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Tag: soil building

Seeding the new forest garden

Seeding the new forest garden

A forest garden is a garden of perennial plants that produce food.  It is often designed to look “forest-like,” with trees forming a canopy above, and smaller plants creating a “forest floor” effect underneath. As part of the Westchester Community Oven project, we had always intended to try adding a food forest garden to the Community Garden at Holy Nativity. Since the spot chosen was under an asphalt parking lot for at least 30 years, the first step was some soil…

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ebook The Secrets of Soil Building now available

ebook The Secrets of Soil Building now available

You can now get my new ebook, The Secrets of Soil Building, to help you in your gardening journey. At the heart of every successful organic garden is rich, healthy, ALIVE garden soil.  The Secrets of Soil Building helps you build it, and become an awesome vegetable gardener. If you liked my classes at the Community Garden at Holy Nativity and at Otis College of Art and Design, here’s all that rich info, collected in one place.  This ebook has been substantially revised…

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Soil pH in Southern California

Soil pH in Southern California

I’ve been thinking about soil pH lately – particularly since the oven project at the Garden will be creating an ongoing supply of wood ash. pH is a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. “Soil pH influences the solubility of nutrients. It also affects the activity of micro-organisms responsible for breaking down organic matter and most chemical transformations in the soil. Soil pH thus affects the availability of several plant nutrients.” (1)

Raised beds vs. Sunken beds

Raised beds vs. Sunken beds

“To be a successful vegetable gardener you need raised beds,” the garden catalogs and East Coast garden magazines try to persuade us with effusive and glorious terms. Consider what is behind their arguments: a drive for commercial sales, and a dramatically different growing climate. East Coast gardeners raise their beds for two good reasons: 1) to be able to dig the soil sooner after a cold freeze, and 2) to keep the rootballs of their plants high so they won’t…

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Root knot nematodes

Root knot nematodes

Yesterday in the Community Garden, we discovered that we are experiencing an attack of Root Knot Nematodes.  The beets we pulled up had failure to thrive, failed to form a beet root, and had tons of tumor-like growths on the hair roots.  Yuck. The excess of one organism — to the point that we call them a “pest” — is a system imbalance.  It’s probably due to something lacking in the overall micro-ecosystem. I’m sure our beets this year were weakened from…

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Building a Food Forest garden – cover crops

Building a Food Forest garden – cover crops

We’re designing a Food Forest garden, to be built later this spring.  We’ll be tearing out asphalt, cleansing and rejeuvenating the soil, and recrafting the space as a community gathering area with a cob bread oven and food forest. Today I’ve been studying cover crops and compost crops for the “rejeuvenating the soil” part. 

About the Legume family

About the Legume family

Members of the Legume family – peas, beans, and all their cousins – are superstar soil-builders. In partnership with certain beneficial bacteria, legumes can capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and lock it into the soil where other plants can access it. Plant legumes with every season. Include them in virtually all your garden rotations. If you have a gap in your planting schedule, or it’s too early for your next crop, plant legumes. If you’re thinking about your garden plans…

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“Fertilizer” versus fertility

“Fertilizer” versus fertility

The term “fertilizer” is undeniably a marketing person’s invention. Looking to the roots of the word, “fertilizer” should be that which actively creates fertility. But once we understand that the true sources of soil fertility are a rich abundance of diverse living organisms, and we realize that what chemicals do to those organisms is searing them out of existence, how can we possibly call any chemical soup a “fertilizer”? About that chemical fertilizer Lord Northbourne, writing in 1940 at the bare…

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Compost Happens

Compost Happens

Making compost isn’t rocket science. Admittedly, upon deep scientific analysis the soil web is highly complex. But Nature knows her stuff. Don’t get in her way. Work with her, embrace her as your partner, and she’ll ably handle all those complexities for you. In other words, quit worrying so much. Compost booklets lay out instructions with percentages for “green” versus “brown.” Catalogs eagerly sell you compost starters and compost turning devices and elaborate (expensive) compost containers. You don’t need any…

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