Well, i edited these show notes up all pretty and nice 3 times, and 3 times wordpress deleted them so you can read the unedited computer generated transcript below:
Gardening for Geeks: All the Science You Need for Successful Organic Gardening (CompanionHouse Books) Step-by-Step Processes with Diagrams, Expert Tips, & Nerdy Details on Soil Biology, Botany, & More
Christy's Recommended book
Welcome to the Green Organic Garden Podcast. It is Friday, December 4th, 2020. Although it's probably 2021 when you're hearing this. Cause we are in season three. I have an amazing guest on the line. I've been trying to book her on the show since I very first started. She's the gardenerd from California. Here's Christy Wilhelmi. So welcome to the show Christy.
Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Well, go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I am a Southern California native and I, I garden here year round in my backyard in Los Angeles. And I have a community garden plot as well. That's a small space. So naturally that's where I started. And I, I, I have this small space that made me learn how to grow biointensive intensively. So that's what I specialize in small space. Bio-intensive organic vegetable gardening and I have three books. Well, I have four, but one's not coming out for another year, but I'll tell you about the three that I have. So gardening for geeks is my primary gardening book. It's the, you know, soup to nuts, learn how to garden from scratch in a test way.
And then I have a ebook that is a compilation of the first 10 years of my garden nerd tip of the week podcast. And now the newest book I have that's coming out in March, which you can pre-order now is called grow your own mini fruit garden. And it is the fruit companion to small space growing to the, to the vegetable gardening book that I have. So that's kind of sums it up for me. And then I just got a book deal with William Morrow slash Harper Collins for a novel that I have written that is coming out in March, well, spring 20, 22. And that is very much, I'm very excited about it because it is set in a community garden.
And so it's for gardeners, but
It's fiction and
Yeah, so that's, that's, you know, I teach people how to grow their own food through classes, consulting food, garden design, I've got my own podcasts. I've got a YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram on all that jazz. And I've been gardening for over about 30 years now and I love it. And it's now my life.
So is that, is the interview still, is the podcast still called garden nerd or is that separate? Like, do you still do the tip of the week
That it is the gardener tip of the week podcast? And each week I ask my guests to share one awesome tip at the end of the interview. So it's still the tip of the week podcast and it's, it's still streaming, you know, wherever you stream podcasts, you can get it.
Cool. I can't wait to read your novel. I am actually writing a novel that I just started about my husband and I were looking at this farm in Maine that we wanted to buy. And so I'm writing the novel about like, if we have bought it and all the things that like would have happened.
Oh cool. Yeah, that's a good, that's a good story in the making.
It's so fun. Like I, and I can't believe like I'm up to 30,000 words and I've only like I wrote it out by handled like these pages and I'm on like page four of my handwritten thing. And it's a, and like 85 pages typed. It's like, I just, I keep hearing all the voices and voices of my guests that I've interviewed. Like there's all these different characters. It's just so fun. So I'm glad to hear that, that you're writing a novel like that, that takes place in a community garden. Isn't that interesting. 20, 22, you already have a book deal for,
Yeah. This year was pretty busy for me, I think with, because I was working on how to grow or I'm sorry, because I was working on grow your own mini fruit garden at the same time as doing another draft of my novel. I was at my desk typing most of the time, which Whoa, everyone else was like cleaning out their closets and doing all the restorative, you know, COVID stuff. That was really, I was like, Oh, that sounds nice. I still am surrounded by junk everywhere. So I haven't gotten to that yet.
No worries. I got to say, I was able to master I I'm an elementary teacher by trade and when school got out in June, I was able to master the Marie Kondo sparking joy thing. And so I did manage to get my house cleaned out, but then I I've been, we've been married 27 years, so there's still a lot of stuff, but I want to hear about grow your own mini fruit. Tell us about that.
