Adding amendments to your soil can help it become as fertile as possible for happier plants. If your plants are flourishing and doing well, you likely don’t need to make changes to your soil. However, if you notice that your plants or grass are struggling, it may be time to make some changes. Here is what you need to know about soil additives.
More About Soil Additives
Before adding anything to your soil, test it! This way you’ll know exactly what your soil needs, and won’t be wasting money on excessive or unnecessary changes. Testing kits are readily available from your local county extension office, at landscaping stores, or home improvement centers. They will tell you the pH of the soil along with nutrient deficiencies. You can also perform a simple soil texture test to determine if it is serving your plants well–some plants need sandier, drier soil, while others prefer to have wetter feet. Knowing your soil’s current texture will help you determine if you need to make any changes before adding more plants.
Adding compost to your soil is a great way to solve multiple problems. Soil that is healthy and rich in nutrients should be dark. If your soil looks pale, it likely needs a couple inches of compost mixed in to bring it back to life. Compost is a long-term way to add nutrients (especially nitrogen) to the soil–apply a layer of compost each fall to keep your gardens healthy. Your soil’s structure is also important to the health of your grass and plants. If there is too much sand, it will lose water and nutrients too quickly and the plants won’t be able to uptake them. If it’s too compacted, roots won’t be able to get oxygen or air. Adding compost to your soil improves the structure to create a great balance of water retention and air pockets.
Lime or Sulfur
If your soil pH comes back low, the soil may be too acidic for your plants. Our sandy soils tend to be a bit acidic, averaging at a pH of around 6.1. Plants native to Florida are able to handle this slight level of acidity; however, if your pH is closer to 4 or 5, you likely need to raise it for your plants to thrive. Lime is a naturally occurring mineral that is quite alkaline, so it is applied to gardens and lawns when the pH needs to be raised. On the other hand, your soil test might reveal that your pH is high. To help lower it to more suitable growing levels for your plants, add elemental sulfur. Apply these minerals over a period of time so that your plants aren’t shocked by the sudden change in pH.
If your soil test indicates that your landscape needs nutrients immediately, fertilizer can help. There are many different types that contain various mixtures of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium so that you can choose one that meets your lawn’s specific needs.
One of the best soil additives is old mulch. If you add mulch to your garden beds, you don’t need to dig up and remove the old mulch before adding a new layer. In fact, the old broken-down mulch from last year makes an excellent soil amendment if you mix it in with the soil below. The decaying mulch adds nutrients and helps aerate the soil before you add the fresh layer.