Organic Plants – Exploring Their Brilliance

The organic plants in our gardens are brilliant. Their brilliance is so often underestimated or even ignored, but let’s take a closer look.

They photosynthesize: they take carbon, water and nutrients from the soil and air, lounge out in the sun all day, say some kind of magic spell or something and tada — they get a bit bigger.

And then we eat them. Pretty much every animal eats plants – organic plants. They give us energy and medicine. It’s proven a successful life strategy for them.

Plants make it rain. Plants make oxygen. Plants help make soil and then they help protect it. They are alchemists, the original pharmacists making all of our drugs.

Organic garden plants are an integral part of the soil food web in our organic gardens. Their roots work through the soil, create fresh organic matter as they constantly grow and die back, and actually dissolve rock to form soil. Their bodies turn into organic matter every autumn when the leaves fall, and also at the end of their lives.

Plants know when a storm is coming and have electromagnetic “nightmares” when it arrives. They have musical preferences. They know how you feel about them. They know when a spider is climbing up the fence beside them.

They share nutrients with each other, through the mycorrhizal fungi that not only attach to their roots, but attach to the roots of most of the other plants nearby, even miles away.

Occasionally, I write about these organic plants…

Low Maintenance Plants That Are Especially Useful

Low Maintenance PlantsMy elderberry flowering white over my left shoulder.

It’s pretty tricky to make a list of low maintenance plants when your readers live all around the world.

But I wanted to have a go at it anyway because it’s winter and I miss my garden!

What makes this list more interesting than other low maintenance plant lists I’ve seen is that each plant is not only relatively easy to grow, but also highly beneficial to have in your garden. Read More

Starting Plants From Seeds – Tips To Ensure Success

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

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

Some plants pretty much need this, especially heat-loving plants like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers being planted into cooler climates.

Click for video transcription

Phil: Welcome to my bedroom.

If you haven’t picked up my free online organic gardening course you can do that right on the home page of Smilinggardener.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

How To Plan A Landscape Design – 6 Steps To A Good Garden

For many people, it’s getting to be time to figure out how to plan a landscape design for your organic garden.

I show you how in the video below – and I’d love to get your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Your landscape design plans might mean putting in new gardens entirely, or maybe just coming up with a planting plan for this year.

You could just go out, buy a bunch of plants, and then decide where to plant them when you get home.

But doing some good old fashioned proper landscaping design planning will result in a much better garden.

Here are 6-ish steps to getting it done… Read More

How To Make Your Own Garden Inoculant For Less Than $1

A garden inoculant is really just anything we use to bring beneficial microbes into our organic gardens.

These microbes are often deficient for various reasons, but if we can get more of them back in there, they:

  • Make nutrients available to plants and even feed them nutrients and water directly
  • Protect plants from disease both in the soil and above ground
  • Improve the structure of the soil so it has the right amount of air spaces, water spaces, nutrient availability, pH, etc.

Plus there’s a whole list of other services they provide for plants and soil. Pretty cool… Read More

Plant Defenses – The Amazing Ways Plants Survive

In my part of the world, the vegetable garden is winding down for the winter. Actually, I’m always amazed how some of these plants can withstand the cold and continue producing. We’re still harvesting hardy herbs and vegetables from our organic garden in late November.

The wintertime plant defenses are starting to be apparent this time of year in my organic garden. Many plants are exceptionally good at surviving, not just temperature changes but many environmental threats.

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Do Your Plants Know What You’re Thinking?

Philodendron Organic

Philodendrons like the one below often have big leaves. That’s probably why Cleve Backster used them in a number of his experiments. Ultimately, he showed that plants can read your mind.

Backster was one of the most well-known lie detector examiners during the 1960s. One day, he was sitting in his office, bumming around on Facebook (okay, this was before computers, so he was probably staring at his typewriter or something). Basically, he was bored.

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Music And Plants – How To Use Music To Boost Plant Growth

Music And Plants
Plants physically leaned 15 to 20 degrees towards classical and jazz music

The classic book The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird documents many scientific, statistically-significant studies done on the fascinating relationship between sound and music and plants.

The right sounds can produce tremendous improvements in growth, and the wrong sounds can do just the opposite. Plants are more aware of their surroundings than we think, probably much more so than us!

Here, I just want to give you a taste of what some researchers have observed with respect to plants and music, and sound and plants. This has direct implications for organic gardening.

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