Saturday, August 28, 2010

Impact of Soil on Veggie Gardening by Gardener Cumax

Applewood Community Garden (32nd Ave. and I-70 in background)

It's been a week since the start of Fall weather, which started Saturday, August 14 with the cool weather. It was cool enough to start turning my tomatoes red. The recent warm up hasn't altered the rate of ripening.I've been the busiest I've ever been gardening this year. The seedlings kept me busy from March to June. Then gardening and yardwork kept me busier from June to even now. I've wanted to stop and write down my observations, some things I've learned this season as it happened but decided that each time I watered I would spend that time observing and memorizing what I've learned and see if those still apply throughout the season.

2 squash plants compete and produce copious amounts of fruit.

What I learned this year can be summed up in one sentence: soil, sun, water and timing are everything.
The "Right plant, right place" foundations to me are:

Soil (place)
Sun (place)
Water (place)
Timing (plant/place)
One of the eye-opening experiences this year was seeing how extremely  well my seedlings have done in other people's gardens. The Applewood  Community Garden is where many of my seedlings took root.
At the Applewood Open House on July 28th I was blown away at just how  vigorous this beautiful veggie garden is doing. One customer  "complained" at how big her pink banana squashes were. I couldn't  believe it myself. Her mid-May transplanted seedlings were 20" long,  fat 8" diameter monsters lurking under the huge green leaves. They  
appeared to be 6 to 8 weeks older than mine. Everything was so green  and healthy looking, unlike mine.
 A nice sized Galeux d'Eyesines winter squash.
It confirmed my suspicions about the soil quality we have at our  garden: poor! It's why this year I changed my soil fertility tactics:  I can't compost fast enough to improve the soil structure. So parts of  the garden were sown as is. Other parts had 10" replaced with  FoxFarms' Happy Frog. Containers veggies were grown exclusively with Happy Frog.
Squash in my poor soil routinely wilted. Squash in Happy Frog never  wilted. Lesson: fertile soil has excellent soil structure. The 2 top  attributes are greatly improved moisture retention, and breathability.  Squash leaves in Happy Frog exhibited small patches of powdery mildew on the tops of the leaves. This is due to overhead watering from hose.  Rain doesn't cause this "salt". But my poor clay soil? Same old same old powdery mildew all over.
With moisture retention it is not necessary to water as much. Veggies  require a lot of water. With excellent soil structure it won't stress  your plants because even though the top is dry, the root area is  moist. Overwatering does not have a negative impact; the plants  actually thrived with "too much water" because its root were still  able to breathe.

Two neat tricks: the homemade concrete mesh makes a superb tomato trellis, and even better watermelon cage
 Soil Fertility In Poor Soil Conditions

My other tactic has been to fertilize all of my veggies and plants  with Neptune's Fish Fertilizer. If you use seaweed extract or fish  emulsion you will not have results. I don't know why that is but since  the Denver metro area used to be the ocean floor, maybe the soil  really misses the fish.
At any rate, I've been fertilizing the heavy feeders (squash and tomatoes) twice a weeek, and all other plants once a week. The results couldn't be better. My 6-7' range sunflowers are 8-9' and about to flower. My squash and tomatoes have done very well. As of August 20 my tomatoes are 6' high and sending out enough blossoms to attract some of the bees away from the Russian Sage that they prefer going nuts over. All plants are very happy and vigorous. This brand of fish fertilizer is the best fertilizer I've used so far. I used it inside with great results also, but only once as my sweetie doesn't like having the house smell of fish. Good thing we don't have a cat.

My next blog entry will be about sun. Here's all you need to know: morning sun is what veggies need most.

Garden smarts: pantyhose helps support the weight of the watermelon, and also discourages theft because this doesn't look like something you would want to eat. Applewood has been hit by theft. At first they suspected raccoons, but they usually leave evidence by consuming on the spot.