How to improve the soil in the garden

The joy of acquiring your own piece of land is quickly replaced by the habit of possession. And at this moment, the newly made owners often begin to complain about the land itself, that is, the soil, that is, its fertility.

Decided to improve your land? First, find out her current status. By and large, there are only two options:

  • The fertile layer is generally absent, which often happens immediately after construction;
  • There is a semblance of a fertile layer (do weeds grow?)

If the fertile layer is removed during construction, you will have to import the soil and maintain its quality in the future. If there is a certain fertile layer, you must first understand what it is.

In household plots, natural soil is rare. Often come across various options for agricultural soils left over from the time when the site was part of farmland. In this case, you will see a mixed fertile layer, consisting partly of agricultural or forest soils, partly of soil and soil-like materials introduced by humans, as well as indispensable construction and household waste. 

It is possible to determine the basic physical characteristics of the soil on the site independently, by sight, but for a serious analysis, of course, you will need a laboratory study and the conclusion of a specialist agronomist or soil scientist.

The most obvious characteristics of the soil is the depth of the fertile layer. Geologists claim that the upper fertile soil layer averages 18-20 cm. Gardeners believe that a fertile layer 15–15 cm deep is enough for the lawn. Trees, depending on size and breed, will need a 25–30 cm depth layer 2-3 meters from the trunk. Shrubs - 15-20 cm at a distance of about 1 m from the trunk. Perennial herbaceous plants need a depth of the fertile layer of 10-15 cm.

An important characteristics that often goes unnoticed is the mechanical composition soil. At the same time, the amount of organic matter in the most fertile soils rarely exceeds 10%. The remaining mass is the mineral part, which plays a huge role in the formation of soil fertility. The remaining mass is the mineral part, which plays a huge role in the formation of soil fertility. Mineral soil particles less than 0.01 mm in size are especially important - physical clay, which determines the ability of the soil to retain moisture and mineral nutrients, as well as the soil structure. The mechanical composition distinguishes: sand, sandy loam, light, medium and heavy loam, clay.

What you are dealing with is easy to determine?

The soil should be slightly moistened, then try to roll a cord from it in the palm of your hand, and then fold this cord into a ring. Sand does not slide into the cord. The sandy loam rolls into a cord, but when bent into a ring, it crumbles. Light loam bends into a ring, but it breaks into pieces. Medium and heavier loams bend into a ring with cracks. Clay rolls into a ring without cracks.

Optimal for most garden plants is light or medium loam. If you have sand or sandy loam on the site, you will have to add fertile soil - 20-30% of the total soil. Sand will have to be added to heavy loams and clays - 30-50% of the soil volume.

It affects the fertility of the soil and its structure. Namely, the number of water-resistant agents - in simple terms, lumps. Agate can be of various shapes, from lumpy to granular, and in size from 4 to 15 mm. When breaking the soil, it should not decompose into individual grains of sand, like sand, or maintain a monolithic structure characteristic of heavy loam and clay. It is best if, with little effort, the soil breaks up into separate lumps.

The next important feature is color. It is believed that the blacker and fatter the earth, the more fertile. And indeed, as a rule, the soil differs from the underlying rock in a darker and more intense color. However, for example, in the Moscow Region with natural moisture, the soil usually has a color from dark brown to light gray. Black coloring of soils is rare and characteristic of more southern regions. A very dark color is also inherent in lowland peat, the presence of which in large quantities is not an absolute advantage.

Too light coloring of the soil indicates a low content of organic substances. You can increase the organic content by adding agricultural peat. Making peat is perhaps the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to improve soil quality. However, you should not use peat in its pure form for growing plants, it can only serve as an additive. You can make it throughout the summer period.

Compost and rotted manure are superior to peat in efficiency and nutrition for plants, but they cost more. Compost can be made independently on a personal plot. Composting is effective in spring and early summer.

The easiest and cheapest way to improve the soil on the site is to add the upper fertile layer of agricultural soil. Subsequently, as necessary, it can be optimized by adding sand, peat or compost.

More technological, but also more expensive product are special soils. They are made on the basis of a natural upper fertile soil layer, removed from farmland before construction. To facilitate the mechanical composition of the soil, sand is used in the amount of 10-15%.

Water and air conditions are improved by adding 15-25% peat. If necessary, organic and mineral fertilizers are added to the soil. All components are evenly mixed and sifted through sieves on special equipment.

Currently, such soils are just beginning to enter into widespread use. They are made by specialized enterprises of the greening industry. The best of them not only have the necessary equipment for production, but also conduct constant quality control of raw materials and final products.


Amelia Robinson is a lover of plants and gardens, as well as an educator on this topic. It’s her goal to make sure that you get the chance to learn what you need to about gardening to succeed with your own home garden at the blog You’re not going to find just a collection of basic articles about gardening here. Instead, she wants to answer the difficult questions for you. She tweets at @robinsonplants

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