Good morning, everyone. This week’s update is going to be a bit different than what you’ve become used to. First, I didn’t think you’d want to see a rehash of my suffering garden. (If you missed the monthly pictures, see How My Garden Grows in August, Part 1 and Part 2.) Second, I had some decisions to make about my garden (based on how poorly it has done this year), and I wanted to share that with you.
Although I realize that the brutal heat and humidity we had this summer had something to do with my garden doing poorly, it wasn’t the only reason. My soil isn’t as healthy as it should be, and we gardeners know that unhealthy soil makes unhealthy plants.
I didn’t do any fertilizing this summer, which did affect my plant’s growth. However, the intensity of how my plants were negatively affected by not fertilizing tells me that my soil didn’t have even a good foundation for plant health and growth.
Also, when I tested the fruit from a few of my plants this year (using the refractometer I purchased last September), the Brix readings shocked me. I didn’t expect the highest (most healthy/nutritional) readings, but I didn’t expect them to be around the same levels of conventionally grown grocery store produce! (Yes, my Brix readings were at the bottom of the scale!) This, too, shows that my soil is not feeding my plants (and thus my fruit) the way it should. And this is a problem that will continue – and even worsen – if I don’t take care of it now.
But how? I’ve had soil tests done by my local cooperative extension (Clemson University), and I applied organic fertilizer, as directed. I also started applying Azomite rock dust for micro nutrients. My plants were better than not fertilizing at all, but something still hasn’t been quite right.
I purchased a book late last year entitled, “The Ideal Soil 2014, A Handbook for the New Agriculture,” by Michael Astera with Agricola. I hate to admit that I haven’t even read the complete book yet. (On the agenda for this winter.) However, what I have read has made me realize what my soil problem might be. Nutrients are very important for plants – major, minor, micro – but if they aren’t in the soil in the proper balance, then the plant can’t pull the nutrients from the soil. No matter how much time and money you spend adding nutrients, the plant will not thrive if that exact balance isn’t created and maintained. And THAT is what I think my soil is.
With summer coming to a close and the beginning of fall planting season around the corner, I have had to make a clear decision of what I wanted to do: continue spending time, money, and effort for an extremely lackluster fall harvest (if summer harvest was any indication), or give my garden a rest and spend the fall and winter preparing my soil for a healthy spring and summer harvest next year. I opted for spending the next season healing my soil.
So, I will not be planting a fall or winter garden this year. (GASP!) As soon as the plants I have in the ground now have run their course, I’ll be pulling them up and allowing my raised beds to lie fallow. (I will cover them with mulched autumn leaves and dried grass through the winter, though.) I am also going to gather soil for a complete, detailed soil test from a professional agricultural laboratory and then have the test results analyzed by another company, who will give me organic recommendations for getting my soil’s nutrients in balance.
Now, what does that mean for my blog? Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. Just because I won’t have a large garden throughout the fall and winter (as you – and I – have become used to) doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I will share with you my soil healing journey, of course. And I have some articles up my sleeve that I haven’t had time to write and share with you. I also need to fix my shade garden (because almost half the plants I put in it died in the summer heat), and I want to do some landscaping and upkeep projects on the homestead – all of which I intend to share with you.
The only change will be that I will go to a twice a week posting schedule. Starting next week (first week of September) through last frost (around end of March), I will post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I have something special or extra to share, I may have an occasional Sunday post. Once spring planting begins, I will return to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting schedule (with Mondays reserved for my Sanctuary Gardener Update).
No matter how much we love to play in the garden and grow things, sometimes we have to step back and regroup. It may sadden me that I will have so many raised beds lying fallow until spring, but I do have a new portable greenhouse I intend to set up this fall. You don’t think I could go several months without growing SOMETHING, do you??
So stay tuned. My garden and homestead stories will continue!