How to Amend Soil for a Healthier Garden

Organic gardeners know that the soil they grow their plants in is crucial for their health. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have naturally perfect soil. Your soil can be full of water-logging clay, water-dispersing sand, or anything in between. It is possible to amend soil after a successful season or in-between seasons. There are many things you can do to improve your soil structure. You can amend your soil with these great tips!

How Do I Know If My Soil Needs Amending?

Your garden can give you many clues to help determine if your soil needs to be amended. Soil amendments can improve the structure and texture of your soil and its nutrient intake and output. Consider a soil test if you notice any of the following.
  • Water pooling
  • Erosion or Compaction
  • Algae found on the soil surface
  • Lackluster plants
  • Reduced harvest/blooming
  • Pest or disease problems are on the rise

It’s possible to avoid all of these by simply amending your beds each fall to ensure that your soil is healthy and vibrant. You can help your plants grow by regularly amending the soil.


Top Five Tips to Improve Your Soil for Fall

When to Amend Your Soil

Fall is an important season for planting and amending. Before planting perennials, shrubs, and trees, amend existing beds used for vegetables or annuals. Also, use this time to add plants to existing beds that have established plants.

Remediating Soil With Organic Matter

Organic matter is the remains of dead animals and plants. Although it sounds gross, this material is highly effective at binding soil particles, which improves your soil’s drainage. Got clay soil? Adding organic matter to this type of soil helps break down the soil particles so water can reach the roots. What about sandy soil? The organic matter can lodge itself between the spaces in this soil type to ensure that the soil remains moist and drains quickly before the roots can absorb the water.

Additional Organic Matter to Amend Soil

  • Leaves
  • Wood chips
  • Clippings of grass
  • Straw
  • Earthworms
  • Animal manure (chickens, horses, cows, sheep)*

*Not all animal manure is safe. Uncomposted manure may contain human pathogens. Consult a professional before using it in your garden.

Methods for Amending Soil

Start by spreading organic matter on the soil surface of new or unplanted beds (4-5 inches for clay soils or 2-3 inches for loamy soils or soil that has been regularly amended). Then, work it into the soil’s top 9 inches. For smaller amounts, you can work it in hand or by using a  rototiller for larger quantities. Spread the mulch in large beds with perennials and shrubs. You can add amendments to the soil surface through the use of mulch. Over time, the soil will absorb the amendments.

Protecting the Soil from Erosion

You can still work in your garden even if you don’t live in an area with a fall growing season. However, it will only be in preparation for the spring season. Adding organic matter and mulch can protect your soil from erosion caused by water and wind.

Removing Soil for Fall Gardening

You can always amend your soil to grow another season. However, if you have raised beds, you might need to add more soil to top it off. You can also add in more soil to prevent or fix compaction. To quickly replenish your summer plants’ nutrients, you may need to add organic nutrients. As the plants grow, a granulated organic fertilizer will slowly release nutrients and give your transplants and seedlings the nutrients they need to grow.


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