Organic Gardening Tips for an Abundant Harvest

Hi and welcome to the November 2016 Newsletter. I’m sharing a bucket load of tips and inspiration with you this month including:

The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

  • Broccoli – Health Benefits + Best Ways to Eat
  • 6 Recycling Ideas for your Garden
  • Shop Specials – SAVE 15% (See COUPON offer)
  • 12 Tips + Uses for Mint – in your Garden & Kitchen
  • Peek over the Fence … into Jennifer’s Garden (inspiring photos!)
  • Growing Edible Plants in the Shade
  • Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants
  • Blog articles
  • Follow The Micro Gardener on Instagram

So tuck in! If you missed the tips in my last newsletter, CLICK HERE.

Health Benefits of Broccoli

Did you know that broccoli:

Head of broccoli - Health benefits of broccoli | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

  • has twice the vitamin C of an orange?
  • almost as much calcium as whole milk (with a better rate of absorption)?
  • contains folic acid and iron?
  • has anti-cancer benefits?
  • may slow the effects of aging?

A study conducted at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US, found that a diet including small quantities of young crucifer microgreens (including 3 day old broccoli shoots) may protect against the risk of cancer as effectively, as much larger quantities of mature broccoli.

Broccoli seeds germinating into sprouts | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Broccoli seeds germinating – in a few days they will develop their two true leaves (cotyledons) and become microgreens

So that means you can eat a handful of broccoli microgreens raw and fresh, instead of a bowl of mature broccoli florets and still benefit your health! Less space, water, time and energy needed to grow broccoli into mature plants in your garden.  

Johns Hopkins scientists have identified a highly concentrated source of sulforaphane that is abundant in young broccoli microgreens. This compound helps activate the body’s natural cancer-fighting resources and reduces the risk of developing cancer.

“Three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain 20 to 50 times the amount of chemoprotective compounds found in mature broccoli heads, and may offer a simple, dietary means of chemically reducing cancer risk,” – Paul Talalay, M.D., J.J. Abel Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology.

Other studies support this finding, as well as the nutritional health benefits of microgreens. If you’re not big on eating mature broccoli in your meals, this opens up other options. One of the easiest ways for you to proactively prevent disease is to grow microgreens. Specifically, cruciferous or brassica family vegetables. These include: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, rocket/arugula, red cabbage and mustard. Eating broccoli regularly has been linked to lower rates of prostate, colon, breast, lung and skin cancers.

Broccoli has Anti-Aging Benefits

Want to prevent or slow down the aches and pains, eyesight degeneration and other depressing physical signs of aging? Recent research may have a very simple answer! Eating your greens – and specifically broccoli.

Broccoli is well known for its anti-cancer benefits, but researchers have also found it contains an enzyme called NMN that may slow down age-related deterioration in health. In the study, NMN was found to suppress age-associated weight gain, boost energy, improve eye function, bone density and immune function in mice. Researchers hope their findings translate to humans. Preventative health care and slowing the aging process through a healthy diet seems a sensible choice.

NMN is also found naturally in other green vegetables including cucumbers, cabbage and avocado.

What are the Best Ways to Eat Broccoli?

Before you go cooking the life (and nutrients) out of your broccoli, there are some important things to know about this heat sensitive vegetable.

[If you still microwave your food, I encourage you to learn why this method of cooking is so dangerous for your health.]
Steamed broccoli florets - The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Steamed broccoli florets

  • Ideally steam, don’t boil broccoli for 3-4 minutes (but no longer)! Time it.
  • Overcooking destroys an important enzyme (myrosinase) that helps make the important sulforaphane compound available. Without it, you just won’t get the health benefits.
  • Elizabeth Jeffery, PhD, a researcher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that boiling and microwaving broccoli for one minute or less destroys the majority of this enzyme, so this cooking method should be avoided.
  • If you do eat your broccoli cooked, you can still get sulforaphane to form. How? By adding raw foods that contain the enzyme myrosinase to your meal. Ideal ingredients include: mustard, radish, rocket/arugula, wasabi and coleslaw (cabbage and carrot). So why not whip up a simple salad including one or more of these foods?
  • Never throw out the water in your steamer! It contains important soluble nutrients you can benefit from. Use it to make a soup, casserole or gravy. Freeze your nutrient-rich steaming water if you’re not going to use it straight away.
  • Use the broccoli leaves and stems in stir fries, soups, salads and casseroles.

