Preparing Your Soil For A Better Gardening Experience

I was wondering about conditioning my garden soil?
Would it suffice for me to top dress a bed with soil conditioner or compost. Or, would it work if I took a shovel and pushed it into the ground and opened a slit, and then put some soil conditioner or compost into the slit? It wouldn’t be the same as working it into the entire soil bed, but at least there would be a little organic material in there.
Your Answer. I was just reading about this type of renovation to a garden bed. The writer was explaining that it is good to replenish organic matter every two years and one did not have to tear up the entire plot, but could incorporate it with digging down a foot or two, without disturbing the root systems of the existing plants. Fertilizer can be applied throughout the summer and this is called side dressing. Top dressing is merely laying organic matter on the surface. It will be beneficial, but will take much more time for the nutrients to reach down via leaching into the roots.
If there are no plants in this bed, you may dig all through it and add organic material, such as compost, dried leaves, peat moss or leaf mold. If plants are growing there now, then carefully dig away from the plants and add. Assume that the root systems will extend at least as far as the reach of the plant branches.
I am interested in working matter into my soil for better garden beds. Information is very hard to find. What do you know?
Here are some items to purchase and spade in. Read on with descriptions and several websites with lots of info for you, too much to print here!

  • perlite;
  • vermiculite;
  • dolomite lime;
  • magnesium sulfate;
  • seaweed meal;
  • soil moist.

This is one thing I just harp upon:
Soil drainage is critical to survival and growth of most landscape plants, especially evergreen trees and shrubs. When the rate of water movement through soil is restricted by fine-textured clay soils, subsoil, hard pan, or other material difficult to penetrate, a saturated zone may develop in the root zone of plants. Spaces in the soil normally containing air are filled with water, resulting in saturated soil. Wet soils cause more problems to landscape crops than any other single cause. When drainage is poor, roots are injured from the lack of oxygen, fertilizer uptake is limited, and plant growth is reduced. Soil moisture problems can be solved by installing surface and/or internal drainage.

Building Fertile Soil

Healthy soil – healthy plants: when you build and maintain fertile soil rich in organic matter, you literally lay the groundwork for thriving plants that can develop quickly, resist pests and diseases, and yield a bountiful crop.
The ideal soil would have sand, silt, clay and organic matter in about equal amounts. It would also be uniformly mixed to at least twelve inches deep. The subsoil would allow the excess water to drain away. No soil is ideal but soil can be improved with soil amendments and drainage.
Amendments that are commonly added to soil are:

  1. Sand or Profile Soil Conditioner: to improve aeration and drainage.
  2. Compost: to add organic matter, nutrients and to improve aeration and drainage.
  3. Lime or Sulfur: to raise or lower pH.
  4. Fertilizers: to add specific nutrients.
  5. Sharp sand or Mason’s sand creates spaces much better than river sand.

Beverly writes, I live in Pueblo, Colorado

This was a first garden in this house. We have raised beds and had special soil called 4-way garden soil brought in. We tested the soil and had to add a bit to it to reach where we wanted it to be.
We had hail in June and it did stunt some of the growing, but we got a fair amount of produce. Our tomatoes had no real flavor. We planted Roma, Early Girl and Sweet 100’s. All were rather tasteless.
Our green peppers tasted good as did the carrots, radish, cauliflower, broccoli.
The watermelons and cantaloupe did not have much taste either. We got a lot of melons, just no flavor. What could it be?
We had no pests and no weeds to speak of either. Did we water too much? We did not fertilize since the soil was good. We had a lot of ladybugs.
Response. It is a hard call, as reading soil test results would assist. Take in some samples next spring as soon as you can dig, from a depth of 6-12″, in various locations, labeled, to your local Ag Inspection lab or Extension Service (even a nearby school or research facility for farmers and gardeners).
The lack of added fertilizer is suspect. Even if the newly added soil was fine, with many spring and summer rains and hand waterings, the food leaches down below the root systems so is not available to the plants as they produce fruit and vegetables. This can lead to bland, tasteless food.
The hail and ladybugs would have no effect on flavor. Overwatering would lead to root, stem and blossom rot, and melons need plentiful water, so this also is not a factor. The soil and fertilizer are the issues which need to be analyzed next spring.

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