Monthly Archives: January 2012

Who Can You Trust For Organic Gardening Information

I was strolling through a few articles on gardening the other day and I realized all the conflicting information that was being passed out as information for you the organic gardener.  Not that the information was wrong or misleading it is just that there is so many ways of doing things in the garden.

So, what is a gardener to do?  Well, there are several things to consider when you decide to read an article on gardening, and especially organic gardening.

Organic gardening has many layers to it.  You have a range from the purist, who uses no chemicals on the garden or in anything that touches their food, to a person who just tries to limit their chemical diet so the food will taste better.

Each person will look at the information they read a little differently.  For me I like to limit the amount of chemicals that I ingest as much as I possibly can.  That means that I look for information that deals with strict organic methods of gardening.

A person who is not as familiar with what it takes to be totally organic might be led down the wrong path by reading the wrong information.

Take the use of organic fertilizer in a bag.  Now, that bag of fertilizer may be just fine, but I am a doubter when it comes to my health.  I recently read about an organic fertilizer company in California who was charged for selling fertilizer as organic when it contained chemicals.
I suggest that if you want to limit your level of chemicals in your body, as I do, that you only follow those who espouse the characteristics of gardening that your want.  

Look at the persons overall philosophy about life and gardening.  Are they passionate about being totally organic?  Do they profess an organic lifestyle?  In other words do they walk the talk?

Your health and the health of your family should be taken seriously.  If you think the same way I do, take a little time to check out the advice you are getting before you use it.

That’s my thought for today.

Great gardening,

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.

Pots For Starting Plants

I know it is still January, but in 2, short, months it will be the middle of March and

spring will be approaching fast.  Now is the time to prepare for the spring rush.  Let’s talk about pots.

There are a lot of pots out there, and a lot of conflicting advice about materials to use as pots to start seeds.  As an organic gardener I strive to use materials that interact with my soil, plants, seeds, additives, compost, tools, containers, etc. that are free of chemicals.  I know, that is a hard thing to do in today’s society.

Almost everything we touch is made from or contaminated with some form of a chemical.  That’s why I think it is worthwhile to make the effort to keep as many chemicals out of our life as possible, especially our food.

You see all kinds of materials used as a container (pot) for starting vegetable and flower plants.  Just the other day I was disposing of an egg carton and remembered reading about using the bottom of the egg carton to start seeds.  For a moment I hesitated, thinking that might be a good idea.  Then, reality returned, and I remembered my purpose, which is to stay away from as many chemicals as possible.

So, I threw the carton into the recycle bag, also made of chemicals.

You will see all kinds of suggestions for “cheap” pots.  Some use newspaper shaped into a pot, it works well, but again how do you know what chemicals were used to manufacture the paper and ink?  If you want to try making paper pots you can find a pot shaper in garden catalogs.  The good thing about using paper is that it can be planted with the plant.

People use all kinds of tin cans, aluminum containers, purchased plastic pots, the list is endless.  Anything that will hold the soil and allow drainage will work, but remember our goal of staying away from as many chemicals as possible.

I have been starting some plants in a purchased plastic seed starting tray.  But, the majority of my plants come from the hot bed.  I do not get as fast of a start as I could using other methods, but it works well and the plants are very healthy.

Another thing I will do is to use peat pots.  They are made from pressed peat, so the plants can be planted pot and all, pretty slick.

A method for starting plants that I have not tried is called soil blocks.  The soil blocks are made from…soil.  What a surprise.  There is a tool you can buy that makes the blocks.

The soil is made from potting mix and pressed into individual blocks of soil.  Each block is planted with one seed and the air space between blocks prevents the roots from growing into the neighboring block, until the plant get too big and needs to be moved.

Using soil blocks just might solve my problem of finding a safe container for starting my seeds indoors.  I will let you know when I get ready to make the investment and how it works for me.

Until then, use your best judgment for finding the right pot for starting your plants.  Whatever, you use will be way ahead of buying your plants at the nursery where they are doused with chemical fertilizer all the time.

