Organic Soil Amendments
Organic soil amendments are added to the soil to improve its properties. Organic soil amendments can be added to increase water retention, or improve water filtration. They can also be used to create air in the soil and to upgrade the soil structure.
Learning about different types of organic soil amendments and how to use them will result in better soil, healthier plants, and higher yields.
Organic Soil Amendments: Types
When determining if a soil amendment is organic or inorganic an easy way to check is to find out if the substance was ever alive. If it was alive at some point then it’s an organic soil amendment. There are many types of organic amendments available, some common ones include grass clippings, manure, ash from a wood fire, peat, wood chips, straw, old leaves, and compost.
There are a couple of important things to know when choosing an organic soil amendment. For example, wood chips require nitrogen to decompose. The nitrogen being used to break down the wood chips will not be available to plants in the soil until the decomposition process is complete. This can cause a nitrogen deficiency in some soils. Using a nitrogen-rich fertiliser can overcome this issue.
Another important thing to know is that you should always use composted manure rather than fresh manure. Composted manure is free from excess ammonia that is present in fresh manure. Too much ammonia can seriously damage plants, and even kill them.
Choosing the Organic Soil Amendment for your Soil
Choosing a soil amendment is determined by the requirements of the soil and what it will be used for. If you need improvements quickly, then choose an amendment that will decompose rapidly in the soil. For long term results, choose a soil amendment that breaks down slowly, such as wood chips.
The end goal of using soil amendments is to make the soil more appealing to plant roots. By adding organic matter soils become more or less dense, which improves them in a number of ways. This includes water retention and filtration, as already mentioned, and also drainage and permeability (how easily roots can penetrate the soil).
Each type of soil needs to be improved differently. Sandy soil allows water to drain quickly and therefore benefits from dense soil amendments like compost and manure that result in better water retention. Clay soil is very compact, almost sticky, and needs added organic matter to open up space for air and roots.
Organic Soil Amendments: Application
Once you have decided on the appropriate soil amendment for your particular soil type, it’s time to do some digging. This is because soil amendments need to be worked into the soil to be effective.
Mulch is not a soil amendment. This is because mulch is added to the surface of the soil rather than dug into it. However, many materials that make great mulch also make effective soil amendments.
Organic soil amendments can be added to the soil each year. Gradually the soil quality will improve creating the ideal foundation for your plants.
To find out more about how to improve your soil’s properties or to increase the amount of essential nutrients in the soil, check our Knowledge Centre.