Living in Harmony with Nature and teaching others to garden the natural (organic) way, with emphasis on practices that lead to NUTRIENT DENSE produce!

Harmony Gardens

Harmony Gardens
Bey Home designed by Stitt Energy Systems, Inc. 2002

Welcome To Our Site

Our intent is simple: to provide useful information on gardening, health and sustainability issues. We will include class and meeting announcements, gardening information, and book reviews. The articles that Calvin writes for Garden Thyme, the Master Gardener Newsletter will be included. We will try to make this site easy to use and relevant.

About Me

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Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States
Harmony Gardens is the home of Calvin and Doris Bey. As the name implies our goal is to live in harmony with the Laws of Nature. We are concerned about the environment, energy efficiency, organic gardening, alternative health, and sustainability issues. We love our Stitt Energy Systems Inc. energy efficient home, which received a First Place NAHB National Award for 2003. Calvin is a retired USDA Forest Service scientist. Each year he teaches classes in Organic Gardening in February and March and again in September. Doris is a retired RN. Calvin and Doris have put their energy efficient house up for sale (by owner). See first post for description, pictures, and house design.

September 18, 2010

How to Identify NUTRIENT-DENSE Produce - BRIX it!

It seems a long way off to picking vine-ripened, scrumptious, tasty tomatoes, but now is the time to prepare for that event. The taste that you are after is very much dependent on getting the soil organic matter, microbial populations, and all the minerals in the proper amounts and ratios. When you get all the numbers “right,” the result will be tomatoes that are tasty and NUTRIENT DENSE.


A nutrient density index can be measured with a refractometer. It measures the sugar/mineral content in units called “BRIX.” It’s an easy process that involves extracting a few drops of plant juice, from either the leaves or the fruit. When BRIX levels are high, the minerals are abundant, taste is superb, shelf life is extended, insect and disease problems are greatly reduced, and the plants are more winter hardy.

This issue of nutritional quality of produce is not a new concern. USDA alerted the public to the declining quality of produce in 1936. (This is not a typo). It made the news and was actually read into Senate Document 264.

If this subject is new to you, you can get additional information by checking out “high brix gardens,” or In the future, we are likely to see produce marketed on the basis of the BRIX readings. That will benefit the consumer.

The first North American Conference on Nutrient-Dense produce will take place in Wisconsin, Nov

7-8, 2010. High BRIX production goes beyond standard organics. Research has been done, and many farmers and gardeners are on board.

You cannot assume that your produce will have a high brix reading, just because it looks good. Only by doing a BRIX test (or other expensive type of nutrient analysis) will you know the nutrient density value for your produce. Here is an example with green beans of why the nutrient density issue is so critical. It was reported in June, 2007 Acres U.S.A. magazine by Jon Frank.

Rating Sample #1 Sample #2

Brix Rating 4.2 6.1

Dry Matter 8.1% 16.6%

Protein 1.75 g 3.34 g

Calcium 70mg 130 mg

Magnesium 30mg 50mg

Phosphorus 40mg 80 mg

Potassium 190mg 580mg

Copper 0.1 mg 0.4 mg

Iron 1.3 mg 2.1 mg

Zinc 0.7 mg 2.3 mg

Manganese 0.29 mg 0.35 mg

The data speak for themselves. By going from BRIX readings of 4 to 6, dry weight, protein content, and nutrient density essentially doubled. I have tested many vegetables from stores and gardens in the area and many are in the 4 (poor) range. I know from my own garden that by moving up to the 8 and 12 range (Good) the vegetables taste is noticeably improved.

What you do now will determine the taste of that summer tomato. It starts by getting a soil test, and adding appropriate amendments.

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Garden 2007

Garden 2007
Heirloom "Country Gentleman" Corn