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Dallas Morning News - November 16, 2017

Excellent Bed Preparation = Successful Gardening and Landscaping

Organic Bed Preparation Ingredients

Fall through early winter is the ideal time to get new landscaping and many of the tough food crops planted. To have those plants establish and grow their best, proper bed preparation is critical. Clay soils, sandy soils and all soils in between are prepared the same way.

First The Don’ts:
  • Don’t remove the native soil unless drainage problems would be caused by the new beds. Existing native soil is an important part of the bed preparation mixture.
  • Don’t use peat moss, pine bark or concrete sand. These products don’t provide any benefit and are problematic, especially when compared to the natural organic choices.
  • Don’t till wet soil. Tilling, forking or digging holes in wet soil does damage by squeezing the soil particles together, causing glazing and eliminating air spaces needed for healthy soil life.
  • Don’t spray toxic herbicides. Spraying toxic herbicides anytime is a bad idea, but in the fall and winter, it’s really stupid because they can’t kill dormant grasses and weeds.
Now The Do’s:
  • Scrape away existing weeds and grass and toss into the compost pile. Always remove the grass before any tilling is done. Tilling first drives reproductive part of plants down in the ground to be weed problem forever. Organic herbicides (not the toxic stuff like Roundup) can be used in the summer, but physical removal then is still better.
  • Raise the beds. Walls aren’t essential, but the top of the beds should be flat and higher than the surrounding grades with sloped edges for drainage. This lifting happens naturally if proper amounts of amendments are added to the soil.
  • Amendments should include 4 - 6” of compost, organic fertilizer (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), lava sand (10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), Azomite or other rock minerals (4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), dry molasses (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.) and whole ground cornmeal (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.). Rototill or fork these amendments to a total depth of 8”.
  • Prepared beds should be moistened before planting begins. Roots of transplants should be sopping wet and thoroughly hydrated by soaking in water with Garrett Juice added before they are installed.
  • Set the plants high with the top of the rootballs slightly higher than the surrounding soil with flares dramatically high and visible. This is especially critical on woody plants. Setting plants too low can cause poor growth, disease problems and even drowning.
  • Mulch beds after planting with 2 - 3” of shredded native tree trimmings for large plants and a thinner layer of compost for annuals and perennials. Never pile mulch onto the stems of plants.
In short - just add plenty of compost, rock minerals and sugars like molasses and cornmeal into the native soil, provide moisture and mulch all bare soil after planting.

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