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Organic Gardens

I have a patch of land 30 x 30 (about 1000 sf). The ground is full of clay. I’d like to plant a vegetable garden, surrounded by citrus trees, so I would want higher quality soil. What kind and how much soil would you recommend?
Clay soil is actually good soil, the problem with it is that it is usually very compacted.

Are making raised beds or are you wanting to amend your soil and plant in it?

If you are making raised beds I would recommend you use 2 parts of our Potting Mix or Nursery Mix 1 part Vermi Green Compost or Diestel Structured Compost. If you have 900 square feet of beds and they are 8″ deep you will need 15 yards of Potting Mix and 7 yards of Vermi Green Compost/Diestel Structured Compost. We can mix the two together for you.

I have a patch of land 30 x 30 (about 1000 sf). The ground is full of clay. I’d like to plant a vegetable garden, surrounded by citrus trees, so I would want higher quality soil. What kind and how much soil would you recommend?
Clay soil is actually good soil, the problem with it is that it is usually very compacted.

Are making raised beds or are you wanting to amend your soil and plant in it?

If you are making raised beds I would recommend you use 2 parts of our Potting Mix or Nursery Mix 1 part Vermi Green Compost or Diestel Structured Compost. If you have 900 square feet of beds and they are 8″ deep you will need 15 yards of Potting Mix and 7 yards of Vermi Green Compost/Diestel Structured Compost. We can mix the two together for you.

If you want to work with your soil then wait until it has dried out a bit from the rain, now may be a perfect time. You want a little moisture in the soil so you can get a shovel into it. If it is muddy don’t work it until it has drained. You will need 6 yards of Vermi Green Compost or Diestel Structured Compost and 3 yards of Fine Redwood Amendment. We can mix them together for you. You will spread the mix over your soil and mix in with a rototiller. I generally do not like rototillers but they are great to use one time when the soil is compacted. The rototiller will open up the soil and incorporate the compost and amendment. The Fine Redwood Amendment will help keep the soil open and the Vermi Green Compost or Diestel Structured Compost will add food and life to the soil.

In addition to Vermi Green Compost and Diestel Structured Compost we have a Composted Horse Manure. The Diestel Structured Compost is composted turkey manure made by the Diestel family from their turkey ranch. We know everything that goes into their compost. The Vermi Green Compost is a green waste compost so we don’t know everything that has gone into it, it is approved to use on organic farms. The Composted Horse Manure is local, it is good to use as mulch on top of your veggie garden.

Mulches are very important for the health of your soil. Do keep your soil covered with 2″-3″ layer of mulch. We have many kinds of mulches; composted horse manure, Mocha Mulch, Wood Chips or Arbor Mulch would all work well. They will all provide protection from the sun, help hold moisture in the soil, break up rain drops so they can penetrate into the soil, provide a long term source of food for the biology in the soil and mulching also helps retard weed growth. Over time you will want to maintain your vegetable garden by applying 1/4″-1/2″ of compost in the fall over the top of the beds and mulch over the top of the compost. You will also want to apply an organic fertilizer like Down to Earth All Purpose or Vegetable fertilizer during the growing season.

What kind of soil is used for vegetables?
Vegetables require soil that is well drained but holds moisture and is well supplied in nutrients, macro as well as micro. If you would like grow vegetables in your garden soil, then you will want to amend it with some good compost. Most soils on the Peninsula contain clay and silt, therefore the addition of 2-3” of compost dug into the soil to a depth of 6-8” will be beneficial. The compost will help open your garden soil, so air and water can penetrate. Compost will also add plant nutrients and lots of beneficial life. Some of the best organic composts for vegetables garden are the Diestel Structured Compost, Bu’s Biodynamic Compost or the Oregon Bull Organic Aged Humus. You can also add in Black Worm Castings, which will supply soluble nutrients and some beneficial life.

If you are growing in a raised bed, we have two mixes that are excellent for growing vegetables. The Lyngso Vegetable Blend is a mix of top soil, redwood shavings and Diestel Structured Compost. It is ready to go, just put it in your raised bed and water lightly as you put it in. You will not need additional compost or organic fertilizer for at least one year. Our second blend is called the Essential Soil Landscape Mix. The Essential Soil Landscape Mix does not contain any top soil. It contains pea gravel to prevent the soil from compacting which in turn encourages deep root growth. Deep root growth means less irrigation. The Essential Soil Landscape Mix contains an organic nutrient and biological additive. The biological additive contains beneficial bacteria including rhizobia and mycorrhizal fungi. It contains sufficient nutrients to feed your plants for at least one year.

