Few elements are as critical to gardening success as soil amendments. “Don’t forget your fertilizer” is a great start, however, we can do more for our gardens than simply adding fertilizer. Let’s consider the elements that can help feed and develop your soil! Consider these qualities of a good amendment program for ultimate long term success:
- Balancing Soil Types – If your soil type is primarily sand, silt or clay it may be hard to work with. Consider adding compost, loam, gravel and/or sand as a base for amendments to make soil easier to work with.
- Fertilizer – Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium are the most widely recognized elements needed for plant growth. A slow release, organic fertilizer will give plants a boost in the short and long term.
- Organic Matter (OM) – compost, soil conditioners and biochar all add OM, and mulch will break down into fine organic matter in the soil given time. Adding organic matter is the single most important factor in making soils rich and workable.
- Minerals – Plant energy systems require electrolytes and trace minerals, just like our human processes do. We can improve mineral content in our soil amendments by adding Azomite, Red Lava Sand, Basalt or Decomposed Granite.
- Biological Inoculants – A truly great soil amendment would include bacterial AND fungal inoculants. Mushroom blocks contain great fungal inoculation and can often be received for free from producers of culinary mushrooms. High quality compost will be a rich source of soil bacteria and fungi. Tainio biologicals and Teraganix are both vendors that sell excellent biological inoculants.
- Energy – Whether you call it Chi, Prana or any of many other names, it never hurts to put energy into the things that you do. Make sure to be mindful in the garden and keep your heart full of love when you work with your plants and your soil.
Amendment mixes should be a smooth, pleasing texture with a variety of particle sizes and a dark brown or black color. Apply amendments into holes when planting as well as around the base of plants. Consider cultivating amendments into the top 2-3 inches of soil around the drip line of your plants.
Some amendment plans will feature a liquid component like a compost tea or liquid fertilizer to soak around roots. These are indispensable in hot summer months when they’ll be taken up quickly by plants and prevent heat stress. Liquid amendments may be pungent and organic smelling, but should not smell rotten or rancid, that is a sign that spoilage may have occurred.
Consistently amending soils in this way will lead to the development of rich, dark soil that is easy to work with. Soil microbiology improving will lead to insects and worms in the soil, and more vigorous plant life. Given enough support, a garden can begin to amend itself through the complex natural processes of a living system and few joys in life can compare to the moment you realize your garden has become highly self-sufficient as a result of your work.
Author: Ryan Rosshirt – Symbiosis Maintenance Lead