How To Prepare Soil That Your Vegetable Plants Love
The dark, brown material in your garden.
Plants love it. Need it. Can’t live without it.
It’s the thing that makes them comfortable. Provides them nutrients. And keeps them strong.
And if you’re looking to grow and harvest vegetables, it’s important to prepare the best soil for the plants.
Know the health of your soil
Soil provides your vegetable plants with nutrients. But to do that the soil should be healthy.
It’s important to know the health of your soil so you can make the necessary changes.
Check the nutrients in the soil
The essential nutrients in the soil that your plants need are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nitrogen helps your plants grow lush foliage. It’s especially important when growing leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, and lettuce.
Phosphorus helps the cell division in your plants and keeps the roots of your plants healthy.
Potassium is a nutrient that helps the plant utilize the food and protects the plants from diseases and extreme temperatures.
You can use a soil test kit to know more about the nutrients in your garden soil.
But the best way is to take a sample and send it to your local Cooperative Extension Service who will analyze it for a small fee. It’s worth the price because they give you detailed results and what you can do to improve the soil.
Check the pH level of the soil
The pH level of the soil determines the acidic or alkaline levels in it.
The pH scale ranges from 1.0 which is the most acidic level to 14.0 which is the most alkaline level.
The soil having a range between 1.0 to 6.9 is acidic while the soil having a range between 7.1 to 14.0 is alkaline. 7.0 is considered neutral.
Most plants like soil that is slightly acidic in the range of 6.0 to 6.8.
You can test the pH level of the soil with a standard soil test kit. Or a better way is to get it tested by your local Cooperative Extension service by sending them a sample.
They will give you a detailed analysis and let you know steps you can take to improve the pH level of the soil.
Check the texture of the soil
The texture of the soil is important so that plants can get the right amount of moisture and air.
It also helps the essential organisms like earthworms, bacteria, and fungi thrive and provide the soil with the organic matter.
Soil can contain sand, silt, or clay that makes its texture.
Sandy soil contains grains that are big and brittle. Such soil cannot hold moisture that drains away quickly.
Clay soil contains grains that stack together and is sticky when wet. Such soil retains a lot of moisture that tends to drown the roots and organisms.
Soil that contains silt has grains that are slippery when wet and powdery when dry.
It’s best to have soil that has a combination of the sand, clay, and silt.
You can understand the texture of the soil by holding it in your hand and pressing it firmly to check if it clumps up or just falls apart.back to menu ↑
Improve the health of your soil
The best thing you can do to improve the soil is changing it into a rich, fertile material that has good organic matter.
This makes the soil retain enough moisture while draining out the excess and provides the plants and microorganisms with sufficient air and water so they can thrive.
Use an organic fertilizer
When you have your soil tested, you’ll know whether it’s lacking any of the nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
You can then use a fertilizer that can improve your soil with the lacking nutrients.
Fertilizer bags come with the information N-P-K mentioned on them which is the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in them.
So a bag that states N-P-K of 10-10-10 means it contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium.
If your soil is deficient in one particular nutrient, you can compensate for it with the fertilizer. So if your soil is lacking in potassium, you can use a fertilizer that has an N-P-K of 2-2-10.
You have chemical and organic fertilizer available to use but it’s better to go with organic.
Chemical fertilizers work instantly to improve the soil but being chemical means they could be harmful to organisms in the long run.
Organic fertilizers take time to work and you’re better off adding them in the fall so the soil is improved by spring.
Use good organic compost
The best thing you can do to your soil is to add more organic matter to it. And what better organic matter to add than compost.
The organic matter in compost helps make the soil friable so it retains enough moisture while draining out the excess. It improves the texture of the soil so that air and moisture reach the roots as well as the organisms.
You can make your own compost using material around your house like grass clippings, dried leaves, straw, wood chips, coffee grounds, and kitchen waste.
You could also buy compost from the garden center but that compost is usually made from just one material. So you’ll need to mix in several types of compost to get the best mixture.
Manure can help improve the organic matter in your soil. You can use animal manure or green manure.
Animal manure needs to be matured before you use it. This will ensure that the good microorganisms are present in it while the harmful ones have been eliminated. This will also ensure that the weed seeds if any have been killed off.
Green manure means you grow cover crops like alfalfa in the non-growing season like fall. They will protect your soil from erosion as well as weeds.
Then before the crops can reach seed, you need to till them into the soil. The crops will decompose and with the arrival of the growing season will provide the soil with the organic matter it needs.
Mulching is a technique where you cover your garden with a thick layer of organic or inorganic materials.
This protects your soil from extreme temperature fluctuations.
It also blocks the air and light from reaching the weed seeds and prevents them from sprouting.
You could use organic material like grass clippings, leaves, wood bark as mulch. They will slowly decompose and add organic matter to your soil. But you do need to replenish them every year.
Inorganic material like stone pellets, gravel, and plastic could be used as mulch. They will last longer but don’t decompose and provide organic matter to the soil.
Improve the pH level
Once you’ve tested the pH levels of your soil and know you need to balance it, you can add material to change it.
Changing the pH level of the soil can take time. So it’s best to start in the fall so your soil is ready by spring.
If your soil is acidic and has a low pH level, you can increase it by adding limestone.
If the soil is too alkaline and has a high pH level, you can decrease it by adding sulfur, sawdust or conifer needles.
Improve the texture
You know the texture of your soil can be sandy, silty, or filled with clay.
Once you know that you can add organic compost to change its texture.
If the soil is sandy, you’ll need at least 3-4 inches of compost. If it’s silty, you’ll need just about an inch of compost. And if it’s full of clay, you’ll need about 2-3 inches of compost.
The organic compost you add to the soil will get consumed by the organisms and keep depleting. So you need to replenish it every year before the growing season.
The more organic matter you add to the soil, the better your soil becomes every year.back to menu ↑
Your soil can be the best for vegetables.
It will be fertile, retain sufficient moisture, and full of essential organisms.
You just need to take the right steps and make the soil suitable.
Just start doing it and you’ll thank me later.
Kevin Rodrigues is a developer-turned-blogger that helps people learn about gardening. Check out his website at https://gardeningmentor.com.