3 Crucial Organic Gardening Tips To Always Remember

I have 3 important organic gardening tips for you. You don’t have to tattoo them onto your knuckles – remembering them will suffice.

If you’ve read my book, you know that I tend to get rather detailed in my organic gardening practices, because I like the process of perfecting my soil in order to get the healthiest possible plants – especially food plants.

But the fact is that we can have some pretty decent gardens by remembering to follow just the basics.

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This transcription will have some mistakes because it is partially automated.

Audience! What are doing in my compost bin? That’s a Toby Turner reference, he’s a, he’s a guy on YouTube who does a video everyday where he doesn’t really talk about much but he’s pretty funny and that he always starts his videos like that and I’m not that funny but here I am, it’s Phil from SmilingGardener.com sharing organic gardening tips.

If you haven’t picked up the 15 Vital Organic Gardening Lessons for Becoming a Better Organic Gardener, you can do that right on the main page of SmilingGardener.com.

And today, I’m actually getting ready to leave to go home so I’m gonna be, if you’ve been following along, you know that I’m out at my parents place putting in this food garden and I’m gonna be away for a month.

So, I’m pretty nervous the things, you know I have all these seedings coming up, I have these little, I did a lot of seedings so I’m worried that things aren’t gonna get watered enough and things like that.

But if I can survive the boron toxicity problem from last week I think I can get through this. And what I want to talk about today is if you read my book, you know that (I gotta change hands here, I need a lighter camera.) You know that I get pretty detailed about soil testing and really try to improve my soil because I wanna grow healthy food.

But for most gardeners, the detail I get into will be more than you wanna get into and really there are a few things that you can do that will help you have a very healthy garden. That’s what I wanna go into today, and I’m actually working off of a this cool little booklet that Heide Hermany from Gaia College wrote few years ago.

And she outline what she called the three M’s, the booklet is called the Soil Testing for Organic Gardeners but it’s not really about soil testing, it’s really about the three M’s so I’m gonna, I’m gonna go over those organic gardening tips today.

And the first one of the organic gardening tips is about mulch and a good mulch, you know protects the soil, it keeps it moist, it stop weeds from growing and most important it’s going to provide nutrition so we don’t really want to be using a bark mulch because it doesn’t have nutrition, it actually has some toxins in it.

We, you know we don’t want to use stones or rocks because they, they stop the whole, the whole organic matter recycling process that goes, that is how nature fertilizes the garden so nature uses leaves, that’s really what we want to use because they do all of the things I mentioned about the foliar nutrients they, they’re like a fertilizer for the garden.

But what I have here is straw and that’s kinda of, I would say that’s next best, does a lot of things right but it doesn’t really have that much in the way of nutrition in it. So as soon as the fall comes I will be able to bring a lot of leaves in this garden.

Coz leaves are really the best so the first thing you wanna be doing is, yeah! is always having a mulch in your garden, an organic mulch that is gonna break down and provides nutrition along with the other benefits that mulching provides.

So that’s number one. Number two of the organic gardening tips is going to be microbes. You know, organic gardening tips if you come across them they often gonna talked about fertilizers and I actually wrote about organic fertilizers last week they’re really useful but the thing that we’re often lacking more than nutrients is a healthy soil food web.

And the main way we improve our soil food web is through, a really well made aerobic compost, which I just have, which I just started the video off with there.

And the nice thing about compost is not only it is a, is a basically a way to grow beneficial microorganisms but it also supplies organic matter and nutrition so it really brings a lot into the garden.

But also you know, we usually don’t have as much compost as we want so that’s when we bring in compost tea and effect of microorganism and other inoculants, things that I talked about in my book and that I will be talking about in the academy.

Right over here, actually I’m drawing out some bokashi, here I have some yem, I love yem! And here I have bokashi which I never made with straw before and it seems to work okay, usually I would make it with some sawdust or some weed germ or something like that.

But this, this is okay so drawing that out right now and that’s another really good source of microbes, compose tea. EM, bokashi. I have a worm bin hiding right over there so we wanna bring microbes into the soil because they, you know they bring water and nutrients to plants.

They make a soil with has a really nice structure, they control plant feeding predators, they actually are really helpful in the garden and the, the nice thing about the EM and the compost tea is we can actually bring it right on the leaves of plants instead of just throwing to the soil so we can inoculate our plants leaves and get all the benefits for having the microbes on the leaves so that’s number two, microbes.

The third M is moisture, I actually like to use this little thing here for watering, and I have no problem with getting the leaves wet, I know some people don’t like to but I, I water in the morning so they’re usually gonna be dry by mid morning and moisture is, you know it probably should be number one, it’s obviously it just so key to all life on earth.

You know, we, I’ve said this before that we can go for a couple of months potentially without food but really only a few days without moisture and our plants need moisture too for photosynthesis they need water, for cooling they need water so we have to apply enough.

And you know especially for that this time of year where these young seedlings or you’ve just seeded or you’ve seeded in your new lawn you probably gonna have to water everyday just for a, a little while, a short time everyday but in the long run we don’t wanna be watering everyday we want to water more deeply.

If you have a sandy soil you might end up watering every two to three days, if you have a clay soil you might water once a week, you wanna water deep so that it could gets down in there, because what happen is if you water too shallow. The moisture just always stay on the soil surface and the plant roots have no incentives to go deeper into the soil; and we want them to go deeper into the soil, because we want them to scavenge for water and nutrients down there and have a, a more stable, big root system.

