We have plants! No more mud, no more growing chasm in the backyard where the runoff was carrying our dirt away. The landscapers finally arrived and we now look a lot more finished.
Three weeks have now passed since we took ownership of our new house. Three weeks of lugging heavy furniture from room to room until it looks “right”—or ends up in the “to sell” pile. Three weeks of unpacking boxes only to find we need to add shelving to closets before the contents have a place to land. Three weeks of making decisions—picking out new bar stools for the counter in the great room, choosing a table and chairs for the deck, researching what kind of window coverings we might want. Three weeks of spending every spare moment indoors, settling in.
The calendar says late April, the weekend forecast is warm and sunny, but there’s still snow melting off the trees and loitering in the shadows. With our off-again, on-again spring, how can a gardener possibly know when to plant?
There’s no foolproof formula, but a soil thermometer can help take much of the guesswork out of gardening in Colorado.
You’re gotten your test results back from the soil lab, telling you to add some organic matter. What’s the best thing to add?
In the past, I’d just bop on down to the local garden center and load up a few bags of… something. Soil amendment, composted manure, planting mix, potting mix, top soil, compost… there are hundreds of products, and the names are pretty random.
So are the ingredients. Since there are no legal standards, these bags can contain whatever the manufacturer wants them to. There’s no labeling law, either. If there’s a label at all, often you’ll see something like, “Contains (peat, forest products compost, and/or compost), wetting agent, fertilizer.” You have no idea if this particular bag has peat or compost, much less what went into that compost. And what’s a forest product? Bark? Sawdust? Squirrels?
Dirt is fascinating. Oh, I know, you’re thinking of the dirt you wash out of your clothes, or off your car. I don’t find that kind of dirt very exciting at all. But the dirt in a garden is a whole ’nother story!
Actually, dirt is just one component of what gardeners prefer to call “soil.” Rocks weather and break down into smaller rocks, pebbles, gravel, and finally sand and silt. These tiny particles mix with organic matter—decomposing plants and animals—called “humus.” Then there’s air, and water. Add in weed seeds, worms, bugs, and a huge variety of microorganisms, and you have the living stuff in which we plant our gardens.