Organic Gardening Tips For Improving Soil

Organic Gardening Tips For Improving Soil

If we are going to talk about improving soil, then we need to first understand what makes up our dirt. Our topsoil is made up of a combination of minerals from rocks and old plants. When these materials combine together they release oxygen into the air when it’s broken down. This process releases nutrients that plants take up through their roots. However, if there is too much nitrogen or phosphorus, the result is poor growing conditions for plants. This leads us to another important topic – how to balance all of those elements.

We’ve already discussed how to use natural methods to remove pesticides and herbicides from your garden. Now let’s discuss how to create an environment that encourages healthy plant life while eliminating harmful chemicals. We’ll also cover how to prevent pests that might cause problems for your food crops. And finally, we’ll give you advice on watering your plants properly so that they thrive instead of wither away.

Soil pH

One of the most important things to remember with regard to improving soil is that each area is different. If you live somewhere near the ocean, then you may have very acidic dirt. On the other hand, if you live inland, then you may have alkaline dirt. Knowing what kind of soil you’re dealing with is essential to making good choices as far as fertilizing goes.

Test Soil

As we mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why soils tend to become more acidic over time is due to exposure to carbon dioxide (CO2). As our atmosphere gets polluted with CO2, the acidity of the dirt increases. It becomes harder for plants to absorb nutrients because the chemical structure of the dirt has changed. To counteract this effect, add lime to your soil. Lime neutralizes the acids in the dirt so that your plants can grow better.

There are two kinds of lime that you should be aware of. Calcium hydroxide is called agricultural lime. It was used long before modern day technology came along to help farmers increase crop yields. Since its name implies, it helps strengthen the bones. Although it does work well at increasing soil acidity, it isn’t recommended for people who suffer from kidney disease or high blood calcium levels. They recommend using sodium hydroxide which doesn’t affect those particular health concerns.

Another thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that not all types of lime are created equal. There are three grades of lime based upon their size. First is granular lime. It comes in blocks that look like pebbles. Next is powdered lime. It’s available in bags and it looks similar to baking soda. Lastly, there’s limestone. It’s white and crumbly. All three types of lime are effective at raising the pH level of your soil.

Fertilizers and Pesticides

When talking about improving soil, many people think of adding fertilizer to their gardens. In fact, just the opposite is true. Adding fertilizer actually lowers the amount of nutrient-rich material in the ground. Instead, try adding composted manure. It contains everything needed for healthy growth. Just make sure that you don’t apply any synthetic fertilizers to your garden. Many of them contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic.

Weeds taking over your garden? See our Top Tips for Organic Garden Weed Control

You shouldn’t ever spray insecticides or herbicides directly onto your vegetables either. These poisons could wind up getting into your system and harming you. There are several non-toxic alternatives out there that are safe for children, pets and wildlife. Use them whenever necessary.

Sowing Cover Crops Helps Improving Soil

Cover crops are a type of green manure. They’re used to prevent soil erosion and encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms. As a result, you’ll have healthier soil that’s loaded with nutrients and rich in healthy microbes. Plus, they will deter bugs from eating your veggies. The best part is that cover crops are inexpensive and easy to grow. Many gardeners consider them an essential component for any sustainable gardening approach.

Cover crops can also be used in rotational cropping systems. This allows you to use up wasted seeds and preserve what is left of your harvest.

Composting Materials

Many experts believe that adding mulch to your garden is beneficial for improving soil. Mulch acts as a protective blanket that keeps moisture close to the earth. Without it, water would evaporate quickly and end up running off the surface of the dirt. That means it wouldn’t get absorbed deep enough into the ground to nourish your plants. By layering wood chips, straw, hay or leaves under your vegetable beds, you’ll protect your plants from excessive heat and cold. This prevents the loss of moisture and gives your soil a boost.

In addition, mulch works wonders as a weed killer. Simply put, weeds don’t like to sprout through thick layers of mulch. In fact, they won’t even dare trying!

While mulches provide protection against extreme weather, they aren’t always useful. If you live in a hot climate, then you may want to consider laying down a layer of bark. It provides great shade and will help retain moisture. Another option is to buy stone dust and sprinkle it around the base of your plants. It absorbs excess sunlight from the sunnier areas and reflects it back down where it belongs.

Lastly, you can mix crushed eggshells or oyster shells with sand until it reaches the consistency of play dough. Then spread it around your garden bed. Eggshells pack a lot of calcium into small pieces. Plus, they naturally attract worms. Worms eat dead bugs and larvae. Over time, they break down the waste and convert it into rich humus.

Planting in Composted, Fertile Dirt

It takes years for the average person to build a large pile of composted manure. But if you really want to speed up the process, you can simply hire someone else to do it for you. A company named TerraCycle produces biodegradable products that help you turn your trash into treasure. Their recycling program includes turning coffee grounds into a premium fertilizer. Why spend money on expensive commercial fertilizer when you can save money and help the planet?

