AWESOME garden soil in 4 steps
In gardening, it’s ALL about the soil. Soil is the keystone from which all your plantings either flourish or die. Sounds a bit dramatic but it’s true! When I started my garden I went to the local farmer’s supply store and bulk-bought really expensive topsoil. I DON’T recommend this if you’re ever planning on keeping chickens (here’s why) but I was a beginner and didn’t know any better. Whether you’ve imported soil or not, some simple Fall tasks can really set your spring planting up to give you great results! These apply to container gardens, raised beds or in-ground gardens!
Step 1: Leave the roots in place
It’s tempting when you clean up your garden beds to just yank the old plant out but did you know there are hundreds of thousands of important microbes and synergistic soil-critters that will feed on those roots and provide your incoming plants with nutrients? If you cut the plant beneath the soil line and leave the old roots in place, not only will you be adding to the water retention of the soil but you’ll be feeding your next planting.
Step 2: COVER that soil!
Bare soil is a HUGE no-no in organic gardening. Naked soil leads to erosion, nutrient leaching, requires much more water and in no time, your precious topsoil can pull a Scarlett O’Hara and be ‘Gone With the Wind’. No need to butcher YOUR curtains for proper soil attire though! My favorite soil cover is organic straw or dried leaves because they’re both inexpensive or free, slow to break down and add organic matter to the soil which decomposes into humus which is the holy grail of soil fertility.
Step 3: Use a cover crop to super-charge your soil nutrient content and availability.
If you have enough soil in your garden beds already, instead of mulching the bed over winter, plant a cover crop!
Cover crops were widely practiced before chemical fertilizers became the way of farming. They’re making a huge comeback as we’re discovering the perils of chemical fertilizers and they’re a GREAT way to add organic matter, fix nitrogen and set your spring planting up for maximum nutrition! Learn more about cover crops.
Step 4: Compost directly in your garden beds!
For many of us small-space gardeners, a dedicated compost bin is a luxury. I managed to find a corner to build a pallet compost bin big enough to do a hot compost process every once in a while, but I only have one, which means while it’s finishing the composting process, I really shouldn’t add anything to it if I want finished compost any time soon. Sheet mulching is a creative work-around! It’s basically composting right in your garden bed. It adds rich organic matter, you don’t have to turn it and it’s a great solution for all your fall leaves and garden bed clean up. It’s a kind of “set-it and forget-it” option that REALLY works for busy schedules!
Choosing one or more of these simple steps will ensure your soil is rich and full of nutrients for your plants! When you feed your soil, it feeds you back.