Apr 122011
A homeowner sifts soil made from his compost b...

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I was reading an article about software programming and coding…

Yes…I CAN read, and it doesn’t even have to have pictures! I may be a Luddite redneck, but I’m a curious one.

…and the article was making the point that there is ALWAYS something due…either paying down principle or paying interest…after a project is completed. If you did the project under a tight deadline, down and dirty, there are inevitable “bugs” in the software due to haste. Even working at a slower pace on a project rarely produces results exactly as you want it when it is released and you have to go back and tweak it.

That “tweaking” can be an all at one time thing (paying down principle on what you “owe” to the work) or it can be a bit of a tweak here, a bit more there, always progressing but never quite finishing the work (paying interest on what you owe).

Amending your garden soil is a lot like all that finish work on a coding project you are constantly tweaking but never…quite…finishing. Amending your garden soil is “paying interest”, forever. It is sorta what you owe as a steward of God’s gift, a part of paying back what he loaned us.

I promise…I have NOT been smoking Mary-ju-wana or taking anything hallucinogenic. Think about it. This REALLY does make sense.

Few, if any, of us start with the perfect soil..fluffy, nutrient rich, perfectly Ph balanced, well draining. I know my garden spot was (still partly is) a barren, rocky, gentle hillside that drained water off like rain off a duck’s back. It was poor in nutrients and hard to keep moist.

As discussed in a previous post here, the first part of the solution was raised beds, making getting and keeping good soil and allowing for intensive gardening much easier. I strongly recommend it for everyone regardless of what you start with for soil.

Did I say soil? Let me correct a bit. What most of us start with isn’t soil, it is dirt…and there is a big difference.

Some clown once said soil is what is under your feet while dirt is what’s under your fingernails. Funny I suppose, but inaccurate.

Dirt is a collection of mostly basic mineral based “stuff” like iron and calcium making up things like pebbles and finely ground rock. While the minerals are a necessary component of soil, they play only a small part.

Soil is simply dirt plus added ingredients…added by nature over time, or added by you more quickly. If you want a hazardous waste site for a garden you can turn dirt to a chemical laden characterization of soil in a matter of hours in a single afternoon with a visit to your local lawn and garden center.

But then, if that is what you want you wouldn’t be reading JuicyMaters, now would you?

Soil…REAL soil, not the chemically created freak garbage…is a Thanksgiving dinner table full of “food” for plants; fecal matter from animals either in passing by like the deer that eat your lettuce at night or by you when you add manure, decayed and decaying plant material from plowing under last season’s harvest leavings and from your compost bin. Besides that organic matter soil is a living thing, full of insects, worms (you do encourage your worms, don’t you? It’s the best single thing you can do for your garden) fungus (…fungi?…funguses?…funguy?) and those nasty things…bacteria.

It has been said that soil…not dirt, soil…is an ecosystem all by itself.

And turning dirt to soil takes time. The time can be shortened by composting well, keeping the soil loose and uncompacted (remember those raised beds…and the worms?), and generally keeping it well fed, like any living thing.

So, when first putting a garden in, start off well so you are always “paying” on the principle, not just the interest. When you first break ground, dig your ground deep…a foot is good, 2 feet is better), break up the clods well, and amend the soil…and amend…and amend…

You’ll have a good garden the first year, and you’ll have a great one in the second and for year after year, as long as you remember…amending the soil is a process, not an event.

Next post we’ll answer the question: “OK, I sweated and dug it deep. Now…what the heck do I plant?”

See that Comment section down there at the bottom? Please…use it. Ask questions, correct my misinformation, add to the information you read, or…just say, “Hi! I stopped by to see what was new!”





All about Bob the nutjob!

Bob is a N Georgia blogger, homesteader, yurt liver, self-sufficiency nutjob, pig farmer, political activist, politician baiter...and the best damn cook you know that doesn't make a living at it.He can be followed onTwitter. You can also "Like" our Facebook page.

  12 Responses to “Amending soil: Paying down principle or just paying interest?”

Comments (12)
  1. Nice analogy, I like it. Have hoed my share of okra…

  2. Bob…I’m with ya all the way on soil amending, And intensive gardening, the only way to go in my opinion. It’s paid off for me, in the my garden soil is so rich and friable, that turning it over is a easy simple task. Do you compost? have you considered ‘green manures’ (cover crops) to enrich your soil during off season time??
    Keep posting your gardening challenges…real interesting for me to see what other guys are doing and faced with.

  3. Composting is a normal thing on a homestead, Hansi. Nothing fancy though…four pallets set up in a square with the corners wired together and the front pallet only half height. That and a pitchfork is all that is needed.

    I have a line on some tomatoes that are a little shade tolerant. I’ll let you know if I find something that definitely will work.

  4. very interesting read… can’t wait to try it out!

  5. why does it have an angry face? i don’t want it to have an angry face.

  6. Thanks for the visit jen…keep coming back! There is no telling what you might find at JuicyMaters.

  7. jen…sorry…the avitar is assigned by the software. If you go to http://www.gravitar.com you can get your own custom gravitar (gravitar is “global avitar”) for free. It is assigned by email so it will appear any time you comment on a post anywhere on the web that has avitars enabled in their comment section.

    Meanwhile, I go into the software and see if I can tweak it so the angry one doesn’t show up. (also, I THINK the more you comment the happier it gets!…LOL)

  8. Bob,
    On my rockpile of a year, raised bed is the only way go grow vegetables (other than pots). Since the ground is 90% rocks, digging them up is torture. I’m just letting them free themselves when they want to. This year when I dug the bed I got four or five fist size rocks loose. Because it is a slope, the back has about 6 inches of good soil and the front about 14 inches. Last year the voles ate everything I planted, except for tomatoes and zucchini and the summer was so cool that I only got three good tomatoes and 5 zucchini. Still I planted some lettuce and arugula which is just coming up. We will see.

  9. We have a garden in a public plot up here in MN. We have planted tomatoes in the plot 2 out of the 3 last years and have had a bad case of blight each time. How do you keep blight at bay?

  10. Some varieties are more disease resistant than others.

    Due to lack of sun, I’m far from a tomato expert, but someone will weigh in with an answer, I’m sure.

  11. Hi Bob!

    I found your blog and this post through seeded buzz, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I just started on my composting adventure this spring and ran into my first conundrum this afternoon. First, let me state that I have more of a blue thumb than a green one, but I hoping with some work and a bit of a learning curve that I will be able to convert my backyard into a productive yummy paradise.
    Here’s my problem: something starting growing IN my compost bin and I have no idea what it is. If you, or any of your readers have a moment, I would really appreciate any feedback about what I did wrong, if anything. Here is the link to my post about it, including pictures of my brand new plants!


    Thanks so much!!
    ~Nicole 🙂

  12. Hi Nicole…glad you stopped by.

    First, sorry to disappoint, but I can’t ID the plant at this point, but at least you know you CAN grow something, despite the blue thumb!…LOL.

    Second, while it does mean your compost will support plant life, and that is a good thing, it doesn’t mean it’s as good and nutrient rich as it needs to be. Considering the post you responded to you know your compost AND your soil is NEVER as good as it could be, and always needs improving.

    I would say that since your compost isn’t “cooking”, and is cool enough to grow the mystery plants, it needs to be fed, watered, and exercised (turned) more…just like me…

    Finaly, if you will give me permission, I will “steal” a pic or two from your blog and put it here to see if anyone can ID it…work for you? I’ll also link to your blog, but have the pics here as well for those who don’t visit your place.


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