Growing Food Isn’t Just A Hobby
Compared to the 1940s, food grown today has been sprayed with substantially more pesticides.
Buying organic does partially solve this problem (pesticides are used in organics, too, but most of them are much less toxic than their non-organic counterparts).
But arguably more important than that, what fewer people know is that food grown today is dramatically less nutritious than it used to be.
I mean 20-80% less nutritious, depending on which nutrient you’re measuring.
Unfortunately, organic food has experienced this decline in nutrition, too.
These 2 issues are a big reason why people are experiencing such poor health.
That’s why I teach you not only how to grow your own food but how to grow it so it’s far more nutritious than what you can find at any grocery store or even the farmer’s market.
That’s also why I created The Smiling Gardener Academy, my online gardening course for people who are ready to take the steps to grow more nutritious food.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to share a number of tips on growing organically, but if you’re here to register for my online course, you can click here to scroll to the bottom of the page.
Buying organic is a start but it’s not enough.
Many people believe that organic food is more nutritious than conventional, but that’s not always the case.
Organic farming has become big business and nutrition is not part of the business model.
The economics of farming makes it hard to properly address nutrition.
On top of that, food that was harvested 3 days ago doesn’t have nearly the same nutrition as food that was harvested 3 minutes ago.
So there’s just no way they can match the nutrition in your own just-picked tomatoes, blueberries, and spinach.
Now, we should still support organic farmers – locally and beyond. We should especially seek out those who are striving to go beyond the organic standards to grow nutrient-dense food.
But if you want to be optimally healthy, you’ll want to grow at least some of your food for yourself.
Even if you grow only 10% of your own food, which you can do on as little as 200 square feet, if you take the time to grow that food to be nutrient-dense, it can make a huge difference in your own health.
And if you want to grow most of your own food, which you can do in 2000-8000 square feet (depending on your climate, soil, etc.), you can do that too – you’ll save money and you’ll have access to nutrition that most people could never imagine.
When you grow your own food, you put more nutritious meals on your table.
And it’s incredibly rewarding to plant a seed and watch over 2-3 months as it becomes a plant taller than you are.
That’s what happens with indeterminate tomatoes that are staked properly and given optimal nutrition.
Come summer and you’re slicing your own Brandywine tomato and sprinkling it with sea salt and black pepper.
The whole process of growing is so interesting, is good exercise and good therapy…there are many reasons to have a garden.
But for me, the main reason is to grow my own medicine.
Even a tomato is medicine when it’s been grown properly, but you can also grow plants that have been used medicinally for ages – ginger for nausea, echinacea for colds, Saint John’s wort for depression, and dozens more.
Also, healthy plants don’t get eaten by insects.
If you want nutrient-poor food, you could do something like square foot gardening.
Maybe you’ve heard of it or maybe not. It’s just one example of an organic approach to gardening.
It involves growing your food in a mixture of 1/3 peat moss or coconut coir, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost.
A lot of people follow this method and it does grow food but there’s just no way it’s going to be maximally nutritious.
But I’m not here to pick on square foot gardening. I’m here to show you how to do it properly.
Have you ever seen an insect or a fungus devour a plant?
Most people assume the insect is the problem, but the truth is, it’s not the insects that are making the plant sick, but rather, the sick plants are inviting in the insects.
The bottom line is that insects can’t even digest healthy plants. It’s just how they evolved. Their role in nature is to eat the unhealthy plants.
So we need to address the things that more basic systems like square foot gardening don’t address – creating a diverse soil food web, balancing soil nutrients, foliar feeding with the right recipe at the right time of year, and more.
Just switching to organic products doesn’t work.
I grew up working for my parents in their garden center.
Back then, I didn’t even know what “organic” was. I didn’t know the consequences of the pesticides I sprayed.
All I knew is that they didn’t work for very long because I had to come back and spray every week or two.
What I don’t talk about much is 2006, a year I’m happy is over.
I’d just gone through a certificate program in organic landscape management.
I’d just started using organic methods for my clients. I already had more than 10 years working in horticulture but was still new in the organic world.
I knew the theory, but didn’t have the practice – and things went wrong. Many of my clients had major weed issues, pest problems, and plants that wouldn’t flower or fruit.
People were not happy with me and I had many sleepless nights.
Growing organically requires different thinking altogether.
I started reading and trying things.
There is a lot of conflicting advice out there.
Most advice didn’t help, but a few things did, so I stuck with it.
I did make it through that year with (mostly) happy clients and beautiful gardens.
But I now know how frustrating and expensive it can be to deal with these issues and that’s what I want to prevent for others.
I eventually put together a system I could follow in any garden.
How I turned a patch of weedy lawn into a forest of food.
In October, I visited my parents.
I looked at an area in their backyard where the soil is heavy clay.
The slope is gentle but the bottom floods seasonally and the top is bone dry.
That makes it a challenging little microclimate for experimenting and learning.
So that fall, I planted 2 apple trees, 2 pears, and 2 cherries.
And since I only visit every month or two, I needed to set it up so it largely takes care of itself.
I built a big sheet mulch over the whole area, which looked like the photo above.
And less than 3 years later, it looked like the photo below (same camera angle).
It’s amazing what can happen within three years in a garden.
And a successful garden doesn’t need to take much time.
It’s amazing what can happen within three years in a garden – and in a life.
