Don’t fight your soil trying to grow “ideal” crops. Those of us who have undertaken growing our own food understand intimately how much work it can be. Soil quality is one issue that consumes a disproportionate amount of time and work to overcome. Often, we are in possession of land that has less than optimum soil for growing crops. The generic solution is to build up and work that soil until it is of the consistency and PH desirable. Achieving this “optimum” gardening soil can be daunting and take years. Today I want to suggest a different approach that requires far less work and time, but will still yield suitable crop yields.
Your simple solution to soil quality is to find and plant crops that like your soil. If this advice sounds like common sense, you are correct. Perhaps your soil is highly acidic. Don’t spend your cash on lime to sweeten the PH and waste days spreading and turning under the lime. Instead, find a crop such as blueberries that thrive in acidic soil. Identify as many crop staples as possible that like your soil and plant them before attempting to modify your soil. Further, identify a few key crops that you can grow more extensively over the short and long term that will double as a cash crop. You can then use these staple crops as barter for other crops that do not do well in your soil. Continuing with the acidic soil example, you could immediately begin growing perennial cash crops such as blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, which would abundantly produce in as little as a year. These crops are wonderful to support your family’s nutritional needs as well as for sale or trade. Simultaneously, begin planting for mid and long term crops. Various fruit trees are a midterm investment of time before production and nut trees tend to be long term so the sooner you get them going the better. A couple varieties of plum and cherry trees grow fine in more acidic soils. Nut trees, such has hickories and walnuts, not only like slightly acidic soil, but will turn the soil acidic. As such, this natural mix of trees is well balanced to be grown together. This simple mix of crops tend to grow well even natively so are very low input, very hardy, and can provide a significant portion of your nutritional needs.
Employing this strategy from the beginning will save you significant amounts of time, money, and energy gardening. Further, this strategy will allow for you to better sustain your crops through good times and bad. Remember, if your soil needs annual fortification from commercial fertilizers, it will not be sustainable in hard times. You must design your garden to be as independent and sustainable as possible. This will include crop rotation, using various organic fertilization techniques, and finding crops well suited to the natural soil conditions on your property. Fail to heed this advice and you may find yourself stockpiled with many types of crops you cannot grow when your local feed and seed store is no longer allowed or able to sell items such as fertilizer, lime, and bug sprays.
By Guiles Hendrik