7 Ways to Get Good Soil

broadbean

Good Soil is vital. If your soil is poor, then you will have unhealthy veggie plants that are suspect to disease and that don’t produce the kind of yield that you want. Soil needs to be tended and looked after from season to season as the veggies take out the nutrients, moisture and alter the pH balance. Good soil is a long term, on-going and fundamental part of your gardening.

In general, there 7 ways to get good soil. You will need to use all these techniques, all this knowledge to keep your soil and your veggies healthy and tasty.

Crop Rotation

Important for pest and disease control, rotating your crops give soil a break and lets you put in plants that add back to the soil. Beans and other legumes put nitrogen back into the soil which is important for leaf production. See here for our crop rotation infographic.

Companion planting

Knowing which plants benefit from being near other plants helps you to get the most out of your soil. Click here for our (growing) list of companion planting suggestions

Soil Type

Clay soil tends to be high in nutrients but retains water and is really sluggish to work with. At the other end of the scale, sandy soil is porous and doesn’t hold water or nurtrient. A balance needs to be found. At gypsum to clay soil to help break it down. I’ve also found that growing potatoes in clay soil helps to make it more loamy. With sandy soil, add heaps and heaps of organic matter.

Manure

Manure is any sort of animal excrement that has been treated or allowed to rot down. I use chicken manure that has been rotted down but have also used horse manure in the past. Manure should be treated and allowed to rot down so that any seeds that pass through the animal are dealt with and don’t germinate as weeds in your garden beds. If you are buying it from a local plant shop, a 5Gal bag should cover about 30sqF2

Compost

Compost is largely made out of plant matter that has decomposed and it a post/book/lifestyle unto itself. I like this quick guide.  Compost is simply more organic material that is added to the soil to help keep it healthy. It is cheap and you make it yourself with stuff that you would through out anyway. Again, spread across your veggie beds at a thickness of about an inch

Mulch

Keep the water that you have given the soil in the soil. Mulch is usually straw or lucerne or another dried out type of plant.

pH

Having the correct acidity is important for plants to grow and thrive. Certain trace elements become difficult for plants to take up even if they are in the soil because acidity is not correct for a plant. In general, potatoes and tomatoes like more acidic soil, while brassicas like slightly more alkaline soil. You can test your soil using kits that all gardening shops will have.

Crop Rotation

Why Practice Crop Rotation ?

Crop Rotation is an important part of making sure that you look after your soil. If you soil is no good then neither will your plants.

The basic idea is to put veggies in soil that best suits them. Heavy feeding plants (plants that produce large fruits or have large leaves) need richer soil than plants that don’t. So when you finish up with a crop of heavy feeders, you need to either pick a plant that is suited to than depleted soil OR put a plant into the soil that puts nutrients back in. I always plant carrots after potatoes, to the point where I now only plant potatoes in soil in order to get a carrot crop.

Crop Rotation Infographic
Crop Rotation Infographic

Rotating crops like this also reduces the chances of your plants being attacked by diseases/insects. If plant A is attacked by disease B, and disease B is prevalent in a part of your garden, then crop rotation helps. If plant A isn’t there to attack or be fed on (because you have put it some place else), then disease B isn’t able to survive. This is particularly the case with tomatoes and potatoes. There is a nemotode that become present with potatoes that then attacks tomatoes. To remove the nemotode, you need to remove the food it attacks. In this case, it means that you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in ground that has had potatoes in it for the previous 3 years.

Examples of Crop Rotation

In Spring plant your nightshades like peppers and eggplant. They have high nutrient requirements because of the fruit that they produce. Once they have been through, and BEFORE you replentish the soil with a manure or compost, place in a crop that has low nutrient requirement or indeed doesn’t produce the way we want if given too much in the way of nutrient. Carrots are a good example.

So now you’ve have a heavy feeding crop through and a light feeding crop through. It is time to put in a crop that will add nutrient back into the soil. Beans, peas and other legumes are ideal for this.