Feeding Your Soil

Raised Beds

One of our 10 raised beds. This one is onions and carrots.

We are growing our own food not only to feel like capable, sustainable people but also so that our food will be the most nutritious and healthy as possible. In order to do this, you have to feed your soil, no ifs ands and buts. This means composting, folks! Which translates into saving all vegetable peels, fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, pasta, breads and cereals that would have otherwise hit the garbage. Fun, you say? Always wanted a big bucket of fly catching garbage on your counter? Sadly you cannot keep leaching nutrients from your soil and expect to have healthful crops. So we bite the bullet and compost.

In the summer months we’re out dumping our scraps into the composter twice a day. With the proper balance of green matter (grass clippings etc.), brown matter (brown leaves, dirt and shredded black and white newsprint) and food scraps, you too can rot out the most fabulous, gorgeous muck that will make your garden sing!

Here in Oregon we are avid raised-bed farmers as much of our housing in built on hard clay soil; which grows weeds of Jurassic proportion but is not at all food friendly. This is how we fill our raised beds. 1.) Organic top-soil. 2.) Compost from our own kitchen. 3.) Goat poop 4.) Organic fertilizer. It is the recipe of the Gods!

Now that we’ve got you all jazzed at the prospect of shoveling  compost and poop, how can we leave you hanging on our fertilizer recipe? Here tis’!

Complete Organic Fertilizer (From: Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon)

4 parts seed meal (we are using cottonseed but you can also use canola seed depending on what is readily available in your area.)

1/2 part lime (Best is an equal mixture of agricultural lime and dolomite.)

1/2 part phosphate rock or bone meal (we are using bone meal as no one in our area seems to carry phosphate. Either way, it can be steamed or raw.)

1/2 part kelp (any kind of pure seaweed meal from anywhere.)

For early spring plantings, use a bit more than you think might be necessary. Best not to fertilize too heavily after the seeds are up and doing well. Start with 1/4-1/2 cup per plant.

It is so, so tempting to just spray some Miracle Grow on your plants. After all, it’s given you the biggest tomatoes ever, right? Yet the over-application of synthetic fertilizers are a great contributing factor to the growing problem of nutrient pollution.

[Unfortunately, industrial agriculture practices continue to damage and deplete this valuable natural resource. While intensive plowing and monocrop agriculture systems  Ghave caused nutrient depletion and wide-scale soil erosion, over-application of [synthetic] fertilizers and pesticides has contaminated our soils and polluted our waterways.] Info from Sustainable Table.

We are going to post the progress of our gardens for you so that you can follow our success (fingers and toes crossed). Hopefully we will succeed so spectacularly that you will transform your own yard into a fabulous and bountiful harvest for yourself!

Alert! Carrots and beets don’t like the poop so skip that step for them.

Had my mom read this before posted. This is how the conversation went:

Mom: Are you sure you want to use the word “poop”?

Me: What else would I use?

Mom: Manure.

Me: Isn’t that still poop?

Mom: Yes.

Me: Mom, poop by any other name is still poop.

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt  

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