Back then I was happily married. Six months later I was separated.
But now, I wouldn’t want it to happen much differently than it has.
Tough times have a way of bringing about the most incredible growth in a person.
At least, that’s been the case for me.
Tough times can be good for a garden, too…
A successful garden doesn’t need to take much time.
Here’s the reverse view of that first sheet mulch.
Yes, we want to have the basic pillars of health in place in the garden – a diverse soil food web, a decent fertility balance, sufficient water and so on.
But if you were to water and fertilize your plants every day, they wouldn’t have much incentive to extend their root systems.
And that means they’d get sick more easily and wouldn’t produce nutritious food.
That’s why we take a break between waterings, and also why we amend the soil further than just the planting hole – because we want the roots to head out further in search of more food and water.
Likewise, if we don’t allow some insect- and disease-infested leaves to remain on our plants, then what will attract the beneficial insects and microorganisms to help us keep those problems under control next year?
Now that same view looks like this, with dozens and dozens of varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Three years later, there are very few pest problems in the garden, while an abundance of delicious foods is coming on strong.
Other than year one, and a week or so each spring, I’ve achieved this while spending only about 1 day per month in the garden.
That’s because I took the initial time to prepare the soil properly, and since then, have partnered with nature to do a lot of the work.
Compost isn’t enough.
Here are the 3 main things I think about whenever I’m designing a garden, planting a garden, or doing pretty much anything in a garden:
Many gardeners, especially organic gardeners, put too much focus on compost as being the answer to everything.
Compost is great, but it’s not enough to grow nutritious food. There are many nutrient deficiencies it doesn’t address, and there are some it can cause.
We need to make sure we are applying the right nutrients at the right time.
That may involve some broad-spectrum, organic fertilizers, but also some specific rock fertilizers, mostly based on a soil test.
Other gardeners go too far in the opposite direction, thinking that fertilizers are the answer to everything.
We also need the beneficial biology, which includes bacteria, fungi, insects, animals, and plants.
All of these work together to build healthy soil and healthy plants.
We need to learn to make good compost, to build better mulch layers, to sow good cover crop mixes, and to use the right microbial inoculants.
Once you get deeper into the fascinating worlds of chemistry and biology, it can be easy to forget physics.
We need to think about how light, air, temperature, moisture, cultivation, and other forms of energy should be managed to create a more appropriate environment for plants and the whole soil food web.
That’s why I built the Academy.
If you’re new to my work, my blog is a fine place to start.
But if you want more of a step-by-step process that covers the A-to-Z of growing your own organic food – with more flavor and more vitamins and minerals, and with fewer pests and diseases – that’s what the Academy is for.
“Academy” comes from the Greek Akadēmos, the name of Plato’s garden where he gave his lectures.
When you join, you get immediate access to a private course with over 500 videos along with text and 1000s of photos to guide you.
It took me 2 years to create it and I’m continuously updating it. In fact, near the beginning of 2020, I started an especially audacious update that’s going to take at least 3 years.
The process is not region-specific, so it doesn’t matter where you live in the world. My goal is to teach you how to improve your soil, control pests, and build a thriving ecosystem, which is the same process wherever you are.
I created it with beginner and intermediate home gardeners in mind, although professionals have also taken it, too (I did landscaping for 10 years before I knew a lot of this stuff, and I wish I had learned it earlier).
Avoid hours of research – ask me questions directly.
When you sign up, I give you an email address that goes right to my phone.
I respond as soon as I see it – usually within a few hours so you can take action right away.
My hope is that, if you find yourself in the garden one sunny morning with a question, you’ll have an answer by the afternoon so you can keep going in the garden.
Yes, you can also ask me questions on a handful of my free blog posts, but I often take a week to respond and my responses are much shorter.
And I’ve mostly turned off comments there so I can focus on Academy members.
When you’re an Academy member, I give you as much detail as I can, as soon as I can.
The Academy is for people who want to create their dream garden.
More than 800 people have joined the Academy since I started it.
The course will end up saving you not only a lot of time but also a lot of money.
You’ll spend less time searching for answers because you can just ask me directly.
And you’ll get much bigger harvests – of more nutritious food – saving you money at the grocery store.
But it isn’t for everyone.
If you’re just growing a few containers, for example, this course may be too much.
This is more for folks who are ready for a more thorough process for growing organic food and who would benefit from having direct access to me and other like-minded people.
If you don’t get what you were looking for, I’ll give you a full refund.
I want you to have a chance to go through the course, ask me questions, and try some things out.
So if the course isn’t what you were expecting, or even if you just end up being too busy, let me know and I’ll refund 100% of your money, no questions asked.
Of course, you can also cancel any time and no further charges will be made to your account.
Either way, just email email@example.com and I’ll take care of your refund or cancellation right away.
For every month you’re a member, I send $1 to Thrive For Good.
They’re helping impoverished communities implement the following integrated activities:
- Organic Gardening. Several organic techniques are used to grow food all year round.
- Nutrition. They incorporate crops that yield maximum nutrition.
- Natural Medicine. Each community garden includes a portion of medicinal plants that are used to prevent and treat diseases.
- Income Generation. Once community members are growing and thriving on the harvest of their own gardens, they provide training to help them bring their surplus to market.
Here’s a quick summary.
