Did you know that you don’t have to be content with your garden soil? What you start with is not what you have to stick with, if your soil is currently far from ideal.
Instead, you can test, cover, and add to your soil to make it better.
But what if you aren’t sure how to test your soil? What if you aren’t sure what to add to your soil or how to go about covering it?
Well, you are in the right place. I’m going to walk you through all the options you have for improving your garden soil.
Ways to Improve Garden Soil
Here is what you need to know to have amazing soil in your garden:
1. Compost is Your Friend
Compost is made up of organic matter. You can use kitchen scraps and various other household items to create compost.
Once these items have broken down, they are a great addition to your garden. They help bind the soil together in an aerated fashion.
Depending on your soil needs, you should add roughly three to four inches your first year. Add two inches of compost per year to your garden every year after.
2. Mulch and Your Plants Go Hand in Hand
Mulch is another magnificent addition to your garden soil. It should be added around the base of your plants during planting.
After the mulch is applied to the base of the plant, it will help retain any moisture that is applied to the plant through rainfall or watering by hand.
It also helps to keep the soil cool around the plant, which is good for both the plant and your dirt.
3. Cover Crops Helps
When winter time comes, we tear up our gardens. The ground is left bare and exposed which often means that the soil has nutrients stripped from it because there is no protection.
If this is a concern to you, and you’ve seen adverse effects showing up in your soil the next spring, you should consider planting a cover crop.
Cover crops are plants (such as wheat) that will come in thick or sprawl out and cover the ground in which they’ve been planted. By covering the soil, they protect it from the elements.
4. Creepy Crawlies Help Your Soil
You can purchase worms or raise them yourself. You also can choose to add them directly to your garden or add them to your compost.
Either way, they’ll be helping your garden. Worms are a great addition to your soil because they can convert what you add to your soil into usable products that the soil needs like vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Plus, they also help to aerate the soil by moving around in it. Their excrement is a natural soil binder as well.
5. Keep Off of Your Soil
Whether you are gardening in a raised bed or a plot of earth, you need to take steps to not step on your garden soil.
Which means having walkways between the rows in your garden, or you need to make sure that you can comfortably reach across your raised bed.
Either way, by avoiding walking on your soil you help to keep the soil aerated. The weight of our feet compresses the air and takes away the aerated benefit that helps plants.
6. Soil Can’t Work When Wet
It is tempting as soon as a rainstorm moves out, to want to work in your garden. The fact is, you shouldn’t work on your soil when it is wet.
The reason is that when you work in wet soil, you compress the air out of it, which is the opposite effect you want to have.
You’ll know the soil is too wet to work in by taking a ball of soil in your hand and squeezing it. If water comes out of it, you should wait a few days to a week to test it again.
7. Put Your Farm Animals to Work
If you have access to farm animals or to where you can purchase their manure, you just struck a gold mine for your soil.
Most animal manures are a great addition to your garden. Consider using chicken, horse, cow, goat, and certainly rabbit manure to spread out over the soil.
This addition will break down and organically feed your soil. Your plants will love it!
8. Check Your Nitrogen Levels
Once you add most vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to the soil, they stick around. Nitrogen is the one that seems to escape from the soil the easiest.
You can test your soil to find out what it is deficient in, or you can wait until you grow something in the garden.
Often, you’ll notice green plants won’t be as green as needed because they lack nitrogen.
9. Fix Your Nitrogen Levels
We just discussed that it is essential to test your nitrogen levels in the soil, but what do you do if you find that your soil is deficient?
There are a few things you can add to your soil to get the nitrogen levels back up. If you grow peas in a bed, it is a good idea to till them into the garden once they’ve finished, because they’ll add nitrogen to your soil.
Also, you can add fish emulsion, blood meal, and legume cover crops to add nitrogen to your soil as well.
10. Fix Your Phosphorous Levels
If you test your soil and notice that you are low on phosphorous, know that you can fix it. You need to be aware of what to add to your soil to fix it.
