Grow Your Own Soil

April 1, 2010

One of the principles of the Grow Biointensive method of agriculture is growing carbon compost crops. You are literally growing your own soil. Some of these compost crops, such as cereal rye, grow very deep into the soil. As these compost crops’ roots reach down into the deeper, rockier layers of the soil, they help to break up and mine minerals from the rocks. Then, when the plants are composted, these minerals are returned to the earth to help build top soil. Also, these compost crops leave behind a network of roots. All sorts of decomposers (from insects to worms) use these roots as food and leave behind their nutrient-rich waste. This winter, we planted three different cover crops in our raised beds. We used bell beans and vetch for nitrogen, and rye for carbon. More on cover crops later . . .

Bell beans have a lovely flower.

Vetch and bell beans are a lovely combination- the purple vetch twists around and climbs the bell beans.

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2 Responses to “Grow Your Own Soil”

  1. Leanne Says:

    So I would do this through the winter months to prepare my soil for planting in the spring? How do you know what your soil needs? My soil is not rocky, but there are wierd streaks of white, which I haven’t identified. Suspect something left over from orchards.

  2. robinjohnsonsimpson Says:

    Hi there- Since we live in a moderate climate, we can garden all year. Bell beans and vetch are great to grow in the winter to prepare your soil for the spring. They add nitrogen, so they’re great to plant in a spot where you previously had a heavy feeder (such as corn or tomatoes). In the summer, you can plant soy beans to add nitrogen to the soil. Just make sure that you don’t let the plants produce fruit- the nitrogen will go from the roots into the beans if you let them go that long. The ideal time to cut them off at ground level is 10-50% flower. Leave the roots in the ground- the nitrogen is in the little pink nodules on the roots. So many other interesting cover crops to talk about, such as mustard and buckwheat.

    Not sure about the white streaks in your soil. Compost that is not cured (i.e.- it’s still hot) can cause an ashy layer in your soil. I’ve made this mistake myself.

    You can have your soil tested to see what it needs. I’ll do a bit of research on where to have it done. The cheaper home kits can have unreliable results.


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