The only thing better than natural soil amendments are FREE natural soil amendments! And I’m going to give you a list of the best garden soil amendments you can get for free, which will take your garden to the next level.
Growing healthy food starts with healthy soil. The only way to get nutrients into your vegetables is if they are present in the soil they are grown in. So make sure to give your soils the lovin’ they need to grow produce that is both delicious and nutritious.
What is a soil amendment?
Growing a garden requires more than just seeds, soil and water. The soil must have enough fertility to sustain the plants you’re growing in it. Some soils are naturally highly fertile; but that’s not the norm. Most soils could use a little help; and some soils need a lot of help.
But we don’t want to go spreading store bought chemical fertilizers on our precious soils. No, sir. We’re going to add some super natural, and free, soil amendments.
But what exactly is a soil amendment? Well, I’ll tell ya. It’s anything you add to the soil in order to help with any of the following:
Amendments you could purchase
There are many more nutrients needed to produce a healthy plant than just nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. According to some, there are up to 42 different minerals that are necessary to create the healthiest plants. That’s a lot.
But there are ways to ensure that your soils are providing the best growing medium possible. Let’s take a look at some common garden amendments.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing amendments. It might be essential, depending on your soil. If your garden soil is extremely depleted of nutrients, or has a poor structure that inhibits drainage or root formation, then you may just need to shell out some cash to get it back in shape.
You can test your soil pH yourself with a store bought test. There is also a test you can do yourself that will tell you how much sand, silt, and clay is in your soil, like the one below.
It’s a good idea to do these tests first, so you can get a better idea of what sort of soil you have and what you might want to add. If you want to know what minerals and other nutrients your soil is lacking, you’ll have to get a professional soil test done at a soil lab.
If you are on a budget, or just don’t want to purchase soil amendments, there are quite a few free options available to you. Some of them might take a bit of time to source, such as free manure; but some of them will be relatively easy to gather, like grass and weed clippings.
Whatever you do, make sure that any grass, weeds, straw, etc. are toxin free; meaning, they haven’t been sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. These will wreak havoc on your garden, and make you very sad.
So, without further ado, here is a list of free garden soil amendments, and how they can help:
- enables sandy soils to retain water and nutrients
- loosens clay or silt to enable roots, water and air to penetrate soil
- improves structure, and helps prevent erosion
- feeds microorganisms in the soil
- improves soil structure by creating aggregates
Grass & weed clippings
- used as mulch, or in the compost pile
- adds nitrogen to the soil
- feeds microorganisms
- used as mulch (or you can add to compost)
- trace minerals
- hormones that help stimulate the growth of your plants
- high in carbohydrates, which soil microorganisms love
- low in cellulose, so it breaks down quickly
- may help deter slugs if used as mulch because of the salt, and crispy sharp edges when it dries
- micro nutrients are chelated, meaning, plants can absorb them right away, without waiting for decomposition
- no weed seeds
- if you’re worried about the salt, you can rinse it, or leave it out in the rain
- apply a thick layer, 4 to 6 inches – it shrinks a lot
- keep away from plant stems
- aged as top dressing; or added to compost
- feeds microorganisms and beneficial bacteria in the soil
- improves structure of both clay and sandy soils
- feeds fungi and earthworm
- should be composted properly to kill off weed seeds, pathogens and harmful bacteria and parasites that could potentially be living in the manure
- contains many micro nutrients, depending on what animal it comes from and what it was fed
**Be careful where you get your manure. If it comes mixed with straw bedding, you’ll want to ensure that the straw is grown without chemicals and toxins. Those toxins will have an extremely detrimental effect on your garden.
- increases water retention in sandy soils
- improves soil structure
- home for soil life
- can hold a lot of water
- great in seed starting mixes
- improves drainage
- good for seed starting mixes; must be sharp sand
- the digested soil that worms leave behind
- contains lots of minerals and trace elements
- neutral pH
- beneficial microbes and bacteria that help fend off diseases
- possible improved germination and growth of seedlings
- used as mulch, not tilled in
- helps retain moisture in the soil, as any mulch does
- keeps weeds down
- break down over time, slow release fertilizer
- can help repel pests (use pine, cedar, or cypress in paths only)
- prevents soil erosion
- feeds fungus in the soil; excellent for trees and shrubs
To amend or not to amend
Soil amendments can help you bring your garden soil fertility, structure and pH levels up to scratch. But make sure that you actually need the amendments. Getting a soil test can save you time and money; so look up a good soil lab, and get them to check it out.
You probably won’t need to add all of these amendments to your soil every year. The only one I suggest you add yearly is compost. A two- or three-inch layer of compost added to your garden beds every fall or spring will give it a great boost.
A soil test will let you know if you need to purchase anything for the garden, or if these free amendments will do the trick.
Even if you have to purchase a few things, you won’t need to buy them every year. If you keep adding compost, and other natural elements, your soil will get healthier each year, and you won’t have to purchase amendments.
The 8 best garden soil amendments you can get for free I listed here aren’t going to work miracles. These are just a few of the things you can do to help ensure that your garden soil is healthy and full of the essential nutrients that will grow the healthiest vegetables.
But if you are noticing problems in the garden, get a soil test done to see if your soil is missing an essential nutrient.
I hope this article gives you a good idea of what you can do – for free – to enhance your garden soil. It’s important to keep the nutrient levels in your soil high, so that the vegetables you’re eating are the healthiest they can be.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment box below. I’ll be sure to answer you right away. Thanks for dropping by.
Health, Hope & Happiness