Well folks, its officially plan the garden “season”. The slow of winter has many of us longing for warmer months and favorable weather so we can venture out in the garden and come alive again! Here’s a photo I recently stumbled upon for the new market garden at Hopewell 2.0. Isn’t it lovely?
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Big thank you to our friends RXSoil.com for provided detailed, thorough and state of the art soil testing to put my mind at ease! More on them in a bit.
Our new farm is essentially forest. It was clearcut many decades ago and has provided several harvests of southern woodlands for its previous owners. Now that is it in our care, we have a few ideas in mind on how we intend to use it. One of those uses as you probably guessed is to bring about a fruitful garden!
As you can imagine, forest soil is suitable for growing a forest. The Ph and nutrient levels cater specifically to shaded plants suited for our southern climate, enjoy the shade, acidic and well draining soil and limestone rock layers. This type of soil is not well suited for hungry, nutrient-sucking vegetables. They need a completely different set of conditions in which we are not equipped to offer at the moment.
Knowing the history of our farm forest and having the desire to grow good food, we wanted to check a few boxes before we jumped right into preparing a garden spot. Enter in RXSoil.com
Forestry land (really, any new-to-you land) doesn’t always lend to a full disclosed use history upon purchase. If it does, such as knowing land was previously used to grow trees, is not a full picture of what may or may not still exist in the soil. For instance, land that is grown for timber may have regular applications of herbicides which help make maintenance easy for tall, straight trees to grow and decrease competing undergrowth that can also make it cumbersome when it’s time to harvest said trees. They can also spray targeted and broad pesticides to ensure a desirable end product like attractive lumber when milled that is void of pest damage.
Knowing how land is managed even in a residential setting is pretty important in my book. If property has a water source like a spring or well; what inputs fill or replenish? Is there any possibility that the water has pesticide or herbicide residue in it? Even if it’s a common lawn in a neighborhood, how was it treated? Is there any lingering residue in the soil where I’m planing to put in a garden or vegetation that I will consume? Since plants draw nutrients from the soil and we draw nutrients from them, their sphere of influence becomes a part of mine. If the inputs are questionable, then my inputs are questionable. If their inputs are known and managed by me, then my inputs are known and managed accordingly.
Long story short, I wanted peace of mind. We intend to farm this land until we are old and grey (Lord, willing) and I would like to know whether I need to plan for raised beds that come into zero contact with the soil, or if we are A-ok for beginning to plants straight in the ground and what we will need to help our garden thrive. RXSoil.com offers many individualized testing such as a basic nutrient profile which I would recommend for anyone who intends to put in an inground garden. This allows you to know exactly what nutrients you have or do not have, and RXsoil makes is extremely easy to understand what you have and how to amend it accordingly as well as suggesting the inputs. I chose to get the heavy metal testing, the pesticide testing which covers many chemical aspects, and the nutrient test.
The graphs, suggestions, and back and forth I had with RXSoil was extremely helpful to take the best sample to send in, all the way to understanding what my next moves are.
I’m happy to report that we do not have any concern for heavy metals, herbicides or pesticides! That was weighing heavily on my mind. We do however have serious nutrient deficiency for growing hungry, nutrient-sucking vegetables and pasture. The soil is acidic which we expected and is sorely lacking in phosphorus. There are a few other micro and macro recommendations that RXsoil gave me in order to help build up the soil for the garden.
While we take their expert recommendation into consideration and gather our resources together for multiple places on our farm, we are leaning towards bringing in a reliable soil source into our garden space to jumpstart our first market garden quickly, affordably, and begin the process of building up the soil. The only reason I am considering this currently for the main garden (I’m calling the market garden) is due to time constraints to get the garden set up in time for spring and summer planting and because I trust our source and have “watched” this compost degrade undisturbed and seen the “inputs” and “outputs”.
If you too find yourself starting a brand new garden, start with a bag of garden soil or container soil and grow in pots if space is limited. If you want an above ground garden or raised bed on top of the ground but aren’t too sure about what may or may not have come into contact with the soil, consider using a cloth barrier such as landscape fabric or thick filter cloth so what you are growing in the raised beds doesn’t take root in the soil below. If you feel comfortable putting in an inground garden, go for it! Gardening is an ongoing learning opportunity. It never gets dull and the more you practice, the better you and your garden become together.
I’m excited to get my hands in the dirt again and start cultivating with good inputs. Here is a photo of the garden as it stands now, before we begin plotting and preparing it fully.
I look forward to sharing my seed starting set up and dishing out my best and simple seed starting advise for those in The Compendium subscription in March. If you are not a member, you can join right now for $10, month (for a limited time). We also have a special guest lined up with a long family history of growing the good life so to speak, you won’t want to miss!