Every gardener knows that having healthy soil is key to growing healthy plants in your garden. Sometimes, however, over time, the soil can start to lack nutrients and minerals, and it no longer healthy. This soil problem can be caused by a variety of different reasons. When your soil is no longer healthy after a year, do you need to replace the garden soil?
Replacing the soil in your garden once a year is not necessary. You should get a soil test done once a year to ensure that your soil is not lacking any vital nutrients and minerals. Once you’re aware of what the soil is lacking, you can adjust the soil easily through organic matter like compost.
Soil health can be complicated and can take some time to get right. But how do you ensure that your garden soil is packed full of minerals and nutrients and ready to grow strong and healthy plants? Let us go through a few things that you can do to prepare your garden soil.
Should You Replace Garden Soil Every Year?
Changing your garden soil every year is just impractical and, in most cases, is not necessary. In nature, the soil is not replaced, and wild plants grow perfectly fine. However, when you have a garden bed, certain nutrients will accumulate in different seasons and depending on what is planted in the garden bed.
Some plants might prefer different nutrients and extract these nutrients from the soil more than others. This can lead to your soil being unbalanced. This imbalance in the soil can make it difficult for certain plants to go correctly.
So, you most certainly do not need to replace the soil in your garden every year, but you do need to implement some steps to make sure that the soil has the right balance of nutrients every year to keep your plants healthy. How do you do this?
How To Prepare Your Garden Soil For Better Plant Growth
Having healthy soil in your garden is the basis of having healthy plants. When your soil is healthy, you do not need to fertilize the soil as much, and you can lessen the amount of pesticide you use in your garden.
Good Garden soil is fluffy and loose, making it packed with air that plant roots require to grow well. The soil should have life in it, in the form of earthworms, fungi, and other micro-organisms. These organisms help maintain the quality of your garden soil.
The following are ways to check your soil’s health and ways to fix your soil if it is not healthy. These do not require you to completely replace the soil in your garden.
How To Determine Soil Health
There are many different types of nutrients that your plants need in the soil to ensure they are healthy. You do not need to replace your garden soil to ensure that your soil has these nutrients in it. You can just supplement your existing soil to keep your plants happy.
The most essential nutrients that your plants need to grow are phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium.
These nutrients are known as macronutrients or primary nutrients as plants tend to absorb these nutrients in large amounts. Most fertilizers have these primary nutrients in them. Some fertilizers, however, do not have the other nutrients known as secondary nutrients and lesser nutrients.
This can be a problem as plants still need these other nutrients to grow into healthy adult plants. Secondary nutrients include magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. Lesser nutrients include copper, boron, iron manganese, and zinc.
So, when choosing your fertilizers, ensure you get one that has a mixture of all these nutrients. This will make sure that no matter what plant you place in your garden, you know they are getting the nutrients they need.
If you know what you put into your soil, then you can determine how healthy your soil is right from the start. If you are unsure about how your garden was taken care of before you got to it, then there are ways to test your soil’s health so you know what needs to be fixed before you grow your plants.
Garden Soil Testing
An easy way to figure out what nutrients are lacking in your garden soil is to get the soil tested by a professional. These tests usually measure phosphorus levels, potassium, magnesium, and nitrogen; they also test the pH of your soil.
If you do not want someone to come and test your garden for you, then there are less intensive home soil test kits that you can buy and do yourself. For these soil tests, you can go to your local gardening store; most stores stock them.
The main factor to look out for when testing your garden soil is the pH level. The ideal pH level to aim for regarding your soil is between 6.5 and 6.8. This range is the goldilocks range for plants as it allows nutrients to pass from the soil to the plants with ease.
If your garden soil pH is too alkaline or acidic, then the plants will have trouble absorbing the nutrients that they need, no matter how much fertilizer you give them. Once the pH level is perfect, then you can add in the nutrients that your soil is lacking.
The best time in the year to test your soil is in spring or fall, as this tends to be the time when soil is more stable. These times are also perfect for adding fertilizer or other nutrient-filled matter into your garden if your garden is lacking anything.
Garden Soil Type And Texture
Because you do not need to replace your soil every year, you should know what type of soil you have in your garden to be able to supplement the soil correctly.
So, apart from finding out the nutrient and pH level in your garden’s soil, you should also keep an eye on the soil texture as different soil types will need help in different areas.
If your soil is sandy, then your soil may be lacking in most nutrients as water will drain through it quickly, taking the nutrients with it. Sandy soil is also usually lacking in organic matter and beneficial microbes that plants need to grow correctly.
You can determine if your garden soil is sandy by picking some up and rubbing it in between your fingers. If the soil is gritty, it is probably sandy soil, and you will need to add a mixture of nutrients and beneficial microbe to your soil.
Sandy soil can be a little difficult to maintain, and you will need to keep a close eye on the nutrition in this soil to ensure your plants get what they need. For this reason, sandy soils need a lot of fertilizer throughout the year.
Another type of soil is heavy clay soil. This type of soil is not good at draining water and can be quite hard and cracked, then they dry out. Plant roots tend to have a difficult time trying to grow in this soil as there is not much air in between the soil partials.
