Your organic garden soil quality is very important when it comes to organic vegetable gardening. If your vegetable garden soil is in tip top shape your veggies will be full of nutrients.
If the soil is lacking, so will your veggies. Having healthy soil will also help keep some pests away..
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Prepare your soil 1 to 2 weeks prior to planting your seeds or plants
- get rid of any weeds
- dig in some compost and an organic fertilizer if need, this will improve soil nutrients and water retention.
Keep the following in mind if you notice something not quite right in the veggie patch. Some problems you could find:
- plants not growing as vigorous as you would have thought
- yellowing of leaves
- soil not retaining water
This could be a sign of pests or diseases. It could also be due to poor soil.
So getting more technical now:
The aspects of your organic garden soil that you can improve are: - PH level - Structure and drainage (Water retention) - Major Nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) - Trace Elements (zinc, manganese, boron, copper, iron, magnesium, molybdenum and chlorine)
Your ideal PH level will be neutral (6.5 – 7). You can test your soil PH level with a test kit available from your garden centre.
If it is too acidic: add chalk or lime
If it is too alkaline: lots of organic matter or peat. In extreme cases you may need to add powdered sulphur.
Try and add this before your wet season so that the rain will help to soak everything in.
Improve that organic garden soil
To improve the structure, drainage and nutrients add organic matter – another reason to get that compost happening! Dig in your manure, compost or fertilizer a few weeks prior to planting.
Mulching is great for your soil as is aeration. Fertilize your soil with an organic fertilizer. Remember Compost is great for your soil but it is not a fertilizer as such.
Adding Worms will also help – they will aerate and fertilize for you(worm poo!).
Plants and soil nutrients
Some plants will add nutrients to your soil, while others will take them out.
My husband has been landscaping and farming all his life and now we have a little patch of dirt, he will often put in a summer cover crop. This keeps the weeds down and when ploughed back into the soil, adds organic matter and nutrients back in ready for the winter crop. This is called green manure.
You can do a smaller version of this for your veggie patch.
Plants that add nutrients into your organic garden soil:
- Legumes will add nitrogen into the soil. Corn will take it all out!
- Borage - Adds potassium, calcium and other minerals to soil
- Manure adds nitrogen
- Coffee grounds add nitrogen (worms also like their morning coffee grounds!)
When your cover crop goes to seed it then starts taking nutrients out of the soil.
Help my soil is sick!
It’s not just plants that can get diseases, your soil can get diseases also. Especially if there has been an overuse of pesticides. Remember there can be too much of a good thing sometimes, so don’t add too much fertilizer. Try to only use organic fertilizer. This will benefit your soil for years to come, whereas, inorganic fertilizer will add a boost now but not in the long term.
We mentioned green manure plants above. These are the plants that put nutrients back into the soil. These plants are great to rotate to ensure all of your garden beds are getting an extra boost from the soil. Rotate the plants that add different benefits to your garden.