Okay, would-be gardeners, let’s talk soil. So many garden failures can be attributed to bad soil. It’s like the wild west outlaw that comes in and steals all the good things from your plants. Good soil, on the other hand is like that wholesome wild west sherif who nurtures and cares for your plants. The white hat guy. Good vs. bad, get it?!
Anyway, the keys to good soil are: nutrients, aeration, and volume.
Nutrients come in many ways, fertilizers are a synthetic nutrient additive, you can also add nutrients by composting. The more organic material you have in your soil, the more nutrients you’ll have. Nutrients give good soil it’s rich dark color, so if your soil is very sandy, or very red, or black from clay. You’ll want to add organic compounds to your soil. For many this is as easy as dumping your grass clippings into your garden plot and tilling them in. These will break down and add nutrients, you can also add fireplace ash and all the leftover veggies from the kitchen, like onion peels, and apple cores. Even your egg shells work great.
Aeration can only be described as the looseness or texture of the soil. How easily does it break apart, or how easily can you dig in it. Plants have to work their roots into the ground in order to access the nutrients you’ve placed there for them. The easier you can make it for your plants to put down roots the quicker and easier they’ll grow. You can help your soil out by adding peat moss, pecan shells, or peanut husks, or even a little sand. For those really clay based soils which will often be red or black in color and have a very dense consistency, like clay. Break up the soil, then add one of the above mentioned items, till it in, and then repeat every couple of months until you start seeing a nice texture in your soils.
Lastly volume, many gardeners don’t deal with volume because often times its not an issue. Volume is how much soil you need. So many times we are just treating the top 6-8 inches of our gardens. This isn’t enough, our plants need room to grow, and if we don’t give it to them they won’t really reach down into the soil and make the most of what’s there. So my recommendation is 2 cubic feet per plant. Now some plants can be grown closer together than a foot, but that just means that their root structure goes down not out. So provide a good 12-18 inches of soil depth for your plants. Believe me you’ll see the difference in your first year.