Frequently Asked Questions


How much closer can you space vegetables compared to what it says on the package? 

  • The short answer about 25 to 30 percent.
  • There are many kinds of planting patterns. Often spacings on seed packages are optimized for maximum yield per plant. Most intensive methods cram plants closer together to achieve maximum yield per area.
  • I prefer a compromise: spacing to make best use of the growing space while maintaining yield per plant.


Is there a viable substitute for vermiculite or peat moss?

  • Well, there are definitely alternatives, but none of them are drag-and-drop solutions. I've had the best luck with sand, and crushed leaves/leaf mold respectively. 
  • If you're looking for an alternative to Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening mix, well, at that point you're better of adopting a different growing method.

How long does it take to have a successful vegetable garden?

  • A former extension agent once told me that it took him six years to build and refine his gardening system(s). I've been at this four years, and I'm still refining my methods. It can take several years to find, design and implement the things you'll need to in order to have a vegetable garden the way you want, especially if you're doing things organically.
  • Work hard at figuring out what works. Once you figure out what works, seek to multiply (scale) your efforts and much as you can.

I've had problems with drought. What can I do to make sure my garden gets enough water to survive?

  • Drip irrigation gets it done. Period. I've tried several methods of watering including overhead spraying and homemade irrigation out of PVC. They failed.
  • Check out the "Drip Irrigation Made Easy" e-Book. It has detailed tutorials, price list, parts list and where to buy. Free. No sign ups or anything. Download it for free, use it, and give it to anyone you please.


What do you do with the soil underneath your raised beds?

  • With my mounded-bed system, you cultivate the soil as your would a traditional garden.
  • With by big-box system, you lay garden cloth as a barrier and do nothing with the soil underneath.


When is the best time to plan my garden?

  • Well, I like to plan my gardens in late fall or early winter.


What would you suggest for a first time gardener?

  • Grow stuff that harvests in less than 60 days. The faster you plant, grow and harvest the easier it is to stick with it.
  • Keep it small. Start with either one or two raised beds around 30 square feet or a garden plot of no more than 100 square feet for the first year. Spend your time learning, unlearning and relearning the habits of cover cropping, composting, soil enrichment, planting, maintaining and harvesting.
  • Buy three gardening books. Read them and apply what works best for your situation.
  • Find a local gardener who can help you learn the difficulties in your area, microclimates, soil types and etc.
  • Most importantly plant something! Watch it grow. Note any problems that arise and progress made. The plants know what they're doing even if you don't. They'll take care of themselves if you just give them a decent environment in which to grow.


Does your podcast have an archive?

  • Sure. For past episodes click the link below:


How do I use Worm Towers?

  • I prefer to bury waste directly into my garden and forgo the worm towers. However the easiest way use worm towers is to get a 6 inch PVC pipe, five gallon bucket or some other container and basically build a worm bin directly into your raised beds.
  • I also find that this type unit tends to overheat in summer and attracts ants, so I took my worm tower out and just let the worms live directly in the beds, burying waste as their main food source.


What worms do I need for my garden?

  • There are two species to consider. Eisenia fetida (red wigglers) is the most common type of composting worms. They can process nearly their own body weight per day in organic matter given ideal conditions.
  • Eisenia hortensis (European night crawlers) are the same length as a red worm only thicker. They like a more moist environment, don't breed as quickly, or eat as much. They're mostly used as fish bait. (Don't confuse this type with the true night crawlers, i.e., Lumbricus terrestris.)
  • These worms are composting worms, not soil worms. Composting worms live atop the soil to decompose organic matter, the stuff you'd normally put into your compost pile. The best ways to use worms directly in your garden is either worm towers or a worm trench. Worm towers are worm bins embedded directly into your raised beds. A worm trench is dug about a foot deep along the raised bed and is filled like a compost pile. Worms are added to each and breakdown the organic matter into that rich dark brown humus, the best stuff you ever hope to put in your garden. Keep these towers and trenches filled year-round or else your worms will pack up and leave to find more food.


How do I deal with bugs and pests organically?

  • Diatomaceous earth. It's basically dead, hard-shelled algae. Put it under a microscope and they look like razor blades. It's used as a mechanical pesticide.
  • Honestly organic methods are hit and miss. Many times I don't worry about it. You're going to loose some produce. That's part of doing things organically.


Where do you buy your drip irrigation components?


Most all our trees on the property are Pines. Pine needles are an issue. Since they cant be composted, you know of a use?

  • Mulch, especially since it doesn't breakdown easily.
  • Bag it and sell it as mulch; it's top dollar stuff. Put an add on Craig's List under the farm, lawn and garden section.


Where can I get Bhut Jolokia peppers?

  • I have not been able to find a source for these peppers. Honestly I can barely handle habanero peppers much less these super-hot thingies! Seriously why eat something that you need a chemical suit in order to keep yourself from going blind if it gets anywhere near your face?


What do you do in your garden in January if anything?

  • Plan. I revise already made plans, supplement preexisting plans, expand current plans, trash old plans, and form new plans. January is a time to getting everything in order so that February and March are months of execution. Spring is not the time to be making decisions; it's a time for action. If you haven't laid plans by mid-February around these parts, you're already behind.


Frequently Unasked Questions


Okay, these are the things I wished people would ask me. Sometimes it's hard to know what to ask because there is so much to know. You kind of need to know everything, but you know that I know that it's impossible to know everything.


Is their a difference between fertilizer and compost?

  • Yes, humungazoidal! Fertilizer is plant food. Compost is is like the plate the food is served on. Plant don't have their own digestive systems; they must rely on worms and bacteria and fungus to digest the food for them.


What is food?

  • When I say food I mean calories, joules; it's energy folks, the stuff that will keep you alive if some zombie-apocolytic-black-swan-Terminator-event-swallowed-the-planet-whole. I find that most people's definition of food is anything they put in the mouths to chew on for fun even if they think they're doing it for health reasons.