What is the difference between soil and dirt? An old gardener saying is that soil is what you grow your plants and flowers in and dirt is what you track in the house. Soil is the foundation of your garden. Successful gardeners have great soil. Great soil is easy to recognize. First of all, it will smell earthy. It will be dark in color and loose in texture. with a rich earthy smell.
Here in Meadows Place we have inherited clay soil. If you are still dealing with clay soil, consider adding a three-inch layer of washed sand and two to three inches of compost. Work it in to about ten inches. Due to the age of our homes I am going to assume most of our yards have been improved from the original clay we were blessed with. If you have never had your soil tested it is a good idea; especially if you have had problems in the past growing season that might indicate a soil deficiency. The county extension office at 1402 Band Rd Rosenberg can provide you with soil sample bags, sampling instructions and information sheets for mailing samples. You can also find the information you need on line through Texas A&M.
To prepare your already established bed for fall planting begin by cleaning up the summer plants and amend the soil for a healthy fall garden. Do not add the discarded plants to your compost. They harbor disease and insects. After you have removed the poor tired sunbaked plants, till the soil by turning it over to a level of 6 to 10 inches. You are now ready to add a layer of compost and work it in. A word about compost. It is a mixture of decayed or decaying organic matter. If you are lucky enough to have your own home made compost you can easily add this to your beds. If not, you can purchase it by the bag at your favorite nursery. Don’t want to maintain a compost pile or bin? Did you know there are three things you can add directly to your soil?
Three things can be added directly to the soil without going through the composting process.
1. Coffee grounds can be placed directly on the beds.
2. Egg shells should be rinsed, dried and crushed.
3. Banana peels cut into small pieces and buried to so as not to entice critters.
This simple process will add nutrients to your soil. This will not replace a complete rejuvenation of your garden soil, but it is a good way to use everyday waste if you are not able to compost.
Other things to add to the soil:
1. Slow release fertilizer should be part of the soil amendment just follow directions on the package. Work it into the soil and add one tablespoon around each plant every three weeks and water it in.
2. Cottonseed meal is not wood-based and does not tie up nutrients in the soil as it breaks down. It is inexpensive, aerates the soil and adds nutrients.
3. Horse or cattle manure may be substituted for commercial fertilizer. But it must be composted first because it is too “hot” to add directly to the soil. Most garden centers sell composted manure.
After adding the fertilizer mix the soil thoroughly. Water the beds with a sprinkler for at least two hours and let the beds rest for several days. Now you are ready to plant your revitalized beds.
Unless specified “seed” your fall garden will do better with transplants. Buy the largest transplants possible. The root system will grow faster and the plants will be more productive. Keep them moist but don’t overwater.
Recommended plants for September
Bush beans (seed), Lima beans (seed), Beets (seeds), Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards (seed), Cucumber, Garlic(seed), Kale (seed), Lettuce (seed), Radish (seed), Summer squash, and Turnips (seed)
Recommended plants for October
Beets(seed), Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, carrots, chard (seed), Collards (seed), Garlic (seed), Kale (seed), Lettuce (seed), Radish (seed), Spinach (seed), and Turnips (seed)
Other than vegetables in October, plant some spring blooming bulbs around your perennials and shrubs that green up in late spring. Try Ranunculus and Anemone. Seed snapdragons that will grow all winter and fade when it gets hot. Use a winter fertilizer on your lawn.
- Kathy Gilmore
Master Gardener Volunteers are available to help you find answers to all your basic questions.
Kathy Gilmore is a Master Gardener for Fort Bend County and maintains the "Garden" page on this website, providing bi-monthly gardening tips. She and her husband, Dan, are longtime residents of Meadows Place.