In West Michigan this time of year, especially in the Holland area, it's hard to avoid the hype around the tulip-- and for good reason. These bulbous members of the lily family are an annual reminder that spring has sprung; they thrive in areas with dry summers and cold winters, so West Michigan is a great place to enjoy them.
If you're interested in growing tulips, or even if you've had them in your yard for years, we've got some tips for getting the most from these beautiful perennials.
Tulips don't last long, but they are a welcome flash of color after a cold gray winter. Follow these tips and yours will be the envy of the neighborhood for years to come.
Source: Farmer's Almanac. Read more on raising tulips here.
Vermicompost-- or compost made by worms-- is not only a great alternative to chemical fertilizers, it's also a better alternative to traditional compost. We've been using it in our yard and garden, and selling it to our customers, for years with amazing results.
But what are the actual benefits of vermicompost-- what's the science behind it? We've laid it out for you below:
What is vermicompost? Vermicompost-- or worm compost or worm casting or worm poop-- is what you get after worms consume organic matter and excrete it. As food passes through their digestive tract, worms secrete chemicals that break down organic matter into sustainable nutrition. These chemicals, excreted with their castings, comprise vermicompost, which improves soil texture, structure and aeration. From the Latin “vermi,” which means worm, vermicompost offers nutrients that are immediately available to plants. It can be applied as mulch, incorporated as a component in potting mixes or brewed in water as a compost tea liquid fertilizer.
Soil enrichment. University studies have shown vermicompost to actually add nutrients to the soil, which are immediately available for plants. This makes it superior to traditional "hot" composted material, and it makes it a nice organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. Purdue University reports that earthworms leave soil 5 to 11 percent richer in the essential plant nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium than when they first ingest it. As an organic fertilizer, vermicompost is a substitute for synthetic fertilizer in soil-enriched vegetable transplant potting mixes. As a soil conditioner, vermicompost is superior to traditional compost for its ability to improve soil structure and increase its water-holding capacity, according to the University of California’s Project Compost.
It increases crop yields and plant growth. Gardeners and organic farmers like using non-synthetic amendments and fertilizers for the benefits it provides to the environment. But when these fertilizers also produce faster plant growth and higher crop yields, it’s an added bonus, says Clive Edwards of the Ohio State University Extension. Edwards’ collaborative field crop experiments on tomatoes, peppers and strawberries showed that plants fertilized with organic vermicompost significantly outperformed the same crops fertilized with inorganic, synthetic chemicals. Edwards’ research revealed vermicompost tea fertilizer yielded dramatic plant growth rates and crop yields of up to 50 percent.
(Source: SFGate Home Guides) Read more about the benefits of vermicompost here.
If you'd like to try vermicompost for yourself and see the amazing results in your yard and garden, check out the Good Sweet Earth product page.
How do you know when it’s time to start planting? Our weather has been more spring-like here in Michigan than wintery and if you are anything like me you have your seeds ready to go.
Is it too early though? A major deciding factor is what you want to plant. It is by far too early for summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, which shouldn’t hit the ground until mid- to late-May. But for the spring crops*...it depends.
For those marvelous spring crops that we all love to plant as soon as the ground thaws and the sun kisses the air? The deciding factor is the soil-- the soil's moisture and the soil's temperature.
First, grab a handful of soil and squeeze it into a ball. If the soil becomes tight and holds its shape too well, then it's too wet to plant. Rototilling soil this wet or even walking on your crop rows at this point will compact things unnecessarily. However, if your handful of soil becomes a light ball that breaks apart easily, your soil's passed the first test of spring.
The next consideration is your soil temperature. Cool weather vegetables need the soil to be at least 35 degrees for your seeds to germinate. An inexpensive addition to your gardening toolbox is a soil thermometer. A good strategy when you are unsure if the temperatures will remain warm enough is to plant only a section of your crops, then wait a week and plant more. This way, if temps drop too far, your entire crop won't be lost. Staggering your sowing also spreads out your harvest a bit-- an added bonus.
Now before you put your seeds in the ground don’t forget to prepare your soil. Ready to purchase your Living Worm Compost? Click here. It's never too early or too cold to stock up on compost. Not sure how much you need? Email me at Corey@goodsweetearth.com and I'd be happy to help.
(*For the record, these are really the only things you should be putting in the ground in the early spring: spring cabbage, garlic-cloves, kale, onions, peas, radishes, shallots, spinach and turnips. Those are your spring crops that are able to handle a little extra cold.)
Corey Veldheer is the owner of Good Sweet Earth and has been Master Gardener Certified through Michigan State University.
Well, the calendar has officially rolled over to October. It’s sad to say, but another growing season is wrapping up here in west Michigan. It really is amazing to be a part of a millennia-old cycle of growth, death and rebirth each year in our humble garden beds. Even as we put to rest this year’s garden, know that the next few months of rest are as critical as any for your soil’s health.
So as our growing season comes to an end there are a few things you need to do to get ready for a successful growing season next year.
Finally, take a deep breath and marvel at all you experienced this year. Successes? Wonderful! Frustrations? Consider them learning experiences. Failures? Consider those painful learning experiences, but learning experiences nonetheless. Gardening, farming, growing—no one goes an entire season without hitting a few rocks or pitfalls. The important thing is to keep trying, keep growing and savor each new season.
The term crop rotation seems like a daunting concept and something that only farmers need to think about. Well I have news for you— if you’re planting things in your yard then that makes you a yard farmer, and crop rotation is something you need to think about if you want a healthy yard! So let’s break down the basics of crop rotation together.
First off, what is crop rotation? Simply put, it's planting your tomatoes in a different spot than you did last year. You are rotating the placement of your crops throughout your garden from year to year.
Why rotate crops in my garden? By rotating where you place each type of plant, this reduces pathogens and pests in your soil. If a certain pest likes tomatoes, and you plant tomatoes in the exact same spot year after year, eventually that pest will set up shop because you’ve created a consistent place for it to live and thrive. Moving plants around also improves soil structure and nutrient levels. For instance, if you put peppers in the exact same spot year after year, the peppers will eventually drain your soil of the very nutrients they need to live. In a nutshell by rotating where you plant things, you will deal with less pests and diseases and have healthier soil.
How do I rotate the crops in my garden? Simple: note what you planted where this year, so that next year you can move things around. Draw a picture of your garden before this season is done, so when you go to plant next spring, you won’t have to guess. It’s helpful to note which biological family each plant belongs to since members of the same family are susceptible to the same pests and diseases.
From there, design your garden based on these guidelines:
Finally, not sure how to shake things up? Good Sweet Earth offers a personalized garden planning service, but slots fill up fast so book for next year as soon as possible! Email me at Corey@GoodSweetEarth.com if you’d like help mapping out your garden for next year— it’s only $25, so it can fit any gardener’s budget!
As always happy gardening!
Steve & Corey Veldheer are organic yard & garden specialists in west Michigan.