The Art of Creating Good Gardening Soil

By Larraine Roulston:

April celebrates National Garden Month. In order to have plants thrive in a  successful vegetable garden, healthy soil is key. The blog organic gardeningexplains that we should ”feed the soil, not the plant” to create a natural soil without the use of synthetic fertilizers, andoutlines methods to do so.

 Kids connect with healthy eating;  therefore, in order to keep our next generation robust, we need to start from the ground up. Even apartment or townhouse dwellers can acquire small containers for a patio that will allow fresh organic produce be part of their diet.

 Ensure that your soil maintains good texture, is loose and contains an abundance of nutritious organic matter. If your gardening area does not measure up to these three standards, here’s how to give it a helping hand:

 By digging in compost and vermicompost as an amendment, you will add nutrients and microbial life. This helps loosen dense soils and provides proper drainage. Inquire whether your locality offers a soil testing service. For an inexpensive fee, you will receive invaluable information that will benefit your garden for many years.Also, soil test kits are available in gardening stores.

 An ideal texture is essential for rooting and drainage; therefore, loosen your soil to a depth of at least 12”. Test by squeezing a handful of moist soil to determine if the ball breaks easily. Clay soil will remain in a lump, so you will need to include some sand and decaying leaves. Soil that crumbles quickly will require an abundance of compost or manure to maintain moisture.

 Nutrients are critical also. Adding finished compost or aged manure will provide the three major nutrients — nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. If you are deficient in magnesium, adding one cup of Epsom salt for each 100 square feet of planting soil can help. As an alternative, water once a month with a solution of two tablespoons Epsom salt to one gallon of water.

 Try this homemade compost tea to give the garden a boost. Compost tea is created when a shovelful of seasoned compost is placed in a sack and suspended in water. After it has steeped, along with occasional stirring for a couple of days, this nutrient rich, amber liquid can be spread on the garden. Begin by dampening the selected area. As compost tea is very rich in nutrients, it should be diluted with water if its color is darker than amber.

You might also want to check your soil’s pH level (further explained in the last link below). Try testing soil yourself with baking soda and vinegar by digging as deep as 8” to collect many samples at various depths. Mix soil and let dry. Place a handful into a container and add 1/2 cup of vinegar. If it fizzes, you have alkaline soil. In another container, dampen the same amount with distilled water and add 1/2 cup of baking soda. If it fizzes, you have acidic soil. If neither, your soil is perfectly neutral. Some plants prefer acidic soil; it depends on what you wish to grow.

 Enjoy your organic garden in the sunshine and dirt. Zach Branson, spokesperson for BuildASoil, concludes, “I ate dirt as a baby, I did it for the flavor; in a couple years, I’ll let the soil repay the favor.”

 Related Links:


 Soil Mineral Balancing 101




 Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit www.castlecompost.com

Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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