Feeding and soil supplements
Question from Jill:
I recently saw you speak in Laguna Beach and I enjoyed every second of it! I grew up on a dairy farm in the central valley and we had our own garden. I left the valley when I went to college and after a few degrees and a few years of work, ended up in Laguna with my husband 10 years. Out backyard was a mess but I’ve been working diligently and now have a very nice garden built up.
Your book has been the exact thing I’ve been seeking for many years. Something that keeps a calendar for me of what to do each month. I’ve already devoured the book and, after a very successful summer garden (with much thanks to the weather), I am thrilled to start my winter garden.
OK – so, down to business…
At this point, I am working on feeding properly, and have been focusing on getting my soil very healthy. To do this, requires many different products. For fertilizers, you need some with high Nitrogen, some with low Nitrogen. Some plants will benefit from things like humic acid and liquid seaweed or kelp. For soil amendments, I am using gypsum and a good soil building compost. Also have an acidic soil amendment for berries and other plants. Then, you’ve got products for pests – soap, insecticide oil, disease control (organic), etc.
Here is the thing. I feel like I am need more room in my garden to STORE all of my supplies than I do for the garden itself (yes – Laguna Beach homes – love them but not much space). It is also costing me a fortune! I would love to say I could mix my own concoctions to save a buck, but with a young one in school and a busy schedule,it is challenging enough to get the basics done.
So, if you had to come up with a “Doctor and Health Kit” for your garden that had a minimal amount of products, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? I realize this is extremely tough because you have no idea what I grow. However, if you consider a typical southern cal garden (most common things in my garden are azaleas, camellias, agapanthas, geraniums, flowers (foxgloves, nemesia, lambs ear, English daises), roses), what would you come up with? Can you do it?
Thank you again for a wonderful speech. You are inspiring and incredibly informative. Thank you
Answer from Pat:
I am sorry for this late reply to your charming email. I have been on vacation for two weeks in Italy. Very glad to hear you enjoyed my lecture in Laguna Beach.
I sympathize with your worries about all the products you apparently need for gardening. Actually, making a home-made fertilizer is not that difficult or time consuming and then you could use it for everything. First, however, use up all the other fertilizers you have on hand so as not to waste. See page 77 for some formula’s, but I think I gave you a more simple formula during my lecture. What you need to think is that plants need nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium plus trace minerals. Use seed meal for the nitrogen, bone meal or super phosphate for the phosphorus, Sul-Po-Mag for the potassium and Kelp Meal for trace minerals. It is not too hard to get bags of this stuff and then mix up a big bucketful according to the amounts I gave in my lecture and then use for everything adding a bit more of this or that when you decide it’s needed. I realize I mention many ideal fertilizers for many different plants in my books. This is because scientifically plants do have precise needs, but actually there is a way to do things in a more simple manner.
One way many organic gardeners simplify is to cover the ground with a layer of manure in fall and let the rains water it in. This could be horse manure, chicken manure, rabbit manure or sheep manure. (If using horse manure make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.) A good layer of manure can provide enough organic matter and fertilizer for the basic landscape to stay healthy and growing for a year. Also, make compost of everything possible and when that rots add that to soil also. I no longer have a chipper so I have to send most woody stuff to the green waste community compost, but I order a truckload of chipper mulch every year and mulch my whole property with it. If I get this from a local tree trimmer it is free. He dumps it on my drive and my gardener spreads it on paths and beds. This keeps down weeds and holds in moisture and gradually rots thus improving the soil. As for me, I find my plants suffer from few diseases or pest problems. The more organic one becomes the easier it gets and the fewer things one needs to buy. Banana peels are great for adding phosphorus and potassium to plants such as roses. Coffee grounds and tea leaves from your kitchen or free from Starbucks go over the roots of acid-loving plants such as camellias and azaleas. Dead fish and fish entrails from fish markets make a wonderful complete fertilizer for anything. Just dig in deep so animals aren’t attracted. Free ground carrot pulp and vegetable pulp can be had for nothing from juicing places. Add to compost or dig it right in. Leaves cut off plants when pruning can be chopped up a bit and thrown over roots as mulch to rot, thus adding organic matter to the very plants from which they came. I know all this takes time and effort. Your child is young now but as he or she grows up you will have more time to fit in these tasks if you have fun doing them. With sloppy veggie waste from the kitchen, you can just dig a hole under a path in the vegetable garden and pour it right in, cover up, push down with your foot and that’s it.
I hope this helps a bit!