What The Garden Taught Me This Year

It should come as no surprise that I approach gardening just like I approach body care. Doing so has made the entire process less frustrating and more successful than it would have otherwise gone.

In this blog, I’m going to share with you my wins and my lessons from the garden this year.

I’ll also share with you how I approached it like body care. And hopefully, you’ll pull out some useful lessons.

Signal/Response Principle Is Always On In Nature

In my book, Becoming Unbreakable: How To Build A Body You Love To Live In, I teach you the foundational principle upon which your body acts, the Signal/Response Principle.

Once you understand this Principle, becoming an excellent caretaker of your body and knowing what to give your body to help it be healthy, strong, and pain-free becomes much easier.

The Signal/Response Principle states that: Bodies are always responding to the signals they receive, every day, until you die.


signal in-response out

Do you have low back pain? That’s a response to something which you can reverse engineer to figure out what signals (or lack thereof) could be causing that response to occur.

Is your posture more slouchy than you’d prefer? That’s also a response that you can work backwards from to figure out what signals your body needs to make better posture naturally.

The same signals and responses are occurring in a garden.

Swiss chard didn’t get very big? It’s a response to something.

Corn being overrun with aphids? Also a response to something.

Potatoes going gangbusters? Response.

Your job is to figure out what the responses could mean, and then (hopefully) proactively send those signals so that you avoid the responses you don’t want and get more of the responses you do.

Even when you experience “bad luck”, as sometimes happens to both bodies and gardens, it becomes about how you respond to the result of that bad luck.

Despite the occasional bad luck, approaching a garden from an Explorer’s Mindset approach (another concept I teach in my book) makes it much more fun to figure out what your garden box or plot of land needs to succeed.

Tend To The Ecosystem That You Live In

A body-ecosystem is just like an ecosystem in Nature, where the animals, plants, and fungi are all responding based on signals that occur in the ecosystem.

And as the caretaker of your body, you are in charge of creating a well-functioning body-ecosystem, and as the caretaker of your garden, you are in charge of creating a well-functioning ecosystem there as well.

Here are two examples of how I needed to tend to my garden ecosystem so I could grow veggies:


Get the right soil mixture. I live in an area where the native soil is actually clay. Like, if you wanted to do some pottery making, you could do so with my yard.

So, the best option for my garden was to build garden boxes and fill them. This gave my veggies a solid 12 inches of good soil mix before hitting the clay that was down below. I used a 50/50 blend of top soil and compost. Getting this right helped me harvest 39 pounds of potatoes this season.

A bucket of red potatoes from my garden
Just some of the nearly 40 pounds of potatoes we harvested.

I ended up having one section of my garden that I couldn’t get the 50/50 blend into before it was time to start planting seeds, and the difference was notable. My corn grew, but the plants were spindly and the cobs were mediocre in terms of size and development.

corn tassling in my garden
Even if they weren’t thriving, corn is still really beautiful when it tassles.


glass gem corn stalk
Glass gem corn is still so cool even when it’s a bit spindly.



Corn cobs that grew but didn't thrive
Sweet corn growing, but not thriving. We’ll change their environment for next year.


“Growing but not thriving”, was how we described it. And while I will certainly take the win of actually getting the corn to grow, I strive for “thriving” in all areas of my life, so that’s what we’re aiming for next year.

That being said, growing glass gem corn this year was the most fun thing I had going on in my garden. I was like a kid at Christmas, anxiously waiting for it to be time to peek inside the husk and see what colors were in there!

Bred from a number of Native varieties by Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, the famous Cherokee corn collector, glass gem corn is a remarkable thing to behold.
Bred from a number of Native varieties by Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, the famous Cherokee corn collector, glass gem corn is a remarkable thing to behold.


glass gem corn from my garden lined up with a few of my pumpkins
Gorgeous, huh?


Glass gem corn hulled and put into jars for future use
We’re using these to grind corn flour for making cornbread.


