Amending the garden soil – yes, right now!

With Passover beginning later today, it’s been especially busy the last couple of days – well, the last couple of weeks, actually!  So when a landscaper friend of my dh called yesterday and said he had a load of sheep manure for me (for my garden – he told me he’d keep me in mind months ago when we were discussing gardening), my first thought wasn’t that this was something I had time for!  But it really was a favor to me since last year the kids and I drove 40 minutes in each direction to a horse farm, where we loaded up a bunch of buckets with composted horse manure to spread on our garden area.  I really wanted to continue to build up my soil this year with some more manure, in addition to all the composting I’ve been doing, and was thinking that we’d just have to do without since I have so many other things that need doing at this time of year – so his offer saved me time and energy.

He came by in the afternoon and it really wasn’t a large amount at all (less than 20 gallons).  I intended to just dump it on my lasagna beds and cover it with leaves and wood chips so there would be no smell.  But almost as soon as I got outside, I started feeling like I wanted to be out working in the yard!  I love being outside, and though my garden isn’t large, it’s become a satisfying and relaxing activity for me.  I had been thinking for the last couple of weeks that I needed to get outside and prepare the garden beds for spring planting (my goal is to maximize my garden space by doing succession planting and always have something growing in the available space), but as I already said, this is a busy time of year and I just couldn’t make it a priority.

I started shoveling by a little here, then a little more there.  Then started neatening up my lasagna beds by clearing a path between them (lasagna gardening basically means sheet composting, where the entire area is covered with layers of composting materials), since they don’t look neat like the raised beds we built do.  (If I come across free lumber, then I’d like to convert the area where the lasagna beds are to raised beds because it looks so organized and uniform.  Ds16 built the newest raised beds from the boards of the deck we pulled apart before we made the brick patio this past summer and stopped building when we ran out of wood.)

I put the manure on the newest beds, which never had soil amendments; the new beds were  filled with the dirt we excavated when we dug the area for the patio and nothing else.  I ended up planting seeds in them in the fall, not expecting much from them because the soil quality wasn’t anything special, and the plants in them did nicely.  In fact, some of them have rebounded beautifully once the snow that was covering them melted – right now I have kale, turnips, beets, spinach, mache, chives, leeks (two of them :)), oregano, fennel, and strawberry plants growing.  It’s so gratifying to look outside and see plants growing even though I didn’t have time to plant anything!

Since the new beds have pretty much been filled with plants since we built them in the beginning of the fall, I had to carefully put the manure and compost to the side so I didn’t disturb the plantings.  When we finish harvesting the spring greens and before I put in the summer seeds, I’ll add a big dose of compost.   We had some heavy rain after I worked outside, which was perfect, since I ended up adding compost and turning over the soil in all the raised beds after adding the manure and compost and the rain will help it all break down more.

I was delighted to see tons of earthworms in the lasagna beds!  I compost all of our food scraps by burying them there, and they’ve clearly been enriching our soil.  It was a noticeable difference between there and the raised beds where I hadn’t yet amended the soil and had significantly fewer worms.  It’s gratifying to visibly see the difference your efforts make.  Strong soil makes for much healthier plants, and healthier plants produce more nutrient dense vegetables.

As I was doing all this work outside, I kept thinking that I should probably be cooking and cleaning instead for the holiday.  But my littles were all napping and it felt like such a wholesome and soul-nourishing thing to be doing.  Though I wouldn’t have planned it, it was the perfect time for the delivery of natural soil enhancer to arrive – it was nice to shift gears a little and get out of my busy-busy headspace, and to feed my soul and body with some exercise, fresh air, and quiet time alone outdoors.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays.)


4 thoughts on “Amending the garden soil – yes, right now!

  1. when adding manure to your soil, do you add other amendments to balance out the soil. What about other nutrients like phosphorous and potassium iron copper and other necessary nutrients? How do you balance the PH?

    1. Hi, Chuck, welcome! I’m not such a scientific gardener – honestly, if I had to do soil testing and worry about ph, I’d never try to grow anything! I add a lot of compost to the soil, and in addition to that, add clippings from haircuts (for slow release nitrogen – I put it specifically near tomato plants), ashes from our camping fire (for phosphurus, potassium and supposedly some other trace elements I don’t know about)- stuff like that which adds additional nutrients. It seems to work out pretty well for us! Certainly lots better in freshness and nutrient density than the typical supermarket vegetables. :)

  2. hi avivah! i heard that fresh manure can “burn” the plants and that the best manure has been cured for like a year- any info that???

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