How To Build An Organic Vegetable Garden Despite Bad Soil

How To Build An Organic Vegetable Garden Despite Bad Soil

Article by John Yeoman

Here are seven proven organic gardening ideas to improve bad soil, with no cost, and with negligible labor. How do you improve a garden that’s totally dead? Imagine builder’s rubble covered with sub-soil. Or perhaps fir trees have been there for decades and utterly depleted the ground. Zilch will grow there but weeds.

What’s the natural gardening solution?

Acquire several tons of well rotted manure. Horse is best but any manure from a fowl or grass-eating animal will do, in this extreme case. Farmers are often happy to give it away. They may even truck it to you.

Mix it with grit and old leaves, if you can find them. It’s rarely a good idea to dig leaves straight into the ground but they’ll decay fast enough if mixed with manure. You simply need a lot of harmless, degradable debris that will bring life and air to the soil.

Till that manure into the ground or, if that’s not easy, spread it thinly on the top and hope the worms drag it down.

Get a lot of raw kitchen waste from a restaurant or pub. Ideal are vegetable peelings rather than plate scrapings, which will contain meat and fish scraps. These will invite rats and predatory birds.

But provided they’re buried under the soil, even meat scraps will do little harm. At this point, the aim is not to grow edible plants but to build a crude compost heap.

Work that waste into the soil and toss as many worms on top as you can get. If necessary, you can buy them from an angling shop. Red brandling worms are the best and you can usually find them under rotted leaves or lawn clippings.

Sow a green manure, like clover, alfalfa or even bush beans. In poor soil, beans won’t grow well but you don’t plan to eat them. They have nitrogenous nodules on their roots which will nourish the soil. When the plants are grown, till them into the soil, leaves and all.

Make an impromptu compost trench. Just dig a furrow and toss in all the degradable garbage from your kitchen. Scatter soil on the top as you go, to hold down the stench and deter pests. Once that trench gets full, dig another trench beside it.

When your garden is replete with furrows, the contents of the first trench will have sunk down into a crude compost. Now it’s ready to grow something robust 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 grow any where. They make an edible green manure. You can cook the leaves or just till them into the soil to enrich its texture.

Another idea to improve the soil quickly is to sow many peas in rows. Any bush variety will do. They’ll prop each other as they grow, so you need not support them. Of course, you won’t get much food but their roots will nourish the soil.

This is a good tip early in the year because, once the peas are grown and out, you can sow fast-growing bush beans in their place that should be ready in two months.

That’s more green manure to till in – plus you can eat the beans too!

Once the beans have been harvested, and the leaves and roots dug into the soil, you may have time to drop in a fall crop of garlic, cabbages, kale and other plants that will survive over winter.

By next spring, that bad soil should have improved sufficiently so you can think about growing more delicate crops.

The key is to get 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, kitchen waste can be collected from restaurants. Why not bring them an empty bin and pick it up each week, full.

You don’t have to bury this garbage deep. Eventually, it will decay and the worms will drag it down.

Keep working in that organic trash and you should have a fine growing area within two years. Despite the builder’s rubble!

About the Author

Dr John Yeoman PhD is founder of the center for natural gardening ideas, the Gardening Guild. Discover dozens of wily strategies to get more fun, food and profit in a garden with less expense and work in his practical book Lazy Secrets for Natural Gardening Success. Claim it entirely free at:

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