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 :)

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

Why Grow A Garden? My Top 3 Reasons

WHY grow a garden?

‘Why’ always comes first because it’s the most important question for pretty much everything we do in life.

Asking why helps us figure out if the thing we’re thinking of doing is something we really want to do.

If we decide it is, knowing our ‘why’ helps tremendously when it comes to figuring out the who, what, when, where and how.

When you know your purpose for doing something, it makes every decision easier from then on because you can choose the direction that’s in line with that purpose.

So why grow a garden?

Maybe for you it’s: Read More

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:

Read More

What I Learned From Masanobu Fukuoka

Masanobu FukuokaMasanobu Fukuoka (Photo credit)

Every so often I read Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution to remind myself I sometimes have very little idea of what I’m doing in my garden – and my life.

In some ways it’s a troubling reminder while in other ways it’s quite freeing.

Troubling because I teach gardening so I’m supposed to know some things about that, and because I live my own life so I’m supposed to know some things about that, too.

But freeing because I see that it’s okay to not have the answers to most of life’s questions, to admit that at times I have no idea what I’m doing. Read More

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

Want To Grow Organic Food? Here Are Some Tips

Click for video transcription

Phil: Back from Amsterdam!

Hey guys it’s Phil from Smilinggardener.com, if you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the home page of Smilinggardener.com. Today I’m talking about growing organic food. Just kind of some odds and end tips on how to set up your food gardens.

I’ve kind of been talking about it throughout this series, but now I just want to share a few other things. Here I have part of my food garden right behind me. A quick first tip is grown the things you want to eat. You might notice here I have a bunch of brassicas: cabbages and broccolis.

A lot of people don’t like eating that, I do so I plant a lot of that. But if you don’t – save that room for something else! So just start with what you want to eat. Another tip is on the size and I always suggest that people start with very small ones when they’re just starting.

Even if you just have a hundred square feet which is perhaps what I’m showing on camera here. You can grow – I probably have 20 different kinds of plants here: many different herbs, different brassicas, different – I even have a few tomatoes right here, lots of different flowering plants that are bringing in different beneficial insects, strawberries – I have a whole bunch going on in a very small area.

And what that means is that you can really do a good job if you just take 10-15 different species of plants, plant them in a small area, really take care of it well you’ll do a good job.

The next tip is to plant some annual plant, that means most of our vegetables especially in a temperate climate are going to be annuals so potatoes, and tomatoes and cucumbers and a lot of these vegetables we really love to use.

Go ahead and plant them. Now, the other tip though is – the one thing I don’t love about annuals is you have to plant them every year. The other side of that is to plant perennial plants which means you just plant them once and they come back every year like this cherry tree here. I’m standing here in my forest garden – my very young, very new forest garden, I’m going to make a video for you about that shortly.

And what that is, is we focus on nut trees and fruit trees and shrubs and other plants that just come back every year. Including some vegetables, I’m excited to get some asparagus going in here at some point, some lovage and then also self-seeding plants like dill (actually you saw in that garden) there’s dill in flower right now, there’s cilantro, those are going to come back every year from seed.

So this is kind of a permaculture concept, this idea of just planting for the longer time. Planting more sustainably so that the garden eventually just takes care of itself by just growing every year as a perennial plant or as self seeding annual plants.What you can do in the meantime is another principle which is get a yield.

You want to have food this year, that’s where the annuals come in and it’s fine to do some of them. You’re back into your potatoes, tomatoes and those thing we were talking about. And I’m doing that in this garden as well for now, while there’s lots of sun in this garden.

I can…you may be able to see in the background there’s trellis’ I can grow tomatoes, and cucumbers, I have a bunch of little things I’m sticking in here, and then gradually the perennials will take over and this garden will become very hand off for me. Back talking about vegetable garden, because I know that makes sense for a lot of you, I have a few tips on that and the first one is about crop rotation.

Here’s this bed that I planted about 3 weeks ago (I’m going to talk about that in a second), it’s corn, beans and squash in here. Last year: different plants. Last year I had mostly tomatoes in here. Rotating your crops is a good idea.

What that means is planting each plant family in different beds each year and maybe you have like a 3-year rotation or could be much more like a 7-year rotation where they’re not going in the same spot every year. Primarily what that’s good for is it’s going to kind of confuse pests so that if your pests…if the predators of your tomatoes set up shop in the soil over winter and they come up and those tomatoes are elsewhere – that’s really going to confuse them a little bit.

