Overly Rich Soil

By David Wall, Mount Pleasant Master Gardener

10+ years ago, I wrote articles on gardens’ ideal soil organic percentages being 5%. An interesting aspect is an awful lot of organic material doesn’t raise the overall percentage very much. Getting up to 5% can take several years. Finally, anything over 5% is a wasted effort. There was also an article that too much fertilizer could result in excess vegetable plant growth at the expense of fruit.

Well, it’s finally hit home. I’ve got three raised bed gardens, 9’ X 17’, 11’ X 23’, and 4’ X 38’. All started with a mixture of firewood, leaves, mulch, top soil and compost. Initial compost pH was 7.5 which was offset by the other raised bed contents. Several years ago, I switched to compost having a pH of 5.5 – 6.5. Compaction lowers the bed level, so every year, each garden takes on 1-2” of new compost, thus
further enriching the soil.

All have done well from day one except for a few bone head moves, such as watering corn with a hose which knocked off all the pollen and resulted in no corn!

Well, last year I noticed some unusual aspects in these gardens, okra, for example. We’re all used to 8’ tall plants which, toward end-of-season, require bending the plant over to reach the pods. 8’ is fine, but last year, okra plants were over 10’ tall. Fortunately, fruit production was good.

This year, I’ve already had to prune tomato plant tips due to excessive growth. Fruit production varies from very light to very heavy. Purple hull pea pants have multiple 6’+ runners. As a result, I’ve had to prune virtually every runner to force fruit production, which is running from almost non-existent to extremely well.

If this is the overly rich soil result, I think I’ll keep it!!!

Author: Ethan Klein

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