Clay soil also has little to no beneficial microbes or organic matter in it. This type of soil is one of the most difficult types of soil to grow plants in, and it needs the most transformation done to it for plants to grow well. This type of soil needs lots of mulch and fertilizer to allow healthy plants to grow in it.
To determine if your soil is dense clay soil, pick some up, and if the soil feels sticky and slippery when it is wet but harsh when it is dry, then you probably have clay soil.
The last type of soil is silty soil. This soil does not have good water drainage, but it is more fertile compared to both clay and sandy soils. To determine if you have silty soil, pick some up, and if it feels smooth and powdery, then you probably have silty soil.
Silty soil needs less help to grow healthy plants. However, it is still necessary to fertilize it every now and then to keep the nutrient level balanced.
How To Improve Your Garden Soil
If you have a soil type that is not quite fertile or that is lacking certain nutrients and minerals, one of the best ways to improve your soil is to add in some organic matter. This organic matter can be in the form of aged manure, compost, or mulch. You can also grow some cover crops to help keep your soil healthy.
You should be careful when adding chemical fertilizers to your soil as these fertilizers only carry certain nutrients and minerals and will not help to maintain a good soil structure. Whereas organic matter like mulch will add structure to your soil as well as everything else your plants need to be healthy.
Ensure that you use a mixture of organic matter to make your soil balanced. You should dig some of this organic matter deep into the soil. This will make sure that plants with deep roots will get the nutrients they need as well as helping with the soil structure.
Things To Consider About Your Garden Soil
You need to consider some other things when you are dealing with your garden soil to ensure that the soil is ready for your plants. The following segments go over a few things you should think about, as well as why you should use certain materials in your garden to maintain healthy soil and how to fix some problems in your soil.
Water Drainage In Your Soil
Healthy soil is usually about 25% water. This allows for the right amount of water that is needed to sustain healthy plants and soil organisms to be always available in the soil. Too much water and too little water can both cause issues for your plants.
If your soil is silty or clay, then the soil tends to get waterlogged. This can suffocate the plant’s roots and other beneficial organisms that live in the soil. If your soil is sandy, then water will usually drain right through it, and your plants will have difficulty absorbing sufficient water to stay healthy.
Adding organic matter to your garden soil allows for the formation of aggregates. The organic matter helps improve the soil structure and helps the soil retain the right amount of water to keep plants and other organisms healthy.
Air In The Soil
You need to make sure that your garden soil is filled with air; this is not only beneficial to the plants but also to the organisms in the soil. The air in the soil can hold atmospheric nitrogen that plants absorb and use. And the beneficial organisms in the soil will breathe this oxygen to survive as well.
Sandy soils tend to have too much air in them, which leads to rapid decomposition of organic material. This can be harmful to your plants and the beneficial organisms. Silty and clay soils are denser and tend to have extraordinarily little air in them.
To help fix these problems, you should mix some compost into your soil. This will help to balance the air in the soil. You should also avoid stepping on the soil while it is wet as this will compact the soil and expel the air from it.
PH Of Your Soil
If the pH level in your soil is too high or too low, you will need to be patient as there is not an easy fix for this problem. It should take about two seasons to balance the pH level in your soil, but you should watch it every year after it is balanced to ensure it does not change again.
Adding a lot of organic material to your soil every year once the pH of your soil is balanced should be enough to help maintain the pH balance in the soil.
If your soil is sandy and too alkaline, you can add three to four pounds of ground limestone to every 100-square feet. For dense clay soil, you should apply about eight to ten pounds to every 100-square feet.
For silty soils, you should apply about seven to eight pounds of ground limestone to every 100-square feet of soil. You should mix the limestone into the soil about two months before you start planting.
Adding ground limestone will also help to bring down the acidity of the soil, so if your garden soil is on the acidic side, you will need to add some ground limestone to your soil in the fall, as it will take a few months to rectify the problem. You can get ground or powdered limestone from your local gardening store.
You can also apply wood ash to your soil to reduce the acidity level; however, you should only use a small amount as this could raise the pH level too. You can also apply some sulfur or sawdust to soils that are too alkaline to raise the pH level.
Beneficial Soil Organisms
Little organisms that live in the soil, such as earthworms, fungi, springtails, and many more, are crucial to healthy soil. They help make the soil fluffy through aggregates, which allows more air to be held in the soil and helps with water drainage.
These organisms also require nutrients to survive; however, these nutrients are the same that plants require. You should just ensure that there are enough nutrients in the soil to go around.
If your soil is lacking in life, you can buy some of these beneficial organisms to add to your soil. You do need to ensure that you have enough nutrients in your soil first, so the organisms have food; otherwise, they could die.
It is not necessary to change your garden soil once a year; you just need to ensure that your soil is healthy. Test your soil once a year and replenish any nutrients and minerals that the soil is lacking, and watch the pH of the soil.
Think about adding in some more beneficial organisms to your garden soil to help keep the structure of the soil in good shape. If you do these, then your soil will be healthy and ready to grow strong and healthy plants.
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