Clay. Supposedly god made Adam from clay. Seems like clay should be some pretty magical stuff right? Then why won’t my clay garden grow vegetables?
It seems that clay is heavy, thick and it is seems impermeable to those tiny little vegetable roots. My clay won a blue ribbon in impermeability.
I had lived aboard a sailboat for 8 years…I did not know anything about soil. But after I bought my little plot of land, I started learning. When I purchased the property, the topsoil had all been pushed to the edges of the property or taken away, leaving clay. I have spent the last several years trying to get some of that clay to be fertile soil.
I rented a bobcat and brought back as much soil from the piles surrounding the property as I could. I had two dump trucks full of horse manure brought in. I tilled that in. Then I tilled it again. Then I planted buckwheat. Then I tilled that in.
Then I got chickens. And every 3-4 months when I clean out the coop bedding (which is sometimes straw, sometimes pine shavings) that material goes into a quick compost pile and is then used throughout the garden. This composting process helps give it tilth. “Soil tilth is a physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting or growing a crop. Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, soil biota, rate of water infiltration and drainage”. Thank you Wikipedia. Yay for tilth!
So my garden is certainly much better but still needs work. I have expanded my garden several times, so it is a constant work in progress adding tilth. This year I am going to be planting some plants that drive deep roots to help bust up the clay, and in doing so, releasing some of the nutrients that clay holds onto so tightly, and improve the soil again.
So what am I going to plant?
Artichokes. I love artichokes. My grandmother made stuffed artichokes. I love the heart of artichokes. I make a killer artichoke and spinach dip. I planted artichokes last year—but I was late getting them in and I did not get to harvest one globe of deliciousness. This year I have six plants that I started a month ago under grow lights that are waiting for the last expect frost (still a month away). I bought Artichoke Colorado Red Star seeds last year and they germinated just fine this year.
Daikon Radishes. This year I am also going to grow Daikon radishes. From my research these are quite delicious, and are fairly magical for soil health if left in the ground. It sounds like my bees will love the flowers too. I bought a pound of seed daikon radish seeds, because I love my bees, and I plan on successive plantings of this vegetable!
Purple hull pink eye cowpeas. I have grown purple cowpeas before and they give an abundant crop of long seed pods. You can harvest them right off the vine and eat them as you would string beans or the pea pods can be left on the vines and harvested when dried and the peas saved for soups. Purple hull pink eye peas are a garden favorite.
Sunflowers. I have always loved sunflowers and this year I will love them even more. I had some ginormous sunflowers last year after buying types several seed. My favorite was the sky high (okay maybe 8 feet tall) Giant Mongolian sunflower seeds. They will be planted again this year.
What are you doing for tilth?
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