By Jannie Vaught
A few of this and that, soil carbon indicators, minerals, and planting dates for zone 8A.
We have had snow!
Now that is a date to remember!
With this comes questions about soil, planting times, and when to keep a weather eye out. Let’s look at soil organic matter in the soil. This is focusing on Garden location, not lawn or wild areas. Composting is a way of life for the gardener. Big or small tracts of land. The soil needs composted material at least 9 inches deep. This is checked by simply turning a deep shovel full of soil and see where the layer changes or if you have a hardpan or clay layer.
I know the “NO Till” movement is popular now, but as for really growing food, there are times to get digging!!!
This is a nice way to garden, here’s the but, I have found this technique in our red loamy clay areas with abundant limestone and granite. To take Years to build a deep growing vegetable bed. It is all up to you. I use a Broad fork and a small electric tiller that goes deep enough and is not so aggressive that it kills all the worms and microbes. I’ll do a till and turn under the cover crop after I have chopped or mowed it down then I will sprinkle wood ashes, lime, bone meal, and water. I let it rest for a few days then I Broad fork and go deeper with the fork. again, I let it rest and rake and plan the rows or beds. In the raised bed I use a garden fork to break-up any compacted soil. When you turn over the soil looking for that 9-inch-deep organic material that is where you will have good watering. If the water can’t get deep the roots will stay shallow and not produce or be able to feed and grow. When the material is deep and soft with air spaces you will have a good mineral uptake. That’s why we walk in the alleys and not the planted rows. Of course, you will want to do this at the end of fall and beginning of spring, when soil is not heavy with moisture.
Organic material is your indicator of soil vitality. I must say that some years I do not need to do this process as I have been using cover crop and chop and drop for 8 years. So get the shovel out and have a look and feel the soil if it clumps together you may need more compost. Our last frost date ranges from late March to April 1st. But with this snowy cold and ever-changing weather patterns, you have to keep track of day and night temperatures. When you refer to planting guides there are Marginal and Optimal dates. You want Optimal. From Mid January to End of March Asian greens seeds or transplants, Beets inground with seeds. Mid-January to Mid-February Broccoli transplants, Brussel Sprout’s transplants, Cabbage transplants. Carrots inground seeds, Cauliflower transplants, Collards seeds, or transplants. Kale seeds or transplants, Kohlrabi seeds or transplants, Leeks transplants, Lettuce seeds or transplants Mustard seeds or transplants. January to Mid-Febuary Onions building transplants Onion bunching. English peas. Radish, and Spinach and Turnips. When it is time to plant Irish potatoes Late January to February is the time to plant the Asparagus Crowns. My Fall to Winter Garden has most of this already growing and the cover crop has grown to protect the vegetables. Right now the soil is too wet to go in but with a few sunny days, there will be time to make a row and plant.
I always remind myself to take time and don’t rush as we have a long growing season. Next month I will be setting up the table lights and heating pads to begin starting tomato and, peppers. And remember the ideal soil temperature is 60 degrees for those plants that like warm roots.
Growing Green and enjoying the snow with Jannie