Urban Agriculture Business Information Bundle
A healthy soil is critical to sustaining a productive garden. Healthy refers to the activity and diversity of soil organisms, the fertility of the soil and its physical structure. The first step is testing your soil so you can address any nutrient deficiencies or limitations in organic matter or soil pH. Understanding your current soil conditions (such as texture, drainage and pH) also lets you choose the type of plants best suited to grow there.
OMAFRA's Online Gardener's Handbook explains the basics of soil, plant nutrition and fertilizers.
For more information on soil management, see OMAFRA's Ontario Crop IPM and SARE Building Soils for Better Crops
Composting is an excellent way to generate organic material to improve your soil, converting kitchen scraps and garden waste into a rich compost you can dig into your garden or use as top dressing.
For details see:
- OMAFRA's Agricultural Composting Basics
- The Region of Peel's Composting at Home site (which includes information on vermicomposting)
- The Government of New Brunswick's Composting Information
If outdoor space is scarce, you can compost indoors with vermicomposting. This system relies on red wiggler worms to break down your kitchen scraps. Read OMAFRA's Vermicasting (or Vermicomposting): Processing Organic Wastes Through Earthworms.Vermicomposting also works outdoors. For larger-scale systems, see the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada's Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture.
OMAFRA-accredited soil tests will help you determine whether you need to add amendments for optimum plant growth. If you suspect your soil may be contaminated, ask the lab to check for the pollutants you believe may be present. (Be sure to find out the cost of these tests first.)
For a list of accredited labs in Ontario that perform soil tests, see OMAFRA's Accredited Soil Testing Laboratories in Ontario
There are a number of ways to boost the fertility of your soil and improve its structure, so that it holds more water, supports more soil organisms and is easy to work.
For details, see City of Toronto's Improving Your Soil Organically for Successful Gardening
The value of manure in crop production is often under-estimated. Manure contains all of the nutrients needed by crops but not necessarily in the proportions needed for specific soil and crop conditions. In addition to nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, manure contains many secondary nutrients and micronutrients, as well as organic matter that help build and maintain soil structure.
You can find information about the nutrient content of manure on OMAFRA's Soil Fertility and Nutrient Use: Manure Management.
For more information:
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