This is the beginning of a long and glorious growing season. Isn’t it wonderful that every week it has rained? This is so good for the soil, our plants and life in general. I think we are blessed to live in this community with this climate.
If you have the room and want more fresh winter and spring salad vegetables, keep on planting. Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, onions, fresh greens, Asian veggies and greens, radishes, radicchio, lettuce, carrots, beets, potatoes and endives, to name a few.
I want to tell you about a wonderful fertilizer combination that magically came together by accident while planting a garden for a friend of mine. By mistake he bought “Kellogg’s Gardener and Bloom” compost in a red bale, that is three cubic feet, which can be found at a number of local retail nursery supply and farm stores. We mixed this 50/50 with “Cal-Organic-Fertilizer” citrus/avocado (8-5-4).
We normally do not like to recommend products in this article by name, or brand, but the combination of these two products has produced results, for about two years of trials, that are beyond spectacular. Our collard, broccoli and kale grow three times as large as we have ever grown it.
The collard leaves get to be two feet long and up to one foot wide, sweet, soft and succulent while chard grows with vibrant color and size so large it shines. Summer crops produce bumper crops every time. We hope you enjoy our discovery as much as we do.
You can also purchase some humates, which are millions-of-years-old fossils trapped under the surface (usually in New Mexico), and then mined. Rock dusts, soft rock phosphates, and greensand all supply major and minor nutrients. They come from ancient ocean bottoms and are jam-packed full of trace minerals, which are vital to the health of the soil and plants.
Now is the time to build the organic matter in the soil, enhance soil organisms and convert all this to humus, which is a stable form of carbon that will be bound in the soil, creating life and fertility for decades or even centuries. When we have achieved this, the quality and quantity of production in our gardens will continue getting stronger.
Organic matter comes in many different forms, straw mulch, leaf mulch, grass clippings, crop residue. The simple sugars that this residue exudes are consumed by beneficial bacteria. The heavy fiber in woody stalks or thicker plants is broken down and consumed by beneficial fungi. This food source allows all these soil organisms to expand and thrive.
After the organic matter is reduced in structure, other larger life forms, beneficial nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms consume the rest of the food supply. All these beneficial organisms suppress the bad bacteria, unfavorable fungus, and a lot of other potential plant disease, to keep the soil and the plants healthy. When the soil has a lot of humus, it gets loamy, velvety, and has a healthy smell. This can take a while to accomplish, but it pays huge dividends.
Soil organisms (in sufficient quantities) will breakdown unavailable minerals bound up in the soil particles into an elemental form that plants can use. The plants will forage for these minerals as they need them. Some organisms called mycorizhia, extend the root system of a plant by 100’s of times. They can forage into tiny soil particles too small for the plant roots. They then transfer these minerals to the plant in exchange for simple sugars from the plant that they need to survive. This relationship is called symbiosis. The minerals go into the leaves of the plant and help to create photosynthesis.
All this is a marvelous system that we can nurture to have beautiful gardens and landscapes. By feeding the soil organisms for the long term, they will eat and grow, and move through the soil, and make it possible to have clean water, clean air, healthy plants, for a long time!
Organic gardening is a great adventure and expedition into a deeper and more satisfying understanding of nature and vegetable gardening. You are now a participant rather than a spectator. You share creation. Organic gardening is a partnership with nature. Have a great week.
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