In this video we discuss how to make your own organic garden, and we discuss soil amendments.
Read the full transcript »
Hi! I am Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills near Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is our video series on Organic Gardening. In this clip we are going to talk about soil amendments. What do you add to your soil so that you can grow good crops every time, every year, over and over again? In some parts of the world the farmers have been using the same dirt to grow the same crops for 4000 years straight and the techniques used there are simple things that we can do in our home gardens and in our containers today. First I want to talk about fixing the soil's texture. The different types of soil are made up of different ratios of sand, clay and loam. If our soil has too much clay, the plant roots can't penetrate through it like they want to. They hit this sticky type mask that they cannot get to the other side of. So if our soil has a lot of clay content, we can add sand, just any kind of sand, mix that in, that will break up those clay particles with coarser sand particles and that will increase the tilth or friability of the soil. These are technical terms tilth and friability, what we want to think about is fluffy, how do we get the soil fluffy? How do we make it so we can punch our hand down into it? If we can stick our hand down into it, the plants can stick their roots down into it and get all the different nutrients and water that they need. Also if our soil is too sandy and lacking in the ability to hold moisture, we can add clay to it. So some places the soil is nothing but sand and it dries out very quickly and it's usually poor in minerals and poor in nutrients. So by adding some clay to the soil then we make it able to hold water longer, so that the plants don't have a shock of being very wet and then very dry, it buffers the soil's ability to hold water. If your soil is somewhere in the middle, you probably don't have to do either of these additions. Other soil amendments you might want to consider are pH adjusters. This is simply wood ashes that you could get from a camp fire or from a wood stove. A small amount of wood ashes will increase the alkalinity of the soil. Wood ashes also do something important, they provide valuable potassium which is necessary for good root growth, especially things like potatoes carrots and other root crops. So we can add a small amount of wood ashes to our soil, basically one cup of wood ashes sprinkled lightly over 100 sq. ft. So if our garden bed is 5 ft. wide and 20 ft. long that's 100 sq. ft. and we would only use one cup, one eight ounce cup of wood ashes on that entire bed, per year due to the fact that these are very alkaline and we don't want to adjust our soil too harshly. Other things we can add to the soil will directly fertilize it and nourish it. Blood meal is a very interesting and foul smelling soil additive, in pagan times people used to sacrifice animals and splash the blood all over the soil, this sounds hideous but it was effective because blood in the soil releases nitrogen. We can see the number on the bag, all fertilizers are packaged with numbers and this is 12-0-0, the first number in our numerical series is our nitrogen number, 12 is a very high number for a fertilizer. So this is very high in nitrogen with no phosphorus or potassium. The middle number is phosphorus, the last number is potassium. So this is going to simply provide green plant growth. All of our leaves, all of our stems, -- now if we were growing something just for leaves and stems like lettuce or chard or other types of vegetables that are just green, succulent growth, this is all we would really need besides the minerals that are naturally occurring in the soil. This is bone meal, this is ground up bones and it's another very foul smelling, yet useful fertilizer. The fertilizer profile on this one is 6-9-0. So this is a fairly high nitrogen content, a high very phosphorus content and no potassium. But the bone meal is going to provide something