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Time to get our hands dirty!
May 05, 2012

Welcome to the Flying Butterfly -

Today we're talking dirt!

With the weather getting warmer, this is the time of year we naturally gravitate outside wanting to improve our home and yard's appearance.

But before thinking about garden layouts, types of plants and the flowers that attract butterflies there is one key element for success of your garden. This element is your garden soil. Overlooking soil quality will take longer to grow your butterfly garden, bring more unwanted pests and cost more money over the long run.

With temperatures getting above 55 degrees weeds are now growing their fastest. Weeds happen - but too many types of weeds are a symptom of a problem. The problem is soil quality.

Before breaking ground for your garden:

Before digging into the soil kill weeds as best as you can... Preemergent herbicides focus on germinating weed seeds. Post-emergents can be used to kill weeds above the ground. My favorite is boiling water but be very safe with this method.

If any chemicals are used for killing weeds
wait two weeks before tilling soil.

Tilling soil can be done by hand or a tilling machine. Keep in mind that you will dig deeper by hand tilling with a shovel. I personally like hand tilling. It's great exercise and by digging deeper I can build a better nutritional base for soil.

Soil temperature is important. Place your hand in a patch of soggy soil. If you can't keep hand in the cold soil for one minute it is too soon to till. If soil temperature is warm enough, test to see if it forms a ball. If a ball easily forms, tilling will be difficult because soil is so compacted. Wait until soil gets a little dryer when the ball falls apart.

When it's time to dig break up garden area the first time. Go back and double-dig. When double-digging place richer, darker soil that you have purchased from your local nursery.

I use the term richer, darker soil over the term fertilizer because there are many products out there. Some provide natural plant foods, others contain iron and minerals. I would recommend combining the two. If soil is acidic add lime, if necessary. If soil is alkaline add sulfur, if necessary.

Mix the new soil into the old. Don't just put it on top.

Don't be overwhelmed! If your funds are limited the important thing is to start mixing good soil with your existing soil. This is an ongoing, gradual process that should be done this time of year going forward.

By improving soil quality annually it helps with:

  • Nutrition
  • Aeration
  • Drainage

Compacted soil can prohibit these. Also, never use sand thinking this will help aeration and drainage. This will create more headaches for you.

Other Tidbits:

Because of the timely issue for developing your garden, I will send a brief newsletter out next week that helps with understanding basic garden layouts. If you have time, take a look at this starting a garden page.

Happy Butterfly Gardening!

Elizabeth @ Easy Butterfly Garden

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