Most of us want to ignore dealing with soils. I recall teaching three classes on vegetables, fruit trees and soils. The vegetable and fruit classes were packed, but the soil class was almost empty. Most of the audience questions were soil related problems.
I asked Sal Ramirez of ViraGrow, a soil manufacturing outlet, and he went right to the problem — soils.
■ Las Vegas soils are some of the worst in the country.
■ We only get 4 inches of rain a year, never building up any organic matter in our soils. That is why we must add organic matter or compost to our soils every time we replant.
■ Our soils are compacted so hardly anything grows in them.
■ The winds also draw moisture out of the soil leaving the salts behind. They are devastating to plants, especially vegetables.
Ramirez says the answer to the above problems is adding compost to our soils. Note these reasons:
■ Compost acts like a big sponge. When you irrigate, the sponge absorbs large amounts of water to store for future plant use and the excess drains away. This opens up air spaces so your plants function properly.
■ Compost has within it many essential nutrients your plants need and it freely gives them to your plants as needed.
■ This miracle wonder warms soils during the winter and cools them during the summer.
■ This magical product increases the microorganisms (miracle workers) in the soil. These miracle workers continue to break down any raw materials in the compost.
■ Compost acts as a buffer. If you overfertilize your plants, it deactivates the excess to prevent damaging your crops.
Ramirez prescribes the following for those wanting to garden in our tough soils:
■ Spread up to 8 inches of compost over garden area.
■ To this compost, spread the following organic fertilizers over it: Blood meal introduces nitrogen essential to get plants started and feeds your miracle organisms. Bone meal brings phosphorous into the mix to develop roots, flowers and fruit product. Kelp becomes a great source of micronutrients. Soil sulfur changes the soil pH into the neutral range so our microorganisms can freely mine for those essential micronutrients and iron chelates (Kerex) frees up irons for easier plant extraction in our soils. When using these fertilizers, follow label directions for the amount to add.
■ Now till these ingredients into the top 6 to 8 inches of your garden.
■ When using a rototiller, run it slow to thoroughly blend these ingredients into the soil. Men usually run a tiller full throttle and it destroys your soil’s structure.
■ Now give the garden area a good irrigation to activate what’s about to take place in your soil.
Ramirez uses a chemical fertilizer such as 6-20-20 to blend in. “My reasoning for this particular fertilizer is it brings the right proportions of fertilizer in for my plant needs. Its nitrogen gets my plants up and started. Its high phosphorous stimulate roots, increases flower and fruit production on crops such as tomatoes.” Potassium improves the quality of his veggies, plus makes the plant more tolerant to the hot summer ahead.
You might want manufactured compost that really puts a touch of class on growing vegetables.
■ Build a raised bed to contain the compost.
■ Make the bed at least 6 inches deep by placing wood, bricks, cement blocks or whatever to act as walls.
■ Some gardeners make higher walls to sit on while working the garden.
■ At this point add a commercially prepared soil like those produced at ViraGrow. It’s made up of 75 percent compost and 25 percent sand. He also blends in kelp meal, seaweed extract, humic acid, slow-release organic nitrogen for crops such as vegetables. He also makes other blends for specific conditions.
Here is a hot tip Ramirez wants to pass along to those who have used manufactured soils such as his for a couple of seasons and here’s why:
“I find our extensive summer heat cooks many of the microorganisms, so I suggest replenishing them. I recommend spreading a light application of aged manure over the garden area to reintroduce them into the soil. Salts have already been leached so don’t worry about the manure. Then till the manure into the top 3 inches of the soil.”
Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reached him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 702-526-1495.