How to improve your garden soil

Soil is the foundation for everything that grows in your garden, so if you want a garden that looks good and flowers prolifically, then don’t buy more potted plants or think you just have to water more frequently; it’s all about the soil.

Soil cycle

Soil is actually a living, cyclical substrate in which your garden grows. Healthy soil contains many microbes and earthworms that constantly break down organic matter and return the nutrients to the soil, which are then absorbed into the plants as “food”. If the soil is habitually replenished with new organic matter, it feeds the microbes, which ultimately feed the plants. So, the best way to improve your soil quality is to introduce some organic matter…

Organic matter

Organic matter includes manure, which will supply the soil with nitrogen. Chicken manure and kraal manure work well, but can also introduce plenty of weeds into your garden, so make sure you get high quality manure. Also, don’t add too much manure because this will upset the balance of nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil. The smell can also upset your neighbours.
Adding compost is also a great way to regenerate soil as it is made up of organic matter that is packed full of readily available plant nutrients. For soil that you are tilling to create a new garden, rake in a layer of compost about one or two inches deep (at most!), water the soil and leave it for a few days to give the soil microbes a chance to start working on it. For established gardens, you can simply fork in some compost between plants and work it gently into the soil.

Mulch works very well to protect your soil from water evaporation and high temperatures. Organic mulch will eventually be broken down into humus, so it’s important to lay new mulch at the start of each growing season.

To keep your soil in good nick and to keep your plants healthy and happy, avoid the use of chemical fertilisers, which can burn the plants’ foliage and threaten micro-organisms in the soil. Rather use organic fertilisers that can be applied directly to the soil or as a foliage wash on plants. Water and fertilise in the mornings so that the plants have the whole day to bask in the sunlight and feed off the organic matter.


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