Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Amend Organically for Perfect Soil

So you've made your plans, built your beds, and either brought in some garden soil from the local bulk landscape supplier, or were lucky enough to till up your yard and have fairly decent soil under that lawn...

You then buy one of those inexpensive soil test kits to test your soil pH and the N-P-K.
Pop some soil into the container, some water, mix and wait. Results are quick and give you a fairly decent idea of whether your garden mix is okay or lacking in nutrients.

The N-P-K results...

A healthy Nitrogen (N) level is necessary for your plant to grow and thrive.
If your plants are stunted, lime-green or yellow-ish in colour, you likely have a low level of nitrogen and need to amend your soil.

What you can add...
Manure, especially chicken manure, well composted.
Grow peas and beans, which are nitrogen fixing, tilling them into the soil when they are finished.
Alfalfa meal
Alfalfa or legume hay
Blood meal
Fish meal
Feather meal
Coffee grounds

A healthy Phosphorous (P) level, the middle number on fertiliser boxes, is necessary for your plant to have healthy roots and to make fruits like cucumbers and tomatoes, peppers, etc...
A plant lacking in phosphorous will be stunted, may be limp and wilted looking, and will produce little to no flowers for veggie production.

What to add ...
Bone meal
Fish bone meal
Chicken manure
Rock phosphates

The third number on the box is Potassium or Potash (K).
A healthy potash level will give you a plant that flowers and fruits well, and great colour on the veggies.
A plant grown in soil deficient in potassium will be weak, fruit yields will be low, and they will taste kind of woody and lack luster. The foliage may begin to look dry and begin to curl, with yellowing between the veins.

What to add...
Alfalfa meal
Kelp meal
Sheep manure
Banana peels

vermi-compost from gardenthrifty.blogspot.com

Soil pH

Your soils pH level should be at 5.5 to 7.5 for most veggies to thrive and fruit well. If the levels are either too high or too low, the plant will not be able to absorb the nutrients from the soil and so will suffer.

It takes a good amount of time to raise or lower your pH as the amendments need to break down first to make the change. It is a good idea to test both spring and fall if you suspect an issue, checking for changes before amending again. Fall is a great time to add amendments as they have the entire winter and spring to begin to break down, set into action and begin working.

For a low pH, or soil that is too acidic, you will want to sweeten it....
Add wood ashes or dolomite limestone. Follow the amount as directed on the bag.
Dig this in to the level that your veggies grow down to, so about 10 to 12 inches deep.

To acidify sweet soil, if your pH is too high ...
You will want to add chopped pine needles, oak and maple leaves, and/or peat moss. Dig this in well.

Soil  Texture

This is pretty tricky and may be an ongoing thing to improve. You will want to have soil that is high in nutrients, friable (crumbly), with good drainage.

If you have very clay or very sandy soil in your garden, you will need to add much organic matter to your beds each and every year. Otherwise, the soils will seem to 'eat' up all the matter that you add, and revert back to super clay or super sandy in no time at all.
If you can, it is highly recommended that you build raised beds and start with brand new soil, that is kind of a sandy yet rich loam! That is the ideal!

Whether raised beds or gardens beds, you will want to add as much organic matter to your beds as possible, annually, in order to keep them producing really well for you through the years.
-grass clippings
-leaves or leaf mould
-peat moss (though as it is not really a renewable resource in that it takes decades upon decades to renew, so use sparingly, if at all)
-green crops and cover crops such as clover, vetch and rye that get incorporated into the soil.

Leaf mould, perfect amendment for gardens.
Add annually!

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