Sunday, January 10, 2016

Section One: Chapter 3 Did We Forget To Plan Ahead For Use of Our Soil?

  • Chapter 3: Did We Forget To Plan Ahead For Use of Our Soil?

This chapter title may sound odd. Allow me to explain.

Each plant has its own preferred soil to grow best in. Many common food plants share a common type of soil. This is not to say that our most productive garden should be one common soil. This is where the "planning" part for producing natural soil enters our soil work.

For instance, corn takes a far different soil type than beans and peas, since corn sucks up nitrogen heavily, while beans and peas add nitrogen to the soil. For good corn soil, plan to add worm castings, or vermicompost soil to the corn bed. For beans and peas, almost no compost soil is required, except that the legume family does require full spectrum minerals and added living enzymes from a good compost is fine!

Legumes need an application of a fungal inoculate that grows symbiotically inside the legume root, which transfers the excess nitrogen the plant captures from the air to the soil. This fungus may or may not be in the soil where your legumes are grown.

Trees are another plant with different soil requirements than most seasonal garden plants. Produce soil that has a high woody content and back fill the holes you dig for new trees and add thick layers of this woody soil under the whole leaf area of each tree, keeping away from the trunk by 12 inches or so. Rodents enjoy nibbling covered tree trunks in Winter!

The woody soil takes years to break down. It shelters the ground and maintains water content while water seeping down through it takes along nutrients to the roots. Also it has enzymes that help break down clays and rocky minerals for the roots to absorb.

Carrots, parsley, parsnip and Swiss chard roots require deep, fertile and friable, loose soil. Rhubarb requires very deep, rich and friable soil. It likes heavier, finer soil, as well.

Most berries do best in very fertile, fine soil that drains but holds water for long periods in the organic matter. 

Tomatoes love airy soil where earth worms are fed daily with rotting raw vegetable wastes, and the high organic content sponges water for sustained release to the roots. The deeper soil they are in the better for their deep-penetrating roots, when watered deep and infrequent.

Squashes love thin, nutrient-dense soil. Their roots spread at least out to the furthest vine tips! Be sure their soil is high in woody material to sponge up and provide long water release. Squashes require lots of Nitrogen for all that vine and leaf production!

The brassicas family - broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohl rabi - require new soil each season. They produce some nasty parasites every year. Best is to hot compost their spent plants and provide new soil every season. They love rich, high nitrogen soil with lots of spongy woody material to provide even root water availability. Their roots grow quite deep, as well.

Beets and onions grow on top of the soil, but like very nutrient-dense soil. Both like fine, silty soil. The compost soil is pretty coarse for these, but I have good crops in it usually.

Chives, leeks, radish, garlic, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, mustard, arugula, and most smaller food plants do well in fairly fine natural soil. All like nutrient-dense soil with lots of woody, spongy content. 

If you produce water cress, a heavy, fine soil that stays underwater is a good choice. For mine, they do great in very wet soil that is not under water. 

Like rhubarb, artichoke requires very deep, somewhat fine, but woody soil. Its roots go down two to three feet. In your natural soil, it will outperform any commercial soil! Just be certain to add LOTS of nitrogen!

Flowering corms, bulbs and rhizomes do well in the most nutrient-dense soil you can produce! Some, like dahlia, grow quite deep roots, so be sure their soil is two feet or deeper. These all do best with well drained, but high water-retaining soil. Your natural soil is superb!

Activity One
  1. List the plants to be grown in your new soil. Beside each plant name note the soil and environment it best grows in. This can be numbers or letters that are cross referenced to short details for each type of environment and soil. Be sure to make sure the desired plants have their preferred spot available! There's no substitute for 8 hours of full sun!

Don't Forget the "Weeds"!

Now, let's cover soils for those "weeds"!!

"Weeds" are those native, pesty plants that covered your garden long before you arrived! They are acclimated to the native, original soils. But, when you add your good natural soil to their habitat, very few varieties fail to respond with verdant growth! If you have visitors to the garden, smile when they exclaim about how huge the weeds are! In a moment you will see and I believe appreciate why.

One lady in last my year's community garden lamented that I love to allow native plants to thrive in the empty spaces! So, I said, "Basically, I'm a weed farmer!"

It's true! My love for and use of nutrient-dense "weeds" in natural soil production is the basic mainstay of this awesome soil! So, grow them "weeds"!

Some favorite "weeds" are the food plants with thick, woody trunks that grow tall for seed. Parsnip and artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke are favorites. Siberian kale produces a heavy, woody, long stem. Corn stalks make excellent woody, spongy soil content.

One of the very best spongy, woody soil materials is wild berry brambles! It's nasty to handle dried or growing, but that pithy fiber inside the woody vines is perfect for sponging water up, and roots grow fast down inside those water-filled vine pieces in the soil!

Fully grown thistles have woody stalks, but make certain the pile temp is over 140 degrees F. for over a week to kill-off the seed. Even so, cut and compost new thistle plants for excellent raw material. It's all good.

If you live in an arid area where cactii grow, grow them in your garden for excellent raw material content! The water, enzymes and pile heat reduce needles to soft elemental nutrients. Their woody and pithy parts lend great content to the soil you produce.

Activity Two

  • Determine the soil type each plant you grow needs and where to obtain the necessary materials.

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