Building Your Soil
Soil management knowledge is invaluable to a healthy garden or harvest. If your soil is rich with microbes, your plants will benefit and in turn so will your pride and your bounty. Some plants do require different alkaline and acidity levels but ALL plants require microbial life for health and vibrancy. Soil amending and bio-diversity is the best way to ensure a happy healthy garden. To assist we have provided simple ways to decipher your soils needs below.
Lightly squeeze a handful of your soil. Clay-based soils are very compact and stick together when moist. This clumping action can prevent moisture and air that allow the plant to reach optimal growth. Clay-based soils are easily amended with organic material. Distribute it liberally and dig it in. Optionally you may wish to add more organic material to the surface of the beds, around the plants, about midway through the growing season. The newly formed roots will appreciate the shelter, air and moisture and new nutrients provided in a second application.
If your soil feels gritty and slides through your hand easily when dry it is sand based. Sandy soil even when wet, will not stick together as it lacks clay and organic materials. Sandy soil also drains very easily, this drainage also drains away much-needed nutrients and microbes from the plant's roots required for a healthy garden.
Amending your sandy soil is required for optimum plant production. Adding organic compost (4 to 6 inches for best results) is a sure fix for this type of soil. Your sandy soil will need to be amended every year. You may also wish to add composted material to each hole you dig before setting in the plant or seedling. This will ensure a longer more nutrient filled start to the plants' life. This technique can be used as an alternative to amending the entire garden if an abundance of composted material is not available to you. Cover crops(to be tilled in) are also a wonderful way to add to your soils microbial life.
Lacking Nitrogen. Green manure can be added to your garden but should be added one year before you plant.
Pesticide Free Pest Control
Companion planting is the knowledge of placing certain plants that deter bad bugs, encourage predator bugs and birds or mask plant scents from harmful pests that can destroy your garden and hard work. It is also the practice of planting certain plants close to one another as they will assist in their growth and overall health. Adhering to a companion planting program is an extremely beneficial way to protect your plants. Few companion plants are:
Onions, Dill, Fennel, Asparagus, Marigold, Carrots, Comfrey, Tomatoes and Geraniums. (a more in-depth list of what is beneficial and to which plant is forthcoming)
Crop rotation ( which is what we use extensively) can limit pest and poor production issues. We never plant any of our crops in the same location as they were the year prior. By rotating crops you allow the soil to rebuild the nutrients that the previous crop used up. For example: plant peas in one spot in your garden bed this year, peas fix nitrogen into the soil, and that is then a great spot to plant corn or lettuce the next year as these plants are heavy nitrogen feeders, then the following year plant a root crop like carrots or beets in that same area. This practice will ensure healthier and more abundant crops for you to enjoy.
Biodiversity is key to a healthy garden, and when Brother Nature was collecting tools for his garden, diversity was first on his list.
Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem. Meaning each life form has its own specific relationship with the ecosystem in your garden. All the life forms work together as a group to encourages a natural form of pest or disease control, and each adds its own ingredient back into the soil when its lifecycle is complete. Some plants attract predator bugs, others repel them. Some plants provide extra nitrogen, some take it away. So the message here is to keep a variety of plants in your garden. Overplanting only your favorites may in time prove to make your garden a less attractive place for you and a more attractive place for garden pests.
Carrot Fly information
The life cycle of a Carrot fly is as follows. Adults emerge in mid April to May, laying eggs in the soil near existing plants. The larvae then burrow into roots for 3 to 4 weeks and then pupate. They do this 2 to 3 times a year. The only way to get rid of that problem is to apply floating row covers to the soil beds (bury in the edges) before the carrot seedlings emerge and leave the cover on until harvest is over. Floating row covers are made of tightly woven cloth and designed to lay loosely over plants to exclude insects. It is best to support the row covers with metal hoops to keep them from contacting the plants. Applying beneficial nematodes (a beneficial garden insect) that will eat the carrot fly larvae is also a good idea.
Females lay eggs on the UNDER side of the leaves. These hatch in about 2 days into tiny mobile scales. While continuing to feed on plant juices scales molt to legless stage in a few days. After several growing stages nymphs rest in a sort of pupae stage before emerging as adults.
Catch adults on yellow sticky traps, and gently vacuum adults from leaves.
Insecticidal soaps we have found that work are kinoprene (Enstar) or better yet make your own a garlic/onion and cayenne oil spray.
Chop, grind or liquefy 1 garlic bulb and 1 small onion. Add 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper and mix with one quart of water. Steep for 1 hour, strain through a cheesecloth and add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Spray your plants thoroughly, being sure to cover the underside of the leaves This mixture can only be stored in the fridge for about 1 week. Be sure to wear gloves and avoid contact with eyes and nose while employing this method as it may cause a painful burning sensation to your skin.
It is believed that the Shoofly plant got its name because of its ability to scare off flies when its flower has turned to seed pod. The seed pods resemble hornet and wasp nests that most flies are naturally programmed to avoid. Marigolds are great at driving away unwanted insects. Crows have been know to snitch the petals , grind them up and stuff them in amongst their feathers to rid them selves of unwanted guests.
Watering your garden is important. But water conservation is also a big concern for many gardeners. A great water saving technique that will ensure your plant roots receive the water you supply for them is a timed slow drip irrigation system. A slow drip irrigation system ensures deep root watering and greatly assists the water reaches the plants' roots by keeping the water on the ground and not on the leaves, fruits and flowers of your plants.( Excessive water on the plants from overhead watering can lead to unwanted mildew and other water-related issues that deter from the health of your garden.) It may not at first seem cost-effective to use this technique, but I am sure you will find a difference in your water bill and the overall health of your garden and its production capabilities.
Applying a timer (there are battery operated and power supply available) to your irrigation system will ensure that your plants get the water they need on a consistent basis. This practice allows you to easily water early in the morning and leaves you time for other garden duties. We recommend this method if area is to large to hand water manually or time is important in todays busier lifestyles.
Rain barrels are also a great way to conserve water. There are many types available, with and without spigots. Using the rainwater from the barrels will lessen your water bill and allow your plants the pleasure of being watered with untreated water. (Be sure to place a screen over your barrel to keep out any unwanted garden pests.)
Water your plants in the early morning. Watering in the morning is also a good deterrent for garden slugs. If you water at night slugs have a moist path right to your plants. If you water in the morning, the sun will dry up surface water making the path to your plants less appealing.