Newbie SOS: Don’t obsess over soil amendments

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

Soil is the number one hang-up I try to get new farmers to ease up a bit on. Sure soil is important, but you don’t need to turn it into a religion. It needs to be understood at a basic gardening level,  respected and treated well. And because you’ll be doing a lot of growing of a lot of different crops throughout the season,  you’ll have lots of chances to learn what works and what doesn’t as you go along.

What do you use to amend soil? I have access to some 8 yr old regularly turned cattle manure probably free if I go get it. I’m getting coffee grounds from local coffee shop, and have been saving eggshells for my compost. But it’s not much volume. What about kelp?

The manure sounds good. Liquid organic fertilizers like kelp, are good to use. My soil amendments are dictated by whatever is locally available for free or at reasonable cost. Contrary to what all the soil doctors tell you, there is no magic potion. Most people over-fertilize. Using SPIN’s bed setup is an advantage because you can spot fertilize throughout the season. At most I spend a few hundred per season on soil amendments.

SPIN photo Wally fertilizing


Here Wally spot fertilizes an area where spinach has just been harvested. The pail contains a mixture of alfalfa pellets, soybean meal, dried molasses, wood ash, bone meal, and blood meal – all ingredients purchased from a local feed store. The soil gets a light dusting, and then this area will be replanted to a different crop.

Mod 2 Soil 1


SPIN farmers compost where they can. Here Gail turns the pile in her own backyard. If you’re using neighbor’s plots, composting may not be possible there. No worries. If you don’t always compost, it is not a sin.