Saturday, January 26, 2008
Super Size Your Soil
I'm participating in Elements in Time's Growing Challenge and planning on planting a super-sized vegetable garden this year. When cooking up a good garden, one of the most important ingredients is dirt. No matter how good your soil is, it can always be improved. If your soil is as poor as mine - clay, rocky, filled with random plastic toys from families past - it needs to be regenerated.
When we ripped up the lawn on our sidewalk strip last fall, we decided that to rebuild the soil. Ironically, citing poor soil quality despite years of adding Miracle Gro, the uber gardeners two doors down also ripped up their planting strip the same weekend. Our neighbors replaced their strip with sandstone and gazanias and watched, with great interest, as we replaced ours with lasagna.
I am referring to lasagna gardening, of course. It is also known as sheet mulching or composting in place. The idea is to smother the weeds and rebuild your soil without herbicides or tilling. Click here to get a step-by-step on how to sheet mulch from One Straw Revolution or here to see how Wendy from Wisdom of the Moon did it. We topped off our sheet mulch with a cover crop, a.k.a. green fertilizer.
Of course, nothing is perfect. PG&E came along a couple months later and spooned up a big scoop of our sheet mulched soil and cover crop. They did save and replace it best they could and, since, it is re-growing fine and they let the boys play on their bulldozer, I've forgiven them.
Our front strip is simmering along nicely now, hovering with insects and the occasional bird. Last week, when planting a bare root apple tree in the middle of the mulch, we were astounded to see soft, sandy soil swimming with worms where only clay and plastic had been months before.
Will my super-sized soil lead to super-sized vegetables? Only time, and the Growing Challenge, will tell.