Time to Make Some Dirt

22 Feb

Here in zone 7b (otherwise known as Atlanta), spring is partially here. Tree buds have unfurled, daffodils erupted and spring fever is at a pitch. We have been blessed (yes blessed) with rain and for the first time in ages, the meteorologist reports that we are (almost) out of our drought. In a few weeks we will be planting, planting, planting which is why now it is time to make some dirt.

Veteran gardeners have noticed a change in pre-bagged potting soil. Regardless of the brand or monetary investment one makes, most garden soils look like this. WP_001032

Touching the “soil” one immediately recognizes two things: peat and ground-up bark. These do not make soil (well, technically they do, just not quickly).

Always on the hunt for a quick way to add organic matter, I take to the shredder and grind up as many newspapers as I can get.

Note: this process works best when rain is imminent.

Also Note: You can dig a trench and bury the newspaper.

The nest step: Adding Straw. After placing these shreds of paper directly on top of the soil, I add straw on top of the newspaper. I acquired the straw for FREE.  I stopped at a church after Thanksgiving while their “fall display” was still out and before their Christmas Trees went on display. The church was happy to give away the straw (they were going to throw it out).

Shredded newspaper and straw break down rapidly, especially in rainy weather.

Shredded newspaper and straw break down rapidly, especially in rainy weather.

Newspapers: also free. If you don’t subscribe, ask someone who does to save their papers for you.

After both the paper and straw are in place I sprinkle a liberal amount of fertilizer on top. The fertilizer, when mixed with rain, hastens decomposition. Either commercial or organic fertilizer is sufficient.

Sprinkle in a little fertilizer to expedite decomposition

Sprinkle in a little fertilizer to expedite decomposition

Now, for those who follow my blog often this organic fertilizer (see below image of bag)  is the best one can buy. You can use regular fertilizer (picture on right), but this particular organic brand is my favorite. You must ask for Top Organic from a “real” hardware store (not Lowes or Home Depot). You might need to purchase in bulk (go in with your neighbors, split the cost). This organic fertilizer breaks down in a matter of hours, transforming your soil into a rich, lush planting ground.

WARNING: “Top Organic Fertilizer”  is desiccated chicken manure. It smells…badly. Wear old clothes. Use when rain is imminent. Trust me on that one. This fertilizer is a wonderful additive to the lawn as well.

Top Organic Fertilizer. Find it, use it, but be warned, it smells !

Top Organic Fertilizer. Find it, use it, but be warned, it smells !

Incorporating these additives will give your plants and flowers the boost they need. When you have finished your garden will look like this for a while. If you wish, you can sprinkle a bag of potting soil on top to cover the straw. WP_001031

As always, I love hearing from you. Feel free to comment or contact me through my website

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes, and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. Look for the release of  In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches in 2014.


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