I am on the verge, the precipice of the mountain that I have been climbing of trying to become a competent gardener. Our church has set up gardening classes and a really knowledgeable gardener has been speaking to several hundreds of people every week trying to get us all educated about how to garden correctly. Last year I tried to start gardening, I bought a book on square foot gardening and set it up. My dad bought me some turkey manure and other soils and I set it all up, then phttt, it was a flop. WHY? Well I didn't know. Here is just a little bit of what I found out about why my garden flopped.
BIG MISTAKE #1
The turkey manure is a really great organic fertilizer it has little to no weed seeds (as horse and cow manure does) and is highly nutritious to the plants, but... It temporarily creates a nitrogen shortage because all of the microbes that go to work to break it down freeze the available nitrogen. So if you use this kind of fertilizer you need to mix it thouroughly into the soil and let it sit for about a month before using the garden. MY garden definantly showed signs of having too little available nitrogen. The professional gardener recommends adding ammonium sulfite to fix this problem which is something that I don't want to do because I am trying to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers which deplete the land and run off into the water shed. *(NOTE: AVOID STEER MANURE, TRY TO FIND GRASS FED COW MANURE IF YOU WANT TO GO THAT ROUTE, STEER MANURE IS EXTEMELY UNHEALTHY AND FULL OF THE SALT THAT MANUFACTURERS FED TO THEIR COWS TO FATTEN THEM UP. THIS WILL BURN YOUR PLANTS).
Here is what I am thinking to avoid this problem (of chemical fertilizers), FISH. The Native Americans used fish as a fertilizer, lo and behold there are ways to use it, I am going to use the fish that my husband keeps bringing home (and storing in the freezer which makes it nasty) to fertilize our tomatoes, tomatillos and corn. There are also companies that produce it (along with beneficial other components as well). Here is a link to an e-how article on fish fertilizer (including how to use fish that you already have).
But being that I have watched PBS specials on the depletion of the oceans by over fishing I am thinking of a few other ways to accomplish the healthy garden means. One of which is of course composting. The professional gardener recommends adding the compost directly to your garden inbetween the furrows, rototilling it in and letting it breakdown that way. That is, if you have a big enough garden. You can also have a two step compost pile where you frequently turn it from one spot to the other to add air and to help it break down. There is a lot of information about composting out there but I want to mention a few things that I know. You should save your egg shells to add to your compost as well as your grass clippings and the leaves in the fall. When preparing your garden dont remove the grass but rototill it in because it will have a higher nitrogen content then the soil underneath. When you add green compost such as grass clippings you need to let them break down because you will have a temporary nitrogen shortage during the first month or so.
BIG MISTAKE #2
Watering too often, way too often, and watering the leaves with a garden hose. In order to have healthy plants and a good crop you need to group the plants together by growing season and watering needs. Then you need to water twice a week, once a week and every 10 days or two weeks depending upon the crop. I will post the list that he gave us asap because it was a big help to me in planning my garden. Plus he gave us info about when we should plant, HALLALUJAH!! He explained, loosely, how to set up a drip watering system. I need to investigate this, including the potential chemicals that could be found in the hoses that are commonly used and that he recommended. But if I can find the way, chemical free way, I will be a happy little gardening bee. WHY? Because healthy plants don't need a lot of work and he even said that a few weeds wont hurt, YIPEE!! Because I am a busy lady, and I have a lot to do, I bet you do too.
SO lot's of information is on it's way, I hope that some of you can benefit from this info. as well.