Organic Gardening Blogs

Chosen as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs – March 2018

Assumptions/Watering/Onions and Most other Vegetables/3 keys

Since I first started in 2010, one of the things that I’ve found to be strong within gardeners is the urge to water.

The urge is so strong that unless someone literally has no way of watering (other than maybe hauling an occasional watering can to a plant – like my situation) they never really know what the plants will or can do.

In this age of marketing, we’ve been programmed to think we have to water in order to garden.

And it’s easy to make wrong assumptions based on what you see taking place, but not really knowing all the variables involved.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

A friend who lives about a mile from me visited yesterday. We walked through the garden and talked about how the almanac called for more dry weather in this area.

A few days ago, even though she uses mulch, my friend felt it necessary to water her onions and some other vegetables in the garden. They really perked up and seemed to “grow” a bit over night. Of course she attributed that to the watering.

As we continued our conversation, it turns out that the same time her onions perked up overnight, was exactly the same time mine perked up and also seemed to grow some. Except mine were not watered. (I’ve not watered onions EVER in the almost 40 years I’ve been growing them.)

Nothing Wrong with Watering especially if –

  • you have good water,
  • the means to water at ground level and water deeply,
  • and water only when needed.

The “when needed” part is probably where most gardeners miss the mark.

If you’re gardening with nature and using the 3 keys (deep soil preparation, adding organic matter/materials, covering the soil) in almost all cases it will be very seldom, if ever, that you need to water.

I’m living proof that’s true. But there’s plenty of documented proof as well.

Here are a few facts that I covered in a previous post:

  • Working with nature (using the 3 keys) will allow you to garden with 67% to 88% LESS water.
  • Only 20 inches of rain per year can produce the “best yields in the world” when working with nature.
  • Soil that has been deeply prepared will have the capacity to hold 25% of its volume in water. For example: 24 inches of deeply prepared soil can hold 6 inches of water.
  • Covering your soil (shading your soil) reduces evaporation by 13 to 63%.
  • Once your soil is improved to have the right nutrients, plants transpire (give off) 10 to 75% LESS water.
  • Having only 2% organic matter will reduce the water needs of plants by 75%!

For example: if the soil has 1/2% organic matter a plant may use 200 gallons of water. At 1% organic matter it would need 150 gallons of water. But at 2% organic matter the plant would need about 50 gallons, which is 75% less than the 200 gallons.

Final Thought

If we’re working in harmony with nature,  the water needed to grow a pound of food is reduced to about 3% of what is normally required (in conventional gardening/farming). That being the case, the vast majority would never really need to water.


Suggested Reading:

3 Keys to Successful Gardening – More Proof They Work

Needs One Inch of Rain a Week. Oh Yeah?

Watering. It’s Overrated.


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Garden Lettuce – Read This if You Hate It, Love It and/or Want Superior Seed

About everything you can think of tastes better when you grow it yourself;  especially from an organic garden that works with nature . The only exception I can think of is if you grow varieties that have little or no taste.

Grow the Right Variety

Sometime back a reader told me her husband didn’t like garden lettuce. He preferred store bought. I’d almost be willing to bet it’s the variety that’s the problem there.

Here’s an example that comes to mind:

Black Seeded Simpson is a popular variety of lettuce. By popular I mean grown by many. I can almost bet that it got to be that way because it will endure in the garden when a lot of other varieties have run their course and are no more.

I’ve grown it for many years for that very reason. When I’m without all others, I can probably come up with a few leaves of Black Seeded Simpson if I’m desperate for lettuce.

But that’s just about the only way it gets into the salad bowl.

When prime varieties that are crisp and flavorful, like Sierra Batavia and Winter Density, are available I don’t even consider Black Seeded Simpson. It’s neither crisp nor flavorful. Enjoyable only when you’re a lettuce lover like me and have none of the greats to choose from.

Another example:

A visitor to my garden last July asked to sample my lettuces. He liked them all, but when he put a piece of Sierra Batavia in his mouth it brought a “wow!” reponse. He said it was the highest quality and best tasting lettuce he’d ever had.

Then he tasted Winter Density and it brought close to the same response. But he said if he had to choose one, he’d choose Sierra Batavia.

My visitor also sampled Black Seeded Simpson. No response. We moved on to the next.

Why Not Give It Another Try

If you “hate garden lettuce”, why not give it another try and grow the two favorites I mentioned. You might just change your mind about garden lettuce.

(And by the way, both are open pollinated which will be important if you want to save seed.)

Quality of Commercial Seed Seems to Be on The Decline

Several friends and/or readers have mentioned having problems with germination (and growth) of some of their purchased seed.

Over the past 3 years, that’s my experience as well.

Even though you might be able to get a replacement or your money back, you may have missed the window to plant by the time you realize the problem and contact the seller.

With everything that’s going on in the seed and food industry, this might just be the hand writing on the wall for what the future holds.

Culling Takes Away Some Profit from Commercial Growers

I would imagine that most farmers growing for the seed market would not find it profitable to cull out inferior plants from the field. Each added step takes time and money (for helpers) which takes away from profit.

In our own garden we have much more control and it’s easy to save just the largest and most robust plants to obtain the best seed.

