It goes without saying that your soil requires feeding the entire year. However, your soil especially needs it during autumn, so it has time to break down the food just in time for spring when budding plants need them most. You can use everything from fallen leaves and rotten fruits to leftover foods to give your soil an organic feast. Just use your trusty bladed hoe to chop and mix your organic matter to the topsoil. You can even add some manure and fertilizer to give it a better nutrient boost. Plus, worms work with other tiny creatures to transform organic waste into something that can help your plants grow.
Just add some worms, compost and mulch to your anaerobic soil and they will do all the work. This is a very easy way to aerate your soil and give it more nutrients. It might be that your soil is lacking a vital nutrient. What you can do is to use soil test kit or even better, take a sample of your soil to a reliable lab. Best done during August or September, this will help you determine the proper balance of nutrients that your soil needs.
For example, nitrogen is an essential requirement for plants and soil organisms alike. You just pull them out as they emerge. This will not only make your weeds easier to manage, it will also add more organic material to your soil. Leave the jar undisturbed for several hours. The finer silt particles will gradually settle onto the sand. You will find the layers are slightly different colors, indicating various types of particles. Leave the jar overnight. The next layer above the silt will be clay. Mark the thickness of that layer. On top of the clay will be a thin layer of organic matter.
Some of this organic matter may still be floating in the water. In fact, the jar should be murky and full of floating organic sediments. If not, you probably need to add organic matter to improve the soil's fertility and structure. Even very poor soil can be dramatically improved, and your efforts will be well rewarded.
With their roots in healthy soil, your plants will be more vigorous and more productive. Sandy Soil. Sand particles are large, irregularly shaped bits of rock.
In a sandy soil, large air spaces between the sand particles allow water to drain very quickly. Nutrients tend to drain away with the water, often before plants have a chance to absorb them. For this reason, sandy soils are usually nutrient-poor. A sandy soil also has so much air in it that microbes consume organic matter very quickly.
Because sandy soils usually contain very little clay or organic matter, they don't have much of a crumb structure. The soil particles don't stick together, even when they're wet.
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Clay Soil. Clay particles are small and flat. They tend to pack together so tightly that there is hardly any pore space at all. When clay soils are wet, they are sticky and practically unworkable. They drain slowly and can stay waterlogged well into the spring.
Once they finally dry out, they often become hard and cloddy, and the surface cracks into flat plates. Lack of pore space means that clay soils are generally low in both organic matter and microbial activity. Plant roots are stunted because it is too hard for them to push their way through the soil. Foot traffic and garden equipment can cause compaction problems. Fortunately, most clay soils are rich in minerals which will become available to your plants once you improve the texture of the soil.
Silty Soil. Silty soils contain small irregularly shaped particles of weathered rock, which means they are usually quite dense and have relatively small pore spaces and poor drainage. They tend to be more fertile than either sandy or clayey soils. The pH level of your soil indicates its relative acidity or alkalinity. A pH test measures the ratio of hydrogen positive ions to hydroxyl negative ions in the soil water.
When hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are present in equal amounts, the pH is said to be neutral pH 7. When the hydrogen ions prevail, the soil is acidic pH 1 to pH 6. And when the hydroxyl ions tip the balance, the pH is alkaline pH 6. Soil pH Tester.
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Most essential plant nutrients are soluble at pH levels of 6. If the pH of your soil is much higher or lower, soil nutrients start to become chemically bound to the soil particles, which makes them unavailable to your plants. Plant health suffers because the roots are unable to absorb the nutrients they require.
To improve the fertility of your soil, you need to get the pH of your soil within the 6. You can't, and shouldn't try, to change the pH of your soil overnight. Instead, gradually alter it over one or two growing seasons and then maintain it every year thereafter.
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Liberal applications of organic matter is a good idea too, because it helps to moderate pH imbalances. Acidic Soil. If the pH of your soil is less than 6. Soils in the eastern half of the U. The most common way to raise the pH of your soil make it less acidic is to add powdered limestone. Dolomitic limestone will also add manganese to the soil. Apply it in the fall because it takes several months to alter the pH. Wood ash will also raise the pH, and it works more quickly than limestone and contains potassium and trace elements.
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But if you add too much wood ash, you can drastically alter the pH and cause nutrient imbalances. For best results, apply wood ash in the winter, and apply no more than 2 pounds per square feet, every two to three years.
Alkaline Soil. If your soil is higher than 6. Soils in the western U. Soil is usually acidified by adding ground sulfur.
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You can also incorporate naturally acidic organic materials such as conifer needles, sawdust, peat moss and oak leaves. A professional soil test will provide you with a wealth of information about your soil, including the pH and amount of different nutrients.
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Your local Cooperative Extension Service office may offer a professional soil testing service. The advantage is low cost and results that are specifically geared to your location. If this service is not available, you can also have your soil tested by an independent soil lab. If possible, choose one in your own region of the country. Soil test results usually rate the levels of soil pH, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sometimes nitrogen. Most labs do not test for nitrogen because it is so unstable in the soil. Some labs also offer tests for micronutrients such as boron, zinc and manganese.
Unless you feel there may be a deficiency problem, you probably won't need micronutrient testing. As a preventative measure, you can apply organic fertilizers that include micronutrients such as greensand and kelp meal. To get the most accurate test results, take a soil sample from each garden area: lawn, flower garden, and vegetable garden. Spring and fall are the best times to perform a soil test.