The Academy membership is for people who want to grow nutrient-dense food using organic methods.
Your membership includes exclusive access to my online course with over 500 videos, 1000s of photos, and direct access to me.
You’ll learn a process for growing food with more flavor and more vitamins and minerals, with fewer pests and diseases.
With the risk-free money-back guarantee, I hope you’ll register to check it out.
Do you have any questions that I didn’t answer here? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to answer.
“The main two things I really like about the Smiling Gardner are 1) your enthusiastic approach to your subject and your genuine wish to share your knowledge with others, and 2) the quality and breadth of the kinds of information you share. (Uh, oh, is that three things?) The video format is super; much easier to grasp than reading, plus I can pull the slider back to hear something again that I may have missed.”
Barry, Fredericksburg, TX
“Thanks to you, I tried Crop Services International this year for these two brand new beds. Having the Base and LaMotte is really valuable. I also, thanks to you, began measuring EC and will begin Brix. Last year this time it was a different story so seeing this improvement is really incredible. These pics were taken in the last 48 hours – about 100 fruit on 3 plants. I also attached pics of a container grown habenaro last year that produced more than 300 fruit; had a control plant that produced less than half that amount…. convinced me of the power of mycorrhizae.”
Leidy, Austin, TX
“The way the lessons are set up is terrific. It’s clean and well organized. I REALLY love that you’ve broken everything down into manageable segments. It’s great that the segments are short and even better that I have the option of watching the video or reading the text. Your set up is nice and clean in that regard, too, because the text is directly below the video. I don’t have to download separate transcripts and open them up in another window. Great work with this. Really. It’s comprehensive without being overwhelming and it’s extremely well organized and segmented.”
Beth, Richmond, VA
“I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your academy. There’s just the right amount of material per topic. You are teaching beautiful and radical ideas! I feel so confident that I can build soil and improve life in our yard, and we will grow the best food we can thanks to everything I am learning. Please know what a difference your work is making in my life and the health of my family. Thank-you for sharing your passion.”
Trayci, Streamstown, Alberta
“I’m extremely pleased with the content. The video content and quality are excellent. Your feedback is beyond excellent. I asked a question and got an answer the same day WOW that doesn’t happen in the real world. So far I’m loving all of it. Thank you,”
Sharon, Pembroke, NH
“I really enjoyed watching the first module, consuming it over the last two days! Great job filming, explaining and demonstrating all the concepts in a way I can understand and grasp. I appreciate all of your efforts, time and energy. It is all coming together and I am really excited about the possibility of having a soil that is working for me. My focus has been the plants for so long, it is quite a shift in thinking to focus on the soil and how to best feed and care for it, and then it will feed and produce healthy plants. Makes so much sense! I am really liking this approach and thinking toward organic gardening. Thank you so much! You are my first organic gardening teacher/coach and I really appreciate that you are accessible and willing to answer my questions. I am so thankful for your help!”
Debbie, Sacramento, CA
The course is open for enrollment.
I’m in the process of reorganizing and updating the lessons, and while that’s happening, I’ve reduced the course fee.
You can join as a monthly member or register annually.
Either way, you can stay as long as you’re getting value and can easily cancel whenever you’re ready.
Thanks for reading. I hope to see you inside!
“I’ve read lots and lots of websites throughout the years about gardening. The way you explain is easy for people new to gardening to understand. Keep up the good work. I feel strongly about this because there was a time when I was in the VERY beginning stages learning about gardening. You are setting a good foundation for people. I honestly feel they won’t be scared away from too much technical info. You’ve got just enough of that to make it interesting and encouraging us to read more and want to learn more. We both feel fortunate to have found you and have got our first compost pile cooking already.”
Gayle, Gulfport, MS
“I’ve done the first lesson of the Academy, I am thrilled with what I have learned and am putting it to work. I swear I can see a difference already and it is late November! In fact, this is just the information that I have been searching for. I had done some research into and dabbling in Biodynamic farming, but like your approach even better….Sorry to talk your ear off, but you are the one who got me so revved up. 😉 And I am totally grateful to you for it. We have now done the foliar spray twice on the winter crops and the results are pretty spectacular, on the whole. I had to go back and do a third hit on the curly kale, which was not doing much, but it is now jumping. My collards out in the garden came in spectacularly with little worm damage. We built a 5 by 4.5 compost heap that heated up to 160 right away and stayed there for several days. My excitement level is high and I cannot wait to see what changes will show in the spring. My goal all along has been to get my garden to a place that I can manage it well, with only a little help, by the time I am 80. I have nearly 8 years to do it in, and that is starting to look like a realistic goal, thanks to you. Thank you, thank you for all the effort you have put into getting this information compiled in one place and then available to those of us hungry for it.”
Jo, Rustburg, VA
“I have been doing everything you instructed, and all of my flowers are extremely healthy! I definitely see a big difference. You are doing an excellent job I don’t know how you put everything together so well. I am really enjoying the Academy so much! You have done all of your homework and have made everything perfect, informative and easy to navigate. There are lots of resources and all of the information I received so far is more than I expected. Honestly, I am enjoying everything and learning just what I need to know and also at a good pace. After viewing your website, I knew your Academy was for me and I felt an instant connection and signed up right away. Mainly and lastly, what I like the most about the Academy is the way you treat your clients either by email or by the way you speak in your videos. You have an awesome personality and I am more than happy that I am a member of your Academy. I’m so excited about this that I want to be a member and a friend for life!! Again, thank you.”
