Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Healthy Soil for Healthy Plants

I can't emphasize enough the importance of building and repairing your soil - replenishing what's been depleted over the years.  In my classes and in my videos I always explain how I use products from John and Bob's GrowGreen Smart Soil Solutions. Read on to learn how I became such a believer in these four products. They've changed my garden!

There are few things in gardening that you can count on every year. Weather patterns are erratic. Some years are mild and warm, others are cold and wet. Whatever used to be the norm in Southern California no longer applies. By this time last year, I had 150 tomatoes in the ground. This year, I’m still waiting for nighttime temperatures to rise into the 50s so my plants can stay outdoors.  Tomato varieties that did great in my over-sized kitchen garden last year might have a mediocre season this year. 

While I’ve learned to embrace the uncertainties of each growing season as an adventure, I do like knowing that I can count on John and Bob's to help me have the best results possible. Even if it’s too cold to plant, I know that my soil is alive, healthy, thriving and, most important, ready to nourish and support my tomato plants.

I began growing vegetables 17 years ago with no knowledge and nothing more than a desire to do something fun in the backyard with my sons. I enjoyed gardening enough that I attended seminars and spoke with other growers. As my education continued, along with it came my introduction to John and Bob’s.  I began slowly…adding two tablespoons of  John and Bob’s Optimize along with organic fertilizer to each hole when planting tomatoes.  I can’t say that at the time I really understood about microbes, beneficial bacteria and humus, but the basic theory did make sense to me – healthy soil feeds plants so they can be healthy, too.

Flash forward a few years…Every season my tomato yield was getting better and better. Even in those years that people said they had a “bad season” – I had plenty of tomatoes.  I was still only using John and Bob’s Soil Optimizer, not their whole line, and fertilizer when I planted my tomatoes.

Every day during tomato growing season, my morning ritual begins with a walk out to the garden to check on each plant. I remember one morning in particular, a few years ago. While most of the plants were perky and bright, I found a few that were limp and sickly looking.

I began to panic. Whatever was going on looked bad. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that I didn’t want it to spread to any more plants.  It did.  I cut open leaves and stems, looking for clues to try to diagnose the problem. It appeared that my plants, now eight of them, suffered from fusarium wilt. I had visions of losing every one of my plants.  Frantically, I called my mentor, Steve Goto. His advice was clear and concise and not to be ignored. What I did that day and in the weeks to follow convinced me that I will never grow anything without the full array of all four of  John and Bob’s products again.

I immediately sprayed the leaves with Penetrate as a means of inoculating them. Then, I gave each plant a good dose of Maximize, full of beneficial bacteria and advanced micro-organisms.  Next, I applied Nourish/BioSol, which is like an antibiotic for the soil, feeding the microbes and fighting pests and disease.  I followed by pouring  Penetrate, a liquid bio-tiller directly to the soil at the base of each affected plant.

I had acted swiftly and done everything possible I could to save my tomatoes. The only thing left to do was the hardest thing of all…wait.  The plants looked worse.  I removed two that were most affected.  I remembered being told that the plants would probably look worse before they looked better so I didn’t give up hope, and ultimately, my persistence and patience paid off.  New growth began to appear and the plants finished out the season, providing lots of tasty tomatoes with little memory of what could have been a disaster.

Years later, I now use those four John and Bob’s products together to build my garden soil as a matter of routine. It’s really quite easy. Twice a year, once in early Spring and then again before Fall planting, I sprinkle a light layering of Optimize, Maximize and Bio-Sol onto my empty garden beds. I don’t till the beds or turn the soil.  I usually add some compost and worm castings, too, and finish it off with a spray of Penetrate to moisten the layers.

My plants are healthy and strong with minimal issues of concern.  In fact, along with thriving, productive plants, I’ve noticed a significant reduction in undesirables in the garden.  Yes, I mean tomato hornworms! Last year, I found only two on my 150 tomato plants!  

 I can’t really say what my tomatoes would grow like without John and Bob’s, but with the kind of success I’ve had since using their products, I don’t want to find out!

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