When I talk to people about why they garden, usually the word ‘healthy’ is mentioned in the conversation. We want the healthiest food to give us the best chance at achieving our maximum potential to be the healthiest person possible. So then, as gardeners, shouldn’t we apply that same thought process to the food that we feed the plants in our garden? Are we feeding our plants the healthiest diet they need to achieve their maximum nutrient potential for us? Our contributors for this issue have dug into the topic of soil — pun intended — to teach us all about what soil is made of, and how you can work with whatever you have to make it healthy for your plants.
Clare Sullivan, an agronomist for the OSU Extension Agency, expanded my mind with her article that goes deep into soil science and specifically working with ‘Deschutes sandy loam’ that everyone in Central Oregon is blessed with. When we go looking for amendments to fix our garden soil, we can refer to Keegan Uhler’s article explaining what we should be looking for. I especially liked how he boiled it down to two simple rules to live by.
After meeting Scott Maricle through the Central Oregon Gardeners, I asked him to share with us what he has learned about the relationships and ratios between the different minerals and nutrients required in order for them to be bioavailable to the plants that need them. He has proven in his garden that a plant that is meeting its full potential is more able to resist pests. It made me think of garden pests similarly to a pack of coyotes picking off the weakest members of a herd of elk. Garden pests target the plants that are the least healthy first. That is the way it works with everything else in life and makes sense to me that it would work the same way in the garden.
Audrey Tehan of Seed To Table in Sisters — our sponsored farmer this issue — explains how she grows 15 tons of food per season on one acre in Sisters. Additionally, she shares the methods that she has used to increase the organic matter in the soil on her farm from 1.7 percent to 5.5 percent in four years and how she plans to reach her target goal of 7 percent organic matter.
When I read the article by Molly McDowell Dunston, who teaches Irrigation Basics at COCC and co-owns North of South Landscapes, I changed my mind about the proper way to irrigate in Central Oregon based on our soil type. From her article I ascertained that most of what I had heard about watering my garden or lawn must have been based on a soil type that holds water much better than what I am working with at my house. I hope you learn and benefit from the knowledge that our local experts are passing on to you in this issue.