Light Deprivation for Weed Control

Tasha Greer
Simple, Epicurean Homestead Living

Tasha is a 2022 Superfood Garden Summit presenter.

Weeds are Superfoods Too (for you & your garden!)

Tasha Greer is an Epicurean homesteader and writer focused on simple, sustainable living. She’s the author of Weed-Free Gardening and Grow Your Own Spices. She gardens in Surry County, North Carolina on about 1.5 acres and grows a large variety of annual and perennial edible, medicinal, and ecosystem support plants.

Additionally, she has a large greenhouse for year-round gardening and exotic edibles. Tasha also keeps ducks, dairy goats, chickens, a pet turkey, worms, and (occasionally) pigs to help with landscaping projects and manage soil fertility. She also teaches classes related to growing food, edible landscaping, and organic

Light deprivation is great low-to-no cost way to control some weeds in your garden. It’s done by covering an area with black plastic sheeting, landscape fabric, scrap sheet metal, a tarp, old carpet, or other kinds of light barriers for a few months. Alternatively, you can use carbon rich materials like paper and cardboard held in place with heavy objects or covered with mulch.

The idea is that if the weeds underneath the cover can’t access sunlight, they can’t photosynthesize. If they can’t photosynthesize, they can’t do the necessary maintenance to keep their roots, stems, and leaves in good working order. Over time, overall plant health will start to decline. In that weakened state, insects and soil microlife will begin to nibble on those weeds until they eventually die.

It’s a little gruesome to imagine in detail. But the method is really effective on fast-growing weeds with fibrous root systems or rot prone crowns. Unfortunately, there are also many weeds that can wait out short-term light sieges.

Light Seige Resistant Weeds

Here are a few examples of weeds that can’t be easily killed with light deprivation.

• Herbaceous perennial weeds with the capacity to go dormant (e.g., cold hardy or drought hardy plants) can use their dormancy aptitudes to survive without light for more than 6 months.

•  Weeds with deep storage roots or tubers can survive a light siege by continuing to do critical maintenance using those nutrients stored in their underground plant parts for years.

• Weeds that spread quickly by rhizomes can extend beyond light blocking barriers and continue to feed the root systems underneath the light blocking barrier indefinitely.

For these light-seige adapted survival weeds, targeted digging or repeat mowing to weaken root systems, followed by long-term light deprivation are necessary.

Weed Seed Light Blocking

Light deprivation is also used to prevent certain weed seeds from germinating. This is normally done by applying a few sheets of paper followed by several inches of compost, garden soil, or other mulches to bury weed seeds.

This method is really effective against seeds that require light or that germinate only at shallow planting depths. It won’t prevent deep-germinating seeds from starting. However, by increasing the soil depth they have to grow up through, those weeds will be weaker when they emerge. Then, you can cover them with a big rock or repeat mow them down to finish the job.

Solarization vs. Light Deprivation

Just one cautionary note: Be careful not to confuse light deprivation with solarization.

Solarization is an in-ground method of pasteurizing your soil used only to treat severe cases of fungal pathogens. It’s done over a long period of time, including the warmest months of the year, using tightly applied clear or black plastic that scorches the soil. Solarizing is detrimental to soil life and often causes enormous amounts of weeds within a few months of removing the plastic sheeting.

Light deprivation, by contrast, should not interrupt the airflow to soil or cause the soil to heat up. The soil below should also be kept moist so it doesn’t overheat in dry hot weather.

Light deprivation kills plants while beneficial insects and microlife in the soil remain unharmed. In some cases, light deprivation even increases soil life populations as they feast on the dying plants.

Weed-Free Gardening

For more weed-free tips and tidbits, check back weekly or sign up for email notifications of new posts. Also, if you want lots more Weed-Free Gardening information at your fingertips, consider buying a copy of my book.

Please share any tips you have for successful organic weed control.

Productivity Tips on How to Lay Out a Garden

Jason Matyas
Seeds for Generations

Jason is a 2022 Superfood Garden Summit presenter.

