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Organic Vegetable Growing

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Dear Subscriber,

Here is Your Organic Vegetable Growing Newsletter #19

Wednesday,24th. November 2004

How to Improve Garden Soil

by Valerie Palmer

Whether you're using chemical fertilizers or organic
gardening methods, it is important to add organic matter to
your soil every year. Soil that is healthy is alive,
literally teeming with millions of tiny organisms that have
all got specific functions in making fertile soil.  If you
want your garden to continue to produce, you need to feed
it plenty of organic material.

Earthworms and microbes (the life in soil) eat and
decompose the organic material, which leads to a release of
nutrients and minerals in a form that is useable for
plants. Beyond this beneficial fertilizing, the presence of
the organic waste improves any soil texture: sandy, loose
soil is bound; hard clay soil is loosened.  The humus
provides a spongy quality that allows the soil to retain
moisture and circulate air so roots can breathe.

For these beneficial processes to take place, the life in
soil needs fresh fuel, (organic matter).  Without this
food, earthworms leave and microbes die, causing nutrients
to get locked away by soil particles, unavailable to the
plants. Insect pests and diseases then attack the under-
nourished and vulnerable plants.  It doesn't help to pour
on the chemical fertilizers; they don't contribute to a
flourishing soil life or spongy soil texture.

A very complex natural process of soil chemistry is
oversimplified here.  The intention is to only to highlight
the essential need for a continuous and generous addition
of organic matter to all garden soil.  What follows are
suggestions for actions to take to feed the soil.

One method, of course, is to chop garden residues and
weeds into the soil after a crop is harvested. Also,
there's the option to haul in compost, in packages or in
bulk when available.  If there are processors in your area,
(such as canneries or cider mills), often they will have
waste organic material for the taking.  Nearby farms
usually welcome removal of animal manures: cattle, horses,
chicken and rabbit. Any hay or straw used as mulch can be
chopped in, along with leaves and lawn clippings.

The fastest and easiest way to turn almost any bit of soil
into superior loam is to use cover-crops, also known as
green manures, and till them in.  Over time, this practice
will add to the topsoil rather than taking it away with
harvested crops.  This is especially necessary for the
gardener who is growing food in the long-term on the same
patch of ground.

Some notes:
1) Green manures can be grown in rotation: follow an early
cover-crop with a late season planting of produce, or a
plant a late green manure following an early vegetable crop
like peas and lettuce).  That way even small gardens can
have a harvest crop and a cover-crop each year.

2) Using green manures can be done by any gardener with or
without powered equipment.  However, a roto-tiller is the
easiest method.  If necessary, you can rent one.

Here are the most common kinds of cover-crops for home
use. A) Buckwheat: in addition to growing well even in poor
soil, it chokes out weeds.  Sow buckwheat in summer, after
harvesting peas, etc. B) Ryegrass: this grows rapidly and
is very hardy, adding a good amount of bulk.  Best to
choose annual varieties. Ryegrass is a good crop for late-
summer since it dies back for easy tilling in spring. C)
Legumes (alfalfa, peas, vetch, soybeans, etc.): these will
"fix" nitrogen from the air if you use "inoculated" seeds,
attracting the right micro-organisms.  Notice that some
legumes are vegetables; giving both food and green manure
from the same crop.

In addition to its benefits to soil, there are many good
reasons to grow green manure. They help with weed control,
bee attraction, and provide a beautiful green cover that
keeps the garden looking nice right up to the time snow


As a master gardener, Valerie Palmer has made a study of topics related to organic gardening.

She is contributing writer for TLC Gardening.

Find more of her articles at: http://www.tlcgardening.com/


For Australia only

Companion herbs



Please Note:- The term Herb is used very loosely and may include references
to vegetables,fruit,flowers as well as plants normally called herbs.

 Basil with Tomatoes and Asparagus.
Basil dislikes Rue; good companion with peppers and marigolds too.
Asparagus likes to be near tomatoes, basil, parsley and nasturtiums.
 Do not plant asparagus near garlic or onions.
Basil repels  Flies and Mosquitoes

Do You Have any tips You would like to share with readers?

You will be given credit for any tips submitted and a link
to Your web page if You have one.

Every Tip used will be placed in a draw every 3 newsletters
and someone will win software or a gardening book.

Happy Gardening,
PS If You Have a Question about organic Gardening E-mail me.

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