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Soil pH is Essential for a Healthy Garden

Soil pH is an important part of gardening. It measures fertility of the soil and health of your plants. So what does pH mean and how does it effect our plants. pH stands for “potenz hydrogen” or potential hydrogen.  It is the ability of plants to attract hydrogen ions in the soil. It’s measured on a scale from 0-14, 7 is the most neutral. To put it simpler terms pH measures the acidity or alkalinity in the soil thus effecting the health of what you grow from landscape trees and shrubs to flowers, vegetables and even your lawn.

Many flowers, vegetables, and grasses prefer a ph level between 6.0-6.5 Plants like azalea, rhododendrons, and most evergreens, blueberries and potatoes are the exceptions, they prefer a ph level slightly higher than 7. Most plants can easily absorb available minerals in the soil like phosphorous, nitrogen, iron and potassium when the pH levels range from 6.0-6.5. When the soil pH is lower than 6.5 minerals like zinc phosphorous can be easily absorbed by the roots of the plant. Whatever your pH levels are too high or too low you can make minor adjustments by adding soil amendments. Adding organic matter or compost can help to bring the soil to a neutral base which is beneficial when growing most vegetables and flowering plants.

Finding out the pH is easy and can done at anytime during the growing season, but Spring and Fall are ideal especially if you are planting a new garden in a new area of your yard. There are easy at home testing kits available at your local garden center. Knowing the soil pH can help you make the appropriate fertilizer adjustments. If you need a more I depth analysis consult your local extension agency.
Some effects of soil imbalance in the garden include, underdeveloped growth and limited fruiting. This also effects the plants ability to fight of pests and diseases.

A few easy solutions you do now to lower soil ph is add water-soluble, Coffee grounds over time to help reduce pH, just like manure or compost.  Add Aluminum Sulfate to the soil to keep your blue hydrangeas blue. To correct high acidic soil pH simply add dolimite lime, calcium magnesium carbonate to the soil a few weeks before you plant.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

April Gardening To Do List

bicolor tulipsApril showers will bring May flowers, but don’t let that stop you from getting out to the garden.

What you need to do this month in your garden.

1) Divide and transplant perennials, like iris, daylilies, shasta daisies and phlox.

2) Fertilize Trees and shrubs.

3) Prepare garden beds for spring planting.  Add compost and begin planting spinach, potatoes, onion sets and other cole crops.

4) Cover and protect tender plantings from frost and freeze with row covers.  

5) Begin in late April to harden off
your vegetable seedlings http://gardensonthego.com/hardening-off-seeds/  to prepare for planting outdoors.

6) Begin feeding and apply a systemic fungicide for roses to control blackspot when roses begin to show leaf growth.

7) Plant pansies and spring container gardens.http://gardensonthego.com/spring-into-gardening-with-containers-2/

8) Prune nonflowering shrubs and lightly shear evergreens.

9) Clean up perennial beds, cut down dead stalks and cut back ornamental grasses before they push growth.

10) Cut back butterfly bush.

A DIRTY GIRL'S GARDEN

Planting Lettuce In Containers Is So Easy

  Spring is coming…I promise.  Here in Pennsylvania we have had spring fever all month long, enjoying above normal temperatures.   Needless to say we have become very spoiled.  Now the rug is being pulled out from under us, snow is predicted for the first day of spring.  Regardless of the weather I went ahead a got a head start on my veggie garden. Even though my raised beds haven’t been prepped I couldn’t resist the urge to plant something edible outdoors. So I went ahead and planted lettuce in a container on my deck. Since lettuce can tolerate the cold temperatures I don’t have to worry about the temperature dipping near freezing tonight or the coming snow.

Planting lettuce in containers is so easy and perfect if you don’t have space for a traditional garden.  Plus it deters critters form feasting on your bounty if plants are close to home. I planted a mesclun mix, often referred to as cut and come again lettuce, this mix consists of red sails, mizuna and oak leaf varieties.  The flavors range from mild to slightly bitter.  They are easy to grow and simple to harvest. 

  To plant lettuce in a container you will need: 

10 -12″ pot, a bowl works well, but not necessary.  

Organic potting mix 32 quart bag 

1 pack of 6 starter plants, if you want to grow organic variety check label.  

1.  Fill pot with soil. 

2. Remove starter plants from pack and place in pot.  You don’t need to leave a lot of space between plants, 1-2″ is sufficient.

3. Water in plants.  Water when soil dries.  Consistency is key when watering lettuce.  Be Careful not to over water or under water your plants. This will lead to bitter tasting lettuce.

4. Fertilizing.  Lettuce love to grow in a nutrient rich composted soil.  Using a high quality organic bagged potting soil containing Echto and Endo Mycorrhizae is a good start.  You can add an organic fertilizer once plants are established.  Use a slow release fertilizer NPK 5-7-3.

5.  When do I Harvest? In about 2weeks you’ll be able to cut some fresh greens for your salad.
I hope you will try growing lettuce in containers. It is the perfect start for the beginner gardener and a great way to teach your kids how much fun it is to grow what you eat!  Nothing beats the taste of home grown veggies!