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Soils: A foundation for garden sustainability

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If one did not know better, spring has arrived. This week’s warm weather has many wondering what is in store for the month of February. The weather in February can be unpredictable, with warm days mixed in with extremely cold and wet days. In the northeast part of the state, the average high temperature is 58 degrees and the average low temperature is 38 degrees. Average rainfall is nearly five inches for the month. Cold weather can still be expected, on the average, the last frost date for northeast Louisiana is March 16.
One of the most popular trends in gardening is producing vegetables and landscapes without the use of conventional pesticides and fertilizers. This style of gardening is commonly called “organic gardening.” More appropriate names are beginning to surface; “ecological gardening” and “sustainable gardening” are more descriptive as to the goals of gardening the natural way.
Whatever it is called, this type of gardening is not new and has been practiced for many years throughout the world. In fact, before gardeners relied on the relatively recent practices of using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic gardening was the norm. In organic gardening, particular practices are encouraged that utilize natural biological cycles, encourage biodiversity, and are ecologically friendly. A major difference between conventional and organic gardening is the use of natural materials to make the garden sustainable.

Growing plants in sustainable gardens is a long-term process that involves a number of practices carried out over many years instead of a one time, single production practice. Improving and maintaining soil fertility is probably the most important concept in organic gardening. Soil and the biological microorganisms in the soil are the foundation for any gardening activity. The importance of soil or growth medium cannot be overemphasized when trying to maintain plant health. Taking care of the soil in which the plant root system grows is essential to producing productive plants and avoiding plant problems. Soil is the primary source of water and nutrients for the plant.

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