Soil is a living organism and is constantly changing. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and can also reduce pressure from pests and diseases.
To enrich your soil and make it healthier for your plants, add compost and organic matter. Organic matter includes:
- Mulched leaves.
- Rice hulls.
- Grass clippings.
Add raw manure in the fall to give it time to compost through the winter. If you add it to your soil in the spring, you risk burning your plants because of the high nitrogen concentration.
A word of caution: Manure should not be applied to potato beds or areas where you plan to grow fruiting vegetable crops. The high nitrogen concentration will promote too much vegetative growth and less flowering and fruiting.
It is important to create the proper carbon/nitrogen ratio when adding organic matter. To maintain this ratio, make sure you add a proportionate amount of green and brown materials.
- Leaves are high in carbon and would be considered brown material.
- Grass clippings are high in nitrogen and would be considered green material.
Organic matter also improves the soil’s structure, and increases water retention, aeration and water filtration.
Before you severely alter your soil, it is advisable to have a soil test and analysis. This can by done by the Soil Testing Laboratory at the University of Minnesota. http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu