So you have rich, dark soil in your garden? In most areas, the native soil may be low in nutrients and have poor texture as well. This is certainly true where I live.
To improve the fertility of your soil and its texture – you can add soil amendments, which can decrease or sometimes even eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
A soil amendment is a product that adds fertility or improves the texture of your soil or does both. Whether you have clay soil, sandy or a loamy soil – soil amendments can improve your soil.
You can test your soil to see what nutrients it may require by picking up a soil test at your local extension office.
Here is a quick and easy guide to four popular soil amendments and how they benefit your soil:
Compost – is decomposed organic matter. It increases the fertility of your soil by slowly releasing nutrients AND it improves the texture of your soil by increasing the water-holding capacity of sandy soils or in the case of clay soil – helps to improve the drainage. If you don’t have your own compost pile – you can buy it from your local nursery or big box store. **IF YOU ONLY USE ONE SOIL AMENDMENT – USE COMPOST.
Manure - comes from a variety of sources; bat, cow, chicken, horse and rabbit manures can all be used in the garden. Manure contains nitrogen that is slowly released and also improves the texture of your soil. Make sure to use ‘aged’ or ‘composted’ manure that has been aged at least 6 months or it can ‘burn’ your plants. As manure ages, the smell decreases as well.
Blood Meal - yes….it is made up of blood from animals. Blood meal is a natural source of nitrogen, which is slowly released in the soil.
Bone Meal - is made up of ground up bones from animals and is a good source of phosphorus, which is an important nutrient for fruit, vegetable and flower formation.
So which soil amendment should you use? I recommend using a combination of all of the ones mentioned above. Add a 2 – 3 inch layer of compost, then a 2 inch layer of manure and top off with blood & bone meal (following package instructions as how much to apply). Mix all these together into your existing soil before planting. Or add smaller amounts of these amendments into the soil around your existing plants and lightly rake in about 1 inch deep.
**One helpful hint when adding soil amendments…
Keep an eye on your dog. Dogs love the smell of manure, bone and blood meal. So be sure to keep them away for a few days until the smell goes away, or they will be digging in your garden.