Whether you are looking for a quick fix or a long-term solution, soil additives are an essential component in any gardener’s toolbox. Used to provide nutritional and structural improvements to subsurface conditions throughout the growth cycle, soil additives help with fertility, water retention, drainage permeability, aeration and soil structure. Better soil properties allow plant roots to penetrate the soil and obtain the air and moisture needed for optimum growth. With a wide variety of organic and inorganic additives available, it might be difficult to understand what you need to add to your soil and when, so let’s have a look at some common soil additives and how they can help.
Organic Soil Additives
Put simply, organic soil additives are derived from plants or animals. Common organic soil additives are composted plant materials and aged or composted animal manures. These additives improve soil texture and fertility.
Manure: All livestock manures are excellent natural fertilizers and provide a variety of benefits for soil and plants such as additional nutrients, organic matter and enabling microbial action. It’s important to remember that fresh manure can be too hot for plants and may burn them, so it’s best to use composted or aged manure. Chicken manure is the highest in nitrogen, horse manure is easy to find but may contain the most wees seeds. Cow manure is great all-purpose manure that doesn’t burn plants as easily, due to a lower nitrogen content. Rabbit Manure is considered a cold manure, so you can add it directly to plants, with no worry of it burning plants. The pellets will disintegrate slowly over time and release their nutrients into the soil as they break down.
Vermicompost: Worm castings (the organic matter produced by earthworm digestion) provide a variety of nutrients and structural improvements to soil. Castings contain almost all macro and micronutrients necessary for plant growth. These are slowly released as the castings decompose, increasing soil aeration and water/nutrient retention.
Blood Meal: An excellent source of nitrogen, blood meal is a powder made from dried blood, usually from cattle. Blood meal is fast-acting and should be used sparingly, as too much nitrogen can burn plants.
Bone Meal: Made from ground-up animal bones, bone meal is a rich source of phosphorous and calcium. Bone meal generates strong root growth in early plant development and also promotes fruiting and flowering.
Compost: One of the best organic material to add to your soil. Composting breaks down yard waste, agricultural waste, wood scraps, and even sludge into a crumbly soil-like material called humus. Clean, easy to use, and readily available, you can buy it in bags, have it delivered by the truckload or even make your own.
Organic Mulch: One of the best soil additives you can use. Not only does mulch hold moisture in the soil, but as it breaks down, it will gradually add organic matter to your soil as well, improving soil fertility and organic content.
These are additives that are manmade or mined. Inorganic additives can provide both immediate and slower changes to soil, depending on the availability of the additive’s nutrients and structural properties. Inorganic additives tend to be water-soluble and can be flushed from the soil if applied in excess.
Potash: One of the most common sources of inorganic potassium and is used to describe any salts containing water-soluble potassium. Potassium is one of the three most important macronutrients for plants and, as a result, potash can be added to soils quite regularly.
Gypsum: One of the oldest fertilizers used in agriculture, gypsum provides many benefits to soil. The calcium in gypsum additives helps reduce pH in alkaline conditions and gypsum also improves soil structure by breaking up heavy clays, which increases water infiltration and decreases bulk density.
Phosphorite: A sedimentary rock containing phosphate-bearing minerals that provides a continued release of phosphorous for plants. Phosphorous is critical to early plant development and rock phosphate can be applied directly underneath seeds or transplants to allow easy access and in smaller amounts when mixing new soil.
Without the right nutrients in the ground, your plants will never reach their potential so it’s important to make sure your soil has the right balance of all the necessary nutrients and minerals. At Bittern Garden Suppliers, we are experts in Mulch & Organic Compost. Servicing the Mornington Peninsula for over 10 years, we offer same day delivery. If you are looking for high quality products for your garden, great advice and service, then give us a call today.