First, a video:
Most grocery store food is nutrient-poor, and when you’re a new gardener, yours will almost certainly be, too.
But the more experience you get, the better your food will become – IF you figure a few things out.
If you don’t figure these things out, it’s possible to grow edible yet nutrient-poor food for your whole life.
If you do figure things out, your food will taste better, and most important, will be substantially more nutritious.
I’ve never had a magic touch with plants, but I do have an enthusiasm for figuring things out, which is why my gardens have gradually been able to grow such great food.
Below, I’m going to share with you a few tips to help you do the same…
My Approach To Organic Gardening
This photo shows my garden when I was first building it.
- The wheelbarrow with my own organic compost,
- A bale of straw from a local biodynamic farmer, and
- A combination straw and leaves as a mulch on the garden.
I’m a big fan of getting as much nutrition as possible from my own property and the neighborhood.
But I also want to grow the healthiest plants and most nutrient-dense foods I can.
When I was new to organic gardening, I tried various organic fertilizers, but they didn’t bring any noticeable changes.
I eventually went deep into studying organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants and I started to use a small selection of them.
Microorganisms help our plants get nutrients as well as protection from disease.
And nutrients 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 on my indoor plants – was noticeable in a short time.
- Most of the food I grow has a higher brix (i.e. is more nutritious and tastier) than any food I buy from the grocery store, which means my family and I are healthier as a result.
- My flowers, shrubs and trees have more vibrant colors and longer blooming periods and an overall vitality that is clear (I talk a lot about growing food on this page, but the benefits are there for ornamental plants, too).
Where You Can Get These Products
I make my own concoctions, and in these pages, I’ll teach you how to make some yourself.
I use some purchased products, too.
I tend to favor liquid products that allow for spraying plants directly because foliar fertilizing is more efficient than soil fertilizing.
I spray my garden at least monthly to make sure my plants have access to the beneficial microorganisms and nutrients they need.
Local garden centers don’t have most of what I’m looking for, so I’ve always had to get them online.
And since there’s no place that sells them all in one spot, I recently decided to sell them right here, to people in the U.S. (if you’re in Canada, you can go to the Organic Gardener’s Pantry, which carries many of the same products).
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, as there’s a lot of junk out there.
Here’s What I Use In My Organic Garden
If possible, it’s a good idea to apply less fertilizer, more often, rather than just dumping it all on at once in the spring.
So I come through at least monthly and when I have the time, I’ll even cut the application rate by 75% and do it weekly instead – especially useful during late spring and summer when plants are growing the most.
Here’s what I use:
Most gardeners focus on 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 that biology, the beneficial microorganisms that are often deficient in the garden for various reasons. We need them back in there to feed our plants and protect them from disease.
The main thing for this is a small amount of high-quality compost in spring and/or fall – just a dusting of 1/8 inch or less is all you need in most cases.
That’s something you can make yourself or buy locally.
And then there are these products:
- SCD Probiotics or EM. Definitely my favorite microbial inoculant. I use it often along with molasses, liquid seaweed and either sea minerals or liquid fish.
- Mycorrhizal fungi. Some of 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 increasing microbial diversity. It’s a more involved process, so I don’t recommend it for the casual gardener, but I use it at least a couple of times a year.
Liquid Organic Fertilizers
While we’re bringing the biology back into the garden, we want to make sure our plants have access to the nutrients.
And we want to go beyond just nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to give them all of the dozens of elements they need.
Again, good compost is key here. Good compost provides a huge array of nutrients.
You can also make your own herbal tea fertilizer by combining a bunch of weeds and fresh grass clippings in a container, filing it with water, covering with an air-tight lid, and leaving it for a few days or, even better, a few weeks.
I do this all the time. The only downside is, unless you get weeds from other places, you’re only bringing in the nutrients that are already abundant in your soil, not the ones you need the most.
Regardless, I use some some excellent products, too:
- Liquid seaweed fertilizer. An organic gardening standard that’s especially known for boosting plant health. I use it at least monthly with EM or compost tea.
