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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From Sand to Soil

My article, From the Ground Up, has been published this week in Troy-Bilt's June newsletter, The Dirt. If you haven't already signed up to receive their monthly e-news you can sign up for The Dirt here.

The Dirt is always full of tips and great information on all sorts of gardening endeavors as well as special offers. Not only that but you'll learn about the ways and advantages to using good garden equipment that is "built for life".

As a refresher for those of you new to Hoe and Shovel I shared some news a while back ... I'm working with Troy-Bilt and the Saturday6 team to help provide practical tips and answers for everyday home gardeners like you and me. For all the details and links to the 5 other bloggers that make up the fabulous team included in this project, click on the page tab above. Also in that link updated photos of me working the Saturday6 Lowe's event... just keep scrolling down.

In the event you didn't receive The Dirt in your INBOX today and you want to take a peek at my thoughts on improving soil as a means to grow your best Florida garden you can read it by clicking on the Saturday6 icon below.

Don't forget to come back here and leave a comment to add your thoughts to mine. :-)

Disclosure: My reviews and/or recommendations are always my own thoughts. I am being compensated for my partnership with Troy-Bilt as one of the Saturday6 team members. This post is in conjunction with that partnership.


  1. I did read your article. Very helpful Meems. You mention blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, animal manures and the like. Do you use one or the other, or a combination of some of these? This has always been a little confusing to me. Thank you!

  2. I found your blog last week and have gone to your archives and tried to read everything. I live just north of you in Citrus County. Your garden beds are amazing and your blogs are so informative. I am interested in how you start a planting bed. You mention bringing in potting soil and spread over the beds after the sod was removed. Is that top soil that has already been amended? Do you dig out some of the old sand or just add amendments right on top? Is it tilled? I've tried growing things before but they never come back the second year. A step by step would be great.

  3. My dog always eats the dirt when I mix in bone meal. Even if it is mixed in the under layer. Soil was one of my favorite courses during the Master Gardening program that I too. The one I had dreaded too. ha wouldn't you know.

  4. Ha ha, Lisa at Greenbow has a dog just like mine. But, I just keep an eye on him for a few days until the amendments have had a chance to settle in a bit. Since I didn't start with amending my soil I'm having to work it in little by little around everything. You are so right in your article that starting from the ground up is the way to go.

  5. Meems interesting article and well written. Down here the soil is clay and I have to add compost and sand to lighten it up and it can be a pain in the rear to work with.

  6. Darla,
    Let's see if I can answer simply your (great) questions that involve a multi-faceted answer.I started out using blood meal and bone meal for the edible garden mixed with purchased potting mix. As my interest and knowledge for organic gardening (and eliminating chemical fertilizers) kept expanding I began using those two ingredients as fertilizer on my more tender or flowering perennials. (I rarely fertilize hardy shrubs as they don't seem to need any). I also mix blood meal with an organic lawn fertilizer and drop spread it on the St. Augustine grass once in the spring and once in the summer. No pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used on the lawn.

    I've always had a compost pile (now 2) where I let my yard debris decompose and add kitchen scraps and other suitable household products to it. It is *cold composting* meaning it does not kill the weed seeds (so I don't put any weeds in it) or the bazillion worms and beneficial insects. Typically in spring and fall I amend whatever planting beds I'm working on with fresh layers of those decomposed materials. Or if I have sandier/drier areas I'm trying to amend over time I will add compost to them as I go along all year long. I use seabird guano and purchased Earthsafe products of Fish Emulsion for fertilizer as well. When I can get my hands on well-aged horse manure I mix that into my beds. Chicken manure/rabbit manure are good sources as well but I haven't have them except in bags at the Feed Store. All the manures work well to provide nutrients as well as adding organic amendments to the dirt.

    Having said all of that and I hope it makes sense... My soil has had years and years of oak leaves decomposing in the beds. I used them as a means of mulching way back in the days when I gardened by instinct and not so much research. Little did I know how much good they were doing my beds underneath all that wonderful shade.

    I think you have clay soil up there where you are but I know my DIL had to amend hers when she lived up your way. I'm not so familiar with clay as I am with sandy dirt. At least clay has some water-holding power?

    I hope that helps. I've got some more questions to answer to Cheri next... maybe those answers will add to this, too. (Maybe I should do a separate post on all this???)

  7. Darla,
    I meant to say once in the summer and once in the fall for fertilizing the St. Augustine grass... should edit before submitting. :-) Also didn't mean to print your name twice... geez.

  8. Cheri,
    I'm always thrilled when an interested gardener finds my blog informative. It is my aim to spread the word to FL gardeners about what has worked for me. I don't claim to have all the answers I just love to share the beauties of FL gardening and hope that along the way a reader or two will be inspired to try something new or perhaps even share with me their own good tips.

    In my answers to Darla (above)hopefully you will find some additional answers to your questions as well.

