feeding the soil

Feeding the Soil

Feeding the Soil – Vital to Plant Health

The vitality and health of the plants you grow depends on more than feeding them during the growing season.

To have healthy plants your soil must have reserves of plant foods and nutrients. These nutrients not only maintain plant growth, but encourage the growth and activity of the micro-organisms in soil that contribute to plant growth and vigor.

feeding the soil

Earthworms are just one of the organisms that help you create richer healthier soil

Usually gardeners achieve this type of healthy soil by digging in bulky manure, compost or other organic material whenever they can. Unlike chemical fertilizers, which are very soluble and can be quickly washed away with rain and irrigation, organic materials like manure and compost are literally feeding the soil.

Their natural composition buffers plants against stress, holding moisture and slowly providing nutrients as they decompose. This important ingredient of soils also help break up clay type soils and binds sandy or dusty soils together. Thus, drainage is stabilized, neither retaining excess water or allowing water to pass through too quickly.

It may not be necessary to add organic materials to the entire garden every year. Some crops need it more than others. Often, there is not enough in our compost piles to allow every bed to be enriched. To use compost efficiently, spread it as a mulch about 3 inches deep in the fall. Work it into the top 6 inches in the spring.

Concentrate on adding compost first on the beds you plan to use for legumes and brassicas. In following years, as you rotate crops, the residues from the manure or compost as well as the nitrogenous legume roots will feed your next crops. Then, add a new layer the next time you use that bed for legumes again. Legumes, by adding nitrogen, are also feeding the soil as they grow!

feeding the soil

If your soil is well cultivated and manured or compost-enriched regularly, your plants will only need extra feeding at critical growth stages. Use organic or inorganic fertilizers for this purpose. Some examples of organic fertilizers are bone and blood meals or fish and seaweed solutions. Inorganic fertilizers include phosphate of ammonia or potash. These can be just one ingredient or a mixture that balances the NPK content.

Remember that fertilizers, on their own, contribute nothing to the soil structure or its long term fertility.

They are soon exhausted, useful only for supplementary feeding or to correct deficiencies of trace elements. Avoid their  overuse, as excessive use can produce unhealthy growth and may eventually leach into the water table.