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Garden Soil

January 2012

QuestionI have had a small backyard garden (20x50 foot) for many years. I put compost and fertilizer(10-20-10) on it every year. This last spring I put on some well composted chicken manure and tilled it into the soil. I rotate the crops around in this space, so as not to plant the same crop in the same space 2 years in a row. BUT, In the last 2 years, I have not been able to grow any radishes, turnips or similar root crops, all they produce is green tops. What can I put into the soil to cure this problem?


AnswerI assume you have ample sunlight, because all vegetables need a minimum of 6-8 hours of sunlight to produce. I think possibly the soil is too rich, putting loads of nitrogen into the foliage, and not forming the roots. Try mixing some coarse sand into the planting area, and using a 10-20-10 fertilizer. Make sure you plant in the cool season (before April 15) and thin the seedlings to give them ample room to grow, and see what happens this year.

October 2008

QuestionI have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of e-coli in my vegetable garden due to recent outbreaks. I amend my vegetable garden with a garden mix, but noticed clumps of manure in it. Is this unsafe? What precautions should I use? I garden in raised beds and will need to add soil this year. What should I use?


AnswerE-coli has been in the news a lot these days and has worried many gardeners. If you are using bagged soils with manures, they have been composted and should not have the risk of E-coli. We do not recommend the use of any fresh manure in gardens these days. Manure can be used, but only after it has been well composted. Almost all disease organisms are killed at 135 degrees, so composting in as short a time period of one month should suffice. Typically fresh manure holds together, whereas the composted form is more crumbly like soil. I think you should be safe.

QuestionI plant kale and rape in the spot that I will follow with tomatoes and corn since they stay green all winter are they a good cover crop that will add nutrients to the soil when tilled in or do I need to plane something else to improve the soil .


AnswerThey should do great. You can also harvest from them before turning in the remains. Having a cover crop keeps weeds away. Other choices include vetch, rye, oats or turnips.