Gardening Basics

Gardening Basics

To succeed at gardening, you must understand your natural surroundings. Learn the usual dates of the first hard frost and the springtime thaw in your area. What you can plant and harvest depends on when your specific planting and growing season begins and ends and how long it lasts. Also, you must know where the sun rises and sets in relation to your planting beds. For example, you need to know how many hours of direct sunlight your plants can receive and where the shadows, if any, fall in the afternoon.

Next, you must attune yourself to the annual and seasonal weather patterns in your area. Gardeners love a comprehensive weather report (rain, wind, high and low pressure and temperature extremes) because it helps them plan their activities. Note when seeds germinate and when insects (and which ones) begin to appear. Invest in good quality soil and air thermometers to give yourself an edge in living with the elements.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Your garden is likely to have small yet important microclimates. Shadows can cause a cold pocket, and a hard surface facing the sun can reflect too much heat. These areas will not only change daily but also with the seasons. Summer might be too hot for lettuce but great for tomatoes. Anticipate these changes when you decide where to grow your garden.

You may have at least four different microclimates around your home:

  1. A hot side facing south
  2. A shadowed, cool side on the north
  3. A warm western side with afternoon sun
  4. An ever-changing eastern side that may be warm or cool depending
    on trees, high fencing or the time of year


Carefully observe heat and light to know where to create your garden. Position your raised beds, rows or plots to run north and south so plants will receive more sunlight in winter and not shade each other. In winter, keep tall trellised plants against the north wall and the shorter plants to the south. In the summer, do the opposite. These are the basics of microclimates.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Your geographic climate zone will determine which plants can thrive in your garden. The USDA publishes the most commonly used hardiness zone map, which divides the continental U.S. into 11 zones derived from the average annual minimum temperatures. You can find a copy of this map online, at a local library or university, or in gardening books.

Another good zone map comes from the editors of Sunset Magazine. They divided the United States and southern Canada into 45 climate zones, considering many variables such as area temperature extremes, humidity, rainfall, local topography, elevation, and even proximity to large bodies of water.

You can also just visit your neighborhood nursery. Nurseries want to offer plants that will thrive for their customers, not those that might fail. Your success is also their success, so they are unlikely to even carry plants that won’t do well in your zone.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Plants that produce fruits require plenty of sun. Allow at least six hours daily for tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, beans, corn, eggplant, summer squash and cabbage. In general, the bigger the fruit, the more sunlight it must have.

On the other hand, many vegetables and herbs do well in shaded areas, needing only about four hours of sun per day. Try carrots, beets, chard, cauliflower, chives, lettuce, chicories, radicchio, arugula, basil, mint, parsley, spinach or winter squash in these shadier areas. For leafy green vegetables, less sunlight is fine.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Sandy soils drain too quickly and clay soils too slowly. Adding organic materials helps to correct and balance both types of soil. If you have a good balance between sand, silt, clay and organic materials, you have a solid foundation for good drainage as well as moisture retention in the space between soil particles. When you improve your soil’s drainage, you reduce the level of fungal pathogens. You also improve root development and nutrient availability in a healthy aerobic environment.

Do a simple test to see how your soil drains and whether you need to make changes to correct your drainage. Dig a hole about 1 foot deep and 6 inches wide. Fill the hole with water and let it drain completely. When the hole is empty, fill it again with water to the very top. If it takes more than 10 hours to empty again, you have a drainage problem. The good news is that this problem can easily be solved by adding organic materials or drainage pipes.
You can also grow plants in raised beds.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Raised beds make it easier to plant and harvest crops and can be attractive. They also give you control over the composition of the soil. Your home’s previous owners might have contaminated the soil without you knowing it. Adding new soil to a raised bed assures you of its safety.

Growing in raised beds makes projects seem more manageable, since tackling your weeding or other chores one bed at a time feels doable and satisfying. There is less back strain and better air circulation, because you don’t walk on the soil and compact it. Also, that loose, fluffy soil is easier to weed. Raised beds have also been shown to increase crop yields.

