Soil is the foundation of any garden. If your soil is healthy and balanced, then you can grow anything. But what if your soil isn’t so great? How do you know what to add and how much of it? That’s where this guide comes in: we’ll teach you everything there is to know about improving soil health for a thriving garden.
So grab some compost and manure (if you’re ambitious enough), and let’s get started!
Planting Cover Crops
Planting cover crops is one way to nourish and protect the soil while also improving the environment. Consider sowing a colorful field of mustard, alfalfa, and other vital varieties such as rye and clovers! For something different, try buckwheat – its deep roots break up tough soils – you’ll want to add cowpeas, too, for their nitrogen-fixing abilities.
Cover crops can be planted after soil is cultivated, so you must know what crop you want before working on your garden beds.
Using Manure and Compost
Manure and compost are natural fertilizers that can help improve soil quality. Manure is the solid waste of animals, usually cows or horses. It’s often used as a fertilizer but must be composted before use to ensure it doesn’t contain pathogens like E. coli bacteria that could make you sick if eaten in large quantities.
Compost is decomposed organic material that can also be used as a fertilizer for garden plants and trees. However, it may take several months to fully break down into usable nutrients for the plants you want to grow there. Can we link to a blog about composting already on Keleny’s site? Learn how to compost here.
To test soil, you need to know:
- pH (a measure of acidity or alkalinity). This is important because different plants thrive at different pH levels. If you want to grow tomatoes and peppers, for example, then your soil should be more acidic than if you were growing carrots or corn. You can test this by using a kit from your local gardening store or by sending samples to an independent lab specializing in soil testing.
- Nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium–the so-called “NPK” nutrients–are also essential because they help plants grow better and healthier without needing lots of extra fertilizer added later on down the line when those nutrients have been depleted from overuse of chemical fertilizers. Again, there are kits available at garden stores and independent labs specializing in NPK testing.
Minimizing Soil Disturbance
One of the best ways to improve soil health is by minimizing soil disturbance. This can be done in several ways, but one of the most effective is through mulch. You can make your own or buy it from a store, but whatever type you choose, it should cover bare ground to protect it from erosion and water runoff. The right amount depends on what material you use: grass clippings require less coverage than leaves, for example. Check out our mulch options here.
The benefits don’t stop there–mulch helps keep soil temperatures more consistent by insulating against extreme hot or cold temperatures. This means that less-hardy plants won’t have trouble growing when temperatures drop below freezing.
Conserve Your Topsoil
Topsoil is the layer of organic matter that lies on or near the earth’s surface and contains mineral nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also provides a structure for plants to grow by holding water and oxygen.
It’s essential to conserve this precious resource because natural processes like weathering or erosion can take hundreds of years to replace just one inch (2.5 cm) of lost topsoil.
To conserve your existing soil:
- Avoid disturbing it as much as possible
- Avoid using chemicals
- Plant cover crops at appropriate times during the year
- Fertilize only when necessary
- Rotate crops/plants regularly so that each one gets its turn being planted directly into topsoil instead of staying put until harvest time comes around again.
It’s All in the Knowing…
Knowing how to improve your soil quality will ensure a healthy garden or lawn. Soil is the foundation of plant growth and is also important for human health. Soil contains organic matter, minerals, and water that help plants grow. It’s made up of different layers: topsoil or subsoil (the top layer), subsoiling or subsoil horizon (the middle layer), parent material, or bedrock (the bottom layer). The topsoil can be several inches thick or hundreds of feet deep, depending on where you live!
The key to improving soil quality is knowing the different types of soils and how they react to different treatment methods. In addition, it’s essential to understand what plants need to grow well and be healthy. By following these tips on improving soil health, you can ensure that your garden will thrive.
To get more expert help, and learn about the best soil practices, contact Keleny Top Soil, and we can help you get the most out of your precious soil.