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 (or near the very bottom of the page if you’re on mobile) if you want to get my best stuff :)

Growing Nutritious Food, Using Compost, And More…

Worm compost
My worm compost.

I once met a conventional apple orchard grower who refused to eat his own apples because of all the toxic pesticides he’d sprayed on them.

I once went to an organic apple orchard and couldn’t bring myself to buy any of their apples because they were so mealy and tasteless.

Although we like to think so, organic food doesn’t always taste better, which on its own is a shame, but the bigger deal to me is that the deficiency of taste also points to a deficiency in nutrition, which is common in organics.

But like the pesticide-spraying orchardist above, I don’t eat conventional apples. I try to buy mostly organic food because I want to stay away from pesticides/GMOs and I prefer to support the small organic farmers who are trying to find a more sustainable way of farming.

But what’s just as important to me is eating food that is nutritious, because poor nutrition in my food equals poor nutrition in me, which means various health issues that I’d rather not experience.

That’s why I grow my own food, because it can be made tastier and more nutritious using organic methods if it’s grown in an ecosystem that is teeming with a huge diversity of beneficial microorganisms and a balanced array of nutrients.

There are many strategies to accomplish this. Let’s look at one of them today: compost.

Compost helps with both of these things. It adds the nutrients, but more importantly, it adds the microorganisms. Most people don’t know it, but that’s the main reason to use compost.

Interestingly, compost would go a long way to help that conventional orchardist with his pest problems so he could stop the pesticide use, because it has tremendous disease-controlling capabilities when applied to the soil, and also when applied to plant leaves as compost tea.

I have 2 important caveats about compost:

  • The first may sound like common sense, but it bears stating: it must be good compost. There’s a lot of bad compost out there and it causes more harm than good. It needs to be made aerobically, with reasonable materials. It must smell good and look good. It’s best to make your own. Bad compost causes disease. Good compost fights disease.
  • The second is the really important one: Don’t use too much. Most organic gardening books say “the more compost the better.” That’s not it, though. You’re going to throw your nutrient ratios out of balance if you use too much compost. I did for years. It made the soil look and feel nice, but after a while, it didn’t produce well. How much is too much? If you look at the work of people like Elaine Ingham and the Luebke’s in Austria, they recommend a maximum of ⅛ inch of compost spread on your soil when you’re beginning, and 2-10 times less after that. We’re talking just a light dusting each year.

The moral here is that it’s highly worthwhile to learn how to make your own compost, even if just a small amount. Even a worm bin is really all most home gardeners need.

The reason I’m talking about compost today is because I’ve been reviewing various new research studies that have implications for organic gardening, and I’ve noticed that compost is still being researched (has been for a long time) with positive results.

I’m doing this review because I’m in the process of updating my online gardening course – the Smiling Gardener Academy – as I do every year.

I’m going to do a promotion for the course over the next week and then after that, I’ll stop accepting new enrolments for awhile so I can focus on helping my existing members in there.

If you think you might interested in joining the Academy, sign up for free below because I’m going to offer a special deal.

Also next week, while my head is spinning with excitement at all of these ideas, I’m going to share the most important strategies for helping you grow food that:

  • Tastes better,
  • Is much more nutritious, and
  • Doesn’t get eaten by pests

If you want to learn those strategies, sign up for free below, even if you’re already on my main email list…

It’s Winter…

Click for video transcription

Hey, it’s Phil from SmilingGardener.om. I apologize in advance for the wind noise – I don’t have a wireless mic on today so i just have to use the camera mic.

I haven’t been making any videos this time of year because this is what my garden looks like under two feet of snow right now, but I wanted to share a couple of things with you today.

First is if you follow me on facebook and especially on youtube, you’re not really seeing anything from me this time of year, but if you come over to SmilingGardener.com, I am still writing an article every Saturday.

And if you want, you can sign up for my free ebook download and then you get on my email list and then I’ll actually send that out to you every Saturday. So I’m writing about how to improve your soil and control pests and how to grow nutrient-dense food and all of the same kind of stuff that I usually shoot videos about, and sharing tips for the upcoming growing season as soon as this melts.

And actually, I know some of you are gardening already if you live closer to the equator or by the ocean and so your weather is more moderated.

