The Magic of Properly Feeding Your Soil with Annie Haven

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The Magic of Feeding Your Soil
Annie Haven What is the #1 SECRET to accelerating natural growth in your garden?  Join us as Annie Haven shares her amazing array of tips and techniques to help you to grow a healthier, more vibrant and exciting garden!

Annie has deep roots as her family is a world leader in seed production.  Annie is an environmentally-minded gardener and rancher in southern California.  Her family legacy of sustainable growing makes her the undisputed go-to expert for rose and orchid growers, organic vegetable gardeners and gardening enthusiasts around the world.


In This Episode You Will Discover:

  • What does Annie do to help so many gardeners?
  • What is the secret ADVANTAGE that she has developed?
  • What is the BIGGEST mistake most new gardeners make?



P. Allen Smith Blog

Shawna Coronado Blog

This is the book Annie mentioned on the show!


Interview Links

Buy Annie Haven’s Manure Tea
Annie’s Twitter: @greensoil
Annie Haven’s Blog:


Listen to Annie Share the Magic of Feeding Your Soil:


Interview Transcript:

Intro:  Welcome to Back to My Garden.  Discover your passion for gardening.  Here’s Dave Ledoux.

Dave:  Attention Gardeners!  Do you want to save time, save money, and increase your yields?  Discover the secrets to an amazing garden.  Receive tips, strategies, and techniques from master gardeners and experts from around the world.  Join our free weekly tips newsletter, at

Well, hello, good morning, good afternoon or good evening depending on where you are in the world when you listen to this.  I’m your host, Dave Ledoux.  Welcome to another edition of Back To My Garden.  And today, we’re going to discuss the secret to accelerating natural growth in your garden.  We’re going to chat about composting, ranching, soil conditioning, even maybe about manure.  I have a very special guest joining us today on the show.  Her family is a world-leader in seed production, environmentally-minded gardening.  She is in charge of the Haven Family Ranch in Southern California.  They have a legacy of sustainable growing.  And I first found about Annie from a magazine in the Netherlands, and the translation from Dutch was very rough, but it warned me not to mix up her tea with Earl Grey.  And with that, let me bring on to the show, Annie Haven.  Annie welcome to the show.

Annie:  Well, thank you very much.  It’s a pleasure.  It’s always fun to share the world of gardening and all the mistakes and the successes that come along with it.  And to bring my manure tea, Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew, and the awareness of feeding your soil natural nutrients for success.

Dave:  Fantastic.  Let me ask you a question Annie.  Are you ready to dig in?

Annie:  You bet, let’s garden virtually here.

Dave:  I want to talk a little bit about your tea.  Well start with the big elephant in the room because a lot of people are brand new gardeners listening to this, and they’re saying ‘tea? what?’.  If you’re following the home game, grab a pen, Annie’s website is  And at ManureTea it was definitely not what I expected.  Annie, for somebody who’s never heard of manure tea before, what’s the 60 second overview?

Annie: 60 second overview is:  the manure tea, brewed, steeped just as you would sun tea.  And then you water your plants with it as you normally would.  It’s 100% natural nutrients.  However, what has happened with a lot of things over a period of time, is not all manures are equal.  As in not all organic is organic anymore.  It makes us have to reach a little bit more.  The difference with my manure tea product is that it comes from Haven-raised livestock only that are raised free of antibiotics, growth hormones, no herbicides or pesticides are used.  So there has been several instances now coming to the surface — we’ve been talking about sharing for decades — how the pesticides and herbicides are detrimental to the manure.  They literally pass through the livestock and remain in the manure.  It’s important for you to know the source of the manure.  The same with horses that are fed worming medications, etc.  if they’re mulched into the soil, it will affect the growth of your plant.

Dave:  I just had one of those Ah-Ha moments.  I had a whole outline and we’re off the outline already.  So what you’re saying, these commercial ranches that product a lot of meat for 300 million North American plates, they’re giving them antibiotics, because they have to to raise the cattle.  Growth hormones, steroids, all other cocktails and chemicals.  I never in my life thought about that, the manure has whatever is fed to the animal, right?

