Column 3 in Home Grown, Weekend Magazine, Sunshine Coast Daily, by Zaia Kendall
We have always had to work with a tight budget. Because of this we always try to make things ourselves, repurpose old stuff and use local resources (preferably on-property) to create anything from soil to a bathroom…
You do not need to buy potting mix or soil, you just need to learn how to create soil. This takes a bit longer, but it will allow you to be more resilient.
Soil is created by diverse animal and plant systems and by composting. When humans compost, we accelerate the natural composting process by adding the right materials together and giving it ideal circumstances. This will then create usable soil in less time.
You can do a soil test if you suspect there are major issues or contamination, or you can just plant lots of diverse systems and ensure the soil is covered with plants at all times in order for the soil to restore itself. Diverse plant life, mixed with diverse animal life (including insects), will deal with imbalances in the soil. When nature is allowed to work, it will restore itself. Monoculture crops (such as wheat and other grains, legumes and lawns) are detrimental to soil health and cause erosion, soil loss and disease. These monocultures result in loss of diversity and annihilates healthy ecosystems (plants and animals).
Plant diverse green manure crops to restore the soil. It is best to plant 8 or more species together, as that seems to be the magic number for healthy plants and healthy soil. These diverse crops will encourage other species to come in, such as beneficial insects and other plants, and will result in a healthy, thriving environment. The variety of above ground life encourages a variety of below ground life, and different soil biota start to live and work again.
Composting is easily done by saving all your organic matter: food scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, manures from animals and other organic materials (leaves, wood chip, grasses, paper, cardboard etc).
There is an easy way to make an 18 day hot compost, and we have an instructional video on our website in our online courses section for free.
You can also create a worm farm in a tub and feed the worms food scraps. They are amazing compost generators and will generate beautiful soil and worm juice for you to use in your garden and pots. Please use composting worms and not earth worms, as they are two different species. Composting worms are much more effective at processing food scraps into soil (worm castings).
Try and plant diversity, in pots as well as gardens. If you are container gardening, try larger containers (tubs) with diverse plants. Not only is diversity healthier for your plants, it is better for the soil, attracts beneficial insects and confuses pests so they don’t attack your produce!
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