Overall, Better Germination and Stronger Seedlings Result from Saving Your Own Seed

Last fall I planted several varieties including my favorite, Winter Denisty, for going into winter.

Commercial seed that I had on hand germinated much more slowly than saved seed from my garden.

When I shared some of the seedlings with a friend, she told me they were the strongest little lettuce seedlings she had seen. This confirmed what I’ve found to be true as well.

Once You Have an Open-pollinated Variety You Love – Your Next Step to Superior Seed Is Saving Seed

To get superior seed, you have to save your own.

Important Tip

If you’re new to seed saving and you read something that you consider complicated or confusing (either in the this article or somewhere else), don’t pay much attention to it at this time.

Just let a plant go to seed and save the seed. This will teach you more than you realize and eventually when you revisit the seemingly complicated information, you’ll understand it easily.

Even if you make mistakes, you can’t go too far wrong.

How Many Plants Do You Need?

Although one lettuce plant will produce an abundance of seed, it’s better to save seed from 3 plants to get the best lettuce in the long run.

Using at least 3 will give you genetic diversity. That’s what allows future seed/seedlings to slowly adapt to your climate and growing conditions.

And yes, it’s fine to mix the seed together. Nature will automatically sort for you when you plant again. Then when the time comes again to save seed and you choose the biggest and best plants, those are the ones nature has sorted for you as being the best.

If for some reason you only have one plant available for seed saving, proceed anyway. Never let imperfect conditions, or not being able to do everything, stop you from doing what you CAN do.

Fall planted lettuce in upper left of photo was planted in the fall and is setting seed in June.  The row on the right of the picture was spring planted. Four varieties.  Just starting to stalk.


Closer view of lettuce planted in the fall and wintered over. Stalked soonerthan lettuce planted in the spring.

Should You Save Seed from a Hybrid or an Open Pollinated Variety?

Seed that will remain true to that variety will come from an open pollinated variety of lettuce.

Understanding the Difference in a Hybrid and an Open Pollinated Plant


If you’ve gardened for a while, you already know that hybrid varieties of any vegetable have two different varieties as parents. In other words, the pollen of one variety is used to pollinate the other variety. Most hybrids on the market have been created with traits that are in the interest of “making a profit” rather than taste or other traits that you might desire from your plants.

When you plant seed produced by a hybrid, you can’t be sure of what you’ll get. In most cases the resulting plants will be less vigorous than the hybrid from which the seed was produced.

The good news is that — over a number of seasons — if you grow and save seed from resulting plants that you consider the best, you might come up with something very nice. AND it can be eventually stabilized by the resulting open-pollination over time.

Open Pollinated

In open pollinated plants there is a free (open) exchange of pollen among like plants. It’s not necessarily limited to one plant pollinating another; the flow of pollen is “open”. So it might be pollinated by more than one plant.

As long as only pollen from the same variety is shared, the seed resulting will produce true to its type (or variety) every year. If pollen from other varieties are shared, the result will be a hybrid.

Determining if a Lettuce is a Hybrid or Open Pollinated Variety.

Not all seed sources tell whether or not the lettuce is an open pollinated or hybrid variety. It can sometimes be difficult to get that information even when you Google it.

Occasionally,  I’ll go to the Baker Creek website to see if they carry the variety. If they do, you know it’s open pollinated (since they carry heirlooms only and all heirlooms are open-pollinated). On the downside, there are many great varieties they don’t carry.

If you can’t find the information on the variety of choice, I would assume it’s a hybrid.

Lettuce is Self-Pollinating. So What Does That Mean?

Those dozens of tiny little dandelion-like flowers contain both male and female components. Thus, lettuce is considered self pollinating.
It does not need pollen from another flower to pollinate.

The plant grown from the saved seed will render an almost identical plant.

Cross pollination by other varieties that are close by and blooming at the same time, is not as much of a worry with lettuce, but it is possible.

For example if you have two varieties that stalk up (grow a tall stalk and flower) and intertwine with each other, some of the seed will more than likely cross pollinate.

If this happens some of the seed from each plant may not grow true to type.

Is Cross Pollinating Worth the Worry? And If It Is, Here’s What to Do

Most sources recommend keeping varieties at least 25 feet apart to be sure they don’t cross pollinate.

That would not be practical in my garden. When I plant lettuce I plant 2 to 4 varieties in the same bed or at least within 5 feet of each other.

My seed always seems to produce true to the variety grown in spite of that.
If a few seeds (of the many I saved from one plant) happened to have been “hybrids” (a result of cross pollination), I would more than likely be able to see the difference as the plants of the next generation matured.  I would cull out those plants and not allow them to seed.

How to Know When Seed is Ready

When temperatures start to rise, lettuce starts to bolt. It’ll send up a seed stalk that will produce dozens of tiny little dandelion like flowers.

Each plant seems to have it’s own time schedule maturing. So you’ll have plants stalking, producing flowers, and setting seed at different times over a period of several weeks.

As this happens, cull out the shorter and less robust plants. Allow the biggest and the best to seed.

Be sure to mark the variety of the seeding plant. Once lettuce matures to the point of flowering and setting seed, much of it looks identical.

