Time to start compost for spring planting!
Did you make rich fall soil? If so, your bin and sheet composting is really paying off now! If you have more compost available now, incorporate it with the soil in your new planting places, and plant another round! Keep ‘em coming! Now it is time to start the cycle again for your spring garden – start some more fat compost! SOIL! I’m always talking with you about soil because it’s the legs of your horse! Can’t run without it!
When you restore, recondition soil, you can imagine how much the ground must be welcoming you, screaming up to you in its own way, how grateful it is to be so lovingly fed, organically to boot!!! You are going to have wonderful soil, and very soon! Just the act of planting adds life, the plant roots busting through, little creaturelets thriving!
There are so many ways to build wonderful soil!
- Tuck kitchen trim in the top 6” of your soil, where the microbes and buglets are hard at work!
- Make piles and fill bins with compost from kitchen trim, cuttings, leaves, straw for aeration. Whack it up! Smaller pieces, thinner layers decompose faster and fluffier. Dry brown on the bottom, then up and up, alternating layers. 1 green wet, 2 dry brown, 1 green wet….
- Sheet composting – build your compost in place, no moving later! Lay down straw, cover with green and wet waste like kitchen trim, cover with straw. That would be the simplest of all. If you can, keep layering, up to 18” deep if you are starting raised beds, because you know that stuff is gonna sink down! 2 brown dry to 1 green wet is the formula. Inoculate it with soil microorganisms by flinging a few handfuls of nearby soil onto it every couple of layers. If you have them, put some red wriggler surface feeding worms in there. They will chomp about and add their castings for free! If you are seaside, chop up some seaweed for trace minerals!
- Plant Nitrogen fixers – fava, peas, beans, clovers and other ground cover legumes. At home plant Leucaena trees! Not only do they fix N, and are drought tolerant, but the young pods are edible! Be warned though, they grow FAST, and can be invasive – if you aren’t ready for that, like burning them for firewood, not a good choice.
- Let your local livestock, goats, chickens, bunnies add their part! Horse manure has more N than cow manure. For excellent info and fun reading, check out the scoop on poop, Manure Matters! by Marion Owen, Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul.
Margaret Frane, President of the California Rare Fruit Growers, reminds us, ‘FEED THE SOIL, AND THE PLANT! When planting a garden, especially a fruit garden, don’t just focus on individual plants; remember the importance of looking after your soil.’ She further says, ‘…let the soil provide the nutrients. Don’t fertilize your plant; feed the soil and the soil will feed the plant. And for the most part, everything you need to feed your soil is already on your property!’
Frane says: Trees benefit most from the nutrients available in their own leaves. Most leaves beat manure for mineral content; when incorporated into the soil, they add nutrients, improve aeration and soil structure and encourage earthworms. So don’t rake leaves up and throw them away! Leaves are not garbage, they are an important food for your soil!
Planting immediately and directly in your sheet composting, lasagna layers? Of course!
Are you doing seeds? Ok, a little preparation is needed. Time for a little potting soil. It’s good to get the seedlings started – it has the water holding capacity they need – just like the little transplants you get at the nursery, which they feed, probably daily, kelp, fish emulsion mix, other concoctions. After that, seedlings have to hit something with real nutrition in it, like a mix of compost and soil. Most seeds are planted directly in soil, just like Mother Nature does the job. That’s where they immediately get the most nutrition. I would get a deep bowl, a bucket, put in ½ soil, then compost, mix it up. Put the mix in the planting hole, make a little hole for the potting soil, and put your seeds in that. No more potting soil than if you were filling up one of the little transplant containers. Obviously, not a lot would be needed. To keep the soil from falling through the lasagna layers below, you could line the hole with two or three sheets of newspaper, saturate them. That will keep things where you want them until it all decomposes together, the newspaper, the lasagna. It won’t hurt your drainage, and little roots will poke right through! And you are only going to lightly sprinkle, water, your seeded areas, right? You don’t want your seeds to wash away, get buried too deep or uncovered. It’s a good thing to check seedlings after a rain. Recover or rebury anyone who needs it. If you are doing transplants, you just won’t need any potting soil. Make your compost/soil mix and pop your cute little transplant right in there!
In the biggest sense, “We are part of the earth and it is part of us … What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.” — Chief Seattle, 1852
Take good care of yourself…and your soil.