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.

August 7, 2011

Hot Weather Tomatoes

Just a short note and a few pictures of tomatoes growing in my garden in this HOT and DRY summer. Many gardens have failed completely in our area, and I don't pretend that this is a good year, but I have had good luck with a plum (roma-like) variety (Granadero, F1) tomato. Johnny's Select Seeds ( has them. They call them a 75-day tomato, with TMV, V F2, TSW, N, and PM qualities.

I planted them May 7 and began eating them by July 4th.... less than 60 days. Our spring conditions can be described as very wet, and then followed by consistently hot and dry weather -- no significant rain from May 24 until now (Aug 7).

Perhaps the unusual fact is that all my tomato plants are looking good now. They have had regular watering. While all my varieties have yielded some tomatoes, only "Granadero" continues to flower and and set fruit in 100 degree-plus weather. See the photos. We have picked 20 pounds per plant and there is another 30 pound still on each of the plants. With a change to more normal weather, production per plant could easily total 75 pounds.

With the VERY HOT weather I did try a new twist. In mid July, I covered the plants with floating row covers. Mostly, I covered the top and the west side of the plants. It provides some shade and serves as a windbreak to the prevailing hot winds. It appears to have helped. More details on production will follow.

July 16, 2011

Tree and Shrub Watering Guidelines

EMERGENCY: Aug 2, 2011. Since writing this article in mid July, the drought (heat/wind/dryness) has become much worse. And it promises to go on for an extended time. I have discussed this topic with many, and one thing seems clear. Gardeners are NOT checking their soil to actually feel the moisture. I strongly recommend: Dig down at least 8 inches into the soil (for garden, shrubs and trees). At that depth, a handful of that soil should be wet enough to not fall apart when squeezed and dropped. Tree tops are turning brown in our native forests --a sure sign of severe stress.

Here in Northwest AR, the hot/dry/windy weather that we are currently experiencing, is ow taking its toll on our shrubs and trees. The low humidity and wind has depleted the soil water to an extent that I have not seen in the past decade. If you have not watered your trees and shrubs, do it now. You could lose them.

How Much Water to Apply? First, here are some facts. A one-inch rain supplies 62 gallons for each 100 square feet. A tree can easily use one to two (or more) inches of rain per week. Consider the watering area for a tree to be at least as large as the the area under the crown. (Just get the average distance in feet across the whole crown and square it). A small tree (5-inch diameter stem) can easily have a crown area of 200 square feet and a mature tree can easily have a crown area of over 600 square feet.

For each 100 square feet, add roughly 90 gallons of water per week. For most small trees (200 hundred square feet of area under the crown), I simply turn on the faucet so that I am getting 1 gallon of water per minute, and let it run for 5 hours. A soaker hose is ideal for getting good distribution. For a large, mature tree (600 square feet of area under the crown), I let the water run for about 15 hours. If you have not watered in the past 8 weeks (with essentially no rain), you should start by doubling these amounts. The soil is gun-powder dry and this amount of water is needed.

I know this may sound excessive, and I understand if you have concerns. However, consider the costs associated with tree removal, replacement, energy savings from shade on a house, and/or losses from fruit or nut production. It will quickly add up, so don’t wait and don’t skimp on the water. Use this as a guide and adjust on the methods that fit your situation. Water at night if possible.

Water Costs will vary by where you live. At Washington Water, without city sewage costs, I pay about $12.00 per each 1,000 gallons. I have 15 trees, averaging about 300 square feet of crown area per tree. At the rate of adding 90 gallons per 100 square feet, that means I need about 4,050 gallons of water per week, at a cost of about $50.00. Even if I have to do that for 6 weeks, i.e. $300.00, that is a real bargain compared with loss of shade, future pecan production, and tree removal and replacement.

Water Conservation. Anything you can do to help the soil hold more water is beneficial. I use a 6-inch layer of mulch of wood chips and leaves around my trees. As the trees grow I make the mulch circle larger each year, up to 8 feet in diameter. As the mulch decomposes, it gets incorporated into the soil, which increases the soil water holding capacity. Through transpiration, trees use a lot of water and there is not much you can do to change that water consumption.

