Building A Living Soil Profile with Paul Zimmerman

The richest soil in the world is found
on the forest floor and it’s important that you have that exact same living
soil profile in your own garden The reason the forest floor soil is so rich
is because all of this organic matter every single fall the leaves come off
the trees and they fall on the ground they break down over 12 months time they
become compost then 12 months later what happens more leaves fall this repeats
itself every single year it’s important to keep that concept in mind because
that’s exactly what we’re going to create in your own garden and we’ll
start with preparing a brand new bed before we start talking about how to
prepare a brand new bed I want to explain what I mean by a living soil profile I’m
talking about a thing called Mycorrhizae you probably heard about it maybe
don’t know quite what it does it’s simple they’re living organisms in the soil
what they do is they break down organic matter then they make that matter
available to the plants also fertilizers that you put in there very important how do they do this it’s easy if this is
your plants roots the Mycorrhizae that come in they attach themselves to the roots
they put out tendrils that go out into the soil they make all that food
available by breaking it down they bring it back into your plants they receive
sugars in exchange for that that’s why it’s called a symbiotic
relationship so creating that living soil profile with all those living
beneficial Mycorrhizae and beneficial fungus is what’s important notice I said
organic matter that’s a key so when you’re doing a brand new bed the first
thing you’re going to do is add organic matter the way to do this is simple
about two to three months before you want to plant I do this in the winter a
lot because I know I want to plant in Spring go ahead and find your new bed lay it
out and start turning it over use a shovel use a roto tiller if you’ve got a
tracker you can use a subsoiler whatever you have will work just fine you start
to turn it and then why don’t you do is take some compost in our case we have
horses so I’ve got good compost in horse manure but you can make your own compost
Jackson and Perkins carries a lot of great composters and that’s a really good
way to get compost go ahead and lay that on there about two or three inches deep work it into the soil continue to work
it all through the entire soil and do the entire bed not just the areas that
you’re going to plant continue to work it in again to three months ahead of
time then the last thing you’re going to do is take a Mycorrhizae drench you can
find them in almost any garden center I’m gonna use a water and can use a hose
end sprayer whatever works for you and go ahead and get that Mycorrhizae
drench because that’s going to put Mycorrhizae in the soil and jumpstart your
living soil profile that’s how you do a brand new bed which is fairly easy but
what about an existing bed we’ve already got plants well there’s a method for
that as well An existing bed where I’ve already got plants like my Gaura and my Echinacea I can’t dig up the entire bed but I still have to get organic
matter in the ground for those Mycorrhizae to feed off of there’s a way to do this and you’re
gonna need three things one, worm castings your Mycorrhizae drench and believe it or not a bulb augur. The first step to getting this organic matter in the ground is to take a bulb augur and you see how easy that works about every two or three feet I’m going to basically drill myself a hole and I’m gonna do that
throughout the entire garden then I’m going to take my worm castings i’m going
to basically drop them in the hole and fill them up what you want to do and
when you’re done with that go ahead and cover your holes up I’m going to do this
throughout the entire bed making sure I stay away from the root zones of all the
plants that I’ve got already existing in the garden that’s how I can get organic matter in
this garden without disturbing the existing plants the last step is just
like the other one I’m going to take my Mycorrhizae drench I’m going to start to
spread it all throughout the garden now that we have jump-started living
soil profile either in a brand new bed our existing bed it’s important we
continue to build that year after year after year so that all those Mycorrhizae continue to have organic matter to feed off of to figure out how to do this
let’s go back to the forest floor analogy remember when the beginning when
I said that the leaves fall on the forest floor then they break down over
12 months to become compost here’s an important thing to remember that fresh
organic material be it leaves be it fresh mulch that you put on your garden needs
nitrogen to break down if you put it on bare soil it’s going to pull nitrogen
from the soil and from your plants that’s why I want to do something called
the two layered mulch approach when you mulch in spring every single year the
first mulch you’re going to put down a layer is going to be compost this is
your nitrogen producing layer you put it on the bare soil its then the buffer
between it and your next layer which is your fresh hardwood mulch which is your
nitrogen taking later what will happen over 12 months now is
this continues to break down this actually then becomes your nitrogen
producing later when the fresh hardwood mulch is decomposed and in fact if you
look at my bed right here this is this year’s mostly put down in spring when I
go down this is last year’s mulch which is now compost to create that living
soil profile and maintain it all year long just think of the forest floor now
I realize all this preparation up front seems like a lot of work would it be
easier to just dig the holes and ammend them well it is extra work up front I won’t kid you about that but think about this if I step outside my bed here and
look I can barely get a shovel into this soil but I prepare this entire bed and
here it slips right in making digging a lot easier and I can plant anywhere
without having to worry about amending the bed that’s why I want you to think of the
entire bed for Jackson and Perkins this is Paul Zimmerman and thanks for joining us in the garden

16 thoughts on “Building A Living Soil Profile with Paul Zimmerman

  1. I have a couple of questions. 1) You mention that for an established bed you have to dig holes and use worm castings. Does this have to be done every year ? And are the shredded leaves also inserted into the holes ? 2) How does this work with groundcovers ? Thank you

  2. Where do we get a pole-bogger to make the holes in the existing bed? Is there another name for it – I can't find one on the interenet? Please help!

  3. Thank you for this information. I have laid out my first rose bed (200Sq ft.) and have a problem, Bermuda grass… It is so dense in some area that the tiller literally bounces. How, what, can, I ever control this stuff? I have learned to live with it in my more informal garden by hand pulling or overplanting. However, this bed I want to have a more formal, tidy appearance so I'm fearful that even with 6" of mulch It's going to reappear. Weed cloth or herbicides…?

  4. Studies have shown that you can put wood chips directly on the soil surface. Nitrogen depletion will only occur in the very tiny zone where the chips meet the soil. This will not deplete nitrogen from plant roots, and over time will increase the overall nitrogen in the soil. Sure, compost is great to add also, but it isn't necessary, especially if you don't have any/enough. Bottom line is, cover the soil with ANY type of mulch.

  5. the worm castings look very dry you added to the holes . i would think all the microbes would be dead by now . also digging up the garden i would think disrupts the fungi . without the fungi you get many more weeds . a no till i feel would be better and just layer the new admendments on top and cover with a good compost . and use a cover crop of just clover and peas thats stays low to add nitrogen . people if you want a great garden learn korean natural farming and no till method. save your rain water . water from your tap kills some of the good bacteria if dont let set out to remove chlorine. paul please correct me if wrong i am learning and want my garden to grow to its full potential .

  6. Is the mycorrhizal drench for ALL plants, including roses? Do their roots form that symbiotic relationship?

  7. I, too, suggest the no till method. I have done both, and no till, or lasagne gardening once established, is so simple and water stretching, and best, highly productive. I live in Medford, so we have the same weather. In our very hot summers, due to my 4-6 inch mulch layer, I only water about every 20-25 days. I prefer to mulch with straw, as the golden color reflects the suns scorching heat, and the soil stays damp and cool.

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