Soil - understanding it and improving it
Soil is a mixture of a lot of things, but often overlooked is the living part.
Soil life needs moisture, oxygen, organic matter, and minerals among others.
Soil is alive with fungus, bacteria, algae, and others living micro-organisms.
Other than rain, our source of moisture is from wells, rivers, and lakes, all of which are high in alkaline salts. High concentrations of mineral salts diminish organic life (look at the Dead Sea). Bio-stimulants increase the living populations. They are the answer to improving our soil.
After 30 years running this place I stumbled on to the most incredible bed preparation EVER!!!
My brother-in-law wanted to till the best stuff into his 1000 sq ft vegetable garden. I sold him some stuff and it worked great. The next year he came back for more. I had no idea what I had sold him, but I was able to look up his old bill. After doing this for five straight years, and his having incredible crops every year, I started mixing it up and selling small quantities! We call it Olive's Mix. It's a mixture of Humate, Gypsum, Molasses, Ferrous Sulfate, and Hou-Actinite. It's about $150 for 1000 sq ft or $20 / 25lb to cover 100 sq ft. The Humate, Molasses and Hou-Actinite in these quanities give super bio-stimulation. The Gypsum softens the soil, and the ferrous sulfate acidifies and adds iron. But the only thing you need to know is that it works incredibly great! And I mean the dictionary defintion of incredible: "too extraordiary and improbable to be believed"!!!!
You gotta try it!
or the more conventional ways:
For bed preparation it is generally recommended that 50% compost be tilled in. That means 3" of compost to till 6" deep, etc. One cubic foot will cover 12 square feet one inch deep. A $5.99 bag of compost (1 cu ft) will cover 4 sq ft for a depth of 3 inches. (about $150 by the bag to cover 100 sq ft - or $20 bulk if you can come get it)
Spread 1 inch of compost, and the following per 100 sf (10 ft X 10 ft):
(that's still 8 bags over an area this size for $48)
1 lb of Humate (1.99)
1 lb of dried Molasses (or 1 oz of liquid molasses) (1.99)
1 gal Earthworm Castings (4.99)
1 lb of Copperas (Ferrous Sulfate) (4lbs for 4.99)
Apply Olive's OIL and water it all in. Reapply Olive's OlL every two weeks to monthly (qt is 14.99 - covers 100 sq ft fifty times or 5,000 sq ft once)
Plant, don't bury them (plant level with bed) (tomatoes are exception)
Press soil firm around plants (air pockets are bad)
I believe in root activators like Super-Thrive
Top dressing with mulch is critical for success
New plantings need a little water frequently, then soak occasionally
put a cup of organic food around new plants monthly (Bio-Tone)
Olive's OIL monthly (and get it on the foliage)
Keep it mulched