Lee of Goldenrod Gardens has been working with me for several years, providing amazing plants for my wedding work. In this video she shares in-depth about amending soil, nutrients and how she plants snapdragons!
We're back and we're talking about what this field used to be and the goal for soil amendments and texture of the soil that we're working with and all those kinds of things. So tell us a little bit about your field.
We're south facing here, which is an important thing, if you're growing at a high altitude.
OK. Now, why is that?
You need to be where the sun is going to hit you and it's going to be consistently warm temperature. And if it's frigid-- for example, we're going to try and overwinter these snapdragons.
You want to be south facing, because that's where the light is. Throughout the winter it drops. And this whole area, this whole field was-- they were Christmas trees. So they were Fraser firs. They were farmed here and they have a short crop season, fir tree. So I would say maybe max for this area was 10 years.
The soil's wonderful. It is a loamy, sandy mix. It's very well-drained in most part.
Yeah, there's no-- like, it's not that tight compact clay that you can get sometimes.
And low on the rocks too, which is a dream up here. A lot of times you're in rocks, which I use to my advantage. I say they're good for drainage and they have a lot of minerals in them. You just have to release them.
But this area has also not been overfarmed. So it doesn't have a lot of weeds, see. The weeds that are here--
So overfarm, that term means there's just been-- every year, there's been a lot of different--
Crop after crop.
And in some places people do a crop after crop. And they'll start and then they'll let it go to seed. And so the soil ends up being, sometimes--
Full of all of these other seeds.
Weed seeds, yes. And it's also been leached of its nutrients. You know, if you're gardening in a certain area or if you're farm in a new field that's never been farmed, you will have the most amazing stuff the first year.
But after that year, that's when you really have to deal with what's going on in the soil. So what's going on here is we're on the bottom slope of my field. There is a natural-- and I think I've noticed this with a lot of areas, when you get to a lower area, is acidity.
Acidity is pretty much how the whole like eastern coast is, acidic soil.
You know, if there's been a woodland or a swamp, there's acidity. It is what happens when plants break down and decompose. So that's, you know, peat, peat bogs. And they are what they are, because they're so acidic.
There is a little bit of an issue here of acidity in this low area. And it's like it seeps down. And you can amend that with lime. And that's what's already been doing to this soil.
Before we add the good stuff, the other extras, I've already limed this area, because I noticed the acidity.
Yeah. And you didn't really need to do any amendments to the texture of the soil, because it was that nice kind of ideal condition.
Perfect. So we dealt with texture. And then, we know that we're a little bit acid. So we're dealing with the pH. And now, we're going to look at the actual nutrients that are in the soil.
Yes, which you have N, P, and K, are our main nutrients. Nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. When you're growing flowers you need them all. But you don't need as much nitrogen as you would need as if you're growing a bunch of lettuce.
You absolutely need a good bit of phosphorus.
OK. So how does the nitrogen hinder the flower production and how does the phosphorus aid?
Nitrogen causes leafy growth.
OK, but no blooms.
They all work together. You need the nitrogen, but if you have an overabundance of nitrogen, you're going to have leggy, weaker stems.
Well, that's what's happening with my cosmos right now. Like, I have lots of leaf, leaf, leaf, but I'm not having the growth.
Yeah, buds. Yeah.
And it happens.
You overfeed them with that.
This area is known for being low in phosphorus.
And so I'd like to touch on that. It can be noticeable, to the point where there is a purple tinge on leaves if they are deficient of it. They're not only like stunted and not as flowery, but their leaves are purple. It's not supposed to be that way. Another tricky thing about phosphorus is it is immobile in the soil.
So you can't just sprinkle it around and think that you're going to correct it.
You really have to like work it in.
And bring it in. Even my professor at school said, just, you got to dig a hole and stick it in.
That's an important thing to remember.
Calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They're all very important roles, but phosphorous seems to be one of the things that's a little bit harder.
Another one I'll touch on while we're here and there's sunflowers, I can grow sunflowers here right now this season, but next year, if I grow sunflowers here, I'll have to boron.
Sunflowers don't form if there is a boron--
And they kind of like eat it all. Like this crop will eat it all up. And so will the kale, collards, all of that. And if you're in the desert, you're good on boron. It happens where you are getting a lot of water. It just runs through. And even if you over boron, it'll work itself out very quickly, with even a hose.
