Our Garden Talk guest on September 24, 2017 was Marina Gibson from the Day 1 Urban Farm Community Garden Project. She shared plenty of great ideas to get the most our of garden plots. Here are a few of them.

Build up Soil with Lasagna Gardening

Marina’s urban farm was built over a parking lot so she used this method to fill her raised beds at a low cost. She collected straw, horse manure, grass clipping and fall leaves and then filled her beds with  alternating three-inch layers of brown material and green material.

  • brown material = leaves and straw (carbon)
  • green = manure and grass (nitrogen)

If you want to grow in this bed soon, top the layers with six inches of garden soil. If you are working with existing soil, you do not need to add extra soil. The bulk of the material will have composted with no large clumps of material left and many worms at work in about three months when you will be able to work it in to your soil.

Ollas can help with keep your plants watered during the summer. Marina demonstrates how she made hers using large clay pots.

Ollas can help keep your plants watered during the summer. Marina demonstrates how she made hers using large clay pots.

Do this every year to improve water retention and build up the fertility and texture of the soil. Marina finds her plants are growing extremely well with very little need for additional fertilizer.

Improve Clay Soil with Gypsum

A fine powder, gypsum is a natural amendment containing calcium and magnesium. It does not change the soil PH, but can help make heavy clay soil more gardener-friendly. If you are dealing with the heavy clay of our community garden, top dress the area with a dusting of gypsum. Rain or watering will cause the gypsum to soak into the soil and react with the clay particles to create a bigger particle that can’t compress like clay does. This improves your soil fertility, drainage and aeration, making it easier to work, both for you and the worms. Marina found gypsum available in a 20-pound bag, which will last for several years. Use only a dusting, not a thick layer. Do this repeatedly throughout the growing season and you should see an improvement in your clay soil tilth by the third year.