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The magic of fixing soil prior to summer – Organic gardening on the Gulf Coast with Kitti Cooper

The magic of fixing soil prior to summer – Organic gardening on the Gulf Coast with Kitti Cooper


By Kitti Cooper
Special to Gulf Coast Media

Why should you think about your summer gardenduring our “winter”?

In the sunny Deep South, where the weather can betough and the soil is different in every backyard,there is a simple trick for better gardens — amendingthe soil. This means adding dark compost and darkamendments of soil to the dirt to make it better forplants. Let’s explore why this matters, especially in the South.

Amending soil with beneficial organic nutrients takes time for it to break down. When you add fertil-izer, compost, etc., to your garden, it is never an in-stant fix and needs time to absorb/spread by at leasta month. By amending your soil now, it makes yoursoils nutrients readily accessible by having time tobreak down and set in soil to provide all the nutrientsto your summer garden starts.


It’s about making the soil healthier, richer in nutri-ents and better for plants. In the South, where thesoil can be sandy or red clay, fixing it is like a multi-vitamin to help plants grow.


Southern soil is usually always lacking on nitrogenand nutrients. Fixing the soil helps add the right foodfor plants, making sure they get what they need togrow strong. Something more particular to our growzone is to understand that when temperatures areabove 90 degrees, nitrogen begins to deplete by 50%meaning that the 10-10-10 fertilizer you add to yourplants/trees above that 90 degree temp would actual-ly just be a 5-5-5. With our hot temperatures, this isalso why amending your soil yearly is even more im-portant.


Soil has a mood called pH, and plants have prefer-ences.

On the coastal areas such as Baldwin County, oursoil tends to have a very low pH due to our sandy top-soil that is highly weather with our climate extremes.Add lime, which contains calcium (our main reasonfor blossom end rot on tomatoes), and magnesiumsuch as Epsom salt. Keep in mind its about adding theperfect mix; too much nitrogen can do more damagethan good stunting growth, only producing leaves butno fruit or kill the plant. Use compost or amendmentsto make it easy to not overfertilize, such as using asynthetic fertilizer.

I always suggest getting a soil test done prior toadding any compost or amendments. This can bedone by printing and following instructions by the Al-abama Extension office and mailing the sample. Allthe directions and information can be found at the Al-abama Extension office website.


Birds such as chickens: Their manure needs to sitfor a year because it is what’s called “hot,” way toohigh of nitrogen.

Hooved animals such as cows or horses: Let theirmanure sit for three months to “cool” off, and it’s agreat source of compost because of their grass feddiet.

Rabbits: Their manure can be used instantly.

Worm castings, aka worm poop, is my go-to foramendments at our farm. It has great antifungalproperties, lots of micronutrients and is great at cor-recting almost all soil issues.

A happy healthy plant that is getting its multivita-mins will have a much better chance of fighting offdiseases, bouncing back from pest damage and sur-viving our wild weather.

Happy gardening! May your Christmas be fruitfuland your new year full. Cheers to a wonderful holidayseason from Cooper Farm!

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