Making happy, healthy soil

Kat Fox

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One of the plants in my mostly-empty front garden bed is this euonymus. I’m hoping to add other part-shade lovers this year.

Yesterday was my first chance this spring to spend an extended period of time in my yard, which is currently home to dozens of containers and two mostly empty garden beds – one in the front and one in the back. All the back garden bed has is a hosta, lamb’s ears and two mysterious perennials. The front garden is just as empty, with two equally mysterious shrubs. By the end of this year, I hope to have filled both garden beds and also create a new raised bed that actually gets sun.

With the help of a more experienced gardener, I’ve identified the front shrubs as yew and euonymus. As for the mysterious perennials in the back, I’ll identify them later this summer when they’re blooming.

My main task yesterday was cleaning up the back garden bed, with a small attempt at also cleaning up the lawn (pinecones and fallen branches) and the brick patio (leaves and spilled soil.) The back garden bed has, over the two years that I’ve gardened in pots on the patio, been a dumping ground for branches from holiday decorations, leftover potting soil, leaves, dead annuals and other plants that just didn’t make it. This impromptu composting led to the bed growing in size, taking over just a bit of the lawn.

This garden bed has benefited from being a makeshift compost heap of old potting soil and plants for two years. The soil is looking happy, and with a bit more clean up should be ready for planting this spring.

After removing the big stuff that is only going to get in the way, I mixed up the very top layer of soil and organic matter that was left. I’m pretty happy with the results. The soil looks rich and fluffy, with lots of stuff in it that worms and other soil critters will like. The two years of letting organic matter break down created some happy soil that I can plant in this year.

The front bed has not been as lucky, with absolutely no additions or changes being made to it since I moved in (and who knows how long before that). The soil is hard, compact, dense and soggy. I’m hoping the car load of mushroom compost I brought home a few days ago will cheer up (i.e. lighten up and enrich) the soil in the front.

These two garden beds, having been left almost empty and neglected for a number of years, are soon to be home to lots of plants. For me to have any success, I know that good soil is imperative and adding all this organic matter at the beginning, and regularly throughout the year, is the key to making happy and healthy soil.

Bins of mushroom compost line my patio, ready to be added to garden beds.
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