The Sage: Soil Wisdom from the Edible Garden

By Cole Alexander

18295As seasons come and go, change comes for us all. When these changes come,  it’s easy to lose hope. In nature, death, the ultimate change, is all around us. It is an inescapable partner to life. However, the end of one cycle always provides the foundation for fostering new life: a fallen tree becomes habitat and a welcome scrap of food after a day of scavenging. Even in the garden, where food is grown to sustain our life, death is the basis of compost. Death is the foothold of new life.

After assessing the soil depth and quality in many of the raised beds in the Edible Garden, it’s time for a fresh layer of compost. New compost fills empty spaces, gives a rich spring boost to perennials, and lays the foundation for new projects to evolve. Soil is the foundation for all plant life, and especially for vegetables. Healthy soil structure, abundant microbial life, mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus) networks, and, most of all, the right balance of elements is crucial for healthy and productive plants. While most elements in the soil can fluctuate without much change to the health of the vegetables, nitrogen is by far the most crucial for producing delicious vegetables. Tomatoes, corn, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, and many others rely heavily on the right balance of nitrogen while other plants and some vegetables can survive on less. Adding nitrogen-rich organic material, usually in the form of decayed plants, to soils can vastly improve the garden’s ability to survive and produce in abundance.

No matter how we relate to change, and change’s bigger brother, death, it’s an integral part of the garden and of life. Being regularly conscious of impermanence has brought a new sense of gratitude to my personal life and to the development of the Edible Garden. As vegetables produce an array of sensory explosions that are only possible because of change, without which a seed would never sprout and thus a garden could never form. I try to encourage myself to find new ways of honoring change in my life. As impermanence continues to shape itself in the Edible Garden and beyond, seeds of opportunity can be planted. Make sure your soil is fertile and all of the conditions present for breathtaking germination.

Tip: Late winter and early spring can be some of the best times to get your soil tested at your local county extension office to learn even more about the world beneath your feet, most offices offer this test free of charge.


Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Bernheim Buzz

Get the "buzz" of Bernheim activity weekly in your inbox by signing up below.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.