Amended, fertilized and watered soil and pots with Sun Flowers reaching as volunteer Pumpkins and a couple of my first plantings start their adventure in the Haunted Garden.
Dirt, What is it? Well it is literally everything that came before, and will be after. Mostly made up of rock and sand and smaller amounts of living things decaying, and their remains. You will be dirt… You may support the growth of a beautiful flower, or a vegetable sustaining another future clump of dirt. Burial ashes BTW make a great fertilizer for all that grows in the dirt, and using these remains when planting is a great way to honor a loved one.
OK so you have a plot of land, or some Pots and containers with the dirt there all dirty and ready for doing dirt stuff, and you are going to plant in it. Here is what I suggest as far as amending the soil in preparation for planting, be it vegetables, trees, shrubs or flowers. I am taking for granted that you know what plants will work in your plant hardiness zone.(where you live), I am in a high desert 5 or 6 zone here in Eastern WA and was also in the same zone in Boulder CO.
Think of soil as a substrate, a place where something lives, a vessel. We want to make this substrate as fertile and nutrient rich as possible to grow our most beautiful, abundant and high yielding plants in. All soils can differ quite a bit and there is a whole science about the chemical makeup of soil involving things such as mineral make up and PH scales, permeability etc. etc… for us we are going to talk about a pretty neutral PH, regular, maybe slightly clay plot of good old dirt. Every year we need to Amend this regular good old dirt to bring its nutrient rich status back, as time, sun, watering and plant growth will diminish it over the year.
Bare cleaned (weeded) soil area ready for amendment.
The brass tacks: First I turn in some sort of compost into my garden areas and pots. It can be a manure based product, I use Steer, it can be a plant based product, Cotton Burr compost is excellent to break up clay soil, and infuse it with nutrient. My Master Gardener sister Susan taught me about Cotton burr compost and it is my favorite. We have spread hundreds of bags of it throughout her beautifully landscaped property in Boulder Colorado. Mushroom compost is another option that is nutrient rich as well. You can even make your own compost using plant and vegetable scraps, grass and leave clippings turned into a compost pile, left to decompose over the winter and spread into your garden in the Spring. Any garden store or Home Depot will have many choices for you to pick from. The point is we need to turn some fresh organic materials into the places where we plant. When I say turn in I mean spread your compost out on top of your planting beds or in your pots, then work it into the soil down about 4 inches with a shovel or hoe or claw cultivator.
Next we need to fertilize the soil. Think of this as fine tuning your soil amendment. Depending on what type of soil you have, different materials will work best. A simple recipe for most soils, maybe a slightly alkaline and containing some clay, as I have here in eastern WA, would be: Some above mentioned compost 55%, some alfalfa 15%, some sulfur 15% and some coffee grounds 15%. All mixed up in a big bucket and spread over the top of your planting areas, or pots, then turned in as above into the first 1 or 2 inches of the soil. I usually spread all of my main compost amendment out, then sprinkle my fertilizer on top of that, then turn it all in at once.
lastly the day before you plant, go ahead and water the dirt, yes water the dirt, water the empty dirt filled pots, soak it all. after watering cultivate again with your garden claw then re-water to make sure there are no dry pockets of dirt. this will number one, mix together and “open” up the nutrients you just put in, and will secondly give your plants a good moist home to settle into.
Violet enjoying the Sage as I work at soil preparation.