What’s Your Soil Look like?
I finally got out into the gardens this week. On Tuesday the last pile of snow finally disappeared. So I am out digging in the gardens and examining my soil base. It is nice and loomy, easy to dig into with lots of earthworms. They are all signs that your soil is healthy and ready for your plants. If your soil does not look like mine, you will want to begin amending that soil before investing in more plants and seeing disappointing bloom performances from your garden this season.
Mulch is a Key Element in Building Great Soil?
I start off each garden season praising the value of a good organic mulch. Perhaps you think I am a broken record on this subject, but I cannot emphasize more the importance of using locally sourced, ground and organically based mulch. This is my recipe to build great soil! At one of my recent Spring workshops an attendee lamented on his garden’s poor performance year after year. My first question outside of our right plant, right place dialog was what do you use for mulch? He responded he uses the bags of dyed material from the big box stores. Perhaps I was overly dramatic in my response, but I proceeded to dialog on the lack of value these bagged, dyed, light weight wood chips have for gardens. I liken it to putting dyed chopped up balsa wood from who knows where on top of your valued plants. Outside of the artificial coloring in your landscape and a bit of moisture retention, they have no redeeming value for garden health. I only use locally sourced organically based mulch in my local gardens.
How Does Organic Mulch Build Great soil?
Ahh here is where Mother Nature does her magic. When you start a new garden, I always apply at least a 2 inch topdressing of organically based mulch over all the new plantings. The finely ground organic material will protect your roots, retain moisture and deter weeds throughout the growing season. Its organic composition also helps to feed your plants as it begins to decompose. The earthworms love it and they help aerate the soil and also provide fertilizer with their living presence. Further decomposition will occur throughout the Fall and Winter. A good winter snow amount provides the weight that accelerates the decomposition. Come spring you will notice the darkening of your soil as you begin to dig into the surface. Your mulch is slowly providing you with valuable topsoil!
Do I need Apply More?
This is not a one and done practice. Your first top dressing is just the beginning of good garden health. I recommend you apply an inch or so top dress every year. This adds to the layers of soil building and continues to provide the seasonal benefits of moisture, weed suppression and food. By doing so over the years, my gardens soil is rich and my plant performance and health fantastic.
And the fact that you are purchasing locally sourced mulch adds to the sustainability element: sustainable gardens/sustainable communities. As always keeping common sense and sustainability at the root of all my garden practices!