The poor farmer grows weeds. The fair farmer grows crops. The good farmer grows soil.
— Sarah Pellkofer; Founder and Chief Soil Scientist of Micraculture and Wallingford Resident
Vegetable gardens are becoming increasingly popular in many city neighborhoods and Wallingford is no exception. Small home gardens provide not only fresh produce but also add beauty and biodiversity to our urban streetscapes. Soil quality in the city can be variable based on the history of excavation and construction for a site and these types of activities impact the native soil. Healthy soil conditions help your plants survive and thrive.
To assess your soil quality, dig a few small holes in your garden and note the texture of the soil. Is it loose and sandy? If so, water may drain away quickly and leave your plants thirsting for more. Is it clay like and compact? It so, it make take longer to dry out after a rainy period and some plants don’t like to have their feet wet.
Most urban soils will benefit from the incorporation of organic soil amendments which improve both the physical properties of the soil and the nutrient supply. Applying a ½ to 1 inch layer of compost to your garden is a great way to add organic soil amendments. We all participate in the city wide composting program by adding food scraps and yard waste to our green bins, so applying compost is a great way to reap the rewards of that recycling project. For more information check out City of Seattle Growing Healthy Soil – Using Compost
Many resources discuss macronutrients in soil (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, the N-P-K listed on fertilizers) but adding nutrient rich organic fertilizers can create nutrient overload in the garden which may throw off soil balance. Excess fertilizers can leech into and pollute our waterways. Washington State University Extension provides many great publications and here is one specific to soil health. WSU: Growing Food on Parking Strips and in Front Yard Gardens
Soil also contains many microorganisms or microbes which create an underground community in the garden. I recently talked with Wallingford resident and scientist Sarah Pellkofer about a product she has developed for home gardeners called Plant Probiotics. Just as humans benefit from “good bacteria” in their food, plants can also benefit from certain microbes in their diets. Plant Probiotics stimulates the soil microbes to partner with plants to extend their roots and helps them reach more water and nutrients. Microbes in the soil also break down harmful fungus and bacteria which can reduce the amount of pest treatments that are required to keep your garden healthy.
To learn more about boosting plant growth and maintaining the health of your garden using the power of live microbes check out Micraculture or better yet, meet up with Sarah at her booth at the upcoming Tilth Alliance May Edible Plant Sale.
Wallingford is lucky to be the home of the Tilth Alliance at the Good Shepard Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue N, Suite 100. Their mission is to build an ecologically sound, economically viable and socially equitable food system. They provide education on composting, soil and water stewardship, and many other gardening topics. They host community events to connect farmers from around the region and teach people of all ages about cooking and nutrition.
They are hosting the Tilth Alliance May Edible Plant Sale on May 5-6th from 9am to 3pm in Meridian Playground, 4850 Meridian Ave N. This sale offers a huge selection of organic, sustainably and locally grown vegetable plant starts. Choose from an amazing variety of tomatoes, peppers, squash, culinary herbs, edible flowers, pollinator plants, fruit trees/shrubs and more. There will also be local vendors on site to share their products and expertise Edible Plant Sale Vendor List. Be sure to mark your calendar for this great event and plan to stock up on your edible crops for a productive summer garden. It’s not too late to get your garden started! Don’t miss this great event!