Do you think you could build a skyscraper that stood four football fields tall if the foundation to that building was made from some cheap lumber and dirt? Probably not, and even if you could build it, would you want to go in it? I certainly would not.
This may seem a little far fetched but far too many people apply this same principle to the soil for their home vegetable gardens. They go out and buy the best seeds at three dollars a pack or buy plants from their local nursery for even more money. Then they put them in their garden and a month later nothing has happened.
They blame the seeds, the plants, the nursery, mother nature and even their Aunt Matilda who told them vegetable gardening would be a good idea. The fact is the fault may lie in the soil where everything gets planted. It could contain too much clay, not enough nutrients, inadequate drainage, and so much more. Here is how you can prepare yourself to fix the issues in your soil.
Start by testing your soil. You can pick up an inexpensive soil tester from your local home or garden center for just a few bucks. I like to use the three in one soil tester which gives you a very quick reading of the soil’s pH level, how much light a spot in the garden receives and the amount of moisture the soil is currently holding. They are a bit pricier around ten to twenty dollars, but well worth their weight in gold.
When you do a soil test you are looking for the soil’s pH level and the nutrients the soil is lacking. The common nutrients you will receive a reading on are nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous.
You want your soil’s pH level to be in the 6.5 to 7.5 range, which is optimal for most plants. Some plants like the soil a bit more acidic (under 7.0) where as others like the soil more alkaline (over 7.0), but if you keep it in the range noted previously you should be ok.
Next, if your soil is deficient in nutrients there is no better way to get it back up to par then adding in good compost. Compost is nothing more than organic matter that has broken down. This matter are your grass clippings, leaves, left over dinner, coffee grounds, fish waste and good ole fashioned cow, chicken or horse manure. Grind this stuff up and mix it in with your soil and the next time gardening season rolls around your soil should be ok. Just remember composting is not a one time thing. You must compost every season to keep those nutrient levels where they should be.
Finally you need to understand that your garden must have adequate drainage. If not, your plant’s roots will develop root rot and they will die. If your soil is heavy with clay then you will definitely have poor drainage. The best solution is to mix in plenty of compost and peat moss. This makes the soil more friable allowing water to drain better.
You are not going to solve all of your soil’s problems in one season. It takes a few to get it right where it should be. Sure there are ways to speed up the process, but if you want to keep costs low, time is your best ally. By adding what your garden needs in reasonable quantities over a long period of time, your soil will be tremendous and you won’t know what to do with all of those fruits and vegetables you will be harvesting.
About the Author
Mike is the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening group on Facebook and the very popular Seeds of the Month Club. You can now join the Seeds of the Month Club risk-free.