“Starting Seeds & Caring for Seedlings”

Jason Matyas is a husband, father of seven, homesteader, lifelong gardener, 20-year Air Force veteran with 9 worldwide deployments including two tours in Afghanistan, and visionary entrepreneur and public speaker. He is the founder of a family business with his children called Seeds for Generations that provides heirloom garden seeds and inspiration for gardening as a family. Jason is also the Executive Producer of the documentary film Beyond Off Grid, and founder of the Return to the Old Paths project devoted to inspiring and equipping you to reduce your dependence on the modern economy and seek true freedom by Returning to the Old Paths of productive households and local community interdependence.

In previous posts (see entire blog series here), we’ve already discussed the most important planning considerations for your garden, but there are a few other considerations that you may find helpful as you’re finalizing your plot. Keep these things in mind while considering how to lay out a garden.

Considering Garden Size

In an earlier post (see entire blog series here), we touched on garden size (i.e., available space), but it’s worth repeating here. The size of your garden is determined by which growing method you use. There are many different methods, but the most basic methods are row gardening, square foot gardening (popularized by Mel Bartholomew), and container gardening. You can also use vertical growing methods, which are great for small spaces.

Regardless, you’ll want to maximize your planting area by placing paths only where absolutely necessary. Generally, you don’t want more than four or five feet between your paths, because most people can only reach two and a half feet, so keep this in mind.

Laying Out Your Garden

Once again, your layout entirely depends several factors, including sunlight. Like we mentioned previously (see entire blog series here), you’ll want to orient your plot towards the south to get the maximum sunshine potential, which will help plants grow better. If you’re growing plants that may struggle in a lot of direct sun and heat or bolt (i.e., go to seed) in hot conditions, consider planting those varieties where they’ll be protected from afternoon sun.

Positioning Crops in Your Garden

How you position crops together may impact their productivity, so consider using companion planting techniques to create synergy and play off of natural relationships between different plants. Plants like basil and tomatoes grow well together, for example.

In addition, sometimes you can plant two different crops in one space during the same growing season, such as lettuce with cabbage. If you do this, you will have harvested the lettuce before the cabbage grows completely into its space. If you don’t know how many days the plant takes to grow to maturity, check the seed packet–that information should be listed there.

Also, while planting, ensure that you have adequate access for harvesting later. If you don’t harvest winter squash or corn until late in the year, for example, you usually  don’t need to make it very accessible during the spring and summer. But tomatoes and cucumbers that will need picked every other day? You’ll need to access them easily, without crushing other plants.

Productivity Tips on How to Lay Out a Garden – Conclusion

Garden size, garden layout, and garden plant positioning. That’s all you really need to know when it comes to learning how to lay out a garden. Now get planting!

Eat the Rainbow: Why Is it Important to Eat a Colorful Variety of Fruits and Vegetables?

Ocean Robbins
Food Revolution Network

Ocean is presenting at the 2022 Superfood Garden Summit airing June 22-25 2022.

He will be sharing about superfoods that are super easy and fun to grow. Be sure to register here:

Ocean Robbins is co-founder & CEO of the 700,000 member Food Revolution Network. He is author of the bestseller, 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World. Ocean founded Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) at age 16, and directed it for the next 20 years. He has spoken in person to more than 200,000 people, organized online seminars and events reaching more than a million, and facilitated leadership development events for leaders from 65 nations. He has served as adjunct professor for Chapman University, and is a recipient of the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Freedom’s Flame Award, the Harmon Wilkinson Award, and many other honors.


Research has shown that a colorful diet is a great way to boost your health and vitality. But how can you be sure that you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your body needs to thrive? In this article, we’ll look at the whole spectrum of rainbow nutrition to show how adding color to your plate could add years to your life (and life to your years!). There’s also a shareable rainbow foods infographic that can help you choose a diversity of colorful fruits and vegetables.

“Eat the rainbow” is a fundamental healthy eating tip. (And no, we don’t mean artificially colored foods like Skittles or M&Ms!)

But what does it mean? Why is it important to get a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet?

You may be tempted to find a few foods you or your kids or family members like and focus on eating those. And it can be easy to fall into routines. But the truth is: Our bodies thrive on variety — a rainbow of nutrients.

In fact, the variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables may be more powerful for your health than any pill.

Eating a diversity of colorful foods can be an easy way to get the complete range of nutrients your body needs to thrive.

Eating the Rainbow Is Important for Everyone — Kids and Adults!

