Category Archives: Soil

Late Summer Gardening Tips

Late Summer Gardening Tips

Fall is around the corner, and you may be welcoming in the pumpkin spice and sweaters, but you can keep your yard looking beautiful for a little bit longer. Once the month turns to September, many of us get excited for the cool fall season, but Utah is going to be warm for a while longer. Extend your beautiful summer garden into the early fall months with these tips.

  1. Water wisely – Utah has seen water restrictions all summer, so watering wisely has been imperative. Continue this effort for the next few weeks by watering in the early morning hours. This gives your plants vital moisture while also allowing time for the water to reach their roots before it evaporates in the heat of the day.
  2. Strategically mow lawns – During extra hot times, raise the cutting height of your mower and cut your grass in the cool evening. Mowing later in the day allows the lawn more time to recover throughout the night. Leaving your grass a little longer keeps the roots cooler, providing a healthy lawn overall.
  3. Spend a little time weeding – By September, we’re starting to get tired of yardwork, but avoiding the task of pulling weeds will only make the job harder. Pulling young weeds is much easier than working with them after they’ve established strong roots.
  4. Deadhead perennials – As flowers fade, deadhead them right away to extend their life. Deadheading forces the plant’s energy to be sent to buds rather than seeding, which is what they want to do this time of year. This allows the flowers to keep blooming and look beautiful longer.
  5. Prune – Later summer and fall is good a time shape bushes, shrubs, or trees. Remove suckers to prevent them from stunting your tree’s growth. Shaping brushes and shrubs will promote more flower growth and thicker foliage. Be careful with extensive pruning of trees—this is often best left to a professional.
  6. Keep up on pests – Aphids are typically thriving right now, so keep a watch for them. If you catch them when they’re small, they’re fairly easy to get rid of. Spray the populations off the plant with a strong stream of water from hose to dislodge them from the plant.
  7. Mulch – Mulching is a benefit any time of the year, but in the late summer you can amp it up by using lawn clippings in your vegetable garden, for example, as it comes to its final production stages for the year. If you have potatoes in your garden, adding a layer of mulch will protect the vegetable well into the cold.
  8. Divide your plants – Some plants, such as peonies and day lilies, are happier plants if you divide them in the late summer or fall. Gently pull apart some of the roots with your hands and cut them back with a sharp knife. Doing this keeps the plant healthier because there is more space for roots to grow and absorb water and nutrients.

If you need help finishing the blooming year off right, come in to The Dirt Bag for the highest quality products.

Do Coffee Grounds Help Plants?

Do Coffee Grounds Help Plants?

You don’t have to be a coffee drinker to enjoy the benefits of using the grounds in your garden. Many local coffee shops will sell or give away used coffee grounds just for gardeners’ use. Used coffee grounds contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which are good nutrients for your soil. Plus, it feels good to reuse something that would otherwise just sit in a landfill.

Think of the grounds as a periodic fertilizer. You can take the grounds and simply sprinkle them directly onto the soil. Then disperse them using a rake or lightly work them into the soil enough so that the grounds won’t harden on top and not seep through. Make sure you don’t rinse the grounds first. You want fresh, unwashed coffee grounds to get the right effect. You can also make a liquid to pour into the soil. A good ratio is about two cups of coffee grounds with five gallons of water, let it sit overnight, then pour away this liquid black gold.

Do All Plants Like Coffee Grounds?

Because coffee is acidic, you’ll want to use the grounds for acid-loving plants in particular. The grounds will lower the pH level of your soil, which causes it to be more acidic. (Read our other blog here for more information on pH levels.) Plants and flowers such as azaleas, roses, hollies, hydrangeas, and lilies will thrive with coffee grounds. However, tomatoes or rhododendrons may be a little more sensitive to the acidic nature and develop brown leaf tips if they come in contact with the grounds. Avoid applying grounds when your plants are still seeds, as it can affect germination. Give them some time to grow for a bit first. Coffee grounds can also be good for grass. It helps grass look greener and grow longer, which is certainly a priority here in Utah. Experts suggest you take some caution with using grounds. Too much and you can actually burn your plants. Using the ratio above (two cups of grounds to five gallons of water) should protect your plants from too much nitrogen.

