Sticking with Soil
Growing a productive vegetable garden starts long before you plant. To get a good harvest, you have to get down in the dirt.
In fact, dirt is one of the most important parts of gardening.
If your soil is too sandy, water will drain away. If it’s got too much clay, water won’t drain at all. And soil without organic matter won’t have the nutrients to grow beautiful plants and veggies.
Plainly put, dirt makes the difference in getting lots of big tomatoes and wimpy little plants with stringy fruit.
I’m the first generation of my family not to make a living off farming. My dad’s father had eighty acres and raised pigs, cows, and watermelons. My pop scouted cotton and then sold fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides to large farms all over Texas and Arkansas.
I grew up having to work in the garden at my grandparent’s and my folks’ house, digging potatoes, shucking corn, cutting okra, and thumping watermelons. I still refuse to eat purple hull peas after shelling thousands.
What I didn’t realize until I started my own garden was all the prep work that went into it. By then, both my grandfather and pop were gone. So I signed up for classes in Fort Worth to become a Tarrant County Master Gardener.
I learned that after a lifetime of gardening, I didn’t know much.
I knew that my soil was red clay and lacking in nutrients. For anyone who doesn’t know what kind of dirt they have, they can send a sample to Texas AgriLife and they will test it. Find out more here: http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/. The results will tell you what nutrients your soil is lacking.
Thanks to my grandfather, I had always relied on natural fertilizers (horse or cow manure), but I learned about composting and became obsessed with mulch.
A nice 2- to 3-inch layer of shredded bark mulch in the garden and flowerbeds cuts down on weeding, retains moisture, and keeps plants warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. And, my favorite, breaks down to enrich the soil. My poor husband and sons have hauled enough mulch to cover Mount Rushmore.
We’ve been in our house for 20 years. Our home is built on a slab of red clay, just like the rest of our city. Thanks to two decades of mulching our plants, our garden and flower beds have a 2-foot layer of beautiful loamy rich soil. Every spring we plant fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, then tuck them in with a nice layer of mulch. By June, we’re harvesting fat tomatoes and by July we have so many peppers that we’re dropping bags of them on our neighbors’ doorsteps after dark.
Just got to dig dirt.
By Amanda Rogers for Surepoint Medical Centers
Amanda Rogers is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas
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