Improve Your Garden Soil

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Simple Ways to Improve Soil Every plant you grow removes minerals and trace elements from your soil.
If you don't replenish your soil on a regular basis, you can expect your plants to produce lower yields and even become less healthy and more susceptible to pest and disease.
That's why we need to keep improving soil by adding organic matter, which includes manures, compost, mulches and other organic materials.
Below are 15 simple ways for soil improvement.
Composting is a great start.
By turning organic materials into compost, you are using a wide variety of materials and so putting back a great range of minerals and nutrients.
Compost provides humus in the soil, which improves the soil structure and the moisture holding capacity of the soil.
Add compost as a 5 to 10cm layer (2 to 4 inches) of mulch to the surface of your soil.
Don't dig over your soil.
It is not necessary to turn over, or double dig your soil, and it can destroy both the soil texture and the micro-organisms that are of great benefit to your soil.
Besides, you don't need to dig.
Let your earthworms do the bulk of the work.
They take nutrients from the surface and work their way deep into the soil, making tunnels as they go, which allows both air and water to penetrate deeply.
This is a great benefit - so let the worms work the soil for you.
Mulching has so many benefits; including preventing moisture loss, soil erosion and suppressing weeds.
But one of the main benefits if you're using organic mulches is that when they break down, they feed the soil.
That's why you'll need to mulch regularly - so that your mulch continues to feed your soil.
Checking your PH is something you should consider.
Nutrients are only available to plants at certain pH levels.
Most vegetables enjoy a pH of around 6 to 6.
5, slightly on the acidic side.
If your soil is not close to this pH your vegetable plants will not thrive as they are unable to mine the minerals they need for optimum growth.
You can buy pH testing kits from your local nursery or hardware store.
They are inexpensive and are multiple use.
A great investment in your vegetable garden.
Crop Rotation - Rotating your crops will produce healthy soil and plants.
This basically means that you don't plant the same type of plant in the same patch of ground, one after another.
Choose plants from a different family each time you put in new plants.
Otherwise the soil becomes depleted of the nutrients that particular plant needs.
The plants will not grow as well and will become more and more susceptible to disease and pest attack.
Growing nitrogen fixers is a great idea.
The main plants that will take nitrogen from the air and fix it to the soil are legumes - that is peas, beans, alfalfa, clover, vetch, lentils or lupins.
There are other, but these are the most common.
For best results I like to chop them to ground level just as flowering starts.
Leave the stalks on top of the soil or throw them onto your compost heap.
Liquid Compost - Liquid fertilizers are a great pick-me-up for plants as the nutrients are usually more available to your plants.
You will also be adding nutrients to the soil.
Just put some mature compost into a hessian bag and place it in a 20 litre (5 gallon) container.
Fill with water and allow it to steep for a week or two.
If the mixture looks to brown dilute further with more water, then pour on and around plants.
Mature animal manures are a great addition to your soil.
Growing organically means that everything you include in your garden has organic origins.
So you'll want to make sure that any manure you bring in to your garden has not come from animals that have been given antibiotics, hormones or any other substances that will be detrimental to the organic nature of your vegetable garden.
Keeping chickens and some other small animals are is a great way to get some of your work done for you.
You can let chooks scratch around a patch that you've finished harvesting.
They'll clean up any pests and old plants, while scratching over your soil and adding their fertilizer as they go.
Chicken manure makes a wonderful addition to the compost heap - remember the greater variety of ingredients, the more nutrients and minerals for your soil.
Worms are another wonder animal for your organic garden.
They take up very little space, then turn you kitchen scraps into both worm castings and worm juice.
Take the worm juice and mix it up with 1 part worm juice to 10 parts water.
You can spray it directly onto plant foliage or just add it to your soil.
You can do the same thing with the castings, or you can just add the castings as a fertilizer directly onto the soil.
Grow herbs that are activators for your compost heap.
By having herbs such as comfrey, yarrow, dandelion, valerian and tansy growing in your garden, you'll always have some close by to add to your compost heap.
These herb activators will really make your compost heap heat up faster.
Each plant also has a valuable mineral contribution, which also ends up in your soil.
Human urine is also a great activator for your compost heap.
Urm...
it's also quite good for trees and shrubs in the garden, providing you're not taking antibiotics or have any infections.
To use in your compost heap, make sure it's fresh and diluted (about 10 -1 ratio).
Blood & Bone, Dynamic Lifter and Complete "D" are all organic fertilizers that are readily available, quite inexpensive and will greatly improve your results in your vegetable garden.
Green Water Fertilizer: This is a great, free way to make your own liquid fertilizer.
Simply pull out any weeds, herbs, green crops, (even grass will do).
Throw all the greens into a large bucket and fill with water.
Stir it each day until the water looks green.
Dilute 50 / 50 with more water and pour on and around your plants.
Place the mushy weeds/greens on your compost heap.
Keep your soil covered.
When you've harvested an area of your garden - even if it's just several plants - it's always better to either plant new plants in the space or cover it straight away with mulch.
If you leave the soil bear it will be open to erosion, so you will loose valuable topsoil.
By implementing these great tips your soil will just keep on improving over time.
As your soil improves, so will the vigour of your plants and the yields you get.
Try these and other methods to continually make improvement to your soil.
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