A varied, balanced diet gives your body the nutrition it needs to work properly. And without good nutrition, your body will be more likely to suffer from disease, illness, and poor performance.

Advice to eat the rainbow is often used with kids. And while kids especially need a diversity of foods in their diets, so do adults.

Why Are Fruits and Vegetables Full of so Many Colors?

rainbow food

Each color in fruits and vegetables is created by specific phytonutrients, which are natural compounds that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun, and other threats.

And each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.

Phytonutrients aren’t essential to keep you alive (unlike vitamins and minerals). But they may help prevent certain lifestyle diseases and keep your body working as it should.

Most Americans Aren’t Getting the Range of Colorful Foods They Need

A 2015 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC states that “the percentage of the adult population meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendation is low. In 2013, 13.1% of respondents met fruit intake recommendations and 8.9% met vegetable recommendations.”

And, according to an older 2009 report about phytonutrients8 out of 10 people in the US are falling short in virtually every color category of phytonutrients.

Based on the report:

• 69% of Americans are falling short in green phytonutrients
• 78% of Americans are falling short in red phytonutrients
• 86% of Americans are falling short in white phytonutrients
• 88% of Americans are falling short in purple and blue phytonutrients
• 79% of Americans are falling short in yellow and orange phytonutrients

Now, let’s take a look at what the color of your food can tell you about its nutrition. And how you can get more of a colorful range of phytonutrients to help your body function at its best. After exploring all the different colors and their corresponding foods and phytochemicals, stick around for a helpful rainbow food chart that you can share or print at home.

Healthy Red Foods Help Fight Cancer, Reduce the Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease, Improve Skin Quality, and More

red foods

Red fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals including lycopene and ellagic acid. These powerful nutrients have been studied for their cancer-fighting effects and other health benefits.

For example, regular consumption of tomatoes and tomato products (like cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce) has been shown to reduce the risk for prostate cancer.  Watermelon is even higher in lycopene than tomatoes, and the lycopene may be more bioavailable, too.

Watermelon is also rich in a phytonutrient called citrulline, which may work as a treatment for mild to moderate erectile dysfunction.

And red vegetables, like beets, have been shown to affect the nitric oxide pathway, helping blood vessels dilate. This improves circulation and helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Also, strawberries have been found to prevent and even reverse the progression of esophageal cancer. Berries, in general, are rich in bioactive compounds that protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Getting your phytonutrients from whole foods is best. In fact, some studies show that taking phytonutrients, like lycopene and beta-carotene, in supplement form may actually increase the risk of cancer. But consuming these phytonutrients in whole food form, like tomato sauce, may help decrease the risk of cancer.

There’s plenty of evidence that eating an abundance of colorful fruits and vegetables offers protective effects for heart health, and may even help lengthen your lifespan.

Your skin benefits from eating red foods, too. The polyphenols and antioxidants in red fruits and veggies may help prevent skin cancer and offer skin protection against damaging effects from sunlight, excessive inflammation, and wounds.

Examples of Healthy Red Foods to Try

• Red peppers
• Tomatoes
• Strawberries
• Raspberries
• Watermelon
• Kidney beans
• Grapes
• Red onions

Yellow and Orange Fruits and Vegetables Improve Immune Function, Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease, Promote Eye Health, and More

orange fruits

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Some carotenoids, most notably beta-carotene, convert to vitamin A within the body, which helps promote healthy vision and cell growth.

Citrus fruits, like oranges, contain a unique phytonutrient called hesperidin, which helps to increase blood flow. This has important health ramifications. If you tend to get cold hands and feet, eating an orange a day may help to keep your hands and feet warm. Even more importantly, consuming citrus may also reduce your risk of stroke.

Two of the most notable carotenoids in orange and yellow foods are lutein and zeaxanthin. These fat-soluble antioxidants have been heavily studied for their ability to help protect the health of your eyes. In fact, they accumulate in the retina of your eyes, where they help prevent cataracts and diseases like age-related macular degeneration — the leading cause of blindness around the world. They also protect your eyes from damage caused by blue light emitted from phone, computer, and television screens.

