Improving Your Soil Structure
Spring is a great time to amend the soil in your Colorado flowerbeds and garden. Figuring out how to make your soil more rich and fertile for the upcoming season is the real key.
You may be wondering what amendments to add, how much, and whether you need to do this more than once a season. We’re going to answer these questions to help you have the best flower or vegetable garden possible.
One of the best ways to amend your soil is with organic matter. Not only are they easy to use, but you don’t need to worry about how much or how often.
If you have ever had a compost pile, you will understand that this is one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to help your soil and environment at the same time. Most people use aerobic composting, which means using oxygen and moisture to encourage bacteria to break the compost ingredients down.
Here’s more on organic soil amendment:
The best amendment for soil of any texture is organic matter, the decaying remains of plants and animals. As it decomposes, organic matter releases nutrients that are absorbed by soil-dwelling microorganisms and bacteria. The combination of these creatures’ waste products and their remains, called humus, binds with soil particles. In clay, it forces the tightly packed particles apart; drainage is improved, and the soil is easier for plant roots to penetrate. In sand, it lodges in the large pore spaces and acts as a sponge, slowing drainage so the soil stays moist longer.
Among available organic amendments are compost, well-rotted manure, and soil conditioners (composed of several ingredients); these and others are sold in bags at many full-service nurseries, or in bulk (by the cubic yard) at supply centers. Byproducts of local industries, such as rice hulls, cocoa bean hulls, or mushroom compost, may also be available.
Read more on improving the soil structure: https://www.sunset.com/garden/garden-basics/improving-soil-structure
You can also add wood chips or sawdust, but since they are “green” materials, they use nitrogen as they decompose. This takes nitrogen from the compost mix, so if you use them you need to add a source of nitrogen.
Inorganic Soil Amendment
Substances that you can purchase such as vermiculite and perlite or using tire chunks and pea gravel are also used in soil amendment. These substances not only cost more to use, but they are not sustainable like organic elements and take much longer to decompose.
How to Amend Your Soil
Adding organic matter to any type of soil will help it to retain moisture and nutrients as well as improve drainage. This video explains why you need to amend your soil and how to go about it:
The tip in the video about adding Comfrey leaves to add nutrients to your soil is good info for soil amendment. Leaves are a good addition to any compost pile, but the best leaves for composting are those that are higher in calcium and nitrogen, such as poplar, willow, ash, maple, and fruit tree leaves.
Some gardeners also feel that you shouldn’t dig the compost into the soil, as this disturbs the soil structure. Instead, you should just layer the top of the soil with the compost and let the worms and other microorganisms do the work.
Adjusting the pH of your Soil
Another factor when amending your soil is the pH balance. If the soil is too alkaline or acidic, the plants have trouble absorbing nutrients.
The best soil pH for most gardens and grasses is 6.5, which is just slightly acidic. This level is measured on a scale where below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline.
There are a number of products that will assist with getting the right soil pH, but you need to start with a soil test to determine the current level. Here is some good advice on correcting the pH of the soil:
Read Label: No matter which product you choose, it’s important to follow the instructions on the package to the letter, even if you have to buy a special spreader or applicator to get it right. For example, one brand of sulfur may be more finely ground than another, and over application could damage your plants. While your soil test results will provide general guidelines about how much amendment is needed, follow the label on the particular product.
See more here: How to Correct the pH in Your Yard
Getting your plants and veggies started on the right track will provide healthier plants and a more bountiful harvest. If you aren’t comfortable amending your own soil, contact a professional landscaping company in Aurora or the Denver area to manage the process for you.