Monday, March 19, 2012

Preparing for bugs and productivity

Bugs and soil. The productive garden needs to have beneficial insects but not those that are destructive. It also requires fertile soil with the proper pH for what you are growing. With the sun shining beautifully on the garden this past weekend, I began exploring how to optimize both of these this year.

It was the blueberries I planted that prompted me to first search out help with the acidity of my soil. The bushes we first planted produced berries but never thrived. I want to be sure the soil is at the correct pH level this time. I was happy to find a pH meter in the gardening section of one of the stories I frequent. I promptly purchased it, read the instructions and tested our soil. As I suspected, it’s not acidic enough.
I had already added organic matter, which my organic gardening book had recommended. I wasn’t sure what else to add to keep the garden organic so I began my search, finding the same recommendations repeatedly: pine bark mulch, pine needles, cottonseed meal and sulfur. This article has more insight.

It sounds like this will be a longer-term process than adding a simple amendment immediately, but I believe patience will pay off.

The other research I picked up over the weekend was a start to which herbs and companion plants might diminish garden pests. I experimented with this last year on a small level and the only bugs I had trouble with were squash beetles. I’m more serious about it this year. Our winter wasn’t as cold as usual and spring has come early, ideal conditions in which some bugs will thrive. For now, I’ve planted some herb seeds in pots for later transplanting. As the sun shines I’m sketching out my planting plan for this year, experimenting with different arrangement to maximize the benefits of companion planting.
Before I sign off today also want to revisit the question of safe seeds to use. So far I’ve identified two sources that I feel safe recommending because of their company philosophies and statements: Johnny’s Select Seeds and Seeds of Change.

If you have recommended sources for seeds, or any other gardening advice to share, please post it in our comments so we can all continue to learn.

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