Deter Bad Bugs

Many gardeners use coffee grounds as a natural bug repellant. They will help keep slugs and snails away because of the abrasive nature of the grounds. However, they will help attract earthworms, which are beneficial to your plants. The earthworm is the single most beneficial organism for soil health. They decompose organic matter, increase soil aeration and infiltration, and encourage water movement and nutrient cycling. Worms love coffee grounds, so welcome them by using them wherever applicable.

If you don’t have coffee grounds in your house, visit some local coffee shops and you’ll likely see some bags for sell at a bargain. If you don’t, simply ask the barista. Many shops love sharing their grounds with the community because they understand the many benefits. If you want to get started using grounds in your garden but you’re still nervous about adding too much nitrogen, come in and talk to one of our specialists to get advice for your particular garden situation.

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.

Plant These Beauties in Your Park Strip

Plant These Beauties in Your Park Strip

The flip your strip program is in full force in Utah. Many counties are offering rebates for those who tear out their grass in their park strips and replace it with water-wise solutions. It’s estimated that about 5,000 to 8,000 gallons of water is used each year on a single average park strip. Before you decide to tear everything up and pour concrete or spend thousands in decorative rock, consider planting some beautiful native, water-wise plants instead. This will keep park strips looking beautiful and lush without wasting water. Don’t want to worry about that many plants? Go for a combination of rocks, mulch, and plants to make a beautiful, maintenance-free park strip area that’s lush and practical. Here are some plants to consider for your new park strip after you’ve flipped it:

  • Banana Yucca: this is the state flower of New Mexico. Its sharp evergreen leaf tips are a great barrier against unwanted animals. There are over 40 different species of yucca, but the Banana Yucca is one of the few that produces delicious fruits.
  • Desert Zinnia: this is a flowering plant that is related to a daisy. It’s a perennial and thrives in sandy, gravel-like soils in drought-prone areas around Utah. It’s actually not native to Utah but is common in New Mexico and Colorado and does well in our climate.
  • Blue Sage: this plant is also known as Mountain Sage. It grows throughout the south-west, particularly in California, Nevada, and Arizona. It’s a drought-tolerant alpine shrub that is happier in higher elevations (above 5,000 feet). It’s purple and blue flowers are year-round blooming and can be used for culinary purposes.
  • Indian Ricegrass: this is a water-wise grass that grows in clumps about one to two feet tall. They are drought-tolerant and hardy in cold temperatures, making them an excellent choice along the Wasatch Front. Their seeds can self-propagate and are great for birds to eat.
  • Broom Snakeweed: this is another one in the daisy family and is great for Utah’s sandy, dry soil. Its thread-like leaves produce tiny clusters of yellow flowers from late summer to fall. Local wildlife is not impressed with this flower, so you don’t have to worry about grazing animals nibbling it away.
  • Desert Globemallow: this is a plant that’s native to the Utah deserts. Its color is a beautiful pop of orange and grows to about three feet tall. The flowers on the ends are impressive and blooms almost all year round, attracting bees and other pollinators.
  • Mesa Verde Ice Plant: this lovely purple plant is a low-growing ground cover that spreads naturally across rocky soils. Rock gardens of all shapes and sizes do well with this plant added, and they get more drought tolerant the more established they become.

Whatever you choose to do with your park strip, just know that it can be beautiful with minimal effort. Visit The Dirt Bag to get soil amendments before planting, mulch for water retention, and decorative rocks to finish off the look.

