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Phil: In the last video, I was talking about soil mineralization. And in this video, what I want to get in to is, something else that’s very important for soil health and that is organic matter. An organic matter sometimes can refer to something that is living like roots are always growing and living in leaves and plants. But mostly in this context, what I mean is, something that used to be living.
And so that is leaves that are fall into the ground, that is snakes and beetles that are dead and lying on the ground and other animals, it’s microorganisms, it is… all of these fresh things that have recently died and are lying on the ground. Then it’s also the coarse mulch layer if you can kind of see here that is on the ground, which is when these things are starting to be broken down and they’re becoming more like a mulch they’re being broken down by microorganisms.
And then eventually, when we get into the soil, we get in to the humus layer, which is when these things have been broken down and broken down by all these different kinds of microorganisms and it really resist being broken down anymore, it gets into the soil and is called humus. So that’s what we’re going to be talking about today as these forms of organic matter.
The forest excels at recycling organic matter. The leaves from both deciduous and coniferous trees, which is the needles are falling down, whether it would be all in a fall for deciduous or often throughout the year for something it’s coniferous, they’re falling to the ground and they’re being recycled. There are plants and the cannabis underneath, if you get a shot of that, plants that just grow up every year and die back and so that’s a lot of organic matter.
And then underground too, you have the roots that are … as you guys probably know just as big as the upper part of a tree, the roots spread all underground and… hey mosquito, don’t go in my ear. All underground and they actually grow and die back a lot. At microscopic kind of level, they’re always growing and dying and contributing organic matter.
So forest really excels that recycling all these organic matter in to the soil. I should mention, although we don’t have any prairies around us right now, that they create even more organic matter, you might not think so, but because the grasses, the grasses are very dense, they grow up and die every year. They have very dense root systems that grow and die a lot throughout the year.
They create a lot of organic matter and it stays down in the soil, whereas in a forest, a lot of that carbon ends up in the trunk of these trees. But either way, within any kind of natural ecosystem, organic matter is being recycled very efficiently and it’s doing a lot of good work in the soil. And that’s just the plants, so of course there are microorganisms, there are animals, earthworms, insects, all of these are growing and dying and it being recycled back in to the soil too. And but I want to talk about now is the few of the main things that organic matter does for us in the soil, in the forest and in our gardens.
First might be, fertility. Organic matter, especially when it’s gets broken down into more humus in the soil is exceptionally good at holding on to nutrients. So it’s stops nutrients from draining down out beneath where the roots can get them. It holds on to them and it makes them much easier for microorganisms and plants to use it. It chelates with them, makes the much more available to all the other organisms.
And further organic matter is usually composed a lot of nutrition itself. So of course, animals when they die, leaves when they fall, they have some nutrients in them, many different minerals, but especially carbon, which we may not think of as a nutrient, but it’s really one of the most common nutrients that plants need, they made up of largely of carbon. So that’s a very important nutrient for plants to take up, which they partially get from the air as carbon-dioxide, but if there is lots of organic matter in the soil, they’ll be happy to take it from there instead.
Number two is, water and air. Organic matter in the soil especially creates the different spore spaces that allow the soil to hold on to a lot of water, but also bigger spore spaces that allow to hold on to a lot of air. All our roots and our microorganisms need air, so we need that and of course they need water.
And so humus in the soil is good at that, plus the coarse organic leaf layer on the top of the soil is really good at holding on to moisture and air as well. Then there is soil structure, which is partly what I just talked about with the air spaces and the water spaces. But also just the organic matter in the soil is decreases compaction, really helps the soil bounce back from compaction, decreases erosion, it really helps the soil be held together, instead of blowing away.
Then there is providing for soil life and really it’s all the things I’ve just talked about, but organic matter is habitat from microorganisms and earthworms and insects, it’s food, it’s water, it’s air, I mean, it just provides everything that all of the soil food web needs to establish itself and be healthy. And it probably provides other things we don’t know about on an energetic level, helping energy move through the soil. I mean, just really, yeah, creating a community or a soil life can thrive. We found the only sunny spot in this rain course here.
And now what I want to do is, start talking about how we can mimic nature, this rain forest to bring in organic matter into our gardens. And immediately, some of the things we do are fairly un-natural, but they do help us speed up the process of getting organic matter in to our soil and on to our soil. So the first would be composed, composting is not really a natural process, we’re kind of forcing very fast decomposition by bringing organic materials into a certain sized pile or certain amount of water and air and things like that and certain combinations of materials in order to hasten the decomposition of that into organic matter and being on it’s way into humus.
And we might use manure also in our garden, although it’s really best composed first as well. So we bring that composed in to our garden and pretty quickly we have some fairly well broken down organic matter. The next thing is, bringing in a mulch, which is so important for our garden. And the way we do it is way nature does it, which is leaves. Leaves are by far the best mulch. I know that most people aren’t using leaves, but they really are natural their nutrients and they just provide many benefits.
