Gina’s Garden Crash Course: Tips and Tricks for Success

May 24, 2021

Gina Schley, one of our garden founders and now owner of “ SHEGROWS” ( flower farm, came out to share some tips and tricks she’s learned over the years. Gardeners who were able to attend were delighted with all they learned. I wish I had taken this course ten years ago, which is why I’d like to share with you some of her best ideas to set your garden up for success.

Here are some basic gardening questions answered.

Q: What are the basics of soil health?

Gina: I like to picture a funnel when thinking about important soil components. At the top of the funnel, the largest section, you have NPK also known as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. You need large amounts of each to grow big strong healthy vegetables. These can be found in varying amounts in locally available organic fertilizers, depending on what you want to grow.

On the next level of the funnel you have Calcium and Magnesium, which vegetables like tomatoes really need to grow strong stems and large tomatoes. I recommend adding “Hi Yield” fast acting gypsum to increase calcium uptake from the soil if your vegetables are having trouble thriving. I also really like “Cal-Mag” liquid you purchase in a concentrated bottle and dilute with water and spread using a backpack sprayer or large watering can. If you’re seeing curly leaves on your tomatoes, they will love this stuff!

On the bottom level of the funnel, the smallest section, you have your trace minerals like copper, iron, zinc, sulfur and cobalt which help increase stem strength. I like to use “soil mender mineral boost” to ensure my vegetables and flowers are getting enough of each of these minerals.

Q: Should I add fertilizer, what type, and how much?

Gina: I recommend Happy Frog slow release organic fertilizer. You can get it at Echters, Maleras or other garden stores in the area. This garden amendment can be mixed with your compost at the start of the season and sprinkled on your vegetables throughout the season for increased growth. Happy Frog’s fertilizer contains 6%Nitrogen, 4% Phosphorus, and 5% Potassium but there are other percentage concentrations for specific vegetables.

Q: How should I prepare my soil?

Gina: If your soil is hard it might be full of clay, and you can break it up by adding peat moss or coco core also available at Echters and local garden stores. Peat moss also helps keep in moisture and increases pore space. It’s also important to remember soil is like the skin of the earth: it must be covered so it doesn’t lose too much moisture. I recommend using straw, as it doesn’t take up much nitrogen. I don’t recommend using bark on vegetable gardens as it adds way too much carbon, which ties up nitrogen.

Q: How should I lay my garden plot out?

Gina: Everyone has their own preferences, but I like to do wide raised rows of 3 ft wide bed