It's kind of like vitamin B in your body. You get rid of what you don't need.
It goes away.
So we're going to add the basics today.
We're going to start with pal-- and this is all organic.
So it makes it a little bit more difficult, but it makes it a lot easier to work with maybe a little bit stinky sometimes.
We're going to do pelletized chicken manure.
Which is a good balance N, P, K and calcium.
They don't list their micronutrients on there, except for the calcium. But I consider calcium very important. And I buy it in a pellet.
It's a lot easier to do than nonpelletized chicken manure
I've done both. I recommend this. And what we're going to do-- you're going to help me in your white shirt-- is one of these buckets-- this bucket full this will fill and amend a good 50-foot row.
Oh, wow. OK. 50 feet by how deep? Four?
Yep. It depends. You don't want to over beef, but since this, for me-- this did have Christmas trees in it, I do want to kind of enrich it, because there will always be flowers and vegetables here. And I think if you start-- this is the first year on this field for me. And you want the sweetest soil you can have. And this is a good way to start it.
So voila. We have our pelletized chicken manure. And then, we have our ever expensive, and I must tell you, bone meal.
This is the organic source, one of them, the main one, for phosphorous.
It's slow release, but it is organic. This little baby costs, you know, $16 to $20.
Whereas two and a half buckets of these, like, maybe total $11.
But it's worth it. You have to have it for flowers.
Yeah. But the ratio of what you really need of bone meal to chicken manure, is the same? Different?
I burn through this.
You burn through it?
If it's deficient, you kind of have to really add to it.
But it's not mobile, like boron, so it's not going to wash out. Once you get it in there, it's going to stabilize it. And there are actually cover crops that will help fix it.
Buckwheat fixes phosphorous.
OK, so the bone mean functions as-- you said it stabilizes--
Well, it stabilizes in the soil, but what it does is it creates strong stems.
Strong stems, big flowers, and just a healthier plant. It also affects the root growth.
And I can get into potassium, but these are the picky ones for flower growing. If you have a burn pile and this is potash is what it's called, that's where you grow the best stuff. Grow it in the burn pile, because it's phosphorous, calcium, everything.
Favorite other little amendments. And one Epsoma. It's a company called Epsoma.
I think I just bought something from them.
They grow the tones. So you get flower-tone, bold-tone, holly-tone, citrus-tone.
You can get phosphorous. But this is flower-tone.
It has the major nutrients in it. It's not just N, P, K. It's the list of all the elements.
Little ones, uh huh.
It also has beneficial mycorrhizae geared towards what you're growing which is the fungus that is good in the soil for flowers or citrus.
So it's like probiotics for plants.
So I have flower-tone. And then, I have-- well, we're going to call this azomite. It's a rare earth mineral.
It is like the periodic table of elements, but just in just tiny, tiny doses. And so it's just a full amendment for the whole of the soil.
OK. They've decided that there are certain things that the plants have to have to live. Doesn't mean that they're not going to benefit from other things in the periodic table.
And this is one of the things that includes everything.
There's even gold in it.
Yeah. She's a big fan of this, the azomite.
And I've actually done tests, like just field test of like kale side by side, poblano peppers side by side, zinnias side by side, and it is so amazing. Oh, and dahlias. They're so much stronger and so much happier of they have a good dose of the azomite in them.
I recommend it.
It's soil building. You donate a lot.
So that's what we're going to do. We're going to add stuff.
It's likes baking a cake.
So if we're trying to figure out, like maybe I have a space that's not as big as this space, like maybe I can write it down, but like the ratios of like how many scoops of this we need per square foot and those kinds of things, what you would recommend?
I would say, if you had a nice plot, a four by four plot, I would add-- if you really want to make it really happy, I would add about maybe five pounds of the chicken manure.
OK. So you're like top dressing. And then, you're going to like and bake the cake.
Till it in. Turn it in. So you'll do, if it's new soil and you have just a little test plot, I would do five pounds of the chicken manure, a good cup of the bone meal, a half a cup of azomite. And with the flower-tone, you can do, maybe a cup dressing, two cups dressing. It depends on your soil, if it needs more building. Or you can just put a little sprinkle in each hole and mix it as you plant.
And that's where I like it too, is when I'm planting like plants that are a little bit bigger and I'm having to dig a bigger hole and not just like a finger. I can kind of throw a little handful in there too, mix it around, and then get my plant in there. You just don't want it to-- if you're using something like that, you just don't want to nuke it on top. You need to mix it in.
