David The Good’s Secrets to Growing Better Produce

Natural, Organic, Healthy Green Street Sign.

Grow better fruits and vegetables following nature’s organic checks and balances

We asked David The Good to explain whether he uses organic or non-organic methods to grow fruits and vegetables on his tropical homestead. He offers some sound philosophy, practical growing tips, and weird videos.

Most experienced garden bloggers and YouTubers can hold forth on a great many topics related to growing food with organic vs. non-organic methods. What we wanted to know was, How do you, personally, choose to grow food for yourself and your family?

We asked gardening blogger/YouTubers from two quite different growing zones: David The Good, a tropical gardener, and Joey Baird from Wisconsin. David has written the guest blog post below, and soon we’ll publish a Q&A with Joey.

About Our Guest Contributor


David Goodman, permaculture, homesteading, prepping, and organic vegetable gardening blogger.

David The Good runs The Survival Gardener website and a YouTube channel. His YouTube bio says he focuses on “permaculture, homesteading, prepping, gardening, chickens, cassava and lots of craziness…”

Definitely check out David’s videos. Your initial reaction may likely be, “Wow, this is one very strange dude,” but watch for another minute or two and you’ll realize, “Hey, this is one very smart dude.”

String Trimmer Composting

Get the Most Food for the Least Amount of Work
By David The Good

My primary consideration in gardening is, “How do I get the most food for the least amount of work?”

My secondary consideration is, “How do I do this without poisoning the ecosystem and/or myself and my family?”

Obviously, the least amount of work would involve skipping garden day and just ordering pizza on a credit card…but that way fatness lies.

Though I don’t bill myself as an organic purist, I’m a lot closer to that end of the organic growing spectrum, and in many ways I go beyond most organic gardeners.

Nature was designed with patterns that can be observed. It has checks and balances.

For instance, if you decide to spray all the aphids on your grapevines with malathion — or even an “organic” pesticide – you’ll also wipe out the up-and-coming ladybug population.

The more you try to control an ecosystem, the more work it takes to keep it running.

Add more species! Add habitat for insects! Let weeds grow and don’t be quick to reach for that malathion or Sevin dust!

A Gardening Lesson From an Untended Patch of Forest
Take a lawn as another example. A perfect swath of green composed solely of a single species of grass is unnatural. Maintaining it in green perfection requires a lawn mower, fertilizer, weeding and watering.

Now consider the patch of forest growing on that empty lot down the road. Though it’s not watered, fertilized, weeded or mowed by man, it’s healthy, green and loaded with a wide range of plant and animal species.

Adding more species, more insects, more fungi, and more bacteria makes your life a lot easier.

Even mixing up your plants in the garden and leaving some patches of weeds and wildflowers around the edges reduces your pest problems significantly. The more unlike nature your gardens, the more work you’ll have to put into them.

Totally Insane Compost Tea Recipe

Organic vs. Chemical Gardening
My general philosophy on organic vs. chemical gardening is that synthetic chemicals and even most organic pesticides are unnecessary if you tap into the underlying patterns in nature.

Sure, you may need to go pick some hornworms off your tomatoes — but if you have good insect populations in your garden, you won’t have nearly the issue with the green devils that you would if you were growing a monoculture patch of tomatoes in the middle of a green lawn.

Add more species! Add habitat for insects! Let weeds grow and don’t be quick to reach for that malathion or Sevin dust!

Fertilizing: Feed your Soil’s Micronutrients
I use anaerobic compost teas for most everything my plants need, along with some ashes and charcoal.

(Read about David The Good’s innovative composting methods in his book, “Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.”)

Commercial chemical fertilizers are okay if you need food fast and don’t have time to build the soil, but relying on them leads to a degradation of your gardens and food that is less healthy.

For the best quality produce and the best use of your land long-term, learn to compost everything, learn to make your own fertilizers, build the soil.

Think of all the micronutrients your plants need for maximum health. And as they grow, let some weeds grow around the edges so the good insects have places to live and breed. More food: less work!

Why Weeds Are Good

Eco Garden House

GROW YEAR ROUND.
The Eco Garden House™ is a fully self-contained indoor gardening system that simulates natural conditions and comes with everything you need to grow vitamin rich fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and plants right in your own home.

Perfect for growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and plants!

Features

Smart Hub Electrical Control Panel
electricalcontrolpanelBuilt-in electrical panel houses the digital hub to control the Automatic Pump/Watering System, Lighting Control System and Thermal Temperature Control and Fan System. The entire Smart Hub Control Panel is easily programmed and conveniently accessed from the exterior of the Eco Garden House.