A little bit grass clippings can work too, you don’t want too thick of a layer grass clippings, because it can get anaerobic and promote the wrong kind of microorganisms and they can smell and all that. But a little bit grass clippings is fine and when we don’t have leaves or grass clippings in the short-term, we can use straw, which works really well, doesn’t look quite as natural, but it does fine.
But really, what we hope is that we can eventually get some leaves in to our garden. One thing that you really don’t want to use too much off is bark mulch and wood chips. If you look at the fourth floor here, you don’t see two inches of wood chips or bark mulch that just not … that’s not how it happens. When you see here, mostly leaves, you see some sticks that fall. Hardly any bark, because the trees don’t shed bark all that much.
You see, probably some seeds and some fresh material, but it’s mostly leaves that of course on top, when you get underneath and then they are more broken down. So you can use a little bit of that stuff. Bark mulch tends to, it can cause a nitrogen deficiency in your soil. It’s so high in carbon that I won’t explain that all here, but it can just cause nitrogen to be used up very quickly in your soil.
The same with wood chips and the thing about bark, especially is that how those toxins in it, that’s the plants, first line of defense against insects and other plant feeding organisms. And so there is toxins in bark, especially in coniferous bark that we often use in the garden like fur and seeder, pretty toxic stuff. Now you can use a little bit in an ornamental garden or for example, if you have a seeder edge, sure you could use a little bit of seeder mulch underneath, but you don’t need two inches of it.
If you have a free source of woody material, again in a deciduous like an ornamental garden, that’s a woody garden like shrubs and trees, a little bit can be okay, you might need to supplement some nitrogen, some organic nitrogen, so that you don’t cause soil problems. But really if you had a free source, I’d rather see you composed it for a few years and then bring it in to your garden.
So composts and mulches are great way to quickly bring in organic matters, sometimes we bring it in from offside if we have to, but in the long run, what we really want to do is, mimic nature even more by using for example plants.
If we can plant things that grow quickly and make a lot of leaves that falls and for most of us in autumn, they fall and that’s the great way to create mulch and then naturally it’s going to become more humus overtime. So planting things always making sure we have ground cover is a great way to mimic nature and increase organic matter. Along with that, we really want to have ground covers in our garden. And you can be there, it’s very popular, it’s very popular to use ground covers that are evergreen like IVs, things like that, they can be helpful.
But more I’m thinking deciduous ground covers like clovers and perennials that get recycled into the soil every year and improve the soil when the recycled and also improve the soil, just by being there and covering it and protecting it. And speaking of clovers, if you’re doing a lot of vegetable gardening, where the bed is empty during the early spring and fall, it’s great to plan a cover cop of legumes like clovers and that is they bring nitrogen into the soil, provide a lot of benefits or sometimes grasses are good for or they bring in other benefits, but just always making sure your soil is covered in plants is a great way to make sure that’s always going to get a lot of organic matter.
So you can see how nature gives us a lot of clues as to how to improve organic matter. In the long-term the sustainable way to do it, is to plant a lot of plants that are going to be loosing a lot of leaves and making a nice mulch for you, having cover crops on the ground all the time, just always under social cover is a good way to do it. And then in the short-term, we might bring in some composed and some leaf mulch, some straw mulch to get that organic matter happening much more quickly.
So that’s really important. Step number two is organic matter. It does allow for our garden. In the next video, I’m going to get in to the third step to building a healthy garden ecosystem. As for all the things I talked about today, I do get in to them in much more detail in the academy in my on-line gardening course, so mulching and composting and cover cropping, all of that in a lot more detail. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the price is going to be going up on Monday night, so if you’re interested in that you might want to have a look at that right now.
In the last post I talked about improving soil mineralization.
Now I want to discuss another aspect of organic soil health that is important for so many things: organic matter in soil.
Organic matter refers partially to living things like roots and fungi, but in this context it mostly means everything that used to be alive.
That means fresh fallen leaves and recently deceased snakes and beetles, to the coarse mulch layer when these things are partially decomposed, to the very stable humus when they’re fully broken down which stays around in the soil for years.
Phil: Despite the fact that you can hear, may be a chainsaw in the background. We are in fact in the jungle.
Welcome to the first three videos about how to improve the health of your garden, especially the health of your soil. What we’re going to do is, we’re in our cabin right now in the rain forest. But we’re going to be going for some walks this week right into the jungle to learn about how we can learn from the jungle, from nature to improve the health of our garden. Admitively, this first video is actually a little more about how our garden differs from the rain forest. But it’s still going to be interesting to compare the two.
And the first thing I want to talk about is mineralization of your soil or balancing your soil fertility. All of the three videos I’m going to shoot are of equal importance. But I usually start there, because when I go in to a new garden or when I install a new garden, I want to often get a soil test on it and send it off to a lab and it takes a couple of week, sometimes to get the results back and then I can think about mineralizing the soil, fertilizing the soil. But I want to do that right away, so I can send that off to the lab to get those results.