Rene, Hartsdale, NY
“Just wanted to let you know that I went from enjoying gardening and ‘creating’ food to loving it! I haven’t seen all of the vids yet but I have seen enough to know that I’m going to keep ‘studying’ / learning all I need to know to do things in a way that is in harmony with nature instead of destroying nature. Most of the things we have been taught have been distorted in some way and it is such a relief to finally find someone that is on the same wavelength. I believe I was guided to you and so I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Very strong application of the writing ability mixed with your clear passion and knowledge for agricultural topics. Thank you for the hard and detailed work you’ve put into the research, business, site and video instructions. It’s been time well spent and now widely appreciated.”
Joe, Dalilawna.com, Orlando, FL
“This feels like a dream come true. I know this Academy will enrich my growing experiences. Most importantly, it will help me to grow healthier plants that in turn feed my body and my soul. All in all, it’s Friday night and I just signed up, so you can only guess what I’m doing all weekend.”
Dave, Toronto, ON
“Thank you very much, I love your courses, it comes from your heart. It’s obvious that you are a very good teacher, please continue your goals and your ideas, you have a lot of results.”
“I really like what I’ve seen so far. The content is really interesting, and just what I’m looking for to work with my kids. We homeschool, and they’re just about ready to leave the nest, so I want them to understand WHY we do what I’ve been doing all these years. Great idea, and thanks for keeping it affordable.”
Traci, Oakdale, CA
“The Academy is the best thing since ‘sliced bread’. Your ‘set-up’ is easy to navigate and learn from. The content is very interesting and useful; it can take beginning gardeners from 0 to 60 in a hurry. And, if I’m right, it is going to take intermediate gardeners a long way also. And I’m sure that the advanced will get a lot out of it too, looks like it is going to be a wonderful journey toward well-being and true health! I like the presentation, it is ‘clean’. You have mastered the art of KISS (Keep IT Simple and Sincere). I’ve got a feeling that the Academy is going to take off like a rocket. Your meaning is coming through loud and clear. You are seen as a man of integrity; you are clear, well focused and Sincere. In other words, you are doing great, keep truckin…and we’ll keep watching and reading. Thanks for being on the planet right now, good timing. :)”
Larry, Birdsboro, PA
“I am a complete newbie when it comes to gardening. I live in northwestern WI. I look at this academy as a great place to begin to start building my foundation for my future organic gardening endeavors. I want to grow the best possible food for my girlfriend and myself. Thank you for making this great tool for somebody like me to learn with. This whole site is inspirational. I find the website very easy to handle. The information is great! I love it. Exactly what I want from this course.”
Erik, Dresser, WI
“The information that you provide through the academy is exactly what I am looking for. I feel that the money I have spent to be in the academy is an absolute bargain, worth every penny.”
David, Lenoir, NC
“I’m an avid worm composter. I too, am all about the soil. I believe if we took care of the soil, not only would we as humans be healthier, but the planet would be healthier. This is a great group to be a part of.”
Cassandra, Boerne, TX
“I’ve really been enjoying your academy. I think it’s well thought out, organized and above all interesting! I wish you a healthy and prosperous new year. Little did I know you were the same YouTube gardener that I had watched numerous times on extending EM a couple years back. I have nothing bad to say about your program. I think it’s great.”
Laura, Peoria, AZ
“Nicely done, Phil! Thanks for putting together such in-depth studies and details about the soil. It is much more detail than I’ve ever heard about soil before. My husband studies up on soil some, but I’ve never read any of his books on it. Watching a video to gather information is much more interesting :)”
Ruth, Fingerlakes, NY
“That was a wild ride, exactly what I was looking for. Organically-minded and wanting to grow the most nutrient dense food possible, while also helping improve the ecosystem and avoid harsh chemicals and pesticides, I feel like I was just handed an absolute treasure. As someone only vaguely familiar with conventional gardening basics as observed from my Miracle-Grow loving grandfather, this course was exactly what I was looking for and I couldn’t be more thankful I stumbled across it. You condensed information that would have taken me months and even years to thoroughly research on my own, consulting multiple books across various subjects. The breadth of topics covered is so comprehensive— I feel I finally have a basic working knowledge of the tools needed to make this thing work. Fertilizers— particularly organic ones— were a dizzying source of confusion for me before, but no longer. Most importantly, this course was a primer for me in soil science and health. I feel I’ve truly been the beneficiary of someone else’s hard study, experimentation, and life experience.”
Ashley, Austin, TX
“In your email you asked for criticism of the academy. You ask the impossible of me. We, my wife and I, have been thrilled with the academy. It has completely changed our thought process about gardening, lawns, most of nature even. I have long thought the major problem with our health system is doctors treat symptoms instead of looking for the root problem. I now realize my gardens in the past were suffering from the same symptom driven management. I have now thought about a couple of possible criticisms: 1. We have learned so much and become so excited about of gardens that our plans have become considerably more ambitious. 2. I am loosing sleep planning, thinking, reading, watching, and re-planning. Very Sincerely,”
John, Clyde, TX
“The site is easy to navigate and learn from and the content is interesting and useful. You do a good job teaching. I like that the videos are short but well thought out ahead of time (at least it feels that way!), and I like how they are casual, sometimes in the shade, etc, it keeps the lessons and your appearance as friendly, natural, approachable, etc as opposed to seeming like a distant, out of touch, cheap, quick media production that is rampant these days in one place or another! 🙂 You obviously have a lot of knowledge, and you seem to keep it practical, and I really appreciate that you strive to not be preachy about it. You are a gifted person.”
