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Build a Healthy Garden Soil!

Build A Healthy Garden Soil

Build a Healthy Garden Soil

Welcome to our Tuesday in the Garden Blog Hop!

This week our Gardening group is focusing our topics on Garden tips and tricks. We all have a wealth of gardening experience to share with you. Please visit each blog to get the full value of this weeks topic!

Do you remember what you grew last year? What grew well? What struggled? Do you know why? One thing you can count on. If your soil is lacking nutrients or the ph is wrong, your crops will show signs of stress. The soil in your garden is your foundation for success in happy gardening!

Our story: We moved into our seven acre place with a huge, weedy, overgrown, abandoned, garden plot. The kids and I spent a LOT of years fighting our soil in that plot to grow good veggies. We had no idea how much our garden crops were suffering from our depleted, heavy clay soil! And how happy the weeds and bugs were because of the terrific imbalances in our soil!

Back in those days, I resorted to chemical warfare to fertilize and kill off pesky bugs. I didn’t realize the garden soil was a big reason I had so many bugs and weeds in the first place. I didn’t understand the food web, or gardening, much at all. It never occurred to me I was actually causing more work in the garden by all my chemical quick fixes. After years of frustration we tried organic gardening. Never going back to my old ways. Ever!!

Our advice is Garden Organically. Start with a Good garden Location, Put in raised garden beds and fill them with healthy soil.

Benefits of a healthy garden soil:

A healthy garden soil grows strong plants capable of withstanding disease and pests. The kids and I fought the bugs, weeds and poor soil year after year. We mostly lost those battle. After a good start every spring, the bugs and weeds moved in mid summer and proclaimed victory. We did grow some good veggies. But the work about ruined us all on gardening. In fact, we went several years with no garden at all. I just couldn’t face it!

If I had only realized then what we are learning now! Organic gardening heals a garden by building soils. Everything in the garden benefits from a good soil foundation. (even if you have to import it like we finally did!)Our Garden 2015

Organic Gardening is a huge Part of the solution:

Once Dave determined to grow our food organically, he had to look at the garden from an entirely new angle. No more running to the store with the latest bottle of miracle Gro or Ortho products for whatever ailed our plants. No more Round up around every perimeter, our driveway and messy garden area! No more Casseron in the flower beds. No more Crossbow on our masses of blackberries. Yes to Pollinators, healthy soil and compost! And blackberries 🙂

Garden Produce 2015

Garden veggies for juice. 2015

Dave put in his raised beds, and filled them with good quality soil. He installed an automatic watering system to reduce his work and save water (worked fantastically!) He is learning about properly amending his soil organically. Our plants are amazingly healthy now.

A garden is built from the soil up!

I encourage you to study your soil. Have it tested, and learn what it needs to grow healthy produce and flowers. Plants can withstand and protect themselves against pests and diseases much better if they are healthy.

We make our own compost now. (Composting is a huge subject that I introduce in this post). Healthy compost without pest attracting food stuffs. We save our egg shells, compostable plant materials and coffee grounds. We have learned not to save as many coffee grounds as we used to though. Read on!

Last year we had a mystery problem in our outdoor pepper raised beds. Cautionary Tale!

Dave almost killed one raised bed of his peppers with kindness in 2015. Coffee grounds are good for plants, right? Well he amended his outdoor raised beds garden soil with LOTS of coffee grounds(we drink a LOT of coffee). Then he lovingly transplanted his junior peppers out there…

His beautiful pepper plants that he grew from seed and babied in his greenhouse. They had flourishing good growth in their one gallon pots in the greenhouse. They went to an absolute full stop when he put them out in the new raised beds. With the beautiful soil he bought for that bed…

And all those coffee grounds! The pepper leaves went yellow… He was really sad and confused. They went limp! leaves curled and the plants almost died.  They were tiny compared to the peppers of the same age in the neighboring bed. Finally, the stressed pepper plants overcame that Terrifically acidic PH soil. They adjusted to their new, less than ideal dirt and grew in spite of it! (I think he wised up and added lime into the soil to offset the acidity).

Garden Peppers

These peppers were all the same age, planted into the garden at the same time. Notice the pepper bed in the foreground. Sickly, stunted and yellowed. The peppers in the background, next bed over, were started at the same time. So much bigger and healthier!

We found out here, that coffee grounds should never be put raw into the soil as an amendment. They are indeed WAY too acidic. They make a great component of compost at about 10 percent volume to yard waste, though. So, learn from our mistake. Coffee needs to be treated with caution as a soil amendment! it’s too acidic in its raw state, even for acid loving plants!

Amend your Garden Soil. Carefully!  Know your soil. Know your soil PH. Know your crop Needs!

This year, Dave amended his strawberry plant garden soil; and his strawberry containers and towers with old chicken manure. They are growing by leaps and bounds! He is pleased. Strawberries are very heavy feeders. High nitrogen Chicken manure is a perfect soil amendment for them.

Strawberry Tower

Strawberry Tower full of healthy young strawberries!

Soil Testing is the best way to know what nutrients and PH your soil has.  The cheap over the counter soil test kits are not recommended. They are not accurate. Click the link to find a local Cooperative Extension Service to have your soil tested. Cooperative extension services shouldn’t charge you and these local agencies are great information resources for you! They usually have master gardeners to help you with local gardening tips. They are full of knowledge and they have lots of classes!

