Plants are the rock stars of any greenhouse or garden center. They’re lush. They’re colorful. They hold the promise of food, beauty and shade for your family. Under the pretty flowers and strong, healthy foliage, inside the pot, is a soil specially constructed to help that that rock star plant shine. Most of us don’t have garden soil anywhere near that perfect combination of organic and inorganic components, along with being beautifully textured to support optimum plant growth. What’s a gardener to do to help their new little plant babies thrive? Spend the money on soil amendments.
The soils in the Grand Valley developed from Mancos Shale, which can be very productive with yearly additions of organic matter. While our soils are often not lacking in nutrients, with the exception of nitrogen, they are often on the salty side, with a high (alkaline) pH. Correcting for organic matter and nitrogen is relatively easy using soil amendments. If your soil is especially salty, avoid using manures or other fertilizers that may add to the salt content.
Organic matter “helps sandy soil by retaining water that would otherwise wash away and it corrects clay soil by making it looser, so that air, water and roots can penetrate. In all soils, it encourages beneficial microbial activity and it provides some nutritional benefits. Humus is natures way of feeding the circle of life.” (About.com-Gardening) Amendments for improving the organic content of your soil include Soil Pepe, Mesa Magic Compost, and Happy Frog Soil Conditioner.
To determine if your soil is lacking in nutrients, you can take a sample to the CSU Extension office or a private lab for analysis. There are also home testing kits available for testing pH. When you have test results, you can select and apply nutrient amendments.
Plants can deplete soils of nutrients, therefore if you have gardened for a while in a certain area, you will need to replenish those nutrients. When planting, apply a fertilizer containing nitrogen for healthy green leaves, phosphorous for root growth and flowers, and potassium for overall plant health. There are many, many options available to choose between. Keep in mind that while inorganic fertilizers are often more cost-effective, it may take longer for the plant to access them and may increase the salt levels in your soil. Organic choices can be more costly, but are often more effectively taken up by your plants. You will also find different choices in application–influencing how and how often you need to apply the product. Whichever choice you make, your plants will benefit.
While you’re waiting for the Valley to be out of frost danger, take some time to amend your soils. Whatever you’re planting will be much more likely to survive and thrive with the additional time and expense. Your friends at Mt Garfield Greenhouse are happy to help you make your choices of amendments and fertilizers.