because it’s still early spring but that’s okay because the first lesson always has to be about soil anyway and the thing I really like to always start talking about is what is soil made of, how does it form, just a quick look at this because isn’t given the respect it deserves in a lot of circles, certainly in organic gardening we think a lot differently let’s have a look at our soil here.

It’s gotta drink my tea before it gets too cold. So how does soil form. Soil forms from rock. It starts as rock and then over thousands of years you have wind coming in, you have rain coming down, you have chemical reactions that occur and you have a temperature changes, freezing and staying in hot temperatures and gradually it gets broken down, a lot of this is very physical and mechanical a little bit of chemical too but the thing it doesn’t get talked about is much is the biology, so the biology is when plants start to come in, there is just enough soil that little plants can come and little microorganisms to come in and they work together often to start to produce even better soil and soil that has a little bit of organic matter in there and so that part is really important and that’s what we talk about inorganic garden, now what I want to talk about today is I just want to get inside all our heads that we are talking about soil as a vibrant community.

It’s chemical, it’s physical, it’s also very biological. So that’s what we look at, now today I kind of wanted to just look briefly at the soil texture and what that really means is the proportion of sand silt and clay in your soil because mostly that’s what the soil is, the rock it’s broken into sand which is pretty big, silt which is smaller and clay which is really, really tiny, so what you do is you try to get a little bit of soil maybe like a third of a cup into your hand, take out the organic debris, try to squeeze it into a bowl and then roll it down to cylinder and the more you can do that, the more silt and clay you have. If it doesn’t hardly squeeze into anything you have a really sandy soil.

My mike just fell off, check, check, check okay we are still going so, the texture influences the structure and what the structure is it’s how the soil kind of crumbles how it stays together are rally sandy soil texture, doesn’t stay together very well, kind of falls apart. It allows a lot of air in there but doesn’t hold water very well. So that influences how you water, a heavy clay soil hold plenty of water which is great but doesn’t hold that much area so you have to think about that also influences how you water. Both of them influence how you fertilize or what we are gonna be talking about a lot of fertilizer, the cruel thing is even if you have a very sandy soil or a very high clay soil, there is something that can moderate that and that is organic matter, so here we have leaves that make the best melt ever, we have stray that makes a pretty good melt too.

In here I have composed but I put in last year and all of these things are gonna serve to really moderate to extreme. So if I get organic matter in there get humus building in the soil. If I have a sandy soil which I don’t have here, it’s gonna help that soil to hold a lot more water and hold a lot more nutrition because sand is not whole nutrients very well at all. If I have a clay soil getting that organic matter in there is gonna allow to get more air because the roots need air in the soil food bed needs air. It’s gonna allow it to resist compaction too and you know there is so many other things that organic matter does, resisting erosion providing nutrients all kinds of cool stuff.

So really we are gonna be talking about organic matter a lot during this course, so that is just a little introduction to soil. All I really want to get across when I am talking about soil early on is just important it is for the garden and how we can learn a lot about our soil by digging in it, we are gonna be focusing on increasing organic matter, increasing minerals and proving the soil food web, it’s gonna be physics and chemistry and biology and all of this is so important to have healthy flowers, healthy trees and especially for nutrient dense food which is what I have really invested in and I have done to a little more detail in the article if you want to read that, that’s all, that’s all. If you are watching this on YouTube subscribe because there is a lot more videos in this series coming up. If you are watching on my website, you can sign up for my email list and I am going to send this as we go, I will see you next time.

If you’ve ever wondered what is soil made of - GOOD!

You absolutely need to wonder about this kind of thing if you’re going to grow optimally healthy food.

Check out this video or read on below and you’ll see that many of our most important organic gardening tasks stem from this vital question.

And for more information on how to improve the nutrition and biological diversity of your soil, check out my organic fertilizing guide.

Read more...

Free Ebook Download

Organic Gardening Ebook
"The Holistic Gardening Handbook: Condensed Version"
Discover how to grow nutrient-dense, organic food and control pests without chemicals...
"You have been a source of wisdom, humour, encouragement and influence" Marylin, B.C.

Search