Black Soil

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by isa, Jun 22, 2002.

  1. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    I think I found the source, or should I say root?, of my problem: black soil.


    All my veggies, tomatoes & eggplants, and herbs are planted into black soil. This is, I was told this week, a big mistake.


    Cchiu please help me! What kind of soil should do I need?? And, more important, should I replant everything?


    Many Thanks!
     
  2. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    Isa,

    LOL! First, what was your source? Second, where did you get your soil. There is good black and there is bad black. Compost is known as a gardener's black gold. Now, on the other hand, if you bought a 40 pound bag for a couple of dollars, you've most likely purchased what is mostly comprised of ash which turns clay like when water is added and will smother the roots of your plants.

    You want a light, fluffy soil. This is most ideal. It provides oxygen to the roots which they need as much as they need water. Drainage so the roots don't drown, and water retention so they don't dry out completely.

    Are your plants in the ground or in containers? If in the ground, have you had your soil tested?

    Of course, it all depends on the amount of time and money you want to put into it. Once you get your soil into an ideal growing medium condition, it will take little to keep it up year after year. One big tip, don't ever walk on it....

    How are your plants doing in your own opinion right now?

    I highly recommend the following soil mixture from the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. This book by the way is on numerous 10 ten book lists for gardeners and is a reference which you can refer to year after year. I highly recommend it too!

    Here is a simplified version if the one below is more than you want to do now:
    Equal parts (one pail full) coarse vermiculite, peat moss, coarse sand, decomposed leaf mold (screened through a 1/4-inch mesh), and good garden soil (also screened through a 1/4-inch mesh). Add two-cups of fertilizer. In addition, add a cup of lime and a half-pail of wood stove or fireplace charcoal.


    How to Mix the Perfect Soil for the Perfect Garden

    Soil Volume
    Area of one garden block:Ê 4 ft by 4 ft, or 16 square feet

    Soil volume at 6 inches deep:Ê 8 cubic feet
    Soil volume at 9 inches deep:Ê 12 cubic feet
    Soil volume at 12 inches deep:Ê 16 cubic feet


    Ingredients
    Mix throroughly:

    1 bale of peat moss:Ê 6 cubic feet
    1 large bag of coarse vermiculite:Ê 4 cubic feet
    10 pails (21Ú2 gallon size) of sand:Ê 3 cubic feet
    2 pails of wood ashes and charcoal
    10 pails (21Ú2 gallon size) of compost:Ê 3 cubic feet
    1 coffee can full of lime ( 4 cups or 1 quart)
    1 coffee can full of organic fertilizers
    Ê
    Total volume of this mixture:Ê 16 cubic feet

    This amount will fill one garden block to a depth of 12 inches or two blocks to a depth of 6 inches.

    This is all simplified...
     
  3. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    Thank you Cchiu! Never thought good soil was that complex. Can you buy the kind of soil you describe ready made? I don't need much, only have a few containers.

    The woman who sells plants at the market told me black soil wasn't good when I mention I was having a bit of trouble with some herbs.


    Thanks for your help Cchiu!
     
  4. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    My pleasure Isa.

    There's a chance it wasn't the soil. What specifically were the problems you were having with the herbs? They tend to do fine in even poor soil.

    I'm not sure what brands are available in your area. If you can find them, here are some to look for:
    Fertilome
    Scotts compost-based mix
    even Miracle Grow

    Or go to your favorite nursery or greenhouse where you trust the people and ask. More than anything I would look for texture. There are a lot of soils out there that have bark and other "hard things" like charcoal, styrofoam, etc mixed in, in a word, lumpy. I personally do not prefer them but that's not to say they aren't effective. As I posted above, I like them light and fluffy (like a pillow to lay your head down on) or, like a genoise! LOL! So that when you pick up the huge bag, you're suprised at how light it really is.

    The best "soil" actually doesn't have any "soil" in it!

    Another option is to get the following inexpensive "ingredients": combine two parts peat moss (or well-de-composed compost), one part vermiculite and one part perlite. Then blend thoroughly. Nurseries should have these in stock and you should be able to buy just enough for your needs.

