Nature rebounds

Nature can heal if we give her the chance

Today’s Science Times has an excellent article about no-till farming methods that are gaining in popularity throughout the country’s agricultural areas. Basically, no-till methods involve not disturbing the soil and planting cover crops instead of using chemical fertilizers and other inputs. Even in the face of the difficult growing conditions that have plagued the Midwest in recent years, no-till methods can improve soil health and increase crop yields. If you read the article, you’ll begin to appreciate the importance of soil health. Most people never think about it, but everything depends on soil.

This applies to planting your own garden as well. When it comes to improving soil health, less is always more. Soil is a living thing, an extremely complicated mixture of organic and inorganic particles, air, water, and living things (insects, fungi). Left to itself, it will be healthy; if it’s disturbed, it will heal itself over time through natural processes, such as the breakdown of organic material. Different kinds of organisms inhabit different layers of soil. If you disturb the soil by turning it over or digging in organic matter, you’re putting all those organisms in the wrong place, most likely killing a lot of them, and it will take time for things to sort themselves out again. Instead, choose plants that are appropriate for the soil you have. Whether it’s rich, black, and wet or sandy and dry, there are plants that will thrive and look beautiful in your soil. If your soil starts out poor, it will improve over time. Let nature do the work for you.

If you would like to turn part of your lawn into a new perennial border or shrub island, all you really have to do is kill the grass. The easiest way to do that is to apply a thick layer (3-4 inches) of mulch, such as hemlock or cedar bark. The grass will soon die, and you can plant directly through the mulch and thatch. Simple!

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This lush perennial border was planted with tiny one-year old plants directly into a former lawn. Over time, natural processes have resulted in greatly improved soil. The patio was a later addition.

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