Planting Garlic in Zone 5 with Greg Auton

Planting Garlic in Zone 5 with Greg Auton – Maritime Gardening Podcast.  Visit our YouTube channel and subscribe to be notified of our future videos.


Things To Do With Fall Leaves – Special Episode 024

Things To Do With Fall Leaves - Special Episode 024

It’s fall and that means that people are putting out bags of leaves on curbs all over the place. What a colossal waste of an extraordinary resource, and a what a great opportunity for you to stock up and hoard this most excellent garden resource! In this episode, Dave and I talk about leaves in general, and about things to do with the leaves and the bags.

Don’t Rake Your Leaves!

First off, if you have leaves on your lawn, don’t rake them up – mow them in! Just because everyone rakes leaves doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Leaves are an excellent soil builder, and as longs as you don’t have too many, the mulching blade on your mower should convert them into an excellent soil builder for your lawn.

Isn’t it great that other people Rake Leaves?

Just because you don’t rake your leaves doesn’t mean that you can’t use other people’s leaves in your garden! Find good sources of leaves (they are not all created equally) and remember that address! Smaller leaves, or leaves that have already been run through a mower make the best mulch, so be choosy. If you can’t get small ones, then take them home and run your mower over them with the bag on. You can even use this technique to add things to the leaves – like grasses or seaweed – such that the lawnmower acts like a mulch combiner. Play around with different combinations and have fun.

Leaves as Compost

Leaves make a great compost, but they take a while to break down. To make a great compost, just add alternating layers of leaves and manure (even green manure) in the fall, and by next fall it will all have broken down into a great compost.

Leaves as Mulch

Leaves make a great mulch from a moisture retention and soil building point of view, but be careful, they can harbor slugs – so if you are worried about slugs, only use them in garden beds where you plan to grow things that slugs don’t usually bother (like tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, etc.).

Leaf Bags to Kill Invasive Species 

The leaf bags are made of a heavy brown paper that seems to take a number of years to break down. This makes them great for smothering out unwanted plants. Just put the bags down, and then cover with the leaves. Hopefully in a year or two, your invasive plants will be gone, and your soil will be nicely renewed from the mulch, and ready for planting with something that you actually want to grow!

Final Thoughts

Almost everything that goes into a tree comes out in its leaves, and when you consider how elaborate and deep the root systems of trees are, this should give you a sense of the incredible resource that leaves present to gardeners as a soil amendment or mulch. Considering that they cost nothing and are gathered up and bagged for free by strangers – the next time you see a bag of leaves on someone’s curb, pick them up and put them to use in your garden or compost pile. Remember, late fall is not a time to stop gardening, it’s a time to start working on next year’s garden, so put on a toque and some gloves and get out there!

Links Mentioned in Episode

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Season 1 Final Episode!

Season 1 Final Episode Maritime Gardening Podcast

In this our final episode of season 1, we reflect on the first season of The Maritime Gardening Podcast.  Listen as we discuss how the show came to be and learn more about us (Greg and Dave), for example, Greg owns and operates Sun and Soil, a custom organic garden business.  We also end the season talking more about raised garden beds, cold frames and even wind up talking/laughing about Labrador Tea.

While this is the final episode of season 1, we will update our Facebook Fan Page, Twitter Account, and of course notify all of our loyal email subscribers throughout the remainder of the Fall and Winter months.

We would like to sincerely thank you, our listeners, for tuning into the show and providing positive and helpful feedback.  Your input will help shape future seasons and episodes and is greatly appreciated.


Fall Gardening in Zone 5? – Episode 022

Maritime Gardening Podcast Episode 22

Many people view fall as a time of year that symbolizes the end of the gardening season – and to some extent that is true – but it’s also the beginning of next season in many regards, and can also be a time of great activity for a gardener. Here’s a list of things to consider as we move into the colder months.

Building New Beds
As we discussed last week, fall is the best time to claim new spaces for next year’s garden. For tips on how to make this easy, listen to episode 21 or read the show-notes for that episode.

Amending Soils
Did one of your garden beds have a sub-par performance this season? Fall is the time to deal with that. Get some compost or manure, or even a nutrient rich mulch like seaweed and cover it!