Otherwise it could burn. It could get really happy and suck it all up at once and just go--
Yeah. That happened to me this year, whenever I transplanted everything. All my stuff, I think I just like overfed it and burned.
Yeah. You have to be careful.
And temperature has definitely. But mixing it in. I know it's easy to kind of get over eager. I would go with like the amounts that they recommend first.
And then, if you need to add a little side dressing, you can go back later.
Sure. Now, are there any of these things that if you overdid it, it would be like, bad news?
Well, I think I killed a hydrangea this spring, because of the chicken manure.
It was thirsty and I gave it lime and it said. Yay, I needed lime.
I really needed that and then it was like I'll take way too many things.
And then, I put some chicken manure around it and it said uh. And it was one out of six. So maybe it just was on its way out. But nitrogen will burn faster than anything, because if it's a good source of nitrogen, or even a mediocre source, it will suck it up so quickly it will cook it. I think that nitrogen is probably going to be your biggest killer.
Yeah and nitrogen plus lime, because lime helps you absorb all of your nutrients, little deadly combo.
So you got to be careful.
OK. Perfect. Let's do it. Yeah.
Very good. OK.
It's a good even coating. That's like my magic booster. It's like baking soda.
Oh, yeah. It is. I could see that.
Whereas this is like the eggs, because it's the chicken.
We're going to go all in on the baking analogy.
So this was the flower-tone. We just did one little cup of this.
Little light dusting about every, what, like eight feet per cup?
Is what we're doing.
Yeah. And this is one of those things that you can always go back midseason, and a little bit more.
And top dress. It's great for that.
Because it'll rain and go down in. So top dressing works for this.
And heavy feeders, I would say, like sunflowers, well, if they're fast sunflowers you don't need it. You just have to feed the stew out of them to begin with, because you're not going to have time. But dahlias, any type of perennial, and I would say zinnias as well. It's a good thing to go ahead and add some midseason, just to give it a little extra boost to get you through the first frost or until you're tired of cutting them.
Which who knows which comes first?
Whichever comes first.
And this is bone meal. And I'm going to go ahead and say that, just observing like this winter, this lower part of the field was-- I saw purple, weeds. So we don't have a ton of bone meal right now, but I'm going to focus my dosage down here, because this is where I think it needs it more.
The part where we're going to plant.
However, you know, the chicken manure did have phosphorus in it. But this is a good strong extra source.
And it's really dusty so keep it close, close to the soil, so you don't lose any, because it's expensive too.
Yeah. That's what I didn't do right with the plant-tone at first. I was holding it too high.
Which just, I don't know which one of those nutrients tends to go through the air fastest, but it's probably the one that I really need.
If you're not having to certify organically, you can use triple phosphate.
But it is strong. And so you have to do it in really low doses. But if you're in a situation--
Instead of bone meal?
Instead of bone meal.
Because it's cheaper?
It is cheaper.
Or what are the pros?
It is a lot cheaper and it happens a lot faster.
It's strong. Another organic source though is greensand.
It would take pallets of greensand for me to do what I needed to do here, because of the way our phosphorus is. All regions are different.
OK. What is greensand?
Greensand is a mined sand. It's a mined earth.
As opposed to playbox sand.
OK. Got it.
It's literally has a green tinge. And like this comes from, basically, the same place that the chicken manure comes from. And it comes from processing.
They're bones. It's bone meal. They're ground down. Greensand is a mined element. And it just depends on where you are and what you have access too. If you need greensand and you're in the southeast, you're going to pay five times--
A lot of money, because it's tons--
--on the shipping.
So you have to think about your local sources of what you can do to amend your soil too. And I think that's an important thing to consider.
Would the extension office, like the local extension office be a good resource for connecting you with those different places and sources to get them?
Absolutely. Yes. And like our local extension agency has a alternative farming adviser. And he helps with people that are certifying organically, or like to use organic, even if they're not interested in certifying.
And then, there's the regular office. They're both wonderful, ours are. But they both have wonderful resources and classes to help you learn about your region. And even they--
Yeah, I think they're such a great resource.
And they usually know the people in your area who supply the things that you need.
So go to them.
They even do the garden masters.
Yeah. Master Gardeners.
Master Gardeners, that's your local--
Great resource as well. Definitely. OK. We got it all?
