Trench Rows


Phil NicholsWhile contemplating my first garden, on our newly minted homestead, those many years ago—I remember wondering just what I might be able to grow in this dry, sandy, rock infested section of ground that we now called home.

I had been a devotee of the Rodale Press for many years prior to our move to Missouri and knew that I’d need a soil test to figure out how to go about amending our poor thin soil. Question was—where the heck do you go to get a soil test. Back in that day, before computers took over the world, you had ask around to find things out. Well I did and discovered that you could get a soil sample bag and box at the University of Missouri extension office located in the Courthouse about 18 miles west of us. So I trucked on over one afternoon and introduced myself to the extension agent. Sure enough a kit was available.

First you filled out the paperwork telling the extension folks what your intended use for the ground was—row crops, hay, truck garden etc... Then had to dig out a number of divots from different sites in the garden, mix them together, pour them into the plastic bag, seal it, put the whole thing in the box and mail the concoction off to the University Ag Dept. where it would be tested.

digging trench rows

Some weeks later a letter arrived from Mizzou. I expected to see a formula for pounds of lime, fertilizer and other amendments necessary to put my garden to rights. I was somewhat taken aback by the words at the head of the analysis “Devoid of organic matter.”  i.e. this dirt was so poor it would hardly grown a decent crop of weeds. Groan!

Thus started over 35 years of poop scooping in neighbor’s barns, intensive mulching with whatever I could come by and lots of trial and error discovering what would grow and what wouldn’t.

6/26/2019 11:41:41 AM

I have the opposite of you, Instead of sandy soil I have soil that is mostly clay, with a tiny amount of sand, silt, and other "stuff" mixed in. We used to have a nice layer of top soil, but since we have not gardened very much over the years, due to various health reasons, that layer of top soil has diminished down to practically nothing, at least in our garden area. This year we went to use our Troy-Bilt rotor tiller but it would not work and we were unable to take it to get repaired, no pick up truck to take it there. So we ended up digging the ground with a hoe. Right before planting I mixed in some composted cow manure, laid down Paper Mulch and then on top of that a layer of mulch. I still have to get some more mulch to put down on the pathways. Hopefully that will help build back up the organic matter in the soil. Keep up with Composting, adding manure and compost to your garden beds soil, and mulching. That will steadily improve your soil.

Live The Good Life with GRIT!

Grit JulAug 2016At GRIT, we have a tradition of respecting the land that sustains rural America. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing to GRIT through our automatic renewal savings plan. By paying now with a credit card, you save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of GRIT for only $16.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of GRIT for just $22.95!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters