How To Improve Your Soil: 3 Simple Steps For Making Any Soil Better
Learning how to improve your soil can be a game changer to any gardener or weekend warrior who thought their soil was impossible to grow in. No matter where you start, here are 3 steps to making any soil better.
Starting off with bad soil doesnt have to be a deal-breaker. In fact, it doesnt matter if you have impossible, heavy clay soil where water just sits there, and it seems impossible to dig, or loose, sandy soil where water quickly runs right through. Read on to learn these 3 steps to making any soil better.
Get Ready To Plant Your New Lawn
Prepare the area. Remove all dead grass, weeds, and debris from the area. Level any areas where excess water could collect.
Test the soil pH. Use our Soil pH Test Kit to determine the pH of your soil in minutes and ensure that it measures between 6.2 and 7.0. If not, use Jonathan Green Mag-I-Cal® Plus to rapidly balance the pH and help the lawn grow greener and healthier. Mag-I-Cal® Plus is available for both acidic and alkaline soils. Apply it when seeding, and adjust the application rate as the pH of the soil improves.
Loosen the soil. Loosen the top half-inch of soil. Mag-I-Cal® Plus will help you accomplish this. If the soil is very compacted, however, choose Jonathan Green Love Your Soil® to loosen and aerate it, feed the soil microbes, make the soil more alive and porous, and enhance root and root mass development. Love Your Soil® can be applied on the same day as the grass seed.
Plant the highest quality seed. Apply your preferred Black Beauty® grass seed mixture with a lawn spreader. Distribute the seed as evenly as possible, and lightly rake to incorporate it in the top ¼ inch of soil. Seed-to-soil contact is the key to achieving maximum germination.
Fertilize. Use Jonathan Green Green-Up Lawn Food for Seeding & Sodding to fertilize before seeding. This high phosphorus formula will help build a vigorous root system and get new grass off to a fast start, resulting in a thicker, greener lawn. Do not use crabgrass or weed killers before or after planting grass seed.
Use Natural Lawn Fertilizers
Why use natural fertilizers instead of synthetic lawn fertilizers? Because they are better for your grass, the environment, and they are proven to work better than synthetics! A recent study by Austins Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, with the collaboration of Texas A& M, showed that organic and natural lawn fertilizers actually produce greener lawns than synthetics. Moreover, natural fertilizers are healthier for your family and for the environment! There are a number of natural lawn fertilizers to choose from. You can browse them here.
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How To Improve Soil Quality In Your Lawn
A healthy lawn and garden begin with your soil. In fact, many problems with home gardens, trees, and an unhealthy looking lawn are caused by poor soil quality. Wondering how to improve soil quality on your property? Luckily, a simple switch is all you need to make a big difference.
Mulch Your Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are an essential part of lawn care.
As a rule, you can recycle the grass clippings of an inch or less in length by returning them to your lawn. They will filter down and decompose quickly.
However, you need to remove longer grass clippings since they can smother or shade the grass below or use a mulching mower to make sure small clippings are created, long grass clippings may damage the lawn.
Do not throw bagged grass clippings out, as it is an excellent source of nutrients, and you can use them as a garden mulch.
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Amend Soil With Particular Nutrients As Required
Making sure the soil in your growing area has all the micronutrients required for optimal plant growth can be a delicate balancing act. Often, the plants themselves can give you clues about which nutrients might be missing.
In addition to using liquid plant feeds and the mulches mentioned above to provide what is needed, there are also a number of other soil amendments you could consider. For example, you might:
- Sprinkle wood ash to boost potassium levels.
- Add egg shells to redress a calcium deficiency.
- Add Epsom salts for magnesium.
Seaweed is also particularly worth mentioning, since, when used as a mulch or liquid feed, it provides a range of key and trace nutrients for soil and plants.
How Do You Break Down Clay Soil Quickly
Breaking down hard soil will improve its structure, making planting and digging easier.
So, how can you do it?
Breaking down clay soil will take a lot of digging, but it will make the soil more workable and suitable for growing grass and other plants,
1) Cover the lawn with about eight inches of organic matter. It can be anything that has not been treated with toxic compounds or chemicals, including lawn cuttings, rotted manure, or compost from your heap.
2) You can carry out this step over several days, as it is the most difficult part of the treatment process. Dig the prepared organic matter into the top layer of your clay soil, but be careful not to compact it.
3) You can use either a rotavator or a sturdy spade for digging. When you have finished improving your soil, the garden bed may become a few inches higher, but it will settle down over time.
3) Add some extra inches of organic matter each year. The worms that live in the soil will take it down into the clay, improving the soil.
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Soil And Site Preparation For Lawns
Properly preparing the soil is critical to the success of home lawns.
