Healthy and fertile soil is crucial for growing flowers, vegetables and other plants in your garden as it provides essential minerals and nutrients. In some parts of the UK, gardeners struggle to improve their soil each year, therefore they look for ways to enrich the health and fertility of their soil.
In this guide, we outline the top 5 ways to improve your soil so that your garden is looking lush all year round.
What causes unhealthy soil?
Unhealthy soil is usually easy to notice because of its appearance, water drainage, the quality of your plants, and the presence or absence of weeds and other wildlife in your garden.
Poor quality soil is usually caused by:
- Infrequent plant rotation
- Draught and flooding
- Soil contamination
- Lack of nutrients and minerals
1. Add animal manure
One way to increase soil fertility is to mix animal manure into the soil. This will help promote root growth and health because the animal manure is packed full of nutrients. The main nutrient released is nitrogen which is needed for plants and vegetables to grow in a sustainable manner. Well-rotted manure also contributes to an improved soil structure, resulting in better infiltration and retention of water for those hot summer months.
As well as the slow release of nutrients, manure encourages the migration of worms, insect larvae, algae and other living organisms into the soil. For further information about animal manure, see our in-depth guide.
2. Mix in soil conditioner (compost)
Soil conditioner (compost) is decomposed organic matter, and it’s one of the best ways to improve the health of your garden soil. Mixing compost into the garden soil will improve root growth and microbial activity, resistance to diseases, increase water retention and reduce soil temperatures.
Compost also feeds earthworms and other microbial life in the soil which will, in turn, help restore your garden soil to a healthy state.
3. Put a layer of bark mulch over the top
The main purpose of bark mulch and wood chippings is to enhance the soil structure, control moisture, add nutrients, help suppress weeds and general improvement on the appearance of borders and flower beds.
As well as protecting your garden from weeds, bark will also help manage the temperature of your soil which will protect plant roots from the scorching sun in the summer months and frost in the winter months. For further information about bark mulch, see our ultimate guide.
4. Remove weeds and stones
A simple, yet effective way to restore unhealthy soil is to remove weeds, stones and rubble. Plant roots are constantly searching for the best soil and if they’re fighting against unwanted weeds and weaving in between stones and rubble, the plant won’t be in its healthiest condition.
Raking and weeding your flower bed or vegetable patch, will remove the majority of large stones and weed seedlings.
5. Rotate plants
Growing plants and crops in different areas each year will prevent the depletion of nutrients and interrupts the cycles of pests and diseases, making sure your garden soil stays healthy for years to come.
Pathogens released by potatoes provide a great example of how crop rotation keeps soil healthy. Nematodes and fungi that cause flaky skin patches on potatoes increase rapidly in the soil during just one growing season. This year’s crop may not be affected, but if next year’s crop is planted in the same place; it will be destroyed by the hungry disease organisms that are in the soil from the previous season.
If you’re looking for 5 of the best ways to improve the health and fertility of your soil, you should consider doing the following:
- Add animal manure
- Mix in soil conditioner (compost)
- Put a layer of bark mulch over the top
- Remove weeds and stones
- Rotate plants