TerraCycle recycles hundreds of tons of garbage every year. What’s even cooler is that they donate part of their profits to environmental causes. They recycle plastic bottles and cans, paper and cardboard, glass, textiles, metal, rubber and even e-waste. They even partner with companies to offer free services. One such example is with Starbucks Coffee Company. Through their partnership, customers can trade in their coffee cups for $10 off any purchase at participating stores.

These recycled materials go toward building homes and schools in third world countries. They also support community development projects throughout North America.
What happens when you put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher? They eventually find their way into the garbage disposal and end up being shredded. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it’s dangerous too. Garbage disposals emit fumes that are known carcinogens. Fortunately, there are many inexpensive models that allow you to plug them into your wall outlet rather than leaving them sitting underneath the kitchen sink.

Pest Control Methods for Organic Gardeners

Since you’re probably going to be eating your own produce, you’ll need to deal with pesky insects and animals. Bugs can ruin your harvest if you leave them unchecked. While there are certain pesticides that you can safely use, others should be avoided.
For example, you definitely want to avoid spraying organophosphates on your veggies. Chlorpyrifos is one type of organophosphate pesticide. It disrupts normal nerve function and interferes with brain chemistry. Long term exposure to chlorpyrifos can harm kids’ developing brains and nervous systems.

Instead, choose safer pest control options. Spraying diatomaceous earth is one popular choice. Diatomite is fossilized algae that’s found in salt flats. Its tiny particles are sharp and can cut the body parts of flying ants and other crawling creatures. Ground beetles also use DE as a defense mechanism against predators. Other examples include garlic oil and liquid soap.

If you prefer to eliminate pests chemically, then you should avoid using carbamates, pyrethroids, spinosad, neonicotinoids and fipronil. Neonicotinoids pose serious threats to bees. When ingested, they interfere with the central nervous system and paralyze muscles. Pyrethrins and permethrin are both members of the pyrethroid family. They kill pests by interfering with the electrical charges in their bodies. Finally, fipronil targets the nerves of fleas and lice.

The Benefits of Organically Grown Food

Food grown without harsh chemicals can taste sweeter and healthier. People who eat locally sourced foods enjoy fresher fruits and vegetables that haven’t been picked past their peak. This ensures that they contain higher amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. Also, they rarely receive heavy doses of pesticides. Eating organically allows you to reap the benefits of Mother Nature while helping to preserve the delicate ecosystem.

Let us help determine what to grow in your garden

This is especially true if you grow your own food. You can see exactly which pesticides were used on your tomatoes because you planted them yourself. In contrast, if you bought them at the grocery store, you’d never know.

However, organic farming isn’t perfect. There are still risks involved. An excellent example is with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMO foods often contain traits from multiple species. Unfortunately, cross pollination occurs between crops when pollen travels from one plant to another. This results in lower yield and inferior flavor. Another drawback is that GMOs require lots of fertilizers. This creates additional toxins in our food supply.

Water Your Plants Properly

Water is vital to life on Earth. However, too much water can lead to erosion and run off. It’s important to make sure that your garden receives adequate rainfall. Don’t rely on irrigation equipment. Too much water can lead to compaction and promote disease.
Therefore, avoid watering your plants too frequently. If needed, water the soil at the base of the plant. This will prevent you from drowning the roots while providing sufficient moisture levels.

Keep a Compost Pile

Bacteria and fungi reside in the soil and on decaying leaves. They work together to break down organic matter into smaller particles of compost. These bug populations are directly related to your gardening success. Fungi help to prevent root rot and other diseases. They also hold soil together, preventing erosion and keeping the proper pH levels.

The bacteria produce beneficial enzymes that attack pathogens. These microorganisms also convert nitrogen into a form that plants can use. Without them, your fruits and veggies will succumb to disease in no time.

So how do you encourage these microbial helpers to grow? You need to build a compost pile. The ideal compost pile should be at least three feet wide by three feet tall by two feet deep. The pile should also be at least six inches deep. Using green or brown materials will encourage the growth of nutrient-rich microorganisms.

Add a Bedding Layer

Organic gardening techniques avoid using synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides and additives. However, you still have to deal with pests and bugs that threaten the health of your crops. The easiest way to control these unwanted visitors is to lay down a bedding layer of stale compost or mulch. This keeps the soil nutrient levels high while helping to keep weeds in check.

Conclusion for Organic Gardening Tips For Improving Soil

Organic gardening is merely a step above chemical agriculture. It comes with its own set of benefits, such as higher crop yields and better tasting food. For example, organically grown carrots retain their sweetness while conventional carrots get bitter and bitter once they start to rot.

The only way to determine if you have or have not used pesticides in your organic garden is to make an effort to read the label of any vegetables you buy. This will tell you which pesticides and herbicides were used on your food, if any. If you have a garden, make sure that you know how to keep yourself safe. This will protect you from the toxic chemicals that may be in your vegetable garden.

If you’re interested in learning more about organic gardening, leave me a comment below.

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