Best Tips to Improve Soil Quality for Better Gardens
Create self-sufficient soil by making it healthy. You don’t want to provide temporary solutions to any problems. Manure and organic matter aren’t necessarily interchangeable in ecological gardening. Organic matter is the most important: leaves, plant waste, garden detritus, straw, hay. Straw, alas, encourages mice.
Here’s a good soil food recommended in the book Organic Gardening for the Pacific Northwest: 4 parts seed meal (or 2 parts fish meal), 1 part dolomitic limestone, 1 part rock phosphate or 1/2 the part bone meal, 1 part kelp.
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If you add bone and blood meal to coir, it will act as a fertilizer. Coir products are made from coconut fiber (from outer husk) and are used as an alternative to peat moss. Though I realize coir products have to be shipped long distances, that’s better than destroying peat bogs.
Leaf mold is an excellent amendment. Bag leaves and places them in a corner to break down, or dig them into a big hole and let them rot, or shred them and add to the compost heap. One thing you don’t do with leaves is thrown them out.
Maple leaves tend to mat if you put them on the ground without letting them break down first. Since the leaves of Norway maples contain alkaloids, they should be well composted before you add them to the soil. Oak and beech are acidic and will take longer to break down than other leaves. But they are great if you are building up acid areas in your garden. Black walnut leaves contain juglone, which is toxic to many plants, so you should probably not use these leaves as soil amenders.
Extremely sandy soil is too porous and it won’t support earthworms. Add masses of compost and keep adding as often as possible. Over time the soil will improve.
Solving Soil Problems
If you have soil with poor texture or density, try the following:
Dig a trench as wide as your spade, and as deep. Pile the soil from this first trench on a sheet of plastic. Loosen and amend the soil in the bottom of the trench to another spade depth. Dig another trench directly beside the first trench and put the excavated soil in the first trench; continue until you hit the last trench and then put the soil on the plastic sheet from the first in it. In all my years of gardening, I have never done this, but some people swear by it.
Raised Beds Garden
Double dig the soil and add enough moistened coir and compost or manure to raise the soil at least 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) above ground level. Always mix coir with other soil amenders; on its own it’s sterile.
Lead in the Soil
Though lead hasn’t been used in paint or gasoline for some time, there is still the possibility that it might have built up in the soil, especially if you live near a parking lot or busy road. By adding lots of compost and manure, you can decrease lead absorption. By maintaining neutral soil of pH 6.5 to 7, you’ll also be able to limit the build-up of lead in the soil.
If you have a lot of rocks on your property, you can use them in the garden. Position plants that like hot, dry conditions near large rocks. Place smooth, flat rocks near plants that like cool, moist conditions – put rocks over the roots of clematis, for instance.
If you must buy topsoil, be careful. Try to find out where it came from. If it’s from a field that was planted with corn, it may be filled with toxic chemicals. In that case, don’t buy it. Of course, it is likely to have come from the nearest housing development. The valuable topsoil is removed and sold, leaving new homeowners with nothing but subsoil and clay. If you’re in this situation, bump up the soil first before you go through the heartbreak of putting in a garden and watching it struggle. Use huge amounts of compost and manure to create healthy soil and keep it that way. Don’t be tempted by quick solutions.
Instead of buying soil, you can prepare your own potting soil mix – particularly if you have fears about vermiculite, which may contain asbestos, in commercial mixes. A combination of clean soil, sand (builder’s or horticultural sand is very gritty) and compost is a very good growing medium.
I don’t mess around with soil by cultivating it once it’s been planted. I like to think I’m not disturbing the complex life or delicate root systems that exist down there. After all, the most beneficial life in the soil is in the top inch (2.5 centimeters)
To create healthy, balanced soil in your ecological garden, use every alternative to cultivating that you can find. Be sure to mulch and otherwise keep the soil covered. (If you want to see what will happen when you fail to protect the soil, take a chunk of bare earth and aim your hose at it.) Return what you take from the garden to the garden (leaves, dead and dying plants – unless they are diseased). Feed with organic matter. Compost, compost, compost.
Green Tips for Better Soil Improvement
Make sure you know what kind of soil and drainage you have, and work with it or amend it to accommodate the plants you want to grow. Find out what was added to your soil before you took possession. If the area has been stripped of topsoil or if chemicals have built up in the soil, you will have to improve the soil over a period of time.
Plant when pests are less evident
A handy way to inoculate your soil against diseases is to plant marigolds and then rotate them from year to year. An added bonus: rodents don’t like them.
Learn to treasure the soil and approach it as a living creature rather than some dead stuff you clunk plants into. The more you are aware of the symbiosis between yourself and the soil, the more careful you will be with this miraculous substance.
Good Garden Soil Composition
Good garden soil composition is the dream of any gardening enthusiast. But it is not just a case of an overnight change in the soil; to improve your soil structure demands a great deal of time and effort, not to mention planning and know how. In this article, I will elaborate on some of the key points necessary for ensuring your soil composition is conducive to plant growth as it can possibly be.
Identifying and Improving your Soil Type
Identifying your current soil is the first step towards creating good garden soil composition. Traditionally, soil can be categorized as either of three types, namely clay, sand or loam. The best type of soil for growth is generally a combination of loam and either clay or sand, with any pure soil type hindering the root uptake of water and nutrients.
Clay soils are particularly finely granulated and tend to retain water in their densely packed wet state, making plant growth difficult. If you have got clay soil in your back garden, try adding sand, or some organic matter. This will improve the overall standard of the soil, and the decomposition of the organic material will add a richness and nutrient quality to the soil, which will promote plant growth.
For organic matter, look no further than straw. Straw is ideal for use in your garden, as it promotes increased biological soil activity, as well as improving the texture of the soil. It is also relatively cheap, and provides a consistent result every time it is used, making it the perfect choice for any clay soil.
Another good factor to investigate when it comes to your soil is th pH count. This measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil, which allows you to determine its potential growth properties. You are looking to avoid soils which have extreme counts (that is beyond the limiters of pH4 and pH9), and you are ideally looking for somewhere in the middle.
To balance out the pH, add limestone to the soil to increase alkalinity (where acidity is too strong), and add iron sulfate to increase acidity (where alkalinity is too strong).
Reasons for Good Soil
It is imperative to achieve good garden soil composition in order to promote effective growth. Whether it is those prize marigolds, or potatoes to accompany a traditional dinner, it is vital to blend your soil to improve plant growth. By ensuring the correct blend of soil, you are effectively ensuring the plants have the optimum conditions in which to grow.
The soil is the source of all the plant’s nutrients and water supply, and any radical soil imbalances will hinder this process, subsequently affecting growth. There are numerous ways to improve your soil, and if you are interested in learning more, there are a variety of books and websites dedicated to the topic.
Alternatively, a good source of information would be an employee at a local garden store. These people are usually keen gardeners themselves and are usually very experienced and knowledgeable.
So there you go, good garden soil composition may not be as impossible as you thought. However, it does need a good deal of time and effort to get it just right but believe me, it really is worth it in the end, when you achieve more growth and better-looking plants.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Tips to Improve Soil Quality for Better Gardens
- 1.1 Solving Soil Problems
- 1.2 Green Tips for Better Soil Improvement
- 1.3 Good Garden Soil Composition