So first of all, what I’m going to be talking about today is soil fertility. So what can we learn from the forest about fertility? Well, we can learn a lot of things and some of them are going to come in latter videos. But if you think about a forest, nobody fertilizes the forest, there is nobody bringing in calcium or any kind of fertilizer.
And that’s why a lot of people think, oh, I don’t want to fertilize my garden. Nobody fertilize, is the forest or a prairie and if I just make composed is very popular in the organic world and that’s going to be sufficient to fertilize my garden. And I kind of understand that. But what I want to just talk about today is, why our garden is different and why I think you do want to do a little bit of fertilizing in your garden and I’m going to give you a few tips today on how to do that.
The reason the forests doesn’t need fertilizing is because something is always going to grow here, unless you have soil that’s incredibly toxic or something like that. Even then, there are plants for every situation. And so what happens in a forest or anywhere that’s natural is you have… when you hardly have any soil, you have plants that come in, they’re called pioneering species, they’re often nitrogen fixing plants, but there may be various kinds of plants and microorganisms, likings they come in, they spread up, of course, this takes decades and centuries, but eventually that the right plant for the soil here and for the climate… is that a monkey? Is going to come in. And most of the plants that spread are not going to grow, but that’s okay, because some will grow and eventually you have this cool forest.
So that’s really why you don’t need for laser in forest, something is… there is always something that’s going to come in. You can do the same thing in your garden if you want to and I’ve actually known a couple of people who have done that, which is just to let the weeds grow up and we call them weeds, but they’re really just plants. And what they’re going to do is to kind of improve of your soil overtime, more species of plants will come in, may be eventually after decades or centuries, it becomes the forest like this or may be not. But it will be a garden kind of.
The reason we want to fertilize is because we want to dictate which plants come in, we want to plant them and we want to make sure, they would grow there and we want them all to live, not just 10% of them and we want to thrive. If you leave your garden alone, it’s … is it going to produce tomatoes or strawberries or big, beautiful award winning roses, from most of us, the answer is no. It’s a… most of those plants didn’t evolve where we’re trying to grow them, they came from often and another continent entirely and most of them aren’t and perfectly matched for our soil conditions. So it doesn’t mean you can plant them and may be get some more key plants. But if you want really healthy plants and that’s when a little bit of fertilizers can help. And you don’t need a lot, it’s actually amazing, just how little you need to tweak the system to make it work for plants like these.
The easiest way to know which fertilizers to use is to go and get a soil lab that is very organically minded, get them to analyze your soil. They’ll tell you which macronutrients and micronutrients are lacking or imbalanced in your soil and then they will tell you what to bring in and how much to bring in. It’s really easy to do that way. The most gardeners skip this step, many of them still have fine gardens, but if you’re trying to grow really healthy plants that are free of pests and especially what I’m interested in, it’s food that is really full of nutrients, that’s when I think this step is worthwhile just to get a soil test and do a little bit of fertilizing.
The reason we need a soil test is because we want to add the right nutrients. That’s not just N, P, K, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, it’s not even things like dolomite, lime, which people often add just for good measure. Those can often cause problems. What we want is to know exactly which minerals we need to add in there. And that’s why often, blended fertilizers that you buy from a garden centre or a fertilizer supply place are not right, because they may be bringing in some of the nutrients you need, but they may be bringing in some of the nutrients you already have enough or too much of and then you just further shifting things out of balance.
That being said, there is one kind of fertilizer you can bring in without a soil test and that is rock dust. Usually from a glacial source or volcanic source, you can get it from something more of a specialty fertilizer store or you can go right to a query and get it if you’re willing to do some testing to make sure it’s good and it doesn’t have any problems with that. But you can bring that in and what it does is, it brings in a broad spectrum of nutrients. So it doesn’t bring in a lot of any nutrient, which means it’s not going to throw anything out of balance and that’s why you can use it without a soil test. So you can bring it in, it’s going to make sure you have just a base of lots of different nutrients and you’re not going to cause any problems.
And although it may seem kind of weird to bring in rock dust, a lot of experimentation around the world is shown that it works. Even though, our soil is usually do have at least a little of every nutrients, they really do. Bring in the rock dust in has done a lot of good in gardens and even in forests. Another thing we can do is called foliar fertilizing, which means we’re spraying things like ocean water, just straight ocean water from a clean source or cults that’s been made in to a liquid. We spray that on to our plants and it’s especially useful during the early growing stages of plants or when your soil may be isn’t popping enough to make your garden really grow healthy.
Now paradoxically, you actually need to have a reasonably healthy soil, especially you need enough calcium in order for the plants to be able to take up these nutrients through their leaves. We get all those minerals down into the soil, they get in to the plants, the plants then have all the micronutrients to create the enzymes in order to be healthy, in order to maximize photosynthesis and do all of these plants processes. And then the really nice thing for us, if we’re growing food, is that we get to eat the plants that have the micronutrients in them. And even if you’re already eating a healthy diet, if you’re trying to eat organic food, a lot of our organic food, especially the industrialized organic food is pretty low in nutrition.
