New Methods For Growing Tastier, More Nutritious Food

Phil

I’ve searched high and low – for fruits and vegetables that are tastier and more nutritious than what I grow in my own gardens – but I rarely find them.

I actually use at tool called a refractometer to compare the brix (nutrient-density) of foods like my carrots and strawberries against those from the grocery store, and mine usually come out on top.

I even beat the food from the local organic farmer’s market.

And then there’s the taste! There’s just something about picking a fresh apple or tomato that’s been grown with proper nutrition and biting right into it.

Yet what most of my readers don’t know about me is that I’m not a green thumb – I’ve actually never had a magic touch with plants.

What I do seem to have is the ability to thoroughly study the art and science of organic gardening and apply what I learn.

That’s why my gardens grow such incredible food.

And the biggest part of my success comes from the materials I use, some of which I make myself and some of which I buy.

And today I hope you’ll read every word of this article so I can share with you a few quick strategies to help you produce food as nutritious and delicious as mine…

My Approach To Organic Gardening

Applying Organic FertilizersIf you don’t know me, you can read about me here – I’m a certified organic gardener, teacher and author, and I’ve been in the gardening world my whole life.

What do you see in this photo?

If you said me, you’re right.

But there’s also a new garden I’m building in the background, and in it you can see:

  • The wheelbarrow behind me with the remains of my own organic compost,
  • A bale of straw in the far back right from a local biodynamic farmer, and
  • A combination of that straw along with my own leaves as a mulch on my bed.

So as you can see, I’m a big fan of getting as much fertilizer as possible from my own property and my own neighborhood.

That’s why I use all this local and homemade stuff.

But I also have a goal of growing the healthiest plants and most nutrient-dense foods I can…

An Important Factor In My Gardening Success

My Organic GardenMy strawberries in my old garden (one of which I’m holding here) are deep red, sweet and juicy, 13-15 brix, and no longer have pest problems.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had tried various organic fertilizers over the years, but they didn’t bring noticeable benefits.

I realize now that I just wasn’t using high quality products and I wasn’t using them properly.

I think what eventually helped is that I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I ended up spending months of my life studying many of the organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants that were available to me, and I finally zeroed in on the best ones.

And in order to promote optimal health in my organic garden these days, I use them – a small selection of very special products – to make sure my garden is bursting with the beneficial microorganisms and nutrients my plants need.

That’s important because it’s these microorganisms that help our plants get nutrients and water and protection from predators, and the nutrients themselves are important for everything that happens in a plant, from growth to fruiting to defense against predators.

What I’ve noticed since I started using these products is that:

  • The decrease in pest problems throughout most of my garden and my clients’ gardens – and even on my indoor plants – was noticeable within a few days when I first started using these products, and pests haven’t been much of a problem ever since.
  • Most of the food I grow has a higher brix (i.e. is more nutritious) than any food I buy from the grocery store or farmer’s market, which means my family and I are healthier as a result. I measure that nutrition, but I can also tell something is going right just by the incredible taste when I take a bite.
  • My ornamental plants – flowers, shrubs and trees – are healthy with vibrant colors and long blooming periods and an overall vitality that is apparent (I talk a lot about growing food on this page, but the benefits are there for ornamental plants, too).

What this means for me is that I can get to eat highly nutritious food and I get ornamental plants that are thriving rather than looking sickly and pest-ridden…

How You Can Get These Organic Products, Too

My Organic GardenI come through this garden at least every month with some kind of organic fertilizer application, just to make sure the plants have access to the beneficial microorganisms and nutrients they need.

For my own garden, I always try to find products that are high quality but still priced reasonably (my dad is Dutch – maybe that has something to do with it, haha).

But it’s actually pretty difficult to find many of these products and figure out which ones are worth using.

Local garden centers don’t usually have much of what I’m looking for, and while there are plenty of options on the internet, most of them are poor quality.

In my members-only online organic gardening course, I’ve tried to link to the best options online, but I could never find what I wanted all in one place.

So I realized it was time to make these same products available to people in the U.S. (if you’re in Canada, you can go to the Organic Gardener’s Pantry).

And when possible, I’m also going to teach you how to make them yourself.

By the way, if you can find these products from your local garden center, I encourage you to support them. In that case, these pages will help you figure out how to find high quality versions of each product instead of the junkier stuff that’s often out there.

I’ll start with what I do in my garden and then we’ll get to some options for you…

First, Here’s What I Use In My Organic Garden

In general, it’s a good idea to spray less fertilizer, more often, rather than just dumping it all on at once in the spring.

So I come through my garden at least once a month with some form of liquid application, generally combining a few ingredients at once.

When I’m around and have the time, I’ll even cut the application rate by 75% and spray weekly instead – especially useful during the spring when fertilizing often brings the most benefit.

Here’s what I use:

Microbial Inoculants

Most organic gardeners focus on organic fertilizers (let’s call that the chemistry of the soil), but just as important is the life in your garden (the biology).

Microbial inoculants bring in that biology, the beneficial microorganisms that are often deficient for various reasons. We need them back in there to feed our plants and bring them water and protect them from predators and so on.

Here’s how I do it:

  • SCD Probiotics or EM. Definitely my favorite microbial inoculant. I use it monthly along with molasses, liquid seaweed and either sea minerals or liquid fish.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi. Perhaps the most important soil microorganisms in the world. I always use this inoculant during planting, plus I’ll apply it one time into an established garden if it wasn’t done during the original planting of that garden.
  • Compost tea. Excellent for boosting microbial diversity. I use it once each in spring, summer and fall with dextrose (glucose), EM, liquid seaweed and either sea minerals or liquid fish.

And then of course comes a bit of high quality compost in spring and/or fall – just a dusting of 1/8 inch or less is all you need unless you’re building a new garden bed on poor soil and then it can make sense to bring in an inch or more.

Liquid Organic Fertilizers

While we’re bringing the biology back into the garden, we want to make sure our plants have access to the chemistry – the minerals and vitamins and other building blocks.

And we want to go beyond just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to give them all of the dozens of minerals they need. Here’s how I do it:

  • Liquid seaweed fertilizer. An organic gardening standard that’s especially known for boosting plant health. I use it monthly with EM or compost tea.
  • Sea minerals fertilizer. My favorite organic fertilizer, providing broad spectrum nutrition. I use it every other month with EM or compost tea, rotated with the liquid fish below.
  • Liquid fish fertilizer. Another excellent organic fertilizer, a great source of nitrogen and phosphorus and whole proteins. I use it every other month with EM or compost tea, rotated with the sea minerals above.
  • Molasses or dextrose. Both of these feed microorganisms. Molasses is especially used along with EM, while dextrose is used with fertilizers to help them penetrate into the leaf. I always use at least one of them in with my monthly sprays.

Mineral Fertilizers

I also offer the most important dry organic mineral fertilizers to help you boost your soil’s fertility.

While liquid fertilizers are great for feeding both soil and plants with nutrients that can really help in the short term, dry mineral organic fertilizers are used for boosting long term soil nutrition.

Here are a couple of important notes:

  • Rock dust and calcium carbonate are the two that can be used by everyone, without a soil test, regardless of your soil type.
  • For the most part, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and specific micronutrients are only used based on a soil test, so I’m really just making them available down the page here for people who’ve had that done, especially my gardening students.
  • If you can find these dry fertilizers in your local area, you’ll probably get a better deal because the shipping is what makes them a little more expensive online. But the big difficulty for most people is finding them in their local area at all, so that’s why I’m offering them here and I’m actually able to do so at fairly good prices.

So Which Is Right For You?

Well that depends on your goals.

To keep things simple, I’m going to create 3 categories – beginner, intermediate, advanced – to give you some tips on what to buy, whether from me or your local garden center.

I’ll also suggest how much you need per 1000 square feet (100 square meters) of garden space.

For those of you who aren’t the best with measurements, here are some sizes to relate to:

  • Take 10-12 big steps, do a 90 degree turn. Do that 3 more times and you’ve just outlined a square of 1000 square feet.
  • An average 2 car garage is 300-400 square feet.
  • Any of the big face-off circles on an NHL hockey rink are 700 square feet.
  • One half of a professional indoor volleyball court is 900 square feet.
  • 8 average (8 feet by 16 feet) U.S. parking spaces in a row is 1000 square feet.
  • Half of an NBA basketball court is 2350 square feet.
  • 1/8th of an acre is about 5500 square feet.

What follows is just my opinion, so feel free to go with what you think makes sense for you.

(For example, I listed compost tea brewers under advanced because it’s a bigger investment of time and money up front than many beginner gardeners will want to get into, but some people might go straight for that and see incredible results.)

Here’s what I would suggest…

Beginner

This is if you want the most important products for boosting garden health that really provide the best value for your money:

  • Probio Balance or Bio Ag (similar to “EM”). 1 quart for each 1000 square feet of garden for the year.
  • Liquid seaweed fertilizer. 1 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.
  • Mycorrhizal fungi. 1/2 pound for each 1000 square feet if you’re watering it into an existing garden, but if you’re applying it to new plants and seeds, 1/2 pound goes much further than that and is all you need.

If you’re short on time, click the following link to add a small size of each of these 3 products to your shopping cart: Add 1 quart bio ag, 1 quart liquid seaweed and 1/2 pound mycorrhizal fungi

Intermediate

This is if you’re interested in rounding things out a little more.

Perhaps you’re growing food and you really want to get the nutrition in there and keep pests at bay, or you’re growing flowers that you really want to bloom as long and full as possible.

So in addition to the beginner products, you can add in:

  • Sea minerals. 1/3 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.
  • Molasses and/or dextrose. Along with EM, use molasses at 1 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year. Or along with other products, use dextrose at 3 Tbsp per 1000 square feet with every application.
  • Liquid fish fertilizer. 1 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.

If you’re short on time, click the following link to add a small size (good for most home gardens) of each of these products to your shopping cart: Add 1 quart sea minerals, 1 quart blackstrap molasses and 1 quart liquid fish

Advanced

Then we get into some more advanced products:

  • Rock dust. I suggest 50 pounds per 1000 square feet, but you can do much more or less.
  • Calcium carbonate. 10 pounds for each 1000 square feet because you really want to get your soil calcium up in order to allow your plants and microbes to make good use of everything else.
  • Compost tea brewer. A five gallon batch will do up to an acre, but you can use it all on just a small garden, too.
  • Dry fertilizers. Other mineral fertilizers should only be used when you have a soil test that says you need them.

Who Needs This The Most?

On the info page for each product, I have a little section called ‘Do You Need This?’

In it, I explain under which circumstances you might want to pick up that product and when you can skip it.

But just to let you know up front, that was a bit of a difficult task. I use ALL of these products because they’re all so beneficial.

