As an environmental warrior, you understand that soil is a critical resource. Managing it well improves or degrades its quality. As a complex ecosystem, the soil has several elements including living microorganisms and plant roots. All of these play crucial roles in making soil healthy by creating a dynamic structure that regulates water, air, and nutrients. This is why soil processes that support plant growth and regulate environmental quality are affected by management practices. It is possible to design a simple crop and soil management system that improves and maintains soil health over time in your backyard. Here are Norther’s 5 top tips for reducing your climate footprint in the Northern Territory with your backyard soil.
#1 Know the Soil you are Working WithSpend some time in your garden and feel your soil. Field observations can help determine the soil texture, structure, and workability. Silt feels like flour when dry and silky when wet. Clay soil feels sticky and dries into hard sections, which often crack. If it feels coarse and gritty and also falls apart when wet, that is sandy soil. You can take this a bit further and do a soil test. This will help you understand beyond the basics. You will know what your soil needs and when it will direct you to your next steps. Sometimes you might even need a soil test to help you better understand your soil composition.
#2 Feed your Soil with Organic Mulching
When done correctly, mulching is a very beneficial garden practice. Organic mulches protect and improve garden soil as they assist in moisture retention. Another benefit of mulching in your garden is moderating seasonal temperatures, as we all know the Northern Territory (NT) gets hot in the wet season and mulch serves as shade for the soil. This also helps in lessening weed germination and growth. One of the crucial elements of mulch is that it protects against runoff which tends to happen during the tropical season here in the Northern Territory.
Where can you find mulch? A variety of organic mulch materials exist for the home garden, including shredded bark or hardwood, shredded leaves, ½-inch screened compost, pine needles, pine bark nuggets, coarse wood chips and straw. All of these can be found online here or in gardening stores around the Northern Territory. There are different types of mulch, it is crucial to understand what your soil needs first before feeding it any of the mulch available on the market.
#3 Know When and What to Plant
There are plants known as ‘cover crops’ that contribute numerous benefits to soil health. These keep the soil covered during the winter and reduce erosion. The good thing about these is that they produce biomass that you want to return to the soil. Fibrous-rooted cover crops can promote aggregation and stabilize the soil. Legume cover crops can add nitrogen to the soil through nitrogen fixation. Cover crops can retain nitrate and other nutrients that are susceptible to leaching losses. To find out the best type ‘cover plants’ for your garden in the Northern Territory (or Australia) check out these books that offer great solutions.
#4 Rotate Crops
Crop rotation will help you fight soil borne pests and disease life cycles. These rotations will assist in managing weeds. By growing a diverse range of crops in the wet and dry seasons, pests that thrive within a certain crop are not given a chance to thrive. Rotating crops can also help reduce nutrient excesses.
#5 Understand the Wet and Dry Season
The Northern Territory has two distinct seasons, each containing aspects that must be thoughtfully considered when managing soil. They are also a calendar and signify when to undertake certain activities. Each season affects the soil differently. Here are a few things you need to know about how to take care of your backyard soil.
The Wet Season
The wet season is a time when the Northern Territory gets greener and everything flourishes. It is time to make sure your water storage and drainage systems are ready for the heavy rains. It is also essential that you compost during this time. This is the time to plant fruit trees, and perennial veggies as they flourish during this time of the year. Veggie ideas: sweet potato, spinach, leaf amaranth, Kang kong and sweet leaf, grow rampantly during this time of the year. Things to be aware of: pest numbers jump rapidly during this time of the year so be sure to watch for damage and mould, fungus and mildew.
The Dry Season
The dry season is typically when temperatures drop and most people close up their gardens but as a planet warrior, this is your time to shine! This is the time for you to prune your trees and allow for more sun to reach your dry-season crops. Be sure to feed your compost and keep it alive by watering it.
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Healthier soil grows healthier plants, and healthier plants are more nutritious plants. On a larger scale when we take care of our soil, we take care of our environment making it serve us better.
We would love your feedback on this page – please comment below if you’ve found our soil care ideas useful! Get your daily fix of Northern Territory beauty by following @darwinweloveyou and @northerhq. Please signup here to join our newsletter list to be the first to get travel hints and local recommendations.