It really does begin with the soil. Most of us may have some basic knowledge about the soil that’s in our garden but if you want to have bragging rights for a successful garden (also known as a green thumb) then here are some pointers you should know.
1. While clay soils may contain some organic matter, they are slow to drain and that can cause soils to become anaerobic (without oxygen) and that will certainly be problematic for your vegetable or flower garden. You will need to amend the soil with compost (this allows for air pockets to form in the soil). It is vital that plant roots have air pockets in the soil as this allows for water drainage, it is easier for plant roots to navigate through soils that are not compacted, and it also will become a viable home to lots of earthworms which in turn will help aerate the soil. And they leave behind manure as organic matter.
2. Make sure all weeds are pulled before they go to seed. Weeds will rob your soil of valuable nitrogen and take it up before your vegetables and flowers get a chance to. That is why weeds grow so fast…they survive under extreme conditions and in a garden soil with lots of nutrients they will grown ten fold! Weed block, a permeable fabric that will allow for water to drain through but will not allow weeds to grow through is a good investment. I don’t recommend the use of herbicides as these will affect those wonderful valuable microbes and earthworms in the soil. Every time you are in your garden you should pull weeds – and put them in the trash not the compost bin unless you know for sure they are not seeding. A hot compost may not kill off weed seeds even if the temperatures reach over 120 degrees, so I always put weeds in the trash.
3.Do a simple soil pH check. Most soil test kits can be purchased at your local nursery or garden center and will provide you with some general but valuable information about your soil pH and nitrogen levels. A good tip to remember is this: if you are actively composting your soils you can bet the pH range will be more acidic than those who do not compost. Soils that are in the temperate climates where leaf fall and winters kill back weeds and other plants you will have a more acidic soil. Those who reside in a Mediterranean climate, where there is no autumnal leaf drop or heavy winter die back the soils will be more alkaline. With that being said, if you want a successful vegetable garden you will need to compost. If you want to grow azalea, camellia, roses, gardenia hydrangea (just to mention a few) you will have better success with an acidic soil. California natives thrive in some of the hardest alkaline rocky soils so plants like ceanothus, manzanita or coyote brush love these soils – they would not do as well in rich acidic composted soils.
4. So the next time you dig into your garden soil, check to see if you need to amend or compost your soil. Or you can always plant your garden in planter boxes or containers if you want to bypass the “in ground” planting.
That’s my garden tip for the day! Good luck and I’ll be seeing you around the garden!