6 Reasons to Improve Your Garden Soil in 2016
Whether you aim to make 2016 the year you finally grow your own veg, or whether you just want to give your existing planting a bit of a boost, now is the perfect time to be thinking about paying attention to the quality of your garden soil. Cambridge garden suppliers, Madingley Mulch specialise in products and treatments to improve your soil in a number of ways and this includes a wide range of soil conditioners, compost, mulch and topsoil.
But, with so many options, which is the right choice for your garden? You need to start by identifying how and why you want to improve your garden soil.
Reasons to Improve Your Garden Soil
There are a number of different reasons why you might want to improve or otherwise change the soil you have in your garden:
- Add Nutrients
Here the aim is to make the soil generally more fertile for the growth of vegetables or specific plants. This is an especially good idea if your current soil is starting to show signs of decreased nutrients – e.g. your vegetable yields have fallen noticeably, or they’ve never been good to start with. Although adding nutrients can be achieved through the use of chemical fertilisers, many gardeners prefer the old fashioned approach of enriching the soil with natural matter. If your soil is already in reasonable condition and you just need a boost, the simplest method is simply to top up your existing soil with a fresh layer of topsoil, such as our Black Fen Soil, Blended Loam or Brown Soil. If you want to improve soil texture at the same time, our Denise’s Delight is a perfect choice – it is a unique blend of Black Fen Soil and horse manure, plus a dash of wood shavings and humus for good measure.
- Change pH
Most garden soil in Cambridge and the surrounding region tends to be alkaline. While this is fine for many plants, you may want to grow species which prefer a more acidic soil. For this we recommend our Black Fen Soil which not only lowers Ph but adds nutrients at the same time. Either mix in with your existing soil, or use alone in a border or raised bed.
- Improve Drainage
Many plants and vegetables prefer a well drained soil and will die or become diseased if they become waterlogged. While it can be disappointing to see your favourite flowering plants not do as well as they might, waterlogged soil can spell disaster for your vegetable crops. You can improve drainage by topping up or replacing with our Soil/Sand Mix, or mixing in some of our Horticultural Grit. If you are creating a new bed or border, consider placing a layer of small to medium sized gravel as a base, before placing soil on top.
Heavy, clay-based “soil” can be incredibly hard work to dig over, especially when wet. It can also limit what can be grown – although there are some varieties that love it, such as roses, daylilies, geraniums and hostas. Because clay doesn’t drain well, it is difficult to get anything growing in them too early in the year or once autumn sets in – which limits the amount of growing time overall. On the other hand, clay soils are often very rich in nutrients, so trying to replace them completely is wasteful, especially if the soil is otherwise clean and free of contamination. The workability of a clay soil can be greatly improved by the addition of organic matter which helps to break up the clay. Choose a bulky type such as our Composted Bark or Spent Mushroom Compost. Alternatively, our Tony’s Tonic soil conditioner combines horse manure with wood shavings, which combines bulk with nutrition, which is perfect for roses. You can improve drainage by working in some sand or our Horticultural Grit. Clay is also very prone to drying rock hard in hot weather – so a layer of mulch will help. Using a bark mulch is ideal as, over time, it will work its way into the clay, further improving its workability.
A soil test can tell you whether you have any problematic substances in your soil and to what level. Among the contaminants that might present a risk to humans or to plants or both include: chemicals, heavy metals (e.g. lead), pesticides, oil or other pollution. If you are planning to grow vegetables for consumption by humans then you need to ensure that the soil you are growing them in is free from substances which could be taken up by the plants and end up being eaten. While this is sensible advice for any garden owner, it is especially important if your garden is close to a busy road, experiences run off from roads, farms or industrial sites, or used to be part of an industrial site (e.g. mining, chemical industry etc). If you do find significant contamination the only solution is to completely remove the contaminated soil and replace it entirely with fresh, uncontaminated soil.
Sometimes it is useful or necessary to completely replace the soil in your garden, or in a particular area, as part of an eradication process. For instance, if you are trying to get rid of knotweed in your garden, one method (albeit rather drastic) is to completely remove the existing soil, to ensure any last traces of roots are gone, and replace the top 2 metres of soil with fresh topsoil. The removed soil needs to be disposed of appropriately by being buried in an approved landfill site, so that it doesn’t end up creating a problem somewhere else. While complete soil replacement is obviously a big job, the time and effort involved needs to be weighed against the extent of the problem and the amount of time you might spend (or have already spent) trying other methods.
Garden Soil Cambridge – If you need more advice about the best way to improve the condition of your soil, please call us or visit us at our shop on Madingley Road. We can arrange compost, soil conditioner, mulch and topsoil delivery free within the Cambridge
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