Mar 132012
 
Compost and mulch make a beautiful cover for the sil

by Avis Licht

Compost and mulch make a beautiful cover for the sil

A beautiful garden grown with compost, manure and mulch

An organic fertilizer refers to a soil amendment derived from natural sources that guarantees, at least, the minimum percentages of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash. These include plant and animal by-products, rock powders, seaweed, inoculants, and conditioners.  These minimum amounts can be very small. For example, horse and cow manure  often have less than 1% nitrogen by weight. This is not to say it’s not a good fertilizer, it is. But depending on your plant’s needs, you may need to add other sources of nitrogen.

One word of caution. An organic fertilizer means it comes from natural materials, BUT it doesn’t mean it’s organic.  Cottonseed meal comes from a plant, but cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.  There will be pesticide residues in cottonseed meal unless it specifically says it comes from organic cotton.  Bloodmeal and bone meal take a great deal of production and energy to produce these fertilizers. Plus you don’t know how the animals were raised. It can seem very complicated to stay fully organic. When possible ask for the source of your fertilizer.

We take a short break from our program to let you know about this important news. The Spring Garden Made Easy, by me, Avis Licht, is now available for all you enthusiastic gardeners that want to get your Spring garden planted with the least possible problems. Yes, now you too, can have the Garden of Eden in your back or front yard. Or maybe a few lettuces and tomatoes. It’s all in this 20 page ebook, with easy to follow suggestions.  Links in the book will lead you to much more detailed information.  Try it, you’ll like it. Only $4.99.

Spring Garden Made Easy

This is the cover to my book. 

Spring Garden Table of Contents

 

Different manures have different nutrient values based on the animal, what it ate, how much bedding is in the manure and so on. In another post I’ll talk about the relative merits of different manures. For now, let’s just agree that manure from herbivores that is composted, is a good organic fertilizer. I say herbivores, because we don’t want to use poop from meat eating animals like dogs, cats or humans.  There is risk of parasites or disease organisms that can be transmitted to humans from meat eating animals. For ease of listing, here are Vegetable fertilizers: alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, green manure, sea weed, wood ash. Animal by-products include: manure, blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, feather meal and bat guano. Mined minerals include: rock phosphate, green sand, gypsum.

compost bin

Compost bin for a family of 4 – 6 people

The easiest fertilizer is compost that you make at home from material in your yard.  But it takes a LOT of material to make a little compost. You’ll probably have to bring in compost or topsoil when you first start your garden. This is not terrible, it just costs money and uses outside resources.  Sometimes we have to do that.

Soil amendments are materials that don’t have a minimum amount of nutrient, like compost.  They can be worked into the soil or laid on top. Amendments are important for the humus they add, the tilth, and aeration of the soil. Without proper soil aconditions, it doesn’t matter how much nutrient you put in.  Roots need air, water and microbial activity, which all comes from adding organic amendments.

Mulch is material laid on the surface and does not add nutrient to the soil until it breaks down over time. Mulch protects the soil from compaction, erosion and keeps the weeds down.  It also conserves water. Even though we don’t call it a fertilizer, it’s a very important part of the garden and soil and plant health.

In previous posts I wrote about legumes, which fix nitrogen and wood ash.  Keep coming back, as I’ll go through the whole list of fertilizers. In the mean time, dig up your beds, or sheet mulch them, and then add compost and/or composted manure.  You’ll be off to a good start.

Sep 022011
 
Beautiful Paths
Beautiful Paths

Path into the Garden

Walking up the brick path to the front door, you can see a well defined path on the left leading through an open wire fence.  It just makes you want to go there.  This path is made of decomposed granite, also known as DG. It is easy to lay down, and weed resistant.  In this case we added a stabilizer to the granite to make it even more sturdy.

In the picture below you can see how we leveled the area and put a weed barrier down first. We did the same treatment for both DG and Redwood Bark paths.

Construction of a path

Laying weed barrier on path below your final material

The path leading into the garden, is more informal and we used Redwood Bark.  It looks like it belongs in the garden, but still leads you through easily and safely.  The curve of the path adds design interest and takes you up the hill with fewer steps.

The Redwood Bark Path

The informal bark path is still easy to walk on

Paths do much more than take you somewhere.  A path to the front door should also welcome you and be safe and clearly defined.  A front door gets lots of traffic, from toddlers to the elderly, who may be using canes or walkers.

You want the front entrance to be clearly identified, stable, with no tripping spots and well lit.

Welcoming entry

A well laid, flagstone path, sturdy yet still informal

Although this path is flagstone, it used large stones, is laid very flat and is clearly defined.  It makes a very welcoming entrance.

Paths in the garden not only allow you access to the plants to maintain the beds, but prevent compaction and erosion.  Plants need oxygen and water and aerated soil for their roots to grow.  Each time you step on the soil you compact it more.  After even only a few times, you will find that water doesn’t enter easily, the soil becomes hard and plants won’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need.

Here are examples of simple, easy paths to put in your garden.

stepping stones

Stepping stones in the garden prevent compaction

A very easy and simple path

Free chips laid on a path work well too

In the picture above, you can see small stepping stones in the bed on the left.  They are there to walk through the strawberry bed without compacting the soil.

Under the chips in this garden, we laid old sheets and towels to keep the weeds down. I really don’t like using plastic in the garden. Cotton is an organic material that lets water through, keeps the weeds from growing and will eventually break down into soil. Plastic weed barriers just break up into little pieces of plastic that will be there for the next thousand of years.   Think twice before using plastic in the garden.

Another example of a beautiful stone stepping path.  Easy to lay and beautiful to look at.

Slate stone entry and stepping stones to the back yard

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