I garden in a pretty small area, and make the soil work very hard. In the Bible it says to plant 6 years and give the land rest in the seventh year.
~ “The land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and garner their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord…. The land is to have a year of rest.” (Leviticus 25:2-5; cf. Exodus 23:10-11)
Those who have gardened a long time or researched gardening understand the wisdom in this. We can only take from the soil for so long before it becomes depleted of that which makes food good for us. Also, poor soil makes weak plants, and weak plants are more susceptible to disease and parasites.
We have been creating garden beds for the last 5 years on our property, enriching them with compost and even adding fertilizer at times when our soil was poor. In the process of getting the raised beds laid out in a way we were happy with, we ended up moving the soil a few times and have upset the rotational balance of crops and nutrients used. Thus, this year, we are going to let the soil rest.
Now, last year we realized that we needed to rejuvenate the soil, so in one bed I planted peanuts and rye grass to replenish nitrogen levels. That bed also had wildflowers sown in it with abandon and was a sight to behold, lush and green and full of color, bees and hummingbirds! This year we will use that bed to plant a few vegetables while allowing the others to have the same treatment of replenishing plants. Not only will our produce be brimming with nutrients, but we will have less trouble with pests by doing this.
It feels like a huge sacrifice while planning and realizing you won’t have as much produce as if you used the entire gardening space, but I keep looking ahead to next year where all my beds will be rich and I will have a great harvest. In the meantime, I am finding a great deal of pleasure in choosing flowers and grasses that will help the soil and still serve a purpose for food. Planting clover and vetch will replenish soil and produce treats for the goats, guinea pig, and chickens. Many flowers are edible, and among the wildflowers there are many with medicinal uses, not to mention dried flower arrangements (and fresh!). I plan to add a garden bench this year so that I can sit and watch the birds and butterflies, and plan to take full advantage of the opportunities for photography practice!
What do you do to replenish your soil and give it a rest? Have you even thought of this in planning your garden? How do you care for what we have been given? For those of you that may be interested, here is a site that is full of verses from the Bible detailing how we are to care for the earth and all that is in it.