‘Soil Your Undies’: Keepers of Mono Pollinator Garden bury underwear to learn more about soil health

Volunteers at Mono’s pollinator garden gave new meaning to the term “soiling your undies” this year.

Of course, they didn’t do so in the traditional sense.

Earlier this year, the volunteers at Mono Pollinator Garden decided to celebrate the opening of their gardening season with a “Soil Your Undies” test that has become quite popular in North America.

“It was kind of funny, but it was also educational,” said Jutta Holdenreid, head of the garden maintenance group. “We had done it in the past and just wanted to repeat it.”

The test, with its tongue-in-cheek name, is built on sound biological and scientific principles and involves “planting” cotton underwear in various parts of the garden. The biological breakdown caused by microbes in the soil is expected to cause some degeneration to the cotton fabric.

Those soil microbe levels determine how much the underwear would break down and disappear, which helps to demonstrate soil health.

“We wanted to learn a bit more about how we could enrich the soil that’s there,” said Trish Keachie, a volunteer member of the maintenance group.

“This was an experiment that could give us a clearer idea of where we needed to put more effort into providing nutrients for the soil.”

When the planting and maintenance season began, the underwear were planted in four different areas of the garden in order to gauge different levels of organic material and fertility.

In mid-July, volunteers dug up the undies and evaluated their appearance.

“The (tests) showed the condition of the soil in different areas, and whether it was good soil or bad soil,” said Holdenreid. “We now know where things need to be improved.”

Microbe activity was recorded in three of the test areas, with only one area failing the test.

This means that there is a very low level of organic material and poor soil health. The volunteers noted that there was a correlation between the low test score and poor plant growth in that area.

“In that area, we’ll compost more heavily and then try this test again in another year or so to see whether it’s made any difference,” said Keachie.

The garden is already planted, but this knowledge will help the team to be able to know why certain areas aren’t thriving and how to improve growth.

Although volunteers don’t think this experiment will alter mainstream agricultural soil testing, they found it was a fun way to evaluate their own soil.

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“In part, we’re just trying to draw attention to the garden by doing something fun and interesting that might let people know the garden is here and cause them to come and take a look,” said Keachie.

Mono Pollinator Garden is located on Hockley Road, one kilometre east of Highway 10, and is open to visitors.

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Your garden needs soil amendments. Here’s where pros suggest you buy them

We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here's what they told us. <span class="copyright">(Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)</span>
We asked the pros: Where do you shop? Here’s what they told us. (Stephanie DeAngelis / For The Times)

Almost every gardening guru extols the virtues of adding good organic amendments to your soil, but where can you buy them? We asked many experts and here’s a list of the suppliers and nurseries they recommend for a more personalized shopping experience. Did we miss your personal favorite? Drop us a line at [email protected] and it might be included.

Armstrong Garden Centers, with 29 locations around Southern California, are employee-owned, full-service nurseries whose sister company, Armstrong Growers, grows many of the plants they sells, including a full line of organic fruits, veggies and herbs. The nurseries are open for customers and also offer online ordering and curbside pickup, organic fertilizers and potting soils, pots and garden tools. armstronggarden.com

Artemisia, 5068 Valley Blvd., El Sereno. California native plants, herbs and edibles as well as ceramic pots, gardening tools, and organic fertilizers and soils. Online ordering, curbside pickup or local delivery only. artemisianursery.com

Avalon Nursery & Ceramics, 5334 Avalon Blvd., South Park, is one of the few full-service nurseries in South Los Angeles. The family-owned nursery specializes in houseplants but also sells organic soils and fertilizers, pots, succulents, flowers, veggies and fruit trees. @avalonnurseryla on Instagram.

Cal Blend Soils, 1270 E. Arrow Highway #A, Irwindale. This family-owned business is the go-to supplier for landscape designers Leigh Adams and Shawn Maestretti of Studio Petrichor. It offers landscaping materials, including soils, mulches and wood chips. The minimum delivery charge is $75, so consider finding a pickup to haul your own. calblendsoils.com

Sarvodaya Farms & Nursery, Pomona, open by appointment only; online ordering available. The nursery offers organic soils and amendments, irrigation supplies, and organic vegetables, fruits (check out the strawberries) and herbs, some unusual or rare. Trees are grown in fabric grow pots, not plastic pots. sarvodayainstitute.org/collections/all

Ramon Franco has owned Pasadena's Lincoln Avenue Nursery since 2003. <span class="copyright">(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)</span>
Ramon Franco has owned Pasadena’s Lincoln Avenue Nursery since 2003. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Fig Earth Supply, 3577 N. Figueroa St., Mount Washington, a small but mighty nursery with raised beds, organic soils and fertilizers, garden tools, organic veggies, fruits, berries and seeds, containers, and garden art and online classes. Order online for curbside pickup or make an appointment to shop in person. figearthsupply.com

