There are of course many ways to improve soil and each climate and soil type offers it's own particular challenges and opportunities, however if we do these five things, I think we can make a huge difference to soil health and fertility, and therefore the quality of our food.
- Open the Soil
- Feed the Soil
- Add Organic Matter to the Soil
- Mulch the Soil
- Water Deeply
|I mulch very thickly in the subtropics.|
I know that in some places it's not possible, but wherever you can, grow in connection with the soil. Get your gardens into the ground and keep your veggie gardens in contact with natural soil - activate it! Do this and growing food will:
- become easier (living soil supports healthy plants which are less prone to pests and disease ),
- be cheaper (less external fertilisers and amendments) and
- be more nutritious (healthy plants in good soil are more nutrient dense)
All in all it becomes a far more laid back, peaceful and healthier way of gardening. It really doesn't even take that much effort or time to do these five things.
1. Open the soil
I regularly walk around with my garden fork and open the soil amongst the plants, and on the upper side of a garden bed (if on a slope). This ensures that any moisture falling on the garden has far more chance to penetrate than runoff. By opening, I simply mean plunging in the tines of fork and gently levering, not lifting or turning the soil.
|Opening the soil with my favourite old garden fork.|
2. Feed the Soil
Concentrate on feeding the soil and activating the soil life, rather than feeding the plants. A healthy soil will be the best environment for flourishing veggies. A few good ways:
- grow comfrey - chop and drop leaves around the garden, make a natural fertiliser - they draw nutrients and minerals from deep down.
- add compost when making new beds, and top-dress regularly
- install worm towers to keep improving the soil from below.
|Quick sketch of my little worm tower - an upturned pot on the top helps to keep out the insects and animals.|
3. Add Organic Matter to The Soil
Organic matter in the soil acts like a sponge. Typically Australian soils are low in organic matter, and as plants grow and are harvested, vegetable gardens need it replenished. Compost is one of the best ways to add organic matter to the soil, so is regularly adding mulch and doing the 'chop and drop'.
|Have compost systems everywhere throughout the garden.|
4. Mulch the Soil
Mulch protects soil life - it helps soil to stay alive right to the very top. It also keeps the soil temperature stable, prevents erosion and diminishes the loss of soil moisture through evaporation. Bare soil has a dry crusty top that is devoid of life. In the subtropics, mulch is vital all year round. Mulch gets drawn into he soil so rapidly, it need to be replenished often. As soon as there is a patch where I can see some soil, I give the whole area some fresh mulch. I grow lots of living mulches too around the food forest areas.
5. Water Deeply
Water your plants less often and more deeply. This way the soil moisture stays more constant and the plants are encouraged to search more for their food and water, helping them to strengthen their root systems and become more resilient to variations in temperature and moisture. Deeper root systems also access more minerals and nutrients deep down in the soil. Healthy plants need more than a cursory spray with a hose.
|Your plants will be healthier, more resilient and more nutritious.|
Labels: composting, gardening, permaculture, simple living, soil, urban agriculture, worms