By Sally McCabe
PHS Associate Director, Community Education
Testing Your Soil
Let’s find something we CAN control in our lives right now. Let’s start growing together!
It’s time to assess what’s going on out there and start making plans. Let’s start with a soil check, using the Ball Test: Take a chunk of freshly dug soil and squeeze it in your hand to form a ball. Poke it gently with your finger and see if it flakes apart. If it stays in a ball, it’s too wet and you should check again in a few days; you should have done more soil prep in the fall. If it falls apart, you’re good to go and can start to think about your next steps.
Plan A: Plant something! Many plants and seeds bear the caveat: can be planted AS SOON AS SOIL CAN BE WORKED. That means as soon as you can dig without making mud or ruining the soil structure. So let’s get digging and plant things that don’t mind March’s cold soil -- peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes, beets, lettuce, mustards, and chard.
Plan B: If your soil ball test says it’s too wet to dig, do some cleanup instead. Pick up sticks and everything that blew down over the winter. Rake up the flotsam and jetsam of the past season and get rid of it. But be sure to examine all the trash you collect to make sure it isn’t indicative of non-garden problems around the house, like loose flashing, renegade siding, or flying shingles.
Plan C: If both your soil balls AND the weather refuses to cooperate with your garden urges, grab some catalogs or get online and make some lists. Then cull, cull, and cull again; statistics show that you really only need one-tenth (1/10) of what’s on your initial list. So go through last year’s seeds, or, better yet, talk to neighbors and friends to order seeds together. Bulk buying keeps the cost down and gives you more variety than your lone purse can handle.
Food for the Soul is a five part series! Read on to the second post on mapping out space for your vegetable garden in your own backyard.