Garden Peppers

Even months later, this bed is way ahead of its sibling. The overdose of coffee grounds was a BAD idea!

On a more practical level, USE YOUR EYES! Your crops will tell you if they are happy.

Happy crops are vibrant, strong, good producers and healthy. When a crop, like Dave’s peppers, are put in the wrong soil, they expend huge amount of energy just trying to survive. His peppers didn’t grow for over a month! He lost that entire month of the growing season while those poor peppers worked their hearts out trying to adjust to that overly acidic soil. Amazingly, they did finally turn the corner. He did get a lovely crop of peppers. But it was a very near thing and they were very late.

Garden Peppers By

This is one trip out to the garden. Dave brought in this enormous basket of gorgeous peppers last summer! Better late than never!

We know all the trials and tribulations of growing crops in poor quality, heavy clay. We just didn’t expect any problems within the raised beds. That dirt is purchased top soil! It was a good learning experience. Even good dirt, can be bad dirt for a certain crop, if improperly amended.

Maybe you have perfect gardening soil. I certainly hope so! And I’m very jealous! Beautiful loamy soil full of humus and nutrients is to be coveted. And protected!

All garden soils deplete after years of intensive gardening so Amend your soil!

Compost, well-rotted manures, crushed egg shells, coffee and other amendments need to be added periodically according to your garden soil and crop needs to keep it in good shape.  Then your garden soil can produce nourishing vegetables (and pretty flowers) with the best  results. Don’t wait until you have problems. I encourage you to study your soil and crops a bit. Find out what you need to do to build your particular garden soil. Your local Cooperative extension service, or a good local nursery, is a great place to get gardening help, specific to your area, if you need it. A good soil foundation is so important to your continued gardening success! Happy Gardening!Tuesdays In The Garden Blog Hop

Here are some posts from Gardner Friends who have lots of other useful Gardening Tips! Click the links below the pictures to go visit these great blogs!



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Building A Healthy Garden Soil-Pin Image

A healthy garden soil grows strong plants capable of withstanding disease and pests. Organic gardening heals a garden by building soils. Everything in the garden benefits from a good soil foundation.

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A healthy garden soil grows strong plants capable of withstanding disease and pests. Organic gardening heals a garden by building soils. Everything in the garden benefits from a good soil foundation.

Angie Rose

Saturday 9th of April 2016

I loved reading your story! It’s amazing how you turned nothing into something. I think we all make those mistakes you talked about when we start gardening. Your vegetables look absolutely gorgeous! I use new compost in my veggie garden every year, and add eggshells when I plant tomatoes. Some people around me use chemicals on their lawns, and it really bums me out. I see the amount of beneficial bugs decrease in my area. I try to counteract this by adding ladybugs and others back into my garden. Making a safe environment where they can flourish with no chemicals is always my goal. I’ve turned to natural oils like neem to try and take care of my aphid problem. It’s worked great! Thank you for adding that cautionary tale, I actually had no idea! I have never had my soil tested, but now that I have read your helpful article, I definitely will! My problem here in New England is our rocky soil. I try to stick to gardening in raised beds as much as possible. All the giant rocks can make planting really difficult. Thanks for sharing all this really helpful info!


Saturday 9th of April 2016

Thanks Angie, It's so fun to share our experiences with other gardeners and learn from each other. I love the organic way of life. Our garden is healing and happy. We love gardening this way!

Michelle Marine

Friday 8th of April 2016

Diane, this is such a great post!! I love your garden stories and your pictures and information are fabulous. I want to start adding in raised beds this year! Need to get on that this weekend. Awesome post!


Friday 8th of April 2016

Thank you Michelle, I REALLY hope you try raised beds! We just went out and weeded them in an hour. Done! ready to plant. So nice! We are planting companion plants in them. I'm going to make Dave read your post on companion plants. Love the idea!


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

Yes to soil! It's so good to have another testimony to how organic has healed your property. :)


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

Hi Jami, Organic gardening has been an ongoing process of learning for us. We are starting to really see the benefits of organic soil. Win for our crops and flowers. Win for our health. Win for the ecosystem and pollinators. Love that!


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

These are great tips! We also have terrible clay soil, so we resorted to importing soil for our raised beds and they have done great. We usually add compost each year and a little organic fertilizer and they do great.

We use coffee ground around our blueberries but we don't drink coffee so I only have coffee grounds once every month or so when we have family visit that drinks coffee. Maybe I need to start mixing it with a little compost to be on the safe side.


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

Hi Shelly, I recently read a comment from an experienced gardener. She said Amend heavy clay soil by digging it out and throwing it in the woods! I completely agree! We love our imported soil in our raised beds(when we don't ruin it with too many coffee grounds). Dave and I go through a LOT of coffee. Just the two of us will fill a five gallon bucket in just coffee grounds in a month! Lol, good thing coffee is good for us. Not so good for directly in pepper beds :)


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

I did not know it was possible to overdoes on coffee :) Good to know though. We just started composting a few years ago and have so much to learn. Who knew a pile of "garbage" could be so much fun!


Tuesday 5th of April 2016

Hi Pam, We didn't know either until we had our pepper problems! Soil amending is a bit more complex than we had thought :)