Soil Amendments

In an ideal world, every garden plot naturally would have deep, rich soil. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. When establishing a new garden, or revitalizing an old one, you are pretty likely to run into sub-par soil (see our previous blog on soil testing to learn how to check up on the health of your soil).

If you’re not happy with your soil, what are the options? Short of scraping the top foot off your garden and replacing your entire plot’s soil, the best option is to add amendments to your existing soil. If you’ve had your soil tested, you will have a pretty good idea where to start.

As a general rule, in clay-rich soil, amendments break up the dense clay, add porosity and water permeability (which also improves drainage), and allows greater rooting depth. On the other side of the coin, if your soil is sandy, soil amendments increase its ability to hold nutrients and retain water.

Soil amendments fall into two broad categories, organic and inorganic. Organic amendments include peat moss, Sweet Peet, wood chips (often available free from your municipality, along with humus), compost, lawn clippings, straw, wood ash, and anything else that comes from something that was once alive. Inorganic amendments include gravel, sand, recycled rubber chunks, vermiculite, and perlite.

Not all amendments are recommended for all applications. For example, if your soil pH is already high, wood ash will only contribute to a high  pH. Similarly, adding sand to soil with high clay content will essentially produce cement.

When using organic materials, it’s generally best to ensure they are composted first, with the exception of peat products. Uncomposted wood, for example, takes far longer to break down than other organic matter, ties up nitrogen as it decomposes, and can interfere with water movement. Similarly, uncomposted manure can carry dangerous pathogens.

Inorganic amendments should be applied sparingly, as once you mix them into your soil, they are there permanently. Organic materials will eventually decompose, but putting in too much gravel or sand into your soil is not something that will go away with time.

If you need help deciding what amendment will work best for your soil, talk to the experts at Three-Z. We’ll also help you determine how much ammendment your soil needs. In general, healthy soil should be about 5% organic material, and contain the correct inorganic materials to ensure easy movement of water and roots.

Unfortunately, adding amendments takes a bit of work. They must be thoroughly mixed into the soil to work properly. In existing beds with plants, this means breaking the soil up 3-4 inches deep around the plants with a garden fork or rake. Add your amendment, then rake it completely into the soil, raking first in one direction then in the other. An empty bed is a little easier, as it can be rototilled both to break up the soil and to blend in the amendments after you have spread them.  In boh cases, you must thoroughly water the bed once you’re done.

Investing a bit of work into adding amendments can have a big payoff in a more lush garden, and improved soil for years to come. As always, if you have any questions, or need any help, come talk to the experts at Three-Z Supply.

Natural Vs Fertilizer

Every gardener desires healthy, flourishing plants, and the first step to achieving this goal is to attain good, rich soil.  The soil texture needs to have the right amounts of sand, silt, clay, and organic material.  And of course, the soil should be teeming with nutrients.

So, how does one acquire such a coveted, fertile piece of earth?  Do you simply add compost?  Is a man-made fertilizer necessary?  What is the difference between those two remedies?  Let’s take a look at what is necessary in order to prepare the best possible garden soil for your crops.

The best way to detect what your soil needs is to perform a soil test.  A garden soil test will determine the nutrient levels, pH rating, and organic content, giving you a clear picture of what your soil needs.

Nutrient Levels:  As you are aware, the nutrient levels are a key factor in achieving the very best soil.  We want our soil to be full of nutrients.  A soil test will show whether or not certain elements are low.  If this is the case, it would be a good idea to incorporate a fertilizer that will replace the lacking elements.

pH Reading: The pH reading will reveal the acidity of your soil.  Plants need a proper pH level in order to absorb nutrients.  pH is measured on a scare of 0-14.  If the pH reading is less than 7.0, the soil is considered acidic, and if the pH reading is more than 7.0, the soil is considered alkaline.  The most fertile soil is slightly acidic.  Depending on the level of your pH, your soil may need to be treated to increase or decrease the acidity, as extremely acidic or extremely alkaline soil can become infertile.

Organic Matter Levels:   The levels of organic matter will indicate whether or not compost needs to be added.  Compost can be purchased, or you can make it on your own using organic matter.  Good organic matter includes vegetable peelings, sawdust, old lawn clippings, ground-up twigs, straw, paper, old leaves, and aged livestock manure.

What it all comes down to is discovering the needs of your particular soil.  From there, you can determine what elements are necessary to achieving luscious, bountiful growth!

How to determine the best type of mulch to use in your landscape

When determining the best type of mulch to use in your landscape, there are many factors to consider.  What is the look you want in your landscaping?  Is the mulch for a playground, garden, or landscape area?  What texture do you need for your landscaping?  Are you putting mulch on a sloping area? Do you like cypress mulch vs wood chips? Are you looking at a playground area and interested in Kid Karpet ™ mulch?  Do you want a 100% all organic mulch?

We know mulch can be very beneficial to your landscaping.  Besides drastically cutting down on the amount of time spent on weeding, mulching your garden has these additional benefits:

  • Adds curb appeal to your home.
  • Adds contrast and texture to plant beds.
  • Suppresses weeds and makes weed pulling much easier.
  • Helps fight pests
  • Helps retain moisture for plant roots, which will then require less watering.
  • Protects plants from temperature extremes.
  • Affordable solution for a natural pathway in your garden or landscape.
  • Improves soil condition for plants as it gradually decomposes and encourages earthworm activity.
  • Great natural cushion for play areas around the home.
  • Keeps mud from splashing up on flowers and vegetables when watering or when it rains.

With so many choices available, Three-Z can assist you with selecting the mulch that will be best suited for your garden and landscape needs.  We have been in the mulch business for over 30+ years and have the knowledge to prove it.  Our staff can help you with making the right selection, assist figuring how much mulch is needed, and work out a delivery schedule, or equipment rental, if needed.