And I actually can see this because I sell organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants to gardeners in the U.S. and in January I starting getting orders from California and Texas and Florida and then gradually going into February and March, the orders come from further north and further east, so I can see when you’re starting to think about gardening.

If you are starting to think about fertilizers, I ship even during the winter because all of these products – even the microbial inoculants – it’s okay if they freeze for a little while. I get all of my stuff in in the winter as well from the manufacturers and it’s all good, so I’m shipping right now.

And you can go to SmilingGardener.com and click on ‘Organic Fertilizer Guide’ up in the main menu, and I sell products there but I also teach you how to make your own fertilizers, and it’s just a great comprehensive guide.

The main thing I wanted to ask of you today, because I am writing still right now and I’m going to be shooting more videos this year, and I’m always looking for more ideas for what to talk about – so I want to hear from you what is the one most important thing you want me to share this year on my website.

So let me know in the comments below, whether you’re on my blog right now or on facebook or on youtube, I will see that everywhere, and then I will have some ideas for what to create and then I’ll create it for you.

So that’s all for now. Talk to you soon.

Hey, it’s Phil from SmilingGardener.om. I apologize in advance for the wind noise – I don’t have a wireless mic on today so i just have to use the camera mic.

I haven’t been making any videos this time of year because this is what my garden looks like under two feet of snow right now, but I wanted to share a couple of things with you today.

First is if you follow me on facebook and especially on youtube, you’re not really seeing anything from me this time of year, but if you come over to SmilingGardener.com, I am still writing an article every Saturday.

And if you want, you can sign up for my free ebook download and then you get on my email list and then I’ll actually send that out to you every Saturday. So I’m writing about how to improve your soil and control pests and how to grow nutrient-dense food and all of the same kind of stuff that I usually shoot videos about, and sharing tips for the upcoming growing season as soon as this melts.

And actually, I know some of you are gardening already if you live closer to the equator or by the ocean and so your weather is more moderated.

And I actually can see this because I sell organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants to gardeners in the U.S. and in January I starting getting orders from California and Texas and Florida and then gradually going into February and March, the orders come from further north and further east, so I can see when you’re starting to think about gardening.

If you are starting to think about fertilizers, I ship even during the winter because all of these products – even the microbial inoculants – it’s okay if they freeze for a little while. I get all of my stuff in in the winter as well from the manufacturers and it’s all good, so I’m shipping right now.

And you can go to SmilingGardener.com and click on ‘Organic Fertilizer Guide’ up in the main menu, and I sell products there but I also teach you how to make your own fertilizers, and it’s just a great comprehensive guide.

The main thing I wanted to ask of you today, because I am writing still right now and I’m going to be shooting more videos this year, and I’m always looking for more ideas for what to talk about – so I want to hear from you what is the one most important thing you want me to share this year on my website.

So let me know in the comments below, whether you’re on my blog right now or on facebook or on youtube, I will see that everywhere, and then I will have some ideas for what to create and then I’ll create it for you.

So that’s all for now. Talk to you soon.

Three quick things today (if you’re on my email list, you already know about the first two, so feel free to skip to the last one): Read More

Starting Plants From Seeds – Tips To Ensure Success

Click for video transcription

Phil: Welcome to my bedroom.

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 we’re talking about starting plants from seeds. I like going right into something like this that has the trays and then you can grow the plants individually and then you pull them right out of here and put them into the garden.

So this has holes in it for drainage, then I can plop it into this guy which doesn’t have holes in it, and that can capture the water – so that’s how that works!

In terms of what kind of potting mix you use if you get a conventional potting mix it’s usually going to have chemicals or fertilizers in it, or peat moss in it. 

Now chemical fertilizers, I’m not really a big fan of for a number of reasons. The peat moss I’m not a huge fan of, it’s something that basically is not that sustainable – we should be leaving those peat bogs where they are. 

They have a really important role to play in our ecosystem. That being said, it can be beneficial in seed starting there’s even research showing that if you don’t have peat moss in there the process doesn’t work quite as well, it still has always worked okay for me.

So I’m not really sure what to say about that. I don’t tend to use peat moss, but a little bit maybe is okay. Can I leave it at that for now? Because I want to keep the video short.

What I recommend most people do is go and buy an organic potting mix, a seed starting mix or a potting mix that’s OMRI listed – that means you know it’s organic. It probably is going to have peat moss in there, it’s going to have some compost in there. 