They all have slightly different features, but they all help bring about the same benefits.

For example, when it comes to features, seaweed fertilizer, sea minerals fertilizer and fish fertilizer all have most of the same nutrients, but they all have slightly different proportions and they each have unique additional benefits on top of that, so it’s difficult to choose one over the other.

Then when it comes to benefits, they all help improve plant growth and plant health, and they all help decrease pests (mostly by increasing plant health).

So I admittedly started to feel some deja vu writing about these benefits over and over on the pages that follow, but all of these products help with all of this stuff, and that’s why I happily use them all.

Still, I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction…

How To Use These Products

Applying Microbial InoculantsApplying effective microorganisms back in 2008 – a hose end sprayer works best.

I tend to favor liquid products that allow for spraying plants directly, because foliar fertilizing is many times more efficient than soil uptake.

Of course we want to create healthy soil, too, and when I’m spraying my plants, a lot of the liquid falls on my soil, so I’m getting both at the same time.

And then using some dry fertilizers and building soil organic matter is important as well. In fact, applying a bit of calcium carbonate to your soil is a good idea, because calcium really helps plants use foliar sprays more effectively.

For spraying, I mostly use what I consider to be the best hose end sprayer for small gardens, because it allows me to get the big dilution ratios that are optimal, such as a 1:250 dilution of EM to water. I just can’t get that dilution with a backpack sprayer.

I do use a backpack sprayer for my compost tea because I want to apply it undiluted, without the cold (and chlorinated) water that comes from a hose, but everything else goes through the hose end sprayer.

The dry fertilizers can be applied with your hand, a shovel or a fertilizer spreader. Or it’s great to put them into your compost pile and then apply that when the compost is done.

Either way, make sure you cover the whole soil, not just right around the plants. The root systems and the microorganisms are everywhere throughout the soil, and they all need access to nutrition.

Likewise, when I’m spraying any foliar spray, I make sure to spray the whole plant and the whole soil area, too.

I’ve created an application rate calculator to help you figure out how much of each product to apply for your area…

How Much Does This Cost?

My Organic GardenI like to locate many plants close together to reap the benefits of such a dense, diverse system.

When I’ve looked at the various organizations and people who have kept track of how much ‘value’ comes out of a food garden, I notice it often works out to around $1500 worth of food per 1000 square feet.

That’s what my friend Roger Doiron who runs the non-profit Kitchen Gardeners International found in his garden (he estimated $2400 of food coming out of his 1600 square foot garden).

It can be less than that and it can be much more if you’re using biointensive methods, but what’s been clear in my garden is that the cost of using organic fertilizer and microbial inoculants is very low compared to what you get back.

And then when I factor in the increase in yield and nutrient density, I just think of it as a solid investment.

Whether you’re growing food or ornamental plants, the act of growing healthier plants and creating a healthier soil food web brings many other benefits as well, such as:

  • Fewer pests and diseases to eat your plants
  • Decreased irrigation to cut down on the water bill
  • More beneficial wildlife such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds
  • Lower maintenance costs overall because plants are healthy

So this bit of preventative care will often save you money in the long run, while growing a healthier garden.

Also, I encourage you to comparison shop. You’ll find that nobody else offers all these great products in one place, and yet my prices are still in line with the big guys because I take lower margins…

Affordable, Fast Shipping

It’s hard to be competitive when it comes to shipping as a small business, but I like to keep shipping costs as low as I can.

In fact, I actually lose money on shipping, but I really want to make it easy for you to get these products.

(Side note: I know many people are used to Amazon’s free shipping, but did you know that despite being in business for 20 years, they still had a net loss of 241 million dollars in 2014? I.e. they’re happy to keep losing money until all of us little guys are out of business and then they can raise prices. So if you can afford it, you’re ultimately doing a service to me, you and the world by paying a little money for shipping.)

I ship in the United States only. Shipping is:

  • $15 if your order subtotal is less than $50
  • $20 if your order subtotal is $50-$100
  • $25 if your order subtotal is more than $100

(For shipping to Alaska and Hawaii, add $10.)

I ship from a fairly central location in the U.S., Monday-Friday, so it usually takes just 2-5 business days to get to you (e.g. 2 days to Chicago, 4 days to New York and Houston, 5 days to LA and Seattle).

Products ordered by 2pm will ship same day. After that they ship next day. Weekend orders ship Monday. You’ll get an email with a tracking number when they ship.

Note that dry fertilizers and compost tea brewers ship for free, separately with USPS instead of UPS, so they will arrive on their own maybe a day or 2 apart from my other products. You won’t get a tracking number for them, although you can email to ask me for one. Their value doesn’t impact the above shipping costs…

100% Money-Back Guarantee (I Haven’t Seen This Elsewhere)

Most companies selling organic fertilizers might have a 30 day refund policy – if you’re lucky – as long as the package is unopened.

But how are you supposed to know if you like a product before you’ve even tried it, right?

And most of the products I carry don’t necessarily do all that much for your garden after only one application – it’s after at least a few applications when the benefits really kick in.

So if you’re going to buy these products from me, what I do is give you a full 1 year guarantee because I want you to have a chance to actually use the products for the full growing season.

Nobody else is offering a guarantee like this, probably because they don’t want customers taking advantage of them, but I know my customers have integrity and will only use the guarantee if they truly feel they deserve it, and I also know most people are going to be very happy with the results.

If you didn’t think my products provided you with the value you were looking for, let me know and I’ll give you a full 100% refund.

The only caveat I have to put on there is that this is limited to a maximum refund of $200 – I just have to do that so I don’t get someone buying a huge amount of stuff with a sneaky plan to ask for a refund after it’s all used up. I hope I don’t get too much of that at any dollar amount, but at least this limit helps me sleep at night, haha.

But the bottom line is that I want you to be happy with your purchase, and I want to play a big part in improving the health and success of your garden…

Giving Back

With every order, I send $1 to Organics 4 Orphans and other similar organizations.

What I love about the O4O approach is that they’re working with the world’s poor in a wonderfully holistic, sustainable, focusing-on-the-root-cause sort of way.

They’re helping communities implement the following four very integrated activities:

  • Disease prevention. Using plants as medicine, such as the neem tree (in Swahili language, it’s known as ‘the trees that cures forty’, meaning forty diseases).
  • Better nutrition. Shifting to eating more nutrient-dense foods such as kale and medicinal plants such as moringa, rather than less nutritious foods such as corn, which is currently being over-consumed in many parts of the world.
  • Growing food. Growing their food and medicinal plants using biointensive organic gardening methods. Growing biointensively is more physical work, but it’s highly productive, sustainable and affordable.
  • Income generation. From the surplus organic food, people are able to earn an income as well as taking care of the orphans in their communities, hence ‘Organics 4 Orphans.’

My hope this year is to send $1500US, which is enough to start projects in 25 new communities!

A Few Closing Thoughts

My Organic GardenThis is the new organic garden in the 1st season – plant health is not optimal here yet, but after a few years of improving the biology and chemistry, it’ll produce tasty, nutrient-dense food!

I’ve received so much benefit from using this small selection of organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants that I wanted to teach you how to use them, too.

So at the links above, I teach you how to make some of them yourself and also give you the option of buying them.

I’ve found in my garden that the cost of using these products is insignificant compared to the benefits they provide, especially the increase in plant health and yield, plus the decrease in pests.

As for why it’s a good idea to buy from me, I can think of a few reasons:

  • Nowhere else will you find all of these products in one place, saving you time and money because they can be shipped to you all together within a few days of ordering.
  • It would be rare to find someone as knowledgeable as I am about these products, and my goal is to use that knowledge to help you get the most out of them – I’ll even send you a couple of emails after you receive them, asking if you could use any help.
  • Nobody else offers such a strong money back guarantee.
  • And in spite of all of these benefits, as you’ll find out if you’re a comparison shopper like I am, my prices are very good 🙂

Now I encourage you to go check out some of these products at the links above.

Don’t know where to begin? I suggest either effective microorganisms or seaweed fertilizer.

And feel free to ask me any questions that come up…

Questions?

If you have any questions about any of this, let me know down below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, often within a few hours.

I prefer you to ask questions in the comments below because the answer will probably be helpful to someone else.

If you have a product-specific question, please ask it at the bottom of the related product page.

If you prefer, you can instead email support@smilinggardener.com or call 646-480-0650 and leave a message.

With email or phone, it may take a little longer to respond, but I will respond. I apologize for not being more available, but I’m pretty much a one man show here 🙂

Phil

P.S. If you want to buy a gift certificate for someone, you can do that here:

Enter Amount (Minimum $25) (I’ll email you a gift code within 24 hours)

192 Comments

  1. Pete on March 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    How to I introduce earth worms in my raised bed garden ?

    • Phil on March 4, 2014 at 12:49 am

      If you have them in your soil and the bottom of the raised bed is touching the soil, they should come up on their own when the conditions are right for them.Otherwise, you can buy some at a various places – especially stores that sell stuff for fishing. If conditions are right for them, they’ll stay around. If not they’ll leave (or die, unfortunately).

    • Linda on March 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Please be careful about buying worms – the red wrigglers that can be purchased, often from Pennsylvania, are invasive and damage the forest eco system when they escape. People fishing often do this when they are done fishing and there are some left and if a garden is too close to the forest or someone shares plants with the worms in the soil, they can be spread. The forest is a fungal based system and worms can turn it completely around to a bacterial system which is detrimental to that ecosystem. I have an article from Cornell about this if anyone is interested.

      • Phil on March 16, 2014 at 4:39 pm

        Yes, Linda is right about this. This issue may come to the forefront in the future.

      • Vermisterra on March 30, 2016 at 5:35 pm

        It might be easier to just buy the worm castings instead of raising worms to save time. That would prevent worms escaping or dying. Phil do you think gardeners would be interested in smaller bags of worm castings or larger (1lb, 4lb, 10, 30)?We are a family run worm farm in California looking to package our worm castings for home gardeners. If you’d be willing to run a test of Vermisterra, I can send you a sample for review and your honest opinion! Thanks! vermisterrainfo@gmail.com

  2. Bob on March 4, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Phil, we need more videos…Your the best…Have a Great Day…!

    • Phil on March 4, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Thanks Bob!

  3. David on March 15, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    This is fantastic! I had to scrounge around extensively to find anyone online that would sell the dry fertilizers I needed for my soil test and then combine that with stuff from various sellers on Amazon. Now it’s all in one spot with really top-quality info to go with it!I have one question about spraying, though: do you think a simple watering can would be a good solution?I agree that spraying through a hose is not as good as back-pack sprayers because the hose water is a) cold and b) chlorinated; however, I find that (no matter how hard I fight against it) I tend to avoid using my backpack sprayer because a) its hard to get on and off and b) takes a long time to fill and rinse.It seems to me that a watering can will a) fix the chlorine and temperature problems because you can easily let it sit overnight at room temp and b) fix the backpack problems because its significantly easier to maintain (i.e. zero maintenance).

