For the Bellingham Herald
and Teresa Anderson were lucky. After Herald garden columnist
George Kaas taste-tested their soil at the Herald’s Garden
Makeover winners’ home he declared it in decent shape but in
need of nutrients. When they purchased a pH testing kit from
Bakerview Nursery, they found that their soil had a pH level of
6.5 – smack dab in the middle of the ideal 5–7 range.
The couple had
been mildly surprised to learn that their soil fell short of just
right. “When we first moved here I thought this was really good
soil, because it wasn’t clay, like at our previous house,”
says Teresa. “But George said there wasn’t much organic
material in it.”
long, narrow flowerbed along the west fence line of their property
was overrun with kinnikinnick. First, it all had to go to make
room for the compost and peat moss.
Fall is the best time to
amend soil for the first time, as it gives the added
materials time to breakdown. Winter freeze and thaw
naturally aerates the soil.
If you must amend only in the
spring, test for readiness first. Take a handful of dirt and
squeeze it into a ball; if the ball breaks apart easily, the
soil is ripe for amending; if it doesn’t, the soil is too
moist and you should wait two weeks and try the test again.
Working soil too soon in the season can break down its
Nutrients are depleted over
the course of the growing season. Always amend soil at the
end of the season and add organic matter again in the
proving Kaas’ point, they encountered few worms as they dug up
the ground cover.
For compost and
peat, the Andersons made their way to Cloud Mountain Farm &
Nursery on Goodwin Road in Everson. Owners Tom and Cheryl Thornton
were extremely helpful in pointing the couple to the correct peat
moss for the job, but suggested they travel to Smit Dairy on
Meridian in Lynden for top-of-the-line compost manure.
Smit of Smit Dairy proved just as obliging, as he set Dave and
Teresa up with two yards of the nutrient-rich fertilizer.
couple had secured the needed materials, they pushed up their
sleeves and dug in, working two bales of peat and two yards of
compost into the soil.
flowerbed is roughly 7 feet wide and 48 feet long. “It doesn’t
seem like so much land when you look at it,” says Teresa. Dave
interrupts with a laugh: “But when you’re digging in the dirt,
it sure does!”
were going to create some distinct berms or mounds for visual
interest,” says Teresa, “but George pointed out, since this is
a cutting garden, it would be harder to walk on and around. He
suggested making the dirt higher at the back, near the fence,
sloping gently down to the concrete.” Kaas stopped by a few days
later and commended them on a job well done. While there, he
helped them place large landscaping stones throughout the bed,
adding visual interest.
Dave and Teresa
have been doing more than getting their hands dirty. “In the
past month,” admits Teresa, “we’ve really only spent a few
hours digging in the dirt.
“When you have
a full-time job and family commitments, most people can’t and
don’t want to spend every minute in their garden,” she adds.
“We’ve had a couple hours each week to dedicate to the
a fair amount of our time researching plants and looking at fruit
trees,” Dave says. “We went down to Wells nursery in Mount
Vernon. We’re thinking longer-range and to the final product.
Teresa’s been finding bargains.”
the work so far been worth it? “There are other thing
I’d like to be doing, as opposed to digging in the dirt,” Dave
answers with a chuckle, “but if you’ve gotta do it to
get to the finished product, you’ve gotta do it.”
Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.