Improving Your Soil With Organic Matter
After moving into a new home in a new or established neighborhood, many gardeners are disappointed to discover their flowering plants struggling for survival due to poor soil. The soil may be full of clay or stones, too acidic, compacted, or lacking in organic matter. Some home-owners may resort to simply adding fertilizer. Don’t do this!
With a little knowledge and a bit of determination you can use soil amendments to improve poor soil conditions. Soil amendments are materials that are mixed into the topsoil to promote healthy plant growth. Plant food is not usually classified as a soil amendment because its primary function is to supply nutrients. Soil amendments, such as lime, change the soil pH. Others, such as compost, supply nutrients that are most important as soil conditioners. Adding any organic matter from composted leaves to manure, leads to better air and water movement and plant growth.
Most flowering plants perform best in soils high in organic matter. Enriched with organic matter, soil becomes loose and easy to dig and plant. It also contains a large number of earthworms. Over 3-5 years you will notice a great change in your soil when adding organic matter. Here are a couple examples of organic material you can mix into the soil to improve it:
- Composted manure helps build good soil. Only use manure that has been mixed with bedding material and has been allowed to compost for over 2 months. If you know a farmer who can supply this, then you will likely know that farm manures usually contain 1% or less of each of the three main nutrients found in plant foods; nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
- Peat moss is partially decomposed sphagnum moss mined from bogs. It absorbs 10-20 times its weight in water, but it repels water when it is dry. Peat moss contains little nutritive value. It is very acidic and is often mixed into beds prepared for acid-loving plants, such as blueberry, azalea, and rhododendron.
- Sawdust that is well-aged and decayed can be added to soil. Fresh sawdust ties up nitrogen as it decomposes.