A great food garden isn’t born overnight. It’s an investment over several years, especially with soil and water, to end up with a garden that has the maximum returns and quality.
Soil and water are the two most important investments you can make for your food garden, especially the soil, because it has everything that your plants need, except the sunlight. Your soil affects the water and it affects the nutrients. If your soil isn’t healthy, then your plants won’t be healthy and you’ll have poor production. You may struggle to keep your plants healthy.
The two best ways to invest in your soil is first to get a soil test done. When you start gardening and then regularly every four to five years – unless you have a major problem you need to correct.
The other thing to do when investing in your soil is to add organic matter. A great way to do that is to add compost. Or, you can add other types of organic matter. For instance, in the fall after your garden is done you can till in leaves or grass clippings that haven’t been treated with pesticides. Manures also are a great option to add some organic matter to your soil so that you can constantly be improving the fertility of the soil and also the tilth of the soil. Tilth means how easy the soil is to work with. If you have a clay soil, or a sandy soil, adding organic matter is going to be the best investment you can make to improve your soil.
If you’re in a larger garden situation, or perhaps you don’t already have access to water, you need to make sure of your access to water before you plant a single seed or plant. That could mean digging a well and getting the water tested, or finding a way to hook into the city water supply.
This feature story prepared with Rebecca McMahon, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.