Soil Health: How to Improve Your Soil

[Music] Hello! Healthy soil is the secret behind
good harvests – it absorbs water, feeds our plants, and provides an anchor for roots, helping crops to grow strongly and be productive. Understand your soil type and
you can work to improve it, ensuring more robust plants and even better harvests. In this video we’ll show you how to identify what type of soil you have and how to get the most from it. Most soils tend towards one of four categories –
sandy, silt, clay, or loam, which has a balance of sand, silt and clay. Each soil type has its own characteristics. Sandy soils, also described as light soils, are
made up of very large particles which gives a gritty texture. Sandy soils drain quickly,
so they tend to be drier than other types, and they don’t hold on to
nutrients very well, which can present a challenge for hungry crops. However, they are easy to work with
and warm up quickly in spring. Root crops such as carrots,
together with onions and asparagus, are just a few of the many
vegetables that grow well in sandy soil. Silt soils have smaller particles than sandy soils,
giving them a slightly slippery, floury feel. This type of soil holds onto
moisture and nutrients for longer. Clay (or heavy) soils consist of
very fine particles. Clay soil holds its shape when rolled into a ball,
and it’s smooth to the touch. It is slow to both absorb moisture and drain, which means soils like this
can bake hard in summer then become waterlogged in winter, making
them difficult to dig and wet and cold in spring. However, well-cultivated clay soils are very fertile and are preferred by brassicas such as cabbage as well
as beans, peas, and salad leaves. Loam is the ideal soil type that gardeners dream of! It’s fertile, drains well but not too fast, is easy to work, and has a good amount of organic matter
that supports just about any fruit or vegetable. All soil types can be improved
by adding organic matter. Organic matter can take many forms – for example leafmold made from decomposed
leaves, or good old-fashioned garden-made compost. Farmyard manure can also be used, assuming it can
be guaranteed to be free of all traces of herbicides which may have been sprayed on the pasture
that the cattle or horses grazed. Organic matter of any type should be well-rotted so it can easily be incorporated into the soil. And to avoid future problems, check it for roots of pernicious perennial weeds such as bindweed. Organic matter works to improve both soil structure
and nutrient content. In light, sandy soils it works as glue, binding particles together to improve its ability to retain moisture and nutrients. For heavy clay soils,
it opens them up so they can drain more easily. No matter what your soil type, it will truly
benefit from regular applications of organic matter to feed and sustain the plants grown in it. You can add organic matter at any time of year, but the end of the growing season is an especially good time. Barrow it onto vacant ground,
then spread it out to a depth of at least 2 inches(5cm). It’s usually not necessary to dig it in –
just leave it on the surface over winter and by spring the worms in the soil will have done a great job of incorporating most of that organic matter into the soil. Should any remain on the surface, you can always
fork it in a few weeks before it’s time to sow or plant. Organic matter may also be laid around established
fruit trees, shrubs and canes, and around perennial vegetables such as artichoke or
asparagus where it will have the twin benefits of feeding the plants
and suppressing weeds. Do this towards the end of winter. Soil pH determines whether a soil is acid,
alkaline, or somewhere in between. Knowing your soil’s pH
will help you to decide what to grow in it. For example, particularly acidic soil
is great for acid-lovers like blueberry, while soil with a higher (or alkaline) pH is
preferred by brassicas such as cabbage and cauliflower. Test your soil using a pH test kit. The accompanying color chart will help
determine whether your soil is acidic, neutral or alkaline. For best results,
take soil samples from several parts of your plot so you can decide which areas need amending. For example, soil can be
improved for growing brassicas by adding garden lime, which works to raise soil PH
so it’s more alkaline, while organic matter will generally move pH towards a
level that’s ideal for most fruits and vegetables. Getting a little familiar
with the soil that sustains our crops means we can keep it in tip-top condition. And your crops? Well, they’ll reward you for it! Let us know what type of soil you have, and how
you look after it in the comments section below. And don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t done so already. I’ll catch you next time. [Music]

30 thoughts on “Soil Health: How to Improve Your Soil

  1. My soil is heavy clay, flint and stones over chalk so club root is not a problem! I have been practising a no dig system for the last three years, putting on a layer of compost on my beds and it works very well, particularly in dry periods in summer as it stops the soil setting and cracking.

  2. I have poorly draining soil composed mostly of heavily weathered shale locally known as siltstone. Lime and compost help as does planting dikon

  3. Thank you very much for another informative video – good advice in a straightforward concise manner.
    We have sandy, acid soil which grows bracken in abundance so a good dose of lime is applied for the brassicas. I am able to produce about 20 cubic yards of compost a year so I follow Charles Dowding's principles and use minimal cultivation.
    The vegetables are grown where there were three former stock tunnels so it is a bit higgledy piggledy but it seems to work.
    I don't do videos but you can see photos here:

  4. Last spring I moved to south central Ohio. The soil here is quite rich, as evidenced by the area's agricultural industry. It was surprising to see just how clayish the soil was after tilling my new garden; "How am I going to grow anything in this?" It was cost prohibitive to treat the entire garden with peat moss, so mixing together 2 parts peat to 1 part composted cow manure, I treated the immediate area for each of the larger plants, and the rows where beans were going. In addition, I covered the garden with perforate cardboard and grass clippings. That turned out to be a boon. The summer was a bit on the dry side, and I spent a lot of time out of state. The cardboard and clippings helped to control weeds and retain moisture in the soil when I wan't there to water. the end result was stunning. Lots of beans, tomatoes, squashes and 90 lbs of sweet potatoes from only 8 mounds! There was more to harvest than I could use or put up for the winter. The excess was shared with neighbors. This fall, I covered the garden with leaves that will be turned into the ground in the spring.