Raised beds can be constructed from brick, stones, or even hay bales, which are the perfect height. If you use wood, make sure it is redwood, cedar, or some other hardwood that has not been dipped in chemical wood preservatives. Pressure treated wood is full of heavy metals and painted wood will eventually decompose and contaminate the soil. Cheap plastic materials will also work but are not very esthetically pleasing.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Perhaps you live in an apartment, have limited space in your yard, or just don’t want to have a full-scale garden. By growing in containers, you can have an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs just steps from the kitchen. These plants can be attractive and will enhance your patio, deck, or balcony. Nothing tastes better or is more nutritious or flavorful than fruits, vegetables, or herbs harvested minutes before eating. Paying attention to a few important rules and investing only a little time will assure you of a container garden that will be easy to set up and maintain and one that will offer a bountiful harvest. Here are the aspects you must consider:

Sunlight is the most important factor. Track the sun and shade patterns in your immediate area to get a good sense of the space where you intend to garden and what plants will do well there.

Fruit trees and vegetables that set flowers (such as oranges, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, or squash) need a lot of sunlight. Photosynthesis produces sugars that directly feed flowers and help grow fruits of appealing size, taste, and nutritional value. A good local nursery staff member can tell you how much sun is needed in your area for any plants you want to grow.

Container size is the second most important variable for container gardening. The more soil volume your plants have, the more extensive the root system to draw on a larger pool of nutrients and water. Available container space directly influences the nutritional value, size and quality of the fruits, vegetables and herbs you will harvest. More is definitely better. For example, tomatoes require a minimum of 15 gallons of soil in order to develop into full size plants that will produce tomatoes with rewarding taste and nutrition. Other vegetable crops can survive in smaller containers with less soil volume but would benefit from more.

Terracotta, redwood, or cedar containers give the best results because they “breathe” and their temperature doesn’t fluctuate as quickly as other material. They also retain water better. Plastic containers can work well if you mulch to retain moisture and be sure to water more frequently. It is a good idea to mulch all container plants.

Potting medium matters. The quality of the soil has a major impact on plant health and crop quality. In bagged potting soils, watch out for chemicals, such as synthetic plant nutrients. For peace of mind, choose Dr. Earth® bagged soils, knowing they are made from only the best natural ingredients and are never contaminated. We know how to formulate the most well-balanced mixture, one that drains quickly but also retains moisture to support a healthy transfer of nutrients to the roots.

You can use some of your own compost from kitchen and yard waste, mixing at the rate of about 1/3 compost to 2/3 potting soil. In the limited space of a container, a plant has access only to what you provide, so invest in the best soil available – Dr. Earth®.

Fertilizer feeds the living soil that feeds your plants’ root systems. Chemically fertilized soils lack organic matter and are more vulnerable to drought and extreme temperature changes. Organic gardening is based on soil health and the natural relationship between soil microbes and roots.
Fruit trees, tomatoes and most other vegetables, especially in containers, need a lot of fertilizer to reach full potential. Feed
the roots in your container plants slowly with the best, Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer for maximum nutrition from your plants. Sea-based organic fertilizers are superior and contain the most multi-minerals, from which you will benefit when you consume them. Feed container plants often throughout the year.

Trellising Support provides form and structure for better plant health. Exposing as many leaves to sunlight as possible helps to increase your harvest. Not all vegetables will require support, but cucumbers, tomatoes and other vine plants do. Trellises also create air space between plants to minimize fungal diseases and make flowers more accessible to insects that help to pollinate.

Some plants may need a stake in the center of the container, while a tomato wants a sturdy cage, and a cucumber needs a grid-like trellis. You can build many of these support systems from scraps around the house.

Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Most plants are 90 percent water, 60 percent of which is delivered from the soil to the plant through plant root hairs. To keep your plants healthy and thriving you must have a good soil with plenty of organic matter to act like a sponge and allow the almost microscopic roots to travel through porous, well-draining soil.

The best way to tell when and how much water your plant needs (whether in the ground or a container) is to feel the soil. Probe your finger about an inch or two and feel if it is dry or moist to the touch.

The soil type makes a huge difference. Also, the more organic material in a soil, the less you have to water. The hotter the day and the shallower the root system, the more you have to water. Gardeners should pay attention to soil, weather, dryness and humidity.

Your sprinkler system timers will likely need to be adjusted once a month, depending on weather conditions. Plants do best when they receive just the amount of water they need, right when they need it. Inspect your soil. Look at it and feel it. If it looks and feels dry, you may need to alter your watering schedule. Likewise, you could be overwatering and wasting water.

Watering in the morning gives your plants the entire day to draw the water from the soil as needed, especially on hot days. Water slowly, to insure proper absorption. Water deeply, so that it does not run off the surface, never making it down into the root zone. Shady spots need less water, while the sunny areas dry out more quickly and need more water.

