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[video/audio] Organic Gardening

I feel it's time to take my nutrition and health into my own hands. Back to basics. I have no clue about growing things. Here's my starting point, these excellent videos.

Date:   3/7/2009 5:28:45 PM   ( 13 y ) ... viewed 3364 times

This will be fun. Myself and a friend are going to try organic gardening, but neither of us have the faintest idea where to start. We are both reading this excellent video playlist on YouTube which can also be found here on the original website, and below now, because I am making notes as I learn. I asked to go to his place first, as he has a bigger garden, I can do my smaller one on my own, plus I need the exercise.

One thing I found out is that the seeds you but from garden centres (centers for US friends) are crap. They are hybrid seeds, artificially made. Yuck!!!

And we wonder why we are all ill???

Here's where I'll probably get my seeds from

May as well do the videos... I have to learn this stuff and it helps me by doing this. Others may also find the notes useful, that way you can go straight to the clip and playing time that you want to see.

1. Organic Gardening Basics

Tim MacWelch, Owner and Head Instructor, Earth Connection

[START] Brief introduction to himself, his organisation and what will be learned below. Safety warnings. [END]

2. How to Plan your Garden

[START] What is organic gardening? "A gardening style without harsh chemical pesticides, genetically modified organisms or vegetables, and basically it's an older more traditional gardening style. Everybody organic gardened before the artificial revolution of the 1900s. Everybody did organic gardening because nothing else existed. So we are going to use that same old-school philosophy of using what nature provides to grow our crops and our vegetables."

Garden Plan.

What are we going to plant and when are we going to plant it? He does this in the winter using paperwork.

Plant COOL WEATHER CROPS in January or February, so they have 1-2 months to grow big enough to be transplanted into the ground around March, after the frost. Typically
[Kale?], Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Spinach, Chard. These plants can survive a frost, even a light freeze, which may happen in March or April [USA - but UK climate similar 53 degrees Latitude]

[2 mins] Plant Peppers Tomatoes and other common vegetables after the last frost has gone, so find your weather zone
for me possibly more worldwide info here Garden action also has some great planning calenders for UK here ]

[Not mentioned, but one assumes the warmer weather crops should be planted 1 - 2 months before the last frost date, and transplanted after that has passed]

[3 mins] Garden plan can go from spring to summer to fall, it will be cold in fall but then cool weather crops can be planted. For example we can start the cold weather seeds in August and start them in the shade and give them shade cloth. September October, plant the cold weather crops in the garden beds or containers and they will take over when the hot weather crops are done. So we can garden 8 / 9 months a year or longer, depending on where we live.

[4 mins] Gardening Plan Review
- Find your crops of choice
- Find out what will grow well in your area
- Figure out when to plant

3. Garden and Container Location

[START] Assess your land, pick the best soil, and maximum sunlight. A garden needs 12 hours of direct sunlight each day. Check when the sun starts to shine on your land and time it. Open ground best, away from trees, obstructions, maybe you will find a spot that gets good sunlight 12 hours a day from May to September.

[1 min] Check if soil maps are available from local authorities, dozens of different types. Best soil is Loam - contains sand, silt and clay with airspaces, organic matter, and lots of minerals - ideal for gardening. Long plant beds best placed on a north sough axis, so sun rises to the east and sets to the west, thus they don't get blocked by their own shadows. And plant taller plants and even small trees to the north, so their shadows don't block out the shorter plants. Similarly the shortest plants should be at the south end. So check seed catalogues and gardening books to find the height of your crops. For example corn can get 10 feet tall, that's for the north, lettuce 6-12 inches, so best for south.

In summary, look for best sunlight, best soil.

[4 mins] No property? No problem. Use containers filled with soil. Need full sun, 11 12 or 13 hours a day in the growing season. Can be in a N-S row as we do with beds, or here and there, against our house, on a balcony on the South side, ideal. Can grow some such as lettuce and spinach on the east or west side of a building, but nothing other than mint or ferns on the north side.

[5 mins] Container with very good potting soil loaded with organic fertilizer and 3 red cabbage plants 12 inches apart in a triangle. This is the optimal close spacing for cabbage and similar sized plants, because they can grow to full size and their extra leaves shade the soil, keeping it cooler and moist, and the shade also discourages weed growth. In the middle we had broccoli which has been harvested, remains still visible. There is a potato in there as well from last year, by accident. We can re-use the dirt in containers provided we nourish it with more organic fertilizer and / or good compost to recharge the soil.

[6 mins] Large pot is a tree pot, ideal for small plants like cabbage and lettuce that don't require much root space. They have holes in the bottom, but we can do the same by drilling holes in the bottom of a garbage can and this will give us a lot more root space. The holes are needed to prevent waterlogging and fungus. So we can grow bigger plants such as tomatoes in a garbage can.



