In the newest Martin & Sylvia: Nature School story "The Perfect Mix", Sylvia and Sofia go next door to the Brown's Farm with eager anticipation of working with the animals or plants. Instead, Mr. Brown wants them to help him make dirt. Make Dirt? But then Mr. Brown explains how dirt is a miraculous combination of Life and Death that is the foundation of everything that happens at the Farm.
Like Mr. Brown, I love dirt. I have a large urban garden and I am constantly working in it, watching, listening and observing. Soil is the most important part of a healthy garden: what you put in your soil is what goes into the the vegetables and fruits, and eventually into you. This means that healthy living soil is super important.
You may be wondering, how can you improve the soil in your garden? Maybe you don't have enough space to compost compost everything, or access to goat droppings like Mr. Brown. There are other ways you can amend soil to make it healthy and happy.
Three Easy Soil Amendments:
- earth worms
- eggs shells
- coffee grounds
Earthworms are the rocks stars of the garden. They eat dirt and bits of food and then poop it all out leaving behind castings (worm poop) that are filled with nutrients and lots of nitrogen. All the stuff that makes the soil great. Also as they are eating and moving about under the soil they create little tunnels that airate the soil, which is also really important to keep the soil light and fluffy. Most plants don't like heavy compacted soils. To use earth worms simply buy a container of them at your local garden center, fishing shop, or purchase them online. You'll want the red wriggler worms. When you have your worms, dig a small hole where you want them to live and put some of the worms in there. Then move on to another spot and introduce more worms. I put earthworms in every bed in my garden as well as some of my pots. After a year they've gone all over the garden. I can find them doing their handy work just about anywhere.
Egg Shells are all calcium. Calcium is important for the healthy growth of fruits like tomatoes and peppers. To use eggshells in the garden you'll want to save up at least 3 dozen eggshells. When you have that many put them on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven on the lowest setting for two hours. After they are well dried out, crush them into very small pieces. You could even run them through a food processor. Now you can sprinkle them all over the garden, turning them into the soil with a small garden fork.
Coffee grounds make your garden smell like a cafe and they give nitrogen to the soil. Coffee grounds are like a shot of espresso for your garden soil. It's an easy and safe way to up the amount of the nitrogen in the soil. You'll need more coffee grounds though than what you get from your morning brew. I like to go down to my local coffee shop and ask them for their coffee grounds. Most shops now will save their coffee grounds for customers who like to garden. I once picked up 30 pounds of coffee grounds at a Starbucks! My car smelled like coffee for a week.
To incorporate the coffee grounds into your garden, take a cup and fill it with grounds and shake them over the soil. You'll want an even layer. Nitrogen can burn plants so don't place the coffee grounds too close to the plant stems. Break up any clumps as well.
If you feel excited about these soil amendments you can also add in the following:
- epsom salts for magnesium and potassium (these both help with absorbtion of nitrogen and calcium)
- kelp meal is another source of nitrogen that won't make things smell like coffee
- rabbit droppings, once again for nitrogen
About the Author
KC is a full-time radical homemaker and mama to two spunky little girls. She writes about all kinds of radical goodness, from gardening and cooking with whole foods to crafting, sewing, homeschooling, and mama musings. Read more on her blog The Nettlesome Life.