Not getting the results you want in your garden? Well, find out how to improve soil quality for the best possible harvests.
The scarcity of fertilizers has been happening for quite some time. There are several reasons for this which are out of our control.
Partly to blame is the pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine which are major producers and suppliers of fertilizer, as well as supply chain issues caused by skyrocketing natural gas prices.
How to Improve Soil Quality?
Caring about the quality turnout of your vegetables not only means tending to the plants but also the soil.
If the soil is healthy, then growing plants that resist pests and diseases while producing the best vegetables won’t be a problem.
So, what do we do if we’re low on fertilizer? How do we maintain the good condition of the soil in our garden?
Here are 7 techniques that will help keep your soil in tip-top shape.
Technique #1: Use Compost
Using compost is one of the best ways to improve your garden soil. It’s organic, unlike fertilizers that are made up of inorganic material like potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.
Compost helps to build the structure of the soil and assists it to retain the nutrients needed to benefit the plants.
It also lowers the rate of water evaporating quickly while maintaining good drainage. This is done by earthworms and other microscopic animals that feed on compost.
They usually drill through the soil to improve ventilation causing good drainage. The stronger the root system of the plants the better, and compost keeps the dirt loose enough so that roots are able to spread easily.
Another great benefit is that it helps to keep a neutral pH, while the plants are least likely to attract common diseases and pests.
So, if you already have a compost pile feel free to make a few changes by substituting it for fertilizer. If you do not have one, with these five simple steps you’ll have enough compost for your garden.
How to Make Compost at Home?
Making your own compost is the perfect way to up your gardening game. Here’s how:
1. Select a Compost Bin
The first thing to consider is where you’ll be making your compost. Will you be using a compost bin or making a pile?
Ensure to use a bin that has an opening at the top and bottom end but if you’ll be making a pile there’s no need for a bin.
Many persons prefer to use the bin as it retains heat much longer making the composting process go faster.
The size of the bin depends on the amount of compost you intend to make. If you have a really big garden then you may want to get a big bin to deposit your materials.
2. Choose a Spot With Sunlight
Choose the most available spot in your backyard that you won’t be using for a while. Ensure that area gets a lot of sunshine so the different materials can decompose quickly.
If the location is shaded for most hours of the day, then getting your compost to be usable will take a longer time.
3. Deposit Your Organic Matter
Position your compost bin in the area you chose and ensure that it is very flat. Deposit all the organic and inorganic materials in the bin to build the nutrients in the compost.
To make your compost healthy you need to add all the right things. Adding both green and brown organic matter will contribute nitrogen and carbon to the compost.
The brown matter will help to reduce the emission of any bad odors in your yard. The green materials create nitrogen to add moisture and conserve heat.
4. Layer the Materials and Wet the Compost
You will then add unfiltered garden soil to the compost bin. Yes, unfiltered! That means all the earthworms and other visible microscopic animals should not be removed.
Then, add a layer of green materials followed by a layer of brown material and continue with that order. The compost should not be too dry but when it has that appearance, dampen it with water to add moisture.
5. Rotate the Compost
Turning the compost will allow the matter to be properly combined and molded. This also helps to trap heat and maintain moisture. Keep in mind that this should be done once a week.
In the end, compost can take between 3 months to 2 years to be decomposed enough to add to your garden.
The period however depends on how large your compost pile is. The bigger the pile, the longer the time.
When it is ready for use, the color will change to a shade of dark brown and the odor will be more pleasing to smell.
Technique #2: Crop Rotation
Effectively rotating the crops in your vegetable garden is another technique you can use to keep the soil productive.
By annually switching the location where you usually plant a particular crop every year, you’re preserving the nutrients.
This not only keeps the soil healthy, but it’s a great way to limit the migration of pests who aim to enjoy your fresh and delicious veggies before you can harvest them.
A practice that works well is rotating by planting crops that use up nitrogen one year, and then plants that produce nitrogen the following year in that location.
So, as an example, you could try nitrogen-producing plants like peas and beans for one year, and then nitrogen-taking plants such as lettuce, kale and mustard the year after.
Technique #3: Mulch the Soil
Mulching the soil has such great benefits that even without fertilizer you’ll still be able to gain such great benefits during the harvest. It’s another organic way of stimulating amazing soil performance.
As mulch depletes, it lowers the rate of weed growth that tend to compete with other plants for water and nutrients.
Organic mulches that can be spread at the root of your plants are straw, peat moss, leaves from shading trees and wood chips.
An effective way of mulching your soil is to uproot the weeds and lay them flat on the ground. Not only does this work but it limits the number of trips you make to dispose of them.
Technique #4: Add More Nitrogen
Nitrogen is among the most essential sources of nutrients for plants to grow. Years of tending to your garden will build nitrogen, but even so, there may still be a short supply in the soil.
There are thousands of microbes that help to keep your plants strong and in excellent condition and to do that they need to feed on nitrogen.
Fertilizers supply nitrogen, however, if stores are running out or you prefer to remain all organic you need to act fast. There are several ways of boosting nitrogen.
You can add organic matter to the soil, or as mentioned earlier, grow nitrogen-producing crops. Also adding manure or grass trimmings is a huge boost, unlike compost.
With all that nutrients, you’ll be sure to see the results of better health and growth for your plants.
Technique #5: Stop Soil Compaction
What’s worse than soil that is absolutely dry in relation to gardening? I’m sure you can think of a few things but soil compaction should totally be on that list.
When the dirt is too compressed it’s difficult for plants to spread their roots to find moisture and nutrients.
The microbes and worms are unable to break the soil and as such cannot transform organic material into the nutrients that plants need. This will cause them to dry up and starve.
To stop soil compaction do not walk on the dirt in your garden. It prevents air and water from reaching the plant roots which they desperately need. If your garden is big enough, create walking paths if possible.
Technique #6: Don’t Leave the Soil Bare
Have you ever seen a barren land that has been left unattended for months or even years? This is often a result of leaving the space bare for a long time.
If you’re truly trying to improve the soil in your garden that’s the wrong route to take. Not only will all the nutrients be dried out, but it’s easier to become compacted and waterlogged.
It’s best to remain consistent while gardening or if you won’t be using the spot for a long time add a few perennials.
Technique #7: Terrace Slopes
If your garden is on a hill or steep slope, then there’s the possibility of it becoming eroded. During heavy rains for example the nutrients from the soil could be washed away.
Terracing the garden, will not only bring out a fresh and green appearance but also enhance the soil quality. Excellent soil ecosystems would have been created for you to properly nurture your plants.
I hope you learned a lot from this post!
Note that you do not need to use all of these techniques at once. If you’re able to try the simplest of the seven techniques above feel free to go ahead and document the visible changes as you go.
For more information on gardening, check out my most recent posts and continue to visit my website for weekly updates.
Other gardening articles:
- How to Start Organic Farming
- Benefits of Gardening
- How To Keep Basil Alive
- How To Grow Green Onion
- Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
- How To Grow Lettuce
- How To Grow Kale
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