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5 Ways to Enrich Your Garden Soil

Linda enjoys tending her plants and flowers. She has written a variety of gardening articles for a number of nationally known publications.

While some gardens are blessed with perfect soil, most are less than ideal. After several years of planting, even the best soil eventually becomes depleted of nutrients. Your garden relies on a number of important elements to create a beautiful show of blooms and a bumper crop of vegetables. If your garden is sandy, acidic, or full of heavy clay you can create a healthy environment by amending the soil with the right components. Here are four easy ways to improve your garden for the upcoming growing season.

Ways to Enrich Your Garden Soil

  1. Composting
  2. Manure
  3. Cover Crops
  4. Wood Ash
  5. Mineral Fertilizers

1. Composting

Composting is a great way to reuse garbage scraps and keep them out of the landfill. Compost will boost your soil’s nutrients and improve its overall quality. These organic materials are comprised of decomposed matter such as vegetable peels, fruit waste, coffee and tea grounds, grass clippings, eggshells and leaves.

To get the mix just right use an equal amount of green and brown matter. Adding earthworms will assist the other microorganisms by aerating the soil and supplying valuable oxygen. Amend your soil with the compost in preparation for spring planting.

Composting is a great way to recycle food scraps instead of putting them into the trash.

Composting is a great way to recycle food scraps instead of putting them into the trash.

2. Manure

Don’t turn your nose up at manure. Believe it or not it is nitrogen rich and is the best and healthiest way to improve your soil versus chemical fertilizers. Cow, chicken, rabbit, horse and sheep manure contains a variety of other nutrients like phosphorus and potassium from herbivorous animal waste.

This type of crude fertilizer must be steam treated to kill harmful bacteria and aged properly by allowing it to dry completely. Mix it well into your soil several weeks before planting.

Never incorporate raw manure into the soil.  Use steam cleaned manure to avoid E. coli bacteria.

Never incorporate raw manure into the soil. Use steam cleaned manure to avoid E. coli bacteria.

3. Cover Crops

If you don’t prefer animal manure, cover crops are just as effective. In agricultural terms, cover crops also known as green manure are made up of plants plowed under and mulched back into the soil to improve its structure and fertility. Green manure is a common practice in organic gardening.

Use buckwheat and lacy phacelia in the summer and vetch, daikon, and clover in the fall. Once these crops emerge and flower it’s time to quickly work them into the soil. As the plant waste decomposes under the surface it will continually enrich the soil throughout the growing season.

Planting cover crops will help provide depleted nutrients after several crop harvests.

Planting cover crops will help provide depleted nutrients after several crop harvests.

4. Wood Ash

Take leftover ash from your fireplace or wood stove and save it to boost your garden soil. Not many people know about using wood ash as a fertilizer. It provides important micronutrients and helps absorb toxins within in the soil.

Ash is made up of small percentages of potassium, lime, phosphorus, magnesium, aluminum and sodium. Due to the small amounts of elements, wood ash is often referred to as a low-grade fertilizer but it works very well in conjunction with other amendments. The ashes also improve acidic soil by raising the pH.

Tilling wood ash into the garden will add minerals to the soil.

Tilling wood ash into the garden will add minerals to the soil.

5. Mineral Fertilizers

Shell meal fertilizer consists of pulverized bones and shells from crabs and a variety of shellfish. It's a good source of calcium, phosphorus and trace minerals for your backyard garden. Shellfish fertilizer also has chitin from crustaceans which naturally discourages harmful garden parasites and nematodes.

Another mineral called rock phosphate is a slow release fertilizer. It contains phosphorous, lime, calcium, and trace elements. The stone is crushed into small particles that won't filter through the soil. Its mineral content remains stable until plant roots absorb nutrients from the pulverized rock.

Iron potassium silicate, known as greensand is an organic fertilizer found in shallow sea beds that consists of marine deposits. It is a popular organic fertilizer and conditioner that helps soil retain water and improves plant health. The smooth light green grains of sand are rich in potassium, iron and a range of micronutrients.

This fertilizer is great for flowering plants.

This fertilizer is great for flowering plants.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How much of each 6 ingredients do I need?

Answer: Compost, manure, mulch, cover crops, worm castings and natural nutrient amendments.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 09, 2019:

Marie Flint, it's amazing that you've used virtually all of the soil nutrients I mentioned in this article.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on March 09, 2019:

Beans are good to grow because they put nitrogen into the soil.

When I was living on the east side of town, I worked the soil for three years. I had everything going for me--a neighbor with horse and cow manure, a Speedway on the corner for coffee grounds, a fire pit on the west side of the house for ashes. There were plenty of weeds and fresh fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. I was the "Compost Queen."

Then my daughter decided to move. Now I'm faced with overgrown hedges and vines, neglected trees, sandier soil, fire ants, and the awful sense that my efforts don't count.

However, my spirits have been lifted by the 30-year effort of Prince Charles at Highgrove House. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbJgNXgppkI I have had no desire to go to England, but the future King of England's patience and wisdom have changed my mind--I'd love to get the chance to work along some of those gardeners and witness man-and-nature's creativity first-hand!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 09, 2019:

Liz, I recently learned about the wood ash. It's a great way to recycle ash from the fireplace.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 09, 2019:

This is a useful guide. I had not heard of wood ash or using cover crops before in this way.