Sure. This is called the grow your own mini fruit garden. And it's coming out in March, 2021 from cool Springs press. And my focus, as I mentioned earlier is about small space bio-intensive gardening. And so it really is for people who only have a patio or a balcony or a very small backyard. And it talks about growing fruit trees and berries and all in a way that is conducive to either growing in containers or maintaining it at orchard height or below so that you can actually manage it without having to take up your whole yard with one giant tree. You know, most of the instruction that we get about fruit trees and orchard care is based on farmers.
You know, they're, they're talking about or commercial fruit production. And so the home gardener is taking advice from professionals who are growing acres and acres of the same thing and have space between their trees at like, you know, 15, 20 feet between trees. We don't have room for that kind of stuff. Most people who live in urban environments. And so this book focuses on the small spaces and how to manage fruit trees for small spaces, and also how to plant things in succession in a way to strategize for having fruit year round or at least the bulk of the season. So that you're not getting all your oranges and hundreds of them at once.
You can strategize with different things. So I, I was when cool Springs press came to me with the idea for the book I glommed onto it. I thought, Ooh, this is great. So I'm really looking forward to seeing it out there in the world. And we just sent it off to the printer today as of this taping. Wow.
Wow. That is so exciting. So my listeners are always asking me questions, like how can they be more productive or what can they do to grow better for? So like what's something they can do. That's why, why maybe we should back up because I kind of pretty much know what the bio-intensive model is. I think now that I've done my podcasts, like I could almost picture myself asking my friend Cavita I think it was what is bio-intensive or maybe it was just pierced down at the, she worked at the Jacob Jevon that Jacob Devin,
John Jeavons. Yeah. John Jeavons, he he's one of the, one of the big proponents of grow grow biointensive is his whole method. And it's one of those, one of the practices that I incorporate into my own gardens.
So why don't you tell us first a little bit about what that means?
Sure. So the word bio-intensive is simply an umbrella term for growing a lot of stuff in a small space. And for me, I use a combination between square foot gardening and John Jeavons, how to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine his book and, and the philosophies that are behind that. It is about really, it all comes down to making sure your soil is as vibrant biologically, alive and fertile as it can possibly be to support growing things closer together than you normally would. And so in vegetables, what that looks like is instead of growing in rows with lots of footprints, you know, foot traffic between your clustering, them into either, you know, mounted, raised beds or raised beds with frames or something that you can group everything together.
And in like Jevons method, they plant on centers. So everything is on six inch centers and a hexagonal planting, spacing, or offset rows, where as they grow in, they form a living mulch and there's no sunlight passing through to the soil. So there's hardly any weeds you're losing less water to evaporation. And you're, it's just easier to maintain. Everything's closer together, but you can't just plant closer together in any old soil, you've got to steward your soil. And so my big evangelism, if you will, is all about the soil, food web and taking care of your soil and making sure there's food for the microbes that live in the soil, not doing things that kill the microbes, like tilling it and, and making sure you put down mulch because that's a fungal food stuff like that.
So a lot of that carries over into the fruit arena, especially most, especially when it comes to soil prep before you plant a tree. So it really is about planning ahead. Most of the time people dig a hole and put the tree in the ground and hope for the best. But that is when you come into problems where there are, you know, fungal or bacterial or eaten in most cases, viral diseases that are completely uncurable, viral diseases. It's basically the end of your tree and you have to pull it. And those things show up because of mostly poor drainage. And so it always comes back to making sure your soil is well amended in the entire area where the roots are going to occupy, not just the planting hole.
So I go into depth on how to prep for planting a tree ahead of time, as well as other strategies for placements. So you're not causing shade where you don't want it and making sure you've got enough room between trees. So they're not crowded and sad.
So I know my I'm in Northwest Montana, so we could probably have more opposite climates, but like really struggling with blueberries, got any suggestions for me with my blueberries. Now they are in like, probably like, I think the pH is an 8.3. There's very alkaline 4.5 or something. And maybe that's where my whole problem is, but yeah.
Yeah. Blueberry has
A way to get it down to the 4.5.
