Limiting Factors

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Spring has finally arrived here at 7,100 feet, and I’ve been feverishly planting—move the mulch, dig a hole, dump the perennial out of its  pot and stick it into the ground. Fill in any gaps with leftover dirt, replace the mulch. Rinse, repeat.

As I work around the lawn, adding flowers everywhere I can, I’ve noticed how abysmal my dirt is. Since we added compost, I assume that eventually it will qualify as soil, but right now I’m dealing with lumps of bentonite clay embedded in a deep layer of gritty, coarse sand. The clay was supposed to be seven feet down, but in the process of digging a basement, it got mixed  with the surface layers.

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Feeding Your Lawn

lawn_uplandin_20090615_lah_3607The summer is heading for fall, and it’s time to fertilize lawns. Go to any garden center and you’ll see piles of name brand lawn fertilizer, complete with directions on the back. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll have a healthy, green, weed-free lawn.

What these manufacturers don’t take into account is that different parts of the country have different soils. What may be excellent advice for Pennsylvania or Maine may not work for Colorado. Unlike much of the north and east, the Front Range loses more water to evaporation than it gains in rainfall. Combine that with the native rock from which our soils are derived, and we typically have soils that are alkaline, high in phosphorus and potassium, and low in organic matter and nitrogen.

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Too Much Compost?

 

veggie-garden-student-run-csu-perc-lah-094-1When I first encountered this concept—that a gardener could use too much compost—I immediately thought, “Is that even possible?” As an organic veggie gardener dealing with soil comprised of decomposed granite punctuated by lumps of sticky clay, too much compost seemed an impossibility. Isn’t compost the answer to all our gardening problems?

It’s true that “add compost” (or other organic matter, such as peat moss or leaf mold) is the best advice for gardeners dealing with either clay or sand. Organic matter opens up the solidly packed clay particles, allowing air and water—and therefore roots—to penetrate what would otherwise be an impervious substrate. In sand, organic matter acts as a sponge, holding on to both water and nutrients that would otherwise quickly drain away.

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