Repairing Dry, Wounded Soils

We’ve nearly made it folks – through the drought, the preserving, the seed saving and the winter bed preparations. Every year at the start of April I feel like I’m at the end of an Ironman competition. Hang in there!

The lack of water has slowed down the rate at which I turn my beds over, as I wait patiently for rain to come to re energise my soils.

How to test soil moisture levels

Planting out new vege takes on a whole new meaning when you’re on the scrounge for H2O, especially when the beds you’re planting into are dry and tired. How dry is your soil? Do this simple test for soil moisture. Grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your fist. As you open your hand back out give it a wee shake.

dry soilIf it’s super dry, none of it will stick together and it will fall away to a pile of crumbs like this photo.





soil test 2If it’s got good moisture levels most of it will remain in a clump, with a small amount of crumb fallen away.





Parched soils repel water. New vege will not flourish if planted into bone dry soils, so the first task is rehydration.

Scrape back the mulch and aerate your bed to break the crust and open up for maximum water penetration. Please don’t do this under a beating sun choose instead a lovely rainy day or an evening. Really dry soils will need a good few days under the sprinkler (or rain if we should be so lucky) to get properly wet. Keep testing for moisture.

The dirt on compost

Once you’ve got the moisture level right you’re going to need to convince the microbes back. Do this with compost and EM . Your own compost preferably – otherwise buyer beware. I hope you all read Hannah Zwartz’ article in the Dompost about killer compost this weekend. Don’t be tricked by claims of natural, certification even?(certain weedkillers never die – even after hot composting) – if you want to be sure of what you put in your garden go check it out yourself and chat to the compost maker. My favourite round here is Paranui Organics.

Smell is such a good indicator – for this reason stay away from bagged compost if you can smell it. Especially bags of compost that are kept outside in the sun. Compost is a living thing and continues to ferment, even when smothered inside plastic.

Repairing wounded soil

Roksolid or any full spectrum mineral fertilizer is an important addition when repairing wounded dirt. Trenching your foodscraps up the centre of the bed will bring as many worms as possible along for the ride, rotten manure is amazing for soil, liquid feed is always useful when you need to stimulate a bit of action.

Whatever you add, let it settle for a bit before planting, then mulch. Done.