What soil is recommended for planter/garden/raised beds?
The Essential Soil Landscape Mix is excellent for raised beds because It is about 50% mineral which will not settle as much over time. Potting Soils are primarily wood amendments and compost, over time they can settle by 50%.

What is compost?
Compost is organic matter that has been broken down by bacteria at a high temperature and then allowed to come to ambient temperature. At this point the pile has shrunk to around half of the original volume and it no longer resembles the parent materials. To create compost, you need a mixture of green plant material and dried brown plant material along with a little moisture and enough volume of material so the heat created by the bacteria is retained in the pile.   Different bacteria come to life at different temperatures in the compost pile. The thermophilic come alive in aerobic environments as the temperature starts to raise, they are the fastest decomposers. The bacteria with the help of the enzymes they release, break down the plant material until it is no longer recognizable. This is an aerobic process and it requires management by us; turning when the temperatures get above 150 degrees and enough moisture so the bacteria can do their job. Well-made compost has soluble plant nutrients as well as beneficial life. The beneficial life in the compost is what helps build soil aggregates and structure, so air and water can move into the soil. The beneficial life in the compost makes nutrients available to plants in a form the plants can take up.

What is humus?
For the most part humus happens without the help of humans. Think of a forest floor, everything that falls to the forest floor is eventually broken down. If you push the layers of the material on the ground away you will notice that the deeper you go, the more decomposed the material is. There is a whole group of organisms working on decomposing everything that falls to the ground. This process takes longer than composting but does not require any effort by us other than leaving it alone. There is typically a large diversity of microbial life in humus.

What is the difference between soil, compost, and humus?
Soil is what plants grow in. Soil in your backyard is most likely made up of sand, silt, clay, and organic matter. The texture of your soil is determined by the ratio of sand, silt, and clay. A sandy soil will be very porous, water drains through it quickly and water is not held in sandy soil. Sandy soils benefit from the addition of compost, the compost will help hold moisture and provide available nutrients in and around the root zone. A silty soil will hold onto some water, when silty soil is wet, it is slippery. Silty soil benefits from compost by suppling soluble nutrients and life to the soil. The life in the compost will help build soil structure. Clay soil is made of very tiny plates that stack together making it difficult for air and water to move through the soil. Compost will help open the clay soil so air and water can move through.

Compost and humus are decomposed organic matter. Think of compost as a heat process of decomposition and humus as a cold process of decomposition.   Different groups of microbes break down the organic matter until it is no longer recognizable. The microbes that break down compost work faster than the microbes that break down humus. Both provide beneficial life and soluble nutrients to the soil.

Which compost should I use?
We carry 3 types of compost, 1 humus, 1 worm castings, and 1 amendment mix.

Garden Compost is a 100% green waste compost. Green waste is made from everything people put in their green bins. The Garden Compost we carry does not contain food waste or lumber. It is composted in large windrows and turned with a machine, water is added as needed to keep the microbial process going. It is still hot when we get it in but once you spread it out, the heat dissipates. It has some soluble nutrients as well as life. The Garden Compost is not high in nitrogen but has more than adequate supply of phosphorus and potassium as well as major and minor nutrients. Use it when sheet mulching, amending clay soils, as a top dressing under mulch when planting natives, and as an amendment when making homemade potting soils. Garden Compost is OMRI listed for organic use.

Diestel Structured Compost is composted turkey manure. The turkeys are fed a GMO-free diet. Diestel Structured Compost is finished, it is full of life and soluble nutrients. This is the compost to use for food crops, perennials, annuals, fruit and nut trees, and berries. You can blend it into your garden beds or you can side dress your vegetables after they are established. Diestel Structured Compost is OMRI listed for organic use and is currently in the process of being listed through CDFA as OIM.

Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost is composted dairy manure. Bu’s contains no GMOs, pesticides, sewage sludge, growth hormones, or synthetic chemicals. Bu’s is a finished compost that is perfect for all food crops. Roses also love Bu’s. Bu’s Blend biodynamic Compost is OMRI and CDFA listed for organic use.

Oregon Bull Organic Aged Humus is classified as a humus rather than a compost. It is steer manure from a 50-year-old fed lot that has been decomposed by the fungi and bacteria over time at ambient temperatures rather than through the composting process. Oregon Bull is good in container mixes and as a top dressing for most plants including vegetables, followed by a layer of mulch on top. It will provide life and soluble nutrients. Oregon Bull Organic Aged Humus is OMRI and CDFA listed for organic use.

