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 (and everything) 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.
Organic matter consists of the remains of plants and animals. I make piles of different organic material including leaves, green scraps (grass cuttings and leafy weeds), composted horse manure, bunny poop (my daughter has a giant bunny), wood chips, sawdust, food scraps (egg shells, fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags,... but no meat products), chicken poo straw, etc... I layer these 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 (the layers in the pile) 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 (sometimes I get lazy and skip this step) and then alternate with greens and browns. The greens are the nitrogen rich parts like grass clippings, manure, and food based items. The brown layers are high in carbon and include dead stuff like leaves, straw, and wood chips. Over winter, nutrients slowly leach into the soil. 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 (collected in another pile).
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. I never have enough compost...