Learning from Last Year - Future Steps to Improve Garden Soil


Devine Gardens - making the garden soil better
The growing season of 2021 was tough because of all the rain, rain, rain. A lot of gardens suffered including mine. For the first time since I've started using vermicompost I had a problem with striped cucumber beetles. When I pulled the plants in the fall, their roots were puny.  As the months have gone by I think I know some of the reasons for the problem besides the rain and the steps need to improve the garden soil in this spot.
  • The soil under the plants is compacted and didn't drain. When I turned this area into a garden all I did was cover the ground with black plastic (solarization) for a year. Then I spread 4" - 6" of compost on top. With normal rainfall, the plants did well. Last year's excessive rain water logged the roots. The plant's roots couldn't get oxygen and the microbes in the soil became anaerobic (live without oxygen). There was now a lack of good-guy microbes, the plant became weaker so that pests and diseases had the advantage. 
  • Too much solarization is not a good thing. Though it will kill weeds, it also kills the beneficial microbes. In the future, it will be beneficial to work in some vermicompost or really good compost to add back the microbes.
  • When the seedlings were planted I was careless about adding vermicompost into the planting holes.  I remember thinking that there was probably enough in the soil from last year. The planting holes were not big enough and did not get compost added into the heavy clay soil and worked in. I remember feeling pressured for time and hurried through planting the squashes - so much for hurrying and not doing a good job!!
My plan for this garden plot: I bought tillage radish to break up the hardpan underneath. I haven't used a cover crop before so it's something new and exciting. We'll see if it works. They have to be planted 4 - 8 weeks before the first frost because they could bolt with the heat. So, I'll have to plant something that can be done growing and harvested by the end of July - August.

Here is the description from Fedco - where I bought it from: https://fedcoseeds.com/ogs/radish-tillage-8105

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