by Jocelyn Hoch
Building Good Soil for Gardens
Beginning a garden can be intimidating. Really, we are all learning every time we go out and do anything in life. So just jump in, there are really no mistakes. A few articles ago I showed you how to begin a garden, now it is almost planting time here in Florida. In late August we will talk more about that. If you haven’t begun anything, now is the time to think in terms about a garden plan. Right now you can go outside and look around and find a good spot to plant a garden. Find a southern exposure area where the suns path travels east to west across the area, garden facing south with no trees casting shadows upon the garden. Next, obtain cardboard and lay it down over the entire area you want to plant. Consider putting a small fence around the area so rabbits and raccoons do not invade your tender plants later on. After you have laid down the cardboard, apply a heavy amount of mulch, at least 8 inches thick. If you are planting delicate vegetables then you should put blood meal on top of the card board to help break down the cardboard and nutrify your future plants, this will prevent the cardboard from starving your plants from nitrogen. If this is just going to be a part of landscaping, then wait a few months and clear a hole where you want to plant and dig out an area twice the size of the plant, add compost, bone meal, blood meal and super plus fertilizer from MRT, 1/2 cup per plant. This is the same formula if you just want to plant veggies too, but this needs to come a little later after the grass has died under the cardboard. Mulch is absolutely necessary to this process. Here in Florida you need to build soil so you must constantly mulch everything. Mulch will bring great microorganisms and mycelium essential to all soil life. Please do not use colored mulch or rubber mulch it is toxic to the soil, plants and microbes.
Permaculture is the newest craze among home gardeners, used to simply be called a garden, however there is a fun science about this new technique which fascinates the advanced gardeners and biologists. Permaculture coined by Bill Mollison from Australia, recognizes a biological system teaming with life beginning with large trees as the center piece and smaller fruit bearing trees along the drip edge, then the next ring around the bottom of smaller shrubs that produce nitrogen feeding other plants surrounding them and can be used as mulch to feed the whole system. Once the big trees are established then under the canopy you can plant delicate vegetables under the nitrogen fixers. The terms of the system are: Fortress plants, nitrogen fixers, nutrient accumulators, soil fumigants, pest repellent plants, insectary plants, spike roots. Some of these plants for our region are as follows: Fortress plants would be lemongrass, vetiver, sugarcane, bamboo, citronella. Nitrogen fixers are: legumes, acacia, beans, & peanuts to name a few. Nutrient accumulators are: chamomile, fennel, pigweed, chicory, & plantain. Soil fumigants & pest repellents are: nasturtiums, marigold, calendula, false indigo & elderberry. Insectary plants are: yarrow, buckwheat, lavender, bee balm, clovers, celery, carrot/apiaceae family in general, fennel, dill, coriander, lilaceae family, onion/allium family, sunflower/asteraceae , mint/lamaceae family. Spike roots/soil excavators: diakon radish, chicory, comfrey, artichoke, dandelion, mustard, rapeseed & alfalfa thrust massive fibers roots into the ground. What is super fun about this it is LESS work for you in the long run. You let certain weeds grow because they are beneficial instead of just a weed. You mulch heavily to kill weeds and they easily pull out because there is so much fluff around them. Some of our so called weeds here in Florida are beautiful native plants that are considered medicine instead of a weed. I allow Spanish needles to grow because it heals the heart and takes away the sting from fire ant bites immediately.
So now is the time in your gardens to go out and mulch heavily. If you have fruit trees that need help, lay clean cardboard around them nearly touching the base of the tree, then mulch at least 2 store bought (natural Mulch) bags around the base, but not touching the trunk. Next apply fertilizer, super plus fertrell fertilizers from MRT, at least a full cup of this fertilizer, one of the best nutrient rich organic fertilizers we have found. You have to feed these fruit trees at least once per month in order to grow a fruit bearing tree. Also azomite is a great mineral rich food for fruit trees. Feed and water them like you feed