Tillage and soil care

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General information about tillage

When the summer flowers and vegetables are cleared from the beds, the soil deserves a little care. Gentle cultivation in the fruit and vegetable garden promotes long-term fertility and healthy, harmonious plant growth next year. Under a mulch layer of bark humus, shrub shrubs or autumn leaves, the soil remains open. Leek and lamb's lettuce can be harvested at any time, and winter or evergreen plants such as strawberries, rosemary and beech survive cold, cold winter weather, as well as ice and snow without damage.

Autumn leaves in the bed

Cover open vegetable beds with autumn leaves to protect the soil from the weather


Nature offers the best example: there is no area left uncovered. If one pushes aside the leaves or needle layer in the forest, one finds a dark, fragrant and feinkrümelige humus layer. In the garden one prepares humus mostly on the detour over the compost heap. Surface composting is useful if the collection containers are already overflowing. Loosen the soil thoroughly in the harvested vegetable beds or between perennial herbs. Then cover the floor roughly hand-high with a mixture of leaves and shredded garden waste. The finer the material, the faster it decomposes. If you do not have a shredder, you can shred coarser remains with a lawnmower. In the spring, the remnants are distributed along with compost and sprinkled horn shavings in the bed, everything is superficially used with the grave fork or the krail, thus completing bed preparation and fertilization in one operation.

Horn chips

Horn shavings bring nitrogen back into the ground

Good compost is a matter of the right mix. It is important to have a balance between moist materials such as fresh grass clippings and dry garden waste, for example shrub shreds and shrubs. Put everything together lightly, then the rotting starts quickly.

Tip: Pure leaf compost is an almost equivalent and sustainable replacement for peat. The leaves of maple, ash, hazel and willow rot relatively quickly. Compost of tannin-rich oak or beech leaves needs about a year and is only suitable for peat plants such as rhododendron or hydrangea, but not for vegetables and herbs because of the acidic effect. Make foliage compost separately from garden compost by collecting the autumn leaves in open-bottomed wire baskets and rotting for a year. The material can already be used in semi-decomposed condition for soil improvement.

Finished compost

The right mixture coupled with a good air supply ensures the complete rotting of the green waste

This is how you recognize different types of soil

humus rich earth is dark, crumbles almost by itself into stable crumbs and smells lightly of forest earth. Floors with high humus content are easy to work with and can store water and nutrients well. sandy soil feels grainy, dries quickly in the spring, but easily freezes in winter to deeper layers. Favorable is an overwintering green manure or a protective mulch cover. clay soil Clumps easily and tends to waterlogging. In the spring, the beds can be processed late and it quickly creates thick, hard lumps. Important: Loosen encrusted soil regularly and incorporate mature garden compost in autumn or spring.

Different types of soil

From left to right: sandy soil, humus soil and loamy soil

Tillage by digging

Digging the beds in late autumn or winter is justified on heavy soils or if you want to plant a new vegetable, herb or perennial bed on a previously used area. The downside: when you plunder and turn over plaice for plaice, you transport the oxygenated soil organisms down into the air-poor strata. The previously living species are suddenly exposed to light, air and cold and it takes a long time to restore the original order. Even with the desired "Frostgare" it is not far away. Although the water stored in the soil pores bursts the solidified clods when freezing. In the long run, however, you will only be able to obtain the resulting crumb structure through several interlinking measures. An old gardening wisdom reads: "Cultures want to be chopped up." Loosen the soil regularly with the hoe during the growth period and regularly feed the soil organisms with compost, green manure and plant mulch. The tiny helpers convert the organic substance into stable humus compounds and ensure that you can save the autumnal strength act of digging in the future and only have to loosen the soil with the sow tooth in the spring.

Soil investigation: First test, then fertilize

Take soil sample

Soil investigation - pH

The combination of soil analysis in the laboratory (every three to five years) and a self-conducted pH check (annually) always ensures the safety of your floor

A soil study in the laboratory is recommended every three to five years. For this, remove a little soil at a depth of about 20 centimeters in several places. Mix the samples in a bucket and pour about 500 grams of the mixture into a foil pouch. Do not forget to label and send it to a research institute. You will receive the result and a fertilizer recommendation after about one week. The pH value (acidity) can be determined annually with test strips and, depending on the result, the correct amount of lime (for example algae lime or "Azet VitalKalk") can be applied. Most vegetables, but also other garden plants thrive best at pHs of 5-7.5. Roses and Mediterranean herbs such as sage and thyme prefer values ​​of 5.5-6.5. On acid soils (pH less than 5) only peat plants like rhododendrons and blueberries feel comfortable.

Bee friend as green manure

Bee friend is a well-suited green manure, as it germinates very quickly

With green manure against soil tiredness

Seeding fast-growing plants that vigorously root through the soil is the simplest and most effective long-term method of green soil improvement. Yellow mustard belongs to the lightning germ and is also suitable as a small soil cure between early and late vegetable crops - but not before the late cabbage cultivation: Like all types of cabbage, mustard belongs to the cruciferous family and can transmit diseases such as the dreaded cabbage hernia. Bee-friend (Phacelia) is not related to any type of vegetable and therefore fits easily into the crop rotation. The last sowing date is the end of August. Rough wheat and winter rye are suitable for late crops until the beginning of October.

Bark mulch in the perennial border

Bark mulch suppresses weed growth and has a positive effect on the health of bog beds

Bark humus and bark mulch as a natural soil improvement

bark humus is composted softwood bark and enriches the soil with semi-rotten, slightly acidic humus particles. This benefits above all raspberries and blackberries. The contained natural microorganisms also promote the fertility of cultivated blueberries.

bark consists of chopped tree bark, which is obtained in forestry debarking the logs. The coarse material suppresses weed growth on paths and is suitable for mulching peat plants such as hydrangeas and rhododendrons.

Soil additives: algae limestone and rock flour


rock flour

Algae lime (left) and rock flour (right) mainly provide trace elements

Unlike fertilizers, soil additives hardly contain plant nutrients such as nitrogen or phosphorus, but they supply the soil with important minerals, for example calcium, and contain trace elements such as silica, magnesium and zinc. Rule of thumb: in the fall, spread a heaped tablespoon over a square meter area. Rock flour such as lava flour or rock salt promotes the formation of humus and prevents unpleasant odors in the compost or when preparing vegetable manure. Algae lime also reduces the risk of infection with late blight, mildew, cabbage hernia and other fungi when used regularly. With bentonite granules you can improve barren soils.

Video Board: Minnesota Soil Health - Shallow tillage.

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