So that’s why I’m really in to growing my own food and trying to use these different methods to get fertility both in to the soil and directly in to the plants, so that I get to get that fertility in to me latter and then I can be healthier. So what I really wanted to share today is, more how as I said, a garden is different than a forest. It’s different because we want to control which plants grow. We want them to be very healthy. We want everything we plant to live and thrive and produce all nutrient dense food for us or at least be for growing ornamentals, have beautiful flowers and we free of test and so that’s really what I was talking about today.
In the next video, I’m going to talk about something different, but it relates very much to fertility and to water. It’s much more about how we can emulate nature in our gardens. For those of you watching who are not in the Smiling Gardner Academy, which is my online, very comprehensive organic gardening course, where I teach soil testing and mineralization and soil fertility and all of these things I’ve been kind of talking about today are you… if you’re interested in that, you might want to check it out this week, because the price is actually going to be going up on Monday night.
Welcome to the first of three steps on how we can learn from nature when it comes to improving garden health, especially organic soil health.
(You’ll see me swatting at mosquitoes and these other biting bugs here and there – they sure were thick when we got deep into the jungle).
All three steps are equally important, but the first I tend to think about is balancing soil minerals, the main reason being that I want to get a soil test analyzed as soon as possible when I’m working on a new garden because it can take a couple of weeks to get results.
Phil: Hey, guys, its Phil from smilinggardener.com and as you may be able to tell by the vegetation around me, I’m not where I usually I am. I am in the jungle in the Amazon. Heather and I are in Peru for about three months and we’re basically kind of working away as usual. We always have plenty to do, but we’re doing it from Peru for a little while. And while we’re here, I’m trying to learn a little bit more about growing food in the tropics. But as while we’re in the Amazon here, I’m mostly just trying to pay attention to the jungle around me to the nature around me, you can learn a lot about gardening by paying attention to nature.
Over the next week or so, I’m going to be making three videos for you to show you how we can take some lessons from the jungle here and bring them into our organic gardens to grow healthy plants, plants that are pest free and especially if you’re growing food, plants that are really nutrient, dense and full of nutrition for you. And well it happen to be in the Amazon jungle here, I could just as easily be in a temperate forest or even in a grassland and all the lessons that I’m going to be talking about here, really apply to every one.
I could certainly make a lot more than three lessons about looking in to nature for design tips that’s very much for permaculture culture is interested in as learning from nature, talking about maintenance, there are all kinds of things I could talk about. But what I want to focus on for these three videos are how to create really healthy soil and what we can learn from nature about creating healthy soil in our gardens. So I’m going to be filming these over the next few days and sending them to you as I make them that you happen to be in the middle of my other lessons right now that means you’re going to get a lot of e-mails from me this week. So I hope that’s okay. But I just really want to film these this week and send them off to you. So I hope you enjoy them.
Hey guys, guess where I am?
Okay, I gave it away in the title. I’m in the Amazon jungle!
Heather and I are living in Peru for 3 months. While we’re here I’m learning a few things about growing food in the tropics.
But while we’re in the jungle I’m mostly just trying to pay attention to the nature around me.
You can learn a lot about organic gardening if you take the time to observe nature.
Heather: We should just be dancing. No, this is stupid. You have to stop it.
Phil: Okay, let’s go.
Heather: Hey guys! This is Heather from healthyeatingstartshere.com. I am outside in snow and Phil’s with me. Whoa! Oh my God, we’re in the same video. It’s craziness.
Heather: So, first of all, we just wanted to say a big huge thank you to all of you. Mostly because the other day my YouTube channel got 215,000 subscribers, which I think is crazy; crazy and awesome.
Phil: That’s a lot.
Heather: Yeah. How many subscribers do you have?
Phil: Almost a thousand. But I haven’t been focusing on YouTube yet.
Heather: Right. Okay. So, moral of the story is you shall go subscribe Phil’s channel, so you can watch him.
Heather: So, end of the year always a good time to look back on what you’ve accomplished. So, 2012, for me, was about building relationships with you guys, with other vegan and health professionals through my Better Health Summit, through going to conferences, and it was also having a lot of fun, for me. I tried to do videos where I had really just a lot of fun and still give information, but do it in a fun way. So, like my Top 10 list.
Heather: My butter substitute and cooking oil makes a fantastic moisturizer.
Phil: Especially in the last few months, you’ve been doing some cool stuff I think.
Heather: Yeah. Fun. What have you got going on?
Phil: 2012, just like 2011, I spent most of my time on the Smiling Gardener Academy, which is my online gardening course. I have like 450 videos in there now or something, so that’s what I do mostly. I put out a book —
Phil: — called Building Soils Naturally.
Heather: Awesome book.
Heather: Beautiful cover.
Phil: Beautiful cover, good writing too.
Heather: Excellent writing.
Phil: That was put out in December.