4. The Importance of Soil and How to Test it

[START] Soil is THE most important crop. It takes nature 2000 years to make 1 inch of topsoil. With organic gardening, it can be reduced to 50, 60 or 70 years, by adding to it each year, for example compost, cover crops and lots of different things to make up for what we take away.

[1 min] Different soils require different things to be added. Some soils are not good for all types of gardening. Organic gardening is good for the soil. In commercial gardening, topsoil is lost and gets depleted in quality, for example by rain after harvesting, but in a small garden you just move it around a little.

[2 mins] By maintaining raised beds, good walkways and working with the slope of the land, we minimise soil erosion. We are also adding nutrients to the soil by growing different crops, like compost crops. If we grow clover near our vegetables they add nitrogen. Legumes like clover are noted for their ability to fix nitrogen levels with bacteria in their roots. They produce nitrogen, which promotes green growth.

[3 mins] The "No Wait" soil test kit can be used to test pH, which should be around 7 (neutral) on a scale of 1 - 14. Good soils are 7, maybe 6.5, a little acidic. It will also test for nitrogen and phosphorous, which is needed for flowers and fruit. Also potassium for good root growth. Plants like potatoes and carrots need lots of phosphorous as they have big roots. [UK link]

[4 mins] The kit produces colours after adding tablets and water which can be compared with a chart to see if we are low, medium or high in any of these nutrients. Once we know what is lacking we can add things to correct the imbalance.

[5 mins] You can also use an electronic pH meter which measures the pH by a sticking a probe in the soil [UK link]

[6 mins] My soil is slightly over 7 (a little alkaline). This can be corrected by adding compost, which contains humic acid. That will bring us back within range. [END]

5. Soil Amendments
[START] What do you add to your soil so that you can grow god crops every time every year over and over again. In some parts of the world the same soil has been used over and over for 4000 years straight. The techniques are simple things that we can do.

Fixing the texture. The different types of soil are made up from different rations of sand, clay and loam. If soil has too much clay, roots cannot penetrate. If so we can add any kind of sand. That will increase the tilth [], or friability [] of the soil. A good soil is fluffy. If we can stick our hand in it, the plants can stick their roots in it. Conversely if it too sandy we can add some clay. sandy soil often dries out too quickly and is poor in nutrients and minerals, so by adding clay we make it so the soil can hold water longer, so the plants don't get shocked by being very wet then very dry.

[2 mins] If the soil is in between you probably don't have to do either of these additions. You can also get pH adjusters, such as wood ask. This will increase the alkalinity of the soil and provide potassium for root crops. Use sparingly, one 8 oz cup spread over 100 square feet is enough for a year, you don't want to adjust it too harshly.

[3 mins] Other things we can add will also fertilize and nourish the soil. Blood meal. Blood in the soil releases nitrogen. Pagans used this with animal sacrifices.

[4 mins] Fertiliser labelling. The blood meal is 12-0-0
this is Nitrogen - Phosphorous - Potassium [also known as N-P-K]. 12 is very high in Nitrogen

Nitrogen - Green plant growth (eg lettuce chard, other leafy green vegetables)

Bonemeal, N-P-K is 6-9-0. It provides calcium, which many plants need. Tomatoes will get blossom end rot without enough calcium and cabbage needs it too. So stirring bonemeal into the soil at the start of each season will take care of some of our nitrogen and phosphorous needs.

Phosphorous - gives flowers and fruits.

[6 mins] "Organic Choice" fertilizer, N-P-K is 3-2-3. A very rounded fertilizer based on poultry manure and milled poultry feathers, pasteurised and heated. Good thing about this as opposed to synthetic fertilisers is that we can apply as generously as we want without burning the plants as it is steady and slow releasing.

To apply these types of fertilizer we broadcast them over the beds and scratch them through with a rake. It is very important to mix with the soul as opposed to leaving a layer on top. Otherwise when it gets wet with rain it will stink and attract flies, which will eat the fertiliser and your plants!

[7 mins] Each year you add amendments the soil will become better, more fertile, and results should get better each year. [END]

6. Seeds and Seedlings

[START] spends a lot of time in winter choosing seeds. He chooses non-hybrid "true to type" organic seeds, which give you seeds that can be used next year. Home improvement stores sell hybrids - don't buy these.

[1 min] Do not use recycled potting soil for seedlings! They may contain fungi which attack the seedlings as they develop. Use waterproof tray with cell packs for 6 plants. Poke holes in the trays with your finger, depth or position not critical.

[2 mins] He's planting Black Beauty zucchini squash, but can try different ones to see which you like, dislike, or does well in your climate, to help you choose next year. Make a note of what you are planting, use tabs, write seed maker, plant, variety.

