For plants to grow healthy and produce abundantly, good, healthy soils are needed. When garden soil is in excellent condition, the need for fertilizers and other inorganic substances reduces. Organic soil is usually rich in nutrients. This is occasioned by the presence of decaying materials like leaves and compost.
Good organic soil is loose and usually, has air crucial to the plants’ roots. It is generally high in mineral content. Good garden soils also have earthworms and other small living organisms that assist in soil quality maintenance.
During preparation of the soil, there are a number of considerations to be made such as:
Determine the Health of your Soil
Of the numerous elements considered to be essential for the growth of plants, potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus (collectively known as primary nutrients) are the most important. This is mainly because plants consume them in large amounts. Fertilizers containing all three nutrients are labeled complete fertilizers, though, in real sense, other nutrients such as sulphur, calcium, and magnesium (known as secondary nutrients) may be missing. Both primary and secondary nutrients are essential for plant growth. Some plants, however, need more concentrations of some than others. It is, therefore, important to determine the nutrient distribution in your soil and compare that with the requirements for the particular plants you want in your garden. Other lesser nutrients include iron, boron, copper, zinc and manganese.
The amount of minerals present in soil can be determined through soil testing. This test will highlight the minerals found in the soil and also those absent. These tests assist in the measurement of pH, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen. PH level is crucial in determining how capable a plant is in absorbing nutrients. The convenient time to test soils is during spring.
Soil testing also assists in determining the soil texture and type. Soil texture depends on the amount of clay, silt, and sand present in the soil. Sandy soils usually have bigger particles. As a result, they do not retain water and nutrients properly. They usually have low organic matter crucial for plant growth.
On the other hand, clay soils do not drain water properly and can become very hard when it becomes dry. Clay soils have smaller particles, thus reduced space between the particles. This is a huge disadvantage since not much organic matter can be retained. Also, silt soils are considered dense and don’t drain water appropriately.
So after testing and finding out that the condition of your soil, what can be done to improve the soil?
Adding Organic Matter
Adding compost leads to the improvement of soils. Organic compost can be purchased or homemade. Compost holds soil particles together and helps them retain enough water for the plants. Homemade compost can be made through putting together leaves, grass, livestock manure and food waste.
Fertilizers add nutrients to soil whose nutrient capacity is reduced. Organic fertilizers release nutrients over an extended period of time as compared to inorganic fertilizers. A good example of organic fertilizer is livestock manure which I’ve used in my garden. Chicken manure is also highly nutritious for plants. The general perception on inorganic fertilizers, especially for organic/green gardening enthusiasts is that they are not conducive to living things and also the environment at large.
Planting Cover Crops
Cover crops are plants grown to help in reducing erosion of soil by the wind. They also add nutrients to the soil. They suppress weeds and help fix nitrogen. Freshly cut cover crops provide nutrients for the microorganisms in the soil and also the plants.