    • Phil on March 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Glad you found me David! If your garden is small enough, a watering can is certainly a reasonable option. The only downside is that it can be difficult to get a fine enough water droplet so that the water sticks to the leaves. If you can find an appropriate attachment that creates almost like a coarse mist, you’re off to the races.

      • Kerry on March 17, 2014 at 3:29 am

        Hi Phil, do you know anything about Chloramine? I hope I am spelling that right. I first found out about it when buying aquarium fish and was told that I would need a treatment for the water as Chloramine has been added to our water for maybe ten years or so? I was told that unlike chlorine, Chloramine does not offgas. Just wondering if this would also be bad for any microbes that you are trying to spray? Seems like that is probably the purpose of treating our water supply with it- to kill pathogenic (and collaterally; beneficial) microbes.Thanks

        • Phil on March 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm

          Yes, both chlorine and chloramine aren’t great for microbes. Ideally, we’d remove it from our irrigation water, but that can get expensive. It’s not as though it’s going to kill off everything, but it’s harmful enough that it’s just another good reason to build our soil so that it can hold as much water as possible – that way we can water less and let the rain do more of the work. As for microbial inoculants, the microbes in EM seem to be able to deal with chlorine and chloramine okay, and my understanding is that so do the spores in mycorrhizal inoculants – it’s definitely not ideal, but they can handle it. But when I’m making compost tea with water that has chloramine in it, I first add a little vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or humates to tie up the chloramine. I tend to use humates at max 1 Tbsp per 5 gallons of water. I can never remember how much vitamin C one would use.

  4. Patti on March 15, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Phil, I ordered your beginner & intermediate products & a hose end sprayer, I couldn’t believe it when the box was at our door the day after I ordered it, I still can’t believe it, Thank you so much!! Now my question… My husband & I are doubling our vegetable garden this year from about 400 to 800 sq ft. the new 400 sq ft is grass & you say not to til the soil, how do we get the grass out without tiling? & does turning the soil (on the other 400sq ft) with a shovel do damage to the living creatures in the soil? Sorry I’m pretty new at this way of thinking about the soil but it all makes perfect sense! Thank you so much for the free video classes that came with the products I ordered, that was a wonderful surprise & I have really learned a lot!!

    • Phil on March 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      You can use a tiller to remove the grass. Or you could make a sheet mulch right on top of it. But I’m okay with a little bit of tilling, especially when establishing a new garden. It’s just in the long run when I like to keep it to a minimum. Turning the soil with a shovel does harm some organisms, but that doesn’t mean we never use a shovel – it just means we should be mindful to not do it more than we feel is necessary. The main thing I want to avoid is annual deep tilling of a whole bed. Glad you’re enjoying everything Patti!

      • rick9748 on December 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm

        What about tilling in grass cuttings and leaves into the bed at start of winter and let it compost till spring planting time?I will also plant clover on this bed as a cover crop.I then till in clover a month before planting.Your thoughts please.

        • Phil on December 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm

          There are benefits and downsides to tilling. What you’re proposing definitely makes sense and will bring many benefits. Just be aware of the downsides too, which I describe here: http://www.smilinggardener.com

  5. Diane on March 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Hi Phil- I have been reading on and off about your tips for gardening and I have a lot of questions. We have been planting a few vegetables in one end of our garden which has ornamental plants throughout and have had decent results, but really we tend to forget to weed, and as the summer goes on, I will neglect the garden, mainly because I really don’t know what to do and when. This year, we want to build our own vegetable garden in a raised bed. My question is what kind of soil should we get and put in? The garden will probably be no bigger than 100 square feet. Would you suggest the starter pack along with the soil you suggest? I live in Minnesota, and the growing season can be short or lengthy. We love our vegetables, as do our dogs as they eat raw organic vegetables as part of their diet as well.Any and all tips to start our garden are welcome.Thanks,diane

    • Phil on March 18, 2014 at 1:35 am

      Hi Diane, my preference for raised beds is to mix together 75% topsoil with 25% good compost. But it in bulk rather than bags to save a lot of money. And then yes, my beginner recommendations are certainly the most important to get started with – they’ll get your most important biology and nutrients in there, especially calcium. If you can get a bit of a leaf or straw mulch on top, that will help with many of the weeds this year.

  6. Melissa on March 19, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Phil, I have received results from a soil test with recommendations for sustainable gardening. The results stated that the main issue was excesses of calcium, magnesium and potassium and recommend adding elemental sulfur, boron and zinc sulfate in addition to several things you recommend such as fish emulsion, molasses and foliar spray. This is an existing garden we started several years ago. We have heavy clay with rock so initially amended with lots of mushroom compost, topsoil and landscape mix. Would you agree with this recommendation or do you have other suggestions. Also, I purchased micronized azomite, would this be good to add and if so, how would I use it? I am very pleased to see that you have the products you recommend available to purchase.

  7. Justin Gay on March 20, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Hey Phil. Would any of the fertilizers you carry be good for young plant starts? I’m looking for something to feed them as soon as their true leaves show up.

    • Phil on March 20, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Ya, I especially like liquid seaweed and liquid sea minerals for fertilizers, plus EM/SCD Probiotics for beneficial microorganisms.

      • Justin Gay on March 20, 2014 at 5:16 pm

        Thanks man!

  8. dmharvey8 on March 23, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Phil: I have been reading about Biochar. Do you use it, and recommend it? I haven’t seen you mention it before

    • Phil on March 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      My concerns with biochar are partially about how much energy is required to create it on a large, industrial scale. And then in terms of small scale, there are concerns about it imbalancing soil fertility. I’m sure there could be benefits, but so far I really prefer using a quality compost without the charcoal.

      • Jeff Chasser on April 12, 2014 at 1:35 pm

        This guy wouldnt even chat with me in email. He said he is too important to talk to someone like me. I asked him a few questions and he said. And I quote “I don’t have time for people like you ” end quote..if you wants to be an a****** he can but I just wanna let everybody know that disguises stuck up person just trying to make money off of home gardeners…you can buy all of his products somewhere else and not pay his enlarge prices.don’t listen to someone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about anybody can copy and paste articles on to a website do your own research read books don’t listen to someone who just trying to make money of people. And especially someone who can’t even talk to customers nicely they have to think that they’re so much better than everyone else. What a joke

  9. Ianthine on March 24, 2014 at 12:59 am

    Hi PhilIn addition to feeding my 200 sq. ft. frontyard garden I would like to feed my lowbush blueberries, (zone 7b). I know the mycorrhizal fungi will benefit them, what else in the beginner batch, (I thought I’d start there), can I use on the blues?Thanks.

    • Phil on March 24, 2014 at 2:43 am

      Actually, blueberries are a rare case when it comes to mycorrhizal fungi – they use a very specific type that is pretty difficult to find and is not included in the product I carry. So even with my blueberries in my garden, I didn’t inoculant them.Also something that is very rare to say for plants, there’s some evidence that they’re not huge fans of calcium, so I would skip the calcium carbonate. They do love sulfur though, so a tiny amount of elemental sulfur (like 1 teaspoon per ten square feet of soil) is probably a good thing: http://www.smilinggardener.com…Other than that, the EM/SCD Probiotics and seaweed from the beginner package are definitely good bets. They also often need nitrogen in the early years, which is where liquid fish can be very helpful.And they love lots of organic matter, which for me means compost. Plus, while I don’t use much in the way of wood chips in my garden, I do use them around blueberries because they’ll help encourage fungi, which is good for blueberries. Hope that helps!

  10. Kelley on March 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The following words were six of the most depressing I’ve read in a while “I ship in the U.S. only.”

  11. Gina B on March 27, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Our 1 acre lawn is being destroyed by our 2 new puppies and 3 other dogs. HELP! I don’t want to add chemicals that hurt us, our animals, or the environment. What can I do?

    • Phil on March 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Do you mean urine or digging or something else?

      • Gina B on April 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm

        It’s a combination of traffic (we have them chained in different area or runs, they play hard, run hard), urine, digging, etc. where do I start? I did apply corn gluten for weeds so far. should I lime, aerate, etc?

        • Phil on April 20, 2014 at 10:42 pm

          If the dogs stay on the lawn, it will obviously continue to get damaged. But if you want to give it the best opportunity for recovering in between damages… well, that’s a big question. You basically want to create a healthy lawn. Aeration can help in the long run if you’re adding quality compost and fertilizers right after you aerate (otherwise it’s more like a short term band-aid solution if you just pull the cores and don’t do anything). Lime is good if your soil needs calcium (use calcium carbonate, not dolomite lime). All of my liquid fertilizers and microbial inoculants can be helpful. I especially recommend all products in my ‘beginner’ list, even for lawns: bio ag, liquid seaweed, and mycorrhizal fungi.

  12. Patrice on April 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve started my seeds indoors. Even though they are still small and awaiting planting season, they are becoming quite “leggy”. What am I doing wrong?

    • Phil on April 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      It’s generally due to not enough light. Even if you’re using fluorescent lights, which seem bright to us, it’s not nearly as much light as they would get outside. My recommendation is to add more light and position it within a few inches of the top of the plants.

  13. Patrice on April 1, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I started my seeds indoors a few weeks back. They are now “leggy” and getting taller but not many leaves. What should I do?

  14. Melissa on April 3, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Phil, I received the elemental sulfur in addition to the liquid seaweed and Pro Bio. They arrived soon after I ordered them. Thanks so much for all your work tracking down these quality fertilizers! The sulfur is on the garden already. I started the Probiotics. I tried the oven with the light on first, but It would only get to 80 degrees. I have an ancient dehydrator that is about the size of a small microwave and has a temperature control. I removed the shelves and wah-la, an incubator! Works perfect, staying a constant 100 degrees. Will a PH meter work as well as PH paper?

    • Phil on April 3, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      That all sounds great Melissa! Yes, a pH meter will work fine as long as it’s calibrated in good working order.

  15. jjmurphy on April 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    What can I do for squash bores? Will making the plants healthier using your products help?

