Don’t Salt the Soil!—Part 2

landscape of salt-resistant plants
A landscape of salt-resistant plants, including junipers, bearberry, Colorado blue spruce, aspen, and Japanese barberry

Last month I described a number of ways that salt can creep into our garden soil. Here are a couple more, plus what you can do about it.

Continue reading “Don’t Salt the Soil!—Part 2”

Don’t Salt the Soil!

YampaRiverBotanicPark-CO_LAH_6919

We all know that it’s a bad idea to pour salt on the ground in our gardens. After all, that’s what invading armies did—they salted the ground, effectively sterilizing it and therefore starving the population. Even the ubiquitous recipe for “Homemade All-Natural Weed Killer”—you know, the one with salt, vinegar, and Dawn detergent (and since when is Dawn “all natural”?)—warn against using the concoction where you want other plants to grow. Salt in the soil is bad news for gardeners.

Yes, you wouldn’t intentionally spread rock salt on your dirt, but that’s only one way to end up with soil too salty to support plants. There are other, more insidious ways to salt your soil. Continue reading “Don’t Salt the Soil!”

Garden Advice: Using Salt in the Garden

no saltOne of my perverse pleasures is perusing Pintrest to find bad garden advice. There’s certainly no lack of misinformation on the web, and Pintrest seems to collect it all. Most advice is simply a waste of time and money—sprinkling Epsom salts on your plants, spraying weeds with vinegar, pouring beer on your lawn. They don’t help, but they won’t kill your plants either. However, yesterday I came across a recommendation that will seriously damage your garden. I was so horrified that I immediately sat down to write this post.

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New Advice on Soil Amendments

compost-in-bags-no-label-lowes-cs_lah_5090-1You’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?

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Take the Test!

The sun is shining, the lawn is turning green, and the birds are chirping. In fact, it’s a balmy spring day. Surely there must be something you can do to start your veggie garden! As a matter of fact, there is, but it doesn’t involve a single seed.

If you’re like most gardeners, you’ve never had your soil tested. Every year you dutifully spread a layer of compost and/or manure over your garden, dig it in, and plant. After all, that’s what every book, article, and website tells you to do. You might even add some fertilizer, just to be on the safe side. But if you’ve never had a soil test, you’re flying blind.

Continue reading “Take the Test!”