Part 3/12 Edible Gardening 101
This to me is one of the most important things you will work on and the journey that never ends. Healthy soil is alive and dynamic. It is constantly a cycle of life and death. It sustains everything on earth. The health of your food will depend on the health of your soil.
What do you have ?
At least once in your garden lifetime get a garden soil test and ask for help in reading it. Check your local garden center or Dalhousie Agricultural College does a more comprehensive test.
In this area, we lack selenium, and usually need to lower acidity in our soil. We do this by adding pelletized lime in the fall (when I remember ) every couple years. A 50 lb bag does my whole garden.
Every single area is different. I don’t fret very much. I focus on taking care of my soil, keeping it free from pesticides, plastics, and contaminants and amending with lots of compost. Unless something is drastically wrong, your soil should just need a few tweaks here and there to get started.
Every soil benefits from organic matter being added. This can be mulched leaves, grass clippings, good quality compost ( this is a whole section on its own), fish emulsion, worm casings, egg shells (dried and crushed), straw, sheep, goat or rabbit manure bedding etc. These can all be added directly as they are a green manure.
We compost horse, chicken,and duck manure and bedding from our animals , pile it high to ensure internal temperature gets high enough to kill weeds and aged long enough the nitrogen has broken down, so it doesn’t “burn” your plants. This can sometimes take a few years. We sell this from our farm for $5 a bag.
A precaution I like to make people aware of when composting manure is if the animals are eating hay sprayed with pesticides, the compost will kill your plants. It will be unusable. So make sure you ask-even if its free, it’s no good to you if its going to do harm to your soil.
You can add aged compost willy nilly, and it will always help. But a good rule of thumb is 4-6 inches. Until you get more familiar with plants and their individual needs, this is where you should start.
If you are planting directly in the ground, you may wish to till the soil. It helps with root development and aerating the soil especailly the first few years. After that it will get easier to plant directly, called a no till method. Just top up, broad fork and go.
Till or No Till
I have had my little electric tiller for 15 years and it has paid for itself many times over.
You will hear the term “no-till” a lot now. This is to encourage planting on the surface , or the top 4-6 inches in a garden bed. That works great if you have been regularly adding compost and have maybe followed Charles Dowding on You Tube and his No-Dig method of putting down a base of cardboard then topping that with 6-8 inches of soil and compost , into which you will plant. This method sets you up for a lot less work later on, as there is less weeding.
But if you haven’t been doing the no dig method, your ground may need a light till to aerate the soil, and allow your seed beds not to get compacted.
It is perfectly acceptable to lightly till your backyard garden.
Once you till your space, let the grass or hard clumps dry up for a day, then pick them out, compost away from the garden. Till again. Work in your compost lightly. Perhaps some worm casings.
You are almost ready to plant.Breathe:)
Love Jenn xx