There are ways you can improve your soil easily.
Gypsum is an abundant, naturally occurring mineral. In horticulture, gypsum –
- is used as a soil improver
- works to improve the drainage and the physical structure of heavy clay soils
- can change the way a heavy clay soil behaves
- helps to release nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable to plants
- is water soluble
The effects of gypsum are not lasting and gypsum needs to be reapplied every two to three years.
Usage: Gypsum can be spread over clay soils, but is more effective if dug into the soil. Spread at a rate of 1 to 2 kg per square metre. Repeat annually on our heavy clay soils. To improve its impact, it is recommended that the area be forked over first to alleviate compaction. The gypsum is then applied and the area lightly watered.
Compost is what organic material turns into when it has been broken down. Composting your food scraps, grass and garden clippings (organics) can provide you with an excellent source of free garden food and soil improver.
- Compost can be made at home or is readily available commercially
- Aged animal manures and vermicompost (worm castings) are rich in nutrients and are excellent for use in the home vegetable garden
- Compost does not have to be dug into the soil. Unless the soil needs to be improved, the compost can be laid on top.
- Mulch layers will break down over time to add nutrients to the soil
Composting organics is one of the best things you can do in your garden – as well as creating great fertiliser, it reduces greenhouse gases, saves water and reduces your waste.
Top up mulch every six months to maintain soil health and structure.
Mulching is essentially the application of a layer of organic material to the surface of the soil. There is a huge range of mulches available. Straw based mulch is the best for food gardens. High in nutrients, straw based mulches (pea straw, Lucerne and sugar cane mulches), when applied to a depth of about 7-10cm, will help keep soil moist, prevent weed infestation and minimise temperature fluctuations in the soil. As they break down, they will improve both the structure and the nutrient content of the soil. Grass clippings are not good for mulch use as they tend to mat together and form an impenetrable barrier, preventing water and air from reaching the plant’s roots.
Top up your mulch every six months. Don’t mulch right up to the stems of your plants as it can cause all manner of nasty fungal diseases to occur. Leave a gap of at least 4cm and monitor often.
To assist you in discovering what soil type you might have in your backyard and how to work best with what you have, read our articles on –
- What is soil?
- What soil can I expect to find in my backyard?
- Get to Know Your Soil with pH testing
- Caring for your soil
- Potting Mix versus Garden Soil
- Which soils and manures will meet your specific needs?
Information in the soil series articles provided by Helen Tuton