After Greene Acres Community Garden’s last Board Meeting, Bob Witsaman from Royal Victorian Gardens (in North Royalton) spent some time telling us how important the soil in our plots is. Here is some take-away information from his presentation:
- “Don’t treat your soil like dirt.” Where have we heard that before! It’s really important for plant health to not only have the right chemical make-up, but all the microorganisms, fungi, and invertebrates in the soil that get those chemicals useable for plants. Good soil needs to be composed of several ingredients so that it has good tilth, holds moisture, and allows drainage.
- Most soils need organic material. Leaf compost is like gold. However, know where your compost is coming from and what the raw materials are that went into making it.
- You can overdo compost. Two to three inches is all that’s needed. In some of our newer plots, too much compost was added and we need to add more topsoil, or start over with a blend of topsoil, sand, compost.
- Bob recommended gypsum as a calcium amendment (to control tomato blossom end rot) since it won’t adversely affect pH. However, he knows the soil tests at Greene Acres show we have plenty of calcium in our soil.
- Be careful buying potting soil. Any good potting soil is neutral.
- Grow cover crops to add nitrogen back to the soil.
- With respect to rototilling, Bob cautioned it should only be done when the soil is dry.
- There’s no reason to rototill if your soil is good and you use fall cover crops.
- Bob recommended using black plastic to warm up the soil and/or greenhouse covers to extend the season (both fall and spring).
- Don’t use coffee grounds directly into the garden bed nor fireplace ashes. Put them on the compost pile first.
- Seed starting is a great way to get varieties we want, but be sure not to start too early and use a good seed starting mix.
- Royal Victorian Gardens carries a line of soil amendments and organic fertilizers: Dr. Earth and Fox Farm are the brands Bob carries. There are multiple products for different uses.
If any of our gardeners took away other gems of wisdom, please let us know. Let’s get a good soil discussion started before we begin planting!