Heather, Twentynine Palms, CA
“***** 5 Star Smiling Gardener Academy. Even though I have been organic gardening for 20 years, I am learning so much! I cannot tell you how much you mean to me. I know I tell you this all the time but you inspire me daily, hourly…thank you again for all your sincerity, devotion, inspiration, and question answering goodness!”
Karin, Fort Lauderdale, FL
“I love this course and all the info. I wish I had tine for hort school etc but I own a business and have 2 young kids and therefore NO time! It was great to see all the soil info in the first few videos.”
Mill, San Francisco, CA
“I LOVE YOUR SITE AND THE ACADEMY!!!! I have learned tons and am going to try implementing it in my garden. I started a “square foot garden” system a few years back and have not been happy with the “promised results” that I haven’t seen. I actually e-mailed you about that system a couple of months ago and you thought I would be able to incorporate your ideas in with what I already have going. I find your site very user friendly and super interesting. I have been into organic gardening for some time and I really like the new ideas I’m learning from you. I haven’t found any of the sections that I haven’t learned something. Please continue with what you have going!”
Le Anne, Idaho Falls, ID
“Hi Phil – I was told about you through my daughter-in-law that has taken the Master Gardening Course in Victoria and also hooked me up with the Organic Gardner’s Pantry. I think you are doing a great job and love and feel the passion you have right through the computer.”
Colleen, Buick, BC
“I find the content interesting and useful. I learned valuable information in each sections so far. Thanks a lot for putting this website together, keep up the good work! Take care.”
Miguel, Cumberland, BC
“You are doing a great service… very helpful information indeed, exactly what I need. It’s all about taking care of the health of our planet and everything on it, including us!”
Kerry, Kansas, IL
“I like the use of videos as the visual of how to do something really helps. I like the science. I find this interesting and it makes the information concrete rather than an opinion of yours. I am someone who really needs to know why I am doing something and it helps for me to understand how to duplicate the information in other settings. Again, the video format is excellent. I like the fact that you include the script at the bottom of your video link. In short form: convenience, clear direction, and keep smiling, it is all good.”
Sandra, Cobble Hill, BC
“Phil I really really really like the academy. I appreciate your approach, and such detail. I am impressed. Your website is easily maneuvered, I appreciate your teaching style and your patience, but mostly Phil I love your enthusiasm. I hope to be learning from you until you no longer desire to teach it! Thank you for sharing your education with us. The cost is very reasonable. I am having a blast going through the videos. In fact I am done with this first lesson and ready to move on. I am so excited to be learning the best possible techniques to build my soil to make it the most nutrient dense soil possible!”
Terry O 😉 Cushing, Texas
“I’ve only bought the first set of lessons on the soil and it has been a pleasure to watch and learn. The info you gathered is sharp and essential to get a good idea of how everything works. And I like the way you combine theory and practical videos, a hands on approach and an overall combination of practical, theory and up to date research on how to succeed and understand what can we do to improve and actually grow our own healthy food garden. You’re are doing a great job and although I studied agronomy, read lots of permaculture and other organic growing food books, I am really learning bits and tricks that are ESSENTIAL and that most times skip through our eyes.”
“Hi Phil, I want to thank you so much for all your help with my access to the online courses. I also love your courses. I had already started some of the steps you are teaching and now I understand the importance of continuing those steps as well as adding to those steps to create a better outcome. The greatest thing is now I understand the what, why, when, and how to garden the right way. I look forward to the remainder of the courses since I have already finished the 1st course. Thanks for putting the information online,”
Betty, Clinton, MS
“I have read and will reread the introduction and everything else! It took me awhile to figure out how to get into the forum, I’m techno challenged!! I have to say I am delighted with the Academy. Beautifully presented, concise, yet full of such important information! I never realized how many different things affected a garden, and learning how to balance is imperative…I am sincerely grateful to have “met” you Phil. Your teaching is enriching my life. Becoming involved in this community is wonderful.”
Donna, Oceanside, CA
“I am a new academy member. I had moved into my home Oct 2012 and the yard was a disaster. It hadn’t been cared for for many years. I’ve always had an organic “bent” and couldn’t wait to go organic on my own place. I bought lots of flowers and made tobacco tea and poured beer and dish soap on everything. I couldn’t even grow marigolds. The ants and whatever’s carried them off. By August I was so disappointed in the whole thing. I can’t remember how I found you, but you turned my brown thumbs to green. You so graciously gave away so much of your knowledge. I printed out the ebook and put it in a binder and read about EM and fungi and was hooked! Your videos are “down to earth” and honest. This year my new peach trees are lush and have peaches on them. I use the folar sprays you suggest and no holes in the leaves like last year. My strawberries now have leaves that are huge and lots of berries coming on. Same with my grapevine. Flowers are happy and do is my lawn. I’m having a blast. Thank you for offering supplies on line. Couldn’t find stuff here. I could go on and on. Keep up the good work. You’re very much appreciated.”
