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

I talk a lot about how to improve garden health because it’s obviously a vital step for growing nutrient-dense organic food.

That’s why the first 6 months of The Academy – my members-only online organic gardening course – are largely about how to optimize the health of your soil and plants.

The reason the following steps are so important is because we’re trying to grow plants that probably wouldn’t be growing in our gardens on their own, plants that often need quite a lot of nutrition, as is the case for a majority of our most common vegetables.

And also because we really want them to produce big yields, and to be healthy and nutritious. Read More

Praying Mantis In My Self-Sustaining Garden
Insects like this praying mantis take care of my garden for me.

One of my goals is to have a self-sustaining garden.

Today is a good example of why. Heather and I are visiting her brother and his family in New York City.

I don’t know how anyone gets anything done with a 3 year old (sorry, 3 and a half) and a new baby in the house!

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Lawn Top Dressing
Lawn top dressing with compost produces a thick, green lawn

Lawn top dressing is when you apply a thin layer of material onto the lawn.

But lawn dressing is often done with sand and that’s where the problem is.

Sand is used because people think it will improve air space, water infiltration and drainage.

These are important goals, but topdressing a lawn with sand doesn’t help achieve them.

No matter what your soil is composed of, putting sand on top can actually cause drainage problems and dry pockets in the soil. And there’s more.

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Aerating A Lawn

Just like lawn dethatching and lawn rolling, I can see why people might think aerating a lawn with a lawn core aerator is necessary on an annual basis.

Not only is it often recommended gardening advice, but most lawn care companies do this as part of their regular service, organic gardening companies included.

The thing is, it can be beneficial if done right, but it generally isn’t done right, so I’m going to give a few lawn aeration tips here.

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Lawn Dethatching And Lawn Rolling
Lawn rolling compacts the soil, the opposite of our goals

The local lawn care company won’t tell you this, but lawn dethatching and lawn rolling aren’t necessary or even beneficial.

Lawn Dethatching

Lawn dethatching – also called power raking – is done to rip out thatch, which is composed of the ligneous parts of the grass – rhizomes, stolons and crowns. Note that thatch is not caused by grass clippings.

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Proper Pruning For Disease
“Hey Jim, do you feel a draft?”

I recently talked about Proper Pruning – Are You Making These Common Pruning Mistakes?.

Let’s continue that and talk about proper pruning for diseased branches.

Even when covered in disease, leaves are often still photosynthesizing and we definitely don’t want to remove the photosynthesizing capacity of a plant while it’s being eaten by a fungus or other disease. It needs all of the nutrients it can get.

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Proper Pruning
For proper pruning, always use secateurs, not anvil pruners

Proper pruning, as we are often told, involves removing the 3 D’s from our trees: Dead, Damaged and Diseased wood, so our organic gardening pruning chores revolve around that.

Now pruning dead wood that could be a hazard, such as a big branch in a tree that might fall on your neighbor’s cat’s head, is a good idea. If the tree is in a place where it doesn’t pose a hazard, pruning out the dead wood is not necessary, but it’s okay to do if it is unsightly.

But proper pruning gets a little hazy when we look at damaged and diseased wood…

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