When deciding if you need to add fertilizer to your soil, use this quick test. If your soil is a nice, fertile blend that grows excellent grass, you might not have to do anything special to it to grow most garden plants. But because organic matter is continuously being broken down, improving the organic content never hurts. Material such as rotting leaves, hay, grass clippings, compost, and decomposed cow or horse manure releases nutrients along with other chemicals that help to make soil fertile and productive. Organic matter is especially valuable for adding richness to sand and lightness to clay. Take care not to use cat or dog droppings since this waste can contain parasites. Organic matter that you can add to your soil comes in so many forms and varieties that this book couldn’t possibly list them all. Nursery and garden centers offer many types, usually in 20 or 40 lb. bags. But if you have really big plans, consider purchasing your organic amendment by the truckload. The following sections describe materials that will do wonders to improve the texture of garden soil.More information learn more here.
Breaking into bags of topsoil to see what’s inside is always interesting. Sometimes, the soil is exactly what you find in bags of humus or compost, and other times, it may look more like unbelievably black soil. Whatever the bag contents contain, topsoil is practically always inexpensive. You can use bagged topsoil as a soil amendment, or use so much of it that your flower bed is filled with mostly imported topsoil and only a small of the native stuff.
After a month, different kinds of dead plant material become compost when they are piled together, dampened, and stirred or turned every week or so to keep air inside the mixture. Products labeled as compost can originate from all sorts of stuff. Enterprising people who have tapped into the yard-waste stream generally produce them. Fallen leaves, shredded Christmas trees, and wood chips left from tree-trimming crews often find their way to compost-manufacturing facilities. Compost ingredients can also contain sawdust from lumber mills, peanut hulls from peanut processing plants, and hundreds of other agricultural by-products. Expect to get tiny bits of sticks along with other recognizable things in a bag of compost, but mostly judge good quality by the texture of the material, which ought to be soft and springy. Should you plan to buy a huge quantity of compost, compare products packaged by different companies to get the best texture. A 3″ layer of packaged compost, worked into the soil, is a liberal helping that should give instant results. To estimate how much you need, figure that a 40 lb. bag covers a square yard of bed space.
Bags labeled as humus are the wild cards of the soil-amendment world. Anything that qualifies as organic matter for soil, or any soil-organic matter mixture, may be considered humus. Unlike compost, which is supposed to be “cultured” under controlled conditions, humus can come from more humble beginnings. For instance, humus may be 2-year-old sawdust and wood chips from a lumber mill mixed with rotten leaves and dark topsoil. Or, it might be rotten hay mixed with soil and sand. You just don’t know what to expect until you buy a bag and open it up. If the humus has a loose, spongy texture and dark color, and you like the way it feels and smells, go for it. A 2″ to 3″ layer is a good estimate.
Peat moss is a really spongy, acidic, brown material harvested from peat bogs in Canada, Michigan, and several other places. On the plus side, peat moss absorbs and holds large amounts of water and nutrients while frustrating soil-borne fungi that may cause plant diseases. Peat moss is a lot more beneficial in sandy soil as opposed to clay soils. In sandy soils, the water-holding power of peat is put to excellent use. Clay soil retains water, so adding peat moss is overkill. On the negative side, some gardeners are concerned about the sustainability of peat moss harvesting. Peat bogs damaged by overharvesting may require a thousand years to regenerate, so you may want to limit your use of peat moss to situations where it’s most valuable, such as creating special soil mixtures for container-grown plants, or for planting shrubs that really like it, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. We think that most, but not all, of the peat moss in nurseries and garden centers is harvested responsibly and sustainably.
In addition to its soil-improving properties, composted or “aged” manure also contains respectable amounts of nitrogen along with other essential plant nutrients. Nutrient content varies with the type of manure. Composted chicken manure is really potent, whereas steer manure is comparatively lightweight. Packaged sheep manure is quite popular among gardeners, and you may eventually encounter some really exotic renditions based on the waste from zoo animals, bats, and even crickets. The amount of manure you should use depends on your soil type. With bulky manure from big animals (cow, horse, goat, sheep, elephant), begin with a 1″ layer, or about 40 lbs. per 3 square yards. Follow package application rates when utilizing stronger manure from rabbits, chickens, and other birds.