Organic Gardening Lacey WA

Preparing soil has two primary aims: tending to the soil’s physical structure and chemical-nutrient balance, which is influenced by pH. Soil structure, Sideman explains, is what holds plants upright, allows air spaces between particles for roots, and ensures that dirt holds enough moisture. When it’s dry, till the top 12 inches (deeper if soil is compacted) of your garden and determine what type of soil you have.

Harstine Heirloom Gardens
(360) 427-2440
1190 E. Sunset Hill Road
Shelton, WA
 
Idlewild Cooperative Nurseries Schools
(253) 584-0900
8601 104th St SW
Tacoma, WA
 
Willow Tree Gardens
(253) 460-0519
7216 27th St. W.
Tacoma, WA
 
Scatter Creek Nurseries
(360) 273-6730
17101 Vircon Dr SW
Rochester, WA

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Willow Tree Gardens & Interiors
(253) 565-8079
7216 27th St W
Tacoma, WA
 
Steamboat Island Nursery
(360) 866-2516
8424 Steamboat Island Rd NW
Olympia, WA

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Island Rock & Water
(253) 255-2991
497 7Th Avenue
Fox Island, WA

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Marios Landscaping Inc
(253) 564-4375
2905 Morrison Rd W
Tacoma, WA
 
Lael's Moon Garden
(360) 273-9567
17813 Moon Rd SW
Rochester, WA
Hours
Thursday through Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM

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Grassi's Flowers & Gifts
(253) 627-7196
3602 S Center St
Tacoma, WA
 
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Living Spaces—Dig It—Prep for Spring

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By Victoria L. Freeman, PhD

Gardeners know there’s nothing quite as bewitching as the first signs of green life pushing aside soil. Until those delicate sprigs peek through, you’re never quite sure if you’ve done what it takes to cultivate garden vitality.

Healthy soil is paramount, especially for organic gardens, says Eric Sideman, PhD, organic farmer and crop specialist for the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association. “Robert Rodale once said that conventional farmers feed crops but organic farmers feed soil, and he was right,” Sideman notes.

Preparing soil has two primary aims: tending to the soil’s physical structure and chemical-nutrient balance, which is influenced by pH. Soil structure, Sideman explains, is what holds plants upright, allows air spaces between particles for roots, and ensures that dirt holds enough moisture. When it’s dry, till the top 12 inches (deeper if soil is compacted) of your garden and determine what type of soil you have. Sandy soil, which feels grainy or coarse, contains plenty of air but doesn’t hold moisture well. Clay, on the other hand, tends to suffocate plants. Loam—a combination of sand, silt, and clay—yields an ideal balance of support, air, and moisture.

Regardless of your particular structure, Sideman says that adding organic compost is the best strategy for improving soil quality. He recommends staying away from sludge composts. Instead, use a nutrient-dense mixture of fast-decomposing materials like aged animal manure or homemade compost.

While attending to structure, take a soil sample for pH testing. Kits are available at most garden centers; for personalized recommendations, contact the agricultural extension department of your state university. Ideal pH is 6.5, says Sideman. Gardens that are more acidic (lower pH) require amendments like powdered limestone or oyster shell. For soil that’s too alkaline (higher pH), mix in pine needles or coco peat. Follow the amendment quantity guidelines suggested by your test results and till in amendments to root depth, or around 12 inches for most plants.

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