Examples of Healthy Orange and Yellow Foods to Try

• Oranges
• Grapefruit
• Papayas
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash (butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn)
• Yellow summer squash
• Cantaloupe
• Orange and yellow peppers
• Golden beets
• Peaches

Green Fruits and Vegetables Boost the Immune System, Help Detoxify the Body, Restore Energy and Vitality, and More

green foods

Greens are some of the healthiest foods we can eat. Green fruits and vegetables are rich in lutein, isothiocyanates, isoflavones, and vitamin K — which is essential for blood and bone health.

Green vegetables are also rich in folate — a nutrient especially important for pregnant women to consume to help prevent congenital disabilities.

Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, have been shown to enhance immune function, while dark leafy greens like kale may improve mood.

Research has even shown that eating leafy greens is associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. One study among 960 participants aged 58–99 years old found that those who consumed at least 1.3 servings per day of leafy greens for nearly five years experienced cognitive improvement likened to being 11 years younger in age, compared to those who consumed fewer greens.

Greens are also a highly bioavailable source of calcium and vitamin K1, which have a positive impact on bone metabolism.

And kiwi fruit has been shown to help alleviate a wide array of maladies, from the common cold to IBS to insomnia, and it may even help repair DNA damage.

Examples of Healthy Green Foods to Try

• Broccoli
• Kale
• Romaine lettuce
Collard greens
Brussels sprouts
Green cabbage
• Green grapes
• Asparagus
• Swiss chard
• Arugula
Green beans
• Kiwi fruit
• Green apples
• Edamame

Purple and Blue Fruits and Vegetables May Reduce the Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease, Support Cognition, Decrease Inflammation, and Improve Skin Health

Purple foods

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol and have been studied extensively for their anticancer and antiaging properties.

Studies show that the bioactive phytochemicals in berries work to repair damage from oxidative stress and inflammation.

The anthocyanins in blueberries and red grapes may help reduce the risk for heart disease, cognitive decline, and type 2 diabetes, as well as support healthy weight maintenance and a normal inflammatory response.

Red grapes are also full of polyphenol compounds and antioxidants. One of these is resveratrol, which has been associated with increased nitric oxide production and better heart health outcomes.

And red cabbage, which is really more of a purple color, is one of the best superfood bargains and has the highest level of antioxidants per dollar.

Blue and Purple Fruits and Veggies to Try

• Blueberries
• Blackberries
• Red (purple) grapes
• Red (purple) cabbage
• Plums
• Prunes
• Red (purple) onions
• Eggplant
• Purple potatoes and sweet potatoes
• Purple cauliflower
• Figs
• Raisins

Brown and White Colored Foods Protect Against Certain Cancers, Keep Bones Strong, and Are a Heart-Healthy Choice


Though they aren’t as brightly colored as other foods, white and brown produce are still great healthy choices.

Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable rich in an anticancer compound called sulforaphane.

Garlic and onions are in the allium family of vegetables and contain the powerful health-promoting compounds allicin and quercetin. Aged garlic has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and anti-allergic effects, even more so than raw garlic.

And phytonutrients in white button mushrooms have been found to inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. This common mushroom variety also has antimicrobial activity.

Healthy White and Brown Fruits and Veggies List

• Onions
• Parsnips
• Daikon radish

A Visual List of Phytochemicals

Whew! That’s a lot of colorful foods and nutrients to remember. Luckily, we’ve made it easier than ever to get a healthy dose of antioxidants with this rainbow chart of nutrients. In this nutritional infographic, you’ll see what color foods correspond to what phytochemicals, so you can create beautiful and health-fulfilling rainbow meals.


Tips to Help You Eat the Rainbow Every Day


Now you hopefully see why eating a variety of colorful foods is good for your health. But how do you make that happen? Here are some tips you can use when creating your meals:

• Eat a beautiful breakfast. Instead of drab bagels, eggs, or yogurt, start your day with a green smoothie, oatmeal topped with red berries, or a tofu scramble filled with red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, or other colorful veggies.

• Enjoy exciting salads. Large, colorful salads topped with beans and a diverse selection of vegetables are the perfect way to incorporate lots of colorful veggies (and fruits!) into your diet. Eat them for lunch or dinner. And try to have at least one per day.

• Liven up your lunch. Veggie sandwiches and wraps (including lettuce wraps) and soups, stews, and chili can help you get a balanced selection of colorful foods for lunch.

• Make vegetables the main dish. Try new recipes for dishes, such as tempeh vegetable stir-fries, vegetable curries, and Buddha bowls.

