Feeding the Soil


A healthy garden has a healthy appetite and its soil requires regular and balanced nutrition in order to maintain its health and productivity. As such, wise gardeners should try to offer their garden a well-timed and seasonally-focused soil diet of organic supplements applied in concert with natural periods of nutrient surfeit and deficit throughout the year.

Well-timed applications of organic fertilizers will minimize the aggregate need for their use. This in turn helps minimize the impact that amendments (even the organic kind) have on the balance and biodiversity of the broader microbial landscape.

At UC Berkeley, current research on plant-soil-microbe interactions led by Timothy Bowles, a doctor of ecology and professor of agroecology, is now focused on helping small organic farmers make more informed decisions about their soil-nutrient management. In particular, about which types of organic fertilizer are safest, and how to time their applications most sparingly and effectively in order to support both plant vitality and soil ecology.