Stillwater News Press


March 10, 2012

In the Garden 03-11-12

It is time. No more procrastinating; it is time to prepare the soil in annual garden beds.

We know that to grow a strong, happy and healthy family we have to provide nutritious meals in a timely fashion. Although life can be sustained with fast food and TV dinners, with this alone for a diet, inevitable health issues loom on the horizon. Healthy is as healthy does.

Gardens are no different; plants can grow in marginal soil, retrieving much of what they require to live from water and sunshine. But just as a child with a balanced breakfast is more productive in class, balanced nutrition makes plants productive as well. Whether producing flowers, oxygen, food, shade or privacy, plants have a purpose. Shall we help them fulfill their function?

Ultimately soil is the foundation of garden plants. It consists primarily of clay, silt, sand, minerals and organic matter. The percentage of each of these in any given spot is determined by what has occurred on that patch of land in years past. A balance between these five components forms the ideal soil just a balanced diet generates optimal health.

Steps to prepare a garden bed for planting after lying dormant all winter will vary depending on how the beds have been worked in past years. If the soil has been neglected and is the standard red clay that encircles most Stillwater homes, follow the recipe below. The quantities given will amend a 100 square foot area.

Above-Average Garden Soil

50 pounds contractor’s sand

6 bags planting mix (2 cubic feet); note: cotton burr compost may be substituted

2 bags pecan hulls or fine pine bark

25 pounds greensand

10 pounds rock phosphate

5 pounds gypsum

5 pounds oyster shell

5 pounds blood Meal

Begin by sprinkling the area with water for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for a day. Spend a few sunny hours removing weeds or rogue grass using a trowel or other hand cultivator. (Moisture in the area should allow the roots to pull easily.) Turn the bed the depth of a shovel head, breaking up large clumps as you go.

Spread products in an even manner over previously turned area. Incorporate additives by turning soil once more or using a small rotary-tiller. Finish working the bed by smoothing with a rake. Apply 15 minutes of water and let the soil rest for a week before planting.

LeeAnn Barton, Stillwater, can be emailed at

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