Okay, so I gardened for teh first time lat year planning some veggies like
tomatoes, zuchinni, eggplant, peppers and beans. After everything was in I
put down a few layers of newspaper and some cedar mulch around it. I was
told this would help with inhibiting weed growth, which it did. Anyhow, what
do I need to do to get the soil ready again this year? I'm guessing remove
the much but should I mix in manure or compost in the soil to give it some
If you live near a winery, ask them for the squeezed grape skins that
are thrown away after the juice/wine has been extracted. This is only
done in the Fall in the northern hemisphere. If left in a pile, you will
be amazed at the number of earthworms (12 to 18 per flat shovel load)
when you shovel it into the garden in the Spring. My next experiment
will be to spread it on my garden (in December) to gauge it's
comparative efficacy the following Spring in ameliorating the soil when
spread one or two inches thick.
If last year's mulch is well-rotted, I/d leave it and mix it in. Add
some leaf mold, compost, or rotted manure -- if you have it -- and mix
that in, too.
Nicest thing you can do for your soil is add organic matter to it.
Organic: formerly alive
More beneficial: stuff that will rot/break down quickly, such as
leguminous green manure (vetch, clover, etc)
Less beneficial but still good (legume = nitrogen, ie free fertilizer):
ANNUAL rye grass (do not use perennial rye grass), buckwheat - sow it,
let it grow for a bit then turn it under.
Old bean/pea plants, etc. Do not use plant remnants of diseased
plants; some people also do not use old brassica remains; problems in
your old plants will end up in your garden.
Do lots of reading over this group for beginner material, and even
check some gardening books out of your local library. A couple for you
(there must be a reading FAQ somewhere):
The New Organic Gardener, by Eliot Coleman
The New Victory Garden, by Bob Thompson
Cheers, welcome, and good luck!
The very simple rule of thumb is that "organic matter" is anything
that has once lived or been through a herbivore's digestive system.
It can be grass clippings or dead bodies or manure or old leaves or
newspapers or pine mulch. BUT not all organic matter is equal. For
example pine needles are acidic and do well as a mulch on strawberries
but not on some other plants. Manure from horse, cow and sheep and
others is great in almost all situations (and I don't worry about
whether it is well rotted or not), I use it fresh but would never use
fresh hen poo. Old autumn leaves are best left to rot either on top
of a bed you'll use next spring or in a "leaf mulch" bay. I've even
buried old hen bodies and they work too.
worm cast (worm poo)
green manures (clover, legumes etc which are grown and then sacrificed to
add nutrients to the soil)
back yard and bought compost
used coffee grounds
types of hay, types of straw
saw dust/wood shavings
even sewerage compost
these can all be classed as organic composts/matter/mulches. From top down
the first 3 will feed your soil, composts will supply some nutrient but as
much as anything will improve the structure of your soil (sometimes called
'conditioning your soil' or 'soil conditioners'), peat moss onwards are good
mulches to suppress weeds but equally so are composts (I use mushroom
compost alot myself). Sea weed is increasingly recognised as a very good
additive to soils or compost. Sewerage compost is at the bottom as it comes
from municipal sewerage treatment. Some sewerage may contain pathogens which
means caution applying to edible crops and may also contain residual heavy
metals which are also of a concern. Wood chips can make good mulch but don't
dig them into the soil as they can lock up nitrogen.
A good organic fertiliser, apart from your animal poo, is blood and bone.
Made from remnants of freezing work off casts.
also add to that list kitchen waste (peelings, tea bags, egg shells, fruit
and veges etc). Best composted though in my opinion.
industry by products such as hops (and wood shavings)
natural carpet underlay (hessian type underlay, not rubber or synthetic)
which is a good weed mat and controls blackberry really well apparently.
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