Sun is important, but so is some shade if it’s getting too hot. We had a very strange year temperature-wise. It started off with a nice spring, but then we warmed quickly, then cooled off, then hit the blazing heat of mid-summer. This made it impossible for my tomatoes to set fruit, they just kept being stuck in the flowering stage! While tomatoes like heat, too much of a good thing can cause problems too – like not setting fruit.

My gardening coach encouraged me to construct a sun shade to help the plants have a break from the scorching afternoon heat. I took some basic plastic lattice and tethered it to a few stakes I put in the garden bed and that immediately caused my plants to start making tomatoes. Seriously, within a week they switched over to fruit production!

my lattice sun shade in the garden helping to cool the temperature for my tomatoes a bit
My lattice sun shade provided just enough temperature reduction to allow my tomatoes to set fruit.

40 Pounds of Raspberries

One of my biggest successes this year in my garden was the raspberries. Harvesting took an hour a day, every day, for over a month. And while my back was very tired from crouching, reaching, and squatting in the raspberry patch, it was worth it for 40 pounds of delicious raspberries!

me holding a box of raspberries from my garden
I got a really great suntan from being outside harvesting raspberries like this every day.


Here were the signals I sent the raspberry path leading up to the prolific harvest:


Cleared out a ton of old wood and leaves from the base of the canes that was left from the previous owner. This ensured the leaf hoppers that had infested that area lost their home and were not a problem this year. Want to know if you have leafhoppers? If you see heaps of tiny white bugs hopping around, especially when you disturb the area, you most likely have a leafhopper infestation.

Pruned correctly for the canes I had. This is something my gardening coach taught me; If you have everbearing canes and you trim them like summer bearing canes, you’re going to stunt your harvest. An everbearing variety bears fruit on BOTH first and second year canes.

For everbearing canes, you should cut the cane that fruited this year down to just below wherever the fruit was. So if you have a long cane, and the fruit was bunched near the end of it, cut right behind that. Next season, it will start bearing fruit right from that point and keep working its way back down the cane.

I did this in early spring and my canes fruited all the way down to their base. While that was going on, new canes were popping up from the ground and once I pruned back the spent canes in mid August, the new canes now had plenty of room for air and sunlight.

And by late September, they began fruiting again (this is the beauty of everbearing varieties… the chance for two harvests in one year.)

large raspberry from my garden next to a penny to show scale
A large raspberry from my garden next to a penny to show scale

Sadly, we had an early freeze that took out all of our remaining berries and veggies that were still hanging on.

Set up a watering system. The first year I tended this berry patch, I had to hand water it. While hand watering sounds so idyllic and lovely, it becomes a huge pain when you have to spend a bunch of time lugging a watering can back and forth repeatedly.

Josh set up a system based on the lesson on watering systems my gardening coach has in his course. It was a lifesaver and ensured I got good waterings into the raspberry patch regularly throughout the season.


The Beauty Of Tending To An Ecosystem

While there is much more we could discuss about gardening, I’ll wrap up this post with some photos and more mini-lessons in the captions. I hope this inspires you and encourages you – both in the caretaking of your garden, and in the caretaking of your body.

Indoor seed starts getting ready to move to the garden
Starting seeds indoors requires the right light, the right watering, and the right amount of heat. My gardening coach offers a Seed Starting Course that starts next week. It’s a do not miss event if you want to grow more food!


Butternut squash from my garden that grew quite large
Sometimes your luck isn’t “bad”! These were a last-minute decision to put in and wow did they perform well. Don’t get so hung up on “process” that you fail to take action.


I harvested 42 pounds of butternut squash this year from my garden
I harvested 42 pounds of butternut squash from my garden.


green lettuce in my garden
How gorgeous to see lettuce coming up!


Green tomatoes from my garden
I am always grateful when there are green tomatoes left because fried green tomatoes are so freaking good. As a gluten-free person, I either use GF panko crumbs, or make a mixture of almond flour and shredded parmesan cheese.


me standing with a few red tomatoes from the garden
We salvaged the tomato harvest with our lattice screen. Every tomato was flavorful. Be grateful for everything!


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