If you have the hard, salty ground that most everyone in the Valley has, start with First Step Soil Acidifier to lower pH and open up and soften the soil. Add “Great Big Plants” by mixing 3 to 4 ounces per gallon of water to get the microbial (good bugs) count up in the soil so they can process the nutrients. This is an organic fertilizer that contains a microbial culture. The amount of nutrients in it is sufficient for several weeks. Apply phosphorus and potassium for flowering on anything that blooms. Use 6-20-20 to boost flowering. Green leafy vegetables and root vegetables, such as carrots and beets, need higher nitrogen fertilizer, such as 16-8-8 or 15-15-15, which are medium release and last for one to two months. Apply 3/4 pound per 100 square feet.
For totally organic gardeners, use chicken manure as a pre-plant fertilizer, cultivate in well and water once to activate it. Apply “Great Big Plants” so the microbes help convert the ammonia in the chicken manure. If you use steer manure as a pre plant, use First Step (DisperSul) to leach the salts that are in the manure. You may get salt burning from manure. The best fertilization is using a combination of organic and inorganic because organic sources of potassium and phosphorous are very slow releasing that causes deficiency of these nutrients and stresses the plants.
Many people in small yards or apartments can grow a few vegetables in a small container. Vegetables need big containers – at least 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Space is necessary because the sun warms the sides of containers up to 4 inches in and can burn the roots. Darker-colored containers absorb more heat than lighter-colored ones.
We build custom raised beds usually 2 feet high for easy access or we have premade containers. Check the ‘microclimates’ of your space; i.e., how much sun or shade your container plants are going to get as opposed to what they need. The best soil mix is one that is neither too heavy, nor too light. A heavy soil will not drain well and can crush roots. A too light soil will leach too fast. “B-2” soil mix is just right — heavy enough to retain moisture, but light enough for good drainage and it’s developed the especially for our soils.
The biggest problem people have with their plants in the Valley is over watering. While the weather is cooler, watering once a week should be sufficient, however, as temperatures hit 90 degrees and above, water twice a week and always long and slow.
Learn how to grow tall bearded, spuria and other irises and buy potted irises on Saturday, March 26 at Gardener’s World.
Sign up for free classes on vegetable gardening, irrigation and growing irises at.