Annie:  Correct.  There’s 2 particular instances I will provide you with the links.  One issue was in Washington State, several counties in Washington State.  It was back in the early 2000’s.  The report came out, I believe, in July of 2010, but they were losing 40-60% of their broadleaf crop.  So they enlisted a professor to come in, and he went back-traced and found that the EPA had allowed the use of Milestone, which is a broadleaf spray, for the farmers to use in the fields.  The farmer uses it, it says right on the label – Not To Be Used for Edibles.  The farmer sprays, and then many many months comes back and harvests.  He then sells for silage to the organic dairy.  Now there’s no means of tracking.  So the organic dairy then sells the manure to the organic farmer, the organic farmer spreads it out in the field, and has contaminated is field.  Just recently, Joe Lamp’l of Growing a Greener World TV had designed and built some raised beds for his Growing a Greener World TV test gardens.  Backfilled each one of them with 30 yards of beautiful, clean soil and then took manure that he had been composting from his own horses, and mulched it in, and then noticed his broadleaf crops were failing as they were coming up with distorted leaves.  So, there it had been sitting, composting for a couple of years.  And the toxicity level of the broad leaf spray that had been used on the alfalfa that was then being fed to his horses, was still present.  And he did a blog post on that, so I will provide you with the link.  So, things that I’ve been sharing that my family was aware of that was happening, I guess, you could are coming to fruition or are finally being spoken more about.  When the label was handed out for organics, at the same time, the state started composting all of the green waste.  But what they didn’t do, is they didn’t do anything about the use of herbicides or pesticides.  So all of the green wastes coming from every individual’s yard, all of the green waste that’s coming into these facilities from independent landscape companies from all around, and nobody has control over who’s using RoundUp, who’s using broadleaf sprays.  That is all organic material getting broken down and being sold as compost, but there’s nobody monitoring the toxicity level.  And in one of the reports, at the very bottom, the paragraph states that they had come to California and had tested 3 of California’s largest green waste recycling facilities.  Just the pesticide for residential ant spray, was just off the charts.  So, just like with the food that we eat, when we’re looking at our garden and we’re talking about our soil, we need to be aware of what it is that we’re using.


brown cow in pasture


Dave:  You now Annie, I thought we’d get on our podcast here and have a friendly little gardening conversation.  And I think we just scared the pants of half of our listeners.  Because we don’t talk about this, we don’t think about this.  It’s not in the mainstream media.  And I keep encouraging everyone to grow their own food.

Annie:  Well, what it is is that we need to do due diligence, just like we do at the store.  We need to read the labels.  If we don’t have a local source to get our soil from, our potting soils, just like the farmer’s market where you get to know who you’re dealing with on a weekly basis.  Then you need to read the labels, because there are products out there that the soil council … I will pull up the links for you …. but read the labels, and they’ll tell you whether it’s organic or not, depending on where the people are buying.  Here in the United States we became very complacent because we had the USDA and we had the EPA and we had all of these organizations that were going to stand behind it and take care of that so we could just go get what we needed and go on about our day.  It didn’t happen that way.  So we have to basically police ourselves, but that should in no way keep anybody from experiencing fresh food.  Growing herbs.

Dave:  A lot of my friends live in cities and in big apartments, but they do have balconies.  And now they’re getting into container gardening.  Talk a little bit about why the manure tea is so perfect for somebody just growing a patio, or rooftop or balcony garden.

Annie:  Well, first of all, it’s easy.  But it’s 100% natural nutrients.  Everything from the harvesting of the product, to the packing of the product is done by hand.  My family farm large scale, so from 1853 to 1968 we were the world’s leader in seed production.  So we grew vegetables for seed.  And then that seed was sold to big seed suppliers like Burpee amongst others, and it was put into little packages that were then distributed to gardeners all around the world.  The manure that produced by the horses and the livestock that pulled the equipment through the field, the livestock that were raised to feed the workers, was then harvested and processed just as I do today, but in large bags like pillowcase-size bags.  And then the field would be flooded and irrigated to get the nutrients back into the soil.  So, the home gardener, growing in a small container, they can get potting soil which virtually doesn’t have any nutrients.  The manure is 100% natural nutrients.  So you steep it, brew it just like you would sun tea, just cool tap water, drop the tea bag in, and then you water your plants as you normally would with it.  And the natural nutrients, the roots absorb the nutrients.  And what they don’t absorb goes into conditioning the soil.  In actuality, it’s considered a soil conditioner.


rustic watering can


Dave:  I want  you to talk about how challenging it is right now in Southern California, being in your line of work.

Annie:  It’s extremely challenging in that we have been oncoming in 7 years of a drought.  The last 3 years have just intensified, and this last year we had no snow pack.  There’s a saying that cattle are fleeing California like rats from a sinking ship, because there’s no grass.  Water levels are down.  It’s tough, you’ve got to be up early, you don’t want to stress your livestock, so you need to get up, you need to get the chores done and then allow them to be able to get up and shade up in the trees and relax.  As far as the gardeners that are brewing and feeding my tea, their water consumption is down because their plants have healthy roots.  So when the plants get the nutrition that they need, they’re able to defend against stress and bugs and all of those things that come about.  So it’s been a journey to reintroduce something that was a mainstay before the day and age of chemical and large commercial fertilizers.  

