Gardening Questions

As I start making plans for this year’s garden I need a little help.  In an effort to be all naturale I have pretty much done nothing to help my plants grow beside plant them and mulch them to control weeds.  We do spread compost on the garden but I have never used any supplements or solutions.  This year I need to run some soil tests and do some amending.  So…

  • Do you supplement your seedlings?  With what?  Seaweed solution, compost tea?
  • Do you run soil tests?  Do you add amendments throughout or just in certain areas?
  • How do you prep your soil for planting?  No till?  Shovel?  Walk behind rototiller?  Tractor mounted tiller?

Those are the three big areas I could use some help in.  What we’ve been doing just isn’t cutting it.  Thanks in advance for your feedback!


11 thoughts on “Gardening Questions

  1. annemariefox

    We do soil tests quite frequently. They help us to know what nutrients are missing as well as letting us know what crops will work well in which soil. Your local extension is a good place to start – we have had them do some of our testing. My husband bought a soil testing kit and now does a lot of them himself. We have all different kinds of soil on the farm, everything from clay to rich loam to sand. Testing is done on several small areas of the farm depending on what our planting plans are.

    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      Do you grow row crops or produce? We have our crop fields soil tested but have never done the garden. I have a little home test kit from the ag store but wasn’t sure how accurate that would be. Is that the type your husband uses or does he have something fancier?

      1. Annemarie Fox

        We grow fruits and vegetables. We order lots of stuff from Gemplers in Wisconsin which is where we got the soil test kit. They are online so you can take a look at what they have. They have real basic ones and the fancier ones of course. His is a mid range one. To verify his testing, he usually sends one sample out and compares the test results to what he got.

    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      Sounds like you do things like us. Except I don’t rototill every year. Most of our crops do fine, at least in our main garden. Last year we added a new plot and you could really tell the difference compared to the older plot where we’ve incorporated a lot of manure. Our corn was pathetic.

  2. Rich

    Is it absolutely necessary to be completely organic? I don’t use any fertilizer in the garden now, but when I initially started this garden, (~15 years ago), I planted winter cover crops of winter wheat, oats, clover, austrian peas, etc. and fertilized the cover crop with something like 10-20-10 at about a 50lb of N per acre rate for a few years, spread some lime for a couple years on the cover crop, and used compost on the vegetables. Once my cover crops looked like they had sufficient fertility without any topdressing, etc., then I quit using any fertilizer besides compost (although I will occasionally side dress corn with a little fertilizer).

    Organic gardening requires a large amount of organic material in the soil to provide the necessary fertility to grow a crop. By fertilizing cover crops of small grains in the beginning, you can significantly increase the amount of organic material available for building your soil.

    Make as much compost as you can, always grow cover crops (buckwheat, blocks of peas or beans, small grains, or thickly planted corn), and try mixing some charcoal into your compost (simplified terra preta). As you soils improve, your crops will also improve.

    1. marriedtothefarm Post author

      I really like your thinking with the cover crops. I’m not stuck on being organic I just want to avoid chemicals as much as I can. My main concern is avoiding sprays and things near the parts we will be ingesting. Fertilizing the cover crop is smart. Would ashes suffice for charcoal? I’ve heard to add wood ashes around certain plants. We have occasional buckets of ash from our corn stove.

      1. Rich

        We have a fireplace, I spread the ashes on the garden in the winter, and there is a small amount of charcoal in ashes, but I also add charcoal (not briquettes) to the composting process. Adding charcoal isn’t absolutely necessary, but a number of years ago I got interested in the Amazonian soils called Terra Preta, and like the idea of experimenting with trying to create my own version.

        To get my charcoal, I usually burn a brush pile, and put out the fire with either water or by burying the coals to make charcoal. Mix it into the compost pile and each time the garden is tilled the charcoal gets smaller and smaller. I’m not sure if it actually does anything beneficial, but it doesn’t hurt to experiment (usually).

        Some of my ideas about building soil fertility with cover crops (and some biodynamic principles) came from Anne and Eric Nordell’s writings about their farming techniques in Small Farm Journal.

        For a little more information about their cover crop rotations try going to:

        Biodynamics is another interesting topic, but I just do basic things like occasionally using alfalfa hay to mulch the tomatoes, leaves to mulch the potatoes, and pine needles to mulch the strawberries.

    2. Annemarie Fox

      We have found that spreading the leaves we rake up in the fall over the soil also provides excellent organic matter for the soil. We use it to cover our strawberries for the winter, as well.

  3. Kathi

    We use OMRI Alaska fish fertilizer on our crops. You are right in thinking about less chemicals, as they not only are absorbed in your food but they also perk into your ground water.

    I have been farming organically for over 28 years. I also grow heirloom seeds, they are better tasting and are NOT genetically modified. What I have found works better than anything, is time in the garden. Time to look over the plants, pick pests off if necessary, mulch, weed. An hour a day works for me, it helps me to manage the large garden on a daily basis. We use all kitchen scraps for our compost, straw, and last years sheep manure. Chicken manure gets composted in every other year, same with steer manure. The garden is plentiful, we have a lot of worms………I have a huge cellar that I fill anually with our bounty. Cover crops in the winter when the garden is dormant is also good. Plant most anything, oats, barley, winter wheat. Bloodmeal is also very good for the garden. I sample my soil by taste. If it’s sweet, it has all the right ingredients to produce an abundant yield for you.

    Good luck!


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