Become a student of the soil. We should be familiar with tenets of soil physics — the dynamics of physical soil components — solid, liquids and gases. We might understand a bit of soil chemistry — the study of the chemical characteristics of soil affected by mineral composition, organic matter and environmental factors. But the study of soil ecology is recent. more
It's time to talk about soils…because they are all different. Gardeners who start from seed look for bags of Seed Starting Mix (with NO added time-release fertilizers.) Germinating seeds do NOT need the fertilizer. more
Toilets and gardening. Let’s remember the gardener’s mantra: healthy soil grows healthy plants and healthy plants support healthy humans. Many gardeners, and I am one of them, sing the praises of all sorts of animal manures as fertilizer for the soil. The science is in on this. Remarkably the manures of many animals are more carefully valued, collected, stored and used than that of the human animal – us folks. more
Archeologists and soils. Archeologists have found garden records and structural remnants dating back to the time of the pharaohs. Cultures knew that soil had to be fed and they, almost literally, threw everything but the kitchen sink into the gardens. Excavations have revealed potshards, bones, shells and human and animal manures. There is a record of a lease of land in ancient Greece that required the lessee to buy 150 baskets of manure (presumably from the owner) each year for the orchards. more
Water your trees during early spring
Tips from John Ball, SDSU
I have received a lot of questions on this subject during the last week and the answer is yes. Much of the state is experiencing cool to warm temperatures with little precipitation so the soils are becoming very dry. Trees, even deciduous trees that have lost their leaves, are still absorbing and transpiring water.
As long as the soils are not frozen and the day temperatures are above freezing an occasional watering is beneficial. The best recommendation is to water mid-day so the water has a chance to soak in before the temperatures dip to freezing at night and only water if the air temperature is above 40 to 45oF. You do not want to create a frozen "pond" around your trees and shrubs as this can injury the lawn.
You also do not need to apply as much water as you would in summer as the need is much less. Small trees and large shrubs will need about 8 to 10 gallon each watering and seedling trees and small shrubs about 2 to 5 gallons each watering. The plants should be watered about every two weeks as long as this warm, dry weather continues.
Elke Baxter tells us about some dandy winter plants. Read about the amaryllis and the Protea. Look under the Clubs tab.morrow, December 5. The purpose and importance of the year’s events depends on which side of the shovel you are on…the producer or the consumer. more
Drought lingers. Few of us have a memory of a summer as difficult, as hot, dry and frankly frightening as this is. Every gardener has a story of plants blooming early, of birds out of sync with the season. Crops which normally mature in late August ripened as much as a month early. Neighborhoods have been eerily quiet - no sound of lawnmowers. The grass isn't growin
g. 100 degree days seem to be the norm. When storm clouds form they are dramatic...and dry.
The U.S. Drought Monitor is an excellent, informative and interactive tool. It is to a gardener's benefit to be familiar with it.
For more information, check out this fact-filled article in American Nurseryman.
Under the Latest News tab you will find links to Dr. John Ball's monthly information sheet which chronicles well the effects of the drought on our trees and shrubs. This is worth reading. Under Cost Saving Gardening Shortcuts you will find more information on conserving water and caring for plants stressed by drought. more on outlook
Let's Review Six Common Sense Tips for creating and maintaining drought-tolerant landscapes (Remember, in a Good year, our average rainfall is 15-18 inches.) No matter how wet we want it to be, the hard reality is that we live in an arid area.
1. Pick the right plants for the landscape...and here, that basically means native plants. Our climate and conditions make it very difficult to have an English border garden or a Mediterranean setting or almost anything else that is not at home on the northern Great Plains. But let that encourage you to explore new, hardy, beautiful native options.
2. Plant trees and shrubs together in complimentary groups which can include native ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only will you have planted the 'right' plants, they will be together as a community with common water needs. Mulch them in mass and you'll have a landscape focal point that is easy to manage, lovely to see, and has similar irrigation requirements.
3. Be knowledgeable and caring about your soil. Healthy, well fed soil will produce healthy plant material...trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, veggies.
4. Mulch (with woodchips) around trees and shrubs and mulch (with compost - dried grass, old hay, non-woody materials) the perennial beds. Consider making the tree, shrub and flower beds larger and separated from the (needs of) turf areas.
5. The best advice and perhaps the most difficult to choose to do is this: rethink the traditional high-maintenance 'lawn' to areas where they make sense - where picnics, play or other similar activities will take place. Consider planning to change most of the lawn to drought-tolerant species that will go brown BUT WILL NOT DIE in droughtytimes.
6. Spend time and give serious thought to any irrigation system. Learn about drip irrigation for everything except the lawn. This is a smart, water-wise system used for decades in Europe. Learn about it.
In the face of a truly grim drought, it is hard to believe that there will ever be rain to catch...but it will happen. When it does, be prepared with rain barrels at the corners of your buildings - home, tool shed, garage. An astonishing amount of water can be collected and delivered by hose to trees and shrubs or by watering cans to potted plants and deck plants. For more information about rain barrels, click on this blackhillsgarden link.
Let's admit it...spring, summer fall we all face the same tasks: Clean up...and mulch.
There are many of us who use these products regularly, are familiar with them and know how to use them for maximum result. Here, for convenience are links to material on the city website that might be of assistance for persons using the compost products. The information was developed by retired Rapid City employee Jerry Wright, retired SDSU Horticulture extension educator Bill Keck, and Master Gardener Cathie Draine.
To learn about Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) click here
To learn about 3/8 yardwaste compost, click here.
To learn about compost from waste, click here.
To learn how compost delivers Nitrogen to the soil, click here.
Bacteria and Soil Growth. I understand that soils thrive under the following conditions: a diversity of plants provides a diversity of root-released, bacterially enhanced nutrients. Bacteria are critical in delivering nutrients to plants and critical in the development of good soil structure by creating a variety of slimy exudates that bind the soil particles together, provide a way for the bacteria to move and colonize, hold moisture and facilitate air movement. (I also understand the symbol for micron.)
Yes, color has been added to this scanning electron microscope photo of soil bacteria. more
Don't buy fertilizer; use compost and mulch. Here is an opportunity to learn a bit (feed the soil and the soil will feed plants), get “green” (get that home compost pile working), save money
save time (forget the tilling, mulch instead) and perhaps the most important: have educated, positive attitudes about the health, vigor and basic value of our soils.
Garbage in, fertilizer out. Pursue the simplest solution; reuse it all. I learned about the 160-year old Rothamsted Agricultural Research facility in England more than 30 years ago when we lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. Our favorite haunt, Kebun Binatang Jakarta, is almost 500 acres of 500 animal species in a botanical garden. In the early ’80s, this Eden-like setting was perilously close to being buried in a combination of animal and garden waste. How to dispose of this efficiently, economically and quickly was a huge problem. more
Healthy soil is key to successful gardening. “Soon, oh sooner than we can imagine, warming days will wake the abundant life in the soil,” says Cathie Draine. “I get giddy when the sweetness of geosmin — a fragrance produced by happy, warm, working actinomycetes in the soil — fills the air. This sublime fragrance is a reminder of sorts that the soil is hungry, ready to eat.” more
Mulch only some plants with wood chips. There is much more going on in the soil than we understand. What research has confirmed is: Mulch the woody plants with wood chips and feed the flowers, veggies and lawn well-aged compost. more