    The reason it's so important is because it's like using real vanilla bean versus imitation vanilla extract. Get the good stuff because it makes a difference. I learned this myself the hard way. Had been gardening for years and didn't know the difference until one year I decided to try a good bag of "soil" which was actually a "soiless mix". The same plants I'd been growing for years grew to twice the size that year! I've never gone back and my plants are much happier.

    Hummm.... my advice would be to purchase a 20 - 40 pound bag, you can repot all your plants and have soil on reserve in case they outgrow the pot or you decide to acquire more plants and you need more soil later. I do believe you get what you pay for. In this case, in the states, if your're spending $10-$15 on a 40 pound bag of soil, it's probably pretty good so you'd have to convert the currency...

    If you ever want to browse on the subject, the
    Soil, Compost and Mulch
    Forum at GardenWeb is a great place.

    Another tip, once you get your plants in good "soil", mulch your pots so the water doesn't evaporate so quickly as it often does with containers. It's less watering work for you and the plants aren't in complete danger of drying out.

    Hope that helps, let us know how it goes!

    :bounce:
     
  5. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    Some plants aren't happy with the amount of water they get. Some seems to be growing strong and are in excellent shape. I'm really worried about the rosemary. The needles are getting dark and falling. I hope I'll be able to save it. New soil should help. I'll get some tomorrow.


    Thanks for your help Cchiu!
     
  6. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    Do you think they're getting too much water or too little? There are so many variables! You don't see any white powdery mildew on your rosemary do you?

    Herbs tend to prefer drought to overwatering. Rosemary in particular is pretty happy for example if left alone in the ground with occasional watering. It also needs good air circulation. Also, if the plants are rootbound, this can affect it's growth as well. Make sure you have bigger pots or containers ready if you want them to get bigger, if not, start using your herbs more frequently, pinching back to keep them smaller.


    :)
     
  7. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    What do you mean with rootbound Cchiu?


    I don't it, for years I never had problems with my container garden and now it hardly grows (except thyme, basilic, chives, tomato and eggplant) Could it be cause the rest is inside? Windows face west.

    I think I watered them too much. Now I water, the indoor plants, about once a week or if dry to the touch.

    I got better soil today. Hopefully it will help.


    Thanks again Cchiu!
     
  8. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    My pleasure Isa, here are examples of rootbound plants in a container:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    See how the roots are outgrowing the container? They're looking for more soil but they can't find any.

    A south facing window is ideal for indoor plants if you can manage it. Yes, a west facing window may not provide enough light for herbs. Herbs tend to like full sun, 6-8 hours of direct sunlight). I would go ahead and put them in the ground if possible.

    And yes, overwatering is the number one reason house plants die.

    How are they doing Isa? Do they like their new soil?
     
  9. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    Cchiu,


    I haven't transplanted them yet. I'm still paying for my weekend. I should be well enought to do it this weekend though, I'll let you knowhow it went.
     
  10. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Isa, When you repot your plants, if they are rootbound like the picture shows, take a fork and gently 'rake' the roots, to loosen them up. Sometimes when the roots are so bound, they get strangled and can't grow any longer. Raking the roots also gets rid of the old soil that has clumped in between the roots.

    Overwatering is the single most common cause that kills plants; unless you're growing something like watercress, a good soaking once a week should do it. Be sure when you do water, to give them a thorough watering; not just a dribble on the top. Even if you see water coming from the holes in the bottom of the pot, the soil in the center may not have been moistened; particularly if you're using a very porous soil mix, the water will just run through and not wet the soil at all.

    With my bonsai, (which I do water more often - but that's a horse of a different color altogether!), I take a shallow pan like a large roasting pan, or plastic kitty litter box, fill it about a third of the way up with water and a weak fertilizer mix, and then set the pot in the water, being sure that the water doesn't go over the top of the pot. This way, the water is soaked up from the bottom, slowly, and you're sure the plant has been thoroughly watered.

