At Le Grand Potager de Fontenille, the principle of market gardening on living soil is applied. This consists of reconstructing the natural cycle of soil fertility on agricultural plots. This observation-based practice comes from the fact that, in nature (woods, forests, meadows, etc.), plants grow without the soil being either worked or amended.
The plots are occupied by crop beds and paths which remain fixed from one harvest to another. The paths are dug, and the soil id put back on the beds allows them to go up to form raised beds. The soil is thus more draining, which is favorable for crops. To avoid packing the soil we avoid walking on the beds, the paths are made for that!
We first define our paths with the mulch. After a year, we get decomposition of this mulch, and humus that can be placed on the raised beds to enrich it. The mulch is indeed very rich in carbon, it consumes nitrogen during its decomposition. This could thus be missing from crops and therefore create a phenomenon known as “nitrogen hunger”. By using already decomposed mulch, this phenomenon is avoided.
The use of green manure :
For the winter period, the plots are sown with a green manure that will be mowed in the spring and buried in the soil before starting another crop. This practice protects the soil from erosion by covering it permanently, but also fertilizes it with nutrients. The soil will be enriched and its structure improved thanks to the action of the roots which will decompact it. In addition, the plants used are honey-producing and favor the presence of pollinating insects. Finally, this process helps control weed and nourishes the life of the soil all year long.
We use fresh compost made on site with garden and estate resources, as well as organic waste from restaurants. Thanks to natural amendments and respectful working of the soil (or sometimes even a “non-working”) we obtain a living soil favorable to crops.