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Dallas Morning News - July 31, 2019

Bed Prep – the Natural and Effective Way


The keys to successful gardening and landscaping are selecting well-adapted plants, planting them properly, spending time in the garden, watering properly and using good pruning techniques. There is one more point and it’s the most important - excellent bed preparation.


The don'ts are as important as the do's so first the don'ts:


Don't remove native soil unless necessary for drainage issues. Existing native soil with its native microbes is an important part of the bed preparation mix.


Peat moss is not recommended due to it's anti-microbial properties


Don't use peat moss, pine bark or washed concrete sand. These products are problematic, especially when compared to better choices explained below.


Don't till wet soil because it does damage by squeezing the soil particles together, causing glazing and eliminating the air spaces needed for healthy soil life.


Don't spray toxic herbicides. Physically removing grasses and weeds is more thorough and a better way to go.


Now the do's:


Scrape away existing weeds and grass and toss into the compost pile or replant the sod elsewhere. Always remove the grass before tilling is done. Tilling first drives the reproductive part of the grasses into the ground to be a weed problem forever. Organic herbicides (not the toxic stuff like Roundup) can be used in the summer, but physical removal is better.


Walls aren't essential, but the top of the beds should be flat and higher than surrounding grades with sloped edges for drainage. This lifting happens naturally if proper amounts of amendments are added.


Azomite is an effective commercial rock mineral product

Lava sand and dry molasses are two important organic ingredients


Add amendments of 4 - 6" of compost, organic fertilizer such as Good Natured (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), lava sand such as Cinderite (10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), Azomite or other rock minerals (4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), dry molasses and whole ground cornmeal (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.). Rototill or fork amendments to a total depth of 8".


Moisten beds before planting. Do not plant into dry soil because the young roots will dehydrate quickly. Roots of transplants should be sopping wet by soaking in water with a little Garrett Juice added.

Whole ground cornmeal is one of the best microbe stimulators

Set the plants high with the top of the root balls slightly higher than the surrounding soil with flares high and visible. This is especially critical on woody plants.


Mulch beds after planting with 2 - 3" of organic mulch after planting. Use shredded native tree trimmings for large plants and a thinner layer of finer textured mulch or compost for annuals and perennials. Never pile mulch onto the stems of plants.

Compost can be made at home or purchased commercially

Shredded native tree trimmings are the best of all mulches

In short – add plenty of compost, organic fertilizer, rock minerals and microbe stimulators into the native soil and mulch all bare soil after planting. Here's a link to a list of retail stores that stock the specific products I recommend -




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