Feb 032014
 

by Avis Licht –

Paths save the soil

Paths create a line of view and protect the soil from compaction.

Here is one ridiculously simple way to save your garden from compaction, drought and confusion.

Create paths exactly where you want people to walk. That’s it. That’s the ridiculously simple and effective way to save water, improve your soil and avoid confusion.

Compaction makes it difficult for water to penetrate, for air to infiltrate and for roots to grow in a healthy manner. Different soil types react differently to being walked on.

Sandy soil has the largest particles among the different soil types. It’s dry and gritty to the touch, and because the particles have huge spaces between them, it can’t hold on to water and does not compact so easily. So you folks near the beach can worry less about this. The rest of you, listen up.

Silty soil has much smaller particles than sandy soil so it’s smooth to the touch. When moistened, it’s soapy slick. When you roll it between your fingers, dirt is left on your skin.

Silty soil can also easily compact. It can become poorly aerated, too.

Clay soil has the smallest particles among the three so it has good water storage qualities. It’s sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dry. Due to the tiny size of its particles and its tendency to settle together, little air passes through its spaces. This type of soil is also prone to major compaction.

Just the one action of NOT walking on your soil can help immensely. Reducing compaction allows water to penetrate, saving water; increases root growth, creating conditions for healthier plants, reduces confusion by showing people where to walk.

By building paths, you tell your guests, and yourself exactly where to walk, thereby reducing all confusion. (See first sentence).

Here’s a post I wrote on how to make a simple, safe and sturdy path. The Well Made Path.

Raised beds are a great way to keep your soil from being stepped on continuously.Click here to see a variety of Raised Beds.

Mulch, stones, brick, wood rounds set in a clearly marked path will all work to reduce compacted soils.

This image comes from the University of Kentucky; 

They write: “Compaction results when soil particles are pressed together, reducing pore space and aeration.  The damage to the soil structure reduces the soil’s ability to hold and conduct water, nutrients, and oxygen.  Rate of water infiltration is decreased and more water is lost to runoff.  Other effects of compaction include decreased organic matter, reduced microbial activity, poor drainage, increased erosion, and nutrient leaching.

These undesirable effects on the soil directly affect plant growth.  Roots have increased difficulty when penetrating the soil which often results in reduced root growth and reduced ability to take up water and nutrients.  Compacted soils can slow forage establishment, cause short and stunted plants, decrease drought tolerance, and reduce overall yields.  Severely compacted areas often have sparse growth or are bare due to these problems.”

Even a simple stone path, planted with ground cover is beautiful and effective. Paths: you don’t want to live without them.

Jan 292014
 

By Avis Licht

Mulch

Use mulch, plant drought resistant plants, and drip irrigation

On the west coast of the United States we’re experiencing the worst drought in over 150 years. With more people needing more water, food and goods it is important that all of us do our part to reduce our water use.

Gardeners love their plants and don’t want them to die. I’ll continue writing posts on best gardening practices to help you keep your garden healthy and happy using less water.

Most plants absorb almost all their water through their roots. A well-developed root structure will be your insurance for survival in drought conditions.

 

The best way to get excellent roots is to have loose, friable soil with plenty of humus and organic matter. By working the soil with a fork or rototiller and incorporating compost and/or manure you create the conditions for the soil to be like a sponge that holds and then releases water. Read more about compost here.

Big Mother earth worm

Worms are important for soil health.

A note on roots. When soil moisture varies widely from wet to dry it damages the delicate root hairs that are responsible for taking up moisture. Using mulch is very important to maintain the moisture in the soil by slowing evaporation.

mulched garden

Protect your roots by protecting the soil with mulch.

A note on leaves on the plants. Leaves don’t absorb much moisture but they do transpire moisture; The hotter and more windy the day, the more water the plants lose through their leaves . Row covers or shade cloth put over the plants in hot weather will reduce transpiration rates. You can find row covers and hoops to put them in your garden at this link: Row Covers for the Garden. You can buy shade fabric here: Shade Fabric.

Be sure to sign up on my subscription or feed burner to get notified when I put up more posts. You won’t want to miss any of this great information. I’ll keep writing about drought conditions and ways to keep your garden healthy and happy.

Mar 262012
 
Lettuce and parsley in a pot
Lettuce and parsley in a pot

Herbs and lettuce grow well in pots on the deck.

by Avis Licht

In other posts I’ve written about seeds; where to get them, and how to sow them. Now that they’ve turned into sturdy little seedlings, I’ll show you how to plant them.

1. First thing is to make sure your bed is ready for the seedlings.  This means that the soil should be worked up into a fine tilth so that it is soft and crumbles easily off your trowel. Add whatever amendments you have at hand, like compost, bone meal or manure into the soil before you transplant your seedlings.

2. Depending on how your seeds were started, you will either take them out of their little six packs, or as in the case of these photos, from a bunch of seeds sown in a container.

Pulling apart lettuce seedlings

Gently open the root ball to separate the seedlings (click to enlarge)

Lettuce seedlings

Hold your seedlings gently (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep separating the seedlings until you have them one at a time. Lay them so that the roots are straight down, not crunched up. Gently hold the leaf, open up a hole deep enough to let the roots dangle straight down and not get crunched up. (if you get my drift).  Slowly let the soil back into the hole to cover the roots. Gently firm in the soil around the crown of the seedlings.  You want the roots too make contact with the soil, but not rip the roots by pressing too hard.

Firm in the soil

Gently press the soil around the seedling. (Click to enlarge)

Hold by the leaf and let the roots dangle

Gently hold the leaf and dangle the roots (click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep the soil below the crown of the leaf so that it doesn’t rot. Be sure to water in your seedlings.  Put the water at the base of the plant slowly so that the water seeps into the soil.  This will allow the roots to make contact with the soil and get moisture. If roots are not in contact with the soil, but are in air holes, they will dry out.

It’s best to plant into moist soil that crumbles in your hand, not too wet and not too dry.

A bed of lettuce

Closely planted lettuce in Spring

lettuce newly planted

This seedling will start growing immediately

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After they are planted you need to make sure they don’t dry out. Check the soil for moisture if it doesn’t rain. Just looking at the surface of the soil doesn’t tell you if it’s moist underneath.  Check with a trowel down a few inches.  If it’s dry at 2 inches or if the plants are wilting, be sure to water them.

Don’t forget to take your walkabout in the garden to keep an eye on your seedlings.  If anyone is causing trouble, like birds or snails, you’ll want to catch them right away. Now all you have to do is be a little patient, then the eating begins.

I took this photo this morning after a gentle rain.

rain on strawberry blossoms

It's late March and the strawberries are starting to blossom

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