Monthly Archives: August 2022

Why pH Levels are Crucial to Your Vegetable Garden

Why pH Levels are Crucial to Your Vegetable Garden

You may be wondering if the pH level of your soil is actually important. Why wouldn’t something just grow if you plant it in the ground, water it well, and make sure it gets enough sun? Well, it’s not always that simple. If you want healthy vegetables, the pH level does matter, and it can be different for different plants.

First, let’s revisit the junior high lesson on the pH scale because we’ve probably forgotten. The scale runs from 0 to 14. Neutral is 7, acidic runs from 0 to 6.9 and alkaline runs from 7.1 to 14. Generally, your vegetable garden wants a pH level of about 6.5. At 6.5 high levels of nutrients are available for the plant to use. These nutrients include calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, iron, magnesium, manganese, boron, copper, and zinc. If the ground is too acidic, some of these nutrients will be too high and it becomes a toxic environment, minimizing beneficial soil bacteria for your plants to grow strong and nutrient rich. Some plants and trees do like more acidic soils, but not most items in your vegetable garden.

Testing and Adjusting

If you’re new to gardening or it’s been several years since you’ve checked your soil levels, it’s a good idea to get it tested. One option for this service is through Utah State University’s testing services for a small fee. You can also bring your questions to us to help you determine the best approach for your gardening project.

Acidic soils can be amended with lime, which will help to raise the pH and bring it to a more alkaline state. Be aware there are different liming materials. You’ll need to know if you need dolomitic lime, which is used if you have a magnesium deficiency, or calcitic lime, which is used if you have too much magnesium. For acid lovers, such as blueberries or evergreens, sulfur or aluminum sulfate can help lower the pH into a more acidic range. Aluminum sulfate tends to work more quickly but has the potential to burn plant roots. Sulfur takes a little longer to work so it’s best to apply this product in the spring. Because of this, however, it’s gentler on plants and doesn’t have the risk of burning roots.

Maintenance

Remember, the only way to truly know the pH level of your soil is through adequate testing. It’s not a good idea to simply throw additives into the soil and hope for the best. Too much of something can shift everything too far on the scale and create a new host of issues. For the healthiest vegetable gardens, provide the care it needs by testing about every four to five years.

Soils are often depleted here in Utah and boosting organic materials and healthy microbes will provide many beneficial nutrients for our vegetables (and any other plant) to grow properly. The Dirt Bag’s knowledgeable professionals understand Utah’s native soils and can help your garden of any size thrive. Bring any question to us, we’re happy to help.

Apartment Gardening

Apartment Gardening

Don’t let a tiny space scare you away from making a little outdoor oasis. If you’re in an apartment, condo, or townhouse and only have a small personal area outside, there are many great options to create a modest garden of your own. You’ll likely need to keep most plants in pots or containers, which means soil preparation and maintenance will be a crucial step. Here are some great ideas to get you started:

Privacy wall with greenery: Urban living often translates to tight spaces. Think vertically with a privacy wall of wood beams that you can fill with potted plants. You can easily switch them out as needed to keep everything fresh and healthy. From herbs to ferns to all colors of flowers, many plants work well vertically if they’re watered well.

Plant your own Vitamin-C: Citrus trees come in dwarf varieties, and they are pretty adorable. With a little TLC, they can produce fruits, too. Many dwarf citrus trees, such as lemon or orange, thrive in a pot if it has healthy soil, good drainage, and proper sunlight.

Sun or shade: Read the labels when buying plants. Sun lovers won’t do well if your balcony is shaded by your neighbor’s property, and shade lovers will quickly dry out and die if there’s direct sun during hot portions of the day. Hydrangeas do great in the shade and pack a big punch with their gorgeous foliage. And petunias are a reliable choice for sunny areas.

Patio roses: Roses are not just for large estates in the country. They can survive well in containers on patios or balconies, as long as they get about 5-6 hours of sunlight per day. Most rose varieties bloom all summer long. If you want yours to stay outside all year and come back each summer, choose one that is rated about two hardiness zones colder than what Utah is in and plant in a crack-proof pot. For very small spaces, there are options for mini varieties that are almost too cute.

Windowbox strawberries: It’s hard to beat a delicious, fresh strawberry and these babies come with an added feature—their foliage is beautiful. Strawberries do quite well in a windowbox and in containers and they are an attractive addition to any balcony or patio.

Think color: Create a vibrant scene or sitting area with some beautiful colors. Think bold throw pillows, fun-colored chairs, bright rugs, patterned pots, and unique plants. Create even more appeal by drawing your eye to various heights of planters and pots or consider stacking a few varying sized pots. Garden stools or small end tables are great for creating height differences with plant stands.

Plant some pollinators: Pollinator plants and flowers will always be needed, especially in Urban areas. From bees to butterflies, hummingbirds to moths, these pollinators play an essential role in the environment. Your little space can become a haven for our helpers when you plant a container garden specifically designed for them.

With any planting project, the success is largely dependent on the quality of the plant’s home: the soil. For the highest quality soil products in Utah, visit The Dirt Bag.