Feed Your Soil
Good soil is a prerequisite for good crops.
Photo: Grøn Kommunikation
Written by Lars Lund
Edited by Louise Curley
Healthy soil is key to growing healthy plants, but we tend to take soil for granted. Perhaps it’s because we can’t see what is going on in the soil – out of sight, out of mind.
To nurture your soil, follow these tips:
- Employ the no-dig technique. Digging disturbs the delicate ecosystem of the soil, chops up worms and disrupts the beneficial fungi and bacteria living in the soil.
- Apply a thick layer of well-rotted compost to the surface of the soil in spring and let worms incorporate it into the soil rather than digging it in.
- Don’t walk on the soil when it’s wet or frosty as this will damage the structure of the soil. If you need to walk across wet or frosty soil but down a plank of wood first to distribute your weight.
- Protect soil from winter weather by sowing green manures, such as rye, mustards, vetch and clover, in late summer and early autumn. These plants will put on growth that will remain throughout winter, preventing soil erosion from heavy rain. Then, in spring, these manures can be dug into the soil, where the greenery will quickly break down and feed the soil.
- If you have a big problem with weeds, for instance a new patch of land you’d like to cultivate is covered in perennial weeds, then rather than digging or rotivating the soil, both of which can make the problem worse, use the cover technique. Simply lay sections of cardboard on top of the area, then cover with a thick layer of compost. These will exclude light, killing the weeds and at the same time you‘ll be conditioning the soil as the cardboard breaks down and worms pull the compost into the soil.
- When making your own compost make sure there’s a balance between green materials, particularly grass clippings, and brown material – woody, twiggy bits. This is known as the carbon to nitrogen ratio, and it’s important because if you have too much of one or the other you’ll struggle to make good compost. Too much grass will turn to sludge, so make sure you mix it with paper or cardboard in layers. Brown material also needs to be chopped up into small pieces otherwise it’ll take too long to break down.
Om Lars Lund
Danish horticulturist and journalist
Lars Lund has for many years engaged in the garden and greenhouse. Lars has published many books about greenhouses, and he has participated in many Danish horticultural TV shows. He is a walking garden encyclopaedia, and he has answers for most basic cultivation questions – also the more ambitious ones.