After the flowers bloom, it can take 2 to 4 weeks for the seed to be produced.
When I see a lot of the flower heads turning “fluffy” (again, like a dandelion), I can start collecting seed.

The flowers are gone and the “fluff” is coming. I’ll wait till a bit more comes and then start harvesting the seed.

Several Ways to Collect Seed

  • You could make a bag of row cover fabric and tie it over the flowering/seed producing part. Seeds will fall into the bag.

Other than making the bag, this requires less effort and no other attention from you until you remove the bag when seeding is finished.

This is also an excellent and easy way to prevent possible cross pollination.

I’ve also done this with large thin paper bags. The fabric bag is much better, especially for air circulation; but in a pinch this works.

You’ll notice I had written the variety on the bag with a sharpie.  It rained. The bag dried in the sun the next day.  I just had to extra careful about making sure the contents of the bag dried.  Not the best idea, but it worked.

  • Another way is to shake the plants each day or every other day and let the seed fall into a paper bag. (If you have more than one variety be sure and mark the variety on the bag.)

(Be aware that all kinds of little insects usually end up in the bag. Once you put the contents of the bag into a shallow container they’ll leave.)

If for some reason you’ve missed most of the seed producing time and the plant is about finished, you can

  • cut the stalk and shake what’s left of the seed into a bag, a tub, or bucket.


This lettuce is about finished seeding. It was planted in the fall. As summer progressed I planted tomatoes in the bed and culled out the lettuce I didn’t want to seed.

Cleaning the Seed (or not)

When I’m collecting seed, there’s so much chaff and fluff that I have to scoop up a hand full and look closely to see if I really do have lettuce seed.

(Some lettuce seed is dark and some is white. )

According to most sources, it’s easy to remove the chaff and fluff before storing.

Supposedly when you pour the collected seed, chaff , and fluff into a shallow tray and run a fan at low speed near the tray, the chaff and fluff will leave and the seed will stay.

The first time I tried this, all the chaff and fluff left, but so did the seed.

I’m sure you’ll do much better than I did. In case you don’t, feel free to store the seed with chaff and fluff. Just make sure it all air drys completely before storing. I’ve done that for years with no problem.

How Long Will Lettuce Seed Keep?

Most sources state that lettuce seed keeps for 6 years when stored properly.

I’ve had it remain viable even longer.

Final Thought

It’s pretty miraculous when you think about being able to create seed that is better adapted to your soil, climate and unique growing conditions.

Nothing special needed, other than the desire to do it.


Related Posts:

Seed Saving/Seed Storage

Focus on What You Can Do


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Saving Seed – Reasons to Put It on the Priority List

Once we’re no longer a kid, time seems to move more quickly.
That can awaken us to the fact that even the seemingly minor decisions we make from day to day and what we do with life’s precious minutes, can make a huge difference in our future well being.

Knowing even the basic facts about what’s happening in the seed industry, can be powerful enough to determine our behavior regarding whether or not we save seed from vegetables we grow.

Loss of Diversity

There use to be hundreds of varieties of each vegetable. For example, in 1903 there were 497 varieties of lettuce. By 1983 there were only 36 (according to Rural Advancement Foundation International).

Of the 5,000 varieties of vegetables offered for sale in 1981, only 500 were offered in U.S. seed catalogs by 2005.

This great diversity was nature hedging her bets against failure of any one crop in crisis conditions like climate swings, etc. Diversity is a back up plan to insure survival.

As I mentioned in a previous post, profit controls what seeds are commercially  grown and saved.  Minor crops like those specifically adapted for special regions, taste, nutrition and other specialized corners of the seed market are in danger of being lost forever.

And there goes diversity which would literally insure survival in times of vulnerability.

Chemical and Biotech Companies Buying Up Seed Companies

It was estimated that 20,000 (yes, 20,000!) seed companies were bought by corporations since 1970. And these chemical/biotech companies continue to buy those that will sell to them.

When Monsanto bought the largest vegetable and fruit seed company in the world (Seminis) back in 2005,  43% of the world’s commercial seed supply was then owned by just 4 agrichemical companies (chemical companies involved with agriculture).

As you may have heard, the merger of Bayer and Monsanto seems imminent; as does that of Syngenta and ChemChina.

This will put an even larger part of the world’s commercial seed market under the control of just a few giant multi-national corporations.

Creating Seed for Your Own Unique Growing Conditions

When you save seed from plants grown in your garden, that variety over a period of time adapts to YOUR unique growing conditions.

By taking out inferior or less robust plants and saving only the strongest and best you’ll continually improve the performance of whatever vegetable that seed produces.

Seed suppliers who grow fields of plants for seed, seldom (if ever) take out inferior plants. They save everything. You get the worst with the best.

Knowing that, it’s easy to understand why in a couple or 3 years, your seed is going to out perform any seed of the same variety you could purchase.

Fortunately, saving seed is not complicated and all it takes is a bit of forethought.

