Organic Gardening Soil ammendments

Another Gardening “method” Around Every Corner

There seems to be a different gardening “method” around every corner. This makes it particularly difficult for one who’s just starting to learn about gardening and/or one who has been totally programmed by current marketing rather than sound advice.

But no matter how long we’ve gardened, the practices we embrace are decided primarily by how we perceive the world and what we believe to be true.

“Hog Wash” is still “Hog Wash”

Long before Bill and I had a garden we knew we were going to garden organically. Everyone we knew (without exception) told us that wasn’t possible in “this day and age.” As far as I was concerned that was a bunch of “hog wash” — and it still is. I never had one bit of doubt about the earth being able to grow food without chemicals. I had total faith that the creation could do it’s job.

At that time, I had no so called “proof” to back me up, but I knew what I knew. Thus, Bill and I started gardening organically from day one and never regretted it for a minute.

As Far Away from the Line As Possible

Long time readers of TMG will know that when I make a decision about what I will or won’t do or use in my garden, it’s based on how far away I can stay from the “line” that separates organic from non-organic. If I have any doubts I stay away from whatever it is.

(For more details on this concept see my post Organic Gardening – How Near or How Far Away.)

The Truth is Out There

What has been extremely exciting over the past few years, is to come across so many scientific studies that have shown me the “whys” of my being successful and the proof of the downfalls of chemical gardening. And yes, the information that’s mainly “in your face” is the exact opposite, but the truth is out there if we’re looking.

Readers Ask Me What I Think

From time to time I get emails from readers who want to know what I think of this or that method of gardening. Many times, I’ve not heard of the method they ask about, and have to search for it online before I can even address answering their question.

Toni, a long time friend and reader from Oregon, wrote to me the other day and wanted to know my thoughts about a particular method she’d watched a video about while sick with the flu. I’d never heard of the method so I searched — not enough to know everything about it — but enough to get the general idea and to know that it was not a method that I’d use.

I’ve listed below various points about the method and my comments about those points so that you can see why I would not be interested.

Before I begin, let me state that it seems to be a universal law that just about everything in this world — even the worst of things or the biggest of lies — can have a bit of truth or a good point or two included in them. That doesn’t make the complete package something I’d want to embrace.

Points about Method “X” (not the real name of course) and My Comments

1. Devised by a former nurseryman and international agricultural consultant.

My comment: That means absolutely nothing to me. There are many former nurseryman and men high in agriculture who know nothing about gardening with nature and don’t even feel it can be done. Many (I would say the vast majority) are so programmed by the chemical industry that their views and mine would be at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

2. Plants are grown vertically rather than horizontally.

My comment: This is done in many gardens as a great way to save space with crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, some squash, and other vining crops.

I noticed quite a few statements of this nature where the procedure was attributed to the method, but can be and has been done in almost any gardening situation.

3. Calls for beds (either framed or unframed) that are filled with an inert medium such as sawdust or sand that have no nutrients or nutrient holding capability.

My comment: That’s the first big tip-off that this method is going in a different direction than nature when it comes to growing food.

Real soil was made for growing things. It’s made up of sand, clay, organic matter, water, air, minerals and a multitude of living organisms. Once you change that for whatever reason — keeping plants alive and healthy — not to mention making them nutrient dense — gets more complicated.

4. Plants are heavily watered and fertilized on a weekly basis.

My comments: If you’re growing for the best taste and highest nutrient value this statement should be another big tip-off that you don’t want this method. Here’s why:

  • With the exception of lettuce and other greens, heavy watering usually takes away flavor. Dry farming where crops are only watered with rainfall, improves the flavor of almost all fruit (including tomatoes) and even root crops like beets and carrots. In addition, natural sugar content and antioxidant content can go up as much as 86% when irrigation is less.
  • Not only is fertilizing on a weekly basis a lot more work than working along with nature,  but when plants are forced to produced there’s always a trade off.

For example, hybrids are bred to produce abundantly and quickly. They don’t have time to take up all the nutrients like an open-pollinated variety might.