Maybe a bit of lime, but that’s something that’s really easy to get going with. If you have a really nice big window you can just put your seeds right there.

They really need at least eight hour of sun a day, and what I always find is even if I have a nice big window it can be difficult to get enough sun because your overhang of your roof and the walls block some of that sun from coming in.

And what happens is the plants can start leaning to the sun and get kind of lanky. So what you have to do in that case is turn the plants regularly. That’s kind of unnatural actually to have to be turned like that all the time but that’s what you need to do.

On the other hand what I like to do is have a little bit of supplemental lighting. So here is a fluorescent light – it’s in the six thousand calvin range so look for that when you’re buying it. 

I’ll turn it on so you can see it, and what I do is I have it propped up about four to six inches above wherever my plants are. So occasionally I need to raise it up a bit.

And I just put it on top of whatever I have, today I have it on top of my book. That’s usually where it kind of starts out at. And I just set it there like that.

What I do is I’ll just leave this on for twelve to fourteen hours a day so then the plants are getting a lot more light and they can grow more efficiently, they’re going to grow straight up instead of pointing out towards the window.

I still often put it by a window anyway, I don’t know why I kind of like having that natural light there. Now the other thing we can do to really improve this process is to have a heat matt to provide some heat because a lot of these plants really want to have nice warm soil and you know, we want things to happen fairly quickly.

And so that’s where a heat matt comes in – it plugs right into the wall, you set it right under the tray just like this, and you’ve got our heat!

Seeds can take a while to get germinating and get going and we really want to help them along with that process so what I do is I soak them for six to twelve hours. That’s why I have them sitting in this bowl instead of in a seed packet.

So there’s a couple of reasons we do this. One is just having them in water is going to get them nice and full of water of course they need water to get germinating and so it really helps them kind of swell up and get going, it really starts that germination process.

The other reason is the water allows me to coat them in some other things that I’ve talked about before. Liquid kelp which has lots of different minerals and natural growth hormones that really help that germination process along. 

So it’s a main one that is often used in soaking seeds. It should say on the label hopefully, but just half a teaspoon per five hundred milliliters of water. The same amount of sea minerals, which is full of minerals and other bioactive substances and you could use either of these or you could use both of them. 

Now I’m starting something that I’ve never bothered starting before and that is corn, and that’s kind of a weird thing to start because you can just put corn out there and it works fine. But I just kind of wanted to see what happens when you start corn so I thought I’m going to start corn today.

The next thing I do once I’ve poured that off is I take my mycorrizzhal fungi, because corn LOVES these mycorrizzhal fungi and I just sprinkle on the tiniest little bit over the seeds.

Ta Da! I have some potting mix in here now. And I actually have a good tip for you, after you get your potting mix in there then you can water in it before you’ve done your seeding and it’s just a little bit easier to get things wet before hand I find.

When I do that, you know, I put my biostimulants and my EM in there as well, it’s just a habit of mine whenever I’m watering something like this – I’m using those biostimulants. 

Often when you do something like this it make sense to seed two seeds into each spot and then what happens is when they come up you can basically cut out the weakest seedling that means you’re always selecting for a stronger seedling.

So in this case since I’m planting corn and since they’re so big and since I know they’re going to germinate pretty well, or I HOPE they’re going to germinate pretty well I’m only going to plant one. 

Do you guys think it’s kind of weird to start corn from seed? I think it’s kind of weird to start corn from seed, but it’s also really fun to try stuff like this. Who knows what will happen??

Here’s how we do it…go like that…and just make sure it’s covered! Some seeds will come up in a few days, some will take a couple of weeks. A lot of the vegetable seeds we do will take less than a week.

You want to keep it moist in there and until they’ve germinated an easy way to do that without really aggravating the seeds with the watering can is to use a spray bottle. 

Once I’m done seeding I’ll put this on top to keep the moisture in there, and then once those have germinated and come up I’m going to want to take that off or at least remove it partly to get some more air circulation going on in there.

Then eventually I’ll take it right off. Through the magic of time travel we now have corn! It’s actually been about a week and things are looking really good and there’s only problem is that I’m heading out of town tomorrow for three weeks, so I have to plant this corn today!