Tip: Note the How, What, and When

Until the how, what, and when becomes part you, it’s helpful to make a few notes and tack ‘em to the frig or someplace readily visible for the growing season. (You’ll be amazed at how much this small act can help you get the job done more easily. The more you take a look at your simple notes, the more comfortable you’ll be with taking the necessary actions.)

Final Thoughts

If you don’t already, consider saving seed this year.

With many varieties becoming extinct and giant corporations in control of what remains, having your own seed could make a big difference in how well you can feed yourself and your family in the not too distant future.


Suggested Reading:

Garden Seed/Heirloom or Hybrid/Information to Help Make the Choice

Monsanto -Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them

Principle of Diversity – Assuring Your Success

Information to Think on Before You Purchase Food, Hydroponics, Cafo-Meats, Vitamins and Grain for Your Animals That You Might Think is Organic


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Sharing a Reader’s Story

For those of us who love animals and have had a special pet, we know how much love and laughter they add to our lives.

As you’ve probably guessed, this story is not about gardening, but it’s such a good one that I had to share it with you.

Steve, a long-time friend and reader from Missouri, and his wife were living in Mexico 11 years ago. They bought a little long-haired Chihuahua. Because his coloring forms a mask around his eyes they named him Zorro.

This 8 pound ball of fluff started living up to “hero-status” while they were still in Mexico by alerting his family to a poisonous snake that had accessed the house through the garage. Steve was able to kill it before anyone was bitten.

Zorro – 8 pounds of heart.

On two other occasions Zorro alerted his family to something going on downstairs. Upstairs, they were ready for bed, but this little canine was persistent about getting them up.

When Kathie, Steve’s wife, went downstairs into the kitchen, she immediately smelled gas. The stove knob had been somehow turned on even though it has a safety turn.

Steve said, “Had we gone to bed we would have been gased to death not to mention one time was in the winter, we could have been blown up.”

Final Thoughts

The love for a special animal adds another dimension to our lives.

I think it safe to say that Zorro has added even more than most.



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Cilantro – If You Want To Try This Idea – Now Is the Time

If you’ve grown Cilantro, you already know it doesn’t like warm temperatures. Often when seed is started in the spring and temperatures turn warm, even small young plants stalk and set seed.

Some years ago when I started growing this herb, this happened to me.

As it turns out, it was the best thing.  Here’s why.

I had planted a dozen seedlings in a small area about 3′ x 3′ at the end of a bed. It turned very warm and all 12 plants shot up and set seed. I left them undisturbed.

The following fall the seed germinated. I had gorgeous cilantro plants that gave me all the cilantro I could use. Then they made it through the winter unprotected.

Wintered over plants give you a lot more herb to use for a longer period of time than those just started in the spring. (At least that’s what happened in my garden.)

And plants from seed dropped in the garden don’t seem to stalk-up as quickly as the ones started from purchased seed. When they do, I let them drop their seed and start again.

Best soil temperature for germination is 55ºF to 68ºF; so now is the time. If your soil is already too warm, germinate the seed indoors where it’s cooler.

You don’t need anything fancy to check your soil temperature.  This is the soil thermometer I use.

If you haven’t already tried growing cilantro this way, you might want to give it a go.


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Make Gardening More Fun/ Save Time & Money with Fundamentals (seed, nitrogen, onions, forced growth, peppers, hybrids)

As I brought out in the last post, we’re not required to know every detail to be successful in gardening. With the few essential facts (a/k/a fundamentals) we can achieve success. Nature will do all the complicated stuff for us if we give her a chance.

The Seed

Although it’s been more than 56 years since I was in high school, I still remember studying  “seed “in botany class.

Here’s what I learned:

A seed contains all the nutrients needed to get seedlings off to a good start.
To germinate put seed in moist soil (or grow mix) when temperatures are warm enough.

That’s it. Knowing these 4 essential facts allows anyone to start seed without additional information.

What’s Promoted

There’s an extremely popular fellow who does videos. He’s organic and I think sincere.

In spite of that, he promotes (and I think he believes it ) the use of a lot of things that are not needed if a gardener is following along with nature.

He and numerous others recommend adding various fertilizers, composts, and such to grow mix before starting seed. In most cases this is NOT necessary, as the seed has everything the seedling will need for some time.

Below are seedlings I started in jug bottoms. Three to a container growing in plain grow mix which has no nutrients. As you can see they’re just fine after being in the same container for 6 weeks or more.

Seedlings in plain grow mix for 6 weeks or more.

Your Growing Strategy May Indicate Doing it Differently

For example: maybe you want to grow your plants much larger before transplanting and not have to pot -up as they grow.

You could start with a container large enough to accommodate the size plant you’re hoping for. Let’s say a 12” plant.

Add nutrient dense soil to the grow mix, or shredded leaves, or compost. Plant 3 seeds. Keep the strongest.

As the seedling outgrows the seed (its nutrient source), the rich soil, shredded leaves, or compost will provide for the growing plant until it’s transplanted to the garden.

To me it seems obvious, that in most cases, all these advertised additions to grow mix are about selling products, rather than what you need to get the desired results.

Nitrogen – Statistics Show It’s the Most Over Used “Amendment”

It’s easy to understand why the average gardener thinks it necessary to use additional nitrogen. Almost everything you read about many vegetables (and especially onions) say that nitrogen should be applied before and during growth.

