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by Ryan Eccleston-Murdock June 15, 2018

Gardening has always been one of those hit or miss skills: you either have a green thumb or you kill every plant you touch. Little do most know that gardening is a lot more thanAm I watering my plant enough? orIs this spot too sunny? The secret to gardening lies in the soil. Healthy soil leads to healthy plants and a bountiful, natural garden.

Soil is a plant’s main source of nourishment. Their roots borough deep into the ground in search of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. These essential nutrients are typically lacking from soil due to two human-imposed factors: monoculture and overcrowding. Monoculture, the cultivation of a single crop across a wide single area, depletes the soil of key vitamins. Since all of the plants in any monocultured area are of the same type, they require the same nutrients. Those particular vitamins are then syphoned off, leading to nutrient-deficient soil. Overcrowding only worsens these effects: plants become uncomfortable and competitive as they fight over the soil’s now depleted nutrients. Most large-scale farms implement both monoculture and overcrowding to boost yield and profit, leading to greater need by farmers for fertilizers and pesticides, depleting the soil further.

These practices hurt the soil for longer than one season and can impact crops for years. The good news is that there are things you can do today to improve the health of soil.

Here are a few tips and tricks for cultivating healthy and fertile soil!

Add Organic Materials

This can be anything from manure to compost. Both contain high levels of nitrogen and improve the soil’s water retention abilities. When composting stick to collecting fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, dry leaves, and grass clippings. When your compost pile is dry it’s time to add it to your soil. Apply it in thick, 4-6 inch layers before you plant your first seeds!

Add Rock Powders (Dust)

By adding rock powders to your compost pile or garden soil, you’re allowing the slow release of minerals to revitalize your soil, making it ready to receive a plethora of different seeds and plants.

Avoid Aggressive Tillage

Aggressive tillage disrupts the natural structure and layering of the soil. Steer clear of mechanical tillage, both man- and engine-powered. Instead use the most natural form of tillage there is: worms! They calmly (and naturally!) stir the soil by boroughing while giving back to the soil with their manure.

Plant Fertility Patches

A fertility patch is a collection that plants whose roots dig deep into the soil to supplement any mineral deficiencies. Good plants for fertility patches include comfrey and stinging nettle. Plant a few patches of these plants throughout your garden to support the growth of your other plants.

Protect Your Soil

It’s important to protect your soil, especially when you aren’t using it. Cover crops are plants that can be used to cover the rest of the plot from excessive rainfall and unwanted vermin. Great cover crops include clovers, peas, and beans.

Another way to protect your soil is to use mulch to cover your soil and keep it moist and less susceptible to drastic temperature changes. Avoid any mulch that has a high carbon content, as this will be too much for your soil.

The Obvious: Water, Water, Water!

Water your soil daily. A little H2O goes a long way: it ensures an even distribution of nutrients and minerals throughout your plot and keeps your plants and seeds hydrated.

Now that you know how to bolster your soil, get out there and make the world a little greener!

Ryan Eccleston-Murdock
Ryan Eccleston-Murdock

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