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How to improve your soil quality

How to improve your soil quality

. 4 min read

Healthy soil quality is essential for optimal plant growth. Quality soil in your garden is what gives roots get the nutrients they need. Getting better soil quality won’t happen overnight, it comes progressively if the right steps are taken.

Soil can be light (sandy), so to retain moisture better, it needs to be less porous. Soil can also be hefty (clay), but if loosened, it becomes more porous. Good quality soil can be achieved with both clay and sandy particles, giving the soil sufficient drainage and porosity to retain plenty of moisture and nutrients. Each region has its own kind of soil, but the process of enhancing it remains the same. Supplementing soil with materials that either break down clay, making the soil more porous, or with materials that assist sandy soil to hold onto nutrients and retain moisture.

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Soil quality tests

Testing the soil will establish its nutrient content and PH level. Excessive or insufficient nutrients will only hurt plants. Proper quantity is required for optimal growth of a plant.

PH levels suggest the soil’s nutrient concentration. It is typically rated on a scale of 1 (very acidic) to 14 (alkaline). Without the proper PH levels, plants are unable to get the nutrients they need, such as potassium or phosphorous. Reduced levels of PH might raise the solubility of specific minerals, such as magnesium, to levels that are toxic. Specific ornamentals and vegetables need soil with minimal acidic levels, specifically a PH of 6 or 7.

You can have the soil tested using the following methods:

A DIY kit: This offers fundamental details about the soil nutrients and PH levels. A DIY kit will provide you with basic data about the composition of your soil.

A lab test: This will provide a more accurate analysis. Technicians can accurately read nutrient content and PH levels. Understanding the nutrient content determines what kind of fertilizer is most suitable. Lab results can provide you with the specific amount required. Lab results also aid in isolating local problems related to the area where the soil is being assessed, and gives you solutions to rectify them.

You can get a soil sample from either option. Simply dip some soil from your plot about 4 to 6 inches before placing it in a plastic bag. Dig 5 to 6 similar samples from various plot parts. Combine and obtain 2 cups of soil, which will act as your sample.

Improving Clay soil

As solid as it is, clay soil is capable of retaining fertility and water. That said, particles of clay are solid enough to remove any porous space, stopping water from being drained and roots from breaking through organically. Clay soil tends to be substantially dry and might crack during the summer. To enhance the clay soil quality, combine 2 or 3 inches of natural material into 6 inches of top soil. Doing so will enhance the quality of the soil as it becomes looser. Understanding the soil composition will help you decide what kinds of plants to grow in the plot.

Some people mistakenly believe that by adding sand to clay soil, it will improve. This is not the case. In fact, sand will harden the clay even more.

Gypsum is a source of calcium which binds soil organic matter to clay, giving stability to soil aggregates. Adding gypsum to soil may enhance the quality through flocculation (the formation of small clumps), however this will only have an effect if there is already a substantial amount of loose organic matter in the composition. Gypsum is typically used to rectify the soil’s PH level, but its use should be determined on an individual basis. The amount to be used can be established by assessing the soil composition to see if there is a sodium deficiency in the kind of plants you’re attempting to grow. Adding gypsum would also assist the beneficial effects of adding water soluble polymers.

Working with sandy soil

As opposed to clay, sandy soil tends to be quite porous and has difficulty retaining nutrients or moisture, which might warrant extra feeding and irrigation. However, it doesn’t have to be cultivated seasonally. To enhance the sandy soil’s quality, add clay or organic material to it. 5% of the clay or material tilled in approximately 6” into the soil may enhance the soil’s quality and help it achieve moisture retention.

Organic materials

The most effective approach to supplementing your soil with nutrients is to have a compost supply on hand. Peat, leaves, mulch, manure, moss, and similar organic material full of nutrients are ideal for composting. Organic material creates the presence of earthworms, which will keep your soil from becoming compacted.

Types of organic material that are full of nutrients and are great for composting are:

  • Manure
  • Peat
  • Kitchen waste: coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetables, fruit peelings
  • Clippings of grass
  • Mulched twigs and branches
  • Sawdust
  • Meat/fish
  • Pine needles and leaves

Always be careful when applying manure. Although pathogens are not frequently found in manure from small farms and homesteads, they can be prevalent in manure from large confined livestock farms, in either case you should leave a minimum of three months between apply manure and the harvesting of any leafy vegetables or root crops such as spinach and cabbage to protect against contamination.

Non-organic materials

Non-organic materials can also be beneficial for soil treatment, but because of its high costs, this treatment approach is most suitable for container gardening. Vermiculites are can be useful for adding nutrients and moisture into sandy soil, as well as for having heavy soil loosened. They are comprised of perlite and puffed mica, which are basically volcanic ashes that have been pulverized.

Correcting PH levels

For the most part, plants tend to flourish in a space with a PH level of 6 or 7. This usually is contingent on the geographical area, as well as on the kind of plant being grown. Liming is an approach used to resolve excessive soil acidity. 24.5 kilos for each 100 sqm. of limestone rock is necessary. Alternatively, if the soil is abundantly alkaline, the PH level can be adjusted with 19.5 kilos of agricultural Sulphur for each 100 sqm.



Mark

Part of the expertEasy team in Melbourne. Mark is a keen gardener, a DIY addict and a father of two beautiful girls. He is originally from Perth and is a true Eagles fan.

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