New Thinking About Garden Soil
Gardening has undergone many changes in approach over the past 20 years, beginning, of course, with spring preparation of the soil. No longer do gardeners follow the “double digging” approach of traditional British gardeners, where trenches are dug two-spades-deep in the garden bed. This digging was not only hard on the back, but it brought undesirable subsoils to the surface as well as millions of weed seeds.
Today’s approach is additive: apply more organic matter, compost, and lightening agents to the soil, digging them in very lightly or not at all. Here’s where BuffaLoam comes in. The more organic matter in your garden soil, the more nutrition available for growing plants. And BuffaLoam is the leader in organic matter, not to mention that it is OMRI-listed and tested by the United States Composting Council (USCC).
The new thinking in applying this organic matter takes several forms:
- Sheet mulching, sometimes referred to as lasagna gardening, involves applying layers of organic matter, “green” or wet compost, “brown” or dry compost such as leaves, over a base layer of newspapers or cardboard. This approach works well on heavily weedy or impoverished soil.
- Raised beds, where the organic matter, conditioned soil, and amendments are contained in a frame made of untreated wood or other materials. These are proven and also save the gardener’s back from too much bending over. However, they often require extra water in dry or windy climates.
- Hotbeds are the reverse of raised beds. The poor soil is excavated and the recessed beds are filled in with good garden soil and compost. These perform like raised beds but don’t require the extra irrigation. Hotbeds were in use at President Washington’s Mount Vernon and are enjoying a resurgence.
- Topdressing, or applying a layer of organic matter and compost in the spring or fall, works for garden soils that just need a little help. Topdressing also works well during the growing season to feed plants and apply mulch, weed suppressant, and soil conditioner.
- Hugelkultur is the European process of building raised beds or berms with a core of wood clippings and other debris. By adding lots of organic compost to the wood, it decays fast and gives the growing plants nutrition within just a few months of creation. This method puts garden waste to use and has all the other benefits of raised beds.
- Container gardening is growing in popularity. New containers conserve water better and are more lightweight for moving around. Drip watering systems are on the market that make container gardening less of a hassle. BuffaLoam now makes a 19-lb. jumbo size of BuffaLoam Potting Soil in a sturdy bag so that gardeners can plant directly in the bag and grow plants all season long.
What do all these new and renewed approaches have in common? They all bypass the step of planting in existing soil. In designing for better outcomes, gardeners realize that bigger plants and better yields start with the soil, for it is the foundation of the garden. Gardeners also realize that growing plants takes time and money, and investing in rich, organic soil is worth it.