Digging Up The Soil – Churning up the soil enables the roots of your new plants to penetrate more easily. It can be very difficult for your plants to penetrate ground that is very hard or very dry. Not necessary if using a No-Dig Design. I prefer a No-Dig design for the following reason. To build up a raised garden bed by say 12 inches. Work out the amount and weight of soil required to move, to fill up a bed thats 4 metres x 2 metres x 30cm. Then compare that to the weight and cost of moving straw and organic fertilizer. Thats roughly 4 ton of soil. Then times that by how many garden beds required for a rotation system talked about later. 4 beds equals 16 ton of soil that needs to be moved.
Pick Your Seeds/what to Grow – This can be a tricky part. Each type of plant has different needs. Many grow better in some climates than in others. Some grow better in different areas of the country than others.
Beans climbing Sep-Jan 10-12
Beetroot Jun-Feb 10-12
Carrots Jun-Mar 12-16
Choko Jul-Sep 18-20
Cucumbers Aug-Jan 8-12
Herbs Jun-mar 12-20
Marrows Sep-Jan 8-14
Melons Sep-Dec 14-16
Onions Feb-Jul 24-32
Spring Onions Jul-Apr 8-12
Parsnips Jun-May 18-20
Peas Feb-Aug 14-16
Pumpkins Aug-Nov 14-16
Radishes Jul-May 6-8
Shallots Feb-Jun 12-14
Spinach Feb-Jun 8-10
Squashes Aug-Nov 12-14
Swedes Jan-Mar 12-16
Sweet Corn Aug-Jan 12-16
Sweet Potato Sep-Nov 18-20
Tomatoes Aug-Nov 12-20
Turnips Jan-Apr 10-12
Three Sisters Gardens
These incorporate Corn, Squash and Beans to provide the 8 amino acids that the body cannot produce itself and a complete protein from vegetable matter. These should be grown before anything else.
Plant Nutrient Deficiencies-Identifying Plant Problems
Not all plant problems are caused by insects or diseases. Sometimes an unhealthy plant is suffering from a nutrient deficiency or even too much of any one nutrient. Plant nutrient deficiencies often manifest as foliage discoloration or distortion. The following chart outlines some possible problems. Unfortunately many problems have similar symptoms and sometimes it is a combination of problems.
Be sure you eliminate the obvious before you kill your plants with kindness.
Check first for signs of insects or disease.
Foliage discoloration and stunted plants can easily be caused by soil that is too wet and drains poorly or soil that is too compacted for good root growth.
Extreme cold or heat will slow plant growth and effect flowering and fruit set.
Too much fertilizer can result in salt injury. Your plants may look scorched or they may wilt, even when the soil is wet.
Plants require a mix of nutrients to remain healthy. Nutrients that are needed in relatively large amounts are called the macronutrients. Plant macronutrients include: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium. There are a handful of additional nutrients that are required for plant growth, but in much smaller quantities. These micro-nutrients include: boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
All of these nutrients are taken in through the roots. Water transfers the nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. So one requirement of sufficient plant nutrition is water. A second requirement is the appropriate soil pH for the plant being grown. Each plant prefers a specific pH range to be able to access the nutrients in the soil. Some plants are fussier than others, but if the soil pH is too acidic or alkaline, the plant will not be able to take in nutrients no matter how rich your soil may be.
Plant Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms
Symptoms: New leaves are distorted or hook shaped. The growing tip may die. Contributes to blossom end rot in tomatoes, tip burn of cabbage and brown/black heart of escarole & celery.
Sources: Any compound containing the word ‘calcium’. Also gypsum.
Notes: Not often a deficiency problem and too much will inhibit other nutrients.
Symptoms: Older leaves, generally at the bottom of the plant, will yellow. Remaining foliage is often light green. Stems may also yellow and may become spindly. Growth slows.
Sources: Any compound containing the words: ‘nitrate’, ‘ammonium’ or ‘urea’. Also manure.
Notes: Many forms of nitrogen are water soluble and wash away.
Symptoms: Slow growth and leaves turn pale yellow, sometimes just on the outer edges. New growth may be yellow with dark spots.
Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘magnesium’, such as Epson Salts.
Symptoms: Small leaves that may take on a reddish-purple tint. Leaf tips can look burnt and older leaves become almost black. Reduced fruit or seed production.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘phosphate’ or ‘bone’. Also greensand.
Notes: Very dependent on pH range.