    • Phil on April 6, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      For sure, making the plants healthier will definitely help. It’s just a matter of how long that will take. Sometimes a couple of applications of products like EM and liquid seaweed can make a big difference very quickly. Sometimes it takes longer to get the soil and plant to a state of health. In any case, the sooner you start, the better 🙂

      • Noel Calvert on September 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm

        A way to discourage insects on a short term basis until the plants are healthy is with a low strength spray of white vinegar at a ratio of 1/10 mixed with clean water. Also this evaporates or rinses easily.Another thing you have not mentioned yet Phil is Aspirin for activating the Systemic Acquired Resistance (SAR) of plants to fight many types of disease & improve plant vigor.(bacterial,fungal,viral, as well as insect attack and stress due to transplant and other stimuli)An added benefit is aspirin treatment induces root growth. 1 tablet of 500MG to a bucket of 12 liters/3 gallons with any fertilizers or whatever your using is fine. I use this treatment on a weekly basis in my nursery with wonderful results. Aspirin is a synthetic form of the chemical found in willow bark that reduces pain in humans, and activates the SAR in plants.Phil, as a side note look into this if you were not aware. I am sure you will be interested.I am noticing you keep suggesting adding calcium, and fish immulsion. I am wondering if you have looked into leguminous plants/bushes/ and trees as part of your organic gardening???By adding a row of leguminous trees every 6-8 yards, you can benefit from deep roots bringing up minerals, & nitrogen fixing bacteria adding nitrogen to your system via pruning of the trees for compost. In the tropics this is being done with Inga species, and some others. Look into Inga Alley Cropping for information on this.I am currently working on an organic farming regimen that will be completely sustainable. This is how I happened on to your site looking for probiotic beneficial organism recipes for the Bokashi process.

        • Melissa on June 14, 2016 at 1:51 pm

          In regards to the Aspirin application, do you apply directly to the plant? Or is it better to water at the base?

  16. Rosalee on April 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Phil, I received the products I ordered very quickly. Thank you. I need to inform you, though, that the bottle of N-P-K fertilizer had leaked a little in the box it was shipped in. It was absorbed by the packing paper and was not visible from the outside of the box. But, the bag of rock dust which was shipped separately just as a bag of rock dust (no box or extra covering) had sprung a small leak. The post office got nervous and scanned the rock dust and put it in another plastic bag and delivered it to me separately with an explanation. I am not writing for a refund or replacement (the amounts lost were negligible), I just thought you should know so you can inform your supplier. I hate making the post office nervous about powder escaping from items. Thank youPS…. I love the information you share with us! Keep up the great work!

    • Phil on April 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks for letting me know Rosalee, I really appreciate it. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Perhaps I’ll try double bagging the dry fertilizers from now on. Thanks again 🙂

  17. Josh on April 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Phil, I just bought Sea-Crop and Neptune’s Harvest Seaweed Plant Food and I am eager to use it. Can either product be applied to the leaves during the rain or should I wait until the rain stops?

    • Phil on April 21, 2014 at 1:27 am

      I prefer to wait until after a rain, because a rain will wash some of the fertilizer of the leaves. It’s no big deal if a rain comes through a day after application, but nice to give the fertilizer a little time to get into the leaf first.

  18. Patty on April 18, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Do you have recommendations for lawn care – the correct fertilizers and grass seed to use?

    • Phil on April 20, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      It’s actually not really any different from garden care when it comes to fertilizers. All of my liquid fertilizers and microbial inoculants can be helpful. I especially recommend all products in my ‘beginner’ list, even for lawns: scd probiotics ‘bio ag’, liquid seaweed, and mycorrhizal fungi.As for grass seed, that depends on where you live and what kind of soil and sun conditions you have, but no matter what, a combination of grasses is generally better than just 1 species, which is why it’s nice using seed instead of sod.

  19. Maitreya on April 20, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I am ready to do my soil analysis on a new garden. I tilled the ground last fall for the first and only time. In your gardening handbook you give two labs you recommend. My question is, would you recommend getting all the tests from both labs in this situation?

    • Phil on April 20, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      Just choose one of the labs, and I say just go with whatever they recommend – not all the tests, but at least their basic test with recommendations.

  20. Elena on April 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Phil, I trust your silent meditation retreat was fulfilling. Today I applied NPK & Dextrose via a backpack sprayer. I had planted the veggie starts a week or 10 days ago. What fertilizers should I foliar spray with next, and when?I have your BioAg, Molasses, Dextrose, Sea Crop, and a Kelp powder.I remember you said that BioAg mixes well with molasses, so that could be one of my next sprays, perhaps in a week? Then I still have Sea Crop, kelp, and liquid fish.I was wondering if I should mix the Sea crop with either a liquid fish or Kelp product, as well as with either molasses or dextrose? Is one sugar better than then the other for use with the sea/fish/kelp fertilizers?How often should I foliar spray? Weekly, twice a week. I have so many different foliar fertilizers thanks to you, but I am not sure how often andAlso, can I use these same products on my fruit trees and grape vines?Thank you very much for your response.

    • Phil on April 24, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      -I spray anywhere from once/month to once/week. When I’m spraying once/week (which I would tend to do especially in spring), I cut all application rates by 75%. -My sprays generally contain BioAg, Kelp, Molasses or Dextrose, Fish or Sea Crop. I tend to spray this within a few days of spraying NPK and Dextrose. Since you’re already using Dextrose with NPK, it makes sense to use Molasses with this BioAg spray. With the Fish And Sea Crop, I just take turns every other time. So: BioAg, Kelp, Molasses, Sea Crop this time and then BioAg, Kelp, Molasses and Fish next time.-Yes, you can use these same sprays on all your plants!Hope I covered everything 🙂

      • Elena on April 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm

        Thanks so much for your very quick reply, Phil! Thanks for the tip about cutting the application rates if spraying weekly. Since I plan to spray weekly for first couple of months I will follow suit. Happy Gardening!

  21. Phil from Ottawa on April 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Phil,Over the years of attending horticultural symposia and trade-sponsored shows I’ve encountered many advocates of compost tea and enterprises selling compost tea brewing equipment. Many claims of benefits of compost tea applications appear to be unsubstantiated. I refer your readers to The Myth of Compost Tea Revisited: “Aerobically-brewed compost tea suppresses disease”http://puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda…Do you have contervailing scientific evidence that compost teas are actually effective and worthwhile?

    • Phil on April 26, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Hi Phil, good question. While that article and that writer have been largely discredited, it’s absolutely true that compost tea is not a magic bullet that will transform all gardens into optimal health. It has to be a good tea, and it has to be what the garden is lacking.Rather than post a bunch of links and info here, I’ll direct you to join this online compost tea group where you can search and learn from a bunch of experienced users. It’s not an overly biased group either – many of them have had success with compost tea, but they also push for more research and will be the first to clear up the myth that all compost tea is magic: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/g…I’d also encourage you to read anything by Elaine Ingham, one of the leading experts on compost tea, whether her book or online. She’ll also be the first to say that compost tea has to be brewed right for it to bring the big benefits that are often touted. I’ve seen some pretty amazing results when that happens.

  22. polly on April 28, 2014 at 3:59 am

    Sea 90. Do you know about Sea 90 and if so do you recommend it? We use it for our livestock but i also know people that spray it on pastures, field crops and gardens and swear by it.

    • Phil on April 28, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Yes, it’s a good product. I believe the one I use is quite a bit better ( http://www.smilinggardener.com… ), but Sea 90 definitely has benefits too.

  23. Steph in N MN on April 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Phil, I’m getting ready to order your fertilizers. I had a soil test done through the university last fall:Organic matter: 4%pH: 7.3Phosphorus ppm 100+potassium ppm 99They recommend per 100 sq. ft. (I have 1000 sq ft of veg garden).15 lb. of nitrogen0 phosphate.3 lb potashWhat do you recommend I get from you?

    • Phil on April 28, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Hi Steph, I can’t tell much from their soil test because I don’t know anything about the methods they’re using, but they’re suggesting such small amounts of nitrogen and potassium that you really don’t need to go looking for specific fertilizers that would bring in those nutrients. Instead I would look at my beginner and perhaps intermediate lists up above and those will be exactly what you’re looking for. Hope that makes sense 🙂

  24. Julie on April 29, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    What is the shelf life of your ProBio Balance, Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer, and ME Fungi? The order information states “for a year.” My garden space is small so I would like to be able to use these for future year’s gardens, too.

    • Phil on April 29, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I use all of them for at least 2 years. Just be sure to store them inside over winter.-ProBio Balance. They seem to put an expiry date of about a year, but I’ve activated it after several years and it still worked fine. -Mycorrhizal fungi is at least 2 years.-Seaweed and other organic fertilizers don’t have expiry dates on the label, but certainly at least 2 years.

  25. Barnabas on April 29, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Years ago, my neighbor and I decided to make a joint garden between the houses. We have gradually gotten rid of the grass and have a fair number of plants growing. Many are ones that self-propagate which I have planted. The soil was sand – and I have worked to compost and so it is beginning to be soil-sand. My neighbor throws mothballs into the garden on a regular basis, and uses tons of pesticides, colored mulch, etc. When it rains – the whole area is temporarily flooded so all the chemicals go into my side as well. I had wanted to plant an area in vegetables but have held off because of the toxin runoff. So, that means I have to grow things on my porch. But what are the dangers of growing vegetables in plastic? I bought organic soil & compost for various sized pots. I want to do more – but if you make something and line it with plastic – it seems chemicals from the plastic will leach into the soil/plants. Your ideas are all about land. Do you have any ideas about care of pot gardens? Or making a garden on a porch??

    • Phil on April 29, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      I did put together this free series on organic container gardening ( http://www.smilinggardener.com… ), but didn’t get into detail on toxins leaching from plastic pots because I’m not sure about how much would leach. Personally, I’d rather use wood or clay containers or something natural like that if possible.

  26. Adriano on May 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Or you can replace all of this by charcoil made by yourself from any plant waste (very cheap) and fermented vegetables from plant waste as well (you’ll find nothing cheaper in the world AND you’ll be autonomous!). This two things will replace any other fertilizer that you will ever need and the effective micro organism present in the fermentation will bring a chemical life balance to your garden that you have never seen before. Earth worms will come back without you doing nothing and slugs and snails will go away as well (it is now being understood that they play they part in a garden to not only eating unhealthy plants but providing chemicals to the soil that garden is missing).

