Garden101: Importance of Enriching the soil during the winter months

Enrich your soil for success in the garden

With autumn firmly setting here and shorter days drawing in, opportunities to work in the garden and outdoors is starting to slow down.

Most crops and plants have already been harvested, and flowers are fading after their summer shows. Grounds are starting to look bare, with soil being exposed to the air and autumn weather.

This period, from the end of the harvest and blooms of most plans , is the time during which the soil should be fed, enriching it with nutrients and maintaining healthy microorganisms that live in it.

One possible technique is green manuring, a farming practice that can be applied to home-gardeners in which vegetables (mainly leguminous plants) are planted as cover crops to nourish the soil rather than for production purposes. These crops are sown in the autumn and cut in the spring.

Apart from feeding the soil, this practice produces multiple benefits, including enriching the soil with nitrogen, absorbing excess water, mitigating the effects of frost and consolidating the terrain to prevent possible soil loss.

Green manuring

Green manuring in winter should not carried out by means of exclusively leguminous cover crops, which are susceptible to frost. Green manure is normally created with a mixture of legumes, crucifers and grasses. In summary: legumes fix nitrogen in the soil, crucifers provide frost protection, and grasses function as cover crops. Multi-species seed mixtures specially selected for optimal results are available on the market. One interesting crop mixture is a combination of vetch, field beans, peas, clover and phacelia.

Another highly effective species is mustard, which is used for its ability to destroy harmful components, and crops such as strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes. Leguminous plants penetrate deeply into the soil and, when used in conjunction with mycorrhiza, they enrich the soil with nutrients and maximise its biological activity. All too often we look at the surface without delving into what is actually happening within the soil.

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