Poor soil can describe a range of conditions. It can mean compacted and hard pan soil, soil with excessive clay, extremely sandy soil, dead and nutrient depleted soil, soil with high salt or chalk, rocky soil, and soil with extremely high or low pH. You can experience just one of these soil issues or a combination of them. Most of the time, these soil conditions are not noticed until you start digging holes for new plants, or even after planting and they do not perform well. Bad soil can restrict the water and nutrient uptake of plants, as well as restrict the root development causing plants to yellow, wilt, dry up be stunted and even die. Fortunately, poor soils can be amended with soil conditioners.
What’s Soil Conditioner?
Soil conditioners are soil amendments that improve the soil structure by increasing aeration, water holding capacity, and nutrients. They loosen up compacted, hard pan and clay soils and release locked up nutrients. Soil conditioners can also raise or lower pH levels depending on what they are made of. Good soil for plants is usually comprised of 50% organic or inorganic material, 25% air space and 25% water space. Clay, hard pan and compacted soils lack the necessary space for air and water. Beneficial microorganisms make up a portion of the organic matter in good soil. Without proper air and water, many microorganisms can’t survive. Soil conditioners can be organic or inorganic, or a combination of synthetic and natural matter. Some ingredients of organic soil conditioners include:
●Cover crop residue
●Cround pine bark
Common ingredients in inorganic soil conditioners might be:
The difference between soil conditioners and fertilizers:
Fertilizers can add nutrients to soils and plants, but in clay, compacted or hard-earned soils, these nutrients may be locked out of the plant. Fertilizers do not alter the structure of the soil, so they may help to treat symptoms in poor soils, but they may also waste money when plants cannot use the nutrients they add. The best thing to do is to modify the soil and start fertilizing. Before using a soil conditioner, it is recommended that you conduct a soil test to understand the conditions you are trying to correct. Different soil conditioners do different things for different soil types. Organic soil amendments improve soil structure, drain, retain water, increase nutrients and provide food for microbes, but some organic soil conditioners may contain high levels of nitrogen or consume large amounts of nitrogen. Garden gypsum is particularly loose, improving the exchange of water and air in soils with high clay and sodium content; it also adds calcium. Limestone soil conditioners add calcium and magnesium, but also correct highly acidic soils.