Mother Earth spends centuries creating her masterpieces. Here’s how you can work with Mother Earth instead of against her.
1. Open and aerate the soil
Move anything you want to plant elsewhere. Pull out any weeds, spent flowers or vegetables, and toss them onto the bed you are creating. It’s called the “Chop and Drop” method. It is Mother Nature’s way of composting. These garden scraps feed the soil and add structure, too.
Stick your broadfork into the soil and gently lift. If the Earth is compacted, gently lift, push the fork in farther, and gently lift again. This technique allows nutrients you’re about to add to do their thing. There is no need to turn over the soil; you’re just lifting and opening it up. By forking the soil, you’re less likely to hurt any of the organisms that feed on the organic matter and make beautiful soil for you. In this method, you’re not breaking up the soil structure underneath; you’re only lifting, adding air, and allowing moisture to penetrate deeper into the soil.
2. Feed the soil
Now it’s time to feed the organisms in the soil. Toss your “food” around the garden area. No need to be neat about it. Here are some things you can add: (Use what you have on-hand and is local).
Coffee grounds—don't have any? Ask at your local coffee shop.
Tea leaves and bags—not the shiny kind of bags, make sure they are compostable and don't have a metal staple.
Leaves & Weeds—rip up the leaves and spread them around the garden bed. Leave them on top.
On top of that layer, add your compost. Spread it out, so you have a 4-inch layer. Don’t have enough compost? Add what you can, a little is better than nothing.
Now, water it all in.
3. Add a Weed Barrier
Use newspaper or cardboard. It will stop a lot of weed seeds and grasses from coming up. You want to make sure this layer is laid like a reverse shingle, so the water flows underneath.
Soak the newspaper (don’t use the shiny inserts) or cardboard, but not too long. You want it wet, not falling apart. Place the papers 10 or so sheets thick. Overlay each layer about four inches in every direction.
This layer keeps the moisture in the soil and the temperature underneath stable. Plus, it is an effective weed barrier. If you have a raised garden bed, tuck the newspaper into the edges.
Water it in again. It all needs to be moist. Also, check for holes in your weed barrier.
4. Add Mulch
Mulch with seed-free, pesticide-free organic hay or straw (pesticides used to prevent weeds or pests will diminish the growth of your vegetables). Break it up into a nice fluffy layer that is about 6- to 8-inches thick. You shouldn’t be able to see the weed barrier underneath it.
Water one more time with the jet stream to help settle and bind it all together, so it won’t blow away if there are strong winds.
Now you’re ready to plant!
Next up: Planting Your Mother Earth Garden