Posted by Tonopah Rob
January 14, 2014
Pictured here is a Watermelon Radish. They are so sweet, they don’t taste like a radish.
Someone once said, ” the farmer puts back into the soil as much or more than he takes.” Over the years I have experimented with many different techniques and recipes to build healthy soil. As many of you know, I don’t believe in chemicals, pesticides or any other unnatural substance for my farm. I deeply respect mother earth. I absolutely love the ground I walk on and believe all of us should do our part owning responsibility for each step we take to further our journey and that said, here are some suggestions to help with your spring garden.
Spring is almost here! It’s time to prepare your soil and secure the planting area with fencing. Make sure animals cannot get under, through or over the fencing. I do not recommend using stones, railroad ties or anything solid that could give a rodent an underground home. Keep your area free of all obstacles, like bushes and shrubs, storage sheds and containers. All of these things will attract an animal to your garden. All they need is shelter and you’ve got a problem.
Read the labels, some of these products are not organic and contain chemicals.
About your soil. Before you add any amendments, it’s important to know all about the products you decide to use. Read the ingredients listed on the package and google what you don’t know. Call the company and request a back ground check on the materials such as knowing what type of wood particles are in the compost. I don’t care for any pine products in my compost. Check out the size of the soil mixture and its origin. Are large wood chunks in the mix, large sliver pieces? This type of product makes the soil work too hard to break down those pieces and the soil becomes less healthy. The microbial environment has a harder time converting the chunks into nitrogen.
Be careful of the words organic, soil and mixture. If the product does not have a certified organic seal of approval or the OMRI listing, I would stay away from those materials. By the way, OMRI means Organic Materials Review Institute. If you decide to have a load of dirt hauled into your garden, do your homework. Just don’t accept anything they want to deliver. Again, find out where the dirt came from and if anyone tells you they don’t know or are uncertain don’t buy that soil. Many of these landscape companies use recycled materials. Some can have asphalt chips, rubber tire pieces and many other unwanted particles. Ask them if they have tested the soil and again request a copy of those results.
I highly recommend incorporating straw, tree leaves and peat moss into the dirt. Straw and brown tree leaves encourages earthworms to appear and peat moss is a great soil softener. Peat moss helps sweeten the soil. Be careful adding animal manure, antibiotics and hormones could be in the mix. Or try growing a cover crop of rye grass in the area and several weeks prior to planting rototill or using a shovel turn the peat moss, straw and leaf material into the soil and thoroughly water the area and plant a few days later.
I plant according to wind direction and moon cycles. Plant your beneficial herbs and flowers in front of your vegetables using the wind to ruffle their odor into your plot. I plant all food that grows under ground on the full moon and all food that grows above ground on the new moon. The rise and fall of the under ground water table in cahoots with the magnetic pull of the earth and moon aides in a quicker germination rate. I believe the sprouts are healthier and stronger.
Once you have everything done, take a few minutes and make a plot map of your area and design your garden. Make sure you put all plants together with the same water and fertilizer requirements. Tomatoes need very little water and full sun, whereas lettuce needs a lot of water and can tolerate part shade. Incorporate flowers and herbs together to create your own bug repellents. Broccoli loves onions, both require a large amount of nitrogen and water. Beets and carrots love radishes. Brassicas and borage are good together, both like nitrogen and water. Root crops in general don’t need a lot of water or nitrogen. Nitrogen will promote a mega amount of leaf growth and small roots.
If planting cucumbers, make sure to keep them away from your melon plants. Cucumber pollen mixed with melon pollen makes a sour melon. I never plant one variety of melon or cucumber. Gynoecious plants are those that produce only female flowers and not pollen. I always grow two sometimes three different varieties of cucumbers together in the same plot to increase production. I do the same for watermelon and squash. If you can save your eggshells and crumble them up into small pieces and incorporate them into your soil, the calcium will highly benefit the production of your melons and cucurbits. If not, a bag of oyster shell will do the same thing. You can purchase a bag from your local feed store.
Also, take into consideration the height of the plants. Summer squash can row 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall and should be planted in the back of the plot or the farthest location north inside the plot. Smaller plants should be planted in front or facing the southern most part of your area.
After you have the plot planted use bird netting to secure the top of your garden but be very careful with the netting. It can be deadly to any animal that gets tangled in the fine mesh. Every day inspect your netting, keep it off the ground. Secure it with clothes pins or clamps. You don’t want to kill your beneficial animals like snakes, lizards or toads.
Once you have everything planted begin a water schedule. Lightly sprinkle the seeds every day or every other day. Once the seeds germinate continue sprinkling with the same water schedule for two weeks and then slow down the sprinkle until the plants grow at least 4-6 adult leaves then water them less but do a deep soaking. If you see the leaves turning yellow, most likely the plants are getting too much water and it’s washing the nitrogen out of the soil. If a nitrogen deficiency appears use a foliar spray of fish emulsion and fertilize every fortnight. You might want to check out a previous blog I wrote about raising tomatoes in the desert.
I hope this will help you when you plant your garden. In the mean time come out for a farm tour and see how vegetables are grown in the desert.