Ideally what I would want to do is let in be in here for probably another week or so to establish a stronger root system, but I can’t do that so we’ll see how well it works but at least we have a nice example here of starting from seed.

If you have any questions about starting plans from seeds you can ask them down below and I will answer. If you haven’t signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below, you can also join me and my sister over on Facebook.com/smilinggardener

Phil: Welcome to my bedroom.

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 we’re talking about starting plants from seeds. I like going right into something like this that has the trays and then you can grow the plants individually and then you pull them right out of here and put them into the garden.

So this has holes in it for drainage, then I can plop it into this guy which doesn’t have holes in it, and that can capture the water – so that’s how that works!

In terms of what kind of potting mix you use if you get a conventional potting mix it’s usually going to have chemicals or fertilizers in it, or peat moss in it. 

Now chemical fertilizers, I’m not really a big fan of for a number of reasons. The peat moss I’m not a huge fan of, it’s something that basically is not that sustainable – we should be leaving those peat bogs where they are. 

They have a really important role to play in our ecosystem. That being said, it can be beneficial in seed starting there’s even research showing that if you don’t have peat moss in there the process doesn’t work quite as well, it still has always worked okay for me.

So I’m not really sure what to say about that. I don’t tend to use peat moss, but a little bit maybe is okay. Can I leave it at that for now? Because I want to keep the video short.

What I recommend most people do is go and buy an organic potting mix, a seed starting mix or a potting mix that’s OMRI listed – that means you know it’s organic. It probably is going to have peat moss in there, it’s going to have some compost in there. 

Maybe a bit of lime, but that’s something that’s really easy to get going with. If you have a really nice big window you can just put your seeds right there.

They really need at least eight hour of sun a day, and what I always find is even if I have a nice big window it can be difficult to get enough sun because your overhang of your roof and the walls block some of that sun from coming in.

And what happens is the plants can start leaning to the sun and get kind of lanky. So what you have to do in that case is turn the plants regularly. That’s kind of unnatural actually to have to be turned like that all the time but that’s what you need to do.

On the other hand what I like to do is have a little bit of supplemental lighting. So here is a fluorescent light – it’s in the six thousand calvin range so look for that when you’re buying it. 

I’ll turn it on so you can see it, and what I do is I have it propped up about four to six inches above wherever my plants are. So occasionally I need to raise it up a bit.

And I just put it on top of whatever I have, today I have it on top of my book. That’s usually where it kind of starts out at. And I just set it there like that.

What I do is I’ll just leave this on for twelve to fourteen hours a day so then the plants are getting a lot more light and they can grow more efficiently, they’re going to grow straight up instead of pointing out towards the window.

I still often put it by a window anyway, I don’t know why I kind of like having that natural light there. Now the other thing we can do to really improve this process is to have a heat matt to provide some heat because a lot of these plants really want to have nice warm soil and you know, we want things to happen fairly quickly.

And so that’s where a heat matt comes in – it plugs right into the wall, you set it right under the tray just like this, and you’ve got our heat!

Seeds can take a while to get germinating and get going and we really want to help them along with that process so what I do is I soak them for six to twelve hours. That’s why I have them sitting in this bowl instead of in a seed packet.

So there’s a couple of reasons we do this. One is just having them in water is going to get them nice and full of water of course they need water to get germinating and so it really helps them kind of swell up and get going, it really starts that germination process.

The other reason is the water allows me to coat them in some other things that I’ve talked about before. Liquid kelp which has lots of different minerals and natural growth hormones that really help that germination process along. 

So it’s a main one that is often used in soaking seeds. It should say on the label hopefully, but just half a teaspoon per five hundred milliliters of water. The same amount of sea minerals, which is full of minerals and other bioactive substances and you could use either of these or you could use both of them. 

Now I’m starting something that I’ve never bothered starting before and that is corn, and that’s kind of a weird thing to start because you can just put corn out there and it works fine. But I just kind of wanted to see what happens when you start corn so I thought I’m going to start corn today.

The next thing I do once I’ve poured that off is I take my mycorrizzhal fungi, because corn LOVES these mycorrizzhal fungi and I just sprinkle on the tiniest little bit over the seeds.

Ta Da! I have some potting mix in here now. And I actually have a good tip for you, after you get your potting mix in there then you can water in it before you’ve done your seeding and it’s just a little bit easier to get things wet before hand I find.

