Plants derive their nourishment from the soil. In order to provide sufficient plant nourishment, the soil must be fed. Feed the soil and you will be feeding the plants. Well-fed soil will produce an excellent bounty of fruits and vegetables. Use these tips for providing plant nourishment to maximize your container garden yield.
A soil test will determine what nutrients your soil is lacking. Soil testing kits can be purchased at any garden supply center. You can also conduct a do-it-yourself test that will provide you with fairly accurate results. If you want very accurate results, take a sample of your garden soil to the local County Extension Office for a complete soil analysis.
The soil test results will let you know the pH of your soil and what you need to add to the soil to get it to the proper pH level. Some plants, like blueberries and tomatoes prefer soil that is slightly acidic. Other plants, like oregano and thyme, prefer sweet (alkaline) soil. Most plants, however, grow best in a balanced soil that is close to 7 on the pH scale.
Several amendments are available to correct the pH level of garden soil. Incorporating sphagnum peat into the soil will raise the acid level and adding lime to soil will make it more sweet.
If soil is heavy clay, compact and soggy, adding sand will loosen the soil and enable it to drain better. Tender plant roots cannot grow in heavy clay so it important to amend the soil with some type of organic matter to lighten it up and improve drainage.
If soil is too sandy plants will not grow well either because sandy soil cannot retain moisture and plants will dehydrate. The addition of organic matter will solve the problem and allow soil to retain moisture.
Gypsum is an organic ingredient that will help break-up clay soil, help sandy soil retain moisture and improve the structure of all types of soil.
Organic compost and well-rotted cow manure are the two best additives for all garden soil. Both products add nutrients to the soil, improve drainage, prevent soil compaction, improve soil structure and keep the soil and plants well fed.
Once the soil has been amended properly, there’s one final step for soil and plant nourishment, and that’s organic mulch. By adding a 2-4 inch layer of organic mulch (straw, wood bark, nut hulls, grass clippings) the soil can retain moisture more effectively and weed growth will be prevented. As the mulch decomposes, it will leach into the soil and continue to nourish the soil so it in turn can feed the plants.