Two dead, 17 sick across 13 states with another Listeria outbreak due to tainted Lettuce from a Bag

Yet another outbreak due to tainted lettuce salad in the first few months of 2022. At latest report, 17 have been sickened across 13 states and two unfortunate deaths in a recent listeria outbreak according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The salads, which were recalled by Dole in December and are currently under an active investigation by the CDC, include a variety of different mixes. They were sold in either bags or plastic clamshell packaging, according to the agency, which said they include Caesar salads, mixed greens, and garden salads.

The salads that were tainted are sold under several different brand names such as Ahold, Dole, HEB, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise, President’s Choice, and Simply Nature, the alert said.

The recalled salads have “Best if used by” dates between Nov. 30, 2021, and Jan. 9, 2022, the CDC said. They also have lot codes that start with the letters “B,” “N,” “W” or “Y.”

For those who suspect they may have the salad in their refrigerators, the CDC recommends to “throw them away or return them to where you bought them.” The agency further recommends that people clean their refrigerators, surfaces, or items that might have touched the recalled products as listeria can survive “in the refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.” If you suspect you have this in your refrigerator or have consumed this product, please reach out to the CDC immediately.

This is not the only incident. The CDC said that it is also investigating another listeria outbreak connected to Fresh Express packaged salads, which occurred in December of last year and led to 10 hospitalizations and one death. That recall includes use-by dates with the product codes Z324 through Z350. Affected brands include Bowl & Basket, Giant Eagle, Fresh Express, Marketside, O Organics, Little Salad Bar, Signature Farms, Simply Nature, Weis Fresh from the Field, and Wellsley Farms, said the agency.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a “listeria infection is a food borne bacterial illness that can be very serious for pregnant women, people older than 65 and people with weakened immune systems.” And that “healthy people rarely become ill from listeria infection, but the disease can be fatal to unborn babies, newborns and people with weakened immune systems.” Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea, chills, diarrhea, while more serious symptoms can include stiff neck, headache, convulsions, and a loss of balance, the clinic’s website says. “Symptoms might begin a few days after you’ve eaten contaminated food, but it can take 30 days or more before the first signs and symptoms of infection begin.”

A harvest of hydroponic greens grown on a Tower Garden

This is not the first time outbreaks that result in the loss of life have been cause by those eating bagged salad or greens purchased from big box retailers. In the busyness of life, we trade food security and nutrition for convenience.

I didn’t learn until about five years ago, that most of our lettuce comes from Salinas, California. For those of us living on the East Coast, that means our greens have to travel approximately 3,000 miles which takes on average about 10 days to go from field to our table. When you think about nutrients lost for every day post-harvest, we are simply eating old food.

Here’s the thing… it doesn’t need to be this way. With changing a few habits, we can have greens at home in a number of ways, but the easiest by far that I have found is growing greens in my hydroponic / aeroponic growing system, the Tower Garden. I can start seeds for greens every couple of weeks and have a constant supply of greens, right in my home, 365 days a year. And when I harvest the greens, I can simply go from my vertical garden growing system to my table within literally minutes with a quick wash and spin dry if I wanted to do so! (Normally I harvest my greens in the morning when they are at their peak nutrition and the chill them after cleaning the leaves and spinning the leaves dry before fixing a salad.)

Hydroponic Aeroponic Tower Garden
Plate of greens with dandelion

I’ve heard it time and time again when people balk at the price of a hydroponic / aeroponic Tower Garden. I don’t blame them. I know I did the same thing at first. And then my husband had a heart attack and suddenly the price of that tool to grow food seemed to PALE in comparison to the medical bills that piled up and the new life of treatment we faced post-heart attack.

I remember, one of THE BEST decisions I made following his heart attack was to purchase three Tower Garden vertical garden growing systems (we got the three Family Pack). We opted for the payment plan and paid on them for only a year. We looked at it as if we were paying for insurance but instead investing in the health of our family. Boy were we right! Now, we are going into our fifth year of growing food in these full- paid-for vertical garden growing systems. They have easily paid for themselves over and again; I cannot begin to describe how many fresh greens we have eaten off of these Tower Gardens!

We learned that roots of Swiss chard match the color of the stalk!
We learned in growing our own food hydroponically, that our Rainbow Swiss Chard roots were the same color as the stalks! How cool is that?!
Green Bibb Lettuce growing in a hydroponic aeroponic Tower Garden
Bibb Lettuce greens growing on hydroponic Tower Garden.
Spinach Leaf from spinach plant grown on the Tower Garden vertical garden hydroponic aeroponic growing system,
Growing basil indoors on a hydroponic aeroponic Tower Garden
Basil growing on indoor hydroponic Tower Garden growing system.

If you aren’t willing or able to invest in a growing system like this, at least start with something smaller, like an Aerogarden that can sit on your kitchen counter. There are outdoor options you can cover as well if you prefer that use soil, but I’ve found that using a growing system that circulates the same water and nutrients not only saves water, but it frees me up from having to babysit watering something growing in soil every day. I’m a busy homeschooling mom of five — I need things automated as much as possible. I simply add checking on the Towers 1 – 2x a week to my work flow at home and smile big when I have the food and herbs at my fingertips when it comes time to make dinner. You can learn more here if you’re interested or send us a message and we will reach out to you to answer any questions.

And if you’re buying salad kits…. Stop. Stop trading what seems to be a convenience for what you think is healthy. They are not healthy. You’re eating old food. Unless it says right on the packaging that it was grown locally, do not buy it. Grow it at home. And be careful of anything that had to be processed (ie: cut and assembled). You’re putting a lot of faith into someone else.

Learn how easy it is to grow your own greens at home. Let us help you on that path of discovery. Just ask in the comments below and we will be happy to answer any question or click on the pictures below which will take you to further information.

Both of these systems can grow food indoors. The Flex system on the right can ADD additional sections on top and grow higher (more food per square foot) with the proper pump. Be sure to reach out to us at hello@growyourhealthgardening and we’d be happy to answer any questions about growing food the EASY WAY hydroponically in a vertical garden like the Tower Garden growing system.

Full disclosure: I am a Tower Garden Rep (Erin Castillo). Helping families lead healthier lives using modern tools and hydroponic / aeroponic organic growing methods.

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Star Seller Second Consecutive Month-in-a-Row

Grow Your Health Gardening (GYHG) Seed Co. has been identified as February Star Seller on Etsy for the second consecutive month of 2022 and received a perfect score of 100 percent in every category for exemplary customer service. 

To achieve “Star Seller of the Month” status, orders had a perfect score offering on-time shipping guidelines 100% of the time (a one day turn-around with USPS tracking on every order), communication response within 24 hours was 100% of the time, and Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co. received 100% 5-Star Ratings from customers who received their seed orders. We provide the same wonderful service on our online store! (Which is our primary store.)

