The secret to a successful garden is right beneath your feet. Show your soil some love and you can expect bigger, better harvests. In this short video, we demonstrate five simple yet highly effective ways to prepare your soil to give your crops the best possible start this spring.
The secret behind successful harvests is soil that’s in top-notch condition and packed full of organic matter (such as garden compost, animal manure or leafmold). Organic matter improves soil structure, enriches soil, and feeds the vital microbial life within it.
When adding organic matter to bare soil, spread it out evenly before tilling it in to the top six to 12 inches of your soil. You can also add organic matter around crops by spreading it between plants as a thick mulch two to three inches deep. It will gradually be incorporated into the soil by earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms.
Mulching with organic matter is the best way to enhance the fertility and structure of the soil around perennial plants such as fruit bushes and strawberries. It will also help minimize evaporation from the soil, which means less watering is needed and plants will be more able to cope with dry spells.
No-dig gardening is a growing method which suits narrow beds, such as raised beds. Avoiding digging helps to build a healthy soil ecosystem which enhances plant growth, and avoids the need step on the soil and risk compacting it. To make a no-dig bed, first lay sheets of thick cardboard on the soil to suppress weeds, then spread a four to six inch thick layer of organic matter over the top. Regularly add organic weed-free mulches to feed the soil. These will be ‘dug in’ by the thriving earthworm population.
Avoid Weeding in Winter
Overwintering annual weeds can be left untouched to develop into a mat of foliage that will protect the soil from erosion and heavy rain, in the same way that a cover crop would. ‘Weeds’ can be wild plants such as chickweed or bittercress, or self-sown salads like mache (corn salad). Hoe these annual weeds off spring before they have set seed. You can leave them on the soil surface, dig them into the soil, or add them to the compost heap.
Grow Your Own Comfrey Soil Enhancer
Comfrey has long roots that pull up minerals from deep in the soil. This means that comfrey leaves are high in essential plant nutrients, so when cut they’re great for feeding your soil and your plants. The variety ‘Bocking 14’ is best, as it doesn’t spread as aggressively as other varieties. It’s usually grown on its own or alongside a compost heap. Cut comfrey leaves can be used to mulch around greedy plants such as tomatoes, or they can be dug into the soil. You can also make your own liquid fertilizer out of comfrey leaves. When diluted with water it can be used to feed fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and squashes.
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