Reviving Garden Bed Soil

By Amanda Moses

The Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC) is almost completely cleared of the weeds that accumulated over the past four months since the pandemic forced its closure. Now Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman is bringing the garden beds back to life with flowers and herbs.

There are dozens of garden beds throughout the UGC, many of them are still filled with cover crops from the winter. Although these cover crops are overgrown and are scheduled to be removed, they served a purpose—protecting the soil. The harsh cold and snow can damage the soil over the winter, so using cover crops ensures that the soil is still packed with nutrients and attracts natural insects and worms. These crops continued to preserve the soil during the pandemic closure.

Roytman will prepare the soil, so she may sow seeds (planting seeds directly into the ground rather than using seedlings or hydroponics). There are several factors involved with improving soil conditions for optimal planting: aeration, water, organisms in the soil, organic matter, and sunlight.

To provide proper aeration, Roytman will use a rake to amend the soil (move the bottom part of the dirt to the top). The soil holds atmospheric nitrogen that benefits both plants and organisms. The next step is watering. Healthy soil should be filled with about 25% water, making it slightly porous allowing organic matter and nutrients to be absorbed. By creating these conditions, earthworms, pill bugs (also called roly poly), and other insects are able to inhabit the soil, eat decaying plant matter, and create natural compost (vermiculture is one example where worms provide compost from their waste).

The final steps to reviving the soil before planting is to add organic matter, also known as compost. This is a crucial ingredient to help the soil retain moisture, store nutrients, and provide additional food for insects. Compost can consist of grass clippings, food waste (vegetables scraps), and leaves.
Once Roytman has created optimal conditions in each garden bed, she will plant flower and herb seeds. The plants will take several weeks to grow, but when they do, it will attract pollinators and create a colorful environment for all to enjoy.

Photos by Amanda Moses