5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

Phil with his beautiful, nutrient-rich garden!

We hope you all enjoy today’s guest post from Certified Organic Gardener Phil Nauta of SmilingGardener.com. Be sure and leave a comment for him below if you have questions or would like more info…

5 Tips For Growing Nutrient-Rich Food

I’m so glad that Christy and Chad talk about gardening once in awhile here, because to me, it’s one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition.

That’s because most everything in your soil goes into the food you grow and then into you, and whatever’s lacking in the nutrient profile of your soil won’t make it into that food.

Eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides is a good start, but it’s only a start. That’s what not to feed our plants and soil, but what do we feed them instead?

Just like us, plants (and other beneficial soil organisms) need well-balanced sources of over 80 trace minerals, as well as the basics like plenty of air and water.

So feeding them just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium isn’t going to result in plants that have the right levels of zinc, selenium, magnesium, and boron, let alone enzymes, vitamins, phytohormones or antioxidants needed for their health or for ours.

There are a few simple things we can do to ensure that our soil, our plants, and we ourselves are getting fully balanced nutrition from our gardens.

This is what I’ve done to dramatically increase the nutrition in my food, and I’ve helped many others do it, too:

First, we can make a great start by feeding our soil lots of organic matter on a regular basis.

The simplest way to do this is by mulching – covering the soil surface with a layer of organic matter so it’s never bare.

Besides the water- and temperature-moderating effects of mulching, it’s also the easiest, most natural way to add nutrition to the soil, without the extra work and destructive effects of repeated tilling.

This will be most effective if we use nutritious materials for mulch. Leaves are a great, nutritionally balanced mulch source that’s widely available for free.

Any deciduous tree leaves will do, but it’s usually best to avoid conifer needles since they contain compounds that inhibit the growth of other organisms.

If you live near the coast, seaweed is an amazing source of perfectly balanced nutrients and natural plant growth hormones. Collect it from the beach after a storm and put it in your compost or spread it right on top of your soil as a mulch. If that’s not easy to access, liquid kelp fertilizer is now widely available at garden stores.

In fact, the sea itself is an amazing source of perfectly balanced nutrients for soil and plants. You can apply seawater directly to the soil at as much as 1 cup per square foot, or buy very concentrated sea mineral products.

In case you’re concerned about the salt, it isn’t a problem at normal application rates, when balanced with all of the other minerals in seawater, unless you happen to have too much sodium already.

Glacial rock dust is another excellent, balanced source of mineral nutrients that will benefit your soil and plants, no matter what conditions you start with. You can find this at some garden supply stores.

Finally, compost is not only an important source of nutrients if made well, but a great way to breed the beneficial microbes we want in our gardens.

By making sure that we consciously feed our compost balanced nutrients, rather than just treating it as a scrap heap for organic waste, it can hugely add to our garden’s fertility.

These are just a few simple suggestions to get you started. The main thing is to get started!

I was amazed and relieved to discover, after years of thinking and reading about the problems with the industrial food system and how important it is to try alternatives, that I really enjoy getting my hands in contact with the earth. Feeding my soil turns out to feed my soul as well as my body.

Feel free to ask me any questions below about how to grow more nutritious food.

Do you already use some of the methods I mentioned? Or do you have any tips of your own? Let me know below.

About the Author

Phil Nauta is a SOUL Certified Organic Land Care Professional. He teaches practical organic gardening tips to home gardeners at SmilingGardener.com.

Tour of Our Garden – Sept. 8, 2012

We’ve had quite the drought this summer in Nebraska, but I’m incredibly grateful for everything that’s still holding on for dear life in our garden…How is YOUR garden doing?


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Grow your OWN natural produce at home

One family’s backyard vegetable garden.

In this post, guest author Peter McAllister shares with us why it’s important to start your own garden. He also explains a few of the first steps you’ll need to take to transition your yard from grass to produce.

So what about you? Do you grow your own food? If so, why do you think it’s important? What tips do you have for others who are just getting started? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below….
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“There is growing awareness about the level of chemical fertilizers and pesticides going into our fresh produce. Commercial producers of fruit and vegetables often use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to control the yield and health of their crops. From the producer’s perspective they want the highest yields with the lowest losses to pests possible because their business is more profitable this way.

However, there is growing awareness about some of the adverse effects of the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Because of this, a growing number of consumers are choosing to eat organically produced fruit and vegetables. This can be done either by purchasing organic produce from stores or growing your own produce.

Adverse effects of the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides

  • Chemical poisons are carried on through the food chain and can have a knock on effect in harming animals.
  • When you eat fruit and vegetables that have had chemical pesticides applied to them you too are ingesting this poison.
  • The production of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has a far greater impact on the global environment than natural substances.

Growing your own fruit and vegetables is easier than you may think. All it takes is a well maintained growing patch that receives ample sunlight, water and nutrients.

