Posts tagged soil

Amazing Dirt sale! March 17th at MOBY Garden

With spring around the corner, My Own Backyard Garden is pleased to offer a rich, black soil/compost blend to gardeners.  It is called black gold, anything can grow in it.

Come support a local CommunityGarden !


WHEN:  Saturday, March 17 – 12-3 pm only

WHERE:  MOBY garden – 1735 East 11th Avenue (off of Commercial Drive)

HOW:  Bring your own bag/wheelbarrow and shovel yourself.


$4 per bag OR $5 per wheelbarrow (it’s a steal), so don’t wait till the last minute because this stuff won’t last long!



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Upcoming courses at Langara for organic gardeners.

For details on these course, please visit:


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Build your soil with cover crops.

Definition: A cover crop is a type of plant grown to suppress weeds, help build and improve soil, and control diseases and pests. Cover crops are also called “green manure” and “living mulches.”

They’re called “green manure” because they provide nutrients to the soil much like manure does. And as “living mulches,” cover crops prevent soil erosion.

Once grown, cover crops are usually mowed and then tilled into the soil.

Also Known As: living mulch, green manure

Hardy legumes increase soil nitrogen and organic matter. After a slow fall start, they grow rapidly in March and April and may not mature until May in some regions. Mow these cover crops in spring at or before flowering, then till them under.

Field pea (Pisum arvense and P. sativus). Grows 6 inches to 5 feet high; hardy to 10 to 20� F. ‘Austrian Winter’ pea is low growing and late maturing. ‘Magnus’ grows to 5 feet. Sow 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrinum). Grows 1 to 2 feet high; hardy to 20° F. Will regrow after cutting. Produces high amounts of nitrogen. Sow 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Crimson clover (T. incarnatum). Grows 18 inches high; hardy to 10° F. Matures late and fixes less nitrogen than other clovers. Attracts bees. Sow 1/2 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If allowed to go to seed, can become weedy.

Dutch white clover (T. repens). Grows 6 to 8 inches high; hardy to -20° F. Perennial and shade tolerant so may become weedy. Sow 1/2 to 1 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa). Grows to 2 feet high; hardy to -15° F. Hardiest annual legume. Tolerates poor soil, matures late. Sow 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Fava beans (V. faba). Grows 3 to 8 feet high; hardy to 15° F. Bell bean is a shorter (3-foot) relative. Sow 2 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

The tropical legumes below grow quickly in fall to increase soil nitrogen and add abundant organic matter, but need warm growing conditions. Plant in late summer or early fall in the Southeast and Southwest before winter cover crops. These are best grown as summer annuals in the North.

Sunn hemp (Crotolaria juncea). Grows 5 to 6 feet high; hardy to 28° F. Needs same growing conditions as corn. Cut or mow before stems become woody. Can also reduce nematodes. Sow 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Sesbania (S. macrocarpa). Grows 6 to 8 feet high; hardy to 32° F. Grows like sunn hemp, but more tolerant of flooding, drought, salinity, low fertility. Sow 1 pound per 1,000 square feet.

Cowpea (Vigna sinensis). Grows 1 to 2 feet high; hardy to 32° F. Tolerates poor and acidic soils. Prefers humidity and tolerates drought. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Grasses grow quickly, tolerate cold, increase organic matter, and improve the structure of compacted soils. They also control erosion but don’t increase nitrogen. Mow these annual grass cover crops in spring before seeds set, or till under.

Oats (Avena sativa). Grows 2 to 3 feet tall: hardy to 10 to 20° F. Produces least organic matter of grasses, but tolerant of wet soils. Sow 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Barley (Hordeum vulgare). Grows 2 to 3 feet tall; hardy 0 to 10° F. Fast maturing and tolerant of dry and saline soils: intolerant of acidic soil. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum). Grows 2 to 3 feet high; hardy to -20° F. Fast growing and tolerates flooding. Absorbs excess nitrogen from soil. Can become weedy. Sow 1/2 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Winter rye (Secale cereale). Grows 4 to 5 feet tall; hardy to -30° F. Best grass for cold winter climates: tolerant of low fertility, acidic soils. Sow 2 to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet.


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Soil types: Advantages, Disadvantages & Ways to improve.

Type Advantages Disadvantages Ways to improve
Clay Usually very fertile, lots of nutrients. Poor drainage, heavy to work. Rock hard when dry, horribly sticky when wet. Add organic matter and maybe gravel.
Sand Easy to work and easily improved. Free draining – too much so, dries out quickly and relatively infertile. Add organic matter and use fertilizers.
Caulk Good drainage (usually), while being moisture retentive. Moderate fertility. Shallow and stony. Forget about Rhododendrons, Camellias and other lime haters except in containers or raised beds. Add organic matter.
Silt Fairly moisture retentive, workable when wet. Compacts easily, can be incredibly hard when dry. Add organic matter
Peaty Loads of organic matter. Wet and acidic May need drainage. Add concentrated fertilizer and possibly lime
Lovely loam Easy to work, good drainage, good fertility, plants love it Only exists in fairy stories. Keep quite if you’ve got this or I’ll be round to pinch it. Re-cycle garden compost so you’re not taking from it and use fertilizers for hungry or very productive plants.

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Amending your soil to balance PH

Amending your soil

Too Alkaline add: sulphur, peat moss, evergreens, coffee grinds or compost from your bin.

To Acidic add: lime, hardwood ash, bone meal, egg shells (calcium) , crushed marble, or crushed oyster shells.  Lowering the acidity of your soil is a long term project is will not happen in one season.

Neutral-alkaline (7.0 to 8.0) Near neutral (6.5 to 7.5) Near neutral (6.5 to 7.5)







Parsley   Spinach





Corn    Cucumber Melons













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Soil Test # 4: Find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline without a pricey test kit.

Soil Test # 4: Find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline without a pricey test kit.

Here’s How:

1)      Scoop 1/3cup of soil into a container. Then, add a 1/3-cup of vinegar. If the soil bubbles or fizzes, it’s alkaline.

2)      If there’s no reaction, scoop 1/3 cup of fresh soil sample into a second container. Add a 1/3-cup of water and mix. Then, add a 1/3-cup of baking soda. If the soil bubbles or fizzes the soil is highly acidic.

3)      Amend your soil with wood ash or lime, if it’s acidic. Amend your soil with sulfur or pine needles, if it’s alkaline.

What You Need:

  • A soil sample
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • 2 sample containers


  1. If you want a precise pH measurement, get a soil test kit from your local university extension office or home improvements store.
  2. Soil amendment takes time, so make small changes and wait for them to take hold, before making further amendments.

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Soil Test #3: The Worm Test:

Soil Test #3: The Worm Test:

Worms are great indicators of the overall health of your soil, especially in terms of biological activity. If you have earthworms, chances are that you also have all of the beneficial microbes and bacteria that make for healthy soil and strong plants. To do the worm test:

  1. Be sure the soil has warmed to at least 55 degrees (about 12 degrees Celsius), and that it is at least somewhat moist, but not soaking wet.
  2. Dig a hole one foot across and one foot deep. Place the soil on a tarp or piece of cardboard.
  3. Sift through the soil with your hands as you place it back into the hole, counting the earthworms as you go.
  4. If you find at least ten worms, your soil is in pretty good shape. Less than that indicates that there may not be enough organic matter in your soil to support a healthy worm population, or that your soil is too acidic or alkaline.

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