The chemical companies have done a good job of “selling” the need for “added” nitrogen.

I can’t over emphasis the fact that if you’re working with nature and replenishing organic materials which will turn to organic matter, you do NOT need to concern yourself with having enough nitrogen.

Nature is efficient and precise. She will release the nitrogen needed by plants at just the right time when temperatures and growing conditions are right.

You need do nothing but watch.

Onions and Nitrogen

Much of what you read about growing onions, especially from commercial sources, recommends adding nitrogen as many as 3 to 4 times after planting.

In most cases when nitrogen is recommended it’s for more and faster growth. In the case of onions it’s said to produce larger onions.

In the almost 40 years that I’ve grown onions, I’ve NEVER added nitrogen. I can tell you first hand, that you can get large onions without added nitrogen.

In spite of the fact that I don’t even want large onions, because the medium sized onions better fit my everyday use of them,  I STILL get a lot of very large onions. Even with planting closer than most folks to try to size them down some, many get softball size.

These have almost finished curing. I like medium size onions, but I still get a lot of huge ones even though I take steps to keep them smaller.  (Such as planting closer together.)

Onions – Storage and Nitrogen

In spite of their recommendation to add nitrogen, a newsletter from one supplier mentioned growing onions with a low nitrogen supply as one way to prolong natural dormancy (for longer storage).

Allowing nature to decide the perfect amount of nitrogen needed, you’ll get good sized onions and onions that store better.

Another Statement I’ve Found to Be Incorrect

Another thing that is commonly said and believed is that all plants should get off to a fast start and keep growing quickly. Often the recommendation is to add nitrogen to force growth to make that a reality.

Had I taken that conventional advice years ago, I would never have known that statement is incorrect. But I didn’t take it, and my warm weather crops, especially my peppers, proved to me it was wrong.

Here’s how:

As you may recall, I germinate my seed inside and the next day they go outside; under protection of course when the weather warrants it – and it does in late winter and early spring.

Most warm weather crops are not going to grow a lot until the weather warms. Peppers especially.

If I plant peppers in mid March – they germinate, grow to about 2 inches, look nice and green and healthy and then proceed to do absolutely nothing until it warms to suite them in mid June. Then they grow to 4 to 6 feet (depending on variety) so quickly it’s amazing.

And they produce dozens (and depending on variety it can be hundreds) of peppers.

It took 7 stakes to hold this one plant.  I counted at least 100 peppers when the picture was taken last October. Plant is over 5 feet tall.


Peppers ripening in abundance. Plant is an inch or so taller than I am (5’6″)

Another Fundamental Concept – There’s Always a Price

One of the basics to keep in mind is that when you force growth you’re going to pay some type of price for that, even if you can’t “see” it.

One of the most common “prices” that many gardeners pay for added nitrogen is lush growth and no fruit.

Hybrids Are a Great Example of Exchanging One Thing for Another.

Most hybrids are created for their fast growth and lots of fruit. (Appealing to market growers, and to basic human nature of wanting more as quickly as possible.)

An open pollinated version might be a lot slower to produce and gives less fruit, but it has more nutrition. Good stuff takes time.

It’s fun to play, but just keep in mind that nature keeps track of everything. When you change one thing, something else changes as well, even if you don’t know about it.

Philosopher and writer Alan Watts worded it well:

“—every act of interference with the course of nature changes it in unpredictable ways.

—The more one interferes, the more one must analyze an ever growing volume of detailed information about the results of interference on a world whose infinite details are inextricably interwoven.”

Is It Really Necessary?

As I mentioned in the last post, many products and even growing methods are deemed necessary ONLY as a result of exchanging nature’s simple (but efficient) way for something complicated.

By knowing the few fundamentals, you’ll be able to discern the difference.


Suggested Reading:

Peppers – It Ain’t Necessarily So

Answering the Question: Do You Need to Add Fertilizers to Your Garden to Feed This Year’s Crops?

Organic Residues – the Needed Energy for Soil Fertility


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Gardening – The Few Things You Need to Know for Success

When I first started gardening almost 40 years ago,  I was always trying to figure out why this, that, or the other was wrong.  Much of what I perceived as being wrong was just the way nature does things.

Over the years I came to realize that success in gardening involves knowing only a few fundamental things.

And yes, of course, there is always something else we can learn, but fortunately for us, knowing everything is not a requirement for success in the garden.

Fundamentals like proper soil preparation, keeping the soil covered, replenishing the organic materials/matter in the soil, good air circulation, and paying attention to what’s happening are basics that allow you to be successful without knowing a lot of details.

Once you understand the fundamentals, which are always few in number, you don’t have to be too concerned about anything else. No need to look for some exotic answer to solve what you perceive to be a problem.

More than likely if you’re working with nature, all will be well.  All you have to do is watch, tend, and continue to learn.

Through The Ages Others Have Come To The Same Conclusion

One of the most profound quotes I’ve come across that supports the concept was from Mortimer J. Adler, author of How to Read a Book.

Published in 1940 it was an immediate best seller. And remained a nationwide best seller for more than a year.

