Tips For Improving Your Garden Soil and your Garden

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 08 July 2015 04:19

Garden soil and the quality of garden soil that you have is very important, albeit an overlooked factor. There are a number of different ways to improve the quality of such soil and we’ve taken a closer look here at how to do just that with the help of gardening blog Garden Aware.

 

Purchasing topsoil doesn't guarantee that it will have organic matter in it

We bought a half dump truck load of soil for developing a perennial bed to grow blueberries in.  This soil looked really good- well-screened, clean and a dark brown color.  We transplanted some small blueberry plants into the soil and really thought they would take off.  However, the plants didn't grow at all.  When even weeds didn't start to appear, we started to become suspicious about the quality of the soil.  We discovered that this soil was "dirt," which for a growing medium is great.  However the key to growth is organic matter, and it was lacking in that.  If you are purchasing soil for planters or garden beds, ask the person selling it what the soil's origin is.  Also just assume the soil is going to need to be fed in order for it to be up to decent standards for gardening.

You want your soil to be fluffy, crumbly and light

The roots need to be able to travel through the soil so that available nutrients can be accessed.  These are essential in order for the plants to grow and thrive.  If soil is compacted and dense, a lot of the available energy of the plants gets directed onto their struggling roots.  When the soil is lightened, root growth will be facilitated and, vegetative growth will be the result.  The simple test we use for gauging the density of the soil is to just poke one finger in the soil. 

When you do this, it should go down to your third knuckle easily.  If the soil doesn't pass this test, then it will most likely be a good idea to add in some peat moss to lighten the topsoil.  That is an inexpensive and easy thing to do.  Then you will most likely add some lime in most situations since peat is very acidic.  If you bought soil, ask the seller if they know what the soil's pH is.  That will indicate whether more lime needs to be added.  In most areas, soil is acidic and needs to have lime added to it.  However, some areas of the country have alkaline soil.  Many gardeners also use vermiculite for lightening the soil.  It breaks down more slowly than peat moss does.  We do not use vermiculite any longer, because our routine of planting green manure works very well at keeping our beds well aerated and light.

The best amendment to provide your soil with is compost

A majority of gardeners maintain a compost pile to complement their gardens.  The organic nutrients contained in compost transforms dirt into soil, providing you with great gardening results.  We use compost very carefully, since it is a very valuable resource.  For example, instead of adding compost after we harvest a crop, we will wait a couple weeks until we plant our next crop.  That helps to ensure that none of the nutrients from the compost get flushed out of the soil when it rains

People who aren't familiar with composting might believe that a compost pile is just an unsightly, smelly mess.  However, if this process is performed correctly, that isn't the case at all.  A compost pile that is active doesn't smell much at all. Besides, vegetable gardeners tend to like the the earthy, rich aroma of compost.  For individuals with small lots and urban gardeners, there are sealed composters that you can buy.  They have a neat appearance and will contain any smells inside of them.  Sealed composters, which are also referred to as compost tumblers, also will keep mice, dogs, racoons and other critters out of your composting materials. 

Composters also give gardeners a way to deal with dead plant materials once they have harvested a crop.  For example, after we are done harvesting our tomatoes, we chop up the plant skeletons with our hoes and then toss them into our composter.  So even plant residue from a garden can be reused and contribute to compost that is used with future crops.  However, if the plant residue shows signs of plant disease, then this shouldn't be added to your compost.

Select An Organic Fertilizer

When you read the claims on packaging for chemical-based fertilizers, they might sound very appealing.  However, any benefits they might provide are very short-lived.  A commercial fertilizer must be reapplied with each planting.  The fertilizer might provide some impressive results.  However, they don't contribute to the soil's overall condition.  Also keep in mind that gardening all revolves around the soil. 

There are also organic fertilizers that are available.  Once in a while we will use one of these in our garden beds if we don't have enough compost to add in or to provide young seedlings with a nice, quick boost.  Canola meal is currently our favorite organize fertilizer to use.  This finely ground material is easy to spread and is lightweight.  Unlike some manures, it is free of weeds and is fairly inexpensive as well.  However, canola meal is attractive to mice, so you must lightly till it into the soil.  Also make sure it is stored in a well-sealed bag in a safe and dry place so that ice can't get into it.

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