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Healthy soil for a healthy garden!

Monday, February 08, 2010
Article by Wally Richards - www.gardenews.co.nz

Gardeners are always looking for new ways to improve their gardens whether it be their vegetables, roses, ornamentals or fruit trees. The goal is to have very healthy plants, wonderful roses, great lawns and high yielding crops.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve your gardens such as improving your soils. The optimum is to have a soil that is teeming with beneficial microbes that make up what is called the soil food web.  ‘Humus’ is created from the trillions of dead microbe bodies and this gives the plants the ultimate growing medium.

A indication of how good your garden soils are, is to measure the number of earthworms present in a square foot of soil. If there are none you have a problem, if there are about 25 that is good and if there are about 100 that is excellent. Earthworms will only be found if the soil is kept moist;  that is moist not soaking wet.

The same rule applies to your soil food web - it needs ample moisture to keep growing and thriving. When the soil becomes too dry or too wet then activity stops. Chemicals also kill the soil food web and badly affect your worm populations. This not only includes fertilisers but also chemical sprays including chemical weed killers and chlorinated water from your tap.
If you are in an area where you have chlorinated water in your water supply then you need to place a 10 micron carbon bonded filter onto your hose line to remove the chemical. This will remove the chlorine from about 16,000 litres of water before it needs to be replaced.

If you have silty (with sediment) water then your carbon filter will block up quickly and to overcome this problem you should place a paper filter in line, prior to the carbon filter as the paper filter can be cleaned and reused for many years with care.

Calcium is the fuel that microbes require. Depending on what plants are growing in each area, soft garden lime is applied (but not to acid loving plants) and dolomite and gypsum are also applied. Dolomite is calcium and magnesium where gypsum is calcium and sulphur. These are both valuable and needed elements for good gardens. Calcium can also be supplied by applying crushed egg shells and sea shells.

For a natural garden food one cannot better animal manures from chickens, horses, cattle, sheep and pigs. These can be applied directly to bare soil in a solid form or made into liquid manures.
Potash and BioPhos should also be applied every few months or more frequently as needed with the potash.

Lack of some elements can cause other elements not to be taken up by plants, even though there are ample of them in the growing medium. One of these is Boron which most of our soils are deficient in. The product OrganiBOR is a natural slow release boron which is only applied about once every 3 years. It can make a big difference to gardens as a number of gardeners have noticed after applying it. It is especially good for fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

Microbes play a very important role in the garden and are vital to the health of plants. The plants supply carbohydrates (sugars) at their roots for the microbes and in turn the microbes supply the plant with nutrients, moisture, plus small organic compounds such as growth regulators. These growth regulators form a primary defence against pathogens/diseases.

If you take away the microbial activity such as by watering with chlorinated water, your plants suffer and are more susceptible to diseases such as black spot, rust, rots etc. With the use of Mycorrcin you can build up the microbe populations in the soil and on the plants. Mycorrcin is primary a food for the soil life and secondly for the plants. Used at 1 mil per litre of non-chlorinated water as a soil drench say every 3 months and at 5mils per litre of non chlorinated water as a spray every 2 weeks.

The results can be seen for yourself as an improvement in your gardens. This is especially so with strawberries where your crops will increase by between 200 to 400%. Minerals and elements are very important for the health and production of your gardens. There are 114 known natural minerals and elements and if they are all available in the soil your plants grow in, then the plants themselves can choose which ones they require. For instance, I am told that a tomato plant requires 56 different elements. At the very best you would get about 16 minerals in a man-made fertiliser.

 
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