I find it rather amazing that product marketing has convinced a lot of gardeners that in-soil-gardening is passé; in other words old fashion and out dated.
Buying a bag of something or other – even though it has no nutrient value whatsoever – is just what is needed to raise veggies – so they say. Throw in a little compost to give a few nutrients and supposedly you’re set to garden.
There are times, I realize, that someone might have to grow this way out of necessity or not grow at all. But I would wager those cases of necessity would be the exception rather than the rule. This way of gardening with purchased bags of fake soil is mostly the result of “good” marketing by companies selling a product.
We are all subject to falling prey to their lies and half truths. Things become popular and many of us (if not most of us) accept whatever it is as just the way things are done.
This came to mind because of the number of new readers who have written to me and in the process of asking their questions tell me about using various “fake soil” mixes in their gardens and/or framed raised beds.
A Readers Question
One new gardener who recently purchased my book Organic Gardening – Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening had a question as he read about mulch.
Last month, I built a square foot garden with the recommended mix of peat moss, vermiculite and compost. I have already planted some fall crops.
Given this setup, should I still use mulch on top?
When I consider all the benefits of mulching, my short answer to this new gardener would have to be “Yes, you should still use mulch.”
I just think the benefits of mulch will be even greater if and when this gardener begins to garden with real soil.
A Few Things to Know About Real Soil and Fake Soil
Real soil is the earth’s covering that has been producing bountifully for thousands of years in spite of what the chemical companies want you to believe. Real soil doesn’t come in bags. Real soil is made up of sand, clay, organic matter, water, air, minerals, and a multitude of living organisms.
Adding compost to these fake soils is not only helpful but imperative, since vermiculite and peat moss and many other bagged mixes add nothing of value to the soil or your plants. But even that compost probably won’t give you an adequate supply of the many needed minerals that come from real soil.
Your best growing beds will almost always be in your existing soil improved with organic matter.
Nature’s system is without flaw. Flaws usually come from poor management by man.
I garden with nature because it’s so simple and so easy to be successful with her as my guide. She knows what she’s doing. All I have to do is keep replenishing organic matter and mulching. She takes care of all the balancing and providing for my plants. Expense is minimal.
Working Towards Real Soil
Once you find that I’m right, you can gradually make the change to real soil even if you have your garden already set up with fake soil.
It will be even easier if there is real soil (rather than a barrier) under your bagged mixes. If you continue to add organic material to the beds, nature will loosen that soil for you over time. Also, soil life – which is imperative to healthy gardens – will start working.
If you don’t yet know that real soil makes the best gardens, I’ve noted 6 posts below that will give you more information.
I’ve written about all this many times in the 5 years I’ve been writing TMG posts. So there’s a lot more information to be found on this site if you want to do a search for it.
If you have more questions that you can’t find the answers to by searching, feel free to ask me. I’ll try to help whenever I can.
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