The health of the soil in your landscape is the key to successful organic growing. Without a balanced and diverse soil biology, you can never expect your plantings to thrive as they should. Unfortunately, most of the soil in our urban landscapes are in very poor condition. This is one of the reasons we often talk about soil regeneration instead of soil sustenance. To sustain implies that we are doing what needs to be done to keep a system at the current level. If your soil is unhealthy, or in the worst case, virtually sterile, we certainly do not want to sustain that condition. We want to regenerate that soil. We want to give it a new birth of life to bring it back to place where it is full of healthy diverse organisms, in a healthy condition and able to provide us with proper growing conditions. Only then should we be thinking of sustaining those conditions.
Although this sounds like a daunting task, it really isn’t as difficult or demanding as you might fear. It is easy to start with a simple program. However, we must warn you, this is not an overnight fix. Building a healthy soil biome is a process that occurs over time. It may take several growing seasons to return dead soil to a condition of optimum health. Just like a lot of things in gardening, patience is often the key.
This website has a wealth of information to help you achieve the goal of building and maintaining healthy soil. Take some time and explore what is here and then begin to incorporate these concepts into your garden. I think you will happy with the results.
In the short term, there are some things you can begin to do to regenerate your soil. This is not a complete program but the springboard that can get you started.
- Stop using synthetic man-made pesticides,
herbicides, and fertilizers.
- There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, they are all harmful to soil ecology. Yes, even the fertilizers can damage or destroy the biology of your soil. There are organic products that are just as effective, and in some cases better, than these poisons.
- Stop bagging your
- Mulch those clippings back into the turf. When you bag and toss your clippings, you are doing more harm than good. You are robbing your soil of all the nutrients that are in those grass clippings. You are removing the natural mulch that helps protect the soil. You are filling your local landfill with tons of perfectly good organic material that should never be there in the first place.
- Bare soil is not natural. Look at nature. With very few exceptions, nature never leaves soil bare. What we call weeds are just natures way of covering soil, providing stabilizing soil covers, roots systems, and increasing soil biology. In your garden and in your landscape beds, keep the soil covered. The best mulch is living mulch. Some type of beneficial ground cover that puts living roots in the ground covers the soil and provides natural protection. Second best is wood chips, preferably of woods from your area including a lot of green material. Avoid such things as tree bark, the dyed colored wood chips from the big box stores, cypress mulch and chipped rubber or other non-organic materials.
- Feed the soil, not the plants. If you feed the soil biome and its huge and diverse number of organisms, they will take care of your plants better than you ever can. Fortunately, feeding your soil is easy and straightforward. If you are regenerating your garden beds, see our article on Garden Bed Soil Building. If you are needing to regenerate your turf soil, we have a whole section on turf maintenance. To address problems with your ornamental landscapes and trees, visit our Landscape and Tree section.
- Begin to think and live organically. You are part of the biome as well. Whatever you do to improve your soil will ultimately improve your health. Why would you treat yourself any different than you treat the soil in your landscape. Think about it.