Plants often thrive in quality soil. Therefore, gardeners have to do their best to keep their soil healthy at all times.
Good soil protects plants from diseases and pests. In turn, quality soil helps you obtain a plentiful harvest at the end of the planting season.
Currently, there is a broad spectrum of techniques you can use to improve or start your garden. Let’s take a look at some of them in this article.
Understanding the basics of a healthy garden
Typically, a healthy garden has healthy soil. Healthy soil is usually rich in organic matter and nutrients. Consequently, it provides adequate nutrients to the plants. A healthy garden helps your plants grow strong and healthy.
The definition of organic matter
Organic matter often refers to any carbon compounds formed by living organisms. A good example of organic matter is grass clippings and shredded leaves.
Organic matter is rich in nutrients; hence it is essential for plant growth. In particular, organic matter improves the structure of the soil and promotes excellent water retention in the soil.
Over time, organic matter decomposes into the soil to form humus. Humus is rich in nutrients; thus, it promotes healthy plant growth. Also, as the organic matter breaks down into the soil, it promotes maximum aeration; hence water and nutrients reach the plants easily.
Do you have the right garden soil?
At times, you may not have the right garden soil. Fortunately, there is a wide range of techniques you can use to enhance your garden soil.
For example, if you have clay soil in your garden, adding vermicompost will improve the texture of the soil, hence allowing plants to grow healthy. Nevertheless, note that improving your garden soil requires a lot of time, effort and money.
So, consider hiring a dedicated gardening professional, especially if you have a tight schedule.
7 Ways to Improve Garden Soil
Adding quality compost:
Compost is one of the best additions to your soil. Compost mainly comprises organic matter that improves the texture of the soil and boosts proper soil drainage. Also, decomposed leaf mold pile or compost keeps the soil loose to enable nutrients to travel to the plant quickly.
Typically, composts attract worms among other living organisms in the soil. These living organisms move across the soil to keep it aerated at all times.
Check the condition of the soil using a kit:
Gardeners should make an effort to evaluate the condition of the soil from time to time. They can do this using a soil test kit. A reliable soil test kit helps you determine the level of nutrients in the soil.
This way, you’ll know the right fertilizers to use on your garden soil. Also, you’ll identify the best ingredients for making your compost.
You can purchase a soil test kit from your nearest local garden store or Amazon. Consult a garden expert on the best soil test kit to use. Alternatively, consider taking your soil for a thorough analysis at your county extension office.
A regular soil evaluation will show you the levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium, sulfur, and phosphorus present in the soil. Through a soil test, you’ll determine the amount of lead present in the soil.
Knowing the nutrients present in the soil helps you make the right amendments to the soil. Subsequently, you are able to foster healthy plant growth.
Mulch the soil surface:
Mulching is essential for promoting the healthy growth of plants. Typically, mulch prevents weed growth and releases nutrients to the soil. Some of the popular ingredients to use for your mulch include grass clippings and wood chips.
Once you apply mulch to the soil, the garden stays cool and develops excellent water retention properties. So, mulch your garden during every planting season.
Prevent soil compaction:
One of the things you have to do as a gardener is preventing soil compaction. Over time, garden soil can become hard and compacted. As a result, it won’t allow proper penetration of nutrients and water to the plants.
There are many ways to keep your soil from becoming compact. Some of them include sieving your garden soil, adding organic compost and fertilizers. Soil compaction prevents the breakdown of organic matter in the soil.
Usually, clay soil is more susceptible to compaction. This is because clay soil is bulky and has particles that are smaller than 0.002 mm in diameter. Luckily, applying organic compost on clay soil improves its structure.
Avoid working with soil that is too moist. Wet soil is usually compact. Therefore, during spring, you have to wait until all snow in the soil melts. Otherwise, the soil won’t offer a solid ground for planting.
Preventing soil compaction also requires you to avoid stepping on the soil from time to time. When you step on the soil, you compress it. This way, you prevent nutrients, air and water from traveling to the plants. It would be best to build pavers in between your garden.
Rotate crops each year:
Thus, growing the same plants in the same location in the next planting season is not a good idea it would be best to adopt crop rotation.
Consider moving the plants to a different location every year. Doing this gives the soil time to revitalize and regain all lost nutrients. Also, if there were pests and diseases in the soil, they are likely to die since they won’t have anything to feed on once you remove the plants.
For instance, when you are growing potatoes, the soil tends to attract fungi and nematodes.
Rotating your crops will kill the pathogens in the long run.
Use the right cover crops:
Cover crops protect the soil from erosion and provide nutrients to the plants. Once you spread cover crops in your garden, you prevent the soil from becoming compact.
Also, these crops prevent the penetration of sunlight underneath the soil. Thus, they stop weed growth.
Some cover crops like radishes and kale are edible. After some time, cover crops also break down into the soil to release appropriate nutrients to the soil.
Adding old animal manure:
Another way to improve your garden soil is to add animal manure. Animal manure is an excellent source of nutrients. However, always use aged animal manure.
The animal manure you use should be more than six months old. Using fresh animal manure is not advisable. This is because fresh animal manure is too hot and can burn healthy plants. Not to mention, fresh animal manure is an ideal habitat for pathogens that affect human health.
Also, note that you cannot use any type of animal manure in your garden. Always stick to cow, sheep, rabbit and chicken manure. Avoid using manure from dogs and cats.
Note that manure may contain herbicides and pesticides that pose a danger to your plants. If you plan to purchase animal manure, ensure it is 100% organic. Consult a gardening professional on this.
Make your garden better
At the end of the day, it is essential to note that improving your garden soil is a never-ending process. Soil texture and structure tend to degrade over time. So, you have to keep monitoring the garden soil for best results.
It would be best to use a test kit to check the condition of the soil from time to time. Maintaining quality soil in your garden helps you obtain an abundant harvest at the end of each planting season.
In addition, you’ll need to come up with ways to protect your crops from being attacked by rodents and birds. One way of doing that is by having scarecrows strategically placed in your garden.