Home All Things Gardening Evaluate and Improve Your Soil: A Guide to Soil Amendment

Evaluate and Improve Your Soil: A Guide to Soil Amendment

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Garden trowel in the soil humus.

There are three types of soils, these are loamy, clay, and sandy soils.

The clay soil’s characteristics is slow draining, slow to warm, and compacts easily making it difficult for plant roots to grow. It has a tendency to be alkaline and retain water. This heavy, poorly draining soil forms into sticky, hard mass when squeezed. This type of soil is very heavy to cultivate. However, if drainage is improve, the plants will grow well as it holds more nutrients than many other soils.

The sandy soil has a lower moisture holding capacity and must be watered more frequently. It has lower nutrient holding capacity and must be fertilized more often. It is subject to wind and water erosion, tills easily and warms up quickly. A handful crumbles and won’t form a ball. This type of soil is is easy to cultivate but  dries out rapidly.

The perfect soil or the loamy type of soil is compost of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. It retains nutrients and water while allowing excess water to drain away. Loam soil feels soft and crumbly and is easy to work oveer a wide range of moisture conditions. And handful of loam holds its shape when squeezed, and crumbles when squeezed harder. That is the reason why it is easy to cultivate. If you have this type of soil, you should consider yourself lucky.

If you have sandy or clay soil, then you have to improve your soil by digging and incorporating well-rotted organic matter. This will significantly improve your soil.

So how will you improve your soil by adding amendments? Here are some of the solutions that you can do to amend your soil.

  1. Loosen Heavy Soil. This is a problem because when your soil is compacted, your plants will not grow well. Gardeners and farmers must be aware of this and must know how soil compaction happens and then do something to improve compacted soil. Please remember that you should avoid tilling your soil when it is too wet or too dry and if possible, don’t tilling your soil. To loosen heavy soils, you need to add any or combination of the following: compost, manure, peat moss, vermiculite, gypsum, sand, or greensand. You can also add earthworms to improve your soil compaction.
  2. Improve Drainage. Soil drainage is essential for good plant growth. A poor drainage will result in water-logged and saturated soils. As a result, it will greatly affect  your plant’s growth, it will also reduce oxygen-availability to roots, and decrease the plant’s ability to take up water through its roots. To improve drainage in your soil, you need to add some soil conditioners such as organic matter. It is the single-most important soil amendment and should be incorporated as deep as possible.  As an amendment to improve soil drainage, you may add gypsum, sand, or perlite. If you have no other way to improve or amend your soil and you still want to grow plants, you may plant in raised soil beds.
  3. Absorbs and Retains Moisture. Maintaining proper soil moisture is important to successful gardening/farming.  But you must maintain a balance moisture as too much moisture will cause root rot and too little will results in wilted or dead plants. To improve you soil to absorb or retain moisture, you may add manure, peat moss, vermiculite, or green sand.  You may mix 2 to 3 inches of organic material into the top 6 inches of soil using a space to improve the quality of dry sandy soil.

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