Letter Re: Why a Practice Garden?

Hi James,
Concerning garden soils. Most of the bags sold as topsoil are really not top soil. Top soil occupies only on the top 6 to 12 inches of soil at best. It is called the ‘A’ horizon. What customers are getting is the deep ‘B’ horizon soils usually free of any rocks. ‘B’ horizon soils are found immediately under the ‘A’ horizon and can be any where from 20 inches to 10 feet deep. Mostly they are 2 to 6 feet deep depending on the parent material from which they have developed. Steer manure from a feedlot is most likely spread on an area of very deep ‘B’ horizon soils and then mixed in and sacked. If you are getting soils from a wind blown [loess] deposit of soil you are in effect getting fine silt not suitable for a garden. The ‘C’ horizon soils occur below the ‘B’ and usually are mostly a mixture of parent materials of broken shale, limestone, granite, sandstone rocks. ‘C’ horizon soils are not suitable for placing on a garden Real top soil is very expensive. We use the ‘steer manure’ from feed lots that is mixed with the ‘B’ horizon soils.

Available in our area at Wal-Mart and the local agriculture supply store this year for $1.49/40 lb bag. All supplemental plant nutrients such as fertilizers and animal manures are marked with N, P and K designations. N = Nitrogen P = Phosphorus K = Potassium. Labeling law require producers to show the % of each always in that order, N,P,K. Our steer manure is 14/5/7. Chicken manure is even higher so consult your local County agent about how much to apply.

We have very sandy/silty loam soils developed on top of normally sandy soils that were covered by wind blown silt from the dust bowl days. Our soils are very deficient in organic matter and do not hold water well due to the sandy nature. On our 16 panels of garden we have spread some 14 tons of steer manure in six years. At 40 lbs per bag fifty [50] bags equal one ton. We have spread some 300+ bags in the last 14 days. Yes, this is some 700 bags total at a cost of more than $900 in five years. Last week we made five trips each of 106 miles round trip to get the 300+ bags of steer manure and fertilizer. Our 27 year old Ford F-100 pickup with 430,000 miles on it can handle only a ton per load. Only one farm supply store had any left within a 80 mile one way drive. We bought every last bag they had including all the broken ones. Yup, we have put our money and miles of driving where our mouth is. Bite the bullet and get prepared or be dependent. Your choice, folks.

We have changed the soil composition from a very sandy/silty loam to a loamy soil. We have spent six years developing this garden. We’ve really gone at it very vigorously in spite of the hundreds of dollars of cost. But we now have a working fenced garden with a warm weather above ground watering system hooked to our well system. But beware. In the coming times of economic adversity many products in the stores will no longer be carried. Any product that is heavy to transport and sells for a small price profit is likely to be dropped from inventory. That will include all of the soil amendments carried by the big box stores. Including fertilizers, lime, soil manures and all the mulches. Expensive fuels will be used to transport only necessities and items that have a substantial profit return. The manager of our local Wal-Mart agrees with me on this. So buy your garden supplies now. Place them on a pallet. They will weather out in the open. But we place ours under a tree in shade to keep the sun from decomposing the plastic sacks. We have stored sacks out in the open under a tree for as long as 2+ years.

I keep no permanent records on production, weights and numbers of plants for our garden. Any official questions about how much we produce will be answered with I do not know. Is this paranoia? Absolutely. Having worked for the Department of Agriculture and retired as District Conservationist, Soil Conservation Service, I am aware of the potential for government to eventually want a portion of my production. Control of your gardens is in the works. Read about the Wildlands Project as part of the UN Agenda 21 to be administered under the Sustainability Program of U.S. of A. Sustainability is now official U.S. of A. policy and has been for some 25+ years. See the exclusionary maps for human activities as developed for each of the states. And then note SB 1619 Livable Communities Act about forcibly moving people off rural land into cities. This is part and parcel of the Wildlands Project and their concepts of islanding and biological connector corridors to maintain biological diversity across all 48 of the CONUS. This concept has no scientific standing by peer review in the biological world. Yet is is now part and parcel of official environmental policy. – J.W.C., Okie in the Red Hills