tomatoes planted on a quality soil

10 Ways to Improve the Quality of Soil for Planting

For plants to produce quality yield, they need to be planted on quality soil, soils without the plant’s required nutrients are not fit to bear such plant.

This is because the plant will hardly perform well in such soil, therefore it is important to plant in quality soil and here is how to improve the quality of the soil.

Improving the quality of soil will aid in making the soil fit to produce your desired plant or crop.

In this guide, you will learn how to improve the quality of soil so as to get the best out of the soil.

What is soil Quality?

Soil quality refers to how well soil performs the tasks we assign to it. 

Soil quality refers to a certain type of soil’s ability to function within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries in order to maintain or improve plant and animal productivity, water and air quality, and human health and habitation. 

To attain our desired soil quality, we have to amend the soil to suit our target.

What are Soil amendments?

Items that are mixed into the soil to change their qualities are known as soil amendments. They’re commonly used to improve soil texture, nutrient content, and pH level. The two most common forms of amendments are organic and inorganic.

  1. Organic soil amendments include compost, aged manure, coconut coir, and wood ash.
  1. Inorganic soil amendments include sand, perlite, lime, and vermiculite. Leaves, straw, and grass clippings are examples of plant material. 

 

Allow time for the material to decay by working it into the soil several months before planting.

 

Fertilizers are also amendments, the fertilizers you employ as an amendment depends on what crop you want to plant desire. 

If the crop you wish to plant requires a high amount of Nitrogen, then you will need fertilizers with high Nitrogen content or a higher proportion of Nitrogen. 

The major target of Soil amendments is to improve the soil and satisfy the demand of the crops.

The following are some of the most common amendments and what they do:

1. Compost: These are plant decomposed items, such as vegetable scraps, you work them into the soil at least a few weeks before planting.

Composts are a great way to provide nutrients to your soil. It’s also possible that the pH of the soil will be lowered.

quality soil with nursery tomato crops

2. Leaf mould: Leaf Mold are decomposed leaves; they enrich the soil with nutrients and improve soil structure.

3.  Aged manure: Aged manure is a good soil conditioner. Use composted manure and incorporate it into the soil well ahead of planting. 

Kindly Note: Fresh manure should not be used in vegetable gardens because it can harm the plants and introduce diseases.

In addition, because manures contain more salts than other organic supplements, they should be used with caution, especially in arid places where salts will not be rinsed away by rain.

4. Coconut coir is a soil conditioner that aids in water retention. This substance is a more environmentally friendly substitute for peat moss.

5. Barks and Sawdust: These materials should be composted before being applied to garden soil. Otherwise, they will deplete the soil of nitrogen, depriving the plants of this vital mineral.

6. Applying Lime: lime is used to raise the pH of acidic soil. Only use if a soil test suggests it.

7. Apply Sulfur: Alkaline soil’s pH is lowered by sulfur. Only use if a soil test suggests it.

8. Applying Wood ash: Wood ash helps to raise the pH of acidic soil. Only use if a soil test suggests it.

9. Planting Cover crops: Cover crops (also known as green manure) is a type of soil improvement practice rather than a soil amendment. 

At the end of the growing season, cover crops (such as clover, rye, or oats) are planted in the garden.

In the fall, they develop quickly and are then mixed into the soil in the spring. They often have a lot of nutrients and can provide structure with their roots.

You can also amend the soil with organic matter 

10. Add organic Matter: Adding nutrient-rich organic matter like compost, aged manure, or leaf mould to poor soil is one of the most effective ways to transform it into excellent soil.

Benefits of using organic matter to improve soil quality

The benefits of organic matter are countless! Adding organic matter

  1. Improves drainage, aeration, and mineral release by loosening tight clay soil.
  2. increases the water-holding capacity and nutrient retention of sandy soil.
  3. makes digging and working with soil easier.
  4. raises the pH of the soil to a level that is suitable for most fruits and vegetables.
  5. reduces dependency on commercial fertilizers by providing a slow-release form of fertilizer throughout the growing season.
  6. provides food for helpful soil organisms (earthworms, insects, fungi, and beneficial bacteria), which aerate the soil while also converting organic matter into nutrients for plants.

How to add organic matter

You should add organic matter in the fall if possible. Worms will have done an excellent job of integrating most of that organic matter into the soil by spring. 

Soil being cleared for planting in Nigeria

If you want to amend your soil in the spring, start as soon as the ground is workable.

To add organic matter to the soil

1. Cover your garden with enough organic stuff to cover it to a depth of at least 2 inches. No more than a 4-inch layer should be added. Mix the organic materials into the top 6 to 8 inches of existing soil with a garden fork. Make sure it’s fully blended and equally distributed!

2. To create and sustain the soil, continue to add organic matter each season during soil preparation. Be patient; adding nutrients to the soil may take several seasons before it becomes loamy.

3. After amending the soil, it’s a good idea to water it well and then check the moisture level.

4. Wait at least two weeks between adding organic matter and planting before doing so.

5. Rake the soil clean and level before planting. Remove any fallen branches, pebbles, or other debris. You’re now ready to plant!

Avoid too much organic matter

Adding too much organic matter, like anything else, can be harmful! Too much organic matter stimulates microbe activity, which depletes available nitrogen and changes soil pH.

pepper planted on a quality soil

Ideally, organic matter should account for around 14% of your overall soil mixture, and it should be properly mixed into your existing soil.

How to examine the working capacity of a soil

To understand if the soil is workable, squeeze a handful of soil from a depth of about 6 inches to make a ball in your hand. When the earth crumbles between your fingers, it’s dry enough to work with. 

The dirt is dry enough to work when it forms a ball that falls apart on its own or when you press it with your thumb. 

The soil is too damp to work if the ball holds its shape or your thumb only leaves an impression. Check the soil again after a few days.

Summary of how to improve soil quality

To improve the quality of the soil, you need to add soil amendments and other materials that supply desired nutrients to the soil.

These materials can come in organic or inorganic form, they are called soil amendments.

Soil amendments are added to the soil in order to improve the soil and have it in some way that favours the crop we wish to plant. 

They can improve the nutrient content, soil’s texture, or pH level, porosity, compactness and many other chemical and physical features of the soil.

With the proper addition of soil amendments in the soil, you will be able to improve the soil and get your desired soil quality.

 

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