Growing in Soil
Step 1: Finding and Preparing Quality Dirt
Quality dirt should be loosened with a shovel, pitchfork, claw, or rototiller. Then, if hand tools are used, a hole or a trench should be dug. The dirt should be placed in a pile with the stones removed.
Placing a 1 to 2-inch layer of steer manure in the bottom of the hole or trench is recommended for the future roots. Soil tests can be made with inexpensive soil test kits available at garden centers. If tests are made, it is recommended to keep a log in order to reference how well a technique works in specific dirt.
Deciduous canopies such as alder trees often have good dirt, as do many riverbanks, areas where a river has overflowed and pushed the dirt away, arable farmland, and old quality gardens. Creek beds often contain a good dirt supply. Certain plant species reveal the quality of dirt beneath them, or they can reveal how easy a site is to prepare. Grassy areas often indicate a potential garden site.
Good dirt compacts when it is squeezed, then crumbles when it is broken up. Soils like this often hold decent moisture. Sandy soils won’t compact too well.
The next step is to put the aerated, fine dirt back into the hole. An option is to add more quality dirt to create a raised site, which allows for better drainage, or dirt can be put in a container (of 2 to 20 gallons).
Drainage at the site is an important factor. Poor drainage can be good in a very dry environment, yet be devastating in a rainforest. Fast drainage can cause overworking, which is why peat moss is so good. It holds water and nutrients much more effectively than soil, and it drains well. When peat is saturated, decent oxygen is still available to the plant’s roots, so that feeding can be effective. The grower must put two and two together at this point. Some soils drain so quickly that watering may be needed several times a week. Knowledge of dirt’s capabilities helps determine what the workload will be during the grow season.
Inevitably, the plant strain plays a large role in determining the drainage needs. For example, if the area of cultivation is dry for the whole growing season, the drainage factor is easy to know. However, if the rains come on in the autumn, a strain that finishes before the rain means less drainage is needed. But a strain that finishes in the rains needs good drainage and a decent supply of oxygen, and of course mold-resistance. Often, soils that drain poorly during adverse weather can bring on a mold problem as opposed to a grow medium that drains well and is not choked up from puddles of water.
Step 2: Liming
A grower can add fine dolomite lime 4 to 6 months before transplanting for the first season at the new site. A grower should apply and thoroughly mix the lime until the dirt pH hits near neutral (pH 7.0). Cheap test kits are available from garden centers to determine this. This is probably an investment worth making until the exact quantities of lime needed for the particular dirt type are determined. Dolomite lime has a neutral pH and makes this step a piece of cake. Adding it early is important to neutralize the pH, so that calcium and other elements can be utilized later during the grow season. It takes a few months for dolomite to break down and become available to the plants.
Step 3: Adding Material to Improve the Soil
Sand, perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite can now be added and evenly mixed to loosen and aerate the soil. Perlite will allow water to drain well and is therefore beneficial for a wetter soil. Vermiculite will hold water and is good for a drier soil. Sand will help heat the soil and is good for a wetter soil type, as it loosens up the dirt and allows for decent drainage. Peat holds water, air, and nutrient. Adding 1/2 peat moss and 1/3 parts perlite is a good addition to give the roots air, and to retain moisture and nutrient.
Step 4: Adding Fertilizer
A soil test is made with a soil test kit, or by taking a sample to a garden center for testing to determine levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
Option A: Organic Fertilizers
However, adding and thoroughly mixing 1 cup of blood meal, 2 cups of bonemeal, 1 cup of greensand, and 1 cup of kelp meal per plant is a safe combination to deliver the food supply until the flowers are in bloom. Optimal fertilizer amounts for specific dirt will require improvisation, because sandy soils don’t hold nutrients as effectively as peat or clay soils. The dried fertilizers can be added a few months prior to transplanting if thick, black plastic is used to cover the site to protect it from rain, which breaks down the dried fertilizers. The dried fertilizers can be added any time before transplanting, even on the same day. Soilless mix recipes can be used from pages 61 to 63 but, because all dirt is different, there are no guarantees. This is work to figure out the specifics. Organic matter such as a half a bag of composted steer manure (very cheap) per plant can be added to the soil as well.
The site can be flat to the ground or it can be a raised bed.
During vegetative growth and flowering, more food may be needed. Supplemental feedings are described in pages 67 to 68. Alternately, any recommended rate of a commercial fertilizer designed for flowering plants applied at half of full strength will work fine.
Option B: Using Slow-Release Chemical Fertilizers
Slow-release chemical fertilizers can be purchased with or without a protective osmocote. Fertilizers of this type can release over time periods such as 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc.
It is recommended to use a time release that stops expelling the fertilizer before the harvest date, so that excessive fertilizer release does not spoil the flower quality. Slow-release fertilizers come in all sorts of fancy numbers such as 6-8-6, 7-7-7, and 14-14-14. These particular numbers will work out quite fine.
Normally, a small handful is all that is needed to grow a hefty plant. Note that using too much can lead to plant burning: in this case plant leaves will curl over and many leaves will become brown and crispy.
During vegetative growth and flowering, more plant food may be needed. Any recommended rate of a commercial fertilizer applied at half of full strength works fine. A grower should not fertilize for the two weeks prior harvest.