Note to editor: Since I usually write my columns on Mondays, and this Monday being Labor Day, I’ve decided to take it easy and rewrite an old column of mine printed in the Aug. 3, 1995 Oviedo Voice (today’s Seminole Voice). Amazing how these ideas are timeless!
As we approach the end of summer, preparations should be under way to start our 10-month gardening year. The foundation to all our agricultural endeavors is based on the quality of our soil. Starting with Florida sand, here are a few steps to take to ensure our gardens grow as well as we can hope.
1. A gardener’s shadow is the world’s best fertilizer. Spread your shadow around the garden at least five minutes each day. Keep some compost or tea handy just in case you do see a crop that needs extra attention. Water is called the poor farmer’s fertilizer. Armed with a water hose while visiting the garden for a few minutes is an economical way to triage stressed crops.
2. Compost as a fertilizer is way too easy not to make yourself. Piles, barrels, bins or even kitchen scraps turned directly into the soil are just a few of the ways to make compost. The four components of compost are chopped material, densely built pile, managed moisture and billions of micro-organisms. It’s up to you how frequently you turn the pile.
3. Compost tea poured onto the root zone adds and invigorates soil life. Simply mix several handfuls of compost in a bucket of water, let it sit for a few days, and the magic is yours to distribute. (Be careful not to grow mosquito larvae while steeping this tea.) I have purchased bagged cow manure compost at the nursery center when I was low on homemade compost.
4. Fish emulsion and seaweed concentrates supply a whole spectrum of trace elements to a garden soil in liquid form. I am not a fan of foliar feeding, since this may cause leaf diseases. Apply these liquid ocean-borne fertilizers with buckets, watering cans or a hose-bib siphon feeder.
5. Mineralize the soil with rock dust powders. Dolomitic limestone provides calcium in a slow release form. Rock phosphate and potassium-rich green sand are natural sources of vital soil nutrients. Our sandy soils are what remain when all the mineral nutrients are washed out after eons of thunderstorms.
Editor: Guess we’ll have to wait until next week for the other five tips. That shouldn’t be a problem since we’ve already waited 16 years for a reprint of these.