Last Updated on December 1, 2023
One of the most important things you need in your backyard if you intend to grow your own food is good soil. If you plan to grow fruits and vegetables, then you need a good supply of fertilizer as well.
There are many natural ways to improve soil in your garden for better growth, using organic types of approaches.
Depending on where you live, you might have soil that can handle a lot of different fruits or vegetables, or you may be very limited.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common, as well as starting with a common sense approach, which is to understand what type of soil you are working with.
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What is Your Current Soil Structure?
Before you start looking for ways to improve your garden soil, it is necessary to understand if you already have healthy garden soil, or if it is necessary to improve garden soil.
How do you determine if your current garden soil is healthy?
One of the most common ways to check if soil health is by checking its structure. Healthy garden soil has a slightly rough texture (almost sandy) and it shouldn’t feel sticky or slimy when you hold some in your hand. If your current garden soil feels like this, then you will need to use organic methods to improve your garden soil.
In addition to the texture, you will need to check the general quality of the soil as well. You can do this by checking if there are worms in your garden, since earthworms indicate healthy soil. Earthworms help improve soil structure and they also increase its fertility by extracting organic matter from deep within the soil.
If you have no earthworms in your soil, then it indicates that the soil is very basic or acidic, or it has hard layers that are difficult to penetrate. It might also indicate that the organic matter was used up by previous generations of gardeners, and there is nothing left in the ground for new growth.
You can check this by checking the pH or acidity level of your soil (which you can do at home). If you find that your soil is more acidic than basic, then you will need to improve garden soil using organic methods.
You can get your soil tested by a local expert, or purchase a simple soil test kit and do it yourself.
Before we move on to how to improve garden soil using organic methods, there are a few considerations to bear in mind:
- Improving garden soil using the wrong methods can damage it even more. Garden soil is very fragile and difficult to work with, so you need patience and a lot of care when trying to improve it.
- In addition, improving your soil will take time. The best results are achieved only after at least two years of gardening, so don’t expect immediate results.
- It is important to know that most plants need organic material to grow well, so if your current soil has good structure but it lacks organic matter, you can work around this by adding mulch or manure. However, adding mulch or manure will not improve garden soil to the same extent as adding organic matter.
Organic and Natural Methods of Improving Garden Soil
1 | Start Composting
Compositing is super important to do whenever you are going to garden, especially if you are growing food. It helps to give you natural fertilizer to help your fruits, veggies, and herbs grow organically in your yard.
Compost is organic matter that can be used as a natural source of nitrogen, potassium and other minerals needed by plants for nourishment and growth.
Composting is also an ideal way to get the best soil possible. Composting simply means that you add organic matter and reuse organic waste. There are different types of waste, including brown and green composting waste.
This includes things like grass clippings, weeds, dry leaves, eggshells, manure (if you have animals outdoors), and food waste. Save them into a compost pile and use them for mulch in the soil.
Experts in gardening recommend that one of the best ways to improve soil is by incorporating compost. Compost is an important part of organic fertilizers, and can be very helpful when you are doing all natural backyard gardening.
The ideal time to add compost is during the fall season, so it has enough time to break down over the winter months, so it will be ready to use when you start your planting in the spring.
Compost can be made by combining all types of organic materials, including plants that have ripened fruits or vegetables, grass clippings, wood chips, and even manure from animals.
An effective way to create compost is by keeping a bin in your backyard. This way, you can easily dump all of your organic materials directly into the bin. It will take about three to four months for your compost to be ready, and it should smell like earthy soil or garden dirt.
2 | Use Mulch
Another great thing you can do in order to improve your soil is by using mulch around your plants. Mulch basically prevents the soil from drying out and protects plants against weather-related damage like strong winds or frost.
It will help to keep moisture and nutrients close to the ground, absorbing much of the sun’s heat which in turn reduces water evaporation.
Mulch will also suppress weed growth which is always a great thing.
It’s recommended that you apply a 3-inch layer of organic mulch around your plants as soon as you plant
There are many types of mulch you can use for your soil and they include:
1) Compost – This is basically organic matter that will improve the texture, structure and drainage of the soil.
2) Lawn clippings – These work just like compost and except if you intend to grow vegetables on your backyard, then it’s a great way to recycle your grass.
3) Wood Shavings – This type of mulch is another good material that will work fine on your backyard. Just make sure you get untreated shavings from certain types of trees like pine and cedar because they can produce toxins which will kill the plants around them.
