A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. But sometimes, your garden needs a little bit of help to get the soil in top condition.
Today, we’ll be talking about seven simple ways to transform lifeless or hardpan soil into a rich nourishing growing medium for your crops. Let’s get started!
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Provide a Permanent Pathway
Soil compaction prevents the roots of your plants from growing deep and strong. If you’re growing your plants on a ground bed, be sure to establish permanent and clearly-defined walkways so you don’t end up stepping on areas where plants are supposed to be.
Add Organic Matter Into the Soil
Add chopped fallen leaves, kitchen scraps, garden debris, and manure directly into the top two inches of soil and then cover it with mulch. During the winter, these will break down and be ready for use when your new plants need them in the spring.
Cover the Soil with Mulch
When left uncovered, soil can get dried out due to direct contact with sunlight. It can also experience topsoil erosion, slaking, compaction, structure destruction, and abrasion when exposed to harsh winds and rain.
Organic mulch helps keep the soil covered and prevents extreme temperature changes and water loss. Use high carbon materials like straw or leaves that earthworms and other beneficial microbes can feed on.
Avoid Synthetic Pesticides or Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides made from synthetic materials can disrupt the overall health of the soil in your garden. Not only can it alter the microbiology in the soil but it can also attack good fauna and flora. If you must use pesticides or herbicides, opt for natural alternatives.
Avoid Soil Tilling
Manual tilling can have detrimental effects on the soil in the long run. While it can loosen and aerate the soil quickly in preparation for planting, it is still better suited for big farms rather than home gardens.
Tilling the soil can encourage the soil to be blown away by the wind or washed away by rain water. It can also destroy the beneficial organisms that give your garden soil life. Instead, encourage earthworms to till your garden for you.
Plant Cover Crops
Cover crops provide organic matter and nutrients while improving the drainage and aeration of the soil in your garden. It can also attract beneficial soil organisms and act as an overwintering mulch.
You can plant buckwheat, cowpeas, oats, or radishes in late summer or early fall. When winter comes they can die off and act as an overwintering mulch. Three weeks before planting in the spring, they can be turned under using a digging fork.
Add Soil Amendments
Soil amendments or a soil conditioner is a product that is added to soil to improve the soil’s physical qualities, usually its fertility (ability to provide nutrition for plants) and sometimes its mechanics.
They can be used to improve poor soils, or to rebuild soils which have been damaged by improper soil management. They can make poor soils more usable and can be used to maintain soils in peak condition.
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A wide variety of materials have been described as soil conditioners due to their ability to improve soil quality.
Some examples include biochar, bone meal, blood meal, coffee grounds, compost, compost tea, coir, manure, straw, peat, sphagnum moss, vermiculite, sulfur, lime, and biosolids.
The best thing you can do to help your soil is to start with a soil test kit to find out what your soil lacks and then you can start amending it to become the perfect host for your plants needs.
Improving soil doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Just follow the tips above and you’ll be well on your way to improving your garden soil.
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