Do you have a green thumb? Do you wish you had one so that you can improve your outdoor living space? Having a green thumb is a gift and not all of us have it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful in keeping your plants alive and thriving.
Help your plants achieve optimal growth by improving your soil quality. How are you supposed to do that? Simple, follow these five simple ways on how to do that.
5 Ways to Improve Soil Quality
1. Don’t Step On Your Soil
Do you have raised soil beds in your garden? Have you created a pathway for you to step on when gardening? It seems a waste of time and space to separate a pathway and a soil bed for plants but it is a smart thing to do.
You see, stepping on the soil makes it more compact. Compacted soil isn’t ideal for planting because their roots would not be able to penetrate it easily. The plants won’t have an extensive root system that helps them absorb many nutrients from the soil.
Gardeners usually aerate the soil to ensure that they are loose enough for plants. By stepping on the soil, you are making it more compact. This is why it is a smart move to organize your garden and set a place for planting and for walking.
Making sure that your soil is not compact is not the only thing you should do. You should also make sure that you have the right kind of soil for your plants. Adding sand can help make the soil easier to drain or aerate.
2. Test Your Soil
To improve the quality of your soil, you should first identify what is deficient in your soil. This can be done by testing your soil. If you add compost to your soil, then you should test the mixture to get the true values.
Soil tests determine the level of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the soil. These are the essential nutrients plants need to survive and reach optimum growth.
The results obtained would tell you what nutrients are lacking in the soil. You should remember that in order for plants to grow, they need a balanced level of nutrients.
The soil tests may also include a test for pH. Different plants may require different pH levels in order to reach optimum growth. If you need to lower the pH of your soil, you can add gypsum, sawdust, and even peat moss.
To make the soil more basic, you can add bone meal, limestone or potash can be mixed into the soil. Crushed oyster shells and hardwood ash are good substitutes for increasing the pH.
There are agricultural offices that can offer free soil testing or even soil testing at a lower cost. If you want, you can also purchase commercial testing kits that allow you to test your soil on your own.
Soil testing should not only be done once but regularly. The soil will lose nutrients as the plants use them up. It is important to discover what nutrients are lacking so they can be replenished.
3. Add Fertilizer Or Compost
Once you have tested your soil, you now know what nutrients it needs. The lacking nutrients can be replenished by adding fertilizer or compost to the soil.
Your use of fertilizer will depend on your preference. There are chemical fertilizers but there are also organic fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers are mostly quick to release their nutrient content.
On the other hand, organic fertilizers tend to linger for longer times. They release their nutrients slowly. They are also safer because they won’t burn your plants due to excessive amounts of nutrients.
4. Consider Mulching
Mulching is a technique that has been used by many experienced gardeners. It is a way of protecting the soil from losing the nutrients that it has. It also helps make sure that the moisture is retained.
By making use of mulch, you don’t only improve the soil quality but also save time intending your garden. Mulching helps prevent the growth of weeds. It limits the open spaces in your garden so that the weeds won’t receive the sunlight that it requires.
Thicker mulches act as protection against the evaporation of water in hot and dry seasons. On the other hand, a light mulch works best during rainy seasons so that the soil can still be heated up by the sun.
Mulching also prevents rainwater from washing away the nutrients in the soil. Organic matter decaying on top of the soil provides nutrients to the soil. It can be removed by passing water if mulching is not present.
Mulching with organic materials entices earthworms to live in your garden. Earthworms are always welcome in gardens because they help improve soil quality.
5. Use Cover Crops
Cover crops are plants that you plant in rotation with your main crops. You can plant them during early fall and grow them through the winter. Most of them will die because of the cold.
In case your cover crops survive the winter days, you can kill them by manually turning them. You can also remove them and feed them to your chickens or other animals on your property.
There are different cover crops that you can use such as:
- sweet peas
- yellow mustard
- hairy vetch
The cover crops help make sure that the soil is still aerated. It also prevents weeds from growing to make it easy to plant your main crops again.
The cover crops can also add nutrients to the soil when it decomposes. Using these helps provide more nutrients for your main crops to use during their growth.
Making use of quality soil for your garden will help make sure that your plants thrive. Above are our 5 suggestions on how you can improve the quality of your soil.
Do you agree or disagree with our list? Have you used any of the methods found above or do you have anything to add? Tell us by writing a comment below.