Some gardeners are lucky enough to have high-quality soil that works for them, but we’re stuck dealing with some issues most of the time.
From too much clay to too many stones — it’s not often we end up with the best gardening soil quality right off the bat.
But in the long run, the success of your vegetable garden is entirely dependent on its soil. This is where farming often becomes more complicated than we imagined at the beginning.
So how does one go about improving garden soil quality? First and foremost, you must understand dirt and what it is made of.
The soil is composed of water, air, minerals, organic matter, and living organisms . But the magic lies in the organisms — microbes, insects, earthworms, and other elements, enabling it to flourish most healthily.
Most people start by digging up some dirt, adding a little mulch or compost, and putting in plants.
Below are a few tips for those seeking how to improve garden soil quality naturally.
1. Feed Your Soil an Organic Diet
The best way to improve soil quality is to go organic.
The soil has a few basic requirements: water, nutrients, air, and organic matter . As mentioned above, living organisms are crucial to improving its quality and health.
Put nutrients back into the ground by adding debris, kitchen scraps, fallen leaves, manure, or compost.
Add the material into the top few inches of the ground with a hoe, then cover it with mulch.
Do this in the fall for the best possible results.
2. Use a Test Kit
When you’re starting your garden, buy a soil test kit and make sure to use it early on.
This will tell you if a vital nutrient is missing, which can help you take action before your garden suffers from unhealthy soil properties. Keep in mind; you should use test kits in the late summer or early fall for the best results.
Once you’ve taken the test, you can submit it to a local certified lab to help you find the right fertilizers.
3. Pay Attention to Nitrogen
Nitrogen is one of the essential plant nutrients for living plants as it feeds the organisms living in your vegetable and flower beds .
Make sure you’re adding various nitrogen sources each year — from fish emulsion to seed to feather meal to green grass clippings and everything in between.
It’s vital to ensure that adequate nitrogen is added during the fall or spring before any new planting occurs.
4. Recycle Plant Scraps
This tactic mimics the natural way plant litter falls into nature.
When it’s late spring or early winter, go outside and collect all of the dropped scraps from your garden, hedges, and other woodlands nearby.
This material makes excellent mulch, and when it’s still green, it provides a fantastic source of nitrogen for your plants.
Recycle the scraps back into your garden.
5. Use Ashes From the Fire
Do you have a wood stove or fire pit? If so, make sure you collect the ashes now and then.
Using ashes from the fire is a great way to improve soil fertility. Additionally, wood ash helps correct overly acidic soil.
If you burn a variety of woods, you’re able to get a range of beneficial elements from the ashes — from potassium to phosphorus to magnesium. Therefore, it is a simple way to make your soil fertile naturally.
6. Let Wet Soils Dry Before Planting
Before you try to plant anything in the spring, make sure your planting space is sufficiently dry.
How do you know if it’s dry enough to plant? Grab a handful and squeeze. If water drips out, it’s not ready yet. Wait a week or two before trying again.
Please note whether or not it forms into a ball when you squeeze a handful. This is another sign it’s not ready yet.
7. Stay on Top of Weeds
We’ve all been there before. Sometimes it’s not all about how to make good garden soil. We look forward to spring when our garden starts to come back to life — only to find it’s filled with weeds.
Before you start planting, make sure you get rid of any weeds that will otherwise compete with your plants.
If you can pull them early and efficiently, you can help prevent them from spreading. Just make sure you’re pulling by the root.
8. Avoid Digging Unless Absolutely Necessary
If you don’t need to dig, avoid it. This is a simple rule, but it’s often missed. Why should you avoid digging?
In the simplest terms, digging disrupts soil life and leads to poor aeration and drainage.
Additionally, it will disturb any dormant weed seeds lying beneath. This means once you start digging, you’ll notice weeds popping up pretty quickly.
9. Cover Your Soil at All Times
Weeds will cover the soil if you don’t cover it yourself. Take precautionary measures and always keep it covered at all times.
You can enrich poor soil by using mulch or some living, organic material. Use grass clippings, bark chips, green manure, and any other resources available to you.
Just keep it covered, as this will ensure nutritional content that doesn’t need to be continuously watered.
10. Keep an Eye on Moisture Levels
Another soil improvement strategy is to not let the soil get too dry.
As you know, plants need water to survive, but this is especially true if you’re growing any vegetables or fruits.
If you don’t get much rain in the area you’re living in, keep an eye on moisture levels.
Additinally, as mentioned above, make sure you’re feeding your soil an organic diet. Why? The more organic matter, the greater water holding capacity of the soil.
11. Avoid Walking Too Much in Planting Area
If you have a large, expansive garden or lawn and you’re looking to revitalize the soil structure underneath, make sure you have adequate walking spaces that don’t disrupt it.
Create paths as needed, if possible. Walking on the wet soil will compact it and reduce its breathing room, lessening the health of your garden soil.
12. Keep Examining the Structure
Before you choose a place to plant, try to examine the planting spot.
Take your time to figure out the structure, pH level, and drainage qualities of the area you’ll be using for your garden.
Be aware that various elements can alter the soil texture in different ways. Keep an eye on the wind, rain, sun, and other factors that may damage it.
If it does end up damaged, focus on adding more organic matter to help hold onto some of its nutrients.
Keep in mind; the soil is rarely perfect. Any improvements you’re looking to make will take time, effort, and hard work.
If you follow the tips above on improving soil quality, you’ll significantly boost its structure. Moreover, this will result in a much more attractive garden or lawn that’s rich, strong, and lush.
It’s a time-consuming, delicate process, but once you’ve followed these suggestions, you’ll be rewarded with healthy, vibrant plants or grass.
Just make sure you’re not removing the wonderful organic material that ends up in your garden or lawn in an attempt to clean up the appearance.
Many well-intentioned organic farmers make this common mistake, but it’s best to leave the organic matter as it feeds the soil.