By Emily Swan, BTLT Board Secretary and Community Engagement and Programs Committee Chair.
“Feed the soil, not the plant. If there’s one thing you take away from this lecture, this is it!” Master Gardener Linton Studdiford told the capacity crowd gathered to hear his talk about organic soil management in the St. Paul’s Church parish hall on a chilly January afternoon.
This may have been the most important message of the inaugural workshop in BTLT’s 2017 Winter Gardening Workshop series, but it was far from the only thing the 80 or so assembled gardeners learned about soils.
I came away with this practical trilogy of garden principles:
1. Feed the soil, not the plant.
2. To nourish soil, add organic matter.
3. Before you do anything, get a soil test!
And this amazing fact about the biological richness of healthy soil: there are more bacteria in one tablespoon of soil than there are people in Africa, China, and India!
And this fact sure to dampen the arrogance of any soil know-it-alls that may have been lurking in the hall: We only know 10% of the animal and plant species living in soil!
Linton’s knowledge of all aspects of gardening is encyclopedic, and we all came away with a much clearer understanding of the science of soil. But his practical knowledge of gardening is equally vast, based both on study and on decades of gardening experience, and I left with a long to-do list to improve my extremely humble garden and compost pile. I’ve just scrawled on my October calendar – “Don’t forget to use the mower bag to collect chopped leaves to add to the compost pile next winter!” For November – “Dig leaves into garden,” and for May – “Apply compost but don’t overtill!!” For April/May – “The time to add nitrogen is in late spring to stimulate plant growth when the soil is still cold.” And the list goes on and on.
What better time than the depths of winter to expand your gardening knowledge? Now I’m just chomping at the bit to get into the garden and put it all into practice!
The next Winter Gardening Workshop is Sunday, January 29, and will be an opportunity to learn about Permaculture from one of the region’s leading experts, Jesse Watson. Learn more at:www.btlt.org/wgw-permaculture