Healthy Soil

Soil is a composition of weather-beaten rock, minerals, decayed plant materials and other organic ingredients. All this takes a long time to develop, but can be damaged by our action or neglect in a single season.

For soil to be healthy, it should contain a balanced mix of air, water, nutrients, and organic matter. There are a couple things we can do to protect this mixture.

Adding organic matter on a regular basis is probably one of the most important things we can do. Adding compost and animal manure can do many things, for instance:

Increases the soil’s capability to hold nutrients.

Makes food available to plants over a longer period of time.

Lessens the amount of nutrients lost by erosion or leaching.

Provides micronutrients that are needed by plants in small amounts.

Releases nutrients already in the soil by increasing the action of beneficial microorganisms.

Increases the water-holding capacity for sandy soils.

Increases the drainage of clay soils.

Saves money.

Do not apply fertilizer to lawns until we get a good soaking rain, and for best, safest, long-lasting results use organic fertilizers. The wet soil puts the nutrients into a solution and helps distribute the nutrients to the plant roots to be absorbed.

The ability of soil to drain water is important. However, when you read phrases like “plant in a well-drained soil” or “does not like wet feet”, they are talking about the plant’s need for air. The roots of plants require oxygen and any soil that is waterlogged will be lacking oxygen.

Many plants will put up with high moisture-conditions during the growing season, but when the plants are dormant, the same conditions may kill them. By improving the drainage, the plant will have a better growing environment.

Another problem is soil becoming compacted by tractors and other equipment or just by tilling it year after year. You will find soil compaction in most soils, from gardens to farm fields.

Tilling the soil when it is too wet will clump and ruin the composition of the soil. This condition takes a long period of time to bring it back to health. To tell if the soil is too wet take a handful and squeeze it, if it crumbles in your hand then it is ready to till but if it clumps then it is too wet. Some people now believe that tilling at all is not good for the structure of the soil. It exposes the helpful microorganisms to the environment and they are destroyed.

However, gardeners may wonder if it is best to till the garden in the fall or spring. Tilling the soil in the fall has advantages over springtime. When spring arrives, it allows for earlier planting since the basic soil preparation is done. Tilling in the fall allows a large amount of organic matter to be turned into the soil and start decomposing because the microbes are active currently.

An excellent source of organic matter is the fall leaves. Try tilling a thick layer of leaves into the soil this fall and by spring, it will have decomposed.

Sowing a cover crop, like winter rye, is very beneficial by adding valuable nutrients and organic matter when tilled into the soil the following spring. Fall tilling will disrupt the bad insects, diseases, and weeds, reducing their population.

Fall is a good time to test your soil and should be done every couple of years. In conclusion, doing all the previous steps should be done the organic gardening way. It is back to basics when it comes to gardening.

Rose Garden Planting

Roses which are dormant and bare roots grow well but usually don’t bloom as long as those in the containers or pots. The latter are usually growing and not dormant.
If you are buying dormant plants make sure that you are getting #1 grade. These will give you a much better crop during the summer to your rose garden.

Preparing The Soil

Pick an area that will get at least 5-6 hours of sunlight a day. Sun is a very important part of the growth cycle of your rose garden.

The soil should be a good loam and can be mixed with some clay. The loam should be down to a depth of at least 12-15 inches. Dig the soil out for the plant so that it will fit the plant with no damage to the roots and that the first bud spike will set about an inch below the surface.

I would also suggest that at the bottom of the hole you use a fork to loosen the dirt.

Now The Planting

Before setting the plant into the hole in the rose garden, I suggest that you mix some farm manure into the loosened dirt at the bottom. Trim any damaged roots and then set it into the hole.

Now that the rose is set into the hole be sure that the loam you put put around the plant is loose as well. Fill the hole to about 2/3 – 3/4 and tap it down. Water the plant and the dirt. Let the water settle then add the rest of the loam.

Be sure that the first bud spike is at least one inch below the surface.

For dormant plants mound the soil over the plant so it will not dry out. For plants that were in pots or containers there is no need to mound the soil in the rose garden.