Success or failure of a home lawn is closely tied into how well the soil and site was prepared prior to lawn establishment.
Eliminating weed problems existing on the site is an important first step. Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass or tall fescue, need to be controlled prior to lawn seeding or sodding. Weed control options include digging by hand, repeated soil tillage or using a systemic nonselective herbicide, such as glyphosate, sold as Roundup and other trade names. Organic products are becoming more popular as well. Read, understand, and follow all label directions whenever using any type of control product to be sure you will be getting the expected level of control necessary.
Before seeding or sodding, it’s important to thoroughly work the soil. Amend poor soils, such as heavy clay, by adding organic matter. Sources include compost, rotted manure, peat, and quality topsoil. Sand is not suggested as a material to improve clay soils for home lawns.
When preparing the soil, it’s important to establish a favorable final grade. Rough grading should include removal of any rock or other debris. Avoid burying construction debris, as this could cause problems for the grass later. Eliminate any depressions or raised areas. Final slopes should be one to two percent away from buildings to assure good surface drainage.
In this section : Planting and Maintenance
Dirty Secrets: 9 Ways To Improve Garden Soil
Im a soil scientist and a former faculty instructor for Oregon State Universitys Extension program, where Ive taught and consulted with farmers and gardeners. My own half-acre garden in southern Oregon is my laboratory where I experiment to find new ways to improve the soil.
After spending years learning how to make garden soils light, fluffy, and easy to work, I wrote Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach, a guide to everything you need to know to improve soil. Here are 10 of my top tips to improve soil:
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What Makes A Healthy Lawn
A healthy lawn requires healthy soil, plain and simple. And much like people, your lawn needs to eat well to be healthy. But instead of counting macros or getting into a cardio routine, your lawn needs nutrient-rich soil. These nutrients bolster your lawn and enable it to resist drought, weeds, and other pests. Healthy soil is rich in beneficial insects and bacteria. This complex food web works naturally to keep grass healthy. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy, well-fed lawn without chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. To get your lawn started on a safe, healthy routine, youll first want to assess current health and needs and take it from there.
How To Improve Lawn Soil
Learn how to improve lawn soil with soil amendments. They play different roles than fertilizers and, by understanding what they do, you can achieve the spectacular lawn you have always dreamed about!
Since 1881, the Jonathan Green name has represented genetically superior grass seed, innovation, determination, integrity, and a commitment to excellence. Now, six generations later, we remain committed to producing superior lawn and garden products.
Jonathan Green is a leading supplier of top-quality cool season grass seed, soil enhancers, fertilizer, and organic lawn and garden products to sod growers, consumers, and independent retailers, including garden centers and hardware stores, across the United States. Our genetically superior grass seed and soil food products will transform your lawn and help it to thrive.
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How To Improve Clay Soil For Lawns Simple Tips
Clay soils can be a big problem if thats what you have under your lawn.
These dense, compacted soils provide poor drainage, staying soggy when wet and turning rock hard in the summer.
Moreover, nutrients, air, and water cannot easily move through clay soils.
It creates stress on the roots of the grass, making them weak and more prone to weeds, insects, and disease.
So, how to improve clay soil for lawns?
To improve clay soil for lawns and create a good bed for your yard add topsoil or mix in some organic matter such as leaves, rotted manure, or grass clippings. Aerate your lawn to help improve drainage and improve the soil structure. These techniques done consistently will improve your lawn soil over time.
When treated properly, clay soils can actually have great potential and offer many benefits. Healthy, well-maintained clay soil means less stress on your garden or lawn and less work for you. With a little effort, you can improve your heavy clay soil and enjoy its unique features.
Implement A No Dig/ No Till Gardening Approach
Every time we dig or till the soil, we damage the complex ecosystem below. Traditional gardening and farming involves disturbing the soil on a rather frequent basis.
But in a no dig garden, we take steps to reduce disturbance of the soil as much as possible.
Rather than incorporating matter into the soil ourselves we lay material on top of the soil surface and let earth worms and other soil life do this work for us.
Avoiding soil disturbance as much as possible can allow this fragile ecosystem to thrive. Over time, it will become healthier, more diverse and more resilient.
Research has shown that a no dig garden can increase the yield from a growing system over time. By avoiding soil disturbance, and through other no dig gardening methods, we can also increase the soils capacity to store carbon, and do our part in the fight against global warming.
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Add Brown Organic Matter As Mulch
In addition to adding green mulches, you can also add other organic matter as mulch. Brown organic matter can also play an important role in improving your garden soil. Brown organic matter might be:
- Home-made compost.
These can improve soil structure and help to trap carbon from the atmosphere in the soil.
How Often To Topdress A Clay Lawn To See Results
Depending on the region you live in, you may need to topdress your grass once or twice a year.
