How to make soil

soil5

I am the daughter of a survivor of The Great Depression. I learned many lessons on her lap and these lessons are more valuable now than ever.

With climate worldwide being so unstable, how will you sustain your access to food, as food becomes scarcer and more expensive?

Mom was very worried that we would not know how to feed ourselves in times of food shortages.

During the Great Depression, Newfoundlanders had to grow, hunt and gather their own food. She taught me and my five siblings how to grow and gather food in case a similar world event ever happened in the future.

Because I live in an isolated town in Northern Labrador, I purchase most of my fruits and vegetables at local stores. Like most stores, this produce comes from many places around the world — Morocco, Chile, the United States, and so on.

What happens if there is an interruption in the transportation system or crops fail?

How many people remember how to grow their own food?

Now that I have retired, I am determined to grow some of my own food.

The weather can be a pain. Two summers ago in July, it rained every day and the temperature was below 10 degrees Celsius. By August, the sun came out and the temperatures rose. Thankfully, the long days of sunlight balanced out the short summer season and I got some potatoes, lots of rhubarb, and many delicious strawberries.

Growing crops in the North of Canada is not an easy task. The soil in Rigolet is very thin and acidic. The layer of soil is only a few inches deep. As a result, I have had to “make” my own soil.

Here is how I did it:

  • I mixed 6 bags of sheep, cow or chicken compost (whatever was available at the local greenhouse) with each 3.5 cf. bag of peat and sand.
  • The sand was about 1/3 the mixture.
  • To this I added lime. See the instructions on the package for the lime for how much to add to the mix.
  • I added in some seaweed and vegetable peelings. (Do not add potato nor turnip peel to your compost or garden.) This gave me the makings of a great growing medium.

Two summers ago, a friend helped me out by turning pallets (must be chemical free) into boxes that I used to grow strawberries. As you can see in the photos, the strawberries in one box grew better than those in the other box.

What happened?

In the box where the strawberries grew well, I used my soil mix of compost, peat and sand. I added lime. In the other I forgot the lime. What a difference lime makes!!!

Lesson learned!

This year I plan to combat our short growing season by building some covered beds and a small greenhouse.

When will the snow be gone this year? When will the soil be ready to accept seeds and plants?

Hopefully I will be able to plant potatoes and other vegetables by the end of June.

That’s right I wrote June. I live in the North where winters are longer and spring comes late. The longer hours in the days during summer help the plants to grow.

Last week, my husband added saw dust to my garden. Now I need to do a little research on how to break that down.

I will be adding lime and bone meal a few weeks before I plant my seeds.

We have a wood stove and I have been asking him to dump the ashes on my garden as well. He still has not done that.

Ashes contain valuable nutrients, hence the slash and burn gardens that were used in rain forests.

He plans on getting me seaweed next week. For information about the use of seaweed in your garden go to http://learn.eartheasy.com/2010/09/how-to-use-seaweed-to-mulch-your-garden/

My maternal grandmother added seaweed and ashes to her garden. This garden fed her family. It was not a hobby, IT WAS SURVIVAL!

Seaweed is a great source of nutrients.

The last time I was in Ireland, I took a tour to the Cliff of Moher in the south. As the bus driver took us through an area with lush fields he told us how the farmers “made” their own soil with seaweed.

Obviously the addition of seaweed to gardens is an old tradition world-wide.

I know that my rhubarb has benefitted greatly from the addition of seaweed.

I hope this information helps readers who want to grow vegetables, especially readers in the far North or far South — depending on in which hemisphere you live.

For information about food security check out web sites such as Food First NL. http://www.foodfirstnl.ca/about-us/

This site contains stories about growing food mainly in containers, storing food, composting and many other project related to food security.

Talk to local growers who have experience in your area.

If you have any tips on how to improve your soil in these extreme climates, please feel free to add your comment in the space below.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s