Friday, September 24, 2010

Cleaning the garden and assessing your soil

It is time to begin putting the garden to bed for the winter while the crisp fall mornings make the task an enjoyable pursuit. The beds must be weeded, the perennials trimmed, and all of the debris removed. There are countless insects and their offspring planning to remain cozy all winter in untidy garden residue and so by cleaning the garden, they and their habitat are removed as well. Take the garden rubbish to the most unpleasant place possible or accumulate it in a clearing and have an October bonfire some fine evening… the fire may symbolically signal the end of the season.

At the seasons end it is wise to assess which plants did well and which did not for there are always casualties each season. For those that had opportune conditions and yet still refused to thrive, smell the soil at their feet. Gardeners know that dirt is alive and the well being of plants depends upon the nutrients in it. Perhaps the plant failed to thrive from a lack of proper nutrition. And I am of the opinion that Miracle Grow and the like may be considered a multivitamin but not a proper diet.

The texture of soil depends upon the mineral content in it. Sand has the largest particles that may be seen, silts are very small and clays are microscopic. When the children were little I took them to the river, the creek, the fields, and the woods to feel and smell the differences, which are obvious once one begins to notice.

When it is healthy, it has a rich and distinctive aroma…. that delicious ‘dirt smell‘. However soil devoid of nutrients has very little aroma at all. Go to a spot in your garden under a tree and gather a handful of dirt… it will smell alive! It has gathered nutrients from the leaves which have fallen and grass clippings that have been accidentally thrown its way. The decomposition which has ensued has created a dark, rich, mellow and nurturing soil that is the substance that sustains the garden. No amount of processed fertilizer can add what decomposing vegetation can so the last time you mow, toss the grass clippings in the flower bed. They will meld into the garden over winter and replenish the soil while you are not even noticing... the spring garden will thank you.