Organic tips for great soil health

Healthy soil attracts all sorts of beneficial animals like this robin.

Knowing your soil type, delicately working the ground, associating plants and protecting them without using fertilizer or pesticides, all these tips will lead to healthy organic soil.

From focusing on the soil to carefully choosing what grows together, these simple techniques will increase soil health in your garden.

Feed the soil instead of feeding plants

Feed the soil instead of feeding the plant: that’s the key to organic gardening. For starters, you’ve got to be more aware of your soil and get to know it better. Kits sold in horticulture stores help test the potential of hydrogen, the famed “pH” levels. It might turn out to be acidic, basic or neutral. The soil will also present differing characteristics. Being “poor” means it doesn’t contain many nutrients. “Rich” soil is very fertile and contains many living organisms. “Clay” soil is heavy and hard to work with, but helps plants cope with drought.

An organic gardener will try to maintain an equilibrium in the soil without adding chemical fertilizer or pesticides. Working clay soil before freezing weather transfers the burden of breaking up clumps to frost and nature.

Weeding manually can be sped up by throwing out used cooking water when preparing potatoes, pasta, rice or simply heating water up to a boil. Intensive spading tends to drain the soil of its nutrients by burying organic matter to where it can’t be converted to nutrients. Much better is to simply break the soil up with a light tool such as a broadfork.

Mutual care and protection

Whatever the season, the soil never remains bare: it is always covered with either mulch or a combination of plants. In the vegetable patch, mingling vegetables and herbs helps them band together and fend off each other’s pests and diseases. Thus, French marigolds protect tomato from downy mildew and basil repels aphids.

The carrot provides beneficial services to leek, lettuce, peas and radish. Diversifying species present in a single garden plot will bolster and stimulate growth for all of them. However, check beforehand which combinations work best, because some plants are detrimental to others. This is typically the case for potato which has trouble growing together with carrot and cucumber.

Protecting small animals also has a positive impact on your garden. Even though it doesn’t look appealing, the earthworm is a critical since it ensures proper air circulation in the ground. The cute little ladybug is also an avid aphid predator. To fend off slugs, simply spread sand or ashes around the plant you’re hoping to protect.

To fertilize, nothing beats compost prepared in a damp corner of the garden with all sorts of organic matter (vegetable peelings, fruit rinds, coffee grounds, etc).

Fermented stinging nettle tea also works wonders and helps control undesirable insects, too.

Lastly, to keep your lawn in splendid shape, refrain from mowing too often and too low. Also, ensure that cut grass remains available to breakdown and provide nutrients with the “mulching” position of your lawn mower.

Fabienne Lisse

Images: Pixabay: Ulrike Bohr