Monday, April 27, 2015

Time to Get Growing!

These sugar snap peas, lettuce, flower and broccoli plants are all loving 
this beautiful spring weather, and so are we! 

Looking to add some garden time to your life? 
Click here to learn more about where our gardens are located, 
how to get involved, and why we love to grow food so much! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Healthy Soil, Happy Plants

Ever wonder what makes a plant grow beautifully in one place and terribly in another? Look no further than the ground beneath your feet! For healthy plants, there's no better place to start than healthy soil.
While we often think of soil health as what nutrients are present - for example, nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorous - it turns out there's a bigger picture. The truth is, most plants can't even soak up those nutrients without help from microorganisms. And so, introducing... bacteria and fungi!

Here are the basics of how it works... Bacteria and fungi in the soil munch on nutrients, digest them, and then spit them back into the soil. Once the nutrients have been digested, they're in the right form for your plant's roots to take them up. Long story short? Without microorganisms to help break down nutrients, even heavily fertilized soil won't help your plants stay healthy.
So what's the good news? These fungi and bacteria are naturally present in all soil! Additionally, the practices we use in the garden can greatly influence their numbers for better or worse, so below are some tips to keep your soil in good shape.

Simple Tips for Soil Health
  • Avoid Tilling!  Tilling works like a blender on your soil's microorganisms - it chops them up, which is bad for nutrient breakdown business. 
  • Broadfork! Broadforking is a gentler way to break up your soil than tilling. It lets air into the soil, which bacteria, fungi and plants need, but doesn't overly disrupt or blend microorganisms like tilling. 
  • Utilize Compost! Good compost is a perfect breeding ground for healthy bacteria and fungi, so when you put it on your soil, it works like an inoculant, helping to boost their numbers. 
  • Use Cover Crops! This system of keeping plants in the soil helps keep your microorganisms happy even in the winter by providing food as they break down and by keeping the soil aerated with their roots systems. 
  • Avoid fungicides and pesticides! These chemicals can outright kill your soil microorganisms, even if they're designed to combat fungal or bacterial diseases. So unless it's absolutely necessary, avoid using them! 
  • Watch your watering!  Soil microorganisms thrive in damp, but not overly wet environments. Aim for the wetness level of a wrung out sponge. 

Looking for more in-depth resources? Check these websites!