Originally Published: May 2, 2014 6 a.m.
Soil is undeniably the beginning of a great garden. Whether or not you are growing flowers or vegetables, the soil in which they are planted is the first determining factor in the success of your garden.
Soil in the tri-city area is difficult. Caliche and tuff (soft rock), and adobe soil (hard clay), is generally what the local gardener will find when beginning to construct his or her garden.
Most of us think of soil as simply minerals and dirt; however, successful gardeners understand the beneficial microscopic fungi and bacteria that help our garden plants grow. A rich soil will have a varied and balanced nutrient structure that includes carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen, oxygen, calcium and potassium.
Who knew there was so much going on in the dirt at your feet?
A vegetable garden needs fertile soil. Given our local soil we need to add significant amounts of organic material, such as animal manure or compost to create the desired loam (soil of mixed texture) for vegetable gardens. This increases the ability of the soil to hold the water and nutrients that will feed your plants.
If you are just starting out, buy commercial compost to get your garden off to a good start. The best way to get compost is to make it yourself, but that takes a little bit of time. You can start now for next year's garden.
A good first step is to get your soil tested. This will tell you how to treat the inadequacies of your present soil. Test results may also include advice on what nutrients to apply.
Overwhelmed? Don't be. You can contact our local University of Arizona Cooperative Extension of Yavapai County at 840 Rodeo Drive, Bldg. C, Prescott, (928) 445-6590. The main focus of the extension service is to help farmers but ordinary gardeners can find help too.
The Prescott Valley Community Garden, now in its fourth year, is an excellent example of productive organic gardening. Come be a part of our garden. Novice and master gardeners work together to provide vegetables for community food banks; additionally members tend individual plots for their families and friends. There are still individual plots available for this growing season.
Come visit our garden and find out more. On Saturday, May 3, we will be planting. People will be there from 9 a.m. to noon. On Saturday, May 17, there be an educational program presented by a master gardener from noon to 2 p.m. The topic will be: "Tomatoes, best selection for our area."
The Prescott Valley Community Garden is located on the corner of Florentine and Lake Valley roads, right behind Albertson's.