Grow Your Health Gardening receives Etsy Star Seller of the Month Award for February 2022

Here’s some of what our customers are saying about Grow Your Health Gardener Seed Co.’s service and quality grow with organic methods seeds: 

“These small seeds arrived in great shape. I planted just a few of them right away. They are already coming up! I am so happy with these rare tomato seeds!” — Sully

“My seeds came perfectly marked with a lovely thank you note and a helpful chart of past repelling plants. I could not be happier with my purchase and cannot wait to plant my little seeds with my kids and watch them grow. Thank you!!!” — Crystal

“Got here really quickly! Would buy form again! Can’t wait to start growing ^_^!” — xstiney

“Wonderful seed company with lots of information that comes with your seed order. Also check out the website. They have tone of wonderful seeds and information on it.” — Royal W

To purchase hydroponic-adapted seeds and seeds grown in the soil in the Southeast Zone 7B, you can order on or better yet, for the latest updates and product releases visit Grow Your Health Gardening‘s online store.

Live screenshot of Etsy Star Seller Dashboard for Grow Your Health Gardening

The Star Seller badge is Etsy’s way of recognizing sellers with a proven record of providing a great customer experience. To become a Star Seller, your store must meet certain criteria for messages, shipping, ratings, orders, and sales. If these core fundamentals of delivering great customer service are achieved, a shop may receive a badge that shows buyers that a shop has consistently provided an excellent customer experience.

Our 10 Most Productive Slicer Tomato Varieties from Last Season

{We shared this info with our followers via email at the end of December, but wanted to share on Grow Your Health Gardening as well. If you want to get our emails (where we share information first on new releases and other tips first) you can do that here: (page down just a little bit and you’ll see the spot to enter your email.)}

The results are in! Last season (2021) we counted and weighed every tomato that came off the vine and was harvested. Totals reflect equal number of plants per variety. If you’re looking for varieties that produce a multitude of blossoms and tomatoes, then this is YOUR LIST to grab. We will also include links to each tomato variety if you’re interested in getting homegrown seed grown using organic methods. All of this tomatoes were grown hydroponically meaning the tomato plants received the perfect pH level and ideal nutrients throughout the season.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. (But remember, our data is propiertary and we cannot share specific weights.) So here we go… ready? And the top ten biggest producers out of 75+ varieties (by weight) are…

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Green Elf aka: Wagner's Lime Green Salad Tomato: Number 10 most productive variety from 2021


Green Elf Tomato (also known as Wagner’s Lime Green Salad Tomato) is one of Owner and Lead Grower of Grow Your Health Gardening, “Erin’s Top Tomato Picks” Seed Collection from the 2021 growing season. In fact, Green Elf Tomato was #10 in highest production by weight of ALL slicers varieties in our 2021 trails!

It was originally bred by Tom Wagner and is a determinate variety. It only gets a couple of feet tall and needs only a little support making it ideal for containers and small space gardening. It grows nicely in 5 gallon felt containers or Bato Bucket systems and is a heavy producer — boy does it produce blooms! Wowza! If you plant this variety every two weeks in the first part of the growing season, you will have a bushel load of tomatoes that can be used for slicing, salsa, salad, sandwiches, canning, drying, Fried Green Tomatoes… you name it! This is one I can’t wait to grow again!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Big Rainbow Heirloom Tomato: Number 9 most productive variety from 2021


We were drawn to this tomato for it’s beautiful coloration when sliced open! Big Rainbow Tomato is a beautiful bi-color slicer tomato variety with early tomatoes weighing 2+ pounds with very little cat facing or deformities. It has good resistance to foliar disease and is an indeterminate.

Big Rainbow Tomato variety will ripen with color shades showing green on the should, yellow in the center, and red towards the bottom. When cut open, it will have bi-color shading of yellow and red making it a beautiful slice on the plate or sandwich. It has more flesh than seed ratio, so also serves well for using to make sauce.

We have adapted this seed to grow in a hydroponic system using organic methods and so even though it will grow in soil just fine, it is especially suited for hydroponic home growers using a Tower Garden, Bato Bucket system, or the Farmstand.

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Thornburn's Terra Cotta Heirloom Tomato: Number 8 most productive variety from 2021


Thornburn’s Terra Cotta Heirloom Tomato is a joy to grow! Not only does it taste wonderful, but it’s color looks beautiful mixed in with other sliced standard red tomatoes. It’s outer skin and inside flesh of the tomato has a most unique color — it’s a mix of a chartreuse green and terra cotta — some call it a honey-brown shade, but our trials seemed to be more colorful than that.

If you especially love history, you’ll want to grow this tomato to preserve the seed for future generations because it is now 129 years old! It was originally introduced in Thornburn’s 1893 Seed Catalog. This is one easy slicer you won’t find in the grocery store aisle and will want to try!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Pomodoro Farina Gigante Heirloom Tomato: Number 7 most productive variety from 2021


In all fairness to Pomodoro Farina Gigante Tomato, we were pruning this plant to get an exceptionally large tomato, so the overall weight for production may have been affected as it didn’t put out as many blossoms as it would have normally produced. With that said, this cultivar still weighed in making the Top 10 and is definitely a BIG TASTY classically robust Italian tomato!

This line of Pomodoro Farina Gigante Tomato seed DNA comes from the work of Mario Quattrocchi from Cuneo, Italy and originally from Remo Farina, a retired truck driver originally from Bleggio, Italy. Mr. Farina holds the record for the largest tomato in Italy and worked tirelessly for years to acheive his record breaking tomato. Our trials produced a 2 pound, 6 ounce tomato and others that followed ranged from 1.5-2 pounds. If you want to grow a large tomato, then this variety is the one to try!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Paul Robeson Heirloom Tomato: Number 6 most productive variety from 2021


Paul Robeson Heirloom Tomato is a nice slicer variety with a low seed count making it ideal for BLT sandwiches or it can even be used for making tomato paste. It has less acidity than traditional past varieties and a mild sweetness to it (though not as sweet as Cherokee Purple in our opinion). If you love Cherokee Purple, then you’ll enjoy this very similar, but more productive tomato variety. (At least grow the two varieties side-by-side and decide for yourself which one you like the best and share your opinion in the comments below.) Want to learn more about who Paul Robeson was in history? Click here

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company German Johnson Heirloom Tomato: Number 5 most productive variety from 2021


German Johnson Heirloom Tomato is a highly productive and excellent tasting pink heirloom. It is slightly smaller than a Brandywine and it has a deep acidic classic tomato flavor. It is a gorgeous tomato on and off the vine! This is a regular-leaf strain which can tend to come in earlier and is more productive than the potato-leaf strain. Can be used as a slicer or as a paste tomato. Very versatile and one of our favorites from this past growing season!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Nostrano Grasso Italian Heirloom Tomato: Number 4 most productive variety from 2021