• Make a rainbow meal. Try creating a meal that uses every color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, and brown. (If you have kids, they will love this idea.)

Recipe Ideas to Inspire You to Add Color and Variety to Your Meals

Below are several colorful recipes to help you eat the rainbow. In fact, each one of the recipes below includes at least five colors from the rainbow!

Try the Garden Breakfast Wrap for a nourishing savory meal to start your day. Get a burst of flavor with each bite when you enjoy the Rainbow Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing, which is YUMMY! Let the Quinoa, Bean, and Vegetable Soup (any veggies you have on hand go well here!) comfort and satisfy you. And experience a meal that’s almost too pretty to eat when you make (and eat!) the Thai Peanut Rainbow Noodles. Then blend colorful fruits, veggies, and seeds together to create the beautiful Autumn Sunrise Smoothie (yes, indeed, it looks like a stunning sunrise!). Share your colorful, culinary experience with us!

Garden Breakfast Wrap: One of the beautiful things about this wrap is that you can use any veggies from your fridge or growing from your garden to make it your own. Beginning the day with leafy greens, like kale, collards, or romaine, is the perfect way to jump-start your morning with nutrition. Once you spread the hummus on your green wrap, start adding your favorite veggies — and get ready for some creamy crunch to stimulate your palate and a variety of nutrients to energize your body!

Rainbow Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing: One way to uplevel just about any meal is to add a delicious and nutritious plant-based dressing or sauce. Carrot Ginger Dressing is bursting with flavor while adding healing carotenoids from the carrots, gingerol from the ginger, and prebiotic fiber from the shallots. Not to mention, the dressing is over-the-top scrumptious! Drizzle it over dark leafy greens, like kale, then add all of your favorite colorful veggies like radish, cucumber, beets, and avocado. Or, get creative by using any veggies growing in your backyard or that you need to use from the fridge!

Quinoa, Bean, and Vegetable Soup: Yellow onion, red bell pepper, orange carrots, and green spinach add to the rainbow of colors in this comforting and satisfying soup. If you truly want to fulfill all of the colors of the rainbow then swap out either the kidney or white beans for black beans (which are actually purple!) and add organic blue corn to the veggie mix. If you want to wow your family and friends through a colorful table then serve this soup at your next dinner party!

Thai Peanut Rainbow Noodles: Raw, colorful veggie noodles bring this dish to life. What’s more, it can add vitality to your life when you enjoy its nutrient-dense, health-building ingredients! Enjoy the crunch, savor the flavor, and observe all the beauty that plant-based foods offer.

Autumn Sunrise Smoothie: While this smoothie may not be exactly like a rainbow, it certainly looks like a pretty sunrise! Beets, pomegranate, and blood orange give it a beautiful purple-red hue while pineapple, mango, and carrot give it a stunning orange-yellow hue. Stir in a handful of blended blueberries and leafy greens to see all colors of the rainbow in one tasty smoothie. And, if you do, please snap a photo and share it with us!

How to Learn to Love Vegetables and Fruits

If you grew up eating only a few fruits and vegetables, you might not have developed an appreciation for produce. But don’t worry. You can retrain your taste buds to love broccoli, kale, and beets!

Here’s what you can do for yourself and your kids:

Step 1: Avoid processed food with lots of meat, cheese, salt, sugar, and fat. These foods overstimulate your taste buds and put you into the Pleasure Trap, making fresh fruits and vegetables taste boring in comparison.

Step 2: Try new vegetables and fruits over and over again in different ways. It can take 12–18 tastes to acquire a taste for new food. So, if you once hated arugula or mushrooms, that’s OK. Try again in a different recipe. You might surprise yourself.

Share your family’s favorite fruits and vegetables!

Small Scale Vermicomposting You Can Do Anywhere

Rob Herring Headshot


Guest Garden Expert, Rob Herring

Highlights from Rob’s presentation: 2020 Superfood Garden Summit 

32 million tons of food are thrown out every year just in the US. 

97% of the food waste ends up in landfills.

Waste rots releasing greenhouse gases like methane into the air.

Composting this food waste would turn this waste into new soil that holds water, carbon and vital nutrients, reduce the waste in landfills and eliminate the use of chemical synthetic fertilizers.

