EARTH EDUCATION: Sunny days are here again

McClatchy InteractiveMay 19, 2008 

It's another perfect sunny day in Chapel Hill. I hear it might rain later on, but for now, everything is bright and the temperature is ideal. It was a lovely day to be outside.

I finally got a soil testing kit that seems to be reliable. This one is a little chemistry set, with tubes and tablets and samples. The pH and phosphorus in the main bed seem OK, the potassium is hard to read, and the nitrogen is in the toilet. I don't know if this contributed to the failure of my carrots and peas, but it couldn't have helped.

So besides the regular weeding, my mission today included finding a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. That turned out to be blood meal. I picked up a box along with two bags of peat moss and a bag of potting soil. My soil tends to get packed down when it rains, and I wanted to add some organic matter; hence the peat. When I got home, I shook the blood meal and the peat over my unsprouted rows and proceeded to break my back again re-cultivating them.

I also staked the tomatoes. They're recovering well from the hailstorm, and several have new flowers and buds. I plan to sprinkle some of the blood meal around the tomatoes and peppers, in the hopes that they - particularly the peppers - will discover some new vigor. The tomatoes are leaving them behind, and that might be normal, but it'd be nice to see some buds.

I haven't tested the raspberry annex for anything except pH, and that was high. Blood meal is apparently good for "acid-loving plants," so hopefully it'll help with the pH as well as the nitrogen level. The raspberry plants themselves continue to flourish in their pots, though they haven't flowered yet either.

So the immediate agenda includes planting carrots and radishes, adding nitrogen around the existing plants, monitoring pH in the raspberry patch, and finishing the nutrient testing. I also want to find some flowers that do well in partial shade and plant something next to the little stone wall. There's plenty to keep me occupied while the weather gets brutal.

Kristen Halverson is enjoying the weather while she can. Email her at

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