Soil Prep and Container Gardening
If you are like most people in the Valley, you have hard, salty ground that needs to be opened up and softened. The best place to start is with a soil acidifier that will lower the pH. Next, add a fertilizer that contains a microbial culture, such as Great Big Plants, which when mixed with water will get the microbial (good bugs) count up in the soil so that they can process the nutrients. The amount of nutrients in it is sufficient for several weeks. Then be sure you make an early application of phosphorus and potassium. You need phosphorous for flowering on anything that blooms, like peas. Use 6-20-20 to boost flowering. Green leafy vegetables and root vegetables, such as carrots and beets, need higher nitrogen fertilizer, such as 16-8-8 or 15-15-15, which are medium release & last for one to two months. The rate is about .75 pounds per 100 sq. ft. For totally organic gardeners, use chicken manure as a pre-plant fertilizer, cultivate in well and water once to activate it. Apply microbial fetilizer so the microbes help convert the ammonia in the chicken manure. If you use steer manure as a pre plant, use First Step (DisperSul) to leach the salts that are in the manure, otherwise you may get salt burning from the manure. The best method on fertilization is using a combination of organic and inorganic because organic sources of potassium and phosphorous are very slow releasing and usually causes deficiency of these nutrients that, in turn, stresses the plants.
Container Gardening: Many people in small yards or apartments can grow a few vegetables in a small container. Vegetables need big containers – at least 18 inches wide and 8 inches deep. Space is necessary because the sun warms the sides of containers up to 4 inches in and can burn the roots. Darker-colored containers absorb more heat than lighter colored ones. Other containers—such as a 2 foot x 2 foot bottomless container–is a good height for people who don’t like to bend over or are in wheelchairs. It is also important to know the “microclimates” of your space; i.e., how much sun or shade your container plants are going to get as opposed to what they need. The best soil mix is one that is neither too heavy nor too light. A heavy soil will not drain well and can crush roots. A too-light soil will leach too fast. A B-2 soil mix is just right—heavy enough to retain moisture, but light enough for good drainage. The biggest problem people have with their plants in the Valley is over watering. While the weather is cooler, watering once a week should be sufficient, however, as the temps hit 90 degrees and above, water twice per week and always long and slow.
Gopher Control: Over the years many people have asked about controlling gophers. We have not had gophers for years at our Valley home, but others in the neighborhood have not controlled and the gophers have tunneled under the street and gotten in to our place again. Traps can work well. I recommend using two traps and sets at both ends of the tunnel then baiting them with peanut butter. Here are a few tips to keep the gophers from smelling out the traps: Handle the traps only with gloves and clean traps by pouring boiling water over them. We use Merit or the Mallet, the less-expensive look-alike on our irises because it goes to the rhizomes and will kill the gophers if they
eat the rhizomes. Don’t use on anything edible. I also recommend two products
that contain Merit. One is Bayer Grub Control and Mallet. You can also use this on ornamental trees and shrubs to control insects.