Soils Tips

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Tips To Replenish The Soil

If you have a garden that is used for vegetables like tomatoes, corn, squash and cucumbers, give your planting areas a rest by rotating crops. In the fall, after harvest, roto-til the planting site, then lay down sheets of newspaper. Dampen the sheets of newspaper with water once they are laid down. Then cover the sheets of newspaper with several inches of compost and chopped leaves. On top of this, add three to four inches of fresh topsoil. Earthworms will help work these nutrients into the tired earth. Over the winter months you can add kitchen scraps by tossing them on top of the soil. If animal pests are a problem, dig a small hole and bury the scraps.

A second popular method of replenishing the soil is to grow a cover crop or living mulch. Cover crops are typically grown over the winter, then roto-tilled into the earth in the spring. However this is not the only option. Cover crops can be grown as a cash crop during the regular gardening season. Some cover crops make excellent living mulches. These living mulches are planted between rows of the main crop to help reduce the leaching of nutrients. Cover crops have several purposes. The first thing they do is improve the soil tilth. In addition cover crops control erosion, weeds and help maintain the organic matter in the soil.

Replenishing the soil is important in both conventional and organic gardening. When gardening organically, this is the method used. Along with replenishing the soil remember to rotate your crops.

How do I collect a soil sample that will represent my entire yard?

Soil Sampling Tip

To collect a soil sample that is a good representation of your entire yard, dig down into the dirt five to six inches in several different areas. Take a soil sample from each area with a large tablespoon. Mix all of the soil together.

What I do with all my leftover potting soils?

Store Leftover Soil

If you find that you have a mixed lot of soils leftover after the growing season, do not discard them. Place the soils in plastic buckets or garbage containers with lids and seal tightly. This way, you will always have enough clean dry soil available for any emergency that might pop up during the winter months.

Are coffee grounds safe for my soil?

Add Coffee and Tea Grounds to Your Soil

Mixing in used coffee and tea grounds to your soil or compost pile can help repel nasty little pests who feed on roots and leaves.

The caffeine in these products is what makes it such a great deterrent. In fact, it is surmised that the purpose behind tea and coca plants developing caffeine in the first place was to deter pests.

Just be careful when adding coffee and tea grounds. A little bit goes a long way. Too much caffeine can be toxic to the plants themselves.

What do all those numbers mean, on fertiliser bags?

Understand the Numbers on Fertilizer Bags

Fertilizers on the market list the proportions of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), always in that order.

For example: a 21-7-14 fertilizer has 21% nitrogen, 7% phosphorus and 14% potassium, or potash.

A 5-10-10 fertilizer contains 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potash.

Steer manure is typically rated 1-1-1 and is very low in plant nutrients.

When is my soil ready for spring planting?

Moisture Test for Planting

One way to determine if your soil is ready for planting is to do a simple squeeze test. Scoop up a handful of soil and squeeze it in your palm. If the imprints of your fingers remain in the soil, the soil is too wet to work. If the soil falls away in loose crumbles when you open your hand, it is a good time to plant.

Which are the best mulches?

Mulch Greatly Benefits Soil

Mulch is very good for your soil. Mulch conserves soil moisture, controls weeds, maintains the physical structure of the soil, prevents soil erosion and moderates the soil's temperature.

Mulch can be purchased in various forms and can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulches can include pine needles, leaves, and bark chips. Inorganic mulches can include stones, marble, or plastics.

When deciding which mulch to use, you should keep in mind that inorganic mulches do not contribute any nutrients to the soil.

What is the most important factor in a good garden?

Soil Testing Tips

When gathering soil for testing, you should first remember to gather your soil with an iron free spoon or trowel. This will ensure that your soil has no trace amounts of iron from the tool, which could affect the test results.

Do not dig too deep. You want the soil tested where the roots of your plants are actually growing. Samples from a depth of five inches are recommended for vegetable and flower gardens. Soil samples from your lawn should be taken at a depth of three to four inches.

