Get a head start on your Spring garden by preparing great soil now! For many plants and animals, the winter is a time for rest and rejuvenation, but there is lots of action happening under ground even beneath a blanket of snow.
Let’s think for a moment about the way a forest functions naturally… In the fall, Oak leaves on Oak trees begin turning beautiful red and orange colors and the acorns drop off. Squirrels and other little forest friends will come along and pick up many of the acorns, but those that don’t get picked up will accumulate and rest under piles of leaves and sticks. The Oak seeds are planted. In the Spring they have the possibility of sprouting and turning into Oak trees themselves! The preparation was done in the fall and the results can be seen in the Spring and in years to come.
The first thing you can do to prepare your garden now is create compost. Take your leftover plant debris from last season and throw it in your compost heap. Need some composting help? http://blog.ecoetsy.com/2012/10/food-gardening-fall-composting-tips/html
Instead of digging and tilling which breaks up and destroys the structure and habitat of soil, try adding organic matter to the surface and let it rest until the Spring as nature intended. People who practice permaculture, a lifestyle of natural gardening, call this sheet mulching. Others call it lasagna gardening. It’s a very simple practice and in my opinion is way more fun than digging and tilling!
Sheet Mulching -
The possibilities are plentiful and abundant when it comes to sheet mulching. Most recently, I have been working on building an organic garden on a 1/4 acre of grass lawn. I have a vision for the whole thing to be covered with an edible food forest, and to accomplish this I have been smothering out the grass using supplies that are free and available locally.
Don’t be scared to use what you have and be open to any new ideas because they might work out perfectly! I started off by collecting cardboard from the restaurant my dad works at. We took off the tape, broke them down, and laid them out flat. Then we collected piles of leaves and covered the cardboard with that.
On top of the leaves, we added coffee grounds, manure, dirt, and wood chip mulch. Go into your local coffee shops (like Starbucks) and ask them for their spent, or used, coffee grounds. More info on coffee grounds in the garden – http://groundtoground.org/ For free manure, try searching craigslist.org for “manure” and you may be surprised at how many farmers give away livestock waste free of charge.
In my first sheet mulch / lasagna garden I used newspaper, hay, and manure and it turned out super rich. We grew abundant broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, basil, green onions, and a few other herbs. It was fantastic!
It’s wonderful to add soil enriching extras to your fall garden preparation. Scatter some seaweed or kelp powder, bone meal, compost, and anything else you like and may have experience with. I like to use perlite for moisture retention and because I got it in bulk from a guy on Craigslist which leads me back to…
Use local supplies!
I have grown food in California, Texas, Oregon, Washington, and Missouri and no matter where I go, there are so many amazing resources. The possibilities are endless!