Plant your garlic around mid-October. If you want to grow your own garlic, you need to plant it in the fall. Once you’ve tried it, you will only want more each year. Get them in the ground, about 4″ deep, and walk away.

Tomatoes, Beans, Peppers and Summer Squashes

If you have heat loving plants in your garden, their days are numbered. Start thinking of ways to use them up or preserve them now (chow/salsa/pickles/etc.), and be sure to get them out of there before the frost hits.

Carrots and Parsnips
If you grew carrots and/or parsnips this year – leave them in the ground until the holiday season: frost just makes them better. If they are not in a raised bed, you can leave them in the ground all winter as long as you cover them with a good pile of mulch (like leaves). In a raised bed, it’s been my experience that this doesn’t work. The bed is too exposed because it is above ground, and the whole thing freezes.

Leave your potatoes in the ground until end of November if well covered (mulch). Just harvest them as you need them. You can leave them even longer but, it gets risky as December rolls along depending on how deep they are in the soil. The safest thing to do is bring them in, and store in cool, dark, dry place. Remember to put aside your biggest and best for planting next year.

In early fall, it’s a good time to re-arrange the runners (make them grow where you want them to grow, rather than where they have chosen to grow), or even move the baby plants that are growing from the runner is you want to expand your strawberry garden. In late fall (November when all the foilage has dies, cover the whole bed with a good layer of mulch. Next season, only the strong and vigorous plants will have the energy to push though the mulch, and the plants that you end up with will be far more productive and problem free.

Biennial Greens

Many greens at their best when they are exposed to fall frosts, so keep picking until they are gone. If you have a couple that did really well, leave them alone, mark them somehow, and leave them in the ground all winter. Next spring they will come back and produce seeds for you.


Finally, when it’s all over, and you’ve done everything you can think of: clean up your tools with a wire bush and/or sandpaper; sharpen what needs sharpening;  oil all the wood and metal, then put everything away so you are all ready for next year.

Final Thoughts

We tend to see the fall as a time to shut down, but in many regards it’s time to gear up and get the next season started. Use this time well, and then take a nice break from it all in the winter months. Next spring, all you will have to think about planting seeds, and nurturing them to health.


No-Till Gardening in Zone 5: Is this a Pipe-Dream or What? – Episode 021

No-Till Gardening in Zone 5: Is this a Pipe-Dream or What?

The concept of no till gardening has been around since the 70’s, yet few people practice this time saving, and highly productive form of gardening. Outside of its labor saving advantages, and of all the benefits to soil health that it has to offer – at the very least – the potential that this form of gardening has for moisture retention should be of interest to gardeners as we come out of what has been the hottest summer on record.  I’ll discuss this very beneficial application of permaculture gardening, and discuss my own successes and failures with this approach.

We are moving into fall, and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s garden, and getting started on some of that work now. Not only is it nice and cool outside, and a great time to be doing some of the more physical aspects of gardening, but the advantage of either amending existing beds, or building new ones, is that the various beneficial forms of life that exist in the soil get a head start for next year. In addition, next spring you will be that much more ahead of the game, and will have a very relaxing experience of getting back in the swing of things. The purpose of this episode is to get people thinking about a ‘no-till’ garden for next year, and to perhaps consider converting a few garden beds to a no-till system this fall.

What is no-till gardening

No-till gardening is a permaculture application to gardening that operates on principles that mimic the way soil systems work in the forest. In essence, the only inputs are added on top, and no mixing is needed. The reason it works is because this type of system is extremely beneficial to soil health, and is favorable to all of the beneficial organisms that live in the soil. Here are a few key benefits of a no-till system:

  • moisture retention – the mulch maintains moisture levels at an optimum level
  • perpetual compost – the mulch is perpetually being broken down and incorporated into the soil
  • stable environment – tilling upsets the balance of the life in soil, and releases a good deal of nitrogen
  • no weeds – weeds are far less likely to germinate when there is a good mulch
  • less disease – which the soil is always moist, the top of the mulch is usually dry, minimizing the potential for many disease problems.

