Here are some elements to consider in
establishing soil health:
All soils will profit from the use of compost.
Compost helps soils recover from extreme conditions. Sandy soils have
rapid drainage and compost can help by adding more volume with humus
and organic matter and increase the soil’s water holding capacity. Fine
soils (clay, clay-loam) will benefit, because compost will increase
porosity by adding humus and organic matter.
2. Plant Nutrients
It’s important for long-term soil management
what the soil fertility is in your soil. Let’s keep it
simple. All you have to do is focus on the three main macronutrients or
NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium), and then let your compost
provide the numerous and complex micronutrients. Following this simple
approach will provide you with a very fertile soil.
3. Organic Fertilizers
Use only organic
fertilizers to increase soil fertility and plant nutrients
instead of chemical or petroleum based fertilizers.
4. Soil pH
Is the soil pH
within the limits of the crops being grown? Understanding pH and its
effects on your plants will help in maintaining healthy soil. It’s a
good idea to purchase a pH tester and test your garden soil
periodically. Another benefit of compost
is that it helps modify and stabilize the pH in your soil.
Is the soil being
dug and cultivated properly? Rototilling or mechanical
tilling tends to compact the soil 6 to 8 inches (15.5 - 20 cm) below
the surface. Besides stressing the root system of your crops, compacted
soils have a detrimental effect on the soil life.
How are you watering
the crops? Too much? Too little?
Are you weeding effectively? Weeds aren’t bad. Weeds are just
"plants out of place." Many weeds can have a beneficial effect on your
soil if used as a cover crop and tilled in or used in your compost, but
unfortunately, they can decrease soil fertility by competing with the
surrounding food crops for nutrients and water. Manage weeds, not
8. Cover Crops
Are you putting back what you are taking out? Cover Crops
(also known as green
manure) are grown solely to be tilled into the soil after a
desired growth stage or at the end of a particular season. Cover crops
replenish nutrients in the soil by giving back much more than they take
out during growth thereby improving the soil health.