Garden soil is not an endless resource of nutrients, as the plants grow and weather conditions wear off the topsoil, nutrients are lost. That’s why fertilizing is a key part of every gardener's routine, especially with container gardening where every resource is limited.
But after a whole season of growth, it’s important to go a step further to replenish the soil by renewing it before the next planting season.
Spring is fast approaching and your garden soil from last season’s gardening is looking lackluster? Here are some helpful tips to renew your garden soil
Clear your garden
Remove all dead plants, weeds, and other garden debris until your garden soil is bare. Dead plants can go to the compost pit to break down. All weeds should be removed from the soil and burned or put in a compost bin and all broken pieces of garden furniture such as garden benches, stakes, and trellises should be cleared out
Loosen it up
It is commonly known that garden soil becomes compacted and hardened in place after the cold weather and last season’s gardening, so what you want to do is loosen it up by tilling or turning it, using a tiller, spade, or a hoe.
Instead of doing the back-breaking work of tilling manually, you could let worms do it for you with sheet mulching. Sheet mulching builds new garden soil from the ground up, maximizes soil nutrients, and breaks down the weeds.
Add soil amendments
You can add nourishment with organic amendments like worm castings for a nitrogen deficiency, alfalfa meal for phosphorus and bone meal for calcium.
Add organic matter
The use of organic matter cannot be overemphasized as a do-all, cure-all for gardens, no matter the soil type. It will improve soil texture and drainage in heavy soils and helps retain nutrients and moisture in sandier soils.
Organic matter is decomposed plant or animal matter like compost and manure. When introduced to your garden soil, it improves the structure of the soil and nourishes the beneficial microorganisms, increasing soil fertility.
To add organic matter to the soil, spread it generously on the soil surface, then spread out evenly and mix it into the topsoil. Always make sure organic material is well broken down before adding it to the soil.
Mulching is a must for healthy, nutrient-rich garden soil and thriving plants, it promotes natural growth conditions, helps soil to retain moisture, keeps the soil cool, and prevents the growth of weeds. Mulch also promotes a growth environment for the worm population in your soil, which means better, more fertile garden soil for you.
Get the soil tested
If you want to get really technical about your container garden soil, you could send a soil sample to a local soil testing agency or co-operative. These tests will usually measure levels of phosphorus, calcium, potassium, nitrogen, manganese, and the soil’s pH. There are also DIY test kits sold online that would save you the hassle of sending soil samples out to get tested.
Plant cover crops
To keep your soil nutrient-rich during the planting season and for the long term, cover crops are one of the quickest ways to remedy your garden soil problems without much work. Not only do cover crops provide nutrients to the soil, but they also improve drainage and aeration. They also cover and suffocate weeds, act as a type of mulch and attract the right microorganisms to your soil. Crops like kale, turnips and radishes are ideal for use as cover crops.
Happy spring planting!