Well, folks, I am sick. This whole week have I been so sick I could hardly leave my room let alone work on the Howdy Farm. I missed the farm and everyone I work with this week. I especially missed taking pictures and coming up with an idea for this blog. Then one day it dawned on me that I could still write a blog, it will just be slightly different than usual.
In addition to this internship, I am also in the garden science lecture with Dr. Pierson and the lab with Dr. King. I love these courses so much! They are entertaining classes which make learning that much more comfortable. I highly recommend these professors for these classes. They are awesome! In Dr. King's Garden Science Lab each student in the class gets to make a video explaining how to do something in the field of horticulture. We could make any "how to" video we could come up with or any video describing the importance of different techniques in gardening. My video will be about the significance of raised bed gardens and what you can use to make one.
This is a picture of my garden bed and me from the beginning of the semester. Since then everything has grown like mad. My tomatoes are way beyond the cage, my squash is growing over nearly everything else, and my zinnias are almost two feet tall. However before anything could grow here that little bed had to be built and filled with the right stuff. Since the video I am going to make can only be two minutes, this blog will be a more extended and more in-depth description of garden beds.
Raised bed gardens are important in places like this area of Texas because of the parent material in this area. The soil is made up of three different components; sand, silt, and clay. Places like College Station Tx have more clay in the ground which makes it harder for water to drain through. Places like Galveston Tx have more sand in their soil which makes it harder to hold water and leaves the root systems less stable. It is ideal when your soil has all three components in relatively equal parts. This perfect soil is often called loam or medium loam.
As shown in this triangle chart ideal soil is found in the middle of the chart at 20,40 and 40% of each component. This table can help identify what kind of land you have. You can have your soil tested by Texas A&M extension service at http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/. On the howdy farm a little while ago we received some new dirt, and we wanted to know what was in it. Instead of sending a sample off to be tested we decided to have some fun with the new soil. We took an empty water bottle and filled it halfway with soil and then filled it with water. After putting the cap back on Michael, our new Farm Manager shook the bottle for about 5 minutes, and the soil started to separate. After a few days, we could see almost equal thirds of clay slit and sand. The clay was the heaviest and settled at the bottom, and silt was in the middle and sand being the lightest was on top.
Once we can understand the soil and what it is made of, then we can understand it's composition. When we think of soil, most people probably don't realize what is actually in their soil. The materials discussed earlier will only make up 45% of the soil no matter what percents of clay silt and sand. All soil, in general, is 50% solid matter and 50% pore space.
Now that you know the soil is made of sand, silt, and clay in the 45% of solid material Lets talk about the critical 5% of organic matter. The organic material in soil is essential for microbes and the plants themselves. When creating your garden be sure to have organic matter in your bed for nutrients for the plants.
The raised garden beds we built for my garden science lab were constructed from planks of wood which we cut into 4ft long pieces. We made 19 (WHOOP) 4x4 beds for the students in the lab. The bottom of each box was lined with newspaper to keep some of the weeds from growing. Next, some of the original parent material was added back into the box. We used some of the soil from that area because it had low enough percentage of clay that we would not be concerned by it. On top of this soil, we added a bag of potting soil and half a bale of peat moss. Peat or peat moss is a excellent component to add to any garden. It's great for the pants and the microbes living in the soil. This peat moss incorporated our organic matter to the beds.
Lastly, we all mixed the different soils in our boxes to create a homogeneous mixture. This step is crucial but can be easily overlooked. One student did not mix their soil well enough, and her plants did not grow well and eventually died. After they remixed the soil and replanted their garden bed, they became much more successful plants. After all your soil is mixed, you can plant seeds and transplants and watch them grow! Have fun gardening!