What’s the most important part of your vegetable garden? Healthy organic dirt! Yes folks, we can have organic seeds, plants, compost and fertilizer, but if our plants are sitting in poor topsoil or heavy clay packed soil, you might spend the growing season wondering what went wrong. Let’s talk about what makes an awesome home for your seeds and plants. Rich organic soil.
If you’re just starting out with your first raised bed or vegetable garden, the easiest way is to purchase bags of organic soil from your garden center or nursery. This could be a bit costly the first year, but years after that you’ll just be amending your soil by keeping it healthy with compost and organic matter. (leaves and grass clippings)
If you plan on tilling up the soil you already have in your yard, then you’ll need to add a few basics.
Anyone that has clay soil knows that it is impossible to plant in. It holds too much water and your plants’ roots can’t breathe or take up nutrients from the soil. Till or rake in some sphagnum peat moss and organic topsoil. This will provide a nice loose soil that’s easy to work. You want a mixture that holds together when wet but doesn’t form a clump. If you have sandy soil, you know that it drains well, but the nutrients drain away with it. Add more organic topsoil and compost or organic matter. You’re looking for a bread crumb consistency.
One of the most frequent questions we hear is, “I started my organic garden a few years ago with organic healthy soil, but now my plants aren’t growing well.” Over time, nutrients in your soil will deplete. Every year we add well-aged organic manure and home made compost to our vegetable gardens. When purchasing manure from your garden center, read the label to be sure it’s organic. You want it to come from farms that are giving their animals organic feed. Non-organic manures can also “burn” your tender plants due to their high nitrogen content.
The success of your garden will depend on your soil. The most important thing to remember is that good soil needs to breathe, retain moisture and provide a good food supply to your plants and beneficial insects. This is accomplished by providing it with all the proper nutrients we talked about.