    • Phil on May 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing Adriano. Yes, charcoal can potentially be useful, although it can also cause problems. And fermented vegetables can be useful too, as long as they’re done right and you don’t use too much. But those things don’t “replace any other fertilizer that you will ever need.” That’s like saying if you eat kale and raspberries that you don’t need any other food – it’s true that they’re great foods, but only part of the picture. Likewise, charcoal and various fermented sources of organic matter can be useful, but are only part of what we need. And indeed if people were to use only those 2 inputs, many of them would run into problems eventually with fertility imbalances in the soil. My 2 cents 🙂

      • Adriano on May 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        Well the thing is that these two elements are not really fertilizers:- charcoil increases the humus by providing a carbon structure (like tunels and chambers) for microorganisms to be sheltered and- fermented vegetables provide ‘good’ microorganisms that will evolve on their own and replenish the soil naturally by producing a balanced eco system in you garden which will then be rich in all kinds of foods for you plants without the need of other fertilizer. These microorganisms will also attract the fungus and create the association with plant roots (Mycorrhiza) that you talk so much about and that is so important (but that you have to buy).So i don’t agree with the comparison you made of us eating only one or two kinds of foods.I’ve seen it in various permaculture farms and it does work incredibly well without the use of anything else that you may have to buy (urine is free of course). So this is for me definitely the point to start any vegetable garden since it is practically free.

        • Phil on May 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm

          Exactly. If your soil is deficient in carbon or biology, which is common, these inputs could be helpful (if used correctly). If your soil is deficient in nutrients, these inputs could still help because they will supply some nutrients – but usually not all. That’s where certain fertilizers come in.For people who have time and knowledge to ferment vegetables or make compost or collect seaweed from the beach, etc., they should go for it. For those who would be happier to spend $9 on a high quality fermented inoculant like Bio Ag and $16 on a bottle of liquid seaweed, that’s a pretty efficient choice too. As for charcoal/biochar, more can go wrong there, but it’s worth experimenting. I’m a big fan of creating a lot of fertility on site, but I have no problem paying for a little help here and there in order to promote maximum nutrition. I’m sure we could go back and forth all day on this, but I think in the end, all of these practices are worthwhile to explore.

  27. Mikyla on May 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Okay, I received my Basalt Rock Dust and calcium carbonate. Should I dig them in? If so, how deeply?

    • Phil on May 2, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      You can dig them in just a couple of inches or you can sprinkle them on the surface and they’ll gradually work their way down in there.

  28. Antje Cobbett on May 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Hi, from Spain! I’ve subscribed to your newsletter to see whether you are doing the same or something different than I do. It seems we are doing exactly the same, I also used and use the internet for extensive research and then I try out what I’ve learnt – most of the time with great success! Seems that “proper” gardening is successful everywhere in the world! You are doing a great job with your garden, your blog and for your family!

    • Phil on May 3, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks Antje!

  29. Jim on May 4, 2014 at 1:53 am

    How can Canadians get your products?Easy if you live close to the US border. Just have the parcels delivered to a UPS store at a location close to you. They will hold it there for weeks for your pickup for a minimal fee ($10 – $15). I just drove over the border to the UPS store and picked mine upyesterday, …no problems.ie so for “your shipping address”, just get the desired UPS store’s address and fill the info as below: (I used my name, and the UPS store address at Ogdensburg, NY)John Doe (use your name only here …note: don’t enter “UPS Store” on this line )2981 Ford St. ExtensionOgdensburg, NY 13669-3474 hope this helps, …Jim

    • Phil on May 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for sharing Jim!

  30. Peter on May 4, 2014 at 3:24 am

    do you deliver in Canada

  31. Jess on May 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Hi Phil,Interested to learn of how your meditation trip went.Could I ask you a favor? Since I use a 25 gal boom sprayer on my Gator would it be too much for you to give me an advanced formula for weekly spraying the garden and trees?Thanks again for all you do to help those of us trying to raise better nutritional foods.

    • Phil on May 4, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Sure, I’m happy to do that Jess. How big are the garden and tree areas and how big are the trees?

      • Jess on May 4, 2014 at 10:41 pm

        Two food gardens: 1- 1140 sq ft 2- 240 sf.Multiple (15) trees from 6″ to 1/2″ many other beds:- grapes-5 vines- raspberries – 10 plants- rhubarb and blueberry 3 each- elderberry – 2- others bush berries -5Hope this helps?ThxJess

      • Jess on May 4, 2014 at 11:04 pm

        Trees are caliper measurements.ThxJess

  32. Peter on May 6, 2014 at 1:05 am

    hi Phil thank you for the site gardenerspantry but I am looking for rock dust

    • Phil on May 6, 2014 at 11:52 am

      I’ve found that at local fertilizer suppliers/hydroponics stores in a couple of places I’ve lived, so you could check there in your area.

  33. Tina on May 6, 2014 at 2:37 am

    I have a very small garden. I see your 3 fertilizer products are good for 1000 sq ft for a year. Will they last past the first year? If so, what is the longest they will be good? Thanks!

    • Phil on May 6, 2014 at 11:53 am

      They’ll easily last 2 years if stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight, and I’ve used them for 3 years.

  34. Patti on May 11, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Phil, I have a question about fertilizers, About 3 weeks ago I made some up for my young plants I raised from seeds, they were still in the house under lights, I used per 1 gallon water…2Tbls Fish fertilizer, 1 Tbls liquid seaweed, 1 tsp. EM and 1 tsp. molasses. most of my plants started to turn yellow, they didn’t die but I think it burned them. this did not seem to happen the prior two times I fertilized with the Sea Crop instead of the Fish. I just planted them outside today & I’m concerned that will happen again, I will be watering with a Gilmour all purpose hose end sprayer when I fertilize. Our garden is about 1000 Sq. ft. I plan on fertilizing once a week, how much should I use of each product & what # do I put the hose end sprayer on. Thanks, Patti

    • Phil on May 12, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Hmmm, seems like you diluted the fish and everything else quite well, so I’d be surprised if that is what caused the yellowing, but it’s possible. Here’s what I do when spraying 1000 square feet weekly:-1 tsp EM-1 tsp molasses-2 Tbsp seaweed-1/4 cup fish or 1.5 Tbsp sea crop-hose end sprayer set to 1 Tbsp per gallon of water

  35. Wes Rowe on May 17, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    As a gardener, I have been at this for 4 years. I have an eating disorder that affects my Heath. However, as a gardener, I focus on conifers (primarily dwarf), Japanese maples, and flowers primarily to supply our house.While I have always used organic fertilizer, this year we have begun to focus on your products primarily because of philosophy. I would term our philosophy as feed the soil well and it will hopefully return the gesture.As you likely know, conifers and Japanese Maples do not need a lot of fertilizers.Next week, we are planting about a 10 year old Japanese Pine that we expect to handle the summers better. We will pay a lot of attention to the plant because we prefer to transplant in the fall. We also have 6 flowers that are annuals. Finally, we intend to plant 20 dahlia bulbs.We live in Georgia (a lot of clay) but we hauled in dirt that was customized for conifers and Japanese maples. We get significant sun.Regarding your products, how would you recommend applying your products to the plants that we intend on transplanting.Infinite thanksWes

    • Phil on May 18, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Mycorrhizal fungi will be useful for all of these plants – just rub a little bit on the root balls and bulbs during planting.Then personally, I would spray a mixture of effective microorganisms, liquid seaweed, molasses and sea minerals or liquid fish on the root balls/bulbs during planting, as well as the foliage of all plants during planting and monthly thereafter. As you said, a lot of these plants don’t need much in the way of minerals, so you might cut the application rates in half. I alternate between sea minerals and fish each month.A day or more before the above spray, you can come through with your n-p-k and dextrose (and actually you can include the seaweed in this mixture instead, because the other mixture is pretty crowded already).Your rock dust and lime can be broadcast evenly over the whole area (you may not need all the lime). Hope that helps!

  36. Mary on June 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Do your products protect plants from the blight?

    • Phil on June 2, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Fertilizers and inoculants can’t be marketed to protect plants from pests because that would be basically claiming them to be like pesticides. What I can say is that my products often go a long way to improving plant health, and healthy plants don’t get bothered much at all by pests such. It’s definitely worth using products such as the SCD Bio Ag (EM) and the Liquid Seaweed to see what they do for you 🙂

  37. schywalker on June 7, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Phil,I am just new into planting in container in my balcony. I love to read all your organic gardening lessons. I read about the organic fertilizer post, but I am not sure about what is good for people with just small spaces and few plants. There are three options for a beginner, but will you suggest just one thing that would be sufficient. Also was wondering if we can make a fertilizer from kelp powder? I use it as a supplement for myself, so got curious if we can use it as fertilizer.

    • Phil on June 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      If I were to suggest 1 thing it would definitely be the Bio Ag. My second suggestion would be the liquid seaweed fertilizer, which works well combined with the first.Yes, you can make a fertilizer from kelp powder. Just mix 2 Tbsp per quart of water and then both spray and water your plants with it.

      • schywalker on June 8, 2014 at 5:01 am

        Thank you so much. I will get my hand on the Bio Ag and also thanks for your app. You have made our task so easy ( I know writing a code is serious business and I am so thankful that you did that for us).

  38. Jan Amos on June 7, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Phil, I have a question about rose’s, what can I use to keep off pest’s that are eating my leaves. I would love to see what the blooms look like but the bugs wont let them bloom they eat them before I get to see them. you email me at jgrammyamos@yahoo.com, thanks anything you can tell me I would be ever so grateful, JAn.

    • Phil on June 8, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      That’s a big question Jan. I suggest you read through a bunch of blog posts on my website and you will begin to see my answer, which is that you need to improve the health of the soil and plants and then the pests will go away. The products on this page can help a lot, as can other practices I discuss throughout this site.

  39. Dan on June 8, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Have you ever considered trying to use your organic gardening methods on a commercial scale? I would love to see your methods scaled up to a level where farmers could copy you.

    • Phil on June 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Most of my teachings I learned from the organic farming world and have just rejigged them for home gardeners, so yes, most of what I teach can be done on the farm.

  40. Brian Michael Shea on June 10, 2014 at 3:40 am

    I have the EM(although I’m running out and I’m thinking about ordering the microbes from you this time around). It already has molasses in it. Should I add more when I apply it?

    • Phil on June 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Yes, add an equal amount again when you apply it.

  41. Polly on June 12, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Could you please put a PRINT FRIENDLY or PDF option on the 15 lessons you sent out. I am a newly paid up member of the Academy but i still find this series so valuable and i would like to put them in a note book so i can make notes on them and refer back to them at my leisure (non computer) — thanks PW

    • Phil on June 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Polly, there’s a ‘Print’ link at the top of every article.

  42. Vicky on June 24, 2014 at 4:53 am

    I am looking for a good, balanced, organic water soluble fertilizer for use in connection with an irrigation system. Any suggestions?

    • Phil on June 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Definitely my favorite balanced organic fertilizer is the sea minerals ( http://www.smilinggardener.com… ) and it won’t clog the system.

