The soil in your backyard may not have all of the ideal qualities for successful plants. If this is the case, don’t fret! Our advice will never leave you garden-less.
If you have pH issues or severely dense soil, consider opting for a raised bed or container garden. For pointers on selecting or mixing your own soil for these types of gardens, head to this article.
Hopefully, any issues you find with your soil quality are small. For example, compacted soil or not enough beneficial living organisms. In this article, we will discuss some ways to make amends to your soil in preparation for your garden.
Easy Ways to Fix Soil Problems
For a compaction issue, the solution is simple – you simply need to get some air into the soil! You can do this by a process called aeration – which entails perforating the soil to allow for better circulation of air, water, and nutrients.
There are small hand tools, pitchforks, or even spiked attachments for your work boots that you can use to puncture holes in your garden. Which tool you choose depends on how large your garden is and how much compaction you’re facing.
If you are gardening on a larger scale or dealing with hard soil, you may even consider tilling. This involves turning up the top layer of soil and requires more expensive equipment. The tool typically used is called a rototiller, it has spikes that rotate manually or automatically.
A cost-effective option is to get a smaller, manual rototiller that you push through your garden beds. As mentioned, there are also automatic tools. If you already own a small tractor, you could buy or rent an attachment to ride behind your tractor.
There are arguments against tilling, so be sure to do your research and don’t overdo it.
You can also consider planting cover crops that naturally break up compacted soil.
Soil pH issues
To amend for a pH issue, you will need to know which side of the scale you are trying to address.
Lowering the pH from a very basic level requires the addition of sulfur. To raise pH from acidic levels you will add lime which is a ground limestone material containing calcium carbonate compounds.
Both of these can be found at your local garden store. You will need to consult your soil test to determine how much lime or sulfur needs to be added.
Lack of organic matter
Perhaps one of the most important ways you can amend your soil is through the addition of organic matter.
Organic matter can be added in preparation for the gardening season and throughout as needed. We have touched on some of the positive impacts this adds to your garden. This includes improved water retention, added nutrients, stimulation of soil microorganisms, and relieving compaction over time.
You can achieve these benefits in a number of fun and interesting ways! Animal manure, compost from your kitchen, hay or straw mulches, or even your plants from the last growing season can all act as amendments to organic matter.
The Benefits of Building Better Soil
It may seem like a lot of energy to put into dirt, but soil building has very important payoffs.
You will want to consider the ways in which you can keep a cover on your soil at all times. This will help the soil retain nutrients and water, help keep microorganisms where you want them, and prevent the soil you worked hard for from washing or blowing away.
You can continue planting in the fall and winter months if your climate allows for it, or you could avoid removing plants at the end of the season, just keeping the stubs and debris around. Covering with mulch or plastic covers made for garden beds will also get the job done.
If you would rather experiment with the types of plants you choose to grow this year, take a look at this article, where we discuss how you can use plants to improve your soil.
Written by Teresa Chandler