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Fall Bed Preparation - Jay Mertz

Fall is the time of year to amend, work and improve the soil. Observe nature; the leaves drop in the fall to decompose and build the organic matter in the soil. Soil should contain 5% organic matter, balanced with micro nutrients and trace minerals. We also need to build the soil bacteria, protozoa, microbes, and fungi.

This past spring many gardeners worked too many amendments and too much compost into the soil, then wondered why whey had poor performance from their plants. The soil did not have time to digest what it was fed. Much of the compost was not finished and had not changed to usable forms of nutrients for the plants.

Take a look back in the past at the old Texas farm. Grandma had the kitchen garden near the hen house and every fall the manure was spread on the garden to work all winter. Keep it simple, work with the basics! Use compost; you need only about 1 to 2 inches each season; use some manure with rock powder to build minerals; leaves are a must, they contain trace minerals, organic matter, and a little nitrogen.

The best compost is what you can make at home. It should contain 20% manure balanced with leaves, grass or untreated hay, food wastes, and anything that has lived and died. Adding a little alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal will make the compost even better. I use molasses at the rate of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water. Molasses contains sugar, sulfur, iron and trace minerals. I also use molasses on my compost piles and feed it to my earthworms. To build the soil micro flora, it must be fed!

Feeding the soil in the fall and winter gives the micro flora time to break down the organic matter into humus, making the nutrients available to the plants.

When spring arrives, mix worm castings in the soil when planting. Worm castings are a natural biostimulant, and aid the plants' uptake of nutrients. Then fertilize with a granular fertilizer for the soil, and foliar spray for the foliage.

Jay Mertz is owner and operator of Rabbit Hill Farms.