These soil improvement tips are pretty much all you really need to know to get a healthy soil and one that will increase your vegetable garden harvest. So let’s start at the beginning.
There’s an old adage in the organic gardening world that you don’t feed your plants, you feed your soil. If you have a healthy soil, your plants will grow a ton better than if you’ve killed off the microorganisms by using chemicals and/or excessive amounts of chemical fertilizers.
Add organic matter such as compost or peat moss every year to your garden. The alternative is to deep mulch. Both of those things will keep the organic matter content of your soils high. Vegetables thrive on high organic matter soils
This is the number one thing to do.
#1 Soil Improvement Tips: Use Compost
Compost is one of the last stages in organic matter decomposition and it’s the lifeblood of any soil.
How Much Do I Need To Add
The simple answer is as much as possible. But let’s say you read a book that says, “Put 1/4 inch of compost onto your garden every year.”
In the real world, you put on what you can afford and you apply it using the easy system right below
How Do I Put Compost Onto The Garden?
I use a very scientific approach. I take a shovel full and toss it around the base of the plant.
- Small plant, one shovel.
- Big plant – several shovels
See, I told you it was scientific. 🙂
#2 Soil Improvement Tips: Put Down A Deep Layer of Mulch
I don’t dig it in. It just gets tossed onto the soil or in our case, on top of the deep mulch that covers every square inch of my gardens. The rain and worms will drag it down.
I read about this in an old garden book by Ruth Stout back when I first started gardening seriously. I’ve done it – more or less – ever since. A deep layer of mulch does some very interesting things:
- It saves water by reducing evaporation
- It reduces weeding. A 4-inch layer of mulch reduces weeding by as much as 90%. This is a very good thing in my world.
- It provides food for all manner of insects and soil microorganisms. And all these creatures help keep your plants healthy and growing well.
- Yes, you can use straw or hay or leaves or anything you get locally. I personally prefer straw because it has fewer weed seeds than hay and it doesn’t mat as much as hay but I know folks who prefer hay. Use what you can find and afford.
- No – you don’t want to use a mulch on your gardens that doesn’t decompose. The objective here is to provide an ongoing supply of decomposing organic matter to feed our soil. Rocks, ground up rubber tires etc just don’t cut it.
- Deep mulching is (imho) the single best thing you can do for your garden to reduce work, reduce water use, increase fertility without work, and get bigger harvests.
Those two soil improvement tips should both make your life easier and get a bigger harvest.