Published in Eumundi Green Issue 183

Life on a Better Ridge Sweet Soil

Spring cleaning doesn’t just relate to our homes and closets; it’s equally as valuable in the garden.

Our tropical garden area was becoming a little overrun and some of the beds were falling apart, so it was time for a spring clean. The excess leafy matter was cut off and thrown into the adjoining chicken pen for the girls to pick on, and any remaining tubers and roots were dug up. Some of these we used for meals, some went into our ‘worming mix’ for the chickens, and the rest was composted.

New garden beds were formed up with sleepers and our attention then turned to the soil. If we want to grow nutritious herbs and veggies, we need to provide the foundations for this in our soil. One of the greatest things we can do to ensure this outcome is to understand what’s in our gardens from the beginning.

A simple DIY pH test can tell you whether you have any problems with acidity or alkalinity, but there are other things to consider. Things such as having a heavy clay base or excessively sandy soil will require different specialised remedies, but in each case, the addition of organic matter will help immeasurably. Even if we buy in commercial or ‘premium’ garden soils, there is a lot we can do to enhance what’s already there.

Having a high ratio of composted matter to other things in your soil is important if you want to add nutrients and stop the soil from clumping together and repelling water. Worm castings help make the soil light and fluffy, with the added advantage of providing a slow-release fertiliser and beneficial micro-organisms. Liquid ‘worm pee’ (the liquid that comes from the bottom tray of a worm farm) will also provide these micro-organisms and fertilisers, while things like Blood and Bone or Dynamic Lifter add other nutrients to the soil. But often, we still need more.

If we want super health-giving veggies on our plate, we need the super health-giving factors in our soil to begin with. Unfortunately, Australia’s soil is quite poor in many minerals, such as magnesium, zinc, selenium and potassium (all of which are very important for cell and tissue growth in plants and humans alike), and these need to be added in the right quantities.

A local, Yandina-based company, Nutri Tech, produces a great product called ‘Natramin’ which provides these minerals. They also offer the information needed to apply it in the necessary quantities for your soil (too much of these elements can have as detrimental an effect as too little of them, and can be almost impossible to remove from the soil).

Adding organic mulch over the top of gourmet soil is the piece de resistance and will suppress weeds, reduce erosion and keep the soil cooler come summertime – when our new crops will be at their best.