Erosion, flooding, climate change and loss of soil fertility means that our soil needs saving. But we can all do our part.
I caught up with the Soil Association’s Head of Horticulture, Ben Raskin to get his top tips for what we can do to contribute to saving the soil in our gardens. Ben tells me that it isn’t time-consuming or challenging, even the most time-strapped of gardeners can improve their little patch of soil.
Ben says to mix up your grass with clover. Clover improve soils health, attracts beneficial insects, and promotes a healthy lawn. Clover fixes nitrogen and carbon, this is not only good for soil health but also reduces greenhouse gases and climate change. Clover has an extensive root structure which leads to improved soil structure, better drainage and circulation of nutrients and reduced risk of soil erosion.
Ben says use white clover or yellow trefoil, they are low grwing. Not only is clover good for the soil and the environment but it also looks pretty. A lovely addition to your own patch of grass.
Legumes are a great addition to your vegetable patch. Not only are they delicious, but they also have many soil benefits. Like clover legumes are nitrogen and carbon fixing. This is great for soil fertility and to reduce greenhouse gases in the air. As well as that legumes root deeply in the soil, meaning that legumes recycle crop nutrients, improve soil drainage and legumes improve soil structure reducing soil erosion.
An easy and tasty addition to your vegetable patch that Ben suggests is french runner beans and sweet peas. Ben also suggests trying lentils and chickpeas. Chickpeas and lentils are not traditionally grown in the UK but they have recently started to be grown here. One of our licensees, Hodmedods are one company that have been paving the way for these legumes in the UK.
Bens final suggestion for soil saving plants is something that many of us probably have in our gardens already. Ben suggests growing trees. This might not be a particularly novel suggestion, but their impact on sooil is undeniable.
Ben says trees are excellent for soil. This is because trees are deep rooting. This means that they recycle nutrients, improve drainage, water quality, improve soil structure and sequester carbon and nitrogen. What's not to love?
Ben suggests growing Alder trees or gleditsia or Laburnun varities. However, he says that Laburnun seeds are poisonous when they are young, so if you have livestock or children this may not be the one for you.
Ben says that even in small spaces you can grow small trees or trained fruit trees. Trees are beautiful, some produce delicious food and they ahve the added benefit of improving our soil!
Let us know which soil-saving plants you decide to grow.