Heirloom Expert: Adding Organic Matter to Soil

How can you add organic matter to garden soil without compost or manure?

  • Oats, winter rye and buckwheat are all good choices for cover crops.
    Photo by Fotolia/peangdao

I’ve read your advice about adding organic matter to the garden, but I’ve got some physical issues which make it hard to bring in wheelbarrows of compost or manure into the garden. Any other way to improve the soil? I love to garden and do it organically. — Cindy from Nebraska

Cindy, this is the perfect time to plant a cover crop or what we call a green manure. There are many different plants used which are planted now, then turned into the garden next spring. Winter rye and buckwheat are two of my favorites, as they are easy to find and germinate well in cool fall temperatures. Look through the Baker Creek catalog to find the cover crop which is right for you.

Cover crops also stop winter erosion of the garden soil and can often times be habitat for beneficial insects.


11/9/2019 7:24:48 AM

Jobewe - turning the cover crop really isn’t necessary. Come planting time, just interplanted your crop into the cover crop. The cover crops will die back on their own with increased heat and shade from crops. By not turning the cover crop, you will increase soil nutrition, microbes and the cover crop roots provide aeration and moisture migration.

11/7/2019 8:14:16 AM

I realize this is an older article, but hoping someone might see this question and have an answer at some point..... With all the articles on organic soil building and cover crops, not one I've ever read says HOW the author or gardener "turns into the soil". The only non backbreaking way I know of to turn soil in a large garden is tilling. But so many of the articles say this is not a true healthy way to take care of your soil because of erosion, and most importantly it breaks up the mycillium. Covering a grassy space with newspaper and cardboard blocks the sun and smothers the important must have nutrients your trying to build. So, how does one begin a garden in grassy area and over time turn the cover crop into the soil ???

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