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Question

Roger Doiron
What are some of the soil basics I need to know to grow a great garden?
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Answer

There are a few basic rules all gardeners should follow. First, develop the habit of adding organic matter every chance you get. In addition: Don't work soil when it's too wet. Squeeze a handful in your hand; if it forms a tight ball, it's too wet. The handful should crumble easily before you dig, as shown on page 77. Don't work soil when it's too dry. Digging dusty-dry soil will pulverize it and destroy its texture. Water dry soil deeply before you work it. Don't leave it bare too long. Direct sunlight dries out soil fast, and your soil microherd will die out without moisture. Bare soil erodes when it rains, and it's an invitation to weed problems. Except for short periods when you're trying to warm the soil, keep it covered with mulch, veggie crops, or cover crops. Keep off! Once you've prepared the soil for planting, don't walk on it. Half the volume of soil should be pore space occupied by air and water. Walking on soil compresses the pores and makes the soil less hospitable to plant roots. Reprinted from The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book Copyright 2008 by Barbara W. Ellis, with permission from Storey Publishing. Image credit: Megan Pru

Question details

Hi, If you are starting a vegetable garden in an area that has been lawn or something else, you will need to add lime. Just follow the direction on the bag - it 'sweetens' the soil and contains the very essential calcium carbonate. Always add every bit of organic matter back to the soil. Even weeds can be pulled out and roots exposed but lain back on the soil to produce biomass. If it once lived and is vegetable matter - put it in. But be careful with things like sawdust. In order to break down so it is useful to the plants, sawdust and woodflakes need a lot of nitrogen and will rob the plants of nitrogen if you put it straight in your garden. I have eleven chickens in my urban back yard - right next to my bee hives. I put lot of sawdust and wood flakes into their pen. It absorbs moisture when it has been really raining and the chicken poop right there enables it to break down into good compost/humus before I gather it and put it in the garden or into my compost bins.
You should have a soil test, but most soils need a little lime, even if you are going to plant blue berries there. If the pH is to low or high it will lock up the 17 essential Nutrients. Tip: If you are pushed for time & must work wet soil on a sunny day. Then rewet it with a sprinkler. This will protect it from the hot sun. You should never plant seeds in dry soil, prewet the bed & if the seeds are large, presoak them.

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