Improving garden soil should be top priority in the gardeners calender every year and it does not necessarily mean back breaking work either.
Soil types fall into 3 categories:
- Clay soil
- Loam soil
- Sandy soil
The holy grail of soil types is loam. A loam soil is fairly light in texture. It does not stick firmly together like clay soil. This is good for both drainage and oxygen around the roots of plants, loam soil still needs yearly improvement however, which we have described below.
So, onto the nitty gritty.
How to improve garden soil.
- How to improve clay soil
Clay soils are rich in nutrients but lack structure. Choice of planting becomes more limited and, lets face it, a clay soil is ugly and working with it becomes a depressing thought, even if it is to only pop out and plant a few bulbs. It becomes water logged after heavy rain and dries to a rock in summer. So here are your steps to improve your clay soil.
Spread 7 – 10cm of soil improver on top of the area you wish to improve garden soil. Lightly dig this into the soil using a garden fork, or spade. Don’t be too enthusiastic, you are working the soil not beating seven bells out of it. You will damage the existing soil structure especially if the ground is wet or waterlogged. If you have a particularly heavy clay soil then horticultural grit (not gravel) can also be added to improve drainage.
After you have worked the soil improver into the soil spread another layer of the improver over the top of the work ed soil. Another 5cm – 7cm if you have the space.
A quality soil improver will have organic matter blended in with it. This will help with minerals and nutrients but also attract your biggest friend in clay soil improvement “worms”. Worms do not favor a compacted clay soil but after you have completed your soil improvement they will multiply in numbers. A worm can eat 4 x its weight in organic matter in a day and what is leaves behind , the poo, or worm casts if you want to be all posh about it is otherwise known as “black gold”. A black, sandy loam packed with nutrients for your plants.
How long before you get a great workable soil? 3 years, carry this operation out once a year for 3 years and your garden soil will be greatly improved. After this continue mulching with soil improver or manure and your soil will just improve year after year .
- How to improve loam soil.
Although a loam soil is the best soil structure to have it does not hold nutrients as they leach out over time with rain. Improving a loam soil is fairly straight forward. Simply spread an even 5cm layer of soil improver or well rotted manure over the soil to be improved and lightly fork it into the soil. This should be carried out yearly to keep your soil in tip top condition. Healthy soil = healthy plants, fruit and vegetables.
- How to improve sandy soil.
Sandy soils do not hold nutrients or water and are therefore a poor planting medium for many plants. To improve a sandy garden soil simply spread 3cm evenly over the area to be improved and dig into the soil to an approx depth of 20cm. Do not be tempted to dig more soil improver into the soil than approx 3cm in any one year. Carry this out once a year for 3 years and your sandy garden soil will be greatly improved.
I hope we have helped in your quest on how to improve garden soil. Should all your efforts fail we have written a guide to purchasing soil in bulk here.