Organic soil management is a science and an art.
Conventional soil science teaches that soil is a relatively inert medium, an anchor for plants made of sand, silt and clay and a handful of nutrients for plant growth. If soil has enough nutrients, gardener’s will be okay.
Of course, organic soil management is so much more than that. Yet traditionally, not much has been mentioned about organic matter and next to nothing on the soil food web.
In many soil textbooks, you would likely find multiple chapters on fertilizing with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) and next to nothing on organic matter and botany. Fertilization is seen as the number one soil management strategy in many textbooks.
But this is organic gardening, and I’d like to present the story of healthy soil as a vibrant, living community. Of course, even organic soil is composed of sand, silt, clay and minerals, so I’ll talk about that, too.
And I’ll talk about soil testing, which isn’t particularly complicated but there are some things you need to know to do it right. I’ll get into organic soil amendments
Here are my articles on organic soil management…
In part 1, I talked about how organic matter is the most important ingredient for many gardens, and how mulch and compost are two of my favorite ways of using it.
Welcome to organic composting 101.
This isn’t just a way of recycling organic waste – organic compost is actually one of the most valuable things we grow in the garden.
What is organic compost?
If you’re not getting the results you’d hoped for from all areas of your organic garden, it may be time to do some soil sample testing.
I’ve talked about simple home soil tests before – there really is a lot you can see with your eyes or smell with your nose or feel with your fingers.
There are a couple of different methods of preparing soil for a garden bed, both of which have their uses.
Once you’ve dug a hole, played around with your soil a bit, and learned about your soil texture, it’s now time to start making your garden.
Today I have a very simple home soil testing process for you.
You may be more interested in learning about topics such as:
- How to get rid of insect and disease pests, and
- How to grow the best-tasting tomatoes ever, and
- Which fertilizers to apply to improve your soil
If you’ve ever wondered what is soil made of – GOOD!
You absolutely need to wonder about this kind of thing if you’re going to grow optimally healthy food.
Check out this video or read on below and you’ll see that many of our most important organic gardening tasks stem from this vital question.
And for more information on how to improve the nutrition and biological diversity of your soil, check out my organic fertilizing guide.
In the last post I talked about improving soil mineralization.
Now I want to discuss another aspect of organic soil health that is important for so many things: organic matter in soil.
Organic matter refers partially to living things like roots and fungi, but in this context it mostly means everything that used to be alive.
That means fresh fallen leaves and recently deceased snakes and beetles, to the coarse mulch layer when these things are partially decomposed, to the very stable humus when they’re fully broken down which stays around in the soil for years.
There are a couple of important things I want to share about how to use mulch in your organic garden.
When we were kids we would help our aunt and uncle put their vegetable garden to rest for the winter, using leaves for mulch.
We’d collect them into a pile, jump into them and play a while, mow over them with the lawnmower, then pile the mulched pieces onto the soil.