Many of us neglect our gardens during the heat of summer months. Either we leave for vacation or we find the allure of gardening insufficient under the intense heat of a Houston summer.
Fortunately, the fall gardening season is upon us and the need to prepare our soils is here. Over the summer our soils become drier due to the intense heat, insufficient rain or lack of watering. When garden soils become dry the microbial activity of soil decreases. Just like most living things, microbes require a certain amount of water and organic matter. Ideally, you want to have an established population of beneficial organisms in your soil before planting. These organisms improve soil structure and soil fertility.
Below are four things you can do to improve your microbial activity and prepare your soil for optimal growing conditions.
1. Fertilize your beds with a balanced organic fertilizer. There are several you can get locally. MicroLife, a product of San Jacinto Environmental Supplies, is an example of a good balanced organic fertilizer that you can find at local nurseries. Be sure to follow the application rates for bed preparation listed on the back of the bag.
2. After you fertilize, add organic matter to beds that look low or appear pale and sandy. If you are good about seasonally adding mulch to your beds then you can skip this step. Screen any finished compost from the bottom of your compost bin or purchase high quality compost. You want to add about two inches to most beds.
3. Mulch all of your beds about two to three inches high. The mulch will help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperatures and when they break down; they add organic matter to your soils. Alfalfa hay is an excellent product for your vegetable beds. Although they come in bales like coastal hay (a grass), alfalfa hay is actually a legume and will provide more nutrients to your soil.
4. Finally, start watering your beds thoroughly. It seems odd to water an empty bed but when it comes to planting seeds or adding transplants you will see better results with beds that have been “revived” several days before planting.