Amending Your Soil

Every year vital nutrients get used up or depleted by the fruit and vegetables that you grow & harvest. Even if your ground lay fallow (unused or unplanted) for a season, nutrients can be depleted through water leaching down into the soil.

So, whether you are succession planting or starting fresh with your new garden – amend your soil with good organic materials, living compost, composted animal manures, Azomite, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Lime or Sulfur.

How To Amend Your Soil If You Plan On Planting

  1. Broadfork or garden fork your soil. Work those tines into the soil and rock the tool back to lift the soil without turning it over. You just want to loosen and aerate the soil.
  2. Next add compost, three to four (3”-4”) inches spread across the garden bed and worked loosely into the top 2”-3” of your soil. That’s it!
    If all you’re doing is replenishing your soil, and not from the ground up rebuilding it, a good organic compost teeming with microbial life should be sufficient.If you don’t have access to any compost, move to step 3.
  3. Add one to two (1”-2”) inches of a composted manure. Animal manures such as cow, horse or poultry are considered “hot” manures and require a decomposition period to cool down before use. Cold animal manures like rabbit pellets can be worked directly into the soil, although a seasoning period may be beneficial. If you have access to local fresh composted manures – great. Otherwise, good bagged manure works just as well.
  4. (Optional) If you are soil building, in addition to composted manures, add bags of organic garden soil. Kellogg makes a good Garden Soil that includes “recycled forest materials, aged arbor vines, composted chicken manure, oyster shell & dolomite lime, bat guano, worm castings and kelp meal.”If your soil is too sandy or has too much clay and lacks organic matter, add a 3 cu ft bag of garden soil to an 8’x10’ bed. It will go a long way to amend your soil. Spread it out and work it into the soil about six (6”) inches or so.Coco-coir or Peat Moss can also add to the organic composition of your soil also and aids in water retention.
  5. (Optional, but recmmended) Azomite. Azomite is actually a trademarked acronym for ”A to Z Of Minerals Including Trace Elements”.Azomite is mined in central Utah and comes from volcanic ash which settled into an ancient sea bed. It is rich in minerals and when worked into your preseason soils will aid in plant health, growth and fruit production.It contains 75 of the 86 naturally occurring trace elements! Azomtie is considered “organic”, or in its natural state, and is OMRI certified, (Organic Materials Review Institute).Once annually during the “preseason” when I prep my garden beds with compost, I add the label recommended amount to my soil. You can, however, scratch some into the soil and water it in at the beginning of your season if you’d like.
  6. (Additional steps if needed) Worm castings or Bat Guano are a good source of nutrients and nitrogen and can be worked into your soil at anytime.Used preseason or after your flip a bed (tearing out the old crop and get ready for a new one), or even added as a plant/crop side dressing for a mid-season boost.Bat Guano has more nitrogen then Worm Castings, but both work as good soil amendments.
  7. (Additional steps if needed). Blood meal, Bone Meal, Lime or Sulfur are generally used to “fix” any soil deficiencies as indicated by a soil test.Blood Meal is high in nitrogen and should be used sparingly or only as required. Too much nitrogen and you get big leafy green tomato plants with no tomatoes or hairy carrots with lots of fine side roots. Nobody wants “hairy” carrots. Use as directed.Bone Meal is a good source of phosphorus aiding in root, flower and fruit (veg) development. Use as directed.Lime is used to alter the pH balance of soil by reducing its acidity. Use as directed in your soil test.Sulfur is used to alter the pH balance of soil by reducing the alkalinity. Use as directed in your soil test.When “flipping” a bed, market gardeners will often use compost or manures on their beds and amend with a Blood Meal and/or Bone Meal with each new planting.These garden beds are in high production and easily deplete nutrients found in soil. These organic elements help to rejuvenate the soil with much needed nutrients.
  8. Final steps:
    -Add mulch such as wood chips in your walk-ways to keep weeds at bay and to help keep the mud off your boots on those wet days.
    -Rake those beds smooth and lay your drip irrigation back on the beds if you have them.
    -Or, if no drip lines, you can build up furrows for planting and valley’s for watering.
    -Usually best practice is to thoroughly spray down the beds with water and let the amendments soak in and to let any still “hot” manures or compost “cool” off before any planting. The pre-season soil prep should occur about two (2) weeks before any planting.
    -Then Seed, Transplant, Water and watch them grow!

It’s recommended you amend your soil twice a year, once in the spring a couple of weeks before you plant and again in the fall to replenish the soil for your 3 Season Garden.

If you don’t plan on planting for a season I’d still add compost and seed it with good nitrogen fixing cover crop. The cover crops can be turned over and worked back into the soil to decompose before your next full amendment and planting.

At a minimum I’d still add and work in some compost to an unused bed and cover with some leaf mulch, or straw. Never leave your ground uncovered or completely fallow for a season.