Is your soil good - or bad? Does it have a good diet, can it hold its drink? Could it quite simply just be better – well behaved, good crops, good drainage and structure etc. Most soils can be improved both in nutrient content and in structure by following good gardening practices. Soil that is in good heart will be free-draining, easy to dig, have a crumbly texture and a healthy earthworm population.
How to improve the condition of your soil
- Add organic matter as a soil conditioner. Compost and strawy animal manures provide plant foods and improve soil structure. If applied in the autumn cover the treated area with black breathable plastic or a winter green manurecrop to avoid nutrients being washed out.
- Leaf mould contains very few plant foods, but can be used to improve structure. It can also help to release plant foods in heavy soils and to hold onto those present in light soils, improving fertility without directly adding nutrients. Leaf mould is a slow release fertilizer and makes a very good mulch.
- Incorporate Green Manures into your rotation - they provide plenty of organic matter and can fix nitrogen. They also help to improve soil structure.
- Rotate your vegetables - practice a four (or more) year rotation to prevent the build up of pests and diseases. This will also allow the soil to rest after heavy crops such as potatoes or brassicas.
- Use slow release fertilizers - the microbes in the soil slowly break down the fertilizer to release the nutrients so plants get a more balanced and continuous supply. The organic principle is to ‘feed the soil to feed the plant’.
- Walk on wet or sticky soils.
- Cultivate soil that is too wet, too dry, frozen, dried into solid lumps or wet enough to stick to your tools or boots.
- Mix topsoil with subsoil; there is a different in colour between the two.
Soil conditioners will improve the health of your soil by either altering the Ph, improving water retention, adding trace nutrients, stimulating soil life, enabling the availability of micro nutrients or improving soil structure. They are important for keeping soil in good heart and enabling it to produce healthy crops.
Seaweed is an important soil improver rich in minerals and trace elements. . Regular dressings stimulate microbial activity, improving soil structure and fertility. Seaweed dust should be worked into the soil before planting, used as a top dressing or added to the compost. Available in 4kg and 25kg bags.
Soil additive made of basalt rock dust. Has a high content of readily metabolizable silica and lime which are necessary for the maintenance of soil fertility and avoidance of micro-nutrient deficiency. Available in 4kg or 20kg bags.
Soil improver with a high content of easily convertible silicic acid and other minerals that are essential for maintaining soil fertility and preventing trace nutrient deficiencies. Particularly suitable for improving the binding and nutrient availability of lighter, more permeable soils. Excellent for adding to soils in container plants. Available in 4kg and 15kg bags
Loosens heavy soils and makes them easier to work. With the right lime content in the soil, the other nutrients become fully effective because water, air and heat circulation are optimal.
Dolomite lime - or magnesium lime is manufactured by crushing dolomite limestone down to very small pieces. Dolomite lime works to increase the Ph levels of acidic soil. As well as calcium carbonate, dolomite lime also contains magnesium carbonate. Magnesium deficient plants are often yellower, have shorter root systems, and produce noticeably lower yields than plants grown in healthy soil. Available in 4kg and 25kg bags.
Garden lime – Calcitic Lime for mild Ph adjustment, soil loosening and soil structure improvement. Neutralizes acids in soil that would get out of hand without liming from degradation and leaching. Activates soil life and eliminates soil exhaustion. Will increase the activity of micro-organisms in the soil and consequently improve fertility. Available in 4kg and 20kg bags.
Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient necessary for plant growth and improves the use efficiency of other essential plant nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. Lowers pH in alkaline soils. Also useful as a soil amendment around acid loving plants such as blueberries, azaleas and rhododendrons. Available in 4kg and 20kg bags.
In nature 90 % of all plants cohabit with mycorrhizae. These are useful soil fungi that form a symbiosis with the plants. They help increase the reach of plant roots. There is a similar cooperation with useful soil bacteria. The absorption capacity of the roots increases by as much as 700% for this reason. It is much easier for the plants to absorb nutrients and water. And, just as important the beneficial fungi and soil bacteria occupy the space around the roots so that pathogens have much fewer opportunities. Available in 4kg and 25kg bags.