Heather: I edited it.
Phil: Yeah, you did edit it.
Phil: That’s right on your hair.
Heather: I know.
Heather: Okay, go.
Phil: So, we’re kicking off 2013 with brand new websites that I’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks, over Christmas.
Heather: He’s been working really hard.
Phil: A little new musical intro to the video.
Heather: Yes. We’re going to put on this video, right?
Heather: So, you’ll already have heard it.
Phil: It’s just a simple little thing.
Heather: But I like it.
Phil: New logos, that my buddy Matt Paren designed for us that are so nice.
Heather: Yes, it’s beautiful, check out the top of the website. If you’re on YouTube go over to the website, you’ll see it there.
Phil: And just the new website that are going to be updating the technology, easier to navigate, little pretty hopefully, and especially on small devices they should work nicely. So, the most exciting thing for 2013 is something we’ve been working on for a few months, at least.
Heather: What is it?
Phil: It’s coming out next.
Heather: Oh, my god! Yes. Okay. So, I’ve been working on this for a long time and I’m super excited about it. I want to share it with you guys, it’s a new project. What can I say about it?
Heather: Nothing? Okay.
Phil: They’ll find out this week.
Heather: I can’t tell you yet.
Phil: People who are on your email list are going to get a lot of cool free stuff. So —
Heather: So, if you’re not on it already go sign up on my email list healtheathingstartshere.com.
Heather: You can do that while you check out the logo.
Phil: Yeah, which everyone is dying to see our logo.
Heather: I don’t know.
Phil: Then what are we doing?
Heather: Then, in a couple of weeks we’re going to Peru for three months.
Heather: Three months.
Phil: You’re excited.
Heather: I am excited because, you know what they have there? A whole ton of fruit and quinoa.
Phil: And it’s like —
Phil: — fresh ripe fruit the way it’s supposed to taste.
Heather: I am so excited, I really am.
Phil: Okay. So, quickly, for me, because this video is maybe getting long. So, for me — for my followers in 2013, I’m — the Academy is largely done, but I’m going to be going back through and improving some of the videos. Some of the — some videos where I’m just doing this, standing in front of a camera, because it’s hard to always show things.
So, I’m going to film, 25% to 40% is what I’m taking of the videos over again make them even cooler. I know it’s — people are giving me great feedback already, but I just want to — 2013 is going to be just like making the Academy even cooled that already is.
And, for blogging, it’s going to be the year when I — I have a really cool strategy for blogging. It doesn’t mean I’m going blog more often, but I just think it’s going to be really cool what I’m doing. I’ll be talking about that more later.
Phil: Maybe, depending on how you feel after this video, we will be doing a little more things together this year. We haven’t really talked about that. I’m springing it on you right now.
Heather: Okay, we’ll see. What do you guys think?
Heather: No. Here you go.
Phil: No, it’s — we haven’t told each other, so that’s good.
Heather: Not yet. Okay, I want to know what else you guys want to see from me in 2013. So, if there’s anything leave it in comments.
Phil: I want to know that too.
Heather: You want to know what’s you —
Phil: For my feedback.
Heather: Stealing my question.
Phil: I want to know what you want from me in 2013. Just what you want me to write about and what you want her to write about. So…
Heather: Great. Okay. And it looks good.
Phil: You’re done?
Heather: I am done. Are you done?
Phil: I want to go play in the snow.
Heather: Okay. Oh, no he attacked.
Phil: Here can you make a snow angel?
Heather: You can’t make noise before you come on.
Phil: Hey guys, this is Heather from HealthyEatingStartsHere.
Happy New Year Everyone!
I thought it would be fun to update you on what’s been going on at SmilingGardener.com in 2012 and what I’ll be up to in 2013.
First, thanks to everyone for your support, for leaving questions and comments on my blog or sending me an email.
I can’t respond to most emails, but I do really appreciate your enthusiasm for organic gardening.
H: Hey guys this is H, Phil’s sister from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about preparing your garden for winter. How do we know it’s time to winterize our garden?
Phil: I do it right before it’s going to snow.
H: What’s the most important thing for preparing the garden?
Phil: For me it is like one really big step and that is doing something to protect your soil over winter. There are some few different ways you can go about doing that.
H: What’s the easiest thing to do?
Phil: Yeah. Like if I guess if we were talking about like a vegetable garden or a perennial garden, certainly one thing you could do is just leave your plants there, your tomatoes, your peppers, your everything, just leave them right there and they will just die back, the nutrients from the plant will go back into the root system of the plants and the top will just die back and become a mulch for the soil and all those nutrients and all those organic matter will makes its way back into the soil and it’s not the most esthetically pleasing, but if your garden is kind of back somewhere where it doesn’t matter and now it will be easiest way to do it and that’s how nature would do it too, right.
H: But what if your garden is in a really high profile area and you don’t want it to look that messy?