What you will find with this approach is that you no longer need to till in manure, peat moss, lime and fertilizers each year; your need to water your garden will be greatly reduced; you will have far fewer weeds; and, the results will be at least as good, but most likely better than anything you have ever experienced. This is because you will be switching from the conventional input model of gardening ,which works on a principle of broken soil that is perpetually in need of amendments, to a permaculture models that work of on a principle of building soil health; working with the life in the soil to improve the nutrient balance in the soil naturally. With a permaculture approach, your soil only gets better over time, because you are creating an environment in the soil that is favorable to all the living things that live in the soil, and thus, enabling them to help you develop richer soil.

How do I get started?

A good deal of online resources on this topic imply that regardless of existing soil conditions, all you need to do is put down some cardboard, then a mulch, wait a few months to a year, and then plant. In my experience here in Zone 5 this has not worked, and actually takes about three years or more. Perhaps in warmer climates where things break down faster and soil organisms are active in the winter months this may work, but here in Zone 5 I think the soil needs a kick start, so here is what I recommend:

If you are building ‘up’ (least labor intensive):

– mow any grass or weeds you see in the area where you intend to build a new bed

– put about 3 layers of newspaper down

– add at least 6 inches of horse manure (free & nutrient rich)

– put 3 layers of newspaper over the manure (to smother the weeds that might germinate in the manure)

– apply 2-3 inches of mulch

– take is easy, you’re done and are ready for next spring

If you are staying on the ground (the best with regard to moisture retention)

– throw an inch or two of manure on the soil – any kind, the richer the better

– turn all the soil over (a foot deep), either with a roto-tiller, or just a pick-axe, pitchfork and shovel

– put 3 layers of newspaper over the tilled soil (smother any weeds that might germinate in the soil)

– apply 2-3 inches of mulch over the newspaper

– take is easy, you’re done and are ready for next spring

If you find your current approach to gardening labour intensive, and can’t stand the constant weeding, watering, and tilling, consider transitioning your garden to a no-till garden that employs permaculture principles. You will be amazed at how well it works, and kick yourself for not having tried it sooner.  Fall is a great time to get started on that, so get out there and have fun!

Some online resources on permaculture:

Bill Mollison

Geoff Lawton

Back to Eden Garden Film


Mapping Out Next Year’s Garden – Episode 020

Mapping Out Next Years Garden - Episode 020

Fall is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s garden. A garden plan is a great way make the most of your gardening space, and the best time to plan next year’s garden is now, because everything that went right and wrong this season is fresh in your mind – so you are in the best position to simultaneously build on success and address failures. In this episode I go over a few tips on how to start getting organized for next year.

Where everything goes next year should be based on where everything went this year. In addition, everything you did wrong this year, should contribute to everything you do right next year. The problem is, it’s hard to remember all that stuff in April – May, after six months of sitting around waiting for the snow to melt. Moreover, it’s an overwhelming task figuring out where everything should go – so a little preparation and foresight can go a long wat towards helping you hit the ground running next year. Here’s a few simple strategies to help you get ahead of the game.

Bare Minimum

A good place to start is to either take a picture or draw out a diagram of your whole garden in September. Once you have that diagram, do a few simple things:

1. Write down were everything was this season

2. Make a note of which beds/areas were highly productive

3. Make a note of which beds/areas were poor in performance

4. Make a note of where the pest problems were – and what kinds of pest were in these locations

This should only take an hour of your time, but it will really help you figure out where everything

Better Still

1. Do all of the above

2. Plan out where everything should go next year – this should be based on:

a) Where things were (don’t put the same kinds of things in the same beds year after year)

b) Soil productivity (put heavy feeders in the good soil – put soil builders (eg. legumes) intopoor soils – or make a note to amend poor soils with compost/etc.

c) Sites where pests were a problem should get pest resistant plants

d) Try to rotate your crops according a simple rotation schedule

Final thoughts

The great thing about doing all of this now is that you can mull it over and change your mind a number of times over the winter months. For instance, looking back over the plan that I created last fall for this year I can see I only followed about 75% of the plan – and that’s fine. The plan was still very helpful in getting me started and simplifying the process. This is all part of taking a permaculture approach to gardening, and is consistent with this very elegant and parsimonious definition of permaculture provided by one of the pioneers of this approach:

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless action; of looking at systems in all their functions rather than asking only one yield of them & of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. – Bill Mollison

To put it another way – make it easy on yourself by observing how things are working in your garden, and taking advantage of any patterns you might have observed. In this way you will mindfully optimize yields and simultaneously minimize problems. Remember, this year’s failure is simply next year’s potential success – it’s just a matter of seeing the solution and putting it into action.


