Properly prepared soil is the secret of a beautiful garden. Thanks to the good quality of the soil, plants can use the wealth of nutrients that support their intensive growth, abundant fruiting, and beautiful flowering.
What conditions should we change in our soil for our beautiful plants? We will talk about this in detail in this article.
In what soils do plants grow best?
The ideal substrate for plants, both in terms of structure and fertility, is Black Soil. Thanks to the crumbly formula, they contribute to the penetration of oxygen and water into deeper layers of soil, so that the roots of plants are fed well, which directly translates into the beautiful appearance of flowers on the surface. They retain moisture, protecting ornamental plants from harmful dehydration.
They contain special enzymes that act as a binder between the lumps from which the black soil is built. This is what determines soil fertility and is responsible for proper plant growth. Numerous organic compounds present in this soil intensely nourishes flowers and shrubs. Enzymes such as humus also reduce the loss of mineral substances that can be washed away during the rain.
In practice, however, we rarely have the opportunity to use black soil in the garden. They are too valuable to be intended for wholesale. Normal garden soil is also suitable if we take care of it. Then in the subsequent seasons, our task will only be to supplement the plants with the nutrients they require.
Which fertilizers will improve the quality of garden soil?
The best solution to improve substrate quality in your garden is to use organic fertilizers. They contain a large amount of humus, which improves the soil structure and provides the plants with easily digestible minerals. Organic fertilizers that can be successfully applied in the garden include:
It is formed as a result of the process of transformation of organic matter, which uses residues domestic organic waste products and dead plant parts. As a result, it contains ingredients that are easily assimilated by plants and ornamental shrubs.
Also, compost affects the soil structure. the soil structure improves due to its high humus content, which makes the soil puffy, well-nourished and moistened, and less compacted.
Its characteristic feature is high fertility. It contains all the nutrients needed for the proper growth of flowers and shrubs.
In the garden, composted manure will work best. In this form, it can be used both in autumn and spring. We can only spread fresh manure in the autumn, remembering that its annual use does not help many plants, including aroma, peonies, dialogue, frits, onion flowers, or cuttlefish as these plants require a minimum amount of nutrients that can be supplied by manure. Because of its fertility, it should be used every two years.
Peat enriches the soil with high humus content. It also can absorb water while retaining moisture. Its 3-centimetre layer should be laid on the ground and then mixed with the topsoil layer.
We can apply high peat, low peat, and peat substrate. The first one is suitable for plants requiring acidic substrate, but it must be mixed with fertilizer, compost, or manure. It contains very few nutrients. The second gives the soil an alkaline reaction as it contains a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorus. The third option is an optimal solution. The peat substrate is enriched with an optimal amount of minerals, which does not require mixing with compost or manure. We can choose either an oxidized version or a conventional version, depending on soil conditions.
The bark of the tree is an excellent source of humus, but its disadvantage is its low mineral content. It has an acidic reaction. Therefore, it is ideal as a substrate for plants which like a low mineral soil content requirement.
The optimal solution is to mix it with urea, manure, or ammonium nitrate, which will make up for the lack of elements.
Its characteristic feature is the high content of mineral compounds, in particular nitrogen. Excessive amounts this fertilizer may, however, harm your plants. Therefore, before applying the fertilizer, dilute it with water, and wait for about three weeks until the mixture is fermented. Only then will it be safe for our flowers, trees, and shrubs.
Worm castings are used for its production. This is the result of special worms that process organic residues like plant wastes to produce faeces that contain a good amount of minerals that are processable by plants. Also, a large number of enzymes and microorganisms are involved in the production of the Vermicompost.
Green manure is a natural fertiliser where growing plants are ploughed back into the soil so that they will be able to serve as a good and nutritional layer of humus for the plants that will be sown on top of them.
The live plants in the manure overgrow their roots in the soil, which improves the soil structure – heavy and compact soil becomes loose, and the sandy substrate becomes more connected. Besides, plant roots are responsible for transferring nutrients from deep soil layers to the surface, so they can be used by flowers, shrubs, and trees whose root system is not as extensive.
Before plants are sown into the green manure, they should be cut down and crumbled, and then dug with the top layer of soil. With these methods, they will form nutritious humus.
The plants should be sown early in spring so that we can start planting the garden in summer. Green manure can be used on soils that lack basic nutrients. Plants from a group such as Vika, peas, lupine, or cerebella, will then work best. Thanks to these leguminous plants, the soil will be enriched with nitrogen, which ensures proper plant development.
