Soil is extremely important for growing gardens; it’s the starting point and the base for plant growth. Good soil is alive and contains earthworms, insects, bacteria, fungi, and nutrients. I learn more about this all the time. Here’s what I know now:
Organic matter helps to aerate soil (provides pockets for air and for water). I have clay soil which isn’t breathable, so I’ve had to work hard to get my gardens in a growable state.
I love making compost. It reminds me of mud pies making when I was young. I have piles of different organic material. The carbon rich material (browns) are the dead/ dry stuff including dead leaves, straw, wood chips, paper recycling, ash, pine needles. The nitrogen rich material (greens) include green scraps (grass cuttings and leafy weeds*), horse, bunny, chicken poop**, food scraps (fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, nut and egg shells***, but no meat or dairy), flowers, etc... I layer the browns and greens in my compost and water it. My compost pile is in a south facing spot so it gets full heat from the sun. Water and heat along with a balance of carbon and nitrogen increase the rate of decomposition.
I also lasagne layer my gardens in the fall when I put them to bed for the winter. I use the same layering I do with my compost bin. Ideally, I put a layer of wet newspaper first to smother the weeds and then alternate with greens and browns. I use garden weeds and finished compost for the green layers and dry leaves, wood chips, and paper for the brown layers. If I need to affect the acidity of my soil (for blueberries, azaleas, and other acid loving plants), I’ll add a pine needle layer. If my soil is too alkaline, I add some ash from my fire pit or wood stoves.
Soil composition is a science. A perfect balance of macro and micro nutrients along with a good pH level will produce the most healthy garden. Too much nitrogen will help with strong vegetation but will also stunt the fruiting process. If the pH in the soil is too high or too low, the foliage will yellow . For a free soil test, send a sample here.
I’m still working on the perfect soil. And I never have enough compost...
*it’s preferable to leave out the seeds if possible- so weeds before they go to seed.
**all poop is different. Bunny poop can go directly on the garden to give it a nitrogen boost (like grass clippings). Chicken poop has to sit in the compost for at least a season to leach out it’s strength. Horse poop works best when it cooks in itself first (composts) and is then layered into the compost pile.
*** shells are carbon rich material