Here are seven tested organic gardening ideas to improve poor soil, free, and with negligible labor. How do you improve a garden that’s totally sterile? Imagine builder’s rubble topped with sub-soil. Or perhaps conifers have grown there for generations and ruined the ground. Zilch will grow there but cola cans.
What’s the natural gardening solution?
Get hold of several tons of well rotted manure. Horse is best but any litter from a fowl or grass-eating animal will do, in this extreme case. Farmers are often glad to give it away. They may even bring it to your door.
Mix it with sand and old leaves, if you can get them. It’s not usually a good idea to dig leaves straight into the ground but they’ll rot down fast enough if interlaid with manure. You simply need a lot of innocuous, decaying muck that will bring life and air to the soil.
Dig that manure into the ground or, to be lazy, spread it thinly on the top and hope the worms drag it down.
Acquire a lot of crude kitchen waste from a restaurant or pub. Ideal are vegetable peelings rather than plate scrapings, which will include meat and fish scraps. These will attract rats and predatory birds.
But so long as they’re buried deep, even meat scraps will do little harm. At this point, the aim is not to grow edible plants but to build a rough compost heap.
Dig that waste into the soil and scatter as many worms on top as you can get. If necessary, you can buy them from an angling shop. Red brandling worms are perfect and you can often find them under piles of rotted leaves or lawn clippings.
Plant a green manure, like clover, alfalfa or even broad beans. In bad soil, beans won’t grow well but you don’t need to eat them. They have nitrogenous nodules which will nourish the soil. When the plants are up, rake them into the ground, leaves and all.
Make an impromptu compost trench. Just dig a furrow and throw in all the degradable trash from your kitchen. Throw soil on the top as you go, to suppress the stench and deter pests. As soon as that trench is full, dig another one beside it.
By the time your garden is replete with furrows, the contents of the first trench will have sunk down into a crude compost. Now it’s fit to grow something sturdy in, like squash, sweet corn or potatoes.
As soon as that rough soil is nearly ready to grow in, sow collards or spinach in it. These will flourish any where. They give you an edible green manure. You can eat the leaves or just plough them into the soil to help its texture.
Another idea to improve the soil fast is to sow a lot of peas in rows. Any short variety will do. They’ll lean against each other as they grow, so you don’t have to support them. Of course, you won’t get much food but their roots will enrich the soil.
This is a great idea early in the year because, once the peas have come and gone, you can sow bush beans in their place that should be ready by high summer.
Now you have more green manure to till in – plus you can eat the beans as well!
When the beans have been plucked, and the plants dug into the soil, you may have time to drop in a fall crop of garlic, cabbages, kale and late parsnips that will keep going over winter.
Come next year, that foul soil should have improved sufficiently so you can seriously consider growing more delicate crops.
The key is to put as much organic matter into that soil as possible. You don’t have to buy it. In the country, you can usually find animal waste. In the city, food waste can be collected from restaurants. Why not bring them an empty sack and pick it up each week, full.
You don’t need to bury this garbage deep. Soon enough, it will rot and the worms will drag it down.
Don’t stop working in that organic waste and you should have a fine growing area within two years. Although it began with builder’s rubble!