What are the benefits of growing alfalfa?

Alfalfa-An All Around "Good Guy" for Soil

Alfalfa is a perennial with strong deep reaching roots. It fixes the soil with nitrogen, accumulates iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

Alfalfa has long taproots which can improve almost all soils, but especially hard clay. Alfalfa roots can actually break up hard clay. In fact, alfalfa roots are so strong that they can actually penetrate rock. Alfalfa is practically pest and disease free. It can also withstand dry conditions and rarely needs watering.

Does manure burn the plants?

What You Should Know About Manure

When you are adding fresh manure to your soil, it is best to keep it from coming into direct contact with plant roots. Fresh manure can severely burn plants.

You should try to use aged manure on your soil. Aged manure is in the rotting phase and it contains a ready supply of nutrients. Aged manure is less likely to burn your plants.

What is the best way to determine my soil type?

What Weeds Tell You About Your Soil

Just by examining the type of weeds in your yard, you can get an idea of your soil type.

Dandelions, chicory and creeping buttercups prefer clay soil. Goldenrod, sheep sorrel, and bindweed prefer sandy soil. Chickweed and lambs quarters prefer loamy soil.

What do the colors of my hydrangeas say about my soil Ph?

What Hydrangeas Tell You About Your Soil

If your hydrangeas bloom blue, it means your soil is acidic. If they bloom pink, it means your soil is alkaline.

To maintain blue hydrangeas, keep the pH levels of the soil between five and five and a half. To maintain pink hydrangeas, keep the pH levels of the soil at six or greater.

What can I do to amend and enrich my soil?

Enrich Poor Soil

For a great pick me up for poor soil, spread a three inch layer of compost over the planting area. For each 100 square feet of soil, apply 20 pounds of cottonseed meal and one half cup of processed seaweed. Add soil sulfur.

Till the amendments into the soil to a depth of six to 12 inches and water thoroughly. Allow the soil to rest three to four weeks before planting.

In subsequent years, to refresh the soil again, reduce the cottonseed meal by half and omit the sulfur, unless it is needed to adjust the soil's pH.

What´s the best mulch for my acid-loving plants?

Mulch for Acid-Loving Plants

Good mulches for acid-loving plants (like rhododendrons and blueberries) are oak leaves and/or pine needles. Both these materials are acidic, and will release acid into the soil as they decompose.

What are earthworm castings?

Earthworm Castings

Earthworm castings are simply worm manure.

Earthworms greatly benefit the soil. If you have earthworms in your soil, you should be pleased. It is a sign of a healthy growing area.

Why should I mulch my garden?

Use Organic Mulch in a Flower Garden

Using organic mulch in your flower garden is the best way to protect your plants, control weeds and providing much needed moisture to your soil. Mulch also keeps your garden looking nice and neat.

You can use compost, grass clippings, shredded bark or other organic matter as mulch. It is best to place mulch 3 inches deep in your flower gardens to improve soil conditions.

How do I apply manure safely?

Applying Manure

For a large-scale operation, manure is generally spread on the surface of the soil and then plowed into the soil using a tractor.

For a home garden, manure is placed on the soil's surface and then worked into the soil using a spade, pitch fork, or shovel.

Can too much manure harm my soil?

Dehydrated Manure

With the various dehydrated manures on the market, many gardeners may assume they work as well as pure animal manure. However, you should know that during the dehydrating process some of the nitrogen is lost. Comparatively speaking, dehydrated manure is second to commercial fertilizers.

How can I determine my soils Ph?

Raise the pH of Your Soil

To raise the pH of your soil, you will need to spread and mix lime into your soil.

Lime comes in two forms. One if finely-ground limestone, the other is hydrated lime. Ground limestone has the consistency and texture of sugar and is easy to use. Hydrated lime has the consistency and texture of powder and is more potent that ground limestone.

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Sheri Ann Richerson
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