How to Improve Soil Quality

If you are noticing that your garden plants aren’t growing, even though you’re doing your best to treat each plant according to its needs, then the issue could lie with your soil quality. When you move to a new block of land, it can be tricky to know what kind of quality the soil there is, until you start planting. 

Plants don’t tend to grow their best in poor garden soil, but the good news is there are ways to enrich soil to make it more nutritious for greenery!

Wondering how to improve soil quality where you live? Below, we outline a few different types of poor soil, and some tips that may help to boost soil quality! 

Soil with plants sprouting

Different types of poor soil 

There are many different types of soils out there. Some of these include:

Soil with lots of rocks in it

A soil that contains many rocks can be tricky to grow plants in. This is not only due to the fact that valuable nutrition space is being taken up by non-nutritious rocks, but also because the rocks can make it tricky for plants to spread their roots out. If you have a soil that contains many rocks, one of the best ways to grow plants on your property may be to simply plant in pots and above-ground garden beds. If there aren’t too many rocks, and the area you wish to plant in is smaller, you could have a go of removing them from the soil (however, this might be a bit of an arduous task and could take a bit of time). Another method is to leave the soil as it is and create your own soil on top of it using a mix of elements such as lawn-clippings, composts, and store-bought soil.

Compacted soil

Anyone who has dealt with compacted garden soil knows just how frustrating it can be. Not only can it be tricky to get a shovel or trowel into the dirt, but it can also be tricky for plants to grow in it. Compacted soil can be a common issue for soils that contain a high amount of clay and also receive a high amount of foot traffic. This type of soil can get waterlogged, or alternatively, have trouble drinking up water at all.  One method of improving the quality of soils that have been compacted is to cultivate the compacted soil and mix compost through it. This process should help to add more nutrients to the soil, give it aeration, and allow plants to have an easier job of growing within it. 

Clay soil

As mentioned above, clay soil has a bit of a tendency to get compacted, making it difficult for plants to thrive. Adding organic matter to this type of soil can help to alleviate the issue. If you have a heavy clay soil that isn’t badly compacted, it can be a good idea to pre-emptively add in organic matter such as compost, as this can work to prevent future issues with compaction.

Sandy soil 

Sand is lovely on the beach, but sandy soil can be a bit tricky to grow plants in! If you have a soil that looks and feels particularly sandy, you might find that you struggle to grow plants in it. Sandy soil can be susceptible to erosion, and after a particularly stormy day, you may notice that your soil has migrated across the yard! To improve the quality of sandy soil, and hopefully keep it from moving as easily, add plenty of compost or other organic matter to the soil. 

Eroding soil 

Lighter soils such as sandy soils have a bit of a habit of eroding during times of heavy rain. One way to attempt to prevent soil from eroding is to mix balanced organic matter (such as homemade compost) in with it Another option is to install a retaining wall to limit the amount of erosion that can occur, or bring in better methods of drainage, letting the rainwater to be directed to a different location where it can either be soaked up or allowed to drain away.

Woman holding soil with a plant sprouting out of it.

General ways to improve soil

There are a few general ways to help improve the quality of your soil. These methods of improving soil include: 

Compost

From reading above, you can see that one great general way to improve garden soil is by infusing it with nutrient-rich compost. Compost can be made at home using a mix of veggie scraps from your kitchen, grass clippings, and leaves. With the right balance, you can create a fantastically nutritious product to help improve your soil, with materials that would have most likely ended up in the bin! 

Rotate crops from season to season

Rotating crops can be a good way to help your soil healthy. Each plant requires a different mix of nutrients to grow, so growing the same plants in the same space over and over can work to leach and area of those specific nutrients. While for example, one plant may deplete the levels of nitrogen in the soil, another may improve the nitrogen levels. By rotating the placement of crops, you can choose to plant plants that are complementary to your soil’s composition, plus those that can replace the nutrients missing from the soil, improving and restoring the soil quality. 

When it comes to the question of how to improve garden soil, the answer can often depend on the type of soil you are presented with. For example, if you are faced with a soil that is filled with rocks, it may be easier to simply grow plants on above-ground beds, while eroding, sandy soil could hopefully be improved with organic matter and possibly the implementation of a retaining wall. Once you discover the type of soil you are working with, do some research into the best ways to work with it or boost its quality, and you should be able to nurture a healthy garden!

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