The main thing is to get started on your path to a chemical free life.  Do what you can now to get started and make changes as you learn.

Great gardening,

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.

How just one chemical can affect your health

I have been growing vegetables since I was a child.  In fact, when I was about 12 years

old I used to grow sweet corn to sell at the local grocery.  So, growing my own food has been a life long practice for me.  But, now it is more important than ever to consider growing your own food and growing your food using organic methods.

I just finished an article on the herbicide Roundup(glyphosate).  Roundup is used on the majority of field crops like corn and soybeans.  It is now possible to use Roundup on these crops, as they have been “modified” to withstand the chemical on the plant.  This is where we get the GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops that you hear about today.  They have been engineered to withstand the use of Roundup and keep growing.

The problem is there are problems.  One of the results of using this chemical is the way it kills the weeds.  It starves the weed to death by shutting off some of the micronutrients to the plant.  The result is you, also, do not get the micronutrient in the plant, the corn or bean plant, which the plant needs.  

The animal that eats the corn or bean plant does not get the nutrients and the person who eats the animal does not get the nutrients.  Every thing is tied together, you make one change and it changes everything down stream.

These crops now contain about 50 percent less manganese, 70 percent less zinc, less copper, iron, magnesium, etc.  You can see how that will affect the end user of that plant.

Just the fact of having less nutrients to consume is enough to make you want to stay away from chemicals, but there’s more.  It seems that Roundup promotes a fungus called fusaria.  Fusaria is toxic to animals that eat the plant and, they think, to the people who eat the animal.  

As I understand it, the fungus affects the digestive system of the animal that eats the plant.  Your digestive system controls 80 percent of your immune system.  That’s a very important point.

You may be thinking that does not bother me, as I do not eat meat.  Hold on there gardener.  The plant takes up the chemical into itself.  It actually becomes a part of the plant.  If it is affecting a cow, what will it do to you, directly?  And, we are just talking about one chemical.  There are tons and tons of other chemicals poured on our food crops each year.  And, the large seed companies are now going after the garden seeds.

The point is God made the world in balance.  Everything relates to each other.  If one micronutrient is missing it has an effect on the plant and whatever eats the plant.  When man messes with that balance the whole system gets unbalanced and we reap the returns through lack of good health.  Just look at all the health problems our society is having today that did not exist a few years ago.

This is just one reason to grow your own food, so that you will know what went into the food and is going into your body and the body of all in your family.

Now, get out there and grow something.

Good gardening,

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.

Do You Ever Struggle With Gardening Organically?

But if each man could have his own house, a large garden to cultivate and healthy surroundings – then, I thought, there will be for them a better opportunity of a happy family life.
George Cadbury


Gardening organically can be a “pain” at times.  If you are like me and want to keep as many chemicals away from my life as I can, then you know what I mean. 

When the bean beetles are devouring the beans, you just want to get out the Sevin and kill something.  But, that’s not what we are about.  There really is a better way.

I know I have had my share of struggles over the years of gardening organically.  But, it seems that as I have learned to use row cover, and how to properly mulch, and to rely on my own plants, instead of the nursery’s, things keep getting better and better.

I have read that what you do at your place soon molds itself into your system, seeds being a prime example.  If you save your own seeds the plants will adapt to your garden environment.  As time goes by those seeds will be the best thing you can find for your garden.

When I raised pigs there would be an e-coli, or some other critter, that would kick my butt, but over time that problem would just seem to drift away.  But, of course, a new one would arise to take it’s place.

I guess what I am trying to say is if you are having a hard time with your garden and are thinking about giving up…don’t.  You have gained valuable experience during the time you have been working out in the garden.  Now, is the time to put that knowledge to good use.

Dig in and learn what other gardeners are doing to whip your problem.  Follow us here on our blog.  Send in your questions.  If I can’t answer your question, there may be someone else out there who can.

