How to Manage Soil Fertility the Organic Way

Overview

Managing soil fertility using organic methods results in healthier soil over the life of your garden. By adhering to certain organic practices, you can avoid synthetic fertilizers, reducing environmental damage. Using organic ways to fertilize your soil encourages healthy bacteria, builds nutrient-rich humus and helps prevent disease and fungus in your plants. By amending your soil, using practical watering systems and applying organic practices to your gardening, manage your soil fertility without chemicals.

Step 1

Create and maintain a composting system. Compost is made from decaying matter, made up of cut grasses and grass thatch, along with kitchen scraps and other organic matter. Use a contained compost system that allows you to continually add to the compost and harvest enough of the finished product to turn into your garden soil on a seasonal basis. Do not add meat or meat by-products to your compost. Use only fruits, vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds.

Step 2

Add manures to your soil. Like compost, horse and chicken manures aid in building the necessary bacteria and humus within your soil. Use dried manures and mix them with your compost to add on a seasonal basis.

Step 3

Install a controlled watering method. Drip irrigation systems are well-suited for use in gardens. Avoid sprinklers or watering with a hose. This prevents "puddling," which can cause soil compaction. Use a drip system that applies the water slowly, allowing the soil to absorb needed moisture without becoming waterlogged.

Step 4

Apply natural mulches to protect the surface of your soil. Hay or straw, dried pine needles and newspaper can be used as mulch. Spreading mulch helps the soil retain moisture longer, and reduces weeds and pest invasion.

Step 5

Practice crop rotation. Avoid planting the same types of plants in the same location each season. By changing your garden-planting layout, you reduce soil nutrient depletion and allow the soil to rebuild its structure.

Step 6

Plant cover crops such as buckwheat or clover to produce "green manure." Grow these in selected areas of your garden, rotating seasonally. While these cover crops are still young, turn them over into the garden soil in that area. This renews the soil. Turn them into the soil with a shovel. If you devoted a large area to cover crops, use a till to turn them in. They will decay within the soil, providing a rich source of nutrients directly to the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not overtill your garden soil. Tilling the soil does promote a looser structure and breaks up compacted soil, but excessive tilling or tilling too deeply results in breaking down the soil structure.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost system
  • Drip irrigation system
  • Tiller
  • Shovel

References

  • Ucanr.org: Soil Management and Soil Quality for Organic Crops
  • Extension.org: Soil Management for Better Fertility on Organic Dairy Farms
  • Big Book of Gardening Skills; Garden Way Publishing; 1993

Who Can Help

  • Permaculture Principles
Keywords: managing soil fertility organically, organic methods for fertile soil, organic soil

About this Author

Shelly McRae resides in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned her associate's degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. Her credits include articles for 123Life.com, eHow.com and several non-commercial sites. Her work background also includes experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.