Sunday, June 10, 2018

Feed Your Soil Not Your Plants

We hear this over and over again.  Don't worry about what you are feeding your plants... feed your soil instead.  And we all do our best but how often do we get a report card to see how we did?  This year, the ninth year of this garden, I've taken back the half previously managed by the neighbors.  So now I get to see how well they have been feeding the soil.  Out of twelve beds, I am resting four.  Two of theirs, and two of mine.  I planted buckwheat as a cover crop.  I prepared all four beds the same, and planted the seeds on the same day.

The photo above shows the difference in the beds today.  The one on the left was theirs.  The one on the right is one of mine.  The buckwheat in my beds is thicker and taller.  So what did I do differently than they did?
  • I did not till the soil (disturbing worms and upending the micro-organism layer)
  • I did not use synthetic fertilizers (Miracle-Gro is salt based which leaches natural nutrients out of the soil)
  • I added a balanced organic fertilizer each spring (but not this spring since they are resting)
  • I added compost as a mulch layer after planting and in preparation for winter

I think it worked.

But - no body's perfect.  Whenever you plant a consistent crop over an entire bed, you will see areas which needs some attention.  I've seen this before.  The buckwheat on the end of this bed is not as vigorous.  The soil needs some attention.

Now that the main gardening work is past, we can turn our attention to tweaking past projects.  For instance the dry creek bed.  The line between the lawn and the rocks was too complicated making a corner that made the mower stop and turn sharp ripping up the sod in the same place over and over.

Original mowing line from last year
Friday I cut a new smooth line, stripped the sod out and we put in a load of #2 stone and a few boulders.  I have two day lilies that were sitting around, and an ornamental grass that need to be dug into the rocks.
New mowing line
I'm happy with my idea to bury fiber pots into the rock.  The perennial plants did well and came back strong.  I've examined the pots that held annuals that had to be replaced, and there are areas in the pot wall that have broken through so the pot will eventually disintegrate into the ground.

There are always pots sitting around that need to be dug in!  Below in the heavily shaded wooded area, four helleborus in fiber pots shielded from clumsy deer hooves by a canopy of wire that need to be placed.

Back in the garden, I have tomatoes set.  The plants with wires jabbed into their stems have shown no ill effects from their surgical procedure.

Cucurbits are terribly sluggish.  The cantaloupes below were seed in the cold from the first of may and transplanted into the bed two weeks ago.  I always plant two seeds together in case one decides not to live, and they are still deciding.  The second seeds are just now germinating.  The cucumbers aren't any larger or more vigorous.  But one of these days I'm sure they will take off.  If we get some consistent sun.

The buckwheat is just about to bloom.

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