Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Assess Your Soil... More on Manure

The Color of compost... beautiful.

In 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wrote the epic play ‘Oklahoma’ and aptly sang ‘the wind comes sweepin' down the plain’. Oklahomans are accustomed to it, yet nothing prepares one for Sunday’s winds that clocked at 55 miles per hour at the Hinton Airport with some towns recording up to 70 miles per hour! The sky was a choking red and the velocity of it resembled a wild, yet dry, thunder storm. Playing outside was out of the question as objects were seen flying past windows. We need rain plus a cold spell to kill some of the insects who are waiting for spring to tap them on the antenna and wake them to devour what ever we happen to love that is blooming in the garden.

Before the frenzy of the coming season assess your garden soil and see if it is healthy; if it has that marvelous and distinct ‘dirt smell’, it is full of nutrients and perfect. However if it has little or no odor, it will need some additives to make it well. There are several options and choosing what to add is often determined by convenience.

If you know a rancher who has cattle or horses, you are in luck for the humus they leave behind is the very best natural fertilizer. High in nitrogen and other nutrients, it will amend the soil and nourish the plants... and well nourished plants have a natural resistance to both disease and pests. However beware of chicken droppings for its nitrogen level is too high unless it is at least three years old; it will actually fry the garden. And the animal must be vegetarian as well... never use humus from a meat eating animal.

Another option is compost, which is a recipe of recycled organic ingredients that are allowed to decompose into a rich substance packed with nutrients. Composters take their job very seriously and toil over their bin, tossing it for aeration, adding water to ensure even decomposition and even adding earthworms. Following World War II there was a national obsession with composting as recycling, conservation and organic gardening once again became fashionable. My father adored his bin, adding raked leaves and his grass clippings while the house contributed discarded produce, carrot and potato peels, leftover vegetables and more. Compost is dark and rich and was applied to the garden every spring and sometimes around a plant if it looked ‘puny’.

Murphy’s in Oklahoma City will deliver a dump truck load of compost, alfalfa manure, top soil, and even pea gravel… all very reasonably priced. Apply your additive then water it in on the next fine day. As Spring progresses, work it into the soil and be amazed by the Oz-like green of the healthy plants.