ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – As we bring in the last of our fall harvest, it’s tempting to just dig up the rest of the garden and get rid of the remnants, but current thinking says it’s best to disturb the ground as little as possible.
“The less you can disturb the soil the healthier that ecosystem is,” says Master Gardener Dohnn Wood. “Think of it as if someone came in and just took a back hoe to your street. Your life would be really disrupted right? It’s kind of the same thing. If we were to rip up the soil and turn it all over, all that life that’s happening under the soil would all be disrupted and that’s actually what feeds your plants so the less we can do to disturb that, the happier that life will be and the more plentiful.”
The Woods still have food left to harvest but some of their garden beds are ready to be put to bed for the year, with the goal of improving the soil and making their spring work as easy as possible.
The first step is getting rid of the remaining vegetable material.
“Traditionally, what we’ve been told is to pull that up, to just twist it up and pull it out by the roots,” says Wood. “But the current thinking is, to cut that off.”
This leaves the root of the plant in the ground to feed the microbes in the soil.
Wood also says to pull out any perennial weeds, like dandelions so they don’t get a start for next year, then add a layer of compost on the top.
“You can buy bagged compost,” says Wood. “You just want something that’s biologically active. And we’re going to cover the bed with about an inch of fresh compost.”
The compost is added to replace the nutrients that are taken out of the soil during harvest.
“If it was in the wild, it would have just fallen down and started to be eaten by the bugs,” says Wood. “So we’re having to replace that with something because we’ve taken the food for ourselves.”
“There is no waste in nature so if we try and mimic those concepts, we can grow tons of food in small areas, without really a lot of work,” Wood concludes.
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