back to the soil

When I think back to the amount of shredded leaves I collected last fall, my mind boggles at how little evidence is left.

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I stored shredded leaves in 12 of my 2 1/2′ diameter tomato cages (about 3′ high in each), filled a 3’x3′ compost bin, another 4’x4′ bin, and layered shredded leaves in sections of the garden.  Logic aside, they’ve pretty much returned to the soil except in a few places where I refreshed them with stored leaves in the spring.

The theory that you really can’t collect too many leaves still holds.

The buckwheat that I planted a couple of days ago as green manure is popping through.  Replacing the organic matter and nutrients taken out of the garden isn’t a one-time deal.  Those veggies above and below ground create massive quantities of leaf material, and it all needs to be replaced.

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eggshells revisited

The eggshells that I collected over the winter and pulverized have just been sitting in a plastic container. After checking my soil test and noticing the calcium levels in my soil were slightly above what’s needed, I was hesitant to put them into the garden.

The next choice was the chickens. But the shells are almost a powder, and that wouldn’t work free-choice. And I wouldn’t have a clue as to how much could safely be mixed with their feed.

So I did a little more digging (so to speak), and found some stuff about cole crops benefitting from a small dose of ground eggshells. They’re a slow-release type of amendment, so I decided to give it a shot in my cauliflower and broccoli beds. Just a conservative dusting.

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I could be wrong. We’ll see.

In the future, I won’t grind them to dust, just small enough that they can be offered to the chickens free-choice.

And the peeps are living it up, sprouting their wing feathers.

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there will (not) be blood (meal)

Yesterday I posted a list of experiments that I want to try in the 2015 vegetable garden. There was one listing that I finished writing, then deleted.

It wasn’t an experiment per se; just something new for me. Blood meal.

I decided against trying a test of blood meal as I wrote down the idea. I’d like to start steering away from the ‘just throw on an amendment’ mindset that’s so tempting to contemplate on slow winter nights.

Last year after getting results from a soil test, I determined that blood meal might be a good choice. The Extension Agency recommended adding nitrogen, and blood meal or cottonseed meal seemed like a precise, easy organic solution.

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But as I made the list last night, it hit me that on a small scale, this was probably the same thought process that led to the synthetic fertilizer boom in the mid-20th century.

Wow, this is getting a little deep. Hold on and I’ll try to ‘splain, Lucy.

Quick, precise, easy amendments. Farmers and gardeners wanted something that worked fast, could be precisely measured, and was easily transported. I don’t think I want that, even if it’s organic. Nature spanks quick people. It makes a mockery of precise. And it generally favors diversity.

What occurred to me is that the money I intended to spend on an organic nitrogen supplement might better be used on another soil test. Since the last test, I’ve added tons of compost, some coffee grounds and a green manure crop to the soil. There’s a real possibility that those nitrogen requirements have already been met in a bulky, imprecise kind of way.

If not, I’ll rethink. There’s more compost in the bins that should be ready to go at planting time, and I just like the slowness and bulk and goodness of that.

Although I really hope this year’s test shows a potassium deficiency. All that free banana meal, you know?

stockpile, plan wait

The winter wears on.  Even now in early March there’s no prospect of any temperatures in the 10-day forecast that might thaw the ground in the least. But as grueling as this season has been, we still have keep our eyes on the prize. That’s what I’ve tried to do in little ways since December.

A banana or two every day…somewhere between one and two hundred banana peels, dried with heat that was there for the taking; our forced-air furnace registers.  Scrambled eggs, quiche dinners, pie ingredients, all those eggshells dried on a rack over the register alongside the banana peels.

Right now I have about 1 1/2 pounds of dried, pulverized banana peels, that are 42% potassium.  And about a pound of pulverized eggshells, around 95% calcium carbonate.

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I still haven’t decided exactly how I’ll add these amendments to the soil. Maybe just broadcast them evenly over the garden, or maybe sprinkle them into the compost piles, or even set some aside to mix with other goodies like bone meal and Epsom salts as an experimental tomato fertilizer.

It really doesn’t matter much how they get into the soil. They’ll get there along with hundreds of pounds of free coffee grounds from Starbucks.

But for now it’s just stockpile, plan and wait.