As you may know, a great garden starts with good soil. If you know how to treat your garden soil right, and you learn how to build it and not abuse it, your plants will thank you. Conventional wisdom has pointed to compost as the key. Compost is decomposed organic matter and helps with drainage, supplies nutrients, and increases air circulation.
But for those of us who don’t have the time or space to maintain a compost heap in the backyard, here are two time-tested hacks to improve your garden soil without it.
In the wilderness, you’ll often find wildflowers and mushrooms sprouting from dark, nutrient-rich soil. This soil is the result of decomposed leaves releasing nutrients back into the ground, providing the perfect fuel for growth. Through years of observation, gardeners have learned how to replicate this process in their own backyards—and now you can, too!
All you need is fallen leaves. Rake them from your yard or a nearby park, take your haul back to the garden, and scatter a thick layer of leaves. After that, you just wait for nature to take its course.
This simple trick has helped gardeners improve their soil for years! The addition of organic matter in the form of a cover crop enriches the soil in ways fertilizer simply will not. Also referred to as “green manure,” cover crops are plants that you grow with the express purpose of feeding the soil. Depending on the time of year, there are lots of different mixes to choose from. In the spring and summer, a buckwheat crop is a great option, while in the fall a more complex blend of nitrogen-fixing legumes mixed with cereal grains is a better bet.
Whichever crop you choose is up to personal preference, because the process is the same. Simply sprinkle seeds on the soil surface, rake in a bit, and watch them grow. When the plants grow tall and just start to flower, cut them down and fork into the top foot of soil. They’ll break down within a few weeks and you’ll be ready to plant.