It is wisely said that a garden will thrive when the caretaker ceases to nurse the plants and focuses on tending to the soil.  A garden that is grown on the foundation of fertile soil will be more bounteous, have increased resistance to pests and disease, and, perhaps most importantly of all, will be stocked with abundant nutritional value.

Building healthy soil does not happen overnight. But with patience and good practices, a gardener can create a living soil that holds the right amount of water, that cycles nutrients, that prevents disease and supports the growth of healthy, nutritious plants.  This chapter is devoted to discussing a few of the many ways to build soil and keep it healthy.

In truth, the importance of building healthy soil cannot be overstated because it is directly responsible for the vitality of the plants that are growing in it.  As we have experienced on our farm, it is an ongoing process, one that will be successful if we start with an understanding of the five components of healthy soil, and how to keep them active and in balance.  (Read more in Chapter Six of City Farming: A How-to Guide to Growing Crops and Raising Livestock in Urban Spaces.)


Learn to Farm at the Center for Urban Agriculture

Interview with Peter Condon of MCC Center for Urban Agriculture Where Students Learn to Farm Using Sustainable Agriculture Methods Kari:  I’m here with Peter Condon and Christee Rothbard at the Mesa Community College Center for Urban Agriculture, where students can learn to farm successfully and profitably.  We are here to […]

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School Gardens & Farm Education at Youth Farm

School Gardens Teach Teens and Young Adults to Farm Interview with Molly, co-manager of The Youth Farm school gardens and teaching farm (Brooklyn, NY) On a cool April day, one month prior to the peak growing season, Lewis and I visited one NYC’s most visionary urban farms, The Youth Farm […]

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Edible Landscaping at Longevity Gardens

Arizona Homeowner Grows Beautiful and Productive Edible Landscaping:  Interview with Jake Mace of Longevity Gardens (Phoenix, AZ) You have an amazing farm and beautiful edible landscaping.  How did you get started? I really didn’t know what I was doing, and I really made a ton of mistakes.  So basically, two […]

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Backyard Permaculture at Rodman Farm

Backyard Permacuture with Urban Farmer Heather Rodman The internet is a wonderful tool for connecting with like-minded folks.  I recently asked a question online about Tattler canning lids, and received a wonderful reply from Heather Rodman.  Her response piqued my interest in her farm.  I discovered that Heather is a […]

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Start a Farm Business: Notes from Stone Hoe Gardens

Interview with Tina and Bruce Leadbetter of Stone Hoe Gardens on the history of the farm, how they manage their dairy goats, how to start a farm business, and how farm businesses evolve.   (Kari) I’m here with Tina and Bruce of Stone Hoe Gardens in Phoenix, AZ to talk […]

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Farm Plan at Terra Rosa Fertile Farms

Interview with Susan of Terra Rosa Fertile Farms (TERFF -Cottonwood, AZ) July 10, 2015.  Susan discusses her farm plan, from permaculture design and product selection to business planning and marketing. Sue, you have a wonderful piece of property.  What is currently happening at TERFF and how you are creating your […]

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Soil Building at Sweet Life Garden & Orchard

Interview with Jill of Sweet Life Garden & Orchard (Phoenix, AZ) 2015-07-15 Jill describes how they acquired the land, its features, and how they did easy soil building using a technique called lasagna gardening.  She also tells the story of her orchard, dairy goats, and selling products to their neighbors. […]

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Composting with Chickens

There is no doubt that chickens can create a lot of waste, from spoiled bedding and uneated food to abundant fecal matter. This coop waste can be extremely polluting to the environment, creating odors in our yards and releasing ammonia into the atmosphere, not to mention the potential to attract […]

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Worm Composting

Worm composting, aka ¨Vermicomposting,” is using worms to decompose your organic waste. “Vermicompost” is a mixture of decomposing food, bedding and castings (worm manure).  Plain and simple, when worms eat organic waste, it is excreted in the form of nutrient-rich fertilizer.  Vermicomposting is different from other compost systems because it […]

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Fixing Toxic Soil

Growing food on commercial or abandoned lots is a wonderful way to find space for gardening in the city.  One concern, however, is the potential for soil contaminants, such as lead, that could be present in the soil.  The bad news is that human contact with toxic soil can present […]

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