So if we just draw our plot, you know if we just have an, an irrigation system that comes on everyday for ten minutes and just keep the surface wet, then we’re not, we’re not encouraging that, those deep roots. We still do want to keep the surface and the mulch moist but it’s not something that we want to be doing everyday.

So that’s the third one of the organic gardening tips, water is really important. So first one is your mulch, always have a nice mulch going on twelve months of the year. Two is microbes, compost if you can otherwise buy good compost, use microbial inoculants. And three is to supply the right amount of water.

So I hope those tips are helpful and what I’m actually gonna do is I’ll put a link below to that booklet which you can get for free from the sole website and that’s all for today I hope my garden survives this month.

If you haven’t picked up those 15 vital organic gardening lessons for becoming a better organic gardener you can do that at smilinggardener.com and I hope you have a good rest of the week.

I hope your getting some plants in like mine are just starting to, so exciting this time of year you know when they, things start to grow and, my flowers are starting to come up so its really fun time of the year and so I will see you next time.

A few years ago, Heide Hermary of Gaia College wrote a nice little booklet called Soil Testing For Organic Gardeners. In it, she shows why most soil testing is not vital for the average gardener, and she gives 3 organic gardening tips to remember instead. She calls them the 3 M’s.

I still recommend soil testing for people who want to grow a lot of healthy food, and for professionals, but for most people these tips are a good place to start, and even us pros have to remember them, too.

1. Mulch. Mulch protects the soil, controls weeds, retains moisture, and most important, the best mulch types supply nutrients. The best mulch is leaves.

This is how nature fertilizes. Not with bark (which has very little nutrition and often contains toxins) and not with stones (which stop the whole organic matter recycling process altogether). Wood chips aren’t ideal either, since they can cause some problems in the soil. Straw provides some benefits, but leaves are the ultimate.

2. Microbes. You’d think a list of organic gardening tips would include organic fertilizers, but while nutrients are important for the health of the soil and plants, the thing we’re often lacking more than nutrients is a healthy soil food web, especially beneficial microbes.

The best way to bring microbes into the garden is through well-made, aerobic compost. It has the added benefit of supplying nutrients and organic matter. When we run out of good compost, we can use compost tea, effective microorganisms, and a plethora of new microbial products to help us inexpensively inoculate our garden, including the leaves of our plants.

Update: 2 1/2 years after writing this, I started selling microbial inoculants, so you can learn more about them here.

3. Moisture. This should probably be number one. Water is vital to all living things, and if you aren’t supplying it properly, your plants will be very sad.

Not enough water is certainly a problem, but so is setting the irrigation system to come on every day for 10 minutes – that just keeps the soil surface moist, encouraging the roots to stay up there instead of traveling deep into the soil. We want them to go deep because they will have access to more water, more nutrition and more stability.

So there are 3 of the most important organic gardening tips to remember. Are you doing all of these things? Is there one you need to focus on more this year? Let me know below.

And then you can download that little booklet for free from the SOUL website. Lots of good info in there. Here’s a link directly to the pdf: Soil Testing For Organic Gardeners.


  1. Liza on June 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for showing us this awesome booklet! And thanks for this nice summary article. I need to start thinking more about my microbes.

  2. Gardener in Central Texas on October 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Question: You mention “Wood chips aren’t ideal either, since they can cause some problems in the soil.” Can you describe some of those problems specifically with the wood chips?

    • Phil on October 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm

      The main one is that wood is very high in carbon and very low in nitrogen. When used as a mulch, microbes have to pull much of the available nitrogen from the surrounding soil in order to break down the wood, which can end up causing a nitrogen deficiency in your plants.If you first include this wood as the carbon source in your compost pile, this situation can be avoided, and you can also get some decent nutrition from the wood. If I had a free source of wood chips, I would still take some – I would just compost them first. I might use a small amount to help mulch trees, but not too thick.

  3. Marie on July 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Is dyed mulch safe to use in vegetable gardens?

    • Phil on July 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Marie, I don’t even like non-dyed wood chips, so I can’t vouch for dyed. And I think they often dye pallets and sometimes treated wood to make the mulch.As for the dye itself, I’m not sure if it’s toxic. I prefer natural mulches like leaves because they bring so many benefits to the garden, whereas wood chips can have some downsides like causing nitrogen deficiency in the soil.

  4. Himmat Mehta/Michigan on November 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Hi Phil,Just started with your lessons and always waiting for the next one.Our city has a huge area where they process grass/leaves etc and turn them into black compost. We have used it in the past (in garden as well as lawn top dressing) but can’t say it gave great results.. I am also concerned with residual chemicals (from grass) for my vege garden. Any comments?Himmatmehtahim@yahoo.com

    • Phil on November 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      If it didn’t give great results after 1 top dressing, that may or may not be an issue with compost quality, as there are so many factors to consider.As for chemicals, it’s something that we have to deal with. I personally say that people should feel free to use municipal compost if it looks and smells good and is a good price. If you can find another compost that is made without chemically-treated organic matter, and that is a reasonable price, obviously go for it. In the long run, make your own or just mulch and use cover crops instead.

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