Glendora Garden Nursery, 1132 S. Grand Ave., Glendora, is fun for strolling, with its 10 acres of koi ponds plus waterwise plants, bagged and bulk soils, fruit trees, berries, veggies, succulents and houseplants. glendoragardens.com

H&H Nursery, 6220 Lakewood Ave., Lakewood, has bagged soils (organic and non), fruit trees, berries, veggies and flowers. hhnursery.com

Hashimoto Nursery, 1935 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle. Serving West L.A. for more than 80 years, the nursery offers ceramic pots, wooden and concrete containers, as well as seasonal annuals, perennial shrubs and ground covers, succulents, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, sod and houseplants. hashimotonursery.com

Lincoln Avenue Nursery, 804 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, was started by a German immigrant family in 1903, then purchased in 1923 by the

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Five tips on starting a fall veggie garden, including how to get transplants, soil delivered – Food and Dining – Austin American-Statesman

We seem to have an earlier introduction to fall than usual, with slightly cooler temperatures and rain in the first half of September rather than the second. Sometimes, we don’t get those hints of fall until October.

With so many fall events canceled, many of us are looking for ways to stay active at home, which might mean starting a fall vegetable garden for the first time. Whether you’re a true novice or returning to gardening after a break, here are five Austin-centric tips for getting started.

1. You’re gonna need good soil. Don’t rely on the dirt that’s already in your backyard. Pick up several bags of gardening soil and at least one bag of compost. Add a few scoopfuls of compost to each raised bed and then do that again in a few months, around the base of the plants.

2. Start some plants with seeds but use transplants for others. Carrots, cilantro, lettuce and radishes are best started from seed, but I like using already established transplants for brassicas, including broccoli and cauliflower. Beets, kale, chard and other greens you can start from seeds or transplants. (You can start some of those transplants yourself inside in those black seedling trays.) It’s not too late to throw late-season peppers and tomatoes in the ground, but those should be already established plants. Here’s a Central Texas guide for when to plant what.

3. You can get many garden supplies delivered, including transplants. In Austin, Lone Star Nursery used to be a wholesale nursery, but now they are focusing exclusively on delivering to home gardeners, and they are also already selling fall transplants that aren’t yet for sale at other gardening stores. There are more garden supply stores than you might think in the Austin area, but not all of them have fall vegetable transplants this early in the season.

4. Keep those seedlings moist. We still have temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, which is tough on these cool weather-loving plants, so make sure you water every day in the morning. Many plants also wouldn’t mind a spritz again in the evening. The upside about starting a fall garden early is that you can start to harvest some of these greens and veggies in October and November, but the downside is they need a little extra TLC to get started. The extra fragile ones, like lettuce and carrots, might need a little shade if we get some extra hot afternoons later this month.

5. Ask for help. Gardeners love to give advice, and farmers do, too, especially if you’re buying produce from them at the farmers market. Some farmers markets, including Barton Creek Farmers Market on Saturdays where Rasmey’s Garden sells veggie transplants, have booths were you can buy transplants and chat with a grower to get more tips specific to what you want to grow. As a result of the coronavirus, many gardening groups and experts are hosting virtual classes this fall to help get you

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Five tips on starting a fall veggie garden, including how to get transplants, soil delivered – Food and Dining – Austin 360

We seem to have an earlier introduction to fall than usual, with slightly cooler temperatures and rain in the first half of September rather than the second. Sometimes, we don’t get those hints of fall until October.

With so many fall events canceled, many of us are looking for ways to stay active at home, which might mean starting a fall vegetable garden for the first time. Whether you’re a true novice or returning to gardening after a break, here are five Austin-centric tips for getting started.

1. You’re gonna need good soil. Don’t rely on the dirt that’s already in your backyard. Pick up several bags of gardening soil and at least one bag of compost. Add a few scoopfuls of compost to each raised bed and then do that again in a few months, around the base of the plants.

2. Start some plants with seeds but use transplants for others. Carrots, cilantro, lettuce and radishes are best started from seed, but I like using already established transplants for brassicas, including broccoli and cauliflower. Beets, kale, chard and other greens you can start from seeds or transplants. (You can start some of those transplants yourself inside in those black seedling trays.) It’s not too late to throw late-season peppers and tomatoes in the ground, but those should be already established plants. Here’s a Central Texas guide for when to plant what.

3. You can get many garden supplies delivered, including transplants. In Austin, Lone Star Nursery used to be a wholesale nursery, but now they are focusing exclusively on delivering to home gardeners, and they are also already selling fall transplants that aren’t yet for sale at other gardening stores. There are more garden supply stores than you might think in the Austin area, but not all of them have fall vegetable transplants this early in the season.

