February Gardening Tips; A Balanced Diet

Feb 18, 2020

So as we are approaching the time of the year when the weather doesn't know what it is supposed to be doing, from appearances, but in reality, it does, so all is well, even though it drives us insane. But the good thing about it is that it gives us a little more time to get up and ready for our gardening project.

So what does a Balanced Diet have to do with the soil in the garden? What you need to do is consider the soil to be as you are, you need a balanced diet to be healthy and to function. The reason why we are looking at the soil in the garden area in this light is that the soil is full of all kinds of living organisms that require a balanced diet, much as we have the same requirement. So when we feed the soil we are actually feeding all of those little creepy crawly things that we might be able to see, not only them but untold numbers of little tiny ones that we can't see. They require all kinds of diets. Many of them depend on other creepy-crawly ones for their diet. I don't like to use the term, creepy, as they are anything but creepy, as we depend on them so extensively, so let's not offend them. Let us refer to them as little crawly things. I have heard the count as being in the Billions of crawly things in just a hand full of soil. So we need to feed them. As we do a good job of feeding them, they will, in turn, feed us.

One of the first steps that we have to do is determine the diet that we are going to feed them. In this step, you need to decide if you are going to use a totally organic/natural diet. With this diet, you will be limited to an organic/natural products type diet. For the most part, you are only slightly limited in what you can or even cannot use. Or perhaps you will use primarily a non-organic diet. This diet may very well include some organic/natural products as well as synthetic ones as well. With this diet, you can use an unlimited diet. Most products that you would purchase will have a listing on the label that will tell you of the status of the organic, natural, or synthetic. Surprisingly, at one of the local agricultural supply stores, for the most part all of the natural and organic stuff was less money than the synthetic stuff. Then at another local ag supply store, the prices were just flipped, IE; the synthetic stuff was less money than the natural/organic types. So when you do the searching and in determining which products that you would choose to use, do some shopping around to get your best price.

The next thing that you need to do is seek to understand the labels on the products. What I am referencing here is to determine the levels of what specific elements that you might need and in what amounts. However, one important aspect of this is that the natural and/or organic stuff will show a much lower level of the quantity of each element. But the availability of those elements is much more bio-available than in the synthetic stuff. The 3 main elements that you will be looking at are Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash. The Nitrogen will be represented by the letter N and will be the first one of the 3 on the listing. The next one listed is Phosphate and is represented by the letter P and is the second number of the 3. The final number is the Potash and it is represented by the letter K. These levels will vary depending on the product. For example, the Nitrogen level in a natural product like Blood-meal will maybe be 12%. But the typical Nitrogen level in a typical synthetic Nitrogen is about 34%. In reality, the lower number is likely the one that will provide the most bio-available Nitrogen to the plant for a longer period of time. You have to be more careful with the synthetics as they tend to contain a large amount of salt, which is not the greatest item when considering balancing the diet in the garden. So in this aspect, you need to do a little research based on your local needs and challenges. Just keep in mind that the diet required by your garden may be vastly different from your neighbor's across the road or through the fence.

For purposes of this discussion, we will talk about this item and then close the discussion. Traditionally, it seems like most people have been accustomed to applying all of the nutrients at one time in the spring and then work it into the ground. In some situations for certain plants, this might be an effective model but for most of the garden, it is, in reality, a total disaster. In past discussions, I have talked about some solid ideas to avoid the disaster. But for this discussion, this is where we want to go. You don't want to apply the full amount of nutrients or feed the soil a complete year's meal in one sitting. You are going to feed the soil in small amounts throughout the season, based on need. This will ensure a much healthier plant, much less water use, less weed growth, and an overall much more enjoyable gardening experience. That is a good sounding idea, isn't it? Please keep in mind that this isn't likely a situation that goes from a disaster to the Garden of Eden in one year. You are going to be going through a process for yourself as well as your soil will be going through a process too. All of those crawlies will be making an adjustment too. They will love, love you for making their life so much more enjoyable. When they are happy, they are more than happy to reward you with a tasty and plentiful amount of food.

So how does this sound? I have tried to cut down the topics discussed and have tried to make this much more simple to get your head around. Of course, as always, if you have questions, feel free to ask. Maybe between the two of us, we can come up with a coherent answer. Thank you for your time and interest.

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