Garden Design Tips
Soil Testing - Organics

Landscaping Ideas Newsletter #603 Page 2
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GARDEN TIPS - Soil Testing And Organics

Here's another basic-basic. Since I was asked this question twice this week, I thought it was relevant to write about.

The question was about conditioning and creating great soil.

Simply put, lots and lots and...lots of natural amendments (organics, leaf mold, minerals, etc.) creates great soil.

But before I get into that part of this article, I want to talk about the ph of your soil.

My Grandfather was an old time farmer from way back. He, like farmers then and now, knew that the secret to optimum yield and plant health is in the soil.

My Grandfather would actually taste the soil to check if it was acid or alkaline. If it was bitter, it was alkaline. If it was sweet, it was acid.

Fortunately, today we don't have to wonder around out in our gardens eating dirt. Modern test kits are readily available, accurate, and inexpensive.

Testing is important because Ph is a critical factor that influences many functions of garden plant growth. One example would be nutrient uptake. Even if you have an abundance of nutrients in your soil, the wrong ph will cause the nutrients to remain locked in the soil. Your plants can't even use them.

The overall health, color, and growth of your garden depends on you knowing the ph preference of individual plants and adjusting accordingly. It also depends on you knowing the nutrient levels in the soil.

I don't recommend the testers with the metal probes. These probes become invisibly corroded which makes them inaccurate. Your best bet would be to use the simple, throw-away eyedropper testers that are available at most nurseries and garden centers.

O.K., so now you've tested your soil and it needs to be conditioned. How do you adjust your soil and keep it there?

Like I said before, organics is the key. You can give your soil a "shot in the arm" by adding harsh chemicals that you will have to adjust month after month. Or.....

Every serious gardener should practice organic gardening and at the very least have a compost bin. If you're not recycling your grass clippings, leaves, and food scraps, you're throwing away the best source of nutrients and soil buffers on Earth.

Using organics and compost will eventually create a natural balance and buffer that will only need slight adjustment to meet the requirements of individual plants. And the nutrient level is natural so the nutrients are available to the plants as the plants need them. Not too much, not too little.

Also, plants become more naturally resistant to insects and diseases. This will save you a lot of time and money in harsh chemicals.

Composting and organics is simple. There's no reason why every serious gardener shouldn't be using it.

It's more involved than I can touch on in this article. However, there are a few great books dedicated to the subject.

For composting, pick up a copy of Rodale's Book of Composting. I've owned this book ever since I can remember. My copy is so old that the binding is taped together. I use it often.

If you can't find this book locally, you can find it online at:

For organic gardening, get a copy of Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. If you can't find it locally, you can find it online at:

So test your soil and adjust it naturally. Do this and by the next one or two growing seasons you should start to reap the rewards of more care free gardening with more beautiful, healthy plants.

I would love to answer your individual questions about landscaping and garden design in this newsletter. It's possible that our other readers are having the same problems you are.

I won't be able to answer all questions. I'll answer those that are asked most often.


That's all for this issue.

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Steve Boulden
S&S Designed Landscaping,LLC



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