Yeah. Well, we're going to add a little azomite, just add it. And then, David's going to come through and till it. And we're going to--
What do we do if we don't have a David?
You get a little tiller, or-- I did not bring my-- you do it by hand.
By hand. I have one of those little like, it looks like a lawnmower-- well, I have the little Mantis. And then, I also have this little thing that looks like one of those push lawnmowers. There's just like all the little like tines, which works for my little boxes that I have.
I'd recommend the Mantis.
I probably would break my boxes with the Mantis.
No. I use it in my little boxes.
But the Mantis is awesome.
Yeah, very, versatile. And they're not too hard to, like, manage. Once you get like the real big ones, like I can't manage those. But I can manage a Mantis.
Yes. And it does a lot of work. I mean, I could go back and forth with my Mantis. It is, I think, more efficient than a rear tine tiller sometimes. The rear tine tillers somewhat leave gaps. They're slow. With the Mantis, I can actually like hoe with it--
Really get it in there.
--and pull the bed together, I can do all work with it. It's a little thing. And it's easy. But then, there's a tiller on a tractor.
This is a simple quick system to set your lines, if you are planting or laying horizontal netting. We're using hoops that have been-- they're conduit. They've been bent with a hoop bender.
This is rebar.
These, do you buy these bent?
You have to buy this at Lowe's straight and then you bend it on a hoop bender.
Which you can purchase through Johnny's Seeds.
They actually have several sizes.
You can do a smaller one, which will bend up to, I think, an inch thick. But they also have some that will bend conduit for caterpillar tunnels.
These are made for low tunnels, or bent for low tunnels. Caterpillar tunnels are for the kind that you can walk through.
And I just don't do that type of large scale. If I were to set up a cover over this area, I like low profile, because there are winter winds. I think the caterpillars are great for, possibly, that if you have a good anchor. But I'm going for hard core winter protection.
But what we're doing today with the snapdragon planting is using this as multifunction, adjustable, holding for our horizontal netting for our snapdragons. Because our snapdragons, if they fall over, they don't fall back up.
And if they fall over, they do this. And you just get no fun.
Yeah. I didn't stake mine. That's what happened, to all of them. So I just pulled them all out yesterday.
But they went a long time.
They did. Yeah, they did.
And those were like the rejects that you got too, which is awesome.
Yeah, they went.
I had four cuttings, four major cuttings out of the crop I put in.
So with Chantilly snaps, it's my first time to have the patience to go through that.
Yeah. Little seeds.
I was excited.
Yeah. OK. So we bent our rebar with our--
No, no, no. Our conduit.
This is conduit.
It's roughly four feet wide now. This--
From Johnny's Seeds.
Johnny's Seeds. This is rebar. This kind of stake with the arrow in it is generally used for electric fencing, like, just pop-up quick electric fencing. But I use this in the field. Lowe's, yes. You get these at Lowe's. We've already preset 18-inch shorter pieces of rebar that were going to slide the conduit onto.
As your anchor.
These longer pieces of rebar in this string, I've used in this field repetitively since April. This is how I mark my lines and keep my bed widths--
Consistent and neat and tidy.
Consistent and straight.
Which is great, because whenever you're organized and everything's straight going in, like you can really pack the plants and make the most of the ground that you do have to work with.
OK. So we're laying this on. We're going to make it tight. You're going to hook-- just lay your ends on the corners of the rebar. And David's going to help you and make them tight. Can you get that corner? Of course, it's the broken one. The tighter the better with this stuff I've learned. It's plastic. So if it's not tight, it tends to get a little squirrely very quickly.
Nice and tight.
And what'd you tell me this was? This is the--
This is horizontal netting.
Horizontal netting, as opposed to the-- or no. Is this vertical?
This has been amended. This was vertical netting. It was 10 feet high and I cut it and I cut it.
I think with the horizontal netting that you can purchase from Johnny's, it's more of a square grid. But I had, a good 100 feet of this. So I cut it.
Using what we have.
And we're going to just lower-- it's good and tight. Yay. We're going to use this as our planting grid.
So this kind of does double duty. We're going to take our snapdragons--
So we just want to put it right down on the ground.
On the ground. We're going to put our snaps in. And then, once our snaps are in, we're going to put our hoops on, and then raise this netting up. And as they grow, we can raise them up a little bit more to hold their height.
OK. Perfect. So you just raise it as the plants are growing?