Your Garden Can Thrive with Less Water

Your Garden Can Thrive with Less Water

As the second driest state in the nation, we must be conscious about our water usage. Vegetable gardens are popular throughout most of the state, and they’re something many of us are proud of, especially when we grow enough food to can for the winter. There are ways to create a thriving, happy vegetable garden without using more water than necessary. Here are some tips:

  1. Water at the appropriate time of day. You already know not to water in the heat of the day, but it’s also important to avoid the evening hours. Soil in the evening is warm and when you add water that will likely remain all night long, the warm and wet foliage will attract bugs and fungal development. The best time to water is between 5am and 10am.
  2. Install a more efficient watering system. An overhead system is great for the lawn, but not the for a vegetable garden. Most of the water evaporates before it hits the soil, not making it to the roots of your veggies where it’s really needed. A drip system is much more effective at getting water where it needs to go. And bonus—it cuts down on weeds, too.
  3. Make sure you have healthy soil. There is no substitution for good, healthy soil in your garden. You soil is the main determiner if your vegetable garden with thrive or die. Soil texture will guide your watering schedule as well. For example, if you have more sandy soil, you will probably need to water more frequently than if you have more clay-like soil. You’ll probably need to add some nutrient-rich soil prepor compost to whatever soil you have currently to help your plants grow all season long. If you want delicious vegetables to pick, you’ll need nutrient-rich, pH-balanced soil.
  4. Add mulch, but not too much: Adding about one to two inches of mulch around your plants can protect plants’ roots, helps reduce evaporation, and keeps weeds at bay. There are natural mulch materials such as lawn clippings, dried leaves, and straw, or go for a prepared bark mulchthat’s beautiful and ready to go.
  5. Avoid buying water-hog plants: Some vegetables just aren’t great for Utah’s conditions. Plants like lettuce (although a happier-in-spring plant), broccoli, celery, and cabbage all take quite a bit of water, so avoid these if you can. If you really want to plant these, make sure you’re following the above tips to maximize your watering efforts.
  6. Plant companion plants: Companion planting has been around for over 2,000 years and it works. Plant items that work well together, such as corn, beans, and squash (called the three sisters). Basil and tomatoes go well together too, and strawberries like to be with onions. Save water with companion planting, but also grow healthier, stronger veggies.

The Dirt Bag wants to see your garden thrive. We love to help people get on the right track with their garden projects and can assist you in keeping it successful all season long.

Container Gardening Success – Part 1

Container Gardening Success – Part 1

Container gardening is a great way to bring beauty to your yard. Plants aren’t picky about where they’re put as long as they have enough room for their roots grow, proper waterings and drainage, and good soil full of necessary nutrients. You can have total control over your garden with containers, and it’s easy to stay on top of your plants’ needs when they’re contained in, well, a container.

Advantages of Containers

With container planting, there is less chance for pests and diseases, and if you do start noticing a problem, it’s easier to manage and remedy. You can also control the soil balance, pH levels, sunlight exposure, and water amounts easily. With the ability to move the pots around, you can extend the growing season by bringing plants inside the garage when needed or by starting the growing season indoors before it’s safe to do so with possible frosts outside. Plus, with the many container options, you are able to bring uniqueness and personality to your yard.

Materials

Get your creative juices flowing and explore the many options for container planting. We’ve seen amazing gardens in old bathtubs, wheelbarrows, five-gallon buckets, dug out tree stumps, repurposed barn wood, and even vintage truck beds. The versatility of materials makes container gardening a fun and enjoyable project. Just make sure you add some drainage holes about a half inch wide to avoid clogging issues and that you don’t use a product that can leach harmful chemicals or substances into the soil.

Soil and Amendments

One critical aspect of container gardening is the soil. You may think it’s okay to pour in some dirt from your garden, but that isn’t ideal for your plants. The dirt will harden too much when it dries, and it won’t have enough important nutrients for your plants to thrive all summer. Instead opt for a high-quality potting soil that contains peat, manure, and perlite, such as our 100% organic Garden Soil Plus. This product is perfect for veggie or flower gardens as well as containers and planter boxes, and you can plant directly into this soil—no need to mix with other products.

