Just as plants need good light, heat and water to grow healthy, they also need a good source of nutrients. While chemical fertilizer does the job of feeding nutrients to the plant, what it doesn’t do is enrich the soil. One doesn’t have to be too aware to have a general sense of the state of politics surrounding our food these days (genetically modified/natural/organic/conventional) or that the conventional methods of farming are stripping the land of one our most precious resources, topsoil.
While large scale mono-crop farming may be depleting our soil, the good news is that you can build your own! Composting is a great and relatively easy way you can do this. Turn your organic waste into healthy compost and add it into your garden, building humus (broken-down organic matter) and offering food to the local earthworms who will further benefit your soil with their ultra-nutritious castings.
Mycorrhizal fungi is another super-beneficial component to add to your garden as it helps most plants (brassicas excluded) take up more nutrient. Mycorrhizal fungi has been described as both the immune system and the information highway of Earth — sending information and nutrient to where it is most needed, keeping your soil and your plants healthy. Another great incentive to build healthy soil which produces healthier plants is that they will be more resistant to pests and disease.
You can find lots of great soil additives such as blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, fish fertilizers, compost, mycorrhiza (fungi) and other organic fertilizers at garden centres that will help you along in the process. It takes time but if you garden in the Creston Valley you will likely know how much time it takes to work up clay soil, and the more you build that humus layer up, the easier your soil will be to work with.
Suzie Buckmaster is a certified permaculture designer and avid gardener working at Beltane Nursery.