Organic Gardening Advice For Planting

I wanted to have a short section with organic gardening advice for how to plant everything from trees and shrubs down to annuals and even seeds.

There are a lot of misconceptions and poor practices when it comes to planting, and hopefully this will clear up a few of them.

So here are my articles with organic gardening advice for planting…

Planting Trees In The Fall

Planting trees in the fall is one of my favorite things to do, so today I’m giving you 9 videos from my online gardening course on how to plant a tree (these videos are from 1 of the 4 ‘modules’ from month 8 of the Academy).

Yes, there are a lot of videos on this page.

Here are the most important organic fertilizers and inoculants I mention at some point in these videos because I always use them when planting trees:

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Forest Gardening – How To Grow A Food Forest

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

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

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

Feel free to ask your questions down below… Read More

Fall Bulb Planting – 7 Tips For The Biggest Flowers

Click for video transcription

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

Heather: It’s fall bulb planting time!

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

H: I live in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

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

H: Yeah, the home of the tulip.

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

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

Phil: Did you say established twice.

H: Aye, twice, really established.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil: Okay.

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

Phil: No.

H: So you break up the cloves and…

Phil: Yup.

H: Okay.

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

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

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

H: Yup.

Phil: Okay, that is all for today.

Tulips For Fall Bulb Planting
A double-stemmed tulip from our garden

Fall Bulb Planting Tips

1. When To Plant Fall Bulbs.

Some bulbs are planted in the fall and others in the spring. Bulbs that flower in spring are planted in the fall, and vice versa.

It’s time to start planting fall bulbs when nighttime temperatures are cool but far from freezing.

We want the rooting process to begin before the frost comes, so allowing 4-6 weeks of above-freezing temperatures is a good idea.

That time-frame allows the roots to establish in the fall so that come spring time, the plant is healthy and can go right into producing big flowers.

2. Buy The Biggest, Healthiest, Newest, Un-sprouted Bulbs

Like any plant, the types of bulb plants you can grow depends on your climate, so choose accordingly.

In the northern U.S. and up into Canada, for example, fall bulb plantings include garlic, other alliums, tulips, and daffodils.

There are many other fall bulbs to plant, but be sure to pick bulbs that are happy in your climate so that they’ll naturalize and come back every year.

Buy the biggest bulbs of each variety to get the biggest flowers. They should be planted before there’s any growth, so don’t buy them if they’ve already sprouted, and for the most part, don’t buy them on clearance – they probably won’t sprout.

The bulbs should also be healthy and disease free.

You can store bulbs to plant in fall that you had purchased earlier in the year, but they prefer to be in the ground, so the best idea is to plant them fresh and avoid keeping them out of the ground.

If you do need to store them, do so in a cool, dark room.

3. Select The Correct Location With Good Drainage.

There’s a saying in Dutch “bollen houden niet van natte voeten” which means bulb plants don’t like wet feet.

Choose a location that has good drainage and where water doesn’t puddle.

Plant at least a dozen fall bulbs together, as 2 or 3 here and there usually get lost among everything else.

If planting garlic, onions or other edible alliums, you can certainly have a dedicated bed, but you can also put them all throughout your organic garden, as most plants like having garlic nearby (not legumes).

I have a dedicated area for garlic and I plant a few here and there throughout.

4. Prepare The Area With Compost – No Fertilizer Needed.

If you’re planting a group of fall bulbs you can prepare a large area of soil, or for smaller quantities you can dig individual holes with a hand trowel.

The most important thing is to loosen compacted soil. You can even do so far below where the bulb will sit. With trees, we don’t’ want to dig deeper than where the tree will sit, but with bulbs, it’s fine.

The roots want to be beckoned down by soft, rich soil and not run into a firm floor, so don’t be scared to dig deep.

You don’t want to use bone meal or 10-10-10 or any other fertilizer.

Well-done compost is all you need, amended into the whole area. Preparing a good seed bed makes a huge difference in the health of your bulbs.

