Home & Garden

How to amend garden soil for next season

By: Frankie Flowers

Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/cjp Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by ©iStockphoto.com/cjp

Home & Garden

How to amend garden soil for next season

By: Frankie Flowers
Few gardens are naturally blessed with the ideal conditions for plant growth. Taking proper steps to amend your soil now will greatly improve your garden’s performance next season.

Amending soil
The goals of amending soil are to break up earth that has become compacted over time, and to replenish its vital minerals and nutrients. The process is as simple as tilling or turning the ground, then adding generous amounts of organic material and some type of fertilizer.

The organic material you add could be peat moss, shredded bark, composted or decomposed plant material, or some form of manure. Add at least two inches on top of the bed and work it evenly through the top four to six inches of earth.

When to amend soil

Although it can be done anytime the ground isn’t too wet or frozen to till, I prefer to amend my soil in the fall. Not only does it give me a jump on garden tasks before spring, but the cooler temperatures also make fall an excellent time to work in the garden. And the continual freezing and thawing cycle that takes place throughout our Canadian winters actually helps work in the amendments.

Soil types
Most soil types lie somewhere between clay and sand, both of which can greatly benefit from amending. Heavy, compact clay soil tends to hold too much water. Amending clay soil with a generous amount of nutrient-rich organic material (about one part organic material per one part soil) will greatly improve drainage while maintaining moisture in your garden.

Sandy soil, on the other hand, drains too quickly and is unable to hold on to nutrients long enough to feed plants. Adding a higher ratio of organic material to sand will improve water retention and boost nutrient and oxygen supplies for your plants.

Page 1 of 2 -- Learn about Frankie's five top soil amendment tips on page 2
Frankie's five soil amendments

1. Topsoil
Loaded with microorganisms, this rich, black soil improves water absorption and adds micronutrients.

2. Peat moss
Technically called sphagnum, peat moss is harvested from peat bogs, where woody plant materials have decayed over many years.

It enhances soil’s acidity, improves its moisture absorption and increases its capacity to retain nutrients.

3. Manure

Got poor soil in your flower or vegetable garden? Bump up the nutrient content with composted sheep or cow manures.

4. Sand
This granular material, made of finely crushed mineral matter and stone, can improve the drainage of compacted soil.

5. Compost
Consisting of decayed plant material, compost’s organic content provides nutrients for new growth.

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This story was originally titled "Dishing the Dirt" in the October 2012 issue.

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How to amend garden soil for next season