It may seem a bit boring, but the soil in your garden is the key to the success or failure of your garden and is the most important aspect of growing healthy plants.
Happy soil is full of nutrients and creepy crawlies or to put it more scientifically – it has an abundance of fungi, bacteria, nematodes, worms and beetles. They will nourish your plants and improve growth. Where soil has been starved of organic matter, plants will be noticeably struggling and dying (literally) for a generous mulch of lovely garden compost.
You don’t even need to dig it in – just add the organic matter to the surface and let the worms and other organisms drag it down – doing the hard work for you. NOT digging your soil actually leads to a healthier soil population and more vigorous plants – which will be healthier and less prone to pests and diseases. Organic matter can be any form of well-rotted plant material but animal manures are the best form of mulch to improve nutrient shortages. A thin soil (many of us have a thin layer of soil over the top of the chalky subsoil in Milborne) will benefit hugely from a thick mulch (10-15cm) of well-rotted organic matter each year.
To maintain soil health, you should be very careful about the amount of synthetic chemicals you use as they tend to irritate or even destroy many soil inhabitants. Although we all hate slugs, they do have a part to play in speeding up the decay and recycling old leaves and stems into lovely rich humus and nutrients. (I still hate them!!) Slugs & snails are known as gastropods and mostly live under the surface. As well as converting organic waste to a more decomposed form, their excretions also help to bind the soil together.
One way of reducing their numbers is to put a few slug pellets underneath a piece of wood, or anywhere where you know they congregate, then collect them up and bin them.
You can enrich your home grown compost by incorporating animal manures. Horse manure is best for heavy soils and cow manure is ideal for light soils. Although it is easier to find a source of horse manure be extremely careful that it isn’t full of bindweed, ground elder and other invasive weeds.