Nostrano Grasso Italian Heirloom Tomato is a very rare heirloom from Italy and mainly unheard of in the United States. It produces medium-sized tomatoes and is duo-purposed as a smaller slicer, but also a great sauce tomato. It has superb tomato flavor with a hint of sweetness. It just kept pumping out the tomatoes and didn’t get flower drop even in higher Hotlanta summer temps here in the Southeast. If you’re looking for authentic Italian flavor and a good producer, this is your tomato! Such a pretty tomato on the vine and on the plate!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Costoluto Genovese Italian Heirloom Tomato: Number 3 most productive variety from 2021


This variety pleasantly surprised us as well with it’s consistent production and final weigh-in totals. Costoluto Genovese Italian Heirloom Tomato is popular with chefs and a standard in Italy for both eating and preserving and we can see why! It has beautiful ruffled ribbing, so when it’s sliced, it looks pretty on the plate. Classic intense Italian tomato flavors. It was productive all season long no matter the temp. Definitely a keeper!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Olga's Round Chicken Tomato: Number 2 most productive variety from 2021


Olga’s Round Chicken Tomato is a heavy producer of almost perfectly round globe-shaped tennis-ball sized tomatoes. Not only does this tomato variety have a funny name (which truth be told is what drew us to explore and grow it), but it’s also super tasty and looks great diced in salsa or sliced on a sandwich!

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company Apricot Brandywine Heirloom Tomato: Number 1 most productive variety from 2021


I can see why Brandywine cultivars are a favorite among many tomato grower enthusiasts! They consistently produce big slicers through high heat when other cultivars wane. Apricot Brandywine Heirloom Tomato is a wonderful yellow-orange beefsteak type of slicing heirloom tomato. It has a leaf that mimics a potato leaf and produces beautiful apricot-colored tomatoes that weight a pound or so. This variety is perfect for sandwiches and has a fantastic aroma as well! It’s a gorgeous and tasty tomato that produces all season long. Check out what the inside of this tomato looks like in the video below:

If only we could also let you taste it! If you want a lot of big juicy tomatoes, this is one to try!

And that’s how the slicer-type tomato trials went last growing season! We will tuck away this data and refer back to as we continue to grow out and adapt other cultivars in growing seasons to come.

If you like trying unique tomatoes you can’t find in any grocery store or Farmer’s Market, we’ve put together a collection and discounted it for our customers. Be sure to check out “The Tomato Lovers” Collection and as well as “Erin’s Top Picks” in the shop! Which new variety will you choose to grow this coming year?

Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Company's exclusive line of homegrown seed using organic growing methods.
Grab several varieties of heirloom and open source tomato cultivars at a discounted price compared to purchasing individually with our Grow Your Health Gardening Tomato Lover’s Heirloom Seed Collection pack.

Which one will perform the best? 1) Worm castings, 2) Activated Charcoal, 3) Both 4) Neither?

I’m scheduled to give a “Tomato Talk” to a local group of community members who are interested in growing their own tomatoes from seed in the next 10 days and in the process for preparing for this talk, I thought I’d do a little soil test for what makes for a strong seedling and share it with y’all as things grow so that you can grow your health through gardening and learn tips for what I learn along the way. 😉

I took four (4) 4-pack planting trays and used the same batch of sifted soil for all four packs. The control 4-pack is straight up soil only. The second 4-pack I amended the soil with worm castings only. The third 4-pack I amended the soil with activated charcoal from a company I heard about and am trialing their product before bringing it to sell in our store and online. The fourth 4-pack soil is amended with the same ratio of worm castings as the second 4-pack as well as the same ration of the third 4-pack of soil with activated charcoal (so this final 4-pack has both amendments in it.)

A glimpse of our current seedling test subjects.

I then repeated the same amendments in another batch of similar soil, but put it in a soil block and amended certain soil blocks with worm castings only and activated charcoal castings only and a mix of both worm castings and activated charcoal. I also included rock wool just to compare growth of seed in this substrate as well. The rock wool will need to have kelp diluted and added to it as the seedlings grow as the rock wool is pH neutral and is devoid of nutrients.

For plants, I chose seed that was from the same lot, same harvest, same parent plant. All seed is our homegrown line of seed that we’ve saved and developed season after season, so I am confident that we have good strong seed stock to run the test. I chose to plant microdwarf tomatoes, because we are in the middle of winter here in Atlanta, Georgia and I can grow micro-dwarf tomatoes indoors under lights and evaluate results before our busy season of the summer harvest begins. We selected different micro dwarf tomato cultivars including Florida Petite Microdwarf Cherry Tomato, Rosy Finch Microdwarf Cherry Tomato, Aztek Microdwarf Cherry Tomato and Venus Microdwarf Cherry Tomato.

Rosy Finch Micro Dwarf Tomato Seedlings pop out of the soil ready to reach for the light.
This is a Fiskars Soil Block that is a plunger style and easy to use. You can make soil blocks of four or one larger soil block.
Setting the first soil block with the other four 4-pack trays already finished and planted.
Small bits of Activated Charcoal in equal parts and mixed thoroughly in each 4-pack of soil as well as equal parts of worm castings mixed well in 4-packs of soil keeping things as consistent as possible. We are testing to see if the activated charcoal makes any significant difference before carrying a product in our store. Stay tuned!

To gauge results, we will weigh all produced fruit and count the number of blossoms and the number of final fruit set by each tomato plant. I will do my absolute best to give equal amounts of water by first measuring what each plant is given and offering the same amount to each plant.

My hypothesis is that the air pruning action of the soil blocked starts will produce stronger seedlings for transplanting in the long run because when that root hits the air, it will signal to the plant to produce roots on the interior of the soil elsewhere. More roots will mean the plant has more opportunities to take up moisture and nutrients in the long run. I also think the soil block with BOTH worm castings and activated charcoal will perform the best because the worm castings will further any biological activity that may be happening within the soil and “cling” to the activated charcoal which the plant can tap as it needs.

That’s my best guess, but I could be wrong! We shall see what plays out in our little science experiment. What do you think will perform the best and why? Tell us in the comments below!

Happy Growing!

In Memory of Mom

To be honest, this is a little difficult to write … I’ve debated on what to do as this day has been approaching. A year ago, today was one of the worst couple of days of my life. (The day before was an especially gut-wrenching sort of day. My mom told me she wanted to take off the mask that was pumping oxygen into her lungs and keeping her alive. ) Shortly after the midnight hour, on this day one year ago, my mother died in a hospital bed from Covid. 