[3 mins] Larger seeds like zucchini (courgettes in the UK), pumpkin, squash, beans, easy to plant. Any flat seeds like squash or pumpkin need to be planted sideways, because there is a top side and bottom side, in case the plant gets disorientated. [
- seems to disagree and think any direction is OK - need also to check what "sideways" means - he appears to be planting them flat along the bottom of his hole]

Store seeds if any left, in a cool dark place with silica gel in a zip-lock bag, they can last for years.

[4 mins] Herb seeds - Sage. Many herbs are smaller than the large cucubit seeds. Grab one or two and drop them in each hole, bury them.

[5 mins] Water gently, watering can or delicate setting on hose. You can use warm water - better stimulation. Native Americans soaked seeds in warm water for a couple of hours before planting, eg beans or corn. higher germination success rate.

[6 mins] Cover with clear plastic cover, take out of direct sunlight, we don't want it to get too hot else the seeds will cook. As soon as growth detected, move into sun and remove plastic cover. [END]

7. Other Propagation Methods

[START] Old potatoes, sprouting and turning green. Each little cluster is itself a potato plant.

[1 min] place 4 of them in a large barrel with 6 inches of soil. Don't bother to cut or divide, because one, two or three clusters will become dominant, the carbohydrates in the potato will be used to grow the plant. Add some organic fertiliser, and top it off with a few inches of soil.

[2 mins] By burying the potatoes it stimulates more root growth, which means more potatoes. Every time foliage shows up six or eight inches above the soil, add more soil, this will eventually fill the barrel.

For a different kind of potato (in this case a sweet potato) fill the barrel with good dirt and organic fertilizer, and grow slips using the slip production method. A "slip" is a vine or stalk that grows from a tuba.

[3 mins] For sweet potato slip production, buy a sweet potato at the grocery store, stick in in a jar around 2/3 - 1/3 covered with water and little purple slips will emerge, these will eventually grow into green vines that can be pinched off and stuck down into wet soil, with the leaves above and stems below the soil.

[4 mins] Each sweet potato can produce several slip at once, and each slip can grow 5 to 10 pounds of sweet potatoes, and it will go on producing slips from a jar of water for a year, so one sweet potato can produce hundreds of pounds of sweet potatoes in this way.

Cloning. Not quite organic but it's very interesting and you may need to do this to reproduce a plant you can't get, or to make more of a plant that's hard to get.

[5 mins] Using a rooting solution consisting of vitamins, rooting hormones, minerals, preservative etc we can cut the tops of herbs plants and vegetables and place them in the rooting solution. Can cover the solution with foil and make holes in it to put plants, they will then grow roots and cab be planted. This is effectively cloning. [END]

8. Planting the seedlings

[START] After 1 - 1.5 months, they are ready to be transplanted. Prepare garden bed by tilling, levelling and fertilizing. Dog small holes on a 12" diagonal patten, this grows the plants to full size in close proximity to reduce weeds (dont want weeds because they compete for resources). This gives a quadruple yield compared to planting in rows.

[2 mins] Tale a tray of seedlings and push / squeeze from the bottom to free the plant. Place in hole (holding level with soil) and back fill with loose soil. Break up any clods and throw rocks in the rock bucket. Give them a good watering. Plant seedlings in the evening to minimise transplant shock, it gives them overnight to recover. They usually bounce back anyway. [END]

9. Organic Weed Control

[START] You will always get some, but here's a few simple tricks.

[1 min] take 2 layers of newspaper and tuck in under the weedcloth walkways (which he covers in organic mulch for traction, looks, and it can go in next year's soul). Cut holes or notches where plants are. Cover the entire bed. Now cover the paper with mulch. You can't do this in the wind easily.

[3 mins] Flame wand OK, but can't go too near plants, for that you need to pull up by hand or use a small trowel to dig around weed root.

[4 mins] Stirrup, hula or action hoe (same thing). Pull and push to slice a layer of soil to cut off weeds just below surface.

[5 mins] Garden weasel type cultivator. This chops up the weeds. Can be used at the same time to mix in soul with fertiliser or amend it at the same time.

All that without any poisons.[END]

10. Organic Pest Control.

[START] Squish 'em. You won't hesitate to do this after they eat your favourite crops year after year. Very cathartic.

[1 min] Pellets for slugs and snails. Northern Virginia has slugs. They eat lots of green leaf. "Sluggo" or "Escargo". They are harmless iron phosphate pellets (rust and phosphorous). They are attracted to the pellets eat them and crawl off to and hide to die, you can put this under weed cloths where they hang out. [I am also aware of plastic slug traps that you bury in the soil and fill with beer to attract slugs. They fall in and drown]

[3 mins] Diatomaceous earth. Marde of diatones which are razor sharp fossils of sea creatures which do not affect humans because they are so small. To a bug it's broken glass. effective on ALL bugs. Just shake or throw it around.