Preserving Pickles, Relishes and Chows the Easy Way – Episode 019

Preserving Pickles, Relishes and Chows the Easy Way - Episode 019

My oldest memory of canning involves Mason jars, sterilization, stock pots, time, effort, logistics, division of labour, etc. – basically a big overwhelming production for a few jars of pickles. In this episode I discuss a method of preserving any sort of ‘acidic’ preserve that is very easy to do, and can be scaled down to a single jar for optimum simplicity and convenience.


The method of canning that I am going to discuss in this episode is called ‘microwave canning’. Every official source that I have consulted on this technique says that it is not safe.

Here a list of links to websites that argue against microwave canning:

Oregon State University (pdf download)

All of these websites say that water bath canning is the only way to go – but all of these resources as far as I can tell are talking about canning in general – and are not being specific to the canning of highly acidic preserves. My understanding is that Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria that creates the toxin that causes botulism) cannot grow at pH levels lower than 4.6 (except when in a protein rich environment). Given that typical white vinegar is 5% acetic acid, and thus, has a pH of approximately 2.4, I am personally willing to roll the dice with pickles, vinegars, and chows because they all employ white vinegar and are not protein rich environments. They also may or may not have sugar or salt – ingredients which further tend to inhibit bacterial growth.

All of this having been said, do your own research and use your own judgment.

Microwave canning

Microwave canning is fairly straightforward:

1) Sterilize your jars, lids, funnel and utensils – I do this by placing them all in an electric kettle and letting it come to a boil a couple times – this is handy because if you get delayed, you can just hit the button and boil again whenever you can.

2) Bring the material (pickles/chow/relish/etc.) that you wish to can to a boil in a saucepan.

3) Put the material in the jar(s) – make sure not to get anything on the rims of the jars.

4) Put the jar in the microwave and let it go on high for about minute – what you want is to get it just boiling, but not overflowing – this will take a little trial and error, and will depend on what you are working with and the size of the jar- just make notes and you’ll figure it out given enough iterations. While this is happening – give your kettle one more boiling session – that should take about a minute as well.

5) As soon as the microwave shuts off, take the lid with your tongs, and place it on the jar. Snug the rim down gently and place the jar somewhere to cool. After about 15 minutes you should hear the lid snap, which will indicate that you have achieved a vacuum within the jar – you will also note that the lid is somewhat concave at this point.

6) Store in your pantry and eat within the next few months. I’ve never stored anything longer than 9 months using this method. If you are nervous, put the jar in your fridge and eat it all next week.

Final thoughts

The sense of satisfaction that you will gain from filling your pantry with jars of preserves from your own garden is something special, and for me it’s an integral part of the gardening experience. Over time, you will develop recipes that you prefer over store bought options – and of course – you will save money. Whether you roll the dice with microwave canning, or go the safer, tried and true method of water bath canning, try canning this fall – it’s one more way to continue enjoying your garden while it takes a long winter’s nap.


Pesky Garden Pests!!! – Episode 018

Ep 18: Pesky Garden Pests!!!

A vegetable garden can be defined as an outdoor area that has been cultivated and planted with plants that taste far better than what typically grows in the wild. Given this definition, is it not totally natural that every herbivore in nature would want to eat the plant in your garden? Pests are a part of gardening, there’s just no getting around it. If you are lucky your pests aren’t too bad, but in some locations, or in particular years, they can be very bad. In this episode Dave and I will have a very frank discussion about pests, some solutions that are available, and what I have done over the years to deal with pests.

All years are not created equally!

Some years pests are not a problem, and some years they are. They key to dealing with pests is being observant, trying lots of different things, figuring out what works in your gardening site, and just being relentless in your efforts to deal with pests. When nature is out of balance, it’s very likely that your gardens will be out of balance. A particularly bad winter or late spring will the shift the timing of various organisms, and one or two pests might get a head start over the predatory birds/bugs/etc. that keep them in check. Keep a diary each year of everything that happens – when certain birds show up, when certain flowers bloom, when snakes and dragonflies show up – and then be aware each subsequent year and compare notes. If something is missing from the equation, you may need to find a way to balance things out – at least until the beneficial arrive.