It was not how I envisioned saying “goodbye” to my mother on this side of heaven. I couldn’t be by her side. I was only on a FaceTime phone call and it tore me up to know she was alone with people she didn’t know in her last minutes of life here on earth. But, I don’t have to focus on those horrible things on this one-year anniversary, I can pause and remember the good…

The reason I am probably drawn to even do Grow Your Health Gardening is because of something Mom instilled within me from a very young age. She was a government school teacher for 30+ years and she instilled in me the value of the “teachable moment”. I remember her saying that you never know when a child really learns so she would suggest offering multiple opportunities to teach the same concept until it seemed that they understood.

She would say that when you see the opportunity to teach something new, you should pause and do it right in that moment. She told me a story about her own mother (who was an amazing farm cook and wonderful grandmother) who fussed at her lightly one day, because she had taken more time to do a task because she wanted to teach it to me as a little girl something as she did it. Mom saw a “teachable moment” and made time for me to learn along side her. I see myself doing this in my own children as we do life together. I often pause and repeat the same lesson again and again with them asking them, “Now why am I doing this? Why is this important?” — just to make sure they understand the lesson that is there to learn.

She valued learning and I am so thankful that she instilled in me that you are never too old to learn. Learning is lifelong (and makes life so interesting.) Perhaps that’s why I continue to write when I can on in-between teaching our other children (2 are already pursuing higher education), growing things, and taking care of my family.

Mom was really good at growing African Violets inside our front living room. I remember her tip was to put some liquid fertilizer in the water and she always put them in a 13×9 pan and told me to water them from the bottom (let them soak up through the roots what they wanted to take and then remove them from the pan of nutrient-rich water.)

She taught me to plant marigolds to keep away aphids and to put a bit of fish in a hole before planting a strawberry start. She loved her little garden of flowers and especially was good with roses. That was difficult for her to leave as she became more reliant on the care of others. She always enjoyed the flowers. In fact, as a little girl, I remember she and grandma take me out for a drive and we would pick wildflowers. Those are good memories.

It seems sort of silly to throw a sale in her honor, but I know it would have made her smile. So we are going to pause from the busyness of life today and spread some love (as she was often ready to give to help others in need if she felt led). In honor of Mom we are giving 15% off on all seeds (no order minimum) in the seed shop if you enter the code “INMEMORYOFMOM” at check out today (1/14) through Sunday, 1/16. 

My heart goes out to those that have lost loved one(s) from this horrible virus. My heart grieves with you in your loss. But it doesn’t have to be something that drives our decisions by fear. I was very fearful after her death of Covid. I’m so very thankful that the Lord allowed my son to get sick so we could see that every person responds differently to it and we now know because of world-wide spread and treatment options that certain drugs DO work better than others. I am thankful also for those in my life who have encouraged me to not let fear drive how I live my life. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest in giving glory to God. It has made me more appreciative of time I DO have with those I love and not take the time with them for granted for none of us know what tomorrow will bring.

So, be well and do what you can to be healthy and build your immune system (like growing your own food in your own garden.) Don’t let fear be the driver of your decisions. Don’t follow the masses. Remember, you are exactly who God created you to be and live life to the fullest every day. And pause to remember those loved ones you may have lost and share their story in the comments below.

Thanks for letting me share my heart and my Mama today with you…

Love, Erin

Owner and Lead Grower
Grow Your Health Gardening

Start your journey to health and gardening with this one simple step


• The key to giving your body better nutrition is to grow your own food.
— You will be able to eat what you grow shortly after harvest, thereby getting the highest level of nutrient that the plant can provide because the plant is allowed to grow to full maturity where nutrients will be at a peak AND you will be able to consume it shortly after harvest.
— You have control over how your food is grown meaning soil health, hydroponics, and anything applied to the plant to control pest pressure or enhance nutrition profile in plant like beneficial biological foliar tea applications.
— You will benefit not only physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually from being more connected to your food and outdoors.

• If you’ve never grown your own food, taking that first step can feel overwhelming. Begin by just choosing to focus on how to grow a food that you eat already and taking a moment to think about why you are motivated to make the effort.

• A simple and very doable approach to getting started growing your own food is to simply ask one question, “What one new thing can I learn to grow this year?”

The key to moving to better nutrition for your body is to grow your own food. That’s how my journey began. What did I do? I simply became curious and had an attitude to learn — and I picked just one plant to learn about. I deep dove into learning everything I could about that one plant and what it needed to grow. Single focused. One simple step. A willingness to change and grow through gardening.

Step 1: Pick 1 (one) plant to learn more about.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Here’s how you can make a BIG difference this year in your health by just learning to grow one new plant:

Step 1: Consider healthy grown food choices you are already enjoying.

You’re more likely to eat what you grow and if it’s already something you’re familiar. Research has even shown this to be true with children — children are more likely to eat what they have grown. Why would we be any different? 😉

For example, I like to eat Kale. I noticed that Kale was on EWG’s (Environmental Working Group’s) Dirty Dozen List. I didn’t want to give up eating kale simply because it was often sprayed by those growing it and wanted to reduce the amount of chemicals I was putting into my body. I also found that my kids like the cheesy kale chips at the store, but my pocket book felt the pain every time I had to purchase that in bulk. The best solution? Learn to grow it.

Bok Choy and greens growing on hydroponic and aeroponic Tower Garden.
Tower Garden growing hyroponic lettuce, kale and bok choy. To learn more visit:
Spinach growing in a hydroponic Tower Garden vertical garden growing system.
Tip: If you’re new to growing Spinach and gardening altogether, I recommend that you don’t pick spinach as your first plant to try growing from seed. Instead, purchase a start and grow it from that stage or read our article on how to start spinach from seed.
Step 2: Learn everything you can about that plant.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 2: Learn everything you can about what the plant needs to grow.

Single-tasking has been proven to be THE BEST way to get something done. Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate things. Just choose one thing and learn it well. Focusing on learning one new plant will set you up for success and lead to better nutrition for your body!

We are so blessed to live in an age where we have so much information at our fingertips with a simple search. Take advantage of this and devote at least 15 focused non-distracted minutes a day to look-up details about the plant you’re wanting to learn how to grow. Record what you learn on a sheet a paper and put it in a 3-Ring Binder. This becomes a handy-reference in seasons to come as you add other plants to your ever growing notebook.

You’ll find that after a couple of growing seasons, you’re able to add more than one plant to your ever-growing “new plants I’m curious about” list. And you’ll be able tackle more because once you know a plant, you can grow a different similar variety with ease because you’ve already studied that plant group.

“Take advantage of this and devote at least 15 focused non-distracted minutes a day to look-up details about the plant you’re wanting to learn how to grow. Record what you learn on a sheet a paper and put it in a 3-Ring Binder”
— Erin Castillo, Owner of Grow Your Health Gardening

Tomato Lover’s Heirloom Tomato Seed Collection by Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co. is our top pics for anyone who wants to grow tomatoes not found in the big box chain or grocery store. A true culinary delight.

