The Garden Soil

Whether here in York, PA or elsewhere, we at Miller Plant Farm know that the ideal garden soil is fertile, deep, easily crumbled, well-drained and high in organic matter. Thorough soil preparation before planting is needed for growing garden crops. The deeper the soil is worked the greater its capacity will be for holding air and moisture.

Adequate amounts of organic matter in a soil result in quicker growth. Such soil holds more water, is mellower, more easily penetrated by the roots and richer in food materials.

Every gardener should have a soil analysis done. This will show the pH level, or acidity of the soil and the level of nutrients available to the plant. If you are located in Pennsylvania, soil tests are available from Penn State’s soil testing laboratory. These kits may be obtained from your local extension office.

Vegetables grow best on soils that are only slightly acid. Proper applications of lime to acid soils will increase the production of most vegetables. Too much lime applied to a soil may be just as bad as too little. Apply liming materials only if the soil test indicates a need.

Except where heavy applications of manure are made, a mixed fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphate and potash -- will fit garden needs best. Various formulas or combinations are used. A commercial fertilizer having a ratio of 1-2-1, such as one containing 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphate and 5% potash, will give good results. The label on such fertilizer will read 5-10-5. Another common garden fertilizer is 5-10-10.

The rate of application of mixed fertilizer is 10 to 35 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. of garden, depending upon soil fertility and whether manure has been applied. On garden soils low in fertility, use 35 lbs. of fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft. More detailed information on garden soil management can be obtained from your local extension office by calling 717-840-7408 or visiting the Penn State Cooperative Extension for York County website.

On small plots, in which the rows are to be close together, about 25 lbs. of fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft. are broadcast. If the plot is large, with rows farther apart, part of the fertilizer should be applied broadcast and part in bands along the row. Applications made in bands at planting time about 2 or 3 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches from plants or seeds, at the rate of 1 to 2 pounds per 100ft. row, will greatly hasten early growth and maturity. 

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