Despite what some may say - you can reuse your SIP Garden soil year after year after year - if you follow these guidelines. We've got SIP Gardens over 10 years old with the same soil, still producing like new.
In your SIP Garden, compaction is the enemy! Compaction stresses root development, can lead to root rot, a loss of your self-watering function, and an anaerobic acidic growing environment - not good!
Overtime, root systems and organic matter will begin to break down and compact. So as a standard practice when removing old plants, try to remove as much of the root ball as possible, while shaking off any loose soil. Afterwards, make sure to fluff up and break apart any clumps to reduce compaction as much as possible
- If compaction in your garden occurs over time, use a rake, trowel, or shovel to physically brake up and aerate compacted areas.
- If you find that your soil is too dense, consider adding more Perlite. Avoid using sand if possible, as it tends too settle, compact and disrupt the porosity of your soil.
- Adding earthworms to your garden is an excellent idea - as they are constantly aerating your soil for you, while breaking down old roots, and naturally fertilizing your soil.
Nutrients & Fertilization:
Using organic compost is a wonderful way to feed your garden, but be aware, your garden will consume more than you think! A great rule of thumb is to always add when you're taking away. After an old crop is removed, be ready to add more organic compost to bring the soil level back up to the original level. Do this step while maintaining your soil structure as noted above.
Perhaps the best part of growing with a SIP garden is the prolific growth you're going to experience. The challenge becomes feeding your garden enough to maintain that prolific growth. Organic compost goes a long way, but a balanced organic granular fertilizer can help ensure sustained growth and successful harvests. Organic granular fertilizers are ideal because:
- They are slow release
- They stay in the soil and resist water run off
- They help ensure a well rounded nutrient consistency in your soil
It's very tempting to use your SIP garden like a hydroponic system and deliver all nutrients via the water reservoir directly to the roots. This can be effective at times, to strategically deliver specific nutrients during different growth phases, but it's not suggested for first time growers, or as a sustainable long term garden health solution for the majority of SIP gardeners. Liquid fertilizers do have a roll though, and are excellent for:
- Immediately addressing nutrient deficiencies
- Strategically delivering specific nutrients during certain growth phases
- As a bi-weekly application if granular options are not available.
Perhaps the best way to organically feed your garden. A well brewed Compost Tea provides the most bio available nutrient solution your garden could hope for. It requires a bit of effort and set up, and is perhaps a little too complicated for new gardeners... but if you're getting serious about growing, the benefits of using compost teas are undeniable!
The most important step for reservoir health, is for your SIPkit to be installed properly. If the OverFlow is installed at the correct height ensuring an air gap between reservoir so that the reservoir can never flood up into the soil - you'll be good to grow. It's good practice to periodically check the OverFlow to make sure it isn't clogged.
Over time, roots will grow down into the reservoir, this generally is not an issue. If you are at all concerned, and organic enzyme can be added to the water which helps breakdown dead organic matter, making the nutrients available for future growth.
If you are ever concerned about the reservoir being contaminated in anyway, it is very easy to flush by simply putting a garden hose down the WaterStem and running water until the OverFlow runs clear.