In addition to compost, there are several natural ways to feed your garden soil, including adding bonemeal and greensand. These products come from ancient sea beds and contain potassium, dozens of trace elements, and other important nutrients for plant growth. But these products won’t stimulate plant growth in a big way – they are essential for microbial activity. Here are three ways to feed your soil. You can mix a handful of greensand or bonemeal with the soil before planting your first seeds.
Compost adds to the moisture holding capacity of soil, provides air and nutrients to roots, and increases plant growth. It can be spread directly onto the garden soil or in a thin layer on top. Apply compost over freshly planted seeds to increase the rate of organic matter. Then, water thoroughly, work the compost into the top 6 inches of soil, and then add to the rest of the soil. If you’re adding compost to your garden soil, be sure to consider your plants’ needs and plant accordingly.
When adding compost, remember to avoid using coffee grounds, which are acidic and are not ideal for alkaline soil. Use nutrient-rich compost instead. You can also add manure or compost to your existing garden beds to add nitrogen to your soil. It is an excellent organic fertilizer for flowers, herbs, vegetable gardens, organic lawn care, and houseplants. For more information on how to add compost to your garden soil, read our tips below.
Mulch the Soil Surface
Organic mulch is an excellent way to nourish your garden soil naturally. Using mulch in your garden will increase its fertility and reduce compaction, while also warming the soil in the spring. A thick layer of mulch will also protect your plants from freezing temperatures, which can be devastating to their roots. During fall, you can leave fallen leaves on your beds and borders, as they will serve as excellent mulch for your plants. Fall leaves break down into rich humus, which will add fertility to your soil and return nutrients to your plants.
Organic matter in the soil will aid in water absorption and hold moisture in the soil. Soil with a crumbly structure holds water better and prevents runoff. Moreover, organic matter filters out excess water and prevents wet and dry cycles, so you don’t need to worry about overwatering. To find out if your soil needs some organic matter, you can squeeze it. If it breaks up, hold off till the following week.
Prevent Soil Compaction
Compacted soil hinders plant growth and inhibits the decomposition of organic matter. Aeration helps recycle nutrients and prevents compaction. It prevents water from percolating through soil, causing erosion. Compacted soil in home landscapes is often caused by building construction, repeated use of riding lawn mowers, and off-road parking of automobiles. Pedestrian paths also cause compaction.
To prevent soil compaction, you can improve the bulk density of the soil by adding compost. Organic materials like compost attract soil organisms, which aerate the soil. Compost can be mixed in with soil to an 18-inch depth and applied evenly. For heavily compacted soils, you may need a large amount of compost. In sandy loam soils, you may need to add 25% of the soil by weight. If you are planting in a clay soil, a total of 50% of the existing soil is recommended.
Using cover crops is another way to build better soil. Annual ryegrass and buckwheat are both excellent for building soil and preventing compaction. They also improve drainage and provide important nutrients to the soil. You can mow these crops before they go to seed to avoid compaction. In addition to adding to the soil’s nutrients, cover crops also help prevent erosion and prevent compaction.
Rotate Crops Every Planting
Rotating your crops every planting is one of the easiest ways to increase the productivity of your garden and feed the soil. This simple method reduces the likelihood of disease, weeds, and pest infestations, and makes it easier to grow more difficult crops. Crops that smother weeds are more likely to survive and thrive. Crop rotation also helps to prevent overwintering pests from finding food, which is a key benefit of crop rotation.
When choosing crops for your garden, make sure to consider the type of nutrients that each plant needs. Some types are heavy feeders, while others require little or no nutrients. Heavy feeders include corn, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which all require high levels of nitrogen. You should consider substituting these plants with ones that need less nitrogen, such as legumes. Legumes do not need to be pulled in the fall because their roots decompose into the soil.