Automatic Pump/Water System Control

Automatic Lighting Control

Thermal Temperature Control

Exhaust Fans and Temperature Control System
exhaustfansThe integrated programmable thermostatically controlled dual fan system allows for automatic exhaustion of the interior environment when reaching your desired preset temperature, allowing for maximum environmental control, yielding optimum growth of fruits, vegetables, herbs or flowers.External ducting can be added on the outside of the unit (not included) through the external socks/access ports.
Additional Exhaust Fans can be added (2 included) to aid in temperature control.
A cooling system can be added (not included) to aid in temperature control.

Fresh Water Pump System
freshwaterpumpControl the on/off and day/week timing of your integrated fresh water pump system with the programmable digital electrical hub

DO NOT RUN DRY
33 Gallon Tank Capacity
Always use a water soluble nutrient/fertilizer in the Eco Garden House in order to maintain a healthy watering system for your plants.
It is recommended that you regularly maintain your tanks with a water soluble cleaner.

Eco Garden House 8-Way Manifold Drip Irrigation Watering System output

Gray Water Sump Pump System
sumppumpSwitch on the submersible sump pump to drain the gray water tank.

33 Gallon Tank Capacity
Always use a water soluble nutrient/fertilizer in the Eco Garden House in order to maintain a healthy watering system for your plants.

It is recommended that you regularly maintain your tanks with a water soluble cleaner.
3/4″ Male Pipe Thread Fitting (MPT)

WARNING: Only Plug in when ready to drain! DO NOT RUN DRY!
Gray Water Sump Pump Drainage

Drip Irrigation Watering System
dripirrigationsystemControl the on/off and day/week timing of your drip irrigation system with the programmable digital electrical hub to manage the output of the fresh water pump system through the 8-Way integrated manifold with individual Flow Control adjustment for each port – Permitting precise flow adjustment for each outlet.

Kit Includes:

8-Way Manifold
30′ Drip line with emitters
25′ Vinyl Supply Tubing
10 ea. ¼ Transfer Barb
10 ea. ¼ End Plug
10 ea. ¼ Tee Barb
10 ea. Galvanized Stakes

Lighting System
lightingsystem2Control the on/off and day/week timing of your eight tube high output reflective T5 overhead lighting system and your four vertical side lights with the programmable digital electrical hub.

8 Tube Overhead High Output Full Spectrum Adjustable Height T5 Grow Lights
4 Vertical High Output Full Spectrum T5 Grow Lights

The distance and intensity of light your plants can handle will vary by type of plant. To avoid damage from overexposure, we suggest you initially start your lighting system position greater than 24 away from the top of the plants and continue to lower your lighting system over a period of a few days until your grow lights are closer to the tops of your plants. Use this simple test to determine the final position of your grow lights: Place your hand just above the tops of your plants. Reposition the grow lights if you can feel the heat coming from the grow light system. Raise the light fixture until you can no longer feel the heat on your hand.

WARNING: Plants will discolor and damage from overexposure if the lighting source is too close.
Replace your Full Spectrum, High Output T5 Fluorescent Grow Light Bulbs when the ends darken. Note that once the ends have darkened, your T5 fluorescent grow bulbs may be producing as little as half of their light output.
Refer Eco Garden House General Lighting Guideline to determine the lighting schedule for your plants.

How to Grow Potatoes Indoors and Why You Should

Watching Matt Damon’s character grow potatoes on Mars in “The Martian” has sparked a national frenzy of growing potatoes indoors. Okay, that may not be true, but it should be. It’s easy, and you can grow more diverse and tasty varieties than you find in most stores. Here’s a basic guide.

For the way many Americans eat potatoes — mashed, mounded and covered with gravy or French fried and super-sized — your basic spuds from the giant bin at the supermarket are just fine.

But if you want to try potatoes as the star of more flavorful, colorful, and healthful dishes, a great first step is growing your own indoors. It’s easy and you can do it year-round. Homegrown taters also leave a MUCH smaller carbon footprint than those grown far away on industrial farms.

You’ll find a large variety of methods for growing potatoes indoors, but here are some basic steps to get you sprouted — er — started:

1. Choose Your Seed Potatoes
We recommend using “seed potatoes,” which are grown specifically for planting rather than eating. They’re treated for protection against many of the diseases that can afflict store-bought potatoes.

Gardeners who’ve grown enough potatoes indoors as well as outdoors will generally tell you that indoor potatoes have far fewer disease issues than those grown outdoors. This gives you more flexibility in choosing varieties.

