Caring For Our Soils
Seed and Light International
Larry Sallee, President
Having healthy soil is the key to the best sustainable production year to year and much attention during the off crop season will result in superior fruits, flowers and vegetables.
Traditionally we refer to “rich” soil as one with a high percentage of naturally composted organic matter, open texture that allows water and air to be absorbed and finely broken rock and clays that will continually supply minerals. The most desirable soil balance is one that is not too acid or alkali with a neutral to slightly alkali pH.
Long term field/garden area rotation and a slash and burn preparation served many areas for hundreds even thousands of years with extended time for unused or fallow soils to recover and store nutrients. However, Population pressures, displacement in the culture, and over grazing has forced the over use of naturally fertile soils and the resulting in soil degradation producing little of its former bounty. This is true of soils worldwide at a time we need the best and most sustainable production possible. The overuse of high nitrogen fertilizers has burned or digested the humus or organic element of the soils making them less fertile, more compact holding less air and water than before. A Crusty soil seals the water and seal out the air and often lowering the pH or becoming more acid in tropical areas. Over grazing does not allow for the replenishment of organic matter and exposes the surface of the soil to compaction and erosion loosing the top layers that hold most of the nutrients. The manures that are left in the field dry quickly and much of the nitrogen is lost and the use of dry manure for cooking fuel takes even that from the land.
To recover the soil an intentional program of composting, erosion control and balanced grazing are essential. There is not a universal formula and each area requires some research to develop a sound program of sustainable soil improvement that is acceptable to local conditions but there are some basic elements.
Controlling grazing of the land:
● Composting of manures along with available organic material and introducing again into the soil on a regular basis.
● Breaking up hard soils to allow air into the structure of the soil and mixing in the compost along with possible “green manure” or cover crop that can be chopped and dug in such as a clover or even young weeds before any seed is set.
● Balancing the pH of the soil and nutrient testing with a programmed use of chemical fertilizers if used.
● Weeding to prevent loss of nutrients to unused plants.
● The elimination or sparing use if chemical insecticides that will also kill the good soil bacteria needed for soil health.
● Proper rotation of crops to best utilize the nutrients and discourage the build up of soil born diseases as seen in mono-cropping or growing the same crop every year in the same spot.
To this end we will be posting or own articles and other locations you can find on the World Wide Web.