Let curiosity guide your research. Ask questions like:

  • What temperature does this plant like to grow in: Cool or Warm? Knowing the temperature preference of a specific plant cultivar will tell you what time of year to start growing that plant. For example, kale likes to grow when it is cooler. Okay. How cool? Is there a certain range of temperature it prefers? Okay. We find that it likes 70ºF-80ºF, but some varieties like Lucinato (Dinosaur Kale), Dwarf Siberian, Vates Blue Scotch, Premier, White Russian, and Red Russian can tolerate SOIL TEMPS as low as 20ºF. I can look up those temperature ranges for the area I live in and look to see about when those temperatures are occurring. Then, when I look at the days to maturity, I can use a calendar calculator and count backwards from that temperature range and I can get my seed start date. Not sure how to quickly find a date? Just do a keyword online search for “count days calculator” or pull out an actual monthly calendar and physically count the days backwards with your finger.
  • What sort of lighting requirements does the plant need? Most vegetables need 8-10 hours of full sun a day. Consider watching where you have a sunny patch for the longest hours in a day. This is going to be your growing area. Don’t have a sunny patch and just a lot of shade? No problem! Invest in an indoor growing system with grow lights where you can control the temperature and grow year round.
  • What is the ideal pH range your plant needs to take up nutrients?
    Your pH level plays a very important role in which nutrients a plant can access and use to fuel it. I’ve provided a chart (below) to illustrate which nutrients a plant can take up when it’s within the ideal pH range. Most plants need somewhere between 5.5 to 6.8. Leafy greens prefer the 6.0 pH to 6.5 pH range whereas tomatoes prefer between 6.0-6.8 pH. Notice how kale, which likes it between 6.0-7.0 pH, when soil or water in a hydroponic or aquaponic system is kept between this range will be able to access nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sulfur, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Boron, Copper and Zinc and Molybdenum. If you’re growing hydroponically, you can quickly and easily test pH levels with a pH meter like this. If you’re growing in soil, you can get a soil test from your local county extension office for around $10. You can also get a device like this that will get you fairly close. Remember, soil takes several months to adjust the pH level. Hydroponics and Aeroponics takes only a few hours with either pH up or pH down.
pH Absorption Chart
pH Absorption Chart shows which nutrients are available to a plant based on pH range.
Grow heirloom beans and enjoy different flavor and texture profiles not found in your grocery store.
Heirloom Beans are a fun way of exploring a healthy and high protein food group. There are so many different types of beans (bush beans, pole beans, runner beans, etc.) that the options are endless in enjoying new types of beans you can’t find in the grocery store. Check out our line of heirloom beans at
  • What sort of nutrients does my plant require?
    If you’re working in soil, it will be helpful to understand your soil food web and how micro-organisms and beneficial bacteria within the soil work together to help replenish nutrients in the soil for the plant to access. If you’re working in hydroponics or aquaponics, you’ll want to purchase a TDS meter and a well-rounded nutrient like this Mineral Blend. When you go to add your nutrients, simply keep your PPM levels within the ideal range the plant prefers. You can find a fantastic hydroponic cheat sheet here that we’ve created for your convenience.
  • How long does it take for my plant to grow?
    Knowing this tidbit of information helps you figure out when to start growing your desired plant and calculating days to ensure you can get your plant to harvest stage. For example, I know that kale takes about two months to go from seed to ready for harvest. Again, you can reference most of this information in a simple chart here.
  • How many should I plant to produce enough food for myself and my family? How does that fit in with the growing space that has enough lighting that I have to work with at home? Learning how big a plant gets and if it continues to grow after a harvest can help you understand what sort of return you’ll get from starting one plant and growing it out.
  • Are there any diseases or pests that may target the plant I intend to grow? Can I take any preventative measures that don’t require chemical applications? For example, kale can get hit by the army worm. The eggs are laid by pretty white butterflies on the underside of the kale leaf where their young can have an instant food source. By simply covering your food crop with a net before these butterflies show up, you can dramatically increase your success rate and achieve your goals in growing healthy food. And know that it’s perfectly fine to learn as you go… don’t feel that you have to have a handle on all of this before you begin. When something shows up, you can look up what it is and how to deal with it. It’s part of the learning process.
Fall Winter Spring Cool Season Lettuce Chicory and other Greens Harvested and grown hydroponic organically grown
  • What can I do with what I grow?
    How can it be preserved? For example, if I have a lot of kale, I can dehydrate it and make cheesy kale chips to store in my pantry (which my kids love). I can freeze it and use it in morning smoothies. I can dehydrate it and use in soups for added nutrition. Thinking how you already use this food will help you anticipate and plan ahead when the plant is ready to harvest.
  • How will growing this benefit me?
    We are such a consumer culture that wants things ready in an instant. We have to break this cycle. We forget that there is joy to be found in the rhythm of being more connected to our food and the process of seeing something from beginning to end — from seed to harvest to table. There are intangible benefits to note, like getting more exercise and being outside in the sunshine and fresh air which produces Vitamin D in your body and (sleep chemical). It relaxes your body which reduces stress and cortisone levels giving your thyroid a break. Then there’s the actual nutritional benefits. What vitamins does the plant you intend to grow give to your body? How will those nutrients help you be healthier and stronger? Sitting down and focusing on these things and having them written down will motivate you to keep going when you encounter any challenges to overcome along the way.
Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 3: Reap the rewards. Bask in the benefits of your time and effort.

I just can’t describe how good it feels to have those you love, enjoy eating something that I grew. It feels good knowing I gave them the very best thing that they could eat and KNOW that it wasn’t sprayed or treated with any chemicals. One of the best feelings ever. I remember when I learned to grow basil and made pesto. My kids loved it! (And I did, too!) I loved that I could easily make it and put in the freezer for a quick week-night meal and that it was immune boosting. It’s the “new elderberry syrup” for improving our health. (Yes, basil is that healthy!)

organically grown hydroponic aeroponic basil in vertical garden growing system called the Tower Garden
Herbs are an easy starting place in learning to grow your own food and you reap the rewards of better flavor in your dishes
Rosemary Lemon Chicken is a tasty dish and the flavors are more pronounced with freshly picked and harvested rosemary. Check your growing zone to see what rosemary varieties are frost-hardy in your area.
Rosemary harvested can be dehydrated and stored to add to any dish later on.

