Do you really think organic gardening soil is the same as regular garden soil? If so, unfortunately you are sadly mistaken and you have a rude awakening coming your way. That's kind of blunt isn't it? Did I get your attention? I really hope so. The information in this article will help you get a better understanding of the facts about organic gardening soil.
The first misconception most new organic gardeners have about their soil is that anything can grow in any type of soil. All you have to do is throw a few seeds in the ground and boom - you have a natural garden. You need to lose that preconceived notion if it applies to you.
I get a bit of a rush, just thinking about compost enriched soil--Black Gold to the organic gardener. No matter what I do, I never seem to have too much of it. At home, I compost kitchen scraps, leaves, green matter, and the thing I seem to have endless amounts of, dog fur. My neighbors bring me their leaves, and grass clippings even though I’ve encouraged them to compost it themselves, but more for me. Throughout the cities and suburbs, grass clippings, leaves, other general yard waste, household waste and kitchen waste is put out on the sidewalk to be collected by the trash man. This is just energy misplaced. Composting the same waste yourself, then using it to feed the various plants in your landscape is now energy in its proper place. Starting a compost bin is the first step toward a petrochemical free life.
My home office shredder gets used a lot! I shred everything and derive great pleasure from doing so. If you think that sounds a little odd, just know that my kids argue over who gets to shred the next stack.
The point is so much that makes its way into our homes in the form of paper is fair game for the shredder. As long as there is junk mail, schoolwork, bills or anything else printed, there will always be and endless source of compostable material from inside the house. And while we're having some good clean family fun reducing unwanted paper to confetti, I am creating a wonderful carbon-rich addition for the compost pile and ultimately the best soil amendment in the world!
If you are interested in creating raised beds using your native soil then you may want to try double digging. Double-dug, raised beds are highly productive because the process loosens the soil up to a depth of 24 inches allowing roots to penetrate more deeply and creates a raised, very well amended bed. It is one of the secrets to a seriously productive garden. I will be straight up with you though - this is really hard work! The good news is - that if you double dig your bed and then avoid walking on the growing bed soil, amend with compost regularly, and occasionally use a U-Bar/Broadfork or garden spade to lift and aerate - then you should never have to double dig that bed again. If you are creating new beds or trying to rejuvenate a garden bed, I would encourage you to give double digging a try.
Winter just blew another round of snow into my Pennsylvania garden. Glancing out the window, the scene is awash with snowflakes drifting and dancing their way to the ground. Even though Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) ran from his shadow this year, spring seeds are on their way to my mailbox and I cannot wait to get started in the spring garden!
Many authors and seed packets say "Sow seeds as soon as the ground can be worked." Worked with what? How? The statement refers to the condition of garden soil. Is it still frozen or crusty? If this is true, odds are you will have to wait a few more weeks. When the earth is soft and you can slide a trowel a few inches into garden soil, the ground is ready "to be worked". The "work" part of that statement refers to sowing seeds, or to what many veggie gardeners do before sowing seeds, the double dig.
In the depths of winter when days are short and nights are long, I keep my mind occupied with daydreams of spring moments in the garden. Planting the first rows of carrots, watching crocus bloom, even pulling the first weed of the year holds a special place in time as Mother Nature awakens from winter slumber.
My garden is in West Chester, Pennsylvania. A Zone 6 for all you science types out there. Like many gardeners on the East Coast, my garden is currently covered by a few inches of snow. The garden was "put to bed" last November after the last summer veggies were removed. My garden soil is currently sleeping under that snow, waiting for spring to emerge and temperatures to rise. In spring, the sun warms the soil and activates the hibernating soil biology; the "good bugs" that live in the soil, help recycle nutrients, and protect plant roots.
Last spring my compost pile was a total bust. The decaying vegetable and plant matter was either too dry and clumpy or too damp and lumpy. The residing worms, fungi and other microbial tenants collectively and bitterly revolted, calling their agents and complaining about the atrocious working conditions. They wanted out and they snitched on me. Being a diva and an experienced Master Gardener, I knew this "situation" was unacceptable. I was paranoid the president of our local Master Gardener chapter, if she found out, would rip my MG trowel-shaped nametag from my organic cotton t-shirt and accuse me of impersonating a 'real' gardener. To preserve my dignity while advancing my own legacy, I decided to sign up for the San Francisco Botanical Garden's CompostPilelatest 'dirt' class, taught by Zen Gardening Master and author, Wendy Johnson. I was determined and convinced Wendy's scientific and sagely advice would assure me the perfect, mother-of-all compost piles by the end of 2008.
The soil class was taught at Green Gulch Farm, an organic farm and Buddhist Zen Center located in Mill Valley, CA. While us attendees were busy getting our hands dirty in the fields of greens, there were also Buddhist monks in saffron robes passing nearby. Some were fulfilling their vows of silence while others happily praised the new rooftop garden planted on top of the adobe tool shed. "At Green Gulch, we don't proselytize about Zen, but we certainly do preach the gospel of hot compost," says Wendy. At the farm, there are a number of large, steamy compost piles spread around the property. The compost mantra is simple yet precise: 'Farm girls must sing.
I love plant sales. I love plant swaps. I just love finding little treasures picked up at spring plant sales, friends homes, or my favorite local garden center. I am usually so excited to plant that I set everything out in the beds as soon as I get home. After a warm up of tea or coffee and grabbing my gloves I'm ready to plant. I get out there, carefully move mulch aside, and plant. Remembering to move the mulch aside allows you to plant at the appropriate height, so you don't bury your root ball or tree trunk root flare.
After about the 5th-6th plant I usually realize, "Great! I forgot to mix compost in the planting hole." It is about this time when I used to despair, knowing my plants would either have to be re-planted, or struggle a little bit in the non-amended soil. Now, I have a trick to make sure there is always compost in the planting hole, and I don't even have to think about it.
Creating rich, living soil that crumbles like chocolate cake may sound like the most daunting task to undertake in any garden. It reality, it is not that hard. Anywhere new home construction takes place, you can be almost certain you do not have good garden soil. There are exceptions to this rule, but how many of you actually measured the inches of soil before you bought the house. ;-) Rehabilitating soil takes a few weekends, some elbow grease, and usually, lots and lots of compost. You can make compost yourself at home, or for larger projects find bagged goods at your local independent garden center.
Mark Highland the Organic Mechanic's Top 10 methods to build healthy soils
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