Priorities. You may feel that you cannot water all your trees. If so, select those for watering on the basis of value. Water those Of the trees you plan to save, water those in the driest places (shallow soils) first.

Humates (Humic Acid) -- Good for all Soils


On a world-wide basis, roughly two thirds of the planet’s organic carbon has been lost during the last 50 years of extractive agriculture. In Arkansas, the average soil organic matter has decreased to 1.25 percent. Five percent organic matter is a reasonable goal for garden soils.

Whether you use organic or conventional methods, adding humates to the soil is a good choice. Almost all humates are extracted from Leonardite or lignite, often referred to as brown coal. Humates not new, and fifty years of research has quantified the multiple benefits. Though often labeled simply as “humid acid,” there may be many organic acids (like those that are found in humus) in the product. Humic acid is available locally.

The benefits of humates directly parallel the benefits of humus -- pH buffering, moisture retention, microbe stimulation, soil structure enhancement, improved nutrient uptake, and even removal of toxins (like Roundup). These and other benefits result in reduced need for fertilizers. Humid acid has an extremely high Cation Exchange Capacity (450), so serves a tremendous benefit in reducing leaching of other minerals. We all needed that in April and May. Reduced leaching saves money.

The product comes in liquid or the dry form. Several on-line sources mix the product with other helpful soil amendments like kelp (for potassium) or beneficial microbes. Whether you use the liquid or the dry, a little goes a long way. One quart of the locally available humic acid (12%) covers 5,000 square feet.

This is not just a garden product. It is used on lawns, orchards, pastures, and grain crops.

Spring and Summer Crops are turning out very well, despite the cool spring, rain and now the HOT June. The photos below show onions, beets, carrots, cabbage, peppers, and potatoes harvested on June 17. Tomatoes, beans, okra, and sweet potatoes look very good. Of course, they love this hot weather. These are some of the easiest vegetables to grow. Learn the details. See below.
Fall Gardening is just six weeks away, and I have already been talking with folks about some of the specific things that are needed to be successful. It seems, just when the gardening enthusiasm begins to wane (in hot August), that is the time to re-charge for the fall. Paying attention to the garden in the fall is critical to winter weed control and having a healthy soil in the spring.

Waterlogged Soils and Soil-less Growing Mix

Waterlogged Soils. After a very dry early spring we hit the jackpot in late April with 12-16 inches of rain in a week. That has caused many problems. The most noticeable effects were the erosion and soil compaction. On even a slight slope, that pounding rain may have taken away an inch or more of top soil. You may have also noticed some plants turning yellow and some of them even wilting. The Reason -- those waterlogged soils contain almost no air and the plants can not take up nutrients and grow.

If you had serious soil issues, plan now for making some changes. Wet soil problems are usually fixable. It may be that drainage ditches are needed, or maybe you even have to change the garden location.

The value of raised beds was never more self evident than with these recent rains. Except for one bed of newly emerging carrots, all my raised beds were covered with spring vegetable crops and/or mulched with straw. They suffered very little with the rain. A couple days after the rains stopped, I “fixed” the carrot bed by adding a little compost and covering the area with finely chopped, old straw. Production for the spring crops looks great.

Soil-Less Growing Mix. One gardening book, and other “experts” advocate growing gardens in a soil-less mix composed of several different kinds of organic material. I am opposed to this practice. It is not surprising that I have had several calls this year from soil-less mix
users who describe past results as “poor” to “miserable.”

These soil-less mixes are generally not sustainable and far from what I call good organic gardening practices. Produce from those gardens are invariably poor in nutrient content. As a rule, if the plants can even get
started in such a mix, they end up having lush vegetation, with little to no fruit production, and a preponderance of insect issues. It is no wonder. As a rule compost does not have the correct ratios of minerals needed by plants for good fruit production. I have heard gardeners say, “you can’t use too much compost.” That is not true. I caution gardeners routinely, to use compost wisely, i.e. sparingly.

There is no simple solution for those garden beds filled with a soil-less mix. Several gardeners I know are digging out their expensive soil-less mix and starting over with some top soil at about ten percent the cost. A small amount of the mix may be useful as a soil amendment. It will depend on the nutrients in the mix, but I would start with no more than 10 parts soil to 1 part soil-less mix for any vegetable garden. See photo below for results comparing a soil mix(left )from a soil-less mix(right).

