|A sunflower from last summer.|
And now on to a simple way to improve your soil. I'll be demonstrating this simple project in my front yard. I'll try to update how this spot looks each month so you can see the long term process.
First choose an area with poor soil that you want to improve. My soil is very sandy and needs lots of organic matter. Weeds and grass covered this spot when we moved in three years ago. I covered the soil with cardboard and compost two years ago but the grass came up through it anyway. This spring my husband tilled this area with a rototiller and I spread compost on top. The soil looks nice but underneath it is sand and doesn't hold water well. Now you don't have to do any of the above steps to try this soil improvement method out. I just wanted to tell you what I have already tried to make this spot more fertile.
|This spot gets sun in the morning and early afternoon.|
If your soil is very compacted you might want to loosen it a little before you plant. You can just use a hard-tined rake to break up the surface a bit. You don't need to turn the soil with a shovel. Then spread some sunflower seeds over the surface and rake them in a bit. I had a bunch left over from a food sprouting phase I went through. It's o.k. if the seeds aren't covered.
|Sunflower seeds will come up almost anywhere that receives sun as long as you can give them some water to start.|
Then water them in well. I watered every few days but every other day would make them sprout faster. You want to keep the soil from drying out too much before they sprout. Once the sunflowers are up you can cut back on the watering.
|Watering is the hardest part for me because I have to remember to do it.|
And here they are sprouting all over the place. I planted the seeds May 8th and this photo was taken today, May 28th. We had some cold weather and I forgot to water a few times but they still made it. You can thin the plants out a bit if you would like but you don't have to.
So now you are wondering what the big deal is about growing sunflowers, right? Well, anything you can get to grow in your poor soil will improve it, including weeds. I happen to prefer sunflowers because they are pretty, easy to grow, and we can eat the seeds. After the sunflowers have died back this fall I will cut them down at ground level and leave the roots to decay in the soil. They will add humus and make this spot easier for other plants to grow in. Have you ever pulled up a sunflower when it was full grown? Their roots are large and run deep. I've had to use a shovel many times to dig the plant up!
|This tiny plant offered a nice amount of resistance to being pulled up.|
Sunflowers help to break up the soil in addition to adding humus as the roots decay. If you can leave some of the plants or leaves to decay on top of the soil they will add organic matter. All of the nutrients the roots pull up from below is now concentrated in the plant which will break down and deposit the nutrients up higher where more shallow rooted plants can get to it. Also as the ground gets wet from rain or irrigation those nutrients will wash back into the soil and feed the roots of other plants and trees.
I will compost the tops of my sunflowers this fall and then return some of the compost to this spot next spring. As birds pick the seeds from the flower head some will fall to the ground and you will have volunteer sunflowers next spring.
|Sweet alyssum from last summer.|
Another plant I like to use to improve soil is sweet alyssum. It is a white, low growing flower which smells like honey and can be used as a ground cover. It also self seeds and I have them all over my flower beds in the backyard. They have a large root system which grows close to the surface and lightens the soil. When I trim them back or pull them up I shake the flower heads over the soil so the seeds will fall to the surface and sprout in new areas. I've had a difficult time getting alyssum to grow in my front yard because the soil is so poor but will keep trying.
Please leave me a comment if you blog about your garden so I can come visit. Or just leave a comment about anything and I'll stop by. If you have any questions or article suggestions they would be appreciated.
How is your garden doing this year?