All locations are not created equally!

In my experience, the closer that you are to the wilderness, the more potential there is for pest problems. To a certain extent, the urban or suburban gardening site is ideal for vegetable gardening, simply because the ecosystem is somewhat artificial, and largely pest-free relative to forested or farmland areas. The important thing to keep telling yourself, however, is that no matter how bad the pests are in your area, there is a solution, it’s just a matter of being persistent and trying everything you can think of to hold them in check.

Some Solutions that have worked for me, for slugs and snails (in order of effectiveness)

  • Slug -B-Gone Slug bait (the slugs just overdose on iron, stop eating immediately, and then die).
  • Eggs shells (slugs do not like to crawl over diatomaceous earth)
  • copper wire (slugs get a mild electric jolt when they touch the copper)

Some Solutions that have worked for me, for flea beetles/cabbage worms (in order of effectiveness)

  • Rotenone (a ‘relatively’ safe pesticide, that breaks down very quickly)
  • Row covers (pest can’t get it – no pest problems)
  • Garlic spray (most pests hate the taste of garlic)
  • Neem (I’ve not used this, but it is totally natural, totally non-toxic to people, and from what I have read it repels everything).

Companion plants that trap or deter pests

  • Garlic (deterrent)
  • Onions (deterrent)
  • Parsnip flowers (if left in the garden to go to seed, parsnips create huge high flowers, and aphids seem to love them – but for some reason they just end to stay on the flowers, and ants usually show up and take them out.

Final thoughts

For the most part, I’ve found that the solutions above are only really necessary when my plants are young and vulnerable. When healthy plants get full sized, they seem to be able to either repel pests on their own, or at least withstand some degree of predation. Once they get large I usually back off and just observe for a bit to see if they can hold their own. A few holes in a leaf is not a big deal, just harvest, eat it, and be Zen about the whole thing. I feel a lot better about sharing my food with insects than I do about fogging my garden with toxins.

I see going completely organic is a long term goal, and I think that any gardening site can get there given enough time, effort and reflection on the part of the gardener. I set out each year to have a completely organic garden. That’s a goal – but it’s not a law. Don’t feel like you can’t bend the rules if things aren’t going your way. If you have to break out the rotenone to save your season, just forgive yourself and think about ways to avoid those problems next year. Eventually you will figure out where each plants fit into the growing season. It’s like a big puzzle, and like all puzzles, it just takes time and determination – and what a sense of accomplishment when you actually solve it!


Cold Frames – Waste of Time in Zone 5? – Episode 017

Cold Frames - Waste of Time in Zone 5? - Episode 017

There are plenty of gardening books and resources that speak to the merits of cold frames. At least in principle, cold frames can extend your growing season, provide produce in the winter, and give you an early start in the spring. With all that said, based on my experience, in terms of them being a means to increase your overall yields over the course of the year, I’m not sure if they are the best bang for your buck in zone 5, or colder zones, and in this episode I will discuss my reasoning for this argument.

What Is A Cold Frame? 

A cold frame is any sort of garden bed that has been framed in and has some sort of transparent material on all the areas that are exposed to the sun. The more insulative the design, and the more able it is to capture light, the better it will perform in the colder months.


  • Extended growing season
  • Produce in the winter
  • Early germination in the spring


  • They don’t water themselves – they are more labour intensive because the rain will not reach them
  • The plants really don’t grow in the winter – they just ‘hang on’ – so if you were harvesting produce from one cold frame for meals, all the plants would be used up in a week or so.
  • The materials can be costly, depending on how elaborate of a design you choose.


Thinking back to the days of the self-sufficient pioneers who depended heavily on their gardens for survival over the winter months, these were people who had a vested interest in getting the most out of the land that they had prepared for agriculture. Thinking from this point of view, I don’t think it makes much sense to go to the time and expense of preparing a cold frame to secure a few extra meals of greens, when far more calories can be harvested from root crops, legumes, winter squashes, or grains. Now I’m not saying that you should start growing your own wheat, but I guarantee that a 4×10 bed full of potatoes/carrots/parsnips/squashes will secure far more calories for the winter months than a cold frame planted with greens. All of these plants store very well if you have a cold room, or even a cool garage, and they will be there waiting for you when the snow comes down and your garden starts its long winter sleep.

