I used to think a beautiful garden had to have nice dark soil on top, however I learned a beautiful garden means it starts with beautiful soil too and it does not have to be black soil on top. Our first years of gardening we did have the dark soil but we have learned from classes and a lot of research in books and the Internet adding compost while you garden is very beneficial for this year's garden as well as enriches the soil for next year's garden. There are many different ways to add compost to your garden or fertilize your garden. Todd used to work with a woman who own horses and she would bring several garbage bags of horse manure we would add to the top. We are not fortunate to have the manure any longer but we have found another great method for us. to start with we lay corrugated boxes down around the plants. (This year Todd laid the boxes down and then just cut the boxes where he planted.) We then use garden staples to hold it down.
We use this method for 3 reasons:
- It will act as a weed barrier, thus less weeding.
- The box will break down to compost for next Spring.
- It will also keep the soil moist longer, especially when it becomes very hot during the Summer months.
We do not add the boxes right up to the fencing because we use the fencing as a trellis to our beans and peas. This will have compost later when gardening is done for the year and when it is time to prep the garden for the Winter.
After everything is planted we add compost on top of the boxes. Again this will help prevent weeds and keeps moisture in the soil as well as enriches the soil. Years past we have gone to the landfill and purchased compost but this year we were able to use our own. We have a compost bin that we have been working on for nearly 3 years. We had some wonderful compost from it and enough to cover the entire garden.
I will post later about composting another day. I do not think we will be purchasing compost from our landfill for a very long time. We will have to actively work on the composting a little more often than we did to have enough every year. After the fire and some contamination at the landfill, I do not want to use their compost. The fire actually burned for close to 3 weeks.
This year as my last Gardening 101 post stated we add the compost over the soaker hose. It seems to be working much better this year. Here is a close up shot of one of our broccoli plants near the beginning of the gardening season.
Of course you can use other materials besides manure or compost over your soil. Here are a few examples from the community garden.
This person uses hay or straw. We have tried this method as well. It works great but hay or straw is rather expensive lately for a small bundle and with both gardens, we just did not want to spend money on straw.
This person is using hay/straw and last Fall's leaves. We add leaves to our compost bin. The person next to this community plot (far left corner) uses black yard fabric. This will not enrich the soil any but will act as a weed barrier and keep the moisture in the soil longer.
One can also use news paper as a compost around plants. Picture below is in our community garden plot. This picture is one of our cucumber plants there. We added only soil on top of the news paper in this garden.
As I mentioned above, I have learned the dark soil on top during growing season does not always mean beauty. I would rather have wonderful plants and a very productive garden than black dirt on top. Last year was our first year with the corrugated boxes on top, then adding more compost. Our soil in the Spring was so beautiful when Todd cultivated it. It was so black and looked so beautiful. We knew we had a great beginning for our garden this season. The soil was nice and healthy for it.
I am sure there may be some other methods I am just not aware of. If you know of any you are welcome to comment.