A GROWING CONCERN: Get the dirt on soil

SINCE WE TALKED extensively about you growing your own award-winning vegetables, we should certainly talk about how your soil will impact their growth.

With April in full swing, you should be planting a variety of things around your yard, digging lots of holes.

Soil quality is the cornerstone of good gardening, and when growing flowers, or especially vegetables and produce, it is the primary concern. It is the living component of your soil that is absolutely critical to good tilth and production.

That organic matter — substances like compost, cover crops, mulch, roots, leaves and dead life forms — is the means to available nutrients in the soil, for as they decay, minerals are released and hummus is left behind.

So, is there a way you can really screw up this symbiotic relationship in your soil? You betcha!

Spray chemicals on your yard, grass and trees, fumigate your plants, Weed-Be Gone your lawn, use Casoron, Moss-Be-Gone or other herbicides.

These products are actually “life-icides”: If it’s alive, these products will kill it.

But wait, you can even do more harm! Use Scotts Lawn Food on your turf, a 10:10:10 in your garden or any other highly water-soluble fertilizers with urea and salt-based carriers. These types of non-organic fertilizers are formulated to release quickly and travel through the soil. But they release in such overabundant quantity that they kill great numbers of microbes and other life in the soil.

They also dissolve in water so easily that they flow off your property. Every time it rains or your sprinkler system causes water to run off, these harmful products will run off as well.

Here on the North Olympic Peninsula, we all live on a watershed and all of our properties connect to the sea. One of the most prevalent pollution sources in the Puget Sound and Hood Canal is agricultural fertilizer. These fertilizers cause massive algae blooms, depleted oxygen counts and, in large enough quantities, are poisonous themselves.

They also cause your yard to be a crack addict. If the microbes and fungi are suppressed or killed, then available nutrients to the plants dry up. The only way for your plants to get this fixed is through more drugs (artificial fertilizers), so they become addicts to these harmful products.

These chemical death sprays and quick-release fertilizers are popular because they are so fast and effective in the short term. The problem with organic fertilizers and biologic controls is that they do not fit into our cultural expectations — they take two darn long (one to two months) or leave a few bugs or weeds behind.

It will be impossible for you to achieve a fully-integrated micro-environment in your yard by spraying chemicals or using these fertilizers because the intricate web of co-dependent life will be radically altered.

Organic is really the only way to achieve good tilth. And there are so many ways to curtail pestilence using sound practices.

Rotate crops to different areas so problems do not arise in one particular spot.

Water early in the day so your plants and soil surface are dry by midday, robbing habitat for disease and insects.

Remove all dead and dying material as soon as you see it.

These problems spread like wildfire.

Discard bad plants immediately.

Use organic and biological controls, for they greatly increase biodiversity.

Inspect your plants every few days, so you can quickly deal with an infestation — getting it before it overwhelmingly multiplies.

Location is key. Plant the correct plant for the spot.

Stressed plants are far more susceptible to pesticides.

And please, stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsulanews.us (subject line: Andrew May).

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: Do your part for ‘Flower Peninsula USA'

SO, WITH THE sun coming out and temperatures on the rise, time… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: When do we disobey?

HERE ARE TWO quotes to think about: “Civil Disobedience, noun: Refusal to… Continue reading

Unity in Olympics program scheduled

Connie Munro will present “Not Perfect, But Wonderful” at… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker scheduled

The Rev. Bruce Bode will present “The Ache of… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “The Power of… Continue reading

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during Saturday’s annual plant sale and raffle at the floral barn at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in Port Angeles. The sale, hosted by the Port Angeles Garden Club, was a fundraiser for club projects and scholarships, and it featured a wide variety of plants for the upcoming growing season and beyond. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)
Plant sale at Clallam County Fairgrounds

Katie Lee of Port Angeles examines a table of perennial plants during… Continue reading

Photo by Karen Griffiths

Cutline: A fundraiser for WAG and Open starts Today at 11 a.m. with an English and jumping fun show, followed tomorrow with a Western Games show at Kari Payne’s 4-L arena off Blue Mountain Road, 95 S. McCrorie Rd. Port Angeles.  Fox-Bell Farm owner Shelby Vaughan, and her assistants Sophie Feik and Kaia Lestage (holding Marley) will be there to host. Shown is Tatar Trots, 10. a horse Shelby got from OPEN five years ago when he was a feral, unhandled stallion and, now, after castrating and training,  he’s a docile horse who enjoys teaching kids how to ride.

 

(Rescue dog Rocky laying down if he’s shown in photo)
HORSEPLAY: Rescue program gives horses new life

SHELBY VAUGHAN WAS born into the rescue mindset. She grew up on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: For garden chores, keep the spring in your step

SO THE DREAM Playground build is going wonderfully. Thank you for those… Continue reading

The 2024 Community Service Awards winners gather before Thursday's awards ceremony at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. This year's recipients were, seated from left, Steph Ellyas and Lyn Fiveash, and standing from left, Gordon Taylor, Don Zanon, Carol Labbe and Betsy Reed Schultz. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula News)
Six honored for community service efforts

Volunteers provide energy for trails, respite care

ISSUES OF FAITH: Be a gracious and hospitable host

NOTICE OUR ROAD traffic is getting busier? Yep. We are beginning our… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and Tie up your Camel” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “Love God and… Continue reading

Unitarian speaker slated in Port Angeles

Phoenix Biggs will present “Singing of Honor… Continue reading