Becky, Buhl, ID
“I think the course is fantastic. I’ve just finished the first month and it had been a good intro to organic gardening. I personally like the background science as it gives me the bigger picture. The videos are a good length, not too in depth at first and are practical in nature. I really want to know both what I’m ultimately aiming for in my garden (big picture first) and then the steps/skills I need to learn and utilize to get there. To have a structured course like this is really what I’m looking for. There is so much info on the web, but I need an expert to walk me through it otherwise I’ll get lost with information overload. Thanks for what you do!”
Adam, Faulconbridge, Australia
“You have joined Elliot Coleman, Heidi Hermary, Tobi Hemenway, Steve Solomon, David Holmgren, Rudolf Steiner and Elaine Ingham as one of garden/grower gurus. That your focus is on growing healthy food (the pretties are great but there to support food plant growing) resonates totally with my own perspective and values. Really like the tips on improving nutrient content. Your information (such as about beneficial micro-organisms) is cutting edge, which I really appreciate, as such info is often scattered or difficult to track down. Sometimes what you say is such clear common sense (like your pruning advice), my mind just stutters in amazement. Your writing is tight, well organized and clear. Love your positive spin. I feel happy – uplifted and energized after I finish a lesson, ready to jump into my boots and grab my trowel. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Phil. We are fortunate.”
“Your presentation is perfect for my learning style: 1) read and see pictures… 2) watch the video… 3) try it out… Cruising through websites (yours and others) is great too, but the in-depth information concentrated in your course and presented in a clear, concise manner has been a real problem-solver for us. This is only our second season gardening on this (primarily open field with a shaded pond) property and the harvest is already increasing, much of it thanks to your information helping us avoid serious pitfalls. We are getting super excited about starting to put in fruit, nut, nitrogen-fixer and pollinator-attracter trees this autumn. You’re providing a wonderful service. Keep on keeping on, but take good care of Phil as you do so. You’re a keeper.:)!”
Bonnie, Hawkins, TX
“Hi Phil, Truly you’ve put together such an awesome learning site, your brilliance to make it doable, along with such a great education simplified, is very much appreciated! I love that you are so real, relaxed and light-hearted, you truly have a gift to share with the world. You inspire me and give me lots of hope in the ability to grow incredible food for my family and I, thank you for all your effort!”
Debra, Kamloops, BC
“I want to take the opportunity to thank Phil as his Academy videos gave me the confidence to make a move to another country to work at growing my own food.”
“I think you have done a great job with the content. I do like the videos — they are short enough to keep one’s attention while providing core information and references (when applicable). I signed up for this course to learn how to be a better organic gardener — I live in a “healthy food wasteland” and this is my third year growing some of our summer vegetables. What I have learned thus far (I’m up to Module 5) is exactly the basic info I needed to know in order to improve my gardening skills — like most people I started my organic garden by searching the internet for “how to” information (and getting different opinions), then I would plunk the veggies into the ground, hoping I didn’t have a problem. FYI – I was very impressed that you showed the forms for the soil samples with instructions as to what to complete — very thorough! I also enjoyed learning about the BRIX as I had not previously heard of BRIX. I appreciate the effort you have put into condensing this info in one place — trying to decide what to include and what to exclude could not have been an easy task.”
Jane, Marietta, OH
“Thank you for the opportunity to learn such an important skill set. The content is all interesting and useful. Your websites are easily navigable. Membership details are laid out simply. The most important thing that I want to learn is how to give back to the earth through this knowledge and experience. This is a way that I can become self sufficient, and live in harmony with nature, in this beautiful practice of plant husbandry, if you will. The many heirloom varieties that I’ll be growing will not only benefit the environment, but will bring harmony and balance within myself. It is so much more deeply nourishing on a cellular level to take up this life force into my own, and on a spiritual level, for so many reasons.”
Zac, South Australia
“Loving your course! I have the MOST productive garden this year I think I’ve ever had, so many strawberries, raspberries and blueberries that my freezer is full and they just keep on coming!! Plus all the other bountiful veggie crops.”
Kathleen, Bayside, CA
“Thank you again for your time on the phone with me today. I really appreciated it! I am looking forward to learning this next year in the Academy and putting into practice these things. Wanted to also say that thank you for all of your prompt emails and followups. It really says a lot about your dedication to your members and what you are sharing.”
Kim, Elk, WA
“I’ve been a gardener all my life but am now semi-retired so I have more time and have been getting into it with a passion! I’m learning new things from you which is fabulous! Soil test from a lab, targeted mineral fertilizers, biostimulants and inoculants. I’ve recently added bokashi compost to my arsenal of composting and worm bins. Thanks for all the info you give, I appreciate that you are very detailed but also not rigid. I really appreciate that you make the videos succinct. I also really like the videos from Dan and others that you include, finding them very useful and informative. Thanks a bunch!!”
Kathleen, Arcata, CA
“I have been an Academy member for 10 weeks now – only learning and just the beginning of this new way but the results have been awesome! I just cut a 5 1/2 pound Cabbage and only found 2 cabbage worms in the lower leaves. Lots of squash, cukes and lettuce and our beets are 2inches in dia. and everything tastes great! I could go on and on but I know you are busy–Thanks again for all the great information etc. Every Tomato plant set fruit perfect!”
