Before you use that a free load of manure, compost, or hay in your garden, do a little testing to make sure the great deal on free or cheap material you just scored won’t ruin your garden for the whole season or longer!
The idea is to set up a science experiment of sorts and use the material on some test plants to see how they react. Beans work well because they are sensitive to most herbicides that you might run into. So get 20 or so small cups, poke a drain hole or two in the bottom, then fill them all with some sterile potting mix. Next, plant a bean in each one and water. When they start growing, divide them into two groups: 1) the test group and 2) the control group. (Just label the cups so you know which is which)
Prepare a special batch of water made with whatever material you want to test. If you want to test hay or mulch, fill a bucket with the material, then fill with water. If you want to test manure or compost, fill a bucket about half way with the material and then fill with water , stir well. Next, let the mixture sit for 8 hours or more, then pour off enough water for your 10 cups in the test group. Water the 10 bean plants with the test water. Water the 10 bean plants in the control group with clean water. Wait a few days. If both groups are still alive, you know it is probably safe to use the material in your garden. If your beans die, feel free to curse the giver of your free goodies and leave them a bad review online! :)
2922 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd , Dallas, Texas 75215
Saturday March 2nd from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Little do people know, the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in Dallas contains tens of thousands of seeds that are open for the community and also at no cost. All that is required is signing up for their email list and boom that’s it. Heck, there isn’t even a requirement to return seeds but you should at least consider it to help improve the Seed Library Community. You can also volunteer by help sorting and repacking seeds but you could even help facilitate an event like the upcoming one on March 2nd. Not only will this help you save money by growing food that’s known to produce here. But you also get to spend some time around like-minded people and converse.
Back to the topic of the post, the Dallas Seed Library and our good friends over at Restorative Farms are hosting this collaborative event at the MLK Branch Library. They are inviting all neighborhood gardeners to come and have fun but to also share their knowledge that will help build the community as a whole.
Chad’s favorite variety is Adriatic JH and says they “taste just like strawberry jam”. He currently grows several other varieties in his Fate, Texas backyard where the trees are planted very close to each other, 2 foot apart in some cases, and are kept pruned throughout the year to keep their growth and vigor down to the desired size. Airflow around the plant is important to prevent rust issues during wet times. Chad said he does the heavy pruning in the winter and some throughout the year, but his “grapes and blackberries are more needy with their pruning, just to put things in comparison”. This type of orchard design is known as backyard orchard culture or high density planting and boasts the benefits of being able to have more variety and more fruit in a given area of land, prolonged harvest, and doesn’t require the use of tall ladders.
Varieties of fig trees grown by Chad Spurlock
Texas AgriLife recommended varieties of fig trees for Collin County
What a terrific surprise it was to learn about the Earth-Kind Landscaping techniques, and when I heard the creator of the system, Dr. George, say that “everything he learned in school was wrong”, I couldn’t have been more pleased. You see, a credibility problem exists with the land-grant universities and their “researched-based” advice. The problem is that the research is almost always paid for by chemical companies. So seeing the advice such as “don’t fertilize”, “don’t spray chemicals”, and “lower your watering to near zero” come from Texas A&M caused me a bit of cognitive dissonance. But in a good way! Take a look at the handout below, at the bottom row which is for clay soils. Notice in the “yearly fertilizer” column, it lists “No”.
This is for typical landscaping beds. I think intensively planted vegetable beds will require some fertilization, but my point is that I think this advice is a major step forward and in my mind, gives Texas A&M AgriLife Extension a much better reputation for being Earth friendly.
As an aside, I’ll share that as I walked through the Earth-Kind Research Gardens at Myers Park, there were many bees of different types working the area. I don’t think we would see this if the garden was maintained in a traditional way using insecticides.