From Seed to Table – A Personal Guide to Growing, Harvesting, Cooking, and Preserving Food is now available on Kindle through Amazon. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll do a hard copy of the book – I use lots of photos with the information. Here’s an excerpt on preparing the soil.
We don’t test our soil. Robert knows instinctively what the dirt needs when he begins working in the garden, and it’s a function of the moisture in the ground. When the soil dries out, it’s time to start working the beds for the plants ready to go into the garden. He starts planting from mid-March most years.
We’ve been gardening in the same spot for four seasons, so the soil is well conditioned. Robert might not use the rotor tiller this year. It’s not good to break up the soil too much, so now that the soil is in good condition, he hopes he can use a shovel and pickaxe to turn over and break up the soil.
Before he turns the soil, he’ll use a well-rounded organic fertilizer mix of nitrogen, potassium (also known as potash), and phosphorus. It’s important to amend the soil with these organics because it’s essential to the growth of plants and is usually not in sufficient quantities in most soils. As he’s making the beds, he sprinkles the organic fertilizers, dolomitic limestone, green sand, and pulverized phosphate rock. The mix of these organic and inorganic additions forms a dusty layer on top of the bed. He blends it all in with a pick approximately eight inches deep.
Usually every other year, he applies mushroom manure and sand. He gauges this application by how “friable” the soil is. He can tell it’s friable and ready for the root growth of plants, if he clumps it in his palm and the soil falls apart. That means the soil is loose enough without applying the manure or sand. Also, be careful about putting the mushroom manure on seedlings such as peas. Our peas didn’t grow through this top dressing so well last year, and Robert believes manure may not have composted enough, so it burned the seedlings. If the manure is worked into the soil deep enough, this would not have been a problem.
Note: Our peas are healthy and happy this year. It seems they grow a few inches each time I go out to watch their progress up the chicken wire.