Organic soil conditioners are sometimes called soil amendments. They are materials added to soil that improves the overall health of the plants grown there by improving the structure of the soil.
Deficient soil can be corrected with a variety of organic soil conditioners used singly or in combination. The type of soil conditioner that is needed depends on:
- Type of soil
- Type of plant
Conditioners correct these problems by adding nutrients, or allowing the soil to absorb water better or absorb less water. Acidic soils can be made more alkaline and alkaline soils can be made more acidic. It is important to test your soil to see which conditioners will work best in your locale.
Common Organic Soil Conditioners
While there are hundreds of materials that can be used to condition soil, the common ones are easily obtainable and work well. Most of these can be found at the local garden shop for a reasonable price.
Although peat moss is often used as a soil conditioner, it should be used with caution. Peat is a non-sustainable material. Once it is removed from the peat bog it will not "grow back". Using other, equally as beneficial, organic soil amendments will help your garden as well as the environment.
- Lime makes acidic soil more alkaline. It is made of crushed lime rock.
- Organic coffee grounds make soil more acidic. Coffee shops will often give you bags of the grounds for free if you ask.
- Compost is an excellent all purpose soil conditioner.
- Adds nutrients to the soil
- Loosens the dirt
- Helps to make the soil absorb water better
- Increases desirable microorganisms
- Coir is fiber from the coconut that can be used in place of peat moss.
- Manure adds nitrogen.
- Bonemeal adds phosphorus.
- Bloodmeal adds nitrogen.
- Sulfur lowers the pH.
- Vermiculite loosens clay soils.
Remember that is it especially important when buying animal by-products to make sure they have been marked certified organic. Also, any manure used should be well rotted and at least six months old. Using fresh manure can burn plants.
How to Use Conditioners
Layer the conditioner on the soil to a depth of two inches or so. Dig it deeply into the soil, mixing the soil and the conditioner. If you are using the soil amendment in an established garden with growing plants, side dress with the conditioner and use a fork to mix it in. Be careful not to disturb the root systems.
Soil Conditioner or Mulch
Mulch can be a soil conditioner, but a soil conditioner is not mulch. Mulch is generally added to the top of the soil around plants to help keep down weeds and retain moisture. As the mulch breaks down into the soil, it conditions and loosens it. The organic soil conditioner, on the other hand, is generally deeply worked into the soil and is not good at keeping weeds from growing around the plant.
Because mulch will ultimately become a soil conditioner, it is important to use only organic mulches. If you use grass clippings from a lawn that has been fertilized with chemical fertilizers, for example, your mulch will not be organic.
Where to Buy Organic Soil Amendments
Your local garden center is one of the best places to find soil conditioners. They will be knowledgeable about the specific composition of the soil in your area. The soil conditioners that they carry are likely to be what you need.
Sometimes even the best local garden centers do not carry organic items. When this happens you can find what you need on the Internet.
Better Garden with Better Soil
Plants will grow and thrive in healthy soil conditions. Higher quality soils will result in increased production of vegetables in smaller spaces using less water. These amended soils will produce beautiful flowers and bedding plants as well. By keeping an eye on your soil you can maintain the health of your garden with very little trouble.