Dave:  I was on your blog, and I noticed you have more than one kind of tea.

Annie:  Yes, I have flavours.  LOL   I have cow manure, horse manure, and alfalfa tea.  In my case, because the livestock are grass fed, it’s grower’s preference.  Some people grew up knowing more about horse manure, their grandmother’s would take them down as young children and they would get the manure and bring it home.  More know about the cow manure, so I guess depending on on where you come from and how you were raised.  I consider it grower’s preference.  As a rule, horses are normally fed a higher diet of alfalfa, so their manure is higher in nitrogen and if not cured properly, can really burn the plants.  Alfalfa tea, alfalfa when brewed as a tea, is a very safe nitrogen.  And so, cow manure being my number one seller, then horse manure, and then the alfalfa.  The alfalfa is extremely good for the first feeding after the last frost for rose plants.  You feed them one really good feeding, then throughout the blooming season, you can feed them the cow manure tea, or the horse manure tea, whichever is your preference.  And then I, personally, usually give my roses another good feeding of the alfalfa tea right before the fall bloom.


rose bush


Dave:  And again, all of that is dependent on the seasons.  I’m here in Canada, so we have 2 seasons, winter and winter.  <LOL>  I grew up in the prairies, and I know a thing or two about alfalfa.  My friend rented leaf-cutter bees to alfalfa farmers.  He would move the shelters around from farm to farm and even then there was a conversation in the 80’s about bees.  And now the bee conversation, you see it everywhere.

Annie:  It’s intensifying, and we’ve got to have the pollinators to have food.  This Monsanto’s feed the world.  We’ve never needed to feed the world.  The world was feeding themselves.  There were a few places that could use some improvement, but the crux of, and this is where the things that were handed down from my great grandfather, and grandfather and my father to me, they came to the farmers and said if you use our seed, we’ll guarantee you.  And in the world of farming, there are no guarantees.  You freeze or flood or whatever you lost, you figure out how to rebuild.  You got a secondary job, everybody did 2 or 3 things.  So with a lot of the farmers, when they hear ‘if you lose your crop, we’ll guarantee your seed’, that sounded like a good deal.  But then ‘you’ve got to use our chemicals’.  And then they came after the livestock production end of it pretty much the same way.  ‘You want to send your kids to school, you need new fences, you need new trucks, tractors … we’ll give you so much a head for the calves your cows are carrying, and then when they calve and they’re weaned, we’ll give you the difference on the gain’.  Well, you know, that’s the credit card thing, and you get caught up in that.  So, my family stayed independent and as taxes rose and things, you sold a little piece of property, you leased a piece of property, you did what you needed to do to keep going.  But we didn’t use the chemicals and we didn’t buy into that.  We stayed independent, so it’s been in my blood and bringing the awareness.  I guess, for me, it’s seeing things that happened, you could see happening 25-30 years ago are finally now coming to fruition again.  I just hope it’s never too late.

Dave:  You were saying before the podcast how your customers are friends now and you have an ongoing conversation all the time on social media.  If somebody’s listening to this and wants to reach out and learn more or connect with you, how do you like to connect with people?  Twitter and Facebook?  How do they find you?

Annie:  On Twitter they can find me  @greensoil  and then on Facebook they can find me at Annie Haven (my personal page) and/or the business page  Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew.  But I have customers from all over posting pictures on my Annie Haven Facebook page daily.  Many of the growers, gardeners who were hit so hard with the polar vortex, getting pictures of the deal Carolina Jasmine that’s now blooming.  The Sago Palm that was a gift to his wife that was just gone and within 8 weeks had spears shooting up all over.  So it’s fun.  I enjoy that interaction.  The magic of moo poo tea.  There’s no other product on the market that I know of that I have found that you can virtually feed from violets to veggies.  I’ve received some beautiful pictures from an orchid grower in San Juan Puerto Rico, who had orchids that hadn’t bloomed in over 2 years, and after starting to feed with the manure tea, are just thriving.  Beautiful blossoms.  There’s just so far nothing that you can’t feed it to, from your lawns on down the road.  And the majority of these rosarians and growers have been feeding for 7 and 8 years.  There’s a woman getting ready to post a video of her succulents in her front yard in Northern California.  She’s never had them look so good.  So it’s fun for me to see them experience what it will do.

