Getting organic matter into the soilAugust 3, 2010
I've started organic gardening, but my soil isn't very good. I have found multiple ways of getting organic matter into my soil, but my garden is huge 50' x 150'. In your opinion what would be the best way to get organic matter into my soil. I have a compost pile, but it is not big enough to support the entire garden. Should I grow a cover crop? Should I layer the garden with green sand fertilizer, manure then hay? My soil has a lot of clay. I have been putting hay and grass around my plants during this season. Any help is appreciated.
Yes, and yes. Manure, hay (although many people don't like hay because of field grass seeds, I just pull them when they sprout), and compost are all good steps. Get a big delivery of manure and hay, and spread them evenly in layers, hay on top for the winter. But you mention cover crops and that might even be better. Just yesterday I read this article at Cornucopia, which says:
Forage legumes, such as alfalfa and clover in crop rotations can: supply nitrogen for grain crops; increase soil organic matter; improve soil structure and tilth; and
reduce weed pressure.
While you're probably not doing grain crops, the idea is the same. If you need organic matter in your soil, which we all do every year, then grow some right there on the spot! Be sure to read up on the specifics, like when to turn the cover crop under. I've never done cover crops, but I suppose that once you turn them, you'll still need manure and mulch to overwinter the site (depending on the harshness of your winter).
I use peat moss to organic up this very limey and clay-like soil here in upstate NY. That may be an expensive proposition for something of your scale, but it works very well. Grass clippings are good too!
Good luck and let me know what you decide!