January 7, 2009
The winter months are not a time to be doing a lot of gardening. You can be thinking about gardening and how you can make yourself a better gardener. Last week, I told you about the proper spacing of plants. Proper spacing in your vegetable garden gives you a higher yield with fewer plants. The proper spacing of your perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs and rose bushes will also give the plants the room to grow properly. This is a basic principal of gardening. I figured that the winter months are a good time to discuss some of the basics of gardening. No matter what your experience level as a gardener, it is always beneficial to think about the basics.
Let’s start this off by discussing the soil in your garden. In many cases, people think about soil as “just dirt “If you are lucky enough, the “dirt “you have in your garden is a good quality loam. You will have found that you can grow a variety of plants without much work. The rest of us have to “make” a quality soil.
If you are living in a relatively new home, the odds are that you don’t have a quality soil in your yard. So many people come into the garden center with questions about how to grow a lawn. Once I get to talking with them, I find out that they may have tried to grow a lawn, but it just doesn’t seem to survive. When we get to this point in the discussion, I usually ask them to bring in a sample of soil. This doesn’t mean just scraping off a bit of soil and bringing it into the store. I tell the customer to take a shovel and dig a sample that will show me the top 6 inches of soil. In the case of a lawn, the roots of the grass need 6 inches of good quality loam. If you have less loam, or if the quality of the loam is not very good, you will have a problem growing a lawn.
The soil you have in your garden is the “home” for the roots of any plant you grow. Not all plants need a rich loam type of soil. Some plants will grow in a sandy soil. By and large, if you want a good perennial garden or a good vegetable garden, you are going to need a good quality loam.
So, how does the average gardener know if they have a good soil? Well, if your plants are growing lousy, you probably already know that the soil isn’t that hot. In most of the areas independent garden centers, there will be people who can check the consistency of your soil and tell you what to do to make your soil a better soil. If you bring in a soil sample into the store early spring, you will have time to improve your soil before the gardening season starts. In some cases, you may need to add organic matter to the soil. This could be compost, peat moss, or top soil. In some cases, you may need to add sand or gypsum to the soil to make it better. Truth be told, in some cases, you would be better served to have the top 6 inches of soil removed and have a better quality loam spread out on your lawn and gardens.
The quality of the soil in your yard can make a major difference in how your plants grow. In some cases, it can be a major undertaking to get good soil. In some cases, just amending the soil a bit can make all the difference in the world. Go over to your new calendar and circle the 1 st of April as a time to bring a soil sample into your local garden center. If you can find out what you need to add to the soil to make a better soil, the easier it will be to have that perfect lawn or garden that you have always wanted for your home.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.