Symptoms: Older leaves may look scorched around the edges and/or wilted. Interveinal chlorosis (yellowing between the leaf veins) develops.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘potassium’ or ‘potash’.
Symptoms: New growth turns pale yellow, older growth stays green. Stunts growth.
Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘sulfate’.
Notes: More prevalent in dry weather.
Symptoms: Poor stem and root growth. Terminal (end) buds may die. Witches brooms sometimes form.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘borax’ or ‘borate’.
Symptoms: Stunted growth. Leaves can become limp, curl, or drop. Seed stalks also become limp and bend over.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘copper’, ‘cupric’ or ‘cuprous’.
Symptoms: Growth slows. Younger leaves turn pale yellow, often starting between veins. May develop dark or dead spots. Leaves, shoots and fruit diminished in size. Failure to bloom.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘manganese’ or ‘manganous’
Symptoms: Older leaves yellow, remaining foliage turns light green. Leaves can become narrow and distorted.
Sources: Compounds containing the words ‘molybdate’ or ‘molybdic’.
Notes: Sometimes confused with nitrogen deficiency.
Symptoms: Yellowing between veins of new growth. Terminal (end) leaves may form a rosette.
Sources: Compounds containing the word ‘zinc’.
Notes: Can become limited in higher pH.
Nitrogen gas makes up about 75% of the gas in our atmosphere. It also happens to be one of the three most important nutrients for healthy plant growth.
The three most important plant nutrients are phosphorus for strong roots, potassium for fruit and flower development and nitrogen, which promotes lush growth – large leaves and thick stems. Nitrogen is essential for producing proteins and chlorophyll and it’s very important to give plants the right amount.
Too little nitrogen means plants get yellow leaves and stunted growth. In a lawn, the presence of clover is an indicator there’s too little nitrogen. The older leaves on Jerry’s Cinnamon bush are nice and green but the new leaves are yellow. This indicates an absence of chlorophyll, which is what plants use to manufacture the food which allows them to grow. Jerry says, “If I don’t address this problem the new leaves will become stunted.”
Correcting Nitrogen Deficiency
The organic gardeners’ holy trinity:
• Animal based manures – including things like chicken manure and blood and bone.
• Plant based additives – such as lawn clippings which, Jerry says, “Are the most abundant source of nitrogen in any garden.” Another great plant based additive is seaweed which contains small percentages of many nutrients necessary for growth.
• Garden compost – a gardener’s way of recycling all the nutrients in the garden.
Jerry says that he “could use chemical fertilisers, such as sulphate of ammonia, which is a very rich source of nitrogen or a mixed fertiliser, but I choose not to use artificial forms of fertiliser. They’re so rich they can burn earthworms.” Also, chemical fertilisers can add lots of nitrogen quickly which may be lost into the soil, water and atmosphere. Organic sources of nitrogen act gently and release the nutrients slowly.
To fix Cinnamon bush, mulch it with compost and feed it with seaweed, at the recommended rate.
• Mulching with compost adds nitrogen and other minerals whilst improving the soil. Jerry applies a four centimeter deep layer and prevents the compost from touching the base of plants.
• Foliage feeding with seaweed is a quick fix because plants take up the nourishment directly through their leaves. “In about a month this plant should be restored to good health with large, deep green leaves.”
Nitrogen problem with his sweetcorn – but this time there’s a surplus.
It’s quite common to have a nitrogen surplus in the garden. Having a lot of old poultry manure which was in big lumps, work it all in when feeding the sweetcorn. “Sweetcorn, bananas and citrus are really hungry crops and you’ve got to add extra nitrogen but I added too much to the sweetcorn and I’ve got rank growth.” That means the stems are long, thin and weak, and need to be staked and tied for stability.
Another negative in adding too much nitrogen is that pests like aphids, caterpillars and grasshoppers can smell it and are attracted by it.
Correcting Nitrogen Surplus
There’s nothing you can do when you add too much fertiliser. “You’ve just got to allow the plants to take up what they can. A little bit of nitrogen is good, too much is bad and you can never take nitrogen away when you’ve added too much.”
Nitrogen application is a juggling act. Key tips for striking the right balance include:
• Never apply nitrogen when plants are dormant because they won’t use it.
• Apply it little and often, so they use it all and none of it goes into waterways or up into the atmosphere.
• Make sure you apply it when the soil is moist. If you use seaweed fertilizer you can apply it as a foliage feed or water it in so that plants derive an immediate benefit from nitrogen.
• The result is a lush garden, full of strong, robust plants and very few pests and diseases.