Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Green Gardener: talk'n about soil fertility

poppies at the park
Did you ever hear about sailors getting scurvy and their teeth falling out? It happened. And, then they ate lemons and they got better. Plants are like that, too. Leaves turn yellow, vegetables don't produce and plants become susceptible to diseases because they're not very healthy. Yep, just like us.

The most important thing is to have healthy soil...full of organic material. If you enrich your soil with compost and other organics, you may not even need to add additional fertilizers. So, start with making great soil, and then add some organic fertilizers ... conservatively.

the WPA Rock Garden at William Land Park in Sacramento
This garden benefits with addition of donkey doo-doo from the nearby zoo!

 And, so you don't totally get lost in the fertilizer aisle at your local nursery, here's some basic data about the 18 nutrients that plants need:
  • Three come from the air (oxygen, hydrogen and carbon)
  • The other 15 come from the soil, taken in thru the roots...
    • 9 are micronutrients (or, trace nutrients), needed in tiny amounts...boron, cobalt, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sodium and zinc. Look for "includes micronutrients" on label.
    • 3 are secondary nutrients (or, minor nutrients)...calcium, magnesium and sulfur
    • 3 are the big kahunas, the Macronutrients, the N-P-K on the fertilizer bag, which stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Nitrogen is needed for greening up the plant. Phosphorous helps make strong roots and is especially valuable at planting time. Potassium helps with general healthiness of the plant.
Depending on the plant, you'll need different ratios to all of these...for instance, lawns need a higher amount of nitrogen, bulbs need more phosphorous, citrus needs iron. Luckily all this info is on the product and/or, the sales people can help!!!

It's a good time to be going organic. There are more and more options available and it's the "Thing to Do". A healthy soil that's got lots of organic matter is where it starts. Organic fertilizers work slower than synthetic ones, but have less bad "side effects" on the soil and the plants. They also are better for our rivers because one way or another, that's where our garden water winds up!

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help! Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email For more information on our services, click here.

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