In Barb's Garden

Organic Gardening
by Barb Foster
by Barb Foster


Inspired to nuture, Barb Foster took up gardening over a decade ago. She has a particular passion for this areas hardy perennials.

Barb collects her own seeds, grows seedlings in a greenhouse and has 500 sq ft of growing beds plus numerous perennial flower beds in her Zone 1b garden in Chetwynd, B.C.

Barb writes weekly for the Chetwynd Echo.

September 20, 2009

Organic Gardening begins with healthy soil. If you are hoping to start a new garden next spring. This is perhaps the best time to get started. Some gardeners will have prepared their garden so that it is ready to plant; as soon as the snow melts.

There are many ways to prepare and improve soil. Some of the following information may be helpful for gardeners seeking to improve their soil or to prepare a new garden bed.

Today’s more conventional garden preparation methods; suggest that one should improve soil to a minimum depth of ten inches. Remove sod. Turn in one inch of coarse sand if soil is heavy. For each 50 sq. ft. of garden, add 3 (6cu. ft.) bales of pre-moistened peat moss, and 2 lbs. of 5-10-5, organic fertilizer. Add 5 lb. of ground limestone for acid soils. Then turn in all the (seed and chemical free) grass clippings, compost, well aged manure, chopped straw etc. that you are able to gather. Continue to improve the soil with an annual addition of up to three inches of mulch.

Alternative site and soil preparations include:

  1. Remove sod; turn soil deeply (12 to 18 inches). Add up to six inches of a mixture of ½ pre-moistened peat and ½ compost. To each wheelbarrow full of the peat/ compost mix, add 1 shovel full of bone meal and one shovel full of wood ash. Turn amendments into the soil.
  2. Mow the garden site very short, sprinkle an organic fertilizer over the area, lime if needed. Cover the area with several layers of newspaper. This will smother existing vegetation. Put a good layer of weed free compost over the newspaper. The garden bed is ready for planting. Set plants in the ground by making holes through the newspaper. At least once a year add a thin layer of weed free compost over the area of the bed.
  3. Generally referred to as "sheet mulching" this method should produce a rich organic soil within one year. Pick a sunny, well drained site then chop or mow down weeds. Cover the ground and chopped down weeds with manure and kitchen waste. Spread blood meal at one pound per one hundred square feet. Layer about two inches of newspaper or cardboard over the manure and kitchen waste. Water the area well. Add a two inch layer, of straw and manure mixed. Top up with several inches of weed free; grass clippings, straw, sawdust, wood chips, leaves or shredded bark. Water again.

Test your soil for pH levels. Areas with low rainfall are likely to have alkaline soils. To reduce alkalinity; add pre-moistened peat moss and aged manure. Areas with heavy rainfall tend toward acidic soils. Add limestone to reduce acidity. Soil test kits are available to help you determine the acid levels in your soil. However the addition of organic materials, such as compost, aged manure,well-rotted leaves, etc. will do much to neutralize the soil. An indication of good neutral soil is the presence of earthworms.

Having mentioned pre-moistened peat moss, I would suggest that whenever one uses peat moss it should first be well soaked. Slice open the top of the plastic cover, of the baled peat, and pour boiling water over the peat. Allow it to sit for a week before use.

When using wood chips or sawdust for mulch, sprinkle a little blood meal or fish meal to replace the nitrogen the wood will use as it decomposes.

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