Black Worm Castings are produced by worms who are fed an organic diet of greens. These worms are not fed animal manures or food waste. The worm castings contain beneficial life as well as soluble nutrients. Excellent for vegetable gardens and fruit trees.

Amendment Mix is a blend of Garden Compost and Fine Redwood Amendment. Typically uses to break up clay soil. Also uses as a top dressing for lawns.

Why should I cover my soil with mulch?
Soil should not be left bare; the soil should be covered with plants or mulch.   Bare soil becomes compacted over time. The sun dries it out, the wind blows away the organic matter and the rain compacts the soil as it hits the soil. Mulch protects the soil from the sun, the wind and channels the rain gently into the soil. Think of mulch as a protective layer on top of the soil. As an additional benefit mulch also helps prevent weeds from growing.

Why don’t you carry any chemical fertilizers?
We believe in feeding the soil and letting the soil feed the plant. Most chemical fertilizers feed the plant directly at high doses. The rest of the chemicals simply gets washed away and bioaccumulating in our waterways, affecting our aquatic life. The life in the soil provides so many benefits to plants, so we want to preserve this diversity of life in the soil by using organic fertilizers. The life in the soil cycles nutrients to plants as they need them. They also build soil structure which allows air and water to go deep into the soil so roots grow deeper. When roots grow deep, you don’t need to water as much! Growing organic is more sustainable for our communities and our fragile environment.

How should I amend my soil?
Is the soil is very compacted and you don’t have any roots, especially oak tree roots, you can do a onetime rototill. You know the soil is compacted if water has a hard time draining through it. Spread 2-3” of Garden Compost or Amendment Mix over the top of the soil and blend into a depth of 6-8”.

Sheet mulching is also a great way to improve your soil, it takes a little more time. Please see sheet mulching instructions here

Why should I cover my soil with mulch?
Soil should not be left bare; the soil should be covered with plants or mulch.   Bare soil becomes compacted over time. The sun dries it out, the wind blows away the organic matter and the rain compacts the soil as it hits the soil. Mulch protects the soil from the sun, the wind and channels the rain gently into the soil. Think of mulch as a protective layer on top of the soil. As an additional benefit mulch also helps prevent weeds from growing.

What’s good for underneath new sod?
Amend the soil by tilling Amendment Mix or one of our composts into the top 6-8” of soil. This will help open the soil and add beneficial life which will encourage deep root growth. The deeper the roots, the less you water and the healthier your lawn will be over time.

What’s good for breaking up clay?
Organic matter is great for clay soils and helps open the clay particles allowing air and water to get in. Organic matter is food for the beneficial life in the soil. As the life in the soil breaks down, organic matter help build soil structure. Any of our composts, Fine Redwood Amendment, Amendment Mix are all good products to use to break up clay soil. You can incorporate the organic matter into the soil or you can sheet mulch. Sheet mulching will take a little longer. You can also plant cover crops. If you plan on putting in a vegetable garden amending with compost and planting a cover crop is a great way to prepare your soil for growing vegetables, berries, and fruits trees.

Is it better to mix the compost in the soil or lay it on top?
The least invasive way is to sheet mulch or put down a ½-1” layer of compost followed by 2-3” of mulch. This is great for areas where you have existing plants and you do not want to disturb the roots. If the area does not have any roots then mixing the compost in ensures a fast way to improve the soil. You only want to do this one time and then you want to make sure you protect your soil from compaction.

What do the three numbers mean in most fertilizers?
The first number is the percentage of Nitrogen (N), second number is Phosphorus (P) and the third number is Potassium (K). Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, or as commonly referred as N-P-K, are the macro nutrients that all plants need. If the fertilizer bag/box states 5-5-5, it means that fertilizers contain about 5% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus and 5% Potassium. A 50 lbs. bag, in this case, would contain 2.5 lbs. of Nitrogen, 2.5 lbs. of Phosphorus and 2.5 lbs. of Potassium. So, a 50 lbs. of 5-5-5 fertilizer will contain 7.5 pounds of nutrients and 42.5 pounds of filler nutrients. Your plants need more than N-P-K to grow, they need micronutrients. Therefore, compost is very ideal because it supplies not only N-P-K but also the micronutrients and beneficial life.