Monday, April 21, 2014

Getting the Scoop on Dirt

One of the first things I do before starting another garden bed is examine the current state of the soil where the bed will be located.  In Ohio, I was blessed with an abundance of rock-hard clay soil. I hope you caught on to my sarcasm because I didn't even try working with it.  With the help of my three strong sons, I removed the sod, and then dug four to six inches down removing all the offensive soil.  I then went to my local garden center and had high-grade gardening soil trucked in.

Raised beds are also an option.  In Nevada, I have the opposite problem where soil was concerned.  I live on a beach with no water.  The ground around my home is nothing but sand.  Here I used raised beds because I didn't have to worry about drainage as I did in the clay soil of Ohio. My hubby made boxes made of leftover wood and I filled them with soil from a local garden center.

Both of these are extreme cases.  If you have good soil, then rejoice, but it doesn’t mean your soil doesn’t need regular help to stay healthy.

Most people believe all they need to do is add fertilizer to their soil for the plants to grow.  Although it is one of the key ingredients, it doesn’t replace a good old-fashioned compost pile or other organic amendments that decompose and add humus to your soil.  Humus increases your soil’s aeration and its ability to absorb (and drain) moisture as well as help your plants absorb the nutrients it needs.

Organic amendments come from something that once lived. They include sphagnum peat, wood chips, grass clippings, straw, compost, manure, bio-solids, sawdust and wood ash. There are various uses for each depending on your soil type.  I suggest doing some additional research to find what is best for your area and soil.

If you plan to establish a container garden, there too you'll need to get dirt specific for pots. Do not use plain garden soil.  Although it will work is lacks the ability to hold moisture needed for growing in containers.

Your turn: Have you ever started a garden by bringing in new dirt?

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