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Be kind to your soil on World Soil Day

by Cathy Sheel

Today is World Soil Day, (Tuesday 5 December) so it’s an ideal time to think about how we can prepare the soil in our gardens and allotments for next year’s growing season.

Gardens and growing sites with good quality soil are good for the environment, reducing soil erosion and increasing biodiversity which is beneficial to nature. The theme of this year’s World Soil Day is Soil and Water: A Source of Life.  The day is aimed at focusing attention on the importance of healthy soil and advocating for the sustainable management of soil resources.

Here are some top tips from Knowsley Council’s allotments team.

Improving the health of your soil

  • Digging and forking through soil allows you to loosen any compaction, remove weeds and debris and provides the perfect opportunity to add organic matter and much needed nutrients.
  • Walk over the ground to help firm up the soil.  Do not do this to excess or in very wet soil conditions and remember not to overexert yourself!
  • Rake or hoe the soil to remove stones and any unwanted weeds and allow worms to get to work.
  • Think about composting your food waste at home as a natural soil enricher for your garden and outdoor potted plants.
  • Improve the soil with plenty of organic matter such as plant debris, shredded leaves, grass clippings, pruning’s, dead plants, fruit and vegetable peelings and scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, plain cardboard and shredded paper.  Shredded paper, such as newspapers, in the form of compost helps drainage and air circulation on heavy soils and conserves essential moisture/water in light soils.
  • On the veg patch or areas of bare soil, consider growing green manures. These are seedling crops that are dug back in to enrich the soil.

Get your garden off to a good start for the growing season

  • Tidy your garden. Clear away any dead leaves, stems and flowers to reduce the risk of fungal growth, mould and harbouring pests like slugs to allow next season’s growth to come through.
  • Protect against pests and disease. Regularly check your plants for any signs of pests or diseases. Catching these issues early can prevent them from spreading to other or newly planted plants. You can even encourage helpful insects like ground beetles and hoverflies to your garden to help keep pest populations in check.
  • Make preparations for extreme weather. Cover your plants with fabric sheeting, which will shield them from temperature extremes while still allowing air and water to pass through. Make sure your garden is adequately mulched. This will help insulate the soil and protect your plant roots from temperature swings.
  • Remember maintenance and ongoing care. Make sure to regularly check your garden throughout the season, for any pests, diseases, or nutrient issues, and then taking care of them promptly.
  • A ‘green’ thumbs up! – Hopefully these steps will not only help your garden to thrive, but also make it easier for the next season.

Find out more about allotments in Knowsley.

Here’s more information about World Soil Day, 5 December | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (fao.org)