How to Improve Your Soil?
Understanding the basic components of a healthy soil allows growers to vastly improve the quality of their planting terrain for ultimate growth. Almost every soil could be turned into a greenery paradise, however, all soil types require specific attention and care.
We have gathered some crucial information about the soil. Thus if you want to get the answer to the question “How to improve garden soil?”, keep on reading.
Why does soil matter?
Soil is the foundation of healthy farming practices. It is a vital factor in the well-being of plants because soil feeds the crops, regulates their moisture and allows air to infiltrate. With a proper improvement in earth quality, your garden plants grow and thrive.
The key to achieving exclusive soil quality is organic matter. Without it, a depleted soil would not be able to serve its purpose and would not be capable of holding water or supplying nutrients. One of the best ways to assure improved high-quality soil in your garden is to incorporate enough organic matter annually.
What do you need to look at?
Quality soil has basic requirements that need to be met before it could be labeled “good for plants”. Food, heat, water, and air are all elements concerning soil structure, which have to be taken into consideration. In order to make a successful garden enhancement, there are some specifications that growers must follow in order to identify the elemental areas that need improvement.
The main soil types are the clay, sandy, silt, chalky and peaty. Each type has a different texture and accordingly, has its advantages and disadvantages in water absorption, nutrient availability and air penetration. Soil texture ranges from gravel to fine particles.
Physical characteristics of texture are determined by the way the soil was formed and you do not have to be an expert to identify soil types. Go to your garden and conduct a fast experiment. Get soil from the ground, place it in your palm and damp it with water. Next, run the mixture between your fingers. Silty soil feels powdery smooth, and sandy soil – gritty. As for clay, you would notice that it is sticky and rubbery when moist, but is actually harsh when dry.
The most important component in the soil is organic matter. It consists of decomposed remains of plants and living organisms. The common vegetative matters that enrich the earth and are widely used in farming, are grass, leaves, lichens, mosses, and wood scraps.
Organic matter plays an influential role in plant growth because it acts as a binding material for soil particles that allow water and air to move through the ground into the root system. It is a moisture retainer that absorbs nutrients and stores them for plant food.
There is no denying that organic matter is vital for flora development, even though it takes up only 5-10% of the soil. Increasing its amount in your garden is possible by adding compost, mulches, cover crops or peat moss.
Minerals are components that take up 40%-45% of the soil. Their function is to provide sufficient enrichment for healthy plant life. The minerals are absorbed through the roots to satisfy certain needs of a crop.
Primary minerals in soil occurred naturally and lack chemical alternation. These compounds are usually big in size and have irregular shaping. Sandy and silty type soils are rich in such particles.
Secondary minerals are being formed after the weathering of primary minerals. They could be found mainly in clay and silt soils. Their particles are smaller and have the ability to retain moisture for long periods of time.
Nitrate and magnesium are the most important minerals for plants. Magnesium is crucial in the production of chlorophyll, while nitrate acts as a source of amino acids. Without those minerals, plant growth is hardly possible.
Management of acidity and alkalinity could improve the fertility of the soil. Indication of pH levels could help growers establish a friendlier environment for plants. To do that, try conducting a pH test that would measure the ratio of positive hydrogen ions to negative hydroxyl ions in the soil.
Equal amounts of hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are considered to be pH neutral (pH 7). Acidic soil consists of more hydrogen ions and less hydroxyl (pH 1 to pH 6.5). When hydroxyl ions prevail, the pH is alkaline (pH 6.8 to pH 14).
Most plants thrive at neutral pH levels (6.5 to 6.8). If the pH in your garden is not falling into this range, then the available nutrients are bound with the soil particles and plants cannot absorb all the nutrition they need. Regular application of additional nutrition products and organic matter could help the moderation of pH imbalance.
Ways to Improve your soil
Test your soil
Do not hesitate to request a professional soil test. Any independent soil lab would gladly assist you. The final results will provide you with valuable information and details about the pH, mineral and nutrient availability in your soil. Such knowledge is golden when it comes to making decisions on what to grow or how to supplement your crops.
Soil testing would give you deep insights into current levels of pH, nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium and micronutrients. In order to achieve the most accurate results take samples from different garden areas. The best time to do a test is spring and fall seasons because the soil is stable and you would be able to proceed with all additional fertilizer recommendations and organic amendments.
Compost is a great solution to nutrition problems. Organic compounds are highly beneficial to soil bacteria compared to inorganic fertilizers. Improving your garden soil with rotten manure or compost could do wonders for your plants. Handling compost is quite an easy task. Add a minimum 2-inch layer of organic matter over the ground surface, then you can start digging or forking it in.
Mulch for good results
Mulching is a farming process that boosts soil properties of retaining moisture and vital nutrients. It prevents weeding and decreases a plant’s need for regular fertilization and watering.
Always consider your climate when mulching. Hot and dry weather requires heavy mulches that would contain moisture for a long time. Lighter mulches, on the contrary, are a solution for cool and rainy climates, as the soil needs erosion protection and heat.
Add some nitrogen
Nitrogen is a mineral compound that demands special attention from farmers. It is an element that is always on short supply in soil but has an utterly important function. Plant growth and soil health depend on it because nitrogen feeds both plants and living soil organisms.
Supplementing the garden soil with nitrogen is an essential step in the planting process. While compost barely supplies nitrogen, manures and green grass clippings are able to provide the mineral compound as an amendment to the soil.