If you are an avid gardener then you know that the only real break we get is when snow covers the ground, and we can’t reach it! Otherwise gardeners garden all year round! However in fall we can take some breaks, such as less watering. So now, while we take our water break it is the perfect time to prepare soil for the long winter and ensure come spring it is ready to grow!
Fall Soil Amenders
Just what are amenders and how important are they? Amendments are not fertilizers! Amenders improve a soil’s physical condition. For example, an amender will improve soil structure, water infiltration, and indirectly affect plant growth. Amenders are used to change and improve soil. We want to alter the soil so growing becomes easier, allowing naturally occurring nutrients and added fertilizers to be absorbed by growing plants more readily.
What are soil amenders?
There are quite a few different types of soil amenders so let’s dig into eight very useful soil amenders and learn how to use them.
When you add your compost always use the compost which has been aging for at least a year, expert composters will have several compost piles just for this reason! Aging your compost before adding it to your garden means your compost has not lost as much nitrogen as a “quick, or hot” methods. Adding aged compost will add diversity to your soil. It will attract insects, worms, bacteria and fungi, and micronutrients.
Chicken, steer, or mushroom, any manure is good for your garden. Manure supports worm and insect larvae as well as algae and other living organisms by creating a hospitable place to live and thrive. Additionally, manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients plants need. Manure will reduce soil compaction, increase soil stability by increasing water retention and water infiltration.
Adding worm castings should be a must on every gardener list! Worm castings increase soil retention, soil aeration, and anchor nutrients so plants can reach them. They will act as a barrier to help plants thrive even when pH levels are off. High in nitrogen they are excellent for root growth.
Insect frass is an amazing soil amender. Adding it will assist plants in producing their own defenses. Including enzymes, alkaloids, and anti fungal metabolites which aid in pathogen and disease resistance.
Gypsum is an amazing soil amender for anyone who has an overabundance of clay or hard soil. Gypsum prevents soil erosion, increases water penetration, and helps with the movement of water and air. When using gypsum it will loosen compacted clay and promote root penetration for plants. Gypsum will not affect pH.
Ammonium sulphate is a fast acting nitrogen fixer. Add this to your soil when nitrogen levels have been depleted and you need a quick fix.
Number 7 and 8
Lime and Elemental Sulphur
Both of these soil amenders are grouped together because they are both different but will do the same job, just opposite. Both are pH adjusters. Lime will raise pH and elemental sulphur will lower pH. You should always test your soil first with a pH tester to determine if you need to raise or lower pH before using either lime or sulphur. The wrong pH can do more harm than good.
Adding soil amenders?
If your garden is new or you have new plants add your soil amenders directly to the soil before you plant. If you are using packaged soil amenders always read how much you need before adding.
When your garden is already established your plants can still benefit from all the amazing amenders for soil. Mix your amenders together and use as a top dressing for your plants. Place your mulch on top of the soil amenders to allow as much as possible to be watered down into the plant.
Remember, amenders are not fertilizers! Amenders assist fertilizers to do their job properly. As a note, when top dressing you can add your fertilizers at the same time as your amenders for perfect garden solutions!