Course Nutrient Dense Soil

mcmom1 Posts: 6 ✭✭✭

I've recently finished this course and asked a question in there but wasn't sure that questions get noticed in the courses. I'm new so be kind πŸ˜‰ In the last lesson it mentioned when you add fertilizers to your soil it disrupts the web. Does this apply to things like neem meal, blood meal, bone meal or the Dr. Earth products? My soil was really bad, didn't know, plants came up and I've been adding things to help them. What do I need to do now? I've got a bunch growing(a bunch to me😏) and struggling w/health of some, field peas w/aphids, pulled my squash due to vine bore, in potatoes in containers have blight(I think) and little worms in the folded leaves that I keep pulling.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,396 admin

    @mcmom1 Welcome to TGN forum. Great place to ask questions regarding courses! Usually, if you ask a question in the course it will show up in the forum.

    I think you should invest in a soil test kit. There are some on the market that are relatively inexpensive. Once you know what you soil is missing, then add in your compost and other natural fertilizers that are high in the minerals that you are lacking. Bone meal (high in phosphorus) is for root growth so I like to add a wee bit whenever I am putting out transplants or planting a new tree. Blood meal (high in nitrogen) is one I rarely use as I add manure to my compost and that takes care of the nitrogen, although I do use a fish fertilizer from time to time if it looks like anything is deficient. Particularly the plants I have in pots. I have tried using blood meal as a deterrent for animal pests but it didn't work well for that purpose. A little bit of clean wood ash will help with the potassium (K) in the N-P-K formulation on most fertilizer combos.

    Compost is your best friend. I would keep adding it to your soil. Even just as a mulch, it will provide nutrients to your plants. Having a health soil will eventually help you control pests and diseases. Blight should rarely occur in health soil. I rarely have black aphids on anything as I grow lovage and the seed heads are a terrific trap crop for black aphids. Just cut off the heads and burn them. Sometimes small worms or caterpillars or other small creatures may have to be removed manually. But a row cover will keep cabbage butterflies from laying eggs, thus preventing the cabbage worms. Not familiar with vine borers so no answer to that one, but again healthy soil.

    Not sure what your zone is and whether or not this would be an option, but winter cover crops that you can till in the spring are great for improving soil quality and add nutrients.

    Good luck with your efforts. Keep asking questions. We will all do our best to answer and assist.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    If you do have bad soil and you truly wish to garden, start by trying to amend your soil as best as you can. By that I mean, stop trying to grow crops this year and work on fixing your soil. As you can tell, your list of problems is already got to be so depressing to you, it must really seem as if this is really worth all your time, effort and money.

    So spend this first season and get your soil in better condition.

    Where to start? Find a local organic farmer and see if he will sell you some good soil. If you ask, most will. You don't need a truckload... just see if he is willing to give you 25 lbs or so. From there, you can start building yourself a wonderful garden.

    As for amendments now, the #1 most important is good compost. Make your own if you can, don't go out and buy everything. It takes time but read up on it and start your own pile somewhere in your yard. Make a ring with some fence and fill it with leaves, seed-free grass clippings, hay or straw (again weed free), all your kitchen scraps (fruits and veges) and just keep adding things.

    If you can, start a small worm farm. The cheap way, dig a hole in your yard or garden area and fill it with leaves, spaghnum peat if you have some, and worms. Add some food occasionally (kitchen and vege scraps) and let the worms do their job. Soon you will notice they are making you some beautiful soil.

    To speed the process along for your compost pile and your worm farm, try to break up all your leaves, kitchen scraps, etc. with either a lawn mower or your blender. The smaller the particles, the faster they decompose.

    After you get this far, next year start adding the good soil you have been making to your old soil which needed help. Mix it together the best you can and just keep mixing the good you keep making to the old you have started with. With time ( a few years) you are going to notice your soil is becoming excellent. Just always keep adding new good soil/compost to your garden each year and soon you will be getting a much better harvest with out all the problems of pests and diseases.

    If you can get your soil in slightly better condition and start seeding next year you will have much better luck and better results so you are not always fighting different pests and diseases.