  43. Carol from Land O Lakes, Fl on June 24, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Hi PhilGod Bless you for being so helpful to us “newbies” on our efforts to raise organic food. I received the products I ordered from your website, and am greatly pleased!I’ve already applied the rock dust, and the mixture I saw you put together on one of your videos! My plants definitely loved it, and started showing improvementsright away. I can’t wait to spray again, and it was so noticeable. I just read where the spray would also be beneficial to my lawn, and so I will apply it there also.Thanks again!

    • Phil on June 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks for sharing Carol 🙂

  44. Brian Michael Shea on July 1, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Hi Phil, I received my order from you last week and everything came fine. I also started my EM culture last week too and I’ve already used the liquid fish. Thanks!

    • Phil on July 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Sweet!

  45. mugerwa joseph harvey on August 3, 2014 at 11:02 am

    the whole thing is practically good. but i need to learn more about controlling pests-especiallyfruit flies, bacterial xanthomanas competris fungal anthracnose etc..

  46. Barb on August 3, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    I have the best of all worlds – a generous neighbor who shares his wonderful produce. Can I get a gift him a gift certificate for your products?

    • Phil on August 3, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Hi Barb, I’ve just created a gift certificate option right above this comment seciton 🙂

    • Tom Nauth on November 14, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Hi! Phil, I just bought some of your EM, and using your instructions I acti–vated a batch of Mother Culture [just to try it], Now it’s completed, how is it stored to guarantee potency? [Maybe I missed that. Thank you.Tom.N

      • Phil on November 17, 2015 at 12:28 am

        Just store it at room temperature Tom. Direct sunlight isn’t great for it, but indirect light is. For long term storage, it’s best if it’s filled near to the top of the container, so there’s not much air in there.

    • Phil on November 17, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Hi Barb, I know I responded to you by email, but for everyone else, yes, you can buy a gift certificate right above this comment box.

  47. Pete Michalowski on September 6, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Phil,I have been using your products on my lawn and garden. The results are great and I had used a little too much at the beginning of spring without realizing it. So I did not do any applications for a about a month or 2, to kind of tone everything down. Because my raspberries, strawberries, garlic and pole beans went crazy. My tomatoes were huge this year and the raspberry plants grew 5′ to 6′ tall, the strawberries yielded 5 pounds of berries, compared to last year 1 pound. The mixture that I did was a condensed version by accident with 2 pitchers of water into a hose sprayer the same ratios as the football field. Not thinking that less was better then too much at that time. I had to cut the beans down after I had 8 pound of beans because they over powered my spinach, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and beets. This was my fault. I just was starting out this year. The lawn is doing a little better but I still am going to have to deal with the ground ivy which has been contain in certain areas right now in small batches. Earlier this year after I had the soil test done and when you emailed me with your solution to the test is when it hit me on the measurements of the mixtures I did. Wow, was I surprised at what I had done and how much I had actually gave all my plants to eat, I really over fed them. I finally got everything back to normal now since I had not done a spray for a month or 2 I will know better next year.I started to learn more on the Academy, plus the book you wrote about Building Soils Naturally really opened up my eyes and mind as to how to go about building a better lawn and garden. I am going to stay with the Academy and learn some more of your great methods on growing naturally healthy food! Thank you Phil for supplying us with your excellent products, books and videos.Pete

  48. Judy L Hayes on November 20, 2014 at 12:23 am

    I appreciate the honest information I’ve found here. I’ve spent years gardening/farming in the desert using sustainable methods. Moved to Oahu and its another world! Your page has helped me realize the new environment I live in has many organic ingredients I was shying away from…the sea water for one.I’ve recently started bokashi, my kitchen and garden worms have been around helping me for a while.(I call myself a worm farmer lol)I haven’t found beaches with seaweed here tho! Very odd to me so i think im going to have to purchase that. I’m hoping I can get my calcium from the shells and coral here (the dead ocean trash, not living ocean creatures). I’m curious if me crushing coral/shells and using the throw away fish parts here in my bokashi bin would be good or bad? Or useful at all? I was thinking my em1 bran would break it all down nicely to make it more available to plants (after the 2 week bokashi pickling and two week composting in ground is complete ).Gardening here is a HUGE challenge that causes us to not have enough home grown food. Tomatoes/peppers etc everyone here struggles with. I can’t live on pineapples ! Lol..so I’m hoping perhaps the tools you share will help thatMahalo

    • Phil on November 20, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Hi Judy, crushing the shells and fish parts will be great. The bokashi and 2 week composting might not break them down all that much, but it will get them started and then they’ll become more available throughout the growing season. Go for it!

  49. Edwin on November 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    what do you use as better than bonemeal? the linked page did not say, to my knowledge. i am especially interested in using what grows such as weeds to make natural fertilizer. unfortunately i do not think molasses is available in Sweden. as much as possible i want to be environmental and put everything to use. the only household pets i have are the small red local compost worms but i am not good at looking after them and think i have too few.

    • Phil on November 26, 2014 at 7:19 am

      I use all of the above products instead of bone meal. And yes, I used weeds as mulch, or steeped in water for 2+ weeks to make a tea to be sprayed on plants and soil.

  50. malabika on December 23, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I am trying to buy 5 different kinds of organic fertilizer , total of 1.8 cu Yard. I live in Los Angeles area. If you can help please where can I get these. Thanks

    • Phil on December 25, 2014 at 3:00 am

      Can you clarify what you’re looking for?

  51. Larry Heimer on January 25, 2015 at 1:46 am

    PhilI’ve currently moved into the city due to my work however, where I’m currently staying for the next two years I have access to a portion of the roof deck where I’m looking into growing vegies in pot’s and small raised beds .. might you suggest a ratio of different material that I can purchase to build a good base soil to start with? In many of your lectures you emphasize on good soil and seeing I do not have soil to start with? I’ve already purchase some of your products and I’m looking to get started. Thanks, keep up the good work.

    • Phil on January 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Larry, good question. There are actually many types of ingredients that can be used, so I can’t list them all here. Some growers just stick with a standard mixture of something like 1/3 good topsoil, 1/3 quality compost and 1/3 course sand, and that’s what I tend to use too. But from there, there are many options, depending on your goals. If you want to learn more, ATTRA has a good free publication in pdf form: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-p…Also, per gallon of potting mix, I add about 1/3 cup of calcium carbonate and 1/3 cup of rock dust. Plus I use most of my other goodies when watering. Hope that helps!

  52. Max B Holbrook on January 28, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Phil, Good job, the supplies arrived in great condition. I am looking forward to their use when weather permits. ?, for raised beds, if you use the mycorrhizae on the roots at planting or transplanting is it necessary to spray the whole bed? Will the fungi spread throughout the bed using it just on the plants? I’m learning and enjoying it. The kudos come once I can see some results. Should I use the fungi in the soil for starting seeds?Thanks, Max

    • Phil on January 28, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Max, by far the best strategy with the fungi powder is to rub a small amount on the roots during planting, and to mix a small amount in with seeds before starting or planting out. The relationship happens between fungi and plant roots, so it’s less effective to apply it to the whole soil area.

  53. Max B Holbrook on January 28, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Phil,Do you know about ground up coconut husks, sold by spray-n-grow, to retain water, oxygenate the soil and make it lighterThanks, Max

    • Phil on January 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I much prefer local compost for retaining water, oxygenating and making soil lighter. Plus it brings in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. If coconuts are a waste material where you live and need to be used, I could see them being a useful amendment, but otherwise it doesn’t make much ecological sense to me to ship them from another country when they could be used down where they’re from just as well.

  54. michael skerra on February 19, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Hi Phil , Can you link me up with a list of approved & not approved fertilisers. all i get is brand names

    • Phil on February 19, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Michael, not sure if this is what you’re asking for, but the SOUL Organic Land Care Standard has a list of allowed and prohibited substances starting on page 29: http://www.organiclandcare.org…(If that link ever stops working, you can get the standard on this page: http://www.organiclandcare.org… )

  55. Josie Fox on March 5, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Hey there Phil, I am from the U.K. and therefore a bit out of your product range but I really need help, boy! Do I need help! We are turning a piece of abandoned waste ground into a community project. It has taken us 2 years to clear the land and establish plots so this is the first year we will plant crops. We are complete beginners and, as a project staffed by long term unemployed and sick, we do not have much cash but we are absolutely determined to be completely organic and to enhance the environment for local wildlife. I see from your presentation here that you are very dedicated to spreading the word. I thought I had signed up for your free intro course but I do not seem to have received the activation email. My address is josie.one@hotmail.co.ukWould you mind sending me the link?Thank you in anticipation, Josie

  56. Tom Mayhugh on March 10, 2015 at 1:33 am

    I have a concern that regularly adding EM to my garden plants over time will acidify the soil.

    • Phil on March 10, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      The amounts we use are so tiny that there’s nothing to worry about there. And we mix it with usually at least 250 parts water, so that takes care of much of the acidity right there.

  57. michelle on March 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    I’m living with family this year and started an organic garden in the back yard. There is a preexisting raised bed that I’m debating using for planting food, however I know they have used chemicals in the past. My father in law said that he hasn’t used chemicals on that bed for five years. How do I know if it’s safe to plant organic food there? Do chemicals diminish after time? Or is it hopeless.

    • Phil on March 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      Most of the chemicals should be gone, but I would still encourage you to apply some good compost or microbial inoculants such as effective microorganisms to assist in breaking down whatever chemicals might be left. Still, you can go ahead and plant this year and feel good about it.

  58. Janice on March 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Help I ordered Amaze and am ready to apply it but can’t find instructions, should it be mixed with my probio, liquid seawead and endomycorrhizal inoculant or applied by itself???? I ordered these four products from you months ago and I thought there was a formula for these but I can’t find it on your site??? Thanks anxious to apply it Janice

    • Phil on March 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Hi Janice, you can go to http://www.smilinggardener.com… to figure out how to apply all of these. It should be mixed with seaweed, but not with probio or endo (they’re applied separately).

  59. Terry Hinkle on March 31, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Phil, The EM I started is ready for use. In general besides the garden, I am curios if you know of a resource or book that details the many known uses of this product. Living in Houston with it’s humid/mold environment there must be many uses. What is a safe amount to drink and give to the animals? Thx Much

    • Phil on March 31, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      There used to be a little book years ago, but it’s not currently available. Here’s a pdf that seems to cover some uses: http://www.em-sustainablelivin

      • Terry Hinkle on April 1, 2015 at 3:16 am

        Thanks a lot and I appreciate the class offer. I do not have any free time due to work and personal issues but look forward to it in the future as it look to be a great learning opportunity.

