Springtime is the perfect time for kids to revitalize the soil in their raised bed gardens. The beauty of container gardening is filling the container with rich organic soil from the garden center or local soil company, even if the dirt beneath it is poor or the area is small. Then kids can create their own soil by filling a compost bin. Organic soil is alive with microorganisms, mycorrhizae, fungus, algae, and bacteria. Every cubic inch of healthy soil is a miniature world of beneficial living organisms that feed all living things on our planet. This micro-universe takes the organic material in the soil and turns it into useable food and nutrients for the vegetables and fruit growing in the garden.
Healthy soil likes to be layered. Soil layers start with a mulch of compost, organic material that is incorporated into the soil by microorganisms, worms, and insects, with a humus rich layer of topsoil beneath. Kids can layer compost on top of last years garden to improve soil structure, so that it retains more water and gives roots more room to grow. Fungi and bacteria in the compost are highly adaptable decomposers, secreting enzymes that convert the raw materials into an energy source which enriches the soil. Kids can add red wriggler worms, who excrete a highly nitrous fertilizer called castings into the soil. This casting has the highest quality nutrients and micro-organisms for water retention, air flow, and minerals, which makes the best food for the veggie plants.
Kids can also plant a season of cover crops, like peas, clover, or beans, to build the soil’s fertility. One of the best ways to minimize pests and diseases in the soil is by crop rotation, planting a different crop in the same soil every year. Companion planting cultivates foods that grow well together and nourish each other’s roots, enhancing their flavors, nutrients, and resilience to pests and diseases. Other ways kids can avoid pests and diseases is by planting herbs and native plants that encourage beneficial predators to the garden and by selecting local organic heirloom seeds.