Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Growing Food: Soil

I'm afraid this particular post might not be very helpful for many of you, since all I'm doing with this series is explaining what I do in the hopes that it might work for someone else. This one, however . . . well, you need sheep.

Lemme 'splain.

Soil is obviously a big deal for your plants. It's their home! It's their source of nutrients! It's how they store their water! 

It's also highly, highly variable by location.

I have gardened in only three places: Blackrock, which had pretty heavy clay soil. On the Canadian border, which had surprisingly good, workable soil. And here, which is rocky in a lot of spots, sometimes sandy, but has decent soil otherwise. 

The common denominator for all of my gardens has been sheep-soiled hay.

As long as I have grown a garden, A. has had sheep. At Blackrock, we used the old hay from the barns extensively as a mulch/fertilizer combo. Over time, this somewhat balanced out the heaviness of the clay and made the soil much easier to work and more likely to drain.

We also use old hay extensively as mulch and fertilizer at this house, but here it actually gives more structure to the loose soil we have and makes it better at retaining water. And the actual hay as mulch helps keep soil from drying out via evaporation after we water.

It also provides an exciting opportunity for scratching and pecking if you're a chicken (this is the winter-mulched asparagus).

All this to say that this is the reason I have never tested my soil or added any purchased amendments. We just add large quantities of animal waste and hay to it every year and call it good.

As I mentioned at the start, this is probably not helpful to those of you living a normal, sheep-free lifestyle. But! If you have access to any type of manure/waste hay situation, you should absolutely take advantage of it.

Sorry that was not more widely applicable, but that's the reality of my gardening life.

I don't know what the topic will be next week, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Until then, let us all huddle close to our woodstoves (or heating vents) and enjoy happy dreams of spring and growing things.


Gemma's person said...

Our wood stove feels soooo good.

Anonymous said...

After a very bad garden last year, I am looking forward to my sheep waste to get me back on the right track! Mil

JP2GiannaT said...

We've used show barn soiled sawdust for pretty much the same thing-- it's pig, sheep, and goat. We got ours from a high school ag barn.

We're also crazy enough that we go around town with a trailer and pick up bags of leaves from people's yards on bulk pickup day. Pretty much whatever organic matter we can get our hands on, we pile on that garden.