In order to improve the overall condition of soil and with it the health of the plants rooted there, consider adding an organic soil conditioner. Organic soil conditioners come in many varieties. They may be used alone or by combining 2 or more types to create a beneficial compound. Dependent upon the type and current condition of the soil, the types of plants and the climate, the right conditioner will vary. Using organic products is important as pesticides and other chemical ingredients can be harmful.
What Soil Conditioners Achieve
An organic soil conditioner may be used to add nutrients to a garden bed. Overly acidic or alkaline soils can be equalized by manipulating the natural chemical content of soil. Soil can be made to be looser or denser, improving or reducing its ability to absorb water. Whatever the remedy, the reason to use an organic soil conditioner is to produce healthier, more vibrant plants and vegetables.
When to Use a Conditioner
Although it may be difficult to determine what exactly is needed, if plants continually wither and die or fail to grow at all, chances are there is something wrong with the ground. Start by testing the soil with a pH kit. This can determine the acidity or alkalinity of soil. Perform other basic nutrient tests to check nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Once a deficiency is discovered, the solution presents itself.
Adding compost to soil is always a good idea, but more conditioning might be needed. Beneficial in an all-purpose way, compost helps to keep soil loose, better absorb water and raise the nutrient levels. Compost also increases the presence of microorganisms. Compost should be a mixture of carbon- and nitrogen-rich organic materials including leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit waste, egg shells, organic coffee grounds and more.
Adjust Acidity and/or Alkalinity Levels
Some plants like acidic soil, while others prefer alkaline soil. Depending on what the garden contains, organic soil conditioners help to tip the scales to one side or the other or simply balance it out. Organic coffee grounds increase acidity, while crushed pieces of lime increase alkalinity.
Some gardeners argue that organic earthworm casings are the best conditioner for soil. Not only do they possess high amounts of beneficial nutrients, but they won't burn even the most delicate of plants and vegetables. Earthworm casings contain higher-than normal levels of nitrogen, potash, phosphate and magnesium. This type of conditioner works for outdoor as well as indoor plants, so it is essential for the year-round gardener.
Other Nutrient-Influencing Conditioners
Other soil conditioners that add much-needed nutrients to soil include manure and bloodmeal, both of which add nitrogen. Bonemeal adds phosphorus. When using animal byproducts, it is absolutely essential that they be organic. Pesticides present in animal feed as well as hormones and antibiotics used in raising non-organic livestock is not good for gardens. Always go organic to ensure the best results.
Whatever the type of conditioner, apply a layer on top of the soil and work it in with a hoe or hand trowel, mixing it in thoroughly. In the case of soil currently in use, use a small tool to work in the conditioner, being careful not to disturb the roots of the plants.