Phil: That’s what I have this garden here, its right up by the house and it’s like I try to keep it as a nice garden. So then what I do is take all of that stuff and put it into the compose bin because I really want to get the nutrients out of that and get the carbon, the organic matter out of that. So I take all that and put it into a compose bin and then I like to plan a carver crop.
H: What about leaves?
Phil: If you are not going to plan to carver crop, you want something to protect our soil and so that’s where mulch comes in and by far the best mulch and the most natural mulch is leaves and this is the time of year that we actually get them for free, especially if we have been clever enough to planting and make wild leaves.
H: I think that’s it. Is there anything else that you wanted to say about preparing the garden?
Phil: I did put a few more tips on the blog, so people are watching on YouTube, they can go over to this blog and there is some extra brownie points, there is some extra things you can do to really improve this process of soil building in the fall.
H: Sounds good.
Phil: Hey you know what I should say because you don’t know how to say it yet is for people who haven’t picked up the 15 vital lessons for becoming a better organic gardener, you can do that right on the Home page of smilinggardener.com and that’s where I teach a whole bunch of really cool tips. H: You are gardening for the winter.
It’s November, which means:
- Christmas music is beginning to waft through stores across North America, and
- I’m preparing my garden for winter.
The most important task for preparing a garden for winter is getting that soil good and covered.
There are a few ways you can tackle that:
Phil: Hey Guys! It’s Phil from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about the benefits of weeds and if you haven’t picked up the 15 Vital Lessons For Becoming A Better Organic Gardener, you can do that right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.
So, do you remember when I had a particularly weedy lawn of a client of mine and I had to get you to come and help me hand weed the lawn?
H: I do. I think I did it for free. No way. You still owe me.
Phil: I just remember that that – like there were – that was a small front lawn but there were more weeds there than grass, right?
H: Yes. Same at the backyard because I ended taking all of that job for you and the – it was just crazy. You could hardly even see the grass.
Phil: So it’s the kind of thing where we knew that we could eventually, over the course of a number of years, improve the soil and help the plant to the point where the grass would win over the weeds but it was just in a short term because the client didn’t like the weeds. We had to hand-pull them, right?
H: Yeah. Exactly. I guess that’s the problem with trying to find the short term solution, right?
Phil: So. Today – I mean today we are just talking about the benefits of weeds which – I don’t know if we ever got that across to hearing that but they are really – there was a reason the weeds were there which is because they were more suited for that soil than the grass.
So usually it means the soil is not in great shape. It’s – it could be any number of nutritional imbalances or water issues or compaction issues. But today we are talking about what the weeds do for the lawn or the garden, right?
H: Yes. We are. We love talking about weeds.
Phil: So why don’t you tell people something that the weeds that’s good?
H: Okay. Well. Weeds bring mineral.
Phil: Don’t lose it.
H: Weeds bring minerals and water up from deep in the soil and they make them available to microbes and neighboring plants.
Phil: Well, how you stress like every third word there.
H: Hey! There is a point to be made.
Phil: Yes. Weeds bring nutrients. I am certain weeds bring up nutrients from really deep in the soil because they have long tap roots. They are also – just a lot of them have extensive root systems. They break up hardpans and break up compaction. They are always dying back and growing, both above and below ground.
So they are adding organic matter to the soil. They are fixing– like the really cool thing is weeds will come in and if you have a calcium deficiency, there is going to weeds to come in and fix that calcium deficiency. Now it may take decades or centuries but sometimes it will be really quick but that’s what they do.
So actually we have a longer list on the Blog of what weeds do that’s good for you. But I guess we just want to tell people to embrace their weeds. We get into it – I mean I get into a lot more in the academy and then probably in 2013, we will actually talk a little bit more about what you can do to improve soil condition like on the Blog, mostly we cannot talk a lot more detail in the academy.
So the question I want to ask today is what weeds are causing you guys problems. Yeah. I just want to hear like what kinds of weeds you have in abundance. So let me know in the comments down below. Is there anything else?
H: I cannot think of anything else particularly or just so about weeds.
Phil: Okay. That’s good for today then.
Yes, weeds can be a bummer, but many gardeners don’t know there are a lot more benefits of weeds than downsides.
Besides, they’re easily controlled in the garden with mulch.
The lawn is definitely trickier. I had one client who’s front lawn had more weeds than grass.
Phil:Hey Guys! It’s Phil from smilinggardener.com and today we are talking about how to use mulch and a quick reminder if you haven’t signed up for the 15 Vital Lessons For Becoming A Better Organic Gardener, you can do right on the homepage of smilinggardener.com.
So H, do you remember when we used to mulch at aunt Tina and uncle George’s?
H: I do. I think we have pictures somewhere of that.
H: I don’t know here.
Phil: I bet it’s not digital though. I bet it’s like a film picture.
H: Oh yeah. They are like – it’s a film like 1986 or something like that.
Phil: So what did we do there?
