Growing fresh food has many wonderful benefits to our health, our home and also to the earth.
By following a few simple methods, it’s actually quiet easy and enjoyable to do, plus you are harvesting an abundance of healthy food to enjoy and share.
But how can we grow more healthy food?
A catchphrase of mine is;
Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy Body
Let’s turn this around…
Want a healthy body? Then eat healthy food.
Want to grow healthy food? Then create healthy soil to grow it in!
Healthy soil is alive. It’s full of organisms that feed off natural ingredients and produce food for plants.
The more these little organisms have to eat, the more they produce for plants to feed off. This helps plants to grow strong and produce food for us to enjoy. (basically that’s how it works)
What do these little critters eat??
I mentioned ‘natural ingredients’, another name for this is organic matter.
[Def: It is matter composed of organic compounds that have come from the remains of organisms such as plants and animals and their waste products in the environment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_matter ]
The collection of organisms living in the soil (known as the Soil Food Web) feed on this matter and they excrete poo/manure which plants easily absorb through their roots.
So the basics of this is…Feed the Soil, not the Plants (a great Permaculture saying) and you’ll grow plants that thrive, are packed with nutrients and vitality AND when you and your family eat this food YOU too will be full of nutrients and vitality.
Plus your plants will be more resistant to pests and diseases and they’ll be growing healthy and strong.
So what are these natural ingredients?
Wiki says - remains of organisms such as plants and animals and their waste products…
Basically that’s dead plants and animals and also their manure.
Here’s 5 of these ingredients that you can easily use…
- Organic Slow Release Fertilisers or Blood and Bone – both fabulous fertilisers for improving deficient soil and feeding plants long term. They contain a balance of nutrients for plants and ingredients for organisms in soil. Purchase Blood and Bone with added Potash for great for boosting flower, vegetable and fruit growth. Always follow manufacturer’s recommendation for application rate. Both products contain meat and bone meal. TIP – Rock minerals also add vital minerals to soil, so if you choose fertilisers that don’t contain rock minerals you may need to add this to soil as well.
- Compost – Yes I ALWAYS include composting, because it is THE best way to feed your garden and it’s a great soil conditioner. It’s cheap, easy and a quick way to add life to your garden. Your plants will love you for adding compost! For super easy ‘in-garden’ composting watch my video and follow these instructions.
- Rotted manure – any manure will do. Yes I know there’s a variety of animal poo available but let’s not over complicate this. Poo is Poo as far as I’m concerned (just not human, dog or cat) and all manure will feed your garden. So grab some horse, sheep, cow, chook, or your manure of choice, next time you see a few bags for sale on the side of a road.
My tip is to place it in a corner of the garden and leave to break down for a month or two. This will ensure any residual nasties will be broken down before going into your garden. Also if the manure has any weed or grass seeds they can sprout and be removed before ending up in the garden. But ONLY put rotted/old manure in compost, not the fresh stuff.
- Liquid Fertiliser – there’s a great range of these products that can be used for foliar feed (on the foliage) and for the soil. Liquid fertilisers get nutrients into plants superfast as they’re in a soluble form and easily absorbed by plant.
You don’t need to buy liquid fertiliser, for example, try home-made liquids like worm wee or comfrey tea. Learn about the difference between worm farms and composting in this article.
ALWAYS dilute these products and only apply to plants in early morning (cold weather) or late afternoon (warm weather) to protect the foliage. They are perfect for applying to plants with nutrient deficiencies…showing up as pale leaf colour.
- Chop and Drop – a method I learnt when studying Permaculture Design. This is also a fantastic way to add loads of organic matter to your garden, plus it’s FREE!!
The method of chop and drop means chop up green garden foliage (comfrey is fabulous) and drop it onto the soil…easy! Then cover with a few handfuls of blood and bone (to help with the greens breaking down) a sprinkle of rock minerals and water it really well. The little critters in the soil love this! You can also use lawn clippings on your garden soil, just use a thin layer (about 3-5cm) so it breaks down quickly and doesn’t end up wet and stinky. Also cover in a layer of mulch.
A few tips when applying these products to your garden…
- Use only organic products – read labels before purchasing products to find an organic certification logo. This will vary in each country.
- If you can’t buy something suitable use home-made. Stick to composting, worm wee, comfrey tea and chop and drop method. All these are from ingredients you’ll have in your home. Saves time and money!!
- Gently loosen the soil with a garden fork and apply a deep watering to soil before products are added.
- Limit digging soil, especially when soil is in a fragile condition as soil can be further damaged with excess digging and turning. Use a garden fork to aerate the soil but no deep digging or turning.
- Gypsum (Calcium sulphate) can be used to help break up heavy clay soils and doesn’t alter pH levels.
- Cover all ingredients in a 3-5 cm layer of organic mulch and water into the soil. This will help the organisms process the ingredients and prevent them from drying out. Try sugar cane, hay, straw, pea straw, lucerne, brown lawn clippings or composted wood chips.
- Follow application rates on packaging and if unsure always apply a bit less, rather than a bit more.
Applying too much fertiliser or ingredients can cause toxicity in the soil and can be more harmful to plants than nutrient deficiency (not enough nutrients). So don’t overdo it when it comes to feeding your garden!
Try these methods to increase vital nutrients in your garden and enjoy the fruits of a more plentiful harvest!
IS YOUR GARDEN SOIL TOO DRY??
Download & Print my Simple Ways to Fix Dry Garden Soil simple steps!
If you enjoyed this article and it provided you with a few ideas then please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you use these methods to improve your garden.
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Helping you learn, grow and thrive.
© cath manuel 3 january 2017