How to create good soil
How to create good, balanced soil for gardening.
By Catherine Hillard
Creating good soil is essential for any garden. In order for plants to grow, the soil must have a good balance of all the crucial components. Each area has a different kind of soil, which must be taken into account when creating good gardening soil. Different plants need different kinds of soil as well, which you must know before you create your garden soil.
First, you should aim to create good basic soil in your garden. Good soil is a mixture of clay (to retain water), sand (to drain water), and organic material (for nutrients). Soil that’s too heavy with clay won’t allow water to drain from plants, which can cause the roots to rot. If there’s way too much clay, it could even prevent the plants from growing. Soil that is mostly sand will grow plants quickly and strongly, if you water it. However, they won’t produce good fruit or vegetables because of the lack of nutrients, and if they aren’t watered often, they will die quickly. Soil that’s primarily organic material doesn’t have enough substance to keep water in, or anything to hold the plants in place. Plants won’t have a sturdy enough place to grow their roots, which means they can be easily knocked over or removed from the ground.
Take note of your local soil in the area you’re going to plant your garden. What is it primarily composed of? If it’s sand, bring in some heavy clay. If it’s clay, bring in a lot of sand. If it’s organic material, bring in both clay and sand. Organic material needs to be added to almost ALL kinds of soil. When you dig through your garden, you should be able to find some clumps of clay, but you should also be able to sift through it roughly. Soil which is too clay-heavy will stick together in large clumps, and soil which is too sandy or organic won’t stick together at all. Aim for a middle ground.
Once you have the proper balance of elements in your garden, you’ll need to focus on getting organic material into it. This should be done as early in the spring or even winter as possible, and in the future, should be done in the fall after you’ve finished harvesting your garden. Whenever you peel vegetables, or chop them, or eat something which has inedible skin or cores (such as bananas or apples), bring this material out and dump it in your garden. If you have fruit and vegetables that start to go bad before you eat them, dump those in the garden too. Leaves from the previous fall (if you still have them) and grass clippings can be added too.
Once you have added quite a lot of organic material to your garden, cover it all with newspaper and leave it for a couple of weeks. Then, newspaper and all, turn the organic material into the soil. The newspaper holds in the heat that the decomposing plants give off, turning it into rich soil for your garden.
To keep your soil healthy, put newspapers and grass clippings all around your plants once they are in the ground. When the growing season is over, turn all of the newspaper, grass, other organic material, and the finished plants back into the soil. Rotate your crops if you can, at least every few years (although it’s not entirely necessary if you’re growing vegetables and you continue to add organic material).
Check your soil every year for its composition; add new sand or clay or whatever else it needs. Continue to add organic material through out the year, even in the winter. Begin a compost pile in a barrel or other container; that will also keep the heat in if you have snowy winters. Mix this in to your garden every year, and your garden will grow well!
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