This weekend I turned decomposed mulch and compost into the garden, planted spring seeds, and added another layer of fertilized mulch (rabbit droppings mixed with hay). The soil is like butter, a loamy perfection. Years of rock sifting, adding compost and mulch, fertilizing, and tilling have paid off. Some say that I'm an overachiever because I till manually. However, I believe that using a rototiller compromises the soil structure and kills beneficial microorganisms. It's important to help your soil breath, allowing it to continuously break down and absorb moisture. It's filled with water, air, organic matter, and microorganisms like worms and mycorrhizal fungi, providing important nutrients for your plants, and space for their roots to grow.
Loamy soil is the best type of soil texture you can have in your garden. The properties of this soil are controlled equally by the percentages of clay, silt and sand particles. It is well drained but does not loose water too rapidly, and it allows air to permeate it, which means that it retains nutrients for your plants to use. Good soil will hold air, water and nutrients and allow roots to penetrate the soil but will still have enough structure to give your plants stability.
If you have either sandy or clay soil, you can gradually enhance it to minimize the negative impacts it might have on your plants, or limit the kinds of plants you can grow. Here are a few tips:
- Do not walk on your soil when it is wet or frozen. This will compact the soil particles, resulting in air pockets and water flow.
- Add plenty of organic matter from kitchen scraps to organic mulch (leaves, grass clippings, hay, manure, seaweed, etc). Rabbit droppings are excellent because they offer a high source of nitrogen.
- When you've "gotta' go", go ahead and pee on your compost to later incorporate into your garden.
- Remove large rocks and sticks (they do not break down).
- Grow green manure to protect your soil from erosion.
- Manually till your soil, even though using a rototiller will save a lot of time. Take time to appreciate the earth.
- Do not use chemicals. Earthworms are particularly sensitive to chemicals but are an essential element in healthy soil.
It is imperative not to rush with your soil. Take your time. Give it lots of tender love and care. Healthy soil is the essential ingredient to successful gardening.