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Soils are preferred to be soft compared to hard. Soft soils provide more yield and get yield in return. A lot of people have trouble with their soils getting harder and do not know what softens them. In this article, you will learn why your soil gets harder and how you can soften hard soil.
Why is The Soil in my Garden Getting Hard?
First of all, we have to understand the difference between hard and soft soils. Then we will go on with the question, how to soften hard soil. One of the important issues about soils is compression. This is basically the removal of air from the spaces in the soil and thus the volume of soil air decreases. As a result, the total porosity and the average pore size, in other words, the total volume of the soil drops, and the strength and volumetric mass (density) of the soil increase with the convergence of soil particles.1
Climate change has brought forth several challenges for gardeners, one of which is the problem of hard soil. If left unaddressed, hardened soil can hinder plant growth and diminish the productivity of your garden.
The biggest reason why soil is hard is that it has high clay content. The high rate of alkalinity here occurs as a result of the calcification of the soil. In normal times, clay soils are very fertile soils. However, the desired yield will not be obtained without softening and naturally, it will not be possible to produce efficient harvests. Therefore, the ratio of clay in the soil should be kept in balance to soften hard soil.
Fine, but what does that mean for my garden? As a result, plant growth and soil spread of roots decrease, water and air movements in the soil are limited and germination of the seed slows down. In this case, your productivity will suffer and soften hard soil gets harder.
What Can I do to Soften Hard Soil?
We know, that the ratio of clay in the soil should be kept in balance to soften hard soil.
To balance this ratio, it is recommended to use soil softening fertilizers especially produced. It is the most effective and fast solution. This special fertilization, which is reinforced on hard soil, will soften the soil quickly and easily.
On the other hand, the process of digging, moistening, and mixing the soil will also soften hard soil. But this process is more suitable for small-area gardens. By using special machines for fields with large square meters, this process may be more troublesome and costly. By irrigation and mixing the soil, the soil will be moistened and the pH balance is brought back to normal. Fertilizer supplementation at that time will provide a more effective solution to soften hard soil.
How Can I Prevent my Soil to Get Hard?
In the absence of plants, if you see, that the soil gets slightly dry, you should start watering and temper the soil. Depending on the soil section of your garden, 20-30 cm should be deepened and the hardened upper layer should be broken. Good soils can be cultivated all year round with simple tools such as hoe and rake.
However, clayey, calcareous soils accumulate clay and cream on the surface and form an impermeable layer. The surface of such soils becomes a puddle even in a little rain. Such soils should be dug once or twice, the clay layer on the surface should be broken, permeability-drainage should be provided to soften hard soil like that.
After these processes, one of the organic fertilizers should be laid in a layer that will cover the surface of the soil and the soil should be mixed with the soil by hoeing at a depth of 20 cm.
The fertilizer layer to be spread should be 5-10 cm thick. Organic matter should be put in more for clay soils and less for sandy soils and should be repeated every year.
Where there are plants, the soil should be hoed superficially without damaging the stems and roots of the plants and organic fertilizer should be laid on it. Fertilizers on the surface naturally go deep into the soil by worms and other insects over time, improving your soil. Organic fertilizers can damage the stems of the plants if they are placed close to the root neck. For this reason, it would be better to put materials such as plant bark and mulch.2
When Should Soil Improvement be done?
You can always improve throughout the year, but timing is important. The structure of your soil and the plants you grow determine the right time.
You can improve the soil of your hobby summer vegetable garden after the seasonal flowers die, in autumn, or even in winter, unless it is age. For heavy clay soils, you may need to wait from March to April to soften hard soil.
Digging, hoeing, and roaming while the soil is wet seriously spoils its structure! In such cases, cover the soil with wood or plywood.
What Types of Fertilizers Should be Used in Soil Improvement?
You can find different fertilizers that will improve the soil. These are also called soil conditioners:
- Peat: which is rich in organic matter and does not contain seeds like emerald turf.
- Burnt animal manure: It should be at least one year old, naturally burnt, free of weed seeds. Otherwise, you will be bringing all sorts of harmful weeds into your garden, rather than benefits.
- Compost: Organic fertilizers that can be produced by decaying grass leaves, branch particles, etc. plant residues in your garden, kitchen food waste.
- Ohlson, K. (2014). The soil will save us: How scientists, farmers, and foodies are healing the soil to save the planet. Rodale Books.
- Alakukku, L., Weisskopf, P., Chamen, W. C. T., Tijink, F. G. J., Van Der Linden, J. P., Pires, S., … & Spoor, G. (2003). Prevention strategies for field traffic-induced subsoil compaction: a review: Part 1. Machine/soil interactions. Soil and tillage research, 73(1-2), 145-160.