  5. Compost bins provide regular feeding to my raised beds. Although the partially composted material may appear as clumps when added, by the end of the growing season, the worms have transformed the compost into a rich soil devoid of all signs of the original compost.

  6. I agree with most everything, but I cringe every time you advise to "dig something in" on your videos. In this video, after you put such a good amount of compost on your garden and let it sit over winter. Then in the spring you go and totally disturb the soil by digging it in, destroying the worm homes and the mycelium network.

  7. Great informative video as usual. Had previously transformed my entire garden a few years ago into large boxed raised beds for the reason of soil enhancement. 
    The no secret I use is grass cuttings & fall leaves.
    I mow lawns using a grass catcher, put the green grass in the walkway between the raised beds. I rake & collect leaves in the fall placing them on top & mixing in with the rotted grass.
    After growing season – I put this mulch on top of each raised bed up to 4 " deep of more then till it into the soil to a 9" depth. End result is loose loam wormy soil with spectacular results especially with peppers, broccoli, tomato's, turnips, eggplant & beans.

  8. I have clay, clay soil in Calgary, Alberta Canada…..The way to look after soil in Calgary would be to put peat moss, composted manure of some sort( non burning) , and compost…. It would be a good idea to pick an area for growing..,make sure you are not going to keep walking on the bed. This will pack down the soil…spread a board or plank over the patch you wish to stand, kneel, or work on….. Now comes the fun part, formulating the amendments…..I usually make a mix of one part composted manure, one part peat moss, one part compost garden variety. I use a 5 gallon soap bucket as my measure, any sort of container will do. Go to the furthest part of your garden bed, lay the plank or board Dow, dig on spade depth down, and gently lift the soil out, not turning it too much. Take a garden fork and loosen the sub soil, and then place one to two or more buckets of goodies in the trench. Pull your board down one row and repeat, until you have completed the bed. Leave the bed roughly dug in the fall, allowing for the frost to break up the hard clumps of soil. In the spring time, go through the garden , make sure the soil is level, and well dug… mark rows and stuff plant seeds, and use mulch …water…..the mulch you can use is dried grass, straw, and other things not treated by herbicides. If you treat your grass, please wait until the fifth cut…….I recommend that people should consider planting a winter rye or wheat in the fall to increase the organic matter subsequently. Over the years in the fall.please look up back to Eden gardening, or lasagna style gardening. The first year of bed prep is always the hardest in the micro organisms, but years after, there will be a drastic improvement… time goes on with perennial crops etc, top dressing the bed with mulch and compost is the only real additions will be needed. Do not despare if it takes about 3-4 years to grow soil and to see returns..,,,,

  9. What a great informative video of improving different soil types this is. Soils differ so much from garden to garden so we all know how important improving the soil can be. I have a rich loamy soil operating a three year rotation of raised beds and use garden lime on the beds for brassicas when needed. Leaf mould and compost are my main ingredients for improvement as I have stopped getting farmyard manure because of the worry of chemicals they use as mentioned in the video. But every couple of years I spread a good quota of 6X Concentrated manure.
    A great video though and thanks again.

  10. Thank you for the very informative video! We have very sandy land here not much soil to work with, any suggestions for improving our soil? This last spring we tilled our garden area and added manure and top soil, but didn't have much luck. We do have chickens and goats and they have lots of waste, should I be incorporating this into the soil or composting? I have no idea where to begin, any suggestions? Thank you! New homesteader and learning as we go along. Subscribed and love your videos!

  11. i have heavy clay on a poorly cultivated weed ridden plot. I have removed as many perennial weeds as possible, dug out 4 good sized beds for starters, gotten a load of good topsoil to establish raised beds and removed as much dead (grey and blue) subsoil clay as i can (clay used around my comfrey patch to reduce weeds growing around them until established). I will install good quality edging in spring (not sure what to paint the timber but ill figure it out). I have sown green manure over the beds overwinter to try fix more nitrogen and increase humus. Im also composting like crazy to improve soil more, and have an enormous pile of leaves for leafmould. these will take some time but its a long term (life!) project! I keep compost warm in winter buy adding some warm water now and then to try keep the bacteria running!
    thanks for the video, great information.

  12. Our soil is almost all heavy clay, currently almost boggy after being frozen and then snowed on before a brief thaw. I do try to add organic matter along the yard edges and where other perennial plants grow, but, for the most part, I grow in raised beds and containers where I can more easily control the growing media. As always, great information.

  13. Our local zoo sells what it calls Zoo Poopy-Doo every spring by the truckload. It is well-rotted elephant poo along with the straw that they put in the cages for them. It's a win-win if you have a way to transport a truckload or partial truckload from the zoo to your garden.

  14. I have some chalky soil, would blending it with compost give a good soil? I have to use planters as the only soil areas are steep banks. Anyone thst cab help would be great.

  15. When you fertilize the ground for winter don't forget to put mulch on top of the compost and put at least 10 inches of compost ! Let it rot well over the whole winter! In spring, water well remove mulch and plant right in. When the plants reach 6 inches put the mulch back on for protection of your soil

  16. I have powder silt white beach sand. It's very productive but it requires me to add very much organic material every year to keep it producing. I think I need to add clay

  17. Here in northwest Georgia, we have clay soils so lots of compost and sometimes sand helps with drainage and nitrogen. Organic material is always welcome.

  18. Yes but I've got a new garden,it's a dug up lawn,
    so I don't have any compost yet to improve the soil.
    Does this mean I have to buy in compost?
    Makes it expensive.

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