Gardening Basics is an nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

Before a contractor can build a home, the architect must provide a plan, a blueprint that clearly shows how the house looks and functions. The same is true when creating and designing a garden of any size. You must know how to put it together.
Some questions to consider are:

  • Will you start from seeds or transplants?
  • In-ground or raised beds?
  • Sprinkler system or hand irrigation?
  • Fruits, vegetables, or both?
  • How will the elements of your garden work together?
  • What are the sun requirements for your plants?
  • Where will the same plant go next year?
    (Rotate crops each year to avoid plant diseases.)
  • What plants are you going to grow in summer, winter or fall?
  • What is the best soil mixture for you?
  • When will the transplants go in the ground?
  • How hardy are the plants you want to grow?
  • When should you start them?
  • What is the nutrient value of a desired plant?

Remember, you are growing a nutrition garden. You will have a health food store right in your backyard. Make sure to invest time in a solid plan that brings you that much closer to your dream garden. There are thousands of books on planning your garden. Pick one up and get more ideas. You can never have too much knowledge about your garden and your health.

Gardening Basics is an nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way

100 plants you can grow and eat

100 Plants you can Grow and Eat

All Life begins in the Soil

All Life begins in the Soil


“He who owns land possesses the greatest potential to live the longest life, for he has the ability to grow his own food and determine the ultimate control of his health, thus, his destiny.”

By: Milo Shammas, Founder & Formulator
I remind myself every day that we are all going to die at some point, which is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking I have something to lose. I came into this world naked and I am leaving naked. There is no reason not to follow my heart and do what’s right because it’s the ultimate truth and my purpose in life.

What is vital for life? Your health. The future of your health is imminent. To live a long life full of joy and vitality, your lifestyle choices today determine the state of your health tomorrow. This is true, whether we think about those choices or let ignorance and apathy make them for us.

The great news is you control your own destiny, because you control every decision in your life. Healthy eating and living are personal life choices. In your own backyard you can find the potential to create a future of good health for yourself, your family and the entire planet. This is the start of your journey to a better life.

To create an environment that nurtures you and provides you with enjoyment and health, you need a detailed plan similar to a road map. My mission is to help you plan and take this wondrous journey.

Being healthy is simple if you understand how to garden in your own backyard. Growing your own healthy food right outside your door will make you look at your home in a new, wonderful way. With so much excitement running through your veins, your enthusiasm may push you to act too soon. Before you grab a piece of paper, scribble many ideas, run down to your local plant nursery, and buy as many seeds, plants, soils and fertilizers as you can load up, let me guide you from my 20 years of experience and leadership in gardening. I want to teach you what I know that is true and effective.

Let’s Get Dirty First!
Some people think of soil as nothing more than an anchor that holds plants in the ground, a dark, dusty place that critters crawl in that makes our hands dirty. Soil is not just “dirt” but the basis of all life. Healthy soil is alive with billions of microbes that feed all living things on our planet. Your body needs it to be healthy. It provides you with the sustenance you need to generate the energy for everything you do. Everyone who is alive today and everyone who ever lived, needed the benefits of soil to survive and prosper.

Soil health is the fundamental basis for the health of all plants, animals and people. This book shows you the link between soil and human health. The connection is simple: Healthy soil creates a healthy garden, which produces healthy plants to provide nutrients for us, for the animals we love and care for as pets, as well as the plants we consume as food.

Why should you grow a vegetable garden? Food is so cheap and easily accessible if you live in a modernized country. Much of what we can buy is more convenient to prepare than cooking garden produce from scratch. I can run down to a fast food drive-through and grab a value meal (for about $5) that is 2,500 calories of deep fried, grease-laden, processed food. You can get your fill of genetically modified, processed meat and potatoes for far less than one-tenth of a penny per calorie.

Maybe you do not care if that hamburger came from a cow fed with genetically modified grains and was shipped 2,500 miles to get to you. Maybe you believe it makes no difference if your fries are processed and grown with genetically modified potatoes. Your 32-ounce soda was full of simple sugars that went down smoothly with those salty fries.

Is a bargain meal a bargain if you pay for it with your health?

Why you should garden: It’s good for your health. Besides giving you the best nutrients you can get, gardening is healthy work. You have to cultivate the soil, amend it, plant seeds or cuttings, fertilize, water, weed and mulch. Finally, you must harvest and preserve your crop for future use. Is eating healthy from your own garden worth all that effort? Yes!