For larger gardens, rotating crops by family is recommended. Large gardens may need a more extensive approach, so it is better to plant a different type of crop each planting. In addition to limiting the number of crops you can grow, rotation also helps to prevent the development of soil-borne diseases and pests. However, you can still benefit from fertilizer if you have a large garden.
Grow Cover Crops
A summer garden is the perfect time to plant a few rows of buckwheat. It can be purchased locally as seed and planted in empty beds. Once the buckwheat flowers, it is time to mow, weed-eat, clip and harvest the plants. When the cover crops are finished flowering, harvest and fork the seeds into the soil. Afterward, they will decompose naturally in the soil for two to four weeks.
A variety of legumes can be used as cover crops, ranging from sweet peas to wheat. These fast-growing forage plants are known for fixing atmospheric nitrogen and attracting beneficial insects during the flowering season. They also disrupt disease cycles. Many legumes can be purchased pre-inoculated with Rhizobium bacteria or you can plant them yourself. Common legume species include cowpeas, crimson clover, and red clover.
Another option for winter-protected beds is buckwheat. It can be planted as early as late summer. Buckwheat can also be planted in areas where crops have already been harvested. Then, once the buckwheat plants have grown to maturity, you can till them into the soil in the spring. Red clover, on the other hand, should be planted later in the fall or winter. Red clover will die during the winter but attracts bees and other beneficial insects.
Add Aged Animal Manure
A key step in adding aged animal manure to garden soil is knowing when and how to use it. When applying manure, it should be applied to the soil at least one year before planting a crop. Then, wait 90 days before adding other crops, and repeat the process at that point. This will help your plants get the nutrients they need to grow well. Besides the healthy soil, manure is also a great source of nutrients.
Before adding manure to your garden, make sure that it has been composted. When manure has not been composted, it is considered “hot” and contains a lot of urea nitrogen. It may burn the roots of plants. Hence, you must choose the type of manure you plan to add based on the type of plants you intend to grow. However, it is important to note that not all types of manure are appropriate for home gardens.
plant nitrogen-fixing plants
If you want to grow healthy, thriving plants, you can add more nitrogen to your soil by growing a variety of nitrogen-fixing plants. These plants have special microbes that help them break down atmospheric nitrogen and release it into the soil. In turn, your plants will use this nitrogen to grow and flourish. In order to benefit from this soil-nutrient addition, you should be growing these plants before they flower.
The best way to incorporate nitrogen-fixing plants into your garden soil is to till them in after harvest. They release nitrogen into the soil when they decompose, which will eventually be used to produce fertile humus. Some nitrogen-fixing green manures are legumes, which are perfect for tilling into the soil. Alternatively, you can sow them beneath your vegetables to make the most of them.
Another way to feed your garden soil naturally is to rotate legumes through your crop rotation scheme. This is commonly done on farms, and farmers use leguminous nitrogen-fixing plants as green manures. Home gardeners can also follow a similar strategy. They can rotate legumes with other plants during the growing season. In addition, you can plant herbaceous nitrogen-fixing plants in your fruit tree guild, forest garden, or ground cover crops.
Minimize Tilling Or Use No-Dig Practices
If you’re trying to avoid the costs and work of chemical fertilizers, you can also feed your garden soil naturally by minimizing tilling and using no-dig gardening methods. No-dig methods involve applying compost to the area you’re planning to plant. By spring, this compost will have broken down and is available for your plants. This method also requires less effort, allowing you to plant earlier.
If you’re planting perennial trees and shrubs, the no-dig process will slowly transform your garden soil. In fact, in a few years, you may not need to till the soil at all! No-dig practices help build soil naturally over time, much like the process of ecological succession did in the forest. While no-dig practices require less digging, they also help your garden look more beautiful and healthy.
Worms are a fantastic addition to a no-dig garden. Not only do they aerate soil and move nutrients around, but they also create worm castings – or worm poop. Native earthworms can be placed in raised beds or in-ground gardens. If you don’t have a garden, you can simply throw some worms into the area.