Also there can be some benefits to different plants taking up different nutrients from the soil, especially important when we have these kind of imbalanced soils that so many of us have. Another one is companion planting and that’s when you plant different plants together.

So instead of you know – one of the big problems with industrial agriculture is we have these huge monoculture crops of corn and soy beans. In the garden, we can plant different plants together and they’re going to often provide benefits for each other, or at least just take up different niches in the garden.

Mostly what I often like to do is what’s called more of a polyculture. Whereas what I showed you at the beginning of the video that bed probably had 20 different species of plants all really mingling together, all interplanted, and that’s going to be a huge amount of biodiversity it’s going to confuse pests, it’s going to really use the garden efficiently by having different heights.

This is a meso-American tradition of planting corn, beans and squash together. There are various different ways of doing it depending on the geography and things like that but here’s how I’ve done it. I plant little clusters 3 feet apart throughout the garden so there’s lots of space in between them.

In each cluster goes corn. You can seed corn direct, that’s fine. You wait until it gets about 4 inches tall. I put 4 corn in here. Then, you come and plant a bean by each corn. And what happens is, the corn is going to act as a trellis for these beans. So here’s the corn, here’s the beans.

So, the corn gets tall, the beans (these are climbing beans) “pole beans”. They’ll climb up the corn, so that acts as a trellis. There’s other benefits. The corn actually exudes through its roots food, for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that reside on the beans. Of course the beans also house this nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

The thing that’s cool about this is corn needs a lot of nitrogen, so there’s a trade going on here between these two. I planted a squash, the big thing about the squash is it’s going to spread out.

Now I think this one happens to be more of a bush-type squash, but I have other squash in here that are vining squash so they crawl throughout the garden, they stop….they decrease evaporation from the soil, they control weeds by having these big leaves that spread throughout the garden. So they’re helping too. So they all kind of help each other.

So read on down below, I usually put a little bit more detail in the article and you can ask questions down below about anything having to do with setting up a food garden, just designing your food garden, crop rotations, companion planting, polycultures, annuals vs. perennials, things like that. Also, you can pick up my free online course down below or you can go over to Facebook.com/smilinggardener to come out there.

We post stuff over there every day, and I will see you next time!!

Hey guys it’s Phil from Smilinggardener.com, if you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the home page of Smilinggardener.com. Today I’m talking about growing organic food. Just kind of some odds and end tips on how to set up your food gardens.

I’ve kind of been talking about it throughout this series, but now I just want to share a few other things. Here I have part of my food garden right behind me. A quick first tip is grown the things you want to eat. You might notice here I have a bunch of brassicas: cabbages and broccolis.

A lot of people don’t like eating that, I do so I plant a lot of that. But if you don’t – save that room for something else! So just start with what you want to eat. Another tip is on the size and I always suggest that people start with very small ones when they’re just starting.

Even if you just have a hundred square feet which is perhaps what I’m showing on camera here. You can grow – I probably have 20 different kinds of plants here: many different herbs, different brassicas, different – I even have a few tomatoes right here, lots of different flowering plants that are bringing in different beneficial insects, strawberries – I have a whole bunch going on in a very small area.

And what that means is that you can really do a good job if you just take 10-15 different species of plants, plant them in a small area, really take care of it well you’ll do a good job.

The next tip is to plant some annual plant, that means most of our vegetables especially in a temperate climate are going to be annuals so potatoes, and tomatoes and cucumbers and a lot of these vegetables we really love to use.

Go ahead and plant them. Now, the other tip though is – the one thing I don’t love about annuals is you have to plant them every year. The other side of that is to plant perennial plants which means you just plant them once and they come back every year like this cherry tree here. I’m standing here in my forest garden – my very young, very new forest garden, I’m going to make a video for you about that shortly.

And what that is, is we focus on nut trees and fruit trees and shrubs and other plants that just come back every year. Including some vegetables, I’m excited to get some asparagus going in here at some point, some lovage and then also self-seeding plants like dill (actually you saw in that garden) there’s dill in flower right now, there’s cilantro, those are going to come back every year from seed.

So this is kind of a permaculture concept, this idea of just planting for the longer time. Planting more sustainably so that the garden eventually just takes care of itself by just growing every year as a perennial plant or as self seeding annual plants.What you can do in the meantime is another principle which is get a yield.

