Does your garden contain lifeless or hardpan soil? Superior quality soil is crucial for a healthy garden. With this column, I’ll share the methods that have been the most successful for me personally. There are many ways to increase soil quality for food. Trust me; I’ve tried plenty of things!
When my house was constructed in the 1990s, the developers scraped the topsoil from the yard directly into hard clay. Later (before I lived there), then another owner filled in the in-ground pool together with fill dirt (which, by definition, contains zero organic matter). When I started digging in the backyard to begin my garden, I found giant chunks of real dirt.
It became my assignment to transform my yard into a vibrant, ample green space. If I can do it, you can too!
Follow these simple tips to learn how to improve soil quality in your garden and transform sickly, lifeless soil into rich and dark gold.
Do you compost yet? Not yet? This is a superb way to recycle yard waste and kitchen scraps into one of the most excellent soil amendments you may find. Not only does one keep waste out of the landfills, but the materials feed your soil with a lot of beneficial microorganisms. Compost helps reduce plant diseases, and enhances your soil drainage.
Composting does not require an expensive system either — you can build your own compost bin with directions from the University of Missouri Extension. Some of my favorite items to compost are leaves and fruits, as well as leftover vegetables and yard waste. Be sure to read up on the things that you can and can’t compost before beginning.
Create Permanent Garden Beds and Pathways
One rule that I learned early in my garden training was to never to walk in garden beds. Walking on backyard soil compacts it, which abolishes tilth as well as useful soil organisms and their habitat.
Make permanent beds and footpaths so that the beds are well-defined. keep your beds thin enough so you could reach every area without stepping inside. Beds created this way can improve each calendar year, rather than starting each season in a compacted state from being stepped on.
Along with keeping soil in the garden beds, permanent beds save time and money. Rather than applying costly amendments over a wide area, you only need to use them in stable bed areas, bypassing the paths. Since the beds are all fixed, irrigation setup is more accessible, too.
Feed it an Organic Diet
Autumn is the best season to get started. Organic substances, the essential ingredients for soils, abound. You can add fallen leaves, garden debris, kitchen scraps, and even shredded paper.
Chop organic material straight into the upper 2 inches of soil with a heavy bladed hoe and shelter. Ideally, add manures, mineral phosphorous and potassium fertilizers, and lime at precisely the same moment. Combining these materials in the fall provides them time needed to break down for usage by your spring plantings.
Add Manures for Nitrogen
Livestock manure may be useful additions to soil, as their nutrients are available to soil organisms and plants. Manure produce a more significant contribution to soil aggregation than compost, though it should be applied with care.
I’ve been singing the profound praises of mulch for several years now. I bet you are not surprised to find this one on this list. Not only does mulch hold moisture in the soil, it also breaks down and will gradually add organic matter to your soil. I cannot believe how many worms I have after two years of mulch in my garden!
Practice Crop Alternation
A diversity of plants in the garden keeps the soil healthy. Various plants bring various sorts of pests and need different kinds of nourishment. This is precisely why smart gardeners rotate their food plants every year, ensuring the same plants do not grow in the same place more often than once every 36 months.
Supply What’s Missing
Over a few seasons of soil building, a living soil retains and recycles nutrients, reducing or eliminating fertilizer needs. After establishing a new garden, however, organic lime and fertilizers ensure appropriate nutrition for the season ahead. Add them some weeks before planting in spring, if you’ve missed the autumn window to add lime and mineral fertilizers.
Use the results from soil tests to ascertain your garden’s fertilizer requirements. From the garden center, buy a complete organic fertilizer combination for general purposes and use it as suggested. Scratch fertilizers into the upper 2 inches of vegetable gardens. For perennial gardens, don’t dig in any way. Spread lime and fertilizers over the top of your bed, water softly, and cover with mulch.
Cover crops are a fantastic means to cure soil problems with minimal work. Not only do cover crops provide nutrients to the soil, but they’re also able to improve both drainage and aeration, smother undesirable plants (like quack grass), attract beneficial soil organisms, and act as an overwintering mulch. Before you’re able to use that backyard location (such as outdoor area or indoor steel buildings for growing different plants), the side of cover crops needs to wait for a season. You can utilize various cover plants to break up the soil. Ryegrass and Daikon radishes are types of cover plants with sturdy root systems that can help break up and freshen your soil.