Thanks again, Ed, Greenwood, SC
“My Scott has returned from a successful trip from Kitale. Three beautiful, thankful girls with their healthy babies, have ‘graduated’ from our Esther Home. They’ve been totally reconciled to their families with care for babies and training for work or furthering their education. Miracle!! Thank you for your part in this Phil! Scott implemented your soil ideas as much as he could. Scott said he overheard the greenhouse staff calling these garden strategies “Nikie Technology”. Haha. Trust me, as we get success in these cashcrop greenhouses, I will be telling them all about my friend, Phil Nauta and the Smiling Gardener Academy!! You are amazing, inspirational and I appreciate you so much. As always, totally enjoying the Academy. Keep up your good work friend and God bless you!”
Nikie, Bend, OR
“Firstly let me say I am really enjoying this course. You have put so much hard work into it and I’m getting a lot out of it, it’s turning out to be exactly what I hoped it would. I’m new to gardening having just moved from apartment living 6 mths ago to an acre of land. As a newbie I have found all the information you give easy to take on board and of an adequate depth. Your passion for what you do easily comes through on the videos and I feel really excited and inspired after watching them to get out and try what you have demonstrated.”
Nicky, Ceres, Australia
“I am a beginner gardener (2 years) with a small area, so questioned whether the academy would make sense for me. I was drawn by the ability to ask questions. I am enjoying going through each video. Not all of it is something that I can apply but it is giving me the bigger picture so I understand the reasons for doing certain things in the garden. I have developed a calendar and journal of maintenance activities based on your checklist for the garden. I have incorporated all but 6 items. In time I am sure those will be included as well. I am now less concerned about the health of the current plants and more concerned about building the soil. As you would expect, once I started building the soil the plants became a lot healthier. I don’t see aphids anymore and all plants are more alive and healthy looking.”
Bonnie, San Luis Obispo, CA
“Your course is excellent and really helpful. I’ve been gardening for about 10 years now at my community garden plot in Los Angeles. I have learned a lot in that time, but recently took a workshop and somehow ended up on your website. I left the workshop thinking that my mind was blown (with regards to content), but it was so disorganized I wasn’t sure what I had learned. You course is organized, thorough, and accessible to all levels of gardeners. Thanks much.”
Tatiana, Los Angelas, CA
“I definitely have seen a difference in my plants. It has been an extremely dry summer here in the northeast. I wasn’t watering as much as I should have in the beginning of the season and my plants did fine; they were a little slow to take off but were blooming like crazy! I know if I didn’t build my soil up with compost and use the regimen they would have been stressed. I have learned a great deal in all the modulars! I go over the science parts again and again until they sink in! It’s surprising how I find myself explaining to fellow gardeners what I have been using and why. My Master Gardener group noticed a difference in my plants; they are still green and blooming when most of theirs are shrivelled. Because of the dry weather most gardeners have finished this time of year. My stuff still looks pretty good.”
“Every lesson has been very valuable. Just to let you know, my neighbors have started spraying my lilacs in front of my house and because I’ve fertilized as you taught, I’m getting minimal damage. And the peaches just from the 1 49er peach tree had enough peaches to for me not to miss the 2 that were recently destroyed. Thank you so much for helping me to get rid of peach leaf curl. I have been telling all my friends about your site. Now when I go to the coast, I look for seaweed and crab shells instead of agates!”
Clare, New Milford, CT
“I love everything you do…particularly the care and detail you put into all you present on your site. You have a very welcoming presence that makes me feel at ease just listening to you! Thank you so much for offering the Academy and for all the hard work you put into it—-it doesn’t go unnoticed. Your generosity is written all over your site, by the way. On some of those bad news days your words can restore my faith in humanity. Keep up the great work you are doing!”
Linda, Salt Spring Island, B.C.
“First, I would say that your videos are most educational, compelling and entertaining – these are not easy adjectives to achieve, so bravo on your work. All-in-all I am a big fan of you, your site and course material and have recommended it to others. I feel you and your video brings true value to the organic gardener, especially to the “visual learner”.”
Jess, Mettawa, IL
“I like the fact that your videos are short and I can watch one whenever I have a few minutes. The possibility to have access to such a quality course as I am in a remote area is just the best! Keep up the good work!”
Caroline, Fort Simpson, NT
“I visited the member area of your new site and was quite impressed by the quality of the educational material you’ve brought together. Your videos go beyond what many instructional garden videos offer and are presented in a friendly and competent manner. I think you can feel quite proud of that.”
Roger, Scarborough, ME
“Your lessons have already been helpful and I’m excited to be a part of this group so we can all expand our knowledge and share ideas about something we are all passionate about.”
Anthony, Burnaby, B.C.
“I really enjoy all your gardening information. Love to watch your videos. Very informative and refreshing. I am looking forward to using your techniques on my new 1 acre plot. Since I have taken the Organic Master Gardening course it has opened my eyes. I had never thought about the living organisms as providing the health and sustainability to a better system of gardening and just well being of everything around it. Keep up the good work as it is appreciated.”
Mary, Kimberly, B.C.
“Your content is good. It is obvious that you know what you are talking about! The best parts were the ones that gave me something to do…the soil tests, and sheet mulching segments.”
Sara, Langton, ON
“It’s all good for me. I really dig what your doing. Your gardening philosophy is one that I really believe.”
