How to improve your soil for gardening in central North Carolina :: WRAL.com

More Americans than ever before are gardening. The National Gardening Association Special Report even found that one in three households are growing their own food.

Gardening is a hobby that can be healthy for the mind and body, which is why it became so popular during the pandemic. It can also, however, pose challenges like ensuring you have the rich soil your plants need. If you do not, you need to know how to enrich poor soil.

Let us look at some ways you can improve garden soil in central North Carolina to get the results you want.

Improve garden soil by getting a soil test

Before beginning any gardening project, you have to test the soil to get an accurate reading of essential minerals. If there is an unbalance of minerals or if you have a deficit of a mineral the soil needs, the overall health of the garden will suffer.

Take a nutrient test in the late summer or early fall, and submit the test to a certified lab to know the right levels of fertilizers and lime materials you need to add. In central North Carolina, there are a few certified labs you can turn to.

Tests range from basic ones that cost as little as $15 to professionals that can be in the $900 range. These tests can measure pH and nutrient levels.

Add the necessary nutrients

Once you have the test results, you will see what nutrients you need to add to the soil. Before you plant a new garden, use organic fertilizers and lime to add what the soil needs.

Most people add lime and fertilizer during the fall, but if you missed the window for it, you can apply them a few weeks before you begin spring planting.

How to enrich poor soil? Add compost

Compost is decomposed organic matter, and it is one of the best tools you have for improving garden soil. It will feed the soil, improve its structure, promote good drainage while still absorbing the needed water, and enable the soil to retain its nutrients.

Compost can also help maintain the correct pH levels and can protect plants from diseases. It is a great option if you want to know how to improve garden soil organically.

Mulch the soil’s surface

Mulch is essential because it helps the soil retain moisture while also keeping it cool. Mulch can prevent weed growth and can stimulate growth. Because mulch decomposes slowly, the soil will have a constant influx of organic matter, which will increase fertility.

Fall mulching will give you a head start on eradicating spring weeds. If weeds do rise up, pull them up, lay them flat on the soil, and cover them with mulch so they feed the ground.

Prevent soil compaction

Soil that is compacted and hard will not allow the right levels of water and nutrients to seep in. Without water and nutrients, the soil becomes dry and is unable to feed vegetation, leading to dehydrated and starved plants.

Compacted soil also prevents microbiological activity from progressing, making it difficult for the plants to get the food they need.

Clay soil has a tendency to compact easily with the weight of ice and snow. To prevent that from happening, you want to consistently add organic matter to the soil.

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In the spring, wait until the soil drains all of the frost and the soil will not stick together. You want to also divide the space into garden beds so you can avoid stepping on the soil. Stepping on it too much can compact it.

Do not forget the nitrogen

Perhaps the best way to improve garden soil is to ensure the nitrogen levels are stable. Healthy soil will retain and recycle most other nutrients, but nitrogen is always in short supply. Nitrogen not only feeds the plants, but it also feeds soil organisms, so having enough of it can be a challenge.

Organic fertilizers like seed, feather meal, and even blood, are rich in nitrogen, as are manure and grass clippings. Compost, however, does not provide the needed levels of nitrogen.

Use earthworms

You can save time and effort while airing the soil by letting earthworms do your tilling for you using sheet mulching techniques.

Sheet mulching is all about building compost right on the soil’s surface. For new gardens, you can add a layer of cardboard to the soil, which will smother weeds, then alternate layers of green and brown compost. Green compost is made of grass clippings, tea or coffee grounds, and vegetable and fruit scraps, while brown compost is made of newspapers, branches, hay, straw, and pine needles.

The sheet mulching process encourages worms to burrow through the soil to transport food and deposit nutrient-rich worm manure castings.

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Grow cover crops

Another option to consider when improving garden soil is to grow cover crops at the end of the season, allowing them to remain right up to the start of winter.

A cover crop can protect the soil from being eroded by rain and snow melt-off, and it can also prevent compaction. Opt for crops like kale, radishes, turnips, clover, or legumes.

Better soil for a better garden

When you take the time to improve garden soil, you will reap the benefits at the end of the season. Whether you want to grow stunning flowers or delicious crops, knowing how to enrich poor soil will save you stress and time.

Save money, the planet with a lawn less perfect