Building Soil Fertility

Soil straight from the fallow hay field.
Soil straight from the fallow hay-field is very low in humus and macro-nutrients.

 

The soils on my property are extremely poor. They are low in humus, sandy and gravelly, excessively well-drained, acidic, and available nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are also low. Add frequent summer frosts and gardening becomes very challenging. I’ve worked hard over the years to build up the soil in my gardens by adding organic matter. Most of the organic matter is from hay that I’ve bought but whenever I can find other materials like chipped wood, sawdust, or leaves I add them, too. Now that I have a few sheep and chickens their manure and bedding gets mixed into the soil. I also use cover crops of oats, wheat, rye, buckwheat, mustard, clover, peas, and vetch to get almost free organic matter and soluble nitrogen made by the plants themselves. The changes in soil color and texture made by the addition of organic matter can be seen in the series of photographs. All three are from the newest garden plot I am developing. The top photo represents this year’s garden expansion. The next two photos represent soils from garden expansions begun in 2011 and 2013. The last one shows a plot with oats sprouting in soil where I recently tilled under six cubic yards of bedding and manure from my sheep pen.

 

Soil in a new garden after two summers of cover crops, mulching, and manure.
Soil in a new garden after two summers of cover crops, mulching, and manure.

 

Soil in a new garden after four years of mulching, cover crops, and manure.
Soil in a new garden after four summers of cover crops, mulching, and manure.

 

Oats sprouting from soil with recently added bedding and manure.
Oats sprouting from soil with recently added bedding and manure.

3 thoughts on “Building Soil Fertility

  1. After four years of studying soil chemistry, nutrients, land use, etc. while working on my B.Sci – all of that education boiled down to one, very key lesson: Compost is the panacea for all soil woes. The more organic matter you can add to your soil, the better.

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