Thursday, April 27, 2017

Soil Preparation


     OK garden friends, other than the weather...what is most important for having a successful garden? I know you probably have lots of guesses but the one thing we set much emphasis on is the soil, or as some people refer to as DIRT.  It doesn't really matter what you call it, but what does matter is what you do with it.  Think of building soil like you would with building a house... if you don't build it on a firm foundation, then it will crumble. But when it comes to gardening we want the soil to be well drained and not firm or compact.
 
     Whether you are starting seeds indoors or planting directly in your garden, when the timing is just right, it will be worth the preparation as this will be the foundation your plants will live in all seasons no matter what they have to "weather" through.
 
 


  
     If you decide to start plants such as peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers for example, then we recommend a soiless, pre-mixed growing medium. This is a "soiless" mix made up of peat, perlite (improves drainage) and vermiculite (aids in water retention) along with some nutrients. These mixes are ideal as they are sterile, insect and weed free.



     Getting the garden soil prepared is one of the most important chores of gardening.  Prior to planting even as early back as the fall season and once your previous garden has been harvested, you will want to make any amendments that are needed. Soil tests are a great way at helping to take the guess work out of what your soil may require.


      


     You can attempt to perform your own soil test by 
purchasing a soil test kit as seen pictured to the right.  Your local soil analysis lab is also ideal for determining accuracy for soil amendments. All they require for this test is to take soil from random areas of your garden (about 1 1/2 cups) and place it in a sterile bag. You will receive a printed report shortly after dropping this off and will indicate what could be low or high as well as suggestions to solve any issues.  This is especially important if you are starting a garden for the first time or have had issues the previous year  and don't know what the cause was.
     

  
      Don't let this deter you from gardening as it is simple to get started and so rewarding. Adding organic matter either in the form of compost or well rotted manure prior to planting will definitely benefit it. Organic matter helps to loosen soil, allow for better water and air movement, attracts beneficial soil organisms such as worms and bacteria (yes there is a good kind), as well as naturally supplying slow releases of essential nutrients. 

       Raised garden beds are ideal if you are just starting 
out or perhaps want to downsize. Raised beds have many benefits such as better drainage, deep tilth for growing root crops such as carrots, beets or potatoes and also warms up faster allowing for earlier gardening.  Which takes us to another very important component of either indoor or 
outdoor gardening.


     Just like people, seeds enjoy just the right temperature.  Some are a little more "high maintenance" with their preferred temperature, again just like people.  I am guilty of that for all that know me well!  If growing indoors, temperatures that will enable the most successful germination for plants such as peppers is 18-22 C. Ideal individual germination temperatures can be found on the back of each seed package or our online growing guide. Regular air temperature alone is not sufficient enough for some plants, however there are heat mats available to help reach this temperature and then can be removed once seeds have germinated. Unfortunately we can't use heat mats in our outdoor garden but you can use a bio-mulch to heat up the soil prior to planting, especially if you want to plant early. Bio mulch also acts as a weed barrier and will reduce water evaporation keeping the moisture at the roots.  Once the soil warms up enough to plant crops suited for certain temperatures, let the fun begin!  Spinach can go directly in the ground as early as possible and only requires a soil temperature of 4 C(40 F).  Peppers on the other hand prefer soil and night time temperatures at least 15 C-25C (60-80 F). 
   




  Along with the importance of soil temperature comes soil moisture.  Of course too much or too little of anything is never good and the same holds true for soil moisture. Seed must be kept consistently moist after planting. This can safely be done with the newest tools available to accurately check whether its too wet or too dry and is suited for outdoor or indoor use.



  
      We use clear plastic domes over our seed trays when seeding indoors, this prevents them from drying out by building up enough humidity for natural condensation to occur. These domes are removed once the seedlings germinate.  A little moisture is all that's needed at least until they reach a more mature stage. If you do need to water at the young stage, use of a spray bottle or a low flow watering can is ideal for a light mist.
      It is not possible to use these domes on our crops if directly seeded outdoors, however you can use row covers for added warmth as well as protection from insects and diseases.  It is not recommended to seed when soil is too heavy and wet or when you know cool and damp weather may last for more then a few days.  Too much moisture will rot the seeds and too dry will also hinder their germination success. We can't let perfect weather conditions determine whether we grow a garden or not. Plants will do well in all types of conditions as long as proper growing instructions are practiced. 
     
     Seeds come in all different sizes and are required to be planted at proper depths.  If seeds get planted too deeply or if the soil is too compact for seeds to emerge, they may never see the light of day. For tiny seedlings we recommend to sow them on top of the soil, and then followed with a light watering to have them settle. This is especially important when you think you may have heavy rains in the near future. Make sure that you check the growing instructions that are conveniently printed on the back of each seed package for proper planting depth. This useful information recommends other tips for growing your seedlings successfully.  You can also refer to our online growing guide as well. If you are new to the gardening "yard", this year we have added a "Beginner Garden Collection" with easy to use instructions.    
   

     As with any new plant that is introduced to the garden no matter what you choose to growtop quality soil, water, temperature, Veseys Seeds and sunny days all will make your garden season a success.  Hope all of your days are sunny as you "get growing!"

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