Dave:   This time in the podcast, Annie, I like to play a game called 5 quick questions.  Since you have so much experience, and a lot of people listening to this, they do not have gardening experience, they’re new.  And with that comes a certain amount of trepidation and fear, so question number 1.  What do you think stops most people from gardening:

Annie:  The fear that they will kill the plant.  All of us pros kill plants.  Even with the help of moo poo tea, you never know what’s going to happen, so don’t be afraid.  Get the plant, put it in the dirt, give it water, make sure it gets sunlight, and most important, read the little tag that comes with it.


watering can on chair


Dave:  I’m learning to garden from my wife who’s the pro and she says don’t get emotionally attached to your plants.  But I have this naga pepper, it’s 1.3 million Scoville units, it came with a warning label.  And it’s got like 4 little white flowers on it, and I know it’s going to be great.  And I find myself coaching him along, and I’m looking forward to the cooking in the fall.

Question number 2:  What is the best gardening advice you ever received?

Annie:  The best gardening advice that I’ve ever received is to pay attention to the soil.  Your first clues for anything is going to be in the soil.  So, making sure that you follow those little directions, and keeping the soil moist, allowing it to dry out if it needs to dry out.  Pay attention to the soil that you’re putting your plants in.

Dave:  For a beginner, if you had just 2 websites to share with a brand new gardener, what would the 2 websites be?

Annie:  I would send them to Shawna Coronado, she’s a gardening nude, and by that I mean is she started gardening because she was having issues with chemicals, so she’s very much the green-minded gardener.  And the other one that I would direct them to, because he’s got such a vast reach, is P. Allen Smith.

Dave:  P. Allen Smith, that’s a new one for me.

Annie:  Yes, P. Allen Smith and Shawna Coronado.

Dave:  What a small world.  I know Shawna, she’s in Chicago, I believe.

Annie:  Yes she is.  And I had the pleasure of being able to personally meet her at P. Allen Smith’s in his Moss Mountain garden home in Little Rock.  He started hosting what he calls the Garden to Blog event in 2011.  And I was fortunate, it was one of the first times I’ve been off the ranch in some time, and I had the pleasure of meeting Shawna there in person, and really could relate to her story and how and what she is doing with gardening, and growing vegetables, and has her whole entire Chicago front garden as an edible garden.  But you’d never know it if you walked by it, that it was edible, by the way she’s laid it out.  Just a Can-Do gal.

Dave:  Thank you Annie.  Question number 4:  What’s the best gardening book you’ve ever read, or resource that you can suggest?

Annie:  Chris McLaughlin, a garden writer in Northern California.  She’s authored several books.  Vertical Vegetable Gardening is one of them that’s great for the beginner and small space gardening, so that you’re getting the most out of the area that you’ve got.  

Dave:  And number 5:  In your opinion, what is the number one thing every gardener should try to grow next year?

Annie:  Oh, I believe it’s a salad.  Lettuce and tomatoes are 2 mainstays.  And if you can throw a couple of peppers in there, do that.  Get into the greens.  I love the Asian greens.  There’s a great little seed company in San Francisco that sells Asian seeds, and I love to peruse through there and try different things each year.  I pick a couple of favourites and get them going in containers outside my kitchen door so I can see how they respond and react.  But, get some greens growing.  First of all, they grow quick, so you’re getting immediate gratification, which always encourages and boosts you up.  The other, is to get some herbs started out your back door or in your kitchen, so that you’re starting to cook with those fresh herbs.

Dave:  Wow, you said immediate gratification.  And my mind when to grade 3 when our class grew lima beans between 2 pieces of wet napkin and the thrill when you’re 7 years old of actually growing something.  Immediate gratification, that’s going to be the phrase of the day for sure.


toddler watering flowers


Annie:  And that’s just it.  And especially for the kids, but more so for us as adults.   We have busy schedules, we have things going on, and it’s nice to come home.  You can take the long containers and get yourself some lettuce growing and you take your scissors and go out and harvest it each evening, so it keeps producing for you and that immediate gratification it always encourages and gives you that little ‘oomph’ to take on the next step.  And that’s how you start growing big gardens.

Dave:  Our half hour has just flown by.  I want everyone who’s listening to go to and check our Annie’s variety.  You ship all over the world, right Annie?

Annie:  Yes, I do.  And it’s free shipping.

Dave:  You can’t get better than free.  And test it out.  I know a lot of you are bloggers and write on Facebook, so run an experiment.  On Twitter it’s   @greensoil   and make sure you follow Annie.  And I’d like to close this podcast with either a word of encouragement or a word of wisdom.  You get the final word.

Annie:  Thank you very much.  Get out in your garden, even if it’s a little balcony, even if it’s just one rose in a pot or if it’s one herb plant in a pot.  Get your fingers in the soil.  

Dave:  Fantastic.  This was another edition of BackToMyGarden.  Join us again in 3 days for the next upcoming episode.  Please look at Annie’s show notes and links in the space provided below.  And have yourself a great week everybody.

More Useful Gardening Resources:


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