So you have decided to give gardening a try. That’s wonderful! Gardening is one of the most relaxing hobbies, and is perhaps the healthiest one as well. Before you go ahead and start buying all sorts of seeds and planning your garden, you have to make sure that your soil is conducive to raising plants.
Some of us are lucky enough to have inherently fertile soil in their backyard. However, most often, this is not the case. More so, after planting in the same patch of soil for a while, the soil needs to be replenished and nurtured. In short, you need to make sure your garden soil is perfect for your plants. How to do this? Read on to find out what the most effective tips are for making garden soil.
Use a soil testing kit.
Don’t play a guessing game. You can take one look at your soil and/or listen to other gardeners in the area, but you can only really know what your soil quality is like when you test the soil. You have two options for this. One, you can pay someone who tests soil quality professionally. Naturally, you have to expect to pay a fee. Two, you can buy a soil testing kit and do it yourself. You can find soil testing kits in any gardening store, or maybe even your local supermarket. This option is highly recommended as it is cheaper and just as effective. And, if you’re worried that you may botch it up, don’t! Soil testing kits are very easy to use and come with a manual so you know how to interpret the results.
Once you know the quality of your soil, you can proceed to making plans on how to make it more conducive to plants. If your soil is too acidic, you will have to buy alkaline material to even it out. One example is ground limestone. On the other hand, you will need something like elemental sulfur if your soil is too alkaline.
Get your hands dirty with manure.
Most soils need additional nourishment, and for that, you can use fertilizers. You may opt to buy commercial fertilizers but more gardeners will tell you that using manure is the best way to go about it. Animal manure has very high nitrogen content, which is good for plants. This is because, without nitrogen, plants will not flourish. If you have animals, then you can use their manure to fertilize your garden soil. Alternatively, you can make arrangements with local farmers. Yes, you’ll get your hands dirty, but you will save up a lot on costs.
Try green manure.
If you’re iffy about using animal droppings to fertilize your garden soil, opt for the greener kind – literally. Green manure is used to refer to plants that are grown and then mixed in with the soil. They are advantageous as they also add to the organic content of the soil, plus they are also known to fight pests and other diseases that may affect your plants. Examples of green manure are clover, buckwheat, soybeans, and winter rye.
How about composting?
Composting is a perfect option if you’re going to spend a lot of time in your garden. Not only does it make your soil richer, it also helps in eliminating the waste generated by your household. How does composting make your soil richer? You will use organic waste – vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells, grains, grass clipping, and the like – to make the compost. This will add more organic material to your garden soil. This will also attract earthworms, which are essential to good soil. More on earthworms later.
A word of caution: avoid adding certain material to your compost. Some examples are colored or dyed paper, pet droppings, products that are sprayed or mixed with synthetic chemicals, and meat.
Harness the power of other creatures – earthworms and chickens!
I mentioned earthworms above – they may be disgusting to some people, but gardening enthusiasts love them! That’s because earthworms are considered to be soil conditioners. Basically, earthworms are needed to till the soil. They do this by tunneling through the soil, the results of which are pathways for water and air – both essential for healthy plants. Earthworms also excrete something called castings or vermicompost. These castings are what condition the soil. They make the soil more porous (again, air and water!). They also contribute to fighting off pests and other diseases. Bottom line: the more earthworms you have, the better.
Now where do the chickens come in? Dumping all those things in your garden soil is not enough. You need to till the soil to get results. Naturally, you would want to save some time and effort in this regard. This is where chickens can help you – if you have them around. They will look for earthworms, and in the process till your soil for you.