In Part 1 of the article series, we introduced an easy way to identify the soil type in your back yard, terrace garden or planting pots. In Part 2, we will discuss how to determine soil health. In the concluding Part 3, we will discuss 3 critical ways to maintain soil health.
Once you have the soil type and health measure, you can start planting your favorite vegetables. During crop cycles, there are a few important activities that we recommend maintaining your soil quality. In addition to commonly following gardening practices such as composting, adding leachate from compost, loosening the soil, you can also do the following:
This is when organic material (leaves, straw, hay, grass clippings, shredded bark) are added as a cover to the soil and help insulate it from extreme heat and cold. Mulches also reduce water loss through evaporation and deter the growth of weeds. They break down slowly, enriching the soil with organic matter over a period.
This is a natural farming method where a crop like sun hemp or horsebean is sown just before the monsoons. 30-45 days later (around flowering), the crop is cut down and mixed into the soil, after which the season’s main crop is sown. Green manuring fixes nitrogen in the soil, increases biomass, and improves soil aggregate stability.
Planting crops in different garden locations every year prevents the depletion of nutrients and helps with soil health. It also interrupts the pest and disease cycles impacting the plants. One suggestion is to the follow the 3-year rule for all garden crops: Rotate crops each year, so that the same family of vegetables is not grown in the same place for three years. That gives enough time for soil pathogens to die.
Now that you know your soil, it is easy to get started with your kitchen garden in your backyard or balcony. In the following article, we will be talking about the various options available for the urban farmer and kitchen gardeners. So, do not wait and get started! Make a list of vegetables that you commonly use in your kitchen. Easy plants to grow include Tomatoes, Chillis, Herbs (such as Coriander, Pudina/Mint), Spinach, Brinjal, Capsicum and Cluster Beans.
Good luck to all the Green Thumbs out there.