Will Allen is the CEO and founder of Growing Power—the last working farm inside Milwaukee city limits. He has revolutionized the concept of urban farming since 1993 and has won many prestigious awards. People travel from all over the world to get his advice and learn everything from basic gardening tips to advanced techniques. He recently sat down with Birds & Blooms to offer his best advice on the most important part of gardening: soil. Because in Will’s own words, “without good soil, you have nothing.”
By the Numbers
Growing Power has some pretty powerful numbers. It feeds 10,000 locals each year through school kitchens, restaurants, affordable food baskets and at farmers markets. It also operates six greenhouses containing more than 12,000 pots. This is all done with a staff of 65 and a handful of interns. It’s a very impressive showing for an urban farm that’s only around 20 years old!
WILL’S DO’S & DON’TS OF MAKING GOOD SOIL
- DON’T think you need to spend a lot of money or buy a fancy system to compost. It’s unnecessary.
- DO test your soil. Basic soil tests are fine, but contact your local Extension office to see where you can get a more detailed test.
- DON’T believe everything you read. Lots of compost “recipes” call for a lot more carbon in relation to nitrogen (brown and green material). Will uses one part carbon to one part nitrogen by volume.
- DO learn and understand the magic of worms in soil. When it comes to red wigglers, you can’t have too many.
- DON’T make it complicated. “It’s all about simplicity,” Will says. “If you make it difficult, people won’t do it.”