Deana, How do I grow in sand?

I was just going to post this on Facebook but realized, this topic really deserves much more mention than a quick post. My husband caught up with some of our chipping today and the results pleased us greatly!

Since we’ve started the organic gardening practices, we have watched our gardens turn from high maintenance costly and frustrating projects to successful adventures that are lower maintenance and cost less all the time! Now more than ever, I am convinced organic gardening builds a long term bio-dynamic environment where nature does all the work and I’m simply here to feed it.

By feeding it, I mean composting, mulching, applying manures, compost teas, green manures, vermi-compost, decomposing leaf materials, beneficial bugs, good bacteria, and other activities that mimic nature and encourage healthy soil that leads to healthy plant growth.

People ask me all the time, “Deana, how can I make food grow in sand?” and my answer is always “build the soil”. This process isn’t one of those things where you buy a product, apply it, and you’re done. It’s not set it and forget it. It’s definitely not about dumping a lot of fertilizer and planting in it. It’s a way of living, a way of working with nature that earns you the fruit you harvest from it. And…it’s so worth it!

If you are looking for a lower maintenance growing option for a smaller space, please do consider growing on a smaller scale using containers, planters, growing systems like the garden tower, grow boxes, and the garden tower project. You can still use organic methods, worms, kitchen scraps, and other materials mentioned here so don’t be discouraged!

In this example (the picture shown below), we discovered that composting wasn’t only something that required careful planning and IMG_1017mixing green manure with brown organic material to make soil. While we still do that, composting is something that happens naturally in the woods. If you haven’t taken a nature walk recently, do it with new eyes and you’ll see what I mean. In the woods, leaves and plant material falls to the ground. Bugs eat it, animals live in it and defecate on it, rain keeps it moist, the new growth keeps it shaded, and it decomposes slowly and provides the living plants the nutrients they need to thrive. This is as simple as it gets!

So, we started using our yard waste to build our soil. Sometimes we chip it up or bag it to use for mulch, composting, and vermi-compost and other times, we throw it in a pile on the back of the property. Then, when the pile gets too high to add more, we chip it up and start a new one. This is creating some fabulous results in areas that were once just sand.

You can see in this picture, the soil under this recently chipped up pile is black, full of bugs and worms, and ready for planting. My new fall cucubit bed! All we did was throw our yard waste on this area for a couple years; some of it started growing on it’s own. A few banana trees and an angel’s trumpet popped up that look healthier than anything I’m growing in the traditional way.

So, when you cut the grass, bag it and use it for mulch, to feed the vermi-compost bin, or to throw in the compost pile.

When you peel an apple, cut out parts of the celery that are bitter, toss an eggshell, throw out coffee grounds, discard a tea bag, peel an orange, use your juicer, peel a banana, etc. Throw those scraps in the vermi-compost bin, the compost pile, bury them in the soil in a plant container, or bury them in your garden.

When you prune your trees, take the prunings and put them in a pile to decompose or chip them up for a nice pile of mulch, compostIMG_1018 material, or worm food.

When you shred your paper documents, take the shredded paper out to feed the compost pile, worm bin, or mulch pile.

Use newspaper and/or cardboard under mulch to prevent weeds and help keep in moisture. The paper decomposes and feeds the microbial environment in your plant beds or garden.

When you rake the leaves, keep them and put them in your compost pile, worm bin, or use them to mulch. Oak leaves and pine needles help reduce the soil PH and discourage snails and slugs!

If you get discouraged, take a break and then get back to it. Building the soils takes time and is something that must always be done to replenish the nutrients plants need. When you have success, share it! Put your hands in the soil, smell it, and relish your success!

Happy Gardening!