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!

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!”

pH for Gardeners

To a gardener choosing which plants to grow, pH is an important consideration. While the pH of most soils falls somewhere between 3 and 9, the majority of common landscape plants prefer a pH slightly on the acidic side, say 6.2 to 6.8. However, some plants, such as blueberries and rhododendrons, prefer an even more acidic soil (with a pH in the 5 to 6 range) and other plants, green ash trees and clematis, for example, do best under more alkaline conditions, with a pH above 7.

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It’s Not Just the Zone

ShiawasseeNWR-MI_LAH_4482

We just returned from an intense two-week road trip to the Great Lakes. We visited thirteen states and one province and saw at least a glimpse of all five Great Lakes. You can see our route at right. It was a great trip. We took lots of photos, plus our drive across the prairies of North Dakota means that I’ve finally checked off my bucket list goal of visiting all 50 states! Continue reading “It’s Not Just the Zone”

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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Dealing with Compacted Soils

20160309_134005Last week I shared how to determine the make-up of your soil. This knowledge is helpful, but it doesn’t solve the problem of soil so hard, you can’t get a shovel into it. That’s what we’ll cover today.

Most often, soil that is rock-hard is mostly clay. Sand can get hard, too, but it’s much more forgiving. They don’t make pottery out of sand. So what do you do with your compacted clay? Here are some do’s and don’ts.

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Dealing with Compacted Soil

Rocks_Hwy50-BlueMesaReservoir-CO_LAH_8224-001My soil is rock hard! That’s a common complaint along Colorado’s Front Range. Our soils tend to extremes—we find that we’re either dealing with sand and decomposed gravel (the remains of glacial moraines), or clay. Then, to make things worse, soil becomes compacted over time. Roots can’t force their way through compacted soils, plus there’s no place for air or water. How do we turn compacted dirt into soil that nurtures life?

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