As we are breaking ground for new gardens the importance of soil testing and proper soil maintenance can’t be overlooked. Not only do we need to know what will grow in in the soil and how to adjust the pH, we also need to be deliberate in helping the earth replenish the nutrients in the soil. Healthy soil will increase the yield and quality of the produce we work so hard to grow. So, how do we get healthy soil?
Adding compost to your garden is considered by many to be the best method to improve soil health. Composting leftover fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and scraps from the garden lets us return the nutrients to the soil without adding chemicals. If your able to add horse manure to the compost, the end result will be a very healthy inout containing plenty of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. But remember to always allow manure to compost completely before adding it to the garden. There are some exceptions such as rabbit droppings, but you should always be careful to avoid burning your plants or speeding disease.
Adding vermiculite improves the water holding capacity of soil. Vermiculite hold and then releases water like a sponge and is a welcome addition to both sandy and clay soils. Peat mass also works like a sponge, improving the moisture content of the soil. Peat moss does raise the pH slightly, so keep that in mind when adding it to your soil.
After improving your soil, it is time to test it, to determine what fertilizers, if any, you should add. Most state extension offices offer soil testing, often for free. There are soil test kits you can purchase, but to be honest, I have never had good luck with them. It is easier and I believe more accurate to simply scope up some dirt into a zip lock bag and mail it to the extension service for testing. They emailed me back a detailed report with recommendations, what could be easier!!
While you can certainly plant crops anywhere, it is best (in my humble opinion) to take the time to make sure your soil is healthy and has the proper nutrients to give you the best results.