  60. Gwen on April 12, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Hi Phil. I really do appreciate your teachings. After following you last year without having a garden to implement your information, this year I will be planting. I ordered your beginner products to start my garden. The thing is I’m buying a home but won’t close on it until the end of May. Fortunately, the seller is a gardener so I won’t have to start from scratch. My plan is to start planting in trays and transfer the plants when I take possession of the property. When I start the seeds can I leave them out in the open air to germinate or should they be covered. I live in Georgia and don’t expect any frost.

    • Phil on April 14, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      They can germinate in the open air, as long as a heavy rain doesn’t come and cause any problems. Make sure they have full sunlight, at least after germination.

  61. Shanna Hilgers on April 14, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I am really enjoying learning from all your hard work, Phil! Thank you for making so much available to the gardeners of the world! I am working on my first backyard garden after living overseas for many years in tropical SouthEast Asia where everything grows year round! I’m in south Texas and, while the climate isn’t too different from Asia in the summers, there are definitely more distinct seasons. I’m growing in two raised beds that equal about 250 square feet and my plants (all from seed/direct sow) have been in the ground for 2-3 months (depending on their cool weather hardiness)…but things seem to be growing slowly. Is it okay to post specific questions in this comments section? I have been applying the products you listed in your Beginner Gardeners section for about a month. My bean plants and snap peas and green onions are all doing great. But my tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, cilantro, broccoli, cucumbers, spinach, carrots, asparagus, lavender, beets, basil and even my okra seem to still be in baby plant stage. We’ve gotten unusual amounts of rainfall in the last month and I’m a little worried things are staying too wet too often. And I have a ton of mushrooms constantly popping up (which aren’t a bad thing, right?). Any recommendations to help my little plants along?

    • Phil on April 15, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Shanna, it does sound like moisture could be the main culprit, especially with all the mushrooms popping up (no, they’re not inherently bad). If the plants make it through this wet spell, you may find they take off growing soon. How did you build the raised bed? What did you use for soil? Does it seem to be draining poorly? Can you build a little hoop house or other structure to keep the rain out for awhile?

      • Shanna Hilgers on April 17, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        Thank you for the reply! The raised beds are walled in with wooden planks (pine, I think) and the soil was purchased from an organic garden supply spot in our area. Its hard to say how well its draining but we did recently constructed a tarp to cover most of the beds and I’m hoping this will help.

  62. Faith Nicholoff Merwin on April 14, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Hey there! I am a vegetarian with a huge issue with big farming and what is thought as alright quality food at the store produce isle. I have a green thumb and love my yard! I feel like I’m starving. Hahaha. I just mentally get past what my produce was grown with or near… so..after the hours my character default of information eating. I found you on YouTube! I am giving it my all to putting in this garden. I love the “looks natural” and I have to fence cause of deer. So. I am using land that was pasture for 80 + yrs. But not in the past 15. Thank you so much for your approach. My only neighbor is an Organic Farmer!!! AWESOME!!! Thank You from Upstate N.Y.

    • Phil on April 15, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Thanks for sharing Faith 🙂

  63. pat in pittsburgh on April 15, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    I want to praise Phil for following up on my recent order, which hadn’t arrived yet when he sent me an email. He found the delay at UPS, re-sent the order with expedited shipping, and added a free gift, when the delay wasn’t his fault in the first place. I will always buy my garden and orchard supplies from Smiling Gardener in the future. THANKS, Phil!

    • Phil on April 15, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks for the nice note Pat – much appreciated!

  64. Dace on May 6, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    I am trying to move away from traditional lawn fertilizers. I have just under a half acre size lawn. What would be your recommendation of products that I would need to start with and then to use for future maintenance?

  65. Gretel on June 2, 2015 at 5:04 am

    Hello, I have rabbits and they make a lot of pellets. Do they need to be composted before being applied to the garden? Also, I add earthworms to my compost pile. Is this bad? I know they sometimes get cooked in the hot grass clippings. Would it be better to add them to my garden? I figured they would get better food in the compost bin.

  66. Alli Hogan on June 13, 2015 at 12:14 am

    How do you get rid of bugs organically? Slugs and pill bugs are eating my ripe strawberries.Also, my strawberries are many, but tiny. That is sad because I expected bigger strawberries. I read your explanation of fertilizers, but I would not be able to find what you described anywhere.

  67. Donna Lannon on June 25, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Phil! Thank you for checking in with me, I received my order promptly.. I didn’t realize until I recvd this msg that I could use the ProBio the way it comes and didn’t have to wait I activated more.. I read all of your literature and I will be spraying it tomorrow and brew some up to activate tonight. I have a little job helping a terrific woman with gardening and I’m going to email your post to her, and bring a “dose” next time I’m there. I’m sure she will want to order some. Are you able to comment on how, and how much ProBio you yourself used? It is warm in southern cal again, after the “May Gray” and “June Gloom” when we are overcast much of the time. We had a warm spell and then it got cold and our poor plants got confused! Question, I have used blossom set before and it seemed to help. I saw that it was 0.07% calcium. I added a smidge of a calcium citrate supplement tab to water and sprayed it on 1 set of blossoms on two tomato plants. Do you think it’s useful? Thanks for everything Phil. Oh BTW, I tell everyone I meet that gardens about you and your website!

    • Phil on June 27, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Donna, are you asking about how much I drink? I drink 1 Tbsp a day. I can’t promote that for other people though because it’s not technically food grade. As for how much I use in the garden, you can read that here ( http://www.smilinggardener.com… ) or use my calculator ( http://www.smilinggardener.com… ).I’m not a huge fan of blossom set myself because it can cause some problems, which you can find if you research it online. It doesn’t work well for some people, but does for others. Spraying three tablespoons liquid calcium, two to four teaspoons borax, 1/3 cup liquid fish hydrolysate, 1/3 cup liquid kelp and one to two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in at least a gallon of water per 1,000 square feet can help fruit and seed set.

  68. PamM on July 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I got the beginner kit. I have a small garden so bought a STIHL SG10 hand sprayer to apply plant food. Pressure is built up with a pump and just press the release button to spray. I decided to spray every other week. This sprayer holds a half gallon. Used water from the dehumidifier and added 1 tsp each of BioAg, Seaweed Plant Food and table molasses. Applied in the morning and noticed healthier tomato plants by the next day. Did the one time application of endomycorrhizal Inoculant to the soil.Question 1: How long will these premixed products last stored in the basement?Question 2: Is the BioAg and Seaweed plant food good for strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and hydrangia.So far very happy with products and service.

    • Phil on July 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Hi Pam, once you’ve mixed the products together, you should use them within a day. Unmixed, they’ll last a solid couple of years.Yes, these products are beneficial for all plants because they supply broad spectrum nutrients and universally-beneficial biology, so go for it on the whole garden.

  69. Julia Evans on October 8, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Is this or a similar product available in South Africa?

    • Phil on October 8, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      I’m sorry, I’m not aware of what’s available in South Africa.

  70. Vanessa on December 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Phil. I am replacing my front lawn with a water-wise landscape and will be planting a lot of shrubs. I have purchased the mycorrhizal fungi and my landscape designer has also recommended adding a handful of worm castings to each of the holes as I plant. This may be a dumb question (I am new to this), but is there any concern about using both of these materials as I plant the shrubs or can I presume that they will work well together?

    • Phil on December 20, 2015 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Vanessa, as long as the compost is good (i.e. doesn’t smell awful), they should work well together. Go for it!

  71. Alex Hedgepath on February 12, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Hey Phil,I’ve planted bare root pine seedlings and establishment is more than critical because soil erosion is the goal. I need root growth fast. If all 184 trees are already planted, is too late to apply ectomycorrhizae? How effective is the powder through a sprayer? Any information would be helpful. Thanks!

    • Phil on March 7, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Hi Alex, you’re still fine to spray the ecto. A micronized product like the one I carry goes beautifully through a sprayer, and since the trees were just recently planted, the water should quickly make its way down to the roots. Nothing to worry about 🙂

  72. Barbara Mate on March 12, 2016 at 4:09 am

    I have only sprayed twice and I can see such a difference already! I just inherited an orchard with the purchase of our new home. The trees are sick and I am sure it is from the overuse of chemicals and fertilizers having been sprayed for at least a decade. I have healthy new shoots prolifically growing from very sick trees. I am so excited to see if i can turn the orchard back into a healthy place. Also, I found the information on this site very informational, and ordering process so simple (and fast!). I am so lucky that I stumbled upon this site.

    • Phil on March 14, 2016 at 2:47 am

      Glad you found me Barbara 🙂

  73. Richard on March 26, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    2 years ago I bought BioAg from you and still have half a bottle left. Is the product still good to use?

    • Phil on March 27, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      There should be an expiry date on the bottle. I’ll often still use BioAg and ProBio Balance for a year after that, but I have pH paper to test it to make sure the pH is still below 3.8, plus I can tell by the smell.

  74. Jenny on March 27, 2016 at 12:33 am

    I am getting my spot ready to plant a small garden. I only grew potatoes there last year. My garden will only be around 8′ x 8′. I want to know if I can use the same stuff I ordered, { i ordered the $45 pack} on my lawn. I am trying to go organic in my whole yard. Also, can I use it on my flowers. Thanks Jenny

    • Phil on March 27, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      Hi Jenny, absolutely, you can use it all on the lawn, although the mycorrhizal fungi goes much further when you’re justing using it during planting and seeding. If you’re spraying it on the whole lawn, technically you should use 1/2 pound per 1000 square feet, but even if you use less, you’ll still get some benefit. If your lawn is heavy clay and/or highly compacted, it won’t work as well because it needs to get down into the root zone. If you can get it down there, it can really help a lawn. It should be watered in after to help push it down. Ideally it’s done after the lawn has been core aerated, but most people understandably never do that. As for the Bio Ag and liquid seaweed fertilizer, they can be sprayed every month and you just need a little. Lawns take more time to get healthy than gardens, but those products definitely help. You can read more about application rate on the info pages for those products.

  75. bmroun2 . on April 5, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    We have searched high and low for a cruelty free, vegan fertilizer and lawn care system that will not hurt the organisms in the soil. I am curious to hear your opinion about the products in the Jonathan Green Application Wheel. http://www.jonathangreen.com/a… Thanks in advance!

