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Soil Tests, Composting and Spring Bulbs

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

There are still many activities in the yard that could be covered, I picked three this week. Fall has been the best time to take a soil test to find out more about what your plants, all of your plants, get to grow in and what major nutrients are available. Fall is preferred as the soil has reacted to anything you have put down during the growing season and the results will reflect that. pH is a very important part of the test. With the right pH levels, plants are able to get the food they need easily on their own. In general if your soils have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 you are in good shape. Any higher or lower and nutrients get tied up in the soil and not available for plant growth.

Your soil test will also reveal the levels of major nutrients like Phosphorus and Potassium and some will also give you the Nitrogen level too. Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) are often in adequate supply and we really will not need to add more, but the soil test is the only way to know for sure. P and K are stable in the soil and are not moved much by soil moisture. Nitrogen (N) is water soluble and we monitor that level by knowing how much we apply during the season. Yes, a soil test can provide you the level of N, but it is only as good as the day you took the sample.

Going along with a soil test is using composts to provide the soil with organic matter that contains the N, P and K along with many more micro nutrients that all plants need. It is a good idea to use composts as they are acidic in nature, helping to keep the pH between 6.0 and 7.0. You can get a compost pile going with the "green and brown" parts from your yard as you clean up for the winter. Brown and not so brown plant parts can be mixed together along with a few shovelfuls of garden dirt so the decomposition process gets going. Composting can as easy as just a pile of composing materials behind the shed or a spot in or next to the garden or in composting structures you buy or build. You do not want to add weeds containing seeds, as these will be spread throughout the yard as you use your composts. It takes several months to get compost, but once the process starts, it is easy to add to the top and take the good stuff from the bottom. The finer you chop up the plant parts, the sooner it will be compost.

While you are out in the yard preparing for winter, consider preparing for 2013 by planting colorful spring bulbs. Spring bulbs can be planted until we cannot dig in the soil.

Bulbs planted now will have plenty of time to establish a root system yet this fall. The spring bulb has everything ready to go for next year, they just need a place. Bulbs can be planted individually or in groups. Incorporating organic matter into the planting area will help establish the bulbs and give them a great start for 2013 and future spring bloom shows. As you can see growing plants is all about the soil.

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