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The pandemic has affected many families and households. During the quarantine period, people were left with nothing to do but to binge-watch, browse through the social media, or surf the internet. However, people realized that they need to do more physical activities than being just couch potatoes.
One of the hobbies most people found interestingly fun during lockdown is gardening. Some become interested in house plants, while some with herbs and vegetables, or flowering plants. Aside from being a simple yet healthy form of exercise, the benefits of having plants at home cannot be ignored.
To make plants grow, they need water, and of course, soil. However, it must not be just any kind of soil. There may never be the perfect garden soil that we all dream about, but there are ways of transforming poor soil into a plant-friendly one. So even if you do not have a wide garden area, you can have healthy soil and plants in pots right inside your home with this guide.
Put Organic Matter
Organic matter makes up a tiny part of the soil, only about five to ten percent. However, it plays a significant role in maintaining the health condition of any plant soil. It is made of partial remnants of soil and plant organisms like moss, grass, and leaves. This organic matter helps soil particles to join together and make porous granules. These granules let water and air to move through the soil. It also aids absorb and retain moisture and nutrients.
If you want to increase a soil’s organic matter level, you can add compost, old animal manures, or mulches on its upper layer. However, always be careful not to put too many organic matters that contain high levels of carbon. Examples of these are leaves, sawdust, and wood chips.
Let There Be Air
Healthy soil has around 25% of air. The earthworms and microbes that help the garden soil stay healthy need air to live. Having short or too much supply of air can affect organic matter. Therefore, you must know how to maintain a balanced air supply; you should follow the tips below:
- Add organic matter
- Do not step on beds, especially those that are still growing
- Never compact the soil using heavy equipment
- Do not work on very wet soil
Water for Irrigation
A healthy soil usually contains around 25% water. Just like air, water supply also determines how healthy soil can be. Too much or lack of it can create small and big pores within the garden soil. These pores or spaces help the water and air move around. Preferably, there should be a combination of big and tiny pores for soil components to cultivate.
Improving Different Types of Soil
There is a variety of soil you can find, depending on its texture. You can quickly tell if the ground is clay, dry, sandy, or silty. To test what type you have at home, put some on your palm, and make it a bit wet. Run the damp soil in between your fingers, and if it feels smooth like a powder, then it is silty. If it feels gritty, then it is sandy, while if it feels sticky, then your soil is high in clay.
As mentioned, it is never easy to find a perfect soil for your plants. There are areas wherein the ground is too dry, acidic, or too muddy. Don’t worry if you think the soil you have in your yard is not the ideal one. There is a way to improve any soil type and make it safe for planting.
● Acidic Soil
Garden soil with a pH level of less than 6.5 is considered acidic and generally not ideal for plants. To solve this, you can add powdered limestone like dolomite. It is advisable to add it in the fall since it will take a few months before the pH level changes.
Another material you can use is ash from wood that contains potassium. This one works quicker than limestone, but adding too much may cause an imbalance in the soil. For better results, it is wise to add it during winter. You can then do the same every two or three years using two pounds per 100 square feet.
● Alkaline Soil
When the pH level is more than 6.8, then it is considered as alkaline soil. It would help if you made it a bit acidic to make it ideal for plants. You can add ground sulfur or acidic materials like sawdust and oak leaves. You can also ask the nearest soil supplier near you for other materials you can use.
● Clay Soil
Clay soil tends to stick tightly together and stay flat since the pore spaces disappear in this type. It can become sticky when it is wet, but it becomes tough when it’s dry that it cracks. Clay is low in organic matter and microbes. Roots find it hard to grow since the soil is hard to penetrate. However, one of the best things about clay is that it is rich in minerals. Hence, once you have improved its quality, your plants will highly benefit from it.
To improve clay soil, all you need to do is add organic matter on the surface, about two to three inches. After that, you can put one inch more every year. It is advisable to do this in the fall. Finally, keep foot traffic, tilling, and spading into a minimum.
Gardening is one of the best hobbies. Plants benefit not only you but also the environment. The more flowers and other greens we have around, the more fresh air we experience. However, for plants to thrive and grow properly, they need good air, water, and the right soil.
The type of soil you have will depend on your location, which you cannot control. But you can do something about it. You merely have to learn the simple tricks in converting even the driest or stickest soil into something that your plants will love.