Even with a quality soil, you’ll want to fertilize your container gardens. A good rule of thumb is to fertilize about two to four weeks after planting and then reapply about once every two weeks. Some plants, especially veggies, may require more or less, so read the labels or come in and ask us for assistance. You can also add mulch to your container to maximize water retention and preserve the nutrients all season long. We call mulch your personal helper in a garden because of its many benefits. Protect roots, prevent weeds, repel pets, and be water wise with proper mulch application.

Container gardening gets more popular each year, and with good reason. Container gardening is great way to have control over your plants throughout the hot summers. We have a lot to say about container gardening, so be sure to check our Part 2 of this blog series.

Get the (Garden) Party Started

Get the (Garden) Party Started

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, we’re not talking about the Christmas holiday. Spring for us is the most exciting season because it means rebirth, regrowth, and new beginnings. Everything comes to life, and colors pop all around us. Get the party started off right with high quality products for your yard to make sure everything looks and grows its best all spring and summer long.

Soil and Compost

Our Garden Soil Plus product is a well-aged, compost-based soil that is full essential microbes for plant health. It’s perfect for vegetable gardens, planter boxes, and shrubs. This mix will start your garden off right and contains no added chemicals or fertilizers. Our Organic Mountain Compost is new and improved this year. It’s a high-quality, nutrient-rich compost that is amazing for topdressing plant beds. For soil amendments, mix one inch into every four inches of soil. This will help break down heavy soils and allow for roots to dig deep to access water and nutrients. For fill areas and laying sod, our basic topsoil is screed for large debris and is ready to go. Quality topsoil is the mark of a healthy lawn. Combine our topsoil with our sod for and you’ll have a swoon-worthy lawn in no time.

Landscaping Rocks

With a dry year ahead of us, consider using landscaping rocks throughout your yard to minimize watering needs. Landscape rocks can transform the design of a yard and is a beautiful way to add visual appeal. From full xeriscaping projects to walking pathways, we offer numerous rock options for every style preference and project. If you’re unsure how to use rocks as a design feature, don’t hesitate to reach out to our professional staff with your questions. We love to help people with their landscaping visions.

Mulch and Bark

Mulch is a must do for many reasons. We offer a lovely dark brown mulch, bulk shredded bark, and playground wood chips. We consider mulch a personal helper in your garden. It aids in the retention of moisture (which is especially needed in Utah right now), repels pests such as gnats and ticks (especially if you opt for cedar or pine mulch), preserves soil nutrients, protects plant roots from extreme weather and erosion issues, and discourages weed growth. Mulch is a little miracle worker and can be used in a variety of ways. We offer a variety of colored wood mulch that contains environmentally friendly dye coloring. Our products look good for up to four years, bringing a well-groomed and maintained to your yard. For convenience, we offer delivery for many projects, and you can return our reusable bags for $5 refunds when they’re returned in good condition.

Start checking off your spring to-do list with a stop at The Dirt Bag to discover the many ways we can help you get your garden and yard projects completed beautifully. Keep your garden, flower beds, and lawn healthy and strong with our quality products. Happy spring!

Consider Water Wise Sod

Consider Water Wise Sod

This summer we’re likely to see major water restrictions for yard usage. Utah is in a “megadrought,” and some experts predict many areas of the Wasatch Front will be restricted to one lawn watering per week. It’s also possible that water districts may turn water on a little later this spring and turn it off a few weeks earlier in the fall. A Salt Lake Tribune article from March states: “The Bear, Weber, Provo-Jordan and Tooele Valley basins are looking especially bare, with snowpacks below 80% of normal according to the latest Water Supply Outlook Report by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide, snow-water equivalent is at 82% of normal and February brought only 34% of its usual precipitation.” However, our precipitation is close to average for this time of year thanks to early-season storms in October and December. This may sound good, but according to the NRCS, Utah “will need an additional 13 inches beyond the historical water year averages to eke itself out of years of accumulated shortages.”

