Keeping it Healthy!
Enrich your garden bed soil :
- Change out the soil completely every 4 years
in each garden bed before people plant
- Take some bags of leaves from the leaf composting program
collection depots so that you have leaves for the community
garden's compost bins.
- With worm castings: Worms at
Work are a local Calgary business producing high
quality worm castings.
- With spent mushroom substrate (SMS): Only use
spent mushroom substrate that is no longer giving off heat. SMS
usually consists of hay, straw, straw horse bedding, poultry
litter, cottonseed meal, cocoa shells, gypsum and sphagnum peat
moss.You can see this heat from recently used mushroom substrate by
the steam that comes off the discarded piles of SMS at a mushroom
farm. When collecting SMS for your garden always take it from the
oldest and coldest piles (no steam or heat coming from them
whatsoever). Then mix it sparingly with existing soil.
SMS can burn tender plants because it has a high concentration of
salts just because it is a manure and because these salts are what
the mushrooms leave behind when they are finished feeding on the
mushroom substrate. Too much SMS surrounding a plant can be
poisonous to the plant roots or burn them so much that the roots
cannot take in water. You can tell if a plant has been burned by
SMS because the leaves can become scorched looking and die. Do not
use SMS where you sow seeds directly into the soil because they are
very vulnerable to being burned by the SMS.
When you use SMS in a garden bed with seedlings apply no more than
a 2 cm layer and completely mix it into the top 10 cm layer of
- To break up soil with a lot of clay in it try
adding: coffee grounds (free at Starbucks), Spray Lakes
Sawdust, Eco Chips, or Zeolite.
- To improve soil fertility plant cover crops of
oats, clover or buckwheat and then when they are a few inches tall,
turn the plants back into the soil. Inexpensive seed in bulk can be
purchased at Apache Seeds at 10136 149 St NW,
Edmonton, AB T5P 1L1 (780) 489-4245.
- Contact nearby community gardens to see if
they are interested in participating in a bulk buy of high quality
soil. Search by NW, NE, SW, SE using Find a
- It is inexpensive to test the pH of your soil
(how acidic or alkaline it is). Soil testing kits for pH are
available at garden centres. Soil testing for heavy metals and
petrocarbons is expensive and up to 30 holes must be sampled at
about $1000 per hole.
- Hugelkultur uses a variety of large
chunks of untreated wood and brush mixed with soil to make a
natural wicking bed. Another advantage is that people can tend the
plants from seated or standing positions.
Next Topic: Weeds