Every gardener desires a strong, healthy and bountiful garden, but sometimes it may seem hard to grow your garden the way you desire. Having healthy, fertile garden soil is just one thing that can help you do just that.
Proper soil is the basis of your garden and gives your plants the nutrients they so desperately need. Without it, your plants can fail to thrive and even die if they do not have the correct nutrients they need.
If your soil is lacking, here are the best ways to improve your garden soil. Implementing even just a couple of these can help you have the soil your garden needs.
Test Your Soil
Before you begin working to improve your garden soil, it is best to use an at home soil testing kit to test Soil pH, Nitrogen, Phosphrous and Potash. Just like our bodies, our soil has a proper PH balance it needs (7 is considered neutral). Anything below 7 is too alkaline and anything above 7 is too acidic.
The best testing method is sending a soil sample to a lab. This affordable soil testing kit will provide you with Organic and Synthetic fertilizer recommendations tailored to your soil and a report tat provides 13 plant available nutrient levels.
Feed Your Soil
Once you have a better idea of what your soil needs, feed it. To do this, mix organic compost, manure, lime and other items into the soil to help balance the PH of your soil and give it the nutrients it needs.
Be sure you are also feeding it nitrogen since this compound is incredibly important to healthy plants. Nitrogen is probably one of the most important nutrients plants require in soil. You can easily tell if your soil is lacking because your plants will appear weak and their growth will be stunted.
To help maintain nitrogen levels, mix blood meal or feather meal into the soil very well.
Companion planting is a great way to use nature to assist in a variety of gardening needs. You can use the companion planting method by planting beans and peas to help provide nitrogen. Green beans and peas are widely known as “nitrogen fixers”. This is because they work together with rhizobia to help convert nitrogen in the air to be used by plants in the soil.
Read more about companion planting and plants that will help your entire garden grow.
Chemical treatments such as pesticides and fertilizers can drastically alter the quality of your soil. Healthy soil is full of good bacteria and microbes, and these things will often kill those lifeforms. They can also seriously mess up the PH balance of your soil.
Instead, use only organic materials such as organic compost and manure, dried leaves and so on from here on out. Chop these items up finely and mix them into the top layers of your soil.
Several companion plants also have great pest repellent properties. Plant Catnip, Mint, Garlic and Chives in between your lettuce and other precious crops to deter aphids and whitefly.
Certain flowers are also quite useful. Plant these seeds to improve the health of your garden by attracting beneficial pollinators like birds, bees, and butterflies. Many of these flowers are edible, have traditional uses in folk medicine, or can be brewed into teas.
Weeds in your garden do more than look bad. They also steal vital nutrients from your soil. At the first sign of weeds, pull the entire thing up making sure to get the root. By doing so, you will be preventing it from regrowth and from taking from your soil. Do yourself a favor and stick to this – pull them up at first sight, don’t wait!
Before you plant, your soil will need to be aerated. This can be an exhausting task but there is a very easy way to hand off the work to a natural helper, earthworms.
How does it work? They dig holes down through the soil and your soil receives the oxygen it needs from these holes and from being moved more often than you could do yourself.
But don’t go out and buy these slimy little friends to add to your garden. Luckily, once you have good soil, they will move in on their own.
Use Mulch to Your Advantage
During the heat of summer, your garden soil will get hot enough that the heat can make the soil poor due to heat killing off those healthy bacteria and the soil drying out.
Using quality mulch around your plants is a great help. Not only does it eventually break down as organic material into the soil itself, but it will also protect sunlight and retain moisture that also helps to cool the soil.
I also love using living mulch in my gardens which provides numerous benefits to the garden and soil. Living mulch is basically any plant that is used to cover an area of soil that adds nutrients, enhances soil porosity, decreases weeds and prevents soil erosion.
Make a Raised Bed Garden
Raised bed gardening is quite popular and for good reason. It’s basically a shortcut for most of the hard work listed above.
Have terrible native soil quality? Is it difficult to dig down deep enough to make the proper amendments? Is your only spot available for gardening in-ground located in a shaded area?
You can solve most of your garden placement woes, as well as start off with darn near perfect soil simply by going with a raised garden bed setup instead (like this Vegtrug).
You can buy a pre-made raised garden bed or why not try and repurpose some unused items laying around your house or yard? Feel free to use old lumber or fencing (stay away from things that are painted or treated, especially if using for growing food).
Have some milk crates? You can stack them on top of one another and then line the ones on top with landscaping fabric, (or burlap, mesh screen, etc) and you’re ready to fill with soil and start planting! We love that this setup is mobile.
More Gardening Tips and Tricks
- Plants That Attract Butterflies
- 11 Easy to Grow Flowers for the Terrible Gardener
- Small Space Gardening Ideas: Go Vertical!
- Plants that Help Your Entire Garden Grow
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