When I do that, you know, I put my biostimulants and my EM in there as well, it’s just a habit of mine whenever I’m watering something like this – I’m using those biostimulants. 

Often when you do something like this it make sense to seed two seeds into each spot and then what happens is when they come up you can basically cut out the weakest seedling that means you’re always selecting for a stronger seedling.

So in this case since I’m planting corn and since they’re so big and since I know they’re going to germinate pretty well, or I HOPE they’re going to germinate pretty well I’m only going to plant one. 

Do you guys think it’s kind of weird to start corn from seed? I think it’s kind of weird to start corn from seed, but it’s also really fun to try stuff like this. Who knows what will happen??

Here’s how we do it…go like that…and just make sure it’s covered! Some seeds will come up in a few days, some will take a couple of weeks. A lot of the vegetable seeds we do will take less than a week.

You want to keep it moist in there and until they’ve germinated an easy way to do that without really aggravating the seeds with the watering can is to use a spray bottle. 

Once I’m done seeding I’ll put this on top to keep the moisture in there, and then once those have germinated and come up I’m going to want to take that off or at least remove it partly to get some more air circulation going on in there.

Then eventually I’ll take it right off. Through the magic of time travel we now have corn! It’s actually been about a week and things are looking really good and there’s only problem is that I’m heading out of town tomorrow for three weeks, so I have to plant this corn today!

Ideally what I would want to do is let in be in here for probably another week or so to establish a stronger root system, but I can’t do that so we’ll see how well it works but at least we have a nice example here of starting from seed.

If you have any questions about starting plans from seeds you can ask them down below and I will answer. If you haven’t signed up for my free online organic gardening course you can do that down below, you can also join me and my sister over on Facebook.com/smilinggardener

Note: I’ve now started selling the organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants mentioned in this post. You can read more about that here.

You can get the jump on spring by starting plants from seeds. Read More

How To Get Rid Of Moles And Voles (And Gophers)

A MoleClose-up of mole by Michael David Hill is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

So, you want to know how to get rid of moles and voles (and gophers)?

First of all, moles are great!

They plow the soil and eat insects such as grubs.

Of course, they do leave behind some tunnels.

And while they don’t eat your plants, they can disturb them.

We may not mind a few tunnels, but when it gets to be too many, it can leave an unsightly mess of molehills, uneven soil and brown ridges in the lawn. Read More

You Are Going To Fail

Tomato HornwormA photo from an Academy member of a tomato hornworm (explained below).

You are going to fail this year…

Hornworms will eat your tomatoes.

A loved one will get sick.

The bindweed you thought was finally under control will spring up again.

Someone will make you feel bad about yourself just for being who you are.

But… Read More

Where To Grow Your Garden On This Planet

Map of the world

Let’s say you’re the type of person for whom establishing a big, organic, food-producing permaculture garden is a major goal.

And fortunately, you’ve just come into a windfall – a huge sum of money.

You can finally buy or build that house you’ve been dreaming of and then get to work on planting your organic garden.

The question today is: where should you build it? Read More

Who Is Your Garden For – You Or Your Neighbors?

WHO is your garden for?

I spent too much of my life caring about what other people thought of me.

Especially people who didn’t really seem to care too much about what I thought of them.

I still care too much sometimes.

But I try every day to make decisions based on what I want and what will be best for the people I love, rather than what looks good to the rest of the world. Read More

How To Make Effective Microorganisms – Step By Step

How To Make Effective Microorganisms (EM)Last night, when deciding what to write about for today, I looked around my apartment, saw my probiotic fermenting away on the shelf, immediately took this photo, and proceeded to write this step by step process for making effective microorganisms.

In gardening, there’s a lot of talk about chemistry – the fertilizer, NPK, carbon, etc.

All important stuff, but I like to spend just as much time on the biology – the microorganisms, insects, animals (and of course plants).

It’s especially the microorganisms that really rule our world, our bodies (we contain 10 times as many microbes as we do human cells), and our gardens.

Today I’m pumped to get right into teaching you about these good microbes and how to make effective microorganisms.

These efficient microbes improve the soil, increase plant health and yield, help keep pests away, and are some of the most important beneficial bacteria and yeasts that make up our world. Read More