Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 16 Garden Soil

Your garden is only as good as the soil in it. Successful gardening comes from fertile soil in good heart, regularly replenished with humus and plant foods. You can make any soil good soil if you work on it. Find out about your local soil from your local garden club or newspaper gardening column. We help you discover the personality type of the soil in your backyard. And we continue with our permanent planting programme, this fortnight with lavender and candytuft.

Needs list: 5 lavender plants; 7 Iberis plants; ½ cwt/50 lb bag moss peat.

Time budget: 3 hours in 1 week

Early November weather/soil

Gardens and gardeners alike arc now just about in full hibernation. However, the soil is still warmer now than in January or February, so hardy shrubs and trees can still be planted when the soil’s workable. Protect roots of shrubs/trees waiting to be planted with leaves or peat.

Flower of the Fortnight

This fortnight’s flower is a plant of many qualities: grown primarily for its scent, it has pretty spikes of lavender flowers, delightful grey foliage, which contrasts well with the prevalent greens of other plants and stays on the plant through winter, it also makes first rate ground cover, keeping down all the weeds under it. There are many varieties of lavender around, tall, dwarf, some lighter, some darker in flower: there’s even a pink one! The one we’ve chosen is lavender ‘Hidcote’ – the richest coloured form of all. Either cut the flowers just as they open to dry for making sachets, or leave them on and let the plant seed. Give full sun, sharp drainage and clip back each spring to keep tidy.

Groundwork

1.Your newly seeded lawn should be ready now for its first mow. Should be about 3 in. high. Set mower blades as high as they’ll go. Mow lightly. Do not pull the grass, don’t skid the mower on it. Still keep kids and pets off it.

2. Plant daffodils this month: they need a head start on other bulbs. Tulips, hyacinths and small bulbs like snowdrops, crocuses, can wait till next month.

3. Rake up leaves from lawn and cottage garden area. Put them in the compost bin. Do not add any more fertilizer to the lawn till spring. Keep the surface free of weeds. Rake out moss if it’s a problem. Scatter worm casts when they appear, but don’t try to kill the worms: they help the lawn grow well.

4. Dig over the area where the beans were growing, and plant flowers there following the instructions given in Stage

5. Plant in staggered rows. Soak well. Use spare time to read up about climate, soil. Find out rainfall for your area, soil type, the average date of the first and last killing frost = 32°F/0°C. Allow for altitude if you live on a hilltop.

Project work: soil; what is it?

Most people think of soil as a sort of inert, brownish something or other out of which plants stick. To master your garden, to make the plants in it thrive with the least effort on your part, you need to know a lot more about soil than that. Take a handful of soil from your garden and contemplate it. It’s made up of 5 things:

(a) mineral particles which have been formed by the erosion of mountains over eons; the type of rock they came from will be the main factor that determines whether your soil is acid or alkaline; the size of the particles will determine whether you have clay, good loam, light sand or just plain stony soil,

(b) Organic matter, known as humus, which acts as a sponge and holds water between the mineral particles,

(c) Soil life — myriads of teeming creatures, mainly microscopic, but some quite large, like earthworms. One boffin estimated that there are 100,000 micro-organisms in every cubic centimetre of good loam. They convert humus into the mineral salts plant need to feed on. Earthworms pull fallen leaves down into soil. All part of the process,

(d) Air: plant roots need air to breathe.

(e) Water. Plant roots must have water since they can only absorb essential plant foods in solution. Whether your soil is good, bad or horrible is mainly a matter of the proportions of mineral particles to humus. Extremes are pure peat, which will grow practically nothing since there is no air in it; and pure sand, which won’t grow much either because it has no humus. Add sand and compost to peat soils to make them good, and peat and compost to any other soil type to improve it. The more humus = moss peat/compost. You add, the more soil micro-organisms there’ll be to convert the humus into plant foods, especially the vital 3, N, P, K = nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium. Acidity is another key factor, limiting the types of plants you can grow, Buy a soil testing kit.

23. August 2011 by admin
Categories: 2 Hour Garden, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , | Comments Off on Two Hour Gardening Project: Stage 16 Garden Soil

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