4. Basic Steps To Establish A Successful Garden
There are many ways to go about producing a living soil, containing all the known and unknown minerals, and billions of microorganisms. If the soil in your garden has been misused by pollution with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, or by depletion of its organic matter without recycling anything back into the soil, it will take more heroic measures, and a longer period of time, to bring the system back into balance.
A virgin soil may have also been damaged. It may have been “robbed” of its topsoil by builders and graders, or decreased in value by mixture with the subsoil. The surface soil, or topsoil, usually is the top eight to fourteen inches of the soil, and is darker and more fertile than the subsoil. In any event, a new garden hasn’t had time to build up a deep friable (readily crumbled) soil full of nutrients and microorganisms. But you can still have a successful first year crop, if you follow a few simple steps. There are three basic steps for growing plants successfully:
- Produce a living soil, light and crumbly, granular, water retentive, and containing all the substances necessary to plant life. It must contain organic matter, living organisms, the proper soil “atmosphere,” moisture, and nutrients for growth of plants and microorganisms.
There are three basic soil types: clay, sand, and loam. Clay takes in water slowly, drainage is very low, and aeration is limited. Plant roots have a difficult time penetrating clay soil. Gypsum and lime can improve aeration and drainage of clay soils. Organic matter will improve air circulation (compost, ground bark, sawdust, leaf mold, peat moss).
Sandy soils have the opposite problem—it lets in plenty of oxygen, and roots pass through easily. It has good drainage—too good!—the water and water soluble nutrients pass through too quickly. Add a finely-textured, spongy, organic material that will hold water and nutrients. Peat moss is such a material, and it has the advantage of slow decomposition, but it contains practically no nutrients. (Also, large amounts of peat moss may increase the acidity of the soil.) Compost breaks down faster, but supplies nutrients to the soil. Wood products and hulls are not much benefit to sandy soils. If you obtain clay to add to your sandy soil, this will help to create a balance.
The addition of these and other organic materials will eventually change the sandy soil into good garden loam, containing a balance of different sizes of particles, and a good supply of humus (a dark sticky substance created by decomposition of organic materials). This loam will be loaded with valuable nutrients and capable of producing healthy vigorous food plants.
Loam is the ideal soil. Few gardeners are blessed with a naturally-loamy soil, but it can be gradually built almost anywhere.
- Keep the soil in your vegetable garden and under your fruit trees covered at all times with approximately six inches of organic mulch. The mulch for gardens and vines should range in height from three to six inches, fruit trees from six to nine inches.
- Supply adequate moisture. A deep watering once or twice a week is far preferable to a light watering every day. Light rain showers of less than one-half inch should not interrupt the regular water schedule. Shallow water encourages the roots to turn upwards towards the moisture and may kill the plants. Deep watering, encourages a deep, strong root system. Do your watering in the early morning or late evening. Do not overwater your garden or trees—it is not necessary to water every day.
Because it is often high in sodium, artificially-softened water should not be used. The leaf-tips of many plants turn brown from artificially-fluoridated water, or from water with a high natural fluorine content.
4.1 Getting Started
Clean out the grass and weeds in your garden area and do some digging to loosen the earth. Dig down about a foot or so, but avoid turning under the topsoil. You will probably have to do little or no digging in subsequent years, if you grow organically, with a permanent mulch, because the soil will be easy to work.
Sprinkle some organic compost thinly over the soil (or dig it in, if you wish), and cover with six inches of mulch. This should be done at least three or four weeks before the first planting. Tuck all your table scraps (preferably raw) in between the layers of mulch; this is called sheet composting. Start to do this immediately, and then continue this sheet composting after the garden is planted and growing. (Banana refuse is a particularly rich source of nutrients, and loved by earthworms.) These table scraps never become garbage. There is no odor or animal nuisance, if the scraps are hidden in the mulch—not too deep, say, an inch or two. As time passes, the organic matter in the soil will convert to humus, and biological activity of bacteria and earthworms will develop under the mulch.
- 1. Organic Gardening Is The Counter-Part Of Natural Hygiene
- 2. What Exactly Is Organically-Grown Food?
- 3. Soil Analysis
- 4. Basic Steps To Establish A Successful Garden
- 5. Gardening The Magic Way-With Mulch, Compost, Sea Weed Spray
- 6. Soil Requirements For A Successful Organic Garden
- 7. Approximate Amounts Of Compost, Mulch And Water
- 8. Planting Your Garden
- 9. Insects: Friends And Foes
- 10. The Case Against Commercially-Grown Foods
- 11. Four Methods
- 12. No Space For A Garden?
- 13. Harvest Of Pleasure And Health
- 14. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Vegetable Preferences
- Article #2: Companion Plants
- Article #3: Nitrogen Fixation By John Tobe
- Article #4: pH Preferences Of Some Plants
- Article #5: Dirt Cheap? Nonsense! It’s Vital to Garden
- Article #6: Soil Test Secret To Success By Gene Austin
- Article #7: Pesticides—They’re Killing Bugs—and the Land By Ronald Kotulak
- Article #8: Pesticides—There Are Workable Alternatives To the Dusts, Sprays, and Oils By Joan Jackson
- Article #9: Containing Inhibits ‘Raiders’ By Gene Austin