Ya’ know what makes me happy?
I’m not talkin’ about crappy dirt on the side of the road, I’m talkin’ about real, dark, rich and moist dirt. The kind you can dig your fingers into. The kind that when you kneel on it, feels soft and squishy. Know what I’m talkin’ about?
Well, if you don’t know what I’m talkin’ about, or you’ve never experienced fabulous dirt, then you’ve come to the right place. Today, I’m going to show you how to get SUPERPOWERED garden soil. The kind that makes it impossible for you to fail at gardening.
Know that brown thumb you’re always complainin’ about? No more, my little grasshopper!
Determining your Soil’s Superpower Capabilities
The first thing you must do is find out what kind of soil you have to work with.
Is it sandy? Is it clay? Is it silt?
Here’s how you find out:
I’ll wait here while you determine your soil type.
*Cue elevator music for 24 hours*
Now that you’ve figured out what type of soil you have, let’s go over what all that means:
Sandy soil is easily penetrated by oxygen and water. But because of the large particles, it allows it to drain too quickly, taking away water and your precious organic fertilizer.
Clay soil is opposite of our sandy soil. It’s particles are too small, which won’t let oxygen and water in very well. While it usually has more nutrients, it holds water in too long, which can create a buildup of salt deposits that cause your plants to die.
Silt is a perfect combination of particles, allowing for proper watering and proper draining. Goldilocks would probably prefer it because it’s “just right”. Although, if I can give you some advice, don’t tell Goldilocks about your garden. That girl is a rotten little thief.
Getting your Garden Soil “Just Right”
You may think if your soil is Sandy it’s best to just add Clay soil, and vice versa. But actually this doesn’t work well at all. The layers don’t mix well and after some watering, you’ll have the layers separate again (just like in your test jar).
To turn your Clay soil into SUPERPOWERED Soil, add…
- Cocopeat, Sphagnum Moss, or Gypsum. Each of these would work well for loosening up your clay soil and allowing for oxygen and water to get through. Work in about 1 cubic foot bag for about every 10 sqare feet of garden space. Gypsum is the cheapest option, at only about $2-3 a bag (more for bigger bags, like the ones you can buy online). Even if you can’t afford to meet the recommendations, just remember that anything is better than nothing.
- Organic material is a MUST for gardening. Not only does it feed your plants with necessary nitrogen, it also provides food the microorganisms in the dirt. The absolute BEST organic material comes easily and is usually free. Yes, folks, I’m talking about POOP. WELL-AGED and COMPOSTED chicken, goat, sheep, horse and cow manure are all great providers of natural nitrogen and supply plenty of organisms as well. BONUS points if you can score poop from an animal who has been fed organic feed/grass. Well-aged manure is a must. Fresh manure has too high levels of nitrogen, which will chemically BURN up your garden, even if it’s cool outside. It will take a couple months for fresh poop to be able to break down enough to not cause harm to your garden. After that, you can add about 6 inches on top and till it in well.
- Tilling can be done by shovel, but I’d recommend renting a tiller for a couple hours. It should cost you only about $30-40, and it’s well worth the cost in my opinion.
To turn your Sandy soil into SUPERPOWERED Soil, add…
- Make a 3 to 1 mixture of Peat and Vermiculite. Add about 2 inches to your garden, and till in well.
- Add about another 4 inches organic material (compost or manure).
If your soil is Silt… congratulations! You have the soil that everybody is jealous of! At this point you can simply add some organic material. Lay about 3 inches on top, then till it in well.
Avoiding Newbie Mistakes
- Don’t add a lot of high-carbon material (straw, leaves, wood chips and sawdust). The microorganisms will eat too much nitrogen and in the end they will starve your plants of it.
- Never till while wet. It will destroy the structure of the garden and compact it harder when it dries.
- Rototilling the soil is a must. If you just drop it on top, you are inevitably causing an layer that will cause slow drainage.
What about Lasagna Gardening?
Lasagna gardening is definitely a good option for those who want to try raised beds to garden in or plan on having a series of smaller gardens. If you’re looking to avoid back labor, setting up a lasagna garden isn’t totally labor-free. If you can set up a lasagna garden ahead of time, a PRO is you can produce some amazing soil. You can read more about lasagna gardening here at my friend Courtney’s blog.
One CON with lasagna gardening is because they break down slowly, you may have an increase in pests, particularly slugs. Also, if you have particularly sandy soil, you may find that because your foundation is sandy, your garden will wash away in heavy rains.
The final KEY to getting SUPERPOWERED Soil!
One of the most important things you must remember about gardening and soil, is that in order to have rich, green, vibrant plants, you must have vibrant and alive soil. Don’t forget about those microorganisms in the soil. If you are watering your garden with chlorinated, sterilized water, you’ll stamp out those precious microorganisms.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to dig a well and draw water everyday for your garden. All you need is a water filter. Since my water IS chlorinated, I simply added a garden hose filter to my watering system and that’s it!