Feed the soil so it can feed your plants. The roots of all plants and trees (except those grown hydroponically) have their roots in the soil and they uptake moisture and nutrition through their roots. By improving your soil, you are improving the quality and production of the plants growing in the soil.
It won’t cost a lot of money and won’t take up a lot of time, but it’s a necessary garden chore if you want to get the most from your plants. Follow these 5 simple ways to improve your soil naturally so you can grow happy, healthy, productive plants.
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Improve Your Soil Naturally
1. Test the Soil
Soil consists of a variety of elements, too much or too little of any elements will impact the way plants grow.
Conducting a soil test will let you know if the soil is acidic or alkaline. The type of soil you have will also be revealed with a soil test and what amendments should be added to correct the soil and make it productive.
A soil test kit can be purchased at any garden supply center and they are simple to use.
2. Organic Matter
Organic matter, like compost, well-rotted animal manure, leaf mold, etc., adds nutrients to the soil and much more. Organic matter loosens the soil to promote air circulation, root growth, good drainage, prevents compaction, and promotes the development of a bio-diverse subculture.
A bio-diverse subculture includes organisms that feed on organic matter and transform it into nutrient-rich humus and earthworms. The earthworms also eat the organic matter and leave behind nutrient-rich castings that feed the plants. The underground tunnels created by the organisms and worms also improve the soil naturally.
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Organic mulch helps soil retain moisture, prevents weed growth, and slowly decomposes to improve soil structure and fertility.
Straw, tree bark, nut hulls, compost, newspaper, cardboard, and a host of other natural materials can be used on top of garden soil as plant mulch.
4. Crop Rotation
A simple thing like planting squash where tomatoes grew last year will improve garden soil naturally. Crop rotation will also decrease plant diseases and pest problems. Crop rotation prevents the depletion of nutrients and interrupts disease and pest cycles so the soil stays healthy.
Follow the 3-year rule for all garden crops. Rotate crops each year so that the same family of vegetables is not grown in the same place for 3-years. This will allow enough time for soil pathogens to die and for the soil to be healthy enough to sustain the crop planted.
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Planting a winter cover crop will protect garden soil from erosion caused by rain, melting snow, and heavy winds. It will also improve soil naturally by increasing the nitrogen level and supporting the bio-diverse subculture underground.
Any type of legumes will fix nitrogen into the soil. Underground-growing vegetables, like beets, turnips, or carrots, will help loosen hard soil. Mustard, collards, and kale cover the soil with board leaves to help suppress weed seeds and prevent erosion.
True Leaf Market has the best variety of cover crops I’ve seen. The image above is just a glimpse of the variety they offer. Click on the image above to see the full range and learn more about the benefits of each cover crop, or follow this link: True Leaf Market cover crops.
Till any remaining cover crops into the soil in early spring so it will act as green manure and improve soil fertility.