Gardening Basics

 

Enriching the Soil
In nature, dead or rotting vegetation, animal manure, and decaying animal remains provide adequate nutrition for the soil. As man removes the crops or gardens he grows, he must replenish the soil with organic material to maintain a healthy and productive soil. It’s a simple concept. You must replace what you take out.

Digging
Despite the activity of earthworms, burrowing animals, and penetrating plant roots, untended soil is still relatively hard and compacted. We can improve the texture by digging, or turning over the soil, to allow oxygen and water into the soil.

Seeding
In nature, A relatively small percentage of seeds germinate because of competition from other plants and poor soil conditions. In the garden, most seeds will germinate as they are given optimum conditions and spacing, along with organic matter and moisture.

Watering
Plants are dependent on water for their survival. Whereas adequate rainfall cannot be guaranteed in nature, in the garden, additional water can be given to plants at optimum amounts for maximum success.

Pest Control
Nature maintains its delicate balance by ensuring that pests and predators control each other’s numbers. Man can encourage and assist this process, while also protecting his plants, by using artificial means. Releasing ladybugs and praying mantises can control a wide variety of insects. Introducing beneficial nematodes in the soil can be of great help in controlling soil pests.

Finally. . .
Left to its own devices, nature would not produce a very abundant harvest, either in terms of quantity, or in the size of individual fruits. The harvest from cultivated ground that has been enriched and cared for will always outweigh what Mother Nature can produce.

Digging the Garden

 

You dig the soil for three reasons: first, to improve aeration; second, to improve structure; third, to incorporate organic matter and fertilizers that add nutrients to the soil. Gardens that have been badly neglected will need to be cleared before they can be dug. Normally, on a very overgrown plot, a trimmer will be needed to cut down the vegetation or, if you have the energy, a cultivator can be used. Compost or recycle all the perennial weeds, making sure that all weed seeds are far from the garden. Then, dig the plot.

Generally, you must turn the soil over with added organic materials for this kind of job. It gives you the opportunity to add compost or fertilizer to the soil and ensures that the soil has been dug to a uniform level over the entire plot.

On less overgrown gardens, you can usually get away with a simple digging. In other words, turn the soil over with a spade or fork to a more shallow depth. Using a fork has the advantage that it does not chop up the roots of perennial weeds, which will re-sprout if you do not remove all the tiny root particles. But it has the disadvantage that you cannot physically move the soil from one place to another with a fork. On heavy clay soil you may find that a spade or cultivator is the only effective tool.

A more drastic form of digging is double digging. It is sometimes required on previously uncultivated land that has been fallow and overgrown with weeds for a long period of time. This entails digging down about 8 to 10 inches and really turning the soil thoroughly. Doubling up on organic matter in the form of planting mix or compost will truly enhance your efforts.

Preparing a Seed Bed

 

Seeds need plenty of air in the soil if they are to germinate successfully. Soil in which seeds are to be sown directly has to be much finer in texture than normal garden soil. All stones, bits of twigs and clods of soil should be broken down and then raked over the soil. Leave the seedbed for a month before sowing. Then rake again. Water well before and after sowing, using the shower setting on your hose. All of these steps will help to ensure a good start.

Starting From Seed
Start with good quality seeds you can trust. Otherwise, the work and effort you have invested in preparing your garden will be wasted until the next season. Always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for planting depth, moisture, and the time of year you should begin. Seeds vary and require different sets of standards in order to germinate properly. In general, if the bed is prepared properly, kept moist and weed free, you will have a successful garden from scratch. .

Fertilization
Prior to sowing your seeds, you should mix ample amounts of organic matter into your soil, along with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer. Work both the fertilizer and organic matter into the soil, rake it smooth, water it thoroughly and let it sit for 30 days prior to sowing. After the seeds have sprouted, and have their first set of true leaves, it is always beneficial to give them a light foliar feeding to give them an extra boost toward becoming established. Use a liquid fertilizer that contains seaweed extract. Do not use a chemical, water soluble fertilizer as it has the potential to burn young plants easily.

Planting in Containers

 

Choosing a Container
It is important to choose a container that is big enough to accommodate the plant’s future growth. Next, check that the container has sufficient drain holes. Good drainage is very important!

Transplanting
Fill the container with Dr. Earth® Potting Soil until it is filled to a level that allows the base of the plant to sit one inch below the top of the container. Add Dr. Earth® Organic 2™ Starter Fertilizer according to the package directions. Holding the plant in the desired position, continue to fill in around the roots with potting soil and fertilizer mixture until the container is filled to one inch below the top of the container. Water thoroughly.

