The presence of air in the top 15-30 cm of soil is why most soil organisms are concentrated there. This living layer is known as 'top soil' and if you dig a hole it’s clearly visible as it's much darker than the 'subsoil' layer below. Its color comes from this rich organic matter that has broken down by worms and microorganisms into soft, black, sponge like material. 'Subsoil', beneath the topsoil, contains a diminishing proportion of the life the deeper you dig. It's essentially just a collection of compacted and inert clay, sand and silt and is very poor growing medium in comparison to their good stuff above.
That's why the subsoil must never be mixed with the topsoil as its lifeless nature severely restricts the performance of plants. In nature, when leaves fall from the trees and breakdown, they release nutrients back into the soil. In gardens, this natural cycle doesn't always happen as spent leaves and foliage get tidied away and that goodness is lost. This is where organic matter in the form of compost manure and mulch comes into play. Benefiting almost all soils by improving the texture and structure, and by adding nutrients.
On dense clay soils, for example the sticky nature of organic matter helps to bind tiny particles together to form larger 'crumbs' making it easier to drain and easier for plant roots to grow into. The fibrous, bulky nature of organic matter also keeps air spaces opened so water can escape. In comparison on sandy soils the same organic matter has a different purpose, acting like a sponge and holding onto valuable moisture before it drains away.
Five ways to give your soil a boost.
1: Homemade organic compost is a brilliant all round soil improver. Dig it in to open and improve the soil structure.
2: Well-rotted horse and farm manure is rich in nutrients to feed plants in hungry soils. Add this to sandy soils where its sticky fibrous nature will bind the grains of soil together, making it more moisture retentive.
3: Leaf mold made from composted autumn leaves is low in nutrients but it's fibrous nature makes it excellent at clinging onto moisture, so apply it to light, free draining soils. However, it's a rare commodity as you're unlikely to collect enough leaves in average garden to make a good amount.
4: Grow green manures such as clover and rye to improve soil, nature's way. Cut plants down and dig back into the soil in spring. As the plants decompose they return the nutrients within them back into the soil.
5: For established flowers and trees, the best thing to do is mulch--rather than digging in organic matter, spread it over the ground in a 2-6cm layer in autumn or spring. Over the course of the year, earthworms will drag and blend the compost into the soil.
These 5 tips are something I think we can all manage without a great deal of fuss or hard work but in doing so you will be able to reap the benefits for many years to come.
This is a guest post by Neil from My Garden Hammock. A site dedicated to making the most of your outdoor space and taking the time to enjoy it to the fullest. The site also provides a wealth of information on outdoor hammocks and his favorite type the mexican hammocks.
on this article or submit your tip to CreativeHomemaking.com.
for a printer friendly version of this page.
Follow me on Pinterest
Receive new article links via Twitter
Follow Creative Homemaking on Facebook
this article to a friend!
our article archives.
to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.