| Building a Garden:
Agent can answer most questions you may have concerning soil
soil found in your garden
or garden-to-be, may not be suitable for growing a picture perfect
or the particular plant(s) you have in mind. It may be too sandy to
nutrients, or too compacted to allow Oxygen penetration. It may have no
drainage or too much drainage. It may be too acidic or alkaline.
You may have to
modify or amend
the existing soil to bring it closer to the perfect potato or posy
Many natural and commercial products are available to remedy
deficit your garden may have.
Sand, Sawdust, Expanded
clay, Lime, Fertilizers, Perlite, Peat moss, Rockwool, Vermiculite,
shavings, Wood Ash,
Mushroom manure, Tree bark,
Blood meal, Bone meal, Compost
Some of these
products may be
thought of as being exclusive to potted plants or small flower beds,
depending on your soil conditions and bank account they can all be used
on a much larger scale.
The First step
may be to work with the existing soil. For instance, if your soil is
rocky, you may want to remove rocks and stones. Rocks
may have to be moved by mechanical means, while stones can be removed
a hand Sifter. This may be no small chore, but it may be necessary if
stones interfere with tilling and planting.
The destination of the
sifted soil will determine the mesh size of your sifter. Potting soil
be sifted through 1/4" or 1/2" Hardware Cloth. This steel freezer
with 1" openings is adequate for flower beds and small gardens. For
areas, you may want to hire your local Landscaper's mechanical
Not only is it a blessing
to be able to easily push a shovel or planting tool into the soil, but
plant rootlets will also appreciate this loose soil condition, and
you with sturdier and hardier plants. You will also find weeds easier
pull out. And Carrots will grow straighter and longer.
The Second step
may be Trees
which can also be a problem whether they are tiny or tall. If they
with your garden-to-be, they must be dealt with. Even Saplings can have
enormous root systems which defy pulling. Some species (Sumac) break
easily at ground level and send up many new sprouts. Some have many
near the surface that make tilling nearly impossible.
are your problem, digging down a foot and cutting off the roots may be
the answer. If a tree is six or more inches in diameter, you may want
cut it off above ground level and fasten a bird feeder or bird bath to
it. This has the benefit of attracting your Feathered Friends to you
to help keep the insect population under control. Serenading birds also
make gardening more enjoyable.
can also serve as
a pedestal to fasten
a BIG Rural Mailbox or other enclosure to hold your small tools and
aids, like gloves and kneeling pad. It can also be the pedestal of a
Bird Bath or bird Feeder. You can drill 1" diameter holes in the sides,
and fill them with Suet.
As a last resort, you may
decide to hire a Tree-Removal machine.
The Third Step may
be the soil's "pH" (potential Hydrogen ions) which is an indication of
how alkaline or acidic ( "sweet" or "sour") your soil is. This can be
with a pH Meter, or
strips of dyed fabric
that respond to sweet and sour by changing color. Over time, leaching
causes many soils to become sour, which is remedied by adding Wood
Ash or Lime.
Test Kit from
your Garden Center will indicate which amendments are needed to bring
soil to a pH that is desirable to your intended plants. A more detailed
analysis can be had by contacting your local Agricultural Agent.
must be noted that different
plants prefer different pH levels, so different
planting areas may need to have different treatments. If the pH level
too far astray, your plants may respond by yellowing of the foliage, a
generally puny growth, poor blossoming or fruiting, or other
Follow directions on the test kit.
pH is indicated
by a scale of
0 to 7 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Soil gets more sour as
goes from 7 toward 0, and sweeter as it goes from 7 toward 14.
with pH at its extremes
seems to be in a plant's inability to process nutrients effectively.
plants seem to be more robust when pH is near Neutral.
If soil pH is too far into the
red, lime is generally added to bring it back into the blue.
Most plants do well in the range
of 6 to 7.5
has a pH of 7. Rain
leans toward the sour side because of air pollutants, and ground water
may be quite sour, which may indicate why lawns and plants seem to
more on rain than on water from a hose.
Step: determine Amendment
ph: Different soil Amendments
have different pH levels and also different moisture-holding abilities.
It may be helpful to be aware of these two characteristics before you
Sand tends to be neutral, while Peat moss leans toward the sour side,
Mushroom manure is sweeter. Sand holds very little water, Mushroom
may hold its own weight in water, and Peat moss is like a sponge and
hold 100 times its own weight in water. If your location is wet, Peat
may not be a good Amendment choice.
Depending on the size of your
job, you can use a wheelbarrow to mix the amendment(s) into the soil,
you can spread them on the soil before tilling it in.
Tilling can be done with a shovel,
a tiny Tine-Twirler,
or an impressive Tractor-mounted
Nothing beats the Twirler for
cultivating around plants and between rows,
but nothing beats a Tractor
for fast preparation of a large garden or truck patch.
Wherever you live, or whatever your gardening problem,
your best source of answers to your questions
may be a nearby Gardener.