Nancy’s Tomato Chronicles – Week 15 of 2010
Planting time is the perfect opportunity to improve the soil in your garden. I dig in heavy clay soil that left to its own devices becomes compacted making root penetration difficult. So, whenever I dig I amend and loosen it by dumping the removed soil into a container or on a tarp and mix in some goodies, before refilling the hole.
My basic recipe is a shovel full of garden soil to a hand full of compost and a scoop of Espoma’s Soil Perfector. Because my soil has a high pH, I also toss in a handful of Canadian Sphagnum peat moss.
What is Soil Perfector?
One application of Espoma Soil Perfector permanently improves the structure of any soil. Soil Perfector is made from a naturally derived, ceramic mineral that is kiln-fired at temperatures in excess of 2000o F. This process creates a durable, lightweight granule containing thousands of tiny storage spaces that hold the perfect balance of water, air and nutrients for an improved soil structure. Soil Perfector will not break down or degrade so you do not need to re-apply it year after year.
What About Compost?
Good quality compost adds humic acid and enzymes that break down minerals, also referred to as micronutrients, into a liquid form that plants can use. The humic acid in compost helps produce a gelatinous substance that binds minerals and organic material together turning chunky soil into that gorgeous soft crumbly stuff that can bring can a gardener like me to tears.
It’s also home to many beneficial organisms that become part of the soil food web, the underground community that returns Natures detritus to the soil. Without this incredible underground food chain man would have been buried in his own trash eons ago.
New Compost Has It All
Working with all these products can be a hassle for gardeners who don’t have time to batch mix from scratch. This season I’m taking the easy route and substituting the new high quality compost mix, Organimax, which also contains additional soil microbes, Mychorriza, kelp and host of other goodies that I hope will make my garden rock. Priced at $14.98 for a 3 cubic foot bag, Organimax is currently available at English Gardens, Romence Gardens, Wojo’s, Allemons, Souliers, Ray Wiegands and Van Attas.
What Are Mychorriza?
Because I want to get the most out of my garden I also add a dusting of Mychorriza, a beneficial fungi that attaches itself to the roots of a plant and helps it get moisture and nutrients from the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi have occurred naturally in the soil for 400 million years. They form a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They are called mycorrhizae (from the Greek “mukés”, meaning fungus, and “rhiza,” meaning roots).
However, in most soils that have been disturbed by residential construction, or intensive cropping practices with applications of fertilizers containing pesticides and other chemical products, the mycorrhizae content has considerably diminished, and has become insufficient to significantly enhance plant growth.
When mycorrhizal fungi colonize the plant’s root system, they create a network that increases the plant’s capacity to absorb more water and nutrients such as phosphorus, copper and zinc. This process in turn enhances growth and favors rapid development of roots and plants. Look for the product “Myke” in garden centers. http://www.premiertech.com/myke/mycorise/index.htm
To increase the beneficial microbe count I also mix in a teaspoon of microbial material in the form of Plant Growth Activator from Organica (www.organica.com.) Organica Plant Growth Activator is specifically formulated to promote the establishment and enhance the viability of annuals, bulbs, perennials and turf. This unique natural product contain beneficial soil microorganisms and natural plant extracts that function synergistically to improve soil biology and promote healthy plant growth. Promoting and maintaining healthy soil biology is the key to successful gardening at any level.
There are lots of products on the market today that contain these beneficial organisms, so we need to spend some time in our local garden centers checking out what’s new.