Compost Flowers Garden mulching (mentioned) Organic Gardening Perennials Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Quick fixes/Recipe for Failure – Nature/Recipe for Success

I had 3 ladies visit our shop this morning who had also requested a tour of the gardens.

They seemed to enjoy both the gardens and the shop and while I said my good-byes to two of the ladies I noticed the other taking a few pictures of the borders in the front.

The two ladies explained that the president of their home association group had expressed interested in creating some plantings somewhere in the development.  They thought the pictures of my borders and their serpentine curves might be helpful.

I suggested they give top priority to preparing the ground if they wanted something beautiful that required little maintenance.  They agreed but said it would be difficult to convince the persons in charge since they thought all that was involved was digging a hole, placing the plants and adding miracle grow.

Sounds like a great recipe for failure to me.

Synthetic Chemicals – What they do

Miracle Grow can artificially induce quick growth but does nothing for the health of your plants and health of the soil.  And those are things you want to look at if you want healthy beautiful plants for the long term.

Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t want to use a fertilizer that can kill fish or other living things. I’m referring to the story of what happened to Grace (a reader) that she left in a comment on my post

When quick growth is stimulated by synthetic fertilizers — many times that growth becomes very attractive to aphids and other insects.  Whereas, if you look to adding organic materials which decay and feed the soil — your plants will be healthier and you won’t have the pest problems that many gardeners have.

What do I use for Fertilizer?

One of the things each lady had asked me as we looked at the various borders was “What do you use for fertilizer?”  My answer: “Nothing.”

Mulch and dead vegetation decaying on the flower borders for years has been more than enough to encourage and sustain great growth.

They asked if I added compost. No, not to flower borders.

If  I add any compost (which is seldom) it’s only in the vegetable garden.

Final Thoughts

Miracle Grow and Round-up are about the most promoted chemical products on the planet.  Many people still debate their value.

I’m not interested in debating it at all.  I’ve done plenty of research on it and my conclusion is: In nature lies the keys to success in gardening — be it flower or vegetable.


A Border in Bloom 


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  • Good morning, Theresa, and thanks for the mention! I very much appreciate you sharing that story. I think it’s important for everyone to understand just how toxic this stuff can be, even though it’s marketed as being ‘safe’ for general use…and I believed their sales pitch right up until my fish died.

    By the way, I think it’s interesting you shared my story in this particular article, because one of the main reasons I’ve continued to keep fish over so many years, up to and including today, has to do with fertilizing my plants…:D. Really. Aquarium water makes a great gentle source of fertilizer and is applied by simply watering the plant. I save all the water from when I do partial water changes (every 3-4 weeks) and I use this water on almost all my house plants and as many veggies as I have water for.

    I’ve been doing this for years and, thus far, I find my current charges – Goldfish – to be the best, all-around fish for keeping as part of a gardening ‘system’. They’re hardy, cold-tolerant, omnivorous, and easy to care for…they’re also pretty, and that’s a true bonus, but perhaps their greatest asset is a tendency to be prolific producers of ‘fish waste’, waste which is often high in ammonia.

    Anyway, to avoid becoming lost in details, let me explain that when I moved a lot, I kept Bettas, because they can live in large vases/jars and they travel well. When I was settled, I opted for an aquarium with goldfish, because I like their waste product better. Either way, I harvested the water on a regular basis and used it to water my houseplants, all of which were also small enough to travel well. It was a very good system back then and it remains one to this very day.

    Speaking of which, I currently have 5 goldfish and I’m about to move them outside for the summer/fall. Since late last September, they’ve been living in a 20 gln barrel in my bedroom and I’ll be happy to see them swimming around in their summer environment doing the job I originally intended for them to do when I bought them – keep my rain barrels clear of mosquito larvae. Last year, they were just too small for the job, but they’ve grown over the winter and are now about four inches long and I think they’ll do just fine this year…:).

    Well, I’m off to do some fish wrangling. Have a great day and thanks for starting it off with a smile.


  • Your article this morning is oh so very true.

    We moved into this house almost 5 years ago to an acre+ on a hillside with a natural gully running alongside the property. The soil was rocky, hard and somewhat sandy. Sage brush grew well as it does in No. Nevada.

    We started with and still use raised beds for vegetable gardening. We have continued each year to layer leaves from our neighbor (no spraying), chicken manure and bedding from our chickens and compost from our compost pile and the soil in the beds is sweet smelling, dark black and so yummy looking. I can almost see the plants smiling when I put them in the ground.

    Our weather is so variable and unpredictable that is is our biggest issue. It has been a very cold Spring. This morning it was in the 40’s and is cold, rainy and cloudy.(May 28)

    The green beans are struggling and a few other summer plants that we have planted are covered. Our normal planting time is Memorial Day, but that did not happen this year. However the spinach, turnips, broccoli and other cool weather crops are loving the weather and continue to produce.

    No chemical fertilizers or sprays are used. I will use homemade (Jerry Baker) spray when a problem or insect persists. This year I found little white rows of eggs on the back of the small, swiss chard plants. I rubbed them off with a fingernail and will check in a few days to see if I find others. If that does not work, I will dig into my books and made a spray.

  • Great stuff Grace. I especially like the part about your fish being able to keep your rain barrel free of mosquito larvae.
    Thanks for the details!

  • You’ve got something really nice going on Alice! Thanks for taking time to share and comment.

  • Interesting that someone mentioned Jerry Baker, Theresa. I remember watching him years ago. Do you know him? And if so, what is your opinion? Some love him, and some think he is a total nut.

  • Sandra, I don’t think the man is a nut — he’s just a good chemist. People think of household products as being safe and he’s capitalized on that. Of course, the unfortunate fact is that they are not always as safe as promoted. So you have to be aware of what you are using and do your homework.

    Even products that are considered OMRI approved for organic gardeners are not always our best choice. For the good they do — they can do harm as well — so we always have to weigh out the pros and cons.

    Thanks for bring this up Sandra. It’s a good lead in for some things that I’ll address in the next post.

  • Theresa,
    Thanks for all the great advice. Organic is the way to go. I keep making mistakes, but I’m not giving up.

  • Great attitude Mike. And keep in mind that we all make mistakes. Life is about learning — so you’re in good company.
    Keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing.

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