I hope this inspires you to grow and eat this healing vegetable.

6 Recycling Ideas for your Garden

Do you look for ways to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle household and garden green waste? There are so many simple ways to tread lighter on the planet and your purse. Here are some easy recycling ideas to save money and create a healthy garden:

  • 1. Reuse Vegetable Scraps: Every time you peel a fruit or vegetable, unless you reuse those ‘scraps’, all the nutrients are wasted! Pumpkin skins, for example, can be washed and cut into bite sized pieces. Then bake with seasoning (chilli, nutmeg, your favourite spice or rosemary) for delicious crisp ‘chips’. Bake the seeds on low heat for a protein snack or save and store for next season’s crop. Any remaining pulp or unused flesh makes a flavoursome addition to soup stock or compost to recycle the free nutrients back into your soil to grow more plants! You’ll likely end up with a few free seedlings popping up.

Don't Waste Your Pumpkin! Tips on Uses for Food Scraps - The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

  • 2. Bananas are one of the most commonly eaten fruits but what do you do with your peels? Check out my article on DIY Fertilisers – How to Use Banana Peels for ways you can make your own free plant food. You may be pleasantly surprised with the tips.
  • 4. In a nut shell. What do you do with your peanut, macadamia, walnut or other nut shells after you’ve cracked them? Reuse the nut shells as a free mulch! This is perfect for pots where you only need small quantities. Add to your compost or dig into your soil to feed your plants as they break down.
Peanuts have soft shells that break down faster than hard nut shells like longer lasting macadamias and walnuts.

Peanuts have soft shells that break down faster than hard nut shells like longer lasting macadamias and walnuts.

  • 5. Reuse old herb, spice and tablet bottles to store the seeds you save from your garden. Wash and dry the containers well before use. Keep those tiny silica sachets too! These help absorb moisture and preserve your seeds for longer.
  • 6. Repurpose plastic bottles, cardboard toilet rolls, egg cartons and more to make your own garden supplies. Check out 5 Thrifty Recycling Ideas to find easy ways to create plant labels, pots, watering systems, seed raisers and sprayers for free.

For more recycling tips, check out all the Clever Design Ideas articles in my online library. Which of these recycling ideas do YOU like or do you have a tip to share? Leave your thoughts in the Comments!

Shop Specials – Save 15% Coupon Offer

Looking for gift items or just want to treat yourself? Now’s the time to take advantage of a special 15% discount offer! Use the COUPON CODE: ‘XMAS’ during checkout. Valid until 31 December 2016.

This offer excludes Consulting services and Gift vouchers, eBooks by Duncan Carver and product bundles in Special Offers that are already 15% off. Everything else in the SHOP is on sale! For orders outside Australia, we can ship up to 6 x Potting Mix Guides or a combination of Guides and Moon Calendars for A$8 in the one envelope. So split the shipping with your gardening friends and save on gifts! Overseas customers, please allow 10-14 business days for delivery before Christmas. I really appreciate you supporting my work with your purchase.

Save 15% Coupon Offer Shop Sale

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12 Tips and Uses for Mint

Mint is an aromatic herb with many different flavours including peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, apple, ginger, orange and cinnamon.

Herb Tip: Snip leaf tips with scissors or secateurs. Two new shoots will grow at every stem and create a bushier herb plant with more leaves. The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Snip leaf tips with scissors or secateurs. Two new shoots will grow at every stem and create a bushier herb plant with more leaves.