You can add bone meal or rock phosphate to get the levels back to where they need to be.
If you are like me and prefer to DIY as much as you can, you’ll be happy to know that you can make bone meal fertilizer to save some money in the process of fixing your soil.
11. Fix Your Potassium Levels
Soil can have low potassium just like humans do. You’ll want to test your soil to make sure that it is in fact low.
Once you’ve confirmed it, you can easily begin fixing it. If you have a wood stove or a fireplace, be sure to save your wood ashes all winter.
When winter is over, or even as you go, toss the wood ashes out onto your garden. This will help build potassium again.
12. Fix Your Calcium Levels
Did you know that if your soil is lacking calcium it can wreak havoc on your crops? We learned this the hard way with our tomatoes for a few years before realizing we lacked calcium.
If you don’t test your soil but begin to see that your plants are suffering from blossom end rot, you can assume that you lack calcium.
Once you’ve realized this, you can add oyster shell to your soil, lime, or add powdered milk to the base of your plants to give a quick calcium boost.
13. Fix Your Magnesium Levels
Magnesium is another essential factor to your soil that can often be thrown out of balance. This balance is what determines whether your soil will be a help or a hindrance to your garden.
If you test your soil and find that the magnesium levels are off, don’t worry because it’s an easy fix.
You’ll want to add Epsom salt to your soil until you have reached a stable balance of magnesium again.
14. Put Your Weeds to Work
When we have weeds in our garden, it’s tempting to want to dispose of them as quickly as possible. Pulling them is a great idea.
However, you don’t want to toss them to the wind.
Instead, you’ll want to till them back into your garden. It will allow them to be broken down and turned into compost for your garden.
15. Chip Your Yard Debris
When pruning season rolls around, it’s tempting to want to haul the debris off to the landfill or burn it. Instead of doing that, put it to work in your garden as another form of compost.
You’ll need a wood chipper, but once you obtain the equipment, chip the debris into thin mulch material.
From there, add it to your soil and allow it to break down over the rest of the winter months. When spring comes, your soil should be ready to go.
16. Don’t Waste Your Leaves
Fall is a great time of year. It brings us cooler weather, fun around the fire pit, and lots of leaves. Leaves seem like a lot of work during the fall.
But they should be looked at as an excellent addition to your garden soil. When you rake up your leaves, run them over with a lawnmower or through a wood chipper.
Once that’s completed, toss them onto your garden as a layer of mulch. They will compost over the fall and winter months and help build up your soil.
17. Coffee, Please
I’m a huge coffee drinker. My day doesn’t start off on the right foot without it. Consequently, I have a lot of leftover coffee grounds.
Though there are many ways to recycle them, one of the best ways is to add them to your garden. You’ll want to do this especially if your soil is alkaline.
All you do is toss the coffee into your soil and work in it. It will break down and help to make your soil more acidic.
18. Don’t Flush
If you have a little boy, especially one you are trying to potty train, put them out in your garden. They’ll think it is fun to pee outdoors, and your garden soil will thank you.
Human urine is high in nitrogen. It also contains phosphorus and potassium.
Instead of wasting urine by flushing it, send the kid outside (if your garden is private) or save the urine, and toss it onto your garden to give it a boost.
19. Moldy Hay Isn’t a Waste
Until I began upcycling, I would get frustrated when I cleaned out the chicken coop or mucked out the goat stalls because I felt like the straw they used as bedding was being wasted.
However, I soon realized I could toss that used straw onto my garden, and it would break down to improve my soil quality.
Also, if you have straw or hay that was left out in the weather and became moldy, you can toss it out on your garden too. It will help your soil.
You now are in the know of 19 different methods to improving the quality of your soil. These methods will help your garden do well in the years to come because you are giving it a good foundation.
But I’d like to hear from you. Is there anything you add to your soil every year that has been a tremendous help to your garden?
We love hearing from you. Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.