H: Yeah. So I can remember just, you know, wrapping up use piles of leaves and jumping in them and playing in them and all that stuff. But we would, aunt Tina had us, like mow over them until they were really finely shredded and then put them on her veggie garden. She had a huge veggie garden. And I think we would turn them into the soil with like a pitch fork or something like that. So – I can remember that quite well.
Phil: And then, it’s kind of funny because we – when we became landscapers, we were using like cedar mulch for many years and then when we got into organic gardening, we were back to leaves mostly now, right?
H: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, how many yards of mulch did both of us shovel onto people’ gardens?
Phil: That was always fun though because that was lighter than like stones.
H: I loved mulching. It was like the most stratifying job, but leaves is way funnier, super easy to do.
Phil: Okay. So what I am going to talk about really quickly and there is more detail on the blog. What I want to talk about today is how to choose a mulch depending on if you are growing more like trees and shrubs, maybe an orchard fruit trees or more like a vegetable gardener annual plants. So I guess I am just going to talk, right H?
H: Sounds good.
Phil: Okay. So okay. So just quickly, this is the main point I wanted to talk about today.
Trees and shrubs like more of a fungal dominated soil food web. They really want a lot more fungi than bacteria. In order to get that, you want to definitely leave the mulch on the surface of the soil and use some woody material, some wood chips, not bark mulch. And definitely you want the wood chips from the same kind of tree. So if you are planting fruit trees or other deciduous trees, you want deciduous mulch. If you planting conifers you want more conifer mulch because if you use it with the wrong one, it promotes the wrong fungi and there is other issues. So that’s an important one.
Still leaves are always the most important part. But if you want to promote fungi, getting a little woody material in there, especially early on when you are trying to establish the fungal soil food web, that’s what you want.
Over to your vegetable garden, that’s when we definitely don’t want woody material because we want more of a balance between bacteria and fungi. So we want – that’s really leaves and maybe straw, maybe you consider turning it into the soil, just the top of the soil because you don’t want to disturb too much but just to promote more bacteria. Or even, if you leave it on the surface. You just want a very think kind of, mulch of leaves and straws and I think I carved it a little more elegantly in the blog but that’s the main thing I wanted to talk about today.Hey, what have you been eating earlier?
H: Oh! I got these little fruits from the supermarket. Actually, I already posted a picture of them on the Facebook and ask people about it. But they are like these little berry that I never had before. You know, it’s cool to be in the different country and like try something that you have never saw before but like, they are so confusing. It’s like a citricy melon and blue berry but it looks like a tomato. They are super interesting though.
Phil: What’s it called? Do you know in English?
H: No. But I put it on – asked people on Facebook. So. I am sure somebody will know what they are. I cannot translate it from Dutch. It doesn’t look like anything that I know.
Phil: So that’s facebook.com/smilinggardner, right?
Phil: And do we had question for people today?
H: Yeah. We are going to ask people, like us, when you got into organic gardening, did your practices change too, did you change the type of mulch you were using, or if you have any other questions about types of mulch or how to use mulch, that would be a good place to ask it down below the blog.
Phil: It sounds good to me.
Phil: That’s all for today.
H: Yeah. Bye for now.
There are a couple of important things I want to share about how to use mulch in your organic garden.
When we were kids we would help our aunt and uncle put their vegetable garden to rest for the winter, using leaves for mulch.
We’d collect them into a pile, jump into them and play a while, mow over them with the lawnmower, then pile the mulched pieces onto the soil.
Phil: Hey guys, it’s is Phil from SmilingGardener.com and today we have a medicinal plants list that we put together for you, and H is going to tell you why we started thinking about this.
H: Well, okay, I started thinking about this yesterday because I went for a walk in the park right beside my house and I sat down on a bench to take a rest and this woman, an older woman, had sat down beside me and she had a little — her grandson with her.
And this little guy was just covered in sickness, like runny nose and eyes and all this kind of stuff. He looked like he had a cold or a flu and this grandmother, she was so sweet, she was just totally ready to tackle this and she had like a little bag of candies and she was kind of sorting through these candies, try to pick the right one and she found one. She says to me “it’s Echinacea.”
So it got me thinking that even across the ocean, there are a lot of plants that medicinally offer the same properties. So we thought it would be worthwhile to discuss some of them.
Phil: Yeah and so we started talking about it and what it really reminded me of – and this is kind of the most important part of the blog we put together I think -that what got me really excited when I started studying organic gardening was the idea of growing really nutrient dense food and growing any kind of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and mushrooms, whatever you do, if you can learn to create really good soil and grow that really nutrient dense food, then you are going to be getting just natural pharmaceuticals really; the same kind of stuff that are used in things like aspirin, anti-inflammatory things, all kinds of natural drugs really that will prevent disease and just help you be overall healthy.
So I got really excited about that, but then we were talking about today and we were talking about how there are some plants that are especially medicinal. So what we did is we put together a list of five, we just picked five really that I have in my garden and that I have used in the last week or so.