May 13, 2011

Raised Beds and Tilling

Let’s hope that the real cold weather is behind us by April 1, but don’t count on it. Some of you remember the frosty white, 18 degree morning on Easter, April 8, 2008. Remember that our average last spring frost occurs about April 10. If you not yet started, you can still plant all of the spring crops in April. There is also still time to start new beds. One of the first decisions is whether or not to use raised beds.

Raised beds have some real advantages. They are better aerated, they drain better after heavy rains, and warm up faster in the spring. I recommend using 4-foot wide beds, double-dug, with a 2-foot pathway. Coupled with close-spacing, raised beds can make more efficient use of your garden area.

Raised beds are also appropriate if you bring in soil for your stoney site. In either case, you do not need side boards for your beds

(unless the site is on a steep slope.) Raised beds or not, you next need to decide on your method of tilling.

Tillage. After double-digging, and adding a one-inch layer of compost and appropriate minerals (based on a soil test), many gardeners think that the tiller is the next tool to use. It is not necessary to use a tiller and it can be easily argued that it does not fit in the “going sustainable” model. A tiller can actually destroy good soil structure, especially in working heavy soils. In these soils, tilling can decrease the soil water holding capacity. A garden fork is all you need to gently twist-in fertilizers and compost. Using a tiller is somewhat of a guy thing -- a show of macho power and control.

The first question concerning tilling is often, “then how do I control weeds?” Its simple -- mulch and cover crops will take care of most weeds. The photo shows the dense crop of Austrian winter peas and oats, and how it can suppress any weeds. The next question is, “But how do I loosen the soil?” That is primarily the work of of the soil organisms,

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

I often get calls saying, “I am ready to plant, what fertilizer should I use?” That’s an excellent question, but I can’t answer it very well without additional information. I have seen hundreds of soil test reports and it is clear that that gardens are extremely variable in mineral content. Without a soil test report, adding fertilizer is just a guess. Even with a soil test in hand, my recommendation is always, “go slow when adding fertilizers.” This also applies to the use of compost.

The easiest soils to adjust are those where the original mineral contents are slightly low. This is likely to be the case with our native prairie/pasture soils that have not been fertilized. The hardest, and sometimes nearly impossible adjustments, are those soils where the gardener has added excessive amounts of compost and/or certain minerals.

The goal in gardening is to slowly raise the soil organic matter to about 5 percent, and get all of the minerals to an acceptable level. Once you get to that level, high quality compost may be all you need to add to your garden. Your compost quality will only be as good as the material from which it is derived.

Organic fertilizers are available in the area (Nitron Industries and others) and you have options for what to use for the various elements needed for good plant growth and production. Here are some fertilizer recommendations for nitrogen-N, phosphorus-P, potassium-K, calcium-Ca, and boron-B. The percent of the mineral in the fertilizer may vary with source of material. It will specify the amount on the bag. Unless

specified otherwise, the ratios indicate the percent N, P and K in the fertilizer.

Nitrogen: Use alfalfa meal (3-1-2), fish meal (10-2-2), or feather meal (14-0-0).

Phosphorus: Use soft rock phosphate (0-5-0). The 5% is available the first year, and more each year, up to 22%. Soft rock phosphate also contains calcium.

Potassium: Use greensand (0-1-5) or kelp (1-0-8). Many local soils have a near-adequate amount of K.

Calcium: Use high quality calcium carbonate or lime (0-0-0-38 percent Ca). Most local soils will need additional Ca.

Boron: Use Borax, which is 10% boron. Remember this mineral is involved in the plant’s ability to use calcium. For local soils that test zero for boron, add 4 Tablespoons of Borax per 100 square feet.

The advantages of these fertilizers are: (1) they are slow release and provide long-lasting nutrition for good plant growth; (2) they are not detrimental to soil microorganisms, as is the case with some high-salt fertilizers; and (3) they are mostly single element fertilizers, which can be tailored to the specific needs defined by the soil test.

