Has your garden seen better days? It might be time to take a look at the soil in it. Soil is the lifeblood of a healthy, happy garden. Without it, your plants won’t reach their full potential, veggies and fruits won’t produce a great crop, and you might even miss out on beautiful birdlife!
Follow the steps below to improve your garden soil.
STEP ONE: SOIL CHECK
Before we can add anything to your soil, we need to know what we’re working with. Get yourself a soil test kit from your local garden centre and test nutrient, pH, Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus levels.
Next test the soil texture and structure. It should fall into one of three categories: Sandy, clay or silty.
IMPROVE SANDY SOIL
You can tell you have sandy soil by its loose structure which is usually made up of large sand particles and pieces of rock.
Pro: Good aeration and water drainage
Con: Low in nutrients, non-cohesive texture, contains too little organic matter and clay
To improve this type of soil’s quality you’ll need to:
- Add 5cm organic matter to the surface annually
- Use compost to help retain nutrients
- Scatter mulch around plants to keep moisture and cool soil
- Plant ground creepers
IMPROVE CLAY SOIL
Clay soil is easy to identify! It’s fine, flat and tightly packed together, making it sticky and often hard to manipulate which in turn affects root growth.
Pros: Incredibly high in minerals.
Cons: Low organic matter and microbe levels. Poor aeration and drainage which can cause them to become waterlogged.
To improve this type of soil’s quality you’ll need to rework its texture by following these points:
- Add 5cm of organic matter to the surface
- Refresh organic matter annually by adding 2.5cm – this does not make sense (Refresh soil annually by adding a top layer of at least 2.5cm of organic matter)
- Install long-lasting raised beds to assist with draining
- Avoid disturbing soil too much with spades, rakes, trowels and other tools
IMPROVE SILTY SOIL
Silty soils can be identified by their dense texture. They also contain tiny pieces of weathered rock particles.
Pros: Poor drainage and aeration
Cons: Generally more fertile than sandy and clay soils
You can improve this type of soil by following these tips:
- Steer clear of disturbing soil too much with tilling
- Add 2.5 cm of organic matter to the soil annually- does not make sense (Refresh soil annually by adding a top layer of at least 2.5cm of organic matter)
- Make use of raised beds to assist with drainage
- Mulch the surface to help prevent surface crusting
GETTING THE RIGHT SOIL PH
Ideally, most plants thrive in a pH of 6.5 but anything between 6.5 – 6.8 is considered fine. The rule of thumb here is to check what type of plants you’re buying and what soil pH they thrive in.
While there is always the exception to any rule, a pH level lower than 6.5 is generally too acidic for most South African plants.
To raise your soil acidity use Wonder Agricultural Lime.
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