Soil Enhancement


Steve Nauman

Ever since I was about 5 years old, I’ve had an ongoing interest in growing things–vegetables, flowers and even trees. The first little ‘tidbits’ of gardening knowledge came from paying attention to what my great grandfather and both grandfathers had to say when they were planting or working in their gardens. Even my great aunt taught me a little about flowers! (She would have been excited to see our geraniums that are almost 20 years old!)

As a young teenager, I also would ride my bike and stop to talk when I would see an older man working in his garden (if he had a good looking garden, and I always knew the people where I stopped–and they knew me…it was a very small town!) 

One man especially, had a huge garden, but always had what looked like grass or something growing next to it, then the following year his garden was where the “grass” had been and the “grass” was growing where the garden had been the year before!  When I asked him about the garden appearing to change sides each year, he explained to me about “cover crops” and how they enhance the soil, and supply nutrients for the following years garden! So….. That was about 50 years ago and I’ve been learning about and practicing ways to always improve my garden soil ever since.

Thirty years ago, when I selected the site where our garden is now, you could say I was somewhat prepared for what I discovered, because the ‘soil’ was a heavy clay and nearly impossible to even till-up! But, I remembered what I had learned about enhancing the soil with cover crops!  So that first year I just worked on the soil, growing annual rye-turning it into the soil when it started forming seed heads. Then a few weeks later I planted buckwheat that stayed on until it was killed by the first frost.

In the spring I tilled in the remains of the buckwheat and after just one year of cover crops, the difference in that soil was very noticeable! So I planted some vegetables and more cover crops, the vegetables did great and the soil continued to improve. Eventually, that garden grew in size, the soil became rich, light and full of nutrients now I’m thinking of buying some belting products and a Mobile Trommel for the next harvesting season.

We do the “half one year, and then reverse method” like the man taught me when I was a teenager. We grow popcorn on half and the other half grows three different cover crops, each one pulling different nutrients up from the subsoil to the topsoil, then when the plants get tilled under, they feed the redworms-that are constantly improving the soil. Then of course next years popcorn grows where the cover crops were growing and the popcorn always has rich soil to grow in because there were three different cover crops grown there the year before.

Maybe some who don’t have experience growing things, or do but view it as drudgery, don’t quite understand WHY someone would want to “do all that work” or “waste all that time” even learning about such things! Well, we’re all different with different interests and hobbies and things we like to do–or dislike! I like to think that this has just been one of the many small things in my life that I enjoy, and when I remember God has created all this for us to work with and try to figure out….. it ends up being a “small puzzle piece” that helps to spell out the word CONTENTMENT in my life!    “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Till Next Timeā€¦..

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Steve Nauman

These wonderful posts are written by my good friend Steve Nauman. He lives on a farm in northern Indiana with his wife, Ruth.

He owned and operated a machine shop until 2020. These stories come from the people and experiences that made lasting impressions upon him as he grew up in his father's general store in Upstate NY and later in his own business.