Do-It-Yourself Soil Tests

soil.jpgOne of the most important things you can do for your organic garden is to learn about your soil. This can help you to make your soil environment the best it can be for your plants. I found some great information in a post by Colleen Vanderlinden of About.com. Here is some of what she had to say:

Learning as much as you can about your soil will help you decide what needs to be done to make it ideal for the plants you want to grow. If you can learn about your soil’s texture, composition, drainage, acidity, and mineral density, you will avoid, up front, the disappointing results that can occur when your soil is unsuitable for your dream garden.

Soil Test #1: The Squeeze Test

One of the most basic characteristics of soil is its composition. In general, soils are classified as clay soils, sandy soils, or loamy soils. Clay is nutrient rich, but slow draining. Sand is quick draining, but has trouble retaining nutrients and moisture. Loam is generally considered to be ideal soil because it retains moisture and nutrients but doesn’t stay soggy.

To determine your soil type, take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil from your garden, and give it a firm squeeze. Then, open your hand. One of three things will happen:

  1. It will hold its shape, and when you give it a light poke, it crumbles. Lucky you—this means you have luxurious loam!
  2. It will hold its shape, and, when poked, sits stubbornly in your hand. This means you have clay soil.
  3. It will fall apart as soon as you open your hand. This means you have sandy soil.

Now that you know what type of soil you have, you can work on improving it.

By Colleen Vanderlinden, About.com

For more of Colleen’s great advice and the rest of her post, please visit her here. She walks you through three more tests that you can do to make your soil be the best it can be. When growing an organic garden, you want as many things in your favor as possible. You will already be getting several benefits from the things you grow organically.

What are your thoughts on improving your soil for your organic garden? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Photo provided by Freephoto.com

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

With the price of everything going up this year, you may want to plan on cutting some costs in the kitchen and dry your fresh herbs from your herb garden. Although it may seem a little early to be discussing this, it is never too early to plan. You may want to increase the size of your herb garden to be sure that you will have enough to use throughout the year, both fresh and dried.

So, how do you dry the herbs you have grown in your herb garden? The good news is that it really isn’t too difficult. Here is a video to help you get the most out of your herb garden this year.

Planning ahead is always essential in gardening. With a solid plan, you will find you will have the greatest results and yields. Though it might seem you are planting an abundance to harvest, if you find you have more than you need for your needs both in fresh and dried, there are still things you can do with the excess.

• You can sell any extra herbs.

• You can share any extra herbs with your neighbors and friends.

• You can always donate any extra herbs to your local food bank or soup kitchen. They will thank you for your thoughtful gift.

Which herbs are you planning on growing this year? Will you use them fresh or dried? Or will you plan for both? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

When you think of insects and your garden, you are more than likely thinking about how to get rid of them. But there are actually some insects that are beneficial to have in your garden. These little soldiers can do a lot of good and you will be glad that you took the time to invite them to build a home in your garden. Some of these beneficial insects are the ladybug, praying mantis, beneficial nematode and the green lacewing.

In order to get the most from these beneficial insects, you will need to closely monitor your garden area. Be sure to check your plants regularly so that you will know when there are pests present. When you identify a pest problem, you will want to determine which type of beneficial insects will be the best solution. You will also want to be sure to release the beneficial insects when the pest population is low to medium. You must have a fast response to the problem in order to get the best results.

Here is a little information about each of the beneficial insects that you will want to purchase and introduce to your garden:

Ladybugs
Ladybugs are more than just pretty or a fun moment and a childhood rhyme. They like to eat aphids, thrips, spider mites, whitefly and whitefly larvae. They also love to feast on other plant pests which are considered to be sap sucking. Watching these insects in action will have you singing a new tune and requesting that they stay in your garden.

Praying Mantis
This bug is just plain cool. They are fun to watch and they are a huge benefit to your garden. They attack many of the flying and crawling pests that will eat your plants and flowers. Here is a short video that shows one of these cool bugs feasting on a potato bug:

Beneficial Nematodes
These are impossible to actually see with the naked eye, but the work they do is visible. These bugs prey on several of the soil born pests that can bring devastation to your yard and garden. They are considered to be especially effective on the crane fly larvae.

Green Lacewings
These insects make a great addition to your garden and you will find them to be especially beneficial. They feed on aphids, whitefly, thrips, leaf-hoppers, spider mites, scale crawlers and many more pests.

Introducing these friendly and beneficial insects into your garden can be a fun project. Most are fun to watch and it is a safe and organic solution to the pests that may plague your gardening efforts. What are some other non-traditional pest control methods that you can think of for your garden?