The book was revised in 1972 to accommodate various changes in technology that effected literacy. For example, radio and tv.

Understanding the Purpose of the Book Gives More Meaning to the Quote

What had not changed since 1940 in the author’s opinion – (which I find accurate if based on my own schooling experience) – was the the lack of instruction in reading skills beyond the elementary level.

Thus, for “all intents and purposes” a “student remained a 6th grade reader till well along in college.”

That is probably more emphatically true today than in 1972.

The purpose of the book was to change that condition for the reader.

The Adler Quote

In talking about mankind knowing more (having more details) about the world now than in the past years, Adler states,

“— knowledge is NOT as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed.

We do not have to know everything about something in order to understand it; too many facts are often as much an obstacle to understanding as too few.”

Continuing to Learn Once We Understand The Fundamentals

Facts or Marketing?

One of the reasons that it’s important to understand fundamentals before we tackle all the details, is because of the difficulty (especially for beginners) in separating what’s actual fact from what’s marketing to sell a product.

Many products and even growing methods are deemed necessary only as a result of nature’s simple way being exchanged for something complicated.

As a result what is often stated as a fact is not necessarily “truth” and is only a “fact” as it applies to conventional agriculture.

Final Thoughts

I’ll give you some examples in the next post.


Suggested Reading

3 Books That Can Change Your Garden, Your Health, and The Way You Look at Life.

3 Keys to Successful Gardening – More Proof They Work

Organic Residues – The Needed Energy for Soil Fertility


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One of the Top 30 Gardening Blogs and Other Awards I Didn’t Tell You About

I received an email today from a professional writer that I have looked to as a mentor for many years. He advised that I should let readers know of any awards that I ( receive.

This post is me taking his advice.


  • March 2018 – was notified that had been selected as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs on the web.

You’ll notice the gold ribbon award to your left.

Every notification comes with a badge to display, but I have only displayed the most recent because of space.

  • February 2018 – notified that my site had been ranked in the Top Gardening Blogs.


  • Selected for inclusion in the Top 40 Gardening Blogs of 2017

Here’s what they had to say about TendingMyGarden:

If you are interested in gardening, is the site that you really need to visit. It’s got a whole lot of information on the most important aspects to gardening, including which plants to grow or how best to grow which stuff. If you are going to have the best garden you can, this resource is indispensable.

2016, 2017, and 2018

  • Selected for inclusion in the Top 100 Gardening Blogs Every Gardener Must Read.

(They choose from thousands of the best gardening blogs in their index using search and social metrics.)

Final Thoughts

I’m very pleased that my site was selected for inclusion in these lists.

If you have benefited from my writing and if you participate in any form of social media, I hope you will share this post and help spread the word.

Many thanks in advance for your help.


In case you’re on a mobile and can’t see the award ribbon in the left column, here it is again:

Badge for being selected as one of the Top 30 Organic Gardening Blogs.


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Tool I Use for Ornamental Grass Cutback, Perennial Cutback (spring or fall), Hedges

As I detailed in my post on Yaku-Jima-Japanese- Silver-Grass, it’s just about the most beautiful and carefree of the ornamental grasses. It adds charm to the landscape in all seasons and is never invasive.

I’m now in the process of cutting them back. I do a few each day, so I won’t have to “make it a job”.

To keep these grasses looking their best, it’s best to cut the old growth before new growth begins in the spring.

Another bonus of this grass is that the blades of grass are soft. They won’t cut you like many of the ornamentals do.

Use to Hate This Job

I didn’t realize it then, but it was because I was using the wrong tool. You’re probably wondering why it took me a couple of decades to get the right tool.

I’ll explain.

Most of the tools we worked with for years were tools we inherited from the previous owner of the property where we first gardened. Most were of poor quality.

For more than two decades we hardly made enough to survive (as detailed for you here) much less buy new hedge shears. There was no use in even complaining, because it was either use what we had or the job didn’t get done.

After many years of establishing this mind set, it never occurred to me that I needed anything any different than the tool I had, even when we were making enough to buy new shears. The ones I had weren’t broken, so why would I need a new tool?

I just happen to read something one day (I don’t even remember what it was) that caused me to have an ah-ah moment about using the best tool for the job. Then I researched hedge shears.

My Choice – ARS HS-KR1000 Hedge Shears

After reading specs and reviews on many, I decided on the Japanese made HS-KR1000  hedge shears which are used by many professionals and botanical garden staffs.

They’re made to cut soft plant stems like new growth on hedges, ornamental grasses and various other perennials with soft stems.

HS-KR1000 resting on top of the grass I just finished cutting.

One of the Sharpest Landscape Tools

The steel from which they’re made is superior and is treated to stay sharp for a long time. I’ve had mine several years. They still cut as when they were new and I’ve never sharpened them.

One of the reviewers on Amazon, said that he’d been using the same blades for 20 years! Once a year he gives the blades a “quick touch up” (sharpens) with a water stone K1200 grit. (Blades can easily be removed to sharpen.)

ARS is a Japanese company that is known for the sharpest landscape tools that with proper use and care will stay that way, at least for a very long time.

The blades are replaceable if need be.

