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What’s in Your Dirt?

The best way to figure out the state of your garden soil is to get in the garden and work the dirt.  Yes, you have to get dirty!

Hold it in your hands and examine its structure.  Tilling is another way to get a good understanding of the type of soil you have – clay, sandy, silty, peaty, chalky and loamy.  Once you know what kind of soil you have, you can select the appropriate soil amendment conditioners that will improve your garden’s success.

There are many types of soil conditioners to choose from to address the diverse soil conditions found in our environments.  Some of those conditioners are compost, grasses, leaves, wood shavings, pine needles, manure, worm castings, perlite and vermiculite.

If your soil has a heavy amount of clay like countless Ohio gardens, the best organic choice is to add compost if you have it, or humus in an attempt to break up the density.  Adding this soil conditioner to clay will increase porosity, and improve aeration, drainage, and plant rooting depth.  Warning: Do not add sand!  This will create a solid impenetrable block in your garden.

There are two important points to remember when adding these conditioners to your garden.  The first is to monitor the additive’s effect on the soil’s pH level.  Your choice of supplement may make the soil too acidic or too alkaline for your plants.  For instance, dry pine needles will make your soil heavily acidic.  Also keep that fact in mind when you are adding dry pine needles to your compost pile. Do so in moderation.

The second point is similar.  Adding conditioners to your soil may unbalance the soil’s macronutrients of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).  For instance, integrating too many high carbon conditioners such as dead leaves, straw, and sawdust will use too much nitrogen while it decays on the ground.  That is the same nitrogen your plants immediately need to grow.  

Good organic soil conditioner will be valuable to your garden.  Stop in or call us at Stockslagers and ask us which conditioners will help you grow robust vegetables, and bright, vibrant plants.  

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