How To Improve Soil Health With Soil Amendments
Posted on March 22 2019
Spring has sprung and there’s no better time than now to start planting! But before you get those seeds and starters in the soil, you’ll want to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. After all, your plants are only as healthy as the soil they’re grown in.
One of our favorite ways to ensure healthy soil is by adding amendments to your dirt before planting. But “soil amendments” are words that often get tossed around in the gardening community which may leave you feeling slightly confused and wondering if an amendment is absolutely necessary.
In this article, we’ll help clear things up and even make some recommendations for soil amendments you may want to consider for your garden.
What is a Soil Amendment?
First, we need to address what a soil amendment is because you may be thinking, “Isn’t it the same as fertilizer?”
Although it’s a common misconception, there's actually a difference between soil amendments and fertilizers, yet both can have a positive impact on soil health.
Fertilizers usually provide your soil with nutrients that it may be lacking. For example, either nitrogen, potassium, or phosphorous. Organic fertilizers tend to provide a quick boost in these nutrients and can support plants with growth.
Meanwhile, organic soil amendments can alter the density of the soil and impact its ability to hold water or oxygen. Amendments can also facilitate the release of nutrients by allowing organic matter to be added. Additionally, they can slightly modify the pH of your soil.
Simply put, you can think of fertilizers primarily as food for your plants (although they can increase the presence of beneficial microorganisms) and amendments as conditioners for your soil.
What Are the Different Types of Soil and Can They All Benefit From Amendments?
When considering adding soil amendments, it may be helpful to keep your soil type in mind. There are three main types of soil:
- Clay Soil: Compact and holds water and nutrients well.
- Sandy Soil: Looser than clay soil and may struggle to hold water and nutrients.
- Loam Soil: Most common type of soil used in gardening due to the balance of adequate drainage and high retention of water and nutrients.
As mentioned earlier, the health of your plants starts with your soil so it’s best to first examine the condition of your soil if you notice your plants aren’t doing as well as they should. Ultimately, all soil types benefit from amendments but ideally, the added amendment should address the underlying issue with your soil.
For example, with clay soils, you’ll want to use an amendment that will loosen the texture and improve drainage. Whereas for sandy soils, an amendment that allows the soil to retain nutrients and water, would be best.
As a general rule of thumb, composted manure can be a decent addition to all soil types as it can help with moisture retention while simultaneously enriching the soil. Meanwhile, sphagnum peat moss can help soils to absorb more water and then ensure it's used appropriately by plant roots. It's best suited for clay soil, where it provides additional aeration, and sandy soil as it helps to prevent nutrient wastage.
When Should You Apply a Soil Amendment?
If your plants are showing signs of dehydration and a lack of nutrients, it could be time to consider applying amendments.
While it can be beneficial to use soil amendments in your garden at any time of the year, it's usually best to do it at one of two certain times:
- When you're preparing a bed for planting at the beginning of the year.
- When you're preparing your garden for the cold winter months towards the end of the year.
When applying amendments it can pay off to make sure you know what exactly it is that your plant and soil are lacking, so that you add the right amendment for your problem.
What Soil Amendments Can I Choose From?
Luckily, your options for soil amendments are wide and varied. Below are several of the many types of amendments you can consider adding to your soil:
- Wood Chips
- Kelp Meal
- Bone Meal
- Alfalfa Meal
- Coconut Coir
- Blood Meal
- Sul-Po-Mag (K-Mag)
In the end, you should aim to add a soil amendment that will improve the problem areas in your soil. For example, Gypsum would be a great option for those with clay soil to help improve drainage. While Alfalfa Meal would be a good choice for those looking to improve the number of microorganisms in their soil.
Here at Greenway Biotech, we stock a variety of industry-leading gardening products that can help you to revitalize your plants and your garden as a whole. To find out more about what we stock, browse our collection here.
Otherwise, we hope this article was helpful and wish you a successful growing season!