Harvest soil preparation

Larry G. Field
Thursday, August 29, 2019
This photo by the author shows how he replenishes the soil after harvest by returning the plant waste to the garden.

This photo by the author shows how he replenishes the soil after harvest by returning the plant waste to the garden.

#GuestCommentary

There are two effective ways to evaluate your soil nutrients. One is by testing the soil. In the spring inexpensive soil test kits are available at many seed dealers. You can utilize them or have your soil tested by professionals. A second less accurate way to evaluate your soil is to monitor your plant growth through the entire gardening season, but especially at harvest time. Once you become familiar with observations of plant growth as a means of quantifying soil nutrients you can be fairly effective. I have looked

at many gardens whose owners were dissatisfied and told them

what was needed.

The following are a few points to consider. Most of the soil in the Yellowstone valley (YV) was deposited as ocean bottom

sediments while the mid-continental seaway filled the center of

what is now the lower 48 states. Oceans contain huge amounts of all soluble salts. These salts were in the continents and dissolved by precipitation that carried the salts thru waterways to the oceans. When these oceans dry, including the mid-continental seaway, these salts are left in the soil. If you live in the YV your soil probably has plenty of salts such as potash, potassium, etc. The exception would be if you lived in a sloped sandy area such as the rims, where all nutrients are rapidly leached away.

A key nutrient is nitrogen. Most plants consume it. In addition, most gardeners, including myself, utilize compost. The bacteria that break down compost also consume nitrogen. My garden is excessively rich in all nutrients except nitrogen. I therefore use high strength nitrogen with a minimum of other nutrients which are already too high in my soil.

Most compost is available in either large (LQ) or small quantities (SQ). LQ includes things like manure and grass and can be spread over the entire garden. SQ include most harvested veggies and should be placed on the ground where harvested. If for example, your harvested corn loved nitrogen, by tilling the corn back where it was grown, most of the nutrients that it consumed from the soil will be returned to the same location.

If using chemical fertilizer, I suggest applying fertilizing and compost together and tilling in. The nutrients provided will dissipate thru the soil by spring. I also stake my garden with future planting plans in the fall so I know what seeds and bedding plants I will need.

Too much chemical fertilizer is more destructive than soil lacking nutrients. Yes, legumes such as beans and peas will add nitrogen to the soil, but too few are grown to do much good for the entire garden. Finally, do not add grass or other material that has had herbicides such as “Weed & Feed” applied.

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