Series: The 80-20 Rule
If you can give your soil the right amount of air, water and food, you can grow healthy plants.
But what makes gardening a challenge is that it can be difficult to get all of those factors right.
The single best ‘ingredient’ to bring into the garden that helps moderate air, water and food is organic matter in the form of mulch and compost ( part 1 ), and cover crops and perhaps biochar ( part 2 ).
Yet sometimes you’re starting with rather poor soil that’s been:
- Compacted by equipment or improper management (e.g. working clay soil when it’s too wet)
- Blanketed with pesticides drifting in from the neighbors
- Managed with chemical fertilizers at some point in the past
- Deprived of the grass clippings and leaves that would have helped it rejuvenate
…and so on.
Organic matter will eventually fix some of this, but sometimes the soil has a long way to go, and we may not want to wait decades to grow a successful garden.
That’s where the 80-20 rule falls apart in the garden. It’s not all that difficult to grow some food once you have a reasonably good soil, but to grow high brix, nutrient-dense food is quite a challenge.
It’s a continuous process of slight improvements every year and it’s incredibly exciting, but it does take some knowledge.
That’s where more involved gardening techniques comes in, which you need to get into if:
- You’ve already done the basics and you’re still not getting the results you want, or
- You’re still having pest issues, or
- You’re trying to grow highly nutritious food and willing to put in a little extra effort to get it
That’s where strategies like soil testing, fertilizing and using microbial inoculants come in.
So if you fit into any of the above categories, I encourage you to send a soil sample to a good, organic soil lab and follow their recommendations, and to find other ways to bring more beneficial biology and broad-spectrum nutrition into your garden.
That’s why I sell my favorite organic fertilizers and microbial inoculants.
And that’s why, although I’ll be spending much of my time in the Academy for the rest of this year, I’ll continue to put together the odd thing for you here on the blog so you can continue to improve your garden.