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How to amend soil: The secret to gardening in Southern California and beyond!
Your garden is only as good as your soil. If you want a beautiful garden, you must learn how to amend the soil. The better your soil, the better your plants will grow, resist pests and diseases, and the more nutritious your food will be. Many areas of the United States have less than great soil, and enriching your poor soil will do wonders for your garden.
Southern California has terrific weather that can support year-round food production. But you can say less about our soil. In many areas, the soil consists mainly of clay, sand, and decomposed granite. It easily becomes rock-hard, bare, and void of nutrients if not constantly maintained. The health of your soil connects directly to the health of your plants. It’s something you should consider before planting. Learn how to amend your soil with these key tips:
How to Amend Soil with Compost
If you’re growing vegetables in Southern California — compost is gold! Organic materials like compost and humus (the basic building block of soil) are the best ingredients to add to your soil. By working in compost, you can easily add valuable organic material to your soil. You will enrich your soil by allowing for better drainage, better moisture retention, and precious bacteria collection that keeps gardens healthy. Lasagna mulching is the best option for amending a large area with poor soil issues. Compost can be made at home, purchased in large quantities, and is even available for free from city programs like those we have in San Diego. The Miramar Greenery offers mulch and compost free to residents in the City of San Diego. If you live in the north county of San Diego, you can check out the Corazon Facility. For those living outside of San Diego County, research online; there may be a local service that provides low-cost or free mulch made from food waste.
How to Amend Soil with Mulch
On our farm, mulch is the second most important item next to compost. Over the years, we have added truckload after truckload of mulch to improve our soil. Mulch has so many benefits, and among them is that mulch:
- Holds in moisture from seasonal rains
- Regulates soil temperatures, which keeps alive precious soil microbes
- Reduces the need to weed (key on a vegetable farm!)
- Breaks down over time to add organic matter to the soil
Learn more about the benefits of mulch:
How to Amend Soil when Planting in Raised Beds
For those without space, or means to amend the in-ground soil, we always recommend using raised beds that you can fill with good healthy soil. Raised beds can be made from many different materials or bought pre-made. Although this may seem more expensive in the beginning, it does have its benefits. Raised beds are easier on the back due to less bending. They will also contain your quality soil in the beds. What is quality soil? When filling raised beds with any purchased “raised bed mix” or “topsoil,” know that you will need to add additional materials to amend the soil. Often “raised bed mixes” are a good start but do not contain the wide range of materials that make the soil rich. Adding compost, organic fertilizer, and worm castings into your soil will significantly enrich your raised bed mix. Adding a layer of mulch around the planted crops in your raised beds will regulate soil temperature, retain moisture, and lead to healthier and happier plants.
No matter how you go about amending your soil, know that it is an essential part of growing healthy produce and flowers. You should amend your soil at every season change in the first years of growing in a new space. As time goes on, the need to amend as often will diminish as the soil takes on a living form of its own.