New Gardener - Knowledgebase Question

Rocehster, MI
Avatar for bk1189
Question by bk1189
March 16, 1998
Our soil is pure sand 6"-1' down and acidic ( I assume that from the fact that we have a dog who "piddles" in the back yard where the garden will be). I have no place to start any plants in my home, and the last frost is usually after May 1. Any suggestions as to what veggies to plant that grow quickly and well in that kind of soil??? (Or am I dreaming even TRYING to start a veggie garden) I am a NOVICE at gardening. (I couldn't even grow sunflowers last year!) But I am SO eager to try.

Answer from NGA
March 16, 1998
Your enthusiasm will prevail--I'm sure of it! First of all, you need to do something about that soil. You can improve the fertility and water-holding capacity of sandy soil by adding lots and lots of organic matter. Compost, well-rotted manure, shredded leaves, grass clippings--anything you can get your hands on. Till it in in the spring as soon as the soil dries out enough, wait a week or two, and start planting. I'd also suggest you get a soil test done, to determine just what the pH and nutrient levels in your soil are. You may need to add lime to sweeten the soil, but you won't know until you have it tested. Contact your Cooperative Extension office (313-858-0885) about soil test kits.

It will take a few years of adding organic matter (and lime if necessary) to really reap the benefits of these additons. But don't worry! You should be able to harvest some fine crops this first year.

Some good things to start out with are: lettuce, carrots, beans, beets, basil, and ... sunflowers! You could also plant some things in containers that you fill with your own soil mix--perhaps even a mix of your sandy garden soil, some compost, and some dehydrated manure. Bush tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant lend themselves to container growing.

This fall, cover crop your garden. This simply means planting a crop such as winter rye, then letting it sprout, sit in the garden over the winter, and grow a bit in early spring. Then you till it under in mid-spring, as soon as the soil can be worked. It will add lots of organic matter.

I'd suggest you get a good reference book, such as "Gardening For Dummies" (please forgive the title!); by the editors here at National Gardening Association. It's a great resource. Also, consider subscribing to National Gardening magazine--that way, you'll get manageable doses of practical information in each issue.

Enough "selling". Welcome to the wonders of gardening! It really is an enjoyable past-time, and be patient--with your garden, and with yourself. We gardeners learn something new with every planting, so jump right in!

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