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My Favourite Tips For Keeping Healthy Garden Soil from Mark's blog 

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When I first started gardening - nothing more than a small raised veggie bed on my apartment’s balcony - the results were depressing to say the least. I’d plant the seeds. I’d water them. I’d position them in the sun as it moved across my apartment. But no matter what I tried...nothing would grow. Or, more specifically, nothing would survive long enough to grow up big and strong (and delicious). Some would succumb to bugs, insects and pests, while others would finish life as undersized vegetables that, while adorable, didn’t taste that great.


On top of that, the limited plants that did grow left a bunch of space for weeds and other no-thank-you’s to grow, so I spent most of my time weeding and not a whole lot of time reaping the delicious gardening rewards. Safe to say I was close to giving up. 


Not wanting to abandon my dreams of a green thumb, and still wanting to remain chemical free, I did some searching, some reading, and some ground work (pun intended), and found that there’s some great ways to improve the health of your soil and keep those bugs at bay without resorting to soil services, fumigants, or other nasty chemicals.


Word of warning: choosing the organic, natural way does take more work, but the results and peace of mind that you’re not putting chemicals near your food, your pets, or your family is an amazing feeling. And I still maintain that the food just tastes better. As I’ve had a few people ask me in the past, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite ways to keep my soil healthy and my veggies growing big and strong. Hope you enjoy!


1. Set up a compost and add organic matter 

Composting takes a bit of work, but gosh is it rewarding. It’s one of the most enjoyable garden hobbies I’ve taken up yet, and feels great to put those scraps to good use and reduce the bulk of organic materials that your home produces. 


In my experience, I’ve found that a one-quarter inch of compost each season helps to provide your plants / crops / veggies with nutrients, and fills your soil with all the good stuff you want it to have. I’ve also read that it improves your soil’s water retention, and helps keep diseases at bay. Pretty cool! 


While it can take a bit of work, if you keep the scale down it’s relatively simple (this is the guide I followed). Long story short, you build a compost pile, layer the organic material like manure, kitchen waste and weeds, and combine this with less decomposable materials like leaves or straw. And viola, compost! Oh, and don’t forget to get some water and air in there, too.


2. Plant cover crops

This might be my favourite tip of all, and it’s one that was passed onto me by a good friend. Not only does it keep replant disease at bay, the freshly killed cover crops add a bunch of nutrients to the soil and keep our soil microbe friends happy. 


Out of the cover crops, Legumes are my favourite - alfalfa and beans, particularly - because they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into a product that’s able to be used by crop plants. And don’t just stick with one, either. Mixing these together supercharges the benefits to your soil, and helps those veggies grow up big, strong, and super tasty.


3. Use organic fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers can be tempting. Trust me, I’ve been there. While they may be cheaper initially, they often have to be reapplied more often, and the benefits are short lived. Not to mention the chemicals and other unknown products you’re adding to your soil. 


These chemical fertilizers also don’t add much to the soil itself. Sure, they help support the growth of whatever it is you’re planting, but they don’t improve the long-term quality of your soil, which is the main goal here. 


Obviously compost is the go-to option here, but it’s not always practical. Especially in smaller spaces, or if you’re waiting on your compost to mature. This is the ideal time for a little organic fertilizer! My absolute favourite - and I’ve been through a few - is canola meal, which is a finely ground material which is lightweight and easy to spread. Unlike some other manures, it’s also weed free - ain’t nobody got time for weeding - and helps give your seeds a boost. 


And that about wraps it up. Hope those help! :-) 



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The Wall

Mar 30
Awesome info and very helpful, going to try the canola meal. My best crop out here in the Desert are Water Melons, squash and cucumber seems easy to grow here. Thanks Mark : )
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Mar 30
Love the cover photo : )
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Mar 30
Thanks! So glad you liked it. Let me know how you get on with the canola meal - couldn't believe the difference once I started :-)
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By Mark
Added Mar 29

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