After each use dry the blades and clean (if dirty). Then lightly oil the steel. This prevents rust and helps keep the blades sharp and the shears looking brand new.

Long Handles – One Piece

Handles are about twice a long as the 7″ blades. (Means less stretching for you and me.)

And they’re all one piece so they won’t break or come off.

Designed to Make the Job Less Tiring

If you’ve cut for an hour or more with almost any of the inexpensive hedge shears you know how tiring it can be to your shoulders and back.

These ARS made shears are light weight (1.7 pounds) and designed for perfect balance and optimum comfort. This allows you to cut for longer periods of time without tiring.

The tool is made to take the “force” of cutting which means less stress to your arms.

I love how one Amazon reviewer put it: “allows an hour long chopping session without gobbling a whole bottle of vitamins when you’re finished.”

Superior Performance

Not only is the quality and design of this tool superior, but its performance is superior.

Saves time and makes the job easier.

Advantages Over Electric Shears

  • You have more control than with power tools.

As a result shrubs like boxwood will look more manicured than “hacked at”, which is the look that often results when power tools are used.

  • No cord to accidentally cut/ or no battery to buy or charge
  • Powered by the gardener.
  • Easier to use

Friend and reader, Julie, in Utah wrote to me after buying and using one of the Silky pocket saws I highly recommended in a post.

She had been trimming (rose bushes) with an electric trimmer and was surprised to find this little Silky hand saw much easier to use. And that’s almost exactly what one of the reviewers said about these shears:
they were much easier to use than his electric hedge trimmer.

These excellent hand tools (the Silky Pocket Saw and ARS HS-KR1000 hedge shears) make jobs so easy that there’s really no reason to use a power tool.

Safety –
The blades and the points on these shears are extremely sharp. When I walk with them I have the blades closed and the pointy edge facing the ground. If I were to fall, I want those points to go into the ground, not into me.

Check to Get the Best Price

Check around to make sure you get the best price. Even on Amazon, several sellers offer these.

Check the Return Policy

With any product, no matter how good, you can end up with one that’s defective. Check the return policy before you place an order to be sure you can get a replacement or your money back.

Try Them Out Right Away

It’s a good idea to give the shears a test run as soon as you get them so you’ll know they’re ok in case there’s a time limit on returns.

My Observations That Might Help You

A couple of reviewers reported that the shears lost the fantastic cutting ability after a brief use. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was due to improper use of the shears.

These shears are made to cut soft plant stems like ornamental grasses, other soft stem perennials, and new growth on hedges (as opposed to woody stems deep into the bush).

Trying to cut woody stems that are work for loppers can dull blades.

It can take a bit of practice to learn what the tool will and won’t do.


#1 – When my ornamental grasses are dry these shears will made quick work of them. If I try to cut after a rain, it sometimes grabs the grass without cutting, especially at the thick base.

#2 – The tallest parts of the grasses can easily be cut using all 7 inches of the blade. When I get down to the base of the grass, it’s thick and I can’t just “charge” into it with all 7 inches of blade. Cutting the base in thin strips with the front two inches of the blades works great.

Shears opened so you can see.

#3 – There are times I have to change my angle of approach to have the shears cut properly. I wish I could explain that more clearly, but I don’t know the technical part of it. More than likely a professional landscaper or someone who works for a botanical garden could offer a much better explanation.

Final Thoughts

Compared to the inexpensive shears available at big box stores (and online), these ARS HS-KR1000 shears are on the high end in price.

But if you want a tool that should last a lifetime and makes garden trimming and clean up much easier with its almost effortless cut quality, you’ll want to consider these.


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February Garden Talk – Onions Seedlings – Unconventional Tips – Planting Cole Crops Early – Discovering Easy Seed Starting and Other stuff

Planted 4 varieties of onions with  good storage potential on January 15th. Yellow Parma, Australian Brown, Stuttgarters and Mako. They’re up about 4 or 5 inches.

Onion seedlings outside in containers.  Started January 15th.


Spinach just germinated two days ago.

Friend and reader, Betty Taylor, in Tennessee grows Stuttgarters and has given excellent reviews on their keeping ability.

If you’re interested in bees you’ll want to take a look at Betty’s site.  She’s the person I’d want to talk to if I were going to raise bees.

She doesn’t post a lot. According to Betty she only posts when she “has something to say” and that may not be often. But when she does it’s worth the read. Her latest posting tells what has to be done in January and February to manage the hives.

At the last minute I found some seed for Clear Dawn, another long keeper, introduced to me by friend and reader, Jack, in New Jersey. Even though I knew I’d be late getting them started, I ordered anyway. Planted on Feb. 3. Took much longer to germinate than the ones started in January and they did so sparsely.

Strategy to Have Onions as Early as Possible

One of my onion “strategies” to insure that I have onions to eat as early in the season as possible, is to order the short day variety Texas Legend as transplants. Planted either in late February or early March, they’ll have plenty of time here in Virginia to grow enough tops to insure a good sized onion when bulbing is triggered. I’ll be eating them as spring onions and mature onions while my long day onions from seed are still growing.

