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Improving our Soil - An Ongoing, Evolving Process

Updated: May 8

Yesterday was World Soil Day and it had us reflecting on our soil over here.


When we first moved into our space, the soil was hard, compacted clay. Improving our soil is an ongoing process and some areas still need a lot of amendment. But after years of loving on our soil with lots and lots of organic matter, we now have some nice loamy areas where it’s light, fluffy, and nutrient-rich. It’s rewarding to see this shift.

The key to having a thriving garden is the soil. And the best way to build rich, healthy soil that is alive and thriving is by mimicking natural processes. By continually adding layers of organic matter and letting it break down over time, you’ll be feeding the soil life and improving your soil’s structure.

Building better soil doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of work, either, and you don’t need a garden to care about supporting soil health. One of the easiest things you can do is simply let the fallen leaves and dead plant material stay where it is. A ground cover of leaves will provide overwintering habitat for pollinators and wildlife and fertilize the soil naturally as it decomposes.


Ways to build healthy soil: 

  • continually adding organic matter - compost & mulch, chop and drop, cover crops, leaf litter

  • planting densely, maximizing edge

  • cutting taproot plants at the base rather than pulling them out, welcoming decay

  • allowing plants to self-seed; continually adding more seeds and tucking in plants so soil isn’t bare

  • welcoming the volunteers (including the pioneer plants, the ones who show up first to help with soil remediation -- wild weedy plants like bee balm, common mallow, prickly poppy, verbena, yellow dock, lambsquarters, sunflowers, buffalo gourd, purslane, etc). Many have deep taproots that can pull up nutrients from deeper in the soil, act as groundcovers, or help other plants get established by offering shade.

  •  If your soil is heavy, compacted clay like ours, a broadfork can be a helpful tool to break it up and aerate a bit.

  • In our case, welcoming the harvester ants that spread seeds for us (seed dispersal by ants = myrmecochory)

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