Soil Preparation Guide for Beginners

By Louis Nguyen

Author bio: Louis Nguyen is an article writer. After a long time with the COVID-19 epidemic, he spent time researching and setting up his small garden.

All plants that want to grow well and healthily need nutrient-rich soil. Well-prepared soil is the foundation to get you off to a good start in the growing season. Nutrient-rich soil will be a complex, vibrant environment filled with beneficial microorganisms. They are the medium for plant roots to grow and absorb the nutrients needed to nourish the plant from germination to harvest.

To help those starting work have the most favorable start. This article will teach you how to identify your soil type and how to improve the quality of the soil in your garden.

load soil into cart with shovel spoon

What is nutrient-rich soil?

As noted above, nutrient-rich soil is a complex filled with beneficial microorganisms. They are made up of three basic layers.

  • Rock powder and decomposed minerals.
  • Organic matter is made up of leaves, decomposing vegetables, plants, lichens, insects, mosses, etc.
  • Interspersed between the two upper layers are bacteria, fungi, microorganisms, and earthworms. Their action helps break down humus-producing plant debris. Besides, it helps fix nitrogen and keep moisture, and release gasses.

How to find out the soil type in your garden

Learn the soil type in your garden to develop a soil healing plan or add nutrients to it. According to experts, the easiest way to determine the soil in your garden. That is to determine the pH of the soil, the porosity of the water, and the degree of fragility of the soil. To make this determination, you will need to perform the following few steps: 

Step 1: Determine the porosity of the water and the degree of fragility of the soil

You will need to prepare a shovel and dig up the soil you want to test.

  • If you have difficulty breaking the surface of the soil with a shovel and the soil clump. Most likely your garden soil is clay. Clay soils drain, so they often keep a lot of water. That makes it easy to waterlog plants.
  • If the shovel slides and the soil is loose, it is likely sandy soil. Sandy soil does not hold water. The trees will wither and die. 
  • If it does not fall into the above 2 categories, the good news is that the soil in your garden is loamy and it is in perfect balance.

Then wet a small amount of soil and hold it in a ball in the palm of your hand, placing your hand upright. Observe the stability of the strip of land. If it keeps its original shape, it's clay. If the soil crumbles, your soil contains at least 50% sand. 

Step 2: Check the pH of the soil

Testing the pH of the soil is important to check the nutrition and fertility of the soil. The most ideal pH for garden vegetables ranges from 6.0 to 7.0. But, there are many plants that can tolerate a wide range or have many that prefer a particular pH range. When choosing a plant, check for its preferred pH.
To test the pH you can use a pH meter or use red litmus paper to check.

How to improve the soil in the garden

After you have identified the type of soil in your garden. The next step is to add materials to improve the texture, nutrient content, or pH of the soil. To test the pH you can use a pH meter or use red litmus paper to check.

Types of soil improvement materials

  • Inorganic soil amendments: These include sand, rock, lime, and vermiculite
  • Organic soil amendments: These include things like compost, manure, coir, and wood ash.
kitchen-waste compost

The improvement of garden land depends on the needs of the land. Below, we'll take a look at some of the more common soil amendments and their functions.

  • Compost: This includes shredded vegetables and fruits. They are composted and treated to reduce harmful microorganisms. Compost provides nutrients to the soil and can also lower the pH of the soil. You can still fertilize the soil directly, but it will take a long time to decompose and create nutrients for the soil.
  • Manure: This includes animal manure from cows, pigs, sheep, etc. Manure is also a source of nutrients for the soil. Especially for plants that need good drainage, you will need to add more fertilizer. Manure is not applied directly to the soil but is composted. Because of its high acidity, it can damage crops and spread diseases.
  • Coir, and straw: this helps regulate the soil and helps keep water for the soil. People often use them for fast-draining soils like sandy soil.
  • Bark, wood chips, and sawdust: This type of medium helps the soil drain well, both retaining moisture and preventing pests and diseases. People often cover this medium on top of the ground to help improve the soil.
  • Lime: The addition of lime water will help improve acidic soil (soil with a low pH). The amount of lime applied depends on the pH of the soil. Check the pH to adjust or end the lime application.
  • Wood Ash: Fertilizing wood ash helps increase soil nutrients. Because wood ash contains nitrogen and a number of other compounds. Wood ash also helps increase the pH of the soil. Note that the right amount of wood ash should be applied with the right amount of soil. Because too much fertilizer will harm some beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
  • Green manure mulch: this is the recommended method in pure natural agriculture. The technique of planting cover crops will help restore the best natural soil. While providing a favorable environment for soil organisms to grow. Besides, they are also a very good source of fertilizer for plants. Common cover crops include clover, barley, and wild peas.

How to add organic matter for soil improvement

After your land healed. Add at least 3 - 4 inches of organic matter mixed with the existing soil. Then water to create a favorable environment for the soil to improve (it recommends checking the moisture during watering). Continue to do this after each crop to maintain the balance of the soil.

Use raised bed garden

If you feel that soil improvement is too difficult or you want to make planting trees simpler. Let's use a raised bed garden for your garden.

Raised bed garden will help you control the right type of soil, nutrients, and water better than a large garden. Besides, it also helps you plant trees sooner because there is no need to wait for the soil to be improved. You'll have a longer harvest in winter because raised garden beds better keep plants warm. Be sure to use mulch on the ground to prevent weeds from growing. As well as adding organic matter to increase nutrients for the best growth.

There are three common types of raised garden beds: wooden raised garden beds, plastic raised garden beds and metal raised garden beds. Depending on the conditions and needs, you can choose the right type of raised bed for your garden.

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