Soil conditioning

I just watched biggest little farm and Kiss the Ground, both on Netflix. They’re both amazing farming diversification stories. Kiss the Ground advocates tiller-less planting and makes me wonder if I should be turning over my soil to loosen it up around my flowers and preparing for planting in my vegetable garden. Is this a bad idea?

the film does advocate reduced or no tillage farming to keep existing carbon (organic matter) in the soil and add to it over time. The degree to which you can do this depends on your soil, if you have a heavy clay soil that stays wet long after rain you may want to do what you are doing will opening up the soil to let air in and let the soil dry and warm up. Sandier soils require less tilling. The whole point is to grow the plants (flowers or veggies) as well as they can grow.Their roots will put new organic matter in the soil, and if you dont cultivate the soil too often and can use mulches around the plants you will be helping your soil grow the plants well and store carbon from the atmosphere.


I have been adding fish compost from Black Gold on my garden for the past 10 years and also stopped turning my soil over by hand 3 years ago.
I noticed when planting this year that the first 4-5 inches has the fine wood particles from the fish compost and is quite dry. I’m thinking about digging that layer in in the fall so when I plant next year there is more soil to dig into. Is that a recommended thing to do?

Hi Chris,
Yes compost added to the soil works best when it is mixed into the existing soil. If you have 4 to 5 inches of compost I would dig it into the top 6 inches of soil below it.

I’ve been watching you tube Charles Dowding on no-till gardening and he’s a strong proponent of only adding compost every year to the surface and never digging. His videos are pretty excellent and cover a lot of areas, especially lasagna layering of new gardens to maintain the soil but also no weeds.

Hi John Thanks for that info. That was my gut feeling but I have been hesitant as I’m trying to follow the no till ideas. I can’t see the worms moving all the fish compost around so I shall carefully turn things over in the fall. Chris :woman_farmer:t3:

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if the compost you add every year has completely decomposed to a carbon to nitrogen ration of about 12 to 1, it will be similar to a black native prairie soil (one of the best in the world. in that case, with enough rainfall you will be able to sustain a great garden.
FYI…Charles Dowding organic farms in Somerset England which is cooler in summer and has more summer rain than here to sustain his organic methods. 4 to 6 inches of organic compost on the surface runs the risk of drying out here if not watered frequently. Our summer rain (non existent this year) will not do the trick. If you dig the compost into the underlying mineral soil you will have a deeper soil to store more water and allow the plant roots to go deeper to get it, and less watering needed as a result.


Yes that’s true they have a bit of a different climate. I was thinking I could lay compost instead of mulch. I’m also using sky rocket and wonder if the nitrogen content is much different than other compost.
Water is such a worry. I converted to a drip irrigation last summer but I still lost a number of plants although I run it for 40 min 3 times a week.

Hi Darrell,
A 2 to 3 inch mulch layer will certainly help conserve moisture. I would not recommend Sky Rocket compost for that purpose. The CVRD website has very specific recommendations for its use as a soil ammendment only. I do not know its nutrient value and they dont tell you on the website so I have put in a specific request for their lab data. I will let you know what I find out.
we have drip irrigation in our greenhouse. We have it on for 4 hrs once a week and all plants are doing fine. I think the trick for healthy plants is to water deep into the soil and let the plant roots go deep after it between watering.


Wow 4 hrs. I guess I need to increase my water time although it seems like a heck of a lot of water.

I was also quite hesitant to use sky rocket like other compost but then thought they were likely being overly conservative since many people are so hung up about human waste.

Thanks again :slight_smile:

Hi Darrell,
I did get some results from CVRD re Sky Rocket compost. Their data does verify that the product is safe to use as recommended on their web site. The compost product meets Class A compost criteria for unrestricted use.
However they appear not to have any analytical data to verify their claim on the website that Sky Rocket is high nitrogen and nutrient rich. Nor do they have data
on salinity to reassure us that salts are not an issue for the garden.
It is disappointing that they were not able to provide the nutrient data and I have suggested they temper their marketing statements accordingly.
So unfortunately I cannot answer your original question as to whether the nitrogen content of Sky Rocket is different than other composts.
Cheers, John


Thanks John. I have a huge load on my garden so I’ll let you know if there’s anything but great results

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We have our new drip irrigation system on for 4 minutes twice a day on thirsty plants and everything is doing great. So, less than an hour a week. We have spent a lot of effort amending the soil over the years.


I’ve been gently corrected - we started with four minutes twice a day, but dropped to 3 minutes once a day a few weeks ago as days began to shorten. Everything is very happy.


That’s amazing! Do you add fish compost every year? If so, how much? Any other tips you can provide to get water usage down so low?

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Yes that seems impossible.

I guess there is drip irrigation, then there is micro irrigation; we have the latter. ie little spray heads that attach to the hose, wherever you want to water plants. The big advantage of these is you can dial them up or down, and, if needed, add more.
We don’t use fish compost; we buy compost from Vancouver Island Enterprises (Knight Rd); we also regularly add our own compost from our Speedibin. If available, seaweed in the fall; horse manure occasionally. Leaf mulch over winter, whatever is available.


I would love to see a photo of your micro irrigation hose with the little spray heads. :upside_down_face:

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Sorry it took me so long!