Monthly Archives: March 2020

This Is Why Topsoil Matters

Topsoil Utah

The health of your soil is important at every level. However, natural topsoil is at a high risk of being wasted—in fact, one geomorphologist, David Montgomery, estimates that 24 billion tons of topsoil are lost annually. He discusses this issue in his book Dirt and points to civilization in general as the cause. “Topsoil” refers, in general, to the top levels of soil. The earth of course has its own, but you can also add topsoil to encourage a healthy ground and yard. You might not be able to tackle thousands of years of agriculture that has led to overharvesting, desertification, and deforestation on your own, but you can make a difference in your own backyard.

As today’s agriculture industries and farming disrupt topsoil on a daily basis, the tilling releases greenhouse gases. In turn, the globe gets warmer and the land continues to degrade leading to a higher risk of erosion and drought. Unfortunately, many homeowners have also adopted a chemical approach when taking care of their yard, which can void soil of its health. According to the UN, the world only has 60 harvests remaining unless something changes—and changes can start small.

Topsoil and You

Healthy topsoil has more tiny microorganisms in a single handful than the number of humans on Earth. These little beings are in charge of soil health and proper decomposition. They work with invertebrates in the soil (like worms) and fungal networks to restore a carbon balance and increase vitality. When occurring naturally, creating the top one inch of topsoil on all of planet Earth requires 500 years. This has led many informed farmers and gardeners just like you to practice regenerative agriculture, organic land management, and permaculture. For instance, your local community garden is part of this movement committed to lessening emissions by reducing food transport services.

You can help regenerate the soil by bringing nutrients back to the earth. Composting is a great way to do this. Instead of throwing away much of your food scraps, they can be re-directed to the yard to help create healthier topsoil. Using composting in your garden is easy, as it mixes very well with topsoil sold at stores. In the world of gardening, topsoil is darker and looser than the soil below the surface. 

Your Garden’s Topsoil Options

When you buy topsoil for your garden, you have two options: blended topsoil and organic topsoil. Blended topsoil is a hybrid of mineral materials and is usually sourced from an excavation site. Organic topsoil includes materials like moss, peat, and shredded wood. When purchasing blended topsoil, make sure to check that there’s no more than ten percent of gravel. Most gardeners opt for organic topsoil, but be careful. If you don’t buy from a reputable source, bagged organic topsoil can have virtually no mineral components. 

Finding out what the company’s latest soil test results will give you peace of mind when buying topsoil. This will tell you exactly what’s in your topsoil and lets you know if it’s high quality and will truly help your garden. If you’re gearing up for a season of hyper-local harvesting, you’re already doing your part to help the Earth. Topsoil helps your garden help you—if you get the right kind.

Creating a Spooky Garden for April Fools’ Day

Spring Garden Ideas

Are you normally a fruit trees and pastel flowers type of gardener? With April Fool’s Day just around the corner, maybe you’re ready to take a walk on the spooky side and feature some black plants in your garden, along your trellis, or featured on window sills. You don’t need to completely redo your garden unless going for the macabre is something you’d like year-round, but some key window boxes and planters will do the “trick.” Plus, if you pride yourself on offering the best candy on the block to trick or treaters, this is a ghoulish way to up your Halloween game—and black plants with Black Mulch are the perfect accessory to your scream-inducing decorations.

Even in a warmer climate, dark sweet potato vines will flourish especially in our Garden Soil Plus. You don’t need to go “all black,” and remember that deep purples and maroons are the makings of Halloween magic. Consider purple-black potato vines tangled up with the darkest of coleus. That coffee-colored hue is ideal for the haunting season, or go wild with deep aeoniums or black petunias.

A Chill in the Air

Expect your outdoor jack-o-lanterns to have a frost? Gardeners in colder climates have their own plethora of horrific planting options. Mondo grasses feature black stripes on the leaves that are just begging to be in Morticia Addams’s garden. Try the heucheras, which show off black leaves and maroon stems while being able to take on the cold. And those black-faced pansies? They’re a gardener’s staple, durable and able to enjoy a little chill.

Of course, April Fool’s lasts just one day and you’ll probably want to add some more color to the garden soon since spring is in the air. You can segue your plants into the holiday season by choosing chartreuse plants, peppering in a variety of reds that will be perfect for the season. 

Planting black, deep purple and mahogany plants is one thing, but don’t be shy when it comes to decorations. Almost every plant plays nicely with faux cobwebs, but be careful when it comes to heavier decorations. 

Animals Aren’t the Only Carnivores

Another way to get in the spirit of the holiday is by welcoming some carnivorous plants to your home. The most well-known are of course Venus Fly Traps, which are very affordable, easy to care for, and simply look like mini monsters. There’s also the Sarracenia genus, a North American pitcher plant that has funnel-shaped leaves that trap insects. The Darlingtonia californica, or California Pitcher Plant, adores insects and thrives in bogs.

However, if you want something truly worthy of April Fool’s Day, see if you can get your hands on a Cobra Lily. With bulbous leaves and two prominent leaves that resemble “fangs,” it lures its prey by confusing them with a light show. Fine hairs pull insects deep into the digestive chambers, where they’re unable to escape. No matter how you celebrate the day, give The Dirt Bag a call to find great ideas to give your garden the upgrade it deserves.

Pros and Cons of a Family Garden

It’s easy to romanticize gardening and certainly, for some people, it truly is the most enjoyable way to get outside, get some exercise, and reduce stress. However, for families, professionals, or simply those who live in a region with extreme temperatures, the idea of gardening can be more appealing than the reality. Not everyone is a gardener, just like not everyone is a basketball player or into knitting. You should figure out your gardening skills and how much time you’re ready to commit before picking a property based on gardening potential.

Family Garden

As a renter, you’re in a great position when it comes to starting your own garden. Some landlords have property management companies that take care of basic landscaping for you. If you’re not a gardener, this fee is included in your rent and you don’t have to worry about braving the scorching heat or freezing temperatures to mow and edge your lawn. Other properties are rented with the understanding that the tenants will take care of the landscaping. Consider this a vital factor when looking for a new rental.

The Upside to Gardening

Numerous studies have touted the holistic health benefits of gardening. It can actually be quite a workout, raising your heart rate and demanding heavy lifting. If you practice good posture while gardening, you can enjoy the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, stronger muscles, a lower resting heart rate, and even more flexibility. However, physical health isn’t the only upside to gardening.

Many gardeners tout stress reduction as the main appeal of maintaining a garden. There’s something meditative about getting back to the earth (literally), spending afternoons in the sunshine, and of course caring for living things. Gardening can be beneficial to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. However, not everyone is a natural fit for this (just like yoga doesn’t appeal to absolutely everyone).

On the Other Hand…

Gardening isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be truly tough work depending on your goals, your physical abilities, and the terrain. For some people, the constant bending and stooping can cause chronic aches and pains. Sun and heat sensitivity are definitely a factor to consider, and heat stroke while gardening is unfortunately a big risk that especially affects older adults. Plus, gardens don’t understand that sometimes the weather is keeping them from being pruned and deadheaded, so you need to be really committed to make the most of your garden.

Deciding whether or not a garden is for you shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if you’re in a neighborhood with an HOA that demands certain standards to be maintained. If you’re on the fence, consider starting with planter boxes or windowsill gardens. This will let you dip your toes into the world of gardening first to see if it’s a match for you. Also, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to call your friendly gardeners at The Dirt Bag so we can help you bring your vision to fruition.