From Dirt to Delicious: 5 Essential Tips and Tricks for Building and Maintaining a Healthy Soil for a Thriving Garden

Judith has been the coordinator of Charlies Community Garden - Darlington, NSW for almost 7 years now. She is passionate about soil, has become a compost expert over the years and is a huge aficionada of Gardening Australia. The fruit and veggies of Charlie’s Community garden are always incredibly abundant, vibrant and flavorful, and Judith says the secret comes down to the quality of the soil.. This month, we share some of Judith’s top tips to achieve   healthy soil - no matter if you have a garden, a balcony or a few window sill pots.

1. Crop rotation

It’s very important to rotate the crops you plant in order to minimize pests and diseases in the soil. If you plant the same root crop every season over the years, you will be more likely to have specific pests in there since root veggies are their favorite hosts. The basic crop rotation scheme is; Leaf (lettuce, kale, leafy greens), Legume (beans, peas, lentils), Fruit (cucumber, peppers, tomatoes), Root (Carrot, onion, potatoes). This is a simple and natural way to prevent and reduce pests, which means you’re less likely to use chemicals or lose your harvest.

2. Compost

More than an excellent way to recycle your kitchen scraps and reduce landfill waste, compost has countless benefits for the soil. It will feed your plants, stimulate beneficial bacteria, introduce valuable organisms to the soil and is simply good for the environment since you’re using less or no chemicals/fertilizers. You can read more about starting your own compost here!

3. Manure

This is probably one of the hardest tips to follow if you live in an apartment and are sensitive to odours. Cow, poultry and horse manure are fertilizers which supply primary nutrients (nitrogen, potassium) and micronutrients that plants need to thrive fertilizers also improve pH levels and salinity levels. Always check your PH to make sure your soil is not too acidic or alkaline for the type of plant you’re growing.

4. Cover your soil

Applying mulch or covering the ground will reduce evaporation throughout the warmer months, prevent weeds from growing, add nutrients to the soil as they break down, improve the soil quality and attract worms. Plus, it makes your garden look neat and tidy!

5. Say no to chemicals as often as possible

There is no need to say it but we will repeat: we hate chemicals and toxic products that leak into our food and soil. Pests are part of the natural cycle and even if we hate them for killing or eating our plants, they are here for a reason too. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides not only kill pests, but they also affect nutrients, microorganisms, pH levels and everything that makes a healthy soil, not to mention the harmful effects these chemicals have on our surrounding environments.

A handy tip is to grow beneficial weeds in your garden! Some weeds can attract beneficial insects that repel pests, plus increase moisture, and fertilize the soil! Do your research to know which ones are suitable for your garden and crop.