4. Keep those seedlings moist. We still have temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, which is tough on these cool weather-loving plants, so make sure you water every day in the morning. Many plants also wouldn’t mind a spritz again in the evening. The upside about starting a fall garden early is that you can start to harvest some of these greens and veggies in October and November, but the downside is they need a little extra TLC to get started. The extra fragile ones, like lettuce and carrots, might need a little shade if we get some extra hot afternoons later this month.

5. Ask for help. Gardeners love to give advice, and farmers do, too, especially if you’re buying produce from them at the farmers market. Some farmers markets, including Barton Creek Farmers Market on Saturdays where Rasmey’s Garden sells veggie transplants, have booths were you can buy transplants and chat with a grower to get more tips specific to what you want to grow. As a result of the coronavirus, many gardening groups and experts are hosting virtual classes this fall to help get you

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My vegetable garden was a disappointment; how can I fix the soil?

Q: I had terrible luck with multiple seeds/starts in my garden beds this year. I think it is my soil but I’m not sure what to do about it.

The soil is two to three years old, a mix from a bulk company. I admit I do not think I have added compost to them ever. In a panic, I top dressed and even mixed in some bagged compost late in the season (June, I think).

The only plants that have really done well are my tomatoes (top dressed with compost) and sweet peas (no tilling, composting, anything). There is one bed with new soil and the sunflowers took off wonderfully. In another bed with the older soil, a different kind of sunflower that was planted from seed the same day is doing terribly, despite having mixed compost in late in the season.

Other things I have had fail in the old soil beds: zucchini seeds (1 to 2 years old), kale seeds (new), kale starts (from a friend), cucumber starts, carrot seeds (packed for 2020), radish seeds (packed for 2020), dill starts, cilantro starts. I even have some new herb starts that are growing more slowly than I would have expected (sage, lavender, rosemary, thyme), though they are growing.

I did try using bagged fertilizer for starts in multiple beds according to the directions. It did not seem to make a difference. There is a large sequoia in the neighbor’s yard. I wonder if the needles from this tree are playing a role.

Should I get my soil tested? Amend more? I have never had such poor outcomes. I planted different things in these beds than have been planted in the past one to two years.

A: It’s frustrating to work so hard to get vegetables to grow and get disappointing results. Having a soil analysis done would give you especially useful information, particularly if you test the new soil separately from the old soil, so you can compare them. The analysis will tell you how much organic matter is in each sample, the pH, quantities of the nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and other properties of your soil. If you elect to pay an additional couple of dollars, they will recommend how to fix problems in your soil. A soil analysis is not expensive, and could even save you money by letting you know exactly what your soil needs. There are several labs that do soil analyses, including A&L Labs that has offices in the Portland area.

Improving our soil is an ongoing, important part of our work as gardeners. It means that our gardens improve every year. And it doesn’t take much.

One addition to your raised beds that will really help improve your soil is organic mulch. Just 2 to 4 inches of organic mulch covers the soil, slowing surface evaporation and keeping the soil moist and the roots cooler. Mulch blocks the light, slowing the development of weeds so they don’t compete with your vegetables.

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Garden Soil Biology – Living Components Of Soils

Soil biology is the living components of the soil. A healthy soil has a relationship to the plants you grow, along with air and water quality. Arthropods, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa and earthworms all have a relationship in a healthy soil.

Arthropods are invertebrates that make the home in soil. They range in size from microscopic to several inches in length, and are grouped as shredders, predators, herbivores, and fungal feeders. Most of the soil dwelling arthropods have a very important part in improving a soils structure by aerating and mixing soil, regulating the population of other soil organisms and shredding organic matter.

Bacteria are one celled organisms, and very small. There lack of size is easily made up by their large population. One teaspoon of a productive soil will generally contain between one hundred million and one billion bacteria. These one celled organisms fall into four groups, decomposers, mutualists, pathogens and lithotrophs or chemoautotrophs.

Fungi are microscopic cells, and usually grow as long threads or strands called hyphae. These hyphae can span from just a few cells to several yards in length. They play a very important role relating to water disease suppression, nutrient cycle and water dynamics.

Nematodes are non-segmented worms that are typically 1/500th of an inch in diameter and 1/20 0f an inch in length. Some are plant and algae feeders, bacteria and fungi feeders and others feed on other nematodes and protozoa. Divided into four groups of bacteria feeders, fungal feeders, predatory nematodes and root feeders, they all have their purpose in the soil food web.

Protoza are single celled animals that primarily feed on bacteria and will also eat other protozoa, along with soluble organic matter and fungi.

Earthworms, the most common member of the soil food web. They are a major decomposer of dead or decomposing organic material. Divided into twenty three families, these invertebrates can range in size from one inch to yards in length, and be seasonally found in all depths of soil.

Keeping a healthy soil in balance for the natural biology to work and improving the soils structure will provide many benefits for plant life to thrive and keep the environment clean. This can be easily done by just supplying the soil with the organic material it needs to feed the living organisms, for the soil is their home.

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