Keeping your Garden Green
I garden for many reasons: relaxation, recreation, natural creation, and nutrition. It is impossible to think of gardening without thinking green—be it of the thumb or the environment. Home grown vegetables are not only delicious; they support healthy eating and reduction of external dependency. I love knowing I can support my nutritional health through my own means while also fulfilling my passion of working soil at the same time. Like me, many of my friends garden; though I am always surprised when—after the fall backyard garden harvest—my friends begin to prep their gardens for the spring plant, and suddenly seem to forget their green mindset. This is not to say they don’t try—they 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 contain zero chemicals and also serve to cut down on waste. Here is some advice I give them about naturally prepping your fall soil for the spring growth season.
Preparing the garden for the upcoming year is extremely important. If correctly performed using natural, organic elements as opposed to chemical fertilizers, the result will be more loamy, lighter soil with tons of microorganisms that will dig and digest organic material in the soil all winter long. This process also saves you a step in the spring when fertilizer would have to be added in a much slower and more expensive manner. For example, adding dead leaves—the more the better!—to your garden makes for sweeter tomatoes next spring and provides better drainage at the same time. Other plant matter that assists in garden conditioning includes:
Old hay straw—Be sure to watch out for seeds in the hay.
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.
Lime—Lime is essential to correct Ph in regions that receive heavy rainfall. Lime is a necessary additive all year round.
Pine needles—Make sure you add lime to correct the Ph level, as needles can make your soil more acidic.
Green Manures—This is actually just plants which grow well during the off season, digging deep into the soil with their roots, and then get turned under in the spring breakdown before the planting. This sort of composting creates organic material in the soil—doing the deep digging for you—and can even add nitrogen to the soil, assuming you use legume type plants. Red clover, as well as Annual Rye grass will grow in the winter months until turned under, at which time nitrogen will be released as it breaks down.
Don’t be afraid, either, to look to natural byproducts from living organisms to fertilize. A few of my vegan friends will debate the use of manures and other similar products. I know some who refuse to use it completely, and others who say it all depends on where the manure comes from—stating that manure from a dairy or meat farm is unacceptable. If you are vegan and reading this, it is essentially up to what you feel is acceptable. Those of you who are ok with any manure use can find many valuable benefits to using this product throughout your garden. Here are a few types to look at:
Basic manure—Horse, cow, chicken, or rabbit; no more than an inch or two depending on the animal.
Worm Castings—Excellent black compost made rich from worms.
I have always found that taking the extra effort in the fall always leads to a vastly more fruitful spring growth. Coupled with the ability to keep the process environmentally green and using what some folks consider garbage to yield better plant growth, the extra time spent in your garden performing this spring prep work will pay off in the advancement of your “green” green-thumb abilities. As the summer closes and we enter the fall, do not fret that your time in the garden is coming to an end; there are still plenty of enjoyable hours waiting for you in your own backyard.