Caring For Your Soil

Soil is the lifeblood of any garden, without it your plants and vegetables will never reach their full potential. There are number of common reasons why you may find that your soil is poor such as poor drainage, poor fertility or pans (hard layers)

Soils are usually poorly trained either because they have a makeup which naturally holds a lot of water- e,g Clay or because they overlie a hard layer which can be natural or caused by excessive use of rotary cultivators, blades of

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which when used regularly and at the same depth smear the soil, causing a hard layer.

Of course soils may also suffer from a high water table and this is very difficult to remedy- you may have to resort to growing in raised beds to lift the roots of your crops above the waterlogged soil.

Heavy clay soils are usually very fertile once tamed and adding lots of grief as well as well rotted manure will, over time, help to improve the structure of your soil. Of course adding well rotted manure to your garden will also help to improve the fertility of the soil, although rains will wash some of the nutrients away. A dressing of general fertilizer may also be acquired before sowing to make up the shortfall.

As already mentioned improving,  the key to this is adding plenty of well-rotted material, which in turn adds Humus – a sticky jelly like substance which binds soil particles together to form crumbs, improving drainage and aeration as well as helping the soil to hold on to nutrients better.

A productive compost heap is therefore essential to the health of your soil and you should get into the habit of recycling everything you can. The only things you shouldn’t compost are cooked foodstuffs and Meat, but these can be placed into a wormary or an alternative type of composter such as a Bokashi bin, so need not be wasted.

To make good compost you need

  • A well-insulated but ventilated bin at least 1 m² in the volume
  • A roughly equal mixture of green and brown waste. Green waste includes any soft fresh green pruning , substandard veg or trimmings, grass clippings and soft non-flowering weeds. Brown material to use would be pruning’s, small amounts of cardboard and shredded paper (not glossy). The key is not to have too much of any one thing, but to keep that balance between brown and green.
  • A cover to keep in the heat and prevent excess rain from making the heap to Wet and cold. Of course bins can be purchased, but if you want to save cash it is hard to beat the old standby of 4 wood pallets lashed together to form a square and stood on the soil, rather than a hard surface. It might not be pretty, but it is strong and just offers enough ventilation to ensure that the microbes in the heat get all of the oxygen they need to keep the rotting process going.
  • Before filling your bin put a layer of unshredded material in the base to allow lots of air to circulate under the heap as well as around the sides. Turn the material in the bin regularly to mix the cooler outer portions with the hotter central material- if you have two bins this makes the job easier as you can turn the contents of one into the order. Rotary bins can also be good here providing you have enough material to keep them well fed and that you remember to turn them every day if possible.

With the right care you can turn your garden into a productive space, it may take a lot of hard work to get things how you want them but rest assured that your hard work will not go in vein and you will be able to reap the rewards for many years to come.

This is a guest post from mygardenhammock. A site dedicated to your garden and how to turn into a haven. The site also has great a great feature on garden hamocks as well as the Mexican hammock and they can be used to make the most of your garden

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