    But specifically for you...
    re:"I am interested in how you start a planting bed. You mention bringing in potting soil and spread over the beds after the sod was removed. Is that top soil that has already been amended?"
    Almost everytime I've started a planting bed after digging out the lawn I've brought in (never top soil ~~ it is way too heavy unless fully mixed with sandy dirt)potting mix. I have had it delivered but usually I go to the supplier and have it dumped in the back of my pickup and wheel barrow it to where I'm working. It is sold by the yard and a bit cheaper than buying it in bags. Not to mention easier to work with IMO.

    In certain planting beds like the "front lawn renovation" (link to this project is on the sidebar) I added no new soil or amendments. Instead I planted it out with sun-loving, drought tolerant plants that were suitable for the existing conditions. Once finished I always mulch 2-3" deep.

    "Do you dig out some of the old sand or just add amendments right on top?" I have never dug out the old dirt and in every case I either work in the new dirt with my shovel or I put several inches (6-8)right on top. Once digging to plant begins as well as settling/rains/ etc. it mixes in and breaks down with the existing sand enough as long as mulched and further amended as the seasons go by.

    I have never used a tiller for any of my beds. In the edible garden I used to turn the soil each season/each bed with my shovel. And as much as I LOVE that process because it is so earthy and smells and feels so good... I use a no-till method these days... adding layers of compost, manures, new soil mixed with blood meal and bone meal.

    Hope that helps... happy gardening.

  9. Yep, that soil is nearly as important as choosing the right plant for the right spot. I am very casual (read "lazy") about soil amendments, just tossing compost and mulch on the beds when I think they need it. I would die for one of those chipper-shredder things I think I remember you writing about once. I'm always out there chopping up branches into itty-bitty pieces with loppers and hand pruners, so they won't take so long to break down in the compost. Our compost here at PITV is also "cold," but we only throw in whatever ingredients we get for free. Anything that is organic and doesn't have meat, salt, or sugar in it is fair game. I always try to add a layer of oak leaves or coffee grounds on top of new junk to help things along. The oak leaves are pure gold to me. I never have enough compost for all the beds, so I just look for the plants that seem needy.

    P.S. That is some "purty" soil in your wheelbarrow!

  10. Lisa,
    The soil part of MG class was fascinating. In FL most of our soils are void of an nutrients whatsoever.

    Those silly animals you and Lisa have... don't have any here (except for the wildlife)so not a problem for me.

    Other than the oak leaves I (unbeknownst to me) was adding to my planting beds I had no idea either about amending. When I began digging out brand new perennial beds (subsequent to adding the edible garden that I had brought in all brand new soil for) it just made sense to make the dirt better from the beginning. Like I said to Cheri I don't always do it... in the sunny spots I'm looking for dry and sandy so I can grow some of those plants that like those conditions. But for the most part as you well know my yard is shady and I need organic, humus conditions for the plants there.

    Sometimes I'm very grateful for my sandy soil as it is MUCH easier to dig around in than clay. They each have their positives and negatives... like anything else in life I suppose. We are reminded to "grow where we are planted". (((hugs dear friend)))

  11. Your combined answers are very helpful, thanks for taking the time. We actually have all types of soil on our property. I have a sandy garden, a clay garden and a very rich black soil garden, interesting huh? I have always left and or tossed leaves in my gardens for mulch...thanks again. The worms are plentiful in two of the gardens.

  12. Great questions and answers here!

    Two more for ya-What's the ratio of blood meal to fertilizer for the St. Augustine grass? Also, do you know of any natural remedies for cinch bugs?

    Thanks, as always for sharing your knowledge!
    Hope you enjoyed that gully washer last night!

  13. Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions. I can't wait to get started.

  14. Floridagirl,
    That "purty" soil in my wheelbarrow IS COMPOST from my cold compost pile. Yummy stuff. I have gotten SO much use from my chipper-shredder this spring. I've situated it in the garage where I can wheel it out easily. I shredded bags and bags of leaves my son gave me as well as everything I raked up from my yard. I've become obsessed with picking up and shredding sticks, too. Using the shredded materials for mulch is so much nicer than larger leaves. I'm thankful for it.

    Oh, good ... I'm glad it made some sense. It doesn't surprise me you have several types of ground... typical in FL.

    Oh dear. I put blood meal in my mixtures like I cook... without measuring. :-) Remembering it is organic and when I am adding it to the organic fertilizer for the lawn I don't worry about putting too much because it can't burn it. I would say to a full drop spreader load it is probably 1/3-1/2 of an 8lb bag.

    As far as chinch bugs I can tell you that after a few years of not using any chemicals or pesticides on my lawn I didn't had any chinch bugs last year for the first time EVER and no sod webworm damage either. I'd like to think it is the predator bugs taking care of the bad bugs. Here is a document on chinch bugs that might be helpful.

    You are more than welcome. So nice for you to visit.

  15. Fascinating ...but I really need some dirt on identifying a butterfly in one of your photos...if you will send your email address to me at I can send you the drawing I did and get a name. thanks a heap!


Have a blessed day,

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