Good gardening: Soils good enough to eat

Experienced horticulturalist Linda Brennan from EcoBotanica has listed her top 5 tips for soils good enough to eat.

In the Redlands gardeners have a range of soils to contend with. If you are on acreage, the soil in your front garden may be different to that in the back. It pays to have a dig and a close look at what you’ve got before planting.


Through our food plants, we are actually eating the produce that reflects soil health. If our soils are deficient in minerals our food may well be low in those minerals too, and so it flows on to our bodies and deficiencies there. So, my suggestion is to create mineral rich, fertile organic soil especially if you are growing veggies. And remember soil improvement doesn’t just happen overnight like on the TV garden shows. It’s a long term fix that can take many years of regular attention.

My 5 Top tips for creating soils good enough to eat:

  1. Aim to grow mineral and micro-organism rich soils. Soils are living entities. Each teaspoon of soil teems with billions of beneficial bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes. These are the unseen workers that convert compost to fertiliser, minerals to plant available forms and that help to create gorgeous soils.
  2. To grow lots of those willing workers you need to give them air. Aerate your soil with a fork or by digging if your soil is hard and compact. Try working your soil now for ease of digging before it sets like rock. Gypsum is known as a soil conditioner for clay soils. Apply after forking over then water in.
  3. Give your soil a mulch layer. It’s like a protective blanket that regulates soil temperature and moisture and in time becomes soil humus and micro-organism food. Worms love a moist mulched soil too.
  4. When adding mulch, if you add forest mulch or chips, always sprinkle some manure or fertiliser on the soil before mulching to reduce nitrogen draw down. This condition is where the bacteria breaking down a mulch rob the soil of its nitrogen for their energy source. This means plants will yellow too as they need protein from nitrogen as well. Adding some fertiliser provides nitrogen for plants and bacteria.
  5. Create your own compost for use in the soil. Compost acts like a sponge in the soil, opening the tiny particles, allowing air in, holding water and nutrients and providing food and rich humus.

Linda Brennan from EcoBotanica is an experienced horticulturalist located in the Redlands who recently ran a series of organic and native gardening workshops in partnership with the Redlands IndigiScapes Centre. Thanks to Linda for writing this article and for the use of the featured photo.