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Keep Mother Nature Covered: 3 Ways to Protect Soil

Bare soil is a common site, from farmer’s fields to front lawns, but it was never meant to be this way! Weeds will move in quickly as one of Mother Nature’s defence mechanisms to protect soil health from the damaging effects of the exposed soil.

Learn more about how elements impact the health of your soil, and three of the best ways to keep your soil covered and healthy (and that don’t require growing weeds!).

How Natural Elements Impact Bare Soil

Ideally, soil would be covered by growing plants at all times to protect it from natural elements such as rain, wind and the heat of the sun. In Canada’s four-season climate, and especially when growing annual crops, this can be difficult.  

Soil structure is compacted by each rain droplet that falls directly onto it. When soil becomes compacted, there are not enough pore spaces to hold the oxygen that microbes need to survive. The soil also loses the ability to hold onto water and save it for later when there is no rain.

Wind is also damaging to soil as it can blow off the top layer (the topsoil), and leave microbes exposed to predators. As a result, the nutrients and soil life is impacted. This is even more damaging in small spaces like planters or raised beds, where the soil has a limited ability to replenish itself.

As weather and climate can be unpredictable and vary locally, it is better to keep soil covered. If the snow is already gone on your garden bed, you need to get out there to protect your soil quickly!

How to Cover and Protect Soil

The three best options that urban growers can use to protect the health of their soil are cover crops (aka. growing plants), mulch, and a tarp or plastic membrane. As added benefit all three options will reduce your weed population!

1. Grow Cover Crops
The best choice for soil protection is to grow plants that provide this layer of protection through their leaf coverage. Farmers call this a “cover crop” because it covers your soil, and home gardeners can use the same method. The key is to plant fast growing leafy crops that will shade the soil and shield it from the elements. Additionally, having living roots growing in your soil always helps ensure soil microbe populations are growing and thriving.
For early spring, we suggest planting crops like lettuce and radishes, that grow quickly and can handle the chilly weather. Don’t forget to add your Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure full of diverse microbes that will promoted seed germination and quickly get new roots established.
2. Add a Layer of Mulch
The second best option to protecting soil with living plants is to use a mulch layer as a cover. Lots of different things can be used for mulch such as wood chips, straw, dead leaves or cardboard. Basically you can use any kind of high carbon “brown” material available to you.
Mulch provides a protective layer on the surface of soil that holds in moisture and regulates temperature. It also provides carbon homes for soil life that ensures microbes will hand around to do their work improve the quality of soil underneath the mulch. 
If you only have a small area to cover, try our Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Wood Chips. For best results, always apply Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure under mulch, to ensure the soil has the microbial diversity it needs to improve soil quality.

3. Throw On a Tarp
If planting living cover crops or applying a carbon mulch layer is not possible, try covering the soil with a tarp or plastic membrane. These man-made materials will protect the soil from erosion but may reduce the amount of oxygen getting to the soil. These materials are better used as a short term solution when bare soil needs protection for a relatively short period of time.

Remember, Mother Nature Doesn’t Like to be Naked!

If soil is of poor quality, the plants and food that grow will also be of poor quality. Regenerative agriculture teaches us how to ensure we have healthy soil, healthy crops and a healthy planet.  Always keep your soil protected and “clothed” to ensure microbes are improving soil quality, feeding your plants, trapping carbon and fighting climate change. Remember, Mother Nature doesn’t like to be naked!