How to Improve Dry Soil for Gardening

Written by mary lougee
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Dry soil in either flower or vegetable gardens stunts plant growth. If it's sandy, it will drain too quickly and the plants' roots won't be able to absorb the nourishment they need. Adding organic material like perlite, moss, shredded bark, compost and cow manure can increase the soil's density and allow better absorption of water and minerals for healthy plants.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Tiller or hoe and shovel
  • Organic materials
  • Wheelbarrow

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    Adding Organics to a Garden

  1. 1

    Turn garden soil by digging down about a foot with a shovel and rotating the soil to aerate. A garden tiller is very useful as it does the backbreaking work for you.

  2. 2

    Mix bags of organic materials by placing in a wheelbarrow and mixing with a hoe until the substances are thoroughly mixed. If you are using only one type of organic substance, apply it to the garden area directly from the bags.

  3. 3

    Shovel the organic materials onto the top of the soil in the garden. Make a 3-inch layer over the surface.

  4. 4

    Incorporate the organic materials into the existing soil by mixing with a hoe in a folding-in motion or by using a garden tiller. Mix the soil and organic matters so that it will be as deep as the roots. For example, planting underground root plants as potatoes and carrots requires that the soil retain moisture at a deeper lever than plants with a shallow root system. Ideal depths for incorporation of organic materials are 12 inches for root plants and 6 inches for plants that produce flowers or vegetables above ground.

  5. 5

    Add organic materials in the middle of the growing season by side-dressing. Dig a small trench 3 to 6 inches from the plant bases down each row about 3 inches deep. Fill with organic material and cover it back up with the soil.

Tips and warnings

  • It is easiest to change soil structure before planting a garden so that the materials are mixed evenly before planting.
  • If the soil structure needs addition of organic materials after planting season, the sides of the rows and the centre aisles can hold organic materials. Incorporate the organics gently so as not to disturb root systems.
  • Compost is the best form of organic matter to add to a garden for light loam that is well aerated and fertilised naturally from the compost items.
  • Ohio State University studies show that garden soils benefit by being protected by a winter crop such as rye or rye grass. This protects soil in the wintertime by not allowing water runoff. When you incorporate the rye or rye grass into the soil by tilling it for a spring garden, it will add the nutrients from the grass to nourish the soil naturally, as it creates compost.

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