Master Gardener Students Learn Organic Gardening Principles and Techniques
A class of 20 students, Master Gardeners receiving continuing education and students earning credits to become Master Gardeners, earned six hours training from Robert (Bobby) Lane, PhD., (Sam Houston S.U.) and organic gardeners Sharon and Bob Kersten, owners of Creekside Christian Retreat in Mexia.
Dr. Lane taught a comprehensive overview of what the term home "organic gardening" means related to soil types, mulches, pesticide and herbicide use in vegetable gardens. Some home organic gardeners strictly ban the use of chemicals while others use them sparingly.
Dr. Lane, who considers himself an organic gardener, occasionally uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides as a last resort. He is willing to share his harvest with a few nibbling insects, rather than blasting with pesticides immediately, a good trade-off, which allows Nature time to control the invaders. When pesticides are required, Lane only treats the affected area of a plant, and emphasized the importance of following label directions and only using products approved for food plants.
Dr. Lane warned that almost all chemical fertilizers are a form of salt, and overusing can result in killing plants. The white residue seen on plants, pots or on top of soil contains excess salt and minerals. Plants can drown from over-watering or puddling because roots cannot breathe.
Since Limestone County has various soil types, including black gumbo clay, Dr. Lane recommends we not "fight our soil". All soil types, even black gumbo clay, are improved by working organic matter into it. Clay soil can be regenerated into usable soil with the incorporation of organic matter, though the process may require two-three years. Turning leaves into the soil is a great amendment because they contain lignin, a building-block of humus. Tilling wood chips into soil is not recommended because it is mostly carbon and hard to break down, so it is best to rake mulch aside when tilling.
To read more of this story, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.