    For the rosemary, when you take it out of the pot, look at the roots; do they look 'alive'? Can you see new roots forming? If so, you've got a good chance to 'save' the plant. Repot and cut back any old or black looking areas; look closely at the branches; can you see little buds forming? If so, cut back to the buds, use a weak fertilizer for the first watering, then fertilize every time you water for the next month or so. You should start to see some new growth, and will have a healthier, bushier plant.
     
  11. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    marmalady,

    Great advice! You know how I grow my watercress? I grow it in the bird bath in full shade! Just keep it full of water and the whole thing is covered in watercress in no time, no soil required.

    ;)
     
  12. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    What a great idea for the watercress - and I have an old bird bath that will work beautifully! Do you buy plants, or start seed right in the water?
     
  13. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    First time from plants, once they got established, they spread quickly, like a creeping plant in a hanging planter....

    Second time from seed. Just start them in a shallow dish like the bottom holder of a clay pot (no holes). Once they start to root and have their parent leaves, move them to the waterbath. Keep it in as much shade as possible. Also keep the water fresh, shouldn't have too many problems since it's not in direct sun, and you'll have watercress to harvest until winter!

    :)
     
  14. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Cool - can't wait to try it! And Shade is no problemo around our house!
     
  15. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    Thanks for the advice. The transplation is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Will let you know how it went.

    Tune in to find out if the rosemary will survive. ;)
     
  16. momoreg

    momoreg

    Messages:
    2,938
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Pastry Chef
    I love that watercress idea. It must be pretty.
     
  17. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    marmalady & momoreg,

    Try it! you'll love it! You may be able to just buy some starts for $1.50 - $2.50 at water gardening/pond supply places which may sell it as an ornamental aquatic plant.

    :)

    Isa,

    Have fun!

    [​IMG]
     
  18. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    That's so cute Cchiu, love the little guy.

    Ok it's done. So far so good, all the plants are still alive. I hope they will remain that way. A bit worry about the rosemary, so leaves tips are getting brown and dried. Still the same dilemna is it too much or too little water. Guess I'll know soon enough.
     
  19. marmalady

    marmalady

    Messages:
    1,046
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    Isa, Is the rosemary in a pot or in the ground? If in a pot, inside or outside?

    You may have to do a little agro-sleuthing here; dig up the rosemary if in ground - if the plant is about 6 inches tall, place your trowel about three inches out from the main stem, and dig out a circle around the plant, then gently go underneath the plant, and ease the trowel in until you can get the plant up out of the ground.

    Or if in a pot, just turn upside down and tap the plant out of the pot. Do this when the plant is fairly dry.

    Look at the roots. Are they mushy? If so, too much water. Is the plant rootbound in the pot? If so, a bigger pot is needed.

    If mushy, trim off some of the dead roots, repot in fresh soil, water lightly with a weak fertilizer, and place it in the shade for a week or two. Also, trim off the dead and browning leaves, and do a general 'pruning' like you would do with houseplants that are getting leggy. Then, every time you water for the next few weeks, give it the weak fertilizer drink.

    You should start to see some new growth pushing out lower down on the plant.

    With bonsai, we're always taught to 'look to the roots' if the plant has a problem and no other diseases or insects can be found. Good advice in general!
     
  20. isa

    isa

    Messages:
    3,236
    Likes Received:
    11
    I keep the herbs in pots some on the balcony and on the kitchen windows. I try to rotate them, see if it will make a difference.


    Since I had such success with the rosemary I transplanted a few more herbs today so I can answer some of your questions Marmalady.


    They aren't rootbound that I am certain of. When I bought them and planted them I did make a few incisions on the soil when I remove them from the small container so the plants would grow better.


    The roots weren't mushy at this time. Some of the black soil in the pots was pretty watery but I had just watered the plants yesterday.


    I do trim them and fertilise them weekly. As to how much and how often I water them, it depends on the exterior temperature.


    While I was on the balcony today, I realised I never had problems growing anything until I moved last year. I grew peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and even rhubarb. The plants were facing south and now they face west. Could that have something to do with it? Do I have to change my gardening ways because of the different exposition?


    Thanks you Marmalady!