Gardening is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding in lots of ways.  Let’s build a great garden together this spring.


Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.


Time To Think About Rhubarb

You may think it is a strange time to be thinking about rhubarb, but if you want good rhubarb you have to feed it.  Rhubarb seems to be a hungry critter.  I remember when I was a kid my Grandfather was a dairy farmer.  The rhubarb patch was just over the fence from the milk house.

My Grandfather would pitch some of the manure over the fence onto the rhubarb during the winter or early spring.  We always had huge plants and plenty of Grandma’s rhubarb pie.

The above came to mind this summer when my rhubarb was looking rather drab.  I got to thinking about Grandpa’s great looking rhubarb and remembered the cow manure.  I didn’t have cow manure, but did have a plentiful supply of horse manure.

Horse manure is high in nitrogen, so I heaped the horse goodies around the plants and watered well.  That rhubarb spring to life and lasted well into winter, much longer than it usually does.

So, a couple of days ago I loaded up the wheel barrow with more of the miracle fertilizer from the barn, raked the snow off the rhubarb bed and put on a good supply of horse manure.  I am looking forward to an ample supply of rhubarb this summer.

If you do not have a horse manure factory at your place just look around.  Anyone with a horse has manure and will be more than glad to get rid of some of it, especially if you offer to pick it up yourself.

Just be careful with horse manure, as with any other.  As I said above, horse manure is heavy on the nitrogen and will burn some plants.  It is best to use older manure, not fresh.  And, you will want to check with the owner to see if they have been using a wormer or any medication in the feed recently.  If so you can still use the manure, but let it sit out in the rain for awhile in an area that will drain away from the garden.

Feed your rhubarb now and it will feed you later.  And, you can do more than make pies with rhubarb.  Stewed rhubarb is very tasty and you can even make wine out of rhubarb.  Plenty of good reasons to grow this plant.

Great gardening


Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.

Testing Your Soil

A lot of people who garden never test their soil, or if they do they get it wrong.  We, in our society, have been trained that science is king and that you should test your soil and believe whatever the scientist types say.

Should you test your soil?

Let me be very clear about this, yes and no.  Yes, it would be great to know the composition of your soil, but no, you may not find the correct composition, even if you test the soil.  Soil testing, especially for someone gardening organically, is kinda’ tricky.  You can send your soil sample to three different labs and get three different results.

How can that be, we are using science aren’t we?  Well, science is not as exact as we want to believe, when it hits the road.  You can get different soil sample results because different labs use different methods of testing and interpretation.

Some labs, and probably most, are not up on what it really means to farm or garden organically.  The results you get are for the application of chemical inputs.  Not what we want. 

So, should you test your soil?

It would be a good idea.  The reason being that you can get an idea of what your soil needs, or is in excess of.  When you get your results it is best to use your own judgment and not follow the labs exact recommendation.

You can tell if your garden needs more of one or two nutrients and make that correction with organic minerals and compost.  You can get a good sense about the fertility by what it produces.

How to take a soil sample

Taking a sample of your soil is a simple process.  You need a shovel and a bucket.  But, the trick is the bucket and the shovel need to be clean, so your sample will not be contaminated.

Take three or four samples over your garden.  Try to get a good representation of your soil.  Winter time is the best time to take soil samples, as there is less vegetation.  Try to keep grass, straw or other garden debris out of the sample.  Bare soil is the best to sample.

Mix the samples together and let dry naturally.  The testing lab will send you the proper bags for sending in your sample and provide directions for taking the sample.

Where to send your sample

There are many labs that test soil samples.  The best advice would be to do a search for labs in your state.  They would be more familiar with your soil type that one out of state, but I would give more trust to one who specializes in organic recommendations, even if it was out-of-state.

Now is a good time to prepare for spring.  Testing your soil now can help you grow a better garden this summer.

Happy gardening,



Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  He started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family, too.  Go sign up to get garden tips for free in the box on the right.