This fragrant herb contains vitamins A, B and C and may benefit your health with its antiseptic, antioxidant, antiviral and digestive properties. Here are 12 quick tips and uses for mint:

Growing Mint in your Garden:

  1. Contain these escapees in pots as their vigorous roots will be invasive in your garden.
  2. Grow in the sun for a higher concentration of essential oils.
  3. In hot climates/weather, grow in the shade so they require less watering.
  4. Keep up the moisture to this thirsty herb and add mulch.
  5. Practice your hairdressing skills by providing mint with regular ‘haircuts.’ This encourages new growth, shapes the plant and provides you with lots of cuttings to grow new plants.
  6. Root your cuttings in water (ideally in the new moon phase) to propagate new plants for free.
  7. Pennyroyal, peppermint and spearmint varieties are the most effective insect deterrents but all mints help mask the smell of neighbouring plants. Use this to your advantage by positioning a pot of mint near cruciferous (brassica family) crops like broccoli and kale to confuse and lose the cabbage white butterflies!
  8. When in flower, mints attract beneficial insects and pollinators like bees.
How to Use Mint - Tips and Health Benefits | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Crush or bruise the leaves to release the fragrant essential oils


Using Mint in the Kitchen and for Health:

  1. Chew fresh leaves to freshen breath and to help provide relief from colds, coughs and sore throats.
  2. Mints (especially peppermint) may help improve digestion, so drinking a cup of mint tea before a meal may be beneficial.
  3. Make a mint tea by pouring boiling water over 3-4 fresh leaves/cup. Cover and steep to infuse the flavours for 3 minutes before enjoying.
  4. Add sprigs of fresh mint to chilled drinks, fruit juice and ice cubes.

For more mint tips, check out Grow Your Own Herb Tea Garden.

“Mint is very high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals, eliminating them from the body and assisting in disease prevention.” – Anne Gibson

Peek over the Fence … into Jennifer’s Garden

This month, we’re peeking over the virtual fence to take a tour of Jennifer’s urban container garden in Brisbane, Australia.

Jennifer's 1m2 edible container garden. Left to Right: Locquat tree, Zucchini seedling, Chocolate Mint (front), Cucumbers (back) Zucchini, Stevia, Spinach (in blue wicking bed), purple lettuce. | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Jennifer’s 1m2 edible container garden. Left to Right: Locquat tree, Zucchini seedling, Chocolate Mint (front), Cucumbers (back) Zucchini, Stevia, Spinach (in blue wicking bed), purple lettuce.

Jennifer attended a talk I gave on Micro Gardening at the Brisbane International Garden Show in October. She says: “When I left I felt like a different person.  Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and for all your garden tips about growing in containers.” As you can see, Jennifer has used a variety of containers to start her small 1m x 1m garden including plastic, tin and terracotta. If you’re not sure what type of pot is best for your situation, learn more about choosing containers here.

“About a week before I went to the show, I had started some spinach seeds, without much hope, since I have not ever been very successful in seed raising.  After your talk, I went home and started a lot more seeds after making soil using your basic recipe.  I’ve continued on and have had enormous success.”

In these pots are Jennifer's spinach seedlings and healthy cucumbers. | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Left: 4 cucumbers raised from seed and growing up a wire trellis. Right: Jennifer’s spinach seedlings.

“I thought my garden space was limited but using your ideas about container gardening, I now have cucumbers growing in a pot and climbing up wire.  I have rockmelons growing up a trellis, spinach in a wicking bed and a perpetual spinach also in a pot.  I can see there is no limit.”

“Two spinach plants are growing in the blue wicking bed pot as well as some, as yet unknown, volunteers. Spinach is not usually grown at this time of the year but I was able to raise some seeds so thought that a pot in which the plant controls the watering, mulched well and in part shade would give the spinach the best chance of growing out of season.  The fence behind the plants is west so these plants receive good morning sun and from midday are shaded.  All these plants have been planted in a mixture of 1 part coir, 1 part vermiculite and 2 parts compost and mulched with sugar cane straw.”

“One of the keys to success is creating suitable microclimates for plants to grow.” – Anne Gibson

You can also create microclimates in your own garden. e.g. Protecting plants from too much sun and ensuring sufficient water and mulch are applied to regulate soil moisture and temperature.