Rob is new to vermicomposting and is here to share his top tips, from his learning curve, for making it through the first stages of vermicomposting when you’re just getting started.

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to break down food.

→ Regular composting can take anywhere from three months to two years. In vermicomposting, you can see compost breakdown within 8-12 weeks.

→ Composting is really difficult when you live in a small space or urban environment. But urban environments contain the most people so that means lots of food waste. Creating ways for urban dwellers to be able to compost their food waste is vital for the health and regeneration of our planet. Vermicomposting makes composting accessible for those who live in urban environments or small spaces.

→ Food is #3 on the list of climate change contributors. This is without calculating the methane released by landfills (methane is 84 times more powerful in heating up the atmosphere than CO2), because there is no tool to help us measure the amount emitting from landfills. If we were able to include the emissions, food waste would by far be by far the #1 contributing factor to our environmental issues.

→ Current calculations estimate that about 40% of our food is wasted. That’s 40% of the total mass, but it’s also 40% of the total water used to grow that food, 40% of all the pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers, human labor, carbon, distribution costs, etc… so it’s 40% of the food and all of the energy and resources that went into growing that food wasted, for no reason.

This is PROFOUND. It not only highlights the problem, but illuminates the opportunities we have that we can all participate in… It means that solutions are accessible to everyone.

For all your Worm Composting Needs,
check out:
The Urban Worm Company and Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.

Benefit of Vermicomposting Recap

1. Reduces food waste in landfills and the resources it takes to ship the waste to the landfill by 40%.

2. Reduce chemicals sprayed and waste of resources that go into making and distributing food by 40%.

3. Planet Regeneration: Increase the water holding capacity, sequestered carbon, and minerals and nutrients in soil.

4. Preserves topsoil to reduce run off, leaching, and extreme temperature swings.

5. Faster breakdown of food waste to compost (versus using traditional composting).

Rob’s Tips:

Tip 1: Creating a Successful Environment

• Regardless of which bin or method you use, you’re going to want to create the conditions for moms to be happy. That starts with their bedding.

Coconut Coir: A substrate that can feel very similar to the soil if using the correct brand.

• Shredded newspaper, pumice stones, minerals, etc. There are many different types of materials you can use for worm bedding.

• The number one most important thing to remember is to keep the moisture level at the optimum level for your worms.

• So much about feeding/overfeeding, the carbon to nitrogen to carbon/ brown to greens, the dead to more alive materials has a lot to do with maintaining optimum moisture-rich levels.

• The bedding you provide for your worms is not a bedding in the traditional way we think of bedding for animals. Instead, it’s simply a slower breakdown type of food for the worms. It’s the carbon bedding you’re starting with.

Tip 2: Not Heated

• You want to keep your worm compost bin in normal human temperature ranges 55°F to no more than 90°F (12-32°C). This makes the indoor climate control that most humans live in perfect for worms as well. When it gets too hot, it will start losing moisture through evaporation and the worms will be uncomfortable.

Tip 3: Spreading out Your Organic Matter

• Cutting up and dispersing the organic matter over the worm bin is better than clumping it all together or giving them large chunks.

Tip 4: Outdoors Vermicomposting

• If you’re vermicomposting outdoors, make sure you are protecting it from the elements and that your bin is never in direct sunlight.

Tip 5: Size Your Worm Bin to Fit Directly in Your Kitchen

• By finding a place to tuck your worm bin into somewhere in your kitchen, you’re making it easy to access from where you generate food waste to begin with. Slide it under a ventilated cabinet, tuck it in a corner or under the table. If you build your bin right, people can walk right by and never know there are creepy crawlies right in your kitchen.

Tip 6: Activate Your Compost

• It helps to think about composting like a large digestive process. It’s the breakdown of materials in order for those materials to be used (in this case for plants). For any healthy digestion to occur, there needs to be healthy bacteria (like probiotics in our digestive tract). So you need to inoculate your compost bin to provide healthy bacteria for the worms.

• This may be in the form of a handful of compost or maybe you use a handful of healthy soil. Even putting a small amount of food scraps a few days before your worms arrive can help attract the beneficial bacteria to the bin to give your worms the right head start. Some people start this a few weeks before the worms arrive, I waited three days. There’s no exact science to the timing.

