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Gardening can be an immensely satisfying and relaxing activity. Watching the seedlings sprout and flower and in time bear fruit or vegetables can fill you with a tremendous sense of satisfaction.
Tending to your garden in spring feels especially good as you get some outdoor exercise and soak in the sun after being stuck indoors all winter.
But if you don’t have the right type of soil, or the soil is full of weeds and pests, your time spent in the garden can quickly become frustrating. No matter what you do, your plants just won’t grow and will instead start showing signs of stress. Yes, soil does play an important role in helping your plants grow and thrive.
Common Soil Problems and How to Fix Them
It’s easy to forget about the soil in your garden. It may seem like an unimportant detail that you ignore because you’re not sure where to start. The truth is that without good soil, you’ll never be able to successfully grow plants and vegetables.
Soil is often the most important part of a garden. It holds all the nutrients that plants need to grow. Without quality soil, plants won’t be able to grow because they don’t have enough nutrients or room for their roots to spread.
Some people are lucky and get wonderful soil right in their garden from the start but others need some help with this. The first thing you need to do is determine what type of soil is out there in your garden.
Test Your Soil
Two common issues with garden soil are that it is either too acidic or not acidic enough. Yes, soil needs to have the right pH balance for it to be considered good to grow.
Fortunately, these two things are simple to fix and can be done relatively quickly. The first step is to check your soil to see if it is acidic or alkaline or that nice balance in the middle.
Soil that is too acidic can be remedied easily by powdered lime or Epsom salts to the soil. This will neutralize the acid in your soil and help nourish your plants so they don’t experience a cyanide-producing disorder called blossomed end rot.
When making your own compost for your garden with acidic soil, compost more eggshells for a higher calcium level.
Sometimes the soil is not acidic enough. With this problem, plants cannot absorb nutrients to grow, which can happen when the ground has grown potatoes or been without fertilizer for a while.
Soil that is too alkaline can be fixed in a few simple ways like applying nitrogen and sulfur fertilizers. If you add too much, use lime to reduce the acidity level of the soil. This should only be done every 4-6 years because it can increase nitrate levels in your water supply as well.
Sometimes the pH balance isn’t right due to high drainage from potted vegetables like potatoes or lack of fertilization over time.
To remedy this, plant a nitrogen-fixing plant, like green beans. As they grow, they will naturally raise the PH of the soil.
Sandy soil is common in places like Florida where in-ground beds can be a major struggle. Just because sand tends to make up the majority of your soil doesn’t mean you do not have options to fix the soil so it can hold moisture and nutrients for your plants. Sandy soil takes time and a bit of investment to fix, but it can be done.
Adding a big batch of compost is a great way to tighten up sandy soil and make it better for your plants relatively quickly. You will find that this continues to break down and will become shallower in your garden if you do not keep adding to it. If you have your own composter this will not be a challenge to keep up with for most families.
At the end of each planting season, till in the stalks and leaves from your plants after your harvest. You can also add in grass clippings and leaves you have raked from your yard to build up your soil. If you’re raking grass into your garden beds, you will need to pay more attention to weeding your garden or use a garden fabric barrier.
Heavy clay soil
Heavy clay soil is not a good fit for gardening either. Rather than not holding nutrients and water, clay tends to restrict roots giving them nowhere to take hold. Heavy clay has issues with drainage and compacting of the soil making it a major problem for gardeners. The key to making clay soil usable is to continuously add organic materials to break up the clay and improve the drainage of the soil.
Great ways to bulk up clay soil is by tilling in old mulch, leaves, and large amounts of compost. Much like with sandy soil, at the end of each season, till your plants after harvesting to help build it up with organic matter.
For a quick and easy boost to established lawns and gardens, adding powdered gypsum can help prevent compacting and encourage water absorption into the soil. Gypsum will also add calcium to your garden without affecting the pH making it a great option with multiple benefits.
Aeration is important for working with clay soil. Tilling provides aeration when planting your beds, and the best way to get air into your yard is by wearing shoes that have spikes on the bottom while mowing or raking.
Too Wet, Too Dry
Two of the most common problems with soil are that it can be too wet or too dry. It is important to know how to remedy either issue, to ensure you have the best gardening experience. If you have a plant that looks like it’s getting brown leaves and its roots are not healthy, then one of these may be the culprit.
Beware of damp soil if you live in a dry region. If there’s been no rain for some time, it may be necessary to create drainage systems so water doesn’t pool and drown your garden.
If your soil is too dry, you may need to increase your watering time. You can also add mulch for water retention.
You can prevent your soil from being too wet or too dry depending on the season by using lots of organic material when planting.
Soil can be a difficult subject to understand, and even more difficult when it’s not working. We’ve put together some easy ways that you can fix common soil problems, now let us know which ones worked best for you by leaving a comment below!