Learn how to make the very best garden soil for growing Fruit and vegetables.
Why soil health and treatment is so important
Wether you are growing vegetables, herbs, shrubs or flowers, healthy soil is an absolute must. Your plants will be less prone to pest and disease, they'll grow better, and your vegetable and fruit crops will possibly be even more nutritious. building healthy garden soil doesn't have to be complicated.
With a bit of information on how to treat your soil and what to treat it with you will have healthy soil, no matter what kind of soil you are starting with. For healthy fertile soil, you need to increase organic matter and mineral availability. In this article I will discuss ways in which you can treat your soil to increase fertility with minimal effort and expense.
I don't think I'm alone when I say that buying "dirt" isn't where I want to spend my money. Buying expensive soil treatments and amendments isn't my favorite thing to spend money on either. Luckily creating healthy garden soil isn't all that complicated. You can make great garden soil for free with a little sweat equity.
What is the best soil for your vegetable garden
The best vegetable garden soil includes lots of compost and organic matter such as composted leaves, animal manure, etc. It is important that your compost has been fully broken down otherwise it may be too hot and will burn garden plants. This is a great step-by-step guide to get you started composting. Whatever you’re starting with, incorporate enough organic material so that the amended soil is neither sandy nor compacted.
Soil mixtures for raised bed vegetable gardens
Because with a raised bed you are typically starting out with no soil I recommend lining your raised bed with weed fabric or wire mesh, to deter rodents and other pests. Then fill the bottom ¼ of your bed with sticks pinecones leaves and other materials that will decompose and become nutrient rich compost for your veggies. This method is also much less expensive or time consuming that filling the entire bed with soil.
After you fill the bottom ¼ of the raised bed, your top mixture ratio should be somewhere in the 60% topsoil, 40% compost range.
How to tell if your soil mixture is good
You'll know you have the right mix of soil when it will bind together when you squeeze it but breaks apart easily when disturbed. By incorporating compost your soil should be full of living microorganisms that help feed your plants. Compost also insures that water will be sufficiently retained.
For most vegetables and herbs your soil pH should be somewhere in the neutral range (between 6.6-7.5). Some plants such as blueberries, raspberries, potatoes and eggplants like more acidic soil. You can test your soil using a ph meter. I like to grow plants that tend to like higher pH in containers so that I can better monitor the soil and pH levels.
Components of healthy garden soil
- Lots of organic matter
- Good soil texture
- Proper PH
Determine what type of soil you currently have
- Sandy Soil- This is what kind of soil I started with. Sandy soils are often dry, nutrient deficient and fast-draining. Minimizing disturbances to this soil can be one of the best ways to build soil quality. In other words, try not to till this type of soil just add layers of compost to amend.
- Clay Soil- Clay soil is clumpy. While clay soil tends to be of higher fertility than other soil types, it is hard to garden with. Its texture makes it very difficult for plant roots to work their way into it. It also retains water well, but water has a harder time percolating down to the roots of plants. Although tilling soil is sometimes controversial (see more on permaculture below). Tilling clay soil is sometimes the best way to add organic matter and break up the soil to increase water absorption.
- Silt Soil- Silt, is made up of rock and other mineral particles, which are smaller than sand and larger than clay. The smooth and fine quality of the soil holds water better than sand but still allows for water drainage unlike clay. Silt is transported by River and other moving bodies of water. Although silt soil is more fertile compared to sand and clay if you don't live on a river or body of water it is nearly impossible to replicate silt soils in your garden.
- Loam - This is the good stuff for your backyard garden. Crumbly, full of organic matter, retains moisture yet still drains well. This is where you want your soil to be before planting your backyard vegetable garden.
soil treatment to build great garden soil quickly
There are lots of ways you can improve your garden soil. Fortunately most of them are simple easy and affordable. Like I said before, buying dirt isn't something I'm interested in doing. These tips will set up so that you don't find yourself buying lots of expensive soil and soil treatments.
First and foremost always test your soil: The first thing to do is learn all you can about your soil. As I mentioned before getting yourself a soil pH testing kit is a great idea, but there a lots of other soil test you can also do as well.
Adjust your soil's pH: This is great information on how to change the pH of your soil. The addition of plenty of compost will often help change your soil pH also.
Compost Compost Compost: Adding organic matter is hands-down, the number one way to improve your soil. Regardless of soil type this is the number one way to intreat soil health. If you decide to splurge on compost that you didn't create yourself, I highly recommend organic mushroom compost. When used properly mushroom compost can really do wonders in your garden.
Add in other organic matter: In addition to compost, there are several other things you can add to your soil to increase fertility. Mulch, coffee grounds, and aged manure and other organic gardening techniques may improve soil health as well, depending on your soils current deficiencies.
Disrupt soil as little as possible: No-till gardening or "permaculture" has been around for ever but is becoming more popular recently. The more we disrupt the soil, the more we disrupt the ecosystem of our soil. Depending on your soil type minimizing tilling might really increase your soil health! It's also important not to compact the soil. Soil compaction leads to less ability to filter water. You might think that this sounds tough if you aren't tilling and essentially "fluffing" the soil, but it's easy to keep you soil full of air and moisture when you add the right amount of compost and organic matter.
These tips should get you on your way to healthier soil and more nutrient dense veggies!