It is fine to have a few inches of mulch around the plant base as this contains the moisture.

Watering

Roses should be watered about every 7 – 10 days and you need to water the base of the plant. If you water the flower it is easier for the plant to have disease infect it.

Although this presents as a diversion from orchids it is definitely in line with our additional items we have added.

Planting Season

Planting can take place between mid October and mid May. You should not plant or transplant after mid May until October. Good growing in your rose garden.

Terrace Gardening

The terrace may be either at ground level, below ground level, or raised above it. The simplest type is ground level, which requires only the grading we have indicated. There is a wide choice of flooring materials to use. One may use cement, poured and levelled with a large board, but in maintaining the drainage grade or including shallow drainage paths, smooth turf may be used, in which case the preparation will be the same as for other lawn areas and various other types of bases.

The use of flagstones is made simple by applying a load of sand or gravel to the subsoil and digging the flagstones into the sand or gravel. The niches between the stones can be dug out and filled with top-soil and grass or other cover planted between them. This gives a very pleasing effect.

Hollow clay building tiles can be split and laid as units in the terrace floor, their rough edges in the soil. Another good surfacing material is “exposed aggregate,” which is free from glare because of its rough finish. For this type of surface, build a form of 2 x 4’s. Pour the flooring in squares, one square at a time, and level with a straight board. The material used is a mixture of cement, sharp sand and crushed rock or pebbles.

Redwood or cypress blocks may also be used for terrace floors and are very attractive, although somewhat less durable than stone or brick. You can buy the blocks cut to size and lay them directly in a bed of sand, which in turn has been laid on compacted gravel or cinder. Un-mortared brick, laid in a pattern, on 2 to 4 inches of well-tamped sand, with loose sand in the crevices for grass, makes a hardy and simple-to-construct terrace floor. The bricks may be laid flat or on end, and to keep them from spreading, drive an angle iron against the corners. Use a pattern that follows the lines of your terrace.

The Sunken Terrace Gardening

A sunken terrace is one which is below ground level. It can be very attractive, and it does give a feeling of coolness on a humid day or a hot night. The sunken terrace requires a retaining wall to prevent soil from continually eroding into it, and also to maintain the topsoil of the surrounding garden. The subsoil must be dug to a depth of about 5 or 6 inches below the level you wish to attain with the terrace itself. The use of sand or gravel as a base is of importance. The top treatment can follow your own dictates.

The Raised Terrace Gardening

The raised terrace is generally not fully raised, but starts at the house level and is raised at its outer edge. Again, a retaining wall is called for. The principle problem with the raised terrace is levelling. Once this is accomplished, and the retaining wall built, construction follows the same procedure as in any other case. Drainage is supplied either by a central drain, going into a tile line, or by underground piping through the retaining wall.

Some Flowers For Spring

Winter Aconite, or Eranthis hyemalis, will give you yellow flowers approximately three inches in height and resemble common buttercups. These particular bulbs may begin to flower as early as January if you live in a warm area and you will get the best results if you plant them in masses as they grow low to the ground.

Glory Of The Snow, or Chionodoxa luciliare, produce flowers that are bright blue with a white center. The plants will grow between six and ten inches tall, making this particular plant very handy for walkways, borders, and rock gardens. You may also be able to find white/pink varieties depending on the area in which you live

Spring Snowflake, or leucojum vernum, give you bell-shaped flowers that droop from the green part of the plant. These plants will be six to twelve inches in height and are white in color with small green spots on the ends of the petals. You will get the best results if you plant them in clumps and you can expect to see blooms in late February to early March. As with any other springtime bulb, they are best planted in the fall but you can plant in the mid to late winter if you purchase potted bulbs that have already begun the growing cycle.

Netted Iris, or iris reticulate, are wonderfully scented and are most commonly purple in color, although you can also find light blue and white irises in many areas. Irises are one of the earliest blooming plants and you can expect a beautiful display of flowers in early March. As with any other type of bulb, after several growing seasons you will have to thin the bulbs from time to time, as they tend to reproduce rapidly and could actually begin to stunt the growth of the plants due to over-crowding.