Tag Archives: soil

It’s all about the soil

This year I decided I would try starting my own seeds. I spent months humming and hawing over the best type of soil to use. I read Gayla Trail’s posts on seed starting mixes and decided I would take the easy route and buy pre-bagged soil but I couldn’t find the Nature Mix seed starting mix she recommended in response to a post in the comments section. I was looking in March so it may have been too early or perhaps it was no longer available (the post was from 2008). In the end, fate stepped in at Urban Harvest.

I was at their table at Dufferin Grove Market buying seeds at the end of March. Before I left I casually asked the owner, “can you recommend a good seed starting mix?” She thought for a moment and said, “I have just the thing.” Saved! Their store was opening the following week and she had some soil that was appropriate for pots and starting seeds. A week later I headed down with my cart and bought a 20lb bag for $8. It was an experience carting it home on the subway (I walked from the store location at Landsdowne and Bloor to Dufferin to take advantage of the elevator).

20lb bag of soil, along with some kelp meal in the paper bag

20lb bag of soil, along with some kelp meal in the paper bag

The girl at the store told me that the soil was fine for starting seeds now but if I wanted to use it for permanent pots, I would need to add some perlite to loosen it up, otherwise it would be too dense.

More on seed starting later.

I ended up buying another bag for the community garden (yep, I came back after a 2 year hiatus). After hurting my trapezius carrying the cart down the stairs to the subway at Lansdowne, I swallowed my pride and asked my friend with a car to help me get 5 more bags to the garden. He’s an engineer, so as a bonus he used his skill to level the plot for a professional looking finish; much better than it would have looked had I done it myself.

We left his tool bag in the shot for effect

We left his tool bag in the shot for effect

I received several complements on the quality of my soil! My neighbour to the east was in the garden when I brought the first bag. He stuck his hand in, pulled out a handful, sniffed and said, “this is really good soil!” I loved the way it felt when I was using it to start my seeds, but it wasn’t until I poured the first bag into my plot that I noticed how wonderful it smelled! Wow! He suspected that it was worm compost and he was right. Leaf mold to be exact. It was so memorable that when I was putting the garden to bed at the end of the season (with the help of my engineering friend again), another gardener asked what I had used.

I would use the leaf mold for starting seeds again but it was too costly to cover the 32 square feet of my plot. Perhaps if I had more success with this space, I would have thought it was worth it, but that wasn’t the case. We put the plot to bed with manure and straw for the first time this fall so we’ll see how that works.

 

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The rain, the soil, and other things

The weather has been all over the place this season. We had a really long winter in Toronto and not much of a spring. Summer weather in May with frost on the May long weekend. Drought conditions in early June and more recently several days of storms with torrential downpours.

I planted my first set of seeds at the community garden the first of May. I checked back frequently at first, then low and behold three weeks past without a visit. My brother had been watering religiously so I wasnt too worried. Then he came home one day and told me that our friendly neighbour to the right told him, “man, you guys need to weed!” I went to visit the next day and was shocked by what I found.

At least the onions are OK

At least the onions are OK

View from above. I recognize lambs quartre, but the rest are a mystery!

View from above. I recognize lambs quarter, but the rest are a mystery!

I rightfully felt shame for the neglect. As I weeded for the next two hours I thought about the signs these weeds were showing me:

positives

  • lots of weeds means the soil is fertile (I read this online somewhere)

negatives

  • nothing I planted is growing (except the onions)
  • these weeds are harbouring a ton of lema beetles! (and if you look closely at the weeds above, leafminers are just as active)
Lema beetles making babies

Lema beetles doing what they do best — making more lema beetles!

Babies

Lema beetle eggs

More eggs!

More eggs!

unsure

  • lots of white spiders with large white sacks. I think these are good guys but they took off once the weeds were gone.
White spider with giant egg sack. Spiders are good right?

White spider with giant egg sack. Spiders are good right?

OK, so some things managed to survive: a sunflower, some beets, a few marigold and cornflower, a nasturtium…

First radish of the season!

First radish of the season!

And one lone radish which I promptly harvested along with some onion tops and enjoyed that night as a reward for all my hard work :).

First radish of the season

First radish of the season


 

 

 

 

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