Two Pieces of Conventional Advice and My Unconventional Counter.
If you’ve read anything about growing onions from seed, especially on forums where everyday gardeners chat, you’ve encountered the advice about giving your onion seedlings a “hair cut”.

Supposedly when onion seedlings get 5 or 6 inches tall you cut them back to 3 inches. According to those who promote this idea, it’s suppose to allow the bulb and top to grow thicker for transplanting.

The first year I grew onions from seed I followed that recommendation. The second year I asked myself, “Why are you doing this when the tops of the onions are needed to help the plants grow?” I stopped following that advice.

I don’t think there is any need for it. Seedlings always do great for me and once transplanted to the garden they sit up straight and keep growing.

Recently was pleased to come across an article by a Virginia market grower (I think it was Pam Dawling) who doesn’t cut her seedlings either and for the same reason that I stopped it. It was nice to know I was in such good company.

So if that’s something you do,  you might want to rethink it.

Another thing promoted as a “have-to-do” is fertilizing seedlings of vegetables. Some of the most popular gardening video folks will tell you to add this or that fertilizer to the grow mix before you plant. Some will have you mix up a spray to use every week or 10 days.

They may or may not realize it themselves, but that’s more about selling a product than giving the plant what it needs.

Everything a seedling needs for nutrition to get it started those first few weeks or a month, are contained in the seed. I’m sure you have plenty to do without adding the job of fertilizing to your list. (I cover this in my Secrets to Seed Starting Success. )

This picture was taken in April one year before transplanting to the garden. Seed was started in March. None of these had any “fertilizer”.  Just the seed in grow mix.

Planting Cole Crops in the Garden – Is It Too Early?

With gardening a lot of what we do to get that possible reward of early fresh veggies is chancy. Or as a friend puts it after she plants early, “Let the experiments begin!”

Enjoying a warm day or two in February and hearing the birds tell you that spring is here (or close by) makes it hard to resist planting something in the garden.

A friend emailed me recently and said she planted peas, beets, and carrots, turnips, parsnips, spinach and radishes directly into her garden February 17th. Made me want to run right out and do the same. (Except for peas.)

Over the years I’ve found February and even early March too cold for peas. But – as always – mother nature has the last say. If conditions stay right those peas could do great and my friend will be enjoying fresh peas while I’m still waiting for bloom.

What Might Help Should Winter Conditions Return

According to the Farmer’s Almanac winter conditions will be with us off and on through March again this year. So if you’ve planted and then see temperatures forecast much lower than what your plants would like, a 2 or 3 inch layer of straw, pine or some row cover fabric might get them through.

Have Backup Just in Case

When you’re taking a chance with the weather, plan for backup. Extra seed or extra seedlings. That way if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, you’ll get a second chance.

Seed Starting Gets a Bad Rap

In the age we live in, most of us are under the impression that we need lots of space inside and equipment to start seed. Once we know that’s not true, it’s pretty easy to figure out that all the information out there basically stems from selling seed growing equipment (that is not really necessary unless you really want it.)

The only way I found out is because I didn’t have the money for all that stuff and still had to grow from seed or not have food to eat. So I found a way.

A Gardener of 45 Years Finds Out You Don’t Need a Lot of Stuff to Grow Seed

Jim, a friend and reader from Illinois is an experienced gardener of 45 years. Over the years he has shared pictures with me and I am in awe of what he has accomplished and how beautiful his produce is!

He recently acquired my Secrets to Seed Starting Success.

He writes, “I’ve thought about seed starting for years, but always thought I’d need all this “stuff” to do it, along with a place to do it, which I don’t have. You (in Secrets to Seed Starting Success) make it do-able —

“You offer alternatives and it makes the reader relate what you say with their own home or conditions.

“Some of what you write (in the form of) directions or guidelines I find especially beneficial. I might not follow exactly, but the “list” helps me lay out a similar plan for myself. It’s kinda like you’ve done all the hard work, and you’re helping others try the same with more confidence!”

“You’re really making a difference! Thanks especially for sharing it all.”

Winter Lettuce and Mache Beds Turn to Spring Ones

My winter lettuce beds are quickly turning to spring beds. It’s growing much more quickly now and the extra seed sown with the transplants last fall has germinated. It’s so bountiful I have plenty to lift and transplant to another bed.

Good Planting Days

Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 24 and 25, 2018) are good planting days according to the Farmer’s Almanac.

I’ll be starting cabbage, Sierra Batavia lettuce, Concept lettuce, Collard greens, and Komatsuma (or Komatsuna) in containers. Also, iberis (candy tuft), more asclepias (butterfly weed), soapwort, and climbing snapdragons.

Poppies and Sweet William seed I’ll sow directly into various borders.

Final Thoughts

The season is underway.

If you’ve been following my 3 keys you’ll only have to concentrate on starting your seed and/or pulling back the straw to plant in your permanent beds that are always ready when you are.

Why not try at least one thing new so you can learn even more this year.

Expect some losses and know that some things will do better than others – through no fault of your own. That’s just how life and gardening is.

Enjoy every minute. Forty Springs (or even 70 or 80) is way too little time.

Write to me if you think I can help.
Check out Secrets to Seed Starting Success here.


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