You want to have food this year, that’s where the annuals come in and it’s fine to do some of them. You’re back into your potatoes, tomatoes and those thing we were talking about. And I’m doing that in this garden as well for now, while there’s lots of sun in this garden.

I can…you may be able to see in the background there’s trellis’ I can grow tomatoes, and cucumbers, I have a bunch of little things I’m sticking in here, and then gradually the perennials will take over and this garden will become very hand off for me. Back talking about vegetable garden, because I know that makes sense for a lot of you, I have a few tips on that and the first one is about crop rotation.

Here’s this bed that I planted about 3 weeks ago (I’m going to talk about that in a second), it’s corn, beans and squash in here. Last year: different plants. Last year I had mostly tomatoes in here. Rotating your crops is a good idea.

What that means is planting each plant family in different beds each year and maybe you have like a 3-year rotation or could be much more like a 7-year rotation where they’re not going in the same spot every year. Primarily what that’s good for is it’s going to kind of confuse pests so that if your pests…if the predators of your tomatoes set up shop in the soil over winter and they come up and those tomatoes are elsewhere – that’s really going to confuse them a little bit.

Also there can be some benefits to different plants taking up different nutrients from the soil, especially important when we have these kind of imbalanced soils that so many of us have. Another one is companion planting and that’s when you plant different plants together.

So instead of you know – one of the big problems with industrial agriculture is we have these huge monoculture crops of corn and soy beans. In the garden, we can plant different plants together and they’re going to often provide benefits for each other, or at least just take up different niches in the garden.

Mostly what I often like to do is what’s called more of a polycultural. Whereas what I showed you at the beginning of the video that bed probably had 20 different species of plants all really mingling together, all interplanted, and that’s going to be a huge amount of biodiversity it’s going to confuse pests, it’s going to really use the garden efficiently by having different heights.

This is a meso-American tradition of planting corn, beans and squash together. There are various different ways of doing it depending on the geography and things like that but here’s how I’ve done it. I plant little clusters 3 feet apart throughout the garden so there’s lots of space in between them.

In each cluster goes corn. You can seed corn direct, that’s fine. You wait until it gets about 4 inches tall. I put 4 corn in here. Then, you come and plant a bean by each corn. And what happens is, the corn is going to act as a trellis for these beans. So here’s the corn, here’s the beans.

So, the corn gets tall, the beans (these are climbing beans) “pole beans”. They’ll climb up the corn, so that acts as a trellis. There’s other benefits. The corn actually exudes through its roots food, for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria that reside on the beans. Of course the beans also house this nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

The thing that’s cool about this is corn needs a lot of nitrogen, so there’s a trade going on here between these two. I planted a squash, the big thing about the squash is it’s going to spread out.

Now I think this one happens to be more of a bush-type squash, but I have other squash in here that are vining squash so they crawl throughout the garden, they stop….they decrease evaporation from the soil, they control weeds by having these big leaves that spread throughout the garden. So they’re helping too. So they all kind of help each other.

So read on down below, I usually put a little bit more detail in the article and you can ask questions down below about anything having to do with setting up a food garden, just designing your food garden, crop rotations, companion planting, polycultures, annuals vs. perennials, things like that. Also, you can pick up my free online course down below or you can go over to Facebook.com/smilinggardener to come out there.

We post stuff over there every day, and I will see you next time!!

If you’re interested in learning how to grow organic food, I have some tips today.

Admittedly this post is a little bit all over the place, but hopefully there’s something in here that will be useful to you.

The video is worth watching, and at minute 3:57 I explain the ‘3 sisters’ that I was planting in the video last week.

(At the beginning of the video, I say ‘Back from Amsterdam!’ – that’s because I shot this video last year when I had just returned from my trip there where my sister and I had made a bunch of videos on container gardening.)

Feel free to ask your questions down below… Read More

Seedbed Preparation, Sowing Seed And Planting Vegetables

Are you ready to do some planting yet?

Most of us plant between March and May.

I’m towards the end of that time frame, but I think today’s a good day to give you some tips anyway.

I’m doing some seedbed preparation, then sowing seed, then planting vegetables and flowers.

You can learn more about the organic fertilizers and inoculants I use in this video right here.

Feel free to ask questions down at the bottom of this page… Read More