How do I amend my soil?

How to amend your garden soil for pH, nutrition, and soil texture

Posted by Brooke Loeffler on Apr 7, 2022 10:56:12 AM

What Is Good Garden Soil?

Garden soil provides an environment for a plant’s root zone and that:

  • Stabilizes the plant
  • Channels nutrients, water, and air to the roots
  • Nurtures helpful organisms that aid plant growth

In order to accomplish these goals, healthy soil must have 2 main qualities:

  1. Correct fertility levels (a combination of soil pH and nutrients)
  2. Correct texture (a combination of particle size and cohesiveness)

Soil Amendments

Soil fertility and texture can be adjusted by using soil amendments. Amendments are any added organic or inorganic materials that make your soil a better environment for your roots. Soil amendments can improve nutrient levels, permeability, pH, water retention, and more. It is important to remember that your soil will gradually revert back to its original state and needs occasional checkups.

Testing Your Soil

Hands holding a plant and soil

The first step to healthy soil is to eliminate guesswork and find out what you’re dealing with. Using amendments before you know your soil quality can do more harm than good. Redmond's Soil Test Kit gives you fast results in 6-8 days and an easy to use, digital analysis right at your finger tips!

Amending Your Soil

When adding amendments to your soil, be sure to rake, till, and dig thoroughly to ensure they are dispersed well. Follow packaging instructions to avoid over or under applying. Some amendments may recommend applying in stages to reduce shocking your plants.

Amending Soil pH

What should my soil pH be

Soil pH directly affects the availability of nutrients and minerals to the roots, as well as a plant’s ability to absorb and regulate them. According to Farmer’s Almanac, “a very high or very low soil pH will result in nutrient deficiency or toxicity, leading to poor plant growth.” They recommend home gardens aim for 6.5 on the pH scale. Keeping your soil between 6.0 and 7.0 will also encourage healthy microbial activity in the soil. Some plants prefer more acidic soil, and others more alkaline soil (Here is a list of common plant pH preferences from Farmer's Almanac). Once you know what you would like to plant, make sure you research your plants’ specific pH needs.

  • To Lower pH (increase acidity): Elemental sulfur, aluminum sulfate
  • To Raise pH (increase alkalinity): Limestone, untreated wood ash, bone meal

Amending Soil Texture

Soil is made of a mixture of clay, silt, and sand particles. The spaces between these particles fill with water and air to provide plant roots with moisture and oxygen. Sandy soil is looser and doesn’t hold as much water for plants to use. Clay soil is denser and richer, but holds too much water and does not allow for enough oxygen flow.

Ideal soil texture

The ideal garden soil is a balance of clay, silt, and sand particles. This balanced mix is called “loam.” Loamy soil provides an ideal environment that both stabilizes the plant and allows for the right level of water retention and air movement around the roots.

What Kind Of Soil Do I Have?

The easiest way to determine your soil type is to dig down several inches, gather some soil, dampen it, and try to compress it into a ball. If it doesn’t compress at all, your soil is sandy. If it  compresses into a hard, solid ball, it is clay heavy. Some plants prefer sandy soil (like cacti and succulents), so be sure to research your plant’s preferred soil type before amending.

Amending Clay Soil

The best way to correct clay soil is to mix in organic materials that loosen your soil to improve drainage and encourage root growth. These amendments also support the growth of helpful microbes that keep your soil healthy. Inorganic materials can also be used to break up and aerate heavy clay. Examples of amendments for clay soil include:

  • Peat moss
  • Compost 
  • Manure
  • Plant mulch: grass clippings, trimmings, and fall leaves 
  • Gypsum
  • Perlite/vermiculite
  • Humates

Amending Sandy Soil

Sandy soils are usually light on moisture and nutrients, so the goal is to enrich and increase water retention. For this reason, the organic amendments listed above for clay soil can also help sandy soil. Sandy soil amendments include:

  • Compost
  • Manure
  • Mulch 
  • Biochar
  • Coconut coir
  • Humates

Amending Soil Nutrition

Some amendments only address soil texture while providing little nutrient value. For example, peat moss is excellent for amending texture but lacks the rich nutrient profile plants need.  Plants require 14 essential nutrients from their soil environment:

Macro-nutrients (needed in higher quantities)

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Sulphur

Micro-nutrients (needed in lower quantities)

  • Chlorine
  • Boron
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Nickel
  • Molybdenum

Many fertilizers focus too heavily on Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (N-P-K) while neglecting the importance of the essential micro or trace nutrients. A plant’s ability to absorb, process, and use macro-nutrients depends upon the presence of scarce minerals (see The Law of The Minimum to learn more). Look carefully at soil amendment ingredients to ensure you are providing your plants with a balanced and complete nutrient profile, not just NPK. A soil mineral conditioner not only gives your plants more complete nutrition, they will create a more nutrient dense harvest for you to enjoy.

Redmond Mineralyte Soil Products

Redmond knows that nourishment starts from the ground up. Simply put, we are what our food eats. Plants grown in nutrient rich soil pass along those benefits all the way up the food chain. The Mineralyte family of products are OMRI listed soil amendments to improves the fertility of your soil to grow healthier, more productive, and more nutrient dense plants. Mineralyte contains:

Redmond Mineralyte Soil Amendments

Give us a call today at 866-709-3192 to see how Redmond Mineralyte can improve the health of your soil and help you and your plants reap the benefits!

© 2021 Redmond Minerals Inc.

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