Improving Your Soil
Soil is the Foundation of the Garden
The most important matter in creating your garden is the soil. From that source springs all the rest of the dreams and plans of a beautiful landscape. So move improving your soil to the top of your garden priority list.
Your garden’s soil, unique to your region, still is categorized in one of three ways and their combinations: sandy, loamy, or clay. Each type has assets and drawbacks, but they all benefit from soil building amendments, and yield better healthier plants in response.
Several respected sources had this to say: “It can take 10 years or longer to build productive garden soil.”
And while that may seem a discouragingly long time, the benefits are often quickly noticed, even if not fully realized in a couple short seasons. The cardinal rule is to add “organic matter” to any and every soil type. And if there were doubts about why the fuss over making “compost”, this the explanation why. There is no better way to add organic material to your garden than to have a supply of compost. Peat moss and manures are other forms of “organic material”, and you probably will want to add all of these.
- If you have clay soil, the organic matter will help break up the fine particles that make clay compact so maddeningly
- In sandy soils, the amendments help retain nutrients and moisture
- Loamy soils are made more fertile and given even better tilth with organic additions
One reason to compost material before adding it to your garden soil is the fact that there are problems with just adding things in, and compost takes care of those problems. Manures need to be aged, or their high nitrogen content can “burn” your plants roots (translation: dead plants). Leaves, yard waste, and grass clippings all need nitrogen to ‘rot down’ and while doing that can rob your plants of their necessary nutrients. That leaves the plants weak while competing. Composting serves to soften, age and mellow the various yard waste and other amendments.Compost promotes microbiological activity and that is a good thing.
Beneficial amendments for the soil:
- kitchen waste such as veggie and fruit peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc
- sawdust, if composted
- leaves and pine needles
- mulched branches and twigs
- grass clippings, if composted
What Other Amendments Are Good?
I ♥ Peat Moss, and Talk About Dirt for more on improving your soil
If you have clay soil, I had read about and used gypsum with good results- it improved the soil texture. Other things which improve the soil and its fertility are:
I have always liked using fish emulsions and seaweed emulsions- I think they produce great results and improve the health of plants, but they are pricey for inland areas like Central Ohio. Now leaves we have plenty of, and they break down within a year, into a nice mellow leaf mold. Some have acidic and some have alkaline reactions, Oak leaves tend to be acidic and Maple to be alkaline. That can matter when you have acid loving plants, so take note if you grow azaleas, etc.
Organic matter also encourages earthworms, and earthworms are the gardens underground workers. While there is debate on whether they are good and whether you want them or not, if you have them they will aerate the ground and are generally considered helpful.
Using mulch slowly builds up soils, if it is of the organic type. Bark or hulls that rot down add to the soil and improve it. Read more on mulch and its benefits: types, assets, drawbacks… from my point of view.
What is the One Greatest Garden Tip?
You can add woodash, but remember it is alkaline. Greensand is used as a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner. Manures are of different types. Chicken manure is considered “hot”, requiring more time to mellow, and horse and cow manures are considered better suited to add directly to the garden. An old fashioned way of using manures is as “manure tea” which is the addition of manure to a bucket of water and then using the top water for feeding the plants . The old sediments can be added to improve the soil tilth.
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