Tip 7: The Worms

• Red Wigglers are the worms you’ll want to use for vermicomposting. There is another worm called the European Night Crawler that isn’t technically a night crawler that some people use. I don’t know enough about them and there may be others but the red wiggler is what most people use in vermicomposting.

• When you get your worms, you just put them in the bin and let them get accustomed to their new environment.

spraying worm bin

Tip 8: Water

• Have a spray bottle on hand so you’re not having to constantly run back and forth to the kitchen sink, figuring out how to get water in the container and disperse it. Have the spray bottle on hand next to the bin. 

• I use reverse osmosis water because it takes all the harsh chemicals out. Use the cleanest water you have.

• Just spritz the worm bin as your worm bin needs. It’s not an exact science. You’re going to need to observe and learn when the moisture level is optimal as you go.

• Some people use the squeeze test: Take a handful of soil, squeeze it in your hand, you should have one drop of water come out. Just be careful not to squeeze a worm!

• Keep in mind your food scraps are about 80-90% moisture. And you want to maintain a 70% moisture level in your worm bin. So you might want to add some browns as you go.

Tip 9: Light

• Have a light shining on the worm bin. Worms avoid light so the light helps keep them in their home where it’s moist and safe for them. The light isn’t for heat, it’s just for light.

• Don’t worry, you aren’t going to find worms all over the house or in your bed. Sometimes, they will find their way out of the bin if they are uncomfortable. They can’t get far because it’s too dry outside the bin. 

Tip 10: Food

• Chop up your food scraps into really small pieces. Just like we chew our food into smaller pieces to make digestion easier, our worm bin will produce better if we chop up the scraps. This increases the surface area available to the worms, providing easier access to food. This is especially helpful in the beginning while we are building the healthy microbes in the bin.

• Some people even blend their food scraps in the beginning.

• Start with a cup of food and see how it goes. Everyone has a different recommendation of how much food to feed the bins. But every bin is going to be a little different. The best way to determine the food amount is to check the bin every day to see if the food is starting to break down and if they might be ready for more or if they need a little more time.

Zucchini Scraps

• If the bin stinks, there is probably too much food and that’s when you’ll start to attract fruit flies and other insects. I’ve only seen one or two flies in the several months I’ve been keeping my bin because I started with less and slowly increased the food amount to the optimum level. 

• It really is slow and steady wins the race. Worms will optimize and adjust their population based on their food supply and living area. So they will reproduce as needed. Once the system gets going you can add more and more food to encourage reproduction. Then over time, you can add larger chunks of food and add more, etc. But start small and slow.

• Keep an airtight Tupperware container of extra food in the fridge or freezer as a backup in case your worms need food when you don’t have scraps available… maybe you cooked less that week, etc.

Tip 11: Bedding Tips

• Along with your spray bottle, you’ll want to have your carbon (bedding) nearby. I keep a bag of shredded newspaper next to my worm bin. You don’t want to be scrambling looking around for cardboard, paper, etc. trying to find bedding when you need it. This way, it’s ready to go.

• If you want to do indoor vermicomposting I highly recommend getting a paper shredder. All your junk mail and all the stuff that would otherwise be trash or go in the recycle bin can now be used for your bedding.

• Don’t just use paper all the time, have variety, but it is a good go to to have next to your bin.

• Moisten the carbon before you add it to the bin.

• Add carbon when you need it. Some people say to add carbon every time you add food. Some people don’t. Again, get to know your system.

• Familiarize yourself with what the bin looks like at any given point and how the worms are responding, then adjust as you need. If there is a ton of paper in the bin not breaking up? Is it too dry? Maybe it’s too hot or maybe you might have too much carbon.

Tip 12: On The Move

• Worms are going to move up over time. So maybe you use the stackable bins, like the Worm Factory, etc. They want to live in the top two inches of soil. As they move up, you’ll know that the bottom layers are ready for harvesting. This normally happens in about 12 weeks or so, but don’t rush. If you give it extra time, there will be less and less worms in the bottom layers because they want to move up where the food is.

• Composting worms are not going to be ideal for your garden, so by not rushing to harvest the bottom layers, you’re helping ensure they won’t be in the soil where you grow your food.

• Not rushing also makes harvesting a lot easier and less time consuming.