How to set up your own vegetable patch

The first thing you want to consider is the position of the vegetable patch. The position of your growing area will vastly affect the yield you gain. One of the biggest considerations is sunlight. You want to position your growing area so that it achieves the most sunlight possible throughout the day. You can do this as scientifically or as instinctively as you like. One way of accurately measuring the sunlight exposure your garden gets is to set up a camera at a fixed point that has a good overall view. Once an hour take a picture of your yard for an entire day. You can then look at these pictures in a “timeline” to see which areas have the most sun for longest over the course of a day. Or, if this is not your style, you can set up the growing area in a position that you know has good general light exposure (at least 6 hours for most vegetables).

Once you have decided upon an area in which to grow your produce you need to set it up properly. If you just dig up some earth and plant seeds, the chances are you will get less than satisfactory results.

Rotavators/tillers make working the soil much easier!

The first thing to do is mark out the area you want to have designated for growing. You can then lift up the grass (if there is any) by using a turf cutter to cleanly remove the top grass layer. The next stage is to prepare the bed for planting. The best way to do this is to circulate and loosen up the soil. This can be done manually by digging or automatically using a rotavator.

Add organic fertilizer/compost to your garden!

For optimal results you will also want to mix in some organic fertilizer with this soil. The type of compost/fertilizer you use will differ depending on what you want to grow. For example, tomatoes require a high amount of nitrogen, where as carrots/peas are not as dependent on this nutrient. Ask at your local garden centre to get the most appropriate fertilizer mix for your purposes.

Growing can be a tricky procedure and you will learn as you go along. Over time your yields should get bigger and your plants’ health improve. Growing your own food is not only rewarding but also fun; eating food you have grown from scratch yourself is endlessly more rewarding than going to the grocery store.”

About the Author

Peter McAllister is employed by SGM contracts who supply equipment and services such
 rotavators for sale. We support sustainable living and like to encourage green projects such as home food growing. For more information see http://www.sgm-uk.com

Top 10 Lessons from a City Girl’s Garden

Please don’t let these picture fool you. Yes, this is my garden. But, no, gardening does not come naturally to me…at all. I envy the folks who just seem to have a knack for it. I suppose you could say I learn things “the hard way” – I’ve pretty much learned all that I know about gardening by losing crops and then frantically checking in with Google (or one of my human friends) for an explanation and, hopefully, a solution.

Melon harvest 2011

And, honestly, I’m truly more in love with the idea of having a garden than with the process of gardening itself. Perhaps some of you can relate? I guess you could call me a “gardener of circumstance.” It’s not that I have a green thumb or just can’t get enough of wading around in mud, pulling weeds, and being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Heck no! I am a C-I-T-Y girl through and through! I have just developed a deep appreciation for real, organic foods…and growing these things myself is the cheapest (and freshest) way to go!

Following are the Top 10 Lessons that I’ve learned, so far, from my extensive (cough, cough!) gardening “career.” Do you have any tips you’d like to share with me? Please leave a comment below!

Top 10 Lessons from a City Girl’s Garden

10. Bees are our friends. Without them many plants would never produce fruit. They are not to be feared…regardless of how afraid of them you may have been raised to be because you grew up with a mother who was terrified that they might buzz around and get all tangled up in her very long, very thick hair!! (Thanks, mom!)

9. Plant your garden where you can see it and enjoy it (and, thus, where you’ll be less likely to forget about it or neglect it). Just be sure the space you choose gets 6 (preferably 8-10) good hours of sun per day! There’s no law that says your garden must be tucked away out of sight in a back corner of your yard. Seriously, why do people do this?? I for one am way too lazy to walk all the way back there; and I greatly enjoy having a lovely view of my garden right from my kitchen window!

8. Cute, fluttery little white moths are not our friends. Ditto for tiny little green worms. And critters that look like cute little yellowish-green lady bugs should not be treated as such! They must die, too! (Sorry folks, no one said this was gonna be pretty!)

7. Plant your garden out of reach of any male dogs. Veggies taste best when watered by humans!

6. Always plant radishes. They provide instant gratification because they grow very quickly. Even if you don’t eat them—just grow them and give them away. They’re pretty dummy-proof, so you’ll feel successful even if the rest of your garden dies.

5. Fake rubber snakes placed strategically around your garden will deter birds, but the birds will eventually realize their “fakeness” if you don’t move them around from time to time! Or perhaps birds just don’t fear snakes they presume to be dead?! Either way, you lose!

4. If you’re the type of city girl who doesn’t enjoy little spiders and things crawling on your kitchen counter, it may behoove you to give your garden-fresh veggies a quick rinse outdoors before bringing them inside! Trust me!

3. When entering your garden, always wave your arms around in front of you at eye level before walking between tall plants. Yes, you will look like a freakin’ maniac. But, on the bright side, you won’t end up with spider webs stuck to your face!

2. Never! I repeat…NEVER let bunnies know how cute you secretly think they are. They will use this weakness against you and nibble your plants down to nubs! Ignore their convincing little pleas and promises, and erect a fence…pronto!

1. Make friends with every gardener you meet – especially if they have a HUGE garden! Sure, they may be great folks and you might enjoy their company, but that’s really beside the point. Chances are they will have extra food they’ll need to give away at some point. Which brings me to…City Girl’s Garden Lesson #1: Never grow for yourself what others will grow for you for free!


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Harvest late summer 2011