If you read this book with an open mind and the attitude of caring about your health, the health of others and the well-being of our only home—the good earth itself—it will open your eyes to the importance of creating your healthy backyard garden. You will learn why eating food you nurture and harvest yourself is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

This book is also unique in taking the approach of starting from the ground up, explaining how human health begins in the soil, then providing clear examples of what to grow, how to grow it, and the nutritional benefits to you and your family, your friends and your community.

I know thousands of gardeners and have interviewed hundreds of them over the past 25 years. I have also met with many medical doctors, soil scientists, plant biologists, nutritionists and master gardeners. All this involvement and research has more than convinced me that a healthy garden will give you joy and bounty.

I live the organic lifestyle, and it all starts in my backyard. Even the smallest thing you do will make a huge difference toward living a long and healthy life and raising a healthy family. A garden can help you to achieve these goals.

Americans are on a new journey, seeking natural and organic solutions to their health problems. People from all backgrounds are on a personal quest to be healthy while making the right environmental decisions in the process.

I hope Dr. Earth will inspire you and benefit you in the same way. – Milo

– Milo

The Organic Revolution

The Organic Revolution

There are proven methods that farmers can use worldwide to sustain profits, address hunger and malnutrition, and renew ecological health.

To feed the world in the most effective manner, a vast movement of scientists, development experts, farming associations and environmentalists is calling for a new emphasis on sustainable agriculture. This is an extreme opposite from current practices.

”The Green Movement”
New research shows that the latest ecological approaches to organic agriculture offer affordable, readily usable ways to increase yields and access to nutritional foods in Third World countries. The organic method, applied to agriculture, can feed the world and may be the only way we can solve the growing problem of hunger in these places.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that its extensive research ”challenges the popular myth that organic agriculture cannot increase agricultural productivity.” In an analysis of 114 farming projects in 24 African countries, the UNEP reported that organic, or near-organic, practices resulted in a yield increase of more than 100 percent.

Just imagine what we can do as gardeners in our own backyards, to offset the increases in food prices. Those of us lucky enough to own some land can also feed our livestock with more nutritional food, which in return will provide more nutrition for us. Also, nothing is wasted, as the manure is returned to the soil in the form of compost, and the bones can be buried to breakdown slowly over time. This is truly thinking green. We at Dr. Earth® use only components that would otherwise be wasted, such as fish, kelp, cotton, alfalfa, chicken feathers and comparable ingredients. And with our infusion of Pro-Biotic® (For-Life), we truly bring life to the soil.

Rejuvenate and protect soil and environmental health
The organic revolution, using integrated farming practices such as nitrogen rich cover crops, organic fertilizer, and the practice of returning everything back to the land, not only improves yields but also keeps the soil alive and improves environmental health. Yield data alone makes the best argument to go organic on a large scale farm, in Third World countries and in our backyards. Organic practices are building the soil with life, reducing CO2, keeping our waterways clean, and returning greater profits to the farmer. Since these practices build soil structure, they also increase drought and flood resistance as well as making plants more adaptable to climate changes.

Every time we buy and grow organic foods we are helping farmers become more profitable, thus bringing down the prices of all organic foods, such as produce, meats, juices and all associated products. This is a collective effort that we as consumers, farmers, and gardeners should adopt to make a real impact on the environment and our health.

Millions of people undernourished
Numerous independent studies claim the commodity-oriented organic revolution has not fed, and cannot feed, the world sustainably. Nine hundred twenty-three million people are seriously undernourished, and 25,000 people die every day from starvation. The Rodale Institute cites a major 2008 study which assessed results from 286 farms in 57 countries, finding that small farmers increased their crop yields by an average of 79 percent by using environmentally sustainable techniques, including organic farming and crop rotation. Organic soils have better physical structure, which helps prevent erosion. They are also more permeable, which increases healthier microorganism growth, increasing the availability of nutrients necessary for crop productivity.

Global warming
Organic soils sequester carbon in soil from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making organic farming the most available strategy to fight global warming. The research and data prove that organic farming practices should be established. They are commercially successful and applicable to any scale operation, from our own backyards and small family market farms to large scale farms consisting of thousands of acres. Organic methods can be adapted to virtually any location, make best use of local inputs, and creatively transform carbon waste streams into valuable products.

We are all in this changing climate together. If all of us make changes, we can drastically slow global warming and leave our Earth clean and well diversified for future generations.