If your plant didn’t grow or produce like you thought it would, that’s okay, too! In our home, we know that not meeting our goal or objective doesn’t equate to failure. Failure is when you don’t even try. If you feel discouraged, pick up your bootstraps and realize you have already succeeded because you took that difficult first step when so many others wouldn’t even attempt it. You are further along than you were before you ever tried. We can learn from everything we do. And as you’ll see in growing plants, every plant has very specific needs that must be met in order for them to grow (which also may make you reconsider the whole antiquated evolution theory and how things just may have “coincidentally happened” … more on that another time… but I think you may discover that plants are more complex than just throwing a seed in the ground. They were designed with a purpose and need specific parameter to grow and thrive.)

Backyard chickens eat from a metal basket hung at pecking height during the winter full of kale.
Even the chickens can enjoy the fruits of our labor. Kale is a FANTASTIC healthy green (or purple in this case) to feed chickens in the winter. Here, we hang a wire basket and share some of the bounty with our girls knowing what they eat will benefit us as well when it comes time to enjoy the eggs they produce.

So remember, there are countless benefits to consider. Think about and write down how learning about that one plant has or will benefit you. When I consider my own journey, growing my own food has been more than just plants though…. I have gotten off the couch and out from behind my desk and computer (except for this moment of course as I write to you) and it gets me actively moving my body which is good for me. I love to wear earbuds and listen to music or Podcasts as I work, so it is a moment where I can step away from my life responsibilities and refuel my mind and spirit while accomplishing a gardening task like pruning, checking on water lines and levels, or checking for pests. Know that you’ll benefit as well in the same way; research tells us that those who garden are happier. I’m also getting a good dose of Vitamin D from that sunshine and producing melatonin which both help your immune system. I have a college degree and could work in any corporate setting, but I have purposely chosen this natural permiculture and hydroponic organic method of growing food, because it is healthier for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Plus, it is something a can do with my children, teaching them how plants grow and why they should grow them. I am sowing into not only myself, but the next generation.

Background Image credit: Kim Kight Moda Fabric Nov 2021 Release

Step 4: Repeat.

After you’ve finished the growing cycle of your plant and have accessed how it went in your gardening journal, repeat the process the next season. Pick another type of plant you’re interested in learning more about and pursue it. But here’s the cool thing… because you have already learned how to grow that other plant, you can now choose another variety within that same plant group and grow it AND the new plant you’re interested in learning more about. As you repeat this process season after season, before you know it, you’re growing a whole slew of healthy plants and enjoying reaping the benefits!

Let us know which plant you’re curious about and plan on learning more this year in the comments below!

Happy growing,


Erin Castillo is the owner of Grow Your Health Gardening and Lead Grower of GYHG Seed Co. She is certified in hydroponics and growing food using organic methods. She believes that life is to be lived to the fullest.

Shop seed grown by us GYHG Seed Co using organic methods.

Erin’s Top 9 Tomato Varieties to Grow

Happy New Year! As we look forward to the year ahead, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of nutritious food can be grown!

We’ve wrapped up our trials from 2021 and data and out of all the many cultivars grown of tomatoes, I’ve settled on these being my favorites to try in 2022.

When growing tomatoes, it’s always a good idea to think about HOW you plant to consume and use them. It will be a big help to you to evaluate this as it will determine what kind of tomato you should grow. And the BEST part of growing tomatoes is you can enjoy great taste as well that surpass anything that can be found at your local grocery store!

Here’s Erin’s tried and tested picks:

  • Casady’s Folly Paste Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    “This variety is from tomato and potato breeder, Tom Wagner, of Washington State. It is a fantastic producer and beautiful on and off the vine. It is super versatile as well… you can slice it and add to any recipe that asks for a chopped tomato. It excels for making sauce. When compared to equal number of plants, it even out-performed 3.65x times the popular similar Speckled Roman paste variety. Casady’s Folly had more bud production and peaked in mid-July, but just kept pumping out the tomatoes until the end of September earning its spot as my top pick this growing season.”
Casady's Folly Open Source Tomato Paste Variety bred and developed by Tom Wagner Tomato breeder. Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Cancelmo Family Heirloom Paste Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Cancelmo Family Heirloom Paste Tomato is a wonderful oxheart-type tomato variety. It steadily produces good size meaty fruit making it a wonderful option for great tasting sauce, but can also make a nice slicer for BLT sandwiches as the size fits a slice of bread well and has low seed/pulp ratio. Because doesn’t produce as many seeds, we may swap in another variety once we sell out of our inventory with another variety that also performed well, so grab it while it’s part of the collection while you can.”
Cancelmo Family Paste Heirloom Tomato Oxheart Type good for Sauces Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato (Slicing or Stuffer)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I was originally attracted to Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato for it’s ruffled mid-size appearance and that it was touted as a good stuffing cultivar. I think part of the fun of growing food you can’t find in the store is using it in new ways in the kitchen. It’s a great way to add interest to what you’re eating and delights younger children as well. It did not disappoint and actually produced well throughout the growing season. This is a red tomato, but an orange-tinted red. I love how they look like miniature pumpkins.
Charlie Chapman Heirloom Tomato Seed for Sale Hydroponic adapted

  • Cherokee Purple Tomato or Paul Robeson Tomato ((Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Cherokee Purple is one of our favorite tasting tomatoes. It’s not our biggest producer, but I chose this variety based on its flavor profile. Our seed comes from local stock and has been adapted over several generations. In fact, when I compared my seed to other seed providers, our seed was larger and more plump — these are traits that World Guinness Book Record holder, Charles Wilber, recommends looking for in seed with good DNA.
Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato Seed for Sale Hydroponic Adapted

  • Wagners Salad Green Tomato (aka: Green Elf) (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    “We love fried green tomatoes and this determinate variety just pumped out nice firm green tomatoes much to our delight. The multiple buds it produced and actually set was amazing. I did have to prune it a bit for the Southern climate and for airflow, but I loved the thick sturdy stalk it had and the amount of production we got out of it. It’s a versatile tomato that looks pretty when added to red varieties in diced salsas or topping tacos or salads as well.
Green Elf (aka: Wagner's Salad Green Tomato) developed by Tom Wagner tomato breeder. Hydroponic adapted. Grown using organic method.

