Soil Improvers

Most soils are always in need of improvement at some time, and it can also be said, some soils more than others.

To some gardeners this can be quite daunting, particularly when they find that there is no simple cure all method.

This situation can be further aggravated when they (the gardener/s) listen to and/or read the comments of the gardening media and/or press who, in the interest of commercialism, describe a product/s in a manner that suggests it is a cure for all.

It is hoped the following list will help to address this anomaly.

A word of warning: always follow the instructions on the packaging of commercial products.

Sometimes giving in excess of the stated dose can be worse than not giving the plants anything at all.

Basic slag:

Is a source of Phosphate for crops such as legumes and root crops.

Apply in autumn or winter to heavy and peaty soils,

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq. yd)

Bone meal:

A slow-release fertilizer, high in phosphorus (phosphate)

Apply in autumn to heavy and peaty soils,

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq. yd)

Cow manure:

Is an excellent bulky soil conditioner that helps to retain moisture in light sandy soil.

Apply late winter early spring.

Rate: Approx.12 sq metres (15 sq yds) per barrowful.

Decayed vegetable matter (Compost):

Result of disease free green vegetable peelings deposited in compost heap.

It supplies various nutrients and humus.

Rate: Dig in approximately one spit deep (8"-12") (200-300mm)

Dried Blood:

A fast-acting nitrogen feed suited to leafy subjects such as brassicas.

Hoe in, in spring and summer.

Rate: 15 gms per sq metre (½oz per sq yd)

Fish, blood and bone:

A general balanced fertiliser.

Rake in prior to planting.

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq.yd)

Fowl droppings:

A good source of nitrogen and potash.

Prior to its use, it should be mixed with equal parts soil and allowed to dry.

Hoe in resulting powder spring and summer.

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq. yd.)

Alternatively, Place the fresh droppings (see rate below) in a string/hessian bag and immerse in a barrel of water for a few weeks.

Rate: add 115gms (4oz) to 5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water.

Goat droppings:

Dig in to the soil during winter,

Rate: 450 gms per sq metre (1lb per sq yd)

Alternatively, Place the fresh droppings (see rate below) in a string/hessian bag and immerse in a barrel of water for a few weeks.

Rate: add 225gms (8oz) to 5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water.

Green Manure:

Sow Mustard and Rape in early summer

Sow vetches in September.

Dig in top growth in late autumn.

Ditto the following spring.

Ground Lime:

This is powdered quicklime, for applying to heavy clay soils.

Allow it to slake on surface before forking it in.

Rate: 225 gms per sq metre (8oz per sq yd)

Ground Limestone: (Carbonate of lime)

Powdered chalk for light and sandy solis

Rate: 450gms per sq metre (1lb per sq yd)

Hoof and horn meal:

Is a slow release nitrogen feed.

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq. yd)

Horse droppings:

Helps to break up clay

Apply to heavy soil in late autumn and spring for lighter soils.

Rate: Approx. 12 sq metres (15 sq yds) per barrowful

Hydrated Lime: (Calcium hydroxide)

Water slaked quicklime is suitable for both heavy and light soils.

Apply at the rates indicated on the packaging.

Kainit:

For plants requiring Potash.

Apply in autumn or winter only.

Rate: 85 gms per metre (3 oz per sq yd)

Lime:

Ground chalk and ground limestone are excellent for correcting acidity.

Hydrated lime is fast-acting but is easily washed out of the soil.

Magnesium limestone (Dolomite) is source of magnesium and lime.

Magnesium sulphate: (Epsom salts)

Use to correct magnesium deficiency.

Top dress in spring at a rate of 28 gms per sq m(1oz per sq yd)

Alternatively, Foliar feed as required

Rate: add 15gms (½oz) to a litre (1.75 pints) of clean water.

Nitrate of Potash: (Saltpetre)

Contains potash and nitrogen, and is ideal for legumes.

Apply in summer

Solid rate: 28 gms per sq metre (1oz per sq yd)

Liquid rate: add 28gms (1oz) to 5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water.

