Garden Mulching Soil Improvement and/or preparation

Soil – Can You Wear it Out?

At the end of a recent post, Gayle, a reader of TMG gave a word of testimony to the effectiveness of my method of gardening.  She said, “This summer I made a point of layering as much straw as possible over walkways and beds, between plants. In just one season, our soil is incredibly rich, dark, friable, and filled with earthworms. Now that it looks so good, I’m not sure if I’ll ‘wear it out’ if I don’t add some fertilizer.”

Gayle’s description of her soil sounds just like mine. This bed is ready to plant.  After planting, I covered it with straw again.

I couldn’t help but smile because I think everyone who has ever gardened can relate to that sentence about feeling the need to add fertilizer to the soil.  After all, look at what big business fertilizer is!  Human nature together with marketing that uses biased or slightly misleading information has made fertilizer companies rich.

It’s hard to fathom that millions of people no longer know what our forefathers knew for centuries before us: That the soil does NOT wear out IF you (#1) continue to add organic matter to replace what is used.  And (#2) you keep the soil covered so that oxygen and the elements will not deplete it.

When I answered Gayle and told her that if she did those 2 things she would be 100% ok without any fertilizers, she replied, “Wow! That’s freeing!”  And it is!

Those simple principles have escaped the vast majority of gardeners today. They deplete their soil and it would never occur to them to just put back organic matter.  Instead, they turn to fertilizers.

Creating a “Need”

Gayle continued with: “Even the organic gardening industry is working hard to create a ‘need’ in us with its marketing. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I was afraid I’d lose a season to a bad harvest if I didn’t add some ‘organic-purchased-something’ to the soil. But this fall, it looks so good! And I’ve done nothing but garden and add layers of mulch.”

I know how she feels. In my first decade of gardening, the list of what I thought I needed to add  to my soil was endless.  Once I came to the realization of how simple gardening is and recognized the simple but profound principles involved I was able to override that marketing-created “need” for fertilizers with reason.

If you want a fantastic garden all you need do is prepare your soil properly and improve your soil continually and protect it from the elements with mulch.  That’s it. If you don’t know already how to do these things, check out the posts I’ve listed at the end.

As another reader commented, “It seems as if it just couldn’t be this easy but it absolutely is! I’ve tested your instruction and it works perfectly! It’s foolproof —”

Regarding what Gayle said about being afraid she’d lose a season to a bad harvest:

In gardening you must be prepared to expect differences. Remember each year has who-knows-how-many variables that might be so slight  you may never determine what they are.  Thus, each year will be different than the one before or the one following.   The difference may be a little, or it may be a lot.

Just because a crop doesn’t live up to expectations doesn’t necessarily mean you did anything wrong.   It’s the overall garden that you want to be successful.  And one crop performing poorly does not a bad garden make.

Can you wear out your soil?  You can.  But you won’t if you consistently add organic matter to your soil and keep it covered. You’ll be good to go! No commercial fertilizer needed.


Related Posts:

Soil Improvement Your Foundation for Success

Soil Prepartion – 1st Key to Soil Improvement

contd – Soil Prepartion 1st Key to Soil Improvement

Adding Organic Matter – 2nd Key to Soil Improvement

Contd – Adding Organic Matter 2nd Key to Soil Improvement

Last part – Adding Organic Matter 2nd Key to Soil Improvement

Collect Gold for Your Garden

10 Reasons to Mulch


Organic gardening is easy, efficient, effective —- and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • I love your methods and instruction. This summer, I enhanced my beds with top soil, worm castings, compost and peat moss. It looked good enough to eat. Now all the beds have been “put to bed for the winter” by a pretty heavy covering with straw. Before the straw tho, I planted buckwheat which I then turned into the soil. Already looking forward to spring 🙂

  • Hi Dink,

    Glad you are benefiting from TMG.
    Enhancing soil with worm castings and compost is good. I would be interested in where you are getting your top soil. Also, for what reason do you add the peat moss?
    Especially glad to hear that you planted buckwheat and turned it in. Cover crops like buckwheat are one of the best ways to improve your soil.
    Your soil should really be good next season and ready to produce bountifully for you!
    Happy Thanksgiving!


  • Theresa,
    Whew! It’s such a relief to know that I’m on the right track. Like you, I just add organic matter to the garden every year, and it is always productive. But there is a nagging voice in the back of my head, making me wonder if I’m missing something because everyone talks about fertilizers and fancy soil ammendments. But being a bit lazy, I’m just waiting for the soil to “wear out” before I do anything. And it hasn’t worn out yet! After reading your article, I’m no longer fearful of that happening.

  • Sure appreciate your comment, Diane. You put a smile on my face. Isn’t it funny how we’re all influenced to one degree or the other by the talk and hype. Guess we’ll be hearing ’em go on about fertilizers etc. forever.

  • The top soil came from Beppy’s farm…down by the creek. I added peat moss on the advice of my cousin Lutie ( and also because it keeps the soil loose.

  • If the top soil came from Beppy’s farm, I’ll bet it’s great! Good job Dink. Thanks for the reply.

  • I found deposit of phytoplankton from inland was mined long before our blooms alga that makes fish and birds and bugs happy.

  • I’m from high-altitude mexico. The worn out soil manifests itself on mans face and body form. No to easily seen looking at soil. Poverty, subsistence, corn in sinaloa, beans, chili, at high plains, or basin. My region is over a dead sea layer of 2 meter deep phyto-plankton. The mesquite behind church is 4 times as big. Roots in saline sea, but intimate with algal level. I study the microbes, bacterial and algal by how they manifest in animal and plant. Corkscrewing mesquite pods, them and purslane turn purple. I’ve been feeding water this mineral like plant plankton, making an ambient chlorella bloom that make lobster and fish filter feed constantly, hardly moving, guppy and goldfish, turning green water, fed greendirt, have a 3 ” fecal column stay intact.

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