Top tips to building and maintaining soil health
Get to know your soil
This doesn’t mean you need to get to terms with ph and soil type as a beginner. Just observe it, feel it and look around you. What is, or isn’t, growing can tell you a lot about what condition your soil is in. So can your neighbours or fellow plot holders.
Never leave it bare
An ‘empty soil’ is wasted, exposed to the elements and likely to lose nutrients through exposure. Having crops, green manures, annual weeds (young, fleshy plants without seed heads on) or, cardboard is always preferable.
Don’t dig if you can avoid it
Digging your soil interferes with the soil structure; the worms, fungi and beasties are quietly working away on building, it also brings weed seeds to the surface. Of course, there is a healthy balance to be struck and at times digging, makes sense to some but, if you want to build soil fertility and do more with less time, check out ‘No-Dig’ methods in the Resource section.
Make your space work
Think through how you layout vegetable beds to avoid standing on your soil. You are working towards a Victoria sponge consistency able to hold water and air, not a chocolate brownie!
Make your own compost
On a small scale you can’t overdo your soil fertility. A combination of the good practice above and whenever possible a healthy dose of homemade compost will keep your soil well fed and productive.
One more thing
Remember, still one of the most significant impacts the gardener can have is to avoid the use of peat. We urgently need to protect peatland habitats that hold large stores of carbon, these are being ‘mined’ (quite literally) to grow plants in pots.
Coming soon in January 2022
GetGrowingGreener: There is a wealth of resources, knowledge and top tips on soil care from people growing in communities across Scotland.
The GetGrowingGreener series will curate and share this knowledge so that more people can benefit and feel inspired to take some simple, essential steps to growing greener. Have a look, share resources if you have them, and ask for help if you are stuck with something. Combined small actions have the potential to make a big difference. email@example.com
Leaf mould, know-how
- Collect fallen leaves, free from plastic, dog poo and other nasties.
- Bag them up (any decent sized plastic bag will do*) and leave open to the rain for a while or pour a bucket of water over them.
- Close the bag and pierce the bottom of the bag with a garden fork a few times to prevent any liquid collecting inside.
- Leave your bounty in a corner to quietly break down. Be patient and check in about 18 months time. It’s worth the wait.
- When the contents are crumbly with little evidence of the original leaves, you are good to go. The best use
of this magic stuff is either in seed compost or a potting mix.
- In seed compost, this low nutrient, relatively weed-free material absorbs early spring sunshine and acts like a sponge, holding onto moisture when required.
- In seed compost, you might like to sieve your leaf mould to remove lumps.
- In a potting mix, for young plants in pots, leaf mould, when mixed with garden compost, provides bulk and water retention qualities to stop young plants drying out.
*some people like to use hessian sacks or keep their leaves in an open heap.
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There is a wealth of resources, knowledge and top tips on soil care from people growing in communities across Scotland. GetGrowingGreener seeks to curate and share it so more people can benefit and feel inspired to take some simple, essential steps. Have a look, tell us what you do, share your top Resources and don’t be scared to ask for help firstname.lastname@example.org.