Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Earthworms Improve The Soil In The Learning Garden

Tomorrow October 31st 2012

Weather permitting we plan to hold a workshop on Worms and Worm Bins  in the Learning Garden from Noon to 2:00. We will be refurbishing and upgrading our current worm bin. Hope to see you there!


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Learning Garden gets Fortified with Minerals

Last Wednesday
October 17th 2012
We added the rock dusts I wrote about in my post last time.
Look how green the Greensand really is.

 After mixing in the wheelbarrow we applied the minerals.

Then we enjoyed Apples and Cheese, Crackers and Cider.

Thus far this fall we have been blessed with good weather for working outdoors. We will continue with workshops as weather permits, we also will take some time for planning and research into such questions as,what is sustainability, and how can our Learning Garden best serve our community?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Minerals for Pacific Northwest Soils

The primary reasons for remineralization  of the soil with the addition of powdered rock,  called rock dusts, is to provide a slow natural release of trace minerals which are then available to the growing plants. Trace minerals are essential for optimum health in both plants and animals. Soils that have had rock dust applied produce plants that are healthier and more nutritious and equally as important more flavorful.  Rock dusts affect the soil in numerous ways increasing earthworm and microbial activity and balancing the Ph. The addition of rock dusts to the soil increases the plants resistance to insects, disease, frost and drought and decreases their dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. These powdered rocks work to improve the texture of the soil.
Our Pacific Northwest soils in the Olympia area receive an average of 50.79 inches of rain a year. Because of this we have to replenish our soils to keep them productive. We have to offset what is leached out due to the rain. Here are the rock dusts I like to apply and replenish every four or five years.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock made up primarily of the minerals calcite and aragonite. It makes up about ten percent of all sedimentary rock. Limestone is comprised primarily of the shells of marine animals long since extinct. It is crushed to a fine powder and added to gardens to sweeten acidic soils. Anything below a Ph of 7 is acidic anything above 7 is considered alkaline, most plants do well with a Ph of about 6 to 7.5.  Dolomite is a term used to describe a sedimentary carbonate mineral referred to as dolostone. This is also used to sweeten garden soils and to add calcium and magnesium.
Greensand is a sedimentary rock that contains glauconite a mineral that adds potassium to the soil. Greensand is formed in an anoxic marine environment. It is found in coastal and estuarine environments and made of ocean sediments, creatures as well as plants. The success of 20th and 21st century agriculture is owed in great part, to the discovery of, and the ability to mine and transport these ores on a grand scale.
Rock Phosphate or Phosphorite is a sedimentary rock that is mined to add to organic fertilizer but is also used in the manufacture of synthetic fertilizers to boost their effectiveness.  Our planetary deposits of Phosphorite have been mined extensively and are disappearing.  There are other ways to obtain Phosphorous but they are energy intensive, very expensive, and under-researched. In the United States phosphorite has been mined in Florida, Tennessee, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Kansas. The Phosphate is present in the phosphorite as flourapatite.  Crushed rock phosphate is used to add phosphorus to the soil.
Glacial Rock Dust is composed primarily of ground feldspar and quartz. A natural glacial rock dust referred to as rock flour is created by the mechanical grinding of bedrock by glacial erosion this can be seen flowing into high mountain rivers and lakes around the world. In lieu of waiting for the glacier, Glacial rock dust can be made by milling or grinding quartz and feldspar this is another way to add essential trace minerals to garden soils.
Azomite is volcanic in origin is said to contain 67 trace elements and to be and all around plant booster.
Fertilizers have an NPK rating:
v N stands for nitrogen. Nitrogen is essential for leaf and stem growth. Low nitrogen means small plants.
v P stands for phosphorus. Phosphorous promotes root and shoot development. Poor roots, sick plant.
v K stands for potassium. Potassium is used by the plant to produce flowers and fruit. It improves overall plant health.
Nitrogen is put back into the soil via animal manures (cloven or feathered usually) green manures or by adding high protein meals like soy. The Phosphorous and Potassium are put into, or back into the soil via rock dusts. So there you have your NPK. If your plants get enough water and sunshine you should have a lovely garden.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

An October Apple Tasting!

Greetings! This Wednesday in the Learning Garden we did an Apple tasting of seven varieties of Apples, 5 of which were varieties that grow here in Western Washington and 2 varieties from Eastern Washington. We were taste testing to see which varieties were the ones we would want to grow in our potential orchard. Among the varieties we taste tested were: Fuji, Akane, Gala, Williams Pride, and Jonagold.   All  those grow well here in our coastal climate. We also taste tested Honey Crisp and Golden Delicious which are varieties that grow better east of the mountains. Our data revealed that Fuji was almost everyone's favorite and interestingly enough we have planted one apple tree and it is a Fuji. The Fuji is a wonderful apple; it was developed in Fujisaki, Aomori Japan in  the 1930's and brought to the USA in 1969. It is a cross between the Red Delicious and the Virginia Ralls Genet.
It is naturally on the large size, very crisp and sweet and keeps well. Along with our apples we cleansed our palates with local cheddar goat cheese and some Lattin's Apple Cider .

 Then we got to work spreading some mulch!

Thank You to all the volunteers that are making the Learning Garden such a growing place.
Check in with us next Wednesday when we remineralize the Learning Garden and taste more varieties of apples!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Learning Garden is Growing!

Greetings! This week we were blessed with a nice size pile of mulch to spread. Our crew was somewhat smaller this week working  in the learning garden:  6 people total, 4 students.  We had three tasks that we wanted to complete and we were able to get everything done and have a little time to enjoy the garden and have a snack.  The tasks at hand were:
  1. Move and spread  the pile of mulch over the cardbord that had been laid down last week.

2. Put more weedcloth and rock around the garden shed.

3. Move a 5'X7' garden bed to make room for the incipient fence.

Kudos and Thanks to all who volunteered! 
Our Learning Garden is growing. We need hands on help and ideas; please join us for some fresh air and fun. I hope to see you next week, Wednesday October 10th Noon to 2:00 or 3:00 to 5:00.