  • Nostrano Grasso Italian Tomato (Sauce or Slicing)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I was drawn to this variety because of the rariety of it in the United States as an Italian variety. I also thought the slight ruffled look of it was pretty and it did not disappoint. The production was wonderful and the tomato taste true Italian tomato flavors rang through checking all the boxes for me for a fantastic cultivar to grow.
Nostrano Grasso Italian Heirloom Tomato Hydroponic adapted seed for sale Rare variety in the United States

  • Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato (Salad Topper or Snacking)
    Why Erin chose it:
    This is a most unusual tomato. It looks unimpressive on the vine, but I always love to share it with my guests that come to the garden, just to see their look of surprise when they taste it. Your mind thinks it’s going to tart, but it’s not. It’s unlike any other tomato I have tried to date and the fact that it is known to also have those purple shoulders containing anthocyanans, well, it’s a tomato we should all be enjoying on salads or for snacking. What’s interesting is that the second year of adapting this variety the first fruits that came on where actually bigger than the previous year. This will be one I continue to grow out and adapt through hydroponics in the Southeast.
Blue Cream Berries Cherry Tomato hydroponic adapted grown with organic methods seed for sale

  • Black Cherry Tomato (Salad Topper or Snacking)
    Why Erin chose it:
    Our entire family loves the Black Cherry Tomato variety. Cherry Tomatoes are also easier to grow in the Southeast, so it’s a good starter tomato for anyone who hasn’t grown tomatoes before from seed. Like our other cultivars that have been adapted through hydroponic growing conditions, Black Cherry Tomatoes were larger and super tasty — especially early on in the season. These can be used for snacking, salads, sliced for tacos, or even sun-dried.
Black Cherry Tomato hydroponic adapted grown using organic methods seed for sale

  • + Bonus: Naughty Marietta French Marigold (Co-planting and other beneficial uses)
    Why Erin chose it:
    I wanted to include a marigold to encourage new growers to think of co-planting beneficial plants near one another. The marigold is fantastic for keeping some pest pressure down. You can grow and place in-between and around your plants that are growing, but the real benefit will be if you harvest some leaves and petals and make a biological tea and spray on your tomato plants once a week as a pro-active pest deterrent.
Naughty Marietta French Marigold beneficial flower seed for sale

If you want to learn more about this collection, feel free to click here. We wish you the best and a wonderful 2022 Growing Season! Be sure to let us know in the comments below what your favorite tomato variety was from your last growing season. We all learn from each other through sharing!

Erin's Top Picks Tomato Seed Collection

GYHG Seed Co. Receives Star Seller for January 2022

Grow Your Health Gardening (GYHG) Seed Co. was identified as Star Seller on Etsy for January 2022. To achieve Star Seller of the Month status, orders met on-time shipping guidelines, communication response within 24 hours was 100% of the time, and Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co. received 100% 5-Star Ratings from customers who received their seed orders.

Here’s some of what our customers are saying about Grow Your Health Gardener Seed Co.’s service and quality grow with organic methods seeds:

★★★★★ “Wonderful seed company with lots of information that comes with your seed order. Also check out their website. They have ton of wonderful seeds and information on it.” — Royal W

Liked that a lot of this company’s seeds are adapted to hydroponics. Love the large selection of heirloom cherry tomatoes which should be perfect for my large indoor Aerogarden. I haven’t had a chance to start any yet, but will try to update review once I do.” — Danielle H.

Seeds look great. Looks like a huge tomato can’t wait for a tomato sandwich I’m looking forward to spring to plant. Thanks for the gift pack of seeds!!

Not only was a cute piece of tape holding my seeds, a note was hand written. The best part, it came with a chart of repellent plants for pests. Put of all my orders, this was the best.
— Davena

Arrived quickly and was very well packaged, thank you so much!” 

Can’t wait to buy again

Awesome service on all the seeds I bought. So excited to watch these guys grow! 🙂” 

Super fast shipping can’t wait to plant these thank you!!!” 
— Lushes Lips Lotions

Purchased several seeds, and received them all safely, including a gift pack of calypso bean seeds. Very friendly, easy to communicate, and the seeds came packaged very neatly. I truly enjoyed shopping from this company. Thank you!
— Carrie C. 

The seeds shipped promptly and were well packaged. I planted them three days ago and two have already sprouted.” 
— Be Sure to Loop

Seeds came quickly. I can’t wait to grow them in my hydroponic setup.” 
—Christine G.

To purchase hydroponic-adapted seeds and soil-grown seeds grown in the Southeast Zone 7B, you can order on or visit Grow Your Health Gardening.

The Star Seller badge is Etsy’s way of recognizing sellers with a proven record of providing a great customer experience. To become a Star Seller, your store must meet certain criteria for messages, shipping, ratings, orders, and sales. 

If these core fundamentals of delivering great customer service are achieved, a shop may receive a badge that shows buyers that a shop has consistently provided an excellent customer experience.

USPS Increasing Rates—Best to order seed before Jan 8

Just a friendly reminder that the United States Postal Service (USPS) will be raising their rates yet again and the new rates will go into effect on January 9th

All that to say, if you want to beat increased shipping charges on any order, be sure to order before January 8th! And as always, we cover the cost of shipping on all seed orders over $35 at Grow Your Health Gardening Seed Co.

• First Class Package Service will increase by $.06–$.07 USD in the 1–4oz weights.

• Domestic Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express rates will increase by an average of 3.1%.

• First Class Mail Flats and Letters will remain unchanged in 2022. 

You can learn more on the USPS website.

We mail our packages with tracking keeping mindful of protecting seeds and watching temperatures that the seed experiences during transit. The cold winter months are an ideal time to purchase your seed as heat from shipping containers can damage or in extreme heat situations actually kill viable good seed.

And remember, we are a small business that simply focuses on growing the best seed money can buy. We are not a shipping company. Know that we will make every effort to make sure your seed investment gets to you safely, but once we mail your seed order, USPS takes the “baton” so to speak, and is responsible for ensuring that the service you paid for will be carried out.

So, if you don’t plan on spending over $35, you will want to get that seed order in before Saturday, January 8. We will ship all current seed orders taken in over the New Year Holiday on Monday, January 3, 2022 when USPS receives mail again.

Looking forward along with you, {{ data.customer.first_name|default:’my friend’ }} , to the growing season ahead! Happy New Year!

Owner and Lead Grower
Grow Your Health Gardening

PS: Did you know that researchers have found that sending a handwritten note boosts positive emotions and well-being of both the letter-writing “expresser” and the recipient when they receive a hand written note or card in the mail? Consider pausing for 15 minutes today to send a quick note through the mail to someone you love to remind them you are thinking about them and care. It’s good for your health as well! 🙂

PSS: What new plant will you learn to grow this year?

Stop! Don’t burn those leaves or throw them away!

November 2, 2021

By Erin Castillo

The dazzling display of crimson and orange as autumn summons the changes in the colors of leaves will soon fade within a matter of weeks as tree leaves settle to the ground at our feet. To the untrained eye, their purpose seems to have ended only to be tossed to-and-fro by the wind across our yard. But did you know that these fallen leaves from trees can improve your soil? How? Through Leaf Mold.

Colored Leaves Falling on the Ground

What is Leaf Mold?  

Leaf Mold is essentially partially decomposed hardwood tree leaves. If you were to go out into the woods and lift up the layer of leaves to reveal the top soil surface, you’d find Leaf Mold. Instead of leaves breaking down with bacteria, like traditional hot composting pile methods, leaf mold uses a slower, but important, fungi-driven process. The result is Leaf Mold—an excellent carbon-rich natural soil amendment that doesn’t cost you a dime. It can be turned and mixed into your soil or simply added to the top of your soil as a surface mulch.