Many water districts and companies are offering money to rip out lawn from park strips to try and combat our drought. But, if you consider a Utah-native, water-wise sod, you don’t have to. Big box stores typically sell sod that is better for climates that receive more regular moisture. Not only will this take more water to maintain, but it also means more fertilization and more chances for pests and diseases. When you opt for grass that is grown in Utah just for Utah, you can be confident it will thrive in our climate without the need for a lot of additives and assistance to keep it healthy.

Utah’s unpredictable weather is tough on non-native grasses. The Dirt Bag’s specific blend of Kentucky Bluegrass varieties made just for Utah will not have the same problems that other grasses have here. Our sod is dense and resilient and provides a beautiful, immediate lawn to complete your yard project quickly. It stands up to high traffic and pests and diseases that are common in other lawns throughout the state. When you choose a sod that is engineering to not only survive but thrive on minimal amounts of water, you can enjoy that lush, soft grass all summer without stressing about the amount of water you need to keep it healthy.

With Utah’s reservoir storage at about 53% capacity, which is down about 14% from last year at this time, we’ll all need to make some extreme changes to our watering habits. Some stream flows are at 20% of normal, and the NRCS predicts a poor runoff season due to low snowpack.

If you’re putting in a lawn or want to make a change to your current non-native lawn, contact The Dirt Bag to get our Utah-native sod delivered to your door. Also visit us for quality soil products, play sand, mulch, compost, and fertilizer to make sure your yard looks beautiful all year long. If we all do our part to conserve water, we can keep our lawns lush and green even during a drought.

Conserve Water by Improving Your Soil Quality

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil

It’s hot in Utah, and very dry right now. You’ve probably heard our news stories about lakes and reservoirs already sitting at alarmingly low levels. Pineview Reservoir is currently registering 18 feet below normal for this time of year, and Lake Powell is hitting historic lows. KSL News interviewed Riley Olsen with Weber Basin who says: “We had a quite bad snowpack, it wasn’t historic lows, but it definitely wasn’t good.” Because of the poor snowpack, soil moisture levels are not good either. Olsen explains that “when that snow’s melting, it’s just going straight into the ground. Not much of the melt is making it to the reservoirs.” Olsen’s advice for Utahns is “do everything can to conserve every drop.”

Utah has promoted wise watering for years, but are you doing your part to slow the flow and save H2O? Long, deep watering cycles (not daily) are better for your plants and lawn and our waterways. Also, try to water before 10am so roots can absorb the water before the hot sun peaks. If you’re already doing this, what else can you do? Well, that’s where we come in. The right soil and some good mulch can make a world of difference.

Boost Soil and Use Mulch

High quality soil is imperative to water conservation. You don’t want irrigation water and what little rain we get to run off and not be absorbed into the places you want. Quality soil allows for this absorption, going deep into the ground where the roots are taking hold. Deeper roots mean healthier plants and less watering. Reducing soil erosion and lessening the need for pesticides and fertilizer are also benefits to using a rich, quality soil. Incorporate organic compost with a premium blend of products, such as alfalfa, grain by-products, straw, and compressed steer manure to boost poor quality native soils and promote better water retention by loosening compacted soils.

Another great water-wise landscaping technique is the proper use of mulch. Organic mulch aids in the reduction of evaporation around your flowers and plants. Boost this with a drip system and you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing you’re maximizing efforts to conserve in our desert community. Not only is mulch a beautiful topper, but when you apply 3 to 4 inches in your beds or gardens, it will help keep out weeds and retain moisture for those thirsty plants.

Some other quick tips to being water wise are to fix any leaks you see quickly, stay on top of weeding so water doesn’t go to unnecessary plants, adjust your mower to a higher setting to shade your grass and promote a deeper root system, and even wash your dog outside and close to flowers or an area that’s dry in your lawn—your dog will love the cool water during the summer, too.

Being water wise doesn’t mean you need to xeriscape your entire yard. With a few smart switches, you can have a beautiful, green, water wise yard all summer long. At The Dirt Bag, we sell the highest quality soil prep, organic composts, and mulch options to maximize your conservation efforts.