Jennifer has also been raising tomatoes from seed in a small plant nursery.  As you can see, you don’t need much space to raise a LOT of plants!

Black Russian and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes raised from seed | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

Black Russian and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes raised from seed

Tomatoes are ready for transplant once their roots are well established in the seed raising pots. Jennifer also has a small raised bed planted with sweet alyssum flowers. These attract beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, ladybirds and pollinators.

A thick blanket of mulch helps retain soil moisture, meaning these plants need less watering. | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

A thick blanket of mulch helps retain soil moisture, meaning these plants need less watering.

Jennifer says “I’ve also started microgreens as well and really love them.  It’s been important for me to grow and eat organic food since I have had iron deficiency for the past four years and I want to be well.  I’m finding my organically grown food is revolutionising my life.”

Thanks Jennifer for sharing your photos and garden ideas with us. We look forward to watching your small garden grow. Please share your  thoughts in the comments at the end of this newsletter. If you’d like to share what you’re doing in your garden, please contact me.

Growing Edible Plants in the Shade

I’m often asked by my clients and other gardeners whether it’s possible to grow food crops in shady locations. The answer is ‘Yes!’ There are definitely varieties that will grow quite well. Some plants will tolerate partial shade but there are quite a few that won’t do well without full sunlight.

In my subtropical climate I grow salad greens and herbs in pots in semi-shade under our trees in the summer to avoid heat stress. | The Micro Gardener November 2016 Newsletter

In my subtropical climate I grow salad greens and herbs in pots in semi-shade under our trees in the summer to avoid heat stress.

All plants need light to photosynthesize and grow. Leafy greens like spinach, lettuce and many herbs including parsley, mints and coriander will grow in partial shade. Strawberries, bananas, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric and spring onions are just a few of the edibles that also tolerate a semi-shaded microclimate.

There’s a trade off though! Plants that grow in shade:

  • Often grow more slowly as they photosynthesize as a lower rate.
  • Will usually require less water and nutrients (that’s a bonus)!
  • Usually have lower yields than sun-grown plants.
  • May need to be supported with optimum soil or potting mix and moisture requirements.
  • May be more susceptible to pests and diseases.

If you grow edibles successfully in a shady garden, please share your experiences in the comments.

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Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants

CLICK FOR DETAILS: How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide


  • Do you ever feel frustrated when your plants die?
  • Do you have problems with poor soil?
  • Sick of watering all the time to keep plants alive?
  • Are your plants always attracting pests/diseases?

If so, it’s likely the issue lies in your growing medium. Just like human health suffers if we have a poor diet, your plants can’t thrive without access to what they need.

If you’re not sure what’s wrong, ALWAYS start with the soil!

Studying sustainable agriculture helped me ‘join the dots’ between the living microbes in the soil, its structure and ability to hold moisture and nutrients that plants need. I’ve spent years experimenting with different soil mixes, testing what works and trying to find ways to water and feed my plants less often,  while helping them thrive.

If you’d like a ‘tried and true’ recipe that you know will work every time, you can follow step by step what I do here.

I share ALL the ingredients I use to grow healthy plants. I include specific ingredients to promote healthy root growth, encourage seed germination and slowly release food. I also share a mineral I always add as an ‘insurance policy’ against potential soil contaminants, so I know we’re eating safe food. You can check out the How to Make Potting Mix Guide at Home here.

Thanks for your support! If you’ve already purchased your Potting Mix Guide, I’d appreciate if you would take a moment to leave a review. [Click on ‘Discussion’ and ‘Leave a Review’]

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Wow! You managed to get to the end, so thanks for reading! Until next month, I encourage you to embrace dirty fingernails, muddy boots and the joys of growing your own.

Anne Gibson | The Micro Gardener NewsletterI look forward to sharing more ways to grow good health soon.

Happy gardening,

Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener

P.S. I really value your opinion. I’d love to hear your feedback anytime. Leave a comment below or CONTACT ME!

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