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Building soil

    Date Posted: Sun, Feb 26 - 5:45 pm


  • We are making new raised beds for flowers and veggies. We are designing them with a wooden frame and then approaching the layers as a lasagne garden. My partner is thinking he can use only mushroom compost and cardboard to fill these beds but from what I read we need about 75% soil and 25% mushroom compost. Is this accurate for Richmond soils? Thanks for your insights on how to best lay the ground materials for thriving flower & veggie beds. Much appreciated, Jāna
  • Answer

  • Hello Jana, My go-to resource for soil building is the permaculture guide--Gaia's Garden. The recommendation for building soil through compost is to use half green matter and half brown (to attain a good ratio of nitrogen to carbon). Green matter would be leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps (but also manure) and the brown would be dried leaves, hay (includes weeds), straw, pruning trimmings, and wood shavings or similar. The book discusses all issues such temperature of pile, size, turning, etc. The mushroom compost is great but I think the combination of materials will lead to a longer stretch of fertility in the beds. With different materials leaching their nutrients at different times. The beds will consume a lot of mulching material. One way to deal with this is to use any brush you may have collected and build hugelkultur beds. They are basically a mound of brush (tamped down), well watered and covered with organic materials, compost and soil. So you may want to use a combination of hugelkultur and organic matter with a good topping of mushroom compost. I recommend reading Gaia's Garden's chapter 4-Bringing the Soil to Life. The author's favorite method for doing so is sheet mulching (lasange gardening). Happy gardening!

Soil Test

    Date Posted: Fri, Aug 12 - 10:39 pm


  • Hello! I got my soil test results back, but I don't understand them. Can you help? Best, Teresa
  • Answer

  • Hello Teresa, Yes, I would be able to help you with the soil test results. You won't be able to upload them through this site. However, if you can send me the results through email that should do the trick. Please send the results I look forward to helping you sort this out.

Soil testing

    Date Posted: Mon, Jul 25 - 8:59 pm


  • Do you all provide soil testing? And if so how do I sign up? Best, Katie
  • Answer

  • Hello Katie, We absolutely do provide soil testing. The master gardeners that provide Help Desk duties at the branch libraries all have soil sample kits for purchase. Call the branch nearest you and find out the Help Desk dates and times. The kit will describe exactly how to sample your soil and what the fees are. You can find the form to fill out here--, if you want a preview and a bit more information. Good luck with the testing and happy gardening!

Sod died-alternative

    Date Posted: Wed, Aug 18 - 2:07 pm


  • We have a very small 200sf area in the front of the house that was previously sod. That grass has died this summer (we think from a fungus) and we are thinking about doing something lower maintenance like a moss. Any recommendations or thoughts on that? The yard is am sun, north east facing, good drainage. Thanks!
  • Answer

  • Hello there! Since your sod failed it would be worthwhile to have your soil tested. You can request a soil testing kit from the local extension office-the phone number for Richmond City is (804) 786-4150. You can check this link for the process: Also ask about the whether the demise of your sod was most likely due to incorrect ph or a fungus. Once you've established your soil's ph (whether it's an alkaline or acidic soil) you'll be able to make informed decisions about what plants to use. If you want to use moss, you'll need soil on the acidic side-5.5. I've included a link about mosses in lawns and how to grow a moss garden. Skip to the section entitled "Moss Gardens" for pertinent information. Here's the link: You'll have to judge how much sun your space receives and whether or not that might be too much for mosses. In lieu of mosses, there are many alternative ground covers. I mentioned a number of them in the post Dog proof ground covers. Often a combination of them can be very pleasing and generally low maintenance. The addition of shrubs with some good mulch can also add interest with minimal upkeep. Enjoy the project!