Building Organic Soil in the Garden

Building organic soil begins in the fallThis is what soil should look like. Can you see the life in this soil? This soil has already produced a crop of carrots, but because of the organic matter in this soil, it will product a lot before it begins to get worn out. But I won’t let it get that way, because I want to take care of my soil.

In gardening, soil is really where it’s at. It is full of life, flora and fauna. This is your whole foundation.

BuildingĀ  organic soil begins in the Fall.

We love to put lots of leaves on the soil in the Fall. We put them on at least a foot deep if we can get them. We just pile them on top of the soil and on top of any remaining plant vines and leaves. You can just till them in and mix some soil with them. They will break down very nicely by next Spring.

One set of soil has just been tilled with a huge addition of leaves mixed with grass clippings. This is ideal to do in the fall when you have to rake leaves. Just run the lawn mower over those leaves and get a few grass clippings mixed in. And then if you till or plow it in, there will be quite a bit of soil mixed in. The dirt will innoculate it with microbes that will help break it all down. During the Winter, hopefully you will get a little snow and rain, and the soil will cook.

In the Spring, sometimes it will seem that there are too many leaves. If that is the case, just give the soil a little more time. If you water it good, the leaves will continue to break down. With a second tilling in the Spring when the weather has warmed, the soil will be in ideal conditions for plant. It will be rich with organic life.

If your soil is very alkaline as it is in most places in the West, you may like more pine needles, which are more acidic. If you get soil with a lot of pine needles, it may take a little longer to break down, but it will help the soil maintain a more balanced pH.

Weeds can also make good soil.

We can till this into the soil and we call it “green manure.” They add a lot of organic matter, especially if you get them when they are eight or ten inches tall, before they begin to go to seed. In our video you can see the chopped up leaves and plants, which make good fertilizer. If you wait a week or two, the soil will break down much of the green and it will be very good to plant in. If you are transplanting established plants such as tomatoes or peppers, you could plant immediately. If you intend to plant small seeds, you might want to wait to give it a chance to break down.

You should add manure in the Fall.

Manure is good for soil as well, but it is best to add manure in the Fall, not in the Spring. Sometimes, however, if the manure has had time to break down for one year, you can add in the Spring without too much concern. This is especially true for root plants, which first produce large foliage and then follow with the tubers. They will take advantage of the nitrogen. Then the potatoes will build stronger root systems and then tubors.

Spreading first year manure will also work well for corn, squash, and tomatoes and asparagus. All of these need a strong nitrogen component early in the year.

Generally speaking, use whatever you can get and get organic material into the soil whenever you can. In the Spring, in the Summer, and in the Fall. Let the Winter have plenty of organic material in the soil so that the micro-organisms can re-build the soil each year.

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