Most gardeners have experienced the need to refresh or rejuvenate certain parts of their gardens either because plants have died or you want to pull out some old, unattractive plants. Either way, if you have cleared a garden bed, it’s a great opportunity to refresh your crucial “asset” your soil. Some people think that the solution is to bring in a truckload of new soil or garden mix from a garden supply store. Yes, that is an option, but in my view the less expensive and better long term solution is to build up the quality and value of your natural soil resource.
The first steps required to rejuvenate your garden soil depend on the type of soil. If it is a hard (when dry), heavy clay soil, the first steps I would recommend are to break it up as much as possible with a crow bar or strong shovel and scatter gypsum over the soil which helps break up the clay. If your
soil is naturally sandy or gravelly, these soils dry out very quickly and tend to have low plant nutrient levels. The recommended first step is to scatter compost and/or aged animal manure across the garden and dig it in. The second steps are to improve the nutrition of the soil for future plants in the garden.
Inorganic fertilizers that contain the major plant nutrients of phosphorus and nitrogen can be bought from most agricultural supply stores and are better than nothing-they will give a quick, short term improvement to plant nutrition. But in my view, the preferred option is to add compost, manure or mulch to your soil every year. These are broken down by worms and soil microbes to produce both better, longer term nutrient supply for your garden plants, but also improve soil water holding capacity and physical growth environment for your garden plant roots. Organic fertilizers that you can buy and which give a combination of short term nutrient supply for plants and longer term improvement of soil chemistry and structure include Dynamic Lifter (pelleted chook poo) or Blood and Bone.
Final Step? Mulch the soil surface with straw or hay which conserves soil moisture, reduces soil temperature extremes (good for plant root growth), reduces weed growth and contributes to improved soil structure and plant nutrient supply as it breaks down.
By Ian Rogan