Fruitful earth: how to improve your garden soil

June 30, 2015

You might be doing everything right when it comes to taking care of your plants, but you also need to make sure that the materials and soil you use are on point. Here are some tips to improving your soil.

Fruitful earth: how to improve your garden soil

Adding the right subtances

  • Work garden gravel or coarse sand into heavy clay soils to a depth of about 30 centimetres (12 inches) to increase permeability.
  • Add organic material such as compost or cow manure to sandy soil regularly. Plant St. John's wort, ornamental grasses and tamarisks to help stabilize the soil.
  • Dig garden lime, chalk or marl into acidic soil in the fall. Acidic soil also needs the addition of phosphate and potash in the form of wood ashes.
  • Calcareous soil can often be modified only through repeated additions of large quantities of sulfur or peat. It's better, however, to plant beech, box, forsythia, viburnum, beans, cabbage or lettuce, which manage to grow well in the soil. Regular use of organic fertilizers can help calcareous soil store nutrients more effectively.

Acid and lime content

The health of your garden plants may well depend on the acid content of the soil. Some plants grow well in acidic or alkaline soils, while others don't.

  • Alkaline soils are indicated by the presence of charlock, common wild oats, alfalfa, chicory and meadow clary.
  • Acidic soils make bracken fern, speedwell, daisy, haresfoot clover, common sorrel, common wood sorrel, holly and purple pansy thrive.
  • Soil with a high lime content is indicated by the presence of creeping bellflower, field bindweed, haresfoot clover, coltsfoot, field poppy, clover, liverwort, marigold, delphinium, storksbill, chicory, meadow clary and spurge.
  • A vinegar test also provides a clear indication of lime content. Spray a little vinegar onto a clump of dirt; the vinegar will bubble when it comes in contact with soil containing lime.

Determining pH value with a kit

  1. Put a soil sample with some water into the glass container from the kit and add a tablet. Close the container and shake well.
  2. Determine the pH value by comparing the resulting colour change in the liquid to the colour chart on the kit.
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