I love playing in the dirt. When I was little, I spent my summers building castles and cities in the sandbox on our back porch. With Spring in the air, I am itching to wake up my garden and play in the dirt once again.
As soon as your soil is thawed out enough to work, you will be able to begin your gardening season and convert a piece of backyard ground into a wonderful world of rich soil, which is the foundation of a tasty and healthy kitchen garden. Here’s how:
â€¢ Determine your soil structure. Soil is basically made up of 3 components: solid material (organic matter and minerals), water and air. The solid material determines the texture (sand, silt and clay), and the texture determines how much water and air is in the soil. The best soil is called loam, which contains a good amount of organic material. A good way to determine the structure is to pick up a handful of moist soil and squeeze it. If it crumbles easily when rolled out, it’s sand; if it stays together well when rolled, it’s clay. Loamy soil will stay together when squeezed but fall apart when rolled thinly.
â€¢ Determine the fertility of your soil. A soil test measures the nutrients in your soil as well as the acidity of your soil, or pH. A good balance of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potash) and a neutral pH will produce the best harvest. You can pick up a soil test kit at your local garden center. Make sure to dig several 6 inch deep samples from several locations in your plot and mix them together. Here is an article on a DIY pH test.
â€¢ Add nutrients to your soil. After you have determined what your soil needs, you will need to begin adding organic matter to your soil to amend its structure and make it more fertile. Organic matter is material that was once living but is now dead and decaying. You can use such materials as ground corncobs, sawdust (make sure it is from untreated wood), bark chips, straw, hay, grass clippings (only if you know it comes from a no-herbicide lawn), and cover crops to serve as organic matter. Your own compost pile can supply you with excellent organic matter to enrich the soil. You can add worm castings from your kitchen worm bin, as well.
So, there you have it – 3 steps for playing in the dirt.
Happy Gardening! Mary Ellen
P.S. This is a good time to start saving those 1-gallon plastic milk jugs to recycle into cloches to help protect your seedlings from a late frost. Just cut off the bottom of the jug (you can use it a drip tray for your houseplants) and place the jug with the cap on over your little plant. During the hot days, take off the lid for ventilation and replace it for those cold, frosty nights!
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