1. For new garden beds, mix one inch of compost or 3 inches of grass clippings into the top 6 inches of soil.
2. Mulch around plants with 2 inches of grass clippings, coffee ground or compost which will slowly add nutrients to the soil and encourage earthworms and other soil organisms
3. Apply a spray of compost tea. Compost tea is low in nutrients but high in micronutrients
4. Plant a living mulch this summer such as oats or white dutch clover around your vegetables. Their roots will loosen compacted soil and concentrate nutrients for your vegetables to feed on.
5. Dry out eggshells and crumble them into the soil for a boost of calcium and micronutrients. (via katrina)
6. Start a compost pile, bin or vermiculture box.
7. Double dig your soil about 2 feet deep, blending in compost as you go. The benefits will last indefinately. This will improve drainage, aeration, improve root growth, encourage earthworms and allow nutrients to be evenly spread through the root zone.
We’ve been thinking a lot about dirt lately. Or, rather ‘soil’ as we gardeners like to say. We’ve been thinking about weeds and learning about how you can tell a lot about your soil by what weeds grow in it. We’re just starting to learn about this so we’ll keep you posted. But it’s gotten me to think about how as gardeners we are truly stewards of the soil. Any organic gardener knows that your plants are only as healthy as your soil, so its important to take excellent care of it. The best way to ensure your soils health is to add plenty of organic matter. Sure, we know that the three big soil nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but macro and micro nutrients are also critical because those are are what break down the organic matter to release the nutrients to your plants. Here’s a list of things you can easily do to improve your soils health.
All these ideas are pretty easy things that you can do this weekend. I hope you try a few!
Each year Scott tries a different combination of cover crops to bring new nutrients to our soil. This year it was fava beans and purple vetch.
What I find pretty amazing about using cover crops is that when you pull up the roots you can actually see the little balls of nitrogen that have formed on the roots. Here’s the roots of the fava beans, do you see those little balls attached to the roots?
What is also amazing is the immediate action of that added nitrogen. Our fava bean patch and lettuce patch became interplanted at one end and the lettuce that was growing amidts the favas was about three times larger than the lettuce growing on it’s own. I wish I had taken a picture of it before our chickens found it and made themselves a salad lunch.
One thing new we learned this year about growing fava beans as a cover crop is that you should till the crop under before the plant has created beans because the nutrients are then brought up from the soil into the making of the beans. Previously we had waited for the beans to form so that we could eat them ourselves. This year we’ll most likely till the majority of them and eat a few of them. They are too tasty to till them all!
Our chest high favas also make for great exploring for little ones:
Here is the purple vetch
and it’s roots
Vetch actually gives a bit more nitrogen to the soil, but it grows in a more matted form so it’s hard to do interplantings if you wanted to do those like we did (inadvertently with the lettuce).