For those wanting information describing how organic systems build soils, check out the recent March 2011 USDA Organic Farming Systems Research Conference. Evidence from long-term studies shows the values of the organic approach for the health of the soil, the plant and the consumers.

January 11, 2011

Earthing for Better Health

EARTHING: Reconnecting with Mother Earth

By Calvin F. Bey

“As often as possible expose any part of your body skin to the earth or grass or natural water, lake, stream or ocean. When in your garden use non-insulating shoes, or even as you sit and read or do other actions, stay grounded.” This is a 1969 quote from Matteo Tavera, a French Agronomist, farmer and naturalist. It comes from his series of letters where Tavera espoused his visionary hypothesis that all biological life, including humans, requires continued contact with “natural electricity, which governs us all,” and furthermore, that no biological life can exist in full health without such contact. He calls it the “Sacred Mission,” meaning that our mission for life is to reconnect to the Earth.
This grounding concept did not get much exposure until it was independently rediscovered during the past decade by Clinton Ober. It has now been developed into a health improvement phenomena called Earthing.

Earthing, sometimes called grounding, is a topic you will likely be hearing more about. It is an easy-to-use and powerful health-promoting tool, backed by research and many case studies. The best source of information on the subject is the 2010 book, Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever? by Clinton Ober, Stephen T. Sinatra and Martin Zucker. If you want to check the subject of Earthing out go on-line to

Most Americans are not in tune with the energy, biorhythms, and inherent values of Nature. Nor are they generally very sensitive to what is going on within their own bodies. For the most part, even the modern farmers and gardeners are quite detached from truly intimate association with Nature. Many farmers ride their tractors in air-conditioned cabs, and if on the ground, they walk around on shoe soles made of rubber or synthetic material that insulates them from the earth. The small-scale gardener, with hand tools, and on his/her knees, generally does a better job in being physically connected to the earth.

In short, Earthing is suffusing your body with negative-charged free electrons that are so abundantly present on the surface of the earth. Dr. Gaetan Chevalier, Director of Earthing Institute says that Earthing restores a lost electrical signal to the body that seems to stabilize the complicated circuitry of our essentially electrical bodies. As your body equalizes to the earth’s energy level, you may sense a warm, tingling sensation with a felling of ease and well-being. In the body the electrons are the source of power for antioxidants, which in turn satisfy and quench free radicals. In essence, it stops the free radicals from stealing electrons from healthy tissues, which can result in tissue damage and chronic inflammation which is at the heart of many serious diseases.
It doesn’t stop there. Observations and research show that Earthing can increase energy, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, reset our biological clocks, relieve muscle tension and headaches, promote quicker recovery from injuries, and much more. Earthing can also decrease one’s exposure to the harmful electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that originate from wiring in our homes, computers, appliances, power lines, cell towers, and other sources.

The feeling of grounding is something to which we can all relate. It is the fresh, rejuvenated, and energetic feeling that we experience when we walk on the grass in the spring in bare feet. I feel it when I am on my knees in the garden pulling weeds or digging produce, and I now get that same feeling when I hook myself to a copper wire that is connected to a metal rod driven into the ground outside my house.
It is very easy to get grounded, or connected to the earth. You can get a complete description of how to get grounded, and sources of materials by going to For a reasonable price you can buy grounding sheets for your bed, foot mats, desk pads, and more for use in your home. These devices simply hook into the ground wire in the home electrical system. The kits for this are being distributed by Generations Chiropractic, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
If you prefer to build your own grounding device, here are the simple steps. Drive a metal rod into the earth next to the house. Any good conductor like copper or iron will do just fine. Connect a metal wire to the rod and run it into the house. Almost any kind of electrical wire will do. Connect the wire to your foot or just hold it in your hand. You are now grounded.

To make the grounding process easier in your home, you can make a simple foot mat by weaving some bare electrical wire on to a small piece of wood board or even cardboard. A similar device can be easily made for the bed. The wire placement or design is not critical. You just need something that provides for easy direct body contact.

There is a plethora of individual cases showing the positive effects of grounding. As a dowser, I can say that the detectable energy field of every person I have tested expanded outward by 50 percent or more, after they were grounded. Some users have felt an immediate tingling effect, while some others felt nothing immediately, but then had sensations later. The good things that Earthing can do for you will likely occur whether you feel the tingling sensation or not.

