I've been caught red handed

dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭
edited October 2020 in Composting & Soil Fertility

Yep, I looked but didn't see. Last evening, I read the article 5 Reasons Your Green Beans Are Thriving (When Nothing Else Is) by Tasha Greer. That was so far past eye opening to me. Shouldn't have been that shocking but it was.

We bought this place in August 2017 and I knew the soil was poor all around. That really hit me when I read this article. This year our green beans are the most beautiful, dark shade of green. We've only had about 3/4" of rain this last month and we haven't watered them yet they are not struggling at all. In the same garden we had cucumbers, corn, watermelon, and muskmelon. None of them did much before succumbing to nature.

Last year we were lucky to get two loads of wood chips when the tree trimming crew worked close to us. Hubby put some on another garden, not near enough but some just around the tomatoes and peppers. He did dump a tractor bucket full at the edge of the garden in case I wanted to use them around the onions. I didn't get to it for various reasons. We planted tomatoes on the other side of that garden this year. I just winged it with bunches of green leaves from trimming the forsythia and comfrey about 4" deep then about 4" of wood chips on that. The tomatoes are not even struggling with the dryness. They are almost as dark green as the green beans. The peppers were planted around the edges where no mulch has been applied. They are struggling, pale, stunted, and not doing much.

Where the pile of wood chips were last year, part of the lawn now, the grass is nice and green. It is still moist and not struggling. Just outside the area where the pile was the grass is dry, almost dead.

What I have learned is 1) wood chips do work, 2) plants will not grow and produce just because I want them to 3) I need to slow down, look and see, 4) we are working way too hard at gardening with little to show for it.


  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,821 ✭✭✭✭✭

    [beans did well; cucumbers, corn, watermelon, and muskmelon did poorly]

    Vegetable crops run the range from "easy, tolerant of poor soil" to "medium" to "difficult, require excellent soil to do well".

    Some examples:

    Easy: beans, peas, fava beans, beets, carrots, collards, kale, rocket/arugula, chard

    Moderate: broccoli, large cabbage, corn, cucumbers, garlic, lettuce, potato onions/walking onions/scallions, spinach, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, watermelon, hot peppers

    Hard: asparagus, small cabbage, cantalope, bulbing onions, bell peppers

    The beans that did so well for you are "easy". The ones that didn't are from the "medium" category.

    I've actually given up on bulbing onions because it's so challenging to get decent-sized bulbs. I grew a bell pepper once and got exactly one pepper from the plant, hardly worth the effort. Asparagus requires very sandy soil, not clay.

    I've good luck growing stuff in the moderate group in raised beds with extremely rich soil that is a mix of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. It drains well, is easy to work, and is loaded with organic matter. My natural clay soil probably wouldn't work for these plants.

    I suspect you will be able to readily grow cucumbers, corn, and melons if you keep improving your soil. Continue adding a lot of organic matter, including compost as well as those wood chips.

    Good sources of information on the importance of soil and the techniques that improve it are the "Back to Eden" video and Steve Solomon's book _Gardening When It Counts_. I'm sure there are many others.

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    Mulch is magic!

    Amazing things happen when we add organic matter

    It always seems to take a few years of gardening at the current location for it to balance itself. The first couple of years here we had a lot of pests on each year we're seeing a reduction of it as we encourage beneficials and add more organics to the soil.

    It's a long process. The pests await every moment. It'll balance....eventually