Organic Gardening – Soil Amendments

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 26,052
    Nature expert Tim MacWelch demonstrates organic gardening tips and discusses soil amendments.

    Tim MacWelch: Hi, I am Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills near Fredricksburg Virginia. This is our video series on Organic Gardening. In this clip we are going to talk about soil amendments. What do you add to your soil so that you can grow good crops every time, every year, over and over again? In some parts of the world the farmers have been using the same dirt to grow the same crops for 4000 years straight and the techniques used there are simple things that we can do in our home gardens and in our containers today. First I want to talk about fixing the soil's texture. The different types of soil are made up of different ratios of sand, clay and the loam. If our soil has too much clay, the plant roots can't penetrate through it like they want to, they hit this sticky type mask that they cannot get to the other side of. So if our soil has a lot of clay content, we can add sand, just any kind of sand, mix that in, that will break up those clay particles with coarser sand particles and that will increase the tilth or friability of the soil. These are technical terms tilth and friability, what we want to think about is fluffy, how do we get the soil fluffy? How do we make it so we can punch our hand down into it? If we can stick our hand down into it the plants can stick their roots down into it and get all the different nutrients and water that they need. Also if our soil is too sandy and lacking in the ability to hold moisture, we can add clay to it. So some places the soil is nothing but sand and it dries out very quickly and it's usually poor in minerals and poor in nutrients. So by adding some clay to the soil then we make it able to hold water longer, so that the plants don't have a shock of being very wet and then very dry, it buffers the soil's ability to hold water. If your soil is somewhere in the middle, you probably don't have to do either of these additions. Other soil amendments you might want to consider are pH adjusters. This is simply wood ashes that you could get from a camp fire or from a wood stove. A small amount of wood ashes will increase the alkalinity of the soil. Wood ashes also do something important, they provide valuable potassium which is necessary for good root growth, especially things like potatoes carrots and other root crops. So we can add a small amount of wood ashes to our soil, basically one cup of wood ashes sprinkled lightly over 100 sq. ft. So if our garden bed is 5 ft. wide and 20 ft. long that's 100 sq. ft. and we would only use one cup, one eight ounce cup of wood ashes on that entire bed, per year due to the fact that these are very alkaline and we don't want to adjust our soil too harshly. Other things we can add to the soil will directly fertilize it and nourish it. Blood meal is a very interesting and foul smelling soil additive, in pagan times people used to sacrifice animals and splash the blood all over the soil, this sounds hideous but it was effective because blood in the soil releases nitrogen. We can see the number on the bag, all fertilizers are packaged with numbers and this is 12-0-0, the first number in our numerical series is our nitrogen number, 12 is a very high number for a fertilizer. So this is very high in nitrogen with no phosphorus or potassium. The middle number is phosphorus, the last number is potassium. So this is going to simply provide green plant growth. All of our leaves, all of our stems, -- now if we were growing something just for leaves and stems like lettuce or chard or other types of vegetables that are just green, succulent growth, this is all we would really need besides the minerals that are naturally occurring in the soil. This is bone meal, this is ground up bones and it's another very foul smelling yet useful fertilizer. The are fertilizer profile on this one is 6-9-0.

    So this is a a fairly high nitrogen content, a high very phosphorus content and no potassium. But the bone meal is going to provide something else besides the nitrogen and phosphorus, it provides calcium. Many plants need a lot of calcium for proper growth. Two examples are cabbage and tomatoes, tomatoes will get a disease called Blossom End Rot if they don't have enough calcium. So by simply adding some bone meal to your soil at the beginning of each season and stirring it in we will take care of some of our nitrogen needs and our phosphorus needs. The phosphorus gives us the flowers and fruits that we want and also we have supplied calcium. A very rounded fertilizer based on poultry manure and mild up ground up poultry feathers. So this type of thing is pasteurized and heated so that it's safe to handle and we get a medium amount of nutrition for the plants out of this type of product. This one is 3-2-3, which means we have some nitrogen, a little bit of phosphorus and some potassium. Now the upside to this type of fertilizer is we can apply as heavily as we want to. Unlike synthetic chemical fertilizers which would burn the plants if you over applied it, this is a very slow releasing steady natural fertilizer. To apply these types of fertilizer we broadcast them over the beds and scratch them in with a rake. It's very important that we do mix these fertilizers with the soil instead of leaving them as a layer on the top. If we did leave the manure blood meal or bone meal on the top of the soil and it gets wet for the first time by watering it or by getting rained on, it stinks and it draws flies which lay maggot eyes, the maggots will eat up all of your fertilizer and then it will be gone, plus enough maggots will be very aggressive and they can actually eat your plants at the ground level. If every year these different types of amendments are added to the soil, it will get better, it will become more fertile and you should have better results each year. So that's soil amendments. Our next clip is going to be about organic gardening and seeds and seedlings.