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    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    Making Organic Dirt & Natural Gardening Tips

    Seems nearly everyone is having a shortage of good, organic dirt these days.

    I have been hearing from a lot of my gardening friends about how this spring they will be needing to purchase quite a bit of organic dirt, but I have found a solution!

    You can make your own healthy soil pretty easily by tossing some cardboard in the bottom of a container (or straight on the ground where you plan to plant), Then add manure, top with leaves, then sand or vermiculite, some kitchen waste, straw, more manure, more sand or vermiculite, more leaves, and repeating until full. It takes a bit to get great soil out of it (more of a start-in-the-fall type project), but I've done this with dirt in place of about half the manure & leaves in spring with good results. For regular ground instead of containers, forgoe the cardboard in spring projects and instead opt for two layers of newspaper as the first layer.

    If you don't have a lot of kitchen scraps (we don't), you can contact your local grocer, and they will likely save their out-of-date produce for you if they know you are going to use it for compost or feeding animals, as it saves them on their trash bill while helping the enviornment. Most stores will jump at the opportunity.

    Manure can be acheived free at most horse stables and cattle ranches, Leaves are free by the pre-packaged bag-full at area yard waste drop-off facilities, Shredded newspaper or peat moss can be used in place of leaves if necessary, and dirty straw can be found by contacting stables and animal shelters.

    I still have to buy sand or vermiculite, but that is only because I am in the Ozarks, and there aren't a lot of great resources around here for those.

    Warning: This soil will be high in nitrogen if created in the spring, and you may need to add some rock-based mineral ammendments to create the precise mix you want and lower the nitrogen content if desired. Then again, you might want some other ammendments anyway, depending on your prefrences.


    As an added soil bonus, some people like to sprinkle water absorbing polymers to their manure layer to increase water absorptopn and decrease the need for extra wateringin containers and during the hottest months.


    Newspaper spread over the top of your ground or container dirt after planting acts as a water-preserving mulch and also keeps most weeds from disturbing your gardening joy.


    Last year's holey hose works great (enlist the kids to poke lots more holes) as a drip irrigation system when strewn around the base of your plants.


    Get your repellants ready now!

    Mix baking soda, cornmeal, roughly ground eggshells, and grits in equal parts, and keep it in a dry spot for sprinkling lightly under your plants to deter most fungi, cutworms, slugs, snails, and ants. Should require only 1-3 applications all season.

    Make a gallon of spray by making a tea of 20 teaspoons ground red pepper and a gallon of water. After straining, add 10 teaspoons of organic natural castille soap and mix thoroughly. Pour your mix into a spray container and mist your plants weekly or after each rain (tomatos may require more frequent spraying). Be sure to get underneath the leaves with each application. The hot pepper repells most plant eating animals and some insects, while the soap eats away the protective oils from other insects like ants & aphids.

    For extra light in low-light areas and additional bug deterrant under your plant's leaves, place some aluminum foil, shiny side up around the base of the plant.


    If your neighborhood has a problem with Japanese Beetles, don't buy a trap for your yard, buy one for each of the neighbors down the street on either end from you. The traps send out a pheremone that attracts the beetles from as much as 5 miles away. Wouldn't you rather your neighbor had them going over there instead of coming to your yard? Bonus: The neighbor will think you are awefully nice to buy traps for them to help them fight the battle, and it really does help in controlling the neighborhood population. *grin*


    Image above is "Totally Impromptu", a painting I created at a local drinking establishment, and my entry for this week's Illustration Friday.

    1 comment:

    Ellen said...

    Nice piece...the colours are awesome!
    I love your site...I use to teach environmental ed (among other things) and your site bought back some neat memories! Thanx