Ideal for an endless variety of charming azaleas and bedazzling rhododendrons, the soil, as in all of BC, is quite a bit on the acid side here. However, almost all vegetables grow at their best in almost neutral soil, with a pH in the range between 6.5 and 6.8 - with 7.00 being neutral. So, for truly bountiful gardens, we need to raise the pH quite a bit.|
And the only way to find out where the pH of your garden stands is to get one of those inexpensive little pH test kits from your favourite garden center, which will last you for many years. The electronic pH testers are a quick and very handy alternative which will also serve for many, many years. But extreme care must be taken with these to have a really clean probe - lest it gives your the pH level of the water you rinsed it with, or the pH of the rag you wiped it on, instead of the soil's pH level.
If the pH level of your soil reads out between 5.5 and 6.00, which is very common hereabouts, we need to apply 50 lbs. of agricultural lime (calcium) per 1000 sq. feet. If your soil pH tests at between 5.00 and 5.5, we need to double that to 100 lbs per 1000 sq. feet. Agricultural lime is relatively fast acting, although it will take from two to three years until it is fully dissolved into the soil. And since crops use up much of this calcium, it needs to be touched up a bit every year, to keep your soil in the optimum range of just under neutral. So, that little pH test kit will come in most handy every year.
In addition, I like also like to apply 50 lbs. of Dolomite lime per 1000 sq. feet, which does the same thing, but is quite slow acting - it will last for about 10 years - for a long lasting 'base' of much needed calcium. But the chief reason why Dolomite lime so important is the complete natural range of the crucially vital 72+ trace elements it contains. Dolomite lime consists of what were once the shells of tiny sea creatures, and therefore contains all of the elements of the Earth - and in just the right proportion and amounts as needed by all living creatures - including our crops and our selves (see "supreme health" in these pages for the crucially vital importance of the 72+ trace elements to our health and well being, as well as that of our crops, as described in "healthy gardens"). However, since it is so slow acting, I also use the much faster acting agricultural lime, to get the pH range close to neutral as quickly as possible. The Dolomite lime needs to be repeated about every five years or so.
The next great deficiency of the soil in these areas is phosphorus. The coastal mountains of BC are very low in phosphorus, and consequently, very little has come down to the soil hereabouts. Phosphorus is also the storage medium of all Life-energy - be this of crops, or our selves. The mitochondria in all living cells use phosphorus to make adenosine tri-phosphate, which stores Life-energy. And whenever the cell needs energy, the tri-phosphate reverts to adenosine di-phosphate, which releases the stored energy for the cell's business of living. Consequently, if the phosphorus level of the soil is low, growth and vitality are much restricted. And conversely, if phosphorus is abundant, so will be all growth and vitality.
For these reasons, I also apply phosphorus in two forms. Agricultural phosphate for very quick acting availability; and slow acting rock phosphate, for a solid long-term 'base' of phosphate - also up to 10 years - in the soil. Apply at least 50 lbs of agricultural phosphate, and 100 lbs. of rock phosphate per 1000 sq. feet. The agricultural lime (never use hydrated lime; this is used to make cement, and to disinfect outhouses; it will 'burn' your crops) and phosphate are best applied to the surface of your beds and raked in lightly until they are not visible anymore. From there, rain and watering will disperse them progressively deeper into the soil.
The natural phosphate content of the soil is so low here that the agricultural phosphate needs to be repeated every year, and the rock phosphate can also be repeated every year for 3 or 4 years.
These then are the 'basics' to get your garden into near optimum condition, and into carefree and richly rewarding production. Add as much humus and compost as you can get your hands on, at every chance and idle moment that comes along. Just scatter it on top of the beds and rake it in a couple of inches deep. Ideally, the organic content of the soil should be around 10 per cent, and this works out to fully half the volume of the soil in fresh organic material, since all fresh organic material consists of about 80% water and shrinks quite dramatically to its effective volume.
And from here on in, your gardens will get richer and more fertile season by season and year by year without hardly any effort, hardly any cost, and just by following the very natural and 'hardly noticeable' methods as described in these pages. Next, we'll get into composting.
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