Our bare block of land, that we bought and built on fourteen years ago, was covered by a layer of shale on top of clay. All the garden "soil" (and I'm using that term very loosely here) had to be carted in. Over the ensuing years, I came to realise that this "soil" wasn't a living soil, it lacked depth and structure and nutrients. It was the source of my great frustration that very little grew well here because, as was reinforced at the Introduction to Permaculture course I attended recently, rich soil is the basis for healthy plants and abundant yields.
So how do you begin to build up and rejuvenate even the most lacking of soils? One way is to create a no-dig garden bed on top of existing soil. Our course teacher, Morag Gamble, involved us in rejuvenating two big container gardens in at the city farm but her method is just as applicable to non-enclosed garden beds. Here's how we did it:
Choose a site or old garden bed to rejuvenate.
Loosen and lift soil without turning soil over.
Add thin layer of fresh beneficial green leaves.
(e.g. comfrey, pigeon pea, leopard tree, canna lily)
Add a thick layer of compost.
Water in compost with diluted worm tea.
Soak old newspapers in water and lay over compost.
Completely cover compost with newspaper.
Spread a layer of mulch over the newspaper.
Plant your seedlings well into the compost layer.
Water them in.
After rain is a great time to make a no-dig bed as the existing ground is watered and moist. So, after the torrential rain of Thursday just past, I spent the weekend rejuvenating my garden beds. I can't wait to plant out some seedlings of Autumn veg like kale and silverbeet and beetroot. They should really "take off" in the replenished and nourishing soil of my no-dig beds.
How do you build up/rejuvenate your soil?
p.s. In the third photo, you can see a layer of newspaper underneath the beneficial green leaves. You only need to do this if you have concerns regarding soil contamination. If you do have such concerns, you should consider getting your existing soil tested.