Improving Your Garden Soil

Compost & Soil
Soil Compost Mulch

The soil and land are crucial for successful gardening. The quality of soil vary greatly from area to area, so it's always important to know the local conditions. Generally speaking, the soil can be divided into 3 categories: claylike, sandy or silt. The ideal soil consists of a good mixture of these three types, and it's classified as a good garden loam. Clay soils have the greatest capacity to hold water and sandy soils have the least.

Here are some soil materials and procedures you need to know about to truly understand the garden soil and to know how to create the best one for your needs:


Humus is the binding material of all good soils. This is an organic substance which can increase the water-holding capacity of the soil. It absorbs the sun's rays readily and it liberates beneficial compounds for plants from the soil. It adds fertilizes and improves soil texture. Humus is often added to the soil through the use of organic fertilizers, such as manure. It can also be a product of a compost pile. You may also purchase humus directly, but it's usually very expensive.

Compost and Manure

You can add your own compost to the soil by preparing compost from kitchen waste. Gather all vegetable kitchen waste and leafy leftovers from the garden (excluding diseased plants). To add organic material to the soil, you can also use well-rotted horse manure from a local stable, or you may use cow manure. It will help the composting process.

Nutrient Sources

It's important to add nutrient sources to your soil. It's vital that your soil is rich in potassium and phosphorus. You can add greensand for potassium and rock phosphate for phosphorus.

Neutralize the Soil

Sometimes, the soil has too much of an element you don't need. For example, alkaline soils are not good for many plants, save for those that require alkaline soils. To amend your soil, use pine needles as mulch and make compost from tree leaves and deadheaded flowers.

If the soil has too much clay, you can amend it with a special blend of soil, humus, peat moss, perlite, sawdust and wood shavings. Add this blend to your garden. It's best to use concrete mixer for mixing so you won't have to do it by hand.

If the soil is rocky and sandy, you can amend it with straw from your chicken coop and aged manure. In the spring, when the soil is dry and warm, mix the straw and manure into the soil. This will make it less sandy.

Photo credit: Liz Henry

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