Now that Spring is here and the weather is perfect for planting in the garden, we are all eagerly visiting nurseries to scoop up vegetable, herb and flower seedlings to start our gardens.
But before we can grow healthy plants, we need to make sure we have healthy soil. Amendments play a vital role in the health and growth rate of plants, and feeding the soil with amendments provides a long-lasting foundation of nutrition for the plants. When amendments are added to the soil, the soil comes alive as the amendments decompose which create the beneficial nutrients that plants need to grow strong and healthy.
Soil amendments primarily work to improve the soil structure and to ensure that sandy-type soil is better able to hold onto nutrients and water. In clay-type soils, amendments help improve drainage by reducing compaction which enables water and nutrients to more easily move through the soil and reach plant roots. Amendments also help to “buffer” against problems such as high pH or alkalinity in the soil. Plants grown in soil with a lot of organic matter have healthier roots, which allows the plant to get enough nutrients from the soil even when the pH isn’t ideal.
Here are 3 steps to building better soil:
1. For relatively small gardens, it’s easiest to buy bagged, composted soil amendments. Whether you have clay soil or sandy soil, improving your soil always requires adding organic matter. The amendments should make up at least 30% of the garden bed area.
2. The amendments should be spread evenly over the top 2″-3″ of the existing soil. Then, it is very important that this organic matter is mixed thoroughly into the native soil with a shovel or garden spade. The soil should then be watered well. It’s important to wait about two weeks before planting because the soil is going to heat up after being watered, which could damage the roots of the newly planted seedlings.
3. Add some organic mulch around the plants once everything is planted. This will help retain moisture, continue to feed the soil, as well as help reduce weeds.