Soil is a key part to organic farming. If the soil is healthy then the plant is healthy. For example, if the soil is rich and has nutrients then the plant will grow up strong and healthy. If the soil’s nutrients are all gone the plant will not grow up that strong or healthy. To keep the soil healthy, organic farmers use compost, cover crops, and crop rotation. Farmers also need the right kind of soil for their plants.
Compost is rotted and decayed plants. For example, vegetable wastes, grass cuttings, and dead flowers can make compost. Air, heat, lime, water, nitrogen, and bacteria combined can make a rich soil that is ideal for growing plants. The bacteria feed on the nitrogen. A compost heap must be very, very hot. Usually the core of a compost heap is about 145 degrees Fahrenheit. To give you an example of compost, you can go in to the woods where the leaves are thick on the ground and then feel some of the leaves. The leaves will probably be warm and damp. This means they are starting to decay. Once the compost is mixed with the soil, it enriches the soil with food and structure.
Soil starts out with a lot of nutrients and good things in it, but a lot of plants that grow in it like to take away all those good things and nutrients. Luckily some plants can give those nutrients and good things back to the soil. These plants are cover crops. Let’s say you plant pumpkins every summer. After you pick the pumpkins you can fill up that land with a cover crop. The pumpkins have taken away most of the nutrients. But if you plant a cover crop and till it under with the soil when it has grown, the cover crop will give good things back to the soil. Cover crops such as rye, alfalfa, hairy vetch, and bell beans also keep soil from sliding away with their roots, can suffocate weeds, and shade soil from the sun.
Crop rotation can help in a lot of ways. Monoculture used to be a very large problem. Monoculture happens when a crop is grown in the same spot for seasons and seasons. A single crop likes the same kind of nutrients. But if that crop is grown many seasons in a row, the nutrients that it likes will be used up. All the nutrients aren’t gone though, only the ones that the crop likes. This is where crop rotation comes in. Crop rotation is when you switch the type of plant grown on a piece of land from season to season. There are two main categories of plants. There are plants that need nitrogen and plants that can add nitrogen to the soil for the other plants. If you rotate between plants that need nitrogen and plants that add nitrogen, your land will always be healthy. Another good thing about crop rotation is it confuses garden pests. If the same crops are grown, then the pests will become used to your garden. If you keep rotating your crops the pests will get confused, and that makes their numbers smaller.
Acidic, Neutral, and Base
To grow organic food you need the right kinds of soil. There are three different kinds of soil: acidic, base, and neutral. Acidic means that the pH level is less than 7, base means the pH level is more than 7, and neutral means that the pH level is 7. The kind of soil you need depends on the plant. For example potatoes need acidic ground and beans need base ground. To see what kind of soil you have you can use a soil kit. If you have too much of one thing you can add the opposite to make it more of the other.
Fields and Crops. Kids Organic. http://www.kids.organic.org.
Organic Gardening—Crop Rotation is Good for Your Garden! The Helpful Gardener. http://www.helpfulgardener.com/organic/2006/crop.html.