Nitrate of Soda:

This provides nitrogen to the soil which is suited to leafy subjects such as brassicas.

Hoe in, in spring and summer.

Rate: 14 gms per sq metre (½oz per sq yd)

Pig manure:

Is an excellent bulky soil conditioner for retaining moisture in light sandy soils.

Apply late winter early spring

Rate; Approx. 12 sq metres (15 sq yds) per barrowful.

Pigeon droppings:

A good source of nitrogen and potash.

Prior to its use; it should be mixed with equal parts soil and allowed to dry.

Hoe in resulting powder spring and summer.

Rate: 115gms per sq.metre (4 oz. per sq. yd).

Alternatively, Place the fresh droppings (see rate below) in a string/hessian bag and immerse in a barrel of water for a few weeks.

Rate: add 115gms (4oz) to 5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water.

Quicklime: (Calcium oxide)

Apply to heavy clay soils.

Allow it to slake on surface before forking it in

Rate: 225 gms per sq metre (8oz per sq yd)

Rabbit droppings:

Dig in to the soil during winter,

Rate: 450gms per sq metre (1lb per sq yd)

Alternatively, Place the fresh droppings (see rate below) in a string / hessian bag and immerse in a barrel of water for a few weeks.

Rate: add 230 gms (4oz) to 5 litres (1 gallon) of clean water.

Seaweed:

This is a valuable substitute for manure, the bladder and drift seaweeds are the best kinds

It is rich in potash and almost lacking in phosphates.

Analysis varies according to variety.

An average for fresh seaweed is; nitrogen 0.3% (7lb/ ton), phosphoric acid 0.1% (2lb/ ton), potash 1 % (20lb/ton).

It can be used wet (as collected) or dried.

Dig it in quite deeply during winter to supply humus and potash to the soil.

Rate; 7kg (15lbs) per sq metre wet, or 2.5kg (5lb) per sq metre dried.

Soot:

Allow to weather before use to disperse chemicals such as sulphur.

Dig in or water in during Spring and Summer

Solid rate: 115gms per sq metre(4oz per sq yd)

Liquid rate: 225gms (8oz) per 5 litres(1 gallon) of clean water.

Spent hops:

As obtained from breweries.

This provides humus to light soils.

Dig liberal amounts into the soil at any time of the year.

Sulphate of Ammonia:

A very fast-acting nitrogen feed suited to leafy subjects such as brassicas.

Hoe in, in spring and summer.

Rate: 28 gms per sq metre(1oz per sq yd)

Liquid rate; add 28gms (1oz) per 5 litres (1gallon) of clean water.

Sulphate of Potash:

Is a first class source of potash.

Apply in spring

Solid rate; 28 gms per sq metre(1oz per sq yd)

Liquid rate: add 28gms (1oz) per 5 litres (1gallon) of clean water.

Superphosphate:

Is a concentrated phosphorus (phosphate) supply for crops such as legumes and root crops.

Apply in autumn or winter to heavy and peaty soils,

Solid rate:55 gms per sq.metre(2oz. per sq. yd)

Wood Ash:

Wood ash from a bonfire or wood burning stove is a useful soil improver.

The type of wood burned can have different results; e.g.

Ash from untreated wood has a slight liming action and can be used to raise soil pH.

Ash produced from young sappy growth contains potassium and traces of other nutrients.

On the other hand, older mature wood tends to contain lower concentrations of nutrients.

The actual nutrient content of ash varies so precise application is difficult, listed below are a few suggestions;

Where ash contains large particles, it is probably best to dig this in to improve the structure of the soil.

Adding finer ash to the compost heap / bin in thin layers will allow it to blend with other materials.

Alternatively, rake the fine ash into the surface of the soil if you are sure of its content.(see note below)

In the event that some unknown product with toxic properties may have been burned along with the wood, it is probably safer to allow ash to ‘weather’ in a heap for a few weeks, before spreading it around growing plants.

Coal ash:

Is best avoided because it has a negligible nutrient content and its fine particle size means it is of little benefit to soil structure, plus, it may contain toxic by-products.





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