February Newsletter

Improving Soil

When the growing season arrives, we all have high hopes for our gardens. We imagine high yields of veggies and vigorous, healthy plants. But what if this isn’t the case? If your garden is struggling, you might be stuck wondering why and what to do about it.

The answer may be simple: soil. Despite your best efforts with watering, pruning, weeding, and other garden care, you might not get as much out of your garden as you should. The reason often has to do with the quality of soil you have in your garden.
The plants in your garden depend greatly on the nutrients in the soil. Even with the right amount of sun and water, plants can fail if they aren’t planted in the correct soil conditions. This might bring you to wonder what condition your soil is in and what you can do to alter it.

First of all, if you haven’t already, figure out what kind of soil texture you have in your garden. There are multiple soil types, but the ideal one for growing most things is loam. There is an easy test you can do yourself to discover which you have. Take a handful of slightly moist soil in your hand and squeeze it. Loamy soil is soft and crumbly in your hands but will loosely hold its shape after you squeeze it. Loam soil contains a good balance of sand, silt, and clay particles and retains nutrients best, helping plants to stay healthy and strong.

If you don’t have this kind of soil, you can add things to your garden soil to improve it. Adding organic matter to your soil–such as compost, peat, or manure–can greatly improve your garden.

Another aspect of the soil you need to look into is the pH. The pH of your garden soil refers to how alkaline or acidic it is, and is measured on a scale between 0 (acidic) and 14 (alkaline), with 7 being neutral. Generally, most garden plants like a pH between 6 – 7.5. To find out the acidity of your soil, you will need to test it. You can do this with a purchased kit, or you can have it tested elsewhere like your county extension office. Once you have the results, you will have an idea of what you will need to change to improve your soil for the types of plants you will be growing. This may include adding lime to increase the pH, or sulphur to help lower it.

Once you have a better understanding of your soil type and how you can fix it, you will be on your way to a healthier garden.

Gardening Question of the Month

Q: How do I know when the danger of frost has passed?
A: This depends on your area. There are many gardening books and sites that you can consult to help you figure out an accurate last frost date where you live. For a an approximation of first and last frost dates, this chart can help give you an idea. The best option, however, is to contact your local county extension office and ask about the last frost date where you live. They are likely to have the most accurate information to assist you.

February Recipe

Want to try an amazing cookie? Use real mint to make these chocolate chip cookies delicious and full of refreshing minty flavor!

Minty Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 C. flour
½ C. fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 C. unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 C. granulated sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
-Preheat the oven to 350F.
-Using a food processor, combine the mint leaves and sugar until the mint is well chopped.
-In another bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together. Set aside.
-In separate bowl, beat the eggs, sugar/mint mixture, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Add the 2 eggs and mix well.
-Add the flour mixture, then stir the chocolate chips in.
-Scoop balls of dough onto an ungreased baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes (or until cookies are golden brown).

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