4 Ways to Improve the Soil Quality in Your Garden

One of the best ways to have a beautiful garden is to build healthy soil. Your plants rely on soil for nutrients, oxygen, water and much more. If your soil isn’t balanced and healthy, your garden won’t have much chance of success.

Follow these tips to learn how to improve soil quality in your garden!

Compost is one of the best ways to improve soil

Photo via Kirsty Hall/Flickr Creative Commons

1. Compost

Do you compost yet? If not, this is an excellent way to recycle old kitchen and yard waste into one of the finest soil amendments you can find. Not only do you save waste from the landfills, but the composted materials feed your soil with lots of beneficial microorganisms. Compost also helps reduce plant diseases, and improves your soil drainage.

And you don’t even need an expensive compost system either — you can build your own compost bin.

Some of my favorite things to compost are leftover vegetables and fruits, as well as shredded leaves and other yard waste. Be sure to refer to our handy list of things you can and can’t compost before getting started.

2. Build organic matter

Compost adds valuable organic matter to the soil. This organic matter improves the physical and chemical attributes of the soil in different ways, from supplying nutrients to encouraging healthy soil microorganisms and worms.

At least once a year, I like to add a couple inches of compost, aged manure and other natural soil amendments to the soil. For more information, see our post on organic matter for gardens.

Rotating crops is a great way to fight diseases and improve soil quality

Photo via Slomoz/Flickr Creative Commons

3. Practice crop rotation

Growing a diversity of crops in your garden keeps the soil healthy too. Different plants require different types of nutrients, and attract different types of pests. That’s why smart gardeners remember to rotate their food crops each year, so that plants (and family members) don’t grow in the same place more than once every three years.

For more information, see our post on crop rotation for vegetable gardens.

4. Grow cover crops

Another organic gardening tip to steal from farmers is the idea of growing cover crops. Also called “green manures,” these cover crops include plants such as barley, yellow mustard, clover and hairy vetch. Depending on what you grow, home gardeners can use these cover crops to add organic matter, suppress weeds, prevent erosion, fight plant diseases and aerate the soil. Some cover crops including barley are good for growing in fall/winter; others such as buckwheat will smother weeds in a summer garden.

For more information, see our post on how to grow a cover crop.

Soil amendments and compost really improve soil

Photo via Marcy Leigh/Flickr Creative Commons

Composting, adding organic material, rotating crops and growing cover crops will all help improve soil quality in your garden. Even if you only practice a few of these tips you’ll go a long way toward building the type of soil where plants thrive and grow happily.

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