    Gardening is a research project all the time, the studying never stops. But you will find with time and experience it all gets much easier and enjoyable.

    Good luck and ask as many questions as you need. There is many of us in this group which can and will try to help you along as you try this new endeavor.

  • mcmom1
    mcmom1 Posts: 6 ✭✭✭

    Thank you @torey & @greyfurball, I'm in zone 9a, we made raised beds. Something I've wanted for years, first a kitchen-type garden, then take in the rest of the land we have as we get good at this. We've started the compost pile, to the raised beds I've added, bought, leaf mold compost along with NPK. From Lowes I bought a soil test kit that tests NPK and the NP was deficient. I found out recently that I can get the full soil test kits for our extension office at a feed store about 45 minutes away.

    I do have okra, sweet potatoes, egg plant, peppers and cucumbers that are doing fine at the present. Corn is hanging in there. So I filled the empty areas with plenty of amendments and have liquid fed the things that are up with Dr. Earths liquid plant food. I'm thinking of maybe switching to fish fertilizer, it seems to be more preferred by organic gardeners. I would love to find someone in my area that organic gardens and I'm sure they are here, just finding them seems to be dificult.😏

    Can I use row cover on raised beds?

    I'm buying the Boogie Brew worm castings right now until we get that far. I'm going to have to read more on earthworms, I know nothing about doing this myself.

    Thank y'all so ver much πŸ€—

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭

    Last year, I didn't want to deal with double digging and getting the soil ready. We have fairly dense, clay soil. So instead, I asked my neighbor who cuts my field for her horses to leave me a few bails. I looked up how to prep the bails for straw/hay bail gardening. I had a fabulous yield of lettuce, kale, chard, and arugula. Couldn't manage to get carrots to sprout, and I don't know where my beets went. But generally, I would say it was a success. Anyhow, I had greens well into the winter, and this year I am using the hay in my new raised beds. Actually noticed that my old arugula is blooming again. Yes, I didn't take it all out (science experiment!) Also, I saved seed form my kale. Plan on using it for sprouts this winter.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,396 admin

    @mcmom1 There is a new TGN blog article about weeds and what they can tell you about your soil.

    You should also check the PH of your soil. That can also greatly affect how well things grow. There is a very alkaline soil in my general area, although my garden has been built up to the point that it is fairly neutral now. But I have berries that love an acidic soil so they get a top dressing of peat in the fall. A PH kit is also fairly inexpensive but if your extension office does soil tests they will probably include that information.

    Yes, you can use row covers on raised beds. My neighbour went to the dollar store and bought some very pretty hula-hoops at $1 each to support her row netting over her cabbage. Cut in half and stick each end in the soil and cover with netting or row cover. It was cheaper than the garden hoops and very colourful. Every bit as re-usable as garden hoops.

    In zone 9a you should be able to have a great fall garden. Some plants should grow all winter, especially if you had a small greenhouse or cold frame. That would be easy to start now and you would be able to have greens all through the winter. My sister-in-law lives in a similar zone and harvests herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme all winter.

  • mcmom1
    mcmom1 Posts: 6 ✭✭✭

    Thanks @marjstratton, honestly I'm such a re-newbie I don't know what double digging is??? Yes we are outside of Houston and have either brick soil or 'taller' soil, when wet, too...the more you walk on it the taller you get🀣 That sounds so nice...I finally had one beet come up, it's about 3" tall. I Love beets and was looking forward to having some.

    Thanks so much for the link @torey, I'll ck it out when I get finished here...I did ck the ph and it was @ 7.5. So according to the test kit it was a little high and I added a tad of sulfer. So I'll test it agian this next week to see if it changed it at all. Also, Love the hoop idea and it would be so enjoyable to see all the colors in the garden. I feel like a kid in a candy store right now, I picked 2 okra yesterday and today😁

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭

    Okay, you win on clay soil. I am zone 8 on the west side of Washington state. I think hay bales would work great for you. And then next year you would have ready made compost. Frankly, I feel that double digging might be disrupting the soil too much, like tilling does.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,131 ✭✭✭✭

    I also took the Bio-intensive course in the Academy. They go in depth about double digging.