You can topdress warm-season grass in the springtime after it has gotten a chance to green up, whereas it is best to apply the topdressing to cool-season grass in the fall before it goes dormant for winter.
Never topdress your grass during the hot summer days. It will stress the plants out, and they will not recover before the fall. Besides, make sure to check out lawn care basics for your grass type to keep it healthy, green, and beautiful.
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Compacted Clay Inhibits Healthy Growth For Grass And Other Plants
The same properties behind clay’s benefits also present its biggest challenge. The small size of clay particles means they fit closely together, leaving less room for air, water and nutrients to moveespecially when pressure compacts them. The particle shape increases the likelihood of compaction, too. Clay particles are flat, like plates, instead of rounded like grains of sand.
Clay becomes compacted for many reasons. Walking on your lawn or garden when its wet is a common cause. Heavy, beating rains also drive clay particles together. Once compacted, clay restricts water, nutrient, and air movement, leaving plants vulnerable to root diseases and nutrient deficiencies.1 And, like your garden shovel, tender new roots hit a wall of hard clay when they try to grow. Salts from fertilizers and winter de-icing solutions build up in heavy clay as well.
Aeration helps relieve soil compaction by creating holes that allow water and nutrients to penetrate.
Why Taking Care Of Your Garden Soil Is So Important
The topsoil in which we grow our food is a valuable resource. It contains water, nutrients and minerals which allow plants to grow.
This may sound obvious, but many people fail to properly consider that the soil is an ecosystem like any other, and like many other ecosystems on earth, this is an ecosystem that is often now under threat.
Bacteria, fungi and other organisms like earthworms work together beneath the surface the hidden helpers in our growing efforts. All of these elements work together to create the soil web the hidden guild without which we could not grow the food we need to eat and the other plants that sustain life on this planet.
It takes 1,000 years to build up just three centimetres of top soil, which is why it is so vitally important that we all begin to take better care of the soil we have. The soil is crucial to life on our planet.
Yet globally, it is being degraded and damaged much faster than it can be replaced. Over 40% of agricultural soil on our planet is already classed as degraded or seriously degraded.
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Introducing Organic Matter To Improve Soil Quality
When I was little, my Grandad used to grow nearly all of the fruit and veg for Nannys kitchen. His garden was amazingly productive and fed with well-rotted manure and with compost.
Im lucky to be married to a farmer. I have enough room for a manure heap in my garden and I can put it far enough away from the neighbours fence to avoid conflict. I dont know anyone else that lucky. Stinky manure heaps would probably be accepted on allotment sites, but not in urban gardens. Pooh!
Next best thing is to compost your grass clippings, garden waste and veg peelings. It does take a long time though and you dont get much compost out of it either.
I use bark mulch around my raspberry canes and fruit trees. It keeps the weeds under control, keeps moisture in the soil and breaks down slowly over time, adding nutrients to the soil as it does so.
I also use it around perennial plants in the flower borders.
Nutrient-rich soil gives a great start to a new garden. Most of my garden has good soil. But when I started using raised beds, I didnt want to dig a big hole in the garden to get the soil to fill them. So I bought some good quality topsoil and Ive barely looked back.
The same soil gets put in the bottom of seed drills when Im sowing carrots and the like in the polytunnel. I just feel it gets the seedlings off to a good start.
What Fertilizer Is Best For Clay Soil
Organic materials like clippings, leaves, uncomposted kitchen scraps, and adding earthworms can help improve clay soil. Placing down fertilizing materials at an optimum time help encourage nitrogen in the ground to enrich grass. Amending clay soil with sand may be tempting, but it doesnt introduce the micro bacterial activity to promote a healthier pH level and increase beneficial nutrients.
Choose a liquid fertilizer to penetrate compact soil or layer your lawn with a reliable conditioner to return more nutrients and minerals to the land. Remember, you will want to aerate your soil or till it to break up the compact earth and introduce the fertilizer.
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In The Last 150 Years Half Of The Topsoil On The Planet Has Been Lost
Another thing to consider is that soils hold four times the amount of carbon stored in the atmosphere, and also more than is held in vegetation .
This means that taking care of soil in our gardens and growing systems is crucial for carbon sequestration. It is a key strategy in mitigation and adaptation for our climate crisis.
Soil can act as an effective carbon sink offsetting a significant proportion of carbon dioxide emissions annually. But it matters how we manage it.
Improving Lawn And Landscape Soils
Manjula V. NathanMU Extension Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services Laboratories
Poor soil is a common cause of failure to grow vigorous, attractive lawns, trees and shrubs. Topsoils vary greatly from one location to another. Topsoils ability to support plant growth can differ from block to block, from farm to farm and from the bottom to the top of a slope.
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