How to condition your soil?

If you’re like me (or my parents) you may ask “soil what?”. Before I got into gardening I never gave much thought to soil. Why does my pot plant look so great, however in 1-2 years time it’s no longer the same? The answer is like the car and human body, soil too will no longer be effective when the nutrients are used up. I like the analogy given in the “Dry Gardening Australia” book where it said, view plants as only by products. The plant is only as good as the soil. Having the right foundation will save time and money in the long term. I’m guessing the soil conditioning should be done every 1-2 years. I completed my first conditioning 3-4 months ago (Nov 09) and my 2nd in my boyfriend’s garden approx. 10 days ago (Feb 2010). Results can be evident in only 1 week (eg. I saw new growth on same sad looking mature Korean Buxus not long after soil conditioning).

To condition your soil the “simplified” options:

IF you have a small space/area just buy the following items at your local nursery or Bunnings:

  1. Remove weeds and dead roots.
  2. Mix cow manure and compost into the soil.
  3. Add Dynamic Lifter (ie. chicken poop pellets) – I recommend doing this when you are not expecting to entertain otherwise the smell will not be pleasant.
  4. Add Mulch – I find by adding mulch on top of the dynamic lifters this suppresses the smell. I’ll have a separate page about mulching.

Tips:

From day 1, I was told to use Lucerne Mulch. It’s the best as it breaks down quickly to provide much needed nitrogen to your soil.  I have to admit, I have not tried any other mulches however why do I need to if it works. FYI I’ve also noticed that it does encourage worm activity.

Sources also tell me that Debco is a good product. They have a product called Mulch N’Feed that is designed to be layered on top of the existing soil. As it breaks down the nutrients conditions the soil. I’ve tried this product once and the results were great however I could not conclusively tell if it was the Mulch N’feed or other simultaneous efforts.

IF you have a large area it may be worth to getting a dump of soil conditioner from your local landscape supplier. I use ANL (Australian Native Landscape). See supplier link for more details. Their minimum delivery quantity is 1 cubic meters.  This saves you from multiple trips to your local nursery, as well as dollars since you are buying in bulk. I have to say that I am very impress with their delivery service. When the say 6am/8am they have always been on time or even early. It’s a breath of fresh area compared to furniture delivery.

The soil conditioner I use is called Botany Humus.  This is made from Composted Sawdust, Composted Pine Bark, Spent Coffee Grounds and Composted Organics.

Botany Humus from ANL

Debco Mulch 'N' feed

Lucerne mulch is sometimes hard to find particularly in Spring when everyone is mulching. For this very reason I use Amgrow as it is readily available at Garden R’ US Kingsford. I’m sure other brands should be as good. Remember to ensure you are getting the “cut” version.

Amgrow Lucerne Mulch

Note: You may noticed above I said simplified as we have not taken into account soil PH and type.

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