#1 Rule for Successful Gardening: GOOD SOIL! Let’s face it, Colorado soil is not ideal. Clay soil is hard on plants so you must work soil amendments in to create a nice loam for planting. Your soil needs to be soft and well drained for a plant to survive. At Gulley Greenhouse we have had very good success with SOIL PEP. Peat moss and Eko Compost will also work well. Mix one part amendment with two parts native soil. The amendment loosens up the tiny clay particles to allow moisture and air to reach the roots.
Is best used as an amendment rather than a source of fertilizer. In addition to coarse sand, inorganic sand, inorganic amendments include calcine clay products, pulverized volcanic rock, perlite and diatomaceous earth. Liquid products break the surface tension of water around the soil particle and allow deeper earth penetration. They do not increase the pore space of a soil. They therefore cannot be considered soil amendments and are properly called adjuvants. Liquid products are not substitutes for amendments.
Interest in organic gardening
Has been successful largely because the practice encourages the use of organic matter as an amendment, thereby improving soil texture. This practice improves the environment for good root growth and the development of soil microorganisms that make nutrients more readily available.
Also supplies some nutrients, but most forms of organic matter are rather low in amounts when compared with the commercial inorganic sources. From the standpoint of plant use, it makes no difference whether the nutrients are supplied from organic or inorganic sources since the plants can only use the nutrients in the basic inorganic form. The difference is primarily in the availability. For instance, nitrogen from organic sources is released more slowly than from most commercial fertilizers.
Slow release of nutrients
Would be desirable in a soil already adequate in nutritional levels. Though if the soil is deficient in one or more nutrients, it’s usually desirable to add commercial, more quickly available fertilizers to correct the deficiency.
Before adding fertilizers to a soil
First determine whether a problem in growing healthy plants is due to nutrition or a physical property of the soil, such as poor texture. A plant in a “tight”, poorly aerated soil may not do well because the root system is unable to utilize the present nutrients. Amendment with organic matter to “open up” the soil first is more appropriate in this case than adding a commercial fertilizer.
Subsoil Drainage Test:
Dig a hole in the garden about 12 inches deep and the diameter of a spade. Pour water in the hole to the rim. Refill the hole a day later and observe how long it takes for all the water to soak in. If the water soaks in within a few minutes, the subsoil drainage may be too good. Such soils may not hold enough water to sustain plant life and can lose valuable nutrients through leaching. If the water takes more than one hour to soak in, the subsoil drainage may be poor. Plants may suffer from oxygen starvation (drowning) under these conditions.
Roll some slightly moistened soil between your thumb and forefinger. If it forms a firm ball, feels smooth and becomes sticky when moistened, it is too high in clay. If you cannot form a ball, the soil will not stay together and it feels somewhat grainy, the soil is a better mixture. If, on the other hand, the soil feels very coarse, it may be too sandy and will not hold an adequate amount of water.
Soil improvement is a continual process.
It often takes 5 to 10 years to make a productive garden soil. If your soil is too sandy or too high in clay, the solution to both extremes is to add organic matter. It is possible, especially in clay soils, to create a soluble salt problem by adding too much organic matter all at once. The general “rule of thumb” is to incorporate no more than 3 cubic yards of organic matter per year. This is equivalent to 1 1/4″ of amendment on the soil surface before it is tilled in. All amendments added should be thoroughly tilled into the soil, making it a uniform mixture.
Gardeners who are patient, know how to select plants that will do well, and manipulate the soil and micro climate, will be amply rewarded.
Composting is a great practice as it reduces trash production, reduces yard waste by 50 – 75%, recycles nutrients back into the garden, and benefits the community. The organic material produced also improves drainage and aeration of clay soil.
Composting is a process in which micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes) decompose organic material. Do not use pesticides because once decay begins the temperature increases and you will not need them. Remember that compost is a soil amendment, not a fertilizer. When it becomes a fertilizer is when the compost turns into a liquid, which is nutrient rich.
There are many different ways to compost your matter. You can use a plastic bin, a wire or wood structure, a hole in the ground, or even a worm bin in your home.
Follow These Easy Steps for Proper Composting
Pick level ground in full sun with well draining soil. The pile should not smell if properly layered, turned, and aerated.
A good size container to build is 3 x 3 x 5 feet. This size will generate the amount of heat needed. Protect the top from rain; too much moisture decreases aeration. Let air circulate through the sides and remember to turn the pile once it reaches a high temperature of 150º. A three pile system will be most beneficial; one finished, one still composting, and one new.
The Carbon/Nitrogen ratio should be 30:1 to 15:1. Layer with compost maker, organic matter and soil. Do not use a lot of shredded paper at once. Remember to water only enough so 2 – 3 drop of moisture can be squeezed out. Compost may destroy some weed seeds. Most kitchen waste C:N ratio is 30:1 to 40:1 and straw is 80:1. Thin layers are the key.
Be careful when composting meat and fat as they decay slowly and attract animals.
In 3 – 4 days the temperatures may be up to 130 – 150º. When the temperature drops, turn and aerate, then mix outside areas towards the middle. If the temperature stops peaking, the compost is finished and can be used.
Watering is very important. Keep matter moist, not dry or soggy. If a constant balance of moisture is not kept, you may kill off the organisms needed.
The pile should be ready in 1 – 2 months in the summer if maintained properly, and 6 – 12 months during other seasons.
Magnesium is a key element in chlorophyll production. It directly increases the uptake of iron and is most beneficial in the first 4-6 weeks of plant growth.
Sulfur promotes larger root growth, aids in chlorophyll production and gives new growth a dark green color.
Boron helps form healthy plant hormones and promotes maturity.
Copper increases sugar content to improve flavor of vegetables and intensifies color of flowers and foliage
Iron corrects and prevents chlorosis (yellowing of foliage). A direct element in chlorophyll production, it gives plants extra greening power.
Manganese helps in production of nitrogen, organic acids, carbohydrates. Deficiency shows up as yellowing between leaf veins.
Molybdenum converts nitrogen into protein, a must for high nitrogen vegetables.
Sodium this effective substitute for potash helps create sturdy stems and stalks.
Zinc vital for maturity and seed formation, allowing plants to withstand lower temperatures (think of anti-freeze).