[4 mins] Insect killing soap. OMRI listed US - here is a UK link You just spray this on the plants. You can also research and make your own [here's a link to help]. He says it won't hurt the plants [but that last article I linked to does say that some mixes might burn the leaves on lighter plants].

[5 mins] Pyola [ see also and scroll down to plant based sprays. For UK Rotentone Pyrethrin Spray Concentrate - This Formulation Of Naturally Occurring Pesticides Is Perfect For Organic Gardeners]. Follow directions for mixing ounces of oil with gallons of water. You can then apply this using a pressurised sprayer (his gestures look as if he is getting under to spray around the stalk of the plant). AND you can mix in with FERTILIZER to make a "foliar feed" [UK link but check the one you choose is organic]

11. How and When to Water your Garden

[START] Water every morning unless rain is forecast. This will allow the plants to dry off in the day so they won't stay wet and grow fungus overnight which will kill them. Golf courses do this.

[1 min] Watering by hand with a hose and sprayhead is OK, but you need to be there, and a lot of overspray - wasted water. Buk OK for container gardening. Technique showed. Soak beds deeply so the roots get water too.

[2 mins] With some plants - tomatoes - water just the soil, else they get fungus. How? Use a soaker hose, which you need to pressurise before laying, even though you get slightly wet in doing so. You can connect up to 12 soaker hoses from one hose. [UK link] Use landscape staples to keep in position, especially on turns.

[4 mins] an in-line battery timer that goes between the soaker hose and the ordinary hose [UK link] - set and forget. [END]

12. Making Compost.

[START] Black gold from leftover junk, grass clippings, rakings from the yard, kitchen and vegetable peelings and any other plant material. All this can be mixed together to give a dark supercharged plant food. Plant store nutrients that are released into the compost.

[1 min] Just pile it up and let time do the work, OR you can go and flip and turn them to speed things up. Also keep the compost heap as damp as a rung out sponge.

[2 mins] The more carbon material you have (dead leaves, dry grass clippings, coffee grounds, old mulch etc) the better the compost will be. Nitrogen material is green stuff like green glass clippings or any other type of fresh vegetable or plant based waste. You need a ratio of 20 carbon to 1 Nitrogen, or even 40 carbon to 1 nitrogen for good compost. Whatever you use, it will rot into dirt.

[3 mins] If you can't have a pile you can make a compost tumbler out of an old locking lid trash can with lots of holes drilled in it on the sides and bottom. Put all in the cam, put a bungee across the lid to hold in place and kick it around the yard once a day. It's effective. Spray a bit of moisture in now and then if needed. Only takes one, two or maybe three seasons to make good comport like this. Vermin proof, has air, water and plant material, that's all you need. [END]

13. How to Make an Inexpensive Miniature Greenhouse

[START] PVC drinking water pipe (he uses white) 0.5 inch internal diameter, 10 feet length [not sure of the viability of this, in the UK we are on the metric system and may use different plastics, eg HDPE. Our pipe would be 15mm. Need to check this out] at a DIY store]. Bend them into the soil to make hoops. He does 3 hoops about 2 to 3 feet apart. Maybe use a stake if soil hard. Just use it as a cover over a flower bed [what he is making looks more like a large "cold frame", see].

[2 mins] Use a simple plastic drop cloth (looks like polythene sheet but is less transparent). Roll some pipe into the plastic each side until it's tight and pin them down with garden staples - around 15 to 18 inches apart. As they rust the grip will improve.

[3 mins] You can use the same method on the ends - can use clip ties on one end for access [just let it hang down, and you can pin the rolled material to the hoop shape as a tent door is tied back]. You can leave the south end open in good weather so it doesn't overheat in the daytime and creates a micro-climate, it also keeps the frost from killing the tender plants at night, only a hard freeze will penetrate.

Very cheap but works well. [END]

14. Harvesting and Giving Something Back to the Soil.

[START] Going to give you 3 good resources. Harvest when everything is fully ripe, full flavour. Typically though most people want before ripe. But harvesting the fun part. Nothing is sweeter than the first meal that you have grown all by yourself, and you know it's good stuff, organically grown, additive free, AND you have given something back to the soil and enriched it. It's good to give to others too.

[1 min] Giving something back to the soil is part of organic gardening, every year we use the soil it gets better, fluffier, darker, richer, more abundant in small life forms, and more fruitful. We need to add compost, minerals, do research, add what your soil needs. The most important crop is the soil.

[2 mins] Crop rotation. Keep a record of what you have planted, keep a written record, different plants have different needs, some will put things into the soil that others need. He thanks his family because it took 27 years to get the soil as good as that. [END]

End of video series.

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