Gardening Tips

Seven natural methods to make healthy garden soil from common dirt

November 1, 2011

Healthy garden soil from common dirt

Soil is not mere dirt. Below its surface lie all the major forms of life. The fungi, bacteria, protozoan, plant systems, insects and worms. All of these dwells in the soil affect its structure and aid in its development. Healthy soil is the key to perfect gardening. The ideal soil is the one that holds moisture and at the same time allows a constant flow of air through the soil. If you take a little effort, you can make healthy garden soil from common dirt. Read on to seven natural methods to make healthy garden soil.

1. Add organic matter

There would be no organic gardening without organic matter. Decaying organic matter is how plants are fed in nature. Organic matter added to garden soil improves the soil structure and feeds the micro-organisms and insects. Organic matter also contains acids that can make plant roots more permeable, improving their uptake of water and nutrients and can dissolve minerals within the soil, leaving them available for plant roots.

2. Add green manure

Green manures are basically cover crops that are grown with the intention of turning them back into the soil. All green manures suppress weeds and prevent erosion and nutrient runoff in areas that would otherwise be unplanted. They all assist with creating good soil structure and food for the microbes when they are tilled in and begin to decompose. The common green manures are: Annual rye grass, barley, clover, winter wheat and winter rye.

3. Composting

The materials used to make compost include:

a) grass clippings

b) Leaves

c) Vegetable peels

d) Sawdust

e) Straw

f) Paper

Regular applications of regular amounts of compost which is usually one-quarter inch per season will provide slow-release nutrients that will improve your soil’s water retention and help suppress disease. There are two types of composting; sheet composting and vermicomposting. Sheet composting is where the above mentioned materials are used while in vermicomposting, earthworms are used.

4. Plant legume plants

Legume plants are notable for their ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. Legume seed and foliage have comparatively higher protein content than non-legume material, probably due to the additional nitrogen that legumes receive through nitrogen-fixation symbiosis. Mixes of different cover crops are often beneficial. For example, in mixes of grasses and clovers, the grasses add a large amount of biomass and improve soil structure because of the size and complexity of their root systems, and the legumes add nitrogen to help break down the relatively carbon-rich grass roots quickly. The common legume plants are clovers, alfalfa, beans and peas.

5. Mulching

A mulch is something which covers the ground with the intend of reducing evaporation, increasing crop production and protect the soil from wind and heat. It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose. The mulch is spread directly on the soil, instead of first converting it to compost. Mulch must be applied properly. If it is too deep or if it is wrong, it can actually cause significant harm to plants. Examples of organic mulches include:

a) Bark (shredded or chipped)

b) Newspaper

c) Shredded leaves

d) Straw

6. Aeration

Soil aeration is the ability of the soil to have air that makes it favorable for plant growth.
The earthworms do a lot in aerating the soil through digging the holes into the soil where air will pass. Aerating is the process of punching holes (usually 3-4 inches deep) into the soil to allow water, oxygen, fertilizers and other nutrients to penetrate the soil and better reach the roots of your grass. Aerating is usually done by pushing hollow cylinders into the ground and forcing out plugs of soil to the lawn surface. Spikes are also used to aerating.

7. Raised bed gardening

Raised beds are growing areas whose surface is raised above the surrounding area. Raised beds can be temporary or permanent. Once established, the garden traffic is confined to paths, which reduces soil compaction. Soil improvement efforts are focused on the beds alone, not in the paths. Raised beds warm faster and dry earlier in the spring, allowing earlier spring planting. Temporary raised beds are simply mounded earth, usually in rows two to four feet wide. Permanent beds can be built of wood, brick, concrete, metal, stone, or plastic. Even bales of straw can be pressed into service for what might be called a semi-permanent structure.

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