I’ve been an amateur gardener for several seasons. Each spring and summer, we toss some plants in the ground, add some water, and hope for the best. Ok, maybe it’s a little more than that. Fertilization, pruning, aerating the soil—those occur in our garden, although probably not to the extent they should.
The hot peppers have always been successful—jalapeño, ghost, habanero, chili—you name it, but it was after four seasons of less than desirable tomato plants (one season, four plants = 6 edible tomatoes does not a successful garden make) that I decided to buckle down and try to figure out what was wrong.
Even though we rotate what grows where at least every two years, I figured the ground soil was the culprit. I did a lot of research on soil composition, soil pH, and what plant likes what. Turns out the pH was off the chart—darker green than the darkest green on the chart, which meant it was at least at a level of 7.5. For what we wanted to plant, that was not desirable.
In my research, I learned that perfecting garden soil can take years. While we planted onions and potatoes in the ground and started our first batch of compost to till into the soil in the fall, I went to my local gardening store to purchase soil ingredients to make a better environment for the rest of the garden. Because that could get expensive, I purchased six small grow tubs made of a thick felt. We mixed compost, peat moss, top soil, and vermiculite at a ratio of 25% each and filled the tubs. The pH test came back at 6.5—much better than our ground soil—so we planted our plants, watered, fertilized, and monitored. The arugula, snow peas, and chard did pretty well. Our two tomato plants gave us 30 tomatoes—more than the last four seasons put together! I do think the tomatoes would have been more productive, but the roots only had so much room to expand in the containers.
At the end of the season, we pulled the plants from the tubs and emptied about half of the soil from each tub into the ground garden. Some of the tubs had moss growing in places around the bottom and seemed less sturdy after being outside in the weather all season, and ripped when we tried to move them. Guess we won’t use that method again even though it was successful, but it did help reassure us that a little adjustment to the soil could bring on a big change. Also at the end of the season, we tilled the batch of compost into the garden. Over the winter, it’s my hope that the healthy compost modified my ground soil—can’t wait to see if it makes a difference!