-by Ryan L. Bennett
Building a productive garden starts with good soil. Many gardeners start by digging up their yards, shovel in hand or guiding their trusty garden tiller—plowing the land. While that is a great start, adding the right organic material and using some natural techniques can create rich and productive soil that will provide a great foundation for a beautiful garden. The better your soil—the more optimized the dirt, the higher your yield, and crop quality. In this post, we’ll cover methods and techniques to enrich your garden soil. There are plenty of ways to enhance your garden soil, but all involve two core concepts: adding organic matter and increased mineral availability.
For the best soil, sources of organic matter should be as diverse as possible. Diverse organic matter is a key component for soil enrich
ment. Manure is a great source of nitrogen. Livestock manures are valuable and diverse organic matter for your soil. Livestock manures provide many nutrients to beneficial soil organisms and plants. Organic manures improve soil aggregation more than composts—organic material is better than decomposed material. You must apply manure carefully.
Some livestock manures contain pathogens, so be sure to allow for three months between applying manure and harvesting any leafy vegetables or root crops—this avoids any potential contamination. Crops like corn or tomatoes are less prone to manure contamination. Some manure nutrients are so plentiful they can leach out of the soil and contaminate streams and groundwater. If overused, manures can create excess phosphorus. Restrict fresh organic livestock manures to crops like corn. You can safely provide more soil enrichment by composting the soil to avoid using too much organic livestock manure.
Composting is simply a process that recycles organic waste. Composting speeds up soil humus by reducing organic material and stabilizing volatile nutrients. Applying compost, one-quarter inch per growing season provides a gradual release of nutrients. Composting improves soils retention of water while resisting disease. Composting is simple but came be hard work if you try to do too much too soon. Let’s cover some easy ways to compost your soil.
One method of composting is called sheet composting. This is a classic form of composting. Sheeting composting consists of bins with alternating layers. Each layer contains green grass clippings. These fresh grass clipping are rich in nitrogen. The next layer contains dry leaves. These high-carbon leaves, in combination with the high-nitrogen green grass clippings, can then be applied, layered—directly to your garden soil. You put down the green grass clippings first. This green layer should be moist, this nitrogen-rich layer must also be in contact with your garden soil. This allows the microbial organisms to feed on that nitrogen. This boost the overall microbial nitrogen cycle of your soil.
Another composting method is called Vermicomposting. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to naturally process organic materials, such as food waste, plant materials and manures. A simple vermicompoisting bin consists of a 3 by 4 foot bin that is 2 feet deep. Next, add bedding. this bedding should consist of straw, dry grass clippings and shredded newspaper. Next, add a handful of dirt and moisten everything in the bin. Allow the mixed bedding to soak for a day before you add the earthworms.
You must add organic material to your vermicomposting bin. Add food scrap like old fruit, egg shells, coffee grounds and table scraps. as you add organic material, be sure to moisten the bin with more water. Be sure to not add meat or fish to the bin. Also, avoid fats and pets waste. Once the bin gets going, the worm will consume the organic material and create castings. Within 2 to 4 months, you will have worm compost—aslo know as earthworm castings. Adding earthworm castings are a great way to enrich your garden soil, they not only benefit plant roots, they also add good microbes to your soil.
Organic Enhancement of you garden soil can help not only your yield, it can also benefit the environment. Composting provides a great way to eliminate organic waste and build healthy and productive soil. In our next post, we’ll cover how chickens and minerals can be used to enrich garden soil. check out this compost time-lapse video.