- Sea minerals fertilizer. My favorite organic fertilizer for 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. I use it every other month with EM or compost tea, rotated with the sea minerals above.
- Molasses. Molasses is used along with EM to feed the microorganisms in the EM.
Last, I occasionally use the most important dry mineral fertilizers to improve soil fertility.
While liquid fertilizers are great for feeding both soil and plants with a wide array of nutrients that can help in the short term, dry mineral organic fertilizers are used for boosting long term soil nutrition.
Here are a couple of notes:
- Rock dust can be used by everyone, without a soil test, regardless of your soil type.
- For the most part, specific elements such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and micronutrients are only used based on a soil test.
For these dry fertilizers, if you can find them in your local area, you may get a slightly better deal because the shipping can make them 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.
How To Choose?
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 the year, although if you have 1500 or even 2000 square feet, you could still get by with these amounts, and if you have less than 1000 square feet, these products will last for 2-3 years or more.
Here’s what I suggest…
Start With These
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.
- Sea minerals. A little more expensive, but only 1/3 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.
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, 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:
- 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 most home gardeners need.
- Liquid fish fertilizer. 1 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.
- Molasses. Along with EM, use molasses at 1 quart for each 1000 square feet for the year.
The 2 lists above are the most important, but some people will find these useful:
- Rock dust. I suggest 50 pounds per 1000 square feet, but you can do much more or less.
- Compost tea brewer. A five-gallon brew will do up to an acre, but compost tea is rare in that you can use it all on just a small garden, too.
How To Use These Products
I like liquid products that I can spray directly on my plants.
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.
For spraying, I mostly use this hose end sprayer, 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 prefer to apply it undiluted, but everything else goes through the hose end sprayer.
I’ve created this application rate calculator to help you figure out how much of each product to apply for your area…
How Much Does This Cost?
When people calculate how much ‘value’ comes out of a food garden, the results vary dramatically.
It often works out between $1000 and $3000 worth of food per 1000 square feet.
It can be less than that and it can be more, but what’s been clear in my garden is that the cost of using organic fertilizer and microbial inoculants is low compared to what I get back.
The first-stage products work out to 70-something dollars per 1000 square feet for the year, and the next-stage products add another 40-something dollars.
It’s clear that the increase in yield and nutrient-density is worth much more than that.
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, and lower maintenance costs overall because plants are healthy.
Affordable, Fast Shipping
I ship in the United States only.
Shipping is $15. I wish I could charge less, but even at this rate, I lose almost all of my profit to shipping costs.
I ship from St. Louis, 7 days a week, 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).
Products ordered by 2pm usually ship same day. After that, they ship next day.
Note: Dry fertilizers and compost tea brewers ship separately so they will arrive on their own maybe a day or 2 apart from the other products.
100% Money-Back Guarantee
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?
And most of the products I carry don’t do all that much for your garden after only one application – it’s after a few applications when the benefits really kick in.
So if you’re going to buy these products from me, I 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 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.
With every order, I send a donation to my favorite organization, Thrive For Good.
They’re helping communities implement the following integrated activities:
- Organic Gardening. Several organic techniques are used to grow food all year round.
- Nutrition. They incorporate crops that yield maximum nutrition.
- Natural Medicine. Each community garden includes a portion of medicinal plants that are used to prevent and treat diseases.
- Income Generation. Once community members are growing and thriving on the harvest of their own gardens, they provide training to help them bring their surplus to market.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Whether you make your own products or buy some from me or somewhere else, here are the main points to remember:
- Organic matter. Use compost, leaves as mulch, grass clippings, whatever you can get your hands on.
This is the new organic garden in the 1st season.
Plant health is not optimal yet, but after a few years of improving the biology and chemistry, it will produce tasty, nutrient-dense food.
I hope I can help you do the same.
And if you have any questions about any of this, let me know in the comments down below.
If you prefer, you can instead email firstname.lastname@example.org, but with email, it may take a little longer to respond.