What Are Soil Amendments And Do I Need Them For My Garden?
Soil amendments improve the soil and help it become more productive for your garden. They are often added to unworkable soil so it becomes less compacted and looser which aids root growth and helps your plants take up more nutrients.
It can also be added to increase the nutrient content of soil like carbon, nitrogen, bacteria, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus (the holy grail of garden soil N-P-K = Nitrogen, Phosphorus, & Potassium). When you enrich the soil with additives, plants can grow bigger and stronger with a higher yield.
Additives may also be incorporated into dry and coarse soil to help its water retention ability. Moist soil helps plants grow stronger because it allows plant roots to extend deeper while growing thicker and healthier. In addition, it also encourages microbial growth and supports nutrient absorption.
Compost made from food scraps and yard waste is an inexpensive soil additive that not only keeps your household waste in check but also keeps your garden thriving. It aerates the soil and improves drainage and water retention.
To use compost, you need to add three to four inches of the material in your garden soil in the spring and work it in using a garden fork.
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Comfrey is a perennial plant that can be used in a variety of ways as a soil amendment. It is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many trace elements.
Its leaves can be used as mulch at the base of plants and planting beds. Alternatively, you can mix its leaves and stalks into your compost pile to activate and speed up the composting process.
You can also use the leaves as a liner for planting holes and containers where they can slowly decompose and release nutrients.
Vermicompost or worm castings are the byproduct of the decomposition process of worms. It contains water-soluble nutrients and is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. It is used in farming as well as small scale sustainable, organic farming.
It helps regulate water usage, improve the structure of the soil, and increase the vigor of plants in your garden.
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Livestock manure mainly contains nitrogen that helps condition the soil, increases beneficial organisms, and improves moisture retention in the soil. It’s best to use manure from pasture-raised and organically-fed farm animals.
To prevent potential pathogens from wreaking havoc in your garden, be sure to spread fresh manure in the soil at least three to four months before harvesting any of your crops. Spreading it in the fall or one month before planting also helps avoid burning your plants.
Bone meal is a mixture of finely and coarsely ground animal bones and slaughter-house waste products. It is used as an organic fertilizer for plants and as a nutritional supplement for animals. As a slow-release fertilizer, it is primarily used as a source of phosphorus and protein.
Bat Guano is the accumulated manure of seabirds and bats. It has an exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. Apart from promoting strong and healthy plant growth, it can also improve the texture of the soil while improving drainage and neutralizing contaminants.
A little goes a long way with this soil additive. You can mix it into the soil in the fall or at least two weeks before planting to let the nutrients seep into the soil.
Wood ash contains significant amounts of potassium and calcium while providing smaller amounts of phosphorous and magnesium. It also delivers micro-nutrients like zinc and copper.
It also contains a significant amount of calcium, the primary substitute for lime to increase the pH of acidic soils. Wood ash is a natural substitute for lime to help maintain proper soil pH.
A typical garden needs about 20 lbs. of wood ash every year mixed into the first two to four inches of the soil to adjust its pH.
No matter what condition your garden soil is in, you can find the right amendments and make it the perfect soil. You just have to know which amendments you need and get to work.