Soil is a living organism and is constantly changing. Happy soil produces happy plants. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and can also reduce pressure from pests and diseases.
“Good soil is dark-colored and crumbly when you feel it with your fingers,” according to University of Minnesota Extension.
To enrich your soil, add compost and organic matter. Organic matter improves the soil’s structure, increases water retention, aeration, and water filtration.
“If your soil is heavy clay, adding compost will help the soil drain water,” according to UM Extension. “If your soil is sandy, adding compost will help the soil hold more water. Adding compost also brings earthworms and other living things that help plants and roots grow strong and healthy.”
Organic matter includes:
- Mulched leaves.
- Grain hulls.
- Grass clippings.
Adding raw manure also enriches soil. Do this in the fall so it has time to compost through the winter. Adding manure to soil in the spring might burn plants due to the high nitrogen concentration.
A word of caution: Manure should not be applied to potato beds or areas where fruiting vegetable crops will be grown. The high nitrogen concentration will promote too much vegetative growth and less flowering and fruiting.
Creating the proper carbon/nitrogen ratio is important when adding organic matter.
Make sure to 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.
NOTE: Before severely altering soil, it is advisable to have a soil test and analysis. University of Minnesota Extension can do this for a small fee.