The first step to growing vegetables like a master gardener is to look to your soil! The soil is the very foundation of a garden. People all too often take the soil for granted, but this is a huge mistake. Good soil produces healthier plants that are more disease and pest resistant. Good soil produces more fruits and vegetables with better flavor, and they have more nutritional value for your family. The bible says in Mark 4:8 “other seeds fell into the good soil, and they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
What is good soil? Good soil is nutrient rich and full of life. Good soil soaks up water without runoff. How do I build good soil? Some people will tell you that you can improve your soil with chemical amendments. I disagree with this method. Sure, you might get some short term results, but I am going to share with you methods that are more sustainable.
1, Add Organic Matter
The first step to building good soil is add organic matter. We use good quality home grown compost as our source of organic matter. Make sure you are using good quality live compost. You can buy bagged compost at several retailers however it is usually dead. Good compost is teaming with microorganisms, and when they bag the compost it usually dries out killing the beneficial microorganisms. If you cannot compost, or you do not want to compost then I recommend finding a local source that will sell it to you. Compost speeds up the formation beneficial soil fungus as well as attracts earth worms. Earth worms not only help to break down the compost but also aerate the soil which is very important to root development. Earth worms are a great sign of good healthy soil.
2, Add Nutrients
The next step in building good soil is making sure that it is loaded with usable nutrients for the plants. Good compost helps with this however some additives may be necessary. We always use organic additives. Most people are familiar with the macro nutrients N(nitrogen)-P(phosphorous)-K(Potassium). Coffee grounds are a great source nitrogen and helps to lower the Ph levels of your soil. We add coffee grounds to our compost as well as straight in to the garden. Bone meal is good organic source of phosphorus for your garden. Dried banana peels and wood ash are great sources of potassium. Macro nutrients are a very important part of the soil however people often overlook how important micronutrients are. AZOMITE is minerals from ancient volcanos in Utah. AZOMITE contains over 70 trace minerals and micronutrients essential to plant growth. AZOMITE is a must for every gardener in our opinion. Kelp meal offers 60 minerals and elements. We add all of these products to our garden soil.
After you add the compost and the nutrients you want to mulch your soil. Mulching helps to prevent weeds, and mulch helps with water retention. Mulch also contributes to soil health as it breaks down over time. Good sources of mulch is straw, wood chips, grass clippings, and crushed leaves. Please do not use Bermuda grass clippings as this could cause a weed infestation you will never get rid of. We use wood chips here on our farm. You can get them free a lot of times from tree trimming companies in your area.
The best advice I could give an individual who wants to start gardening is to take the time and build your soil. If your soil is right you have more success and a lot fewer issues. Remember that soils are ever evolving and you need to pay attention and adjust as necessary. Keep feeding your soil with good quality organic products and it will repay the cost exponentially with the quality produce you harvest from it. One last tip for good soil is to use no till methods whenever possible. Tilling damages the micro flora and beneficial fungi chains in the soil. This means that you have to wait for this to rebuild which just sets your timeline back. If you care for your soil properly it will not need to be tilled.
ChickenMoe’s Family Farm