By Brian Larsen
Garden Manger at the Gardens at Heather Farms
The most important factor in ensuring the success of your garden is the soil. An essential element of the growth process and the source of viable nutrients for plants, soil can act like a nurturing mother, slowly guiding your crops to a successful harvest; or it can be a fickle mistress thwarting all of your horticultural plans. Ensuring your plantings develop and thrive means paying close attention to the ground beneath your feet.
Before you begin setting out your vegetable crops for the season, it’s best to incorporate some additional organic materials into your soil. Not only will this practice feed your crops this season, but it will continue to help build a healthy, friable soil for seasons to come. Consider adding mushroom compost, chicken manure, or other natural ingredients to get the ball rolling.
Low-maintenance and easy to plant, cover crops are an excellent choice to improve soil quality and protect your garden’s bounty. Laid between your crop rows, these hard-working plants will suppress weed growth, help control pests and diseases, and provide nitrogen fixation (one of the most important biochemical processes on Earth) for healthy, green crops. Clover and fava beans are some of my personal favorites. The can be easily grown from seed which is available at a reasonable cost in bulk.
Many gardeners in the area are afflicted with heavy clay soils. Poor to drain, hard to work and often overly alkaline, clay in soil can cause problems with plant root growth and nutrient absorption. Beginning a yearly program of amending with quality soil amendments, such as a healthy dose of organic matter, will ensure greater success for seasons to come.
Maximize your garden’s potential this year and start from the ground up. Include helpful cover crops and add organic material to improve nutrient density and soil consistency; then watch your garden grow.
Learn more: Join us for a free class “Healthy Soil for Your Home Garden” and learn about the importance of composting. Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. Free. Register at gardenshf.org.