Curing the Gardening Phobia

Green Manure

1:30 P.M. 96°

I never work in the heat, but I didn’t have any choice today. It’s mid summer, and as I’ve done nothing in the yard, my anxiety over its neglect is as prickly as that patch of thistles.

Covered head-to-toe with insect repellent, I made decisions as I went along. After thoughtlessly grabbing a few clumps of clover, I decided to keep all of it. My research on clover finally clicked: it’s called “green manure” because it’s so good for the soil. It’s a natural ground cover that I can turn under either late Fall or very early in Spring. It needs about 6 weeks before the benefits leach into the soil, and then you can plant. So the general recommendation is to wait 6 weeks and then plant in that spot. For now, I’ll just leave it all; otherwise, I’ll have too much bare dirt, and the thistles will just fill in again.

Then I’ll transplant a hydrangea that’s not doing well and add a new one to fill in the spot. And along the stones, I’ll transplant some lambs ears from the front yard that are growing into the grass.

But for the large bare spots, I realized that I should test the soil before I plant in it. (See the slide show below.)


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I stopped to grab the new soil test kits that I bought yesterday. It took more time than I wanted to spend, because I couldn’t find the bucket that I needed. Finally found it, then washed it, then decided that I didn’t need it. A 2-cup measuring cup would do. I rummaged through the individual measuring cups to find one that I wouldn’t mind leaving in the shed for all future testing.

Finally, ready to start, I set up on the patio table, then decided to move it all into the kitchen because the little vials seemed too unsteady on the pierced metal table.

Next, I struggled with the tiny colored capsules. The package was explicit—gently pull them apart and pour the compound into these teeny vials. Really? I imagined powder spraying all over the kitchen.

I cut the first one open and the powder sprayed all over the counter. After some experimenting, I felt the right amount of pressure and pulled the next one open. Hmm…pulling was the best method after all. As with most things, once I understood the directions, it wasn’t difficult.

The verdict came in—the soil needs potash and nitrogen. My 1-hour deadline was pressing down and we were expecting rain, so I decided to keep going, since I had not had as much time as I wanted to actually work in the dirt. I set the timer for a second hour. I figured with the rain coming I wouldn’t be able to get out the next couple of days.

Learn more about green manure here:


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