With the hoops too, I use the hoops. I've noticed-- this is the first time I've really put this out. If you have a big wind in the spring, if you had just this, it would be goodbye netting. Now this, actually, it kind of like moved.
But it didn't fly away. What I did later in the season is I took the hoops out, just so I could get in and out. And I had this up. And for security, I zip tied to make sure it was tight and didn't get knocked out of place. And that helped it stay. But I hit a point with the hoops being here--
We're going to overwinter these snapdragons. So this not only provides horizontal support, it's also going to provide a cage for either greenhouse plastic or [INAUDIBLE] or growing fabric, which just gives it frost protection. So that's what we do. And then, that's when you use all your extra rocks to weigh down the edges. Save the big ones for the end.
Random bricks left over from something. Yeah, OK. Perfect. We're going to put these in there, tuck them in?
Tuck the little plants in.
Specialty Cut Flowers book is a heavy handed book for me. And I highly recommend it for anybody that's seriously trying to grow--
And he wrote that book? Is that what you're saying?
Yes. He and another lady, and I can't remember her name right now, and she's wonderful to, but his books are-- I can't do without them.
His perennial book and his professional cut flower, specialty professional cut flower.
But the recommended spacing-- and it's a group effort, by the way. They used input from flower growers across the country and their experiences and they have them in notes. And they definitely rely on having it as a group--
Group effort. Great.
Because we can't all-- I mean, you can't--
Can't all know everything. That is for sure.
You can't test certain things in Athens, Georgia and expect them to grow in Spokane, Washington.
So I do plant in rainbows. It helps me organize mentally and it also helps me when I'm cutting large groups of things. So we're starting with purple then go in to velvet and then red and bronze, salmon, et cetera.
These are going to be roughly eight inches apart. And we're just going to use the grids. So we're going to do this y'all. And they're kind of eight inches apart, but kind of not. There might be some losses, but we're going to lay them out that way. I kind of do this a little ahead of time. And then, you can kind of throw your little babies in there. I try to get all of one color done first. And these look terrible right now. But oh my gosh, I can't wait til we come back in a week or two.
Yeah. They'll take off.
And so we're just going to lay them down.
Oh, I meant to ask you, like temperature and weather. Like when is the ideal time? Like if we had to cancel earlier because it was too wet to do this, like what would be the best way so that the plans aren't shocked? Like if you're looking at your calendar for the week and you're trying to pick the best case scenario, what's ideal?
So with this field, since we don't have the direct, like, water hose water source, it all has to be brought up from the spring down below, you plant it right before a few days of rain.
And it's going to be naturally--
Taken care of.
Yes. That's important, getting things watered in.
So would you say like the first week is like really, really crucial for like the water?
For them being set in?
Yes, I would say the first week, even if it's really dry-- I can't speak for a desert region. But if you're an area like this where we've had very dry periods, but when we do get rain we'll get a good inch or too, you have to give it a week, 10 days. And those are the times if I don't have access with a hose--
I'm just going to keep making circles.
If I can't do a hose, I fill up my backpack sprayer with water. And I go along and I just take off the spray nozzle. And if I can give it just a localized squirt of water--
That helps a lot?
Every other day, if I can get it through that first 10 days, it's usually golden.
After that, I'm just about trying to compete with the weeds, because the weeds don't seem to mind the fact that there's no rain.
I know. That's always funny how that happens, isn't it?
But if you're really doing a lot of planting and don't have that kind of access to water and you don't have the time to go in and do the hand watering, time it before a big rain. And they'll get watered in and your likelihood of survival is going to be good.
I was going to say, is there like a survival rate that you typically see whenever you're planting? Like out of everything that we do today, like will you lose a few of these little babies along the way?
What's normal to lose?
I have one of those, in my head, from landscaping for many years, which I usually beat it on landscaping. My percentage is really low on landscaping. But I think an average that you should consider is 15%.
Yeah. I think he should go for 85% survival rate. That's a good number. You know, if you're doing sunflowers, these pro cuts, they're geared towards stick it in the ground, they'll be done in less than two months. That should be like a 95% survival rate. But I think with smaller, less vigorous plants, 85 is good, because sometimes, as we talked about with like the marigolds being bad seeds, sometimes you'll just get little genetic glitches.
And you want to pull them out and you don't want to keep them around. And so I would say that factors into that percentage as well.