Justin, Covina, CA
“Weston A. Price proved to the world, early in the 20th century, that nutrition, the consumption of nutrient-dense, whole foods, was a major prerequisite to good health; and, the prerequisite for a balanced, and nutrient-dense, whole food is a healthy soil. This is the philosophy and foundation of your teachings and that is why I have joined the Smiling Gardener Academy. I look forward to learning from you all those techniques and principles that I will apply to grow wholesome food for myself and my family.”
Eduardo, Miami Beach, FL
“When I entered the course, I had very little knowledge of growing plants, for food or otherwise. When I would pick up books, well I’m sure you’ve had the experience, the information seems so daunting and cumbersome to get a hold of when you look at the thick books. I was impressed as to your approach. The human being you have become has helped you to communicate information in a way that helps people get excited about learning. Even though the presentation is done using simple technology and techniques, the information that you are providing and the learning that comes across is amazing… don’t veer off course too much. It helps keep the costs down and therefore, affordable for us who do not have the gobs of money to invest in schools, which have become cost prohibitive, to say the least. Now, 2 years later, its amazing how much I have incorporated into my life: growing food in the same containers as ornamental plants so as to utilize the space, creating various composting piles, including bokashi composting which I have been doing for over a year now, and yes, I make my own bokashi and EM, taking soil samples every spring as well as paying attention to what is happening in my gardens, looking for the different opportunities in front of me to utilize any organic matter to use in making compost so as not to expend more energy.”
Desmond, Los Angeles, CA
“I just completed my 12 month Smiling Gardener class and wanted to say thank you for all that I learned. I can’t believe how much work you put into the classes and making all of the videos. I now look forward to the Spring (I’m near Chicago and it’s the middle of January) to “put to use” all that I learned in your classes. At least now I can sit back and review all of my notes before I start my spring gardening. Actually, yesterday I checked the temperature in my cold frame (it was 75 degrees), so I decided to try to plant some seeds in there. I did use mycorrhizal enzymes, EM, fish fertilizer and sea minerals. I’m anxious to see what happens. Thanks again, and I’m sure I’ll be in contact with you in the future.”
Debbie, Chicago, IL
“Hi, Phil, WOW! Is my garden growing pretty good since taking your classes and prepping the soil like you said. The first time I have ever had tomato stalks the size of my thumb! I used the endomycorrhizal inoculant powder at the root ball before planting like you suggested. I think this had a lot to do with it plus building my soil a little bit more in spring. The stalks on the parsley and eggplant are getting pretty thick, too. There have been the tiny black flies on the leaves of the eggplant this week so I sprayed the leaves with a solution of EM and haven’t seen the flies since. Also sprayed the base of the zucchini to see if it wards off the moths. So glad I took your course. It has piqued my interest in gardening and increased my knowledge of what I am doing. I’m sure I’ll be going over it all again.”
Claudia, Bloomington, IN
“I wanted to write to you and tell you what an awesome time I have had in this academy of gardening you put together. I started last year learning about soils. And did I. My garden had been floundering for a couple of years. My yard has been giving me fits for 23 years. In 2013 I almost gave up altogether. My tomatoes were dying from fungal diseases, My beets were coming out with almost a sour taste to them, and my carrots….. well God help me cause the carrots weren’t. I searched for items that could help me figure out what was going on in my garden. I thought I had been doing all the right things. I added manure every year, used no chemicals, added Dolomite Lime, and every year the plantings just kept getting worse. I did stop gardening for a year, and in 2014 did nothing. But after seeing you on you tube a few times, then going to your web site, I wanted to learn more. Then your offer came last year for your academy. So, I signed up. In 2015, I sent in soil samples to CSI for both my yard and garden. I got the results back. I couldn’t believe the wacked out numbers I saw. I spoke with Ron at CSI and between his recommendations and yours I put minerals and biostimulants on my garden. You both had said “Don’t expect great results right away” since the soil had to rejuvenate from years of poor maintenance. I had to determine where to start. There was just so much wrong that I needed to work on. I got the minerals and such that I would need. I mixed my first batch of EM, I spread my minerals and then I rototilled one last time since my soil was sooooo compacted. Then I planted. Things were slow to take off. I had some vegetables that did not do so well. But for the most part everything improved an amazing amount. My beets were much sweeter (30 Quarts canned), my beans took off (75 Quarts canned), Okra the best year I have ever had, Watermelons grew well, Muskmelons had a lot of powdery mildew and no good fruit, carrots not so well they were all stunted, Cucumbers were amazing (We love these things), and then the Tomatoes…….. No Disease what so ever) They tasted wonderful. That is not all but a good sampling. This year I expect that the crops will do even better. I really was encouraged last year. In 2016, No till whatsoever. My soil was not compacted, I raked off the mulch and evened out the beds, and replaced the mulch and added more. The tilth is starting to look good, and I didn’t mention with the use of Mycorrhizal fungi, I saw some around roots last year that is proving to be a large help to the plants. I have begun to see more worms than ever in my soil before. I never could figure out what was wrong and why there were so few worms in my garden. Well, there is a long way to go yet, but thank God your course was what I needed to get everything on track and get my soil healthier and working again. I will continue to care for it in a way that is sustainable and organic. Best of all I am looking forward to my garden this year. Thanks.”
Gary, West Kingston, RI