In July, I participated in a series of workshops and seminars called Common Table. Here are some of the things I learned.
This might be news to you: I am not a gardener. Neither are you! According to organic gardening expert Steven Zien, we are garden managers–managing the organisms in the soil food web.
“Wait a minute!” you exclaim. “Dirt is dead. There’s nothing to manage there!”
On the contrary. A wide variety of organisms make up the soil food web, from bacteria, fungi, and protozoa to nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, and insects.
As these organisms eat, grow, and move through the soil, they enrich it and make your plants happy.
I figured being a good manager would mean a deep rototilling and maybe a bit of fertilizer. Wrong! According to Zien, both of these are bad for the soil.
Rototilling breaks up the ground and kills the mycorrihizal fungi, which deliver nutrients to the plants’ roots. Fertilizer contains a lot of salt, which kills the organisms—and most of it washes away with watering or rain anyway.
That about wiped out my arsenal, but thankfully he had an answer for us. I’m going to try it this fall/winter and let you know how it works.
Put compost or worm castings directly on top of the soil that needs more love. Let the winter rains soak all the good nutrients in. The earthworms will squirm up and bring the yummy stuff down into the soil.
Brown Thumb Papa was thrilled when I told him we didn’t need to rototill any more! Of course, now I want him to build me a worm bin…but that’s a story for another day.