Occasionally I receive queries from our readers wanting to know more about how to improve their soil. This week’s question comes from home gardener Heidi, along with my response below. I hope some of you will find this information useful in your own gardening endeavours.
I want to know EXACTLY what to do to help in my own garden but there is precious little telling exactly how to do this for someone like me. I don't need scientific mumbo jumbo telling me how to do this, I just need a simple no-nonsense approach for someone who gardens. I already don't till, but need some kind of instruction… HELP! Heidi
OK, here it is plain and simple. You need to make sure your soil has enough calcium, as a starter. To do this, mix up half soil and half deionised water in a glass, stir it thoroughly, leave it sitting for five minutes and then dip in a pH strip you can buy for a dollar from any pool shop. You are chasing a soil pH of 6.4. If it is significantly less than 6.4, you need to add lime to the soil at a rate of 3 kg per 10m2. If it is a little low (i.e., pH 6), then that rate is 2 kg per 10 m2. Next, you need to add a composted fertiliser that has a good trace mineral component. Anything based on chicken manure should be fine. That is the first part of the equation (the mineral component). Now you need to look after the microbes.
The first rule is that the soil is never left bare. Cover crops are wonderful because they feed the soil when you dig them in. Mulch is essential, as it supplies a protective armour while also providing the building blocks for humus.
Compost is the single most powerful tool for building humus (sequestering carbon from the atmosphere). You can easily begin making compost, if you are not already involved.
Get together some lawn clippings, leaves, prunings, animal manure and lime. Build your first layer about 30 cm deep with a mixture of lawn clippings, leaves and prunings etc, then sprinkle on some lime and shovel some manure on this layer, along with some existing compost (as an inoculum). You then wet down that layer thoroughly with a hose and repeat the process with a second layer. Layer your compost pile with each layer covered in manure, lime and existing compost and then wet down. When the pile is 1.5 metres high, cover it with wet sacks or something that can breathe. You will need to turn it with a fork twice in the first month and twice more over the next 3 months. Then you have a compost that will add stable carbon to your soil and trigger the building of much more humus via the introduction of a vibrant new community of cellulose-digesting organisms.
Finally, you can put the cream on the cake with regular foliar sprays of our products – Total Cover™ and Trio™. Together they feature every mineral, along with soil-life stimulants, plant growth promoters and several substances to elicit an immune response in your food crops. The end result is healthy, resilient, delicious vegetables that will really fire up your enthusiasm for gardening, and the better you garden, the more carbon you personally sequester from the atmosphere. It doesn't get much better. You get to eat nutrient-dense, medicinal food while saving our planet.
I hope this is helpful and not too complex.