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Friday Favorite: Seeing Results

August 7th, 2015

It’s nice to see results for our efforts. Sometimes in gardening it can seem like they are slow to come, especially when you are trying to improve your soil. I’ve been working on the soil in the back garden for two summers now and when I harvested garlic I could see a noticeable difference between the areas I had added amendments, chicken litter, cover crops, and compost and areas that I didn’t do anything to.
soil 3
On the left you can see the original soil, on the right the soil I have been working on improving. Below you can see the original soil’s texture in the top image and the improved texture on the bottom. Notice how the clump of soil in the bottom image holds together, the top one is powdery and falls apart.
soil 2
soil 1
I notice a huge difference in the moisture retention in the areas I’ve improved. They need stay damp for much longer than the other areas. I’ve always said that gardeners grow soil not plants. I spend the majority of my garden budget on quality compost and soil amendments. The results are quite nice and the plants I do buy grow much better as a result. I can hardly wait to see how the soil looks in 10 years!

How is the soil in your garden? Have you noticed an improvement throughout the years? 

Black Gold

June 11th, 2014

A week or two ago I had a five yard load of compost delivered. If you remember, last year I ordered 28 yards of compost – that’s a lot of compost – and I have the biceps to prove that it was all spread with a shovel, by me, alone.
Compost (1)
This year I purchased compost from a different company. It’s not that I wasn’t happy with what I got last year, I actually loved the compost and will be purchasing from Kinney Compost again next year. This compost is made from lobster, fish and leftovers from local seafood restaurants.
Compost 1
This compost is made right down the road, only a few miles away.  I saw a sign for Earthly Compost at the post office and called to chat with them about their product. It sounded great and I had a five yard load delivered. This compost company is close so I don’t have to pay for delivery, I can also get five yards at a time instead of all of my compost at once. I’ll probably be calling them again in a few weeks to have another five yards delivered.
Compost 2
Compost 3
Since this compost is made from fish waste it will contain different micronutrients than the manure based compost I purchased last year. It’s always good to alternate different kinds of amendments and composts in your garden. This will help balance things out so you don’t end up with too much of one thing and not enough of another. I feel very lucky to have two fantastic sources of quality compost so close. When we lived back in Ohio it was hard to find places that made good compost, the one company I purchased from was fare away and delivery was pricey!

Do you ever purchase compost from local companies? Have you discovered any great sources in your area?

Quote of the Day: Rudolph Steiner

February 17th, 2013

“So long as one feeds on foods from unhealthy soil, the spirit will lack the stamina to free itself from the prison of the body.”

Rudolph Steiner from What Is Biodynamics?: A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth

Over the past month, I’ve been reading about ways to improve the soil. I want to make sure the soil I’m growing my food in is as healthy as it can be, because that in turn will provide the healthiest vegetables for my plate. I’m trying to come up with the best plant to remineralize this soil with minimal inputs and maximum benefits.
I’ll write more in the future about what I decide to so, most likely it will involve lots of compost, animal manure, green manure, beneficial microbial additions and rock/mineral powders. I’m debating on whether or not I want or need to get a soil test completed or if I just want to add beneficial amendments and let the soil balance itself out over the coming years. I really want to focus on watching the plants as they grow to learn to read them.

What’s your favorite way to grow the soil in your garden?

Quote of the Day: Wendell Berry

October 21st, 2012

“Soil loss…is a problem that embarrasses all of our technological pretensions. If soil were all being lost int a huge slab somewhere, that would appeal to the would-be heroes of “science and technology,” who might conceivably engineer a glamorous, large, and speedy solution – however many new problems they might cause in doing so. But soil is not usually lost in slabs or heaps of magnificent tonnage. It is lost a little at a time over millions of acres by the careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be saved by heroic acts of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints, conditioned by small fidelities, skills, and desires. Soil loss it ultimately a cultural problem; it will be corrected only by cultural solutions.”

– Wendell Berry found in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers–With information on building … feed, and working with poultry in the garden

I’ve always thought that gardeners grow soil not plants. Without soil, we wouldn’t have gardens. Since I inherited no soil at our previous place and spent 10 years building it up to a nice rich earth, I know what at it takes to climb back from ‘ground zero’.

It takes a lot of hard work, lots of manure, rock powders, humus and other inputs to grow mere inches of topsoil. I probably added a foot of inputs each year to gain a few inches of soil over the course of 10 years.

This is one of the reasons I’m always encouraging the use of mulches and cover crops instead of letting the soil lay bare. Also the reason I advocate for a no-till system and permaculture. Preserving our soil is one of the most important things we can do for future generations!

What soil preservation technique is your favorite: cover crops, mulch, compost, etc?

Quote of the Day: Linda Joan Smith

July 3rd, 2011

The growth of the garden follows our lead. To plant and nurture and prune and tie is to bend the garden to our own designs, to shape it to our bidding. It rewards us for our protection and guidance with an extended season of growth and living architecture rooted deep within the earth. We use the tools that nature lends us, and our gardens flourish.

Linda Joan Smith (Smith & Hawken Garden Structures)

When we first moved to Chiot’s Run the gardens were a wasteland from years of neglect and chemical applications. The soil was devoid of life, the only insect life to be seen were slugs and earwigs, no birds could be found flitting about the garden and I didn’t see an earthworm in the dry yellow soil for the first four years. We set about transitioning the gardens to organic by adding chicken manure, chopped leaves, compost and lots of mulch. After nine years of work nurturing the soil the soil is finally teeming with life.

Every time I dig I see an earthworm and other soil life. The soil in many parts of the garden is starting to turn brown and loamy. A wide variety of insects and birds can be seen, each attracted here because of the array plants we have and the sources of food and water we provide. I’m happy to see them all, both good and bad, because I know they all play a vital role in our garden.

It’s really nice to finally start seeing the rewards for our efforts. It took a few years before we noticed much change at all. If you’re in the process of transitioning from chemical to organic be patient. Your efforts will be rewarded greatly as the years go on!

What changes have you noticed in your garden as you’ve been nurturing it?

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.