Right? That's a very good question. So blueberries really like acidic soil. And I thought I had a set of soil where somewhere around 7.1 7.2, but you, I didn't realize you guys up there are more alkaline than we are. The, the trick for blueberries. Oftentimes we will just plant them in containers with straight acid planting mix or lots and lots and lots of peak mosque because Piedmont's tends to have a lower pH than a regular garden soil mix. The other trick, and I share this in the book is most of the time our municipal water sources have water, our water that's delivered to our homes that we're watering our gardens with is very alkaline itself.
And so you want to acidify that. Now I learned from the folks up at the Caspus farm in Santa Cruz, UC Santa Cruz, they actually ferment their apples that fall from the trees into vinegar. And then they pumped some vinegar through their irrigation system for their 400 plus blueberry trial garden that they have there. And so on the home scale, that means something like adding, I think it's four tablespoons of vinegar, like a regular or an Apple cider vinegar to two gallons of water and using one of those watering cans each for each blueberry plant and doing that every couple of months to a couple of weeks, depending on how alkaline your soil is.
And that helps drive down the pH and makes the blueberries a little bit happier to co-exist with your existing soil.
Cool. So then adding milk would be like the worst thing I could do. Yeah. I don't, I don't know.
No, I, in fact, I haven't even heard of using milk as a way to benefit. I mean, I know people will use milk and water as a spray to keep powdery mildew away, but I don't see that that would help. Yeah. Sorry. Haven't heard about that.
I don't know where I got that from my husband is like, what are you doing? I want to say I'm mixed, like milk and molasses with a gallon of water, like a cup of milk and a tablespoon of molasses and a gallon of water. And I don't know where I got it from, but it did not work, but I have Apple cider vinegar in the, in the fridge right now. And then I'm, I'm curious. Cause I'm thinking like we had lots of apples that, you know, had dents and bruises and different things and should I have kept them and put them by the blueberries?
Well, it would make, you would need to ferment them first. So it's about, it's about that fermentation that, you know, the vinegar is, is a very acidic property, whereas apples themselves are not very acidic. So I think, you know, when you're talking about adding milk and molasses, you're making me think, Oh, that's upping the sugar content of whatever's going on. So that's food for bacteria, but that's not gonna help. Acidify your soil. I'm going down a rabbit hole here. So stop me if you want. But so bacterially dominant soils tend to be more alkaline and fungal dominant soils tend to be more acidic. So it's actually the plants who help determine their own soil pH by putting out either sugars for bacteria or humic acids for fungi.
And they will start to breed more. And that helps re you know, alter the soil pH depending on the fungi and the bacteria that are in the soil. So, so you're feeding bacteria and that's going to make your soil more Ackland. Is there anything?
And I need to go the other way. Like, I it's like so hard for me. I'm like the number goes up and that means it's more acidic and I want the number to go down to be alcohol or the number goes up and that's more alkaline and I want the number to go down to be. Okay.
Correct. So yes. So the, the lower, the pH, the more acidic it is. So, you know, battery acid is down at the, you know, in tomatoes, like acidic soil, blueberries, like acidic soil. That's going to be down in the, you know, 5.5 range somewhere there. And then when you get up to eight and nine, that's where we're talking a really, really alkaline.
Hmm. All right. Cool. And you are just full of golden scenes. Well, gosh, I haven't even asked about your very first gardening experience. Like, were you a kid? How old were you? Who were you with? What'd you grow? Sure.
I was a picky eater as a kid and my parents had trouble feeding me and they put in a garden in the backyard. And I remember the only vegetables I would eat were the peas off the vine raw and the carrots raw out of the garden. I didn't like anything that was cooked if it was a vegetable. And so that was my first experience gardening, but it didn't carry through. I went through most of my life, not gardening. I won't say most of my life I've spent more than half of my life gardening, but I spent most of my childhood not gardening. And it wasn't until I became a vegetarian in 1993 that I decided I needed to know more about my own food source.
And that's when I started gardening. But my first garden was at my parents' house in pretty clay soil. And we grew peas and carrots. That's what I remember