When various chemical fertilizers are used, flavor and nutrients can also drop off drastically. My guess is this might be the same even with organic fertilizers. Nature maintains a delicate balance and if we feed our soil with organic material nature will take care of our plants with just the right balance.

There are those who maintain that any nutrients/minerals/micronutrients in chemical form are just as good as their natural counterpart. I never have believed that.

Nonetheless I found it enlightening to learn that noted soil scientist, Richard Parnes, came to the conclusion that “the idea of being able to calculate fertilizer application with any hope of certainty is an illusion. At best we can apply what we think is necessary” and that ““the major emphasis for good soil management should be on recycling organic residues, —” because they put the needed “energy” into our soil. (For more details see my post here.)

Final Thoughts

I want no more work than I have to do, high nutrient content in what I grow, and great flavor. The method that my friend Toni asked me about doesn’t offer those things.


For more information I suggest reading the following posts:

Real Soil – Fake Soil – A Reader’s Question

Gardening Without Irrigation – Dry Farming

Organic Residues – The Needed Energy for Soil Fertility

Success in Your Garden is Proportionate to the Health of Your Soil

What You Read – Is It Hype or Right?


All content including photos is copyrighted by  All Rights Reserved.


  • There are lots of ways to experiment with veggies and still adhere to Theresa’s method. I seeded some lettuce in a tunnel in Oct. hoping it would germinate this spring. I picked a spot close to the house hoping that might mitigate the cold. Temperatures this winter varied all over the place and as low as -20F. I checked yesterday and it’s germinating just as nicely as what I used to start inside. I also seeded some beets and chard in the same tunnel and it looks like that might do the same. Nature knows best. I transplanted some of my tomatoes into oversized black pots and set them in a tunnel with ground temp at 45F. I am trying to get them out of the house sooner but I will not be able to plant them in their final home till at least mid May. I do mulch heavily so while the pots sit on bare earth they have 4″ of mulch surrounding them. I hope the black pots will bring enough warmth during the day to get them through the night. Plants want to grow, you just have to find out how to do it their way.

  • Theresa

    I grew up in New Mexico where they grow the very best chile in the world. It is dry there and the Chile’s are hotter than here in my garden where they get more water from rainfall. I never water them, but they still get more water than New Mexico and are not as hot or as tasty.

    There is quite a huge boost in composting which in my mind is a signal that things are headed back in the right direction.

    Thank You as always for your very informative articles.


  • It’s the truth! Although I was raised gardening conventionally, and my husband was raised on a conventional farm, we both know that what you say is the solid, straight-forward, practical, and reliable TRUTH. We will never go back to the traditions we were raised in. Imagine having to provide anyone “proof” that nature could produce without the use of chemicals. If she couldn’t, the earth, and everything in it, would have been dead at the start. We are so brainwashed as a culture (in so many ways), we can’t see the truth staring right at us. I’m thankful for lights like you, Theresa.

  • Thank you for posting this. I can’t imagine veering of course of nature but I sure am battling the weeds and creeping grass (they are winning) even tho I have mulched heàvily with leaves, straw, and grass clippings. Also, my blueberry bushes sure do look like they need some nourishment. What would you do for blueberry’s that just aren’t growing?

  • Toni, if weeds are allowed to reseed in your garden, you’ll have more.
    Also with things like wire grass (which may be what you call creeping grass) that has wirey roots that grow through the soil —- they have to be dug out and eventually you won’t have that. With things like wire grass, mulch will not stop it. It has to be taken out. In my 2400 sq. of garden the only place I have wire grass is where it comes in through the fence. And on a very rare occasion a small piece might show up somewhere else.

    My blueberry bushes in the garden are almost 17 years old. I give them a heavy layer of leaves and decaying straw every year. They’ve always done well, but will do better or worse depending on weather conditions. I don’t think they look as good as usual this year after the last two “late” frost with the bushes in bloom. We shall see.

    Oh- one more thing. I had two bushes in the garden that for some reason never seemed to grow like the others. After all these years they started growing last year. I can’t account for it.

    I do know that blueberries don’t like competition and if they have to compete with other strong roots they won’t do well. I’ve had other roots kill a blueberry bush before.

    Hope this helps.

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