Existing Containers
Remove the top one third, and all loose soil from the existing container. Use your fingers, or a garden hose with low pressure to remove the soil. Replace it with fresh Dr. Earth® Potting Soil and provide it with a feeding with Dr. Earth® Liquid Solution™ to stimulate fast growth and stress recovery.

Your plants will love it!

Natural Lawn Care

 

The way to a lush green lawn begins with an understanding of how lawns grow and a respect for the needs of the grass plants. Misunderstanding and mistakes abound, especially in the areas of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Let’s take a look at these aspects of lawn care.

Mowing
How high or low you set the mower blade is based on the needs of the grass plants at the time, and that can change with the seasons. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the blades too low. Their theory is that by cutting the grass very short they won’t have to mow as often. What actually happens is that they are putting the health, and maybe even the life, of their lawn in jeopardy.

For one thing, photosynthesis takes places in the blades of the grass, creating sugar as a food source for the roots. When the blades are cut too short, the plants are stressed in their attempt to make an adequate supply of sugar and must work harder. The result is actually faster growth. And the way to thicken the turf is to be sure the plants are allowed to make not only enough, but more than enough, sugar. That excess goes into the production of new plants, called rhizomes.

Another factor to consider is the competition between the grass and the weeds. Whichever one gets the most sun will shade the other. Without enough sun plants can’t carry on photosynthesis and they die. You want to give the grass the advantage. Longer blades mean better health, and their length and density will allow the grass to outcompete with weeds. With too much shade, weed seedling, especially, won’t stand a chance.

Therefore, during the growing season, set your mower as high as it will go. (That is probably 3 to 4 inches. As temperatures cool and winter rains begin, it’s a good idea to then lower the blades a little. The lower lawn height will allow the grass blades to ”dry off” faster, helping to prevent fungus and disease.

When you do mow, leave the clippings right on the lawn. As they break down, they add nutritious organic material that helps prevent thatch and feeds the plants.

Watering and Soil pH
As counterintuitive as it may seem, you should water your lawn LESS often for better results, BUT WHEN YOU DO, WATER DEEPLY. That helps to develop grass roots that go farther down into the soil. Grass watered frequently and shallowly develops shallow roots and the many horizontal runners that make up mat of thatch. If the grass doesn’t show any signs of drought stress, it may not need watering. If the lawn has become quite dry, it works better to give it only ½ inch, wait for about 90 minutes, and then give it another ½ inch. Add organic mulch in late spring to help reduce heat stress in the summer. Dr. Earth® Natural Choice® Compost makes an excellent top dressing or mulch.

You can check to see how much water your lawn really receives, by putting a cup in the zone of the sprinkler and running it for the normal length of time. You should see at least an inch of water in the cup.

Have the pH of your soil professionally tested because the inexpensive kits you can buy are often inaccurate. Your local county extension will sometimes test samples for free or for a minimal charge. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and soil sulfur if above 7.0. A higher number is more favorable to weeds, like dandelions, and grass prefers a pH of about 6.5, so accuracy matters.

Fertilizing
Grass consumes high levels of nitrogen. Weeds like clover, which are legumes, can draw nitrogen from the air but grass cannot, so their presence could mean your soil needs more nitrogen.

If your lawn needs fertilizer, apply Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer as recommended on the package. This will feed it and supply organic material to the soil for up to 3 months. Dr. Earth® contains PRO-BIOTIC™, beneficial soil microbes and 3 species of endo mycorrhizae. These living organisms develop a symbiotic relationship with your lawn, helping it to better absorb nutrients from the soil. They also aid in relieving drought stress by absorbing water from a much greater volume of soil.

Beneficial microbes in Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer not only help to digest the organic fertilizer, but also aid in the consumption of thatch. Some of the microbes even produce antibiotic compounds that suppress disease-bearing fungal pathogens, preventing them from becoming established in your lawn. The end result is a healthy, productive, weed, drought and disease resistant lawn that will give you years of enjoyment.

Home Grown Tomatoes

 

I have never tasted an organically grown tomato that was not delicious. In fact, every home grown organic tomato I have ever tasted has been more delicious than any tomato I have ever bought at the supermarket. Tomatoes are fun and easy to grow once you know the basic growing requirements: sun, water, trellising, good soil, and feeding.

Sun
Most tomatoes require full sunlight for maximum growth and fruit size, although there are varieties that can tolerate less sunlight than others and still remain very productive. Check with your local nursery professional for those varieties if sunlight is limited in your garden.