This Earthing concept and practice will just seem too simple for many Americans. For those who think that modern science and prescriptions are the main solutions to better health, this simple practice will be puzzling. Its important to remember that this is not something man has invented or created. As part of the natural process of energy flow and balance in Nature, its been available for our use since the beginning of time. Its part of Nature, where health is the default position.

Doing our part to heal the land and the people of the world is a responsibility we all share. Among the many things that we do, I suggest we all add one more -- help promote the practice of Earthing. I take this “healing’ responsibility seriously, and I hope you will too

This simple homemade foot mat made with copper wire and a thin piece of plywood, and hooked to an iron rod driven into the ground is all it takes to experience Earthing.

Calvin F. Bey, Ph.D., is a retired agriculture scientist, living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a passion for teaching others about nutrient-dense gardening and better health. He and his wife, Doris, use their demonstration garden and energy-efficient home to help others understand the concept of sustainability. He can be reached at or by visiting

January 3, 2011

The Roundup Story

The Roundup Story

Calvin F. Bey

Few things in life are simple and gardening is no exception. Answers to questions on garden design, plant selection, soils, fertilizers, mulches, compost, cover crops, and rotations can become complex. To help simplify, I promote practices based on ecological rules. None of us would knowingly consume arsenic, simply because we know that poisons are bad for our health. A similar guiding ecological rule exists for gardening. “If a substance is toxic, i.e. not healthy for the soil, do NOT use it on the garden.”

What about the use of Roundup? Chemically known as glyphosate, Roundup kills almost anything that is green. Lawn, horticulture, and agriculture folks debate whether Roundup is safe.

At the recent AcresUSA meeting, Dr. Don Huber, spoke on the topic, “Understanding Glyphosate.” Huber is a retired Purdue University pathologist, who has researched the effects of Roundup for 20 years. His findings, and that of many others confirm the fact that Roundup is toxic and not good for the health of the soil or the plants.

Roundup was patented in 1974. The same product was patented 10 years earlier as a simple chelator, i.e. a substance that immobilizes or grabs and holds other compounds. So Roundup gets into the soil and grabs the elements, especially manganese and other micro nutrients.

Monsanto, the manufacturer, claimed Roundup was biodegradable. Oops. You don’t see that on the label anymore. In a French Court, it was proven that it did not fully degrade in the soil. Studies show that the negative effects of Roundup last for more than 10 years.

Worse than that, research studies from many places are showing reduction in vigor and yield, increased chlorosis, mottling, leaf distortions, bud and fruit abortion, plant infertility, increased attack by insects, and more. Other key consequences of using Roundup are:

1. It robs plants of nutrients, i.e. reduced uptake of manganese and other nutrients. This effect carries over to animals that consume the plants.

2. It reduces nitrogen fixation.

3. It increases the virulence of some pathogens and makes crops more susceptible to disease.

4. It kills beneficial soil organisms, and poisons the soil for all plants.

5. It increases lodging in crops.

6. It produces unfilled kernels in corn.

7. Weeds are becoming resistant and super-weeds are developing.

Huber showed examples in commercial production where glyphosate damage was severe, including crops where Roundup had not been applied for several years. In MN, 1000 acres of seed potatoes could not be certified because of excess glyphosate in the tubers, that came from growing Roundup Ready soybeans and spraying with Roundup the previous year. Lawsuits against Monsanto are in process in MN and ID regarding potatoes.

History teaches us that where societies have not taken care of the soil, the civilization fails. I don’t see the use of Roundup as a debatable issue. It is bad for the soil, our environment, our plants, our domestic and wild animals, human health, and our future. It’s a serious threat to the sustainability of agriculture and food production.

So what is the solution? We know Roundup should not be used! We know it is a serious matter. We know too that the answer begins with what we do in our own back yards. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to do what is right.

Have questions? Check out “Roundup” on the net and see for yourself. Read the 2010 Institute of Science in Society report, “Glyphosate Tolerant Crops Bring Diseases and Death.” It is replete with up-to-date references.

Garden 2007

Garden 2007
Heirloom "Country Gentleman" Corn