If you know anything about organic gardening, you’ve heard the phrase ‘feed your soil.’ While it sounds like a good thing to do, you may wonder what it means. It may seem that working in fertilizer should do it; that’s feeding, right?
In truth, feeding your soil properly is at the heart of organic gardening. It goes far beyond the temporary application of the major nutrients (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium) and even beyond the judicious use of essential micronutrients. Feeding your soil means not only returning those elements, but also improving the texture so that it breathes properly and is better able to retain moisture, ultimately providing a suitable habitat for the microbes that are essential to making nutrients available to plants.
While the interactions of soil, plants, and nutrients are fascinating and complex, feeding your soil is not a difficult proposition. Adding organic matter on a consistent basis (Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost works great) and approaching landscape issues in a way that helps foster healthy microbial populations (avoiding compacting or flooding the soil, for instance) initiates and maintains healthy soil.
A quick glance at native Nevada landscapes underscores the wisdom of an organic approach to healthy plants. Although local areas may be quite high in certain nutrients, almost all lack any concentration of organic matter, which in turn leads to nitrogen deficient conditions. It’s not all just about the water!
Next time you hear someone tell you to ‘feed the soil first’, you’ll know what to do to keep your plants healthy and productive.