4) Pebbles – A great solution you can use to mulch your plants if you want a good soil with better drainage.
5) Stones – This is another natural type of mulch that will help improve the quality of the soil surrounding it.
6) Sawdust – One of the most popular organic mulches available these days, sawdust works great with vegetable plants. But if you plan on using sawdust for your back yard, make sure you only use the type from untreated woods.
3 | Encourage the Right Insects
You may not want any insects in your yard, but some of them are actually good for the soil. Naturally, some bugs aren’t great for your vegetable garden, but there are some that will work hard to keep your soil healthy.
For example, ladybugs have larvae to improve the health of your soil, and soldier beetles are great if you’re growing flowers and plants.
Some other types of insects that are helpful to your garden are the green lacewing, minute pirate bug, and aphid midge.
Be sure to create an environment where these insects can flourish by building a habitat like inverted flower pots, or grass clippings around the base of your plants.
There are plants that will encourage these beneficial insects to make a home in your soil. Some of them include:
1) Mint – It has a very pungent smell which scares off other insects, but ladybugs love it. You can use mint as a ground cover or you can grow it in pots and place them around your garden to keep pests away.
2) Dill – This one is not only good for attracting beneficial insects, but also it’s useful as a garnish for salads and your favorite dishes.
3) Yarrow – This unusual-looking plant has flat flower heads and it will attract ladybugs and other beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
4) Chamomile – This herb has flowers that bloom during the summer; they’re great if you want to keep away many types of insects including aphids.
5) Feverfew – This herb has flowers that attract bees and wasps, but it can keep away other insects like mosquitoes if placed around your vegetable plants.
6) Strawberries – These are great for attracting ladybugs into your yard because these bugs eat their leaves. You can also use strawberry plants to form a barrier that other insects can’t cross.
7) Marigolds – These bright flowers are great for keeping aphids away because they’re poisonous to them.
8) Chrysanthemum – The chrysanthemum’s smell is as strong as garlic, so it will help keep away pests like aphids and Japanese beetles.
4 | Grow Plants in Different Phases
You can improve your soil if you plant different kinds of plants at different phases. For example, after growing flowers during the spring season, you can plant vegetables during summer when the flowers stop blooming.
This will help to improve your soil since it will be filled with flower residues like manure and mulch, making it excellent for growing different types of vegetables.
Before you start planting in the spring, remove all remnants of flowers or plants that have already withered away which are usually located at the center of your flower bed.
By doing this, you’ll reduce the number of weed seeds because most of them grow in areas with excessive plant residues.
5 | Add Cover Crops
Another thing you can add to your vegetable or herb garden in order o naturally improve the soil is planting cover crops. Cover crops are types of plants that you keep in your garden to provide nutrients to the soil.
You can have a rotation of different types of cover crops like legumes that will help improve the quality of your soil by fixing nitrogen. Other types you can plant include buckwheat, rye, and alfalfa which are excellent for improving fertility in the soil.
If you’re interested in planting cover crops but don’t know where to start, feel free to visit your local garden center or ask for help from experts who can give you the best advice on how to plant cover crops.
Even if these crops have been killed following a harvest season, keeping them in the soil adds nutrients to it. Legumes make really good cover crops, so keep those peas, beans, and alfalfa crops even after the main harvest season.
Make sure if you decide to get store-bought fertilizer for your soil, you use natural and organic varieties. Pay close attention to the labels and ask someone at the garden supply store for the most natural options. Usually having cover crops and mulch is enough for better soil, but this also depends on where you live.
Don’t Rush Fertilizing Your Soil
Most people make the mistake of fertilizing their soil too soon without knowing how much to apply or if it’s even necessary.
Now if you’re planning to fertilize your soil because the quality isn’t good, then try not to do it until after 3 weeks or so.
Fertilizing early can actually damage the fungi in your soil which are very beneficial for plants because they help it absorb moisture and nutrients from water.
When applying fertilizer to your soil, make sure you only use slow-release granules and powders because it will release its nutrient supply for a longer period of time.
If you’re still not sure whether you need to fertilize or not, feel free to consult with professionals who can help determine what is best for the quality of your soil.
Natural ways to improve your soil are important if you want to grow fresh fruits and vegetables from your own yard. As long as you make sure you aren’t overfertilizing the soil, these methods will help keep your garden healthy and clean.