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Fill Your Plate and Fuel Your Soil!

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The dirt on dirt, so you can Get Growing!

We all would agree that no one would ever put an empty plate in front of a child and expect that child to grow. Your plants are very similar in many ways to children. Most North Idaho and Montana soils are severely lacking many essential minerals that plants need to flourish and even the topsoil or potting soil you fill your raised beds with is simply... well, an empty platter. It’s a good start, a base, but not enough to finish the job of raising wonderful produce in three short months!


Just as people have recommended doses of vitamins and minerals we need to survive each day, so, too, the plants need many vitamins and minerals to thrive. You may have seen the three numbers posted on all kinds of fertilizer. What do they mean? By law, the first number listed always refers to the Nitrogen available. Nitrogen makes the plants grow, but too much nitrogen and not enough other good minerals and all you get is big green plants that produce nothing. The middle number posted is the Phosphorus available. This is the important building block in root development of the plant and flowering, which leads to produce. Bone Meal and Fish Bone Meal are excellent organic sources of Phosphorus for a garden. All of your root crops can utilize a healthy dose of phosphorus for success. Potassium is the third number in the line up and aids in the roots and overall plant health including the opening and closing of plant pores, which aids in plants resistance to drought and disease and stem strength. Ever have any floppy tomato plants that can’t transfer water to the top and stay alive?


Our area soil usually registers on the acidic side of the ph scale. The pH of soil—acid, alkaline or neutral—determines if the plant is able to take up the nutrients in the soil.  Acidic soil can result in poor root growth and also because the acidic soil inhibits good nutrient exchange between the plant and the soil. This means greater susceptibility to drought, bugs and disease and smaller and less productive plants.
The ideal pH values for vegetable garden soils are 6.0 to 6.5. Vegetable plants do not grow well in acid soils with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 or in alkaline soils with a pH above 7.5. The cheapest method of changing your pH is with dolomite lime, which not only raises your pH if you are acidic, it also adds badly needed magnesium and calcium. Does anyone remember the bottom half of your tomatoes rotting last August? This is simply a lack of magnesium and calcium in the soil, but you must start now to correct the problem or you will have a very disappointing results.


The ideal time to add lime is in the fall, at a rate of 2 lbs per 100 square feet. But catch up with lime in the spring as early as possible and work it in 2 to 3 weeks before adding other fertilizers. Remember, more is never better to catch up, too much lime can also be detrimental to your plants. An inexpensive soil test kit is the only way to know the pH and N-P-K nutrient deficiencies of your garden soil.


There are many synthetic fertilizers to spray on plants to help them to grow but as many gardeners know, especially if they are doing smaller raised beds, salts from these products can build up and eventually your soil is void of any beneficial microorganisms. We’ve all learned about the value of pro-biotics in keeping our own bodies healthy, now Dr. Milo Shammas has perfected Dr. Earth fertilizers, that introduce seven strains of beneficial pro-biotics or microbes, plus Ecto and Endo-Mycorrhizae that provide plants with a wide range of benefits. Dr. Shammas has spent years blending and researching Dr. Earth fertilizers to make it the Pro-biotic powerhouse for plants. Taking the guesswork out of application amounts and possible overdosing, Dr. Shammas blends kelp, fish, cottonseed, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, feather meal and soft rock phosphate to provide a well rounded N-P-K charge to plants. And unlike when these organic ingredients are added alone in a garden, with the Dr. Earth blend the nutrients are released quickly, and taken up by your plants usually within 10 days instead of 2 to 3 weeks because the beneficial soil microbes that are added are truly alive and serve as a catalyst for the plant to drink the N-P-K and other minerals quickly. The Dr. Earth line of fertilizers is formulated separately especially for different groups of plant needs including Tomato and Vegetable, Fruit, and Acid-Loving Berries and Rhododendrons and Rose and Flowers. Dr. Earth is available only at independently owned garden centers and hardware stores, including All Seasons and Co-Op in Sandpoint. These fertilizers are also immediately safe for children and pets to be around. If for some reason a curious cat or child gets into the product there is no need for worry.


Our summers here are short... too short, and we can’t control the sun, but we can give our plants the foundation to make the most out of every day.


 Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and now is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint. She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 16 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes at AllSeasonsGardenandFloral (at) gmail.com allseasonsgardenandfloral(at)gmail.com.

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Nancy Hastings Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint, She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 15 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes atllseasonsgardenandfloral(at)gmail.com.

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gardening, Get Growing, soil amendments, Dr. Earth Fertilizer

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