A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Friday, August 13, 2010

Growing Dirt #3

Yesterday we left with the question 'If I don't have loam how am I going to get it?' Well...here's the thing - one rule about dirt that is really important to know: you can't change what you have. That's right - if you have clay, you can't magically change it into sand. If you have sand, you can't magically change it into clay. Clay is clay and sand is sand.

What you can do is change the ratio of clay, sand, and loam.

I know what you're thinking...if I have clay and I want it to be looser like sand, I'll add sand and the balance should give me loam. NOOOOOOOOOO!!! Never add sand to clay or clay to sand - you'll get something like cement :-(

The way to adjust the ratios in your soil is to add organic matter. Loam is essentially a huge amount of organic matter with a little sand and a little clay in just the right proportions. Because of that, the best place to start changing soil is by focusing on the organic matter.

So...what's organic matter? Leaves are organic. Your left over veggies from dinner are organic. Bird poop is organic. The worm that died in the ground is organic. Pesticides...not organic. Fertilizer that you buy in a bag and looks like little pellets...not really organic.

What this means is that you should pile all of your fall leaves in a corner of your yard and not touch them for a while. Rather than putting them by the curb for the city pick up, let them turn into dirt! Throw some kitchen scraps on there too (no meat or dairy!) Every now and then, add some grass clippings. The weeds you pull from your wonderful flower bed - yup, add them too.

This pile that you are making is the beginning of a compost pile! Compost is one of the easiest and most effective tools that any grower has at his/her disposal. We'll talk about that more in the next post along with some other things that can be added to soil to make it healthy.

For now...find a corner of your yard and pile up some organic matter!!

*Note - despite popular belief, clay is not all bad. It has an interesting property in that it is rather electrically charged and can help draw certain key minerals into the soil.*

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