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How to Enrich Your Soil

May 8th, 2013 Gardening

Taking steps to enrich your soil is important at any time of year, whether spring is just beginning or you're in the middle of a summer heat wave. Few plants and trees will survive when planted in low-mineral ground, and while some soil is naturally healthy, other areas may need work. Read more to learn how to care for your soil and improve the state of your garden. 

Compost
Decomposed organic material provides an inexpensive way to recycle both in the kitchen and in the yard. To compost in your kitchen, you'll need a specially designed container for indoors. Such a pail can be found at most home good suppliers. Compost-friendly materials in the home include pieces of fruits and vegetables such as rinds, peels, tops and cores, eggshells, sandwich crusts, coffee grinds and used tea bags. You should not collect animal by-products. Your indoor compost shouldn't smell, but it may attract gnats, so make sure it's sealed after every use or store it under the sink. 

If you're trying to produce a large amount of compost, or are combining indoor and outdoor materials, you'll need a larger outdoor bin. Compost containers can be purchased, but you can also use an old garbage can or recycling bin as long as it closes securely. 

During the fall, save some of your dead leaves in your outdoor bin: Dead leaves, twigs and grass will provide your compost mixture with carbon, so save your clippings. Similarly, grass and leave clippings and your compost from the kitchen will add nitrogen to the mix. Both are necessary for healthy soil. Once you've filled your outdoor bin halfway, use a shovel or other gardening tool to turn your compost. Don't worry about making it a consistent texture,since the point of turning is to expose different areas of the compost to air. Compost should be turned every one to two weeks for best results.

After turning the pile two or three times (waiting the appropriate time between turnings), your compost should be ready to be applied to your garden. Lay down the compost after tilling the existing soil properly. The amount of compost should be equal to the amount of mulch you would put on your garden bed - about 3 inches. It is recommended that you avoid using compost too close to the stem of the plant or the base of the tree, as compost could break down the foliage. {say why if there's a specific reason}

pH
Some areas of earth are naturally difficult to grow on because the soil pH is either too acidic or too alkaline. You can measure the acidity of your soil with an easy-to-use inexpensive kit. In addition to the kit (which should include thin strips of paper and a chart) you will need a plastic container, gloves and a small sample of soil from below the surface. Be sure to clean the gloves and plastic container prior to testing the pH, since unclean supplies can affect your test results.

Put on your clean gloves and mix the soil you've dug up with filtered water until it's a thick mud. Put a small amount of the mixture onto a test strip and wait a few minutes before rinsing the strip with filtered water. Match the color that the strip has turned to the pH chart. The best acidity is somewhere between six and seven. If your pH is too high, try adding a sulfur solution. If your soil tests below six, add a lime mixture. Both nutrients are available at most gardening supply stores.