What Leaf Mold is not

Leaf mold is not a source of nitrogen to be applied as a fertilizer. If someone is advising you to just mix freshly fallen leaves into the soil, that’s bad advice. Remember, tree leaves are high in carbon and low in nitrogen with the carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio being typically 60:1. In a traditional hot compost pile, you need an ideal bacterial decomposition carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of 24:1. Because tree leaves have a high carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) level, it is not recommended to till freshly fallen leaves directly into your soil. Micro-organisms in the soil will use the existing nitrogen in your soil to break down the leaves. You want to retain this nitrogen in your soil, so your plant can instead utilize it.

What are the benefits of leaf mold?

Trees draw up through their roots from deep within the earth, nutrients and minerals and then send to their leaves. The leaves then contain Ca as well as N, K, P, Mg, S, and trace minerals. As the tree begins to go into dormancy, these leaves fall to the ground to redistribute these elements back into the soil where they decompose. Fifty percent (50%) of this decomposition feeds the tree through the soil beneath the tree canopy. These leaves broken down by fungi and added to your garden’s soil, provides a proper habitat for the soil’s micro and macro-organisms and an essential part of the soil’s food web. 

Leaf Mold essentially adds valuable organic matter to your soil improving soil structure (tilth) which, in turn, improves water and air movement within the soil. At the same time, Leaf Mold is able to increase the soil’s water-holding capacity. In addition, research has shown that adding Leaf Mold to your soil can improve plant health, crop yields, and even enhance a plant’s resistance to disease. When used as a top layer mulch, it can moderate soil temperature and limit moisture loss. 

For example, in one particular three-year study, scientists grew onions and amended one plot of sandy soil with Leaf Mold compost and in another identical plot added no Leaf Mold to the soil. The Leaf Mold compost-amended plot had significantly greater yields than the cultivars grown in those not amended. Not only did the onion bulb weight increase, but those same compost-amended plots produced a great number of onions than the non-amended plot. Interestingly, in addition, the compost-amended plot of onions did not exhibit soft rot disease despite receiving higher than average precipitation.

In another study, scientists compared tomato yields from compost-amended plots to un-amended plots and found that the plots that received Leaf Mold had again, a significantly higher yield. Further, tomato plants that received compost developed less blossom-end rot than fruit in all other treatments. 

Making Leaf Mold

If you have hardwood trees, you can make your own free Leaf Mold at home. Find a corner of your yard or garden, simply rake fallen leaves into a pile or place a column of fencing wire into a circle creating a column to hold fallen leaves. Your leaves should be moist, but not soaking wet as to encourage the right level of moisture fungi need to thrive. Let your pile “mold” for 1-2 years before using. Remember this is a slow fungal cold process of decomposition. But, you can speed this process up a bit if you add the simple step of breaking down leaves into smaller pieces using a leaf shredder or lawn mower before placing into a pile or wire column. In chopping up leaves into smaller bits, it allows more space for microbes and fungi to work as well as prevent leaves from becoming compacted layers that slow down the decomposition process.

In fact, if you place a 6-10” layer of dried shredded leaves on your raised bed in November and continue to come back to break them down with a mower or shredder once a month from December to March, you can speed-up the process. You’ll have a layer of beneficial mulch when it comes time to plant in your garden come April! To further help things along, walk out to a wooded area near where you live and dig down below the layer of fallen leaves to the wood’s soil. Scoop up this top soil layer and mix in your newly chopped layer of leaves you’re preparing as leaf mold. The micro-organisms from your soil sample will “inoculate” the chopped bed of leaves you have prepared and kick-start the fungal process.

If piles or columns of wire are not your preference, there is another method to making Leaf Mold. Again, shred dried fallen leaves using a shredder or mower, then scoop them up and fill a large plastic yard waste bag. When you have filled the plastic bag with as many fallen and chopped leaves you can, tie off and create a few slits in the bag with a pocket knife for airflow. Sit this plastic bag of fallen chopped leaves aside in a shady corner of your yard and recheck every few months, adding water to them if they seem too dry. Before you know it, you’ll have free Leaf Mold compost to add to your soil or garden!

Using Leaf Mold

Leaf Mold can be tilled into your soil in the early spring, but consider using it simply as a 2-inch layer as it is an extremely effective mulch for a no-till garden. Worms and micro-organisms will come up to this mulch layer and incorporate the humus and nutrients back into the soil. Using Leaf Mold as a mulch will also reduce weed pressure and slow down any nitrogen in the soil from leeching or the loss of any top soil erosion due to heavy spring rain storms. And if you don’t like the look of Leaf Mold as a mulch, simply add a couple of inches of pine straw or decorative natural bark on top of your Leaf Mold layer to make your landscape look polished. No one will know that you are feeding your soil!

Dried Fallen Leaves Can also serve as Insulation:

Don’t forget that in November, you can also take leaves you’ve raked and shredded and use to insulate cold-tender plants by applying a 6-inch blanket of leaves around them. This extra layer of dried leaf insulation can be put on fall veggies like carrots, beets, and kale and can extend your harvest well past those first nights of freezing temperatures. And perennials like Lavender, Rosemary, and Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower) also might like a layer of protection for winter’s cold.

Don’t use Pecan and Walnut Leaves

One important thing to mention in closing—do not use Pecan or Walnut leaves. Pecan and walnut leaves actually contain natural compounds that suppress growth in other plants. If you have these trees in your area, leaves from these trees should go into a “hot” bacteria-based compost pile where they can be sure to completely decomposed before adding them to your garden.

In Summary:

  • Leaf mold can increase yields, plant health, and boost disease resistance.
  • Leaf mold used as a 2” mulch layer on top of your soil can help to regulate soil temperature, moisture and feeds soil life.
  • Leaf mold is an amazing free natural resource trees provide every year that build soil health through the addition of organic matter, biological activity, and mineral nutrients.
  • Dried shredded leaves can also act as a great insulator and barrier to tender plants and perennials 
Autumn fall leaves on display


  • Maynard, A.A. and Hill, D. December 2000. “Compost Science and Utilization: Cumulative Effect of Leaf Compost on Yield And Size Distribution in Onions” 
  • Maynard, Abigail. July 2013. “Compost Science and Utilization: Applying Leaf Compost to Reduce Fertilizer Use in Tomato Production” 
  • Fuder, J. Cherokee County UGA Extension Oct 8, 2015 “Make Fall Leaves Work for You”

Helping you learn how to grow your own food and how to use what you've grown for optimal health for yourself and those you love. We also offer our own line of homegrown seeds grown using organic practices.