Final thoughts

One of my takeaways from this growing season is that while cold frames are possibly not worth the time and effort that it takes to make them, they do have some value in the garden as a nursery/greenhouse, but only with a modular design that can be disassembled in July when it is absolutely warm enough outside for heat-loving plants. My thinking is that they are an ideal greenhouse for starting transplants, and can be very handy for starting heat loving vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers – but the design needs to be such that you can remove the roof once it gets warm, so that the rain can get in, a mulch can be applied, and thus, the principles of permaculture can begin to go to work. I did a small experiment with such a design this year in my garden, and it has had very promising results, so I plan to do something more elaborate next season.

In conclusion, let me reiterate my main point here: I’m not saying that cold frames are a waste of time across the board; I’m only speaking to the value of cold frames as a means to maximize the caloric output of your garden space. From my experience, you will get a much better return on your investment of time and money by planting vegetables that can be easily stored, and that will keep well into the winter months.

Special thanks to The University of Missouri ( which is where we found the sketch of the cold frame.

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Tomato – Tamaato – Episode 016

Tomato - Tamaato - Podcast Episode 016 Maritime Gardening

You will find few gardeners that do not grow tomatoes each growing season, and many treat this particular plant with extra special care. The entire growing season is spent in anticipation of fresh red tomatoes growing on the vine, destined to be the star of countless salads on the dinner table. In this episode I’ll talk about things that you can do to optimize the health and yields of your tomatoe plants. I will also speak to the best problem a gardener can have in August: what to do when your garden is producing more food than you can eat!

Indeterminate vs Determinate

Tomato plants can be either of a determinate or indeterminate variety. Determinate tomato varieties grow to a specific height – often around two or three feet high, and then they stop growing and switch to producing fruit. Determinate varieties are preferred among gardeners in regions with short growing seasons because they tend to set fruit much faster than indeterminate varieties. Indeterminate varieties grow very tall, and continue to grow until the frost kills them.

Pruning – Why Bother?

To begin, and speaking in general, pruning is about light, air and space, because good pruning ensures that all leaves have access to light, all leaves receive air and can stay dry (which makes them more pest resistant), and all branches have enough room to move in the breeze without rubbing against other branches. With that said, there are a number of key good reasons to prune tomatoes:

  • Pruning prevents/mitigates blight: prune blighted branches back to the main stem. They have no future and will ruin the health of your plant. Get them out of there!
  • Prune to increase your yield: Remove suckers, and ensure that your plants send the majority of their energy to the big, heavily producing branches
  • Prune to accelerate harvest: with indeterminate varieties, topping the main stem will send a message to the plant to stop growing stems and leaves, and start setting fruit. If fall is around the corner, top your indeterminates, because any new fruit will not likely have time to ripen before the frost begins.

Don’t look at pruning as reducing the amount of plant you have – view it as removing the deadweight, because your tomatoes will thank you with healthy growth and far better yields.

Let the garden drive your diet

One of my favorite times of year is when my garden is producing so many different things that I have to practically become a vegetarian to keep up with the production. There is something wonderful about changing your eating patterns for a while, and just letting the soil tell you what is on the menu. Over time, the effect of just giving yourself over to this process will be that you learn many new ways to prepare food, and greatly broaden your diet.  With that said, sometimes there is too much to eat, and you need to either give it away, or find some way preserve your surplus. Most resources on canning/pickling/etc. tend to deal with very large quantities, and such endeavors tend to be overwhelming for beginners, or difficult to fit into a busy schedule. Over time I have found it far more convenient to just can a jar at a time, at my own convenience. If you search the internet you will find a number of easy ways to do this. Another very easy way to preserve things like beans (I have them coming out of my ears right now) is to quickly blanch them (drop in boiling water for 2 minutes), then cool them off in a cool bath, then spread them out over a cookie sheet and place in the freezer over-night. The next day, you can put them all in a plastic bag and you will find that they will not stick together in the freezer, and will store nicely like that for months.

Enjoy this time of year try to let your garden drive your diet. It will save you money, broaden your culinary skills, and benefit your health!