5. Planting Depth Is 3-5 Times The Height Of The Bulb.

The depth of your bulbs will depend on what you’re planting. Basically, smaller bulbs are planted fairly shallow and bigger bulbs go deeper, just like with seeds.

We go for a depth of 3-5 times the height of the bulb. Most packaged bulbs you purchase should tell you specifically how deep to plant, as well as how wide to space them apart.

Deeper plantings will flower later, so if you plant some shallow and some deep, you’ll have a longer bloom period overall. Deeper plantings are also safer from squirrels.

Bulbs are planted with the pointy side up and the flat side down. With garlic, you break the bulb into cloves and plant them 1-3 inches deep, again with the pointy end toward the sky.

6. Maintaining Your Planting – Just Water, No Pruning.

Once your planting is complete, give it a gentle watering.

Since the bulbs aren’t too deep below the surface you don’t need to soak it too much, just enough that the soil gets saturated down to the roots.

In temperate climates, autumn often brings cooling rains that will help a lot, but if the skies stay clear, be attentive to your organic garden and continue watering until frost arrives.

When they’re done flowering, don’t cut them down. Let the bulb pull the nutrients back into itself and die back naturally. That’s how you get healthy bulbs.

7. Keeping Squirrels Away With Mulch, Wire, Cayenne.

To discourage squirrels and other critters from digging up your bulbs, a thick layer of mulch may be sufficient.

If your leaves are starting to fall, rake them onto the bulb area for a mulch. You can go 12 inches high if you want.

One inch chicken wire laid on the ground is even better, and generously-sprinkled cayenne pepper can scare them away, too.

Sometimes, they get the bulbs anyway. They are crafty little dudes.

As the temperature cools off where we are, we realize many of you are still in warmer places. Where are you and when will your garlic and other fall bulb planting time begin?

Hobbit Garden: 2 Tips I Learned From Hobbits

I went hiking in the mountains on Tuesday.

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

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

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Should You Plant Early Or Wait With These High Temps?

Tulip Drawing

Two very cool things have happened this week, and I’m pretty much freaking out with excitement:

  1. Winter became spring for a few minutes and then turned into summer (we had picnics outside every day this week!)
  2. The Smiling Gardener Academy launched yesterday (more people have joined than I had anticipated and everything seems to be going great so far!)

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Mycorrhizal Inoculant – Hard To Spell, Easy To Use

Mycorrhizal Inoculant

I use mycorrhizal inoculant in my organic garden almost every time I plant and seed. I wouldn’t plant without it.

Update: About 2 1/2 years after writing this, I decided to start selling the mycorrhizal inoculant I use. You can learn more about it here.

Over 95% of plant species form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi provide nutrients and water to their host plants in exchange for carbohydrates and other goodies.

In fact, many plants will trade more than 50% of their carbohydrates with these fungi and other microbes. Mycorrhizal fungi greatly improve soil characteristics, and are among the most important microbes that form relationships with plants.

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Gardening Advice On GMOs – How To Avoid Them

Gardening Advice On GMOs - GMOs Kill Monarch Butterflys

If you’re looking for gardening advice on GMOs, I have 2 tips. We’ve known for over a decade that genetically-modified organisms wreak havoc when unleashed into the environment.

And yet The New York Times is still being a good corporate spokesperson, muddying the facts and leaving much room for doubt about whether or not these problems exist (or just practicing good, unbiased journalism, depending on your point of view).

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Planting Trees And Shrubs – Correct Planting Width

Planting Trees And Shrubs - Width
I didn’t have a planting width photo, but I thought this tree was cool

Planting trees and shrubs is easy once you know a few principles. I know you want to give them the best chance at flourishing that you can.

You’ve just spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on these plants, so it makes sense to spend a little bit of time planting them correctly in your organic garden.

When I was a young landscaper, I planted a lot of trees. If the root ball was 36 inches wide, I probably chose a planting width of about 40 inches.

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