5 ways to improve your soil

Soil health is an important factor in how your garden performs or copes with adverse weather conditions. It affects the nutrient availability, capacity to retain water, and overall structure, all of which supports healthy plant growth. A well-balanced and nourished foundation is a great starting point for creating a thriving garden ecosystem.

Incorporate organic matter

Composting is a wonderful way to add organic matter to your garden, reducing waste by introducing a circular system.

Adding organic matter into your soil helps to increase its water-holding capacity, improve drainage, and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms. It also provides essential nutrients for your plants and helps to prevent soil erosion. Simply mix the compost into the top layer of soil or use it as mulch around your plants.

Tips for Mulching

What is mulching? Basically, it’s a gardening technique that involves covering the soil surface with a layer of organic or inorganic material. Organic mulches, such as leaves, compost or straw gradually break down into the soil, providing numerous benefits for your soil, such as conserving moisture, suppressing weed growth, and regulating soil temperature.

Non-organic gravel mulches can also be especially effective at moisture conservation and digging gravel into areas that are boggy, or hold water, can improve drainage. Apply a layer of mulch around your plants, leaving a small gap around the stems to prevent rot. Replenish as needed, once or twice a year.

Growing green manures

Green manures are crops grown specifically to improve the health and fertility of the soil. They are typically grown during fallow periods, or as part of a rotation crop. Green manures have several benefits for your soil, helping soil erosion and suppressing weeds. They improve nutrient quality to when they are incorporated back into the ground.

To grow green manures, select plants that are suitable for your climate and soil conditions. Common options in the UK include plants such as clover or vetch, which fix nitrogen in the soil, and grasses like rye or oats, which provide excellent ground cover. Once the crops have been grown for some time, and before they set seed, incorporate them back into the ground.

Maintaining soil structure

Maintaining soil structure is really important for healthy plant growth, and crucially, for the overall health of the ecosystem. Following the steps above will go some way to maintaining structure. Other useful ideas include, avoid walking on the soil if the weather has been very wet to avoid compacting the soil, or use boards to spread your weight if you must walk on the soil.

Avoid digging by hoeing out small weed seedlings with a long-handled hoe. This is much better for your soil, than leaving the weeds to grow and then digging them out, disrupting the habitat of so many creatures. Leaving weeds on the ground to die back into the soil, saves not only a trip to the compost bin but provides nourishment back into the soil.

Another time-saving tip is to leave your grass to grow long as this has an impact on the root development under the soil. There is a huge difference in the soil structure between grass that is mown just once or twice a year, which contains a very wide range of species, to grass that is mown every week.

Increase biodiversity

Talking of which, increasing biodiversity – by introducing a variety of plant species – creates a more balanced ecosystem that supports beneficial microorganisms and enhances nutrient quality .  Different root structures can help break up compacted soil, increase organic matter content, and improve soil structure. Not only that; attracting a wider range of pollinators and beneficial insects will only further contribute to a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

Increasing biodiversity in your garden can lead to healthier soil, better plant growth, and a more resilient and sustainable garden environment.

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