If you do choose to use store-bought potatoes (i.e., grown for eating rather than planting), find a store that sells a variety of organic potatoes. Authentically organic potatoes aren’t treated with a chemical that retards sprouting (to increase shelf life).

Try a crop of fingerling potatoes in different colors. Cooking these fresh from the harvest — nothing fancy, just boil, grill or bake and a just a bit of olive oil or butter, salt and pepper — is the way to really enjoy potatoes. These varieties also add color and depth to salads and soups.

2. Sprout the Spuds
The easiest way to plant potatoes is to use tubers that have sprouted, which may take two to three weeks or so, depending on conditions. They should sprout faster in a cool, dark place. Some folks put them in egg cartons or on paper bags — they don’t need any soil in which to germinate.

Two things to look for on the seed potato when you plant:

* Not too many sprouts: Plant tubers that have two or three spouts. You can cut them in half to achieve this number, or rub off all but two or three of the sprouts. If you cut them, allow the sections to dry and heal, which can takes about three to 10 days.

Keep in mind that the more sprouts per potato (or cut section) that you plant, the smaller the potatoes will likely be at harvest.

* Healthy, Semi-firm flesh: Try not to let the germination continue to point that the tuber is shriveled before planting. Sprout enough seed potatoes that you’ll be able to cut a few open to see if they’ve got any diseased-looking flesh (such as a brown/black ring just under the skin).
Potatoes can be susceptible to a number of diseases and pests. If you grow them indoors in a contained space such as this Eco Garden House, you’re improving your odds of a healthy crop significantly. The three-ply cover blocks ambient light (and reflects internal light inward). This, and the automated watering, lighting, heating and exhaust systems (you can see two exhaust ports on either side of the digital control panel), minimize your plants’ exposure while making it easy to maintain consistent grow cycles

3. Choose a Container That Fits Your Space
A popular place to plant potatoes is an empty 40-pound bag of fertilizer. They’re the perfect size for an indoor growing space, and they’re lined in black polystyrene. You can roll down the bag when you first plant, and then roll it up as you add layers (see #4), so the plants get more sun.

You can also use a five-gallon bucket, like a pickle barrel. Or a waste basket. These vertical containers have a small footprint, so they’re great for an indoor greenhouse.
Drill or punch holes in the bottoms of these containers, and/or include a three- to five-inch layer of gravel for drainage. Waterlogged roots turn tubers into mush. Not pretty.

4. Build up Layers as the Plants Grow
The key to a good yield is to continue layering on soil, straw, or other growing media as the plants grow. The tubers you harvest are part of the root system that wants to grow up and out from the seed tuber. Potatoes will continue forming all the way up to the top of the soil.

Follow these steps:

* Start with a four- to six-inch layer of potting soil. In a foot-square container, plant three seed potatoes with the sprouts facing up. Increase that number by one for every additional four square inches (so, four seed potatoes for a 16-inch by 16-inch space).

* Add another layer of soil, burying the seed potatoes by about two inches. Water them in.

* Keep the soil moist, but just barely. Never wet. Never dry. That’s why an automated watering system is a real advantage for this crop.

* When the plants have grown to about six to eight inches above the soil, clip any yellow leaves and add more soil to cover between half and three quarters of the green foliage. Try to repeat this until you get to the top of your container (or about 18 to 24 inches).

* You can use dry, clean straw for layers above the original soil layer. Again, keep it moist but not wet. Some gardeners keep the soil loose with one part sand per 10 parts soil, or with certain mulches. Fertilizer probably isn’t necessary if you start with good soil.

Cooking potatoes fresh from your indoor garden will show you how good potatoes can really taste
5. Harvest When the Plants Turn Yellow
This is the easy part. When the plants begin turning yellow, just dump the container out and pick through the contents for your prizes.

Brush the potatoes off gently and let them dry in the sun or under a grow light for a few hours or so. Don’t eat green potatoes, or cut away green parts before eating them — they may contain high levels of a toxin, solanine, that can make you sick at high enough quantities.

Store your potatoes in a paper bag in a cool, dark place. Better yet, eat some right away — taste the homegrown difference!

As with anything as popular as potatoes, many “turf” wars rage over every growing technique: soil vs. straw; bags vs. chicken wire towers; fertilizer vs. no fertilizer, and so on. But this simple procedure should get you started, even without a heroic Martian botanist to help you.

Are you ready to grow your garden year-round?

Learn more about the Eco Garden House!