Maintaining Healthy Soil

The Abundant Garden: Growing Quality Kids Through Gardening by

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Maintaining healthy soil: an activity for children of all ages. In this activity, children will learn how to provide nutrients in a way that will continually feed their plants and help maintain a healthy garden ecosystem.

  • Supplies:
    • internet access
    • organic soil amendments such as:
      • coffee grounds
      • egg shells
      • compost
      • worm castings
      • well composted manure
    • mulch such as:
      • straw
      • wood chips
      • grass clippings
    • soil test (optional)
    • garden notebook
    • pencil and eraser
  • In this activity you will use a method of soil amendment called top dressing. This simply means adding nutrients on top of the soil and letting rain, earthworms, and natural processes bring the nutrients down to the plant roots.
  • If you haven’t tested your soil yet, you may want to consider doing this first either with a simple test kit or by sending your soil out to a lab to be tested (see more on this in unit 2). Knowing your nutrient levels before hand helps in knowing which amendments to focus on.
  • Use the internet to research the specific types of plants in your garden and what types of nutrients they love. For example, corn loves nitrogen (coffee grounds or manure) and tomatoes love calcium (egg shells).
  • Choose an appropriate amendment and add it to the top of the soil around these plants. For example, around your corn you can add nitrogen rich things like coffee grounds or manure. Make sure the manure is well composted (not too hot) or that you only add a thin layer of coffee grounds. For tomatoes simply crush up dried egg shells and sprinkle them around your tomato plants.
  • Add mulch as well around your plants. This will add a carbon source to your soil, as well as keep the plants from drying out. Moist soil also allows earthworms to aid in pulling nutrients from top dressing into the soil. When adding fresh grass clippings make sure not to add to many as they are also very high in nitrogen (hot).
  • Repeat once or twice a season or as necessary.
  • Document actions and results in the garden notebook.