In many aspects our garden is just like us – it likes warm sunshine, good amount of water and healthy, nutritious food. What is important for us, is to understand, what do plants consider as tasty. And that is the moment, when we have to turn our attention to the soil. Not only as the space, where the roots grow. But also as a plate, that should be always full with good food! Specially, when we grow vegetables, which demand a lot of feeding.
What should we find on our garden plate?
The most important three nutrients, that every vegetable plant needs, are
There are also plenty of others, like copper, iron, calcium, manganese, zinc etc. But most likely you will try to satisfy your little growings with those three. What happens if they lack some of those nutrients? Well, just like with humans, they are prune to diseases, weak and tend not to give much yield. Before we get stuck in biology research and escape in panic… It is important to know, that very often solution is super easy – just add organic matter. It is like this magic ingredient, that turns metal to gold in the garden. Giving organic matter to the soil has various benefits. Most of all it brings the nutrients back to the soil, which means it closes the cycle of life and allows it to flow constantly. On top of that organic matter holds a lot of carbon, that acts like a sponge and reacting together mainly with nitrogen, gives us wonderful, fluffy black humus.
There are plenty of ways how to do it and the decision, what to choose from, is done by certain criteria. It could be our resources, time, money, motivation, space and many others.
Here are couple of examples, what can be done, to keep our garden fertile and happy.
You can make compost from literally every natural material possible. Leaves, paper, kitchen scraps, weeds, grass, wood, animal products (usually manure), or even from human manure. The most important, what you need to know about that process is the ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
Look up the gallery from our Composting Workshop.
Here are our favorite links related to the compost making:
Growing plants only for a reason to simply dig them back to the soil? Yes! And it becomes very clear, when we think of soil as something alive – not just as a dirt. Green manure plants usually nitrogen fixers, because they hold big amount of nitrogen, which will serve later, as a perfect food for the next crop we plant after them. Some are also famous for their deep reaching roots, what helps with taking nutrients from deeper levels and bringing them to the top soil.
Green manure plants, that we have been using successfully:
- lupins – Lupinus Luteus
- alfalfa – Medicago Sativa
- broad beans – Vicia Faba Major
- comfrey – Symphytum officinale
- borage – Borago Officinalis
ANIMAL MANURE AND “CHICKEN TRACTOR”
Animals are best friends of the gardener! They play so important roles in our lifes, but the are also a source of perfect compost for our gardens. The manure can be collected from the stables fields and then turned into the compost. Other interesting approach is so called chicken tractor, when animals are kept in the area, that will later on become a garden. They scratch the ground, remove the weeds and directly fertilize the soil – all in one. It can be also easily applied with pigs and other farm animals.
Smart design is a good step forward in self-sustainable gardening. Vegetables differ with how much nutrients they need. It is great to divide them in groups with that criteria and plant them in same place of the garden in that order:
- heavy feeders
- light feeders
- nitrogen fixers
Here is a great link to know more:
FOOD FOREST GARDEN
Food forest is a concept of cultivating the land, where we try to imitate natural ecosystems. Every forest is a big living organism, where each part of it is interconnected to one another. The different layers have their functions and help the other to thrive. Observing that, we allow plants to grow the best they can in harmony with others. Giving them enough shade and mulch, we don’t have to use so much water. Growing the nitrogen-fixing plants among the edible ones, we create a cycle of nutrients, when no additional fertilizing is needed.
Look up our Food Forest Garden gallery for more photos.
For more knowledge and experience on that subject, our Food Forest Workshop is coming soon!