What could be more dead than dirt? We all know the difference between soft, squishy mud between our toes and beach sand. It looks and feels different. Your nose will tell you the difference between a rich, fruity loam and a sterile, powdery clay. But beyond the structure of the soil, what makes plants grow better in one soil over another? I wish that I knew the complete answer, but for now I have some ideas. Here is one difference...
|Nitrogen fixing root nodules|
I learned about this stuff recently so I wasn't surprised when I noticed that the seed catalogs which seemed more concerned about natural and organic growing techniques were also selling inoculants to mix with nitrogen producing plant seeds. This is like acidopholus supplements for sick garden soil! Of course it isn't always necessary to use this supplement if your soil is already full of this naturally occurring bacteria. This would occur over several years of adding steer manure. But if you are not sure that your soil has the right bacteria, it wouldn't hurt to give it a little more to be sure.
This year one of the things that I plan to do in my garden is to test this by planting "green manure" of legumes mixed with an inoculant, and tilling that in before we plant the rest of the garden. I have found that Johnny's Seeds has a great selection of these types of seeds. Of course, having not done this type of thing before, I'm going to need to do some more research to make sure how long I need to let this grow but still have enough time to grow the rest of the garden. (It may be that I can only do this year with those areas in the garden that can be planted later in the season.)