The plant draws the amount of nutrients and water it needs from the soil. Therefore, in order to develop normally, the soil’s characteristics must be optimally adapted to its requirements. To achieve this, it is sometimes useful to make amendments to the soil to improve its properties by incorporating organic and / or mineral substances. It is therefore useful to choose the appropriate amendment to maintain or increase fertility.

To correct soil deficiencies and meet the plants’ requirements, it is useful to use appropriate amendments. Indeed, the choice of the amendment must be based on the ground’s physical, chemical and biological structure and on the plants’ specific needs. When appropriate, incorporate organic materials or minerals since these two types of amendments each have their advantages and disadvantages. But the final choice may also depend on external criteria such as the cost or environmental impact.

Why amend garden soil?

An amendment is necessary to control ground moisture. Indeed, a soil containing a large quantity of clay may have the ability to hold more water, as opposed to a more sandy soil that tends to let water seep quickly. Knowing this specificity is thus important in so far as a plant’s need for moisture is variable. Thus, a heavy soil can be made more permeable by adding sand. If looking for the opposite effect, incorporate clay which is very efficient to retain water. Furthermore, an amendment is also useful for improving the ground’s physical structure and to make it more compact or brittle, as required in each particular case. This will also favour soil ventilation, which will in turn stimulate the development of the plant’s roots. In addition, plants and other micro-organisms are sensitive to the soil’s chemical structure. Also, acidic soil is amended with limestone while alkaline soil is acidified with sphagnum peat moss.

Organic amendments

Of multiple origins, whether from organic household waste, gardening, manure or plant debris, organic amendments all turn  into humus. They improve ground structure by compacting brittle soils or lightening heavy soils, making them easier to work while regulating their moisture content. Slow to decompose in the soil, they create an environment favourable to micro-organisms that provide the necessary elements for plant nutrition. They have the advantage of not containing substances that are harmful to the soil or plants. Moreover, given that the elements they contain cannot be directly absorbed by plants, they promote biological activity in the soil. In addition, some, such as compost, can be made at home by recycling organic waste. However, they are criticized for their slowness of action because they usually take time to decompose before being fully active. But it can also be an advantage due to the fact that their action is longer-lasting.

Mineral amendments

Treating the soil with mineral amendment consists of adding various chemical elements, mainly to balance its chemical structure and improve its texture. Thus, to neutralize acid content in the soil, you can use lime which provides calcium and magnesium, gypsum which contains calcium sulphate and sulphur, or wood ashes which also provide calcium in addition to phosphorus and various trace elements. On the other hand, to acidify a soil that is too alkaline, resort to sulphur, iron sulphate or aluminium sulphate. In addition, mineral amendments also allow to control the soil’s sodium content, following the use of salt for snow removal for example. Moreover, their action is faster since the elements they contain no longer require processing by micro-organisms. However, they must be used wisely because at too high a dose, they are often corrosive to the environment and can cause diseases or metabolism dysfunction in some plants, such as chlorosis for example. Finally, being chemical products, their use and handling require a series of precautions, especially to prevent them from contaminating the environment.

Related posts:

  1. Analyzing ground acidity
  2. Growth, maintenance and amendements on calcareous land
  3. Maintaining fruit trees

Published in Basics by Alexander on 06 Jul 2011