The dirty lowdown
It is widely known in the gardening world that the key to a successful crop-producing garden is the dirt. Good soil consists of a combination of minerals, organic rich matter, water and air and the trick is to get the balance right. Protect, maintain and improve.
Regularly removing weeds, adding compost and fertilizers as well as regular doses of water are essential. Plants strip nutrients from the soil over time so it is necessary to replenish dirt with adequate nutrients to compensate for this and to maintain that ideal combination of growing conditions. A powerful soil enhancer which can add much needed nutrients is Organic Blood and Bone. This is made of waste products and is high in slow release nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus giving soil a fertilizing boost. Seaweed is another popular soil enhancer which has become a top pick for keen gardeners.
Turn your trash into treasure
Compost adds excellent rich matter to your garden and improves soil structure with the added environmental benefit of reducing rubbish waste. It is usually added in spring or summer when most growing occurs and should be mixed into the top four inches of soil. Organic compost can be sourced from your local garden center or do your bit for the environment by reducing rubbish and reusing food waste to create your own. Composting is the ultimate recycling scheme.
Source recycled plastic compost bins, reuse an old container or make a compost bin from untreated timber. Simply throw in all of your vegetable/fruit/bread food scraps each day, while regularly mixing in sprinklings of water, sawdust, grass cuttings and leaves to keep your compost cranking. Leave out any fats/oils, meat, bones or dairy products.
If collecting rotting piles of smelly food scraps isn't your cup of tea, make your own leafy organic compost for free. In Autumn rake up a pile of leaves and grass cuttings from your lawn, placing them in a big black plastic bag. Add some water, seal it up, then slash a few small holes in the bag and leave it to fester. Three to six months later you have nutritious compost to add to your organic vegetable garden, without the smell.
Worms are your friend
Worms are an ideal garden dweller so make them feel right at home with rich, welcoming soil. They will pay back the favour tenfold. Worms dig tunnels, aerating the soil and allowing moisture to flow. Worms digest soil and plant matter and then excrete castings, a fertilizer filled with beneficial plant growing bacteria. If your lacking in the worm department, worm wee (organic liquid fertilizer) can be purchased by the bottle and enriches your soil naturally. Otherwise you can create your own worm farm easily at home to ensure you have a constant supply of fertilizer for your garden. The Zero Waste New Zealand Trust offer great ideas on how to set one up at home (www.zerowaste.co.nz). We have an amazing Hungry Bin for our worm farm, which is a great way to reduce food waste and creates amazing nutrients for our urbanmac garden beds.