How To Make Soil Fertile Naturally
Improving Soil Texture
Natural soil improvement can be a continual process. It often takes many years to build a productive garden soil. I am into small city gardens and prone raised beds and container gardening because you need so little space to have a productive garden.
My beds were initially filled with black soil, top soil and peat moss. Every fall I add composted manure and in the spring I add compost.
Turn the soil over in the fall (about 20 cm deep), to even and lighten it and get rid of the rocks, roots and weeds. Then cover with a thin coat of well-decomposed manure or compost.
Hoe the top 3 or 4 centimeters of soil early in the spring to lighten the surface layer and to blend it with organic matter spread the previous fall. Remove harmful weeds as well. It is recommended not to work the soil when it is wet since the resulting compacting will harm soil quality. Adding biological-type fertilizers based on seaweed, bone meal or other organic products is recommended to produce good crops, see Organic Fertilising.
I find this mix provides all the nutrients and water retention my fruit and vegetables need. The mix is light and favors root formation. I always add vermiculite because it absorbs water and makes it available to the roots. Perlite on the other hand doesn’t absorb anything it just prevents the soil from compacting. The soil is rich and plants grow quickly.
If a soil has too much sand or too much clay, the solution to both is the same, add organic material.
Organic materials break apart tight clays and hold water and nutrients in loose sands. Organic materials include compost, peat and manure. To amend soil, add a two-inch layer of organic material over the surface of the soil. Mix the material in thoroughly with a tiller or spade to a depth of four to six inches.
Manures should be aged for at least one year and composted if being used on fruits and vegetables. Fresh manure is too high in ammonia and burns plant roots. Compost is perhaps the best organic amendment. It can be purchased or made at home by recycling yard pruning and clippings. Compost promotes microbiological activity in soils necessary for plant growth.
What Can Affect pH
Many things can lower the pH of soil over time. Peat moss, excess animal manure, pollutants, rainfall, harvest of high yielding crops, decomposition of organic matter. That’s why gardening sources always stipulate to add well compost organic matter.
Fixing Soil’s pH
Lime is applied to acid soils to raise the soil pH. While gypsum provides calcium which is needed to flocculate clay in acid and alkaline soil. I only use compost and compost teas. Did you know compost acts like a buffer? It can have a marked influence on acid soils. For example an EPA study showed that water with a pH of about 2 discharged from a mine had risen to a pH of 5 by the time it passed through a compost filter, so my pH maintains itself in an acceptable level.
Don’t know what kind of soil you have? Check out this article how to assess your garden’s soil.