today I want to talk to you guys a little bit about building an organic soil while at the same time busting up that rock hard clay! (( I am no professional gardener so if I get something wrong, please forgive me! )) The methods I'm going to show you will save your back, and money! O, and did I mention both these methods are very easy!
So let's get to the story behind how I figured these things out, shall we?
I moved to this really nice little house in Huntington Beach and when I did the first thing I loved about this house was the backyard because it was huge!!! I was really grateful to get this backyard so that I can plant my own food for my wife and my kids. I was on top of the world until one day I decided to start planting.
I went ahead and grabbed a shovel and thought to myself "This is going to be easy! I just dig a hole, put the plants in the ground, then they grow, and we eat!! Simple right?
As I drew the shovel up and plunged it at the ground I noticed it bounced back at me!! So I thought to myself (Oh no you didn't!! Ha ha ha!! ) "there must be a rock here!". Nope, it was clay soil, the beginning of my nightmare;)
So that year I pretty much dug a little compost into the soil, planted some vegetables, and let them grow. I noticed the harvest I got from that was relatively small but I gave thanks to the Lord and asked for wisdom on how to grow better vegetables over the following years!
And there began my search on how to bust up clay soil. I had read lots and lots of articles, some books, and I've heard tons of different methods but I didn't like a lot of them because some were ether unnatural or to expensive. I figured if I'm asking God to help me with knowledge on breaking up clay soil He's going to give me what he created to fix the issue, not what man does. So any unnatural methods were out of the question.
That led me to natural methods obviously:) Lots of people were saying to add compost year after year and that to me made sense because if you had enough grass clippings, leaves, small sticks, etc etc, it is going to aerate the clay and breakdown in it. Also I found out that it attracts worms that also breakdown clay by burrowing through it. Also the holes they leave allow small particles of compost to seep down into the lower parts of the clay, and it happens to aerate it as well.
The worms also eat the compost and break that down into smaller bits called "worm castings"! Worm castings are very high in nitrogen and if you didn't know it already, tomatoes, corn, and lots of other plants love nitrogen!! (Be enlightened, poof!! LoL!!)
Now remember, that first year I planted and I got an okay crop with adding just a little compost to the soil and the soil seemed looser. I also noticed at the end of that first year I had way more worms than I did when I first dug into the ground. So to me, it was a no-brainer. Add more compost:)
There are two main components you need in good compost. And this is where the money saving comes in!
- Carbon: Things that are high in carbon our leaves, sticks, rotting wood, newspaper, and cardboard.
If you're going to use newspaper and cardboard try to make sure they have no ink on them whatsoever! I know there are people out there that would say "black ink is okay" and you only need to avoid colored inks. Their reasoning behind black ink being "okay" to use in the compost pile is because it is made from soy. This is just my opinion, I don't know if I'm correct or not but, that soy ink may have been grown non organically and most likely contains GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). Remember, I am trying to stay away from everything that is man-made when it comes to the soil that God created to build itself up naturally. So, I myself would say you need to avoid even black ink and that can simply be done by tearing off the black ink from cardboard But you would be hard-pressed to do that with newspaper!! LoL!
I try to stick with leaves when gathering my carbon for my garden! The two main trees I try to get leaves from are Maple trees and Pine trees! Worms love to eat these leaves because the relatively high in sugar content!
So find a neighbor that has one of these trees or several neighbors and start gathering bags of leaves!
At this point you may want to also invest in a blower/vacuum that has a shredding option built into it to shred those leaves into small bite-size bits for all the bugs that will be eating them. I added three options into our store that you can find HERE!!! ((( Just click on tools tab and you will see the blower/vacuums. )))
Not only that but when the leaves are shredded they decompose quicker!
Here's a great article on why carbon is so important in the organic garden! http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/carbon-nation
- Nitrogen: Things that are high in nitrogen are grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, chicken and rabbit manures, worm castings, and fish tank water.
And obviously all of these things would need to be broken down to a smaller scale so that the plants can take up the nitrogen and that is where bugs of all kinds come in! I'm not just talking about bugs you can see with your eyes only, I'm talking about microorganisms that live only in organic soil! If you don't have bugs in your yard yet, you will soon if you build a compost pile:)
Here's another really good article on nitrogen in your soil! http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/soil-nitrogen-content
Composting methods I use:
- Barrel composting! This one seems to be the fastest but it's a much more hands-on approach. Blogged on it HERE!!
- Compost pile! This one you just throw everything in the pile and let it rot for a good 6 to 7 months. Stack it up high so that it cooks!!
- Composting in place!! This method is my favorite because you literally find out where you're going to plant and you cover that area with your carbon and your nitrogen and let it go for the winter and when spring comes your soil is ready!! You just move the compost (That has now become mulch on the top.) and plant!
There are other methods but these are the ways I have done them. You can watch the videos for more details on how I compost in place, otherwise here are some steps you can take that will help you!
- Step 1 Put about 2" of leaves on the clay soil.
- Step 2 Put about 1" of grass clippings on leaves.
- Step 3 Put about 1" of soil on grass clippings.
- Step 4 Put about 1" more on top of soil.
- Step 5 Water it really good and leave it over winter. Water it every 2 or 3 weeks to keep the moisture content up.
After the first year all you will need to do is mulch with the same materials. The mulch will hold moisture, keep down weeds, and it will keep the microorganisms living and thriving!
After doing all the things that I listed above (just before spring hits) take a shovel and see if it sinks right into the soil or bounces back at you. I bet it sinks in:) Not only that but your soil will be black in no time year after year!! Like this--->
I hope this article and videos have been helpful! Like always God Bless you guys and please post all your questions or comments below:)