This weekend, I drove three hours out to apple country (which is now more of a peach country) for a last-of-the-season swim in Lake Chelan and first-of-the-season green apples for making green apple pectin. On the road through Blewitt Pass and the farm country just east of there, I couldn't help but think about big agriculture. Amidst green vineyards and irrigated fields, it leaves a lot to ponder for a lil' urban gardener, like me (and you!). As if the universe knew I was pondering, the next day I found an old National Geographic magazine sitting in the main cabin where I stayed. Drawn to the cover "Where our Food Comes From", I picked it up for some lakeside reading. What I found was a fascinating article on soil that everyone should read. Now, I know soil doesn't sound super important, but it is. Topsoil is not a dime a dozen, as we're often inclined to think. We shovel it up, push it around, bulldoze it for housing developments, but much like seemingly free-flowing fresh water, it's a precious resource everyone can do to learn more about. Read it - let me know what you think.
While our urban gardens don't necessarily bare as large a global impact, soil is the number one factor to the success of a home veggie garden. (ok, ok - water and sun are pretty darn important, too) Whether you've just paid $200 to have a bunch of topsoil delivered this season, or you're fortunate enough to have a backyard full of the stuff, it's our job as land owners to protect the soil, so it keeps giving back. Why go through all the trouble of conditioning our gardens in Spring and Summer only to let them falter over Fall and Winter?
This fall, make sure to do right by the soil we grow food in and plant a cover crop or winter garden. Bare soil tends to wash away - both nutrients and general mass. Soil filled with plants will hold tight, the plant roots anchoring soil down and helping prevent run off. There are lots of choices for cover crop - clover, arugula and even your winter plants (think kale, chard or chicories). Whatever you choose, choose NOW and get it planted! The fall season is waning and what with cooler temps, it's best not to hesitate. Walts Organic is a great resource for bulk cover crop seeds, as is City Peoples in Madison. For more information on what your choices are, check out this site by WSU.
Now get planting!