How to condition your soil ? (Google / The Southland Times)

Read at : Google Alert – soil conditioning

http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/life-style/gardening/4885108/Conditioning-your-soil

Conditioning your soil

JANE WRIGGLESWORTH

If gardening throughout winter doesn’t appeal, preparing the ground for a flurry of spring action might be a better option.

Adding a layer of organic mulch to your garden is the easiest solution – it will break down on its own accord and boost soil health and improve structure.

Or you can plant a green manure crop. Green manure is a cover crop that is grown primarily to add nutrients and organic matter to your soil. The crops are typically grown over winter as beds become available (once you’ve dug up your summer/autumn veges, for example) and then dug into the soil at the end of winter in time for the new growing season.

Leguminous crops, like alfalfa, clover and lupins, are ideal because they add large quantities of nitrogen to the soil along with organic matter. Compare a planting of legumes to a layer of compost: compost returns to your soil around 98 per cent of the nitrogen you originally started with (remember that continuous cultivation depletes your soil of nutrients), whereas a green manure crop replenishes what’s been lost plus adds considerably more nitrogen.

Leguminous crops should be cut when young, before they become woody and before flowering. That’s because at this stage the nitrogen content is at its highest.

Buckwheat and mustard are also good green manure crops, although these two are generally grown in spring and summer. All these cover crops are available from Kings Seeds.

CLAY SOILS

Clay soils can be greatly improved by adding compost, aged manures and leaf mould. A mulch applied now will also act as insulation over the winter months.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.