Saturday, 11 June 2011
How to improve your soil
As organic gardeners we are continually working towards improving our soils structure and fertility. Almost all soil types can be improved by adding organic matter. Anything with animal or plant origins such as manure, compost, seaweed or straw can be added as a mulch or dug into the soil to decompose and add humus.
Green manuring, where a fast growing crop is grown to be dug into the soil, is a very useful method of improving fertility by adding nutrients to the soil and discouraging the growth of weeds. Green manures should not be allowed to flower, produce seed and so become a weed. Growing a green manure also assists in breaking up and aerating the soil. The soil benefits from not being left fallow which stops soil erosion and does not allow the elements to deplete the soil of nutrients. There are a variety of crops suitable for green manuring such as mustard, alfalfa and field peas or beans. Try to include green manures into your cropping plan and there are green manures suitable for sowing throughout the planting year.
If you can locate a free source of animal manure this is the most beneficial for your soil but if its fresh compost it for a period before use as it may burn plants due to its high ammonia content. The manure will add body to your soil and as as it breaks down add valuable humus. We are lucky to be surrounded by cattle and goat keepers who are happy to get rid of some of their animal waste either free or for a small payment. Goat manure is particularly good as the naturally dry pellets are easy to collect and apply and its less messy than other animal manures.