Sunday, October 25, 2015

Protect Your Living Soil for the Winter!

After attending a seminar titled, The Down and Dirty: Soil Building Secrets for Greener Gardens by Elizabeth Murphy of Oregon, who has recently published a book called: Building Soil: A Down to Earth Approach, I decided to reevaluate how I put my gardens to bed for the winter.  

I liked how she explained, that soil is a collection of living organisms that comprise the first few inches of soil and need to be cared for like any organism. It has the same basic needs including: water, food, air and shelter/space. During the winter, soil and its organisms need to be protected from exposure and erosion.

I was inspired to try another way to care for my garden soil during the winter. In the past, I have tried a cover crop such as buckwheat, which she advocates for, but I found it unwieldy to deal with in the spring. I tried covering it with black plastic and was fairly satisfied with this approach, but there are no added nutrients with this method. However, there were fewer weeds and the soil was protected. 

Instead of taking all the spent and dead plants and the nutrients that they embody out of the garden in the fall and taking them to the compost pile, why not leave them in place and compose them there directly. So, with my cutting flower bed, I have left the zinnias in place. The birds, overwintering or who haven't left on migration, have continued to feast on the left-over seeds. This will protect the soil from wind and rain, and the blowing or washing away of all the nutrients or compacting by pounding rains or snow.

I have covered another bed with black plastic for comparison sake. I was surprised to see who was sneaking about. Note the large turkey prints!

She has lots of great ideas, including fall cover crops such as clover and using cardboard, 
all ideas I would like to try next fall. 

Here is a story well worth reading: 

Here is a link to her blog: 

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