BUILDING BETTER SOIL – EASY & INEXPENSIVE
A bit of advice for beginning gardeners and even some seasoned gardeners. Your plants are only as good as the soil you plant them in. So BEFORE you dig that hole to plant your new flower or veggie have some GREAT compost handy. Dig the hole AT LEAST TWICE THE SIZE of the potted plant or transplant (if you are dividing). Add your compost & mix it in with the native soil. If you have WORM CASTINGS and leaf mold that would also be a great addition at this time, making sure you mix it well with the soil you dug out to make the hole. Now you are ready to give your dollar plant a MILLION DOLLAR hole. Firm it in and water.
Now is a super time to amend all your gardens, to continuously help the soil become more fertile. Having a compost pile or two or three is great BUT if you do not have the room for it you can just amend your planting areas as they lay. Mulching all garden beds is a MUST DO! I wish I would have used shredded bark on my perennial beds when I started 19 years ago. So now, after the fact, I practice a method called CHOP & DROP. When I deadhead or cut back my perennials, I take the clippings and tuck them under the plants themselves. This creates a layer of mulch which will break down & feed the soil. If it is too large of an amount, I add it to my compost pile. When I do weeding, I pull & drop. Making sure there are no seeds on the weeds. If there are seeds on the weeds, I put them in the garbage or burn pile.
My number one mulch for my veggie gardens is organic grass clippings. Dave doesn’t use chemicals on our grass. I apply a thin layer, ½” or so. You don’t want a thick layer or it will mat and water will not penetrate it easily. I do this every other week. It really does keep the soil cooler, moist and the worms love it. Another source of mulch is used coffee grounds. Thinly spread and the worms love this too. Chopped up leaves are a super mulch, but not too available in Spring & Summer. NOTICE! All these mulches are FREE! Straw is another great mulch BUT it can be costly. Hay can be used too, BUT it does seed and grow in your garden.
Now if you are really serious about building a better soil, check out my article on LASAGNA GARDENING. I do this method every Fall in all my veggie beds. This Fall I promised myself that I would take the time to collect bagged leaves from the curbside and let them sit over a season or two. This is called LEAF MOLD. It is a very good mulch or additive to your soil.
I hope I have inspired you to take the time to BUILD BETTER SOIL.
Tags: better soil
On February 1, I decided to germinate radish seeds using the PAPER TOWEL METHOD for quick germination. Three days later I planted the germinated seeds in a window box type container and placed it in my south facing windows. I used a ‘store bought’ organic potting mix and mixed in some worm castings along with a little Azomite rock dust. I planted the germinated seeds about an inch apart. Five days later the seedlings poked through the soil. I read that you shouldn’t fertilize radishes too much. A good loose organic rich soil is what they want. Along with keeping the soil moist. If you do fertilize too much the radish will put a lot of growth to the leaves and not grow a large bulb (root). So I followed these instructions. I picked my first radish 50 days after planting the seeds. I picked the first radishes when they were on the smaller side. This gave more room for the other radishes to get larger. I guess I could have planted them farther apart or just thinned them. To me ‘thinning’ is wasteful so I decided to just eat the first picking when they were on the small side. At 65 days I was harvesting FULL SIZE radishes. Mission accomplished…growing great radishes indoors.
HUMAN URINE ON THE COMPOST PILE
It is early Spring in my Wisconsin yard and garden clean up has begun. It is time to start a new compost pile. Cutting back perennials and raking some dried leaves from the gardens gives me plenty of BROWN MATTER to start a new compost pile.
The first thing I do to start out my new compost pile is select the sunniest area I can find. Second is I lay cardboard or ½” thick black & white newspaper sheets on the selected area. Making sure you overlap (by 4”-5”) so no weeds or grass can enter your new compost pile. Water this layer of cardboard/newspaper thoroughly. This layer attracts WORMS and WORMS are a gardeners best friend. On top of this cardboard/newspaper layer I add the TWIGGY stuff I cut down. Next I add all the other cuttings of the dried flowers, perennials and leaves. Every compost pile needs BROWNS & GREENS. I added some of my kitchen ‘green scraps’. We have A LOT of brown matter on this pile, I don’t have much green matter to add. So now the special GREEN MATTER enters the picture. HUMAN URINE! Human urine is high in nitrogen and is the perfect additive to our very brown compost pile. I do not take any drugs so my urine is quite organic. FREE & SIMPLE. Each time I add more brown matter to my compost pile, I also add HUMAN URINE. How much you ask? The ratio is usually 4 parts brown to 1 part green. My new compost pile is only around 5’x5’x2’, so I added a gallon of HUMAN URINE. If it doesn’t rain make sure you keep this pile moist. If it rains too long, I cover my compost pile with plastic. I don’t want it too wet, all the nutrients can leech out. In a month or so you can turn the pile. If you are old (like me) or just don’t want to take the time you can just poke your pitch fork down into the pile and lift up, creating air pockets in the pile. This helps it break down faster. If you don’t want to turn or poke the pile, nature will do o.k. without this process, it will just take longer.
Have fun my gardening friends. LET GARDENING SEASON BEGIN!
GROWING SUGAR SNAP PEAS INDOORS FOR THE GREENS
I had a couple of packages of Sugar Snap Pea seeds leftover from 2010-2012. I didn’t like how they performed last year and I didn’t want to throw them out. Being the frugal BACKYARD GARDENER that I am, I decided to grow them for the greens and add them to my salads. I soaked the seeds in a bowl of water for 8 hours. I prepared the container that they would be growing in by mixing 4 parts organic potting mix, 2 parts worm castings and a ¼ part Azomite Rock Dust. I planted the peas the depth recommended on the seed package. I gently watered them in. I placed the container in a clear plastic bag and put it in my south facing windows. Now I have a mini greenhouse. I vented the bag if the sun was out too long (I didn’t want to bake the seeds). I just wanted to keep the soil moist & warm, not hot. The seeds started emerging in 4 days, some slower than others. I then removed the plastic bag. Peas don’t like growing in heat. Within 17 days I had greens to add to my salads. I could have started harvesting earlier while they were shorter, BUT I wanted more to eat. When I harvested the pea plants, I cut them a little below the soil. No part of the clipped plant poking through the soil. I want the root of the pea to break down and hopefully add nitrogen to the soil. Now I will be planting my lettuce ‘starts’ in this pot and lettuce loves nitrogen. I will be writing about how the lettuce grows in this container. I will let you know if it was a success or failure. No matter what, it is a learning experience.
Tags: sugar snap peas