Soil Improvement

November 10, 2005

Soil improvement is a common goal of many gardeners looking for ways to enhance the growth of their gardens.

Soil problems can range from poor texture, such as heavy clay, to issues involving soil that is deficient in nutrients, waterlogged, shallow, hard packed, or just not producing the healthy crops that the gardener desires. My simple solution for each of these soil problems is to increase the amount of organic matter that is present in the garden.

Organic Soil Improvement Solution

Adding organic matter in the form of compost, leaf mold, mushroom soil, aged manures, worm castings, and other decomposed yard and kitchen waste will do wonders to invigorate and improve the quality of any soil and should be the starting point of a soil improvement program. Organic matter possesses the ability to change soil texture, build fertility, increase the volume and depth of your soil, and improve the water retaining characteristics.

The amazing thing is the way that polar opposite conditions can be corrected by applying the same solution. For example if your soil is too sandy, adding organic matter over time will result in the structure changing to more of a loamy texture. At the other extreme, gardeners with a heavy clay soil will also improve their soil’s tilth by increasing the amount of organic matter.

Another example can be made of the water retaining character of your soil. Gardens that have poor drainage and tend to become waterlogged can be improved with the addition of more organic matter, which will loosen the soil and allow for better drainage. On the other hand, soils that drain too quickly and tend to dry out rapidly can also be improved with the addition of organic matter. In this case, the additional organic matter tends to bind the soil particles together and help the soil retain more moisture.

Free Sources of Organic Soil Amendments

If you look around your property or neighborhood, you may quickly discover free sources of valuable organic matter. If you have trees growing on your property then leaves are the best place to start. Rather than burning or setting them out for municipal collection, recycle all of your leaves through composting, or by creating leaf mold. Another readily available source of organic matter that is underappreciated and frequently thrown away lies in the form of ordinary grass clippings.

Additional sources of organic matter can be obtained from spent vines, plants, rotted produce, and garden residue that are left behind after you harvest your garden. You’ll also be surprised by the amount of kitchen waste that can be recovered and composted, rather than being sent to the landfill or run through the garbage disposal. If you investigate, you can frequently find a local source of manures and bedding materials from a stable or farm that will make a great addition to your compost pile.

It’s important that you allow sufficient time for whatever type of organic matter that you use to decompose and break down prior to adding it to your garden. Otherwise you could actually tie up nutrients during decomposition, rather than make the nutrients immediately available to you garden. Get into the habit of constantly composting and add additional organic matter to your garden beds each year. You’re sure to see great results in the form of healthier soil and better plant growth.

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  • Gardening is such a wonderful thing for the soul. I enjoyed your blog. Great information too!

  • Thank you for your comment on my blog. I will post more pictures of lotus in appreciation of your interest in my blog. I even put a link of your blog to mine so that those visited me can find your blog easily.

    Your article is useful for me to improve my soil condition in my garden. My garden’s soil is more of clayish. Just like you, I used dried leaves to enrich the soil quality.

  • You really provided alot of information in this blog post! Great entry!

    I compleatly agree with the suggestion to compost, but how would you suggest doing it in an aparmemt setting?? I am curious about patio composting… Since that is all I have to work with… 🙂

  • Kenny Point

    Talina, for composting on a patio you could try one of the commercial composting bins such as the rotating drums that you load with organic waste matter and turn the crank a couple of times a day. Another option for you would be vermicomposting, check out the post at the following link:

  • Hello there. It has been awhile since talked. I just wrote an article tonight that I think you will find helpful: Check it out at

    Also look at the the photos I added to

  • bob brown

    I have a friend that uses shredded news papers to prevent weeds and etc. He puts it on very thick. my question. Should it be removed before tilling.I donot think that much paper does the garden any good

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Bob, I guess it would depend on how much paper you are talking about and whether it would make a mess or blow away when tilling. How does your friend keep it in place? Does he cover it with other mulch? I’ve never seen anyone use shredded paper on top of the soil like that. I would agree if it is so thick that it will not break down and decompose quickly.

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