Water
Water tomatoes as they require it. Young tomatoes will require a little more water at first until they become established and their root system has penetrated deep into the soil. You can check to see if your plants might need water simply by poking your finger into the soil. If it is dry to the touch two inches below the soil surface, then it is time to water. Depending on the time of year and your climate, you will have to water as the tomato plants require it. The warmer it is, the more you water. Tomato plants will tell you very quickly if they are in drought stress by wilting their leaves, so it is very important to keep an eye on your garden and change your watering habits according to your climate and your plants’ needs.

Trellising
Staking or trellising your tomatoes is very important as a means of exposing as many of the leaves to sunlight as possible. The more sunlight energy tomatoes have, the larger the fruit size. Sunlight translates into sugar, and sugar translates into food, taste, and nutrition for your tomatoes.

Good Soil
Soil preparation is one of the most important elements of a successful tomato harvest. Organically grown tomatoes start with adding the proper organic ingredients to the soil, such as compost, mulch, planting mix and, most importantly, organic fertilizer (tomatoes are heavy feeders.) Compost and mulch will help create a friable soil that is workable, retains water, discourages weed growth, creates a friendly environment for earthworms, and reduces water runoff. These factors will also help it retain more nutrition, made available to plants through a continuous supply, as the organic ingredients break-down slowly over time.

You can do all of this preparation, OR you can simply purchase our perfectly customized Dr. Earth® Home Grown® Vegetable Garden Planting Mix. Make it easy on yourself by taking advantage of the scientific research behind this specialized mix.

Feeding
The organic fertilizer will feed the living soil. By feeding the beneficial soil organisms—or ”microbes”—that make the soil “alive,” we feed our tomatoes. This process is achieved as the microbes digest the organic fertilizer and convert it into a form that plants can use. For example, when we feed our soil with fish meal, plants cannot use the fish meal in its protein form. It must be broken down into a simpler, more accessible form of nitrogen that tomato plants can use directly, for their growth. Think of these microbes as enzymes, very similar to the enzymes in our stomachs. When we eat proteins, such as those found in fish, red meats, or fowl, they must be digested or broken down in our stomach before we can receive the nutritional benefits of the protein. The same exact thing occurs in the soil through the enzymatic action of the beneficial soil microbes.

Also, tomatoes are susceptible to a condition called ”blossom end rot” which will distort the growth and ruin the tomatoes. This is usually caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ Tomato Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer contains a high calcium value, to avoid blossom end rot. Feeding the soil with rich organic materials is necessary to achieve tasty, vigorous, large, abundant, and nutritious tomatoes. Visit your local independent nursery professional for advice on which tomato varieties will work best in your garden.

Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator

Compost Tea

Soil Drench
Apply tea directly to the soil. Note: Expect to see solid material at the bottom of the bucket. Do not throw this solid material away. Spread these solids as nutrient-rich mulch around any plant in the garden.

That’s it! Tea is fun in the sun! Sit back and watch your plants grow.

PROBIOTIC™ Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer Tea
For a rich tea made from Dr. Earth’s® Organic Fertilizer, mix 2 pounds, or 5 cups of fertilizer for every 5 gallons of water. Let the mixture set for 24 hours. Strain well and mulch all the solids around the root zone.

To Use
The liquid portion (tea) can be applied @ 1 to 2 cups for roses, or 2 to 4 cups for larger shrubs. Use the tea full strength as a foliar feed and as a soil drench for deep root feeding of all plants.

Check out my ”How to make fertilizer tea” video by clicking on “videos.”)

Container Vegetables

 

Container Vegetable Gardens
A 4 foot by 8 foot balcony is all you need to grow enough organic vegetables to satisfy your hungry appetite. When space is limited in your garden, or if you live in an apartment or just do not want to invest time in a full-scale vegetable garden, you can still enjoy homegrown vegetables within reach of your kitchen.

Growing organic vegetables in containers is rewarding and easy. Just pay close attention to a few important rules and you can invest minimal amounts of time to harvest an abundance of organic vegetables. The tips in this article will supply you with all the information you need to create a productive container garden that is easy to set up, maintain, and harvest. Container vegetables can provide you with nutritious, tasty, and visually pleasing organic vegetable plants. Also, there is nothing tastier than picking a few fresh vegetables from the garden and putting them in a salad within minutes of harvest, truly a reward.

Five things must be considered prior to planting your organic vegetable garden.
1) Sunlight
2) Container size
3) Potting medium
4) Fertilizer
5) Trellising support.

