April 15, 2011

Preparing Your Soil

 I see sunshine in our future.  7 whole days in a row (I choose to ignore the rain drops). I've begun dreaming about all the things I'm going to do, I've got my sunglasses ready, and my flip flops waiting by the door. I can't wait to crawl out of my cave of gloomy darkness. 

While day dreaming, I had a moment of panic when I realized that on your list may be gardening. I haven't even gotten to the good stuff yet. 

I want to offer my number one tip for a successful garden this summer. If you listen to nothing else, I promise knowing the following information will lead to a successful garden.

It's all about the dirt, baby. 

Crappy soil, a professional umbrella term for; lacking nutrients, too acidic, poor drainage, clay like soil, or sandy soil. And living in Seattle, we all have crappy soil.

With the amount of rain we receive, Seattle is known for having soil that is high in potassium but low in everything else, as the rain washes the nutrients out. Unfortunately, just adding fresh compost does not do the trick since your compost is made up of matter from this region that came from soil that is high in potassium an low in other nutrients.

It's time to fertilize. And don't worry this method of fertilizing is green and healthy. Here is your mix:

.5 part kelp meal
.5 part lime
4 parts seed meal (cottonseed or canola seed)
.5 part phosphate

If you can't find all of the ingredients at your garden store, the two most important ones are seed meal and lime. Although I had no problem finding all four:

I purchase each item separately, as I have not been able to find fertilizer that has everything I mentioned above. Most of them include potassium as well, which our soil does not need more of. Potassium does produce large juicy vegetables and a high yield however it also dramatically decreases the overall nutritional value! If purchasing the above is overwhelming then here is what I recommend buying:

In addition, purchase some agricultural or gardening lime. Follow the directions on the back as to how much to add. 

Here is how I mix my parts and store it, I will be adding this fertilizer throughout the summer, so I make a large batch and store it in a plastic container:

Once you have your mixture work it into the first few inches of your garden with a rake. If you have already planted then you can sprinkle around the plants base. However do not fertilize new seedlings until they are established.

The information above comes from a fantastic gardening book called "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades" by Steve Solomon. It is my absolute favorite garden book, but only for the true garden nerds. 
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