Worm castings have been shown to increase plant yields and resistance to pests and diseases by increasing your soil’s water retention, aeration, structure, and microbial activity. Studies are showing that soils with worm castings also attract more beneficials and pollinators, which makes sense seeing as how the healthier the plant, the higher quality of pollen and nectar it will produce.

Some people are weirded out by worms. If you are, you gotta get over it. It can be a little weird at first, but once you collaborate with them, you realize how truly magnificent they are. Worms literally create earth and play such a vital role in our ecosystem! Once you realize this, you’ll become a total vermi-nerd!

This article contains links to a product that we are a referral partner for. If you click and take action, Grow Your Own Vegetables LLC may be compensated. We only recommend products that we love and that we know can be helpful to you as a gardener.

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Superfoods to Grow in Your Garden

Why spend a fortune on buying organic superfoods from the supermarket if you can grow them yourself? If you are lucky enough to have a garden in your home, make sure you make use of it and grow nutrient-packed crops that will make a healthy and delicious diet! Gardening is good for the body and mind alike – taking care of your plants has several proven mental health benefits, while eating organic fresh food is great to keep your body healthy. So, if you have the chance to grow your own crops, why not choose the ones that are the most beneficial for your health? That is right – it’s time to grow your own superfoods!

First, let’s take a moment to understand what superfoods are – these foods (mostly fruits and vegetables) have a very high concentration of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins, making them fantastic health boosters. However, there is no set criteria to determine which foods qualify for this status – the term “superfood” is essentially an umbrella term for the foods that carry the most health benefits when consumed as part of an otherwise healthy diet. And what else is healthier than homegrown crops? Plus, you can be sure that your food hasn’t been treated with pesticides, biocides or other harmful chemicals. And the good news is, you can grow a good amount of these superfoods even if you are short on space – as some of them can thrive in pots and containers, without the need for a dedicated spot in your garden.

So what are you waiting for? With the help of this infographic, you can decide which superfoods suit your gardening skills the most, so all you need to do is get planting! 

The difficulty levels are indicators of how much time and effort is needed to keep the crops thriving, as well as how sensitive they are to certain weather conditions. Some plants, like peas and zucchini, are more forgiving and can grow even in lower-quality soil. However, plants like blueberry bushes are extremely sensitive to the type of soil they are planted in – blueberries require well-drained and acidic soil in order to produce healthy fruit. Some of these plants need to be protected during the winter (lemons and fig trees need shelter from the frost), while others don’t tolerate the heat. It is advised to research your preferred plant thoroughly, so you can be prepared for the possible problems and the ways to solve them.

Don’t forget – anyone can become a gardener, so don’t let the difficulty levels discourage you from attempting to grow a higher-maintenance crop – just make sure you have done your research and are willing to spend time in your garden. Good luck and happy planting!

Guest Article by: Dóra Pista

Dora Pista is a blogger and hobby gardener, with a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She created the infographic above to help beginner gardeners start their journey into superfood growing.

Find Dora on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

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From Garden to Soothing Oil: How To Make Lavender Oil in Your Kitchen

With the increasing change and unrest in the world, resilience is a big topic and easy to use self-care tools are required for all of us to stay the course and take care of ourselves and our communities. We are only as strong as our weakest link. So many people are stepping up their self-care and herbal medicine making right now. Knowing how to rejuvenate and restore is big medicine for these times.

Not only are herbal oils themselves an antidote for what we are experiencing, there are so many little-known techniques for using the oils to help you ground, center and find the alignment of what is true for you now. We are partnering with our friend Kami McBride to help bring this herbal knowledge more into awareness so more people can benefit from such simple and inexpensive herbal self-help techniques.

Kami is doing a free workshop on herbal infused oils. She has 34 years of experience perfecting the art of making herbal oils, if you are at all interested in refining the quality of your herbal oils, her teachings on herbal oils are the most comprehensive you will find anywhere.

Lavendar Oil Kami

It’s amazing at how many long-time oil makers are talking about how they didn’t even know that this kind of upgrade was available for their herbal oils.

Also, if you are just starting out with your herbal oil making, this workshop will be invaluable. Her free workshop is only up for a short while, so make sure to take a few minutes now and gather up the nuggets you won’t find anywhere else.