The first option they suggest is to keep your soil covered. Bare soil almost never occurs in nature, and the reason for this is that it’s more vulnerable to erosion by wind, soil, and rain. Another benefit to covering your soil is that it makes it harder for weeds to grow. And when you use biodegradable materials as your mulch, you help feed the soil, including the organisms that live in the soil that help make the soil healthy, which in turn feed the plants.
The second option is to use compost and manure to help enrich your soil. The video recommends that you compost everything that can be composted—kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves, cardboard, newspaper, etc. This allows you to produce your own compost for free, which is part of the beauty of it. (I suggest you also try to maintain a balance between carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials in your compost, so as to allow the microorganisms in the soil to digest all the organic matter as efficiently as possible.)
Manure is also excellent for your garden, but you should get it from a trusted source. This is important because it makes it less likely you’ll get manure that’s contaminated with herbicides that can damage your crops. It’s smart to cover your soil in manure that’s about 1 inch (roughly 3 cm) thick before winter, to give the worms and microorganisms in the soil something to feed on over the winter. Also, you should let your manure sit for 6-12 months before you use it on your garden, because fresh manure is too strong for most plants.
In order to compost your kitchen scraps, you dig a hole large enough for your scraps, and then you pour them in, and then cover the hole back up. If you have plants that are typically very nutrient-hungry, then you may need more scraps. The scraps will break down over the winter, and then in the spring or summer, you’ll be able to plant your crops in the soil that contains the composted scraps.
Another option for composting is to cover the soil with leaves or wood chips. For fruit bushes, trees, and canes, you might consider wood chips, because their chunkiness causes them to break down more slowly, which helps suppress weeds for longer and releases nutrients more slowly, to feed your fruit plants more steadily. You can also use wood chips on your vegetable garden as well. Now, there is a myth that wood chips rob the soil of its nitrogen. They might, if you used lots and lots of them and dug them in. But if you use an inch or so on the surface and don’t dig it in, then you should be fine.
The third and final option is to use cover crops or “green manure”. Cover crops are plants that are grown with the sole purpose of protecting and improving the soil, and they do this by keeping it covered to protect it from the elements, by improving soil structure with their roots, and by decomposing back into the soil once they’re cut down. Field beans are one example of a cover crop you can grow in the fall—and yes, even though they’re a bean, they can be grown in the fall as a cover crop. They’re a super hardy kind of bean. The only thing is, you cut them down before they have a chance to produce beans, so you don’t actually get a harvest from them the way you do with other bean plants. The reason for this is that bean plants fix nitrogen in the soil, but when they flower, they use up that excess nitrogen. And you don’t want to let that happen, if you want to keep the nitrogen in the soil for your spring crops. The field beans will sprout before winter, and then you let them grow until mid- to late spring, when you chop them down. You might want to leave the roots in the soil to allow them to decompose, to help give the next crop more nutrients.
These methods should help you become a pro at keeping your soil healthy. Let us know how it goes for you using them!