Simple rule. Be good to your soil, and it will feed your plants and provide you a bountiful harvest of veggies and flowers. Soil is your single most important asset in the garden, and over time it will continue to improve so long as you nurture it as a living community. Good soil does not come from a bag, it takes time and investment- and the pay off is worth it! Rich tomatoes, spicy peppers, and sweet pumpkins.
Although the science of soil is complex, just know that a handful of soil has millions of different creatures living in it, “along with minerals and bits of living materials: iron oxides, unicellular bacteria, actinomycete filaments, flagellated protozoans, ciliated protozoans, amoebae, nematodes, root hairs, fine roots, elongate springtails, and mites.” Full Article from Organic Gardening These critters compost or break down the leaves and veggie scraps you pile together, along with remains of living creatures into a form that plants can take up.
Here is a soil fact: Soil is an entire community. In one tablespoon of soil there are 400 million microscopic creatures. Plants have symbiotic relationship with microbes. Plants release 25-50% of their liquid each day into the soil in the form of protein and sugar. The intent is to attract microbes that feed on the liquid and which in turn feed the plants.
Here are simple things you can do to build good soil:
1. Don’t Walk on Your Soil– Good soil structure allows adequate amounts of air and water to be stored so the plant roots can access it. When you walk on it, you destroy this framework and only time can restore it.
2. Feed Your Soil– Add organic amendments like compost. Compost can be made or purchased at your local hardware/garden center. Best to do this each growing season. For every six inches of compost you apply to the top, you compost down 2 inches into the existing soil- a marriage of two microbial communities! Compost tea and other organic mixes can be used to liquid feed your crops throughout the growing season. One commercial organic fertilizer called Epsoma Plant-tone is an all natural plant food that can be used throughout the growing season. Mix Plant-tone into the top 4 inches of soil at the rate of 4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.
3. Rotate Your Crops– Manage the depletion of nutrients and the life cycle of certain bugs. Heavy feeders should be moved around the garden so that the soil is allowed to replenish itself. Heavy feeders include tomatoes, melons, corn, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, eggplant, and squash.
4. Break Up Compaction- If you are looking to recondition your soil, apply gypsum at the rate of 40 lbs per 1000 square feet, 2-3 times a year. It does not have to be worked (cultivated or spaded) and has the ability to penetrate the millions of fine clay particles in heavy or hardpan type soils and loosen the soil structure. This process then creates air and moisture spaces that eventually loosen and break-up the soil structure. This process won’t happen overnight, but it is an easy and inexpensive way to get the job done. For compact soil you can also plant crops with big taproots like daidon radish to break up hard subsurface soil layers.
Soil is an investment, there is no overnight success in organic gardening. Your reward will be healthy, and nutritious food for you and your family. Happy Gardening!
Other good articles:
Feeding Healthy Soil-
Fertilizing your Soil