    • Phil on April 14, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Good question. There’s really no such thing as a complete fertilizer ‘system,’ because fertilizing needs to be done to address the specific imbalances in your soil, generally based on a soil test. There are many products we can use to improve the soil without a soil test, but for optimal health (especially in a lawn which is often more difficult to manage ecologically because our expectations of a lawn are so out of balance with what nature would have chosen), we can’t just use a non-customized program and expect optimal results.As for a quick review of the Jonathan Green program, I only looked at the organic one, not the main programs which are all synthetic. Here are some quick thoughts:-Vegan. Not quite. They use feather meal, and they use protein hydrolysate. I’m not sure from where they’re deriving the latter – could be plants or animals like fish.-Quality. I didn’t take the time to research into the quality of their ingredients, which can be quite hard to figure out for formulated products like this anyway. Often they use cheap forms of ingredients, but I’m not sure about this brand.-Early spring, “Organic Weed Control”. It’s corn gluten meal – although moderately useful for a lawn, it’s almost certainly made from genetically modified corn, which I prefer not to use in my garden. -Late spring, “Love Your Lawn…”. This is mostly just calcium sulfate (gypsum) and calcium carbonate (aka calcitic lime, garden lime, and ag lime). Most lawns and gardens will benefit from it. It’s probably more affordable to buy straight calcium sulfate and calcium carbonate, but yes, this is worthwhile for most gardens.-Summer, “Organic Lawn Fertilizer”. There are some good ingredients in there. Worthwhile for most gardens.-Fall, “Magical”. This is just calcium carbonate, recommended at a rate of about 4.5 pounds per thousand square feet. Most lawns and gardens will benefit from it. Again, it’s probably much more affordable to buy straight calcium carbonate.Long story short, all 4 applications will benefit most gardens, although I’d personally skip the GMO corn gluten meal. The program won’t address your specific mineral imbalances, but they are a start. And they’re mostly focused on the chemistry of your soil, but they don’t do much of anything to improve the biology in your soil.I’m running out of time today, but here’s a very brief summary of how I manage any lawn or garden: -Good compost-Microbial inoculants like EM/SCD probiotics and mycorrhizal fungi to improve soil biology-Broad spectrum organic fertilizers like ocean water, seaweed and/or homemade fertilizers to improve overall soil chemistry-Mineral fertilizers – mostly based on a soil test from an ecologically-minded lab – to improve specific soil imbalances-Mulching the garden and leaving the grass clippings on the lawn-Proper wateringAll of this is vegan, except perhaps compost. Gotta run now. Hope that helps!

  76. Sylvia on May 9, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Hi Phil, Yes I received my package and could not wait to start using the liquid fertilizers for both me and the plants as I have had a digestion problem for some time. I apply all 3 in the garden the first night. and of course I made a classic mistake of using too much neem and burned my plants. I trimmed a lot of leaves off cucumbers and tomatoes I hope they will grow back greener as my leaves were starting to turn yellow anyway. I now have worms on the cucs and melons aphids on the peppers. The first photo is today, the second photo is from April 21,2016 HELP!!!

    • Phil on May 11, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      If the problem is neem/fertilizer over-application, there’s not much that can be done. New leaves may well come in and save the plant. If there’s an additional problem, like a specific insect that’s clearly causing problems, or a disease you can identify, we can try to figure something out. From the photo, I can’t tell if it’s just the over-application or if there’s a pest or disease issue.

  77. Sylvia on May 9, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    I also am not sure if I am using the hose end sprayer correctly. It came set at 4 but did not seem to suck the solution so I moved it to 10 after first pass and solution seem to move. but is 4 or 1 the recommended setting?

    • Phil on May 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      It depends on the product. If you’re referring to the neem, I think my instructions on the neem page are quite thorough, although perhaps a bit confusing ( http://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/p... ). What I do is first mix the neem with 7 parts warm water and then set the sprayer to setting 5 or 10.

  78. Sylvia on May 11, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Yes I have found worms green with 2 white lines down the back. I used a mixture of 1.5 tsp neem the same of castle soap to a gallon of water today. I also picks some off the plant and put in a separate container that I sprayed with solution to see if it affected them. They did not seem to die right away. Is my solution correct or should it be stronger. I am of course nervous now about mixing too strong a solution.

    • Phil on May 15, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Try to click ‘Reply’ in the right place Sylvia – right under my replies – that way the discussion stays in chronological order. Are the worms eating holes into your cukes or just hanging around?I use 1.5 Tbsp per gallon of water, which is 3X as much as you used there. That doesn’t mean yours is necessarily too weak, but I use 1.5 Tbsp.

  79. Bob on May 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    I recently purchased a Hudson hose end sprayer along with several products (Bio-Ag, seaweed fertilizer, liquid fish and Seam minerals). I loaded up the sprayer with one ounce each of three of the above and backstrap molasses (the proportions recommended by your calculator for a 500 sq. ft. garden) and hooked the sprayer up to a hose. I set the sprayer to one (which I believe is the most dilute setting) and began spraying our garden. Within five minutes the contents of the bottle were gone and the garden not nearly finished (I didn’t spend long with each group of plants). In addition, after I hooked up the sprayer I gave it shake and found that it leaked. When tried to tighten the bottle, the threaded plastic connection cracked (not all the way, but eventually I assume it will, rendering the sprayer inoperable).Two questions: 1) why did I run out of nutrients in the bottle so rapidly, and 2) what should I do about the sprayer? I’ve never used a hose end sprayer before don’t know what to expect.Additionally, the on-line courses (videos) you mention on the order pages of the website aren’t easy to find. Have they been replaced by the on-line Academy?Thanks,Bob

    • Phil on May 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      1) Hi Bob, I actually just came in from the garden where I used the Hudson sprayer to spray 15 ounces of a combination of Bio Ag, seaweed and sea minerals at a sprayer setting of 5, sprayed over 1500 square feet, and it took me 12 minutes to get through it. So if you had 4 ounces in there, at a setting of 1, I’d expect it to take (roughly) a similar amount of time, depending on the water pressure, because you had 75% less in the container, but also an 80% greater dilution rate, so that should even out. That being said, 5 minutes is enough time to do 500 square feet in my garden, but every garden is a little different. What you might want to do next time is add some water to the container to make the whole mixture last longer.2) As I recall, I’ve had 1 or 2 other people say their sprayer leaked. Certainly that seems to be common with hose-end sprayers, but I haven’t run into it. I’ll send you a new one and we’ll see if it works better for you. The thread isn’t the best thread I’ve ever seen, so I try not to over-tighten it.3) You should have received an email the same day you ordered from me with information on how to access the videos. It may have gone into your junk mail. If you can’t find it, let me know.Thanks for your thorough comment.

  80. Paul on May 20, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    I ordered all the basics for my trees and garden-Bio Ag, neem, em, molasses, Seaweed, and Liquid fish. I would also like to use it around a very tall and old pin oak tree that seems to be slowly dying. Is it safe to use these ingredients around pets? I hope to spray this mixture into the soil surrounding the tree.

    • Phil on May 20, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Hi Paul, yes, all are fine for pets – no problem at all.

      • Paul on May 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm

        Thanks!

  81. Chris Valenzuela on May 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Phil

  82. Chris Valenzuela on May 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Phil, I have a 275 gallon tote I use for a water barrel that is full of algae. Is this OK to water with?

    • Phil on May 22, 2016 at 3:16 am

      Yes, no problem at all Chris.

  83. Miki Diki on June 11, 2016 at 12:24 am

    I am a newbie who is struggling with my garden but hope to be a real gardener one day. So glad to have stumbled onto your site as the tips have been incredibly helpful! Hope to report back by next season with positive progress. Please keep sharing your knowledge and posting videos/blog entries. You’re making such an impact on us all especially the beginners like myself 🙂

  84. Shane on July 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    We live in South Georgia where fire ants are prevalent. This is our first year using your products in our garden and based on the sheer number of fire ants on our peas it looks like our garden is one huge ant bed. What would you recommend? Thank you for your help.

    • Phil on July 14, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      Hi Shane, I don’t have much experience with fire ants. I’ve heard the organic product Spinosad can work. There are tons of homemade recipes online, most of which don’t seem to work all that well, but some people have had luck with some of them. Here’s a comment on another part of my site where the the guy had great luck with one such solution: http://www.smilinggardener.com

  85. Colleen on August 2, 2016 at 6:10 am

    Hi Phil, I want to thank you for all the great gardening advice you provide and the products supplied on your website. I bought the beginner products to help my established garden thrive. I can see insect damage on many of my plants. I have approximately 250 square ft give or take. I also bought the sprayer you recommended. My question is how often should I spray? Once a week or once a month. Also, how do I distribute the solution in the sprayer evenly over the whole garden without using it up in one spot? Any and all advice would be appreciated.

    • Phil on August 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Hi Colleen, there’s no one right answer for how often to spray. What we do know is the more often the better. That doesn’t mean more fertilizer is always better, but if you take the same amount of fertilizer and apply it over more applications, that’s better. So if you have time for it, weekly is great. As for not using the spray up in one spot, that mostly just means moving fast enough to get through the whole area. If that’s a challenge, you can add water to the sprayer container to give you more time.

  86. k12service on August 3, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Phil,I just received the hose end sprayer and it’s my first time using on. I ordered fertilizing products from you but have a worm bin and quite a bit of worm tea I would like to use first. The Hungry Bin instructions read to dilute 10:1 and use on the ground. Could you help me understand the amount to put in the container on the hose end sprayer and the setting on top? Also, would this application be considered a weekly application or a monthly application in addition to other fertilizers. I basically need help starting the process with some new puzzle pieces. Thanks, Sandy

    • Phil on August 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

      Setting 10 on the hose end sprayer will give you a 1:25 ratio. That’s as low as the dilution goes on most sprayers, but that’s entirely fine for worm tea.As for frequency of application, there’s no right answer. Using a greater quantity of fertilizer (or worm tea) is not always better, but fertilizing more often generally is – ie. it’s better to fertilize weekly over monthly, even if you’re using the same amount of fertilizer overall.As for whether worm tea replaces other fertilizers, again there’s no right answer, but since it’s a ground application, I’d consider it separately from foliar fertilizing.

  87. Vince on August 25, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I appreciate the information you provide. Looking at the beginner set and neem oil and knowing we are a little late in the growing season, I have a couple of questions: I assume using the products now to boost the plants before growing season ends and get a jump start on next season is a good idea. Would that be correct? Also, how should the treatment (by hose end sprayer) be spaced before or after a rain?

    • Phil on August 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Vince, yes, applying fertilizers now is still great. Neem oil may not be needed until spring.I’m happy to apply things right after a rain, but prefer there to be at least a couple of days of dry after I apply, if possible.

  88. Eva on October 11, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Hi, I am starting a new above ground garden in Buckeye, Arizona (Southern area) and and was wondering where can I get or order good quality soil and Compost or do you sell it? Thanks in advance!

  89. Eva on October 11, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Was reading below, are all Red wrigglers bad or Just from Pennsylvania? Thanks

    • Phil on October 25, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      They’re only ‘bad’ when they get introduced to an ecosystem where they don’t belong, so it’s not Pennsylvanian red wigglers specifically, just non-native species of living thing that can unbalance an ecosystem. Buy local worms instead.

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