Mineral (artificial) fertilizers
To improve the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the soil and enrich it with nutrients that will positively affect the growth, fertility, and flowering of plants in our garden, we can use mineral (artificial) fertilizers. They are not completely natural solutions, but they help to grow flowers and ornamental shrubs.
The most commonly used mineral fertilizers are:
Nitrogen fertilizers – they are useful if we want to extend the vegetation period of plants. Since they can be washed with water and evaporate into the atmosphere relatively quickly, they should be used systematically but only in spring. In autumn, when most flowers and shrubs are preparing for winter so it is better to retreat during this period.
Phosphate fertilizers – the dose should be divided into two parts – spring and autumn, and in these seasons add the fertiliser to the substrate. Each of them should be well dug into the ground because this fertilizer does not move well in the ground, which means that some ingredients may not reach the roots of plants;
Potassium fertilizer – should be mixed with soil and then added to the gardening area. As an extremely high concentration of potassium will make it difficult for young plants to germinate and further develop. It is best to use them before sowing. This element penetrates the soil and is gradually released depending on the needs of the plants;
Calcium fertilizers – they are mainly used to regulate soil pH. They also protect plant tissues from self-degradation;
Magnesium fertilizers – ensure proper plant growth in the early stages of their development. They determine the stability of flowers and ornamental trees and the number of nutrients they take. Therefore, it is worth making sure that the fertilizers are in the soil;
Multi-component fertilizers – they contain not only nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, or potassium, but also many other trace elements that are usually contained in the soil in small amounts but are essential for proper plant growth. So if we don’t know what organic fertilizers are needed for our soil, choose multicomponent preparations. They can be used in spring and summer;
Slow-release fertilizers – their advantage is that we apply them to the substrate only once – with the first days of spring. The ingredients contained in them are gradually released so that plants have constant access to the macronutrients and trace elements that support their development.
How to improve clay/loamy soil?
The main reason for problems with creating a garden on loamy soils is their compact structure, which negatively affects the development of vegetation.
The main problems associated with this type of land include:
- It is difficult to get rid of large amounts of water with limited access to oxygen, which promotes rotting
- Slow heating of the land, which is the main cause of delays in plant development
- The formation of a hard envelope under the influence of the sun, which, if broken, damages the roots of plants
- The too-high viscosity of the earth due to moisture
In turn, among the advantages of this type of soil, it is mentioned that
- The nutrients are linked to each other by shredded particles
under the influence of water, they are not washed into the soil, so that the roots of plants have constant access to them.To improve the clay soil, first of all, should be treated to weaken the substrate structure. Then rotting and mechanical damage to the roots will not occur.
In the case of the clayey substrate, it is best to sow leguminous plants as the bacteria that live in the roots of these plants fix nitrogen in the soil which is a very much necessary nutrient that most plants require. Also, the roots of these plants overgrow in the soil, making its structure lose.
Mix coarse sand or fine gravel or granules with manure or compost (brown coal waste), which will not only improve the soil structure but also add all the necessary micro and macro elements.
What to do if the garden soil is too acidic?
Too acidic soil is the curse of many gardeners. This soil contains chemical substances which are harmful to plants in the substrate, and also a few useful microelements are lost, which means that the development of plants is limited or even impossible.
There are indeed plants for which acidic garden soil is the optimal environment, but most require a neutral or slightly acidic soil i.e – pH 6.0-7.0. So if we want to enjoy a beautiful garden, we must solve this problem.
The solution is simple. In early spring or autumn, we should sow calcium fertilizer (chalk or dolomite) and then mix it with the topsoil. In turn, separate places should be created for flowers and shrubs that prefer a more acidic substrate (pH 4,5-5,5). Then in our garden can grow both acidic plants and those who prefer a more neutral environment.
However, before we decide to use calcium fertilizers, it is worth checking if the soil in our garden needs such support. You can do this by doing so:
- Buying a field acid meter that will determine the acidity of the soil;
- Sending soil samples to a chemical agricultural station where they will be analyzed.The best solution would be to buy a substrate designed for certain types of plants, such as flowers, conifers, lawns, palms, roses, citrus, Mediterranean plants, or plants which require acidic soils. Then the soil will have the appropriate pH, structure, and fertility, which provide certain nutrients – specially selected for the plant type you have. The cost of such garden soil is usually much higher and depends on the use and capacity of the package.