We find several reasons to garden: relaxation, leisure, natural creation, and even nutrition. It is impossible to think of gardening without thinking green—be it of the thumb or the environment. Home grown veggies are not only tasty; they encourage healthy eating and a decrease dependency on uncontrollable, possibly harmful growth tactics. I love knowing I am able to support my nutritional health through my own means while also satisfying my zeal of working with the earth at the same time. Like me, many friends of mine garden, too; though I am constantly surprised when—after the autumn backyard harvest—my friends start to prepare their gardens for the spring plant and abruptly seem to forget their green mindset. This is not to say they do not try—they will buy the “organic” soil treatments and the BPA free garden hoses—but what they fail to realize are all the truly natural and organic treatments that not only contain zero chemicals, but serve to cut down on waste as well. Here is the advice I give them about naturally preparing your autumn soil for the spring growing season.
Prepping the garden for the approaching year is enormously important. If properly performed using natural, organic elements instead of chemical fertilizers, the result will be more loamy, lighter soil with loads of microorganisms that will dig and digest organic matter in your soil all winter long. This procedure also spares you the spring when fertilizer would have to be added in a much slower and more expensive approach. For example, adding dead leaves—the more the better!—to your soil makes for sweeter tomatoes the following spring while also providing better drainage. Other material that will assist in garden conditioning includes:
Compost from grass, kitchen, and garden clippings—Half dried and half green, but not too much green stuff. The addition of an organic compost additive will amplify the results of these household elements. Though it is not a plant product, eggshells are also a great way to get calcium into your soil.
Old hay straw—Be sure to watch out for seeds in the hay.
Pine needles—Make sure you add lime to correct the Ph level, as needles can make your soil more acidic.
Lime—Lime is essential to correct Ph in regions that receive heavy rainfall. Lime is a necessary additive all year round.
Green Manures—This is actually merely plants that grow well through the off season, digging deep into the soil with their roots, and then get turned under in the spring breakdown prior to planting. This form of composting creates organic material in the soil—doing the deep digging for you—and will also add nitrogen to the soil, provided you use legume type plants. Red clover and Annual Rye grass will grow during the winter months until turned, at which time nitrogen will be released into the ground as it breaks down.
Feel free to look to natural byproducts from living organisms to fertilize. Some of my vegan friends will dispute the use of manures and other similar products. I know some who refuse to use it at all, and others will say it all depends on where the manure comes from. These folks will claim that manure from meat or dairy farms is unacceptable. If you are vegan who is reading this, it is basically up to what you feel is appropriate. For those of you who are fine with any manure use will find several benefits to using this product in your garden. Here are a few types to look at:
Basic manure—Horse, chicken, cow, even rabbit; no more than an inch or so depending on the source.
Worm Castings—Excellent black compost made rich by worms.
I find that taking just a little extra effort during the autumn invariably leads to an infinitely more fruitful spring growth. Combined with the ability to keep the procedure environmentally green as well as using what some folks regard as garbage to bring about better plant growth, the extra time spent in your garden conducting your spring prep work will lend itself in the development of your “green” green-thumb capabilities. As the fall progresses do not worry that your time in the garden is drawing to a close; there are still plenty of enjoyable hours waiting for you in your own backyard.