So yesterday’s question was what I should plant, assuming I only have it in me to do one more this year.
Strawberries seems to be leading the pack (the only answer, btw, where are the other revelers – come back in from the garden and let us hear from you). Okay, so I did try strawberries in a container last year in a bit of shade. They got sun starved (I assumed, anyway) and their weak little stems and leaves pretty much just shriveled up and died (very similar to what my ivy is looking like on the upstairs terrace but I’m thinking maybe that’s the multiverse telling me there are better ways to find shade and privacy, and I should try instead just to love my neighbors not hide from them, and maybe a wall of ivy would block their sun and be a bug haven). Ivy aside, I would LOVE to have some cute little strawberries to throw in a summer salad, so I think I’m gonna take Ralph’s suggestion and try, try again.
I checked in my handy dandy guide to gardening – “How to Grow Practically Everything” by Zia Allaway and Lia Leendertz (what great surnames for garden book authors) – and it makes no mention of strawberries being sunhogs. It does recommend using slow-release granular fertilizer for container planting strawberries, though. This gave me pause because I’ve generally shied away from the stuff since I don’t trust it – not with good reason necessarily. I typically put together my own soil mixture in a large paint bucket, comprised primarily of the $5.00/bag organic Hamptons Estate topsoil (whose price tag I’ve prematurely bitched about), PLUS a few large handfuls of no frills mulch, PLUS a few quarts of homemade compost (this batch is peepee free – I’m still cooking the human nitrogenized stuff), PLUS a few cups of peat moss if I have it, and/or a handful of Perlite.
Out of curiosity today, I tested my hodgepodge soil using a store bought kit, the “Rapitest.” It’s a truly awful name, I know. I felt like I was on CSI, Hard Core Unit. It set me back about 6 bucks, give or take, at my local gardening store, and has the capacity for about ten tests. The Rapitest told me that the batch I composed (which is pretty typical of what I usually put in my containers) was around a pH 6.5, “slightly acid.” I was satisfied with that, and didn’t mess with it any further. I consulted “How to Grow Practically Everything,” to find out whether I’d get a gold star for my person-made dirt composite but was disappointed to find that all they really say about soil is to know the pH, but not what to do about it once you find out, which, of course, leads me to my
QUESTION: How do you know what a good pH level is generally? Does it really depend on the plant? On where you’re growing? Do other gardeners mess with their soil to try to get it right? Or do they just jump in, pH be damned? How many of you pshaw with the pH testing as all a lot of fussiness? Is it a damper on the revel spirit to engage in fretting over soil composition? Or is a soil’s pH the necessary foundation for a garden? Do any of you swear by testing? Do any of you just go by feel? If you’ve changed course and either ditched or adopted a soil ethic, tell me your story. Go ahead … gimme the dirt!