The first two months of winter have been very cold and dry and this can often lead to a hot dry spring. If the weather in the first weeks of August are any indication, then a warm spring seems likely. Already the soil temperature is heating up which means it is time to start preparation for the spring and summer garden.
Soil preparation is the key to any successful garden. Strong healthy soil with accessible nutrients means strong healthy plants. Organic in the dictionary comes from having the characteristics of a living organism. In general terms we understand organic as meaning gardening without chemicals. That is we use additives and inputs that have originated from or are by-products of living matter. Gardening organically also means treating the soil as if it were alive. That is, something needing food, water, shelter and proper mineral content to ensure it’s health.
When doing some background reading I came across the term soil husbandry. In exploring this term further I came across a lot of references from the mid 1800’s and beyond. It is apparent that Soil husbandry has had a long tradition within agricultural soil science. In modern times it appears that the focus is primarily around preventing soil erosion and degradation, however in it’s more traditional sense soil husbandry seeks to sustain the agricultural soil resource though general care and management; by sustaining, feeding and maintaining soil health.
Whether you are a practitioner or proponent of organic based agriculture or a practitioner of industrial agriculture it still all begins and end with the soil. The major difference in these two forms of agriculture is the thinking and understanding behind them. Industrial agriculture is based on the premise that natural systems are inadequate and need to be replaced with human systems. Ie inorganic fertilizers are superior as they are outside of the natural system. On the other hand organic agriculture sees that the systems of the natural world rather than being inadequate offer patterns worth following.
Compost is one of the most important additions to the garden and fits with the “organic” view of soil health. Compost is an excellent source of organic matter and nutrients. It contains all the major plant nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as all the minor nutrients that plants need. Furthermore, it releases these nutrients slowly, thus minimizing runoff and leaching. Compost is made from organic materials that have been broken down into a dark, crumbly substance, known as humus. If you do not have your own supply of quality compost, there are other alternatives. We are very fortunate that all the green waste collected in our region is being converted into compost. Simone Dalkara is the compost maker and runs the Landtasia compost facility. It is the only organically certified green waste facility in NSW (and possibly Australia) and her compost is full of nutrients and microbiology.
While there are whole books written on the subject of soil and a large range of organic inputs to use on soil, the following is a simple regime for home gardeners in preparing and maintaining the kitchen garden:
This formulae is one of the most valued by the gardeners who attend our popular day workshop “ All Season Cool Climate Vegetable Growing” www.wynlenhouse.com/workshops.html
Bronwyn Richards, Principle gardener, Wynlen House
Post Script: The new larger pond we installed last week for the geese has been highly successful and there is romance in goose world.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm