How To Build Great Garden Soil

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was thinking about calling this post “Milligan’s Gander Hill Test Garden” because basically that is what it is. We are experimenting with new techniques and plants that will work well for us when we move to our farm. On our farm we plan to be as self-sufficient as possible using sustainable  methods that will make our soil better every year instead of depleting it. We hope to grow most of our fruits and vegetables organically without harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In this post I will share with you what we have learned so far on how to build great garden soil that will grow big, tasty, and healthy vegetables using organic methods in your garden.

Most of the plants in my garden were grown from seed, including my tomatoes.

Most of the plants in my garden were grown from seed, including our tomatoes.

When we first bought our house here in the city, one of the things the house had to have, was a place for us to garden. The garden area needed soil that drained well and not put in low-lying areas that might hold water after rain. It needed a place with at least 6 hours of sunlight a day and hopefully the site would have good soil. Our site didn’t have very good soil, with only about 4 inches of top soil than clay after that. So I had to build better soil  before we could start to garden.

Choose a garden site with at least 6 hours of sun light.

Choose a garden site with at least 6 hours of sun light.

Building Good Garden Soil

The first fall at our current house, I put a small 12″ fence around the area that I planned to garden and then put down a layer of newspaper and then using my lawn mower with bagger and mulching blade, I mowed our lawn full of leaves.  I then dump the bagged leaves and grass clippings into the fenced off garden area on top of the news paper and kept adding to it each time I mowed during the fall.  This breaks down during the winter and kills the grass below so come spring it will be easy to break the ground for your garden.This is a great way to get rid of your leaves instead of bagging them and putting them on the curb with the 3 dollar stickers. I still do this every fall.  This adds lots of organic material to your garden that helps feed your soil with all the billions of living microbes, bacteria and earth worms that healthy soils have. You can only do this if you don’t use chemical weed and feed for your lawn. I use an all organic fertilizer called Milorganite on my lawn which is made from sewer sludge from the city of Milwaukee. It’s great for the lawn but I wouldn’t use it for the garden even though it says it is safe to use there.

This is a picture of my friend Tom and his sheep. I used  manure from his sheep to put in my garden this year.

This is a picture of my friend Tom and his sheep. I used manure from his sheep to put in my garden this year.

Adding Animal Manure to Your Garden

One of the best thing you can do for your garden is to add animal manure. That is manure from herbivores from animals who mostly eat plant matter. Aged Manures from horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, but you could also use well aged chicken manure, rabbit  and pig. Manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients, which plants can  absorb and use immediately.

Use Compost In Your soil

We compost all of our vetiable trimings, coffee grounds, egg shells, and lawn grass clippings.

During the spring and summer I add vegetable trimmings, egg shells, coffee grounds and banana peels to our small composter in our back yard that I keep adding to until the end of August. I then spread this compost  over the garden in the spring before I rototill the soil. Gardeners call this black gold because it is really worth its weight in gold. Compost improves the structure and texture of the soil enabling it to better retain nutrients, moisture, and air for the betterment of plants.

In order to grow the best garden use rain water.

Rain water is best for your garden soil.

One of the best things you can do for your garden is to use rain water. Treated water just keeps your plants alive, they don’t thrive like they do with rain water. Treated water is also not good for all those Microbes, bacteria, and earth worms that I talked about earlier that live in your soil if used all the time. Treated water has salts and chlorine in it from the water treatment process. Salt and chlorine dries out the roots systems of plants and hinders their ability to take up water and will kill beneficial bacteria, fungi and earth worms. No wonder natural rainwater is a better alternative for plants.  Best of all rain water is free, if you put in a rain barrel you can save thousands of gallons during the course of the growing season.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash

I promise you, if you do all these things you will vastly improve your garden soil and grow big tasty vegetables.

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About Gordon Milligan

I am a conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I plan to retire to in 3 yrs. I want to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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5 Responses to How To Build Great Garden Soil

  1. Jewels says:

    Great post, Gordon! 😀

  2. Your comment about rainwater just made a lightbulb go off in my head! We’ve had tons of rain this year and have almost not needed to water, but previous years we’ve had to water a lot. That’s something we haven’t worked on saving, but I think we need to add it to our list of things to do! Great post! You have gorgeous vegetables!

    • Thanks Susan, rain water is the way to go for watering all your plants. I would buy a big rain barrel, I plan to buy a big one for the farm, like 750 gallons, you can get one here. One thing I will do different on the farm is to have it closer to the garden.

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