Sunlight
More is better! This will be the most important factor to consider. Too little, and your plants will not be able to convert sufficient sunlight energy to produce fruit of any real value. (But on the other hand, some herbs that are grown specifically for their foliage may do fine in areas with lower sunlight.) Tracking the sun and shade patterns in your garden will give you a good analysis of the space you plan on gardening in and a clear idea of what plants you can grow there with success.

Remember this very simple rule: if you are growing plants that will set flowers that turn into fruit—such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, squashes, and other vegetables—they will require a lot of sunlight.

It takes sufficient photosynthesis to produce the required levels of sugars to make fruit of any real size, taste, and value for the gardener. Photosynthesis will produce sugars that will directly feed flowers and fruits. That is why sunlight is very important for these kinds of vegetables.

For a more specific list of plants that will thrive in your garden, and for further information on the amount of sunlight they will require, it is best to consult with your local independent nursery. They know what kind of plants you can grow and enjoy with immediate success.

Container Size
Size Matters! It is the second most important variable for success. Container size is very important because the more soil volume that your plants have, the more water and nutrients will be available for their root systems. That will directly influence the size and quality of the vegetables and herbs you will harvest, so more is better. We have learned that tomatoes require a minimum of five gallons of soil in order to develop into full size plants, with the ability to produce fruits full of good taste and nutrition. Other vegetable crops can survive in containers with less soil volume, but even they would enjoy more soil and will produce larger, more bountiful crops in a larger container.

The material your container is made of also makes a big difference. Terracotta containers are always a good choice because they breathe with the soil and do not fluctuate to extreme temperatures quickly. Redwood is also a good. It will breathe and has the ability retain moisture and not dry out too quickly. There are also a wide variety of plastic containers you can choose from, and they will work just fine, but will require a little more watering than thicker, denser pots.

It is especially important to use mulch if you are planning on using a plastic container in order to retain as much moisture as possible. I would recommend using mulch with all containers. Plants in small containers will dry out quickly, so keep an extra close eye on these pots. Less plant foliage will mean less watering later. A larger plant will require more water. Pay close attention to all of your plants and water as often as they require it.

Potting Medium
Just Go Organic!™ Soil is the source of life for every living thing on earth. It must be treated with respect, dignity, reverence, and the understanding that it is not “dirt”! It is alive with an abundance of beneficial living organisms that promote life for all plants, directly affecting the health of the plants and animals we consume. If the soil is healthy, the crop that is grown in it will be healthy. The type of soil or ”potting medium” you choose will have a large impact on your plants and their ability to produce an abundance of large, nutritious vegetables.

If you have a potting soil that you like, and have had good success, stick with it. Please make sure that the bagged potting soil you are using does not contain any chemicals, such as synthetic plant nutrients, which are common in bagged potting soils.

We recommend using Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™. It contains everything your vegetables will need to produce an abundant crop. Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™ contains Pro-Biotic™ beneficial soil microbes plus ecto and endo mycorrhizae, which help your seedlings and transplants get off to a great start. Dr. Earth® soil also retains the maximum amount of water and nutrients, while simultaneously making sure that the soil drains properly, to avoid fungal diseases that could destroy your plants quickly.

Fertilizer
Feed Your Soil! You must feed the soil that will feed your plants’ root systems. Tomatoes and most other vegetables, especially in containers, will require a lot of fertilizer to live up to their full potential. In containers, the roots do not have the ability to tap into food reserves from the soil environment. What you provide for them is what they get. It is especially important to use Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ tomato, vegetable and herb fertilizer when growing vegetables in containers. Dr. Earth will feed the soil slowly and steadily, which in turn will feed the roots of your vegetable plants steadily and consistently. Organic 5™ is rich with a plethora of multi-minerals which your vegetables will take up. In return, you will benefit from these nutrients as you consume your harvest. Healthy soil equates to healthy vegetables.

Use Dr. Earth® fertilizer once at planting and repeat the application 2 to 3 months later depending on the length of your gardening season. Imagine the pleasure of having rich, tasty, and nutritious vegetables growing right outside your kitchen door.

Trellising Support
Give your plants a shoulder to lean on! Exposing as many leaves to sunlight as possible will help to increase your harvest. Some of your vegetables will not require any support at all, but cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vine plants require support to keep them off the ground and growing in the desired location.
Air space between your plants is very important as well, to help minimize fungal diseases your plants may be exposed to. Air space will also aid beneficial insects and allow them to do their work more easily, as flowers are more accessible to them. When purchasing your seeds or transplants, ask your local independent nursery professional what type of support he or she recommends for the specific plants you plan to grow.