And to keep this video short, we are just going to cover one of them in the video and the other five will be on the blog. So if you are watching this on YouTube, I’ll put a link below and you can go, check it out. So many other ones are pretty cool; we have like a — we have a leafy green, we have a flower, we have a bulb, we have a weed. So we have some cool ones.
But we are just going to about another one today. So H, you picked one that you really liked, right?
H: Yeah, I thought it would be cool to mention fennel because fennel is really awesome for relaxing the tummy. It helps aid in digestion. So if you have fennel tea or phenol seeds, it’s really good to maybe, for example, get a cup of tea, have that before a meal or after meal, especially if you have something heavy, it’s really good to help settle the tummy.
So if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant, you’ve probably seen that they have little dishes of seeds for you after dinner maybe covered in like a sugary coating, something like that. Well, those are fennel seeds and it’s a practice in India to eat them after a heavy meal to help aid in digestion.
Phil: Yeah and yet the thing I like about fennel too is in the garden, it’s just a great plant for attracting beneficial insects, it may be a perennial where you live so it comes back every year or even if you live in a cold climate, it will self seed quite readily and same with dill, it’s related to dill.
So I actually tend to grow more dill because I like it a little bit better in cooking but more of a medicinal plant is the fennel and yeah, I think that’s the one we wanted to cover.
So we had a question we were going to ask people?
H: Yeah, we were going to ask you guys — why do I always forget these questions?
Phil: I don’t know why you forget this one because all we are asking people is what medicinal plants they like to grow and —
H: Yes, I think I even wrote it down.
Phil: You know like what’s medicinal about it and just tell us whatever they want about it because obviously there are tens of thousands of these; we just took five. So we’d like to hear what plants, yeah, people like to grow.
Phil: Yeah, so if you are not on the blog, check it out because one weed that we wrote about is one that I sometimes use in this ice cream that I make. So I have a little recipe for that on the website too.
H: Cool! All right, see you guys.
Yesterday morning, my sister had an interesting encounter with a sniffling boy and his grandmother.
It prompted us to put together a short medicinal plants list of 5 plants you may want to consider for your own organic garden.
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 smilinggardener.com 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.
H: When you are planting garlic, are you supposed to take off the tunic?
H: So you break up the cloves and…
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?
Phil: Okay, that is all for today.
It’s fall bulb planting time!
We’ve been especially aware of that this week because my sister has been living in Amsterdam during the last few years.
And of course you can hardly think of the Netherlands without images of bountiful tulip bulbs bursting out of the ground.
I visited her in 2010, and surprisingly, the plant life is quite similar to back home.
In Amsterdam, they have mild winters and (generally) cool summers leaving plenty of lush green around the city year round.
And since it’s getting cooler, now’s the time to start considering your fall bulb planting.
Phil: Hey guys, it’s Phil from smilinggardener.com and for those of you who follow me, you may know that I spend almost all of my time filming videos that go into my online gardening course and it just has turned out so far that I rarely have enough time to film videos to put out for free on YouTube or on my public website. So what I am going to do, what I’ve done is I’ve hired someone to help me just get my butt in gear, like filming a few more videos and she’s going to help me with a little bit of editing, a little bit of writing here and there and just odds and ends stuff. So this video is just to introduce her. So why don’t you introduce yourself.
H: I am H and I am Phil’s younger sister.
Phil: Yeah, everybody thinks you are older, because maybe you are more mature or something, but you are four years younger, right?
H: Yup, I am.
Phil: So let’s tell people just where you learned about gardening and that kind of stuff.
H: So I basically had the same start that Phil had growing up, working in my parents’ garden center and quite fell in love with that. So after that, I ended up going to college and studying horticulture there.
Phil: What kind of classes that you take there?
H: I did a lot of different plant identification classes, soils, greenhouse management, turf management, arboriculture, things like that.
Phil: It was like, that was a two-year degree, right?
H: Yeah, two years, yeah.
Phil: And that wasn’t organic. So neither you or I were organic when we were younger but I started an organic gardening business and then you eventually took that over when I moved to the West Coast, right?
H: Yeah, I mean basically, I didn’t start learning about organic gardening until Phil did and then he kind of passed that torch over to me when I took over his business.
Phil: So the other thing is where are you right now?
H: Now I am in Amsterdam, I am in the Netherlands, and I am back in school, doing another degree over here.
Phil: So what are you studying?
H: I am studying psychology.
Phil: Yeah, cool, so not gardening but you are still — like whenever you are back home, you are always doing gardening jobs.
H: Inevitably, right?
Phil: So that’s just a quick video today. So you guys could do me a big favor and welcome my sister down in the comments below, maybe tell us where you’re gardening, where you are from and just welcome my sister to the gardening group here.
As you may know, I’ve been rather busy for the past 2 years filming videos for the Academy.
It’s been loads of fun, but it means I rarely get around to doing free videos, and sometimes it’s 3 or more weeks between blog posts.
So I’ve finally decided to get a bit of help. I’m still doing everything around here, just with a bit of help from… my sister! I’ll let her introduce herself: