While fall may be the best season to savor local fruits and vegetables, it’s also a great time to plant them. Thanks to a mild Mediterranean climate, East Bay gardeners can grow and harvest fresh produce all winter long. When planting your winter garden, make it thrive by feeding your soil with compost. Compost boosts fertility, enhances soil structure, and improves nutrient and water retention. It also encourages favorable microbial activity, which leads to vigorous and healthy plants that resist pests and diseases.
There are many different ways to add compost while preparing your winter garden. If you don’t have a lot of time or energy, a simple top dressing with compost can increase the health and yield of food crops—both annuals and perennials. Sheet mulching—layering cardboard, compost, and mulch—is another method that controls weeds while also building healthy soil.
For gardeners who can spare some elbow grease, double digging opens up new ground fast and lets you add compost deep down in the root zone. Double digging involves removing the top layer of soil to about the depth of a shovel, loosening the next layer down while adding in compost, and then replacing the topsoil. This alternative to rototilling creates extra-deep beds, removes weeds, and loosens up the topsoil, which makes it easy to plant new crops. Rototilling, by contrast, damages soil structure, tears apart organic matter, and brings dormant weed seeds to the surface where they can germinate.
Give some of these soil-building techniques a try, and you will enjoy the results during your winter harvests. Get more details and find a directory of vendors who provide bulk compost, mulch, and other sheet mulch materials at StopWaste’s Lawn to Garden website, lawntogarden.org.
For the Love of Food: Throughout each season, Edible East Bay’s e-newsletter features StopFoodWaste videos and tips to PLAN, STORE, EAT, and COMPOST your food so it doesn’t go to waste. Sign up for the newsletter at edibleeastbay.com or search the website blog for past and current posts in this series.