Soil building had become something over the last 20 years of gardening (I started early!) that I have been a sponge to. Tell me more I say.
|Indoor Wheatgrass, over looking the outdoor wheatgrass in raised beds :o)|
|Mr. Bentley aka: The Compost Guy|
Bentley by the way is a humble city-gardener as well, living in Elmira, Ontario. He and his little operation are amazing, and if you want to learn more about vermi-composting, I would recommend you connect with him. He also has a facebook page where you can ask him questions and he has over 7,000 people who also follow-along with his work in worming. https://www.facebook.com/RedWormComposting
Getting back to soil building...another tell-take sign is a fall garden that is "covered" with a green manure. To the untrained eye, this may look like the gardener has thrown-in the gardening towel and given-up for the season.... but to the soil builder... they are covering up their precious soil to avoid erosion, weed over growth, unwelcome trampling-upon, and generally just being a good planner for the following spring. Green manure can be one of a few types of seeds. We have hard red winter wheat here that we thickly cast on the soil in the fall, and it was about 5 inches tall before the first snowfall. It looked like the image below before I covered up the beds with a THICK layer of leaves (see above). It will all get turned under soon.
|*Not my photo* - this is a local grower in Brighton, ON and his photo of some rye grass growing|
in his raised beds. http://greenerbuilding.ca/2013/01/27/garlic-adventures/
If you didn't plant a fall cover-crop, not to worry. Not all is lost. White clover or buckwheat is a fast-grower and can be used when the soil can be worked. Apparently buckwheat is hard to come by these days... (but I found some organic stuff at the bulk barn, and since my beds are small, I'm cool with spending the $7.00 to build up the soil.) Another gardening friend told me that rabbit food (basically dried alfalfa) is a good thing to use if you are short on time.
Another alternative is alfalfa, buckwheat, white or red clover, or just generally letting nature take-over and run into your garden. If you are local to Niagara head over to the Minor Brother's Farm Supply store. Just be sure to purchase Organic, NON-GMO seeds... you wouldn't want all your hard work keeping those things at bay... to go to waste. Another alternative is looking online. I encourage you to shop locally, but if not possible, to all my fellow Canadians, buy Canadian seed.
Here is an article from Dalhousie University about Organic Farms using green manure. Excellent resource.
* I've unfortunately mis-placed my camera cord... so there are no photos that belong to me in this post, but once I find it, I will add some photos of our lovely system here in Niagara for soil building. *